Miss Alexandrina

The thinking-space of a not-quite novelist


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Photo of the Week: Shielded

So, anyway, this happened:

Drama_AlexandrinaBrant

Look – it’s my name above 2013!

On Friday, it was my school’s senior school prizegiving. I didn’t expect much from the event (knowing my surprisingly low tolerance to envy-producing situations), but going along meant I got to see a few people from the class I hadn’t see since July, so that was one advantage.

The prizegiving always awards a variety of trophies and shields to those who have achieved the most or the best in specific subjects. For instance, the GCSE lot have a prize for the best in show, as such, the highest grades. I expected the Classics’ Cup (being the only full Latin scholar) and the Magazine Prize, but this – the Drama Shield, and something I might once have coveted before I realised coveting made no sense – came as a sudden surprise.

My surprise was from not taking the full A Level Drama, but still being given the shield. However, on reflection, two points came to me. 1) I’d been the only Upper Sixth to participate in the production that year, making my total count of school productions 5 out of my 7 years, not including the two joint school productions I did or the four end-of-year pieces I did for exams and entertainment across the years. 2) One of the girls whose name is on the far right of this picture, and who had been one of my role models when I was in my first year and she in her last, had rarely been allowed to do Drama as a subject like I had, so she had, whilst being academic, turned her dramatic interests to the productions.

So, like her, I have pressed a mark onto the school. Finally.

(I've talked about playing Eliza Doolittle for my GCSE exam)

(I’ve talked briefly about playing Eliza Doolittle for my GCSE exam in this post about Sherlock and plotting)

On a photographic side, this shield was difficult to take, due to its super reflective surface and twenty-one years’ worth of names on miniature shields surrounding that glamorous central boss. In addition, I wanted to capture the blue Greek masks, whilst having some arrangement of the mini shields and that fabulous wood grain. As you can imagine, this was difficult when the reflected my camera. Thus, I’ve gone for a very tilted shot typical of my work, capturing the pieces of the shield I wanted to show. ;)


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The Life of an English Student, Part Three

What are university lectures? In a conversation about my previous two posts, I was asked this, or words to its extent.

I think one doesn’t truly appreciate the simplicity and ‘sameness’ of British university lectures until Sixth Form (or years 12 and 13 – these are ages 16 – 18) or not even then, depending on whether one is exposed to that lecture-style teaching.

I was fortunate to fall into that former group of Sixth Form students, so the change of teaching style did not hit me so much. At my former school, we had Culture and Technology talks, which involved a number of speakers on a number of diverse topics. Being the hungry-for-information writer I am, and craving ideas, I always took notes.

And that skill has proven invaluable across the ‘step’.

On Tuesday, I was, once again, exposed to one of my favourite topics of Psychology: Perception (I have promised to finish the latter half of the post on perception in Lewis Carroll). The lecturer – Holmes! – took a typical lecturer stance of standing at the front of the lecture theatre talking through his PowerPoint and taking us through the beginnings of the biology of encapsulated and unencapsulated cutaneous nerves and their uses.

However, it’s up to us, the students, to annotate the handout frame of his PowerPoint with each of his additional pieces of information provided by his words alone. It’s our option to do so. And our responsibility. This is what makes university tutoring different from the school teaching stuff; far less interaction occurs between teacher and learner, note-taking is essential to catch every point.

Over 200 of us sit in that theatre. Lecturers have no way of communicating with each and every one of us, obviously. When less information is purveyed through the visual, one needs to switch to an auditory, automatic and simultaneous power to take down one’s environment another way. And this also gives each student’s notes a personal touch.

Palmer, the largest theatre. I have been in this theatre once, but my lecturers take place on the other side of the campus. Photo credit to the uni.

Another differences is that, whilst technically compulsory, lecturers can be avoided if one thinks they will add nothing and the knowledge can be supplemented by one’s own work. Technically. We’re not supposed to, but, whilst they register us for our seminars (small talk groups, somewhat like classroom teaching), they do nothing of the sort for those lectures.

And that’s the basics of British lecturers. I can’t say I have any idea how other countries’ lecturers work, but I have given some insight, I hope. I’ve yet to have a tutorial and my first laboratory practical is in the next weeks. British university life for me is a combination of these things.


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Sorry for the Radio Silence

To be honest, I’ve been neglecting my blog a little for the last month. Actually, I have a reason of moving house and not having any internet from the phone-line until now-ish.

But that’s going to change – because I have [bought for and am awaiting arrival] a new, supercharged – ie. completely confusing Windows 8 – laptop, and should be back on schedule by…the end of this week…?

Well, I’m trying! I get half a blog post idea in mind, before something whisks me or my interest away from completing it.

And, actually, I have been purposefully neglecting the blog, too. As I mentioned in the previous post, I’ve been peer editing short stories, and this has helped me immensely with my own work. As I said in WTCB September, I’m also going into mega-edit-mode with said novel (sixteen out of twenty-seven chapters so far for the first run isn’t doing too badly), and, even this morning, I was pursing my lips over my old laptop and saying to myself ‘that’s a stupid piece of dialogue’. My characters say a lot of contrived things.

Not to mention I’m going to try and get one of my results remarked.

I also had an affair with another blog (!) and guest posted over at Miriam Joy’s about editing and how I’ve come to understand that it’s not so scary.

Here’s an extract:

You can still love your prose whilst looking at it in a critical eye – in fact, I believe this makes for a better editor, as you want to read a story with a curious, reader’s eye. Rewriting can be fun – cringing aside – when you know the story already; it’s about finding a new way to tell something that’s already said once.

Say a character is clumsy. Rewriting plays around with the idea behind the words, making them more realistic; you remove the telling phrases and replace them with an image: she juggled her lunch-box, her apple and her binder, and still managed to drop all three.

Rewriting is the nailpolish on the nails, the twiddly bit of frill on the dress-cuff. I like rewriting because, as writers, we are exploring our prose, as opposed to simply churning it out.

Editing, too, offers a chance to be the most creative and – in my opinion – clever. You don’t have to have any qualifications in English Literature to see that, if a character suffers (explicit or implicit) depression, they’re not going to describe a sunset as ‘sparkling’. Perhaps they might even see the sky’s hues as the colour of their own blood.

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Anyway, I look forward to tomorrow’s post, the first of the WTCB September posts, about the geography land in which Phillip and Aidelle reside, The Continent.

 


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Beautiful Blogger Award

(I’ve given up on trying to load my Word today – three crashes is more than enough – so don’t mind any crazy formatting there may be here)

Hullo. How are you world? Great. I’m all right, though I have been down lately, so everything is in monotone colour. I have a post about perception coming, but *shrugs*

*perks up* In the meanwhile, Yawatta Hosby tagged me for the Beautiful Blogger Award. Thanks, Yawatta! Here’re the guidelines:

1.  Copy and paste the Beautiful Blogger Award in your post

2.  Thank the person who nominated you and link back to their blog

3.  Tell 7 things about yourself

4.  Nominate 7 other bloggers and leave them a comment on their blog (or pingback or whatever) letting them know

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1. I have little-to-no idea what actually started my email: celestal_Fleur, especially seeing as ‘fleur’ is French and ‘celestal’ is the incorrect spelling of the English ‘celestial’. However, on a literate note, my newest Twitter handle (updated early 2013) is the Latin for ‘space flower’. Fitting for a Trekkie with a floral middle name.

2. I was a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure hog when I was younger. My dad gave me one for which I was probably too young, but, since I had been interested in his World of Warcraft games from a young age, I don’t think the monsters-and-murder, dungeons-and-dragons content really affected me. All I remember is that the tale was set in catacombs, I was trying to find five precious-jewel ornaments and I died many times by finding all five letters of D-E-A-T-H scattered throughout the maze. A giant squid also occurred.
Nowadays, I still add to the occasional add-venture on the occasional writing site.

The Ice King from Adventure Time. Silly humour, but brilliant. By meldilove on DeviantART

The Ice King from Adventure Time. Silly humour, but brilliant. By meldilove on DeviantART

3. For all I’m mature and sensible (!), I have a weakness for silly humour. I may not enjoy slapstick or gross humour, but bizarre and outlandish humour makes me laugh, perhaps the reason I enjoy The Simpsons so much. As I write this, I’m listening to the ‘Knights of the Round Table’ song from the Spamalot musical (I’ve already seen it twice in theatre!) to cheer myself up. The Lady of the Lake is an amazing soprano part to play!

 4. I also have a not-so-closeted weakness for music with a head-banging bassline.

AlexandrinaSims_AlexB5. Like any obsessive Sims2 player, I have my own Sim. She’s currently an elder, a celebrity chef (fulfilling her lifetime, platinum want) with three children (two girls and a boy <3), nine grandchildren, a brother and two nephews and a[n adopted] niece.

6. I get my A Level results tomorrow at 8 am. ‘Nuff said.

7. I always have ideas for these tell-us-about-yourself blog awards way before I require them – and then I forget by the time I need them! I am a slave to sod’s law.

Tagging:

1. Lillian M(M!) Woodall – have your first blog award, dear!

2. Jae Dansie – for being awesome.

3. Mystic Cooking – also awesome, but haven’t written much lately. C’mon, ladies!

4. The Misfortune of Knowing - for such insightful posts on books, the law, and motherhood.

5. The Loony Teen Writer - wonderful teen writer and blogger.

6. KA Last – for all her help during Pitcharama.

7. Descent into Slushland – everything needed to be known about writing

I need to expand my blogging circle!

 


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Ebullient School Times

(By the time you read this, I will be on my way to Uganda, so I scheduled it to fit.)

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First of all, I would like to thank you, the reader. It’s a necessity of all language to be heard; nobody would say anything if they knew they were not going to be heard. In the same way, there would be no point in producing a magazine if there was not an audience to read it. So, thank you!”

I got the school magazine this week, of which I was the editor and had a couple of featured articles. *cough* With all I’m doing, I’ve not had the chance to look through it entirely, but I did notice where I had made my mark, for once. It was a bit weird, actually, having my name in so many places throughout the magazine – more, in fact, than the Head Girl.

Whilst this may not be considered any big success – and rather shows that I should stick to fictional prose and factual theories, rather than journalism! – I’m proud of having, and giving, something from my school career of seven years, worthwhile and solid. Now that the photograph of me in Year Seven (first year) as a sprite in The Tempest has been removed from the Drama Studio walls, there is very little as a sign of what I was.

What I find weird about leaving, on one hand, is that people – mainly staff – keep asking me if I enjoyed my time there. With little evidence of my existence in the school remains, I’m rather obliged to say ‘yes’, aren’t I?

Not that I would say no of my own accord in the big picture – and I’m a fan of the bigger picture. But…in the little things, there are many regrets and agonies and wishes that I had never set foot on that Abingdon earth.

Then again, I guess I’m being focused on my own time and my own self. I made so many friends and life moments in school, just as is meant to happen. A good friend of mine says things are meant to happen for a reason. Only now do I really see that – as retrospect is shining. If I had never chosen the school I had, I daren’t think what might have happened to me. Certainly, I would never have met and witnessed the inspiration for OJAP, and, disregarding that, would never have come across other pieces, however sparse, of inspiration for my other works. One of my favourite novels, Triangle, would certainly have never come into being – nor would my impression and opinion of the ideas in the book.

In that way, I thank God that I chose, as selfishly arbitrary as it was (“It has a swimming pool!”), that school over my other options. Who can really say what time would have done otherwise?

In case you hadn’t realised: my word of the week is EBULLIENT, with its crisp, French-based construct of morphemes. Before that, it comes from the Latin (yay!) adjective/participle ‘bulliens’, boiling, from the third declension verb of the same root. The ‘e’ simply denotes ‘out of’ or ‘extremely’.


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Study Leave By Name…

Hello, blog associates (!),

bigstock_story_2226743

Today I’m wearing an orange jumpsuit that trails beyond even my heels – and has led to me tripping up a fair number of times. Not that I truly mind that. The outline of a dead body is marked next the staff room, invoking in me memories of the beginning of OJAP. After putting away my guitar at the music block, I notice my face on a wanted poster.

I think I would worry the casual observer. Yet, schools all over the country have these sorts of things happen to them on days like this. I happen to know that an ‘insane infection’ has swept out neighbouring girl’s school! Why? Well, it’s my last official day of lessons at school EVER! *Scared face* That’s crazy and I can’t believe so much time has passed.

My study leave will start at four. Study Leave in England is the official time we get off school to stay home (or go to school, if one wishes) to revise – there are no lessons to attend, and the only time necessary to be in school is for exams.

As such, though, I will also be taking a leave of study from this blog so that I can concentrate fully on my revision. My first exam is a double on the 6th of June; my last is my Latin Prose paper on the 24th.

Well. I can promise you that I will have come up with many new ideas by the time I get around to my schedule again (and before it is interrupted once more…but more on that closer the time). I’m on the school ball committee and running the Leaver’s Mass, so expect I will babble on about those two huge events, at least.

I can’t say that I will take the entire month off – in fact, I don’t think I will be able to resist blogging when I get an idea. And, especially as I have no exams on Tuesdays or Wednesdays (well…), Monday’s Photo of the Week will be as frequent as ever. I also hope to continue the Characters as Flowers series, perhaps branching out to the Female protagonists of my other novels beyond the Time, Stopped Trilogy.

And maybe the men. I can imagine that Lucas has a flower, and maybe Phillip, but it’s more difficult to cast a shapely and delicate plant for the men in my novels. It’s not them, it’s me!

Anyway, that’s me, thinking.

Ciao, blogosphere. I’ll see you when I do.

Alexandrina :)


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Turning Eighteen

Yesterday, I went into a pub and ordered a drink. No, it’s not the beginning of a joke. It’s the beginning of this post. And I suck at jokes.

220px-Sidecar-cocktailAlmost a week has passed since I became eighteen – and finally legal to order my own drinks at the bar. As my birthday fell on a Monday, a dreaded schoolday, apparently, I had a meal but did no more, though a friend had already organised our going out Saturday evening.

So, in effect, it was yesterday that I turned eighteen. I suppose I confused people by wearing a golden sash suggesting that my birthday was actually the Saturday. Not that it actually said so.

But I could argue that the sense of maturity came then, not whilst at school, doing what I have always done for the last billion Mondays.

The first drink I ordered legally was a Sidecar – cognac, liqueur and lemon juice. Yummy! – coincidently, the first thing that caught my eye on the menu. This is also exciting, as the Sidecar is the drink that Donna orders at the beginning of the Unicorn and the Wasp Doctor Who episode (in case you’re wondering: The Doctor orders a lime soda). I am also partial to the gin sour version of the drink, called a Chelsea Sidecar amongst other names. The Paris Ritz claims to have been the first to serve the drink, but there are many variations on the story (this was the 20s, so little evidence has kept). My favourite story is that the Sidecar is named after the sidecar vehicle that the American Army captain who created the drink used to travel about in.

Sidecar!

Sidecar!

Anyway, I could say that made a difference to my birthday – well, compared to the other numbers.

People always ask: “has anything changed?” or they go ahead and suppose that it has. In Psychology, we were revising patterns of sleep for a question that might ask use about age-related changes in sleep. Thus, in the midst of many boxes were two: ‘aged 12-16’ (adolescence) and ‘aged 18-30’ (young adult – I realise how ironic this is for the writer in me, who screams “but YA is the previous age group, and 18-30 category is New Adult. NEW!” I just nodded and carried on). My teacher, being the charming woman she is, asked me if my jumping boxes had changed anything. I replied no. Really, nothing has changed, not even in that. I’m just as sleepy as I was the day before.

Of course, as we went on to discuss, how someone sleeps is not defined by their age alone.

Neither is how someone may behave. I think that’s the biggest reason that being eighteen makes very little difference for me. It simply makes it easier to spend time with my friends without being in a place made claustrophobic by its familiarity.

It’s ironic, really; a year ago, I clung to familiarity. I suppose this change comes from the fact that I have stopped relying on my school. The place has changed so much more in the last year than it ever did in six; I face an alien home every weekday. But I am subjective – and the world has changed as I have, too. As I said, age is behaviour, not a number.

Being honest, I don’t expect change, though. The biggest changes come for me in the summer when I move to university. I think it will be then when I realise that I have become an adult. But I don’t mind. For now, I’ll use my age as authority!

 


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Revising (and Cognitive Schizophrenia)

I’m well into revising now, and yesterday I was deep in a mix of statistics and Schizophrenia. A weird combination, I know. As demonstrated below, I’m a giant-whiteboard-and-pen girl – and I use colours and arrows and bubbles that don’t connect. Yes, my handwriting really is that bad:

Schiz.revision.AlexB

In summary:

Followers of Cognitive model (eg. me) say that the mind is like a machine and explanations come from when the machine is at fault; like a broken processor in a computer, Schizophrenics have faulty processing stopping them from correctly identifying the world around them.

merging-of-mind-and-machine_1

To do a quick overview of the main points, chunks of AO1, I have learnt about the Cognitive explanation (I’ve also added in a few of the scientists I’m meant to know):

Stroop-EffectSchizophrenics have faulty attention filters, meaning that they are unable to distinguish between what is real and what is not. For instance, Schizophrenics cannot do the Stroop Effect – because they get too distracted by the words to see the colours. This is especially true if the words are associated with emotions or heightened senses, for instance: knife, hate.

McGuigam found that the larynxes of Schizophrenics vibrated when they were hearing voices. As you can see, the Schizophrenics cannot tell that the voices they are hearing are produced by themselves.

Hemslay added that Schizophrenics have a failure to activate their schemas, their models and ‘guidelines’ for living. This can explain the positive symptoms of Schizophrenia – hallucinations, delusions – because it suggests that they don’t separate their extraordinary from the ordinary. It has less ease explaining the negative symptoms of Schizophrenia: emotion blunting and passivity, where the Schizophrenic feels and fears that their thoughts are being ‘inserted’ into their mind. This makes it difficult for them to have relationships.

However, I believe that the Cognitive model can explain negative symptoms, as Schizophrenics have less schemas to understand how to behave in a relationship, thus they may believe that their thoughts are not their own.

Finally, Frith said that they have faulty cognitive processes, a wide as this title may be. This means that the are less able to will themselves to actively participate – Theory of Mind. Hence comes catatonic stupor. (But if you pay them, there is  greater chance they will comply. A little weird.)

 wired brainParks found that Schizophrenics had mental trouble with their Working Memory – but so did the close relations of Schizophrenics. This muddies the waters a little. Evidently, genetics is involved, but how much so?

The main problem one finds with the Cognitive explanation is that it is reductionist – that is: it fixates on one point, the mind as a machine that falls. On the other hand, Schizophrenia must not be that simple to explain. Even including the genetic component cannot answer the entire bunch of questions on Schizophrenia; one must ask “from where do these faulty processings come?” Is this a set of genes or a negative happening in childhood (for instance, abuse)? The cocktail of explanations must be mixed together before we come up with a complete answer.


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Quote: Ecclesiastes

garden4effect2

Everything that happens in this world happens at the time God chooses.
He sets the time for birth and the time for death,
the time for planting and the time for pulling up,
the time for killing and the time for healing,
the time for tearing down and the time for building…
(Ecclesiastes v.3)

I decided to weave this Bible quote into my post today because it’s one that I hear every year at our Leavers’ Mass – except this year, it’s my class that are leaving, and, as part of my Chaplaincy Prefect duties, I’m, for want of any other title, the Director of Liturgy.

Too, English weather continues to be a downer, though at least it means I’m missing nothing with my mornings inside revision books and my afternoons buzzing around my computer.

It may not be Spring yet, but it will come.


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Editing and Exams

(Both of which are looming for me)

I think ‘word economise’ is the best piece of editing advice I’ve read/been given. It may be more general than some other pieces of advice, such as “remove all ‘could’, ‘just’ and ‘seemed’ phrases”, but editing – and even writing first or subsequent drafts – with the phrase ‘word economise’ in my head is useful. This is because it allows me to think small – and thinking small leads to less elaborate turns of phrase.

It is particularly useful for me as someone who tends to make a phrase-mountain out of a molehill. I readily admit (nowadays) that my writing can be too florid and I should get into the habit of saying a point in three words, not five.

VolcanoArenal_CostaRica_AlexB

Costa Rican word-mountain…

So, anyway, it turns out that I also do this in my essays. For Philosophy, that’s not so much of a problem; the humanities are creative and allow flexibility. However, for Psychology, structure is needed. Rigid, unflorid, statement-and-evidence type sentences.

Once again, I have great overlap between my writing work and my school work, even when they clash and throw each of my schedules off kilter. (There are never enough hours in a week!)

Here, for Psychology, I’ve been told that not only can I cut away the nice sentence structures, for instance replacing ‘such as’ with its shorthand version ‘eg’, I should make my sentence as concise as possible. Oh joy. Short sentences.

The annoying thing is, I can tell that these good words of editing (despite sometimes being against my natural written flow) are coming into my subconscious and leaving with their mark pressed upon my mind. I may not yet have transferred all the skills to the essays, but they are coming through in my novel. Longer sentences, read aloud, are being chopped, changed and converted into shorter sentences.

I’m working on the second half now, and, though finding this half the more difficult, there is some ease in it being the tenser half where short sentences are coming in very handy.

In this way, editing is coming back and forth, from school to my novel, and from the workings of my novel to the crafting of my school essays.

And then I will be the happy squirrel with the nut... (Yeah, these picture-links are pretty intangible...)

And then I will be the happy squirrel with the nut… (Yeah, these picture-links are pretty intangible…)

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