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The Amazing Spider-Man

Last week, I grabbed ten dollars and a knapsack, and headed out the door with most of my family to drive to the theater. After a quick stop to pick up one of my younger brother’s friends, we arrived at the mall. My brother, his friend, and I exited the car and headed inside where a group of my friends were waiting to meet up with me. In only a few short minutes, we went inside and took our seats (they were pretty good ones, right in the center). The previews were showing, so we sat patiently until the lights dimmed and The Amazing Spider-Man began.
May I just say that the title describes the movie quite well. I loved it! I’ve never really liked the original Spider-Man because of numerous plot holes and unbelievable characters, but The Amazing Spider-Man did an incredible job of fixing those problems.
For starters, the acting was much better in the remake. Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone were the perfect people to cast for the roles of Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy. They pull of the awkward high school romance beautifully. The older Spider-Man never made any of the younger characters seem like actual high schoolers. Sure, Peter Parker was nerdy and MJ was popular and out-of-reach, but they never came across as believable, angst-filled teenagers.
This brings me to another perk. I never liked MJ as a character. Not only was she a bit of a pansy, but it never made sense that she would end up liking Parker. She was popular and she had a lot of boys to choose from, but she went for the dork. However, Gwen Stacy came across much better. She was Peter’s intellectual equal, and she proved herself to be independent and able to take care of herself. Not only that, but she was also not way out of his reach. She spent time with one of the popular kids, but she tutored him, she was not dating him. So, their relationship made a whole lot more sense.
Peter Parker himself was a much more interesting character than he was in the first edition. He was incredibly intelligent and obviously loved photography, but he had more depth than that. Marc Webb, the director, did a brilliant job of making Parker’s back story more than him losing his parents at a young age. Instead, there were hints that there was something far more sinister at play in their deaths. Webb also did a wonderful job of keeping Peter’s emotions real throughout the movie. Peter doesn’t fit in perfectly with his aunt and uncle; he had many moments where he disappointed them and couldn’t accept their authority because they weren’t his actual parents.
After his uncle died, he didn’t decide to become a hero because his uncle said something that inspired him. He started hunting down thugs because he wanted revenge. There was no fake sense of nobility, there was only hatred for the man who murdered his uncle. His nobility was sparked after he saved a young boy from falling to his death after the Lizard attacked for the first time, which seems more understandable than the first movie’s motivation.
This brings me to another important aspect of any movie: the villain. A lot of people have claimed that the Lizard is a weak villain, but I think that works in a beginning Spider-Man movie. Spider-Man logically can’t be a professional hero in his first movie; he had no idea what he was doing, so if the Lizard had been, say, the Green Goblin, Peter probably would have died.
I’ve also heard some complaints that the new movie spent too much time developing a story that had already been told, but I think it was necessary. The remake was to give a new perspective on an old story, but that doesn’t change the fact that the plot line is still inherently the same. People seem to forget that The Amazing Spider-Man is a remake of the original movie, meaning it starts at the beginning. With that in mind, I think Webb was smart not to give Parker’s back story ten minutes and then move on to the action. Instead, he drew out the back story, and made it flow a lot better than the original did.
So, in my opinion, if anyone wants to go see a good movie, I would recommend The Amazing Spider-Man.
“Then shouldering their burdens, they set off, seeking a path that would bring them over the grey hills of Emyn Muil, and down into the Land of Shadow.” —The Fellowship Of The Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien

Pride & Prejudice

Pride And Prejudice

Like many women out there, one of my favorite chick-flicks of all times is easily Pride & Prejudice. Now, I know that most guys out there are probably groaning right now, and thinking, “Really? Again? Why can’t you watch something good for once?”, but I’m a female. I like watching other people go through emotional/romantic angst. It’s entertaining.
There is, however, more to the movie (and by extension, the book) than people first expect to see. The first few times I ever watched Pride & Prejudice, I remember hating it. Granted, a few years ago, I was always one of the most stubborn tomboys among my peers; and when I first watched the movie, I was in full tomboy mode. I still thought what most boys assume about chick flicks. In other words, I assumed that it was all horrible, gooey romance that was good for absolutely nothing.
Unfortunately for all the males reading this, I’ve changed a lot since then, and have become infinitely more feminine in my tastes. Now when I watch P&P (as I have decided to abbreviate Pride & Prejudice), I find myself chuckling at the comedy in different people’s relationships, and relating to more of the characters. It really is a quality film. The plot line is good, the drama is entertaining and more or less realistic, the awkwardness is comically overbearing, and the characters are fascinating. Those are standards I like to see in any movie whether action film or romantic comedy.
But for me, what really makes P&P so excellent, is its main character: Elizabeth Bennet. If she was real, I would be her friend. Not only is she intelligent, dedicated, and responsible, but she is also funny, clever, and incredibly headstrong. She knows what she wants, and no one can change her mind except for her. The harsh exchanges she has over and over again with Mr. Darcy are absolutely brilliant! At many different points throughout the movie, she can be found insulting Darcy slyly enough to make her words are all the more cutting. She is truly an ingenious character!
Of course, she ends up realizing that Darcy isn’t what he seems, and they have their happy, stereotypical chick-flick ending, but I still don’t mind watching P&P time and time again just to watch Elizabeth ingeniously interacting with the people in her daily life.

“She began to untie it.” —The City Of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau

Faith Without Works

“This faith is not like a deed to a house in which one may live with full rights of possession. It is more like a kit of tools with which a man may build a house. The tools will be worth just what he does with them. When he lays them down, they will have no value until he takes them up again.” –The Robe by Lloyd C. Douglas

Faith in God is not the easy way to get to Heaven. It never has been, and it never will be. In fact, we are promised that we will suffer just as Christ himself did, but it is all worth it. Philippians 3:8 says, “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.”

That verse is beautiful to me because there is an all-powerful God who loves us enough to give his own son up to die for us. Nothing can ever separate us from that love if we should choose to accept it; not sin, not pain, not hardship, not our faults, or even all the mistakes we have ever made. It’s crazy to think anyone could love so selflessly, yet God proves us wrong time and time again.

There are so many pictures of his endless love painted in the Bible. The entire book of Hosea is a representation of God’s love for us. For any who does not know the story, God commanded Hosea to marry a prostitute named Gomer, and stay faithful to her even when she did not stay faithful to him. Symbolically, the relationship between Gomer and Hosea represents the relationship between God and his people; with the Lord constantly bringing his children home after they continuously stray back to their sin. The book of Hosea still applies to us today. We will never be perfect, but Christ pursues us anyway.

When we discover our love for God, it is easy to understand why James 2:14-17 is so true. [“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”] Faith prompts us to act in ways we never would otherwise. When a person dedicates their life to Christ, it is no small commitment because following God is not a simple task.

God does not hesitate to call us out of our comfort zones, but it is up to us to decide whether to obey or not. Lloyd C. Douglas put this idea into words excellently in the quote I used above. If we choose not to act upon our belief in God, then how can we claim to be wholly devoted to him? That being said, we will fail to act through faith over and over and over again, but God does not abandon us even though we can never measure up.

I am dwelling on these things tonight because of my baptism yesterday. It was an incredible time for me. My family and a few friends were able to attend, and their attendance meant the world to me. But more importantly, God proved to me once again that he is working in my life.

A few days ago, I blogged about my concerns for my upcoming baptism. I was stressed about not fully understanding what baptism meant, and went through an anxious period over the last week, but God did not leave me in that state of mind. He answered my prayers two days ago with only a short time left to spare before I was actually baptized.

I spoke with one of my good friends while we were on a run, and realized that God did not require me to fully understand what baptism meant. Instead, I firmly believe that he desired me to act on faith, and obey him no matter what my comfort level was. After I got home from Cross Country practice that morning, I felt at peace with my decision to go through with getting baptized. As I explained to my mom, I don’t think Abraham quite understood what he was doing when God commanded him to be circumcised [Genesis 17], and he didn’t need to. God worked through him even though his comprehension was limited, and I figured that God could easily do the same with me.

While I am still unclear about baptism in its entirety, I am overjoyed that I was baptized last night. It was the absolute perfect time, and God knew that and prepared me for it. I am immensely grateful to God for blessing me with such an incredible night with him and my friends and family, and I don’t think I’ll ever forget it.

End of book quote: “And when the colt, nothing but a bundle of legs and wet fur as black as Enna’s hair, fell into her arms, Ani might hear a name.” —The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale

Of Monsters And Men

Of Monsters And Men

If I could pick any band in the world to write like, it would be Of Monsters And Men. The band is made up of six people, and everyone in it is from Iceland. That alone would be enough to interest me, but there’s much more to the band than where they are from.
So far, they have released one album called My Head Is An Animal. In my personal opinion, the album is fantastic! I love the majority of the songs, and there are no tracks that I just don’t like. Every single one is well-written and well-performed.
I commented that if I could choose to write like any band, I would write like this one. Their songs are incredibly original in every aspect. I’ve never heard anyone with a voice as distinctive as those of the two main singers: Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir and Ragnar “Raggi” Þórhallsson (see, I told you they were from Iceland). The ideas they sing about are as fresh and fascinating as their voices and musical style. Somehow, they manage to write dark lyrics while making their songs sound upbeat and enjoyable. For example, in one of my favorite songs on the album, “Little Talks”, the lyrics paint a story of a couple who end up distanced because the woman goes insane. The brilliance in the song, however, is found in the indirect way that her insanity is revealed. You are never told straight-out that she loses her mind, but it is constantly implied.
The thing is, everything I say about their music is what I dream of people saying about my writing. I want my voice to be distinctive and fresh; my words to be striking and powerful, but in a way that prods readers to have to think. So, there you have it. Of Monsters And Men is a wonderful band, and I want to write like they make music.
End of book quote: “But wherever they go, and whatever happens to them on the way, in that enchanted place on the top of the Forest, a little boy and his Bear will always be playing.” —The House At Pooh Corner by A. A. Milne

The Blogging Community

The Blogging Community

When I first started blogging about two years ago, I never thought I would end up in a community full of like-minded people. Naively, I was convinced that I would jot down my thoughts, then a few of my friends or family members would read it, and that would be the end of it. But I was so incredibly wrong.
As it turns out, blogging is one hundred times more enjoyable when you share experiences with people all around the world that you don’t know. I follow three blogs: Outside Air by the wonderful Kari Andrews, The Bookshelf of Emily J. written by the witty Emily January (whose name I love), and Blissfully Bowers penned by my cousin, Nicole Bowers. I absolutely love what all of them write, and I have been inspired to think about things I never would have without first reading their thoughts.
For example, I never would have come up with the idea to start posting pictures in all of my posts unless I had started reading blogs like those by the three fantastic ladies I listed above. Fortunately, I didn’t stop there. A few random bloggers I didn’t know found my blog through WordPress and liked some of my posts. In return, I went and looked at their blogs, and loved a lot of the stuff I found.
Now I take the time to search out new blogs that discuss topics I’m interested in, and it’s a beautiful way to interact with people I’ve never met before and will probably never meet.
So if you have a blog, and you’ve never tried interacting with the blogging community, I would highly recommend that you check it out!
End of book quote, “It is also a fact that M. Chauvelin, the accredited agent of the French Republican Government, was not present at that or any other social function in London, after that memorable evening at Lord Grenville’s ball.” —The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy

Baptism

One of the hardest things for me to do in life is to trust God completely. There’s always a part of me that wants to hold back; that isn’t sure trusting God is the best option available even though I’ve been told a countless number of times that God will never let me down. I believe that is true, but there are so many times when I forget about it.
Right now I am experiencing one of those times of forgetfulness. I am getting baptized in a few days, but I’m not at all excited about it. In my mind, baptism has never stood out as something incredibly important for me to do. I’ve grown up in a Christian home with a Christian family at a Christian school, so making a public declaration of faith never seemed like a practical use of time. The only reason I am getting baptized at all is because I feel that, as a believer, I am supposed to as baptism is something God wants us to do. After all, even Jesus himself was baptized.
When I spoke with my mom about my concerns, she told me that she thought my concerns showed I was living out my faith. As Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” I’m not sure if she’s correct or not, but I do know one thing for sure: my hope is in God, and I want to have confidence in him and what he tells me to do. However, even with all this in mind, I can’t bring myself to relax.
Colossians 2:11-13 makes it clear that baptism is a symbol of us dying with Christ and being resurrected with him [“In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses”]. That passage shows how important baptism is in general, but I can’t wrap my mind around what that means specifically for me. I really want my baptism to mean more than just proclaiming my faith to my Christian associates. It seems like baptism is supposed to be an important step in maturing in faith, but I can’t convince myself that it makes any difference at all.
I am trying to trust that God will give me wisdom to understand the importance of baptism if that’s what I need, but I can’t help worrying about what I don’t comprehend while I wait for understanding. For all I know, I’ll never be taught why baptism is so important to Christianity, but I hope to figure it out someday soon (preferably before I actually get baptized).
End of book quote: “There was a point to this story, but it has temporarily escaped the chronicler’s mind.” —So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish by Douglas Adams

Mountains

Mountains

A lot of people out there love the ocean. They love to go to any place that has a beach, nice waves, and plenty of sunshine. After all, what isn’t there to like? God created some gorgeous places.

However, I happen to not fall into that category. For me, the ocean has always been a place that I’m not terribly excited to go to. It doesn’t really make sense. I can swim perfectly well so I don’t bother to fear drowning. As I already mentioned, oceans are breathtaking and I love to look at them, but I don’t enjoy being in them (though I endure it when I’m kite boarding). You see, I’m not a huge fan of swimming or wearing bathing suits for long periods of time or getting salt water in my mouth and eyes.

So there you have it, I don’t really like going to the beach.

What I do love is ocean’s opposite: mountains. Every moment of my childhood that I can remember was surrounded by mountains. Mountains, like oceans, are enormous, breathtaking, and incredibly scenic. But in my eyes, mountains are far superior. I’d take a hike over sitting around on a beach any day. My love for the mountains goes so deep that I’ve never been a huge fan of areas where mountains are practically nonexistent. When I can’t see peaks in the distance, there’s a part of me that feels exposed. So when I go to places like South Dakota and North Carolina, I always feel homesick for my Arizona mountains. What can I say? I’m a mountain girl and always will be!

Last line book quote: “Some day it may seem worth while to take up the story of the younger ones again and see what sort of men and women they turned out to be; therefore it will be wisest not to reveal any of that part of their lives at the present.” —Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

A Different Perspective

A Different Perspective

People have always stereotyped each other. It’s not a particularly kind thing to do or an accurate way to measure an individual, but unfortunately it happens a lot.
The specific stereotype that has been bothering me recently is the doom and gloom outlook on the lives of all teenagers. Many find teenagers to be rude, unintelligent, unable to communicate well, and altogether well below the standards of previous generations. Personally, I am strongly against this stereotype.
My views are, as usual, rather strongly biased as I am a teenager myself, but I will state my thoughts anyways: I myself do not have a phone. I do not speak using texting terminology nor do I ever wish to. I love to write and read, and I take pleasure in overcoming challenges and difficulties. I am self-motivated and determined to do my best in everything I strive to accomplish even if I fail time and time again. I do not vandalize walls in my free time or anything else that falls into the same illegal sort of category. Basically, I feel that when I compare my activities with stereotypical teenage activities, I have found time and time again that they rarely match up.
The thing is, I’m not the only one who goes against the stereotypes. Most of my friends are nothing like your average teenager. They are smart, reasonable, and all around incredible people. I’ll admit, every now and then I’ll come across someone my age, and think they fit some of the stereotypes perfectly, but that is less common than most people expect.
One of the reasons I love cross-country and track meets so much is because I get to meet new people. Usually, I hate meeting strangers, but the runners I’ve been fortunate enough to get to know are unquestionably amazing. It doesn’t matter what kind of school they go to or how big their community is because almost everyone I’ve ever met at a meet has been fantastic.
I’m not saying that the stereotypes can’t be true. I’m just here to point out that, for the most part, teenagers do not fit into categories as well as most might believe.
“It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to, than I have ever known.” —A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

Adventure Time

Adventure Time is a Cartoon Network classic that most believe belongs to younger children, and it’s easy to see why. The idea behind the entire show is that two best friends get together and have fantastic adventures all the time. Seriously, what could be more kid-friendly than a noble teenage hero named Finn and his loyal, magical dog named Jake who go around saving people every day? Even better, throughout their adventures, they grow in their friendship, make new buddies, and exemplify what honorable people do to help others.

Like I said, it sounds completely innocent. Well, I’m here to burst your bubble, it’s most certainly not for young children because I’m pretty sure it would give them nightmares. Don’t get me wrong, I love the show, but I don’t want any young minds to love it too. See, as you get further into the watching experience, you learn that Finn and Jake are friends with a vampire whose father tries to take everyone’s soul in one episode. Their archenemy is the Ice King, a poor older man obsessed with kidnapping princesses because he’s lonely and wants to marry one of them. To make matters worse, in one episode, they fight against a super creepy deer who turns out to have human hands, and succeeded in giving one of my high school friends nightmares. Yup. It’s a pretty creepy show.

I think Cartoon Network just likes to pretend that they produce shows for children because I don’t think I’ve ever seen a program on that channel that hasn’t been frightening. Look at shows like The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy and Ben 10? Those are definitely not shows for non-teens.

But onto the positive aspects of the series! Despite its many terrifying qualities, I love watching Adventure Time! The characters are funny, the villains are defined, and there are hints of more mature themes all throughout the show.

There isn’t an ongoing plotline, but Adventure Time is one program that pulls of mini plots really well. For example, in one of my favorite episodes, there is a reality flip so the main characters are Fiona and Cake (both girls) instead of Finn and Jake. At the end of the episode, you find out that the reality flip occurred because the Ice King wrote a fanfiction about Finn and Jake’s adventures and froze them in ice to make them listen to him as he read it. It’s a quality episode and plays with awkward teen romance, which I happen to have a deep appreciation for.

To sum it all up, Adventure Time is a creepy, heartwarming television production about two best friends who like to kick evil butt! Go give it a shot!

End of book quote: “He turned away to give them time to pull themselves together; and waited, allowing his eyes to rest on the trim cruiser in the distance.” —The Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Hardcore Inspiration

Hardcore Inspiration

When most people think of running, they think of misery, early death, copious amounts of pain, and other similarly themed events. There are some (like me) who think of beauty, perseverance, learning, fun, etc. rather than all of the negative aspects.
The people in the first group have probably never given running a chance (meaning they don’t try running for more than two weeks when they would then slowly become more in-shape and be able to enjoy it infinitely more). The people in the second group are usually those who adore running even though it has so many hard moments. Therefore, as a highly biased runner, I feel everyone can dismiss the ridiculous opinions of the first group and focus on the opinions of the second group.
However, despite which group a person might belong to, it is inevitable that if they ever end up running (forced or by their own free will), they will want a source of motivation to keep themselves going. People have a lot of different ideas of how to do this. In my running, for example,  I’ve repeated song lyrics to myself over and over and over again, recited memorized Bible verses, tried to ignore my pain (unfortunately, this one has never worked out too well), prayed for strength, counted steps to keep my feet hitting the ground in a consistent rhythm, and many other actions like that. More frequently than not, none of those things really help me perform better.
In fact, some have even caused me to perform worse than I otherwise would have. One day I was preparing to run the 1600m (or mile long race) at a track meet, and my friends started singing “What Makes You Beautiful” by One Direction and got it firmly stuck in my head. That mile was one of the worst mental races I have ever had. The lyrics kept playing back over and over again in my head, destroying my focus, and ruining that song for me forever (not that I was a big fan of it before).
However, there have been times when my methods of distraction have helped me. For instance, during a cross-country race, I repeated Psalm 130 to myself as I ran and was able to mostly ignore my body’s firm protests of my intense physical activity.
All of this to get around to pointing out that I have found a new running song! The song is “My Body” by Young the Giant (yes, I know it sounds sketchy, but it’s completely appropriate). I first heard the chorus of “My Body” at the REAL kite boarding school in North Carolina. I instantly thought that the words were perfect for running so I memorized the lyrics and determined to look the full lyrics up when I returned home. Well, surprisingly, I actually remembered to do that, and I am very glad I did. The lyrics to the chorus, in case you were wondering, are “my body tells me no, but I won’t quit, because I want more”. It’s truly a great song, and I am excited that I stumbled upon it.
Last line book quote: “Then the king commanded his servants to mind whatever Curdie should say to them, and after shaking hands with him and his father and mother, the king and the princess and all their company rode away down the side of the new stream, which had already devoured half the road, into the starry night.” —The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald