Thursday, December 10, 2009

Second Quarter Outside Reading Book Review

Black Hawk Down by Mark Bowden. Mark Bowden, 1999
Genre: Nonfiction

Black Hawk Down is a stimulating account of the events that occurred in Mogadishu, Somalia on October 3, 1993. Bowden depicts that fateful day in full including all of the unfortunate events in an extremely graphic manner. When a simple snatch and grab goes awry no one knows what is going to happen in Bakara Market.

“I did not ‘read’ Mark Bowden’s Black Hawk Down…I devoured it. It is a compelling tale of noble endeavor gone awry, written with such clarity and insight that the reader quivers as if trapped in the desperate, close-quarters firefight Bowden’s gifted narrative brings to life.”

Bowden truly spoke to me in this book. I have watched many war movies and books overflowing with violence of bloody battles, but by far Black Hawk Down is the best. One of the main reasons this holds true is because it really happened. Because of this he can not twist or bend the truth in any way. Not only this, but he chooses not to omit any part of the battle. Instead of omitting all the bloody scenes and creating a fairy tale out of it he gives you the raw, uncut footage of what really happened.
Another reason this book is a paragon for me is that instead of sticking to one persons account of that day which could have warped the actual events, he uses an array of sources (123interviews, nine books, nine articles and an extensive collection of notes can be found at the end of the book), to paint a picture of each and every scene in your head leaving you with the feeling of actual having fought the bloody battle.

“Word spread wildly over the radio, voices overlapping with the bad news. There was no pretense now of the deadpan military cool, that mandatory monotone that everything is under control. Voices rose with surprise and fear…” (78).

After reading this book I am extremely anxious to read as many of Bowden’s other ten as I can. Because of this book I am an avid fan of any war novel, nonfiction or not. Bowden has truly touched the depths of my soul with the reality this book imposed on me. Juxtaposed to Wolcott’s crash site, I feel as though war is too much a reality in our lives today. That is why I enjoyed this book so much. Black Hawk Down takes war and makes it a reality, not just some fictitious virtual reality only seen on TV, in video games and on the computer. If everyone read this book I believe the world would be a better place because of the reality this book imposes.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

A Musical Journey to Vermont

     These days many people don't put thought into what they value. Instead of choosing something special, much less a memory, they choose things that have the highest material value, even if they never use it or it means nothing to them. If what you value is something more, then what must a material object possess in order to be a value to you? These days people are willing to spend a good chunk of money, even it is on something that isn't valuable as opposed to putting a lot of thought into buying something that will become a prized possession. So what is valuable? Does it even have to be a material object for that matter? For me the things I truly value in my life either connect to me in some emotional way, is a tradition, or provides me with an aspect of life that helps me concentrate or has a deeper meaning and helps me with something.

     A couple years ago my ipod went through the wash. However, I told my parents that I lost it. Either way I no longer had an ipod. My friend, Ashleigh, gave me an mp3 player, but it didn't work that well. Also, I couldn't put any songs on it either so I had to rely on her to put the songs on that I want. Not only that, but after we went to Cape Cod one year, my brother lost his ipod and was really upset, and got a new one that Christmas. That one however got water damage so he wanted a new ipod as well. My mp3 player worked for a couple of years, but like all things, it had to end right? So, last Christmas I asked for a new ipod. The one I wanted was the ipod nano. It was on sale at the apple website and holds one thousand songs, can hold four hours of video and 3500 pictures. I told my parents that it was a great deal, but they seemed skeptical. Every day I pleaded with them to get me it, but still they said nothing.
     So, on Christmas day, Evan, my brother, and Lauren, my sister, got me up at seven thirty like always. They are morning risers to begin with, and now that it is Christmas, they not only got up a little earlier, but they insisted on getting me up. Part of the reason they got me up though was the fact that they weren't allowed to go downstairs until I was was up to find out what they got in their stockings. So as opposed to sitting in their rooms stewing, they decided to get me up and walk around making a lot of noise so that mom and dad would get up too and we could finally see what we got. As we went downstairs we noticed that there were three white boxes sitting on the trunk. They were about the size a phone would come in. However, as we got closer, we realized that the AppleTM apple was in a light gray on the box. Slowly we started to realize that they were ipods, and it was my sister who shouted it out first.
     We got down and assumed our usual positions: me on the chair by the stockings, waiting for every one else to be seated, so I could pass the stockings out, Evan in the other chair by the TV, Lauren on the carpet, and my parents on the couch. Naturally, we open the "mysterious" white boxes first. To our content, inside each of the boxes, were brand new silver rectangles of music. Finally, I had been waiting for this moment forever: I now had my own ipod, brand new, strait from the case. I was so excited I didn't even want to hold it because I was afraid I would get it dirty.
     Now, for as long as the ipod would last I could control what I wanted to listen to without commercials. This item was the holy grail of listening to music for me. Now, whenever I was bored or feeling down, I could just pop in the ear buds and listen to what ever song I wanted to get me in whatever mood I feel like. If I'm down in the dumps and have the blues I just listen to an upbeat, spirited, happy song to lift me right up. If I want to get pumped for say, a soccer match, something with a fast beat will do just that. As far as I was concerned as of that moment my world was complete.

     The sound of boat's wakes lapped at the shore greeted me a soon as I stepped out of the car. We were here again, my favorite place to be: Wilmington Vermont. Every year my family, my grandparents and I go up to the property that my grandparents own. Usually we will all meet up at Harriman Reservoir and have some lunch. While we are there Evan, Lauren and I usually take a swim, provided the water isn't too cold. Grammy and Grandpa will talk to mom and dad while we are swimming. If the water is low enough we will sometimes build sand castles too. This is a great way to start the day. All of us together having fun and enjoying each other's company. After that we travel about four miles to the site.
     The site is homely: with a log on two stumps for a gate, no paved driveway, and a camper that dates back to before I was born. There is also a fire pit which provides loads of fun. When we get there, and after the water is hooked up, we all rush to use the bathroom, and unpack the food and drinks to put in the fridge. At this time we (my siblings and I) have a fair amount of free time until supper. Usually we bring bikes, a Frisbee, a football, and a ball and mitt. Because I am so into mountain biking, and the terrain around the site is hilly to say the least, I usually hop strait on my bike and go for a spin. I get bored quickly though so I'll head back. By then my sister will have gotten antsy, so when I ask Evan if he wants to play catch, I usually end up having to play with her first.
     By then supper is ready. It usually consists of hamburger, hot dogs, and grilled check, or any combination thereof. Grammy also brings one of her famous fruit salads. I will scarf all this food down in a matter of minutes because of the calories I've burned with all this physical activity. I will then want to get up and start looking for kindling, because I know I'm going to have to. So, I wait as little as possible and start out into the woods looking for the fire starter. After my siblings grab at least two handfuls each, we wait for dad to start the fire.
     This is the best part of the trip:the fire. My dad is very methodical in his fire making methods. After the fire pit is cleared, he crumples up a few sections of The Republican and then piles the kindling around it. Finally, the anticipated moment: he starts the fire. After all the wood has caught and one log has been thrown on, we go and get the marshmallows. We all roast marshmallows for at least an hour, and bask in the small heat source amidst the surrounding black. Finally, it is time to put the fire out, pack up and head home only to start building the anticipation until we can come up again next year.

     These values are completely different, yet one in the same. They both take me on a trip, whether it is real or completely metaphorical. My ipod gives me peace of mind in rough times, while my Vermont excursion provides me with a knowing that tradition continues as well as giving me a chance to relax and catch up with family. My silver piece of music takes me on a journey to a far away land where only the two of us exist. My trip to Vermont however is relatively close, and there is much more than just me and what I want and like. So, through all this, what is valuable? For me valuable is something you love and enjoy. In this case music and tradition.

Monday, October 12, 2009

First Quarter Outside Reading Book Review

First Quarter Outside Reading Book Review
The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum. Richard Marek Publishers, 1980
Genre: Realistic Fiction/Mystery

The Bourne Identity, the first of seven books in the Bourne series, is a classic story of a man, Jason Bourne, with amnesia trying to figure out who he is. The twist is that he is an undercover operative for the United States Government posing as a fake assassin. However, the branch of government, Treadstone 71, believes that Jason went rogue after six months of inactivity. So, throughout the book Jason travels through Germany and France trying to figure out who he is and why someone wants him dead.

"Mr. Ludlum stuffs more surprises into his novels than any other six-pack of thriller writers combines," writes The New York Times.

Although I have not read any other of Robert Ludlum's books, the book is comparable to the movies. In this book Jason Bourne is portrayed as a ruthless assassin who shows his good side because of his amnesia, however, his former self breaks out in some fight scenes where kills just as easily as he did before. This is similar to the way Tony Gilroy and William Blake Herron present Bourne in the movie, however because the public started wanting more action, Jason had to be shown killing and escaping assassins a lot more than in his hotel room with Marie trying to piece together who he was and what was happening as well as what to do next. Robert Ludlum also knows how to keep the book interesting with thoughts, and not just description and dialogue helping the reader to put him/her self in Jason Bourne’s shoes as well as giving us more information to help understand what is going on.

"He [Jason] felt rushing cold water envelop him, swallowing him, sucking him under, and twisting him in circles, then propelling him up to the surface-only to gasp a single breath of air."

Although I am not familiar with any of Ludlum’s novel other than this, I was deeply intrigued by the movies and this provided greater insight into some of the things I didn't understand, as well as twisted the setting and some of the details as to what happened and was caused to happen. Because of this wonderful novel I was able to really connect with what it must be like to have amnesia, feeling helpless all the time as well as how brutal the government can be.

Friday, September 11, 2009


The Contender, Alfred
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Junior
The gym from the Condender

     The gym stared down on Junior. Ever since his spectacular basketball season he had been convinced that if he could play basketball, he could play any sport. However, he knew he couldn't just go out for any sport he could. Junior wanted to find a sport that suited him, a sport that he would enjoy. After extensive research online and reading books and pamphlets he decided on boxing. In boxing it was you versus him. Another reason for choosing boxing was to increase his fighting skills. An added bonus would be to be able to actually fight in some matches, not just train.

     So there he was staring down Donatelli's gym. I can't let this get to me, if I can go to school off reservation I can definitely go into a gym even if they turn me down, thought Junior. So he started up the steep, reckety steps. He saw a sign on the way up reading Dr. Arthur Corey, Dentist. As he started nearing the top he saw there was a dim light coming from the top door. Junior took a deep breath and then opened the door.
     The gym wasn't as nice as he thought it would be. The only light came from bulbs placed on the ceiling. The ring was blood-stained from years of use. The gym was bustling with life though. The speed bag going like a rattlesnake, the heavy bag sounding like a sub-woofer. Crunches and pushups were being pounded out on the mat and the steady rythm of the jumpropers tied everything together making the gym sound like a band.
     While Junior was standing in front of the doot staring and trying to take it all in Alfred had noticed him come in and was sizing him up. He looked to be five feet eight inches tall and one hundred twenty five pounds. Alfred got the feeling that he was just another kid who got beat on one too many times and was looking to bulk up. So he went over to inquire as to why he was here.
     "Hey kid what's up?" asked Alfred.
     "Hi, uh, I was wondering if well, um, I could, maybe, train here to be, well, a boxer really?"
     "Well what do you want out of it?"
     "You know, why did you come?"
     " Well, I wanted to take up another sport and boxing seemed like fun. Oh and it might protect me," Junior feebly explained. At this point Junior was really wondering why he had come; his self-confidence was losing momentum. It was as just as Alfred had thought, he had wanted to protect himself.
     "I think you should come with me." Replied Alfred.
     They walked by the mats as everyone continued on with there: life as usual. Some of the boxers on the map did stop what they were doing though to eyeball Junior. That just made him wish he had chosen another sport. I don't think I can do this he thought. They went into the locker rooms and into the back past the showers towards Donatelli's office. Junior's old meak self was coming back. Alfred knocked on the door and popped his head in then explained the situation to Donatelli. He then held the door for Junior who then came in and sat down on a rickety old chair that had been left out in the rain one too many times.
     "I here you want to be a boxer. What makes you think you have what it takes?" said Donatelli addressing Junior.
     "Well, I just thought I could join and train. I didn't really expect there to be any requirements."
     "Uh-huh, so you just thought I would let you in here and train even if I thought yoiu wouldn't amount to anything?"
     "Well, yeah," replied Junior.
     "You're fairly skinny for your height," It was a statement.
     "I was hoping to build some muscle," replied Junior.
     "So I heard. Let me explain something to you. I think you have what it takes, but don't think you have the motivation. So I'm going to assign Alfred to be your personal trainer. He'll tell you what to do," explained Donatelli indicating that Junior was accepted.
     He had done it. He had gotten accepted to train for boxing. He knew it would be hard, but he would push through it.
     "Ready for the worst three weeks of your life? 'Cause that's what it's going to seem like with the motivation I'm supposed to give you," said Alfred indicating that Junior's work in becoming a boxer had just started.