Tuesday, May 31, 2011

More bookishness

Today, I have a renewed fierce admiration for fiction and the people who spend their time writing it.

First of all, I was reading Lemony Snicket; The Unauthorized Autobiography. I may have said this before, but Lemony Snicket is my hero. He is a genius at writing with the right mixture of humor and tragedy. He writes about things that should be horrible, but his narration is so hilarious and the situations so ridiculous and satirical that it makes you laugh in spite of yourself.

Also, he never says anything outright. A lot of children's books I've read seem to assume that children are stupid and need things spelled out for them. His books are based on the assumption that children are curious and intelligent and can piece things together for themselves. The Series of Unfortunate Events is really just one big conspiracy theory with tiny clues and hints throughout the books. Some of the biggest clues aren't even in the series but in the companion books. You have to search to figure out the many unanswered questions that come up in the series, and sometimes a guess is all you have.

Another thing I love is the little covert jokes he makes with names. For instance, when describing Uncle Monty's snakes, one of them is called the Virginian Wolfsnake and they are instructed not to let it near a typewriter. 

The second thing that triggered this wave of appreciation for brilliant writing was a book I picked up at the library today. This book has an intriguing title and cover and seemed like the kind of book I would like-- I have pretty good instincts when it comes to (literally) judging a book by its cover. I had seen it several times before when shelving in the YA section and wanted to check it out, but there was always a reason why I shouldn't that day, usually the fact that I already had several books to read.

This morning I stopped in at the library and was drawn to this book again. I finally checked it out, and once again, my suspicions are confirmed. I started reading when I got home, and was shocked to find myself in there, from the first page. The main character has a thought process and habits and logic that I recognize. They are thoughts that I have actually had, almost word for word. She is realistic enough to keep me reading even when she makes some mistakes and gets into trouble. Normally, when a character starts being stupid, that's when I lose interest in the book. This time, I find I can't condemn her for making a bad decision because she's me.

Plus, it's a mystery. I love mystery.

Anyway, those are my thoughts for the day. Have you ever read a book that made you think the author must have been reading your mind? How do you react when characters in books make the wrong choices?


Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Final Problem-- group read

The Final Problem is one of the Sherlock Holmes stories that will always stick with you once you've read it. The plot is one of the biggest plots of all the stories, and the villain is the worst. There is a reason that Moriarty is always the major villain in Sherlock Holmes adaptations, even though he was only in a few stories.

Marian has been doing a group read of this story over at her Sherlock blog, Just a Trifle, which is an amazing blog, by the way. When she posted these questions about the story, I knew I would have enough to say to fit into a post of my own, so instead of leaving a comment on the group read I'm going to leave a link to this post. There is still time to get involved if you want to answer these questions as well!

*Spoiler alert*
If you've never read The Final Problem, skip this post until you do! I would hate to ruin the experience for you.


What was your initial reaction to "The Final Problem"?

Initially I believed it was really the last Sherlock Holmes story. I cried. A lot. It was a really odd experience, because I felt a huge sense of loss, but the ending was so beautiful that it was bittersweet. It's still one of my favorite stories because of all that I felt when reading it the first time.

Holmes clearly foresaw his own end. How long do you think he had foreseen it?

I think he guessed that it would come to this, but he knew for sure when he got the news that Moriarty had escaped. At that point, he knows what will happen. He takes a seemingly aimless journey through the countryside with Watson for a week, which makes it seems like he is trying to evade Moriarty... but I think he knew he was being followed and timed it so that Moriarty would catch up to him at the Falls. It was going to come down to a confrontation between them, so he got to a place where he knew he could defend himself.

Also, if you look at his behavior through this section, it is clear that he is preparing Watson for the possibility. He is too calm and too happy, and he tells Watson over and over that if he can defeat Moriarty, he will be happy to let his career come to an end. What he is really saying is that he will be happy to lose his life to defeat Moriarty.

Why do you think Holmes leaves England?

I think initially it was just to survive. He knew Moriarty had too many men inside the city. If he had stayed he probably wouldn't have lived to see the gang arrested. Outside of the city there is less of a threat. Also, if he was thinking long term at this point, he knew that if he was going to have a face-to-face confrontation, it was better to be where Moriarty wouldn't have back up. In London, even if he killed Moriarty out of self defense, he would either be killed immediately or tried for murder. At the Falls, he was able to escape more easily.

Does Doyle's choice of the Reichenbach Falls setting seem random or meaningful?

I'm not sure how much meaning the setting had within the context of the story, but I think it had meaning to the author. (Unless you are a Sherlockian and you believe that Watson was really the author.) Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had been to the Reichenbach Falls shortly before this story was published, and it was while vacationing there that his wife was diagnosed with tuberculosis. Perhaps that was where he first felt that he was losing his wife, so he decided it was a fitting place to lose his most successful character. Maybe he wrote it that way as a memorial to her.

This is the first (and chronologically last) appearance of Moriarty in the series. Is he a credible character?

I'm not sure of what is meant by "credible" in this question. He is not a very realistic character, but neither is Holmes. I think he is the perfect foil for Sherlock Holmes, but sometimes it does seem as if that is the only reason he was invented. It makes the suspicious part of me wonder if there is more to the story than Watson is telling. Why hasn't Sherlock mentioned Moriarty to Watson before now?


Personally, I think that The Final Problem is a much better ending than Holmes retiring to the countryside. It is poetic and heroic, the detective happily and readily giving up his life to defeat the man who is his opposite. They are like mirror images of each other, equally brilliant, one light and one dark. I think that it's the best way for the story to end, but I hate that he dies. Consequently, I love that he is still alive, but I was also disappointed that his poetic ending was a lie.

In The Final Problem, it's like he completes his goal in life, and so he doesn't need to live anymore. He has achieved what he was always trying to do; rid the world of its greatest evil. When he comes back, there is still evil to battle, enough to last a lifetime. Even when he retires, he still occasionally helps on a case. It's like bringing him back from Reichenbach Falls takes away his achievement. Instead of a solid ending, the audience is shown that crime never ends.

On the other hand, I love some of the stories that come after this one. They are brilliant, and I am not saying I wish they hadn't been written... but maybe Doyle could have set them in the years before The Final Problem.

What do you think about the story? Do you think this should have been the last, or do you like the fact that he comes back?


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Rear Window

This post was written under the assumption that you have seen Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window. If you haven't seen it, there aren't too many spoilers, but you won't know what I'm talking about.

Rear Window is a beautiful movie for many reasons, but what is most often the focus of analysis and review is the mystery. The mystery provides the plot and drives the story, but it is not what the story is really about. The true meaning of the story goes deeper than that. It is about relationships, and specifically about how relationships are viewed by the main character.

The main character, L. B. Jeffries, is concerned about his own romantic relationship. He loves his girlfriend and he wants the best for her, but he is not sure they would be right for each other in the long run. He doesn’t want to give up his career, but he doesn’t want to force her to give up hers. This conflict is treated as a subplot, but it is really the driving force of the story. His inner turmoil about marriage causes him to observe the relationships of the people around him very closely, which is how he stumbles upon the murder plot.

All of the people Jeffries observes from his window represent some stage of relationships. There is “Miss Lonely Heart,” pretending to have a date, and the lonely composer, losing himself in his music and later in alcohol. Jeffries is afraid of ending up like these two, completely alone. There is also the ballerina. She is a social butterfly and seems to have people around her, but, as Lisa points out, she is as alone as any of them. This is the character Lisa identifies with, and I think Jeffries is afraid that this is what Lisa will become if he doesn’t marry her.

Then there are the representations of married life. There is a newly married couple in one of the apartments. They seem happy at first, but soon even this relationship crumbles, and the man is observed trying to relax, staring out the window, when his wife calls him from inside. And, finally, there is the murderer and his wife. This is the couple that Jeffries watches the most, because he is afraid of becoming them: the overworked, worn out man and his nagging wife. Fear is the reason he watches them so closely, possibly hoping to find some spark left of happily married life in their relationship. This is how he discovers the murder. The mystery plot doesn’t begin until about thirty minutes into the movie. Perhaps the character’s journey is the true plot and the mystery is a subplot?

Of course, there are some happy people in the courtyard as well as the sad. There is a happily single older woman, an artist. There is also one happy couple who lives directly across from him with their dog and sleep out on the balcony. These people are not the focus of the story because it is Jeffries’ story and he is more concerned with the unhappy people. He chooses not to notice the happy people because that would force him to change his mind about marriage being a bad idea.

At the end of the story, when Lisa is in danger, he realizes two things. First, he knows he cannot live without her. Her being in danger with him being unable to help sparked a protective instinct that he couldn’t ignore. Secondly, he realizes that she is more capable than he gave her credit for. She wants to be a part of his life and he needs to let her in. It is at this point that he knows he needs to stop focusing on the relationships of other people and focus on his own.

At the very end of the movie, things brighten up for every resident of the apartment complex. Miss Lonely Heart and The Lonely Composer find each other, the ballerina has someone to love after all, the happy couple across from him gets a new dog and carries on, and Jeffries decides that marriage might not be so bad after all.


The Tesla Project excerpt- first scene

There was a new professor at the front of the class.

It was three minutes past the hour, the time when Professor Herman would normally shuffle in, balancing a pile of loose paper and a full-to-the-brim coffee mug. The class had waited, cell phone keys clacking and last minute homework being done. At three after, they put their phones away. The door opened. Professor Herman did not shuffle in.

The new professor strode into the room, empty handed, confident. He was young. When he reached the front, he turned and scanned the class, letting his eyes rest on each of the fifty seats. His eyes were alert, troubled, dark. They were eyes that had seen too much.

Abby Norris, unaware that there was a new professor at the front of the class, felt the eyes stop on her. She lifted her head from the notebook she was writing in and her gaze met his. He held it for a long moment as her eyebrows lifted in surprise. He broke eye contact and moved on across the rows of seats, a smile at the corner of his mouth.

“Good afternoon, class,” the new professor said. “My name is Alexander James and I will be your substitute for today. I believe we are discussing the Second World War.” He leaned casually against the chalkboard, crossing his arms.

At four minutes after, Professor Herman would normally begin droning. His students dreaded that moment. They were stuck silent in their seats for the next two hours and fifty-six minutes, waging war on their own eyelids to stay awake and trying in vain to take coherent notes.

The clock hit four minutes after in the class with the new professor at the front. Something inside the students groaned and died. Then Professor James began talking.

Abby Norris was a storyteller. From the moment she could communicate she was weaving worlds and fabricating beings to populate those worlds. Not only that, but making things happen to the people in those worlds: beautiful things, tragic things, things that were true, things that should have been true. It went beyond the medium of words on the page. The story was something wild and eternal, just out of reach. Abby’s goal was to capture it, and words were her trap.

Professor James met her eyes again as he began to speak. The class sat spellbound, mouths open, pens still. They didn’t need to take notes. They would remember. The students felt for the first time that they understood what it was like to face death on the battlefield, and what it was like to wait at home for the news of death.

Professor James spoke with emotion and vibrancy, pacing back and forth and looking directly at each of the students in turn, Abby twice as often. He told of the battle of Saipan, his voice shaking as he described the eyes of a mother, holding her baby on the edge of the cliff. The woman had been led to believe that death was better than an American soldier. She jumped out of fear, just before the soldier could reach them. The class was silent for a long moment after this description. The girls had tears in their eyes. The boys pretended they didn’t.

Two hours and fifty-six short minutes later, the lecture ended.

Normally, when Professor Herman ended his unique method of torture, the class erupted with scraping chairs, rustling papers, voices, laughter, noise. Today was not a normal day. The class gathered and stood and left, unusually subdued. One of the boys made a joke and everyone ignored him.

Abby Norris gathered her things and stood, but didn’t leave. She made her way to the front of the class as the last stragglers were nearly to the door. Professor James was leaning on the chalkboard, arms crossed, eyes closed. Abby stood in front of the desk, waiting for him to open his eyes and see that he wasn’t alone. He was still. Now that she was closer, she could see how young he was. His skin was smooth except for a worried crease in the middle of his forehead. He couldn’t have been older than twenty. She started to back away.

“Abigail Norris, how may I help you?”He said, then opened his eyes and looked at her. His gaze was piercing and dark and he looked older. He could have been any age.

“That lecture was beautiful,” she told him. It suddenly sounded like a stupid thing to say and she took another step back in embarrassment. She was the only student left in the room now.

He smiled. “Miss Norris, I was reading over some of the homework the class has already completed and your pieces were well done. Very well done. You seem to have an understanding of history that goes beyond recitation of facts.”

She blushed. “Thank you.”

“Have you ever heard of a man named Nikola Tesla?”

“Of course. He was Edison’s rival. Invented the alternating current.”

“How much do you know about his work?”

“That’s about it.”

He stood and brushed the chalk dust from his shoulder, preparing to leave.

“That is, apart from the legend.”

He froze, staring at her. “What?”

“The school legend about Tesla.”

He took a deep breath. “What legend?”

Everyone knew about the legend. Everyone’s parents knew about the legend. It was a school myth, a scary story to be joked about, a whispered tale that grew with each telling. It was as much a part of life at the university as the mascot or the cafeteria food.

“What does the legend say?” He repeated.

Everyone knew about the legend. Who was this man?

He was still as ice, waiting. She explained. “That Nikola Tesla secretly had a son. He tested his experiments on him. Something about electricity and the brain. It worked and his son became a genius, which made Tesla jealous. They say that Tesla put him in a mental institution and he died, then the mental institution was turned into this school. Now the ghost of Tesla’s son haunts the halls, and everyone blames their bad grades on him.”

He studied the carpet. Finally he nodded. “Thank you very much for telling me, Abigail Norris. I’ll be here again next class period.”

He strode up the aisle, then stopped just before the door, hesitating. He glanced back at Abby with those deep eyes.

“Tesla didn’t have a son. Not really.”

He stepped through the door.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Math woes

There are no appointments at work this morning, being finals week. So, basically, I am just sitting here having a panic attack for three and a half hours. I'm wondering if I will have to re-take math 110 next semester, and at this point it's a definite possibility. I am having trouble remembering basic things we learned at the beginning of the semester but haven't used since then, like simplifying rational expressions and graphing functions with cubed roots in them. I feel like it's been years since we learned those.

I am not a math person, numbers and formulas just don't stick in my brain the way words do. In math, there is one way to do it. You are either right or you are wrong. I prefer things that require more creativity than that. Using different ways to express ideas through language, two people could say opposite things but both be "correct" because there is no wrong answer. I love English.

I hate math.

Monday, May 16, 2011


The school semester is nearly over, so for the last few days I've been compiling a list of books and stories I want to read over the summer break. Any suggestions? I'm mostly considering older science fiction like H.G. Wells and Jules Verne.

I would also like to read more Agatha Christie. I went through a phase in my younger teenage years where I read every Agatha Christie novel I could get my hands on, which was quite a few. Her twisty endings tricked me every time. Now, I can still remember some of her plots, but I don't know what the books are called. It's difficult to track down a book when the only thing you know is the solution to the mystery.

Sometimes when I'm alone I read out loud to myself, mostly poetry or Shakespeare. It is one of my favorite things to do. "The Raven" and "The Lady of Shalott" are two of the best. I think I'm pretty good at reading out loud, but I can't do it in front of people--I get dizzy and my stomache feels like I'm on a roller coaster and I start shaking uncontrollably. That's something I need to work on.


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Quotes from my math teacher

Student: "My brain is just so full."
Teacher: "Huh. My brain stays fairly empty most days."

Student: "So, who is considered the father of mathematics?"
Teacher: "ME."

"Square root of smiley face times square root of smiley face equals smiley face."

"That's all we have time for today. If you'd like more practice, you can come see me..." *awkward pause* "...never. This is the last day of class."

"You can remember quadratic formula by singing it to the tune of Pop Goes the Weasel." *starts singing* "Negative B plus or minus the square root of B squared, minus four times A times C, aaalll over two A."

Jane Eyre 2011

Jane Eyre, starring Mia Wasikowska, Michael Fassbender, and Jamie Bell.
Ever since I heard back in December that this movie was coming, I nearly died of excitement and anticipation every time it was mentioned. Jane Eyre is one of those stories that has been adapted to film several times, but they never seemed to get it quite right until now. With this adaption they got it right. At least, right enough that I'm happy if they never make another. It lived up to all my expectations for a film adaption, but no movie can ever completely capture the beauty of the book.

I was most happy with Mia Wasikowska as Jane. There is something about her that fit the character perfectly. She looks like a real person, not stunningly gorgeous. There is a strength and confidence that shines through that makes her seem beautiful.

Rochester was just okay. He was just rude enough at the beginning, but he turned sweet way too quickly. I suppose the time constraint of the two hour movie forced the story along, but I barely understood that he was grouchy and troubled before he turned into a really nice guy. It happened so fast that it was barely there.

Adele was perfect, exactly as I imagined her. Mrs. Fairfax was perfect.

St. John didn't look right for the part, but Jamie Bell is an amazing actor and he pulled it off. Not quite stunningly handsome enough, and way too likeable, but he managed to be amazing anyway.

The cinematography was simply beautiful. Some of the first shots took my breath away.

If you haven't seen the movie yet, you may be surprised to know that they rearranged things a little bit. The movie begins with Jane arriving at St. John Rivers' house, then tells her backstory through flashbacks. Eventually it catches up to itself and goes on to the ending from there.

It was unusual, but I liked how they did it. It allowed the audience to meet grown-up Jane before seeing her childhood, and I think it was very effective. It didn't take away from the story at all, it was just a new way of telling the story.

There were a few little things I was disappointed with, but I won't discuss them yet. When the movie comes out on DVD I will watch it again and do another general post about it, as well as a content review.

Any thoughts on this movie? Let me know in the comments!


Wednesday, May 4, 2011


Today I went to class, ate at school, went to another class, went to the math lab to study, went to work at the writing lab, went back to the math lab to study more and finally came home, ten hours after I left.

Tomorrow I am going to work at 8am, then to class, then to the math lab to study, then back to work at 5pm, then to math class to take a test (hence the studying). I won't get home until after 9pm.

Some prayers for tomorrow would be greatly appreciated. I'm just a little stressed and I don't feel confident about this math test. I will be happy to get a B.


Introducing me

The following is my bio that I have posted on the "About Me" page, but I thought I would put it here as well.

My blogger name is Jane, which is my middle name in real life. Originally, I used the name "Jane" online because I wanted to be anonymous. I think by now a lot of you know my real name, (and I am okay with that,) but I've gotten used to going by "Jane," and I find that it suits my writing personality.

I was home schooled, and am now attending community college for my associate's degree. My goal is to graduate next spring. After getting my associates, I hope to go on to receive a bachelor's in English with a literature emphasis, and a minor in creative writing. Eventually I want to teach English and literature.

I work as a writing tutor at the college I attend. It has been a really neat experience, and has confirmed for me that I love to teach. Whether or not I end up teaching in schools depends on what God brings into my life over the next couple of years, but even if that doesn't work out, I will be homeschooling my (possible) future children.

The fact that I was home schooled all the way through high school is something I am grateful for. My love of classic literature comes from all the books I read as a young teenager. These were books that I wanted to read. I picked them out and enjoyed them. Since I've been in college I haven't had as much time to read, and I'm realizing that if I had been in school all along I never would have read those books.

The books I read through high school, when I thought I was getting away with skimping on "real school," are a huge part of the foundation of my life now. Sometimes pieces of literature that I read years ago will come back to me suddenly and bring extra meaning to a situation or a better understanding of a school topic. I used to read a lot of historical books, so in history class I found that I could relate to the people from the past. It was as if I had been there and lived through it with them. Also, I never had to formally learn grammar and spelling. I picked it up naturally through reading.

Something else, the most important fact about me; I am a Christian. Many of you probably already know this, but you may not understand what that means.

As a Christian, I believe that sin is something everyone is born with, and it is the thing that separates us from God. He is perfect and just, and justice demands that "the wages of sin is death." (Romans 3:23) However, God is also merciful. It is seemingly a conundrum, but God provided the solution through his son Jesus.

Jesus was born on earth, fully human, but he was also fully God. When he died, he had never sinned in his entire life. That is something no other human can claim. He was the perfect sacrifice, and He took the sins of the entire world on himself. He took the blame, and died, satisfying the justice of God. But He didn't just die, he conquered death. He rose from the dead in victory after three days. And now, "...whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16)

We don't have to do anything, in fact we are incapable of saving ourselves. We just have to trust in the gift of God. Romans 3: 23 in its entirety says, "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our lord."

The way God works everything together is a beautiful mystery to me. I won't pretend to know all the answers, but if you have any questions I would love to share a conversation with you. Please feel free to talk to me.

There you have it, all the important details of me. I hope you enjoyed reading it. : )
Thanks for visiting!