Category Archives: Writing

La La Land-Appreciating its Simplicity | Cynthia Ruan

I decided to write about La La Land by Damien Chazelle this week. It is a L.A. love story between a jazz musician, Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) and an aspiring young actress, Mia (Emma Stone). The brilliant, Oscar-winning (YAY) Chazelle delivered the story in the form of a musical. It’s very nostalgic; Chazelle pays tribute to many classic ninetieth musicals such as Singin’ in the Rain and An American in Paris, but the story itself is modern and Chazelle definitely made it into his own style.

I have to say that I’m truly surprised by how much I’m in love with this film. I’m not a fan of musicals and am pretty cynical when it comes to romantic dramas, especially ones like this where everything is just so over-the-top romanticized. So it may seem like besides Ryan Gosling’s beautiful face, there shouldn’t be any reason for me to like this film at all. But in the midst of all the dancing and singing and floating in the planetarium, La La Land really touched me, evidenced by my crying hysterically for the both times I watched it in the theater and the many times on my laptop.mv5bzduynzuymwmtyjc2zc00yjixlthlodktyjrmzmizmzllotqxl2ltywdlxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvynjawmdu5mtu-_v1_sy1000_sx1000_al_

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Progress – Will

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This past week was a mixture of editing and writing new content, so I thought I’d share some of the new content here. This is an excerpt taken from a scene where my narrator is conferencing with the other lieutenants of his group and the group’s leaders. For my narrator, this is an especially stressful time as some of the warriors he’s responsible for are missing.

“If there are no other problems with this plan,” Bazgal looked around the room, “We’ll move forward. Shane, you go back to Johnson as fast as you can and tell him we need him here with all of the Scouts immediately. Thank you for bringing back Thane.”

“Of course,” Shane said, before strapping on a light pack and hurrying out of the tent.

“Aside from that, we need to be prepared for the worst. Fara, how long would it take us to pack up camp?”

“Couple of hours at most, if everyone was told about it now.”

“Good, I think we need to be prepared to move as fast as possible out of here.”

“Hold on a minute,” I said. “We can’t just, just… run away now! How will my warriors know where we are? Even more so now that the Scouts are returning soon. They’ll be completely alone!”

“He does have a point, Bazgal,” Said Sharpe, nodding in my direction. “If they’re still alive we need to be here when they return. Besides, it might be a little dangerous to move Thane now. It could kill him”

“That’s right,” said Junger. “He’s in far too bad of a position to risk that now. The risks are far greater than the rewards here.”

“Alright, so we’re staying,” conceded Bazgal. “Can we all agree that we will not stay any longer than two to three days?”

All of the heads around the table nodded except for mine. I said, “I agree as long as I can take out a search party early morning tomorrow if my warriors aren’t back.”

Sharpe and Bazgal looked to each other for a long moment and both shook their head. Bazgal turned to me and said, “No, we can’t risk it. We’re specifically calling the Scout’s Vanguard back so that we can have a reinforced position. We’re not going to lose some of our strength now.”

“WHAT? YOU HAVE–”

“One more word, Carter, and you’re done as our lieutenant. Do. Not. Test. Me.”

I was fuming. Did they not care about the lives of my warriors? Time and again during this meeting, I had been treated as a fool for wanting to save their lives. Was I really the fool? Truly? Perhaps, but it was them who were heartless. Their brothers and sisters, my warriors, were out there, and I was fighting for them in here. And I was the fool. But I knew that Bazgal was serious. Her threat carried weight. If I offered another word of protest, I didn’t doubt that I’d be demoted into irrelevance.

I nodded to Bazgal and said, “I’m sorry. Please, continue.”

“Right, well, Fara, I need you and your builder working hard to build a defensive perimeter. We hopefully won’t need it at all, and even if we do, we won’t need it for long, but it’s better to have it now. Could you get that done?”

“It’s as good as finished,” said Fara and strode out of the tent.

“Alfred, Junger, and Gormly, return to your to your brothers and sisters and make sure no one ventures outside the perimeter. All necessary supplies are to be pulled from the Cache. And Junger, see that Thane lives.”

The three men stated their compliance and walked from the tent.

“Carter, we want all of the warriors on perimeter watch. If someone must go beyond the perimeter, they will do so only under the guard of a handful of your warriors and they must not go more than a half mile out. Help Fara set up the perimeter if need be as well. Understand?”

“Got it,” I said, and turned to make my exit.

“Don’t leave,” Said Sharpe. “We’re not done with you yet.”

I sighed and turned back to face the Alphas, ready for what was to follow.

 

I hope you enjoyed that excerpt and I just started a new book: A Star Called Henry. If I can learn from the authors lyrical and poetic brilliance, I might stand a chance of improving my writing.

Blue Valentine – Why Isn’t Love Enough? | Cynthia Ruan

For my project, I’ll be writing reviews on films with the broad theme of love. I’ll focus more on the analysis of characters and storylines instead of the technicality of filmmaking since it’s not my area of expertise.

In light of Valentine’s Day, I watched Blue Valentine by Dereck Cianfrance this week, and here’s my complete review on the movie.

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The Hidden Gem of Westtown School – KC

This semester during my Junior year, I am enrolled in the Independent Study Program and having the time of my life diving deep into material that specifically interests me in a subject I excel. After hearing about this unique offer during my Sophomore year, I seized the opportunity. After a proposal, I was accepted into the History Independent Seminar where I’ve been study legislation and sex education in Pennsylvania.

Read More: Pennsylvania’s Sex Education Policy Is Scarier Than You’d Think!

Upon first impression, I thought this class would simply be a time to learn all about the history of legislation and sex education in Pennsylvania and continue my learning in my favorite subject — but it is far more than that.

Westtown’s Independent Study has challenged my writing, reading, researching and critical thinking skills. I’ve noticed considerable improvements in many disciplines as a result of my deep study of sex education and legislation. I’ve worked with the Chair of the History Department, English Teachers, and Health Experts.

This is a unique program I would recommend to all students who are pursuing a unique discipline. Current students should seize this opportunity for next year. Few schools allow for students to explore their interest in a particular subject the way Westtown allows. Not only have I been able to learn more through research, but I also have a plethora of resources and faculty who have been incredibly supportive and helpful.

Read More: Learn How To Contact Your Representatives!

The Independent Study Program is one of the hidden gems on our campus that needs more recognition. I hope prospective students have a chance to hear about how students are excelling in different disciplines through this program.

This week I wanted to hear from all my fellow peers about unexpected ways they’ve improved their academic and research skills through Independent Seminar. What skills have you improved?

Image from Westtown School “Student Life” (www.westtown.edu)

 

Empathy – Will

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This week was mostly comprised of editing once again so I’d like to write about something I read for my New York City Literature class. We read James Baldwin’s Sonny’s Blues, a short story centering on an African-American teacher in Harlem and his relationship not only with his brother, Sonny, but with the world of institutionalized racism that surrounds him. Of course, this very real world is entirely different than the very fictional world of my novel. Despite the difference though, Baldwin’s masterful storytelling was extremely inspiring. Sonny’s Blues is a tale of suffering, regret, redemption, and occasionally happiness and Baldwin’s depiction of these themes is nothing if not artful. Though the story was so well written and interesting, I, at times, found it hard to keep on reading due to the overall bleak nature of the world of the narrator.

“He stood up and walked to the window and I remained silent for a long time. Then he sighed. ‘Me,’ he said. Then: ‘While I was downstairs before, on my way here, listening to that woman sing, it struck me all of a sudden how much suffering she must have had to go through—to sing like that. It’s repulsive to think you have to suffer that much.’

I said: ‘But there’s no way not to suffer—is there. Sonny?’

‘I believe not,” he said and smiled, ‘but that’s never stopped anyone from trying.’ He looked at me. ‘Has it?’ I realized, with this mocking look, that there stood between us, forever, beyond the power of time or forgiveness, the fact that I had held silence—so long!— when he had needed human speech to help him. He turned back to the window. ‘No, there’s no way not to suffer. But you try all kinds of ways to keep from drowning in it, to keep on top of it, and to make it seem—well, like you. Like you did something, all right, and now you’re suffering for it. You know?’ I said nothing. ‘Well you know,’ he said, impatiently, ‘why do people suffer? Maybe it’s better to do something to give it a reason, any reason’ (Baldwin 17).
Yet, I believe that this misery is precisely what Baldwin wanted the reader to feel, as he was communicating something very real about the world in which he lived. And perhaps suffering, for him, flowed into what he wrote and helped him deal with the suffering. Truthfully, I can’t really identify with any sort of visceral suffering, such as the narrator and Sonny had to go through, but Baldwin makes me feel as though I can understand that suffering. I’ve said before that any good writer strives to create empathy and understanding in the reader, and I’ve seen very few writers who have done that as masterfully as Baldwin. I do apologize that I don’t have more to share, but this past week was a hectic week of edits, so I thought that sharing something that was provocative to me would be a nice change of pace.

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Work Update – Will

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This past week has consisted mostly of editing with some small spurts of writing new content here and there. Since my edits aren’t terribly interesting and I have no shocking ideas or concepts to share with all of you, I’ve decided to include an excerpt of my writing. This excerpt is mostly all dialogue and takes place during a meeting of my group’s leaders. Here it is:

I was still smarting from Gormly’s words. I stared down at the table. How could a cook tell me, a warrior, how the mission should have been handled? Sure, he had some years on me, but age couldn’t teach him what we warriors had learned firsthand. The rest of Thane’s team, brothers and sisters I sent with him, were still out there, and Gormly would dare second-guess my decisions? I didn’t know where they were. I had to know where they were. But I couldn’t do that while arguing with Gormly.

I looked up. “Yeah, I’m good. Sorry,” I said. My apology was noted by a dismissive wave of Bazgal’s hand.

Sharpe looked around and said, “Anybody have any more thoughts?”

Silence abounded for a couple of moments, then Alfred spoke up, “Do we know when we’ll be able to question Thane?”

Bazgal and Sharpe both looked to Junger, representing the healers. Junger was a middle-aged, bald, and grey bearded man whose body abounded with sinewy muscle. He seldom spoke when not amongst healers. He looked around, then to Bazgal and Sharpe, and said, “Well, he’s not in good shape. That much we all know. We’re doing the best we can, but the damage from the blood loss alone is huge, not to mention the fact that he lost an eye and will lose a hand. I’d say it’ll be a couple of days at the very least until we’ve finished up our work. After that, I’d give him a couple more days before we can question him. He’ll be very weak.”

Bazgal and Sharpe both nodded solemnly.

“A couple of days? If my warriors aren’t already dead, then they’ll be dead by then! We need to talk to him before that!” I couldn’t believe Junger’s lack of concern for his brothers and sisters.

“Or maybe your warriors will find their way back to us by the time Thane is ready,” Fara said.

“And if we try anything with Thane earlier, we run the risk of making him far worse and not getting any answers anyway,” Said Junger.

I was having none of it. “If it’s his life against the lives of my warriors, I’ll take that risk! Since when were we afraid to—“

“This is the last time I warn you, Carter,” said Bazgal. “You aren’t an Alpha and you won’t tell others of the same rank as you what needs to be done. Hold your peace or leave us and we’ll find a different warrior to advise us.”

“Alright, alright, fine. Let’s just figure this out.” I didn’t want to risk being left out of any decision that was to be made. Those were my warriors out there, and I needed to know how the Alphas planned on finding them.

“Let’s get back to it,” said Bazgal, looking around the table. “We know Thane’s in no position to give us any answers right now. We know that there’s a threat out there, and we don’t know what it is.”

“The Scout’s Vanguard is also extremely vulnerable right now,” said Shane.

“I’d say we call the Scout’s Vanguard back to our position,” Sharpe said.

Gormly looked around confusedly and asked, “And why would we do that?”

“Until we can really understand what did that to Thane and made Carter’s warriors disappear, we need to regroup and be on the defensive. If Carter’s warriors don’t come in anytime soon and Thane isn’t ready to talk by the day after tomorrow, then we’ll gather our things and head out.”

“I think that sounds like the best option at the moment. There’s still a lot we don’t know,” Said Bazgal.

“But why not use the Scout’s Vanguard to find out what the threat is? They’re already out there. They should do what they’re made for,” Said Gormly.
I hope you enjoyed my most recent work at least a little bit! I just started reading a new book, In the Garden of Beasts, by Erik Larson. Larson is a masterful storyteller who makes nonfiction material seem like a good thriller. I try to emulate his storytelling capability in my own writing.

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A Guide to Contacting Your Representatives – KC

Congress(wo)men and Senators are not the only representatives elected by voters. From President to County Commissioner every citizen in this country has a ton of elected officials representing them in local and national ways.

In some ways, local politics has the ability to change your day to day life more than the President. From school board regulation, to municipal road maintenance, local politics and representatives are the ones impacting your everyday life the most. Continue reading

No Film School – Ria

While I have been working on my treatment and plot for my film, I have also been researching how to make a documentary. I found a blog that is very interesting, not just for someone wanting to make a film. No Film School is similar to a news source like Buzzfeed or Fast Company but focused on filmmaking. Continue reading

The Survival of the Tribe- Will

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I’ve been thinking about group dynamics recently. How are groups kept together? What makes them stronger and, more importantly, what breaks them apart? Attempting to answer these questions has been important to me due to the nature of my novel. For those of you who don’t know, my novel is centered around a group of nomads in North America a couple of hundred years after modern society has collapsed. Continue reading