Monday, April 28, 2008
As the semester draws to an end, the lives of students and professors alike begin to become overwhelmed by the amount of work that is required in this final stretch. Spending hours cramped up in the library, we begin to lose the motivation that has led us to where we are today. To us English majors, words lose their glittering touch and begin to look mundane and burdensome.
In an effort to keep yourself from developing a bland outlook on life, take a few minutes today to glance outside your window and rediscover that inspiration. It may be in the reflection of the clouds in the puddles on the pavement, or in the way your skin feels after having been kissed by the rain. Become awake to what moves you, and use that to drive you towards success.
In Papua New Guinea, there is a tribe of people who revere the crocodile so much, they model their own skin after the serrated and jagged skin of the animal. I first encountered this practice on the series “Taboo” on the National Geographic channel. The name of the episode was “Rites of Passage,” and it displayed many different ways of entering and celebrating adulthood around the globe. The most interesting by far was the story about the Sawa people who turn their boys into men by letting their blood and scarring their skin to look like crocodiles. I was shocked and amazed at what lengths these people went to, and how effective the end result was. It really looked like they had crocodile skin. The picture above depicts the end result however, it is a poor representation of the quality the process can yield.
Boys from the age of 14-18 undergo an almost 6 week long tradition inside a men-only house called a “spirit house,” built by past generations of the tribe. Women are not allowed behind the walls of straws and leaves. Once the boys enter, humiliation by the elders and other men begin. When they have completed their taunts, chants, and dances, the initiates are put into the river for up to 24 hours to soften their skin. Once they have completed this step, they are cut by elders over a thousand times with razor blades along their arms, chest, and neck to make the mini scars that rise during the healing process. According to their tradition, the boys are being excised of their mothers’ blood, and it is believed that they are becoming the sons of crocodiles. The cuts are filled with clay or other materials and the boys are housed in a steamed environment to slowly control the infection of the wounds. After weeks of pain during healing, the skin reveals a wonderful pattern that mocks the rough scales of their honored animal. They are looked upon as an expression of great beauty.
Boys are not the only ones who are subject to the cutting. Women must also go through this process however, their cuts are on the back alone. For both men and women, the cuts are up to 3 inches deep, yielding an enormous amount of blood. Often times, those subjected to the rite of passage begin to shake violently from blood loss, and may even pass out from the extreme pain. In the footage from the episode, once white towels became entirely red rags, soaked with blood to clean the area for the elder to continue cutting with an unhindered view of the skin.
Some people complain about having to go through Mitzvahs and Confirmations, imagine having to go through this to enter adulthood. I’ll take itchy, smothering, clothing any day over this.
This week Alisa Kolenovic shares a novel by Jane Austen.
As English majors, we have all at some point during our college careers, come across Jane Austen, and maybe even more than once. Although her novels are still very well-known worldwide and thought of as very classic, there is still something fresh to offer with any of her novels. The important moral lessons illustrated in Sense and Sensibility, published in 1811 , are just as important to remember today. Although this novel was written centuries ago, there is, of course, a point to reading it in the modern day.
I enjoyed reading Emma and of course, Austen’s best known, Pride and Prejudice in high school, so I knew I would also enjoy reading Sense for my English 52 class. As in Pride and Prejudice and Emma, Sense too, offers up charming and even funny for today’s modern world, witty commentary. Austen is what I pick up when I want to read a classic, but not something as dark as the Bronte sisters or depressing and philosophic as Tolstoy. Austen’s work, though seemingly about one specific era and community in England, can, despite many people’s views, be applied to the entire world and the modern day society.
In Sense and Sensibility, Austen writes of primarily the two eldest sisters of a poor family---Elinor and Marianne Dashwood. Elinor is the daughter with sense, and always does what is practical or wise. Marianne is the exact opposite, always indulging in the excesses of her emotions. After their father dies, the fortune and family property in Norland, mostly goes to their half-brother, John. The two girls, along with their mother, and younger sister Margaret, are therefore reduced to a meager income, and must find another place to live. In the process of their moving, John’s wife’s brother, Edward, is introduced to Elinor and she grows attached to him. Soon they move to a smaller cottage in a faraway village called Devonshire, and Marianne meets the “man of her dreams,” Willoughby. The plot goes on to trace the romances and the heartbreaks of both sisters. There are many obstacles in their path, but both sisters come to find true love in the end. So what, according to Austen, is the formula for true love? Apparently it is a mixture of sense and sensibility, and apparently it does not necessarily call for the two people being exactly alike, as Marianne and Willoughby are. Marianne ends up marrying a man who she does not love at first, but comes to love truly. Elinor comes to marry Edward Ferrars, after she has undergone many obstacles with him. According to Austen, neither sense nor sensibility must triumph one over the other. Elinor is criticized for having too much sense, because this conceals her strong emotions and makes her appear cold and indifferent to others. Marianne is criticized for her excess of emotion, because she always appears silly. Indeed, with Marianne, Austen was creating a parody on the romantic sensibilities popular at that time in her society. In the end, a nice balance between the two is necessary. Respect, admiration, appreciation, and strong feelings for another person are necessary, but so are patience and logic when problems should arise. Having too many things in common with another person, can get boring quickly, or can make a pair of lovers fight quite often. Having a nice balance and being able to discuss and argue without getting too passionate or angry is also necessary to lasting happiness in marriage.
I obviously got a lot out of reading this novel. Not only is it witty, charming, and smart, it also offers up some wise advice for love relationships! I found it very interesting that love is not very different today than it was in 1811. Although social structures and practices were different then, and obviously still differ worldwide, it is still true that love is not always enough. Passion and strong emotion are obviously important, but a sensible and logical mind is equally vital.
As the 2008 summer Olympics in Beijing draw near and the famous Olympic torch is run around the world, the sporting event itself is becoming more and more overshadowed by the political controversy surrounding it. In the last three cities where the torch has made an appearance, people protesting China’s treatment of Tibet and its other human rights violations have made it almost impossible for runners to pass. The protests have necessitated a massive police presence, and even a decoy parade route in San Francisco so that the torch could pass unimpeded.
Many world leaders are threatening to not attend the opening ceremony and there is even some talk of boycotting the Olympics. The original Greek Olympic games were supposed to bring a hiatus to all wars and political strife – in essence they were supposed to be apolitical. But we don’t live in ancient Greece and things aren’t quite so simple. So what are the ramifications of a boycott?
Two examples stand out. Jimmy Carter decided to boycott the Moscow Olympics in 1980. In doing so, he most certainly did not bring an end to the Cold War, did not stop the actual games, and ruined the careers of a number of outstanding athletes. On the other hand, he made a huge political statement against the U.S.S.R. President Theodore Roosevelt, on the other hand, decided to NOT boycott the Berlin Olympics in 1936, which resulted in Jesse Owens kicking Aryan ass. But the Olympics legitimized Hitler, who got to show off his power and brought the world to near apocalypse just three years later.
So what does a democratic nation do in a political pickle such as this one? The ”celebration supposed to mark China's emergence as a friendly global power has made some people think for the first time that its rise is something to fear” (The Economist). The deciding factor, then, in the quandary of attendance should be, do we? Do we have something to fear?
This week Mohan Bell shares a poem by Louise Bennet Coverly.
When I was a child, my first introduction to poetry came from the lips and pen of a colorful woman named Louise Bennet Coverly. Miss Lou, as she is referred to by most Jamaicans, is the most celebrated Jamaican poet, folklorist and cultural ambassador. Her poetry, written mostly in Jamaican dialect, speaks from the life of regular life of Jamaicans. She uses humor and Jamaican lore to talk about many issues most popularly that of colonialism and immigration one example being the poem featured today.
Louise Bennett was born in 1919 in Kingston. The daughter of a seamstress, she always sat listening to the conversations of the women around her. After studying drama in England in the 1940’s, she returned to Jamaica where she started to teach drama and poetry.
The poem Colonization in Reverse speaks about the plight of Jamaicans moving to England. One can hear her powerful, rhythmic and joyous voice through the poem as it moves through the mass exodus of Jamaicans to the “mother land”.
Colonization in Reverse
by Miss Lou
What a joyful news, Miss Mattie;
Ah feel like me heart gwine burs -
Jamaica people colonizin
Englan in reverse.
By de hundred, by de tousan,
From country an from town,
By de ship-load, by de plane-load,
Jamaica is Englan boun.
Dem pour out a Jamaica;
Everybody future plan
Is fi get a big-time job
An settle in de motherlan.
What a islan! What a people!
Man an woman, ole an young
Jussa pack dem bag an baggage
An tun history upside dung!
Some people doan like travel,
But fi show dem loyalty
Dem all a open up cheap-fare-
An week by week dem shippin off
Dem countryman like fire
Fi immigrate an populate
De seat a de Empire.
Oonoo se how life is funny,
Oonoo see de tunabout?
Jamaica live fi box bread
Out a English people mout.
For when dem catch a Englan
An start play dem different role
Some will settle down to work
An some will settle fi de dole.
Jane seh de dole is not too bad
Because dey payin she
Two pounds a week fi seek a job
Dat suit her dignity.
Me seh Jane will never fine work
At de rate how she dah look
For all day she stay pon Aunt Fan couch
An read love-story book.
What a devilment a Englan!
Dem face war an brave de worse;
But ah wonderin how dem gwine stan
Colonizin in reverse.
This week Emily Carman and Dominique Gauvard asked:
"What book would did you want to read over the break for pleasure?"
""The Lord of the Rings"... It's my favorite book, and I haven't read it in a while... so yeah, it'd be nice to sit down and spend some time with dear old Tolkien." - Amina Tajbhai
"The Communist Manifesto" - Kenneth Swaby
"I think it would be "Twilight". I heard a lot about this book and I want to see what the hype is all about." - Christina Landy
"When the semester is over, however, the first thing I am going to read is "Perfume" by Patrick Süskind, because Professor Harrison's illegitimate son Marcel Leroux has told me that I must." - Ingrid Feeney
"I have been recommended by several friends to read, "Middlesex" and "Perfume." So, judging as they deal with intriguing subjects and my friends usually know what I like, I am so excited to pick those up and finally do some recreational reading!" - Alisa Kolenovic
""The Little Prince"" - Winnie Huang
""The Namesake", by Jhumpa Lahiri. I've read her collection of short stories, "Interpreter of Maladies", and I really enjoyed it." - Krishna Sury
""Mein Kampf" by Hitler. I want to understand his mind frame, see why he decided to do what he did, and if I can, recognize the shortcomings in it. It's beneficial to understand his mind frame because it could easily arm the future generations against someone with similar intentions and motives." - Michael Bronner
"Comic books, especially The Runaways. Why you ask? Because it's just so fun!" - Emanuel Bennett
Monday, April 14, 2008
Each year the earth flourishes in celebration of Persephone's temporary return, and something inside us starts to clamor for free time. For many of us, spring marks the resurgence of that eternal knowledge versus experience conflict that plagues both students and workers, when we wish against all better judgment to drop all ties and take refuge in the flowers. This year, as finals draw near, your duty as student or worker, and your answer to Persephone’s call, can be reconciled. Walk under the sun to a further train stop for an excuse to take a light stroll through the park, and take your books outside to read on the grass. Let the city drone in the background, and focus on your reading while the breeze tickles its pages. Don’t waste any time on arguments, and fully enjoy both your study, and the little time that Persephone will remain with us.
Folk Dancing in the Former Yugoslav Republics
People and cultures the world over share one thing in common: music. It has been around ever since the first bird learned how to sing, and even before. It is in the pitter-patter of rain on leaves, in the rustling of trodden on leaves, and even in the incessant hammering of your downstairs neighbor. The world has never been entirely silent. What's more is that our bodies have become attuned to certain sounds or combinations thereof to such a point that we have learned to move along with them, to dance.
Each country, and even subgroups within them, have developed their own unique dances which represents particular histories of the nations and the land. There are whirling dervishes in the Middle East, dancing gopis in India, and line-dancing cowboys in America. In the Balkan region there is such a mash of cultures who, while remaining fairly homogeneous in their language, each have their own folklore. In the States, we know folklore as any sort of oral history whether it be stories, recipes, or guidelines, but in ex-YU, folklore simply stands for the tradition of folk dancing. One reason for this, and something that stays true to the American definition, is that the dances are passed on generationally and orally.
The traditional dances of the region, and I'm sure this is true of most folk dance traditions, were used as courting rituals. In the days of our grandfathers and extending farther into the past, the way young men and women interacted was far from how things stand now. Parents were very protective of their daughters in particular, and in some places, especially in Bosnia, going as far as to build high, double sided fences around their homes so that no one could peek in. Girls were strictly forbidden to come into contact with young men. However, there existed one exception—attending igranke.
Igranke are somewhat equivalent to American hoe-downs, or something Hardy might call “country dances.” Young women, with proper familial accompaniment, would attend these dances in hopes of meeting a future husband. They would be able to dance these traditional dances, some of which are very intricate, with the young men of the village. All of this was done without hand holding, but rather using handkerchiefs as catalysts and the dances were arranged in either circles or half-circles (with occasional variation) in male-female order. Pairs would occasionally be allowed to flirt, but not too overtly as family members always stood close by to monitor the activities.
I am only closely familiar with a couple of dances, Serbian in origin, and they are the two kolos which most everyone knows, or should: uzicko and sota*. These two are very similar to one another and tend to make appearances at the most festive occasions, such as weddings, when people are sufficiently drunk. They start off like so: when the music begins and everyone has grabbed a neighbor's hand, the person on the right-most side, the kolovodja, begins the dance. Everyone moves first with their right foot, stepping with it into the middle of the circle and then bringing it back to its original position. They do the same with the left, bring it back, and then with the left foot head towards the right one step. They repeat the steps and then head back to the left. Throughout the dance, the people must remain facing forward, even when making the side-steps. Sota follows the same initial pattern as uzicko, but instead of going back and forth, it continues into the left, making it quite an interesting conundrum when a lot of people join in. On occasion, when there is live music, the band tends to speed up the tempo at regular intervals, causing people to dance faster.
Speaking of dancing faster, there is another dance that I have just recently learned about called glamoc, origin unclear. This is a very peculiar dance meant to test the stability and strength of women as potential mates. Young men and women would dance together in a half-circle and one of the men acts as the kolovodja, and he gives out commands on how and where to move. Glamoc has a very fast tempo and its movements are evidently unpredictable, the boys being allowed to pull the girls around. It is meant to be danced until exhaustion so suitors can know whether their future wives are strong enough. As chauvinistic as this may seem, it was probably rooted in some legitimate fears. A woman in oder to give birth had to be strong in those days because she could very likely die during childbirth. Glamoc was used as a safeguard against this—though maybe this physical exertion may not have been too good for anyone's well being.
*The names of the dances have had to be altered slightly as certain characters in the Serbo-Croatian alphabet do not exist in the English language.
I must give credit to Safet Huseinovic for helping me out with some of the vital information, and to my folklore teachers as well as friends who have taught me both uzicko and sota. Honestly, this article wouldn't even be a paragraph long without them.
This week Amina H. Tajbhai shares a novel by J.R.R. Tolkien.
Anyone who knows me knows one thing: I am a huge The Lord of the Rings fan. Whether it’s the books, the movies, or the various encyclopedias and guides that have been written, I love them all. My obsession started in elementary school, when I first picked up the prelude to The Lord of the Rings: The Hobbit.
The Hobbit is the story of Bilbo Baggins, a reputable hobbit who, despite the unadventurous nature of his kind, ends up going on an quest. Signed up by Gandalf the Gray – a spectacular wizard – Bilbo becomes the “burglar” for a band of Dwarves, led by Thorin Oakenshield. Thorin and his company are on a expedition to reclaim their stolen gold from the dragon Smaug, who, years ago, invaded their home and slaughtered most of their people. It’s a treacherous undertaking, and the road there is perilous, filled with trolls, goblins, and wicked giant spiders. Through it all Bilbo is forced to change, shedding his mundane ways and becoming a bold person his neighbors would be shocked to see.
Although The Hobbit was written as a story for children, there is no reason why people of all ages should not pick up this book. Many Tolkien critics find his works too wordy and difficult to get through; for them, this prelude is perfect. Tolkien charms readers with his descriptions yet keeps them from becoming bored with action. Taking the reader through his world by the hand, Tolkien weaves an enchanting story that leaves everyone wanting more.
Way to Forget!!
Scientists at the University of California have identified sevoflurane gas as an anesthetic drug capable of suppressing the formation of painful memories. They conducted an experiment where some of the subjects were treated with the anesthetic gas and others with a placebo. After treatment, they showed each subject a series of images ranging from innocent depictions to stronger, more violent ones. The results showed that while the subjects who received the placebo gas remembered 29% of the innocent images and 12% of the stronger ones; the subjects who received the sevoflurane gas remembered only 5% of the strong images, and 10% of the innocent images.
These scientists reported the study as a "discovery of an agent and method for blocking human emotional memory.” They hope these results show that sevoflurane gas can diminish instances of surgical patients remembering fully their surgical experience. This, they believe, will be possible because of the drugs ability to obstruct messages sent between the amygdala and hippocampus—parts of the brain involved in processing emotions and memory. However, to all you heartbroken girls out there, don’t put away those Shaun Cassidy albums just yet because this drug can only prevent the formation of new memories. Dr Anthony Absalom, from Cambridge University, says that it is unlikely that sevoflurane can affect memories that have already been formed—Sorry!
Source: BBC News
What, no Rollover Minutes?
Cuba has been a location of oppression and government censure for about the past 30 years. Under Fidel Castro the citizens of Cuba were not given any benefits as being citizens of this land. There were stringent rules and restrictions that have suddenly changed under Raul Castro.
For the first time the Cuban government, under this new regime, has begun to distribute cellular phones to the general public. On April 10, 2008 hundreds of Cuban citizens swarmed the telephone offices in Havana, desiring to be one of the first to own this new commodity. Thousands of people are predicted to join the new cellular elite, although the service and the least expensive cellular phone cost as much as nine months of wages. The Cuban citizens must purchase a prepaid calling card in cash, in order to access their minutes.
This is just one of the many steps Raul Castro is taking to improve the lives of his people, after the decades of disenchantment they had experienced under the regime of his older brother, Fidel Castro. He has now allowed the Cuban citizens to buy DVD players, computers, and stay at hotels that were prior reserved for tourist only. Out of all the countries in Latin America Cuba has the smallest rate of cellular telephone usage, this is primarily because along with the general public many government officials, employees, and foreigners were also refused access to this technology.
Only time will tell whether this introduction to cellular services will serve as a sign of progress in Cuba or whether it is the same type of bondage that was imposed by the former regime but just under a technological guise.
Soaring Food Costs Based On Fuel Production
According to World Bank President Robert Zoellick, the soaring food prices could tally “seven lost years” in the fight against hunger and worldwide poverty. Recent riots in multiple third world nations, from Haiti to Bangladesh, and Egypt, have brought the issue to the forefront of the world’s telescope. Last Saturday, the prime minister of Haiti was kicked out of office, and hospital beds are full of wounded rioters.
To meet emergency needs, Zoellick claims, “The international community must fill the at least $500 million food gap identified by the U.N.’s World Food Programme.” He reports that in just two months, rice prices have risen approximately 75 percent globally, and more in some markets, while in the past year the price of wheat has increased by a 120 percent. “In Bangladesh, a 2-kilogram bag of rice… now consumes about half of the daily income of a poor family,” he claims, and reminds us that, “This is not just about meals forgone today or about increasing social unrest. This is about lost learning potential for children and adults in the future, stunted intellectual and physical growth.”
Some, including former President Clinton, claim that the problem arises from what some of us considered a solution. Jean Ziegler of the U.N. has called using food crops to create ethanol "a crime against humanity." The push to replace some traditional fuels with ethanol, it seems, has created a higher demand for corn which has thrown off world food prices. Basically, "We've been putting our food into the gas tank," said Columbia University's Sachs.
The Renewable Fuels Association, however, throws the blame off of ethanol fuel production, and onto the price of oil. “Oil -- not corn prices or ethanol production -- has the greatest impact on consumer food prices because it is integral to virtually every phase of food production, from processing to packaging to transportation,” they claim on their Web site. Whether ethanol production or the traditional fuels are the driving cause behind the surging food prices, matters very little when we grasp that we are, both oil and ethanol users, robbing human beings of the nourishment they need to nourish our cars.
This week Aisha Douglas introduces us to Walter de la Mare's poetry.
My very first experience with Walter de la Mare’s poetry happened at the age of ten when one of my favorite elementary school professors gave me the task of memorizing and reciting his most famous poem, The Listeners, at a school recital. I am now twenty-two years old and have never forgotten that poem; but this week, rather than share that piece, I chose to share de la Mare’s poem, November. The hopeless feeling of loss is one that transcends boundaries and I know we have all experienced it at one time or another. This poem has stayed with me from the moment I read it because of its simple, yet complex description of the loss of the innocence of childhood, or if it so suits the reader, the pain of losing someone dear.
Walter de la Mare, born in 1873 in Kent, while not a writer by trade until 1908, published works for both children and adults for most of his life. He is known as a writer, “whose use of the fantastic and imaginative transformed the ordinary and entertained readers of all ages.” It is this very thing about him that makes him one of my top three favorite poets, and has inspired me to share this piece with you all. Enjoy!
There is wind where the rose was,
Cold rain where sweet grass was,
And clouds like sheep
Stream o'er the steep
Grey skies where the lark was.
Nought warm where your hand was,
Nought gold where your hair was,
But phantom, forlorn,
Beneath the thorn,
Your ghost where your face was.
Cold wind where your voice was,
Tears, tears where my heart was,
And ever with me,
Child, ever with me,
Silence where hope was.
-Walter de la Mare
This week, Michael Bronner and Aisha Douglas asked:
If you could have any other name, what would it be and why?
It would be Bushra because I was named by some religious scholar and my name means "good news." So I think I am blessed. Even though my own parents did not name me, still I would keep my name because it represents me and I would want people to know me as Bushra. -Bushra Liagat
My name would be Jin-Chao. I would like this name because it means "morning scenery," or one that "rises," something that people would wake up in the morning to see. - Lawrence Change
Zainab. My grandmother was named after the prophet Muhammed's (PBUH) first wife "Khadijah," and my mother was named after his beloved wife "Aisha." I think it would be cool to be named after another one of his wives. She was known to be the most charitable. -Rebbeca Khan
My name's already too awesome. I'd maybe just make my last name easier to pronounce. -Dominique Gauvard
Frankenstein Chamelio Salamander Fresh -Emanuel Bennett
I don't think I would change my name - in America, it's a very unique name, and in India, it speaks to my religion and social and cultural background. I would, however, like to announce to the world that my name is not kristina, kristin, krisna, krisha, kris, or any other butchered version of Krishna. I can't tell you how many times my name has been mispronounced - and even after I enunciate every syllable, here are people who can't seem to get it right! -Krishna Sury
I already have a nom de plume et guerre. Sonja Cienfuegos. Sonja in homage to one of my heroes, Red Sonja, Cienfuegos in homage to another, Camilo Cienfuegos. -Ingrid Feeney
I would keep my first name because it's unique and it has a nice meaning, (faithful and trustowrthy) but I'd probably change my last name to McKenzie because that was my dads last name before he changed it. And McKenzie is much shorter to write and I wouldn't have to say a as in apple b as in boy d as in david etc because most people know how to spell McKenzie. So it would be a hell of a lot more convenient. -Amna Abdus-Salaam
Earnest Snipe. When I win the lotto and disappear. Maybe. -Kenneth Swaby
Tuesday, April 08, 2008
It is the characteristic excellence of the strong man that he can bring momentous issues to the fore and make a decision about them. The weak are always forced to decide between alternatives they have not chosen themselves.
- Francois De La Rochefoucauld
The above quote is not intended to insult, but rather to appeal to the readers of our blog. Often, we settle for the better of two or more choices, even if we're not entirely satisfied with any of them. Whether it be food, or appliances (The current green craze) or presidential candidates, or any incidence where we are faced with choice, we implore you to never settle for less. Strive to achieve your full satisfaction. Though you may not know how to create or bring about what would satisfy you more than the current choice, or even what would satisfy you more, never let it go. The dissatisfaction of today is the blue print for the shaping of tomorrow. In short:
"You must be the change you wish to see in the world."
We welcome you every week to our world of words and hope that you take away a new choice or way of thinking with every read.
This Week, Aisha Douglas Enlightens Us To Tattoo Culture.
“Traditionally the ones that made the tattoos were very special people. In New Zealand, in the Maori, the chiefs and the warriors—the important people—earned the right to get tattooed. It wasn’t Joe Blow in the back of a barbershop.” Mike Bellamy – artist and owner of Red Rocket Tattoos
When I volunteered to do the Culture Corner, I knew I wanted to focus on the culture of body art. Many may be surprised to know that the art of tattooing permeated mainstream American culture over one hundred and fifty years ago, but has only been accepted in the mainstream over the past ten years or so. Unfortunately, with its rapidly growing popularity and acceptance, comes the sad disregard for its fascinating history.
The art of tattooing has existed through most, if not all, of man’s existence. There is evidence of the art of tattooing being practiced in China, Japan, Russia, and Africa—pretty much all over the world, from as far back as 2000 B.C. The Maori tribe of New Zealand and tribes of West Africa, along with many others, have been practicing the art of tattooing for centuries. Marquesans, Africans, Egyptians, the list goes on, have, and still do practice the art. The Marquesans practiced ritual tattooing to indicate beauty, courage and wealth. In this culture tattoos maximized the beauty of the individual who possessed them, and demonstrated their extreme courage as the process was painful; anyone who could withstand it was obviously courageous and wealthy, as the artist themselves were paid handsomely for their services.
In New Guinea and New Zealand, the men were tattooed to indicate they were warriors, and also, to indicate the number of men they had slain. The Mojave, Innuit and New Zealand tribes, amongst others, tattooed the women with certain designs to indicate that they were married. A five thousand year old corpse, discovered in 1991 on a mountain between Austria and Italy, was tattooed in places that suggest it was done in an attempt to treat arthritis. In our neck of the woods, the earliest tattooing trend is recorded as taking place within the tribes of the Native Americans. Accounts show that the tattoos were used to indicate great warriors, status, and to show to which tribes’ persons belonged.
The first permanent tattoo shop in NYC was opened in 1846 and so started the tradition of tattooing servicemen. In 1891 Samuel O’reilly invented the tattooing machine and the trend grew from then on. From the traditional, sometimes even spiritual practice of tattooing, came the trend of tattooing to portray patriotism, and to channel, and demonstrate religious strength and affiliation . However, it has only been within the past 12 or so years that tattooing has become legal in NYC. Unfortunately, since then, this once spiritual, meaningful practice has now seemingly turned into a trend of hearts, “tribal” and other meaningless markings. Luckily for us enthusiasts, there are many artists out there still practicing tattooing as an art.
- Aisha Douglas
This Week, Irena Bruza Shares A Book She Has Recently Picked Up.
A few weeks ago I was on a desperate search for something to read. I had already thoroughly exhausted my Victorian phase, had been eons beyond my Terry Pratchett obsession, and I was trying very hard to take a break from my new infatuation with Middle Eastern literature, having read The Kite Runner, A Thousand Splendid Suns, and Persepolis in a very short time, in succession. A friend of mine suggested a book by Nicholson Baker. I had trouble finding it so I picked up another while I ordered the first on Amazon. Neither of them was a hard read, but each book's subject matter would make any grandmother's ears fall off. Even I was at times uncomfortable reading them because, without the exact title, they essentially amounted to erotica—though admittedly more tasteful, I presume, since he played with the conventions of writing rather than the idea of titillation (which there still was plenty of).
So, I had almost given up on Mr. Baker. His books were good, but they made me squirm. However, thanks to the magic of the internet, I managed to research some of his other works and I found myself intrigued despite my reservations.
Baker takes a unique approach to writing. His first novel, The Mezzanine, for example, from the first page follows a young man and his thoughts as he is on his way up an escalator—nothing more. His other novels continue in the similar vein, interested more in internal processes rather than external action. They are all very experimental but he accomplishes exactly what he wants to do through them. Because of this knowledge and revived curiosity, I took myself to the Brooklyn College library during another literary dry spell and began a fervent search for Baker's books. After a lot of copying and pasting from Amazon, I found myself looking at The Everlasting Story of Nory. Reading the synopsis online, I was quite surprised. A children's novel? Really? Nicholson Baker? In essence that's what it was, though any adult could easily pick it up and feel enriched.
In The Everlasting Story of Nory, Baker takes on the voice of a nine-year-old American girl living and going to school in England. The narrator is not Nory, however, but someone with a limited perspective who seems to know what Nory is thinking and doing but doesn't declare itself as an “I.” The story doesn't have a clearly visible arc, but it takes place during the course of one school year where many things can happen to a nine-year-old.
Nory forms a friendship with a girl named Pamela who is bullied by the rest of the school. It doesn't much help that Nory herself is sometimes ridiculed for her American accent, but she persists even when she risks losing other, popular, friends. Baker follows this narrative loosely, however, focusing more on the thought process and Nory's imagination. She writes little stories, she talks about her adventures visiting English manors, and occasionally she reflects on some parts of the bigger picture like the lives of the little bugs that eat away at the wood of her church. Baker does such a good job of it that even the loftier ideas Nory comes up with remain childlike.
Overall, I must say that this was a very pleasant surprise coming from Baker. He is not afraid to put his foot into so many different themes and genres. The Everlasting Story of Nory proves the point that even a man who writes about very adult material can float down into children's territory and do a good job of it.
During the Cold War in the 1980s, when Ronald Reagan was fighting a proxy war against the Soviet Union in Central America, he promised that, when the war was over, he would rebuild a newer and better El Salvador. After spending so much on the prerogatives of his particularly hawkish administration, however, it seemed that there was little drive in Washington for the reconstruction project. As the priorites of the United States' Military-Industrial complex shifted from the Soviet Union and Central America to Afganistan and the Persian Gulf, El Salvador was all but forgotten by the American public.
Now, more than two decades later, both the US and Central America are reaping the consequences of Washington's shortsightedness.
MS-13, or Mara Salvatrucha, and its antithesis or rival gang, Mara 18, were both founded by Salvadoran immigrants in the gang-rife Los Angeles of the 1980's. As members were prosecuted in and deported from the United States back to El Salvador, the gangs' presence in the still-politically-fractured nation proliferated rapidly and with devastating consequences. The homicide rates there are now among the highest in the world ---- 58 per 100,000 of population. Entire sectors of the capital, San Salvador, are virtually under control of one of the two rival gangs, their discrete territories marked by graffiti and the palpable fear of civilian residents. Their fear is not unfounded. The favored method of killing among members of MS-13 is decapitation by machete.
Perhaps the government and people of the United States would be indifferent regarding the current plight of El Salvador, were not MS-13 such a significant presence in their country as well. Mara Salvatrucha is the biggest and fastest growing Latin American street gang in both Central and North America, with an estimated 60,000 maras active in El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico and---according to the FBI---in more than 40 US states.
Aaron Escorza is heading an FBI National Gang Task Force initiative to quell the wildfire expansion of the gang, while Honduran and Salvadoran police forces have implemented policies called "Mano Dura" (Hard Fist) and "Super Mano Dura", respectively. So far however, these efforts have been to no avail and the quiet war in the streets rages on.
- Ingrid Feeney
The Rebel Gets Acceptance
Foreign countries seem to be warming up to the U.S. recently. In a poll carried out by the BBC World Service, 35% of people voted that the U.S. has a positive influence—that’s 4% more than last year’s poll. The vote that the U.S. has a negative influence is 47% this year, whereas last year it was 52%. The poll is administered every year, and it is the first time since 2005 that opinions of the U.S. around the world, have improved.
17,000 people in 34 different countries took the poll. Unfortunately, the general opinion of the U.S. has stayed the same. A negative attitude is still prevalent. However, it is important to note that in 11 of 23 countries also polled last year, the attitude has improved. Attitudes only worsened in the following countries: Egypt, Canada, and Lebanon.
"I would say public opinion is a lagging indicator of what we are doing, working together with European governments and other elites. We are a superpower. We have tremendous responsibility, a large economy, large diplomatic reach and military reach, so naturally the world looks at the US with much greater attention than any other country in the world,” commented U.S. State Department official, Kurt Volker.
It is true that the U.S. cannot please everyone. Yet in comparison to other nations in the world, the U.S. is generally viewed positively. The rest of the world views Iran and Israel most negatively, with Pakistan coming in third. Out of all nations, Germany is viewed most positively.
Tanzanian Off Color Desperation
A disturbing trend has caught the attention of the international press recently. It stems from Tanzania and it involves the murder of albinos for “good luck.” Allegedly, witchdoctors, primarily in the Victoria region of Tanzania, have been encouraging people to kill and harvest the body parts of albinos because this will supposedly bring prosperity. The Tanzanian president, Jakaya Kikwete, has stood up for the nation's population of 270,000 albinos and denounced the practice. He believes it to be an “easy way out” for those who are less fortunate.
There is a much bigger issue here. Third world nations across the globe are desperate for economic stability, some so much so (like Tanzania) that its people would go to any measure to secure some wealth to the point that superstitions take over. It is unfortunate that innocent people have died, but the desperation is so great they feel the need to go to extremes. The world needs to take charge and help these countries instead of chastising them for their beliefs, however horrid and wrong they may be.
Do you agree?
What do you think the central problem is here?
If you have an opinion, feel free to post a comment.
This Week, Carolina Alvarado Shares A Poem By Gregory Corso.
Of course I tried to tell him
but he cranked his head
without an excuse.
I told him the sky chases
And he smiled and said:
"What's the use."
I was feeling like a demon
So I said: "But the ocean chases
This time he laughed
and said: "Suppose the
pushed into a mountain."
After that I knew the
war was on--
So we fought:
He said: "The apple-cart like a
snaps & splinters
old dutch shoes."
I said: "Lightning will strike the old oak
and free the fumes!"
He said: "Mad street with no name."
I said: "Bald killer! Bald killer! Bald killer!"
He said, getting real mad,
"Firestoves! Gas! Couch!"
I said, only smiling,
"I know God would turn back his head
If I sat quietly and thought."
We ended by melting away,
hating the air!
By Gregory Corso
Gregory Corso was the only native New Yorker of the Beat poets, born in Greenwich Village on March 26, 1930. He was born to Italian teenage parents, and wandered through orphanages and foster homes after his mother’s return to Italy just a year after his birth. At the age of eleven, Corso moved back in with his newly remarried father, but ran away two years later. Caught, he was placed in a boy’s home for two years before running away again. He spent several months in a New York City jail, before returning to his father once more, only to run away again and spend three months “for observation” in Bellevue Hospital. At sixteen, he began his three year jail sentence in Clinton State Hospital for another theft, during which he intensely read the classics. It was in the hospital that he began writing poetry. The year of his release, he was introduced to experimental poetry by Allen Ginsberg at the age of 20. Though Corso uses an anarchic style similar to Ginsberg’s, the humorous voice and lightness of his verse sets him apart from the Beat poets, and makes him, for me, a refreshing read.
Due to the absence of last week's At This Moment, the Blog will be featuring two "At This Moment" sections.
Question: What would you like your last words to be?
"Hmm. I don't know what I want my last words to be, but I've recently decided that I want to be dipped in liquid nitrogen and shattered like all the Swedes are doing. Who wants to be cremated or buried when you can be dipped in liquid nitrogen and shattered into billions of pieces?" -Rebekkah Powling
"I'd like to go out like Timothy Leary and say something like 'Ok, yeah'" -Marcel Leroux
"Rosebud" -Ariana Costakes
"That was delicious" -Greta Feeney
"My last words would be arranged in a syntactically correct sentence consisting of my most favorite words, whatever they may be. I guess that would be something like; Love is." -Chantal Hauser
Forgive my sins." -jenna romany
"I tried my best" -anon
"The best is yet to come" -anon
Question: What famous historical event would you have liked to be present at?
"The assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. so i could have took the bullet for him...and maybe, just maybe the world would have made some greater progress towards his DREAM... because the world desperately needs to be in a better place." -Randolph Austin
"I would have liked to be there when Columbus came to America and I would have said, 'Dude, this isn't India.'" That would have changed the world." -Kate Dean
"The Boston Tea party. Because I like costume parties and I like Tea. It's a win win situation.
Kidding!! My sister's answer to this is the moment that bread was discovered." - Nicole Lebenson
"The dawn of space so I could squash the creation vs. evolution debate." -Michael Bronner