8th Grade Graduation Playlist

These are the songs I’ve chosen for my 8th Grade Graduation playlist.

 

How Far We’ve Come by Matchbox Twenty

This song represents my graduating from Middle School because I’ve literally come a long way in this school. I’ve been attending HKIS since R1 and I’ve had a lot of experiences here. The song talks about looking back and also about loss. It’s always nice to see new students come in every year, but we also see students that have been attending this school for a long time leave, which of course is sad.

I Lived by OneRepublic

I chose this song to be on my playlist because it talks about accomplishment and feeling satisfied with what one has done in their life. This is important because although sometimes school can be stressful and it will only continue to be more stressful in the coming years, it’s important to feel happy with where you are and look back on what you’ve done in pride.

You’ve Got A Friend by James Taylor

In school, its easy to lose friends because of different classes or separate interests or just by drifting away. But no matter what, I think that there are a few select people in my life right now that I know I can count on. And I’ve developed and grown a lot of friendships in this past year, something that I think is really significant.

Float On by Modest Mouse

This song really stresses that sometimes it’s okay to relax a bit and not take everything too seriously. I know that throughout this year, there have been times where I’ve been really stressed out. However, while it’s good to take your school life seriously, it shouldn’t get to the point where it gets in the way of emotional health. This is something I want to keep in mind, going into High School.

Feeling Good by Michael Bublé

Of course, graduating from eighth grade and going into ninth, I am quite excited, especially with the end of school and summer break coming up soon. I am looking forward to summer vacation and leaving Hong Kong for the break. This song really embodies that feeling.

SING by My Chemical Romance 

SING is a song that talks about the misfortune in the world and taking responsibility for that. It does seem as though a lot of unfortunate things have been happening not only around us and our school, but around the world, and it is disheartening to see the suffering that takes place in the world. However, I think that HKIS is a school that really tries to enforce the idea of charity and action for those who cannot take it themselves.

The Sun by Maroon 5

I interpret the lyrics of this song as moving on from past pain and letting go of nostalgia and how things were before. Things inevitably change, and I know that going on to High School will inevitably be somewhat scary and stressful. But despite that, I need to accept that because otherwise there is no way to move forwards.

Last Party by Mika

Moving on and leaving things and people behind can be sad, and even though we try to ignore it sometimes, it’s a part of life and growing up. While I’m excited to move on to High School because it means more freedom and independence, it also means more responsibility and maturity. Last Party says to make the most of what time we have left, which I think is important especially as a child because childhood is a very precious time in our lives that we will slowly have to leave behind.

The Kids Aren’t Alright by Fall Out Boy

This song is on this playlist because it talks about regrets, yet at the same time regretting nothing. There are thing’s I’ve done in the past that I regret, obviously, but they have all helped me grow in some way. And of course, there have been some very special people that have helped me along the way, whom I have grown alongside with. I’m glad I’ve experienced Middle School the way I did, and I don’t think I would ever change it.

Don’t You Worry Child by Swedish House Mafia

This song is from the perspective of an adult, looking back on his days as a child. It talks about allowing yourself to relax, because everything will work out accordingly. And while that might not always be true, I know that it’s a nice thought when you’re at a young age and you’re unsure of what is to come next.

Mar (M)INP #2: Underlying Meanings in Animal Farm by George Orwell

Animal Farm by George Orwell is a dystopian novella that serves as an allegory for the Russian Revolution of 1917. Orwell writes in prominent roles from the revolution and explores the ethics and practicality of certain political ideologies such as communism (or in this case, Animalism).

Orwell, George. Animal Farm. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1954. Print.

Mar (M)INP #1: Specific Character Analysis with Animal Farm by George Orwell

Animal Farm by George Orwell is a dystopian novella which mirrors the Russian Revolution. It tells the story of the tyrannical Mr. Jones being overthrown by the animals on his farm, his dictatorship being replaced with the animals’ ideology of Animalism (communism).

In Animal Farm, Snowball is a pig that quickly rises to power along with Napoleon. After the revolution, they are co-leaders, although they have opposing views on many topics. Halfway through the pigs’ rise to power, however, Snowball is driven out and exiled by Napoleon. From then on, we see more of Napoleon’s character and how the power corrupts him and turns him into a cruel dictator. However, we don’t see much of Snowball after his exile, although he is mentioned by the other animals.

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Snowball’s character is actually somewhat shrouded in mystery. Because he was removed from the farm so early into the book, we have no way of knowing how the farm would have faired under his rule, or under his and Napoleon’s co-leadership. Although George Orwell seemed to depict him as the ‘better’, more level-headed choice, we cannot guarantee that the power would not have corrupted him in the same way that it corrupted Napoleon and the other pigs. In fact, although he seemed to care more about the welfare of the farm and the animals (more so than Napoleon, at least), from the beginning of the book, it was shown that he had already put himself at an advantage. Orwell wrote: ‘The pigs now revealed that during the past three months they had taught themselves to read and write from an old spelling book which had belonged to the Jones’s children and which had been thrown on the rubbish heap’ (42). So although Snowball was depicted as a more ‘likeable’ leader, we cannot say that he was any less self-serving than Napoleon. However, during his short ruling period, he demonstrated some admirable qualities. He was an inspirational speaker; Squealer excluded, he could have been considered the most motivational speaker on the farm. He was intellectually intelligent; the fact that he was able to learn to read and write in merely three months is already phenomenal in itself. Not only this, but he also knew how to sway the opinions of not only his followers, but the opposing party. These qualities were coupled well with the passion he showed for his ideas and beliefs. Despite his inevitable flaws, he showed the makings of a good leader. Later on in the book, many animals were executed for their admittance of their allegiance with Snowball. According to the animals, Snowball had convinced them to commit a series of crimes around the farm. Despite this, it is never explicitly shown that Snowball had done all these things, but if for a moment we consider the possibility that it was him, can we really put him at complete fault? He was unfairly exiled from the farm and was completely stripped of any title of honour he held, is it not only natural that he seek out some form of vengeance? After all, he is only human (so to speak).

All in all, Snowball had his obvious faults, but he also had great strengths that from the start, made him seem a more likeable character than Napoleon. And vice versa, he had the qualities of a promising leader, but considering the situation and his somewhat selfish intentions (akin to all the pigs), there’s no guarantee that he would have ended up any better than Napoleon. All things considered, Snowball would not have been a perfect leader. But from what we’re given in the book, he definitely appears to be the lesser of two evils.

Orwell, George. Animal Farm. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1954. Print.

Jan (M)INP #2: The Betrayal of Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

‘Red Queen’ is a beautifully written fantasy novel by Victoria Aveyard. It tells the story of 17 year old girl Mare Barrow, who is unemployed and untalented, except for her ability to steal. She lives at the bottom of a hierarchy divided by the noble, high-class Silver-blooded, and the slum-dwelling Red-bloods. As Mare is anticipating her upcoming 18th birthday, her best friend Kilorn loses his job. Now both Kilorn and Mare are without a job, meaning that on the dawn of their 18th birthdays, they will be conscripted into the army, most likely never to return again. In a desperate attempt to escape, they make a bargain with a rebellion group the Scarlet Guard, which leads to Mare finding a job at the King’s castle, discovering that despite her Red blood, she possesses the Silver ability of controlling electricity, and being forced to hide her true identity as a poor slum girl.

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This article shows the perspective of the Silver-blooded citizens, and how they’ve fallen for Maven’s treachery. And although the extent of how unlikely it is that Mare would have had to gone through to ‘trick’ them, they still would believe one of their own over a Red-blooded. A main theme of this book is betrayal and how anybody can betray anybody. This was shown when Cal supposedly betrayed Mare by turning his back on her, Mare betrayed Maven by kissing Cal, and Maven betrayed Mare by tricking her into thinking he was in love with her (which in his own twisted way, he was), his brother Cal and his father the king by working with his mother to force Cal into killing their father, and his subjects by lying to them about Mare and the death of their king. Yet at the same, it’s heavily implied that it all started with Queen Elara who betrayed her husband and her son by twisting Maven’s mind at a young age. No matter how much she may love her son, her intentions were cruel and selfish, thus creating the person that Maven grew up to be.

Aveyard, Victoria. Red Queen. Vol. 1. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.

Jan (M)INP #1: Analysing Writing Techniques with The Magicians’ Guild by Trudi Canavan

The Magicians’ Guild by Trudi Canavan is fantasy novel and the first part of the The Black Magician trilogy. It tells the story of a young girl named Sonea who learns that she has magical powers, not unlike the magicians who are part of a guild that protect the richer part of the city. With the help of her friends and some reluctant allies, Sonea struggles to keep hidden from the magicians, when they too find out about her newfound powers.

Whilst I was reading The Magicians’ Guild by Trudi Canavan, I noticed one technique she used in her writing that I think a lot of authors use, but I’ve never really given it much thought. In this book, Trudi Canavan writes from the perspectives of both Sonea, and the magicians in the guild. As the readers, we know that Sonea is distrustful of the guild (although she has gained a little more trust in them). However, we also know that most of the magicians, like Dannyl and Rothen have Sonea’s best interests in mind, and they honestly don’t wish her any harm. In a way, you could relate this to the film technique of dramatic irony, where the audience knows more than the main protagonists does, so they know what to expect. From what I’ve read in this book, Sonea has reason not to trust the magicians, but the reader also knows that (most of) the magicians have good intentions. When the author (Trudi Canavan) uses this technique, it gives the audience and ‘outside-looking-in’ perspective. We know the viewpoint of each character, so as conflict and/or misunderstandings unfold, the reader does not have a biased view in how they process the plot unfolding. In a way, this method of writing is almost the opposite of another where an author keeps the reader ‘in the dark’. By this I mean when the author keeps some perspectives or certain parts of the whole picture shrouded in mystery. Usually, these pieces of writing take place in first person, or only show one character’s perspective. This method is effective because it keeps readers guessing, and they are influenced to keep reading because they want to understand how a certain situation came to be. This is not to say that the method that Trudi Canavan used in ineffective. The way she wrote this story also hooks a reader; it is because the reader knows so much, that they want to see the issue resolved. In this case, the reader knows why Sonea is distrustful of the magicians, but the reader also knows that the magicians wish to help her. And because Trudi Canavan used this method, I (as the reader) wasn’t inclined to ‘choose one side or the other’, what I wanted out of the book was to see the issue resolved. If she had written the book using a ‘one perspective’ style of writing, I probably would not have felt the same way, as when there is only one position shown in a book or film, the audience is prone (and encouraged) to side with the main protagonist. So because of this, I believe that Trudi Canavan was very clever in the way she wrote this particular story. I think that after I read this book, it helped me realise just how many different techniques, and how many different ways there are to go about writing a story or any piece of literature. When writing, the author has so much freedom to write the story in one way or another.

 

Canavan, Trudi. The Magicians’ Guild. New York: EOS, 2004. Print. The Black Magician.

NaNoWriMo Reflection

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Overall, how did NaNoWriMo go? What went well? What did not go well?

I thought that NaNoWriMo was a really great experience and it was a lot of fun to have a whole month dedicated to writing. I’m happy with the way my novella turned out, and I feel like I really got to develop the characters and the plot. I’ve learned a lot about my own writing and writing in general during this month. One thing that went well was that I was able to consistently keep writing throughout the month. One thing that I didn’t really like was the ‘quantity over quality’ idea, because although I wrote a lot of words, I don’t think it was necessarily my best writing.

What did you learn about yourself? (Did you grow in writing or discipline or any other areas)?

I learned that when I’m really motivated to do something, I can really focus on it and dedicate myself to it. I would say that I grew a lot during NaNoWriMo and it was a good experience for me.

What is the end result? Are you cleaning up a short part to get published?

I’m not sure if I want my story (or any part of it) published right now, maybe if I clean it up or edit it a bit I might consider it. But right now, I don’t feel like it’s ready to be shown publicly. If I were really to publish anything, I think I’d have to work on it much longer before I was satisfied.

 

Oct (M)INP 2: Real World Relation with Magicians’ Guild by Trudi Canavan

‘Magicians’ Guild’ by Trudi Canavan is a fantasy novel about a young girl named Sonea who lives in a kingdom where the rich and poor are completely divided. Her family has worked hard and has just barely made it out of the slums, but her friends, still live outside of the main city, cast out because of their status. Sonea discovers that she has magic, something she never realised until now, but she doesn’t quite have full control over her abilities. The magicians that work alongside the king to keep the poor out of their city are alarmed that an untrained magician – possibly more powerful than any magician before – is running around loose; most likely in alliance with the Youths (a group of young impoverished people that rebel against the division between rich and poor).

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In this picture, Sonea is looking into the barrier to where citizens of the same town that she lives in, live in wealth and riches, while she is forced to hide, and her impoverished friends have been cast aside by society.

 

In ‘Magicians’ Guild’ by Trudi Canavan, it seems as if the author takes a lot of inspiration from the real world to create his fantasy setting. On page 13, Canavan wrote: ‘Thirty years before, after influential members of the Houses had complained that the streets were not safe, the King had ordered the guard to drive all beggars, homeless vagrants, and suspected criminals out of the city.’ This line reminds me of the story of Buddha, where Siddhartha Gautama’s father (the king) ordered all unsightly people to be removed whenever his son entered the city. Does this not also resemble our society today? Perhaps we don’t physically force these people out, but there is that division between the wealthy and the impoverished. Even here in Hong Kong, there are so many suffering people in need who are hidden away in cage homes or simply ignored. Perhaps there is no physical barrier between them and us, but it is extremely hard, perhaps even impossible, for these people to reenter our society. On another paragraph on page 25, Canavan wrote:

‘Several of the Higher Magicians nodded, and Rothen heard murmurs of approval behind him. “If they can be found,” one of the Higher Magicians added. “I fear compensation will not repair the damage we have one to our reputation.” Lorlen frowned. “How can we regain the respect and trust of the people?” Murmuring followed, then a voice called out: “Compensation is enough.” “Give it time – people will forget,” said another. “We’ve done all we can.” And quieter, to Rothen’s right: “-just a slum boy. Who cares?”‘

This passage by Canavan is really powerful, because it speaks loads about how our societies and governments are built, today. I think, people never forget the actions of a corrupted government. But sometimes, these governments think that some act of compensation will make up for what they’ve done. Or, like we see in certain countries, the people are deprived of this knowledge. This is not so much ‘shielding’ the people, as it is the government trying to preserve their self-image in the eyes of their citizens. And the last line, “-just a slum boy. Who cares?”

This is something we see a lot. No matter what politicians may claim, who would the government care the most about? The morally correct answer would be to say that the people near or under the poverty line are the ones who needs the wealth and attention of the government. However, it is understandable that they would want to please the richer citizens, the ones who pay more taxes, the ones who run prominent businesses and wealthy companies. 

So in conclusion, although ‘Magicians’ Guild’ by Trudi Canavan is a fantasy book, I can definitely see the parallels between the world he has created, and our current society.

Oct (M)INP 1: Literary and Character Analysis… Abandon by Meg Cabot

‘Abandon’ by Meg Cabot is about a girl named Pierce who flatlined for an hour before coming back to life. She’s moved to a new town but she feels like ‘Death’ is still watching her.

As I began to read this book, the biggest thing that stood out to me was the author’s writing style, which I really enjoy.

The first chapter uses repetition really well. In the very first sentence Cabot writes that “Anything can happen in the blink of an eye.” (1). Cabot uses repetition at the end of this chapter, writing “So take my advice: what ever you do? Don’t blink.” (2). I thought that was really clever, because it not only sets up the story, but it leaves a sense of mystery and really makes the reader interested to keep going. Something else that really stood out to me in the next chapter was when she was thinking back to her research on NDEs (people who went through near-death experiences). She had read that these people often undergo personality changes. What I really like is the example that Meg Cabot uses; “Pentecostal preachers who’d come back from the dead had ended up joining biker clubs. Leather-clad bikers had gotten up and gone straight to the nearest church to be born again.” (5). I really enjoyed how the two examples contradict each other, and how the author used to people who were ‘opposite’ to show this change. One thing that stood out to me was how Pierce talks about herself as if she’s still dead. Cabot used the sentence; “It’s what ended up killing me.” (6). I found it interesting that although she is alive, she did technically die, but she continues to refer to herself as if she had never been resuscitated.

The other day in Language Arts class we learned about sentence variation, in length and style. I noticed that Meg Cabot uses this method in the opening sentences of one of her chapters; “Everybody wants to believe there’s something else – something great – waiting for them on the other side. Paradise. Valhalla. Heaven. Their next – hopefully less horrible – life.” (16), she wrote. But besides the literary device that she used, what really stood out to me was the last sentence. “Their next – hopefully less horrible – life.” This could imply that the people who believe most in some form of afterlife, are the ones who regret their current lives (or at least that’s what the main character seems to believe). This may give some insight to how Pierce thinks, and in fact, Meg Cabot gave her readers a bit more evidence of this in earlier chapters. “”Could be,” I said, shrugging. “But scientists say the light is actually a hallucination produced by the brain’s neurotransmitters firing all at once as they die.”” (Cabot 7) Here, Pierce is discussing with her cousin about the ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ that people claim to see as they die. I feel like she would not have brought up the scientific theory, if she still believed in Heaven or God. Another factor that brings me to this conclusion, is how Pierce’s grandmother is so strict about their religion (Christianity); she was visibly angered when Pierce seemed to believe that ‘the light’ was simply a hallucination, accusing her granddaughter of ‘committing blasphemy’. From the eyes of a writer, this would be the perfect opportunity to build tension and suspense in both the plot and between characters (Pierce and her grandmother). I would not be surprised if Pierce’s near-death experience had skewed her beliefs in her religion, and in a way, this issue mirrors the conflict in our world today. Religious disputes are something that almost anybody today could relate to. We see them everyday, we’ve seen them in history, and they’ve been around since the birth of religion. Because this topic is relatable, it makes this book open to a variety of readers.

All in all, I’ve just started this book and the plot seems interesting. But what has stood out to me the most is the writing style that Meg Cabot uses, and in the future I will look into more of her books.

Sept (M)INP 2: Character Evaluations (Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher)

I really liked the ending of Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, because it really enforced the moral of the story in a subtle way. Throughout the whole story, we hear about Clay’s guilt for not reaching out to Hannah, and feeling that he should have done something. He blames himself, and he blames everyone else on the tapes. And so the main theme of the book was that words and actions hurt, and you never know how your actions might affect someone. So just because someone smiles on the outside, doesn’t mean that they’re smiling on the inside.

Halfway through the book, we are introduced to Skye Miller, a girl that Clay used to like in middle school. She used to be relatively popular, but now she keeps to herself. The very last sentence of the book is Clay calling her name, implying that he won’t make the same mistake as last time.

I also like the fact that Jay Asher didn’t make Hannah a perfect character. She has her flaws, just like anybody else, so even though you sympathise with her, you also realise her mistakes. This book wouldn’t be as interesting if Hannah was the perfect girl who just got treated horribly. She did bad things as well, making those tapes were one of them. Maybe some of those things were ‘justified’, but only to a certain extent. But she was also scared and confused, she didn’t know what to do in these conflicting situations that were unfairly placed upon her. She was depicted as a teenager, just as much as you and me. A person who has flaws, insecurities, and makes mistakes.