October 30- Poem of the Week

The Raven
By Edgar Allan Poe

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“’Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door—
Only this and nothing more.”

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December;
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow;—vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow—sorrow for the lost Lenore—
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore—
Nameless here for evermore.

And the silken, sad, uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me—filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
“’Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door—
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door;—
This it is and nothing more.”

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
“Sir,” said I, “or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you”—here I opened wide the door;—
Darkness there and nothing more.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, “Lenore?”
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, “Lenore!”—
Merely this and nothing more.

Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
“Surely,” said I, “surely that is something at my window lattice;
Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore—
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore;—
’Tis the wind and nothing more!”

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore;
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door—
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door—
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
“Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,” I said, “art sure no craven,
Ghastly grim and ancient Raven wandering from the Nightly shore—
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night’s Plutonian shore!”
Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”

Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning—little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door—
Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
With such name as “Nevermore.”

But the Raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing farther then he uttered—not a feather then he fluttered—
Till I scarcely more than muttered “Other friends have flown before—
On the morrow he will leave me, as my Hopes have flown before.”
Then the bird said “Nevermore.”

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
“Doubtless,” said I, “what it utters is its only stock and store
Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful Disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore—
Till the dirges of his Hope that melancholy burden bore
Of ‘Never—nevermore’.”

But the Raven still beguiling all my fancy into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird, and bust and door;
Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore—
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore
Meant in croaking “Nevermore.”

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom’s core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushion’s velvet lining that the lamp-light gloated o’er,
But whose velvet-violet lining with the lamp-light gloating o’er,
She shall press, ah, nevermore!

Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.
“Wretch,” I cried, “thy God hath lent thee—by these angels he hath sent thee
Respite—respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore;
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and forget this lost Lenore!”
Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”

“Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil!—prophet still, if bird or devil!—
Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted—
On this home by Horror haunted—tell me truly, I implore—
Is there—is there balm in Gilead?—tell me—tell me, I implore!”
Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”

“Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil!—prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that Heaven that bends above us—by that God we both adore—
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore—
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore.”
Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”

“Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!” I shrieked, upstarting—
“Get thee back into the tempest and the Night’s Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken!—quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!”
Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”

And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted—nevermore!

Productivity Apps and Websites

Focusing can be hard sometimes, especially if it’s a project that you really don’t want to be working on. There are lots of productivity apps and websites out there, but many of them require purchases (and I personally don’t have the money to spend on productivity apps). Still, I’ve been able to find several ways to help me focus when I desperately need to- hopefully these ways will help you, too!

1. FocusWriter
When you open FocusWriter, you can’t access anything but the app. There are ways to trick it (but I won’t tell you how). There is a section that you can scroll over at the bottom that shows word count, the percentage of your daily goal (that can be edited), and a clock that you can use to set timers and alarms to keep track of when you need to stop working. If you mouse over the left side you can click on an arrow to search through your writing- mousing over the right side shows the scrollbar. Scrolling over the top of the screen, you get a bunch of the standard files and setting tabs- although very slimmed down and condensed. It is a very barebones approach that eliminates most the nonessentials, but it’s not that helpful when you need to use the internet to find and cite sources. There are a lot of different themes, and it’s highly customizable and pretty, and can be helpful when you just need to write!

2. Cold Turkey- Blocker and Writing
The Blocker lets you block websites you choose to the exact time (within 5 minutes) to block. If you attempt to open these websites it won’t load. It comes with a premade list of common timewasting websites that you can edit to fit your specifications. There is a paid version that supposedly lets you refine it further, both time wise and website wise, as well as allows you to block applications, but the free version works just fine.
The writing app has no extra features. All you can do is write- you can’t even save until it unblocks you. You can either set it to block you for a certain amount of time or a certain amount of words (or not at all, but that kind of defeats the purpose) and as far as I can tell there is NO WAY to exit the application. This is a hardcore “I need to study and write” application. All you can do is write- in the free version at least. The pro version seems to have a few additional features.

3. FocusNow
FocusNow is a free iPhone app that uses growing a plant as motivation to keep you from using the other apps on your phone. The premise is simple- you set a timer and while the app is open and the timer is running, the plant grows. If you leave or close the app the plant is killed. This may not work for everyone, but I find it helps me keep from checking my social media for the millionth time in five minutes- I really don’t want to kill those plants. Unfortunately, I don’t know if this app is available for Android phones.

4. Podcasts
This may just be me, but I personally love listening to something while I work. It’s very peaceful and relaxing to me. If it’s silent I tend to let my mind wander- and this gives me an outlet. There’s a podcast out there for everyone- give a few a try! (If you ever want suggestions, I have plenty- I’ll happily help!)

5. Noisli
If you don’t like podcasts, or if having someone speaking will distract you but you still need some noise to focus, Noisli is a nice, simple website to make and listen to background music- mostly nature themed, and highly customizable.

Wonder

The Art of Science and the Science of Art

By Haley Horton

We live in a culture that stereotypes students by majors and categorizes people into comfortable bubbles of left-brain or right-brain. But what if it was not so black and white?

The worlds of science and art collide in wonder, discovery, and self-improvement. As a woman with interests in both disciplines, I decided to make a drawing to illustrate the similarities between the journeys both the artist and the scientist must take…

Curiosity

“All good science is art. And all good art is science.” ~ John Fowles. They both begin with a spark, an idea, some kind of inspiration that awes the soul. It’s the question: What if…

Exploration

Once we’ve tapped into that idea, there’s no stopping the energy bursting from the artist and the scientist. “The most beautiful experience we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science.” ~ Albert Einstein.

Mistakes

Something always goes wrong. My grandmother was an art teacher, and she used to tell me, “Mess it up, dress it up.” Whether in the studio or a lab, something will not go as planned, and both the artist and the scientist must find a new way to continue.

Discovery 

The artist interprets and expresses the same world that the scientist studies. They both explore and discover. As Leonardo da Vinci, a master of both fields, put it, “Principles for the development of a complete mind: Study the science of art. Study the art of science. Develop your senses –– especially learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else.”

Something New

Around every corner of each new discovery is something new we couldn’t imagine.

October 23- Poem of the Week

Mowing by Ada Limón

 

The man across the street is mowing 40 acres on a small lawn mower. It’s so small, it must take him days, so I imagine that he likes it. He must. He goes around each tree carefully. He has 10,000 trees; it’s a tree farm, so there are so many trees. One circle here. One circle there. My dog and I’ve been watching. The light’s escaping the sky, and there’s this place I like to stand, it’s before the rise, so I’m invisible. I’m standing there, and I’ve got the dog, and the man is mowing in his circles. So many circles. There are no birds or anything, or none that I can see. I imagine what it must be like to stay hidden, disappear in the dusky nothing and stay still in the night. It’s not sadness, though it may sound like it. I’m thinking about people and trees and how I wish I could be silent more, be more tree than anything else, less clumsy and loud, less crow, more cool white pine,
and how it’s hard not to always want something else, not just to let the savage grass grow.

“Mowing” by Ada Limón, from Bright Dead Things by Ada Limón (Minneapolis: Milkweed Editions, 2015). Copyright © 2015 by Ada Limón.

A Fairytale for the Modern Girl- A Poem By Taylor Summey

(Once upon a time…)

This city is
made of
all of the sins
my mother
warned me about.

(Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf?)

Maybe the frost
in the air
makes me
want to disregard
all of these things.

(He’ll huff and he’ll puff and he’ll follow you home.)

The danger
of the city,
stretching out
before me
like the edge
before a
chasm,
almost slips
my mind.

(Those who live in straw houses should keep a low profile.)

Almost.

(And wolves, of course, always travel in packs.)

I don’t remember
the last time
I walked at night
without
keys gripped between
fingers,
body tensed to
bolt,
lungs prepared to
scream.  

(Why are girls always the prey and never the predator?)

(Whatever happened to the she-wolf?)

To Watch or Not to Watch?

 

 

When I went home this fall break, I was graced by a Harry Potter Marathon on TV. As a Harry Potter fanatic, you can accurately assume that I watched all of the movies. However, it got me thinking of the fact that the movies are not always like the books. However, we like some while not the others. There are details that completely set the Harry Potter movies apart from the books. However, both bring something to the table.

 

To tell you the truth, when I started reading the first book, I found Harry to be kind of annoying, so I stopped. However, though the details behind my reasoning are kind of blurry, I did start to read them again and fell in love with the books. When I was aware that there had been movie adaptations of my almost-obsession, I sprung at the chance to see them. That was still when I was naïve to think that Hollywood made the movies just like the books. When I saw them, I was annoyed with a lack of some of the details, but in all, I really liked them, and I remain to this day a frequent Pottermore visitor.

However, despite my pleasantly blissful experience with Harry Potter, I wanted to take it upon myself to list movie adaptations that were not up to par, and movie adaptations that surprisingly met my expectations.

1. Percy Jackson:
As an up and coming elementary schooler and middle schooler, like everyone else, I was a HUGE Percy Jackson fan. I would just like to put it out there that I started reading the series way before it became famous. The inconsistencies between the movies and books, however, were too much for me to handle. I know there were little details, like the fact that Annabeth was a blonde, which may be fine to overlook. However, we must keep in mind that Annabeth and Percy Jackson do not start out as love-interests. Hollywood’s obsession with creating a flirtatious environment where the protagonist wins the battle and gets the girl in the end is just not appropriate. Furthermore, for some reason, the producers decided to combine events from different books into one movie, which again is a big No-no (though, I might be biased because I read the series).

 

2. Divergent Series:

Again, this series was my jam. The dystopian setting was alarming, yet at the same time, very intriguing. True, for all the teenage girls who read this, the love interests did increase our liking to the books. Moreover, having tough, hardcore female characters also made me fall in love with the plot. The message of the books seemed to resonate with me the most: we are not all just one characteristic. Our differing values makes us unique, divergent. I feel, however, that the movies didn’t really drive this home. Don’t get me wrong, cinematography was great; the costumes were great, and the actors were great. However, I felt that their main goal was to emphasize the action, betrayal, and romance. I only watched the first movie in the series, but that was the impression I got.

 

3. Hunger Games
I loved this series. I don’t know, I guess the years of elementary and middle school were part of the era of dystopian novels. You can tell that I jumped on that bandwagon and had the time of my life. Again, the fact that there was a strong female protagonist, who helped others, and saw past the materialistic wealth of society really inspired me; and, how they described the scenes in the book! Oh my, I could just imagine. To my surprise, the movies actually did a really good job of enhancing our perspectives from the book. For example, Stanley Tucci’s portrayal of Caesar Flickerman and Lenny Kravitz’s portrayal of Cinna were beautiful- just like how I imagined them. Moreover, the twirl scene when Katniss’s dress transforms from just another girl in a dress to a political message was also very telling. Like most book adaptations, the movies left out important details, but I feel the quality of the movies made up for it.

 

I could go on and on for days, but I can’t turn this post into a novel. Thus, before I bid you adieu, I’ll leave you with a very important question, when you’re about to watch a movie adaptation of a book: To watch or not to watch?

Federal Arts Funding Crisis

Federal funding for the arts has been steadily on the decline for decades, and looks like it will only continue to drop. In his budget proposal for 2018, Trump has made it clear that he hopes to permanently shut down the funding for the NEA (National Endowment for the Arts) and the NEH (National Endowment for the Humanities).

The NEA provides grants to nonprofit organizations that help fund private artistic endeavors and local organizations. A large percentage of the organizations it funds are ones that reach underserved populations, such as low-income families, people with disabilities, people in institutions and veterans. The NEH supports the preservation of and research in the humanities.

By no means is this slashing of arts funding new to us in 2017. It’s pretty much been occurring with every new budget passed by a president, no matter which side of the aisle. The exclusion of that would be George W. Bush, who managed to get a $20 million increase for the NEA in 2008. Unfortunately, this was the last true ray of hope the arts funding has seen in decades. After slashing them to begin his presidency, Obama eventually fell through on a promise of a 10% hike he promised back in 2012. The increases weren’t enough, and haven’t been enough in a while, to make up for inflation.

While the politicians who seek to end the federal funding for the arts believe that programs get sufficient funding from private sources, many artists and organizations believe otherwise.

Earlier this year, Chance the Rapper donated $1 million to the Chicago Public School System, primarily intended for the encouragement of arts. His seemingly small charitable act should not be overlooked. With the slashing of federal funding, the future of the arts will depend solely on private donations such as this.

The best shot we have at reversing the course of the arts funding in America is to use some of our time to research the many dynamics of the budget process, and to contact our representatives with an educated complaint and plea for them to show more support for the arts in Congress. Arts is a bipartisan issue and we should all come together, no matter which side of the political spectrum you fall onto, in order to collectively encourage a future for the arts.

Smile

Life throws you around

Life lifts you up

Death is inevitable

Life simply happens

It gives you choices

It takes them away

Nothing is forever

Love doesn’t always conquer

But in the times of despair

Remember a single rule

Remember to smile

Because everyone deserves

A reason to smile

 

Writers and Sports: A List of 5 People who have Competed and Written

There are two things that seem to have followed me throughout my life as passions: writing and sports. That’s not to say I love both of them equally (it really varies day to day), or even at all (occasionally I will actively hate my writing or whatever sport I’m watching or playing). However, the two are still large parts of my life. So seeing the merging of these two passions, often with the act of writing about sports or the comparisons between the two, captivates me. I’m often drawn to other people who also share these two loves at once, and share it through the act of writing about their sport. Sometimes this will include an athlete who has taken up writing and found they are good at it, or a writer, who has been athletic in their life in a more than casual way, reflecting on their past in sports. I’d like to share some of these people whose writings I’m attracted to.

 

Rusty Woods

 

Rusty Woods is a Canadian cyclist with a fantastic blog. I’ve been reading him since 2015. Interestingly, he started out as a runner (well, actually a hockey player, but unsuccessfully). He still has the fastest mile run on Canadian soil by a Canadian; under 4 minutes, too. He switched to professional cycling at age 25 after stress fractures forced him to retire from running. But before I waste more of your time gushing over him as a comeback kid, I should talk about his blog. It’s fairly intense, going from hard fought races to nasty crashes gone viral. I don’t follow cycling too closely, but he makes it incredibly easy to understand the sport itself and his own mindset in each race. I’d recommend starting at the beginning (oddly enough called “The Finale: Part 1”). My personal favorite entry is “The Finale: Part 3” which I won’t spoil but in which he finds himself sick after drinking water in Mexico and compares the struggle to the Battle of Minas Tirith.

You can find his blog here.

 

Nate Jackson

Nate Jackson is a former professional tight end who spent the majority of his career with the Broncos. He originally began as a wide receiver, starting in his college days, before being converted to tight end before his third season with the Broncos. A series of injuries, ending with a hamstring injury, ended his career. Since then, he has written various articles and essays, usually about the NFL, for various places. My favorite piece by him is “After the NFL Comes Weed, Hollywood, and Fantasy Football” where he goes into his disappointing consultancy on the film Concussion, in addition to other topics. As you might have gathered from that title, he is a proponent of the NFL allowing players to smoke weed. A good place to start with his work, though, is “What an NFL Training Camp is Really Like.” This one, and other pieces, manage to convey an insider’s perspective of the NFL in a way that surprises me every time.

Follow this link to read “What an NFL Training Camp is Really Like.”

 

James Dickey

Moving away from athletes who are writers towards writers who are athletes brings me to James Dickey. Dickey is really more of an Easter egg for this list. He played football for Clemson as a tailback in 1942. Granted, after the semester, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps, but hey! Still counts. As far as his writing goes, he was a poet and novelist. He wrote the book Deliverance. Yes, that Deliverance, with the banjos. He even played the sheriff. He was also appointed the US. Poet Laureate in 1966. I enjoyed the poem “For the Last Wolverine” with lines like:

“Dear God of the wildness of poetry, let them mate/ To the death in the rotten branches,/ Let the tree sway and burst into flame.”

They are some weird lines, but oddly captivating.

 

Vladimir Nabokov

Oh sure, you expected Hemingway when I got to athletic writers. That’d be too easy. Nabokov actually played a lot of sports, ranging from soccer (probably football to him) to tennis. But the one that he seemed to stick to the most was boxing. He was competitive at Cambridge as an undergraduate, and some of his early work involves poems with titles like “The Boxer’s Girlfriend” or short stories like “Breitensträter – Paolino” which reads more like a love letter to boxing than any traditional narrative. Of course, the work that Nabokov is known for is Lolita, the novel written from the perspective of a pedophile. Pale Fire also comes highly recommended amongst forums dedicated to him.

 

Leanne Shapton

Lastly, I’d like to talk about the woman who actually sparked the idea for this list. Leanne Shapton is foremost an artist and graphic novelist. But in her youth, she was a national competitive swimmer, making her way to the 1988 and 1992 Canadian Olympic trials. Her memoir of this time, Swimming Studies, offers various interesting takes on how closely athletic and artistic disciplines mirror each other, often in grueling and painful ways. And, of course, she did the artwork for the book as well since she’s a more than competent illustrator. She has other works as well, including one with the incredible title of Important Artifacts and Personal Property from the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris, Including Books, Street Fashion and Jewelry, which is apparently slated to be made into a film.

 

Obviously, these aren’t the only writers who have been athletic (and vice-versa), but they are the ones who have stuck out to me the most while I’ve read various works about sports. I’d like to find more. So feel free to get in contact with me to hit me with your favorite athlete’s blog or some author gushing over their old tennis days or something along those lines. I’m not that picky about the topic, honestly.

October 16- Poem of the Week

Phenomenal Woman
By Maya Angelou

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms,
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.

Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them,
They say they still can’t see.
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing,
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need for my care.
’Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

 

 

Maya Angelou, “Phenomenal Woman” from And Still I Rise. Copyright © 1978 by Maya Angelou. Used by permission of Random House, an imprint and division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved.
Source: The Complete Collected Poems of Maya Angelou (Random House Inc., 1994)