Monthly Archives: July 2011

Where Is The Media?

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Last Tuesday night someone firebombed a Planned Parenthood clinic in McKinney, Texas.  While this occurred when the clinic was closed and no one was hurt, as a North Texas resident I am curious why I’m learning about local news from a national news source five days after the attack.  Considering the amount of press that’s followed the alleged plot to attack Fort Hood soldiers as well as the continued press on the 2009 Fort Hood attack one might think that someone throwing a molotov cocktail at a clinic might make the evening news.  After scouring the internet for local news coverage I managed to come across a WFAA report and this Pegasus News article.

According to the most recent statistics from the National Abortion Federation, there were a total of 96 incidences of violence – including murder, death threats, vandalism, arson and bombing – against US and Canadian abortion clinics in 2010.  Why is it then that incidents like the one that occurred last Tuesday night are undermined as random acts of vandalism than what it truly is, domestic terrorism.

Once Upon A Time…

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Remember when Saturdays meant not getting out of your pjs all day, curling up with a good book and an glass of ice tea, and not having anything to do until Monday rolled around again?  I decided that I want to embrace those carefree days with a return to creativity and writing simply for writing’s sake.  I picked up these story cubes at the store the other day and thought it might be a fun exercise to see what types of stories everyone could come up with based on the random roll of the dice.  You can interpret each image as you please and you can include them in your story in any order (as long as they are all represented within the story).

FYI: the die in the middle is a bit difficult to see, it is a child with a monster sneaking up behind him.  The image on the far right die on the bottom row is a bridge with water running underneath.

Share your stories in the comment section!

“I Am Sick And Tired”

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Swaziland.  When you say it out loud it sounds like a made up kingdom that you would find in a fairy tale with princes, balls, and commoners that are lucky enough to become princesses.  Swaziland does have a fairy tale of its own, but this fairy tale doesn’t have a happy ending.

Swaziland, a constitutional monarchy, is landlocked with its neighbors to the West, South Africa and, to the East, Mozambique.  King Mswati III lives the lavish lifestyle of royalty; in place of balls he hosts the traditional Swazi Reed Dance where he may chose a wife.  This girl, plucked from obscurity, is showered with gifts, however, she, in turn, must share him with his 13 other wives.  Should the proletarians question their King’s luxurious habits, the King reserves the right to mete out swift justice to those questioning his rule.

Beyond the palace walls, Swaziland’s population of 1.1 million is overrun with poverty and more than 1/4 of the population (and 42% of pregnant women) lives with HIV; the highest rate of HIV in the world. The country, too, seems to be impacted by the worldwide recession and in recent days has reduced spending on healthcare, as well as, ARV treatments for HIV patients.  With hospitals primed to run out of ARV drugs in two months time, Swaziland’s King is calling on South Africa for a financial bailout.  However, it’s neighbors to the South claim that the King is holding on to a secret royal fund worth several billion rand (several hundred million U.S. dollars) that could help curb the financial crisis.

In the meantime, HIV positive Swazis have resorted to eating cow dung mixed with water before taking their ARV drugs in order to maintain compliance with the treatment.  For maximum effectiveness, the drug cocktail, requires patients to have food in their stomachs to avoid side effects such as vomiting, dizziness, and stomach cramps.  Swazis have taken to the streets in protest of its King’s spending habits and are demanding that the country make health care a priority.

AP Photo from BBC News

Where do you stand?  Do you think it’s time to look beyond the “fairy tale”?  Should the King be held accountable for “secret” accounts? Should South Africa consider a bailout package?  How should the growing HIV/AIDS crisis be handled with a growing national deficit?  What are the similarities between what the Swazis are facing and what Americans are facing with the debt ceiling standoff?

For The Love Of Literature

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Anybody who knows me also knows my love of books.  I am an avid reader and recently made the leap to ebooks when I got an iPad. This has been a tough transition for me because it means I have to forego browsing the shelves of my local bookstore, I lose the pleasure of skimming new titles,  and no longer know the joy of the impulse purchase.  I know this can all be done on my iPad but somehow looking at books on a computer screen isn’t as visceral as running your fingers through the pages of a book.

With that said, I ran across this book that expresses the written word through body art.  I love books and while there are certain books and authors I return to time and time again I don’t have a literary tattoo; but I am intrigued by the idea.  One of my favorite literary quotations is “Live all you can; it’s a mistake not to. It doesn’t so much matter what you do in particular so long as you have your life. If you haven’t had that what have you had? Live, live!”, by Azar Nafisi, author of Reading Lolita In Tehran.  Though I don’t think I’ll get this tattooed on me anytime soon I can understand the desire to create a permanent reminder of something that embodies your personal belief system.

This leads me to wonder how authors feel about their words inspiring an enduring homage of sorts.  How would you feel if someone immortalized your words on their body?  What literary image or quotation speaks to you?  Do you have a tattoo (literary or not) that holds a special meaning for you?

I’m attaching some of the photos of body art that I came across in my search, more photos and information can be found here.


Anyone who has read Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy will immediately understand the literary reference of “Don’t Panic” and “42”.

This is an image of The Little Prince from Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.  I loved this book growing up and read it in it’s original French in high school.

This is an image from Lewis Carroll’s Alice In Wonderland.  “The chief difficulty Alice found at first was in managing her flamingo.”

“Child” of the Nineties

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Yesterday I was visiting my local bookstore that is (tragically) going out of business and ended up buying a handful of items including the latest Old 97s album, Grand Theatre: Vol 2 and Buffy The Vampire Slayer *movie*.  That’s right, not the tv show but the movie featuring Kristy Swanson and Luke Perry from 1992.  This movie was made at the height of 90210 mania and Luke was a real ladies’ man so of course I had to watch the film repeatedly.  Therefore when I saw it at the bookstore the nostalgia kicked in and I couldn’t resist the urge to buy it at its bargain basement price.

Cut to scene 2 as I wait to check out with my purchases.

Clerk: How are you doing.
Me: Good thanks. Yourself?
Clerk: Good. Wow… Buffy the Vampire Slayer *movie*, huh?  Talk about a trip down memory lane.
Me: Well, I thought I would relive my childhood crush on Luke Perry.
Clerk: AND Old 97s.  You really are a child of the 90s!  (The clerk then proceeds to re-evaluate all of my purchases).
Me: Do I need pre-purchase approval?
Clerk: (Ignoring snark)  AND you’re wearing an Old 97s t-shirt. Interesting…
Me: The 90s are back; I hope you have your cutouts, cavaricci’s, and crop tops ready to pull out of the closet.

I’m not sure how I feel about being typecast as a child of the 90s.  I definitely didn’t consider myself one, but then I saw this…

You are a child of the 90s if…
– You can sing the rap to “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air” (check)
-You’ve worn leggings and felt stylish (I even wore stirrup pants. The horror.)
– You yearned to be a part of the “Baby-Sitters Club” (well I don’t know about yearned but I definitely was all about cashing in on that profitable enterprise)
– You wore a side ponytail complete with scrunchies (As much as I hate to admit it, yes)
– You remember reading “Goosebumps” (well, I did read a couple, however I was more into Sweet Valley High and those terrible V.C. Andrews books)
– You took plastic cartoon lunch boxes to school (My favorite was my Raisinettes lunchbox)
– You wore slap bracelets until they made your wrists bleed (check)
– You went to the skating rink before inline skates were popular (best hang-out joint ever!)
– You still get the urge to say “Duh!”, “NOT!”, and “Psych!” after every sentence  (NOT!)
– You know that “WOAH” comes from Joey from “Blossom” and that “How Rude!” comes from Stephanie from “Full House” (uh, yeah)
– You wore socks over leggings scrunched down (ashamedly, check)
– You knew all the character names and their life stories on “Saved By The Bell” (I still have a thing for Zack Morris. Sigh.)
– You tuned in for “Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiago?” (check)
– You had at least  one GigaPet or Nano and brought it everywhere (Well, for about 5 minutes until I got bored and it died.  Guess I would probably suck if I ever tried to play Sims as well)
– You remember when the new Beanie Babies were always sold out (I still have some packed away in the attic to bring on Antiques Roadshow in 50 years)
– You wore a fanny pack (Unfortunately true, but in my defense, it was an excellent organizer for traveling)
– You carried a Trapper Keeper, probably with a picture of a kitten on it, and covered in Lisa Frank stickers (can I bury my head in shame yet?)
– You overused the phrase “Talk To The Hand” (It was just part of my natural charm)
– You remember when Arnold was famous for “I’ll Be Back” and not for being the governor of California (and for Kindergarden Cop as well)
– Your favorite song was “Smells Like Teen Spirit” (definitely a fan)

So it’s quite possibly true that I’m a “teen” of the 90s.  How about you?  Do you cringe when you remember crazy trends, bad movies, and awful fads that you loved when you were a kid/teen?  Share your most cringe-worthy memories in the comments!

Justice Tuck Shop

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One question I regularly get asked by people is “What is Africa like?”  My typical answer is “Hot.” But if they actually want to hear more than that I pull out my photos and share my story.  One of my passions is Africa and I love telling stories about my life, my job, my community, the culture, and the uniqueness of each tribe, town, region, and country.  I plan on blogging a photo once a week with a bit of background about the piece.  If you have any questions or want to know more about any of the topics just leave me a comment!

Title: Justice Tuck Shop

Location:  Soweto (SOuth WEstern TOwnships) outside of Johannesburg, South Africa in August 2007

Background: Parts of Soweto are among the poorest in Johannesburg and economic development was limited by the lack of infrastructure and restrictions on black African businesses.  While Soweto is now a thriving community it has taken decades to recover from apartheid conditions.  This photo was taken in front at the Justice Tuck Shop (a local canteen that sells food items and small necessities) of a girl carrying water home.  I snapped the photo because, for me, it perfectly expressed the juxtaposition between traditional African ways and the influence of Western culture.  I find it intriguing that while South Africa is one of the most developed countries in Africa in regards to culture, clothing, technology, etc. parts of the country are still lacking electricity and running water.  This was also true of the Namibian town where I lived.  While there was strong infrastructure in the region; including paved roads, electricity, running water, and internet there were still many families in the community who shared communal bathrooms and water spigots, took bucket baths, and burned candles at night for light.

History of Soweto: After the implementation of apartheid, forced removals of black Africans from white designated areas increased, and townships were created on the outskirts of Johannesburg.  Soweto, a combination of several townships to the southwest of Johannesburg, captured the attention of the world on June 16, 1976 when mass protests broke out over the South African government’s policy to enforce education in Afrikaans, the language of white Africans, rather than English.  Students organized a peaceful march from Naledi High School to Orlando Stadium but were fired upon by police, which killed numerous people and started riots.  The first death was that of Hector Pieterson, a 12 year old boy, who was shot by police when they opened fire on the students.  The impact of these protests resonated nationally and internationally and put a face to the struggle for black Africans freedom.  Following this event international economic and cultural sanctions were introduced by countries pressuring the government to end apartheid.

Where Were You When… Muggles And Hogwarts Entered The Lexicon

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Join me for the Where Were You When? Series and share your story about how major world events impacted your life.  

Image Credit: Where Were You? Events That Changed The World 26-episode series graphic
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I’m going to start with the world-wide phenomenon, Harry Potter, in honor of the final installment of the Harry Potter film series hitting theatres.  Little did we know that June 30, 1997 would mark the beginning of one of the largest and most widely followed book series of all time.  There are few books that can claim the level of popularity and world-wide acclaim garnered by Harry Potter, first as a book series, and then as a film franchise.  The books have literally inspired new words in the collective lexicon such as muggles, quidditch, patronus among others.

In June 1997 I had just completed my junior year of high school and was spending a month in Paris studying Parisian history and practicing my French.  Honestly, my biggest memory from that summer was the news on the return flight home that a) Michael Jordan was retiring and b) Versace had been shot.

While I read the books, and enjoyed them, I was outside of  the target demographic so I wasn’t fully aware of the media blitz.  I really didn’t comprehend the magnitude of the series until I started working at a bookstore the summer after my freshman year in college.  At that point the third book was being released and we were staying open late to accommodate avid readers who wanted to purchase the book at the stroke of midnight.  I realized then the impact that the printed word could make on a generation. Even now, as the Harry Potter films draw to a close, it’s obvious the impact that they have had on scores of young adults who grew up reading the books and watching the films.  I can’t think of one book or film during my childhood that unified a generation, globally.

If you are thinking, “well this is really just a Western world phenomenon”, I can assure you that Harry Potter books were regularly checked out of the library in the small village where I lived in Africa.  Now, to return to how Harry Potter affected me personally.  While I don’t have one moment where Harry Potter touched my life, I do believe that the series provided inspiration for me as a writer and a reader.  While I may never write a best-selling novel or change the world with my words I was personally inspired by what J.K. Rowlings brought to the page and how she used words to open up a new, unseen world to readers.  There are not many authors who can imbue a book with the level of literary magic and bring an entire wizarding world to life but Rowlings accomplished it here.  These works continue to inspire my own writing, whether a blog, journal entry, or report.  I am constantly striving to bring my stories to life and use my words to make an impact on my readers.  So thank you Harry Potter and thank you J.K. Rowlings for making me a better writer.