Sunday, October 31, 2010

Cheating is For Losers

You've just crossed the finish line at the Olympics, and have finished first. The moment you've been training for your entire life has finally arrived. After all the hours of practice, training, and focusing, you're finally standing on the podium with the Gold Medal around your neck. The Star Spangled Banner is playing and the American Flag is being wrapped around you. You're representing your country, your sport, and most importantly, your family. You're on top of the world.

Marion Jones was able to experience this feeling FIVE times at the Summer Olympics in 2000. She became the first female athlete to win 5 medals in Track and Field at the Olympics with 3 Gold and 2 Bronze. She received instant fame, recognition, pride, and honor. She was even considered "the best female athlete in the world"- that is until 2007, when she admitted to steroid use prior to the 2000 Olympics.

Friday, October 5, 2007- The day Marion Jones was scheduled to plead guilty to "two counts of lying to federal agents about her drug use." In a Washington Post article by Amy Shipley entitled "Marion Jones Admits to Steroid Use," she gives an account of the most important details of the scandal that were reported.
The International Olympic Committee in December 2004 opened an investigation into allegations surrounding steroid use by Jones.

Jones asserted that her coach, Trevor Graham, gave her the substance, assuring that it was a "nutritional substance." Jones said she "trusted [Graham] and never thought for one second" she was using a performance-enhancing drug and that "red flags should have been raised in [her] head when he told me not to tell anyone about" the supplement program. The clear, also known as THG, or tetrahydrogestrinone, was the steroid Graham was supplying Jones with for two years. Graham was indicted in November 2007. Marion Jones was sentenced in a federal court to six months in prison and two years of probation and community service for lying to federal prosecutors investigating the use of performance-enhancing substances. Probably her worst punishment- she had to give back all of her Olympic Medals won at the 2000 Games.

As an athlete myself, it always unsettling to hear that a successful athlete has used steroids to enhance their performance. Through hard work, endless training, perseverance, and dedication, you can easily accomplish your goals. There is absolutely no need to use illegal substances. Quite frankly, it's just flat-out stupid. Work hard, train hard, and play hard and you'll get where you want, guranteed. It is those athletes that do those three things, like Shawn Johnson and Katie O'Donnell who was recently recognized as "Sportswoman of the Year" and the "Honda Award Winner" for field hockey whose dreams come true. They're role models for every athlete out there.

Using illegal substances is cheating and cheating is for losers.
Until we meet again,
xoxo Brunette

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Those Who Are Without...

So, this Parent's Day at Sem got me thinking. So many students got the chance to bring their parents to class, but me, I didn't have that chance. With so many others things that my mom has going on at home, she didn't get a chance to come visit me. It is sometimes so difficult to watch my friends with their grandparents, parents, siblings, etc. This made me wonder: how do people deal with not having their parents at all? It is easier for me because when I think about it, I know that my mom is still here.

Etheridge Knight, a famous poet from the mid 20th century, was once married to Sonia Sanchez, another famous poet. Sonia Sanchez, born Wilsonia Benita Driver, lost her mother during childbirth one year after she was born. After losing her mother, Sanchez was sent to live with her grandmother and other relatives for several years. After that, her and her sister were sent to live with their father and his third wife in Harlem.

"The death of her grandmother, the only mother she had ever know, motivated Sanchez to write her first poem at age six." Her father, Wilson L. Driver, was a drummer in a jazz band and did not have as much time to care for her as he would have liked, so moving in with him and his third wife was not a particularly easy transition.

She graduated from Hunter College in 1955 with a BA in political science and later became involved in the Civil Rights Movement and CORE. Throughout the Black Arts Movement, Sanchez became involved with other great poets like Amiri Baraka, Haki Madhubuti and Larry Neal. Sonia Sanchez is known for her prolific writing about the struggles between whites and blacks, men and women and cultures. After Amiri Baraka published her poetry in a French literary magazine, she began to consider herself a poet. Between 1967 and 1977, Sanchez taught at many universities including San Francisco University, Temple, Rutgers and many more. Sanchez was also a playwright and has lectured at over 500 universities and colleges.

Sanchez received the 1999 Langston Hughes Poetry Award and also is the 2001 Poetry Society of America's Robert Frost Medalist."She has not only been a strong voice for social justive, but has also helped others to find their own voice. Today, Sanchez has three children of her own: Morani, Mungu and Anita Sanchez. She is a truly successful woman and I admire he for her dedication. I cannot imagine what it would be like without my mother when I was younger, but even through all the turmoil, she became a very talented woman.

Quotes and some extra information from:

An Open Diary

It's always the poems that are about real-life events that keep us interested. They leave us wanting to dive deeper into the people's lives and learn more about them. Gwendolyn Brooks blesses us with so many wonderful poems. One poem, "We Real Cool," is about people she encounters in her work. They skip school to play pool, drink, and do other similar things. Why is this poem so interesting? Of course it's because of it's unique style, but it's also because of it's "this actually took place" sort of feeling. As soon as we think about that, the poem becomes 10 times more interesting. What happened to the "Seven at the Golden Shovel?" Did they die? What are they up to now? We immediately begin to wonder about what else is going on in their lives.
Well, the same goes with songs. For some reason, this analysis made me think about Taylor Swift- pop sensation, 20 year old millionaire, Grammy winner, etc. As I was reading Parade magazine, I noticed that the main spread was all about Taylor Swift and her new album and even her views on marriage. In the first paragraph-BOOM- why are her songs so popular? They're about events that have actually taken place in her life.
"I like to make songs that are really detailed, really honest."
So what inspires Taylor Swift to write songs? Her love life and relationships are what inspires her. In her new album Speak Now, Taylor writes the song, Back to December, about a guy she used to date. According to Taylor, “Guys get what they deserve in my songs, and if they deserve an apology, they should get one. There was someone who was absolutely wonderful to me and I dropped the ball, and I needed to say all that.” In Back to December, that's exactly what she does. In another song, she even sings about the time Kanye West interrupted her acceptance speech. With all her other lyrics, what she loves most is "you can say exactly what you mean, or you can use a metaphor and make it a little bit of a code to crack" as well as have people "wonder a little bit who they're about."
Taylor Swift's songs leave people coming back for more. They're so personal that people hope the next song is just a continuation of the last, allowing them to further expand their knowledge of her life. Her life is an open diary.
What really happened between her and Joe Jonas? Were her and Taylor Lautner really an item? Was she ever in love? All you have to do is listen to her songs to find out.

"You are the best thing, that's ever been mine."

Until we meet again,
xoxo Brunette

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Where were you?

            Sometimes a piece of news can become hugely famous because a song is written about it. Sometimes a song can become hugely famous because it’s written about a piece of news. Either way, there is no doubt that music is often used as a form of political expression. Today, the musical embodiment of political expression is seen overwhelmingly in the music of many hardcore punk bands, including the bands Anti-Flag and Rage Against the Machine, expressing sentiments protesting war and corporate America, respectively. I think people forget that this isn't the first time we've seen political expression in music. I like to take a look back at some slightly older examples of this trend.
            In Bob Dylan’s song “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll”, William Zantzinger is captured as a brutal murderer. This song surely haunted Zantzinger for the rest of his life, undoubtedly making his name known to many more people than those who would have heard of him solely through the press. Dylan used his musical influence to make known the brutality of Hattie Carroll’s murder and the injustice of society, that those with wealth usually have greater influence in the judicial system, among other things.
            One of my favorite songs that shows a link between politics and music, is Sublime’s “April 29, 1992 (Miami)”. This song is about the 1992 Los Angeles Riots. On the night of March 2, 1991 four police officers beat a man named Rodney King with batons as he resisted arrest. A man named George Holliday videotaped much of the incident.
This video spread rapidly across the country, causing public outrage at what was considered by many to be police brutality. A blood test revealed that King was intoxicated during the initial incident. Whether the incident was actually police brutality or if the officers were justified in their attempts to subdue King became a controversial issue.
          The district attorney charged the officers involved in the incident with use of excessive force, but the officers were acquitted of the charges on April 29, 1992. At the news of the acquittal, all hell broke loose in Los Angeles. These riots included an overwhelming amount of looting, arson, and general violence. The local police were outnumbered. The riots lasted six days, until ordered was restored by the police, Army, Marines, and National Guard. By that time, more than 7000 fires, 2383 injuries, and 53 deaths had occurred.
          Sublime's song may be criticized for encouraging such violence, but I like the song for the way it attempts to capture the emotions behind the riot. The song doesn't really comment on the political facts and details of the incident, but it expresses the passionate anger felt by the lower class. While I like the political awareness caused by Dylan's song about Hattie Carroll, I love the raw emotion that is expressed in Sublime's song about the riots. To me, emotion is the most important aspect of any music.

Monday, October 18, 2010

There's Something About Chicago...

What is it about Chicago? Chicago: the inspiration for one of Carl Sandburg's most famous poems, "Chicago" and the home for many of the most successful and inspirational poets and writers and I am sure so much more. Some famous poets and writers from Chicago include Sandra Cisneros, James Galvin, Albert Goldbarth, Gwendolyn Brooks, Kenneth Fearing, Tom Mandel, Henry Rago, Carl Sandburg, Shel Silverstein , Quincy Troupe Jr. and I am sure there are many more. Since I've read poetry from Brooks, Troupe, Sandburg and Silverstein and loved them all, I got to thinking; what was so special and extraordinary about Chicago that inspired their creativity?

Could it be the Prohibition era with notorious gangsters such as Al Capone? The industry expansion in the 1920s? The attraction of southern African Americans during the early 20th century? Lake Michigan? The Chicago River? The humid climate? I could go on and on with reasons that people may have adored Chicago, but I will never know the real reason.

Chicago: a city filled with so much artistic inspiration. Home of poetry slams and the famous Def Poetry Jam. They even have The Poetry Center of Poetry founded in 1974 to make poetry more accessible and appealing to the public and young poets. At a place called the Green Mill Cocktail Lounge, they have been hosting an event called the Uptown Poetry Slam. They even have a chance to listen to and explore poetry through the Chicago Poetry Tour, produced by the Poetry Foundation. I'm not sure what it is about Chicago, but it is full of poetry. Some of the best poets have emerged from Chicago and I'd love to find out what the correlation is.

Is it the beautiful city skyline filled with the hustle and bustle of people at all hours of the night? The strong sense of pride in the working class of Chicago? For example, Quincy Troupe Jr. also wrote a poem about Chicago: "Chicago (for Howlin' Wolf)" In both poems, they mention the middle class and people who have paid their dues to society. So from what I know, there is something about the people in Chicago that inspires the people to write about themselves. Does that even make sense?

Whatever it is, I hope that one day I will know. I am going to visit Chicago and maybe then, I will understand its inspiration.

A Message of Hope

September 11, 2001. Tragedy, devastation, loss. How could American ever overcome such a catastrophe? Through hope? Most certainly. Through unity? Of course. Through song? Sure, why not. Bruce Springsteen's 12th Studio Album, The Rising, released in 2002, centered around his reflections about the September 11th attacks. It is the first significant piece of pop art to respond to the events of that day. Time magazine reporter Josh Tyrangiel sat down with Springsteen after the production of the album to "take an intimate look at how Springsteen turned 9/11 into a message of hope." Springsteen's songs on the album are written from the views of the working people whose lives and fates intertwined with the hijacked planes. Sadness in the songs is matched with optimism, promises of redemption, and calls to spiritual arms. "There is more rising on The Rising than in a month of church," according to Tyrangiel. So what possessed Springsteen to write about such a tragic attack? Springsteen thought it was so challenging to tell his children what was going on. He believed there was an easier way to explain the day.

"I think it's become placed in their lives in the same way that the nuclear bomb was when I was a kid. It's the really dark, scary thing, and they're not sure where it can touch them. Can it touch them at school? Can it touch them in the house? What are its limits? Does it have limits? It's mysterious, you know."

To be able to effectively get his message across, Springsteen called the families of the victims to "flesh out the intimacies." One of the people he called, Stacy Farrelly, suffered the loss of her husband, a longtime Springsteen fan, on September 11th. She felt that, "After [she] got off the phone with [Springsteen], the world just felt a little smaller. [She] got through Joe's memorial and a good month and a half on that phone call." Bruce Springsteen truly wanted to bring hope into the lives of others, and wanted to learn the facts of those affected, not just rely on the vague reports in the newspapers. Loss is everywhere on The Rising. One of the most popular songs, You're Missing, "penetrates the unique horror of having a loved one turned to ash." The song rises to greatness because Springsteen uses the emotions of those affected to spread his message. The feelings expressed are true and real. Springsteen notes that, "When you're putting yourself into shoes you haven't worn, you have to be very ... just very thoughtful, is the way that I'd put it." According to Tyrangiel, "The fire-fighter songs, Into the Fire and the first single, The Rising, put the listener in the physical space of the crumbling towers" and "What's missing on The Rising is politics." Springsteen understands that "spiritual revival is a necessity and that it has to be a communal experience." And that is how he spreads his message of hope- through emotions, through spirit, through revival. Artists today continue to express views on events through song, poetry, and art. It's a great way to increase optimism and hope in those around us. Until we meet again, xoxo Brunette

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Basic Bookworm

I am a bookworm, pure and simple. I love to read, I love to write. I love to write about reading. Bookworm. One day, I hope to be a librarian. Naturally, when asked to write a poem about my place, the place where I truly belong and that holds the greatest meaning for me, I wrote about the library. More specifically, I wrote about the stacks. That is my place, my home. Not surprisingly, I harbor a deep love for libraries in general. Around the world, there are dozens of literary treasure troves that I find myself in love with. While some people admire libraries for the aesthetically appealing architecture of the building or the decorative artwork, I admire other aspects. I think libraries are beautiful for the way the stacks are arranged or the ways in which one must access them. I’ll give you a little insight into my opinion of beautiful libraries.

While the rest of The Library of the University of Salamanca, Spain may be beautiful in the eyes of others, I love the beautiful cabinets of books and such in the manuscript room.

To me, the Library of the Wiblingen Monastery, Ulm, Germany is alluring in its twisting balcony, leading the stacks into little curving nooks and crannies. I also love the stacks hidden behind the two statues at the far end.

I love The National Library of the Czech Republic, Prague for pretty much the same reason that I love the Library of the Wiblingen Monastery, except that this library is so much more intense.

While Jay Walker’s Private library may begin to fall into the typical love for the aesthetically pleasing, I just love the way all the books are arranged. It’s fantastic.

Okay, I will admit, my love for the Rijksmuseum Library, Amsterdam is based almost entirely in that gorgeous spiral staircase.

Okay, so maybe my reasons for loving certain libraries aren’t that different from the norm. But for me, it’s more about how each library is a home for the books. Okay, yeah I’m pretty much the biggest bookworm and library geek ever. And I love it. =]

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Ohana Means Family

It was Grandparents' Day at Wyoming Seminary College Preparatory School this past Thursday. For my Grandma and Grandpa, they were fortunate enough to be able to experience Poetry Class with Mrs. Lewis. Our mission: to write a poem about family. Piece of cake, right? Most definitely not.
How can one person sum up what family means to them in a poem? To express so much in so few lines just seems impossible. Every family has its qualities, its flaws, its quirks, but what brings everything together is this undeniable bond that just can't be explained in words.
..........Or can it?
As I was sitting in class with my grandparents, I began to think of the movie, Lilo and Stitch. It's such a heart-warming Disney movie,
one that brings tears to my eyes everytime I watch it. It's a great example of something showing the meaning of family.
It's a movie about an older sister, Nani, who needs to take care of her younger sister, Lilo, after the death of their parents. Lilo is bullied at school and has no one to talk to. Her sister lets her adopt a dog, Stitch, who is actually a scientific experiment, one that others are trying to capture. The three of them form an inseparable bond. Nani's ability to care for Lilo is questioned by social workers, but because of their bond, they stay together and remain a family.
There's one line in the movie that is really powerful. It exemplifies the true meaning of family.

Ohana means family. Family means no one gets left behind or forgotten.

So after remembering this quote, writing my poem about my family became a lot easier. Family means that someone is always going to be there for you, no matter the circumstance. You're always going to have a shoulder to cry on, people to talk to, people to jump for joy with, and people to love. Through the good and the bad, you're always going to have someone by your side. Family is what matters. Family is what's important. Leave it to Disney movies to make you feel this way :) It's doesn't get any better than that. Go home tonight, hug the person you love or call them on the phone. Remember, they'll always be there for us no matter the distance, no matter if they're with us or up above. Family will never escape us. Until we meet again, xoxo Brunette

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Drugs Are a Bet With Your Mind...

The Beat Generation; the beginning of a combination of drugs and poetry?
"Nobody knows whether we were catalysts or invented something, or just the froth riding on a wave of its own. We were all three, I suppose." - Allen Ginsberg
What exactly was the Beat Generation? I guess that we can't actually put a finger on what it was exactly, but for the most part the Beat Generation was a group of poets set on liberation, revolution and evolution of rhythm in poetry. These poets rebelled against conformity in the 1950s post-war era, especially consumerism. They rejected uniform middle-class culture and wanted to get rid of the sexual and social conservatism during that time period. This past week, we studied Allen Ginsberg, one of the most influential poets in the Beat Generation.
Since many of the poets in the Beat Generation were said to have an "avant-garde" lifestyle including crime, traveling, listening to jazz and excessive drug use, many people didn't not understand their outlashes against conformity.
"[Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg] were drawn to literature and began using drugs like benzedrine and marijuana in their dormitory rooms to inspire them to create what they called a "New Vision" of art."
The poem we read, "A Supermarket In California", has been said to be greatly influenced by Ginsberg's experience with drugs. Ginsberg's aimless walk through the streets with his thoughts filled with Walt Whitman which later drift to hallucinations in the fruitt cause the reader to be convinced of this. Since many people of the Beat Generation were notorious for their drug use already, there would be no reason to disagree with this assumption.
Other instances of drug use through the Beat Generation are innumerable, however two most known examples are Jack Kerouac's "On The Road" and Allen Ginsberg's "Howl". Beat poets used hallucinogenic drugs to achieve higher consciousness similarly to meditation and Eastern religion. Today, rap has been greatly influenced by the Beat Generation. Is there any correlation between drug use and rappers today because of this? I wonder, how would the Beat Generation have been if they hadn't been influenced by creativity from drugs?