Of Mice And Men By John Steinbeck

OfMiceAndMenLennie Small, a tiny name that symbolizes a big and tough man. His ultimate dream was to have innocent rabbits as loyal companions. But his obstination opposed the characteristic of a rabbit’s falter and agile. He consumed trouble instead of dinner, he didn’t want to, but that’s all he could afford.

George Milton wasn’t as big as Lennie, but he obtains the stupefying ability to brush the trouble off of his glistening teeth. Suppose he was the best hypocrite ever. Always reprimands Lennie for dumping a laundry of trouble on him, but never saddened him, for he would praise this act as a wonderful dissimulation of their trail and scent.

The versatile Slim whose solemn stipulation was only upon a lick of air can give the entire farm a nice and tender pat. The crude but righteous Carlson, hideous Crook who fades himself inside his self-abasement, and Candy, his bitter age really outrun his chocolate-like personality. You see the boss’s omnipotent son? Yes, that is Curley, he roars at people quietly but deadly. He is efficient but not smart, who knows how he married that abominable woman.

Curley’s wife was nameless because she doesn’t deserve one. She was seditious and the voluptuousness buried herself underground. Lennie will definitely be basting her in the face just like he did to her neck when they are both sent to the grinning hell for inspection.

Towards the end of the story, George, Lennie’s “legal guardian” shot him to redeem for his sins. Lennie never mean to suffocate the poor puppy, break Curley’s wrist or even kill Curley’s wife. He often trances to and fro between the angel and devil. They were the one who vexed him, you should blame them people. He can neither be responsible to the gallantry that the supreme angel offered him nor he can be responsible to the malice that the devil fed him. And George, the person that never flicked a finger against him, pushed Leenie’s soul into hell. He can never murder the devil, but the cherubic angel can’t be harmed.

Time is the medicine that heals the wound and that’s for both the smiling Lennie and the weeping George. Lennie finally gets his adorable rabbits, congratulations.

-April L.

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Film Review: Gattaca

What if people had the ability of selecting the genes that their child would inherit? Of choosing only the best for their child, the genes that would produce the highest IQ or the longest lifespan? How would you feel if you, someone whose genes are random, were surrounded by people who are…”perfect”?

Vincent’s family didn’t program or alter his genes in any way. After testing his blood when he was first born, they knew that he would die early and had a very high risk of heart disease. Nevertheless, he pursued a career of studying space and the planets, despite his parent’s protests. He realized though, that he’d never be able to get a job with his own DNA. This is why he pretended to be Jerome: the perfect man, by “purchasing” Jerome’s DNA to use as his own.

Jerome’s parents did select his genes. He was “created” so that he’d have an exceptionally long lifespan, and so that he’d be very intelligent. But just because you choose the perfect genes for your child, it doesn’t mean they will be successful in life- it just means they have a better chance at success. In the movie, he said he’d walked in front of a car while he was sober. He must have done that purposefully- he was probably fed up with everyone and how they expected so much of him and chose, with a clear mind, to become crippled.

In the society of this movie, your success is based on your genetics- your DNA. If you don’t have what is considered the “ideal” DNA, you won’t even be considered as someone who is capable of working. On the other hand, if you possess what is considered “perfect” DNA, you wouldn’t even have to interview for a job, they’d hire you on the spot.

In my opinion, I think that this is very unjust. People should be viewed and assessed based on their talent and drive, not their DNA. DNA isn’t really something you can change- it’s what you’re born with. But people’s motivation and drive are things that they themselves control.

I’m also very skeptical on the idea of parents choosing their children’s genes. I think that however the child turns out, that’s how they were meant to be. Part of what makes us human is our mistakes, and by choosing only the most appealing genes for your child, the chance that they’ll make any mistakes will become nearly obsolete. Additionally, I think that if more and more people were to start hand-picking the genes that their children receive, people would become more and more similar. If people were to choose the genes for their children, they’d all probably choose the best possible ones, and if everyone did that, all children would be near perfect. There would be no more variety, and I think that our individuality is definitely something we should try to preserve.

Despite my uncertainty relating to some of the ethics that this movie brings up, I think that it’s very fascinating and thought-provoking, and definitely worth watching.

-Elina T.

Gattaca is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

A Tribute to Chester Bennington

Chester Bennington was an extraordinary and talented musician, most prominently known for his role as lead vocalist for Linkin Park. He was born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona, and he developed an interest in music at a very young age. His childhood was troubling: his parents got a divorce when he was eleven, he began abusing drugs, and he was picked on at school. He drew solace in writing songs and poetry and was able, with difficulty and after denouncing drugs, to pull through and achieve his true dream of becoming a professional musician.

As stated earlier, Chester Bennington was a member of the band Linkin Park, a popular rock band. He worked in tandem with Mike Shinoda to write the lyrics for the band’s debut album: Hybrid Theory, which was an enormous success. The band continued producing albums, some of the most popular of which are Minutes to Midnight, and Meteora, and have sold over 70 million albums worldwide. Chester also co-founded the band Dead by Sunrise and was recruited to Stone Temple Pilots when the former singer of the band, Scott Weiland, left.

My favorite song by Linkin Park and Chester Bennington is called “Castle of Glass”, from the album Living Things. It sounds very different from a lot of their other music, which is often composed generously of rap and other electronic elements. Although the song was given mixed reviews by critics, I absolutely love it. I admire the use of imagery and metaphors, especially with the title. Glass is fragile, but castles are supposed to be strong and fortifying. The line: “‘Cause I’m only a crack in this castle of glass” is repeated throughout the song, which I think is a very strong metaphor. To me, the castle (of glass) represents a person, and the crack represents hurt or an injury that the person has sustained. Though the injury or hurt may seem insignificant, a crack on a castle made of glass would greatly affect and even threaten the whole structure. If pushed upon even just a little, the crack would grow exponentially. The fact that he says “…I’m just a crack…” makes me feel as if he (or the person) feels insignificant, when in fact, he could be the cause of the entire structure’s demise.

Though I only discussed one song in detail, I do appreciate the band and Chester Bennington very much. The lyrics that Chester has written are unique, introspective, and compelling, and I think that he was definitely one of my favorite singers/songwriters. I love the music that he produced; the sound and feel to it was always very distinctive. He was a very strong, gifted, and inspirational person. Chester Bennington will be sorely missed by many. May he rest in peace.

-Elina T.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

With a plan to hide, paranoia to battle, and friendships to question, a group of five college students deal with the psychological punishment of murdering their sixth member: Bunny Corcoran.

The Secret History, by Pulitzer Prize winner Donna Tartt, is deep, fascinating, and full of aesthetic-driven description. Richard Papen, a poor college student from California, transfers to Hampden College in Vermont in order to escape his old life. There, he can’t help but be entranced by a group of mysterious young adults that saunter around the campus disconnected from the rest of the student body. Belonging to the highly exclusive Classics major taught by Julian Morrow, those five students have a divine air about them that Richard can’t resist. Securing his spot in their class, Richard is dragged into much more than a new group of friends: relationships full of hidden truths, a wild secret to keep that he never saw coming, and brewing plot of even more horrible proportion. Join Richard as he learns what friendship with Henry Winter, Francis Abernathy, Bunny Corcoran, and the Macaulay twins really means.

From the overlying theme to direct references, Donna Tartt draws heavily from Fyodor Dostoyesky’s Crime and Punishment. Both stories deal with how a seemingly justified murder affects the murderer’s mental state, driving them to extreme paranoia and desperation for relief. Both books open with a murder, Crime and Punishment’s happening about 20% of the way in while The Secret History‘s is described in the prologue. While Crime and Punishment reads chronologically, The Secret History tells the reader about the murder first, then flashes back months before, carrying through the murder and on to what happens after. Having just read Crime and Punishment, the parallels stand out. Reading about a variety of characters’ reactions in The Secret History is far more interesting than that of the sole guilty soul in Crime and Punishment.

Donna Tartt’s writing style is beautiful, oftentimes bringing me to pause and reflect. I grew to care so much about her tragic characters, and her writing brought me to be truly shocked or pitiful or furious right when she wanted me to be. I couldn’t predict any of the twists this book offered, which is a sign of a well-written story. This new adult/murder mystery novel was thrilling to read, and it’s a story that will last with me for a long time. Thought-provoking, genius, and beautiful, The Secret History is well worth the read.

-Abby F., 12th Grade

The Secret History by Donna Tartt is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive and Hoopla.

TV Review: Netflix’s A Series of Unfortunate Events

seriesofunfortunateevents_netflixThe first season of the new Netflix show, “Series of Unfortunate Events” was released! I will be reviewing the season as well as comparing it to the books, however I will let you know when I will delve into the spoiler sections.

Firstly, I would like to say that when I first heard that Neil Patrick Harris was going to play Count Olaf, I was a little nervous. Excitingly however, I think he did a great job portraying him, as he and the character are theatrical. Of the Baudelaire children I believe that Louis Hynes (the boy who plays Klaus) best portrays the character as it is in the book series, however I do like them all. The sets of Count Olaf’s house, Uncle Monty’s House, and Aunt Josephine’s house were all exactly how I had pictured them. Count Olaf’s troop characters including the Hook Handed Man and the Powder Face sisters were all there, as well as a few new characters that have added a more diverse dynamic. The format of doing two episodes to encompass each book worked out quite well. The base plot of the novels was consistent with the series, although there were minor changes and perspectives from other characters which was interesting to see. And as a fan of the books, I was delighted to see that Lemony Snicket’s narration of the series and character was included, as he has monologues directed towards the audience. I am happy to see that the creators did not shy away from the woeful darkness the story has, and embraced it instead.

This next section will be a SPOILER for the season, so if you haven’t watched it yet please go watch!

The biggest plot twist of the season, book fans didn’t expect this either, was the long running subplot of the Baudelaire parents trying to get home to their children. At first I was upset that the creators had the parents remain alive, but then came to terms with the notion that perhaps the creators would kill off the parents before the children ever knew they survived the fire. This concept was actually a theory of the book fans, in which the Baudelaire parents actually survived, but the children never knew, and they did not get reunited. However, as we know from the twist in the finale, the “parents” that were shown were not Baudelaires after all, but Quagmires. I loved that the creators made us believe they were the children’s parents, and in the end show us that they had never specified they were Baudelaires. This creates a smart introduction to the Quagmire twins/triplets, as we already know their backstory. It is a great use of the omniscient perspective that book readers didn’t get to see, creating exciting new details for book readers, without changing the plot. And lets not forget that ending musical scene! If someone had told me beforehand that they would be singing at the end, I would not be happy about it, but it really flowed in an odd and mystical sort of way.

So what did you guys think about the adaptation? Let me know!

-Ava K., 12th grade

Voltron: Legendary Defender, Rebooted and Rewarding

voltronNetflix’s new animated series, Voltron: Legendary Defender, takes the much-beloved 80’s cartoon Voltron: Defender of the Universe and rebuilds the world of space battles, robotic lions, and strong friendships in a new take on the classic sci-fi adventure. With its second season having been recently released on Jan. 20th, fans have jumped at the chance to devour the new set of 13 episodes and now eagerly await more.

Our story centers around five humans from Earth – Shiro, Lance, Hunk, Pidge, and Keith – that discover a giant blue robotic lion that’s been sitting dormant in the desert. Once they’re inside, the lion activates and flies the five heroes into space – yes, a flying lion spaceship – where they meet two aliens named Coran and Allura. They are from the planet Altea, which was destroyed by the Galra Empire thousands of years ago. The Galra Empire has been continuing its tyrannical takeover ever since, and the universe needs Voltron to save it. What is Voltron, you ask? Coran and Allura explain to the five heroes that the blue lion they uncovered is one of five robotic lions that, when piloted, can combine into a massive, human-shaped robot of great power named Voltron. Sounds ridiculous, right?

Despite the absurdity of the idea, this show executes it so well. The action is intense, the alien civilizations wildly creative, and the animation a far leap ahead of its 80’s counterpart. The characters are developed and getting deeper as the show goes on, and the plot is fast-paced and entertaining. I saw the first season when it first released early in 2016, and the year long wait for Season 2 was worth it. The creators of the show, Joaquin Dos Santos and Lauren Montgomery, stay true enough to the original but have updated it in many, much-needed ways. They pay attention to their ever-growing fanbase and deliver quality episodes that continue to appease and surprise.

The characters are all individually enjoyable and have great dynamics together. Shiro leads the group as the paladin, or pilot, of the Black Lion and acts as the head of the group, as opposed to Keith doing so in the original series. Keith now pilots the Red Lion as its impulsive, ready-to-fight paladin. Lance is the flirtatious jokester and sharpshooter paladin of the Blue Lion. Hunk is the food-loving engineer and pilot of the Yellow Lion. Pidge, who is now a girl as opposed to her male 80’s counterpart, is a tech genius and the youngest of the group, piloting the Green Lion. Allura is the princess of Altea, and Coran is her advisor.

Not only have these characters been fully-fleshed out with backstories (although we’re still waiting on Lance’s and Hunk’s backstories) and motivations, but the new Voltron has made an effort to diversify its cast. Allura, Hunk, Shiro, and Lance are all people of color now, and Pidge’s gender change has brought a second female into the limelight. I for one am incredibly happy to see this push for diversity. The dialogue is conversational and natural, and the tone switches appropriately from light-hearted and goofy to serious and heartfelt when called for. In the newest season, the concept of prejudice is brought up and addressed exceptionally well. It’s progressive, and I love it.

Of course, the past 30 years have led to much better quality animation, leaving Netflix’s version with a style reminiscent of the popular Avatar: The Last Airbender. Voltron mixes CGI into the mainly 2D show in order to make the lions, Voltron, and fight scenes stand out. The character animation is exaggerated for comedy and detailed for intensity, switching it up depending on what the story calls for.

Voltron: Legendary Defender deserves a watch; go and see Season 1’s first episode, which is pretty plot-heavy, and you’ll have a good sense of the show’s dynamic. I applaud Netflix’s approach to this classic and anticipate next year’s season!

-Abby F., 12th grade

 

A Political Analysis of The Devil’s Highway

devil's highway_luisalbertourreaThe Devil’s Highway, by Luis Alberto Urrea, is a deeply evocative story about the border conflict between the United States and Mexico. More specifically, it follows the lives and experiences of illegal immigrants, smugglers, and U.S. border patrolmen. Urrea tells of the desperation of the immigrants— the desperation that drives them into the hands of cruel and business-minded smugglers. On the other side of the border, Border Patrol searches through the unforgiving desert, looking for illegals to capture, and oftentimes save from the throes of dehydration.

Apart from being an interesting story, or even an interesting tale of human bravery, The Devil’s Highway has a complex political meaning, one that is not easy to discern. Luis Alberto Urrea openly describes himself as a liberal opposed to the U.S. border policy, especially due to his Hispanic descent. During the investigative preparation for this book, he talks with numerous border patrol agents who are openly suspicious of his intentions. It would not be unheard of for media outlets to portray the agents in a bad light. And yet, they open up to Urrea, and in turn Urrea creates a fair and accurate book.

An English teacher once told me that reading The Devil’s Highway would open up a whole new world and cause students to develop a completely new mindset towards the 2016 presidential election. The reasoning was that once we learned about the hardships and root motivations of illegal immigrants, who were just trying to better their families’ lives, we would immediately support illegal immigration.

Even though this was Urrea’s intent, I don’t think The Devil’s Highway had the intended effect. Most readers already know why immigrants enter the United States: higher wages and less violence. Learning about the arduous journey through the Sonoran Desert doesn’t create support for illegal immigrants. If anything, it makes readers wonder “why would you do that?” and scoff at their foolishness. More conservative readers will see Urrea’s horrid descriptions of poverty in Mexico as further proof that border policy must be enforced. They see low wage workers as a weight on countries, and if more and more flee to the United States, the United States will eventually resemble the chaos in Mexico today.

Such a focus on nationalism over humanitarianism is a sad reflection on human nature, but it is equally unfair to blame everyday Americans for this mentality. No country wants to sacrifice its own well-being for poorer countries. Even Mexico must deal with poorer illegal immigrants from the countries to their Southeast: Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala. Mexico supports giving citizenship to its immigrants in America, all while deporting Central Americans by the thousands. At the end of the day, each country wants the best for its own people, and that’s just the way it is. Any country claiming the moral high ground in this cutthroat world is an act of hypocrisy.

The more surprising aspect of The Devil’s Highway is learning about the border smugglers, called Coyotes, and the U.S. Border Patrolmen. The agents themselves are often overlooked in the great debate over border policy. Liberals see them as Mexican-hating racists while conservatives see them as soldiers defending a battlefront. But at the end of the day, the agents are just ordinary people. Urrea does a fantastic job at humanizing them. He describes many of the agents as “bleeding-heart liberals” who paid out of their own pockets for life-saving towers in the desert. Towers that save the lives of failed illegal crossovers, without any taxpayer dollars. The Devil’s Highway succeeds in teaching readers about every aspect of the border issue, even if it doesn’t provide a convincing solution.

Throughout his book, Urrea laments the misguided use of the term “illegal immigrants” and speaks about border security with cynicism. Although he can illustrate the problems of poverty and corruptions quite well, it is far more difficult to provide actual solutions. Yes, living conditions in Mexico are worse than in the United States, but would Urrea really have our country throw away the border and mesh the two countries? The solution cannot be purely humanitarian, which is far too idealistic, nor can it be purely survival of the fittest. Until we figure it out, two parties pointing fingers will get us nowhere. I don’t claim to know the answer, but I imagine it will rest in solving the root causes of elevated poverty and violence to the South.

Take The Devil’s Highway as a baseline education of all sides of the issue, not as an end-all solution. It merely illustrates the problem for readers to then develop their own opinions and solutions. If we can learn to meet in the middle, someday the world will be able to look back on this book as a historical text of bygones.

The Devil’s Highway is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.