Sunday, January 8, 2017

Judging People

         Well, as usual, I gave up on a book in the middle of it. But, in my defense, A Tale of Two Cities is a book that is extremely hard to read. I had to read things multiple times, at an extremely high focus rate, for them to make sense, and it was making the book a chore to read, so I stopped. I read The Great Gatsby and was not the biggest fan. You see, when I first picked up the books, for some reason I thought that The Wolf of Wall Street was based on The Great Gatsby. Now, I never actually watched The Wolf of Wall Street, but this book certainly was not what I imagined it to be. I did not want to read a depressing romance novel, I was expecting an action book with lots of partying. I was disappointed, to say the least.
         As for my reading goals, well, I am on track, but not by as much as I wanted to be because that biography on Steve Jobs took a while to read. It was by far the longest book I have ever read, and most of the information was irrelevant unless you wanted to study him extensively. But, all things considered, it was a good story about a very inspirational man. After I finished The Great Gatsby I started reading The Autobiography of Malcolm X. It is still too early for me to tell if it is a good book, but I have heard very good things about it. In addition, I have finally acquired a copy of Robert Kennedy's biography, which I have been wanting to read since I read Obama's book Dreams from my Father.
         It was very hard for me to find a quote to write about from this book because most of the really good quotes from the book are about love, which is not something I want to write about. So I chose to use a quote from the very beginning when he is talking about how he became the man he is. He remembers advice that his father once gave to him, " 'Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,' he told me, 'just remember that all the people in this world haven't had the advantages that you've had.'" (Fitzgerald 3). This quote does not really have much to do with the story, it is simply one of the pieces of advice that the main character, Nick, tries to live by. It is a very true statement. We often judge people who are in situations far worse than our own. I once heard a story of a single mother who, in order for her kids to eat, would go to stores to buy food and give them a check that she knew would bounce. Now, I am not going to argue that anyone should do that, but how can you judge the mother for doing it. She has no choice, either she does it, or her kids starve. It is easy for someone who has never gone through anything like that to judge her, but if they were in her position, they would be doing the exact same thing.
          It is very easy to judge people. It is something that humans love to do. How can we judge refugees and illegal immigrants? People living in this country won the genetic lottery and we should have sympathy for the people that did not, because we are no better than them.
          This book was not my favorite. It is a bit like the book I read for my summer reading, 1984, in that the book starts depressing, you get a bit of hope, and then, in the end, you are depressed again.


Friday, December 16, 2016

Changing the World, Giant Leaps at a Time

So far reading goals are still largely intact. I will admit, I slowed a bit down this time. The reason for this is that I began to read A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. I read it for about a week, and realized, that because I kept having to go back and reread for understanding, I would not have read a large enough portion of the book in time to do this blog. So I quickly decided to grab Walter Isaacson's biography of Steve Jobs, Steve Jobs, and put Charles Dickens' book off until after Christmas Break. In hindsight, I probably should have a shorter book as this one is nearly six hundred pages hardcover. I have read about half of the book as of now, and plan to finish it before picking back up my reading of A Tale of Two Cities. 
So far, I have found the book extremely fascinating. Steve Jobs was a very interesting figure. He was a genius, yes, but he was also a control freak, and quite frankly, a dirtbag. There was one point in the book that was really interesting. Steve Jobs had been working for Atari. He had been challenged to create a game with as few chips as possible. He enlisted the help of his close friend, Steve Wozniak, to help him build the game, promising him half the money. Steve Jobs just happened to leave out the facts that he would get paid more from Atari if Steve Wozniak managed to make the device in less than 50 chips. Steve Wozniak did manage to make the device in 45 chips. But Jobs still never told him about the substantial bonus, deciding instead to keep all of that money for him himself. I think this story really paints the true picture of Steve Jobs, a man who was a genius, but also a dirtbag who would treat most people like trash.
As for the quote I selected from the book, it is actually a tone poem he wrote,

"Here's to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They're not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can't do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do." (Isaacson 302)

This poem was made into a commercial, a very popular one at that. This is the kind of person that Steve Job's was. He was crazy, insane, but he was a genius. He changed things, he pushed the human race forward. I wrote in one of my earlier blogs about Obama, about how he urged all of us to try and change the world, in whatever little way we can. There are a few people that can do much more, who change the world dramatically. Steve Jobs was one of those people. Steve Jobs also tries to urge others to change the world. But he goes about it quite differently. than Obama. He tries to convince us that every single thing we see around us was made by someone, someone no smarter, or better than us. Why can't we change the world?
It is true, so many ordinary people, created so many amazing things. They all made the choice to change the world. They could have sat back and let other people do it. Someone like Malala actively had to make the choice to stand up to the Taliban. She could have just as easily stood back and let someone else take the stand. It is always a lot easier to stand back, but there is a reason that she will have books written about her, and 99% of Pakistan's school age girls will be forgotten in a generation. We have to do the same thing. We have to take a stand, or make something new, or do something that pushes the world forward.
Steve Jobs might be remembered a crazy person, as someone who was utterly insane, but one thing is clear, he pushed the world forward, he changed things, and for us to truly honor his legacy, we have to do the same.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Your Conscience

         Since my last blog post I have finished Dreams From my Father by Barack Obama,  I also read Lord of the Flies by William Golding and Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee. I am on track as far as how many books I wanted to read this year, but I am finding that the types of books I want to read have shifted a lot since I wrote my first blog here. I don't think that is a bad thing, because it means that I am discovering new things about myself as I read new books. As I have read books this year, I have discovered that I want to read more memoirs and realistic/historical fiction.
         I thought Go Set a Watchman was a fairly decent book. I didn't think it was the greatest piece of writing in the world. But it's message was especially important, it is a message that I think we could all really use.
         In Go Set a Watchman, Jean Louise, the main character, discovers her father is a racist. She takes this very hard, as she has looked up to her father her whole life. You see, her father had been perfect, he never did anything wrong, as far as she could see. So when she discovers that her father is not perfect, he is racist and supports racist organizations and people, she is extremely angry.
         In her anger, she travels to her uncle's house, who gives her some advice. He tells her, "Every man's island, Jean Louise, every man's watchman, is his conscience" (Lee 264-265). You see, Jean Louise, growing up, had attached her conscience to her father's. She had never seen her father mess up, so she assumed that he was always right. She thought of her father as God. What her uncle is telling is that she needs to establish her own "Watchman" that tells her right from wrong, instead of relying on her father.
        This is true even now, we cannot rely on other people to tell us right from wrong. That is the only way that we get rid of things like racism and sexism. Just 60 years ago, the world was a dramatically different place than it is now. But new generations are born, and while they still have a lot of same views as their parents, they were born in a different time, in a different world. Thus, some of their views change. People who grow up now have very different views on gay marriage than the generation that grew up 60 years ago. That is because they established their own conscience, they did not just accept what past generations told them is right and wrong. Whether you agree with the example given or not, this is how society changes, for better or for worse. New generations establish their own conscience, and since they grow up in a different world than generations before them, their views are going to be different.
       We can also see this in the presidential elections. We know that Trump won among the general population. But if millennials were the only ones that voted, Hillary would have won the election 504-23 electoral college delegates among the 46 states where data is currently available. The world is changing, young people are forming a conscience independent of their elders, and that how society changes.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Changing the World, a Tiny Bit at a Time

         Hey Guys! Since my last post on this blog I have done a good bit of reading. I have read America Again: Re-Becoming the Greatness We Never Weren't. It is a political satire book by Stephen Colbert (The Comedian). It was a pretty good book, a bit boring at times since he would go on rants about things for quite a long time. But the rants were always extremely funny so it made the book very enjoyable. After that book, I started reading Dreams from my Father by Barack Obama, which I am currently a little more than 3/4th's done with .
         Since my last post I would say I am speeding up with my reading, but not fast enough. I took forever to read Stephen Colbert's book and then crammed to read my new one. I read all but about 20 pages of Obama's book outside of class. What I need to work on for the rest of the year is reading at a more constant pace, and powering through the book, even when it gets boring.

         Now about Dreams from my Father by Barack Obama. It is a memoir about his life and him confronting the truth about his father's life and making good with his mixed inheritance (Black Dad and White Mom). I have loved this book story so far. Whether you agree with him politically or not, just about nobody argues that Obama has a way with words, and he demonstrates that beautifully in this book. He talks about growing up. He grew up in Hawaii, moved to Indonesia for a couple years, and then continued his schooling living with his grandparents in Hawaii. He was a bit of slacker in high school, He was one of only 2 or 3 black kids in his grade and because of this, he felt he didn't really fit in. After high school, he went to college in LA, then transferring to Columbia and eventually going to Harvard Law School. After that prestigious schooling, you would expect someone like him to go work at a bank, or become a lawyer, but no, he becomes a community organizer, a job which pays just about nothing. For the next few years he spent all of his time working with churches to try and improve living conditions for black people on the south side of Chicago. The book later goes on to vividly describe his trip to Kenya after his father's death to try and understand his/ his father's story. This is too complicated to try and explain in a few short sentences, and since it does not affect the quote that I want to write about, I won't even try.

         There was a conversation in the book that really stuck out to me, it was when he was still in college, he was just starting to get politically involved. He was hosting a rally to try and educate people on Africa. He was convinced that nobody cared about what he had to say, that he could never impact the world in any way (Ironic looking back on it). His friend Regina had something to say to him about that.  She says, "Let me tell you something, Mr. Obama. It's not just about you. It's never just about you. It's about people who need your help. Children who are depending on you. They're not interested in your irony or your sophistication or your ego getting bruised" (109). This makes him realize something, "You might be locked in a world not of own making, - but you still have a claim on how it is shaped." (111). What he is talking about here is fighting unfairness in our world. Our whole lives we are worried about ourselves, that we don't belong, that we don't fit in. What he is saying is that life is a whole lot more unfair to other people. We have a responsibility to try and help them. I think this is one of the of the most important lessons we can take from this book. You might feel that what you are doing is having no effect, that whatsoever you do, no change will come about from it. But we have a duty to keep going, to keep trying no matter what. It is a bit like a charity trying to change something in the community, like community organizing. It might seem like you are achieving nothing, no matter what you do. But we have a duty to those whose lives we are trying to change. We can't sit back and do nothing. No matter how small a change it seems to you it could change someone else's life completely.

It is all pretty nicely summed up in a quote by Obama from a speech when he was running for president the first time.
"Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek."

Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Murder Complex Series

         Since we started IRT, I have finished The Murder Complex by Lindsay Cummings and it's sequel, The Death Code. I also read Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison for about three days, before stopping. I intend to return to it later in this year, but for right now, the book's lack of dialogue makes it an incredible tough read, and I am finding it incredibly hard to stay focused. This is exacerbated by the fact that there is not much going on in the beginning. The entire prologue is pretty much his thoughts on being invisible. Lastly, over the past 2-3 days, I have started reading I am America (And So Can You!) by Stephen Colbert. My original plan was to read America Again; Re-Becoming the Greatness We Never Weren't by Stephen Colbert, but I figured that I should read the original book before I read the sequel.
         Even though Amazon lists both of The Murder Complex books as 400-500 pages, I feel like they were a lot less in reality (I do not have a copy of the first book, and the second one I only have in ebook form, which is very different from a printed copy). For that reason, I feel like I am behind on my reading goal, and I need to finish my current book by the end of this coming week to get caught up. I also need to start reading outside of school more than I currently am.
         In The Death Code the main character, Meadow, and her human like, robot boyfriend have escaped from their home city, which essentially controls them. The society is essentially controlled by "The Murder Complex", an organization that tracks everyone and murders people to keep the population down. They then manage to escape their city, escaping the perimeter that surrounds it, and escaping the "Murder Complex". After getting their freedom, they find out something horrible. "There's a perimeter around what's left of the country. It's miles and miles away, out in the ocean. You can see it without the telescope, even if you're standing ashore staring until your eyes hurt. If you can pretend it's not there, you can pretend you're free. But what is freedom, really, if it's all a lie" (270). This is one of the scariest things in the book for me, because you never really know if your free. No matter what you do in life, where you go, you will never be able to say, with absolute certainty, that you are free, that you are making decisions of your own free will. You will always have that lingering feeling in your mind that you are still being controlled, and you will never be able to prove it wrong. And that is scary. It is kind of like what is happening in North Korea, people over there don't have freedom, they aren't allowed to leave (for the most part). They are also being fed lies, and they have no way to know that. They are being controlled by their government into thinking that their country is the most powerful one in the world, and everyone else is evil. And the worst part is that they don't even know they are being controlled.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

My Reading Goals!

         Hi! My name is Brian Mathew and I am a sophomore. I like to read a lot, and I have since I was little. However, I have never really been a person who spreads their reading out. When I find a good book, I usually finish it/the whole series pretty quick, and then I don't read for a while, until I find a new good book. During the first nine weeks I will be fairly busy, but during the second nine weeks I should have lots of time for reading. I want to average 25 pages a day over the whole year.
         Over the course of the semester, I want to read nine books. I am currently reading The Murder Complex by Lindsay Cummings. Some of the books that I want to read this year are Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee, Dispatches from the Edge: A Memoir of War, Disasters and Survival by Anderson Cooper,  America Again: Re-becoming the Greatness We Never Weren't by Stephen Colbert. And of course, I will read Lord of the Flies by William Golding. Two of the books that I want to read from the AP reading list are, Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, and Gulliver's Travels by Jonathon Swift.
         I don't want to limit myself to only these books. I might end up reading two totally different AP list books.