About Me

My photo
was sold to gypsies as a small child for half a tank of gas and a kitten. She was quickly, if not easily, retrieved by her mother after the kitten was revealed to be an Eldrich horror looking for a ride into the nearest metropolitan area to begin wreaking havoc. It's been a bone of contention between Maria and her family ever since, whether the Horror-kitten would've been more or less trouble than she grew up to be.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Pro-Choice is Pro-Freedom

Abortion is a hot topic in every election. Even when there aren’t politicians using the issue as a platform for their campaign, there’s usually one state or another that’s trying to pass legislation for or against legal abortions. The controversy covers both moral and fiscal issues. Some say that making abortions illegal will minimize them, that abortions suck tax dollars from a morally divided constituency. Conservatives in both parties argue that putting children up for adoption is a cheaper and morally better alternative. We must strike down the legalization of abortion since abortion is murder of the unborn; a criminal, sinful act that women need to be dissuaded from by the threat of federal prosecution since those who seek them obviously lack the moral fortitude to pay for their promiscuity with pregnancy and birth.

However, statistics prove women are just as likely to get abortions in countries where it is illegal as in countries where it is legal. There are more abortions per 100 women in South America (where it illegal) than in North America. Half of all abortions worldwide are illegal and 70,000 women die every year from them. 5 million women are maimed or injured every year. In fact, illegal abortions account for 13% of maternal mortality worldwide. Women in countries where abortion is illegal still have the procedure, they just die in the process. In Eastern Europe, where abortion is largely illegal, there are more abortions per pregnancy than live births (105 per 100 women.) Western Europe, where it is almost universally legal, has the lowest abortion rate in the world, probably due to superior sex education and the availability of birth control.

But suppose for a moment, that abortions were not only illegal in the United States, but that women just stopped having them of their own free will. Children are born to women who have been kicked out of their homes by unsympathetic families, women without the money to support them, or who don’t want them. Children are born into families who lack the ability to properly love or care for these children. If “Put them up for adoption,” the rallying cry of conservatives, is observed, out of the several thousand children that would have been aborted, many will indeed be taken in by loving families. But what happens to those who aren’t adopted? As children grow older, their chances of being adopted grow smaller and smaller. Many will find themselves in foster care, where there is a long history of abuse and neglect. There are about half a million children and youth in foster care right now. A recent study found that 12-18 months after leaving foster care 27% of the males and 10% of the females had been incarcerated, 33% were receiving public assistance, 37% had not finished high school, and 50% were unemployed. How will the nation respond when taxes are raised so that foster homes, orphanages, hospitals and the like can care for these unwanted children? Then there are the children who are born with physical and mental defects to consider. Some of their families will be able to afford the care necessary to raise these children, while those who cannot will be forced to turn to the government for financial aid. Lacking that choice, parents, siblings, and friends will be confronted with providing their children a lower quality of life than they would have had otherwise. I do not believe in a God who would want millions of children to live lives in pain, poverty, and shame. That’s my belief; can I lobby for federal legislation now?

Time does not allow a discussion of children of rape or fetuses whose births endanger the mothers. Regardless, I ask in both the cases stated, why force a child - that didn’t choose to be here in the first place – to live in a family that may not love it, be able to care for it, or put it in harms way; to be condemned at conception to a life that sets them at the bottom of the social and/or financial hierarchy?

The religious right often cites "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart” (Jeremiah 1:4-6) as irrefutable proof that abortion is wrong and a sin. But this quote could just as easily mean that before a child is born, there is already a place for them in heaven. “In my Father’s house there are many mansions. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?” (John. 14:2) could easily be used to support this idea and could just as easily be refuted by someone who disagrees with it. Another less well-known biblical saying is “it is better to sow your seed in the belly of a whore than to cast them upon the ground” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-9). This and the scripture from which it’s taken are generally accepted to mean that masturbation is a sin; some go so far as to claim it’s a mortal sin. To me, this begs the question, if a woman’s reproductive organs are to be monitored by government on the basis of religion, shouldn’t men be watched as well? Old Testament writings such as these are derived from an oral history that has been subjected to centuries of change before it was set in writing. In addition, the doctrine of Christianity was debated for centuries by philosophers such as Anselm, St. Thomas Aquinas, William of Ockham, and others. And the texts we know and use are only a small grouping of hundreds of documents written at the same point in history as those we claim and accept to be God’s teachings.

America has often defined itself by the freedom of faiths allowed within its’ borders. This includes agnostic as well as Christian belief systems. So if a particular religion chooses to define life as beginning at conception, that religious view should not be imposed upon people who do not necessarily follow that teaching. Once an ideology is legally imposed, we take another step towards becoming a theocracy instead on a democracy. A typical conservative religious stance is to say that abortion is tantamount to murder which is a sin and punishable crime in the eyes of God. But the murder of someone who’s already alive has visible consequences. The murdered man or woman whose life was already in process had friends, family, loved ones, a job, dreams and goals. With their murder there is harm and loss not only to them but to the community since nothing remains where that person once was. The consequences of “murdering” a fetus are not so clear since we know so little of when sentience begins. We don’t know if the fetus had dreams or aspirations in the womb. We know little to nothing about it and the void it leaves is not so large.

We do, however, know that the mother suffers. We can’t assess how little or how much this differs from woman to woman, but few people are so devoid of emotion or compassion to be completely apathetic about an abortion. It is a difficult choice to make and not one made lightly or rashly by most women. It is a choice which I sincerely hope I will never have to make. I don’t know how I’d choose, but I know I want the choice to be mine - not dictated by people who will never face the consequences and who hold me to a belief system I neither adhere to or agree with.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Inkdeath. I haz it.

On the table sits a new book.
It’s one I’ve waited for for months.
Beside it is a half-empty mug of day-old coffee
which I keep forgetting to put in the sink.
The world outside the living room window is a depressing gray
and I hope to find a brighter world waiting at the end of 663 pages.

The story begins with a rustle of pages
and I’m pleased by the sound as the spine cracks in the book.
Before me is a world written in black and white, never gray.
Just as in real life, time has passed for the characters in long, weary months
since the last book; a few pages and into the story I’ve begun to sink.
I still haven’t dumped the old coffee.

I don’t know if there’s any coffee
in this story; it never comes up on any of the pages.
Wait, I think one chapter has Darius pouring some down the sink.
Or am I thinking of the previous book?
It’s been a while since I read that one, probably months
have passed, and memories fade and blur in my matter that is gray.

Outside the sky is a darker gray,
gray as the day-old coffee,
as we slip into the winter months.
I slip further into enticing pages
or try to before I’m distracted from my book
by a crash coming from the kitchen sink.

I FINALLY dump the old coffee in the sink
and chase away the cat whose fur is gray
and caused the crash which drew me from my book.
Suddenly I want fresh coffee
and settle in the kitchen as I find my lost pages;
the chapters are swallowing the days, weeks, and months.

Time speeds up as chapters cover hours instead of months.
The climax draws near and hope begins to sink
as our hero is forced to write his death on pages
of the whitest white while his heart is filled with gray –
I pause to take a sip of coffee –
and I’m anxious as he seals his fate with a book.

Turning from the pages, the sky is a pale ice gray
of a winter dawn - frozen months - and the cold stars sink
as I sip my coffee and finish the book.

Hurray English homework!!! I keep forgetting that I LIKE to write poetry. Of course I've spent the last 3 or 4 years focusing on writing prose, so I'll forgive myself this time. I just finished reading Inkdeath by Cornelia Funke and I loved it. So there.

This is a sestina. A sestina is a poetry form with six sestets and a concluding tercet, thus a sestina has 39 lines. The six words which end each line of a sestet are un-rhymed and are repeated in different orders throughout the remaining stanzas. In the closing tercet, all six words are used with two per line. Sestinas originated in France in the twelfth century, in the poetry of the troubadours, and is one of several forms in the complex, elaborate, and difficult closed style called trobar clus.

The More You Know...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Unicorns and Obama

Once again, the zombie vs. unicorn debate rages on in another corner of the blogosphere. The latest hub of derision finds its home on the FiveAwesomeFansofYA Community run by the fabulous Devyn of Faerie Drink fame. After being invited to the foray, I felt the need to put in my two cents. Here it is, devoid of sign ups and facebook. Enjoy.

I'd never given much thought to the whole "unicorns vs. zombies" argument. But when the subject became too prevalent to ignore, I realized "wait, I'm a unicorn person!" This came as a bit of a surprise to me. I've always been a bit of a horror fan, what with the crazed grandmother who thought ghost stories and Buffy the Vampire Slayer were proper ways to send a five and six year old to bed, so initially, it seemed that the obvious answer would be zombies. However, while I enjoy Shaun of the Dead as much as the next person -blame crazy grandmother for obsessive love of British comedy as well-, I found myself being pulled closer and closer towards Team Unicorn.

The easy answer would be that, as a girl, it's all about the ponies.I won't deny this completely, seeing as how I do love horses. I also love sharp, pointed objects like swords, and as Holly Black has pointed out on numerous occasions, unicorns have swords ON THEIR FRICKIN' HEADS. I'm paraphrasing there, obviously, but you get the point.

Zombie's, as it is universally agreed upon, represent the domination of conformism in society and our fate. But unicorns, ah unicorns represent magic and hope. Just like Obama. I know many people who think magic and voodoo is to blame for Obama. Which is okay. Personally, I blame failed and corrupt government programs and bio-weapon testing for Bush and Cheney, and zombies. To each her own. The only true worth of zombies is to remind us what happens when we stay at malls too long and make sure we always carry blunt objects with us in case of an attack. So while zombies may have ruled for the past 8 years, I say it's high time for unicorns to rise up and rule with their magic and sword bequeathed heads! Remember! Unicorns support Obama, while a world filled with zombies is a world run by Cheney-bot with his cold, metal, zombie resistant heart; a unicorn on the other hand could pierce right through that sucker.

Viva la Team Unicorn!!!

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Twilight Saga

The Twilight Saga (Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse, and Breaking Dawn) is the world wide, best selling series of books written by Stephenie Meyer. The series chronicle the life and death of teenager Bella Swan as she falls in love with a local vampire, Edward Cullen. Seventeen year-old Bella Swan has moved to the rainy town of Forks, Washington to live with her father, a self-sacrificing act meant to allow her mother private time to be with her new husband. On her first day at her new school, she observes five ridiculously beautiful students who seem to exist separate from the rest of the student body. These are the Cullens, adopted children of the handsome and talented Dr. Carlisle Cullen and his wife. The bizarre behavior of these students, Edward in particular, holds Bella's attention and leads her to seek out answers in the small town.

Sounds interesting? Well.... Personally, I don't really like The Twilight Saga. To me, it embodies the fears of all writers: having a story you wish to tell, told badly by a lack of skill. I see in Stephenie Meyer's tale a wasted potential, a story that could have been excellent but wasn't. It makes me sad, for her readers who are unaware of what they're missing, for other authors with better stories but less luck, and for her. Mostly for her. I doubt she's unaware of her short comings. But then again, she's laughing all th way to the bank, so I'll probably be rethinking that sentiment.

The Twilight Saga is a romance before anything else. Once you accept that, it's a bit easier to take. But don't expect a series like Libba Bray's Gemma Doyle Trilogy or Holly Black's Modern Faerie Tales, where the romance plays second fiddle to the plot. the plots of those books focus on mysteries and magic, and girls who find that they ARE the magic they stumble into, not hapless bystanders. With that said, I despair of Bella Swan. Reading all the books, I was confused. What is Stephenie Meyer demanding of her protagonist? Is she special or isn't she? We are meant to believe that Bella is different from other human girls. That difference is supposedly part of the lure that attracts so many of the male characters to her. Yet her thoughts are so ordinary and commonplace as to be boring.

This isn't even touching on the Cinderella complex prevalent throughout her relationships with Edward and later with her best friend Jacob. Are readers meant to believe that being an especially weak and danger-prone woman will attract loving, perfect men? I suppose she's right..., if those men also follow you and worry over every step you take, watch you in your sleep, dictate that you can and cannot see people depending on how dangerous he deems them to be, and then kidnaps you and disables your car when you disobey. Yes, the perfect boyfriend indeed. There were moments in all four books which forced me to put them down for fear that I'd hurl them at something.

However, there were also moments that were genuinely entertaining and interesting. And the crazier actions of the characters can often seem to be halfway justified. I often found myself smiling at scenes, regardless of my attitude towards the characters in them. While the first book, Twilight, was a boring read, the other books of the series managed to keep my interest more easily. In New Moon and Eclipse, the emotional turmoil Bella feels about vampire Edward and her werewolf best friend Jacob kept me intrigued and somewhat sympathetic. In Breaking Dawn, curiosity about Bella's adjustments to being a vampire, and sympathy for Jacob this time,kept me reading. Moments, however, are not enough to make a good book, and for the good moments that kept the pace of the novels moving, there were just as many, if not more, that left me annoyed and ultimately bored.

The most annoying part of The Twilight Saga, in my opinion, and the main cause for my taking so long to cave and read them, is not the books themselves. For starters, The Twilight Saga is not just a series of books; it is quickly becoming a subculture, an "Empire." No, the most annoying part is the fan girls. A very vocal minority of Twilight fan girls, dubbed "Twihards," are often rabid and ignorant in their defense of the series. Questioning or criticizing the books for any reason online often results in instantaneous attacks of "I hate U!" "Ur EVIL!!!" and "NO WAY! Twilight is the best book eva!!!!!1!1" When prodded, some of the fans who proclaim the latter will admit that Twilight is the only book they've read on their own since childhood. This is not to say that all fans of The Twilight Saga are like this. In fact, I know two very reasonable fans of the series who know my opinion of the books and still have refrained from flooding my Facebook and deviantart accounts with Twilight spam. Thanks girls. But the "Twihards" ave been a negative influence on the my opinion of the books and have kept many other people from reading the series out of fear that such lunacy is contagious.

To Stephenie Meyer's credit, she has created something, well, "novel" in her novel. She has created a world of characters who are likable but empty. Readers can impose their own likes and dislikes on characters, making it easier to think of Bella's friends as their own. Bella, also, is open to interpretation. In spite of the books being first person narratives, Bella doesn't offer much information about herself that makes her an individual. Edward Cullen is even more vacant. to quote John Green, another author of young adult books, "Edward Cullen is a very beautiful but very empty vessel into which we stuff all our hopes and aspirations." I agree with him. Yet, while this may be unappealing to some readers, like myself, others have found it's exactly what they want from their characters

The "empty vessel" aspect of these characters makes the books perfect for their audience: teenagers. It appeals to the narcissism that is almost a prerequisite for teenage girls, myself included. The ease with which girls can fall into the character of Bella is a major selling point of the books. It definitely has it's perks, as does the ability to customize the more mundane aspects of the characters of Edward and his family. Stephenie Meyer started as a fan fiction author, and The Twilight Saga bears some of the marks of fan-fic writing, namely self-insertion. It's very easy to become Bella.

In the end, it seems impossible to predict who will and who won't like The Twilight Saga. Some friends who normally share my taste in books love the series, while others I know, who read books I loathe, think these books are juvenile trash. If you like Dracula, Interview with a Vampire, Hellsing, or The Southern Vampire Mysteries series, the odds appear 50/50 on whether you'd like or dislike Twilight. Of one thing I'm sure, though. The Twilight Saga, in spite of its size, is easy and quick to read through, and they are the variety of book which you can pick up midway through and start reading without much difficulty. Twilight might be too young for college readers, but if you want something to read that is not school related and doesn't require the use of too many brain cells, you could do worse.

The Twilight movie is coming out November 21, and I will be braving the lines with my two Twilight-liking friends to go see it. Who knows, I might like the movie.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

V is for Victory

"Remember, remember the 5th of November,
The Gunpowder Treason and Plot.
I can think of no reason
Why the Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot."

Today is Guy Fawkes day, a holiday in Britian which remembers a man who died trying destroy a government which repressed his religion. It mocks him for his failure and praises God for it. I prefer to think of it instead as a day to remember a man and his compatriots who believed in and desired their freedom so much that they were willing to die for.
I skip ahead to "V for Vendetta," where the world has gone so wrong that the effigy of Guy Fawkes is taken up again in order to fight a corrupt government and liberate society from a secular and discriminatory power. I can't help but think that Obama's victory last night was a decisive step away from a future that would need an extremist hero like V.
God Bless Obama, and may the hopes you've inspired in us lead this country back to the nature that made it great.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The War Against Cancer

This morning, on my way to and from voting, NPR was talking about the War on Cancer. The topic is always prevalent, but it has some extra attention today asThe specialists they featured were talking about what cnacer is, how to fight, how much and how little they know about it, and the kind of lifestyle necessary to best prevent cancer.
I understand how important it is to find a cure for cancer. I've lost two grandparents to it, and my mother might have breast cancer; we don't know for sure yet. She has a lump, though, and is going to try make it to a doctor later this week or early next. However, listening to this program, I was annoyed. Because at no point in this, or any other program I've heard recently, has anyone addressed the socioeconomic aspect of cancer in its developement or treatment.
Yes, a healthy diet of fruits and vegetables will help prevent many types of cancer. But are these specialists aware of how much the cost of fresh fruits and veggies adds up to? Produce is expensive. For many, my own family included, the choice is between filling the fridge with good foods, or having electricity to power that fridge with. For others, the choice is even more drastic. My mother works as a music specialist in Prince George's Co. Maryland, and for many of the children she teaches, the meal at school is the only one they have all day. And while upper administration countinues to give themselves raises and pats on the back, there is no money to provie these children with lunches better than pizza, hamburgers, wilted veggies and chocolate milk. The same families who have to make these choices rarely have adequate healthcare to boot.
These programs irritate me because they fail to see that having the answer doesn't make it accessible. Cancer rates will continue to rise unless that fact is accepted and addressed. I hope that Obama, who has lost two members of his family to cancer, will continue to provide cancer research, and other disease research for that matter, with the funding it needs to provide better understanding of what patients and doctors are up against.