Friday, August 28, 2009

Barton Secondary School

Barton Secondary School
75 Palmer Rd.

Principal: L. Cook
Vice-Principal(s): J. Rizza, B. Torrens,
Pulse Page Coordinator: P. Monaghan

Chainsmoking, Steve Twigg, grade 12
Skate, Nathan Walker, grade 12

Book Review
Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

Tyler Rubini, grade 12

With the novel Oryx and Crake, Margaret Atwood joins the same league as greats such as Aldous Huxley and Robert Heinlen, putting forth a blend of post-apocalypse and dystopia unparalleled in literature. The Canadian author, propelled to fame by her 1985 novel The Handmaiden's Tale, brings the reader on a heart-pounding adventure from the near future to the end of the world, all in 378 pages.

In Oryx and Crake, we follow the aged hermit Snowman, who is for all intents and purposes the last man on Earth. He stands alone as the guardian of the Crakers, a group of genetically engineered “ideal humans”, the remnants of a genetic experiment years-past. Through flashbacks to the days when humans still walked the Earth, we learn about Snowman's life as Jimmy, a master of words, as well as his relationships with Oryx, his lover and obsession, and Crake, his genius friend and creator of the Crakers.

Within the book, every word is a warning, be it a warning about the dangers of transhumanism, the dangers of treating our world the way we do, or the dangers of an overly commercialized society. From the crack revolutionaries of the God's Gardeners to the gated compounds of the upper-echelon, nearly every person, place, or thing in Oryx and Crake has a parallel in the modern world. Atwood manages to satirize these aspects of the world while also intertwining them into a realistic, terrifying narrative. Snowman (or Jimmy, if you prefer) makes an excellent narrator for this tale, with his voice perfectly displaying the cynicism and defeatist attitude of someone who has nothing left to live for, yet a powerful urge to survive. The narrative makes near-seamless transitions from past to present, with events in the past explaining those in the present and vice versa.

Unfortunately, in the end, the reader feels a powerful urge to know more, yet they have no means of doing so. If this novel suffers in one way, it's that Atwood may have created too large and ambitious of a universe. By the end of the story, the reader finds themself wondering about various aspects of the world which were not covered in enough detail. In particular, the ending may trigger this response in some. However, everything key to the plot is explained in detail and the knowledgeable reader will rarely find themselves confused with regards to the main story.It can be said that this book may be one of the first true science fiction classics of the new millennium. An exciting plot with real-world relevance and engaging writing help Oryx and Crake achieve must-have status

Are We Really “Going Green”? Is our precious planet being helped or hindered?
A personal essay by Megean Duvall, grade 12

My father arrives home in his Dodge minivan. With the air conditioning on and a cigarette in his mouth, he opens the car door, still smoking his cigarette, and walks into the backyard to bring out the very efficiently sorted recycling bins and green bins for the garbage men to pick up in the morning. Then, feeling as if he has done his good deed for the day, he proceeds to go into the house and turns on his TV for the night.

Is it possible for humans to be this hypocritical about the issues that really matter in this world? People complain and argue about how global warming will eventually destroy the Earth, yet I see tons of recyclable products blowing away on the streets. Does this make sense to you?
It’s not only my father that is being hypocritical, either. Almost every shift that I am behind the checkout at Zellers, I get at least one customer with a completely empty cloth bag in their hands. When I ask them if they want to use it, they look at me like I’m an alien from Mars! “No, of course not, just give me a normal bag,” they tell me as I comply by wasting one plastic bag after another. As they walk out of the store, I wonder: Do they really need that bag? Yeah, when pigs fly.

If you really want to help stop global warming, you can’t just recycle and assume that you are doing your part. You have to change your own lifestyle - Carpool when you can, unplug that unused hair dryer, and turn off the bedroom light when you’re not in it. Avoid the deadly plastic bag, and put your garbage in the right bins to recycle and compost as much as possible. It is the small changes that will affect the environment the most – and you’ll be surprised to see a much decreased hydro and gas bill along the way, too!

So why are people all around the world arguing about global warming in newspaper, magazines, and even in movies such as An Inconvenient Truth, but not trying to stop it themselves? They either do not know how to change, they are too lazy to do it, or they simply do not believe it is happening. Wake up people! Even in the Arctic, ice and snow are melting, and animal migrations are starting earlier and earlier every year. Being horribly polluted, the world is heating up to a deadly level and humans are the cause of it.

Global warming is such a hot topic nowadays that it is even becoming a trend. Frequently, many celebrities are seen in photos carrying cloth bags and wearing t-shirts to advertise themselves as someone who takes action to help this very important issue. Even Miley Cyrus wrote a song dedicated to it. But do they really practice what they preach? With their huge mansions, giant limos, and extravagant parties, I honestly do not think so. And because fans like to imitate celebrities, they are doing the same thing without realizing what it all truly means.

Do you honestly realize the amount of damage we are causing when we light up that cigarette, drive our Hummer SUV, or even just in asking for that plastic bag? Our landfills are piling up, our air is being horribly polluted, and yet people think they are doing their part by simply recycling and using their green bin. It helps, but in order to really stop global warming we have to change the way we live. We can’t continue to be as hypocritical as my father and the countless other people in the world, because if we do we will all be fighting over this important issue for nothing. Every little thing we do add up, and eventually the Earth won’t be able to take it! Do you want your children to live in a world where the air and water is so polluted that not even the human race can live in it anymore? Hopefully not.


An Rx for Faulty Vision - The Key to Seeing What We Miss
Meghan Sheppard, grade 12

I got locked out of my house on Friday. How? Strangely, no forgotten key or fight with my siblings was involved. Actually, my parents went to Pennsylvania for a hockey tournament, locked all the doors, and left me a key on the counter. Inside!
Later, after having enlisted the help of my neighbours, testing every key they owned, and calling my grandparents in desperation, I finally unlocked the front door. As I prepared to do my homework, I discovered I couldn’t find my Physics textbook. Hurriedly looking everywhere, I finally gave up in disgust, only to have my sister hand it to me two minutes later. “You searched there three times,” she said disbelievingly. “How could you not see it?”
Truthfully, we humans often miss the small things, the small details. Details like leaving a key inside a locked house. It’s not that we deliberately choose to forget certain facts. Glaringly obvious though they should be, we tend to be blind to the concepts and things that are right in front of our faces.


Dear Alarm Clock
Tyler Rubini, grade 12

Alarm clock, you fiend,
Why do you mock me so?
Yet again, I am dragged from the oceans of dreamland,
Into the brutal light of the day.
Images of unshod maidens and creatures of the dark alike
Melt away before your staccato tones
Which pierce my ears like the sword of a hated enemy.

Perhaps at some point,
In the distant past, of course,
Humanity performed some transgression upon your kind.
Or perhaps you are simply tired of being hit,
And cursed at every morning.

Regardless of the reason,
I hate you, alarm clock,
Just as you hate me,
And no matter what you do,
I'll hit the snooze button just the same.

Tyler Rubini, grade 12

Its hair a porcupine of antennas,
The tower block watches the city,
A silent sentinel against cerulean skies.

A dreadful flash hangs on the horizon,
With the warming glow of souls
Rising to meet the stars.
A candle in Reaper's darkness.

Vegas Suburb
Verdant fields back on desert,
And natural fights unnatural,
Each new house another strike.
Both sides lose.

Motion in Fog
Nebulous shapes
In the murky soup of a city street
Come and go like fish in water,
Illuminated in brief by passers-by.

The Wrong Trail
Meghan Sheppard, grade 12

There was a sweat stain forming on his back. Andy Carlyle could feel it in the way the fabric of his oversized t-shirt clung to him. His brow was slick with sweat, and he panted as he reached for his water bottle, wishing he could obey his aching legs and allow his feet to stop pedalling. The trail couldn’t continue to climb forever; it had to slope downwards sooner or later, and he would finally be able to coast.

“Coming up behind you!” The shout was a courtesy call that every racer had been instructed to use, and Andy instinctively moved to the right of the narrow path. The biker behind him moved to the left, but instead of passing, he continued riding until they were next to each other. “You’re Andy, right?” Andy glanced at the man beside him, and resisted the urge to roll his eyes. Robert McDougal had made a point of introducing himself before the race began that morning. “I told you I love your bike, didn’t I? Man, I wish I had a custom-made Divinci like that! I know everything about bikes. Ask me anything, and I’ll know the answer. I know the biggest brand names, the best stores, and the newest accessories.” Robert sounded breathless, his words coming in spurts as he panted.

“Yeah, you told me earlier.” Andy was unsure whether it was his lack of breath, his annoyance at his fellow biker, or a combination of both that made his tone so short.
“Wow, this uphill is really killing me,” Robert continued, oblivious. “I mean, I’ve been riding a lot this summer, but this is really getting to me.” He swiped a sweaty hand across an equally wet forehead and took a long sip of water, gasping as he finished. He slowed down slightly, and Andy seized the opportunity, forcing his complaining legs to rotate faster, desperate to get away from his newfound friend.

“Well, we’re almost at the final checkpoint,” Andy called over his shoulder, glancing at the GPS fastened to the handlebars of his expensive indulgence.
Fifteen minutes later, Andy arrived exhausted and sore at the campsite that was the last checkpoint of the day. “I’m too old to be doing this,” he muttered as he wheeled his bike through the area of the park reserved for the racers. It was almost dusk, and most campsites were already taken by bikers who’d arrived earlier.

“Dad!” A teenage girl made her way through the small crowd that had formed around the dilapidated swing set referred to as a playground, and made her way to Andy’s side. “I was beginning to think you weren’t going to make it. I rolled in fifty minutes ago.”

“Very funny, Lisa,” Andy sighed, running a tired hand through his greying hair. “I don’t think I’ll survive two more days of this, though. Right now, all I want to do is shower, eat, and sleep.”
“Then it’s a good thing I got the tents set up already,” Lisa said, leading the way past the playground and down a worn path. “You’ve managed to survive huge corporate takeovers. I don’t think a few days of physical activity will kill you. And besides, you’ve got a great bike.”
Andy was unable to resist rolling his eyes at the last comment. “So I’ve heard.”

“Here’s our campsite,” Lisa interrupted him, pointing out the small tents that she’d chosen especially for this race. “What were you saying?” She sat down at the picnic table and turned back to her dad.

“Remember the guy I was talking to before the race? The one who was drooling over my bike? He caught up to me during the race and told me again how much he liked it.”
Lisa snorted. “You mean Robert McDougal? He’s weird. I was talking to him, and he told me that he’s from Alberta.”

Andy raised an eyebrow. “So?”“So? Don’t you think it’s weird that someone would come all the way from Alberta to participate in a race for cancer? Besides, there’s more. Ben—he’s another biker I met— said that Robert told him he rode here from Calgary.” Lisa crossed her arms and shook her head, looking skeptical.
“He’s in worse shape than you! He can’t even ride five kilometres without getting tired, so you can’t actually believe he rode through three provinces! And besides, did you get a good look at his red leather saddlebags. They look way too shiny and new. Just look at ours—they’re covered with mud splotches and we’ve only been riding for one day!”

“Lisa, he may be annoying, but he has no reason to lie to a stranger. Maybe your friend heard wrong. I think you’ve been watching too many crime shows on TV; you should know better than to judge a book by its cover by now.”

Lisa smiled knowingly. “Sure, Dad. Whatever you say. But I’d be careful around him tomorrow. After all, he really likes your bike.”

Andy’s muscles protested when he climbed out of his tent the following day. “Just leave me here,” he begged Lisa as she made breakfast. “Nobody will miss me.”
“No can do, Dad,” she said smiling. “Your travelling buddy, Robert, will be devastated without you to talk to.”

I’m not talking to him today,” Andy promised, grumbling as he packed his saddlebags. Despite his aching legs, Andy found the ride much easier than the day before. The trail wound through a forest, the trees effectively forming a canopy that protected the bikers from the sun’s heat. Andy realized he was enjoying the ride more than he had on the previous day, partly because he was not accompanied by Robert McDougal.

Dad,” Lisa called as he rode into the campsite that served as the final checkpoint for the second day, “Wasn’t the ride better today? I told you it would be.” She smiled. “You did better today—there are still a lot of people who haven’t arrived yet. By the way, how’s your friend?”
Andy sighed and sat down heavily on the picnic bench at their campsite. “I haven’t seen him today.”

I was hoping you had,” Lisa said, disappointed. “I was talking to Ben again. Apparently, three people were robbed last night! Ben’s friend’s iPod was stolen, and someone’s Blackberry is missing, along with a woman’s wallet.” Lisa paused and watched as Robert came into camp, slowly pushing his bike down the road. “Hi, Robert,” she called. He raised a hand in a half-hearted wave and coughed violently. Sucking in a large, gasping breath of air, he continued plodding down the path. Lisa turned back to Andy, raising an eyebrow. “I wonder what he keeps in those red leather saddlebags.”

The next day came much too early for Andy, and the light rain that greeted him didn’t help matters. He wasn’t the ‘outdoors’ type. Jennifer was the one who enjoyed camping, canoeing, biking, and all forms of physical activity, a trait she’d passed on to their daughter. Lisa had been planning this trip for months—ever since the diagnosis—but when Jen received word that she was too ill to consider entering the race, she had pleaded with him to take her place. “For Lisa,” she’d said. “For me.”

He almost regretted his decision as he pedalled out of the camp soon after nine, his light jacket doing little to stop the chill that accompanied the rain. Miserable as the day was, Andy was almost glad for the company when Robert came up behind him.
“Hey Andy. How’d you sleep last night? I slept great. I love the sound of rain on a tent, don’t you?”

“Mmm,” Andy answered noncommittally, shaking his head in an effort to rid his face of the water droplets cascading down his cheeks. Remembering Lisa’s words from the night before, he turned to his companion. “Hey, I heard you rode here all the way from Calgary.”

“Yeah, I did.” Robert looked away as he answered the question. Andy glanced up, surprised. He’d honestly expected Robert to laugh at such a ridiculous notion; after all, there was no way it could be true, Andy thought, surveying the man’s rather noticeable waistline and greying hair. He heard Robert wheeze as they crested a small hill on the now-muddy trail, and wondered about the other things Lisa had said. His daughter did have a tendency to be overly dramatic, but Andy had to admit that her suspicions about Robert McDougal appeared to be well founded.

As he continued riding, Robert fell behind, and soon Andy found himself alone on the trail. He shook his head, trying to clear his glasses of water droplets and wished for the tree coverage they’d had on the previous day. At least it was easier to spot the branch trails when there were no trees, he thought to himself. “And speaking of which,” Andy muttered, “there should be one coming up.” He glanced down at his GPS and was surprised to find that the screen was blank. “The battery,” he groaned, pressing buttons and hoping to see the screen light up. “Great,” he moaned. “I don’t even know if I have a spare.”

Moving to the side of the path, he shifted his gears and prepared to stop, but the sudden lack of pressure against his feet distracted him. Jumping off his bicycle, Andy felt like ripping out his hair in frustration. “My chain’s off!” He knelt on the muddy trail and pushed on the bike chain, but his cold, wet fingers could not force the chain back into place.

Disgusted, Andy gave up and dug through his saddlebags to find a map, wondering how far it was to the next checkpoint. He shivered in the cold rain and wondered how long it would take to walk to the campsite where all the racers would spend the night. Preparing for what would undoubtedly be a very long walk, Andy almost laughed in relief as he heard another biker approach. “Hey!” he called. “My bike’s broken. Can you help?”
“Sure!” Andy winced, recognizing Robert’s slightly large figure as he drew nearer.
“The chain fell off my bike,” Andy explained to Robert, who examined the bicycle for several minutes.

“I can’t fix it,” Robert said finally. “I don’t have the strength.”
“Right,” Andy muttered, “more like you don’t have the know-how.” He turned to Robert, “I thought you knew everything about bikes.” He glared, making no attempt to disguise his sarcasm. “You rode here from Alberta; surely you’ve had a chain come off before! Lisa’s right. You really are a con man, aren’t you?”
Robert looked shocked at the outburst. He opened his mouth, spluttered, and tried again. “I can go for help,” he suggested.

“No thanks,” Andy said, still glaring. “I don’t want your help,” he muttered. “You’ll probably steal my bike.” He pushed past Robert and began the slow, wet walk to the next checkpoint.

“Jennifer!” Andy called, spotting his wife not long after he finally crossed the finish line. He hugged his wife and smiled at his daughter, who had finished the race long before him. “Andy, what happened to your bike?” Jennifer gestured to the beat-up bicycle that had replaced Andy’s sleek Divinci.

“The chain got jammed in the sprockets,” Andy replied, remembering the regret that had come over him after he finally made it to the checkpoint and realized that his chain was immovable. He’d considered apologizing to Robert, but had been unable to find his ‘weird friend’, and after all, Robert had still lied about his cycling abilities. “Why are you here?” he asked. “The doctor…”
“The doctor said I was well enough to travel,” Jennifer explained. “I wanted to see you two cross the finish line. And besides, I wanted to see the man everyone’s been talking about—the man who entered the race with acute leukemia. Heck, the Alberta media is here in droves waiting to interview him.”

“Alberta?” Andy felt his face grow warm as the word stuck in his throat.
“Leukemia,” Lisa said, “I didn’t know anyone in the race had cancer.”
“Yeah,” Jennifer replied. “I think his name’s Bob…Robert McDougal.”
“Wow!” Lisa stared open-mouthed at her speechless father. “Dad kind of knows him,” she said, smirking. She watched the large crowd of reporters run toward a triumphant Robert McDougal. “See, Dad? You should never judge a book by its cover!”

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