Saturday, May 28, 2011

Book Blog: Speak Out Against Vampire Restaurants

A day late, but I did manage to make a book video for the week. Sorry about the video quality. But I hope you enjoy it. Happy Reading.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Dear Mr. Potter

Recently, I discovered, a website where fans can write letters to Harry Potter, telling how the book series impacted and inspired their lives. In conjunction with HP Alliance, the heads of the blog have taken the best submissions and are releasing a book, which is available for pre-order right now.

Being one of the biggest Harry Potter nerds I know (and I know many, some of whom do have me beat for trivia knowledge) I decided to write my own letter.

Dear Mr. Potter,

I was seven years old when my younger sister brought home a paperback copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone from a Scholastic Book Fair at school. And for a few months, all it did was sit on the end table in our living room, quietly asking to be read. My sister had abandoned it in favor of riding her bike and reading shorter books about animals. Once or twice, I flipped open the first page, but I never made it further.

Finally, I picked it up, giving in to the silent plea not to be forgotten. I had to handle it carefully as two pages around the Potions Master chapter were attached, but loose. But I laughed and held my breath, cheering for Harry, reading when I got extra time in class and after school.

It took three months before I finally finished, but I remember exactly where I was when I did. I was in the back of our tiny family Honda on the three hour trek north to visit my grandparents. Rain pelted the car and my only illumination came from a small book light and the sporadic bursts of golden light from the street lamps lining the highway.

I can even remember the exact location of the curve in the highway and to this day, I smile every time I pass it. And when I saw there was a second book, I pleaded with Mom to buy it as soon as possible. And soon after that, the third book. And I can remember exactly where I was at the midnight release of each of the next books. The length of time it took to read them got shorter and I grew up with Harry and his friends.

I've spent 19.5 hours in line in the blistering heat of summer waiting for the Order of the Phoenix midnight movie premiere. And I've spent 12 hours shuddering in the cold, burning my hands trying to warm them with the hand dryer, waiting for Part 1 of the Deathly Hallows. My first three books are falling to pieces and I won't replace them because they're my books, the ones that've been there through it all. I've been to Harry Potter dances and played Quidditch and dressed as Harry for Halloween. I've watched the musicals multiple times and can recite the engraving on the doors of Gringotts. I've lived longer with Harry, than without him.

And yeah, I'm a fangirl; that's great. And that'd probably be the end of it, but I also have a disorder that made me sick a lot as a kid. To make me feel better, my mom would spend hours reading to me. And more often than not, it was Harry and his friends who kept us company, finding the Sorcerer's Stone, slaying the basilisk, saving Ginny, finding out that Sirius was innocent, and thwarting Voldemort at the end of each book.

It was Harry who helped me through the nights where I should have gone to bed long before, but couldn't. Hermione who made me feel that being a teacher's pet and nerd wasn't a bad thing (and didn't preclude being a badass). Ron who made me laugh. Together with their friends and enemies, they saved my sanity and helped me be a stronger person. For just a little while, I didn't have to worry about my issues but simply go with Harry and know that everything would work out fine.

And then I grew up and Harry was right there to help me again. Because of these books, I met some of my best friends, some of the best people in the world. These are the people I will never forget, people who are my own Dumbledore's Army. And with them I've had experiences I'll never forget with people I'll always stay close to. The girl who spent years eating lunch in classrooms and hanging out with adults at recess, made friends for life because Harry nudged her in the right direction.

These books taught me about friendship and loyalty and making the hard decisions because they're the right ones, rather than the easy ones. They taught me that the world isn't always fair, that bad things do happen to good people. But they also showed me that love can triumph over fear and apathy. And that together with hope, love is the most powerful force we have.

In less than two months, the final movie of the franchise releases and then the series that has been in my life for over a decade will be concluded. And I know that I will be bawling my eyes out at the premiere, for which I will sit in line for who knows how many hours, waiting for the moment when I get to see how it all finishes.

But I also know that, this will never end. So long as there are people who read Harry Potter, and fans who will want to discuss slavery and elf rights or whether Voldemort died a virgin (both of I have been involved in) the fandom will live on. Harry is an irrevocable part of my life and I wouldn't want it any other way. Because I may be a nerd or a Potterhead or a geek but it's been an amazing part of my life. And I will never forget any of it.

So thanks for everything, Mr. Potter. You've been a true friend.

Ashleigh C.
Penelope Clearwater

Monday, May 23, 2011

Badass Women of Early America: Sor Juana Ines De La Cruz

I am sorry there was no video on Friday. I was dealing with some issues on Friday and then the weekend got busy. But the book vlog is at the end of this post. It's a Rosemary Clement-Moore Fest! But on to the woman of the hour: Sor Juana Ines De La Cruz

Juana De La Cruz was a Spanish Catholic nun (Sor means Sister) in a village south of Mexico city in the mid to late 17th century. She was a very well respected poet in her time, with rich and powerful admirers, but she is also a woman, which not everyone likes (we'll get to this in a bit)

She was the illegitimate daughter of a Spanish landowner and a Creole woman. Her mother was illiterate and raised six children (with multiple different fathers) on her own, never marrying. Juana;s grandfather on the other hand, was highly literate and had a huge library. He taught her to read and write in both Spanish and Latin.

At this time, one of the few ways for a woman to gain and education was to enter a convent and become a nun. Which is the path that she decides to take. However, this doesn't mean she doesn't have faith. Juana was very devout, so much so that she believed it was too important to write about.

This of course is another reason why some people (The Church) doesn't like her. She's a nun, an educated woman, and she's drawing attention to herself. And she's not writing about religion as a good little nun should do. So the clergy pretty much hate her.

But they can't do anything because of those rich and powerful admirers. She's a celebrity in intellectual circles, not just in Mexico, but in Spain as well. She's known as The Tenth Muse (of course referencing the nine muses of the Greek Pantheon, daughters of Zeus, responsible for creative inspiration) and the Phoenix of Mexico, rising from the ashes of her humble background.

The clergy lie in wait though, biding their time and wait for the moment when they can bring her down. And when she answers a private letter to a Jesuit priest. She disagrees with his opinion that Jesus washes his disciples' feet for the sake of love itself, saying that this act is proof of his love for humanity as a whole. And of course, her opinion makes sense, but that doesn't matter to her enemies; she's expressed a religious opinion and they use it to take her down, publishing the letter.

And they don't just want her to stop writing. They want to utterly destroy her intellectual pursuits. Juana de la Cruz had a library of between 2000 and 4000 books, in a time where books were leather bound, jewel encrusted tomes that cost an arm and a leg. And when the clergy work to destroy her reputation (and let's face it, her entire life) much of this library ends up getting burned and the rest is sold.

And that to me is the most heartbreaking part of her story. To quote John Green "I get really mad when people mess with libraries!" My personal library is only a faction of hers (almost 500 books) and I know that if anything should happen to even a couple of the books, I'd be heartbroken. To be forced to sell what part of your collection wasn't burned, especially when books were hard to come by (especially true in the New World) would probably break me more than anything else they did to me.

Sadly, the last thing that Juana every writes is her signature, in blood, renouncing all her writings. But the best things about Juana's poetry is that she was saucy and sarcastic, but in a carefully constructed, high-brow way so no one could call her on it. A really good example of this is her poem "In Reply to a Gentleman from Peru, Who Sent Her Clay Vessels While Suggesting She Would Better Be a Man" (Yes that really is the title).

Kind Sir, while wishing to reply,
my Muses all have taken leave,
and none, even for charity,
will aid me now to speak;

and though we know these Sisters nine
good mothers are of wit and jest,
not one, once having heard your verse,
will dare to jest at my behest

The God Apollo (Greek god of music himself) listens, rapt,
and races on, so high aloft
that those who guide his Chariot
must raise their voices to a shout

(Skipping a few verses)

for, having heard your murmuring,
the Nine Daughters all concede,
beside your verses they are wanting,
unfit to study at your feet.

Basically she's saying his verse is so wonderful that even the Greek gods and goddesses that govern music and poetry are in awe of him. it's highly likely that she's being sarcastic (that's how I read it) but if anyone tries to call her on being biting, she can always say, "No, I really think he's that good." One of the few instances where ambiguity of tone in written word serves you well.

And thus, acknowledge it I must,
I cannot scribe the verses owed,
unless, perhaps, compassionate,
keen inspiration you bestow.

Be my Apollo, and behold
(as your light illuminates me)
how my lyre will then be heard
the length and breadth of land and sea.

Though humble, oh, how powerful
my invocation's consequence,
I find new valor in my breast,
new spirit given utterance!

And now, she's saying that this man must be her muse, the one to grant her inspiration. He is so good that only by bestowing inspiration upon her will she ever be able to even attempt to respond to his astonishing verse. Anyone else smell the sarcasm? And then she goes on to answer his assertion that she ought to be a man

As for the counsel you offer,
I promise you, I will attend
with all my strength, although I judge no strength
on earth can en-Tarquin (turn a woman into a man)

for here we have no Salmacis (The fountain that turned men into women in the Greek myth of Hermaphroditus)
whose crystal water, so they tell
to nurture masculinity
possesses powers unexcelled

While she's shooting down his ridiculous notions, it almost sounds like she's considering what he's said. "Of course, if I could, I would become a man if that would please you. But alas, I cannot so I shall have to remain a woman. Oh drat." She could even be talking in the tone you use with small children to explain why it's a little ridiculous to suggest the moon is made of cheese.

There is more to this poem, and you should read some of her other stuff as well. Because she is very clever with her poetry, very tongue and cheek at moments (especially in "Which Reveals the Honorable Ancestry of a High-Born Drunkard"). She's sassy and spirited and doesn't back down until she's been forced to. I think more of her poetry should be read in school. Replace some of the Walt Whitman that most people inevitably despise (sorry to any Walt Whitman lovers out there, but your scarcity makes you special ;) ). So go forth and enjoy a women who politely (and imperceptibly) told her those who opposed her to kiss off.

(And here's the book video from last the last week)

Monday, May 16, 2011

Alumni, Alumnae, Alumnus

I was writing an email recently, thanking a former Western student who had come back to talk about what you do with an English major (ha, now I have an answer when people ask what I'm going to do with my degree!) and I had to write the word alumni. At which point I paused, wondering whether I was using the right form of that word (because between being an English major and having Google, they will know if I mess it up. And the guy had mentioned how important that follow-up email can be).

Luckily, I also have mastered the use of Google. A few clicks later and voila! I had my answer. And actually, it was rather cool. There are four different forms of the Latin word for a past student of a university or college. Here's a break down for you:

Alumna is the singular feminine version. If you are a woman and writing about being an alum of your alma mater, you would call yourself an alumna. Isn't that kind of pretty? It even looks rather feminine.

Alumnus is not a plural form of men or women alums. This is actually the singular masculine form. So men, use alumnus when talking about yourself. Otherwise, what you're saying is not what you mean. It'll come across okay, but someone like me will tease you mercilessly.

Alumnae is a plural. But it is the plural feminine form. If you have a group of women who all graduated from a university (or even a bunch of women who graduated from separate universities I supposed) this is the word you want.

Alumni, which is the word people most often use as a catch-all for alums, is actually the plural masculine version. However, as anyone who has taken a foreign language can attest, this form also includes mixed groups of men and women.

I just found all of this interesting. And now I can be more precise when I speak about alums (I personally like the shortened, kind of slang-y version "alum" because I don't have to wonder so much about the ending). But you know what's even cooler? What the word actually means in Latin.

The word alumnus/alumna as a noun means nursling, native daughter (or son. I'm assuming), ward, and even protégée. I now have this vision of alumni being delicate flowers, or small children just able to walk, still getting their feet under themselves. The school shelters us and then lets us go, tiny fragile birds barely able to fly. They're proud of us as we fly off on our own. It's kind of a cool picture. This has been your Latin lesson for the month.

And Badass Women will return on Monday with Juana de la Cruz. And I'm thinking about making Mondays Cool History Days. Things like Badass Women of America, ancient mysteries, etc. Thoughts?

Badass Women of Early America: Anne Hutchinson

Welcome to another edition of Badass Women in Early America. This post’s woman is Anne Hutchinson, a Puritan woman from the Massachusetts Bay Colony. But to know about Anne Hutchinson, first you have to know about John Cotton.

Cotton was a very prolific Puritan preacher in England, one of the upper class who lived a life of privilege (this will be important later). He was so protected by his status that he was able to stay and preach in England at a time when many Puritans had to flee for their lives. Of course, eventually that protection runs out and he has to flee in the middle of the night with his wife and baby to New England.

But in New England, Cotton is a rockstar. It’s the equivalent of a literature nerd having Shakespeare or Jane Austen come live in their neighborhood (or basement). These people are stoked to have their beloved minister in their presence. And Anne Hutchinson is one of his most devout followers.

Now Cotton isn’t intentionally a bad guy. And really, on the scale of evil, he’s nowhere near madman or evil genius. He’s closer to the bottom, around schmuck. Because of his status, he had nothing to do with his life but intellectualize and form theories about religion. Which he then preached to the community of Puritans. But he never expected his principles to go beyond hypothetical and become something people applied to their lives.

This is what Anne Hutchinson did. She took those theories and put them into practice. At this time, women were not allowed to be preachers (just look what happened to Anne Bradstreet’s sister, Sarah). So instead of preaching, she held prayer meetings, which was perfectly permissible for women.

At these meetings, she discussed Cotton’s ideas and about putting them into practice. These meetings gained popularity so that she had two meetings every day and about a quarter of the population was coming to see her. She became a leader for a group that would be called Anti-Nomians, those against the law.

Of course, this freaked out John Winthrop, the governor at the time (whose second in command was Thomas Dudley, Anne Bradstreet’s father. Yes, the guy who was a zealot and liked to hit people who disagreed with him). Winthrop was very concerned about the community being unified and Anne’s meetings made his dissention meter redline. There was only one thing for him to do.

He had her put on trial for being an Anti-Nomian. Okay, here is a short cheat sheet about the Anti-Nomians. They believed that they had a mission that surpassed religion and rules and anything but their call from their God. Their communication with God didn't need ministers or the Bible. Basically, they had one calling and whatever they needed to do to fulfill that calling was what they would do. The ends justify the means and damn the consequences.

And here's the thing about Anne. She wasn't saying anything that John Cotton hadn't said before. And she wasn't trying to make Cotton look bad or pawn it all off on him. She genuinely believed his ideas had sound merit and wants to put them into practice. And even Winthrop kind of knows that the charges he's laid against her are kind of sketchy.

But Anne also knew her bible and her religion. And she was a skilled and eloquent orator. After every statement she made, she asked Winthrop a question which drove him insane. He said, "I am not on trial madam." And she had the perfect answer every time.

Now, most trials in New England took forty seconds before you were convicted and sentenced (they didn’t really believe in the whole “innocent until proven guilty” mindset). Anne’s trial took two days. Two days of Winthrop and Dudley questioning her over and over again, trying to back her into a corner. Two days before she finally slipped up and gave Winthrop something he could use against her.

You may be asking yourself at this point “Where’s John Cotton? Surely he can speak for Anne.” Uh…no. Remember the whole being a schmuck on the scale of evil thing? Winthrop and Dudley first confronted Cotton about his teachings. And he was so horrified at what was happening that he retracted everything he ever said. He never said it and it he did say it, that’s not what he meant. He backpedaled so far and fast it’s amazing he didn’t create a time rift that sent him back to the age of dinosaurs.

So Cotton was absolutely no help in this matter. But after two days of questioning, Anne misstepped in her testimony. She said she had a direct conversation with God, which is not something the Puritans do. Winthrop leapt on it like a drowning man. He banished her from the colony, sending her to Portsmouth. And the worst part of the ordeal? Cotton, her beloved minister, is the one to deliver her sentencing.

So Anne is sent to Portsmouth to live out the rest of her days. At forty-six, she has her 16th pregnancy (which is a lot for anyone, but at forty-six in the 17th century I'm wondering why she's not dead yet) and she miscarries (my Lit. teacher told us it was Hydati Form Mole and to look it up in our own time, but I'm afraid to since it sounds terrible. So look it up at your own risk). Winthrop feels like this is evidence that God has deserted Anne.

The really galling thing? Nothing ever happens to Cotton. There are no consequences for him having started this or for his role in what happened. He stopped preaching, but basically that's all that happened to him. But his life was probably miserable

Even after being banished, Anne never gave up her beliefs. She didn't change who she was or what she believed simply because people told her she was wrong. Maybe that just makes her stubborn, but it also shows strength of character and conviction. Standing up for what you believe in, no matter the consequences, shows true backbone.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Book Blog: Love and London

Okay, so Blogger is almost back to normal. But I lost the witty comments made on Badass Women of Early America and any other comments made after about 7 on Wednesday. Sad day. But here is the book post for the week. And the next Badass Woman in Early America will be up on Monday.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Badass Women of Early America: Anne Bradstreet

It should be noted that "Early America" does not mean "United States". It encompasses Mexico and Canada as well (and probably South America, although we didn't make it that far south in the narratives we read). I mention this because if you search for one of these women in United States you will find very little one her, but in Mexico her works are revered and have been printed many times. I should also note, that by "Early America" I mean 17th century, not Revolutionary War era and not quite to the Salem Witch Trials (we just haven't gotten there yet).

Anyway, the first woman is the amazing Anne Bradstreet. Anne was a Puritan woman (check all your Puritan baggage at the door. The real Puritans were religiously devout, open and forthright about anything you want to ask, and loved bright colors) in the Massachusetts Bay Colony which formed in 1630. Her father, Thomas Dudley, was second in command of the colony and liked to hit people with a stick if her thought they were being disrespectful (kind of like a crotchety grandfather, but more crotchety).

Anne was a poet, who only planned to write privately, for her family. But her brother-in-law thought her poems were so good that he had them published. As a surprise. Thank you Captain Helping Hand (warning: sarcasm alert). This could have turned out really, really bad for Anne. How bad you may ask?

Well, let's give some context. Anne had a sister named Sarah. Sarah and her husband came over to the New World with the rest of the family, but then went back to England. As a Puritan especially, once you were in New England, you didn't go back. Back was were the corruption of religion was. Then Sarah starts prophesying, which in this highly patriarchal society you just did not do. Sarah's husband divorced her. Sarah then comes back to New England, has a sexual affair with a non-believer (say it isn't so!) and is not just banished from the colony, but is excommunicated.

With all that hanging over her, is it a wonder that Anne felt upset and nervous about her poetry being read? This could be the first step to her being shunned. But instead, people in New England and in England love her poetry. And many people in England are enemies of the Puritans at this point. But even they love her.

She uses this position to promote Puritans and their ideals. And she was always careful in what she said to never appear above her station. She played the part of the good Puritan and humble woman. All that she was given came from her god. Here is a sample of her poetry (from her book "The Tenth Muse":

To sing of wars, of captains, and of kings,
Of cities founded, commonwealths begun,
For my mean pen are too superior things:
Or how they all or each their dates have run,
Let poets and historians set these forth

But when my wond'ring eyes and envious heart
Great Bartas' (a poet) sugar'd lines do but read o'er
Fool I do begrudge the Muses did not part
'Twixt him and me that overfluent store;
A Bartas can do what a Bartas will,
But simple I according to my skill

(She spends another two stanzas saying she is but humble woman and no great poet)

I am obnoxious to each carping tongue
Who says my hand a needle better fits,
A poet's pen all scorn I should thus wrong
For such despite they cast on female wits:
If what I do prove well, it won't advance,
They'll say it's stol'n, of else it was by chance

But sure the antique Greeks were far more mild,
Else of our sex, why feigned those Nine
And posey made Calliope's own child;

So 'mongst the rest, they placed the arts divine,
But this weakknot, they will full soon untie,
The Greeks did nought, but play fools and lie

Let Greeks by Greeks, and women what they are,
Men have precedency and still excel,
It is but vain unjustly to wage war;
Men can do best, and women know it well.
Preeminence in all and each is yours;
Yet grant some small acknowledgement of ours.

And oh ye high flown quills that soar the skies,
And ever with your prey still catch your praise,
If e'er you deign these lowly lines your eyes,
Give thyme or parsley wreath, I ask no bays;
This mean and unrefined ore of mine
Will make your glist'ring gold but more to shine

Pretty much, she spends the first stanzas saying "Oh, how I wish I could write poetry as well as great men. I am but small in my skills." And then she says that while men are superior, they ought to give women some credit. She keeps deference in her tone, but she's saying "Hey, we aren't all just pretty faces and baby incubators. Give us a little credit." It's a move for women being less down trodden and yet done in a way that people won't think her impertinent or acting above her station. It's brilliant.

And all of the poems we read by her are wonderful. I had to read some for class and in my free time I plan to go back and read the rest in the section, maybe even find a book of her poetry if I can. Next time on Badass Women of Early America: Anne Hutchinson

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Geek Shall Inherit The Earth

I am a geek (You may have guessed this from the number of posts I've done about fandom and Harry Potter). As a geek, one of the blogs I love reading is Epbot which has absolutely wonderful posts about all kind of geeky and sweet things (the blog is done by the woman who does Cake Wrecks, which means it has to be good).

Today, she posted about an article that talks about why people who are often ostracized in school (i.e. the geeks) usually succeed outside of it. This is because geeks usually have more creativity, originality, integrity and resistance, as well as a love of learning. Which in school leads them to think outside the box and take an interest in things they actually enjoy, rather than what the latest fads are.

In the real world, curiosity and being genuine means that you won't hop and skip from place to place. When the going gets tough, geeks are more likely to stick it out a) because they know how to deal with that and b) they're most likely interested in what they're doing. And c) (at least if most geeks are like me) you're stubborn enough that you won't just let the project go, simply because you want to prove you can do it.

You know who the geeks are? Pretty much every popular author ever. Because authors are odd people. They tend to have whole worlds spinning through their minds (maybe they even talk to themselves. I mean, not like I have any experience with that, but I'm sure it happens ;) ). And why do they want to write? Because they love to read. Go ahead, ask any author you've ever loved whether they liked to read as a child. I guarantee that 98% of them will say absolutely, and most will be readers to this day (I leave the 2% for the freaks who think they can write well without being a reader).

It's the geeks who have the imagination to do amazing things. Like create Google (speaking of Google, have you seen their workplace? It makes me wish I was a computer person so I could get hired there). The geeks are the writers, the innovators, the artists. They make good employees because they have new ideas and don't just follow the herd. They have minds of their own, which they put to good use.

And after high school, they come into their own more in social situations. Half the reason a lot of people in high school are awkward is because if you stick out, you get ridiculed. If you say something stupid, you get ridiculed. If you don't wear the right outfit...I think you see where I'm going with this.

To be different in high school, you either keep your head down and only share your geekery with those you can really trust...or you go the route I did (which not a lot of people can do), which is you grow a thick skin and shrug off any mockery (especially from your siblings). The upside to this choice is that after a while people write you off and leave you alone. I made it through high school fairly unbothered because it was clear I didn't give a damn what the "popular" kids thought about me. So they saw me as the smart kid who kind of blended into the background; it was a nice place to be, considering I had glasses, braces, and a slightly unflattering sense of style.

And, here's some proof that geeks end up better off. I spent the last two years of high school doing Running Start, taking classes at the community college and only returning to my high school for bi-monthly Sci-fi Fantasy Club meetings (of which I was Vice President). Two years later, I'm graduating from my university with a Bachelor's degree before I can legally drink. I have three novels completed (which will be sent to agents and editors sometime in the near-ish future). I am still on speaking terms with the people I was closest to in high school and I have made friendships in college that I know will last. And I know what I want from life and who I am. How many twenty year olds can say that?

So, to parents know that your children as geeks will turn out well (and even if they aren't geeks, this doesn't mean they are doomed. It just make take them longer to figure some things out). And if there are geeks in high school right now (or middle school or elementary school), know that you are awesome and will come out ahead in life. So go forth geeks, live long and prosper.

Geek Cred for the Doubting Thomases
*Vice President of Sci-fi Fantasy Club in high school
*Officer of Harry Potter club
*Has forgotten more about Harry Potter than many will ever know
*Wanted (and obtained) a bow not for hunting, but because I am a fantasy geek
*Ditto wanting to learn sword fighting and martial arts
*Knows all the words to the songs in the Buffy musical episode
*Knows Darren Criss not from Glee, but from A Very Potter Musical
*Math Olympian in middle school (cried because I wasn't going to be able to do math on a Saturday)
*Ancient Greek student
*Word Nerd
*Owns close to 500 books (at least a third of which have been read multiple times)
*NaNoWriMo participant (and winner) three years in a row
*Actually gets Math and Science jokes (and finds them hilarious)

Friday, May 6, 2011

Book Blog: Why Maureen Johnson is Awesome

Yes, I suck this week. Only one book. This makes me very sad. But next week I will have more. And next week Nerdtastica shall return so that video shall also be posted. Enjoy.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Volunteering To Be Stalked (AKA Twitter)

So everyone who has ever wanted to be part of the internet community ever knows all the warnings about, "Be general with what you say" "Don't give away personal information" and "No one is who they seem on the internet." The digital world can be a seedy place. Just look at (this is where some sort of technology or internet joke would go if I could actually think of one). And it's true that you need to be careful on the web.

That being said, I find it amusing just how much we do put online. Just look at Facebook. Yes, it is protected by varying levels of security and you can choose who sees what. But how many people put their contact info on it? Their school? Their class schedule? The times they're at work? All of that information would make it easy to find someone and stalk them. And not the good kind of stalking. The kind that ends up with you duct taped in the back of a van headed for the Mexican border.

Now at this point, maybe someone protests. They say, "But I make sure that only my friends can see my contact info." Okay, good point. However, a lot of people add friends to their list that they've never met. Often this serves the purpose of getting a bigger house or clan or hunting party or karaoke gaggle for whatever app you're playing (I play Sorority Life. Yes, I find this sad. But I get to play dress-up!) Yes, you can delete the people right after they're part of your house, but they still can see your information for a little while.

Or perhaps you simply get a request from someone saying they saw your profile and thought you seemed cool. Or they're trying to network with people in their area. Or they're your aunt's niece's best friend's high school sweetheart and decided to add you. Or they simply say they went to school with you and can't believe you don't remember them (can you tell I have the imagination of a serial killer? Not so much with the death part but with finding people).

Now these people have access to that contact info. Or even if you don't put up contact info, they have access to any number of posts, pictures, and details about your life. Kind of freaky when you think about it isn't it?

This post is not to condemn the whole idea of social networking. I love my Facebook. I love being able to easily see what's going on with people in my life. And I'm definitely not going to get rid of it just because someone, someday, might use it against me.

But isn't it kind of crazy the things we air online for everyone to see? With Facebook, people know the moment you enter a relationship with someone else (at least if you change your status as most people do). People you only have a passing relationship with know far more about you than they usually would. Some people have knock down, drag out fights over a status comment. Things that used to be kept private or shared with people you knew best/saw often are now put up for everyone in your friends list of 300 people to comment on.

And pictures? I heard somewhere that you should never do anything you don't want to see on Facebook, because that's where it will end up. Every embarrassing thing you ever do somehow manages to show up on the internet at some point. At which point, the most conservative of your church's ladies and any future love interest is sure to see it.

And depending on who your friends are, you have to sensor yourself anyway or be prepared to face the consequences. I have many people from my church as my friends and sometimes I pause and ask myself how they'll react to a certain phrasing. Usually I go ahead and post it how I was going to say it anyway because I don't want to set up a front for who I am and how I think, but that second of hesitation is something I never would have thought I'd need.

Again, this is not a post to demonize the internet. I am a child of the digital age and I know my life would be far different if it didn't exist. Not necessarily bad, since I am complete believer in the power of books, but definitely different. The World Wide Web allows me to stay connected with family and friends and it allows me to write. Having a blog lets me develop my voice and get instant responses to my thoughts. It's really, really cool.

The post instead is more a musing. A "isn't this kind of crazy?" post. And maybe a warning to be careful who you trust online and what you allow others to see. I actually developed a false name linked with email accounts just for her so that I could hide a little more easily online (because I was kind of paranoid that someone would track the name back to an email account that had my real name and then follow that to who I really am). I still use the name every now and then when I'm not entirely sure of who will see what I'm doing on a site. But I won't give away the name here ;) Surf safely. :)

Monday, May 2, 2011

Voldemort Regenerates Every Few Decades

Originally, I planned for today's post to be about how easy it is to stalk people on the internet and how we share information. But Bin Laden's death together with today being Harry Potter Day, to commemorate the day Voldemort fell, kind of messed with my plans. As most of the US knows by now, Osama Bin Laden was located and killed yesterday in a planned strike. A founder of Al-Qaeda, the group responsible for the attacks on the Trade Towers and Pentagon, and the tragic deaths of thousands (including the brave souls on flight United 93 (by the way, never watch that movie unless you want to bawl)), Bin Laden falls firmly in the category of "villain".

It's always a joyous occasion in movies when the villain is finally vanquished. The world has been saved from evil; who wouldn't want to celebrate? I completely agree, let us rejoice that a little less evil is loose in the world. There's no way I want Bin Laden to live and continue orchestrating the deaths of thousands.

But at the same time, I can't feel the same kind of joy in the celebrations on TV. Yes, we've eliminated a truly bad person. But part of me still thinks, "We hunted this man down and murdered him. Are we always so blasé about the deaths of others?" I am not arguing that Bin Laden didn't deserve to be punished for what he's done (believe me, in no way am I advocating leniency for him). And maybe I just am overly sensitive or compassionate, but treating this event like New Years in Times Square feels wrong.

When Harry killed Voldemort, I know there was celebration. The wizarding world had been saved, an evil that threatened the world for more than twenty years was finally vanquished for good. But even at the end, Harry offered Voldemort compassion. Harry asked him to look inside himself for even the tiniest shred of remorse. And even when it came right down to it, Harry couldn't use the Killing Curse on Voldemort. It was the rebound of the curse from Voldemort's own wand that killed him.

The wizarding world celebrated the fall, but I think Harry, the person who had lost so much because of this man (or whatever he was by the time he died), still felt compassion for him. A lot of anger and hate for what he'd done, but still some compassion. A life taken, even a truly evil one, is not meant to be viewed so coldly. Everybody has somebody who will mourn them, a fact that's easy to forget when someone has wreaked so much havoc and pain.

Today is May 2, the day that Voldemort fell finally to death. I find it peculiar that so close to Voldemort's death date is also the death of Osama Bin Laden. Even eerier? Hilter also died around May 1st. Is the first part of May just a particularly unlucky time to be a villain? Perhaps.

My (much more intriguing) theory? Voldemort regenerates every few decades. Think about it. Hitler created a network of followers who committed atrocities in the name of the man's prejudice. He was charismatic and for a while even well liked. He died in 1945. In the 70s, Voldemort rises to power, establishing his reign with followers who share his prejudices and terrorize the world. He's finally vanquished in 1998.

That same year, Osama Bin Laden lands on the Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list for his part in the US embassy bombings in Tanzania and Kenya. Again, here's a man who's collected a group of followers to carry out horrible plans in the name of his prejudices. Coincidence? Maybe. But it's a kind of eerie coincidence.

*Note on Voldemort: I know that he is at least partly based on Hitler. But still, perhaps he was Hitler. And maybe JKR knows more than she's telling.