yMusic: The Virtue of Rap

I think there's one particular genre that's worth discussing: rap music.

(I don't consider myself an expert, so bear with me).

You know, the type of songs you would describe as being recited as poems with a beat that has cursing every ten seconds, often sexualizes women while glamorizing the thug life? Of course, that isn't completely true--for all songs anyways. Unfortunately, there are such songs.

However, some rap can be compared with the genre novel. Mixtapes are sold or given away in an "underground" community, with their own sets of devoted fans who gobble up their favorite rapper's rhymes.

It's easy to be turned off by the attitude that surrounds rap music. The swag, the ghetto, and the crassness might seem...unintelligent. And with gangster rap and horrorcore creeping around, even dangerous.

On the other hand, there's "hip-pop", like what Nicki Minaj moved more toward for her album "Pink Friday". Or Pitbull. And some pop singers mix rap into their normal singing, like Ke$ha or the band Karmin. Considering that's mainstream, it has opposition for also being unintelligent, but in a different way. In a way, these two extremes, underground and mainstream, can boggle the mind.

But like every other music genre, rap can be genius.

Weekly Round-up: 3/30/12





Bad Writing...On a Grammar Sheet?

For my first post on grammar, I'll be stepping onto a soapbox and drawing directly from my schoolwork. I'm taking a simple worksheet that was more of a review than anything, but it caught my interest. With a hook.

(Note: I already made the corrections the worksheet wanted me to do. I left everything else intact, bad writing , grammar mistakes that the worksheet didn't want me to correct, and all).

So, here are the first four lines on the worksheet:

"I'm pitching," said Jamie before they tied this game up.
"I gave it my best," exclaimed Yvonne, "but my arm's sore!"
Jamie heard the pained voice and said, "Yvonne, don't worry about it."
"Let's play ball!" came the call from the ump.

Awkward sentence structure, said bookisms, unnatural dialogue, "the pained voice"...

"The pained voice."

Just by looking at it, I would personally change it to "her pained voice", although that's still awkward. But "the pained voice" is like Little Billy referring to her mom as "the woman".

Considering this is from a grammar worksheet, which is supposed to teach students how to write correctly, it's a little troubling, don't you think?

YOUR TURN: Which degree of good writing should a grammar worksheet uphold?

Writer's Update: 3/28/12

There isn't too much to say, this week, but:

As indicated from last week's post, I was a feeling down. Fortunately, I have recoiled from this. I'm sure the monologue for acting class is in tip-top shape, I'm building up to thirty minutes of violin practice along with some piano, and I still have too much time on my hands even though I'm back to school.

Now, there's that hip-hop dance, but I'll get to it...tomorrow. At class. Probably. How would my teacher react.

Some personal irony that came into place was the fact that I wrote a blog post on how I disliked student movies (still a draft)...and ended up doing a film unit for my Room of Requirements class.

Since I already made a normal student film a few years ago (and it's average in terms of expectations), I'm doing a music video.

Especially, Florence + the Machine's "I'm Not Calling You a Liar".

I'm not going to share any more information, or you guys might try looking for me in the near-future, but I'm probably going to be blogging about it in a few months.

Was there anything I miss? Any questions?

Five Reasons Why I Don't Watch Television

  1. Television is a commitment. Every week, I would have to watch the new episode for a series. If I missed it, I have to seek it out somehow. Either Hulu or dishonest privacy, and I don’t have a TiVo.
  2. Television can be a time-sink. Thirty or sixty minutes per pop. YouTube and TV Tropes already sink too much time.
  3. I don’t watch anime anyways. I prefer manga. And American dubbing tends to be inconsistent with anime.  I have a pet peeve when watching adaptions of series that I had read. The voices I imagined for each character and the voice in the anime creates grating dissonance.
  4. If my family is watching a film or a TV show, it’s an excuse for my get writing done. Either that, or I procrastinate more by staying around. Did I mention it can be a time-sink?
  5. Nothing beats a good book. Portable, great to the touch, not straining to the eye. Oh, and teachers won’t call me out for reading one once I get my homework done.

YOUR TURN: Do you watch television? Why or why not?

    Forum Repost: The Hunger Game's Katniss...a Mary Sue?

    Time for a Forum Repost.

    With the release of THE HUNGER GAMES movie, some other writing blogs have pounced onto the topic for easy, current, and identifiable comparisons. These entries cover a wide variety of writing mechanics, from the plot, to stakes, to romance, to characters, to romance...Most of it is positive. After all, it is the most popular YA book in the current scene.

    Not everyone likes it.

    Put down your arrow. Hear me out.

    Regardless of my true opinion of the book, I would like to present another person's view on the topic, from the Literature sub-forum of TV Tropes. Namely, someone who found Katniss Evergreen Everdeen a Mary Sue. Familiar with the term? I bet you have seen it applied to the polarizing Isabella Swan.

    It's a wide term with negative overtones and a crowd not to be proud of--but this Troper backs his reasons up with a list:

    Spoilers below.

    Here is why I think Katniss is a Mary Sue:

    • 1. Girls raised on near-starvation diets end up with bone deformations, bad teeth, and thin hair. Yet somehow Katniss is starving, but only just enough so that if you slap some makeup on her, she will turn heads.
    • 2. She's the best archer in the whole world. I understand that the author does at least bother to explain why this is the case, but the notion of anyone, even a girl who has spent many years hunting moving creatures with bow and arrow, can pick up a bow, use it for a few hours, and be confident enough to shoot an apple out of a pig's mouth without injuring the people eating behind the pig is kind of ludicrous. All bows take time and practice to get right, sort of like how boots don't feel right until you walk a few miles in them.
    • 3. Katniss is given a range of implausible social skills for a girl with her lifestyle to have. First she is shown to be a kind of loner who doesn't really have any social skills and has major trust issues (to the point that she even doesn't understand something as simple as "this boy has a crush on me, which is why he is nice to me"), then latter she somehow has the natural charisma to lead armies, despite never having an opportunity to learn such skills. Alexander the Great wasn't able to conquer the world because he was born that awesome, he trained under the likes of Aristotle for that role. So who trained Karniss Everdeen to be the spiritual leader of a country the size of North America?
    • 4. All the boys love Katniss. Sure, she only ever thinks of herself and is seemingly ignorant of the notion of affection for others, but that doesn't matter, does it?
    • 5. Whenever something comes up that could and should be a major hindrance to Katniss, she whips out some hidden talent we didn't know about until that very moment. An arena where she has to swim? Oh, despite the fact that basically no one from her hometown knows how to swim, Katniss learned because her special daddy would sneak her out to the special lake that nobody else knew about and teach her to swim (even though the odds of her father knowing how to swim are low to zero).
    • 6. The President of Panem takes far too much of an interest in Katniss, especially in the second book where she poses almost no threat to the government beyond a single small act of rebellion she managed at the end of the first book. So either the guy is just that paranoid about everything or he becomes a Super Persistent Predator to Katniss because Katniss is the focus of the book so even world leaders should pay attention to her.
    • 7. The same thing goes for District 13's leader. Why does she make Katniss her enemy? Did she really think Katniss was planning on taking away her throne? Good lord its like paranoia is confused with leadership skills in this setting. Either that, or Katniss Everdeen is the hero, so let's all worry and fret about what Katniss is doing.
    • 8. The mockingjay pin. The story never adequately explains how, exactly, Katniss is so beloved by the mayor's daughter that she is given what is probably an ancient family treasure as a gift. Is it mentioned in passing that the two spent some time together once? Sure. Do we actually see the two acting as best friends should? I don't recall that, no. So Katniss is so special that priceless treasures are given to her, even by characters that she seemingly ignores.
    • 9. Even the damn cat treats Katniss as a special thing. While the cat is seemingly a nice, gentle creature around everybody else, it spits at Katniss. Why? Because Katniss is just that speshul.

    I'm done.

    Interesting list. Although some of the reasons can be debated against, this Troper does have a point. A quick look at the rest of the thread reveals other complaints, like Katniss' possible sociopathy, similarities to another series, and the love triangles.

    Some of these complaints I agree with.

    THE HUNGER GAMES isn't perfect. No story is perfect. Every once in a while, it's nice to step back, analyze a critically-acclaimed story, and learn from its mistakes.

    YOUR TURN: What do you dislike about The Hunger Games?

    Weekly Roundup: 3/23/12

    Again, sorry for the late round-up. Blame Civ V.





    yMusic: Blue Jeans, Zero Gravity, Part of Me

    yNot? :p

    Well, as long as I'm going to keep blogging about music on a writing blog, I might as well make an unique label for it, and designate the topic to its own day. I'll post this today, although I might make this a Saturday thing. We'll see.

    Yesterday, I was feeling down. Sort of trapped in my own laziness. So I whipped out the iPhone, explored VEVO and such--and emerged not wanting to cry anymore. There's a reason why I love music.

    Let's analyse the tracks in the order I listened to them in:

    "Blue Jeans" by Lana Del Rey

    First things first, I'll eat your brains there's the music video for Lana Del Rey's upcoming third single. Not a big surprise, since this is one of the songs on her previous EP. It's a slow song with high vocals and occasional clapping, appealing to a love-nostalgic 20th century tone.

    However, I would say the music video's middle-of-the-crop.

    Stylistic-wise, its similar to the video for Rihanna's "You Da One". Monochrome, anyone? Oh, and nice editing. However, I find it interesting how Lana Del Rey's people used the same guy from the "Born to Die" video. Any particular reason? But unlike that video, it lacks any haunting moments. I expected Lana to drown at one point, or some bloodshedding from those alligators that might symbolize something or might be there just for the sake of symbolism.

    In general, it's all right, but it's too subdued.

    "Zero Gravity" by Kerli

    Hello, Bubblegum Goth Princess. It's been three years since your last album, although I enjoyed "Tea Party" and "Army of Love". I also see you also took a sharp genre turn. You seemed to brush aside that macabre, fairy-tale tone in "Zero Gravity".

    When the first verse kicked in, I thought "Ke$ha!" During the first view, I found the electro-pop vibe a bit jarring. Not to mention the fact lots of people are probably making the Lady Gaga comparison. (Any singer who wears a wacky costume will get compared to Lady Gaga). 

    However, I grew into it quickly. The chorus is catchy, and the breakdown is more focus than Nicki Minaj's "Starships". Sure, the music video's weird and possesses uncertain, homoerotic undertones, but the accent behind Kerli's singing voice is a nice spice that will certainly let her burst into the music scene again.

    "Part of Me" by Katy Perry

    I'll be a little more brief here. Out of the three music videos, this is the most story-oriented one. The plot is simple. Katy catches her boyfriend cheating--and she joins the Marines. Female-empowerment anthem all the way.

    The video seems overly familiar, but it executes all the elements quite well, of course. Still, two elements popped out:
    1. She's binding her chest in front of a public restroom sink? Is anyone else seeing this?
    2. She's burning her ex's letter? How would people react if she was a man burning his ex-girlfriend's letter? Seems a bit...harsh. Yet again, that's what the song's centered around.
    Despite those nitpicks, I'll definitely watch it again. Katy can get away with releasing seven singles for one album. Rihanna did it too.

    Not the perfect crop, but an entertaining one, at that. As more and more songs are released, along with music videos, I'll do more in-depth reviews, as a writer.

    QUESTION: Did you know that Rihanna has four singles out for her current album Talk That Talk? Can you name all four without looking them up? How many of them have you heard on the radio?

    Writer's Update: Spring Break

    Lately, I feel like I'm in a bit of a muck. One problem that I have with writing is during the weekends, productivity goes down the drain. I sleep through my normal writing time, I get lazy, and I end up delaying 750 Words until 11:00 PM and typing down random thoughts just to get it out of the way.

    So, this Spring Break...

    My time management skills are crummy. I still need to practice my piano and violin skills, I hadn't been to hip-hop in three weeks, I need to memorize my acting monologue, and so far, my large accomplishment was jumping straight from the Ancient Era to the Medieval Era in Civilization V.
    Yep, that's your typical writer.

    I'll keep this brief for the sake of spending more time figuring out how to use my time more efficiently. There's a notebook I want to try out, and I need to brush up on some stuff.

    Non-Verbal Dialogue

    As the saying goes, “Actions speak louder than words”. While referring to situations like broken promises and hypocrisy, this can be considered the perfect defense for silent films, like this year’s Oscar contender, The Artist?

    It may seem a writer shouldn’t heed this saying. Books are in words, after all. No images. But it can be applied in a different way.

    Sometimes, it is better for a character to not verbalize, but instead let their actions do the talking. Let’s call this non-verbal dialogue.

    In a way, this is a different form of showing. Instead of a character telling another character their thoughts, they’re letting their body language, emotions, or actions show what they want to convey. Maybe they are in a state which they can’t/don’t want to speak.

    In the end, non-verbal dialogue is a variant of indirect dialogue.

    The idea for this article came to mind when I was using my writing folder to do some practice. I was considering a new character, so I decided to write a scene between one of the existing characters I was fleshing out. Since it is spoiler material, I prepared a generic example of the scene.

     I recently read a writing guide that warned about being too bland about dialogue, so I reached a moment that unfolded like this. Examples of non-verbalized dialogue are underlined:

    Weekly Round-up: 3/16/12

    First of all, I would like to apologize about leaving the round-up until late in the day. Let's just say Spring Break started today, and I had been conquering Madagascar, Morocco, Zululand, and Transvaal as the United States in Victoria II. I learned a good amount of history from it.

    Also, the round-up that inspired me to create this one, Adventures in YA & Children's Writing, got discontinued. I'll be missing it quite much.

    However, if you see the bold-type in the round-up, you'll know I have some news to share later--if I don't waste Spring Break.





    Ways For a Student to Sneak Typing Time

    While it’s good to set aside time to build up writing momentum, there are always those little lulls that can be utilized for something productive, if not fun.

    So I would like to speak as a student and detail several ways I sneak writing throughout the day. Note that these are mostly times for long-hand, although some moments are for typing. Oh, and reading. Definitely reading.

    1. Wake up early. Even ten minutes can mean ten more minutes of writing.
    2. While travelling to and from school. Although I only have five minutes on the bus to school, I sometimes bring along a laptop on the way home for twenty-five minutes of writing. And the way the seats are set up, it fixes me into a proper sitting position.
    3. The time before class. I usually try reach and set up for class for some quick reading or note-taking.
    4. Between in-class assignments. Since I work fast, it’s a boon.
    5. After tests. See above.
    6. During lunch. If you decide to go somewhere else to eat, that’s a good opportunity to sneak onto a laptop.
    7. During computer assignments. This is a bit hard, because it involves juggling between two works, but it can be done.
    8. Study hall. This is probably one of the best times. If you get all your homework out of the way out of school (or like me, have it early in the day), that’s potentially forty to ninety minutes.
    And this is only for the first half of a school day. A small list, but at least consider a few of these moments.

    YOUR TURN: How do you sneak writing time throughout your day?

    Giveaway at Sparkling Reviews

    I know you guys are going to kill me, but...I ran into this giveaway at a blog called Sparkling Reviews through another blog, and they're giving out great prizes. Like a cruise! And an Apple combo pack!

    Stay tuned for something writing related...soon.

    Weekly Round-up: 3/9/12




    Writer's Update: 3/7/12

    And this time I didn't slip. There isn't too much to talk about though.

    Manifestation Files
    Once again, that little demon telling me my story's not the best is sneaking back toward me. I rewrote one scene after backing myself into a corner, and I'm sure I should swap the order of two scenes, and the relationship arc is still a little bumpy...oh, and my characters are using the same motions again, again, again, and again.

    I should revise soon.

    And I should rearrange a date with that agent soon.

    Anyone familiar with NPR (National Public Radio) and This I Believe"? The title says it all, since it's a segment where a person reads their essay about a belief they hold dear.

    Well, one of my teachers want me to submit a school project to NPR. Once I get my parent's permission and do some proof-reading of course. I'm still on the fence about whatever I should adjust the tone, but overall, I say it has a chance.

    My belief? Well, it got to do with art.

    I had been getting up earlier (and making sure I get in bed before midnight), but I also had been sick. Let's say the cold/flu is making its rounds through the school, and one of my siblings brought it into the household.

    My runny nose distracts me from writing, but it isn't enough to keep me from coming to school. I'm waiting for the weekend.

    Oh, study hall's almost over.

    Writing Under Time Pressure

    A few weeks ago, I had a brush of how to write when an unsuspected time bomb is armed.
    No! Not that kind of time bomb!

    Two unconnected events cut into my writing time at school:
    1. Semester testing of English and math skills--on the computers. (Therefore, laptop access was limited).
    2. Black History month. (Therefore, making classes in general shorter to add on another period).
    Therefore, I had less time in study hall to work on Manifestation Files. However, I did got some more work done with less time. Not on my novel, but on other school projects, which was a blessing, really.

    It's a principle I had been applying to my before-school writing session. Although I had been focusing on squeezing as much time as possible to write, I had been finding ways to get as much done as possible during that limited time.

    Not much, but it's something to consider.

    YOUR TURN: Had you ever had a moment where you got more done in less time?

    Thoughts On: The Cardturner by Louis Sachar

    Now it's time to review the book Kenda Turner sent to me. I can safely say it was an enjoyable read.

    The book in question is THE CARDTURNER by Louis Sachar. At its core, it's a YA book with bridge. As in, the game bridge. You know, one of the daily columns your local newspaper may have tucked away? Nevertheless, it's more interesting than it sounds like:

    Alton Richards is in for one slow summer. No job, girlfriend hooked up with aloof best friend, shaky economy...oh, and his wealthy great- uncle went blind. For as far as he remembered, Alton's Mom has him say "you're my favorite uncle" every time she sets up a phone call. Her family is short on money, and Uncle Lester will certainly leave a hefty will.

    One attempt to pander toward him involves Alton becoming Lester Trapp's cardturner at his bridge club. It's a simple task: Tell him his cards, and play the cards he tells you to play. However, Trapp doesn't show any appreciation to Alton, and that grates him.

    Throw in a mysterious, maybe-crazy girl named Toni, and an unexpected love for bridge, and Alton's summer might not be slow after all...

    This is a different kind of book than some of the others I had read so far this year, but I didn't let that bother me.

    For instance, Louis Sachar flaunts his love of bridge throughout the book. He clearly shows his knowledge. So much, he marks sections where he goes into detail about bridge with a whale. As a result though, some of the stuff going on in the bridge game went over my head. I didn't let it bother me too much, but it's something I had to let pass.

    But Sachar did succeed in one aspect: I'm now more interested in bridge. If I get the opportunity, I might play. But the mentality Alton develops over time as he learns the game makes it seem like too much of a commitment.

    The plot was interesting though. Trapp's ghosts are popping up throughout the narrative, including Toni, whose family had connections with Trapp. And that family is known to be quite crazy. This provides an intriguing mystery for Alton to get tangled into.

    Trapp also turns out to be quite the character with his own set of quirks. The cast was wide yet notable. What I found interesting was Alton's use of the nicknames "East and West" or "North and South" when referring to players he didn't know the name of. Quite clever.

    On the other hand, there's the ending. For example, supernatural elements pop up and hijacked some of the plot. It didn't bother me too much, but it sent the plot in a direction that would've been impossible if it stayed completely in the realm of reality. The foreshadowing in the beginning didn't justify it enough, in my mind.

    Oh, and the fact the stakes petered out by the end. I got this "storm the castle" vibe for the third act, but I didn't got a real sense of danger. Sure, Alton could've slipped up, but not enough threats were followed through to create tension.  He was in the green.

    While it was a great read, a couple of flaws hampered THE CARDTURNER down and pinned it into a niche. If you're a bridge player or want to learn some of the game, read it. However, I can see some people being too daunted to wade through it.

    I would say it's a 3.5/5.

    Weekly Round-up: 3/1/12






    Writer's Update: 3/1/12

    I'm considering moving this toward Thursday, since I keep holding this column off.

    I hadn't written too many blog posts since last week, but I had read plenty of books. You saw the review for at least one of them on Tuesday. You'll be seeing another review soon. And I hope to write at least two more of those. And then I hope to write some blog posts that aren't reviews.

    In short, I lost some steam from two weeks ago, but I have the ideas. I just have to communicate them.

    Manifestation Files:
    Good news is, I'm blazing through the third quarter of Manifestation Files. I managed to find a huge chunk of the story to write through, along with a good way to show the conflict between the two protagonist. Bryan wants to know Finn's motive, but Finn's too shy and shameful to share it. Oh, and a lot of things are happening around them. And Bryan's blaming Finn. Not the best, and I'm still neglecting Bryan's conflict with his best friend Amy...but it works.

    However, a blog post caught my eye last week. I read it after the fact, so I didn't include it in my weekly round-up, but it provide a good post on voice. Namely, the "Two Paragraph Rule".

    That got me thinking. Bryan, as a narrator, wasn't expressing his thoughts enough. What would it be like if I inserted two-paragraph monologues every few scenes? Will that help?

    When I revise, I'll aim for that.

    Short Stories:
    Meanwhile, the draft for the library contest is done. I still need to revise, but I have a whole month to submit it.

    On another hand, I had been ignoring the writing contest on TV Tropes. And I'm not going to judge this time. Hmm...

    I got good news in terms of non-writing, though.

    A while ago, my mom submitted a proposal to Washington DC to teach a workshop there. Yesterday, she got an e-mail saying it was accepted!

    She'll be teaching teachers from all over the nation about school gardens--in July. Long way off, but considering it's a huge jump from her local jobs, it's worth mentioning. Oh, and she's an art teacher.

    How is her job as an illustrator going again?