With only two weeks left until this historic election, we at the Boylan Blog see fit to officially endorse Barack Obama as our preferred candidate for the presidency of the United States of America. While some people see Obama's emphasis on "change" as abstract demagoguery or empty rhetoric, I see his very candidacy as evidence of the change of which he speaks in action.
In May of 1961, 3 months before Barack Obama was born, martial law was being imposed in the town of Montgomery, Alabama in order to quell race riots that were breaking out in response to the Freedom Riders(a multi racial group on a bus tour of the US to challenge racial segregation)' activism within the public transport system. In September of 1963, four little girls fell victim to the famous hate crime----the bombing of a Birmington church by white supremacists. On April 4th, 1968, the great Martin Luther King was assassinated, and an eruption of race riots ensued all throughout the United States.
The point I want to make is not that this election is about race, it is that Barack is himself evidence of the change of which he speaks. He is both the evidence and the catalyst of change. And it is a change that is still in progress. A change that we need desparately. Racism, putrid and pervasive, still looms like a goulish spectre in our national psyche. It has emerged in the form of hateful epithets spewed by McCain supporters at rallies all over the country. Are we going to let fear determine our actions, or hope? Call me simple for breaking it down to those elements, but we all know the candidates' stances on the issues. What I am addressing here is the collective soul of this country. A soul that has long been sickened by the oppressive paradigm of racism and hatred, born and nurtured during the era of colonial expansion and slavery.
We need healing. We need change. And Barack Obama is the man to help us get it.
Monday, October 27, 2008
With only two weeks left until this historic election, we at the Boylan Blog see fit to officially endorse Barack Obama as our preferred candidate for the presidency of the United States of America. While some people see Obama's emphasis on "change" as abstract demagoguery or empty rhetoric, I see his very candidacy as evidence of the change of which he speaks in action.
Dad Fights for Son
David Goldman has been struggling to get his son Sean back since his wife ran to Brazil in 2004. At the time, Bruna claimed that she was taking their son, who was just 4 years old, on a two week vacation to Brazil to see family she had there. When she arrived Bruna called David and told him she wasn’t coming home, and neither was Sean.
Mr. Goldman immediately went to the courts in New Jersey and demanded a hearing over custody. The courts immediately granted Mr. Goldman a hearing, and ordered Bruna back to the States. When the paper work was sent to Brazil it took their government a year to get back to the US, and by then claimed it was too long to force the young child to leave his mother. (....)
Bruna went on to divorce Mr. Goldman and marry another man in Brazil, a rich lawyer with powerful ties in the country. They began a battle to force David to give up his parental rights, claiming it would be the only way he would ever see Sean again. In the process, Bruna became pregnant by her new husband but died while giving birth.
In light of the tragedy there was a glimpse of hope. Being the only living parent it seemed obvious that Sean would be coming home. Instead, Mr. Goldman has made dozens of trips to Brazil fighting against the new husband, who is attempting to have Mr. Goldman’s name erased from the birth certificate.
It’s a scary thought that someone who isn’t even related to your child can obtain custody in a foreign country. Even though Sean is a US citizen and the courts have ordered Brazil to send him home, nothing has been done; and sadly all Mr. Goldman can do is keep fighting.
- Meaghan Keeler
Herpes Gladitorum 2, Sumo Wrestlers 0
In Japan two sumo wrestlers have tragically passed away. No, not from their high calorie diet, but from Herpes Gladiatorum, a disease colloquially known as “Scrum Pox.” What is unique about their deaths is that this virus was not passed on to them during sexual activity, but through wrestling. Unlike genital or oral herpes, “Scrum Pox” is transmitted by skin to skin contact. Researchers have found that this particular strain of Herpes is more lethal than the other common strains of this disease. This is due to the severe symptoms such as full body legions, sore throat, and fever. For this reason many athletes affiliated with the world of contact sports are taking heavy precautions before engaging in such physical activities. (....)
Out of all contact sports sumo wrestling is the most dangerous in regards to spreading the “scrum pox.” Sumo wrestlers train and live together in what is called “heyas,” or a stable. These training and living conditions are ideal for spreading this now deadly virus. The disease spreads at a rapid rate through broken skin.
Scientists in Tokyo believe that this disease is a threat to the livelihood of athletes, and there must be more research done on this disease in order for it to be properly treated. In the United Kingdom there have been some cases of Herpes Gladiatorum seen in rugby players. However, researchers in the United Kingdom believe that this disease is not serious nor is it life threatening. I do not know which set of researchers are accurate in their thoughts about this disease, but I do know that I will think twice before playing any contact sports.
Source: BBC NEWS
The Hypocrisy of Pantsuits
According to recent financial disclosure records, the Republican National Committee has spent over $150,000 on outfits for Sarah Palin and her family since her emergence as the Republican Party’s Vice Presidential candidate. These reports indicate multiple September bills from Neiman Marcus in Minneapolis, including one for $75,062.63, along with charges from Saks Fifth Avenue in New York and St. Louis for a total of $49,425.74. Although there have been other instances of overly indulgent spending by candidates, John McCain’s $520 Ferragamo dress shoes and John Edward’s $400 haircuts last year come to mind, these splurges blow the rest out of the water. (....)
The RNC and the McCain-Palin campaign initially refused to comment on this retail-spending binge. When asked by Politico about these expenditures, Maria Comella, a spokeswoman for the campaign, stated: “the campaign does not comment on strategic decisions regarding how financial resources available to the campaign are spent.” Once the Politico website broke this story and legal ramifications were discussed, the McCain-Palin camp changed its tune. This time, Tracey Schmitt, another spokesperson for the campaign, declared: “with all of the important issues facing the country right now, it’s remarkable that we’re spending time talking about pantsuits and blouses…it was always the intent that the clothing go to a charitable purpose after the campaign."
The McCain-Palin campaign may not consider Sarah Palin’s shopping habits as a serious squabbling point, but campaign finance experts do. Many questions have been raised about the legality of these retail trysts “under the Federal Election Commission's long-standing advisory opinions on using campaign cash to purchase items for personal use.” Considering that much of Sarah Palin’s appeal comes from her self-advertisements as a “hockey mom,” “Washington outsider” and all around average blue-collar American, I find it ironic that her campaign has spent thousands of dollars on new outfits for her. I doubt real working class Americans use their hard earned cash on $10,000 mandarin-collared pantsuits.
This week Aisha Douglas shares a poem by Kamau Brathwaite.
from 'Islands and Exiles'
The stone had skidded arc'd and bloomed into islands:
Cuba and San Domingo
Jamaica and Puerto Rico
Grenada Guadeloupe Bonaire
curved stone hissed into reef
wave teeth fanged into clay
white splash flashed into spray
Bathsheba Montego Bay
bloom of the arcing summers...
The islands roared into green plantations
ruled by silver sugar cane
sweat and profit
islands ruled by sugar cane
And of course it was a wonderful time
a profitable hospitable well-worth-you-time
when captains carried receipts for rices
letters spices wigs
opera glasses swaggering asses
debtors vices pigs
O it was a wonderful time
an elegant benevolent redolent time--
and young Mrs. P.'s quick irrelevant crine
at four o'clock in the morning...
But what of black Sam
with the big splayed toes
and the shoe black shiny skin?
He carries bucketfulls of water
'cause his Ma's just had another daughter.
And what of John with the European name
who went to school and dreamt of fame
his boss one day called him a fool
and the boss hadn't even been to school...
Steel drum steel drum
hit the hot calypso dancing
hot rum hot rum
who goin' stop this bacchanalling?
For we glance the banjoy
dance the limbo
grow our crops by maljo
have loose morals
father out neighbour's quarrels
perhaps when they come
with their cameras and straw
hats: sacred pink tourists from the frozen Nawth
we should get down to those
where if we don't wear breeches
it becomes an island dance
Some people doin' well
while others are catchin' hell
o the boss gave our Johnny the sack
though we beg him please
please to take 'im back
so now the boy nigratin' overseas...
Kamau Brathwaite was born in Barbados in 1930. After receiving his degree from Harrison University in Barbados, he migrated to England and completed another degree at Pembroke College. Since then Mr. Brathwaite has worked and lived in Ghana, Jamaica and England. He is now a Professor at NYU and splits his time between Barbados and New York. His poems are described as pieces that explore “historical links and events that have contributed to the development of the black population in the Caribbean and is distinguished by its experimental linguistic (and often multilingual) explorations of African identity in the West Indies.”
I happened upon this particular piece while trying my absolute hardest to distract myself from GRE preparation, and was immediately captivated. 'Calypso' speaks to the Caribbean person like very few voices can. Brathwaite's bitter reflection of colonization, and the cheapening of the Caribbean culture and its people, sparked a violent wave of emotions when I read it. It transported me to the place I grew up in, and reminded me of the resentful feelings conjured by the sight of “pink tourists from the frozen Nawth” who approached the island as their playground, and the people as their source of entertainment. However, the piece still managed to remind me of the beauty the islands possess, and the resilience of its people. “Calypso” speaks to me, and for me; its language strong and visuals piercing. I will forever be grateful to the tediousness of GRE for bringing me to Kamau Brathwaite's poetry.
You: The Owners Manual
Dr. Oz got my attention on an episode of Oprah sometime last year. Although usually when my mom turns on her show it’s time for me to do some reading, Dr. pulled me in by telling the audience that he fully believes that every person can live to be at least 100 years old. Doctors are learning more ways to keep their patients alive but we must also realize that our health is our responsibility.
You: The Owners Manual takes the reader on an in depth tour of the human body, not only showing how parts work but also how to make them function more efficiently. Many people think that they are healthy until something tragic happens, and then, it’s up to the doctor to fix it. Heart attacks do not come from nowhere. The arterial damage needed to have a heart attack is a progressive problem. The choices we make in our 20’s and 30’s affect the quality of our life when we’re in our 70’s and 80’s. But this book is not just a “how to” for aging gracefully; it’s a book about how the body works, and what we can do to prevent diseases and other negative effects of aging.
The doctors a measurement called “real age” (if you want to see how old you really are, check out realage.com) to determine a person’s health. “Real age” uses basic medical information (i.e. blood pressure, cholesterol, amount of exercise and diet) to analyze how old your body is in comparison to your calendar age. The scary thing is you can look healthy on the outside but be years older on the inside. Even if your calendar and real age are the same, there are still things you can do to make your body years younger than you actually are. You: The Owners Manual is the basis for a series of books that build on this basic outline of the human body and the principle that we can live longer and more fulfilling lives by taking care of our bodies. You: Staying Young for example, goes into more detail about what the doctors call “Major Agers” and how you can avoid them.
Although all of this sounds too medical to be interesting, the book is formatted in a way that makes it a quick read. Each chapter is filled with amusing images that explain the workings of the body by comparing it to a house, making it easy to understand. Healthcare is becoming less and less secure and the idea that we can control the way our body ages is comforting in a time of uncertainty. So pick up a copy of You: The Owners Manual because in the end your health is up to YOU.
This week Diana Kuruvilla and Ingrid Feeney asked the students of Brooklyn College:
"How would you feel if the U.S. made voting a mandatory right of a citizen?"
"It would be interesting if the United States makes it mandatory for every citizen to vote. Candidates may have to work harder to please every single group in the United States by covering the needs of all the people rather then a select few groups that may be politically more influential. Also, it might make people get more involved with elections and really find out who the candidates are. But at the same time, some citizens might not really care and do the good old fashion method of "inny meeny miny moe. Considering this is a right of every citizen, I think it's up to the people to decide whether or not they want to exercise that right." - Winnie H.
"That's not a sign of a free society." - Irena B.
"I'd rather have the government take steps to make voting easier and more accessible, such as - make voting day a federal holiday, give prisoners the right to vote, institute electronic databases to avoid inconsistencies and inefficiencies, etc. However, we should also keep in mind that almost all voting laws are state-based, and the federal government has very little say over voting laws (other than when gross discrimination is occurring)." -Hamad S.
"A mandatory right... if the US made it a requirement, there would have to be some sort of penalty, which should not be very harsh, if the citizen did not end up voting. Of course, such penalties should not be reinforced if the person simply could not go vote on that day for other circumstantial reasons. I am just interested in how they would make it mandatory without having a fine or penalty for not doing it. Otherwise, I think that it isn't a bad idea--it would definitely force a lot more people to vote, who are otherwise too busy or too apathetic to head to the polls. It would effect the numbers and make a difference in who is eventually elected as a candidate. It would be more fair because then as many people as possible would actually be voting." - Alisa K.
"I really don't see how they would be able to do it, but if they do, I believe they should also provide more informative programs prior to the election. For example, they could have a few evening seminars or discussion groups at the schools used for voting, or have informative flyers sent out." - Dariya M.
"I would actually be scared if voting was mandatory because I worry that people would vote for a candidate just because their friends favor him or her, or even just randomly choose someone. Unless there were programs that properly educated people on the candidates, it wouldn't work. Also, I really don't think that it would be enforceable because there are just too many people." - Monica W.
"I think that, as with the compulsory payment of taxes, it would have its problems. Enforcement alone....
I think that, as our right, it is our unspoken duty...but to make it compulsory would be at least somewhat dangerous....especially with the way the electoral college is now..." - Lauren C.
"I'd be for compulsory voting ONLY if we did away with the Electoral College and each citizen's vote counted directly. The irony of compulsory voting is that in a free society, it shouldn't have to be compulsory--free citizens are supposed to exercise their freedom by voting. So the real question is: what the fuck is wrong with Americans?" - Robert J.
"American Socialism would be number one in the world, Yeehaaaaa!" - Santino Di R.
"To require a vote is to demean the freedom of voting." - Glen S.
"I'd agree to it if it came with a short quiz to determine that voters know what they are voting for and aren't just there because it's required. Only those who pass get their vote counted. The candidates should have something similar, but harder." - Chandler R.
"Eh. It isn't the worst thing they could do. If it led to more transparent elections with paper trails and was much simpler, I really wouldn't be bothered." - Jacob R.
"How would I feel, or what would I think of it? I would feel like we were one step closer to being a democratic nation in name only. Y'know, like India. Actually, that's what I'd think, too." - David S.
"I'm not going to elaborate much, as I don't have the book handy, but R.A.Heinlein had some rather interesting suggestions for changing the voting process, most notably in one of the non-fiction articles included in the compilation Expanded Universe." - Brian L.
Monday, October 20, 2008
The English Majors' Open Mic is going down Tuesday, October 28 at 12:15 at the Bedford Lounge in SUBO. Be there! There are still a few spots left on the readers' sign-up sheet on the door of 3416 Boylan.
Autumn has been traditionally thought of as a time of abundance, of plenty, of the reaping of harvests sown during the blazing, sun-scorched days of summer. While the modern denizen of New York City feels somewhat distanced from this bucolic idyll of the harvest season, the celebration of fall's abundance can be experienced via a stroll through a farmers' market or a seat at a Thanksgiving dinner table. As fall progresses, there is one thing that students can be sure of having an abundance of: school work! We at the Boylan Blog hope that you, our dear readers, are faring well amidst the scramble to make it though midterm papers and exams, and that you will take a moment out of your busy schedules to carve a pumpkin or jump in a big pile of leaves. Come on. You know you want to.
“The ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security of all.”
-John F Kennedy
This year the presidential election is said to have the biggest turnout in decades and yet there are still people who don’t plan on voting. With crucial issues like the economy and the war in Iraq in the forefront, it’s puzzling how people still believe their vote doesn’t count. Even more unfortunate is many of those who don’t vote are young people. As far back as the 1960 presidential election, between a seasoned Richard Nixon and a young John F. Kennedy, there has been a struggle to stimulate young voters. Even though more young people are getting involved in politics like never before, there are still those who don’t see a reason to vote.
Looking at the turnouts of the last two elections, it seems there is nowhere to go but up. The US census reported a voter turnout of 60% in 2000 and 64% in 2004. Statistics like these leave people wondering how we can live in a democracy and have almost half of the country pass up one of its fundamental rights. In Australia, where voting is mandated by the government and produces turnouts of about 95%, citizens must vote or explain to the government why they didn’t (i.e. sickness or being out of the country). If the government feels the person missed the election for illegitimate reasons they pay a fine. But is this what Americans need? Do we need our government to force us to realize that issues facing the country are important?
Many different things come up when people discuss not wanting to vote. Some people feel like they don’t know enough about the candidates, some don’t like the choices and some claim they don’t vote because they don’t believe it makes a difference. Hopefully I can convince those of you who plan on sitting out November 4th to get out to the polls and make a decision. So here are the most popular reasons for not voting and why they don’t work:
“I don’t know who to vote for”
We all know to take what candidates say with a grain of salt, especially as we come closer and closer to Election Day. They can promise the world, but it doesn’t mean they are going to follow through. The president is forced to make hard decisions and we can only hope the candidate we vote for makes the right ones. More importantly, aside from the candidates, politics gets people talking. It forces all of us to take a look at the issues and take a stand on what we think. If you don’t think you know enough about the candidates to make an informed decision do something about it. Go on You Tube, watch the debates, read the paper, check the facts, find out what you stand for and choose the candidate that you feel has the same ideals and can do the best job.
“I don’t like either candidate”
Every election we begin to feel pressured to vote for the “lesser of two evils.” As October creeps on, candidates begin to scramble for anything they can throw at each other. In these last weeks we can not give up. The bottom line is we can find faults in both candidates because no one is qualified enough to deal with the problems we are facing. Whoever wins is going to try and make the right decisions but they can’t make any guarantees. Voting is about making a decision and voicing your opinion. Who do you think can do the best in the White House? Sometimes we make mistakes but democracy gives us the privilege of correcting ourselves every four years. So make an informed decision but look back farther than the last few weeks and don’t believe everything you hear (thanks to websites like factcheck.org, figuring out the truth is easier than ever). In one of the most important elections in history it was expected that the candidates would start feeling the pressure of Election Day on their shoulders.
“My Vote Doesn’t Count”
It’s hard to convince someone that their vote makes a difference without bringing up the domino effect: that if everyone thought like that no one would vote and the democracy would cease to exist. The set-up and execution of the Electoral College makes it difficult to convince people that an election can be determined by one vote, because realistically it can’t. Our founding fathers established a system where neither the government nor the people have complete control over the outcome of an election. The system is set up so when the people decide on a candidate they really vote for a committee who then elects the president. Many skeptics debate over who these “final electors” are and how they end up in such a powerful seat that seems so open to manipulation. Some states have elections for these committee members while some are elected by their represented party. The Electoral College is not made up of random people who just “pinky swear” to vote for a specific candidate. Usually the people chosen have strong ties to the party they promise to vote for, and some are even friends of the candidate’s.
We all saw, in 2000 that a candidate can win the popular vote yet lose the election. This is because the main goal of the candidates on Election Day is not to get the most votes in the country but to hit 270 electoral votes. Many argue that this aspect of the system is unfair but by assigning each state a certain amount of “votes” (based on their number of representatives in the House plus 2 for their Senators) the Electoral College ensures that every state has a voice. Still candidates must work for the popular vote in order to get the electoral votes they need. When the results of the electoral vote don’t match that of the popular vote, people don’t take it lightly. The election in 2000, where Al Gore was announced the winner only for it to be recanted moments later, is an example of an imperfect system. Debates over the Electoral College are valid and it does have its grey areas but not voting in an attempt to spite the government is ensuring that your opinion isn’t heard.
Our vote matters because we are exercising a right that was not always given to us. Our fore fathers created a democracy because they didn’t feel like they had a say in their own government. When we refuse to vote we denounce all the hard work that ensured this right for us. When women argue their vote doesn’t count, they forget about Lucretia Mott and Susan B Anthony and the women’s suffrage movement that fought seventy years to get women the right to vote. African Americans fought for decades against the Jim Crow Laws well into the 20th century. When we don’t vote we negate the progress made by those that came before us. How can we denounce a right that so many fought so hard to get?
Voting is more than just a right, it’s a duty. As the election rages on, many people are left with the question: “Why should I vote?” Vote because you can. The issues that face our country today will one day be our problems and our children’s problems and we are obligated to look at the issues, make choices, develop an opinion and go with the candidate who we feel would do the best job. Regardless of whether you’re on the left or right, there is a power in numbers and a high voter turnout sends a message to both parties.
And in the words of Bob Schieffer‘s mother, “Go vote now, it will make you feel big and strong.”
This week, Diana Kuruvilla shares one of Pablo Neruda's wonderful odes.
When I first read this poem my fingers timidly reached up to touch my own kernel of existence, feeling the contours of my head as if for the very first time. As a student of science, the mysteries of the brain had never ceased to astound me, yet its protective covering was something I completely overlooked. Where before I surrounded myself with descriptions of synapses and action potentials, I found something more concrete and physical in Neruda’s depiction of the “tough coconut” and “calcium dome” covering the anterior part of our being. Neruda’s use of vivid similes and metaphors produced a tangible image that instantly made my fingers itch to cover the expanse of my head’s topography.
This is a poem packed with description and the run-on lines build up the tension and expectation of richer comparisons. Each line consists of no more than three or four words, directing the reader to pause and take in what had just been said. Through the use of recurring line breaks the poem relays a message not just about the cranium, but also about re-discovery. Neruda takes a second look at his cranium and praises it for its strength and invincibility through the years. He invites us to develop a second perspective, a more in-depth focus on those things we have come to take for granted. In an era where many of us are focused on material commodities, Neruda reminds us that stopping and smelling the roses, (or in this case, stopping and feeling your cranium) is a valuable way to spend our time.
Ode to the Cranium – Pablo Neruda
a cautious finger emerged,
crept along my ribs,
over my abused
the one thing
sound as a walnut
How often in my mature years,
in travels, in love affairs,
I examined every hair,
on my brow,
without noticing the grandness
of my head,
tower of thought,
protecting the clockworks,
pulses of reason, veins of sleep,
gelatin of the soul,
the miniature ocean
of the mind,
the wrinkled convolutions
of an undersea cordillera
and in them
will, the fish of movement,
the electric corolla
the seaweed of memory.
I touched my head,
as in the geology
of a mountain
now stripped bare of leaves
and the tremulous song of birds
of the earth;
in this song
I praise the cranium, yours
strongbox, the casque
the kernel of existence.”
Poetry is Revolutionary
At our last weekly internship meeting, I was reminded of how some students—of all disciplines, even English—are afraid of poetry. Perhaps it is the poetic syntax and "elevated language" which frightens; perhaps it s the notion that there exists a "correct" interpretation which daunts. Either way, I'd like to invite those previously put off by poetics to re-envision the medium as a powerful means of bringing understanding to people, regardless of their education or social class. In fact, I hereby officially reclaim poetics as the textbook of the people; I render a poetic understanding of the world on par with a scientific one. I cast aside the western notion of the superiority of western notions.
Though I'd like to be able to take credit for this reclamation, I have to give credit where credit is due. It was Amie Cesaire (1913-2008) who said "poetics are born in the vast silence of scientific knowledge." Cesaire was a poet and former president of Martinique, whose prescient prose provided a foundation for modern post colonial theory. His book "Discourse on Colonialism" seeks to provide an explanation of the mechanism and effects of colonialism on both the colonized and the colonizer, and to advocate for a new understanding of the world informed by surrealism and non Eurocentric thinking.
Specifically, Cesaire outlines how the stratification between Paganism and Christianity, between white and all other skin colors was constructed solely as a business strategy when mercantilism was the Western world's economic policy. The simple idea that free labor yields a very high profit margin is the simple idea on which colonization was founded. In order to facilitate such an unfair exchange, the colonial apparatus created the rationalization they needed by propagating white skin and a western value system as superior to all other ways of looking or doing things. By misprizing all other philosophies; by condemning nonwestern religious practices; by falsely linking barbarism and dark skin; colonial powers legitimized the subjugation and decimation of millions of lives in the name of business. In the end it is the colonizer who becomes the barbarian as he kills and enslaves in the name of civility.
I'd like to share a poem by Cesaire, as I feel that sometimes his non-prose poetry is overlooked by many. The imagery of a vast, empty, post apocalyptic world was perhaps the poet's vision of a future that holds as true the lies of the past.
Blank to Fill in on the Visa of Pollen
If there were nothing in the desert but
A single drop of water dreaming far below,
In the desert if there were nothing but
A windborne spore dreaming far above,
It would suffice.
Rusting of weapons, splitting of stones, anarchy of darkness
Desert, desert, I endure your challenge
Blank to fill in on the visa of pollen
This week, Jacob Victorine asked the Brooklyn College community two questions.
Respondents were asked to answer the first question before seeing the second.
How do you feel about the use of socialism within the U.S. government? Past, present or future?
How do you feel about the use of public programs (such as public schools, Medicare, Medicaid, social security, police forces, etc.) within the U.S. government? Past, present or future?
Q1: “What do you mean, socialism? It sound’s like communism to me. I don’t think it would work out for the U.S.”
Q2: “They’re all absolutely necessary programs to have a successfully functioning program in the U.S.”
Q2: “While I can’t speak for the way the government uses public programs, I can say that the way socialism is used in the United States is the antithesis of its original intent. Socialism is a system that’s intended for the benefit of the working class masses who were exploited by the upper class, not for the benefit of the ones doing the exploitation. It’s a shame that the people who are directly responsible for the current financial crisis are the ones being helped out the most, while individuals and families that are in serious dire straights are being left to suffer.”
“I’m not sure why socialism is such a huge deal but I’ll take it if it means I get health insurance; my wrist is killing me” (his wrist really didn’t look good! –ed.).
Q1: “I think communism is a failed experiment. Look at Cuba.”
Q2: “I think the government is responsible for those things. It’s paid for with taxes, right?”
-Anonymous (name withheld at the request of the respondent)
“I have better things to worry about being tricked by than your college questions. Go ask someone without health insurance and a job.”
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Also, please be advised that we are accepting submissions for both the English Majors' Zine, and the Honors Academy Literary Review. Both publications welcome submissions from all members of the Brooklyn College community. To submit to the Honors Academy Literary Review, please visit the Honors Academy Website. To submit to the English Majors' 'Zine, please send your piece(s) in email attachments to firstname.lastname@example.org ...
We look forward to hearing from you!
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
From the plummeting economy, to the bitterness of this election, to midterms fast approaching, it's easy to feel like that storm is always brooding, always right over our shoulder. As we watch those close to us lose their savings or put their retirement plans on hold, we fear for our own jobs and futures. Our insecurities and fears have the potential to blind us to the small, but real, reliefs available. "Nothing is as incredible as an answer to an unasked question." Nothing is more difficult to believe than a solution we are not ready for. From the burst of indigo on the right, to the profusion of pearl on the left, the photographer of this particular storm was surely looking for color in all of the right places. This month, instead of focusing on what could happen, let's try to see what's actually there. Maybe, hopefully, we'll find something we can all use.
- Carolina Alvarado
Al-gae─ or not Al-gae─ there should be no QuestionA promising development in the field of green energy has taken place in Peter van den Dorpel's patenting of an efficient way of growing and harvesting green algae.
The Algae-Link technology implements a steady flow of light, warmth, carbon dioxide and base nutrients in the cultivation of algae in long, horizontally- oriented tubes. A unique, patented internal cleansing system harvests the matured algae twenty four hours a day and prevents clogging of the tubes---a problem that plagued earlier attempts at cultivating algae on such a large scale. Once harvested, algae cells are split into chloroplast-rich green mass that can be used as feed for fish farms, and vegetable oil which can be processed into fuel for engines. (....)
The idea of algae as fuel gets greener still. It needs to consume carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas associated with global warming, in order to survive. About 1kg of algae is reported to "eat" 3kg of CO2, which means tubes of algae could be laid out on brown field sites next to a power station or a food processing plant to soak up emissions.
Critics and skeptics of this technology say that it would require too much space to produce enough algae to make a difference in the global fuel supply. However, since algae cultivation takes place in tubes, it is feasible on otherwise unusable land. There are already algae projects up and running in the Gobi desert of northern China. Another criticism is that this technology, which is being enthusiastically embraced by Europe's biggest airlines, will allow airline companies to market themselves as green when in reality theirs is one of the world's least sustainable industries.
- Ingrid Feeney
The World Financial Crisis: Rescued by the G7?
Both the eager and well-informed follower of the latest news and the just slightly interested bystander know by now that our world clearly has a problem. Apart from the physical destruction of Global Warming and the mental fear of a (potentially imminent) Apocalypse, our world is now also fiscally hindered by being broke.
At present times, we have a global mistrust between the Banking industries. Mutual trust is virtually non-existent and everybody is protecting their own interests. However, this is not quite working out because the banks need to work together, for their very survival. Yes, in unison… (....)
Now, the G7 of the world has stepped forward declaring: “We need to work together to find solutions to what is unfolding as the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.” (The G7 is the Group of Seven, consisting of the finance leaders of the world’s top economies: USA, Japan, Germany, Great Britain, France, Canada and Italy).
Yes! Let “us” work together to find solutions, they say, without big bonuses at the end of the year for “your” work. It sounds like a practical and necessary idea - “the plan of action” - and it is even backed by the IMF (International Monetary Fund).
The “plan of action” includes the following, according to a recent CNN article: “…take steps to keep leading institutions afloat, unfreeze credit, ensure banks have enough capital to kick-start lending and safeguard depositors’ fund and restart the secondary markets for mortgages and other securitized assets.” Wonderful, but where does this needed money come from? On the other hand, as the G7 so succinctly put it, “We need to work together…” and if it helps alleviate our current state, why not.
In addition, the G-20 has also expressed their thoughts, stating: “the ‘global implications’ of the crisis required international cooperation. (The G-20 consists of rich and emerging nations that produce 90 percent of the world’s economic output. The G7 nations are included in the Group of 20).
Speaking of all the “Groups” of the world, there is a slightly bigger one, below the Equator, which is often forgotten and relegated to the bottom of the hierarchy. The Group of 24, also called the Intergovernmental Group of 24 on International Monetary Affairs and Development (what a name!), includes nations such as Brazil, Ethiopia, the Philippines, Peru and so forth. These nations have it very hard, especially now. Interestingly enough, the G24 are not referenced in the present articles, except sparingly, if they are mentioned at all. Following the skyrocketing gas and nutrition prices, the G24 nations are afraid that the world’s financial crisis is going to eliminate what little export and import infrastructure that they have and are trying to further establish. A statement was issued by the G24 that they are not immune to such a financial collapse and that the international community has to be prepared to give more financial assistance to the poorest nations.
We are having a crisis and will lose some luxuries, but what about the countries that never had any to begin with? I don’t think this is what the world has signed up for, and I definitely do not think that we as a people have the right to run our (still somewhat functional) globe into the ground like this. But then again, WE are the ones who invented money, its value, its hierarchy and its power.
- Chantal Hauser
Female Suicide Bombers in Iraq
A day before the attack, Iraqi security officials arrested an alleged recruiter of female terrorists, Ibtisam Edwan, also a woman. Edwan had enlisted Iraqi girls as young as 15 to train as suicide bombers.
- Dan Asselin
When we think of vampires, we imagine pale, fanged and caped Transylvanian blood suckers; or tall, dark-haired and dark-eyed, brooding male specimens a la David Boreanaz of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. From Bram Stoker’s kitschy Transylvanian, Dracula, to the highly sexualized ghouls of Queen of the Damned and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the media has continuously maintained a one-dimensional view of this figure. NYC Vampire culture, spelled Vampyre to distinguish itself from myth, presents a multi-dimensional, and REAL, vampire figure—something we “mundanes” (i.e. non-vampyres) very rarely get to experience.
The wacky accent and coffins are far removed from the vampyres on the NYC scene. Vampyre culture in NYC has developed greatly over the past ten to twelve years. While much of the culture has fallen into the hands of bored suburban teens (who have managed to turn it into yet another superficial and cheesy fad), the NYC vampyre scene is quite complex and its members choose to remain mostly underground and exclusive. According to Dr. Mark Benecke, Certified Forensic Biologist, NYC vampyre culture (specifically Manhattan Vampyre culture) is broken down into three subcultures: “(a) psychic vampires who believe that they can transfer psychic energy from other people to themselves, (b) persons who drink (small amounts) of blood, or who suck on the unbitten skin of their donors believing that they can taste the blood anyway, and (c) lifestyles related to S/M (sadomasochistic) behavior.”
The vampyre community consists of “family-like substructures.” These families are called Clans and are headed by Elders. The Elders serve as the main source of support for new members, called Fledglings, along with maintaining order in the Clan. Vampyre culture runs by strict codes which seek to protect the Clan from exploitation and maintain order. While many may believe that the vampyres involved in these communities spend all day drinking each others’ blood while dressed in black, blood sharing is actually not a common practice. While it is practiced, it is done so in private between clan members. Dr. Benecke’s study showed that, “…vampyres are mostly interested in the party culture, some in role games, some tend towards fashion-related topics, and others are interested in sexual aspects…”
My personal experience has shown that more than anything else, the vampyre covens are a support system. The various subcultures have created an alternative family-structure for those looking for a place to become a part of something. Its members are not freaks, crazy, or attention seekers. A great deal of the time they are the forgotten ones: ex-cons, ex-drug addicts, people without families or homes. The covens provide them with the very things they do not possess. In their covens there are people they can turn to and share a similar experience. In Dr. Benecke’s words, “It has to be stressed that modern youth subcultures, no matter how extreme they might look to an observer outside the scene, cannot be simply put into standard categories of clinical psychology. The event-like character of many meetings, the family-like organization and the seriousness of the vampyres concerning their chosen behavior seem to be appropriate and socially acceptable in most cases.” So, my dear readers, you can put away your garlic and wooden stakes.
- Aisha Douglas
Sources: Hidden Shadows: The Realm of DarknessThe Transylvanian Society of Dracula: Vampire Youth Subculture in New York City
This week Jacob Victorine and Meaghan Keeler asked the students of Brooklyn College:
If you could ask Barack Obama or John McCain one question (assuming he would give a straight forward and honest answer) what would it be and why?
“I would ask John McCain what was the real reason he chose Sarah Palin, and not accept that bullshit she's qualified crap, just so he could say ‘I needed a Christian conservative woman to get votes.’ That way I can hate him more.
I would ask Barack Obama when was the moment in his life when he made the decision to want to become President one day. Just because I'm a bit curious about that.” -Christina Squitieri
To McCain: “How does it feel to use the same tactics against Obama that Bush used against you?”
To Both: “What do you intend to do about the country's skyrocketing deficit?”
To Obama: “Do you consider yourself black?” -Ben
To Both: “What do you plan to do to recover America’s good standing with foreign countries?” -Colin
To McCain: “Where the HELL did you find Palin? Did you pick her name out of a hat? You’re 72 years old; death is near. Do you really think Palin is the best candidate to replace you if you die?” -Ashley
To Both: “What are you actually planning on doing with this country?9 D" -Ozzie
To Both: “How many sexual partners have you had?” -Margarita
“I would ask both of them if they really think they can fix the country’s debt and how would they go about it?” -Ryan Meylikh
“I'd ask Obama why he missed so many senate votes since he took office in 2006. How can we be sure he won't just sit things out as president? And I would ask McCain how he plans to deal with energy independence and alternative fuel sources because he's never given a concrete answer to how we can achieve energy independence but he keeps saying that it’s n ecessary.” -Jaime Bellettini
“To Obama: Where do you stand on separation between church and state?” -Matthew Wilson
“My main question would focus on education. Yes we are dealing with other issues in America, but education keeps being put on the back burner. I would ask both men how they plan on funding the education system, and whether or not they think schools should get more funding than what they are currently getting. My reasoning for this question is that we live in a world that is modernizing quickly, yet we live in a country where the literacy rate is below average. That is disgusting.” -Luis Lopez
“What are they going to do about environmental polices, and if they plan on signing and ratifying the Kyoto Protocol if they are elected?” -Cynthia Tsang
To Obama: “Boxers or Briefs?” -Asina
“I would ask them why we can’t have universal health care. Socialist health care is not that bad. It works in other countries and it can work here. Drug and insurance companies have so much money and millions of people don't have health insurance. It seems like both of them are avoiding this option. They all want to give refund checks and lower taxes for us to have money for medical bills. Why can’t we all just have health insurance?” -Tiffany Martinez
To Obama: “Why do you use ‘change’ so much? What real changes do you plan on making?” -Agnieszka
To McCain: “Why does your campaign consistently knock community organizers? What is so bad about being in touch with the people?” -Patrick
To Palin: “Can you really see Russia from your house?” -Kyle
To McCain: “Was Palin a publicity stunt?” -Ben
To Both: “How do either of you plan on fixing the economy?” -Carla Torres
“I would ask them both if they support stem-cell research because no one has really talked about it this election.” -Billy Conklin
Monday, October 06, 2008
Presumably, during election season, we are looking for a candidate that embodies our most important principles. Yet in looking for a candidate that will defend our rights, we find it perfectly acceptable to infringe upon theirs. Somehow, it’s suddenly okay to call a candidate a “God soaked hick,” to discriminate against one because he may or may not have a distant Muslim relative, to mock another’s creationist belief, and for all, to invade their rights to privacy and religious freedom.
Ironically, election season brings out in voters the qualities they least want in their candidates. Bigotry oozes from both sides of the curtain, and insults and questions that at no other time would be permissible are applauded. How is it our concern whether John Edwards was or wasn’t a virgin when he married? Or whether Romney wears the underwear his church decrees that he should? Why is it that McCain, who attends a Baptist church regularly, is reluctant to be baptized until after the election? In a recent interview he claimed to be “afraid it might appear as if I was doing something I otherwise wouldn’t do.” Am I the only one that this appals?
Obama had a point when he said in his ’Call to Renewal’ Keynote Address that “secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering into the public square,” but the religious need to stop calling the irreligious, “immoral,” “godless,” and “abominations.” The mutual suspicion that Obama claims “sometimes” exists, but I argue is omnipresent, between the religious and the secularists of America needs to be talked about, but not in this way, and not in this place.
- Carolina Alvarado
What is social interaction if not a means to survive? In the animal world, survival is key and it’s not just carnivorous predators who can accomplish that task. Recent studies show that wasps and crows are able to pick out faces from within a crowd, a trait linked to their own survival. A study on the behavior of wasps, published in the latest issue of Current Biology states that female wasps are able to distinguish between one another for at least a week. With a brain less than a millionth the size of human brains, scientists are marveling at this new revelation, a characteristic once attributed only to bigger brained members of the animal kingdom.
Researchers previously hypothesized that wasps recognized facial markings of their neighbors and would remember them. Using a pool of 50 wasp queens, scientists secluded two wasps each to record and study their behavior towards each other. One week later they brought the same two wasps together. The familiar wasps behaved like life-long friends, some even offering grooming services.
Where the wasp queens could only recognize the faces of their own species, crows and their relatives can pick out a human face out of a crowd. Wildlife biologist John M. Marzluff and students at the University of Washington tested the crows’ ability to distinguish a face in spite of other human characteristics (i.e. clothing, a person’s gait, etc). Using a series of masks and designating them with “dangerous” and “neutral” connotations, Dr. Marzluff and his students studied the birds’ behavior. Researchers wearing “dangerous” masks (i.e. such as a caveman mask) trapped and captured several crows. Those wearing neutral masks were not bothered, but those wearing dangerous masks were significantly scolded by the crows.
Science has been a long proponent for the complexities and wonders of life, so why do even scientists find such evidence to be so surprising? When we’ve already proclaimed ourselves to be the most intelligent and complex being of the animal kingdom, it can be hard to accept the bright bulbs of intelligence flickering in our insect and bird friends. However, when the question of survival is raised, even the meek ones have their say.
It just goes to show you that the age-old adage remains true: What you see is not always what you get.
- Diana Kuruvilla
Sources: Discovery News, NY Times
Pope Benedict XVI Blames Modern Society for Problems in Modern Society; Uses Spirited Celebrities; Spiritless Medium to Combat Spiritual Apathy
Pope Benedict xvi kicked off a weeklong meeting of religious officials in Vatican City on Sunday with a speech blaming the current economic crisis on mans hollow pursuit of fame and fortune. He cited the "harmful and destructive influence of…modern culture" for the global decline in "faith, vocation…and identity." The convention of religious selectmen, called a Synod, convenes every three years to discuss religious issues; this year's meeting aims to unearth the reasons behind the bible's waning popularity. His Excellency has allied with Italian celebrities and sports figures to re-interest indifferent Christians by televising a reading of the scripture in it's entirety. The event will be broadcast for 7 days in a row without interruption.
- Phyllis Forbes
October: A Month of Diversified Colors and Causes
As October rolls in, I am basking in the warm colors of the fall foliage while awaiting the smell of brisk, cool Arctic air to herald this winter season. Yet, there’s much more than lovely leaves and crisp breezes stored up in the 31 days of this truly awareness-packed month.
What better way than to contemplate the various causes that we’ve associated with October than in list form? For those of you who are unaware, October is …
Hispanic Heritage Month
Domestic Violence Heritage Month
World Blindness Awareness Month
Dyslexia Awareness Month
Gay & Lesbian History Month
Global Diversity Awareness Month
National Reading Group Month
National Animal Safety and Protection Month
National Dental Hygiene Month
National Caramel Month
National Popcorn Poppin’ Month
National Liver Awareness Month
National AIDS Awareness Month
National Disability Employment Awareness Month
National Cookie Month
National Book Month, plus many more…
also---- don’t forget Columbus Day and the cream of the crop, Halloween.
Labeling has become a staple in our lives. Identification denotes recognition and thus existence. So, it is with much conviction that I promote such “awareness” promotions and programs. In order to reach out to everyone, advocacy is needed, and what better way to advocate a cause than to insert its name between the official book ends of “National” and “Month?”
Public awareness campaigns are usually geared towards health issues and diseases, with the fight against breast cancer topping the list. In a study conducted by the National Breast Cancer Coalition in 2007, one thousand women were asked what the greatest risk factor of breast cancer was. More than half stated family history, which is estimated to account for only 5-10% of most cancer cases. (The greatest risk lies in increasing age).
The surveyed women were also asked which diseases posed the biggest threats to women. Although heart disease was correctly identified by most women, they also placed breast cancer in the second position. As the National Center for Health Statistics points out, stroke, lung cancer, chronic lower respiratory disease and Alzhimer’s disease caused 45,000 plus deaths as opposed to 40,000 deaths due to breast cancer. Information can be misconstrued, misinterpreted and taken out of context. Thus, awareness programs help to de-fog our confused minds and set things straight.
Aside from disease awareness, heritage and pop-culture days are also avidly promoted. October not only stands for Hispanic Heritage, but also represents popcorn, caramel and cookies. Who wouldn’t want to praise the efforts of Cesar Chavez and Desi Arnaz while munching on the American staples of popcorn and cookies? Where else but in America can differences be set aside to produce harmonious atmospheres?
Our greatest challenges are our most rewarding opportunities. In order for everyone to get the message, we have to be vigilantly aware. Our world is constantly changing. From Hurricane Ike to melting ice-caps to suicide bombings, we are fighting the environment, natural disasters, human diseases and global politics. As John F. Kennedy once said, “If we can not end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children's future. And we are all mortal."
In an age where trends are picked up and dropped on whim, I do hope the “Awareness” trend stays put for years to come.
- Diana Kuruvilla
Sources: Promotional Events Calendar, NY Times, Time Magazine
Mexican Desert - Mina Loy
The belching ghost-wail of the locomotive
trailing her rattling wooden tail
into the jazz-band sunset. . . .
The mountains in a row
set pinnacles of ferocious isolation
under the alien hot heaven
Vegetable cripples of drought
thrust up the parching appeal
cracking open the earth
and hunch-back palm trees
belabour the cinders of twilight. . . .
I can't get enough of "Mexican Desert". It's got everything that I love in a poem. The imagery is surreal and haunting, almost nightmarish, yet somehow lifelike. The wordplay is percussive and sensual, but not overly affected, and the emotion is immediately accessible -- it's impact is visceral. My favorite part of all, the poem begs to be read in a low-down, Tom-Waitsian growl (check out "9th and Hennepin" from Waits' album Rain Dogs. It's similarity to "Mexican Desert" is chilling).
The gift of this poem for me is the opportunity for self-expression through the reading process itself: who and where are we in the scene that Loy has created? Are we passengers on this belching train? Sophisticated, upper-class British poets like Loy, traveling safely and comfortably in an overnight car? Are we Tarahumara tribesmen, scoping out the train from one of the "ferocious pinnacles of isolation"? Or, are we bloodthirsty train-robbers, hiding behind the "hunch-backed palm trees", waiting for the perfect moment to hijack the conductor. Every stanza offers a different identity, or you can inhabit all three at the same time!
Although I chose to write about this poem, I don't necessarily consider myself a fan of Loy's poetry. The vast majority of her work is too intellectual, with sounds and images that are overly affected. For me, reading Loy is like eating chocolate mousse: its definitely rich, but you'll feel terrible if you eat too much. So, small doses of this modern poet are all I need.
- Dan Asselin
Of all the Charles Dickens novels, The Lion and the Unicorn series and all the other books that dwell in Professor Natov’s office, there was one graphic novel with cover art showing four lions walking through the war ridden streets of Baghdad that grabbed my attention immediately, and demanded it be read at that moment. Inspired by true events, Pride of Baghdad, written by award winning author Brian K. Vaughan and art work by Niko Henrichon, is the story of four imprisoned lions escaping a Baghdad zoo during an American bombing. With freedom and survival being the main themes in this story, many moral and philosophical questions are asked as we are taken on an adventure through the destroyed streets and horrific wild of Iraq.
The artwork in this book is magnificent and the reader gets a real celestial view of a torn city. It sounds impossible but there is that much skill in the art. The blend of colors sets the mood, with different shades of orange and blue spread throughout creating a balance between chaos and tranquility. The details are awesome as well. Everything from the muscle lines of the lions to giraffe’s getting their heads blown off is done with such beauty.
Along with the visual prowess, the writing is crafted with such technique. The dialogue is sharp, the character development is strong, and how Vaughan just dives into this story and sets up the plot is impressive. Each of the four lions is unique and plays a crucial part in the story. There is the lioness who has been plotting for the longest time to escape, and can’t decide if freedom is something that is earned or something that is just given to you, and her cub, who is naïve and just learning about the world. It honestly felt like The Lion King at times. The male is out o f shape, half the time confident and the other half he is filled with self doubt. Captivity seems to have messed with his mind a great deal, but he is still rational and the easiest character to sympathize with. The last lion is the loyal warrior lioness. Bad ass is an understatement for her. One of her eyes was shredded out and every time she gets the chance to protect the pride she does. She’s loyal to the “keepers” for feeding them all those years, and argues with everyone over what is morally acceptable. She is the oldest of the pride and has been prisoner the longest. The others were not in the wild as long as her either; and she has not forgotten the cruelties of the world outside those walls. Her situation is reminiscent of criminals who are put away for many years and are scarred to be released because it is the only life they know.
The adventure that unfolds is amazing. They run into all different kinds of animals and roam many different places, from the desolate streets of Baghdad to the abandoned palace which all lead to the end of this emotionally gripping book. This story seriously took me back and made me think for a moment about this world and all that surrounds me. Many questions about life worth asking are raised. Is freedom something that must be earned because we are all supposedly born with that right? Are any of us truly free? What’s more important, the individual or the group? What are you willing to sacrifice for freedom? I recommend sitting down with this graphic novel and asking yourself these questions while reading it; it could seriously affect your answers.
- Joe Pugliesi
This week Austin Noel and Joe Pugliesi asked the students of Brooklyn College:
What fantasy or fiction land would you choose to live in?
Neverland because I'd never have to grow up. - Dominique G.
Wonderland for the tea parties. - Lisa P.
I would like to visit Shangri-la to beat this aging thing. - Anonymous
I would definitely go to Gilligan's Island so I could have the professor build me a car out of coconuts. - Anonymous
Easily the Star Wars universe. There political system is more interesting and it would be crazy to move stuff with my mind. - Andrew I.
Probably Spencer's The Faerie Queene because that place is crazy. - Michael B.
Willy Wonka's chocolate factory, because I want to free those poor Oompaloompas. - Anonymous