Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Killing Sunshine Time

Every August, a mysterious illness befalls teenagers all over the world, when the advertisements for back to school shopping start to play on TV, and the sounds of the ice cream truck and splashing at the pool gradually start to fade away. In the last two or three weeks of summer, their skin becomes sallow, and their eyes lose the gleeful shine that arrived with the presence of the sun. They will willingly forgo pleasure outdoors, choosing instead to spend their time cooped up indoors in silence. Some are lucky; they escape from the affliction until the very last week before the return to school, but then, a harried frenzy accompanies their every action, and they rarely leave the confines of their quarters. It may be karmac retribution for falling asleep that one time in Chemistry, or maybe that one time your English teacher caught you with gum, but whatever the reason, you are still struck with that yearly torture, in the form of a paper, titled, SUMMER ASSIGNMENT.

No matter how you think you can outrun it, by starting your Chemistry problems in mid-July, or by keeping careful track of how much you have left to complete them, the book reports and notes refuse to budge, and you are unable to enjoy the last dregs of summer, thanks to the major amounts of words and lines and math problems in your way. The best way to confront them is to just hack away at it, and hard. Here are some helpful tips on how to best kill the remnants of your sunshine time with the assistance of classic literature:

1. Don't avoid it. It is there, and it is waiting for you. Every time you take a dip in the pool, every time you run barefoot through the grass, every time you blissfully consume a Fudgecicle, it sees you, and bides it's time, because it knows that sooner or later, you'll have to pay attention to it. Why spend your summer under that sort of dreadful cloudcover? Remove the possibility of a major storm later, by sweeping away the clouds now, and doing your homework.

2. Don't leave it alone. Upon starting these dreadfully tedious tasks, you'll be strongly tempted to walk away, or maybe you'll do it innocently, on, say, a trip to the kitchen for some water. Regrettably, your television is on the way to the kitchen, and it wants your attentions just as much as your assignment does, which means it will ensure that you do not return to said assignment for the duration of at least an episode of Warehouse 13. Instead of allowing this terrible accident to befall you (repeatedly), make sure you have everything you need before you sit down, including a snack and a drink.

3. Don't forget predestined events. These include family picnics, trips to the beach, camping excursions, etc., during which you would not want to miss out on the fun, do to the lodging of your nose between the covers of a Science textbook. You may think you have a whole month left between July and September, but if that month includes two weekends away, a baseball tournament, band camp, and a family reunion, then you'll be shocked to learn that's not much time to complete your assignments. Plan it out on a calendar, and learn how many days you really have before impact.

Use me as a lesson, kids. Seeing as though I'm taking AP Calc next year, I had a set of problems to complete, and for AP Chem, I had a series of assignments from a textbook. Seeing as though I'm not hot for either Math or Science, they were some tough goings. However, they were nothing compared to AP Eng. for Senior year, which saw me reading (and taking pages upon pages of notes on) a hefty portion of the Bible, as well as almost all of Hamilton's Mythology, and, as some pretty dense frosting on top of the cake, 2-3 pages of notes per chapter of Wuthering Heights (I could have chose differently, but those choices included Moby Dick and Anna Karenina). This last assignment is going to be accompanying me tomorrow, as we leave for our annual trip to Sun River, Oregon, and it is definitely not by my choice.

So don't wait, and just get it over with. The only antidote to your terrible illness, is the beautiful, bright "A" that you will start out the school year with, when you turn in all of your careful work.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

I Spy

Who, as a kid, didn't dream of becoming a spy?

I read about Harriet, from Louise Fitzhugh's Harriet the Spy, in elementary school, and promptly took to recording everything I saw and heard in a little notebook (which was also promptly lost). In middle school, a friend introduced me to Ally Carter's Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy, and I graduated into the ranks of the Gallagher Girls and their amazing, top-secret boarding school. However, now that I'm in high school, I decided maybe it was time to play with the big guns.

There were a couple of reasons why I originally picked up a copy of Ian Fleming's Casino Royale. The first reason was, understandibly, a love of the Bond movies. In fact, this fascination (coupled with other draws from the realms of fantasy) led to a brief foray into the sport of fencing when I was in the seventh grade, including the nicknaming one of my practice-mates Miranda Frost, in honor of the devious character from 2002's Die Another Day (I lasted eight months, in case you care). The second reason had mostly to do with the amazing centenary cover art. :)

Regardless of the "why"s, I sat down and read Casino Royale. In one sitting. It certainly was fast-paced and action packed, and had plenty of derring-do... but all I really got from it was a reasonably thorough knowledge of the game of baccarat (which is described extremely well), and a deep desire to rewatch the Daniel Craig movie. Because, and I'm being perfectly honest here... James Bond is a total jerk, to the point where it was distracting for me. For the most part, it's okay, because his attitudes towards women tend to revolve around them altering his focus. I also get that this book was written in the '50s, so attitudes towards women were a little different. However, that does not excuse his completely outrageous behavior in specific parts, especially the ones in which he discusses Vesper Lynd, his love interest (who I also, admittedly, sort of hated). I still feel the need to rewatch Craig in all his blonde glory, to figure out what I really saw in this guy, Bond, in the first place.

I then turned to less hearty fare, in an effort to reclaim the wonder that I once felt when regarding the word "spy", and picked up something a friend had recommended, Linda Gerber's Death by Bikini mystery. While well-written, it was predictable (which is nice sometimes, but not when dealing with spies), and I also felt a reasonably thorough dislike for the main character.

All of these misadventures were so lacking in any real adventure, that I'm forced to beg, on my knees, CAN ANYONE FIND ME A GOOD SPY BOOK???