Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Ghosts of Ashbury High

Amelia and Riley are two new students attending Ashbury High School. They are seniors. Their fellow charcters and notoriously rich kids emily, lydia, toby and others are in their close circle of friends. Emily and Lydia are absolutely head over heals obsessed with the new couple attending their school. Riley and Amelia are super smart and super fast swimmers. Emily becomes very spooked by the Art Rooms(which used to be dorm rooms bakc when the school was a boarding school). She is absolutely certain a ghost is living there and it is picking on her. Signs of this include : orange peels left behind by the ghost, only emily getting goose bumps, etc.
1. Do you believe in ghosts?
2. What draws the line for you between ghosts and paranormal activity? whats the difference?

Friday, May 20, 2011

Ender’s Game by Orsen Scott Card

Ender’s Game is, on the surface, the story of how one six year old boy named Ender came to win the greatest war ever fought by humankind. Ender is born into a world that is shaped by the First and Second Invasions, the times when an alien race (called “buggers” by the characters) attacked the Earth, with superior weapons and far greater numbers. Earth was only saved from destruction when a commander named Mazer Rackham used a brilliant strategy to kill a pivotal leader of theirs, and ended the war. Now humanity is preparing to end the threat posed by the buggers once and for all, by finding a commander capable of the kind of strategic thinking that allowed Rackham’s victory. They turn to the Wiggins family, where first Peter is born. Peter, they quickly learn, is mostly devoid of compassion and desires control more than anything else. Valentine, the second, is incredibly empathetic and seen as too soft. Then Ender, the third child is born. He combines the better traits of his siblings and goes to Battle School, where children are taught to fight in space and lead armies. Ender is isolated and treated differently from the first day, by the officers that purposefully make his peers dislike him. Whenever Ender finally becomes accustomed to his situations, they advance him in the army so that he must start again. Although he makes friends along the way, he is never able to depend upon the trust of others. Life in the Battle School is centered on the “games” played by the armies of children, when they face each other in mock combat. Ender, by far the youngest commander of an army, has the odds increasingly stacked against him by General Graff and Admiral Anderson, the leaders of the school. Although Ender is aware that they are purposefully pushing him to his limits, he perseveres and becomes the brilliant soldier that they were hoping for. He is then sent to Commander School, where he is worked day and night in running a “simulation game” where he controls an army of ships facing programmed buggers. His mind begins to break from the stress and work he is put through, but he still makes it through to what the adults around him call his Final Exam. He faces impossible odds- he is outnumbered a thousand to one in this simulation. Ender does manage to end the game though, by destroying the planet the enemy ships were protecting- he does this out of defiance for all of the “games” he has been forced to play in his life, as he believes that destroying a planet will not be an acceptable strategy, and he will finally fail, to be sent home. However, Graff reveals to him shortly afterwards that the “games” he has been playing through the simulation were all real- Ender himself led the Third Invasion, and obliterated the buggers and their home.

1) The novel deals heavily with the morality behind “the ends justify the means.” The leaders of the military push children to their breaking points in hopes of finding one capable of Rackham’s brilliance, and then manipulate him into killing an entire race, which rests heavily on his conscience. General Graff says, "Human beings are free except when humanity needs them. Maybe humanity needs you. To do something. Maybe humanity needs me—to find out what you're good for. We might both do despicable things, Ender, but if humankind survives, then we were good tools” (131), as a way of justifying his actions. It was later shown that we were at war simply because humans and buggers could not communicate, and both thought the other was hostile. Do you think that the military had the right to use children as they did?
2) Ender, throughout the novel, commits some horrible crimes. While only six and still on Earth, he was confronted by a pack of bullies who wanted to hurt him for being smarter than them. He managed to break the leader’s nose, and saw that he could have walked away then as the others tended to his nose. However, he continued attacking the boy because he knew that unless he won decisively, his torment at their hands would never end. Much the same thing happened years later, except with much older children who intended to kill Ender. It is later revealed that although Ender did not know at the time, he killed the two boys. Ender says “In the moment when I truly understand my enemy, understand him well enough to defeat him, then in that very moment I also love him. I think it's impossible to really understand somebody, what they want, what they believe, and not love them the way they love themselves” (204). Ender sees himself as a killer, and hates himself for it- he worries that he is like his sadistic older brother. Do you think that these actions make Ender a bad person, or do you see it as justified because he was defending himself?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Conrad's Fate ~Diana Wynne Jones

Conrad's Fate is about a young boy named Conrad, who is told by his miserly that he has bad karma. Conrad's Uncle Alfred tells him that someone at the nearby mansion, Stallery, is the reason for Conrad's bad karma. Uncle Alfred tells Conrad that he was supposed to kill this person in a previous life, so in order to have good karma again, Conrad must kill this person, thus reversing the karma. Therefore, Conrad leaves school, instead of going to upper school, to get a job at Stallery. He is told by the mayor, who has magical abilities, that once he is there, "The person he needs will say or do something...and he'll know" (38). Conrad and another boy his age, Christopher, are both given the job of Improvers. They are being trained to be butlers at Stallery, so for the time they are both staying at Stallery.
As time progresses, Conrad cannot seem to find the person he was sent to look for. Conrad confides in Christopher that he has bad karma, in hopes that Christopher will help him look for the person. Christopher dismisses Conrad's karma, saying that Conrad does not have any bad karma. He claims that he can sense no bad karma on Conrad. Although Christopher admits that there is something bad going on at Stallery, but he will not say what. Then Conrad notices Christopher sneaking out at night and catches him in the act. Conrad sneaks after Christopher to confront him, but when he catches up, something shakes the entire building. When the shaking stops, they are no longer in Stallery, they are on the roof of another decrepit building. Christopher and Conrad then devise that the shift was caused by the quaking from moments before and that the shaking was not natural. While they are trying to find their way back, Christopher explains that his friend Millie had gotten lost somewhere near Stallery and that the shift must be why he could not find her.
After the two get back, there are more shifts, but they do not get transported each time. They find that only one place in Stallery is where the shifts are the strongest, which was why they ended up somewhere else. After searching all of Stallery, they find the machine causing the shifts in the wine cellar. The shifts are being caused by Mr. Amos to shift the "probabilities" into more profitable chances.
The shifts are getting more frequent every day and Millie is nowhere to be found. At this point, Christopher is tired of waiting and wants to fake sick in order to get out of work, so he can look for Millie during the daytime. He tells Conrad, "Cover up for saying I'm ill. Pretend I'm up here covered in green and yellow spots" (227). This leaves Conrad with double the work and he often gets blamed for the results of the shifts, which often move chairs or change foods. After days, Christopher has not returned at all, which leaves Conrad to wonder if Christopher got stuck in one of the other probabilities. He has to decide if he should go off to bring Christopher back, or stay at Stallery and not get into trouble.

1. If you had a friend that was lost in another world, would you go after them, even if it was very risky to yourself? Or would you leave them to find their own way back?
2. If you had the ability to change the "probabilities" of the world to your favor, would you do it?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Small Steps

The novel "Small Steps" written by Louis Sachar is the sequel to his previous novel "Holes". It tells of the life that a camp member at Camp Green Lake detention center mentioned in "Holes" named Armpit or Theodore. He lives in Texas next door to a little girl named Ginny. She has cerebral palsy. Armpit is trying to make an honest living being a landscaper when X-Ray, his friend from Camp Green Lake, shows up with a money making idea: ticket scalping of a Kaira DeLeon concert. At first he is skeptical of taking part in illegal behavior after his visit at Camp Green Lake, but he is eventually persuaded by X-Ray. Before the day of selling the tickets, Armpit decides to take Ginny to the concert because she is a big fan of Kaira. X-Ray gives them two tickets, but it turns out that they were fake copies. Armpit is arrested at the concert but he is saved by the mayor whom he did landscaping for. Kaira DeLeon invites them for a backstage experience because of the incident. From the beginning there is an immediate spark between Armpit and Kaira. His opinion of her changes from being,"Kind of sassy and playful...," to respect for her daily concerns and difficulties (15). Between them they will go through their ups and downs and even a life threatening situation. Sachar takes us on an amazing journey with the two people from two different worlds and their love for each other.

1. Do you think that one should take some small steps to reach his or her goal and take big steps when they readily become available or always take small steps or always big steps? Why?