Thursday, August 26, 2010

LOST: The Final Season


Saturday, August 21, 2010

Too Much of the Same

I have never left the country. I've been to Florida, Texas, Colorado, and a handful of other states, which are all fun and lovely and whatnot, and I realize that there are amazing places worth visiting right here in the U.S, but I feel the need to branch out. There are many kids at my school who are substantially well-traveled individuals. I listen as they list the foreign lands on which they've stood, the foods they ate and the things they saw. I feel so constrained here. I understand that I have no room to complain; I am very fortunate to be a United States citizen, and I'm grateful for all the opportunities I have been given. However, I live by the saying, "I am a student of the world," that life is a chance to learn as much as possible and to experience as much as possible. New and different are what I strive for. I try not to clutter my mind with unimportant distractions. Seeing as we only live once, why waste such precious time with unnecessary aberrations?

The cup analogy is often used to describe the brain, and while cliche, it makes a valid point. A cup represents any one person's mind, the summation of their thoughts, ideas, and beliefs. Through out your life, you slowly fill this cup. Some people tend to fill it earlier than others, at a quicker pace, and they are the ones I aim to be the exact opposite of. I want to keep an open mind, because I realize how little of the world I truly understand. By making up their minds so early, with an "I know enough already" attitude, many shield themselves from the wonders patiently waiting for them to discover (this is why I have no place for organized religion in my life, but that's a whole other post.) You can't fill a cup that's already full, and once it's filled, it's damn difficult to empty.

By admitting to myself that what I know is only a fraction of the big picture, that there is a world outside of this hum-drum town, I have learned the true meaning of humility. It's very humbling, and by accepting it I feel I have set myself up to be an A+ "student." In the word's of the late Carl Sagan, "Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known." Nobody knows what that something is, but finding out is the journey, and I'm all set to go.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Good Idea

I've started a new, experimental project called "Doing homework right after school." It's very interesting. I come home, walk into the kitchen, grab a snack, head up to my room, and do homework until it's finished. Never in a million years would i have thought that such a feat was possible, but nearly a week of homework-less evenings prove quite the opposite. I'll continue this experiment for as long as I can, hopefully to the point where it becomes an incessant habit. Wish me luck!

Monday, August 16, 2010


School starts tomorrow. I'm looking forward to AP English and Newspaper, and that's about it.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Beaver Island

My parents say getting to Beaver Island is half the fun. This is a lie. The island sits in the middle of Lake Michigan 30 miles south of the UP, and we live in Elkhart, a good 5 hours away. Driving there, which we do 99% of the time, is a tour through the lonely corridors of boredom. US 131 takes you up the entire state of Michigan, in our case to Charlevoix, and only begins to liven up in the last hour, where we cut through northern Michigan's rolling hills and woodland.

As a kid, I would marvel at the endless sea of pines and conifers, complaining as my ears popped from the changing altitude. This trip was different. Our caravan, consisting of my father, myself, 4 of my friends and one of their dads, traversed 131 in 2 cars, one of which was driven by myself. Never have five hours gone by so slow. Everyone in my car was asleep, and ahead of me lay nothing but a vast stretch of asphalt. I was scared out of my wits by Grand Rapids, (which turned out to be not so bad), and in regular intervals my left and right leg fell asleep. But in the midst of all this, I had to keep cool. I knew what awaited me was definitely worth the trip.

Upon arriving at Charlevoix, our group refueled at a Subway and advanced to the Island Airways airport. We prefer to fly to the island instead of taking the ferry, mostly for the experience and the great views, but also because the ferry, while scenic and lovely and whatnot, runs a little over two hours---flying takes 15. The planes we fly in are small, double-propeller "hoppers," as I like to call them. On the flight over, one can see the entire island, point to point. It truly is a breathtaking view, and I'm always excited to watch newcomers see it for the first time.

Setting foot on the dusty runway, my heart soared. After hours of travel, we had finally made it in one piece. An enticing concoction of smells infiltrates my nose and brings me back to my last visit. I forgot how much I loved it up there, all the fun times I shared with family and friends. I was ready to experience it all again.

Our place of residence for the weekend sits on the cusp of a cul-de-sac, a whimsical grey-blue log cabin belonging to my grandparents. Every year for as long as I can remember we've stayed there, sometimes for a few days and others for weeks on end. On the east-facing side, we overlook a beautiful sandy bay, stretching for miles. At the end of the cul-de-sac, a small walkway parts a grassy limbo on its way to the an amazing beach. It is here we spend most of our time, enjoying the sun and riding waverunners.

The true beauty of the island can be found in its heavily forested interior. At 6 by 12 miles long, it is relatively small, but you'd be surprised at what it successfully hides. Beaver Island's human history goes back many centuries, and contains a spectacular amount of mystery and adventure. It was first inhabited by Native Americans, who lived peacefully for quite a while, until the Mormons arrived. The Mormons claimed the island as their own, and clashed repeatedly with the natives along with other religious sects. One Mormon, James Strang, proclaimed himself KIng of the Mormons and of all of the island (I'm not making this up). He was then shot in the head by a distraught opposer. He is the only officially documented King to ever declare rule on American soil.

Beaver Island's colorful past is matched only by its geography. It contains 7 inland lakes, one of which is larger than our very own Simonton Lake in Indiana. On the western side, sand dunes tower above the surrounding forest. One dune in particular, named Mount Pisgah, reaches nearly 800 feet above the waterline. To the south, a large national forest preserves most of the island's wildlife and is, in some parts, unexplored. It is in this vast wilderness that most of the island "attractions" can be found, including a massive, curiously isolated rock of unknown origin ingeniously entitled "Big Rock", and North America's largest birch tree (unnamed).

It is a staple of our yearly trip to visit these places, along with various restaurants, shops and boutiques. St. James, located in the north east corner of the island, hugs the shore of Paradise Bay, and is the only town. Paradise Bay is a perfect little harbor, and is the center of the island's commerce. During our trip, we enjoyed fresh, caught-moments-ago Lake Perch, delicious ice cream, and hearty Southwestern omelets, all within a 2 mile radius of each other!

In Beaver Island's isolation lies the secret to its success. Instead of drying up in the downturned economy, it held strong. It's a place where fast food is a myth, where commercial chains are forbidden. It's an island of originality. In place of McDonalds and Walgreens, they have Stoney Acre Grill and The Toy Museum. It helps to remind me that there are places outside this lusterless hole in the ground we call Elkhart that radiate pure joy.

Our departure, after a weekend of unimaginable fun, was a somber one---to put it lightly. The drive home was painstaking, but had to be done. All good things must come to an end I suppose, but the best part about Beaver Island is that, no matter how old you get, how lost you are, how much you have forgotten, it's always there, patiently waiting for you like an old friend. Every routine visit, every signature in the old "guest book," I hold on to dearly, because if there's one thing I've pulled from my experiences on that island, it's that one of the most precious parts of life are the good times you share with the ones you love, the memories you make with them, and the adventures yet to come.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Yiddish Policeman's Union

I know I promised an enumeration of the events of my trip, but I happened to finish the book I've been reading and I figure it best to write about it before my memory fades. So here goes...

I've never read a book by Michael Chabon until now. I found The Yiddish Policeman's Union, once again, at Barnes and Noble (I really do love it there) while strolling down the fiction isles. What engaged me to pick it up I do not know, but I'm glad I did.
I'll go as far as to say that it may be one of the best books I've read. It's unlike anything I've ever read before, a mystery of rare depth and composure.

Chabon whisks us away to an alternate history, where in 1948 the Holy Land of Israel is evacuated and abandoned by the Jews in wake of political turmoil. The American government, in its abounding kindness, relocates the Jews to Sitka, an island off the coast of Alaska. They are there for nearly 60 years, until the United States decides to initiate "The Reversion," which reinstates Sitka as Alaskan territory, ending its long run as an independent district.

The story, set in present day, follows Detective Meyer Landsman and his partner Berko as they attempt to solve a murder before this Reversion wipes clean their cases. The details I will not discuss. It would spoil the originality of Chabon's intricately detailed universe. I have great respect for a man who can create a wholly alien, backward world and turn it into a compelling backdrop for a detective mystery.

What makes The Yiddish Policeman's Union so special is the way Chabon constructs the world of Sitka, the mind of Detective Landsman, and the conglomeration of the two through long, drawn out descriptions. His extensive use of metaphor and symbolism turn the generally bland into flashy, exuberant prose. The overall premise, I believe, benefits greatly from this unique writing style. Here is a story that hits all the right notes. It never loses itself within the labyrinth of its own gloriously convoluted plot. It's story of love, uncertainty, violence and forgiveness, and I enjoyed every second of it.

To anyone who is interested in checking this book out, I give you a very enthusiastic recommendation. You wont be disappointed.


I have returned from vacation with a full recap of the trip to come. With pictures!

Thursday, August 5, 2010


Tomorrow I am leaving with a few of my buddies to Beaver Island, Michigan. This will be my last post for the next 5 days or so, but when I return I'll provide a full recap of the trip. Beaver Island really is one of my favorite places on Earth, and i can't wait to see some of my first-time visitors experience it for themselves. You can find the island's website here, but I encourage anyone reading to discover it for yourself. It's 100% worth the five hour drive!

The picture above is Paradise Bay, a beautiful harbor and the center of the island's community

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Book Run

It's amazing the things one can see while at University Park Mall. People of all shapes and sizes walk, waddle and run to and fro. The occasional toddler spills juice all over the floor. Stately young men and woman attempt to sell you the hottest brand of soap from behind a neatly decorated kiosk. It's all amusing to observe, and my trip to Barnes and Noble was filled to the brim with interesting people doing interesting things.

But when I enter Barnes and Noble, it's like stepping out of The Twilight Zone and into paradise. If it weren't so far away, I would work there. The people are nice, it always smells good. and I love books. My visit there today left me $60 lighter, and 4 books heavier: The Link by Colin Tudge, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon, The Varieties of Scientific Experience by Carl Sagan, and Deep Survival by Laurence Gonzales. Im like a little kid in a candy store. An expensive candy store. Maybe I should try the library for a while.....


The Fall of M. Night Shyamalan

Once upon a time, M. Night Shyamalan was one hell of a storyteller. He began his directorial career marvelously with the supernatural thriller The Sixth Sense, followed by a unique kind of comic-book movie, Unbreakable, and the fantastically original sci-fi drama, Signs.
His fourth film, The Village, was the beginning of his rapid decline. It was his worst-reviewed movie at the time of its release in 2004, and moviegoers began labeling him as a "one-trick pony," in response to most of his movies having twist endings. I, for one, enjoyed The Village. It was scary, intense, and delivered A-List performances from the whole cast.

I don't know what to make of Lady in the Water, Shyamalan's fifth film released in 2006. Dubbed "a new kind of bedtime story," it garnered horrible reviews. It was here that I began doubting Shyamalan's talent. Had he lost it all? Or were his first three movies the result of luck? Lady in the Water wasn't that great, but it also wasn't terrible. It was muddled by too large of a cast, too convoluted a story, and a less-than-admirable marketing campaign, but it had some very moving moments, thanks to the always excellent Paul Giamatti.

The Happening was Shyamalan's first R-rated project. It was a goofy, campy B-movie that I can honestly say I somewhat enjoyed. It topped Lady in the Water and The Village with bad reviews, yet I couldn't help but appreciate Shyamalan just having fun. I enjoyed it for all the wrong reasons, and I don't really care. It gave me hope that maybe old M. Night still had it in him.

And then there was The Last Airbender. Ohhhhh boy, The Last Airbender. If you want me to provide a synopsis, I won't. Go here. I quite honestly cannot express without expletives how terrible this movie was. There were no good parts, no funny moments. It was two hours of frying pans to the head, one big bathroom break of a movie that left me feeling disgusted. I exited the theater wondering how The Last Airbender, based off a popular television show, actually made it to the cineplex. Don't they have advanced screenings or something, to critique movies before they're released to ensure they're fit for the theater? The critics at the showing for The Last Airbender were either tripping on LSD or dead. I was angry I spent any money seeing it, and if anyone reading this feels like they should give it a chance, don't. The acting is absolutely dead-pan, the plot makes no sense, and the special effects are lifeless. If you want further proof that it is quite possibly one of the most disappointing films ever made, check out the TomatoMeter. And there's going to be a sequel!

M. Night Shyamalan was at one time my favorite director. I loved Signs, Unbreakable and The Sixth Sense. They were bold, challenging films that required intellect to enjoy. I don't know what happened. Somewhere after those 3, something in Shyamalan's brain turned off. It was as if his imagination said "F*ck it" and blasted out ridiculous ideas one after the other. Redemption will be a long, tumultuous road for this man, and with another Airbender film on the way, it looks like it won't come any time soon.

However, the light at the end of the tunnel is not completely distinguished. There are three (planned) films being released in the next few years under the supervision of Shyamalan entitled "The Night Chronicles." The first of the three, called "Devil", looks promising. Here's the Wiki page. Let's all hope it isn't another God-awful piece of trash.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned

Most people have not heard of Wells Tower, few have read his work, and even fewer have written about it. This is disappointing, because not since Flannery O'Connor's Everything That Rises Must Converge has the American short story been so deliciously unique and entertaining as in Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned. While O'Connor wrote of violence and redemption, Tower constructs worlds where both are at times ubiquitous, and at others non-existent. His prose slingshots the reader between sadness, horror, joy and liveliness within the confines of only a few pages, enticing us closer and closer to emotional retribution. We travel to the far off land of good-humored Vikings, a frustrated little boy, teenage romance and rebellion, feuding brothers and scandalous infidelity, guided only by the slick prose Tower wields with seemingly little effort.

Each story is its own sequestered gem, completely contained within itself as all great stories should be. Tower tells the tales he wishes to tell efficiently, while avoiding literature cliches that befall so much of the new fiction these days. They are completely "in the now," twisting the traditional beginning middle and end format to their liking.

One particular story I wish to highlight is my favorite of the bunch, which shares the title of the book itself. It follows a band of spiritless vikings who, in their tedium, go for a good old fashioned raid. It is here that Tower exercises his talent for evoking both belly laughs and gasps of surprise almost simultaneously. The Vikings, ingeniously endowed with present-day humor and dialogue, embark on their raid in a flurry of perversion, expletives and bloodshed. There is one act of violence, perpetrated by the top-ranking Viking, that spits in the face of what we call funny, but makes us laugh anyway. I appreciate this not only for its refreshing quality, but for the way Tower confesses through his writing the understanding that it takes a little bit of ridiculous to have fun. I finished Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned feeling invigorated, having been confirmed that there does exist at least one great modern short story writer. I highly recommend this book so that you may feel the same way.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The best part of the summer

The Discovery Channel's Shark Week, or Happy Shark Week as it is know this year, has finally arrived. I'm very excited, because through my eyes, Shark Week has only been getting better and better since Mythbusters joined in on the festivities in 2005 with their episode dedicated to Jaws.

It appears the new lineup of specials will cover everything from the powerful bites of the world's toughest sharks, to an entire episode dedicated to how high a Great White can leap out of the water. To say I am excited is an understatement.

The whole week-long event officially starts tonight, but one look at the Shark Week page on Facebook proves that the party's already started. I'll post more on the specials as they air over the course of the week. This is the link to Shark Week Home. Enjoy!