Irreverent American Literature Limericks

There is a story behind these. It involves a desk, an iPhone, a copy of Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, and lots of caffeine. It’s quite a long story, actually, so I’ll cut to the chase: I have written a series of limericks (sort of) for every book/play we read in my American Literature Honors course, save Catcher in the Rye. This is because I couldn’t think of a good rhyme for “Holden.” (Embolden? Crawled in? Hat pin?)

So… without further ado, I present to you:

LIT HONORS LIMERICKS

by Aditi Ramaswamy

 (Feel free to cringe.)

 

THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD

There once was a young woman named Janie –

Though a drop-out, she was fairly brainy;

Being restless, she ran away to the swamp

Where, to her horror, a mad dog went “chomp!”

Thus ended the travels of poor Janie.

 

THE GREAT GATSBY*

 There once was a lady named Daisy

Who proved to be inestimably lazy;

She met young Jay Gatsby

And won his undying fancy;

Yet when he died, her eyes were left dried;

She simply yawned and said “That man was crazy!”

 

THE SCARLET LETTER

There once was a man named Dimmesdale

Whose face was perpetually pale;

He had a young daughter,

But claimed he wasn’t a father;

That poor guilty Rev’rend Dimmesdale.

 

A RAISIN IN THE SUN

There once was a fellow named Walter;

Whose belief in his dreams never faltered;

He tried his utmost – 

And came oh so close – 

Yet in the end couldn’t escape from his halter.

 

THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN

There once was a boy named Huck Finn;

Who thought freeing a slave was a sin;

Yet he paddled through mud

And braved every flood

To help his newfound friend Jim.

 

*This one is not strictly a limerick. It has one extra line… but I just couldn’t resist.

MAKING HISTORY – 2013 MVHS ANTIETAM REENACTMENT

I was reading up on Civil War reenactments the other day, when it struck me – why couldn’t we do our own reenactment at school? After mulling over it, I realized that we could do it. And so MVHS: Antietam 2013 was born!

In January I teamed up with a friend of mine, Arjun Krishna, and started planning for the event. We assigned roles – I was Confederate General Robert E. Lee, and Arjun was Union General George B. McClellan – and started figuring out some logistics. Costumes were pretty easy: just wear your side’s color. Weapons… not so much. After heated debate on the topic, all the generals decided that gray pool noodles would be the safest option. Unfortunately, we faced a slight problem here – namely, that the pool noodles did not resemble muskets in the least. If the soldiers who fought in Antietam actually carried pool noodles as weapons, it wouldn’t have been the bloodiest day in American history. People would have died of laughter.

But the reenactment was held at school, so therefore, we had to abide by zero-tolerance policies, so therefore, on May 25, we found ourselves commanding 77 people holding flags, hats and gray pool noodles. Our instructions were to “drop down and shoot,” but it’s a bit hard to follow those particular instructions when you’re carrying pool noodles, so people ended up fighting each other in a myriad of interesting ways. These included:

1) Using the pool noodles as rapiers and engaging in enthusiastic sword fights

2) Using the pool noodles as bayonets and attempting to stab each other in the chest

3) Using the pool noodles to repeatedly whack each other on the head

Pool noodle abuse aside, however, the reenactment went splendidly! Like the real Antietam, no one was quite sure which side won (although that might be because everyone gave up fighting and rushed to coo over my teacher’s baby in the end). Like the real Antietam, a good portion of people fell on the battlefield. In fact, so many people died that we had to call an emergency meeting and resurrect a few corpses, since we didn’t have enough living soldiers left to fight.

But all of that is absolutely fine. Because, like the real Antietam, our soldiers were young and inexperienced. They didn’t know exactly what they were doing – they just had to follow their generals and hope for the best. And that, dear readers, is the essence of the 1860s – that feeling of unsureness is exactly what the young men of both the South and the North had to go through when they fought and later, when they rebuilt the country. It doesn’t matter that we fought with pool noodles, doesn’t matter that we ate pizza and drank juice and played video games after it was over. All that matters is that for one precious hour on a Saturday morning, 77 people banded together and made history come alive.

Wish you’d been there to see it? Check out the videos of the reenactment here:

1. Trailer 1:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V7VYWgKsMEM

2. Trailer 2:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NOt7oXsJJV4

3. Movie:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QU_cNgWfihQ

A New Form of Torture

Back in the Middle Ages, many religious figures firmly believed that self-torture was the key to enlightenment. So they starved themselves, beat themselves, wore incredibly ugly hairy itchy undershirts, and clawed at their skin till their clothes were soaked in blood. (Kids, do not try this at home, because it will not lead you to enlightenment. It will, however, make your parents lead you to a psychiatrist.)

Anyway, the point is, they were masters at self-torture. Boiling themselves in oil? Sure! Tying themselves to a large spiky wheel and rolling across Interstate 5 in heavy traffic? Bring it on!

But none of them – none of them – would have been able to stomach the Twilight Saga.

Now, most of you have probably read the Twilight Saga, or at least heard of it. For those of you who have just emerged from the ground after spending 17 years in a state of suspended larval animation and thus have no idea what it is, this is the basic plot: Cedric Diggory, the much-beloved Hufflepuff hunk, inexplicably rises from the grave to become a sparkly, undead, bloodsucking Greek God by the name of Edward Dullen – uh, I mean Cullen. Ed then meets Bella Swan, his soul mate, who has conveniently moved from Phoenix, Arizona, to Forks, Washington. Here I will interrupt myself to ask – who in their right mind would name a town “Forks”? Does Forks actually exist, or is it some strange imagining on the author’s part? Your intrepid writer shall now take a break from writing to unearth the truth.

(One Google Search Later –)

OH MY GOD! FORKS REALLY DOES EXIST! It’s in some place called Clallam County, and it’s named after the forks in a bunch of nearby rivers with unpronounceable names.

Okay, back to the “plot” of the Twilight Saga.

So Ed meets his soul mate, briefly debates whether he should eat her or date her, and finally decides on the latter (much to the reader’s disgust, who by now is fervently praying for Bella’s death.) Then, because the author suddenly realized that no actual plot had been introduced as of yet, James arrives. James is an evil, ugly vampire who wants nothing but to kill Bella. His reasons for doing so aren’t really disclosed, but my guess is that a fed-up reader bribed him into committing the act.

Anyway, Ed kills James and thus incurs the wrath of Victoria, who is supposedly the series’ main antagonist. In reality, she only appears at the end of Book 1 and midway through Book 3, where she gets killed by – guess who – Edward. Generally, book series end when the villain is dead. But not the Twilight Saga. Oh no. No, no, no, no, no. There just has to be a Book 4, Breaking Dawn, which has absolutely no connection with the rest of the books and features a complicated plot involving an Italian vampire-Godfather-wannabe named “Aro”, the meaning of which is “infertile ground.” I do not know the significance of this fact, but it’s funny.

Name meanings aside, though, Aro’s the best character yet – mostly because he’s completely off his rocker.

Moving on. Aro thinks that Bella’s baby – did I mention she gave birth? Aro thinks Bella’s baby is an “immortal child,” an incredibly cute yet incredibly lethal vampire baby.

Huh. Sounds like my brother.

Anyhow, creating an immortal child is punishable by death, so Aro marches over to Forks with his Army of Doom. However, the Cullens are prepared for this – they too have assembled their own army, and have come up with a brilliant plan: reason with Aro, and politely request him to spare their lives.

And guess what? It works!

Oh yeah, I forgot. There are a bunch of werewolves, except they aren’t the kind that morph at the full moon and eat everyone in sight. They’re a bunch of supernaturally good-looking, unrealistically muscular, immortal guys who have full control over their shapeshifting, and work to protect innocent humans from vampires. Go figure.

Anyway, there’s one werewolf, named Taylor Lautner, sorry, Jacob Black, who believes he’s fallen in love with Bella, except in Breaking Dawn it’s revealed that he’s really in love with Bella’s baby – which, considering the fact that he’s 16 and the baby’s half a day old, is just plain creepy. But that’s the Twilight Saga for you.

So now, dear readers, you must be wondering: why would I go through this? Why would I read the Twilight Saga if it’s so horrendously, mind-implodingly, cell-death-inducingly awful?

The answer can be summed up in five words: Because they told me to.

“They,” of course, being my numerous friends and acquaintances, who, after learning that I hadn’t read the Twilight Saga, subjected me to slow torture by fangirling until I gave in and picked the books up.

The moral of this story?

Dear readers, your friends may be lovely. They may be caring, compassionate, attentive. But the moment they pull out that small, black book with an apple on the cover, hightail it out of there.

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WE FOUND THEM! WE FOUND LI- wait, no, it’s that dang pulsar again.

Head of the Bureau of Mars-Earth Relations

Head of the Bureau of Mars-Earth Relations – in your face, SETI, we found ’em first.

Dear readers, today marks a very special day. Today is the day I finally discovered the NASA Astrobiology website, which is essentially a haven for amateur exobiologists like myself. (Yes, exobiologist: while astrobiology focuses mostly on carbon-based life forms, exobiology takes into consideration the fact that there may be other types of creatures, such as lithovores – silicon-based life forms.)

Anyway, in honour of today, this blog post will be about the history of exobiology, starting from hundreds of years ago and moving up to the present time.

Many ancient beliefs held traces of exobiology in them. Most cultures around the globe had some belief in ‘worlds’ populated by different creatures – gods, demons, humans, etc. Of course, it is possible that these gods and demons are nothing more than figments of an overactive imagination – but then again, it is equally likely that they are actually what they are made out to be: otherworldly beings. There is even a PBS series on this, Ancient Aliens, that discusses the idea that perhaps humans are not the ones responsible for such ancient wonders as the pyramids of Egypt – highly advanced extraterrestrials with superior technology are.

Moving on a few centuries – as the Catholic Church gained more power in Europe, belief in such creatures was condemned as heresy and quashed. Many prominent astronomers, such as Galileo Galilei and Nicolaus Copernicus, were forced to keep their radical ideas secret for fear of being persecuted by the Church. However, by the late nineteenth century, exobiology was rapidly picking up followers. Percival Lowell, an American astronomer, looked at Mars through his telescope in 1895 and observed what he believed to be a series of canals crisscrossing the planet’s surface. These ‘canals’ became fodder for much speculation concerning intelligent life on Mars, and it was only in 1965 – seventy years later – when NASA’s Mariner 4 took photos of Mars’s surface and determined that Mars was not in fact a wet planet, but a barren, dry, crater-filled world.

Just three years after Lowell’s canal-sightings, in 1898, British author H.G. Wells penned The War of the Worlds, a science-fiction novel about a Martian invasion of Earth. This sparked a new exobiological subculture; one that relied far more on fantastic flights of imagination than scientific evidence. Many comics and movies of that era – and this one, for that matter – had extraterrestrial characters and stories set light-years away from this planet.

In the latter half of the 20th century, scientific interest in exobiology picked up once again and the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) was founded by Frank Drake, an American astronomer. In 1972 he, along with Carl Sagan, another famous astronomer, designed the Pioneer plaque – a giant pictorial representation of the history of life on Earth, to be carried on spacecraft in order to explain our origins to any extraterrestrial beings the astronauts happened to meet. (They didn’t meet any, but better safe than sorry.)

But Drake’s greatest contribution to exobiology was his creation of the Drake Equation, a multi-variable equation that yields the rough number of intelligent, communications-savvy extraterrestrial civilizations in our galaxy. Now, if only we knew the values of half the variables.

Today, more exobiological breakthroughs are happening even as I write. Recently, a study has been commenced wherein a 500-million-year-old bacterial gene has been injected into a sample population of E. coli bacteria, to see if evolution will proceed in the same way it did billions of years ago. More and more exoplanets are being discovered, and quite a few of them are Earth-like in nature. Signals are being constantly detected by SETI instruments, although all of them so far have turned out to be false alarms – Earthling radio signals or nearby pulsars. And, of course, there are hundreds of books, movies and TV series, both nonfiction and fiction, being churned out every year, helping to inform (and occasionally misinform) the general public about the fascinating world of extraterrestrial science.

In The Good Old Days, They Made Us Analyze A Shakespeare Sonnet Before Every Meal…

Dear readers, have you noticed that the standard of writing is going down? Seriously. I have read people who claim to be twenty and thirty-year-olds writing, and yet their pieces are jammed so full of typographies and general grammar mistakes that one has to wonder – Do they do this on purpose? Is it some sort of avant-garde way of expressing oneself? Or have grammar rules changed overnight, and is this the correct way of writing? Oh my God, please let this all be a nightmare… please…

Of course, this is not to say that all modern writing is bad. I have read many exceptional pieces, most of them authored by my friends, and I am even willing to overlook minor errors if the subject matter is intriguing enough.

Unfortunately, about 99% of the time, this isn’t the case. Most stories I find are plagued by not only rampant grammar errors, but a complete lack of a structure. Worse, they are often – in the case of first-person narratives – nothing more than the author’s thinly veiled fantasies transcribed onto paper. Now, there’s nothing especially wrong with writing down your fantasies – but in order to make those stories readable, you have to inject a healthy dose of believability into them as well. Add character development. Humour. Don’t make absolutely everything go your way. Conflict is essential to any type of story.

Why, dear reader, am I bringing up this issue? What impact does it have on you? The answer lies in the dark and mysterious world of publishing companies. Of late, I have noticed that more and more sub-par work is being churned out of their presses >cough Twilight cough<, and – what is even scarier – most people actually enjoy this sort of fluffy, undeveloped work. I have read truly awful pieces of writing, then looked through their comment pages, expecting constructive criticism and advice. Instead, I found hundreds of messages praising the high quality of the work and the author’s wonderful sense of humour.

Now, I may not be much of an authority on this – I’m no Classic Literature Ph.D. – but all the same, when I read a modern poem or story, then turn back to good ol’ Shakespeare, something in my mind tells me that the Bard would be very unhappy to see modern standards of work.

Of course, there’s always the chance that he’d enthusiastically adapt Breaking Dawn into a tragicomedy. (“Forsooth, Bella! There doth be the Vampire Mafia! Quick, we must use our skin, which doth glow like a thousand suns, to blind them!” “Oh Edward! Thou must keep thine senses about you, for Aro be a dankish fat kidneyed minnow! He hath… sunglasses!“)

European Politics: High School Style

Except for a few minor setbacks, like a fifth of the countries present seceding from the eurozone and the EU completely caving in on itself and Spain assassinating Angela Merkel with a NERF gun, Davis Model United Nations 2012 went roaringly. I myself represented Italy in the European Union, and learned quite a lot about standard procedures there. For example, the accepted method of dealing with delegates that criticize your country’s policies is to call them senile. It’s true. Latvia did it to Spain. Spain then retaliated by informing Latvia that he sorely needed a babysitter. This brought in the Czech Republic, who professed wholehearted agreement with Spain. Eventually I gave up on talking about the resolution and fell into conversation with Greece about the perks of high school Robotics instead.

It was very enlightening. The conference would probably have continued on the same foot if Crisis hadn’t walked in and informed us, in awful British accents, that Greece had just seceded from the eurozone.

This was a slightly alarming development. The conference room buzzed with worried talk for roughly five minutes. Then Spain, who was also in Robotics, suggested that both of us should secede from the eurozone as well. Ireland and Portugal both followed suit, and then all hell broke loose.

It started with Germany, really. When Germany was informed of the collapse of the eurozone, he immediately advocated the dissolution of the European Union. Then Sweden suggested building a lunar empire, and Latvia went about recreating Yugoslavia. Slovenia wanted to send UN peacekeeping troops into our countries and ‘convince’ us to change back to the euro. It would have been a frightening suggestion, except for the fact that he spoke with a thick Russian accent and wore a pair of oversized sunglasses. The whole effect was that of a Eurasian vampire-Mafia Godfather.

After that, the head of the committee himself started to exhibit signs of advanced boredom, and playing a video of his friends flame-dancing in downtown Davis instead. Latvia and Spain voted each other Most in Need of a Babysitter and Most Likely to be Admitted to Geriatric Home, respectively. I beat my high score in Fruit Ninja and drank a bottle of bilious blue energy drink. Then the awards ceremony came (I didn’t win anything) and my dad went into Ninja Mode and drove all the way from Davis to Cupertino minutes before a solar eclipse and I finished the load of rancid math homework left sitting on my desk on Thursday night.

It is now thirty-six seconds past 10:01, so I’m going to end on this note: Dear readers, the moral of this piece is that however little your UN delegates accomplish, it is still better than what would happen if a group of hormonal high-school and college students was in charge of the civilized world. At this point, we’d probably all be owned by Bulgaria or something. If we didn’t abolish the idea of separate nations and reform Pangaea, that is.

On that thought, good night and good luck.*

 

Old movie set during the McCarthy Trials. Note: never show to class full of hyper ninth graders.

When Zookeepers (who are also authors) Go Bad

“Animals.”

That, dear readers is the insanely creative first sentence of Linda Lombardi’s book “Animals Behaving Badly”, which is about animals… behaving badly.

Dear, dear readers, would you read that book?

Perhaps you would. I don’t know. Personally, when I took in that first sentence, I felt a sudden urge to whip out a red pen and scribble teacherly notes in the margins of the book. But since it was new, and cost $13.95 at Kepler’s, I decided to spare it from my Pen of Doom.

Before I had read the first three chapters, I would be sorely regretting that decision.

My expression when I finished the book. Except I didn’t go bald.

All in all, Ms. Lombardi’s writing style is decent – for a sixth grader, that is. Clichéd, awkward sentence beginnings like “Ominously” and “Sadly”, strange contortions of sentence structures that within the bounds of grammar I knew not existed (see what I did there), and a lot of repetition a lot of repetition a lot of repetition a lot of repe- You get the point.

Anyway, it isn’t just the grammar that makes this book so incredibly bad. No – it’s the entire idea behind it. Now, don’t get me wrong here – animals behaving badly is a great topic for a book. I love reading incidences of bad animal behaviour. But when you’re writing on a topic like this, it’s important to have a point to your piece, a greater theme that connects all the isolated incidences.

To her credit, Ms. Lombardi makes a few halfhearted attempts to inject a theme throughout the course of the book – but overall, it reads like a Wikipedia page of instances of animals victimizing and/or ridiculing the human race, with a few corny jokes thrown into the mix.

Though she doesn’t expressly state the Big Idea behind her book, I came away from the experience with the distinct impression that what she was trying to say was: “Animals are evil and are always on the lookout for chances to hurt humans.”

Now, this is not true. I will be the first to say that animals are not cute and cuddly and sparkly and jellybean-scented. And yes, animals can and will hurt people. But, my dear Ms. Lombardi, you are forgetting one very important thing: Humans aren’t cute and cuddly and sparkly and jellybean-scented either. And for every animal attack on a human, there are tens, hundreds, perhaps even thousands of human attacks on animals. Actually, Ms. Lombardi even mentions some of these – and calls them “heroic”.

So a man biting a puny, non-venomous snake to death in retaliation for being bitten by it is “heroic”? ZOMG, so cool! Next time I see a snake, I’ll be sure to give it a nice big chomp on the tail!

Not. I like snakes, Ms. Lombardi. And chances are that snake reacted defensively to some unwitting action on the man’s part. Ms. Lombardi, you say you are a zookeeper. You say you luurve animals, Ms. Lombardi.

If that is so, then why does this book radiate enough zoophobia to power a nuclear plant?

 

RATING SUMMARY:

1/5 Stars

RECOMMENDATION?

If you want to frizzle your brain, yeah.

MIGHT ALSO LIKE:

The Twilight Saga, Self-Torture for Idiots

Breaking News! Celebrity’s Mom’s Cousin’s Friend’s Grandmother’s Sister’s Daughter’s Daughter Changes Brand of Lip Gloss!

In a stunning turn of events on Monday, a famous actress’s mother’s cousin’s friend’s grandmother’s sister’s daughter’s daughter, Strawberry McSweetiepie, shocked the world by changing her lip gloss brand – from Lipshine to SweetScents.

Lipshine, owned by McSweetiepie’s  actress relation, is what can be classed as a “super-company.” It owns about 97.298247583247580823857293875829% of the market for its famous lip gloss products, with the classic flavor Banana-Marshmallow-Kiss being head of the list. By contrast, SweetScents owns roughly 0.00000219% of the market, and its only flavours are Banana Sludge and McSweetiepie’s personal favourite, Kissable Kelp Kream.

When interviewed, McSweetiepie seemed unclear of why she made such a drastic change. “I…I don’t know, it just came to me. One day, I was just sitting there, looking in the mirror, Lipshine in hand, when…. The revelation occurred. I suddenly realized that…however high-gloss it might be, Lipshine just isn’t for me.” She’s a sworn supporter of the SweetScents brand now, she claims. When she discovered it in the store one day – “it was like it was calling to me. I was drawn to the display. Once I picked a tube up, I just couldn’t put it down. I had to buy it.”

McSweetiepie’s family, who are all staunch Lipshine users, are horrified at this change. A quote from her mother, Scarlett McSweetiepie – “I don’t know what’s happening to this family! We’re suddenly growing apart, after ten years! It’s ridiculous!” All around the globe, concerned citizens’ letters are pouring in. Most are worried about what the effects of this major change, but a few actually congratulate the girl on her switch.

What will happen next? Only the future can tell.

Greetings, Earthlings (Bloglings?)

Welcome, dear readers, to Paradise.

Actually, that’s subjective. If you’re a nerdy, shark-loving, story-writing teenage bookworm like yours truly, then this is most definitely Paradise. If you’re not… then hopefully this’ll be an entertaining read in any case.

Anyway, back to the point! Which is… er… actually, there really is no point

This is not a self-portrait. Or is it...?

to this first post. It’s kind of like one of those complicated initiation ceremonies that schools have. You know, the kind that involves sitting on uncomfortable wooden benches and

singing patriotic anthems like the Clean Up Song? (To my knowledge the Clean Up Song has never actually been used in one of these events, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was. The songs we sang in high school ceremonies were definitely just as ridiculous as that beloved kindergarten melody.) The point is, those ceremonies seem to have no real objective – except perhaps to intensely bore you and make you actually want to open your Calculus textbook. So too is the point of this blog.

Nonononono, don’t get out your Calculus textbook!! That’s not what I meant!

What I mean is, this blog doesn’t really have a theme per say. More like – like a collection of opinion pieces written from the point of view of a teenager who’s actually vaguely literate.

Gasp.

Hmm – has this gone on too long for a first blog entry? Perhaps it’s best to end it now. Without further ado, I present to you…

Aditi’s Blog!

Bon appétit, dear readers.

Enter if you dare.