shadowfireflame: (dragon)
I hate to get political on this blog (sorry in advance to non-Americans!), but in this instance I just can’t help myself. I felt that President Barack Obama’s speech to the Democratic National Convention last night was just phenomenal—one of the best speeches I’ve ever heard, and I’ve listened to quite a few (transcript here). I thought it was even better than the one he gave at the 2004 DNC (transcript here), and that one made me tear up when I heard it, as well as think, “What are we doing with this John Kerry person? I want this other guy, Obama, instead. He really gets it.”

But last night’s speech was also unusual in terms of the language used, which I’d like to talk about here.


Casual sexism

The majority of media I consume (excluding fanfic, which has a pretty decent track record when it comes to this—and at the very least, we’re trying), is what I’d call casually sexist. This is a term I used a while ago when reviewing a work by Orson Scott Card. By “casually sexist,” I mean that it’s not something that is discussed or examined in detail, but in the world-building there is a subtle assumption of female inferiority. An undertone of “Well, of course she can’t/shouldn’t do [whatever], because she’s a woman.” Or an assumption of a patriarchal standard wherein the male is assumed and the female is Other. Often, this comes in the form of shaming men for not being “manly” enough, whatever that means. Because being unmanly is equated with being feminine, which is considered shameful.

And this often comes out in language—the universal “he,” or “men,” when you mean “humans in general” or in examples of specific people that are given to humanize an abstract concept. This drives me absolutely nuts in Christian sermons, where I hear it most. If the speaker gives an example of a person performing an action and the pronoun is “he,” often the action is fairly gender-neutral. But if the pronoun is “she,” the action is often gendered in a stereotypical way.

Here’s an example of this I just made up to illustrate the point: “the little boy who loves walking his dog, the little girl who learned to knit at her grandmother’s knee.” It’s not hard to imagine a little girl loving to walk her dog, but it’s a bit more of a stretch to imagine a grandmother teaching her little grandson how to knit.

I hear these family-oriented ones constantly: in speeches, a father and his son can have deep conversations, as can a mother and her daughter, but put a father and a daughter together and I will bet you we’ll get a version of the Period Speech. You know the one—Mom’s out of town for some reason, and of course the second she leaves is the second the daughter gets her first period and has to tell the dad (with an appropriate level of embarrassment because menstruation-shaming is now a thing). Dad has to rush out in a blaze of confusion to grab pads from the dizzying array of varieties on the shelves while Daughter sits at home guzzling ice cream and clutching at her stomach and sobbing. It’s usually portrayed as uber-traumatic, except it’s played for laughs. Because an adult male’s lack of basic understanding about the female body is something amusing instead of saddening.

This kind of thing makes me crazy because my father and I (a woman) have a really good relationship where we often discuss things that *gasp* aren’t directly related to our differences in gender. And if I need pads and can’t go myself, he calmly goes to the store and gets some, and I calmly thank him (and don’t complain if they’re the wrong brand), and we get on with our goddamn lives because this is a perfectly normal biological function and not a crisis. He’s my dad and should be there to help me and support me when I need him.

Oh, and if they’re portraying a conversation between a mom and her son, it’s usually about, what, embarrassing him over prospective girlfriends? These aren’t shown as often.

Romney’s speech

But I digress. Back to politics. I’m not sure what was up with Republican nominee Mitt Romney’s speech with respect to this idea (transcript here). His views on women’s roles seemed somewhat muddled. He seemed very keen to demonstrate that he has worked with women before in many aspects of his life:

My mom and dad were true partners, a life lesson that shaped me by everyday example. When my mom ran for the Senate, my dad was there for her every step of the way. I can still hear her saying in her beautiful voice, “Why should women have any less say than men about the great decisions facing our nation?”


I wish she could have been here at the convention and heard leaders like Governor Mary Fallin, Governor Nikki Haley, Governor Susana Martinez, Senator Kelly Ayotte and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.


As governor of Massachusetts, I chose a woman lieutenant governor, a woman chief of staff; half of my cabinet and senior officials were women, and in business, I mentored and supported great women leaders who went on to run great companies.


Thanks for being specific about the “great” women running “great” companies whom you’ve helped. Considering that women are, in fact, half the population of the world, I wasn’t sure what he was getting at in pointing out that he has worked with women in the past. Er…good for you? Are congratulations in order? And I don’t understand why Romney felt it was necessary to list the women who spoke at the convention. Was this just to highlight the fact that there were women present at all?

Romney then painted a strange picture of his past home life with his wife, Ann, and their five sons.

Those days were toughest on Ann, of course. She was heroic. Five boys, with our families a long way away. I had to travel a lot for my job then and I’d call and try to offer support. But every mom knows that doesn’t help get the homework done or the kids out the door to school.


I knew that her job as a mom was harder than mine. And I knew without question, that her job as a mom was a lot more important than mine. And as America saw Tuesday night, Ann would have succeeded at anything she wanted to.


I’m not sure where to go about unpacking that quote. I don’t understand why he says a mother’s job is more important than a father’s, or why Romney tries to use that reasoning to argue that somehow it makes it okay that he apparently wasn’t there for his kids and wife when they needed him, especially as his wife was working to overcome the challenges of multiple sclerosis and breast cancer. Or how to reconcile that vision of his own life with this one:
Today, women are more likely than men to start a business. They need a president who respects and understands what they do.

I agree with the second sentence of that quote. However, I have no idea how it relates to the first sentence. Is a business started by a woman inherently different than one started by a man?

Obama’s speech

So then let’s take Obama’s speech. I mean, obviously this comparison is going to look better for Obama because, well, he’s in a socially liberal party while the Republican platform for some reason is more conservative than it has been for years. Obama’s speechwriters are better, his oration is (wildly) better, and his message is one that I agree with on most points. He speaks as the president; he knows what he’s talking about and proves it in his speech. (His points on foreign policy and climate change, for example, were excellent, whereas Romney’s, respectively, were frankly embarrassing or non-existent.)

But what I noticed more than anything was that in the speech, Obama doesn’t do the whole “men-default, women-secondary” thing that I’ve grown accustomed/resigned to. Quite the opposite, in fact: rather than being casually sexist, he was instead casually feminist. It was so unusual to me that I noticed it right away. I sense that this is a trend, this mixing up of the pronouns when they could refer to either a male or a female, and I hope that this trend continues. But before this speech, I’d only seen it in child-rearing magazines at the gynecologist’s office, so it was something of a very pleasant surprise to hear it from the president.

In speaking about education:
And now you have a choice—we can gut education, or we can decide that in the United States of America, no child should have her dreams deferred because of a crowded classroom or a crumbling school.

No child—a general, non-specific child—should have her dreams deferred. How easy would it have been to make the word “child” go with the male pronoun?—but he didn’t. Instead, the female pronoun was the default.

And speaking about immigration here:
You’re the reason a young immigrant who grew up here and went to school here and pledged allegiance to our flag will no longer be deported from the only country she’s ever called home.

It’s not clear if this is a young lady Obama actually met or just an abstract example (I suspect it’s both), but it’s interesting that he made the hypothetical “young immigrant” female.

But I like this one best:
We believe the little girl who’s offered an escape from poverty by a great teacher or a grant for college could become the next Steve Jobs, or the scientist who cures cancer, or the President of the United States, and it’s in our power to give her that chance.

This completely blindsided me. Three possible options for a little girl escaping poverty through education: a CEO of a multi-billion dollar company, a renowned scientist, or the fucking president. He later gives a more concrete example of a girl he met at a science fair who conducted biology research while her family was in a homeless shelter. Nothing against stay-at-home-moms who do equestrian and charity work on the side, but that’s not the vision Obama has for the future women of America. In fact, it seems that his vision for women is exactly the same as it is for men.
If you give up on the idea that your voice can make a difference, then other voices will fill the void: the lobbyists and special interests; the people with the $10 million checks who are trying to buy this election, and those who are making it harder for you to vote; Washington politicians who want to decide who you can marry, or control health care choices that women should be making for themselves.

This is a time in our history where women continue to be shamed for wanting and enjoying sex, shamed for the shape of their bodies, told that there are circumstances in which rape somehow isn’t rape, steered away from doing certain jobs or having certain interests because they are not considered feminine enough, told that their interests and fields and jobs aren’t as important as those of men, expected to accept their identities as wives and mothers first and as human beings second, and thought of as secondary or an afterthought (or, worse, not thought of at all).

It’s important to remember that, yes, things have improved a lot—but we still have a long, long way to go to achieve equality. During this time, it’s nice to know that Obama still gets it, and is still actively trying to do something to bring the goal of equality closer—and that a man who understands the power of words is using them to reflect these ideas in his diction. All while in his speech, Romney has somehow managed the feat of talking about women more but saying so much less.
shadowfireflame: (dragon)
My friend recently posted this article on the new “Wonderbook” Playstation is apparently going to release. He’s a big-time video-gamer and was not excited about this interactive book thing, so much so that he asked me, “Why does J.K. Rowling hate all her fans so much? It’s like Star Wars all over again.”

Then he told me how he felt cynical and depressed because it seems like all his favorite interests/fandoms are being overly-commercialized in the hopes of making more of a profit—which he feels is “damaging the brand,” to quote Steven Moffat, but moreover retroactively preventing my friend from enjoying the things he once loved so much. For example, he finds it very difficult, if not impossible, to re-read Harry Potter without feeling a bit weird about the theme park at Universal Studios.

Cut for rambling fandom meta )
shadowfireflame: (Sherlock)
So I live in a large metropolitan area which is unfortunately not known for its tourist attractions. We have some things, sure, like theme parks and historical areas and sports teams, but not that many, and none that are easily accessible to me.

About three years ago I could walk into any Wal-Mart and see a big rack of postcards for about 10 cents each at the front of the store. I know because I enjoy sending mail to my friends and believe it is an under-utilized form of art, really. (Also, I took a lot of time in school perfecting my handwriting, and it pains me that I so rarely get to write things down and show it off!)

I like sending mail; I love the BBC’s Sherlock, and hence I adored [livejournal.com profile] slodwick’s idea for fandom to send Martin Freeman postcards (which I discovered via [livejournal.com profile] emmagrant01) letting him know through his agency how much we love and appreciate him since he is made of kittens.

My only challenge lay in actually finding a postcard, and that was a much bigger challenge than I had anticipated.

My tale of postcard-hunting woe. )

I’ll mail it tomorrow, but for now—Martin Freeman, I hope you appreciate the effort I put forth to get this to you! :D

EDIT: Okay, it’s in the mail! Who’s next, fandom? Benedict Cumberbatch? (Yup. Address is here.)

EDIT 2: SQUEEING!!
shadowfireflame: (Default)
Every so often I listen to the lyrics of that song, and every time it just blows my mind. That last line just...*shiver* What an awesome song.

All that you touch
And all that you see,
All that you taste,
All you feel.

And all that you love
And all that you hate,
All you distrust,
All you save.

And all that you give
And all that you deal
And all that you buy,
beg, borrow, or steal.

And all you create
And all you destroy
And all that you do
And all that you say.

And all that you eat
And everyone you meet
And all that you slight
And everyone you fight.

And all that is now
And all that is gone
And all that's to come
And everything under the sun is in tune.

But the sun is eclipsed by the moon.

Wings

Oct. 21st, 2009 06:15 pm
shadowfireflame: (Default)
With all the ladybugs around, I am reminded anew of the sheer beauty of wings. Not so much how they flap but how they are so well hidden: the insect wings are flat and sleek under their thin shells, the birds with their Chinese fan wings folded carefully to their sides--so light, so delicate, yet so sturdy when they catch the air to allow something so natural, but so magical, as flying.

Raccoon

Oct. 19th, 2009 08:48 am
shadowfireflame: (Default)

raccoon

 

the trash containers

outside my dorm

are surrounded by a chainlink fence

and gate

so drunk people can’t climb in

and set fire to the trash

            in winter

the gate is chilled shut

and you can’t see inside

 

raccoons like to climb in the trash containers

 

i feel sorry

for the raccoon

            sitting down to a nice dinner with his family

who is squished

by a sack of beer bottles from last night’s party

coming at him

            as if lightning from on high
shadowfireflame: (Default)

In the fishbowl lounge lurk the gamers with their super high-tech laptops and games with two thousand pieces, pausing only for snacks or to tutor a wayward sophomore who has no idea what he is doing in his computer science course. The jocks in their basement triples yell drunkenly for their football teams, while next door the pot smokers wince and add more duct tape to the plastic bag covering their smoke detector. The movie girls burn the popcorn anyway, and the fire department takes its sweet time to respond, as usual. If there were ever a real fire, everyone would fumigate and die. The Thursday Afternoon Weekenders start their usual deafening, pumping disco party a few hours early, but only their immediate neighbors shatter their glass lamps against the wall in protest; no one else wants to be termed a douchebag for spoiling the party, and everyone’s always feeling the strain. It was raining today, so the germophobes take their afternoon shower and smear mud like blood in a horror movie all over the bathroom walls. My favorite was the perfect muddy handprint on the door, as if the girls were starring in a zombie movie. Classy. Half the students watch Comedy Central on their laptops and complain about the wireless and how much work they have to do. It’s a perfect time to catch up on one’s studies, but of course it is nearly impossible to study here. If there are any actual studious students, no one would ever know it because they hide in their rooms like wilting plants, pouring the best years of their lives into books for a degree that will make them a much better person in general, though not such a good burger flipper.

Disharmony

Oct. 6th, 2009 06:38 pm
shadowfireflame: (Default)
He dreads the daily trudge to his classroom and takes pains to lessen the blow. As he dons his baseball cap, sunglasses, and hoodie, a brief but fierce battle ensues, and the side against bringing the laptop along wins. He’s late again. He twirls his index finger around the touchscreen on his iPod to select a song, something loud and metallic, and he pushes the door out of his way and slouches into the crisp wind of autumn. He hunches, scowling, and kicks damp leaves in a riot of color from his path. His cell phone tells him disapprovingly that he shouldn’t have hit the snooze button this morning. Two sparrows twitter and chase each other in a dance around the tree he passes on his right. Behind his sunglasses, he squints against the morning sunlight, shoves his iPod and his hands into his pockets, and begins planning his next strategy for killing zombies in Resident Evil. The fiery trees join hands, forming a red-yellow-orange tunnel above him, in the realm outside of his attention.

Yesterday: Harmony.

Harmony

Oct. 5th, 2009 02:16 pm
shadowfireflame: (Default)
Her sense of smell has always been acute, but it is never more so than when she is here, surrounded by books. She breathes in, and the soft undertow of parchment, recycled pulp, hardened glue, crisp paper, and old leather surrounds her. It is a musty, dusty smell, stale like the air, but mild, gentle, like a moth’s wing. The books do not impose, but in the dim yellow light they beckon. The newer ones attempt to allure with their glossy covers and stitched pages, but she prefers the older ones, the ones whose leather spines unfurl with a series of crackles, as if stretching their wrinkled hands to the industrial-tiled sky and awakening in a puff of dust.

Tomorrow: Disharmony.
shadowfireflame: (Default)

Raindrops Fall

 

rain

            drops

fall

            little

suicides

            wholly

consumed

            by

puddles

            below

Blind

Sep. 27th, 2009 02:35 pm
shadowfireflame: (Default)
Based on observations of Middlefork Savannah.

Blind

 

Hold my hand and let me describe to you

The beauty of this flower in this savannah.

You cannot see, but here—

Lie back off the path a little

And rest in the grasses.

Do you feel the lush wet leaves on this plant?

Or the spiky stem brush your cheek?

Do you feel the wind push the trees push the flowers

Push the grasses push you?

A honeybee sways off his flight path on a gust of wind.

Feel the grass—are the blades smooth? Are they rough?

Are they dry? Are they moist?

Can you tell by touch if they are dying?

 

Listen—can you hear the bees and the flies,

The cicadas and sparrows and songbirds?

Do you hear the trees? They whisper to each other.

When it’s windy they grow upset and murmur

Reassurances to each other.

Sometimes they speak so loudly they drown our every other thing.

Breathe. Close your eyes.

Feel the cool drops of rain against the warm sun

And the wind brushing tufts of cotton and pollen and dry leaves and seeds onto you.

 

But this flower—oh, this one is a beauty.

No, don’t pick it, but touch. How peculiar.

It is a little sun, purple with a drop of sunshine yellow in the center.

Feel its texture, so very soft. You can barely feel the petals, can you?

Yet they are there. The center—touch it with the pad of your thumb, gently, gently.

A little grainy, perhaps. That is because the center of this little sun

Is made up of many tiny grains of pollen.

Little rough leaves at the base of its head attaching it to the stem.

Touch the stem. You could cut it so easily with your thumbnail.

This is the chain anchoring this ship to the sea as it sways and rocks on the wind.

The stem seems smooth and segmented, does it not?

As if assembled by a great botanist

With a very creative mind and a gluestick,

Recreating the rays of the sun with little purple ones on earth

That feed off the master, sucking in air and sucking up dirt,

Turning their small faces to the warm to bloom.


Heron

Sep. 26th, 2009 02:26 pm
shadowfireflame: (Default)
Based on observations from Middlefork Savannah.

Heron

 

On a dead log

In the shade of the sun

Near the stale green water

The blue heron

            waits

Still like a statue

            but with an imperceptible shift of its eye

            so that we know he knows we’re here

A turtle disappears into the algae

 

Dry dead leaves race each other past me to the water

The dead tree branches reach, fingerlike, from the pond towards the sky

They are the hands of a drowning man sinking

Glacier-slowly and unstoppably

Second by second down past the reeds,

The ivy vines, the dandelions, the leaved trees slipping into dotage

            into the green water pond

 

The trees here are dying.

            Their leaves turn golden brown from pasty green

            And curl at the edges and grow holes.

One disconnects from its branch at a blast of wind

And flutters to rest, an upside-down umbrella on the surface of the pond,

Where pitter-patter drops begin to plink the surface.

It smells of algae and wet

 

The heron

            bluegray feathered

            spindle legs

            reaching neck

with a bean-shaped torso

            a black stripe on his head

The heron

            tilts his head on his spindle neck and twitches a needle leg.

Thunder groans,

A train screeches and blares its way

Past his left. He blinks,

            And energy flows in a wave through his body from

            His feet to his neck to the horizontal black stripe on his head as

            He readies himself for flight.

With a cackling honk that reverberates over the pond water,

His feet push the dead log, leaving little ripples in the vibrating pond behind him.

He opens his bean body to reveal an impressive wingspan

Aligns his body in a diagonal arrow

And is gone, swooping over the pond to another

Dead tree branch

Pointing its finger to the heavens

In mute accusation

Or hope of rescue.


shadowfireflame: (Default)
This place is a memory. Fuzzy. Warm at the edges. Comforting. A retreat. I might remember the cool dewy grass and the warm, smiling sun. I might remember the moist feeling of my puppy licking my face, her soft fur tickling my cheek. I might remember my playhouse and swing set, an outdoor stuffed animal tea party, the wind in my hair and the whoosh of the trees around me.

I won’t remember the diseased trees, the ones with rotting cores, the ones whose leaves turned gray in the spring. I won’t remember the spiders in my playhouse, the occasional scorpion, how my swing set creaked and the screech that no amount of WD-40 could silence. I won’t remember the heat, the stifling heat, the swarms of gnats so thick they could literally suffocate you. I won’t remember my dog’s rancid breath or damp smell. I won’t remember burying her near the stump of the rotten tree and selling my toys in the garage. Because this place is a memory, and fuzzy at the edges.
shadowfireflame: (Default)

It feels like we’re in a snake pit. The chatter of cicadas reaches a rattlesnake crescendo until there is a symphony all around me—the Dolby Digital Surround Sound of Mother Nature. The chirping of birds and crickets. A bee hums past my ear. The whooshing of the leaves, usually what I would think of as a whisper, sounds more like crashing ocean waves. The noise is tremendous. An airplane roars past, and I become an experiment in the Doppler Effect.

I’m a little bit cold and a little bit finicky. I’m standing because I can see the log in front of me is absolutely crawling with ants and two or three spiders, and I don’t want to risk being bitten. At home, when I go to the woods, I have to be very careful or I’ll be eaten up by mosquitoes. Maybe I’m diabetic or something. Sure enough, I feel the telltale soft stings of two mosquitoes on my legs and I brush them off. I should remember not to wear shorts and ridiculous shoes on Mondays.

I lean down to touch the bark of the fallen tree log in front of me. It has no temperature but so much texture. It is rough but giving, as if I could impress my fingerprint upon it. I reach to feel some leaves. Some are like sandpaper, but others seem to be waxed, they’re so smooth and glossy. Most are soft and pliable with rougher veins on the underside. Their stems are sturdy, but my fingernail could break or bleed them.

I feel sorry for one of the bushes in front of me. It is dying, and its leaves are soft and crinkly. Though they’re not quite there yet, you can tell that they will soon be crunchy, crispy, like potato chips or the shells of cicadas all coming out at once after seventeen years of sleep.


shadowfireflame: (Default)

Hi, everyone! I'm starting a blog! Here's the first entry.

Thin 1
Grass, leaves. Eighteen faces, thirty-six legs. Chirping in the distance. A loud buzzing, mechanical. Whoosh. Crunching, clanging. Never quiet. A circle of stone. The grass inside our little circle is so much shorter than the grass outside it. Some plaques off to the side, and a bulletin board. Trees. A parking lot. Buses. Green, green, green, yellow, brown, orange, and pale bluegray. The leaves on the trees are moving, but only a little. The light moves more. Yellow flowers, a bee. Many bees. A high, wailing, repetitive beep. Coughs, sneezes. Leaves moving back and forth. Poles with mesh tied to them. Buildings I know away on the right, an unfamiliar wall of trees to the left. Bugs so small you can only see them in the sunlight. Paths to and from the clearing, and a single orange leaf in the middle. A very gentle cool breeze. Paper. Sunglasses on hair on heads on skin on earrings on bodies on shoes. A tickling sensation on my legs and ankles. A small flying insect makes its slow and erratic way from one blade of grass to another. Breath. Light and shadow.

Thick 1
My first thought is that it feels kind of like the battle at the Alamo—a desperate last stand. To be fair, not every college could provide such a peaceful place as this, but even here, the sounds of industry invade…or perhaps even they are a natural part of this environment. The savannah is pinned between a parking lot on one side and what sounds like a lawnmower or a leafblower but may actually be a chainsaw on the other. There is a whoosh, a rustle of the leaves, and the sunlight drips like water on the plaques around the savannah, the circular mesh and poles holding up fledgling trees, and the cool circular stone bench we sit on. A bee tickles my bare ankle and I brush it off without thinking, then feel bad and look around to see if I can find it again. I’ve probably confused it with my fruity body wash. Even I feel like an invasion of the space here, the peculiar sensation of both being a part of and apart from nature. But there are birds chirping and lovely yellow flowers and bees and eighteen people sitting in a circle trying to scribble some sense from it all, and that gives me hope.

Thin 2
Inside. Cream walls with different texture. Five computers, but one doesn’t turn on. Six students. Chatter and laughter from two students at a table. Fire extinguisher by the doorway. Eight wooden tables. Three light switches. Sixteen outlets and a cable jack. Clicking and rapid sounds like beetles’ wings as students stare at computers with frowns and furrowed brows. The rushing sound of pencil lead on paper and textbook pages turning. Fluorescent lights and bad posture. Dictionaries, Hacker’s Guides, and canisters holding pens and pencils. Wires. Backpacks, folders, calculators, jackets, books strewn about the room. Eight different entrances, three of them open, two of them locked. All the doors try to open when one does. Gray chairs that roll around, yellow wooden chairs, heavy purple plush chairs, a lurid green couch, a red half-wooden-half-plush chair, a teal-patterned plush chair. An empty bulletin board with many pushpins. Two gray trash cans. Stacks of blank serrated computer paper. Bluegray industrial carpet. Quiet conversations. A clock that ticks audibly, two minutes fast. Screeching sounds from the hallway. Doors open and close with hollow banging. Rustling of papers and rolling of plastic chair wheels on the carpet.

Thick 2
At the beginning of the semester, the Writing Center is always slow, so the tutors use that time to knock out homework. Five tutors are on duty, three in training, and one student client is working with a tutor in what must be at least a mildly distracting environment, exacerbated by a nearly constant stream of noise from the hallway of professors in their offices holding loud conversations and doors constantly opening and closing. There are eight different doorways to the room, and when one opens, the change in air pressure makes all of the doors rattle ominously in their frames. There are probably enough chairs to house a small army: gray chairs that roll around, yellow wooden chairs, heavy purple plush chairs, a lurid green couch, a red half-wooden-half-plush chair, a teal-patterned plush chair…yet during meetings, there never seem to be enough. Fluorescent lights buzz overhead ever so imperceptibly, and everyone is hunched in the chairs as if the lights themselves sap energy. The tantalizing smell of microwaved lasagna begins to permeate the room from the hallway, and on cue, all the tutors glance sideways at the clock on the wall. Everyone is ravenous, and there is the occasional sound of a stomach in peril. The math students hold their foreheads in their hands and slump over textbooks while producing the rushing sound of pencil lead on paper. The English students stare at computers with frowns and furrowed brows, the keyboards making rapid clicking sounds like beetles’ wings beating very quickly. The clock on the wall gaily tick-tocks its way towards six, two excruciating minutes fast.



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