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Inspired by a… textbook? November 30, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — ncardinale @ 6:04 am

Yes, you read the title correctly.

One would assume that all or most school textbooks follow the same basic formula: over-drawn, redundant paragraphs, and the use of few engaging writing mechanics (such as fragments, alternate viewpoints, and varying sentence lengths). Admittedly, this was my definition of how a textbook is typically structured. It wasn’t until I read Arts and Ideas (a book describing the progress, innovations, and influences of major art movements) in my World Culture/World Literature class in tenth grade, that I came to appreciate the writing and thinking skills one can gain from an overlooked school book.

Like everyone else in my class, I dreaded extracting notes from what seemed like endless chapters and daunting pages of small-print characters. I thought that much of the information contained in the book was pedantic and unnecessary in terms of conveying a handful of bullet points.

However, when teachers began handing back graded essays to me with comments written in the margins, such as “Add more detail” and “Explain further,” I then realized why Arts and Ideas was written to be so informative and overflowing with even the most minute of details. To allow the reader to fully comprehend the time period in which the art movement was occurring, the authors of the book included as many adjectives and descriptive words as possible about the works of art/architecture, mind-set, religion, and culture of the people living in a particular region during a pivotal moment in art history (ex. People residing in Florence, Italy during the Renaissance).

I decided that to become a better writer, I had to apply this concept to my own essays and papers; I made it my goal to be able to grab the reader’s attention, and to hold onto it from beginning to end. To do so, I made a concerted effort to expand my vocabulary, and to thoroughly delineate settings, people, emotions, objects, etc that readers would not otherwise be able to conjure on their own. In other words, I needed to clearly translate what only I could envision in my mind onto paper, so that any reader could easily grasp the point I am trying to get across.

Today, writing in detail comes naturally to me; specifying my thoughts and the direction they are headed in is an automatic, and not a cognizant action.

On a different note, Arts and Ideas also inspired me to view art and art history from a new perspective.

Up until tenth grade, I knew little to nothing about art mediums, movements, or styles throughout the centuries and decades. Most art books that I had read barely skimmed or touched upon the impact, influences, amazing precision, or social commentaries that are reflected in works of art/architecture from a range of movements. Naively, I thought nothing of the complexity and intricacy that went into making a single work of art.

But after reading Arts and Ideas, and taking the time to fathom all of the details that they are able to squeeze onto each and every page, I developed a newfound love for art and art history.

Now that college is just around the corner, I have considered majoring or minoring in Medieval, Renaissance, or Enlightenment Art/Architecture.

Who knew that one school book could be so affective?


Senior Year Song November 16, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — ncardinale @ 2:02 am

Senior year at Shenendehowa High School is like any other.

You meet new friends, hang out with old ones, do your homework, attend classes, dance at proms, and cheer at football games.

Except for the addition of one little thing…


Being the final year of high school, and essentially the last time we can slack off and be “kids,” senior year is dominated by the college application process, future plans, and aspirations.

One song that completely captures my perception of senior year and belongs in the “Senior Year Soundtrack,” is “On The Road to Find Out” by Cat Stevens. Since each stanza contains a moral that contributes to one large, cohesive one, I will briefly summarize what each of the nine stanzas mean:

“Well, I left my happy home
to see what I could find out.
I left my folk and friends
with the aim to clear my mind out.”  To me, this part of the song represents leaving home to live on a college campus for the sake of learning new things, and creating a fresh start.

“Well I hit the rowdy road
and many kinds I met there,
many stories told me
of the way to get there.”  Once we go to a college, a new chapter of life will commence. We will meet many different people along the way who will guide us in the direction we want to go.

“So on and on I go,
the seconds tick the time out,
there’s so much left to know,
and I’m on the road to find out.”  It may seem daunting to think that we have more years of schooling ahead of us, but the time will fly by. Even beyond college, we will continue to gain knowledge and experience that shapes who we are.

“Well in the end I’ll know,
but on the way I wonder
through descending snow,
and through the frost and thunder,”  After high school, we’ll encounter stumbling blocks/disappointments and not know what to expect (we may be traveling on the “road to find out,” but life is not a roadmap). Hopefully, in the scheme of things, we will discover what we want to study in college, what career we want to pursue, and someday, what to do with ourselves aside from educational goals.

“I listen to the wind come howl,
telling me I have to hurry.
I listen to the robin’s song
saying not to worry.”  People send us, and sometimes we send ourselves, mixed messages. Parents might put pressure on us to work faster and harder, while we are afraid to make any hasty decisions (such as choosing which college to attend, or switching majors during college).

“Then I found myself alone,
hoping someone would miss me.
Thinking about my home,
and the last woman to kiss me, kiss me.”  Away at college, and/or when we’re much older, we’ll reminisce about our family, friends, and possibly senior year.

“But some times you have to moan
when nothing seems to suit ya’,
but nevertheless you know
you’re locked towards the future.”  It’s okay to complain about how difficult college (and life in general) will be, as long as you remember the big picture: someday these years of hard work will pay off.

“Then I found my head one day
when I wasn’t even trying,
and here I have to say,
’cause there is no use in lying.”  The moment we realize who are and what we want to do with our lives could be planned and calculated. But, in my opinion, it will be spontaneous. And there’s no shame in admitting that we can’t always plan our futures accordingly.

“Yes the answer lies within,
so why not take a look now,
kick out the devil’s sin,
pick up, pick up a good book now.”  The person we should listen to most carefully, is ourself. Only we know what will make us happy in the long-run. To make that happiness come true, we have to make smart, not irrational decisions–beginning with our senior year, and having an idea of what we want to do after high school.

When we put all of these stanzas together, I believe the over-arching message is this: Growing up and going to college is exciting and undoubtedly challenging, but in the end, all will pay off if we follow our ambitions and do what will make us happy.

This, is what senior year is all about.


A Costume That Is “Me” November 2, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — ncardinale @ 3:17 am


It’s that time of year when people can dress up as anything they wish to be. Some costumes are just for the laughs (like banana and gorilla suits), while others, I believe, represent our alter egos.

We may not always be cognizant of the fact that our costumes reflect the person we desire to be, or the occupation we want to hold, but I know exactly why I chose to wear this year’s costume: a Flapper dress.

In case anyone is not familiar with who Flappers were, they stood for and advanced women’s progress during “The Roaring ‘Twenties.” By “progress,” I mean social advancements rather than political ones. To create a looser, more gregarious image of women, Flappers carried around lanky cigarette holders, wore short, baggy dresses, had their hair cut into “bobs,” and danced The Charleston (a groundbreaking dance for the time that involved much hand, arm, and leg flailing) to fast-paced music.

Since I long to be a more outgoing and confident individual, I found it only fitting to wear a shimmering, black-and-green sequined Flapper gown, a sparkling, gold headband with a black plume attached to the rim, and to hold a realistic, reproduction cigarette holder (complete with a fake cigarette attached on top).

But, it wasn’t just who I yearn to be that was the deciding factor in purchasing my costume. It also had to do with who I already am.

I grew up watching old movies. When I say old… I mean really old.

As much as I enjoy watching films from the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s, my favorites are those from the ‘teens to the 1950’s. My dad exposed me to them starting at around the age of 5 or 6. We would sit in front of the TV together and watch the Turner Classic Movie channel, which is dedicated to showing nothing but classic movies and shorts 24/7. He used to rattle off trivia about all of the stars and films on television, and about his glamorous autograph collection which dazzled me as it tantalizingly hung from the walls. Pretty soon, I began to memorize his movie knowledge and recognize the actors/actresses and movies without having to be prompted. As a result, both the films and autographs lost their mystique, but gained a new place in my everyday life.

I remember one morning  when I was in Kindergarten, I woke up to the sound of a film playing on Turner Classic Movies. Immediately, I recognized the melodic voice of the person speaking as being that of Judy Garland (the woman who portrayed Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz). I got up, went to the television, and sure enough, it was she. In fact, I also knew that the movie was titled “Meet Me in St. Louis.”

As a six-year-old, I felt pretty proud to have obtained these facts.

Today, I still admire my dad’s autographs and watch movies with him, but he no longer needs to inform me as to what we’re watching, who starred in it, or what piece of film memorabilia I’m looking at. For more than likely, I am already aware. Films from the “Golden Age” are truly ingrained in me.

For music, the situation is similar.

As a little girl, and even now, my dad plays his collection of standard size records and ’45s for me, thus introducing me to the music he grew up with (songs from the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s). Once I grew accustomed to the rock, disco, and pop from these decades, curiosity took hold of me and I dabbled in the Big Band/jazz-style music from the ’20s, ’30s, ’40s, and the ballads and early pop/rock from the ’50s. Needless to say, I fell in love with the songs from these time periods as well.

Not surprisingly, my iPod is almost completely comprised of music from the aforesaid eras, with a few current songs intermixed.

In summary, when I wore my flashy, glamorous Flapper outfit, I felt as though I was simultaneously honoring and celebrating the movies and music that I cherish, while building self-esteem.

What more could one want out of a costume?