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The Alchemist

By Dana Basile
December 1, 2010

I have a thing with books; once I find a part I like, I highlight it. In this way, I can always go back and re-read it and re-live the moments that touched my heart in some way or another. Perhaps it may be a good quote or just a part of the story I fell in love with. I have to always remember it, have a bookmark to return to that place. After finishing this book and opening it again only a few days later, the pages lit up like a Christmas tree. It was then I realized I had highlighted almost half of the book.

Having previously read another one of Paulo Coehlo’s famous books, Veronika Decides to Die, I already knew that I was in for a treat with this book. An international best-seller and a book to live by, this is the kind of story that I promise will change you.

We start the book with Santiago, a young shepherd happy to simply be that: a shepherd. Content with his life and his travels, he is shaken when a king comes in the form of a commoner and tells him he must sell his sheep and travel to the Pyramids of Egypt in order to discover a treasure and his personal legend. Santiago takes a leap of faith, leaving behind all he knows in search of a life that he never knew he belonged to.

The words “personal legend” had never really entered my lexicon before, but it’s a formal way of saying one’s dreams. The story continually reiterates the importance of an individual’s “personal legend” and how few people really contain the desire and bravery to go after their own. This story, soaked to the bone with inspiration, may just have you booking that long-awaited trip to a far away place you’ve been yearning to see or to start writing that novel you swore you’d get published years ago.

Along his journey, Santiago meets a slew of interesting characters who, unbeknownst to him and to themselves, are helping him along his path to achieve his personal legend, of which the most important thing is the Alchemist, himself.

The story, although fictional, is highly relatable and is truly a book of deep and immense knowledge. Poetic and beautiful in less than 200 pages, these words will make you feel as if you have lived another life, tucked away among the creases of the book. It is an international best-seller for a reason, and it is just one of the many works of art published by Paulo Coehlo.

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TEAM JACOB — 06 December 2010, 14:47

Sounds neat, maybe I’ll read it!


Winter’s Bone

By Brandon Adams
December 1, 2010

When do you give up? Is it a simple question where the first fork in the road keeps you from going any further, or do you keep fighting until you get what you have come for? For 17-year-old Ree, giving up isn’t an option. Living in the rural backcountry of Ozark, Ree doesn’t have much but her home and family: an ill-minded, depressed mother and her two younger siblings. The father, a well-known meth distributor, has skipped town once again; but this time, it will come with a price to Ree and her family. On a typical morning, a damaging wind blows. The sheriff goes over to Ree’s home, bearing some disturbing news. Her father has put her house up for bail; and if he doesn’t show up to court, the house will be taken away from Ree and her family. Being the sole provider and caretaker of the home, Ree must set off to find her father in the dirt world of Ozark, where the town folk are almost as cold as the climate. In a town where keeping to yourself is more of a habit than a choice, poking around will only lead you into danger; and that’s exactly where Ree is heading. With a climax that will leave the viewer disquiet and almost disturbed, Winter’s Bone is a brilliant drama that won’t leave you anytime soon.

In spite of the intrigue of this movie, it wasn’t widely publicized. The cast is made up of some real no-names and faces that may seem only vaguely familiar, plus it was given a low budget. Still, these factors only add to the charm of the story and how it’s told through the lens of unknown eyes. If you don’t recall the movie being in theaters, don’t worry; you weren’t the only one. Unless you were in a big city, or happen to have found a theater with enough “backbone” to play an “actual” cinematographic work, you wouldn’t have heard of the film. The movie is now on DVD and is making quite a buzz around the film world. It’s refreshing to once again see a movie made for the pure passion of story-telling, and it leaves the viewer with a sense of accomplishment knowing they actually sat through a film that was “worth it” for once.

Jennifer Lawrence, who plays Ree, gives an impressively realistic performance as the selfless hero. Holding character as if she knew Ree her whole life, she emulates having been a close friend of Ree rather than creating a fictional character. The director, Debra Granik—who has only done one other full-length movie—finds a way to capture the setting ideally and to bring life to the dull, disheveled land. Considering the cast’s limited acting experience, with many having just left high school, the project of Winter’s Bone had to be a vision worth working for, and dedication had to be close to the cast and crew.

The film is a diamond shinning out of the dirt that the film world is slowly becoming. To find a film with the same emotion and depth as Winter’s Bone will be a hard task to fulfill. If you are in need of a movie that won’t lay flat on the screen, leaving you feeling the same, pick up Winter’s Bone; and get caught up in the mystery.

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Move over Controller; Here Comes Kinect

By Melissa Theodorakatos
December 1, 2010

In the modern video game era, every software developer has dabbled in the realm of motion control. This notion of motion control began with the release of the Ninendo Wii and continues with the newly released Playstation Move control system. This year, Microsoft took things a step further, creating a device that implements the user as the controller. Kinect hit store shelves on November 4th, with an expectation of selling over 5 million units by the holiday season. Kinect made its media debut during this past year’s E3 conference, sparking the interest of gamers everywhere; but with every new piece of software comes speculation. The gaming community hit the message boards with concern, wondering if a system that took a controller out of the user’s hands would really expand the video game era. Individuals expressed concerns regarding losing contact with the game due to a disconnection with a controller, as well as a concern that a user controller would make gaming too tiring after a period of time. The system does have a large amount of innovation behind its development, but will it sell as much as expected? Below is a review of the technological basis of the software, with information gathered from the leading review site, Cnet.com.

Kinect functions in a unique and noteworthy manner. The user begins the simulation by involving himself or herself into a scanning process. The Kinect cameras scan the entire body and use the gathered information to read specific motion controls when activating games, menus, and information systems. The actual system comes with highly developed sensors, a microphone, and an RGB pixilated camera. An infared light is used to read movements around the room, especially essential game play elements determined by the user. The extreme development behind the software allows multiple users to scan in the system at one time, showing how versatile this new addition to the gaming world is. The time necessary for setting up the software for each game session is noted to be time-consuming, but some argue it is necessary given the extensiveness of the design itself.

The room space needed to activate Kinect is around 6 feet. Some small apartments may create a problem for the use of this system since the scanning process will become faulty during game and menu activation. After activation begins, the user is engrossed in a world similar to the interface visible in the movie Minority Report. It is said by some critics that the software is futuristic in design, and the faultiness of some design aspects is overlooked because of its innovativeness. The menu system, called the Kinect Hub, has oversized icons that are easily flipped through by the simple movement of the user’s hand. Voice activation is also possible, with the user stating commands to the hub for choices and selections.

The system was released with several games already completed in production. These games use the system in its entirety, allowing the user to completely manipulate the game with body movement alone. Some other games in development at this time will implement the system, but may not entirely rely upon human movement to control the game. Casual gaming is the main target of this new system, with titles geared to engage individuals of all ages. The non-controller based system is great for all generations since there is no need to learn any button controls or massive control combinations.

The system, with all its innovative designs and controls, is sold on the market for a very heavy price, which may turn off a lot of consumers. The system is also laggy at times, leaving the human motion control at fault during menu and game activation. A lot of game play requires the user to stand, which may be a negative for hard-core gamers that want to play for extended periods of time. Another negative for the system itself is the use of a Kinect power plug in addition to the older Xbox necessities.

Overall, Kinect is an amazing addition to the Xbox console, with an innovative method to controlling game-play and menu activation. Despite the minor negatives of the design and control, this software takes motion control to a new level. Review sites have high hopes for this software but with a demand for updates that may fix the minor bugs in control and, hopefully, perfect the game-play entirely.

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