About Me

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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.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Scientology Has the Worst Week Ever!

It has been a very bad week for Scientology so far. And to think, it's only Tuesday!

Scientologists convicted of Fraud

Paul Haggis Renounces Church of Scientology in Blistering Letter

Personally, I find Scientology a very fishy religion. But then again, I'm generally against all organized religion anyway, so my opinion really doesn't count for much. Talk amongst yourselves. I'll be sitting here, looking at my 0 comments.

Monday, October 26, 2009

President Obama and the Curious Case of the Nobel Peace Prize

There are moments in history which, upon remembering, you will be able to recall exactly where you were and what you were doing. The assassination of Kennedy, the collapse of the Berlin Wall, and 9/11 are all embedded into the American consciousness. Now, for me, listed among those life changing and world altering events, is the moment I heard the news that President Obama had won the Nobel Peace Prize. I recall that morning perfectly. As I heard the news, a strawberry Pop-tart hovering inches before my mouth, I looked at the TV screen and thought to myself, ‘what the hell?’

I want to make two things perfectly clear before I go any further.

1. I AM an Obama supporter

2. I am NOT totally happy with ever choice he's made since his election, nor with the number of issues he's failed to address.

But I like to give my elected officials the benefit of the doubt. They deal with a ton of issues, all of which have hundreds of crucial details politicians have to keep track of in order to make informed decisions. How many of us have the time to learn and understand the reasoning behind the decisions politicians make anyway?

But still, what has Obama done in the past 11 months that makes him worthy of a Nobel Peace prize? Was there a deficit of candidates? I found myself asking this whenever the subject came up. Surely there had to be someone else.

In fact, there were a record number of nominations this year for the Nobel Peace Prize. There were over 205 nominees for 2009, besting 2005’s record setting tally of 199. Of the 205, 172 were individuals and 33 were organizations. Obviously, Obama didn’t have a lack of competition. Some highlights of the list of 2009 nominees include Denis Mukwege, Sima Samar, Ghazi bin Muhammad, Greg Mortenson, Piedad Córdoba, and Wei Jingsheng.

Dr. Denis Mukwege helps women of the Democratic Republic of Congo recover from rape. Congo has one of the highest rates of assault and sexual sadism in the world. Women are raped and tortured with mind boggling frequency and Dr. Mukwege and his clinic is the only place left to turn. Dr. Mukwege has done surgery on over 21,000 women, set up wards and clinics for their care and health, helping victims to physically reclaim a part of themselves which has been brutally taken away.

Sima Samar was the first Hazara woman to obtain a medical degree from Kabul University. After her husband disappeared during the communist regime in 1984, she put her education to use by building hospitals and schools for girls and women in Afghanistan. Currently, Samar is the chairwoman of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission and UN special rapporteur on human rights in Sudan.

Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad is a philosopher who, in the wake of 9/11, has encouraged religious dialogue, centering especially on the relationship between Islam and other faiths. In 2005, he brought many prominent Islamic scholars together to work out a “theological counter-attack” against terrorism. Muhammad also signed an influential letter, A Common Word Between Us, in response to a lecture by Pope Benedict XVI which was deemed by many to be an attack on Islam. The letter read, “Without peace and justice between these two religious communities there can be no meaningful peace in the world.”

Greg Mortenson has built over 84 schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan, educating children outside the limitations of religion. He also wrote the book Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace…One School at a Time which is now required reading for military leaders and humanitarians. Mortenson has been shot at, kidnapped, and has two fatwas issued against him by local clerics for teaching girls. His mantra; politics won’t bring peace, people will bring peace.

Piedad Córdoba is a Colombian senator whose work negotiating with the guerilla group Farc has earned her the nickname “woman of peace.” Córdoba has helped negotiations with Farc and in 2007 secured the release of 16 hostages. Though political opponents claim that she is too close to Farc, the success of her work speaks for itself. Regarding her opponents claims, she says the political division with only be solved with negotiations and dialogue. “We have to finish this conflict with words and dialogue.”

Wei Jingsheng is called the father of Chinese democracy. A former electrician, Jingsheng became the figurehead of the democratic movement. He was jailed for 18 years for his democratic activities until international pressure forced the Chinese government to release him. During his imprisonment, he wrote letters to the regime on toilet paper which was smuggled from his cell and printed. Even after his release, he openly criticized the communist regime and called for democratization, leading to another jail sentence. Jingsheng famously wrote the Fifth Modernization; “We want to be the masters of our own destiny. We need no gods or emperors.” This is Jingsheng’s seventh nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize.

President Obama was awarded the Peace Prize “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.” So, Obama won because those riots and black power revolutions southern ministers and governors were warning us about never came to pass? Okay, I might be being a bit too harsh. Nobel officials said they chose Obama to rally support behind his initiatives to end nuclear arms, ease tension with the Muslim world and stress diplomacy and cooperation rather than unilateralism. All of these are good things. Personally, I think President Obama has done a lot of great things, and that he can and will definitely achieve more during his presidency. But in the face of the other candidates and their achievements, I’m not entirely convinced he’s done enough yet.

Apparently, Obama doesn’t think he’s done enough either. Nobel award winners receive S1.4 million cash prize and President Obama has given his prize money to charity. I'm guessing he wanted to keep the peace.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

November Horrorscopes

Come and read the horoscopes they didn't want you to know about.


Your roommates say they love your new haircut, but you know they’re lying. However, the stars foretell that your plan to sneak into their rooms, cut off their hair, and make a wig will only end in tears.


In the wake of Balloon Boy, your planned flight across the American Midwest in a home-made dirigible will not go over well. Rolling along Route 66 in one of those giant hamster balls still has potential though.


Beware public transportation this month. The Turkey Jihad begins.


Stay away from the barn lounge. The zombie squirrels have returned and are lying in wait to steal your lunch money and net book.


Your love of show tunes will be surprisingly helpful during that pop quiz in Studies in Mythology next week.


The stars say not to worry; your Thanksgiving turkey will turn out perfect. The pie is a bad idea though. A VERY bad idea. Also, the cake is a lie.


No, they're not coming back. The stars want you to quit asking.


Your attempt to hijack a float and start a dance party at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade will not make you the new Ferris Beuler. You will instead be dubbed "Balloon Boy 2: Helium Boogaloo" after an angry mob ties you to the Pikachu balloon and lets go.


The stars say "Please ask again later."


We know what you're thinking: was that hottie you kissed at the MFS Halloween Bash really a girl? Only her plastic surgeon knows for sure.


Your new lab partner is really cute. The stars hope it's enough to save them from your wrath when they turn out to be dumber than toast and you're stuck carrying their work load.


Your letter from Hogwarts is going to arrive next week!

Once again, I completely ignore my homework in favor of blogging. At least this kind of counts as school work... sort of... in a manner of speaking. :3

Saturday, October 17, 2009

What's In a Name? Trouble

Almost all creation myths feature women, with their roles and their natures, be they good, evil, or neutral, varying form myth to myth. However, one theme seems to be consistent through a variety of cultures. women in myths, if they have names, are trouble.

Arguably, all women in myths, be they creation myths or otherwise, cause problems for the inevitably male character or protagonist. As these stories come from patriarchal societies, women are usually either in back ground roles or villainess’, and very few have names. But when these female characters are given names in myths, it usually signifies some amount of importance or power. Three examples of this in creation myths are Tiamat, Isis, and Eve.

Tiamat Being Chased by Marduk

Tiamat is the mother goddess of Babylonian and Sumerian myths. She comes from the creation myth, the Enuma Elish. Tiamat begins as a benevolent mother goddess, discouraging her husband from killing their noisy children. However, after those children conspire to murder her husband, Apsu, Tiamat becomes vengeful. She raises an army of monsters and demons to destroy her children and their offspring, led by her son/consort, Kingu. Tiamat is so powerful that none of the other gods can defeat her and her army. Tiamats’ power is even more impressive considering that each successive god is more powerful than his father, and it was her great-grandson, Ea, who murdered her husband. It’s only after Marduk, the son of Ea, fights Tiamat and her forces that she is defeated. Tiamat is already a force of chaos, her name meaning ‘bitter water’ or ‘salt water.’ Without Apsu, ‘sweet water,’ her creations are all demonic and evil in nature. We’re shown in this myth that even before Tiamat turns her attitude and creative powers to destruction, she is the chaotic and less pleasant side of her partnership with Apsu.


In Egyptian creation myths, Isis is the goddess who holds her own against the male gods. While she isn’t the only goddess given a name, Isis often considered the most powerful. She is one of the nine major gods of the Egyptian pantheon, part of the Ennead and partnered with Osiris, King of the Afterlife and a god of order. Isis is neither completely good, not completely evil, but she is a powerful goddess. In “The Legend of the Sun Worshippers,” an Egyptian creation myth, Isis poisons Ra, the sun god and ruler of the heavens, making him very ill. She tricks Ra into revealing his true name, claiming she needs it to heal him. His true name holds his power, and by revealing it, that power is now given to Isis. Isis doesn’t appear to do anything with the power of his name. However, Ra is still very ill and eventually dies. He enters the underworld in the company of several other gods, creating day and night. Isis is among the gods who go with him, fighting off demons in the darkness. In other myths, though, we’re told that Horus, Isis’ son, takes over some of Ra’s duties, including being god-pharaoh to the humans, so perhaps there was more to her plan than just equalizing the distribution of power.

Eve in the Garden with Adam and the Serpent

Eve is the first woman in Judeo-Christian creation mythology, created out of a rib of the first man, Adam. As creations of God, whom we are told is good, we are led to infer that Adam and Eve are good by proxy. In Genesis, however, ‘good’ may well equate with ‘naïve.’ Eve is tempted by a serpent to eat the fruit of a tree in the garden; specifically, a tree which she and Adam have been told not to eat from. God had explained that if they ate from that tree, they would die; however, considering neither Eve nor Adam knew they were naked, it’s questionable if they understood the concept of death. The serpents’ reasoning for eating the fruit made more sense to Eve, so she ate it along with Adam. When God found out they had disobeyed him, Adam and Eve were banished from the Paradise they had lived in, and because Adam had blamed his disobedience on Eve, she was additionally punished with menstruation and painful childbirth.

All three of these women caused significant problems for their male peers and counterparts. But what makes them unique, and possibly is why they were given names, is that they all held power equal or comparable to their male peers and counterparts. Tiamat and Isis stand as powerful female deities in otherwise male dominated societies and religions, defeating the male gods around them; while Eve’s curiosity got mankind kicked out of paradise in her own mythology, her extra punishment coming solely at the hands of a man eager to pass the blame.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Vampires for Adults: The Sookie Stackhouse Books

Over at Casa D'Isidoro, 2008 was dubbed the Year of the Vampire. Last year, I finally read Interview with a Vampire, I caved to peer pressure and read the Twilight Saga, and I discovered The Southern Vampire Mysteries by Charlaine Harris. Better known as the Sookie Stackhouse books and the inspiration for the HBO drama True Blood, the Southern Vampire Mysteries chronicle the life of barmaid Sookie Stackhouse.

Life is hard for a telepath. Sookie Stackhouse can tell you all about it. But there are bigger problems at hand then knowing which of your neighbors is having an affair or which customer is checking out your butt. The world is still reeling three years after vampires ’came out of the coffin,’ revealing their existence after a Japanese company begins manufacturing synthetic blood. While society struggles to adjust, Sookie wants nothing more than to meet a vampire herself. Her wish is granted when Bill Compton, a vampire and her new neighbor, comes into the bar one night. But her fascination with her new undead neighbor frequently gets put on the backburner as trouble finds her.

In the first book, a string of violent murders sets her small town on edge. Things only get worse when her grandmother becomes one of the victims and her brother is listed as the prime suspect. In book two, Sookie is employed by the vampires of Dallas to investigate a missing vampire. In book three, Bill goes missing and Sookie, with the help of some other vampires and werewolves, has to save. This goes on for nine books and counting, each plot involving more and more of this vast, magical, and dangerous world which Charlaine Harris has created.

The Sookie Stackhouse books are most definitely easy reads, but they are surprisingly intense. Charlaine Harris tackles everything from prejudice and hate crimes to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in her novels and handles them all with sympathy, common sense, and humor. Among my favorite traits of these books are the characters especially the narrator. Sookie struggles with her gift, her morals, and her mortality; she wants to help people but she also wants her own life and freedom, something which she has to fight increasingly hard for. And told through her narration, the world seen through her eyes, there are no good guys in these books. Everyone is flawed and human, even when they aren’t. The vampires are struggling to reacclimate to human society and laws after doing what they’ve wanted for so long, some more easily than others. The werewolves are caught in perpetual lies as they have to hide what they are from their own families. The fairies are always at war with each other as they argue about their existence in relation to humans. And the humans are fighting to come to grips with a world very different from what they thought it was.

My only big complaint about the books is that the cast is often too large. It’s difficult with each progressing book to keep track of who’s who. Even more disappointing is that the massive cast often forces more central characters to the back ground. In some books, fan favorites Bill, Eric, and Pam are only voices on the phone or thought of by Sookie in passing. In the latest book, Dead and Gone, Bill Compton was never there. I know that I’m not the only reader to be irritated by this.

But never doubt that I am a fan of this series. Overall Charlaine Harris handles some very deep topics with surprising tact and humor. Sookie’s voice is strong and convincing, and I’m always happy to see another book featuring her and her friends on the shelf.

The Southern Vampire Mysteries include: Dead Until Dark, Living Dead in Dallas, Club Dead, Dead to the World, Dead as a Doornail, Definitely Dead, All Together Dead, From Dead to Worse, and Dead and Gone.

Rating: 4 out of 5 Mushrooms

13 Movies to Watch for Halloween

My staff at the Catonsville Bureau took a vote on what our favorite scary movies were. We think these movies really capture fear and should be a part of any Halloween movie marathon.

13) Arachnophobia - Hate spiders? So do we. That’s why we’re starting off our list with Arachnophobia, a movie where the spiders are big, bad, and taking over small American towns. Our favorite scene: discovery of the GIANT spiders’ web in the barn.

Align Center

12) The Haunting – Based on The Haunting of Hill House, a novel by Shirley Jackson, this movie drags a group of paranormal investigators to the notorious Hill House, long rumored to be haunted or cursed. One member of the group, Eleanor, becomes attached to the house, enjoying the attention afforded her as the forces of the house make her their target. The classic, black and white 1963 version is a fabulous and hypnotizing mix of the supernatural and the psychological. Fans of older movies, and horror that doesn’t rely on guts and gore, will hopefully find a new favorite in this.

11) The Grudge – The reception of Japanese horror in America has been mixed to say the least. But The Grudge, featuring our favorite Slayer, Sarah Michelle Gellar, has perhaps had the least lost in translation. Yeah, the plot may start falling apart halfway through, but there’s a 50/50 chance you’ll be so caught up in the creepy imagery you won’t notice. As if children and attics weren’t scary enough.

10) The Blair Witch Project – This movie earns a spot in the top thirteen for a couple of reasons. First, it’s based on a real Maryland legend. Second, this movie re-imagined horror, presenting the story as a real-life documentary, and sending people into a panic that would’ve made H.G. Wells proud. Even knowing that the movie is complete fiction, it’s so well crafted that it’s easy to suspend disbelief for 86 minutes and believe that, somewhere in the woods of Maryland, unknown supernatural forces are out to get you.

9) Carrie – Forget Revenge of the Nerds, Carrie is simply about revenge. A shy and abused girl is made even more of an outcast by teasing from her high school classmates. Little do they know the target of their antagonism is telekinetic. Stephen King is an undisputed fright master, giving us reason to fear what we consider the mundane. In Carrie, we’re warned to be on our best behavior to each other. Whether you’re watching the 76 version or its’ remake, Carrie will make you thank your stars that no one you ever teased was telekinetic.

8) Saw – A serial killer kidnaps people and traps them in situations which usually result in the kidnapped parties either killing themselves or each other. And we, the audience, get to sit back and watch the moral dilemmas ensue. Saw has spawned five sequels, so filmmakers are obviously hitting the right notes with viewers.

7) Texas Chain Saw Massacre – Texas Chain Saw Massacre is classic horror. Five youths find their vacation turned into a nightmare as they stumble across a crazed and cannibalistic family in the Texas hills. Chain saws and meat hooks are repurposed in new and terror inducing ways. This movie continues to withstand the test of time, facing off with increasingly gory movies of the same genre and three sequels.

6) Psycho – A true oldie-but-goodie. Hitchcock may have spawned the trend of half naked-to-naked women in horror movies, but he does it with class. The search for a missing woman brings her sister and lover to the motel where she was last seen. As they search continues, suspicion falls on the motels’ owner. This movie puts mother-son relationships in a scary new light.

5) It – Beware clowns, sewers, and Tim Curry. It, a horrific monster that lurks in the sewer system of small Maine town and eats local children, is another product of the twisted mind of Stephen King. Seven children join together to defeat It – disguised as Pennywise the clown-, and appear to succeed. But 30 years later, the evil reemerges, and the kids, now grown, must reunite to bring it down forever. The movie runs over three hours, but all that means is you get an intermission to refill on popcorn and check your bathroom sink for blood.

(4)Nightmare on Elm Street – This 80’s classic would be in our good graces just because it introduces us to Johnny Depp. But even more potent than the future Captain Jack, is the horror that is Freddy Kruger. Unlike other horror movie villains, Freddy doesn’t lurk in a house or by a camp ground which you can avoid. Freddy hunts you where you can’t escape him; in your dreams. This movie will have you setting your alarms and overworking your coffee machine after just one watch, we guarantee.

3) Halloween - Beginning our top three is Halloween. Mike Myers, murderer and psychopath, escapes from a mental ward and returns to his old house on Halloween and no one in town is safe. In established horror movie tradition, many young, beautiful, and mostly naked people are killed in a variety of grisly and paranoia inducing ways. The embodiment of evil and madness, no Halloween would be complete without a visit from Mike Myers.

2) Poltergeist – Steven Spielberg took the American dream – nice house, good family, steady job, and lots of TV – and turned it on its’ head. When four year old Carol Anne starts talking to the TV and furniture starts moving, the Freeling family is excited by the supernatural turn their lives have taken. But excitement swiftly turns to terror as the forces Carol Anne has been talking to are not as benevolent as the family first thought. This film is filled with iconic scenes and lines; we could fill this newspaper writing about them. Don’t take our word for it, though; check this movie out ASAP.

1) The Exorcist – This battle between good and evil tops our list of must-watch Halloween movies, and we think it should top yours as well. Based on true events, the Exorcist depicts the struggle over the soul of a demon possessed girl, and is further powered by the internal plights of those who try to help her. Probably most memorable for the scene in which the little girl’s head rotates 360 degrees then vomits, The Exorcist offers more than pea soup and a nasty fall down some stairs. This movie has you questioning the power of your faith and how to judge whether it’s in your head or real.

Wicked: Witch and Curse

You know this type of book. Everyone encounters it eventually. It's in your favorite genre. The plot seems to be compelling. The characters, tragic and/or complicated. The cover is AWESOME. The book itself: FAIL. Such was my experience with Wicked: Witch and Curse.

I love stories about witches. Absolutely adore them. So when I saw Wicked: Witch and Curse sitting in the YA section a few months ago, I had to give it a look. I sat on the floor of that Borders for two hours trying to understand what I was reading. Eight months later, I still want those two hours back.

Holly Cathers's world shatters when her parents are killed in a terrible accident. Wrenched from her home in San Francisco, she is sent to Seattle to live with her relatives, Aunt Marie-Claire and her twin cousins, Amanda and Nicole.

In her new home, Holly's sorrow and grief soon give way to bewilderment at the strange incidents going on around her. Such as how any wish she whispers to her cat seems to come true. Or the way a friend is injured after a freak attack from a vicious falcon. And there's the undeniable, magnetic attraction to a boy Holly barely knows.

Holly, Amanda, and Nicole are about to be launched into a dark legacy of witches, secrets, and alliances, where ancient magics yield dangerous results. The girls will assume their roles in an inter-generational feud beyond their wildest imaginations...and in doing so, will attempt to fulfill their shared destiny.

Admittedly, I only got about 50 or 60 pages into the first book, Witch, before I gave up with a massive headache and a general sense of disappointment. Those 50 or 60 pages were a chore. The story still seemed like it could be good. But the writing was so sloppy that there was no way to tell. The first few chapters flash back and forth between Holly's character, her star-crossed love interest, and past lives or early coven members. It was incredibly distracting, uncomfortably written, and I can only assume the rest of the book follows suit. Also, lots and lots of french thrown in at random. I did not appreciate that.

I'm willing to believe that it's a good story. But the writing is too...schizophrenic for me to get into it. Luckily, my faith in witchy YA was restored a few weeks later with the discovery of War of the Witches by Maite Carranza(review coming only by request).

I'm glad other people have enjoyed these books, but I won't be among them.

My Rating: 1 out of 5 Mushrooms