September 14th, 2017 by parkjo

What the heck did I just read?

8th grade was not, in hindsight, the greatest age for me to encounter “Invisible Monsters” by Chuck Palahniuk. In just a few hundred pages, my 13-year-old self was bombarded with a model who gets shot in the face and meets a transgender sugar baby funded by three drag queens who turns out to be the model’s (formerly believed to be) dead gay brother. And that’s only one of many plotlines. Don’t even get me started on the policeman boyfriend who starts an affair with the model’s best model friend, breaks into the two models’ shared apartment to attempt to murder our main character, gets accused of shooting our main character, gets drugged, locked in a trunk, and set on fire by our main character, and ends up marrying the best model friend. At the time, like Bishop with the unfiltered photos in NatGeo, I was too young to have been faced with such raw and perhaps dramatized facets of life and fully understand what I was looking at; I don’t think I really knew what it meant to be transgender, or a drag queen, or the dangers of AIDS specifically in gay communities. I was simply fascinated and highly entertained by the screaming, drugging, knifing, shooting, and house burning that ensued throughout the book. Now, though, I’m stunned by how much like a soap opera it reads, and yet I remember how thoroughly enamored by it I was, even though I didn’t understand 75% of what was happening. For all my abilities at close reading, analytical skills, and high-nosed literature, I can’t deny it; I always have been and will forever be a sucker for all that is cheesy and dramatic.

September 14th, 2017 by choc

A game of depth

Super Paper Mario was an adventure game for the Nintendo Wii, released in 2006. The premise for the game’s design was intriguing: the stage—the canvas for the player’s exploration, was a blend of the traditional 2D platforming of the older titles with the 3D free-roaming adventure offered by the newer, the player switching between the 2D and 3D landscapes to allow themselves to traverse obstacles and solve puzzles—a brain teaser, combined with the well-known hand-eye gymnastics of typical Mario game.

Being your traditional pick-up-and-play franchise of video game, it’s not accurate—most of the time—to expect a heavy-handed story to follow a Mario title.

This one was different. Its premise was simple: an unlikely group of heroes must prevent the end of the world. How it was achieved, not so—the force behind the certain doom that they were meant to prevent turns out to be a true prophecy, while the book that guides the heroes is false. The light prognostics was written in order to delay the dark one, but to only delay. That was my first encounter with what’s known as the Human Condition—one reading of it.

There is a location you gain access to after world 5 known as the Overthere, a “coffee bar” in which you can show your patronship for 10 coins to hear a story.



These two stories from a deep corner of the game that few would have visited during a normal play-session, when comparatively analysed, reveal the motivations and backstory for Dimentio, who seems to be an minor character without any explanation for who he is, how he got there but becomes, after a plot twist, the final villain.

I saw these two stories a few years after I’d finished the game. My world had shifted from 2D to 3D. I fell in love with literature.

September 14th, 2017 by hrbekm

On Questions

Now that I approach the end of my teenage years, it seems silly that I’d find an opportunity for self-reflection in the pages of a best-selling work of conspiracy fiction. But for an inquisitive 13-year-old with a decade of formal Catholic education on her shoulders, The Da Vinci Code was a validation of years of doubt and an invitation to continue asking questions.

Dan Brown’s famous (or from some perspectives, infamous) novel had occupied a space on my bedroom bookshelf for as long as I could remember. I never knew how it got there; surely it was misplaced from its proper position among the rest of my parents’ books. But it was there, waiting for the night when I’d open it on a whim. When that night did come, I tumbled in headfirst to the narrative of the fast-paced thriller as it untangled the theological-historical conspiracy theory at its core. It was a book that demanded to be finished quickly. At some point in the frigid first quarter of 2012, I remember carrying it with me in the winter air and concealing it behind the cover of my algebra textbook so as not to openly flash the title in classrooms adorned with crucifixes.

The exact theory outlined in the novel, though intriguing, was not the ultimate source of my enthusiasm. Rather, it was the satisfaction of knowing that certain dogmatic principles could be questioned unapologetically, and to a massive audience. Consuming a piece of media that was so blunt in its blasphemies was refreshing, in that it helped me to move past my hesitation in posing difficult questions about the world I lived in.

September 14th, 2017 by borchert


When I was young I lived in Japan. My family and I lived there for about 5 years and that has colored some of my interests and tastes in later years. I love Ramen and yakisoba and making rice hand rolls called onigiri. Another interest influenced by my time in Japan is my love for reading Manga or Japanese comic books.

I had read some of the manga my dad had lying around the house when I was about 8 but it wasn’t until the end of middle school that I found Manga are readily available on the internet, translated and free for anyone to view them. When I first started I was drawn to what are called shounen manga, or fighting manga. I noticed a theme that ran through all of these. The protagonist was never the most talented in whatever he or she was competing in. However, they always worked the hardest of any character to improve themselves. I applied this logic to my life and realized that being “smart” doesn’t mean much if you don’t put in the time to study. The most talented musicians are not necessarily the ones who were the most gifted from birth but rather those who practiced for hours.

In a Manga we are made to see the amount of effort someone puts in to accomplish something but in life we really don’t. People have watched me climb asked how they can climb like I do and then just dismissed it as “oh you’re just strong,” but what they didn’t see was the two years I spent training on a team for 6 hours every week. I’ve begun to move away from Manga with such simplistic themes but they are still enjoyable to read every now and then.

September 14th, 2017 by Rachel Lockwood

On Loving Humans: A Journey

It’s freshman year of high school. I flop into the desk chair, exhausted after a full day petty high school drama. I reflect on my day only to feel my jaw drop at the amount of times I heard the word “prom” that day. 35 times is too many. Desperate for a distraction, I open a link to a video. “Mad World.”  This is the second time I have seen this, and I notice more this time as I watch. The dance is about two men from opposite worlds- one a powerful business executive who has everything, the other a hopeless homeless man with nothing. I notice the businessman’s strong, rigid, and grand movements. He takes up space in the air. He is physically higher. The homeless man spends most of the dance on the ground, with floppy movements that never end or begin, but run together in a somber monotony. I close the dance feeling sad, but humbled.


It’s freshman year of college. I’m no longer comfortably meandering around my small bubble of Maine, but I’m running, sprinting, around a college campus. I’m thrust into a new, fast-paced world, and living amongst diverse students with rich histories. I’m learning that not everybody is as willing to learn. Beginning to feel lost in this world of new, I find myself returning to “Mad World.” I let my mind wander… How beautiful is it that two men are dancing together in a society that does not accept male vulnerability with another male? How beautiful is it to see the businessman danced by a black man in a society where white supremacy reigns? However, it is not these aspects of the dance that dominate my thoughts. It’s the moment in the dance when the two men freeze as they catch each other’s gaze. They stare for a moment, but then begin to dance together. The businessman’s movements soften as he stoops down to pick the homeless man up. The homeless man grows into the space with a little bit more strength and accuracy. Soon, the two men are dancing with the same movement quality, at the same level. Despite their exteriors, they are the same.


When life gets in the way or politics are frustrating or I feel as though I am being consumed by the big black wave that Bishop describes in her poem, I return to this video for the simple reminder that we are all, at our cores, humans. And I love like I have never loved before.

September 14th, 2017 by tarwatel

Lessons From a Gorilla

Literary works are undeniably impactful when they keep you up at night agonizing over plot details, rereading the most beautiful sections, and inspire you to apply aspects of the work to everyday situations. While rare, experiencing a piece that alters the way you view the world is one of the most magical aspects of literature. Few novels have changed my life like Ishmael by Daniel Quinn; it not only elucidated the problematic nature of the way humans view their role in their environment, but also my personal passion towards rectifying the world’s environmental issues.

The novel consists of an ambiguous narrator who, answering an advertisement in the newspaper, is mentored by a telepathic gorilla, the titular Ishmael. Ishmael transforms the narrator’s anthropocentric notions that humans are separate from nature, above other animals, and the pinnacle of evolution. He teaches that modern society, especially in developed countries, idealize the terms wilderness and nature as lands untouched by humans and away from their influence. However, this ignores the fact that humans are integral members of the ecosystem; everything a person consumes or creates has a direct environmental impact.

While the premise seems ridiculous and the lessons are rudimentary environmental studies theory, when I first read Ishmael, I had never heard of or thought about these concepts before; by the time I finished it, I started to think about them constantly. Since then, my awareness and knowledge of these issues has increased exponentially; as a potential environmental studies major, environmentalism has become an integral aspect of myself and my lifestyle. Ishmael’s power is in that it forces the reader to reconsider society in an unconventional way that probably would not be questioned otherwise. I still think about what the titular character taught me constantly; I am not above the environment surrounding me.

September 14th, 2017 by kropfm

A Budding English Enthusiast

The bell indicating the end of lunch sounds,

But I still sit.

I sit and rock and read.

It’s raining today so instead of recess outside, we all crowd into the library,

And poor Ms. Smith attempts to contain all of the exploding energy of the young students.

It’s hard on the fourth and fifth graders

To wait in a library

To not run

To not yell.

But I’m in a rocking chair, holding a strange book.

The old man on the cover stares at me as I glance back at him.

I ask myself what The Giver could possibly be,

But despite my confusion, I read.

And now I can’t stop.


When I first read the prompt for this blog post, my mind flew to the childhood memory above. I was in fifth grade when I read The Giver for the first time, and I read it many more times after that. This “dizzying” experience was really the first time I had read anything of literary weight. I was no longer in the world of Magic Tree House and Judy Bloom, instead I was exploring the world of symbolism and social justice within a novel, even if I didn’t know it yet. Today, I am working with literature in every sense of the word and I constantly try to immerse myself in new works.

In the same way that Bishop discovers “the world” through her interaction of National Geographic, I started my journey in the world of literature with The Giver. Similar to Bishop’s experience with the “Long Pig” and the “naked women with necks wound… with wire” (Bishop 179), I didn’t understand the more mature messages until much later in life, but this experience nonetheless changed my perspective on literature for the better.

September 14th, 2017 by smithkk


Like most teens, I grew up to listening to whatever was on the radio. I distinctly remember feeling as if I had no particular taste in music up until around 9th grade, when I was shocked into a realization that I had no identity.

In the Spring of my 9th year, a friend told me to listen to a song they heard one day, strangely entitled “Skin” by a band that felt it necessary to include punctuation in their name: Sixx:A.M. The first time I listened to this dramatically emotional recount of self-hate and quest to be valued for the person inside of “your skin,” I burst into tears. The raw emotion portrayed through the lyrics, tone of voice, and instrumentation struck a cord in my emotionally volatile young teenage brain. In the year after a traumatic event that resurfaced my anxiety and prompted bi-weekly panic attacks, I had unconsciously put tremendous amounts of pressure on myself to assimilate to the expectations my parents, teachers, and peers had for me. Once you think that you’re expected to be perfect at everything you do, it’s difficult to ignore the perceived pressure.

Instead of rebelling from the expectations I felt weighing on me, I worked extremely hard to gradually shift my views from trying to please others to putting in effort to make myself proud.

I joined clubs and continued my passion for music because I liked them, not because I felt like I needed to be involved in extracurricular activities to live up to expectations.

In the years since I first listened to “Skin,” I have built myself up to a point where I can live authentically and true to myself without fear of disappointing others, and make choices with only my personal expectations in mind.

September 13th, 2017 by mudds

Till I Remember The Name

In the Spring and Summer of 2010 through 2013, I went through a sort of musical revolution. Up until that point I, like many of my peers, had lived and breathed pop music. The latest Pitbull, Rihanna, B.O.B., and Usher songs were always coming from my computer as I worked on various projects for school. It was a time where every prominent artist seemed to be at their peak. I didn’t know it at the time, but this period of constant pop stimulation was holding back my personal development. The songs I was listening to, though they were catchy and easy to dance to, two things that were of paramount importance to me, didn’t speak to my character. That is until I discovered, by accident, “Not Afraid” by Eminem.

In this song, I found an anthem. Yes, it was an angry song, emotionally driven by Eminem’s recent breaking of his addiction and first time being sober, but I found a refuge in it. It gave me a focus and an outlet for the myriad of emotional changes I knew I was experiencing. I was very moody as a budding pre-teen and teenager, and I was able to “regulate” my moods with music. Through this change in genre, I discovered Fort Minor’s “Remember the Name” and Eminem’s “Till I Collapse.” These two songs with their strong mottoes of hard work, dedication, and never giving up, helped to shape my mindset and worldview. Anyone who knows me will profess as to how self-confident I am, almost to the point of cockiness. It is in large part due to these two songs being my battle cry since I was in 8th Grade. Because these songs became my philosophy, I now firmly believe that if I put my whole effort into accomplishing a goal, no matter how hard it is, I can achieve my desired goal.

Song Lyrics:
– Till I Collapse:
– Remember the Name:
– Not Afraid:

September 6th, 2017 by parkjo


Aubade: “A song or lyric poem lamenting the arrival of dawn to separate two lovers”

It took all of 2 seconds for an example to pop into my head. The chorus line of “Daylight” by Maroon 5 says,

“And when the daylight comes I’ll have to go
But tonight I’m gonna hold you so close
Cause in the daylight we’ll be on our own
But tonight I need to hold you so close”

Those lines are literally exactly the definition of aubade.

Levine is telling us that he knows that when the sun comes up he’ll have to leave, so he’s trying to soak up as much of his time with his lover as he can. It’s interesting because daylight tends to represent a new beginning/fresh start, but in this case, the singer rejects change and says,

“I never wanted to stop
Because I don’t wanna start all over, start all over
I was afraid of the dark
But now it’s all that I want, all that I want, all that I want” –because he is so content with his current situation that he doesn’t want to turn a new leaf.

Other chunks of lyrics that lament the morning include,

“The sky is getting bright, the stars are burning out
Somebody slow it down
This is way too hard
‘Cause I know, when the sun comes up
I will leave…”

It’s pretty hard to find a contemporary song that is about the fact that the morning is separating lovers and nothing else, but I realized that just because the song isn’t written from the morning doesn’t mean it can’t be about the morning.  Yes, “Daylight” is technically written from the viewpoint of the night before, but from the title and the chorus I think I would still classify it as at least 75% aubade because we can clearly tell that the unfortunate result of daylight is all that the writer can think about.

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