Monthly Archives: September 2012

Magical Realism and Black Literature Meet in Sula by Toni Morrison

 

Sula reads in such a wonderful manner, but when you stop and look back on what you’ve read, it’s somewhat disturbing. “Sula” is definitely an example of black literature, yet what sets it apart from other works is the thin layer of “magical realism” put over it. Magical realism is writing style which takes an ordinary story, and slips just a little bit of LSD into the punch bowl.

The story itself is about love, family, sex, and friendship existing within the backdrop of a 1920’s racially segregated American countryside. You follow a set of characters growing up. Some are children and they become adults, while others become older folks. Their lives feel real and Morrison does an excellent job of portraying their psyches twisted under the distortion of racism. Though the book takes place in the 20’s, it reads very modern and avoids an old time prose which turns off a lot of readers.

Sula is one of those really great books that doesn’t get talked about enough. A beautiful little book that has a lot of fucked up personal issues. It’ll swallow you in the lives of these people. Morrison doesn’t attempt to make life grander than what it is. She gives it to you as it is, an amazing experience that will one day end for all of us. I will be sure to read the rest of Morrison’s books.

Photo credit http://www.goodreads.com/book/photo/11346.Sula

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The Ugly Truth of Public Education

Before reading “Savage Inequalities,” if someone came up to me and said, “Systemic racial segregation continues to exist in our public schools today,” I would have considered this an exaggeration. We’ve come a long way from the days of “colored” bathrooms and drinking fountains. Reading “Savage Inequalities” has challenged this notion of mine.

Kozol takes an in-depth look at how the public school system in America, despite common belief, has remained largely separate and unequal. But his book isn’t simply a collection of disturbing statistics concerning the discrepancies of drop-outs, per pupil spending, class sizes, and other factors between white and non-white schools. Kozol personally visits the schools on both sides of the track. His interviews with students, parents, teachers, principals, and community organizers, give this book a deeply human and psychological dimension. His tone remains natural. You can feel his indignation at in justices he encounters as well as his sense of joy in meeting such courageous people.

What is most striking about this book is what it suggests about American values. That we’ve created a system which sends generation after generation of children to ruin is embarrassing. Some of Kozol’s critics say he talks a lot about the problem, but doesn’t offer many solutions. Also, he points out several legal victories which have resulted in agonizingly slow feet dragging to enact the necessary changes. This in itself leaves the readers with a sense of futility. Perhaps Kozol feels that our lacking is of a more spiritual type and is better addressed by likes of Martin Luther King, whom he references several times throughout his book? If this is case, he fails to convey this with adequate clarity. I still give him his due credit because we cannot deal with any problem until we know it exists. For its social value and the much needed change this book may lead to, it is truly an indispensable book.

This book hit a deeply personal cord. I’m the first generation born son to a Mexican immigrant family. I entered an inner city school speaking only Spanish. At the time I was too young to understand the dynamics of racism but the psychological effects were understood. I was dropped into an all English speaking class without any language preparation. My language barrier marked as a target for hate and was encouraged by the teacher. Imagine being a kid in a place where you can’t understand anything being said. But there are a lot of messages that don’t require words to be communicated. It got to the point one time where I became so unstable the teacher couldn’t calm me down, neither could the principal and my father had to leave work to calm me down. Years later I now understand that I was having a stress overload, a first grade kid having a nervous breakdown in the middle of class. Now that I’m an elementary school teacher myself, these memories take on a new meaning. I thank my family for not letting me become the expected statistic.

I strongly recommend this book to teachers, parents, students, and anyone interested in civil rights. Kozol’s analysis is sure to leave a lasting impression and is an enjoyable read in general. It’s one of those books that make you say, “thank god this was a bestseller!” Here’s to the struggle for a better tomorrow.

Photo Credit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Savage_Inequalities

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Don’t Wait for Permission

It’s been several weeks since I released my book and entered the indie writing world. Discovering the indie writing community has been a beautiful thing. It gave me a feeling similar to when I first found out about Hip-hop, Rock, and counter culture. “What! This has been here all this time?” When I first heard about indie writers I imagined a bunch of turtleneck wearing intellectuals drinking overpriced/undersized cappuccinos, yammering on about irrelevant topics, and snapping their fingers whenever somebody delivered an extra steamy pile of verbal bullshit. Once again, stereotypes had failed me. The indie crowd isn’t just a bunch of beatniks hanging around Starbucks. It’s a diverse community which sort of reminds me of a college campus. There are the different camps, nerds, jocks, hipsters, punks, loud minorities, sitting at their spots.

I knew I had to network if I wanted to get my book out there. At first, Facebook sounded like an obvious route. I created a page and badgered all my friends to join. Their words of encouragement we’re greatly appreciated but after a while I began to notice that most people don’t read books. “I’m happy for you, but reading isn’t really my thing.” Although I’ve suspected this much, it was shocking to me nonetheless. I can understand if somebody doesn’t like reading a sort of genre, but all of them? In America this type of attitude doesn’t turn heads. Which is funny because if you tell someone you don’t watch TV, they look at you as if you’re Amish. They say the average person watches 2-3 solid months worth of television a year. Considering there’s only 12 of them in a set, I rather do something else.

Let’s see what else is on.

Yet, the reading community has inspired me to shake my head too. The bookworms are a lot like the music listeners. Most people have horrible taste. First of all, if you’re a grown adult and the only books you’ve read are Harry Potter, Twilight, and Fifty Shades of Grey, backhand yourself now. But at least they’re reading something. There was a time when, for certain individuals, teaching and learning to read was severely punishable. Even now there are places where having a wrong type of book can cost you your life. Why is that? Because of what’s contained in books, ideas that have taken people a lifetime to arrive at. And those ideas exist in relation to other people’s philosophies, which in turn create an intellectual web that is deeply human. Some people fear this.

I understand that a lot of people are completely turned off to reading. Public schools fail greatly in turning students into avid readers. I didn’t pick up a book for almost a year after graduating high school because I thought all books were boring and useless to me. Then I was lucky enough to pick up writers such as Malcolm X, Audre Lorde, Charles Bukowski, and plenty more. Thanks to these greats minds I’m increasingly connected to the great human spirit that drives us to continually evolve. My mind is like a raging river that’s never going to stop. Without books, it would be reduced to a murky creek. If you’re reading this, then you know exactly what I’m talking about. Don’t let the anti intellectual climate bring you down. Express your ideas through whatever means possible. The next time you see another friend becoming a zombie in front of the TV, hand him a book. You’d be surprised how it can change some people’s lives. 

Photo Credits in order of appearance:

http://indiewritingblog.com/

http://www.hangthebankers.com/nielsen-sued-for-billions-over-allegedly-manipulated-tv-ratings/

http://www.wpi.edu/offices/ih/diversity.html

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Grabbing Waves and Assholes in Safari Hats

Jibs was at home with nothing to do, boredom settled into him. Staying at home all day wasn’t his cup of tea but shear laziness had kept him indoors since waking up late this morning. He looked at the clock, 2:34p.m. Boredom irritated Jibs like a nagging woman. He tried to shake this dullness off without leaving the house. First he went through an entire circuit of calisthenics while listening to to the radio but after he finished he only felt more energized. He made a ham sandwich, it was good, and then it was gone.

“Grrrrrrrr……”

He was bored, yet still refused to go outside. Jibs didn’t particularly hate the day; in fact he loved being outside but a mild case of agoraphobia rooted into him. He looked outside and made a low growl to himself again. Desperate, he went to his library. His hand passed various classics the likes of Mark Twain, Martin Luther King, and Aldous Huxley until retrieving its target. He stared at the DVD box in his hand “Phat Ass’d Anal Princess’s Vol. 3.” He hesitated for moment, shrugged his shoulders, and inserted the movie. Half way through the first scene, he’d seen enough. Finally he gave in and decided the best thing to do now was go out for a drive. Jibs grabbed his car keys and headed outside to his 1972 faded lime green Monte Carlo.

Coasting aimlessly through the neighborhood began to lighten his mode. He took lefts and rights as his heart desired. Feeling the warm summer sun on his face made him smile. ‘Why didn’t I do this sooner?’ He thought to himself with a smile. The car was a gutted out shit-box barely qualifying as an automobile. It was loud, there was no radio or windows, but Jibs could give a damn. A bad day was turning into a good day, and in his mind he was winning. Suddenly as if waking from a half-dream he remembered the joint in the ashtray. To this he smiled an even wider grin. Yes, Jibs was undeniably winning. His eyes went into scanning mode for a discreet place to smoke. After rolling through a few blocks he found it.

Jibs came to a stop in front of a tiny park and killed the engine. Opening the ashtray he found the neatly rolled joint and imparted a look that read a cool “Hell yeah.”  He put the joint in his mouth and quickly eyed around for any neighbors walking their dogs. The coast was clear and with the flick of a Bic the joint was lit. He dragged sweet marijuana smoke into lungs and let out a tiny cough then blew smoke outside the window. Three more puffs and he began to feel the intoxicating waves of ganja goodness span over him. He melted into the driver’s seat. Through half closed, puffy red eyes he wondered just what was wrong with the world. The answers to everything seemed so clear to him. In that soft lull he began to profess stoney wisdom in his mind- ‘ All the unnecessary killing and problems… Man everyone just got’s it all wrong. God and war… it ain’t nothing but’an illusion. The answer… is no answer, the answer can be found… in rays of the OOH SHIT!!!’  Jibs spit the joint on his lap and burned his pinky finger with the cherry. At the end of a block, facing his car, stood a man wearing black pants and a black jacket with a silver-grey badge sown over the left breast. In his stoned brain Jibs attempted to deal with the situation.

‘Fuck man a fucking cop! Awwww…damn where the hell he come from?! Shit, just my goddamn luck. Right when I start turning this shitty ass day around it has to find somehow to fuck me in ass… Alright man stay cool… don’t act suspicious, you’re just minding your own business. Alright check your eyes…’

Jibs looked into rearview mirror.

‘Shit! They’re red like the devil.. Ok man keep cool. Maybe he’ll just leave.’

Man proceeded to light a cigarette.

‘Damn it! .. Ok if I leave, it might look suspicious and he could tell me to pull over, but if I stay then I’ll be fucked for sure. Man, the hell with this, I’m outta here.’

Of all the times the Monte Carlo had failed to start on him this had to be one of the worst. The clicks emitting from the faulty starter grabbed the attention of the jacket wearing man and he walked towards the stalling car. Jibs cursed under his breath while hurriedly throwing a story together. The man was at his passenger window.

Montey won’t start,” asked the man.

                “Yeah … it just….uhh.”

Jibs gave up a big smile and laughed. The badge sown on the man’s jacket was the Raiders’ emblem.

Ha ha….man! I thought you were a cop”

A cop? Would a cop be out here… smokin’ weed?”

The man took a drag off a joint.

I’ll help you pop start her up”

Jibs was confused and relieved. The man got behind the car and yelled out to let off the break. Jibs gave him thumbs up and he started pushing. The car got rolling to a good speed and the man yelled “POP IT!” Jibs popped the clutch and the whole bucket rattled and bounced. The wheels gripped the asphalt for a second as the engine turned The tail pipe coughed out a fat cloud of black exhaust right into the man’s face. In the rear view mirror Jibs could see the man swearing between his coughs. Jibs gave him a friendly wave as he drove along his merry way.

Man, craziness. The last thing I need right now is some cop bullshit. The fuckers are always around to tug on your balls and never around when you actually need the bastards.’

He drove off. It was a close call and he knew it. Things were tough enough as is, now put an arrest, car impoundment, court date, and legal fees on top of the whole mess and what was a man to do? All anyone wants in this crazy mixed up world a little peace. This life can get to you.  Although the troubles in most people’s lives are everyday struggles, one couldn’t deny it would get under your skin and push your head underwater until you couldn’t take it anymore.

He drove out of the suburbs and got on to Highway 78 West. The car didn’t have a radio and so Jib’s listened to the sounds of the road and cars engines with their dull roars. Warm ocean air blew into his face and the sun moved west in the sky.  The highway looked like gold under the California sun. In Jibs’ mind he thought of very little. Just keeping his eyes on the road, he sped on towards the beach.

He arrived at downtown and eased his car onto the wide, palm tree and liquor store studded boulevard. You had everything there. Marines with their jarhead haircuts walked in packs checking out where to get the booze and some ass, street losers figuring out how to do nothing, surfers carrying boards, bikini girls, and all the nobody’s in between. This was his city and would always be his city. The warm sun felt like a blanket on his skin and he drove on from the south side of the 101 to the north and turned left towards the beach area parking lot. It was a pay lot but Jibs never paid for parking, for him it was a matter of ethics, ‘These places shouldn’t even be pay parking, it’s on the beach, man c’mon.’ But the reality was that parting with 3 dollars would put a sting in his pocket.

He pulled into a front row spot and watched the scene before him. The beautiful girls were sunbathing and surf was breaking in rhythmic pulse. There were other goings on but he wasn’t concerned. Waves built off in the horizon and every surfer jockeyed for the inside position and thus get that ride. All those waves were beautiful, but after the ninth set something special was happening. In the horizon there approached no ordinary wave but this majestic thing of power, a blue mountain rushing like a train from way out showing no sign of slowing down. It built continually higher, surpassing the crest of all the others, its perfect form seemed of the divine. The wave’s radiating energy refused to be ignored and commanded the attention of everyone on the beach. Some suffers paddled away for fear of everything it was, yet others fought to put themselves in alignment. The way it rose seemed impossible and still it did. Five surfers broke away from the pack and reached the magnificent swell. Paddling with everything in them, they clawed their arms into the slope driving themselves downward with every stroke. Two surfers took the lead position, each trying to out paddle the other but there was only room for one and the inside man wanted it the badest. Out hustling the other man, he moved ahead of his rival and stood. The wave curled directly behind him but he glided across the face like a bird against the blue sky, ducking just in time for the lip to throw over his head and explode on the surface in a thundering smash of white water. For three seconds he disappeared into the barrel and everyone thought he was toast. The wave blinded onlookers with a massive section of sun like a massive panel of curved glass. Then within this blinding light his dark figured raced out of the barrel while the wave behind him crashed into an avalanche. He coasted on pure momentum and raised his arms in victory then let himself fall into the sea. Whoever that guy was, he won, he beat life, he beat the odds and everyone else who tried to take this away from him. Jibs looked on and smiled. He got out and stood in front of his car basking in the collective glory of what he’d just witnessed.

That’s right, fuck you world. We won’t all give in that easy. Won’t cave in the way you’d like us to. There’s some of us who still got the will to fight. You can beat us down with all your bills and bullshit, kick us to the ground till we’re spitting up blood and you’ll think we’re finished. But, don’t look too surprised when one of us reaches under our bruised bellies and comes up throwing a face full of dirt and kicking you square in the balls.’

He heard something behind him and turned around. An overweight meter maid wearing a plastic safari hat with an electronic citation dispenser was taking note of his license plate.  “Hey! Hey! Hey! Hold on sir,” yelled Jibs.

“There is no ticket displayed on the dash,” the city worker replied without looking up.

“I do have my ticket!” Jibs moved up close to distract him from his little machine. The man looked up unconvinced with a bored expression as Jibs put on his best fake smile. “It’s in my car, sir. If you’d just gimmie a second. I put it in my wallet and it’s in the glove box.” The man stood there not finding Jibs’ smile contagious at the very least.  With a humble bow and raising a finger signaling it would only take a second, he backed towards the driver’s side opening the door, smiling all the while. He sat into the driver’s seat and stirred papers around the glove box. Looking into the rearview he saw the meter maid becoming increasingly agitated. Jibs cheerfully called back, “Just a second, got a lot of papers and documents in here.” But the man wasn’t buying and raised up his dispenser to finish writing up the citation. Jibs knew he was done. He stopped messing around the glove box for the alleged wallet with the imaginary ticket. Jibs watching the fat man spell out his inevitable 60$ parking spot, when a concerned looking women walked up to the man jabbering and pointing at a group of youngsters passing around an open container in brown paper bag. Seizing the opportunity, Jibs went for the ignition. The tires skidded backwards on the sandy lot as he reversed out while cranking the wheel to straighten out. The meter maid broke away from the lady and ran to the driver’s side pounding on the window screaming for Jibs to stop. With eyes strait forward in determination, Jibs punched the gas and sandblasted the fat man and nosey lady in a stinging shower. Jibs shot out of the parking lot, ran a stop sign, and was gone. Gone like a summer breeze.

Jibs made for Highway 78 and drove east away from the beach. With the sun setting behind him, the sky was a magnificent orchestra of reds, oranges, and yellows. He smiled the whole way because he knew that he’d won. He refused to be pushed around by the asshole, gigantic safari hat wearing world. No, not him, he was a fighter just like the surfer was a fighter. And now he was surfing that great beautiful wave and nothing could stop him. It was things like this that kept him going, the tiny victories in the face of overwhelming defeat. Those little neatly packaged “fuck you’s” we manage to pull off. Jibs lay back in his seat taking it all in. Tomorrow he probably wouldn’t be so but that was ok. Sometimes there’s just enough momentum to cruise safely past the next shit storm. After that, well, that’s another story.

 

photo credit http://www.flickr.com/photos/ethnoscape/339126182/

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Bill Nye the Science Guy and the Call to Reason

William Sanford “Bill” Nye (the Science Guy) released a bold video entitled “Creationism is Not Appropriate for Children,” in which he confronts the idea of Creationism and the denial of evolution. He makes his argument that, “Evolution is the fundamental idea in all life science…” and that, “When you have a portion of the population that doesn’t believe in that, it holds everybody back, really.”

Hot off the press.

This short video hit a nerve, immediately getting millions of views. And the reason is not because the evolutionists finally had someone cool to rally around; it was for Bill’s message against the strange American social movement of anti-reason, a philosophical way of life that allows people to deny anything that contradicts their world view, no matter how reasoned or obvious. It’s a movement currently spearheaded by groups such as the Tea Party, a grassroots movement primarily for closet racists that can’t stand the fact a black man is president and see Mexicans as a problem, all the while hiding behind a brittle mask of patriotism. There is also the extreme right-wing Christians who wish to bring about a Christian world order and are so disconnected from human suffering that they’d support a man with the character of Todd Akin whose views on rape and women fit right at home in the dark ages. Their agendas are not based on sound reason or even humanitarian ideas. When you take away the rhetoric they are driven by simple ignorance, hate, fear, and intolerance.

Personally, I’m big on freedom and so I encourage people to believe whatever they choose. But this movement has gained enough momentum to cause detrimental effects at home and abroad. It is a cause of impassioned fanatics who don’t understand what’s going on because they are encouraged to dismiss information as they see fit. This jams the inner working of progress with wasteful infighting that has no end because it does not rely on basic logic. This has grown beyond a tactic of rallying people to cast their votes for a certain party. We are entering a psychological climate that is retrograding and self-destructive in terms of our intellectual and humanitarian advances.

 

I could be guilty of seeing more than Bill intended, but it was his closing statement that leads me to believe I’m not too far off, “And I say to the grownups, if you want to deny evolution and live in your world, in your world that’s completely inconsistent with everything we observe in the universe, that’s fine, but don’t make your kids do it because we need them. We need scientifically literate voters and taxpayers for the future.”

The rational thinkers need to make their stand too. We can’t just sit around and watch this backwards social movement tear everything apart. The earth is flat, manifest destiny, government leaders of divine choice, racial inferiority, denial of evolution and the effects of pollution on our environment are all ideas rooted in the tradition of embracing ignorance. I encourage more people continue to take an active stance in the name of reason, and thus spark an inward revolution that will create a condition favorable for the cultivation of our minds and life.

 

Photo Credits

http://scienceprogressaction.org/intersection/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/fakepost3.jpg

http://other98.com/

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Blubber Island Survival Guide #2

Please follow these directions.

If you’re reading this, you have successfully not died. Congratulations. The first segment of the “Blubber Island Survival Guide” focused on the key aspects of the Blubber Island universe. Today we’re taking a more sociological approach. Blubber Island is a highly complex, inter-dimensional environment, so it’s really easy for things to get mixed up and turn a little screwy. Don’t panic. We here at the Blubber Island Survival Institute have the best and brightest minds working around the clock to bring you the most cutting-edge information in anti-deceasing technology.

Death has to get through him first.

The number one thing to remember: Blubber Island is bubbling with Chaos. Randomness is at every turn. There is no sense of direction nor rock to stand on. The degree of shear senseless is enough to drive the average person bat-shit crazy. When you’re not getting chased by zombies with exploding heads, you’ll be dealing with an assortment of colorful characters. Let’s take a look!

“Can I fluff your pillow?”

The first kind of people you’ll run into are weirdos. At first glance, they seem like normal people–and then they speak. Unless you want to find out what a handkerchief dipped in chloroform smells like, avoid these dudes like the Plague. Blubber Island is basically a weirdo-hive. There’s no such thing as “normal” people. These are the “normal” people.

“Aliens!”

Next up are crazy bums and hobos. These characters claim to have god-like insight into everything going on. The strange part is that sometimes they’re right on the money. Other times, they’re just your run-of-the-mill crazy-ass bums. Whether you choose to take their advice is like spinning the Wheel of Chance. Statistics have shown a 100-to-1 odds of “crazy bum talk” versus “info that will save your life”. Think of these guys as walking casinos of knowledge.

“I’m gonna kick your ass and get away with it.”

Cops and any other type of security figures. These guys thrive on two things: beating the living daylights out of you, and, well… that’s it really. Hocked up on testosterone and countless hours of MMA Youtube clips, they’re ready to break your ribs before you get a chance to break the law. You’d have better luck trying to talk a rabid grizzly bear into riding a unicycle than convincing these guys you have rights. PCP will come in handy.

“Is that a free cookie?”

Next on the list are Greñudos, Latin for “stoner punks”. Highly intoxicated, free of all care, and totally lost, these will be your allies. Constantly keeping their ears to the street (mostly due to binge drinking), they are an abundant source of information. Unfortunately, their insatiable appetite for marijuana will cause them to forget most of it. Seeking out these lumbering pot heads seems counterintuitive, yet believe us, they will not let you down (sort of).

“Hold on a second, I need to murder you.”

Next up are homicidal Neo-Nazi with heroin withdrawals. If we need to explain why you should stay away from this guy, kill yourself now.

“No, you can’t hug us.”

Lastly are entities from another dimension. These ones are hard to find. However, if you do run into one, it means something big is about to happen. They’re not going to transverse through the space-time fabric to ask if you’re on Twitter. There is virtually zero information known about these strange travelers. All we can say is that some wish to help you along and others want to stick your head on a pole. It’s sort of a toss up, so you’ll have to play it by ear.

Not today, buddy.

Once again you have helped yourself keep that pesky Grim Reaper off your shoulder. We’re positive you’ll meet all kinds of people not listed here, but we’re closing up shop. The key is to keep a sharp eye and a groovy mind. Remember this blog when running into these characters, and you’ll be A-OK. Actual results may vary.  See you next time, and remember our motto: “No Dying Allowed!”

Photo Credits in order of appearance

1.  http://www.heyhotshot.com/blog/2010/06/10/dont-die-limited-edition-book-prints-by-justin-james-reed/

2. http://directgeek.com/

3. http://fashionnetworkseattle.com/fashion-blog/good-bad-ugly/good-bad-ugly-celebrity-mug-shots/

4. http://www.flickr.com/photos/kevindyer/5719860925/

5. http://prof77.wordpress.com/2010/12/30/police-steroid-drug-abuse/

6. Random stoner

7. http://www.brobible.com/life/slideshow/face-tattoo-mug-shots-of-2011

8.http://themovieprojector.blogspot.jp/2011/09/cmba-guilty-pleasures-movie-blogathon.html

9. http://www.odditycentral.com/pics/4-places-where-dying-is-not-allowed.html