Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Robotech Battle Cry by Jack McKinney (Recommended)

I just finished Robotech Battle Cry by Jack McKinney. I read it in high school when I was a teenager and I loved it. I just finished it tonight and I loved it again, probably not as much as I did when I was in high school but it was good nonetheless. There were some parts of this book that were truly excellent. I loved the part when Max meets Miriya at the end of the book.

There are a lot of things that may be confusing about Robotech so let me clarify.

Robotech was originally a cartoon. I think it was called Macross when it came out in Japan and renamed Robotech when it came out in the United States.

The author, Jack McKinney, is a pen name for not one author but a writing duo, James Luceno and Brian Daley.

Jack McKinney wrote six books that are based off of the first generation TV series. They are as follows:

Book 1: Genesis
Book 2: Battle Cry
Book 3: Homecoming
Book 4: Battle Hymn
Book 5: Force Of Arms
Book 6: Doomsday

The book I just read is a compilation of the first three books: Genesis, Battle Cry and Homecoming. What makes this confusing is that the compilation of these three books is also called Battle Cry. Books 4 through 6 are published as a one book compilation also. This compilation is called Doomsday.

So what is this story about? In short, it is about planes that turn into robots.

A ship crash lands on earth, the SDF-1. Earth agrees to global peace to figure out this alien ship. They rebuild it. The Zentraedi, the war obsessed aliens that lost this ship, want it back. It is a very important ship to them. The story is about the people on the SDF-1 trying to survive as they are attacked by the Zentraedi.

The pacing of the book is very fast. I enjoyed the pacing.

The story is campy but I think in a good way.

The writing is actually pretty good and easy to read. The reading level is not difficult.

There are some parts of the story that are truly excellent. I believe that these excellent parts are the reason why this story/cartoon has survived and gained a loyal fan-base over the years.

Overall, I liked the book a lot. It is a fun book. Don't expect any deep philosophy. So, if you are looking for a good, fun action/adventure book, look no further. This is the book for you. I recommend this book. It is not a masterpiece but it is fun.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

FIFTEEN by Taylor Swift (my thoughts)

I was listening to this song and I had a few thoughts.

There are three people in this song, the SINGER, ABIGAIL and an unnamed person referred to as YOU.

VERSE 1 is about YOU as YOU walks through her first day of school in her freshman year. It describes YOU’s insecurities on that day. NOTE: Most freshman are 14 years old. I wonder why the characters in this song are fifteen. Did they fail a previous grade? Are they simply old for their year?

Chorus 1 is about some future event after the first day of school mentioned in VERSE 1 when a na├»ve girl believes the insincere words of a boy. This is where the song becomes confusing to me. Who is the SINGER talking to? Is ‘you’ a general reference to people (i.e. ‘Cause when a person in general is fifteen, they are going to naively believe when a boy tells her that he loves her) or is it to the YOU in the song (the person referenced in verse 1). At this point in the song we still don’t know.

Verse 2 communicates when YOU meets a girl named ABIGAIL and they become best friends. The second half of verse 2 is about YOU’s first date. She is swept away with the excitement of being infatuated with a boy. It is insinuated that the mom disapproves and doesn’t like the choices being made by the simple phrase “mamma’s waiting up”. This brings up a thought. It is insinuated that the fifteen-year-old girl in this song is a victim of a senior boy’s selfishness and lies. But isn’t there a mother that disapproved of the relationship? Assuming the mother was doing what mother’s are supposed to do, why didn’t the girl listen to the counsel of her mother? Is the fifteen-year-old girl in this story really a victim of the boy’s selfishness or is she merely reaping the consequences for poor decisions?

The second half of chorus 2 connects the chorus to the YOU character. YOU’s experience with the boy is further elaborated. There is a kiss, maybe during the first date mentioned in verse 2 or maybe subsequent to that date. And the boy is on the football team. It is also insinuated that dating a boy on a football team is a trite and meaningless thing.

Verse 3 is confusing. It introduces the SINGER, “I”, into the song. Who is SINGER and where was she for the first two verses and the first two choruses. Why does SINGER cry with ABIGAIL? I thought that YOU was bests friends with ABIGAIL?

I like this song. I really do, regardless of its perspective problems. Why didn’t a producer listen to these lyrics and think, “Hmm, the lyrics should be fixed. They don’t really make sense.”

This is my resolution to the perspective problems. The SINGER and YOU are the same person. Perhaps, the SINGER is singing in front of a mirror, singing to a reflection of herself. And when an emotionally powerful part of the song comes, SINGER is unable to continue singing about it in the second person and she is forced, by the swell of emotion, to include herself in the first person, therefore introducing the “I”. How do you like my resolution to the perspective problem? With my resolution, there are only two people, the SINGER/YOU is one person and ABIGAIL is the second.

Another assumption is that ABIGAIL’s story and SINGER/YOU’s story parallel each other with the exception that SINGER/YOU didn’t give everything she had to a boy; ABIGAIL did. So in the chorus, when it is stated, “Cause when your fifteen, somebody tells you they love you, your gonna believe them”, it, at least, refers to SINGER/YOU and ABIGAIL.

Below, I’ve included the lyrics and the guitar chords for easy reference.

Fifteen by Taylor Swift

(G C Em C)

(Verse 1)

You take a deep breath and you walk through the doors

It’s the morning of your very first day (G C Em C)

You say hi to your friends you ain’t seen in a while

Try and stay out of everybody’s way (G C Em C)

It’s your freshman year and you’re gonna be here

For the next four years in this town (G C Em C)

Hoping one of those senior boys will wink at you and say

You know I haven’t you seen you around before (G C Em C)

(Chorus 1)

‘Cause when you’re fifteen

Somebody tells you they love you

You’re gonna believe them (G Em D C)

And when you’re fifteen feeling like

There’s nothing to figure out but (G D Em C)

Count to ten, take it in

This is life before you know who you’re gonna be (Em D G D C D)


(Verse 2)

You sit in class next to a redhead named Abigail

And soon enough you’re best friends (G C Em C)

Laughing at the other girls who think they’re so cool

We’ll be out of here as soon as we can (G C Em C)

And then you’re on you’re on your very first date

And he’s got a car and you’re feeling like flying (G C Em C)

And you’re mamma’s waiting up and you’re thinking he’s the one

And you’re dancing ‘round your room when the night ends

When the night ends (G C Em C)

(Chorus 2)

‘Cause when you’re fifteen

Somebody tells you they love you

You’re gonna believe them (G Em D C)

And when you’re fifteen and your first kiss

Makes your head spin round but (G D Em C)

In your life you’ll do things greater than

Dating the boy on the football team

But I didn’t know it at fifteen (Em D G D C D)



When all you wanted was to be wanted

Wish you could go back

And tell yourself what you know now (C Em D G D C D)

(Verse 3)

Back then I swore I was gonna marry him someday

But I realized some bigger dreams of mine (G C Em C)

And Abigail gave everything she had to a boy who changed his mind

And we both cried (G C Em C)

(Chorus 3)

‘Cause when you’re fifteen

Somebody tells you they love you

You’re gonna believe them (G Em D C)

And when you’re fifteen

Don’t forget to look before you fall (G D Em C)

I’ve found time can heal most anything

And you just might find who you’re supposed to be (Em D G D C)

I didn’t know who I was supposed to be

At fifteen (Em D C D)

La la la la la la (G C Em C)

Your very first day

Take a deep breath girl

Take a deep breath as you walk through the doors

Friday, December 25, 2009

A Tale Of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (Recommended)

I just finished A Tale Of Two Cities by Charles Dickens.

I had the following conversation with a student:

"Mr. Lee, what are you reading?"
I turned the book to its cover so the student can read the title.
"Mr. Lee, that's cool. I read that book when I was in elementary school?"
I thought, "Really? I'm reading it now and I don't understand a lot of what is written. How could you have possibly understood it when you were in elementary school?"
At that point, I felt stupid. But that's okay. I shouldn't compare myself to others anyway. My reading strength is what it is. AND, by reading Dickens, I am flexing my reading muscle so, maybe one day, I'll be a stronger reader. Maybe one day, I can say, "Yeah, Dickens is an easy read." But until that day, I will struggle with reading Dickens.

This brings me to my first point: the book is hard to read. The reading level, I thought, was high. Dickens is into word play and puns but these puns are dated and archaic. I didn't understand a lot of it.

The pacing a very different than a modern novel. There are little cliffhangers throughout the book in regular intervals. I think this was a product of it being a serial novel. The novel was released in parts on a weekly basis. The end of each installment ended on a cliffhanger to get the reader to eagerly anticipate the next installment.

The book was broken up into three smaller books. The third book's pacing was very different than the first two. The third book's pacing was much faster and much more exciting.

Dickens is a brilliant writer. He writes at so many different levels. Some of the imagery that he uses is powerful. Very powerful. There are few writers today that can rival Dickens imagery. One image is when peasants drink wine that has spilled cask from the cobblestones to show how poor and desperate peasants at that time were and another is how the marquis throws coins to placate a grieving father after he has run the peasant's son over with his horse and cart to show how the aristocracy thought the peasants were worthless. His themes are also intricately interconnected.

The writing style are usage is archaic making it difficult to read for me. But I'm sure that if I continued to read Dickens novels (which I plan to do), it will get easier to read.

One character to note is Sydney Carton. The book is full of two dimensional characters; most of the characters seem to feel only one emotion or seem to have only one motive. I think that this is common for books from this period in time. But Sydney Carton is different. He is initially introduced as a drunk but later on in the book, because of his love for a woman, he does some truly heroic things. His motives are complicated and his feelings are complicated. I enjoyed him as a character. His character seems anachronistic; he seems to be from a modern novel with mixed morally ambiguous motives stuck in an old book where this type of character is unheard of.

Overall, the book was brilliant.
I found it hard to read but, in the end, it was definitely worth reading.
The writing was archaic.
The pacing was archaic.
The images were brilliant.
The character of Sydney Carton was outstanding.
I recommend this book. It is not highly recommended because I of my own lack of reading skills; it was hard for me to read.

Good times.

Merry Christmas everyone.