29 September 2011

Banned Books Week: Harper's Guest Post

Hi, this is Harper. As Cate said in her last post, I'm really into Banned Books Week, and suggested she blog about it (btw, I totally helped her with that post). I decided I wanted to do my own guest post.

My favourite banned books are definitely To Kill a Mockingbird and Harry Potter. I was named after TKaM's author. Both have movie adaptations, like Cate's pick, My Sister's Keeper. They're pretty well known, so I'm going to take a different kind of direction with my post.

What I find interesting is I feel like I am drawn to narratives that address racism and bigotry. Maybe that's because I grew up with a multicultural family (my dad is white and from the US state of Georgia, my mom is Berber and from Morocco), and I've lived in multiple places (Morocco, France, USA) so I'm used to things being different, and adapting to that. I love travelling because I love learning about how other people live their lives. One of my best friends, who was one of my high school teachers, practices Catholicism and I'm Muslim, yet we talk about religion all the time and really we have a lot in common. Or maybe it's because I've been a victim of bigotry because I sometimes wear a hijab when I'm going out or to school. (I don't wear it when I'm just around my friends. I guess I should get on people about not posting pictures of me when I'm not wearing it.) So I guess it frustrates me when people treat others like they are below them just because they look different or have a different religion or whatever.

To Kill a Mockingbird and Harry Potter both deal with bigotry and racism: against African Americans in the South in TKaM and against other magical species, wizards from non-magical families and muggles in Harry Potter (which is scarily similar to Nazi Germany, though that was not intended). I also find that, when I'm writing academic papers, I tend to focus on feminist or cultural issues. I was totally drawn to The Madwoman in the Attic, a founding feminist literary theory text... maybe only because I understood it right away. The authors' argument for how women had (have still?) been relegated to a lower status in literature - keeping with historical trends of feminism - was clear. But I think I just like reading and studying these issues because they resonate with me and my intolerance for intolerance.

Since my guest post was kind-of more serious than I originally intended, I'm leaving you with my transformation into 7th movie Hermione Granger. I'm an alien/curling my hair in the first picture. LOL

Also, my new favourite song. Don't talk to me about how hypocritical I feel about the grammar violation that is the title... I love it though.

PS: I'm on Cate's computer, and she set her default language to English (UK). It keeps telling me I'm spelling "mom" wrong. It should be "mum", apparently ;) Also, there are TONS of incriminating pictures on here. Not that I'm creeping, or anything. I'd be tempted to post them, if I could guarantee she'd speak to me again if she did. Haha.

25 September 2011

You, if you were sensible...

You, if you were sensible,
When I tell you the stars flash signals, each one dreadful,
You would not turn and answer me,
'The night is wonderful.'
-DH Lawrence, "Under the Oak", featured in My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult

Harper's making me do a post about Banned Books Week because she's an English major and feels it is very important to raise awareness. Okay, honestly, I like reading too and I think banning books is wrong, so why not? (She might come guest-post herself later this week because she is Very Excited about this topic.)

First of all, I love this stanza that was featured in My Sister's Keeper. I like it in how it relates to the book (the poem as a whole changes the context, I think), in that it is kind-of a metaphor for illness. But I think it is not so much a lack of perspective so much that people on the outside might not get it; I think sometimes it's good not to be "sensible" and to find the good things in the bad. I think Picoult may be using it as an argument against romanticising illness.

Okay, so the book I'm featuring is My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult, if you haven't guessed. I LOVE this book. Here's a brief list of why:
  • Medical accuracy. Sure, she can flaunt it at times (who really cares what drugs make up your daughter's chemo regimen... okay me. And Harper. That's about it. In that scene, it just seems like she's listing them off just to show off she knows what they are) but that's okay because it's refreshing to see someone who knows what she's talking about and isn't just using leukemia as a plot device. Also, I love that she cares enough to research her books because they are marketed as realistic fiction, and I do think people learn through them. I'm glad she isn't misrepresenting her subjects and really gets into depth with all the issues surrounding a problem.
  • LEUKEMIA IS NOT A PLOT DEVICE. How many times have you read a book or watched a movie where a character has leukemia but it just serves as a mechanism for the other characters to grow and learn? And it's ALWAYS leukemia, because apparently everyone who ever has cancer and dies has leukemia. Because they always die even though, you know, most people do survive ALL (acute lymphoblastic leukemia, the most common childhood leukemia) today. Okay, I LOVE some of these (A Walk to Remember  is officially my favourite movie; The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants) but it's kind-of obvious and it's nice to see while... um, okay this book is kind-of doing the same thing... it's at least more developed; the plot is about leukemia but it goes so much further than that; it's not romanticised. I WOULD like to see a book about leukemia or any other disease where it's the person with the disease grows and learns, not the other way around.
  • This bullet is a spoiler. Aww cute love stories, come on, who does not love Campbell/Julia? Or Kate/Taylor? The part about their hands matching, PERFECTION.
  • Speaking of, who doesn't love Campbell's punch lines?
  • THE ENDING. I HAVE NO WORDS. Just read the book. So good. And as Harper would say, so literary.
  • The parents are realistic, and it brings up some real issues in healthcare today. Not only the obvious issue of creating an embryo to match your child, but stuff like our discomfort with death. When do you stop doing crazy things and let someone have peace? How do you deal with the what-ifs? When do you go for a very experimental treatment and when don't you? Etc.
  • Jesse is a really interesting/intriguing character to me.
  • I was really sick as a kid, so I can relate. Harper and Sam made me dig up an old photo for you...? Yay hospital gown. I don't know why Ribbit (my stuffed frog) is NOT in this picture at all but oh well. This was one of the few without either my family or Dave because you know, the hospital was the hot spot for socializing in 4th/5th grade.

Things I don't like about this book:
  • Apparently the legal stuff isn't very accurate?
  • Do we know anything about Kate? She has no personality... Again, I can appreciate that the book is about her family, but this is kind-of a major fail.
This book is banned because of the ethical issues and because Julia's sister is a lesbian. Um, I totally forgot that and had to go read it again to figure out why homosexuality was a reason the book was banned. Apparently, yeah.

Overall, I think it is worth it, and you should read it. What are some of your favourite banned books? You can leave them in the comments :)

Here's Harper and me with the book for a Banned Books Week picture:

Okay, moving on. Let's discuss the MAJOR BETRAYAL of the film adaptation. Also, major spoilers (for the movie), so this is going under a cut just in case.

24 September 2011

How I Style My Hair, Part Three: Low Ponytail and Pull-Through Ponytail

Song Challenge Day 07 - a song that reminds you of a certain event

Are these things TRYING to incriminate me? ;)

How I Style My Hair, Part Three: Low Ponytail and Pull-Through Ponytail

I think low ponytails are a bit harder to do with my hair, because you don't have as much control. It looks deceptively easy, but you're at more risk of random layers falling out of the ponytail.

For this style, you'll need a brush, water, and a ponytail holder.

Start with your hair brushed back. It helps to kind-of have your hair on the longer side-part side brushed back towards the back of your head. This will keep it from ending up in your eye later.

You'll do this all in one long-ish step. Brush the sides back, gathering your hair at the nape of your neck. On the side with the side part, take care to brush up and away from your face (not just to the side), so that the hair isn't in your eye.

This next step is optional, but might help keep your hair together before you put the ponytail holder in. Twist the hair together gently.

Now put the ponytail holder on.

Like with the high ponytail, brush out the ponytail using some water.

One problem you might encounter with this style is finding your hair in your eye. If this happens, you either a) need to redo the ponytail, taking more care to brush/gather that side of your hair back and away from your face, or b) can try this tip.

Sometimes, an easy fix is to dip your thumb in water, and run it along your hairline, pushing your hair away from your eye.

Ta-da! Low ponytail!

Variation: Use the ballet bun technique from my last post, but start with a low ponytail to get a low bun - a pretty style for fancy events!

The second part of this lesson covers the pull-through ponytail, which is a variation of the low ponytail. Start with a loosely-secured low ponytail.

Using your finger, poke a hole through the hair above the ponytail.

Flip the hair in the ponytail up...

And grab it from below, pulling it all the way through the hole.

Pull the ponytail holder tighter to secure the style. And I'm not sure if this is really GOOD for your hair (I always do it though), but after you do that, you can seperate the ponytail part into two sections and gently pull them apart... this moves the ponytail holder up and it also helps to make the style tighter/come together more. Be careful though, because if you pull too hard it can make the style look weird.

If you have fly-aways, you can sneak in with some water on your finger, especially right above the ponytail holder. This is a common spot for layers fail for me, so don't be surprised if you have to fix some fly-aways here.

Yay! Pretty hairstyle!

Next lesson: side pony

19 September 2011

How I Style My Hair, Part Two: Ballet Bun

Song Challenge Day 06 - A Song that Reminds You of Somewhere
This might sound a little weird, but maybe not. When I was studying abroad, I bought Sara Bareilles's new CD on Cyber Monday for like $2. I first really listened to it on the train to Liverpool. So whenever I listen to this CD - and especially this song, because it kind-of related to the unknown of living in a foreign country - I think of Liverpool.

How I Style My Hair, Part Two: Ballet Bun

This was a NECESSITY for skating and ballet (I took ballet to help with my skating). So I'm not just doing this style for fun... I bet there are a lot of you out there need to be able to put your hair in a bun.

For this style, you need: two ponytail holders, bobby pins/hair grips, WATER, brush

You'll want to start with a high ponytail from the last lesson.

First, start twisting your hair to one side. Get it WET!! The layers complicate the bun because they go all over the place. Water will help your hair stay put.

Like I said, I live in a really dry climate... so my hair is usually extra messy. That's okay, you'll fix it later.

After your hair is twisted in a column like the above picture, start twisting it back on itself to form the bun shape.

Twist your hair all the way around to complete the bun. It may look messy. You'll fix it in the next step.

Okay, now the next part is just slightly tricky. You want to cup one hand (your non-dominant hand) around the entire bun. With your other hand, start dipping your finger in water and smoothing down ALL the fly-aways. Tuck the fly-aways between the hand holding the bun and the main part of the bun.

It looks a lot better already, no? The next step has two parts. 1. Using the hand that's not holding the bun, pin the ends of your hair in place - the end of the big column that you wrapped around the ponytail holder. You can move your thumb, but the point is to keep holding onto the rest of the bun. 2. Slip the other ponytail holder around the bun in place of your hand. This will help hold a lot of the fly-aways down.

I used a bobby pin with a unicorn on it, so you could see where I placed it. I usually use very few bobby pins. Why? Because I can never find more than like two at a time. It would probably stay in better if you used three or four, though.

It is not going to look PERFECT - even people with non-layered hair won't have buns that look perfect without using a product. But, it looks pretty close. To get all the fly-aways to lie flatter, I think you could try braid spray (but I haven't tried this yet).

Me using this style in a performance:

Variation: Don't bother with trying to tame fly-aways for a messy bun - a fun, casual style.

Next lesson - low ponytail and pull-through ponytail

16 September 2011

How I Style My Hair, Part One: Basics & High Ponytail

I have noticed recently that a lot of people seem to be having trouble figuring out how to style layered hair, or hair with a side part. Since I have both layers and a side part, I thought maybe I could offer some advice. So for the next few weeks, in addition to regular blog posts (um, if I remember), I'll have a new feature about how I style my hair.

First, song challenge...
Day 05 - a song that reminds you of someone

This song reminds me of how one of my friends was there for me in some awesome ways in elementary/middle school :)
Anything I'm going to post for this day is going to be incriminating, I feel... lol

How I Style My Hair, Part One: Basics and High Ponytail

Let me introduce you to my hair first. It has long layers, giving it a nice angled shape on the bottom. I also have a heavy side part in the front third-ish of my hair. (PS: This is our awesome lyrics wall in our room! Harper made it. And if you're wondering - we took these pictures before we left for break, hence why they are featuring our dorm room, not my house.)

Here's my hair from the back (excuse my pajama pants... I don't really have an excuse though, I'm just lazy):

I live in a pretty dry climate, so I get a LOT of flyaways.

The first style I'm going to do is a high ponytail, because it's a basic style for a lot of others, and is a good way to learn how to deal with layers.

To start, you'll need a hairbrush, water, and a hairband.

If you wear glasses, it's best to take them off before starting. Brush your hair, using water to tame fly-aways.

With non-layered hair that has a straight part, it's pretty easy to do a ponytail. You can kind of just gather up the hair on the sides, brush it together, and voila. That doesn't work as well for me...

It just looks kind-of off, and the hair from my part is all bunched up. Putting my hair into a ponytail takes just a little more effort.

You want to start on the side with the bigger part. Gently start brushing the hair up and back.

Do the same on the other side.

Now you've probably noticed there's a gap because of the part. This is normal. After you have the sides brushed up, brush back right over this area. It will smooth out the part and make the hair look even.

You might have to do this a few times as you gather the rest of the hair.

After you have the front taken care of, start brushing up and back from the sides and the back, gathering all of my hair. It's important to brush all of it up, because of the layers. If you try to just gather it with your hand, chances are you won't catch all of the layers and they will fall out. Also, if you brush as you go, you won't have any bumps.

You might notice that it's a little all over the place. This is normal. That's where the water will come in.

Wet your brush, and starting at the top of the gathered hair, just brush it. This will help it all to go in the same direction. The nice thing about having layers is, again, you get an angular shape, and that looks good in a ponytail.

Now you can do any fixes you need to (you might need to brush it all together again, if you haven't been holding onto it very tightly), and secure it with a ponytail holder. You could also put the ponytail holder in and then brush the ponytail out.

There you go! You have a nice high ponytail that's not going to fall out!

Next lesson: Ballet bun

13 September 2011


Harper, Sam and I are at my house on break. It was supposed to be relaxing. Instead I opened the door to this...

And a bunch of memories started to flash through my head...

Yup. Dave McClellan. My ex-best-friend. I had hoped never to talk to him again. Unfortunately, he had decided to deliver honey while I was home. Because apparently he's home too.

It's kind-of hard to not be talking to someone when they're your neighbor, even if you're away at school for most of the year. Oh, and when your parents love him. This is why I lied to my dad and told him Dave's mom had dropped off the honey. Because my parents don't get it. Every time I come home, they beg me to call him up and make up. Um, it's not that easy... it's kind-of his fault, anyway. 

I guess I do kind-of see their side, because Dave's parents are my parents' best friends, and it must be weird if your kids aren't talking. We even had to endure Christmas Eve dinner together last year - along with Dave's new girlfriend. Definition of awkward?! And we practically lived at each others' houses growing up. I know I miss his parents, so I think my parents must miss having Dave around.

But still.

Harper and Sam know that whole story, but now they want to go around and spy on Dave and figure out what he's up to. I'd rather not.

Okay, maybe I'm a little curious.

But I DON'T want to embarrass myself. The last thing I need is for Dave to think all I do is go around stalking him and pining after him. I definitely have a life... Oh, and I don't know if he brought Buttercup Violet with him (the girlfriend), and I don't really want to find out.

You can read more here.

And since I'm still on the 30-day song challenge, albeit VERY late, I've got a few more of those too.

Day 03 - A Song that Makes You Happy
This song has been making me feel warm and fuzzy lately. For no reason other than it's really sweet, poppy, and dance-able!

Day 04 - A Song that Makes You Sad
More like bittersweet, but this is one of my new(er) favourites. It's an unreleased song by Taylor Swift, called "We Were Happy". Gotta love the boat imagery ;)
You can listen to it here - since it's unreleased, it's not available for purchase.