Wednesday, July 31, 2013

5: Awesome Edgar Allan Poe Tales


          Edgar Allan Poe is possibly the most famous horror story writer, and yet, a lot of people haven't taken the time to read his incredible stories. For that reason, here's a quick guide so you can begin reading some of his best stories. 

5: The Tell-Tale Heart

         This story's interesting in the sense that it's about a man who tries to prove (to himself) that he is sane. Driven mad by his roommate's vulture-like eye, he takes upon it himself to murder the man, and more or less like Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment, the narrator finds himself unable to bear with the guilt. 


4: The Cask of Amontillado

           You're sure to like this one if you're into carnivals. In some European town in some unspecified year, there is a man named Montresor who's holding a grudge against the (ironically named) wine connoisseur Fortunato. He says that he has some fine Spanish sherry in his cellar, and the drunken, dull Fortunato, of course, is eager to try it. The rest, of course, I won't spoil.


3: The Black Cat

          This one was the first Allan Poe story I read and as a child it disturbed me a lot. In here the narrator lives with his wife and they have a few pets, one of which is a black cat. One day the narrator gets drunk and enraged for some reason, blinds Pluto, his black cat, and hangs him from a tree. Then the house burns down and the narrator finds a cat similar to Pluto. He gets drunk and tries to kill the cat but something even worse happens...


2: The Masque of the Red Death

          This is my favorite Poe story. The plague of the Red Death was ravaging the land, and prince Prospero locked himself in his abbey with all his friends and noblemen, leaving the poor to succumb to the disease that apparently made you bleed through your every pore and orifice. Prospero holds a masquerade where everybody dresses as a nightmare, and during the dance they see a mysterious figure in red. The rest, of course, I'll leave up to you to figure out.


1: The Raven

          The Raven is Poe's most famous poem, and if you've heard of this author you're almost sure to have heard of this poem. It is, of course, heavily inspired by the author's life, and it's about a man, a grieving lover, who is visited by a raven in the middle of a cold winter night. The raven only speaks one word: "Nevermore". The narrator believes the raven to be a messenger from another word and when asking him whether he'll ever be reunited with his lost love the raven only gives back the same answer and slowly, but surely, the narrator descends into his own madness and the raven sits forever above his chamber door, torturing the man forever with his call.

Quoth the raven: Nevermore

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

How To: Read Poetry


     Ah poetry, one of the most romantic arts, albeit one of the most damn confusing. Poetry's full of oxymorons, similes, metaphors, and other things, and reading it is like a huge jumble of everything that most people can't understand at first, so here's a simple guide.

Call it your crappy Rosetta Stone.
        First of all, look for a theme. Usually the author will have some sort of recurring symbolism or image. It could be a word, a small phrase, a verb, just look for a sort of trend. Once you see it, then you can at least know, in general what the poem talks about. 

I'm not sure but that word right there seems important.
       Now, try to find the literary figures. This is very difficult at first, but then it becomes easy. Then again, only the truly smart poets write thinking about literary figures. Otherwise, you can look at the impression the poem gives you. Does it make you sad? Happy? Feel in love?


         What's going on in the poem? Sometimes a complex language can be used so the situation can be hard to understand sometimes. To truly understand the text you need to go line by line analyzing every single word. Also understand the context of the poem. Was this during the hardest time of the author's life? Had he just fallen in love?

Had his last hope flickered away? Again?
      Read the poem out loud. Look for a rhythm. Is there rhyme? A certain pattern? How about an alliteration (repetition of a certain noise, such as the same vowel with the same pronounciation), or divisions? Be it by stanzas or perspective (some poems can change very drastically from beginning to end). Also look for an order. A poem can go from more to less or less to more. You can make a list of the verbs or pay attention to the mood. Some words will serve a double function, too, so you should pay attention to that (usually it'll be the difficult words). 

Or the ones that don't make sense. They can have hidden meanings.
         After doing all of this and realizing you've learned nothing you can go ahead and kill yourself or you can ask yourself whether the poem actually had any effect on you, and usually that effect can lead you to figuring out the meaning of the poem. If it doesn't, don't bang your head on the table about it. Read prose instead!


Sunday, July 28, 2013

5: Awesome European Artists

Any time you go on a trip it's a true fact that you'll discover something new, and on my recent trip through Germany and France, I discovered that there are a few artists worth mentioning that somehow haven't made it well in the Americas yet, so here are a few of these excellent musicians.

5: Caro Emerald

    Caroline Esmeralda van der Leeuw hails from Amsterdam, so she's one of the best-known Dutch jazz singers right now. You could say she has a style similar to Amy Winehouse in Back to Black, just a bit more cheerful. Here's "A Night Like This", one of her more famous songs.


4: Cro

      Carlo Waibel is a German rapper who has a particular style that is mixed with pop, which he himself calls "Raop". He usually takes to wearing a sort of panda mask, which is pretty cool, so he gets a plus for originality, I guess.


3: Peter Fox

        Pierre Baigory is another German who's worthy of a good mention. He's vocalist in Seeed, a reggae/hip hop band, and he's also a member of Dancehall. He has a very good grasp of rhythm and can mix a lot of different instruments to create memorable music.


2: Yelle

         Some might know this French band for being remixed by Steve Aoki for his mix album "Pillowface and his Airplane Chronicles". Well, Yelle is a band fronted by Julie Budet, known as Yelle, and Jean-Francois Perrier who's known as GrandMarnier. They mix pop and electro in a cool way which makes you want to dance even if you don't know how to.


1: Zaz

         The beautiful Isabelle Geffroy is known as Zaz, and she's another Jazz singer. She comes from France, and likes to sing jazz mixed with acoustic and some French Variety. She's famous for her song "Je Veux" but that's not the only good song she has, I can assure you. 


Je Veux is Zaz's most famous song, but here's another one that I like pretty much.



Saturday, July 27, 2013

How To: Prevent (Or Stop) Weight Rebound


         All right, so you've already done your diet, you've lost weight, you've shed blood, sweat, tears and fat, you're looking sexy, but wait, something's gone wrong. Somewhere along the line you lost it and your formerly horrifyingly jiggly arms are getting jiggly again. Your clothes are getting tighter and suddenly you're feeling self-conscious again. 

Oops. Rebound.

Those calores are bouncing back up just like your  thighs after a milkshake.
       What can you do? Oh, woe is you, what can you do? How can you prevent yourself from being a slothing bag of fat again? You know you definitely don't want what you lost back. It can go fuck right off from whence it came. So, what to do?

No, I don't think self surgery's getting you anywhere good.
        First of all, check what you've been doing differently. Did you start eating something again? Once you've lost weight, it's all right to indulge in a few pleasure-inducing foods, maybe a bit of alcohol, but then, you'll find that you're not gaining any weight, so you indulge again and again until suddenly, your weight's going back up like an elevator in New York.

But this is just the pre-snack!
         At this point you've missed from good food along that you're afraid of committing to a full-on diet again. You know from experience that the only way to do this well is to lose weight slowly. So that's what you're going to do. Let's say, french fries. You've started eating them once a week, which is good, it's acceptable, especially if you're exercising and all, but wait, now you're eating them twice a week. And you wanted to try that ice cream. And that brownie. 

Mixing the three could prove fatal to your arteries.
            But I could eat that while I was losing weight because I was counting my calores, you say, so what then? Well, buster, you lost count, and now you've gotta remember how many calories everything you eat has. Of course, you're not going to apply the same principle of removing 500 calories a day from your diet or anything, so go slow. Go back to eating french fries once a week. If you're going to eat the brownie, don't eat ice cream again that week, or eat ice cream but don't eat the fries. You understand where this is going?

To my thighs?
           If you let yourself go again, your diet will be the same as before and it can actually turn out to be worse than what the original diet was again (I can tell you from experience, I went to Europe and gained 4 kilos in 4 weeks), so it's a simple matter of keeping yourself in check. Once you start to go back to the original pants size you were, that's a warning sign. Another one is people telling you to watch yourself because you're getting a stomach again. A diet can't work unless it's from your own free will but that right there means you're about to get ugly and about to have a lot of health complications again and you can't have that, now, can you? Because you lost weight and you're a winner and you'll be damned if you turn to a ball of fat again.

You can still stop it.
              Kick the fatness in the face. Reduce calories. Eat well. Don't eat too much of what's good for you either. If you get 2,000 calories of salad it's still 2,000 calories. Watch if you've been using more butter, or spread, or whatever. Portions, frequencies, all the small things that you changed when you lost weight can screw you into being fat again, calories are a double-edged knife.

So yeah, stop eating, live longer.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Badass Of The Day: Atticus Finch


          If you've read To Kill a Mockingbird, you couldn't have missed what was the impressive character of Atticus Finch. For those of you who don't know him, Atticus was a lawyer who was appointed to defend a Negro. In the 1930's, in a Southern county in the U.S., and naturally he was hated by most. But what makes him stand with more dignity than the rest?

Is it his suit?
           First of all, he treated everybody with respect, no matter if they were black or white, rich or poor, and without considering whether he was mutually treated well or not. He knew how to defuse a situation that got hot, and always kept his cool.



           As a lawyer, he always knew where to look. Even when convincing testimonies were given, he could analyze the situation through aspects that others wouldn't even think of first, like asking for a man to write his name just to figure out which was his strong hand. He was capable of giving a convincing speech, a skill that every man should be able to master, and even facing injustice he could keep a straight face and look his opponent in the eye. 


            Concerning his temper, there are a few scenes in which he's indignated past the point where a normal man would bring up his fists (or any weapon they had on them for that matter), and yet he keeps calm. A man spits in his face, and Atticus takes a step forward, intimidates the other man for a second, and wipes his face off. In another scene a mob tries to kill the man he's defending, and he steps in front without flinching once, even at the end of a shotgun barrel.

Even with children beside him, he kept his cool.
             Atticus was also an exemplary father. He teached his children to be open minded and intelligent, and he actually reminds me of both my parents in a sense. Of my mother because he teached his children to love to read, and to respect others no matter the situation, and of my father because when I began to read I began to have questions and some of these concerned heavy topics such as murder and other sorts of problems, but whenever I asked him, he wouldn't wave me off, he would explain to me in a way I could understand and not be emotionally scarred, and that's an aspect I truly admire in Atticus. Also, he's not a hypocrite, he lives by his lessons.


          There's also a plus. The man has his skills. Aside from being an awesome lawyer all around and having some intense public speaking skills, he was known to be the best shot in all of Maycomb County, and even without having practiced in a few years, he applied it well.


           So, yeah, a badass lawyer, badass father, an exemplary man all-around. All men should aspire to be like Atticus Finch, of course, not exactly the same, in the end you can only be yourself, even though it sounds cliché, but it is a trademark of wise men to learn from others' mistakes and successes, and this man isn't even real, even though he's just a character, he's a character you can learn a lot from.

Any objections?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Movie Review: The Lone Ranger


           So, Gore Verbinsky's been at it again and critics were quick to dismiss this movie as being in the same style like the latest Pirates of the Caribbean movie, more is better. They say that it's silly, has horrible dialogue, blah blah blah and of course everybody does their own shit and Johnny Depp does nothing more than being Johnny Depp.

Savvy?
             Yeah, maybe some of those things happen, but the movie did impress me in a way, most of all the fact that you could tell a big budget had been put into the film. How? The picture itself was excellent, you got these great landscapes, good shots of certain animals (like a crow flying across a canyon), and a few other great pictures every once in a while.


             The contextualization was great. It did feel like the U.S. in the 1860's, and of course, for a few good reasons. Everybody dressed according to the epoch, but of course with a few hundred millions in the budget there wasn't going to be any mediocrity there.


              Now, the stories in the movie were good, there was like a mix of a few stories in there that actually ran quite smoothly with one another. The thing is that sometimes they would mix too quickly and it was exhausting to watch. Also, the actors didn't do the story a favor. Sure, there were a few that proved to be good (and of course, Johnny Depp was cast as Johnny Depp), but some scenes couldn't be taken as seriously thanks to a lack of emotion coming from the cast.

And Johnny Depp.
            The music, of course, was decent. First, let's get the facts straight. Jack White was going to compose the music, he had to decline, and Gore Verbinsky hired Hans Zimmer. Why the hell am I not surprised? Anyways, there was this instance in a train chase scene in which the William Tell Overture was used, impressively well. Then they blew it by repeating it a lot. 


           Anyways. The movie is half good half crap. The form is good, the content is shit. It's worth a view, yes, so you can sort of get to know the story of the Lone Ranger. But don't go there expecting something else than what could be Pirates of the Caribbean dressed as a Western.

Savvy?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Is Money The Root Of All Evil?


         This is something that you hear a lot, supposedly passed around since Biblical Times. Indeed it has been, but it doesn't accuse money itself, if not: "For the love of money is the root of all evil" (1 Timothy 6:10). Still, it has to be noted that a lot of horrible things have been done for the sake of earning a few (or more than a few) bucks, but still, is it money itself or is it something else?

I believe this formula is wrong.
            Some of you are probably going to want to lynch me for this (liberals, brace yourselves), but I began to question the notion of the root of all evil after reading Atlas Shrugged. There's a particular scene in which one of the novel's larger-than-life heroes, Francisco D'Anconia, listens to a woman who mentions that money's the root of all evil. His reply itself spans almost a full chapter but here's a good example of what he had to say: 

"So you think that money is the root of all evil?" said Francisco d'Aconia. "Have you ever asked what is the root of money? Money is a tool of exchange, which can't exist unless there are goods produced and men able to produce them. Money is the material shape of the principle that men who wish to deal with one another must deal by trade and give value for value. Money is not the tool of the moochers, who claim your product by tears, or of the looters, who take it from you by force. Money is made possible only by the men who produce. Is this what you consider evil?"
Sure, blah blah, Ayn Rand was a selfish woman.

But did she have a point?
            There are still a lot of paragraphs I would like to place here but then again it's a lot and I want you to read what I have to say about it. It's really simple. Some tell me that the economy is killing the world, and that money's evil, and that we would be better of bartering! (Which is a primitive form of trade which is part of what encompasses the economy).
I don't know, I still think I should have been given at least half another cow.
           If we remember the Moai tribe, also known as those dudes who made the Easter Island heads, then yes, we have a good example of how a civilization went extinct by means of its economy, but then again, these guys took it to a pretty extreme level, in the sense that you could watch every single tree from the top of the island's mountain and they ordered each and every last one of them cut down. That's economical demise, yes, also known as Tragedy of the Commons, but this is economy taken to extremes! And yes! Humanity's doing it as we speak.
Ghosts of lost a civilization, what environmental destruction must these have seen?
          Does that mean, though, that money's evil? Think again. The love of money is the root of all evil. Ambition can reach a level where it's not healthy, and we have been seeing it, natural resources right now are depleting faster than we can even count them and the Earth is changing in such a way that it's never done before. If the men who owned oil companies, are into the deforestation biz, or mass producers, weren't as tempted by money, then maybe things would be different (Although there's a lot of factors to take into consideration there, like the fact that closing down a company as massive as an oil business or whatever would mean tons of unemployed people, so many don't close their companies for these "moral" reasons too. And of course, it's hard to create thousands of jobs out of scratch).
Remember, it's not money itself, it's the men that want the money.
           As a quick side note before we go on, let's also think about the fact that not all evil has to do with money. Some can be caused by a bad upbringing (and of course there can be snobby rich kids and snooby poor kids alike), ambition that has nothing to do with riches, etc., so that's something that has to be gotten out of the way. There can be no root of all evil because it has many different causes.
This man, if he can be called so, expects no payment for beating his partner, does he?
I can give a theory. Although the love of money can cause a lot of malice, a lot of evil can be caused by a lack of money.
             Think about it. Let's imagine a country in poverty. If there's no money to pay for school then there's no education for the general population which leads to few people managing everything, these few will probably be corrupt and their love of money will make the lack of money the status quo, and to get ahead some people will cheat to get ahead by robbing or murdering and it's all a downward spiral into madness and chaos.
Then shit gets all Brave New World and you're catalouged by your social class.
              Also, class differences can cause a lot of conflicts. Wherever you go some will be richer than others, and those less rich, damn, can they get jealous, to the point that they will have poisonous little attitudes that will poison those around them, and if we can agree, that's annoying at best. That doesn't mean class difference is a necessary evil, still, it's not a problem that will be fixed anytime soon.
I mean, it's been around for quite some time.
              Now, back to money itself. What would happen in a world without money? Imagine you farmed, say, tomatoes, and the rest of your things you got them by bartering. That guy at the market could give you a house if you gave him a steady supply of tomatoes, and he offers food rations, etc., but then imagine somebody breaks a bone. You go to a doctor. He doesn't want tomatoes. What do you do then?
Imagine that bread as a tomato.
(Don't take this picture lightly, though, force-feeding is a horrible thing)
             Money's a beautiful concept because it reflects the amount of worth a man's put into his job produces. Sure, there are high-effort jobs that give low amounts of money such as being a janitor, but did that man have to use a lot of effort to become a janitor? Correct me if I'm wrong, but it's not like there's a degree or anything. Besides, there's nothing that a janitor produces but clean facilities, which isn't worth much. And then you have something very specific like a cardiologist who spent more than a decade studying for his highly specific job that is in increasing demand and gives something very valuable, more time to live. But if there were no money, the cardiologist wouldn't be winning a lot through bartering now, would he? How often would he get a chance to negotiate? How would he get equipment, etc.?
Oh.
                Money, as D'Anconia said in Atlas Shrugged, is only possible if there are men who produce. With no production there's nothing of value and if there's nothing of value there's nothing to trade, but if there were something of value, of course, it would be a lot more difficult to exchange without money. In conclusion:
-The love of money causes evil.
-The lack of money causes evil.
-Class difference can cause evil.
-Money isn't related to all evil.
-Money is a tool that facilitates exchange so bartering isn't necessary.
-Money is a reflection of what a man's effort produces, bad or good, as long as it has worth.
Like a wise man said, money doesn't buy happiness.
But I'd rather cry in a Porsche.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Young Talent: Barbara Sepulveda


        Dance is probably one of the more important aspects of art that, although I haven't paid much attention to, is one of the harder arts to master (or at least for me, I have two left feet and the coordination of a drunken man). It's a beautiful way to express emotion with your body, be it passion, joy, sadness, anger, whatever you can think of.


          Barbara's way too talented and is already reaping the fruit of her hard work within this form of art, and in my neverending interest of how talented people think, I decided that an interview wouldn't hurt at all. I think that congratulations are in order for she's now in the Broadway show named "Wicked" presented in Mexico City, and this, I hope, is just the beginning of a great career.

-First things first, who or what inspired you to start dancing? And at what age did you begin?

  • I started to dance when I was 2 years old. It all started when my mom realized I liked music and I had so much rhythm. I loved watching musical TV shows and danced along. One of my mom's friends, which was a dance teacher, recommended her a dance studio and I entered. As I grew up I started to get involved in so many dancing events and competitions that made me believe I wanted to do this for the rest of my life.



-What do you feel when you dance?

  • Dancing itself is so amazing. I think everyone gets a different feeling, but in my case, I feel free and able to express myself in a very unique way. I feel fully connected with my body and with the music and that makes it so amazing.



-Which is your favorite dancing style?

  • I do lots of styles such as ballet, jazz, contemporary, hip-hop, lyrical and jazz-funk, but I think my favorite ones would be contemporary and hip-hop.



-Who's your role model when it comes to dancing?

  • I have a lot of role models. One of them is Bianca Marroquin. She inspires me so much because she's mexican and got to succeed on Broadway, and when you're not from the US it's even more difficult, but she's so talented and it makes me think that dreams do come true. Mollee Gray would be another role model. Everything she does is so amazing and every movement and trick looks impossible to do, and I think that makes me practice and practice a lot so that I can be able to do it, too. Last but not least, of course, my mentor Ivan Freeman. He's a great teacher, and I think all he has gone through and everything he has achieved thanks to dance is so inspiring.



-How many hours do you train in a normal day? Do average aspiring professional dancers train as much?

  • I normally train from 6 to 7 hours daily. Not all aspiring dancers dance that much. They normally do from 3 to 4 hours or even less. On the other hand, professional dancers and other young dancers who are homeschooled dance about 6 or 7 hrs daily, too.



-Do you believe that there's something different in your attitude versus the girls who didn't get chosen for the dance team?

  • There are tons of things that differ me from other dancers, but here are some of them. I think I have the luck to be able to learn from lots of teachers and most of then internationally known. That makes me learn and use all of their different styles to make my own, and I think that by now I've got my very own style when I dance. Another thing is that there are lots of disrespectful girls either with teachers or other dancers. The directors notice it and that's why even if they're so good they don't get chosen.



-What are your plans after Wicked?

  • I would like to go to AMDA, which is a university in both LA and NY. That's one of the best schools for a dance carreer. If I get to LA I would also love to be part of a great choreographer's company.



-Would you think of opening an academy someday?

  • Yes!



-Until now, what has been your favorite part of dancing?

  • I think that the best part has been to be able to get to know lots of great people and some of them are my inspirations and role models. Having the opportunity to know them, dance with them and learn from them has been so amazing. Also, getting to inspire other people or communicate with them with what I do makes dance even more great.



Hopefully after reading her replies you will be able to understand what it takes to be successful, as she's shown dedication, perseverance, and respect amongst a myriad of other important values. I want to thank Barbara for taking the time to answer these questions, and again, congratulate her for what she's achieved through hard work. I know that if she keeps up a good attitude and working hard, she'll achieve whatever she wants. She's a role model not only for dancers but for those who want to achieve dreams that at first might seem unrealistic. I'm pretty sure that we can learn a lot from her and people who would put even half the effort she does into what they do.

And of course, I won't let you go without a small but impressive demonstration of her talent.