Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky
Publisher:  Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Pages: 776
Rating: 5/5

     The Brothers Karamazov is a murder mystery, a courtroom drama, and an exploration of erotic rivalry in a series of triangular love affairs involving the "wicked and sentimental" Fyodor Pavlovich Karamazov and his three sons - the impulsive and sensual Dmitri; the coldly rational Ivan; and the healthy, red-cheeked young novice Alyosha.  Through the gripping events of their story, Dostoevsky portrays the whole of Russian life, its social and spiritual striving, in what was both the golden age and a tragic turning point in Russian culture.
     This award-winning translation by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky remains true to the verbal inventiveness of Dostoevsky's prose, preserving the multiple voices, the humor, and the surprising modernity of the original. It is an achievement worthy of Dostoevsky's last and greatest novel.

Can I just start by saying that I love Russian literature.  I have read three Russian novels for school (The Brothers Karamazov, War and Peace, and Anna Karenina) and have preferred them by far to any American novel that has been assigned (1984, Scarlet Letter, Red Badge of Courage, Moby Dick, Huck Finn, Heart of Darkness, The Great Gatsby). I blame it on my infatuation with Stalin.

I did read this book for class so the rating is based on how much I liked this book compared to other classics not other books in general. I like to hurry through the books my school assigns for summer reading as quickly as possible.  I hate the feeling of having something to do looming over me.  Hence, I have finished this book in about 3 weeks.  Most of my classmates don't even have a copy yet.  When I started this book I found it really hard to believe that it would be as interesting as the back of the book claims.  A murder, affairs?! Yeah right, Alyosha is chilling in a monastery! However, it picks up around part III and all the back claims did come true.

Now, I am not religious, but I joke that the only time I have any spiritual tendencies is when a plane is taking off or landing, then I pray my heart out.  I must admit that Russian novels also bring out my spirituality.  All classics are supposed to make you question your society and yourself, but sometimes the questions are outdated or something I've already uncovered myself, which is annoying.  It feels worthless to read the book when that happens.  However, I always am moved by the Russian works I've read.  What has stuck with me from The Brothers Karamazov the function of God in society.  Basically the novel showcases the downfall of religion in popular thought.  Facts and science are taken into account more then Alyosha's feelings.  The novel shows that excluding spirituality and sensuality doesn't always result in the truth. For a while I haven't felt that science needs to explain everything and be the basis for all knowledge so it was interesting for me to see this viewpoint with a religious backing because, like I've said, I do not have any religious experience.

Wow, I haven't done a great job selling this book have I?  I've said it reminds me of Stalin and that it promotes deep thought.  Not really what you want on the beach right?  Well, it's also a good story.  Those Russians certainly know how to shock society.  Anna had an affair then offed herself and in this novel, contrary to the first half of the book, there is a very interesting murder, a complex love affair, and the courtroom was interesting (if you like that kind of thing).  Americans are afraid of love and sensuality but Russia just digs deep and spreads all their dirty laundry on the page for the world to read.  Give it a try, they're very honest.

Well, I haven't done a great job of explaining what this book is about.  However, for a classic is that really necessary? You're either going to read it for school or...actually don't read it otherwise.  It might mess you up if you do.  (Trust me War and Peace changed my life and all of my convictions)  If you do have to read it for a class, now you know why I liked it! What book have you actually liked that you read for a class?

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Friday, June 28, 2013

Summer To-Do List

I can't do anything successfully without a plan.  Therefore I have made a list of what I want to accomplish this summer.  While I'm already almost 4 weeks into my summer, it's never too late to start.  So without further ado, here is my summer to-do list!
  • scavenger hunt
  • picnic
  • camp
  • go on a hike
  • blanket fort
  • baseball game
  • all Harry Potter movies in 24 hours
  • concert
  • sunrise and sunset
  • water fight
  • hula hoop
  • fern canyon
  • beach bonfire
  • learn to make sushi well
  • bake a pie
  • learn to make good mexican rice
  • make a jar of lucky stars
  • play pattle tennis with my grandmother
  • finish painting my room
  • continue to take pictures most days
  • visit the zoo
  • throw even more things away
  • tie-dye some clothes
  • drink a virgin margarita
  • get a tan
  • learn a new skill
  • make new friends
  • do something i'd never do
  • hunt ghosts
  • skinny dip
  • play ulitmate frisbee
  • take the dogs on walks
  • no caffeine
Look like a solid summer to me. Wish me luck! 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

University Of California, Santa Barbara

I am quickly approaching my senior year of high school.  I can already see the college applications on the horizon.  Being lazy, I had not thought about college until my mom took me to visit her alma mater University Of California in Santa Barbara (UCSB).

This was my first college tour, so I had no idea what to expect.  I was worried that I would be the only kid so all the energy would be focused.  Thank God that wasn't the case.  There were at least 50 kids with their families so it was easy to blend in.  Unfortunately I didn't take very many pictures so most of these are from the University's website but I can validate that it does look like this in real life!

"Is that really what my hair looks like from the back" (10pts if you know that quote) oh dear look at that tan line...
The tour started at 11am with an hour long presentation about what UCSB has to offer.  Somehow, I was not bored once.  The admissions worker giving the presentation was perfect for the job.  He recited all the important information but kept it fun with stories and an energetic personality.  He definitely loved UCSB and wanted students to apply if they felt a connection with the campus.  If not he wanted the student to find the best college for them, which I think is a great attitude to have toward prospective students.

During this presentation I learned what I would have from the website.  However, having never looked at the website it was extremely informative.  The main points that the presenter stressed was to put yourself into your application as much as possible and that UCSB is a fabulous university for students who want to participate in research as an undergraduate.  Apparently there are few graduate students at UCSB so the programs typically reserved for them at other universities are open to the undergraduates. Which is awesome in every way possible!

After the presentation we went on a tour of campus guided by a student currently attending the school.  I LOVED my tour guide.  I may just feel connected because we were both from North California, but he was also just fun.  He was easy to connect with and it never felt like he felt like he was just reciting pre-arranged words.  If you decide to visit UCSB and he is one of the tour guides, pick him, you won't regret it!

His name is Brennan by the way! You can thank my mm's ninja skills for this slightly creepy photo...
Something I really liked about UCSB was their lack of greek life and sports. Don't get me wrong, these are both fine institutions, they're just not for me and knowing my college doesn't spend too much time or money on them sounds like a bonus to me.    In fact UCSB doesn't even have a football team!  Their most popular sport is soccer where they have a tradition of throwing tortillas onto the field!!! Now this looks like fun to me.

Last, but definitely not least is the food.  Now, I didn't try any, but it sounds soosososososososo good. Our guide claimed that sushi and mexican food are a daily occurrence.  You can't get better than that!  It was also nice that everything at UCSB is in a centralized location.  It seems as if everyone on campus has a bike and uses it daily and with that instrument getting to all your classes doesn't seem too difficult. UCSB also has an amazing campus. A lot of the campus has direct access to the beach and there are beautiful hills in the other direction.  I feel that at UCSB I would never have an excuse for holing up in my room.  There is just so much to see and do. Ugh can I just go already!

Important Facts:
Average GPA: 4.07
Average SAT: 1922
Average ACT: 28
Population: 18,620
Undergrads to Faculty: 18:1
Application Available: Oct 1
Application Due: Nov 1-30
My Major of Choice: Anthropology BA (Cultural and Biological), Classics BA (Archaeology)
Application Fee: $70
Total Tuition: $32,233 (in-state)

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Monday, June 24, 2013

Vernon God Little by DBC Pierre

Vernon God Little by DBC Pierre

Publisher: Faber and Faber
Pages: 277
Rating: 4/5

The riotous adventures of fifteen-year-old Vernon Gregory Little in a small-town Texas and beach-front Mexico mark on of the most spectacularly irreverent, satirically acute and critically acclaimed debuts of the 21st century so far.  The only novel to be set in the barbecue sauce capital of central Texas, Vernon God Little, suggests that desperate times throw up the most unlikely of heroes.

This may be the first 'adult' book I've read for fun.  I feel so grown up!  Granted, the main character was a fifteen year old but it still counts right? I have to say this is not the book I expected it to be but never the less it was very very good.

The novel starts with Vernon arrested in the sheriff's office.  His friend Jesus had just shot up their school killing fellow students and himself.  Trying to find the cause of Jesus actions, they arrest Vernon and question him.  Upon being released on bail, kinda, Vernon works to clear his name.  However, he has no idea how to do that and as the blurb states somehow ends up in Mexico.

Everyone likes a good satire.  People read to learn about their society and to develop their own morality.  Satires make the reader think about what they have previously accepted by pointing out the flawed system.  In Vernon God Little, DBC Pierre analyses the criminal justice system.  The reader knows throughout the novel that Vernon is innocent of murder yet the community is in dire need of a fall person so they mold him into one.  Even his mother helps incarcerate him.  This book made me really think about how we assess a crime when the perpetrator cannot explain himself.

Vernon is brutally honest about the events and the people around him.  He gives a faithful first person narration that hits home.  The twisting knife in his back was a metaphor that stuck with me.  However, there is a light side.  The diction is amazing.  I definitely was not expecting it and it blew me away.  I thought it was very realistic, except for that fact that I don't think I child would have that type of vocabulary (I don't!).

All in all, I really liked this book. The story was very unpredictable and at times admittedly unbelievable but it  told an interesting tale and made me question if is really so unbelievable.

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Sunday, June 23, 2013

Cultural Necessities

As a young person, I know there are things I haven't experienced yet.  However, I feel that it is my job as a member of society to fix as many knowledge issues as possible. For example, I know a lot about Pink Panter and Harry Potter but when someone talks about Star Trek or James Bond I am completely lost. Now with an expansive summer looming ahead, I want to fill in some of these gaps.  I'll start with one of the largest.

Webcam 'cause I'm lazy

Amazingly I know absolutely nothing about Lord of the Rings.  I know the guys are named Frodo and Sam. I know that they have to throw a ring into a volcano in Mordor.  I know that Gandalf says 'You Shall Not Pass'.  Impressive, I know.  I've seen parts of them when my mom goes on a binge but now it's my turn.  Goodbye for 15 hours!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Ocean World // Car Adventures

Yesterday, I went on a road trip with some friends up to Crescent City.  My friend Dana had never visited the aquarium up there called Ocean World, so we decided to head up there!

The highlight of the trip was definitely the seal/sea lion show. Everyone had broad grins and the girls definitely squeed a few times.

Look at how cute that is! You can't say no to those faces.
This is the laziest seal I have ever seen.  I swear she only moved a foot the entire time we were there.

There was also a tide pool.  Growing up on the coast, we were all very familiar with tide pools. However, I don't think there I will ever not want to hold a starfish in my hand.

Velvet Starfish.  This is my favorite Starfish ever they're just so soft!
The underside of a starfish, in case you were wondering.
Now onto the actual aquarium part.  It's rather small but stuffed full of sharks and stingrays.  Our tour guide scared the crap out of us by explaining how many sharks live in our local ocean.  Apparently there are quite a few Great Whites! I'm not surfing anytime soon.  The small ones were pretty cute though.

Leopard Shark
Stingray! Aren't they cute! The also feel awesome if you ever have that opportunity.
 Finally, we were able to touch some sharks! Weirdly enough these sharks actually wanted to be petted.  The two leopard sharks, the long ones along the edge, kept coming up to us.  The sharks felt like sandpaper if sandpaper was alive.  I always thought they would be soft and kinda velvety like velvet starfish but nope.

 Ocean World was definitely worth the almost 4 hour round trip drive. Amazingly it only cost us $10 to do all of this!  Next time you happen to be on the northcoast of California, ahahahaha never, I'd suggest a stop.  The whole trip took about 45 min.

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