Saturday, March 6, 2010

Adults Reading Young Adult Fiction

CEO(s) and CCO(s) read the Harry Potter Series. Housewives and Social Workers read the Twilight Series. Lawyers and Travel Agents read the Mortal Instruments Series. Why are so many “adults” reading “Young Adult” fiction?

If adult is defined as thirty years of age and older, then for most adults, the mundane has become daunting. Day after day, our lives are consumed with either finding a job or keeping a job. We count the years between now and retirement, where hopefully we can enjoy the money that we have spent forty to fifty years squirreling away. Increasingly, more of us have parents and grandparents that we must take care of because they may be sick, in need of daily care or alone. Our lives are absorbed in making compromises, in our business meetings, during projects, and through our relationships with loved ones and friends. We accommodate ourselves to the point of having no irrefutable definitions.

The social mediums bombard us daily with the conflicting certainties. Religion tells us that god is an omnipotent humanlike being that passes judgment on our daily activities. Science says that god does not exist. Religion tells us that killing another person is wrong. Our government maintains that we must kill other people to preserve our way of life. Science says that we have an obligation to explore every nook and cranny of the physical world around us and use what we learn to make life better for ourselves. Religion encourages us to enjoy the mysteries of the world. Government claims to be uninfluenced by religion. Religions have lobbyists, compromising with congressmen and senators, and spending millions of dollars to influence public voting.

As adults, we are like glass in the ocean. The waves of the mundane and the conflicting certainties rake us back and forth until our rough edges have been smoothed into a polished uniformity. The monotony creates a craving for some absolutes and passion. Young Adult fiction provides both. We follow Harry Potter raptly, because he opposes Lord Voldemort and his tactics of precision targets and genocide fervidly. We believe that Harry is good and Lord Voldemort is evil. Twilight provides for us an absolutism of love and forgiveness. We want Bella and Edward to marry, because love must conquer all opposition. We need Bella to forgive Edward for his trespasses, including his prior feeding on humans and his overbearing protectiveness, because we need forgiveness for our trespasses. The Mortal Instrument series provides a look at older issues that may need exploration, such as Segregation and Cooperative Effort. Clary and Jace have opposing views on Downworlders. Jace believes that downworlders are subhuman. Clary believes that downworlders are people. In the end, Shadowhunters and Downworlders must come together to resist Valentine and his army of demons.

Adults have forgotten the passions evoked by the absolutes that we believed in so intensely as teenagers. Teenagers have not been worn down as we have, so the world can be black and white for them. In contrast, to get by in our reality, adults must maintain a world of gray.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Harry Potter is an Intimidator

In terms of the plot of the Harry Potter Saga, many people believe that the fourth installment, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, is the turning point in the series. For the character of Harry Potter, the turning point is actually at the end of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, the fifth book in the series. After the death of Potter’s Godfather, Sirius Black, Potter makes the switch from perpetual victim to intimidator.

In his book, The Celestine Prophecy, James Redfield describes four control dramas that people exploit to capture life energy from others and absorb that energy into themselves. His method is to show these dramas from aggressive to passive. For our purposes, this blog will list them in reverse order from the most passive to the most aggressive. Redfield identifies the “ Poor Me”, which is the victim mentality where the perpetrator constantly tries to make people around them feel bad for them and the Aloof, which is when a person is quiet and creates an air of mystery around themselves, as the passive dramas. The Interrogator, a person who asks questions and then uses the other person’s answers to criticize them, and the Intimidator, who physically or verbally attacks people, are established as the aggressive dramas.

Using these definitions, one could make the argument that up through Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Potter was a Poor Me. He may not have made a personal choice, but because the characters around him either actively intimidated (The Dursleys and Severus Snape for example) him or directly treated him like a victim ( Molly Weasley and Cornelius Fudge at least until the end of Goblet).

The end of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix shows a significant change in Potter’s character. After leading his friends into the Department of Mysteries in the Ministry of Magic to “save Sirius,” Potter finds himself in a trap, orchestrated by Voldemort and perpetrated by Lucius Malfoy and several Death Eaters. Potter and his Dumbledore’s Army recruits are soon joined by Dumbledore’s Adult Army, The Order of the Phoenix. During the mix of the battle, Bellatrix LeStrange kills Black by using the Avada Kedavra Spell, which pushes him through the Mysterious Veil, separating the land of living and the land of the dead. Potter proceeds to chase LeStrange through the Ministry, and catches up with her by the Fountain of Magical Brethren and the Floo Powder Fireplaces. At this moment, Potter’s emotional pain is so intense that his only immediate means of release is to cause pain to others. In an act of vengeance, Potter attempts to use the Cruciatus Curse to torture LeStrange. This action is a major turning point for Potter’s character. Until this point, Potter has never actively sought to cause other people pain.

A turning point, of course, is not a turning point unless evidence shows a new pattern emerging and continuing. In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Potter stumbles across the Sectumsempra Spell, a spell that magically slashes the intended victim. After a potentially deadly battle with Draco Malfoy, Potter’s perpetual school enemy, Potter realizes what the spell is meant to do. When Albus Dumbledore takes Potter to Voldemort’s cave where Voldemort has hidden a horcrux, they are attacked by inferi, dead bodies that have been reanimated like puppets to do the bidding of a dark wizard. In an attempt to stay off the inferi, Potter uses the Sectumsempra Spell. Where prior to the Department of Mysteries event, Potter would use a defensive spell; now, he chooses to use an offensive spell. In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Potter with the help of Luna Lovegood sneaks into Ravenclaw Tower under the invisibility cloak. Alecto Carrow had been stationed in the tower to intercept Potter, but she is stunned by Lovegood. Amycus Carrow comes into the tower with the aid of Minerva McGonagall (HL). Amycus informs McGonagall that he was advised that Potter would come into Ravenclaw Tower. McGonagall protests “Potter is from my house,” and Armycus spits in her face. Potter uses the Cruciatus Curse to torture and punish Amycus for his actions.

In terms of the character of Harry Potter, Potter has a major turning point at the end of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Potter turns from being a victim to being an intimidator. His new behavior continues through the end of the series.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Jedi Celebacy

Last night, I watched Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (Yes, the worst of the Star Wars titles), while trying to fall asleep. The movie came to the point, when Padme Amidala is in her room, sleeping, while Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker kept watch. Kenobi observes that Skywalker still was not sleeping well. Skywalker reported that he had been dreaming about his mother and that he would prefer to dream about Amidala, stating “Just being around her again is… intoxicating.” Kenobi retorted, “Be mindful of your thoughts, Anakin; they betray you. You’ve made a commitment to the Jedi Order; a commitment that is not easily broken.” Kenobi’s retort catalyzed a thought of my own, Are Jedi supposed to be chaste?

Take into account the time frame. Firstly, ten years have passed since Skywalker has seen Amidala. Secondly, Skywalker is a 20-year-old male. His love for Amidala, which was a residual from his first meeting with her, is merely puppy love. When he sees her again, his initial reaction could be love at first sight, which at everyone’s first meeting where this happens is a physical attraction lust at a basic level). Skywalker confirms his lust by reference to the word ‘ intoxicating’, implying the physical and heady effects. If these theories are a given, then the assumption is that Kenobi was referring to Skywalker’s lust betraying him.

The other given is that the Jedi are not supposed to possess objects or people. Lust is not possession. So, a Jedi cannot take a spouse. Though, they do seem to be able to have companions and friends, given the whole Padawan, master and comrade aspect. Mixing all of this together, one might expect that a Jedi must be celibate.

If being celibate was part of a Jedi’s oath and this is George Lucas’s concept, then he really did not think the concept thoroughly. The whole introduction of the existence of Midi-chlorians makes the dogma of Jedi celibacy impractical. Midi-chlorians are intelligent microscopic organisms that live in all cells; however, some beings are more saturated with Midi-chlorians than others. The more Midi-chlorians in a life form, the more receptive they are to the Force. Because not all beings are Jedi, then reasonably, a person can conclude that the Jedi bodies must create an environment that promotes Midi-chlorian existence and production. In that case, the Jedi should promote reproduction among themselves. Jedi do come in both sexes; Princess Leia Organa was studying to be a Jedi with Luke Skywalker in books that took place after the movies.

A better policy for the Jedi Order would be to have a breeding program like the Bene Gesserit Mothers of Dune and the Psi-corps of Babylon 5. Kenobi strengthens this position with his words in Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, “The Emperor knew as I did that if Anakin were to have any offspring, they would be a threat to him.” Perhaps if they had had a breeding program, Emperor Palpatine (then Chancellor) would not have been able to issue order 66 and have all the Jedi destroyed. Breeding toward a stronger Jedi, may have created Jedi who could have seen the circumstances of Order 66 coming, or even deter the plans of the Sith.

The fact of the matter is that Lucas should have left the Force as Kenobi and Yoda described it in Episodes IV and V: The Force is a mystical energy that binds everything together. The explanation conveys that the Force is a concept to be studied without distractions. This concept would give the Jedi the same motivation not to have sexual relations as monks of other Orders. The use of the Midi-chlorians as a scientific backup killed the whole reason for the Jedi Celibacy.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Uganda Considers Death Sentence for Gay Sex in Bill before Parliament

• Minimum penalty is life in jail, under anti-homosexuality bill
• US evangelical activists pressed for restrictive measures

Please read the entire article for yourself, but here are two arguments that article quotes:

“But within Uganda deeply-rooted homophobia, aided by a US-linked evangelical campaign alleging that gay men are trying to ‘recruit’ schoolchildren, and that homosexuality is a habit that can be ‘cured’, has ensured widespread public support for the bill.”

“‘We are talking about anal sex. Not even animals do that,’ Butoro said, adding that he was personally caring for six ‘former homosexuals’ who had been traumatised by the experience. ‘We believe there are limits to human rights.’”


Honestly, do these people think that we need to recruit? Sure, I have a garage full of Easy Bake Ovens that I have received for recruiting young men over the age 20. Not to mention my Walmart parking lot sized depository brimming with the Beemers that I earned recruiting boys under the age of 20. We work just like the Church of Latter Day Saints and the Jehovah’s Witnesses, going from door to door in our sexy white button-down shirts with black slacks and asking, “Have you heard the good news?” We setup kiosks like the Army, watching buff young men with bulging biceps doing pushups on the linoleum floor, as we shout obscenities at them. We want to hear our recruits say, “Yes, sir, can I please have another?” Is this really how these people think?

The truth of the matter is that we do not have to recruit. Statistics and Science agree that a constant 10 percent of the human population is gay. As breeders increase our numbers then proportionally the number of gay people increases. We are so high in numbers that we have no need to search around. Not to mention that fact that if someone is the least bit gay curious, they will use the internet to find someone with whom they can explore.

Furthermore, any adult (man, woman, straight, gay or bi-sexual), who engages in inappropriate activities with a minor, is a pedophile. Again, statistically, most pedophiles are straight men, who target prey who will be intimidated by shame to not let the tabby out of the Coach purse. You know, like the Catholic Priests were doing in the 1970s through the 1990s.

So please before making this argument for the 10 thousandth time, brush up on your statistics. This argument is getting really old and really bloody stupid.

As to the argument that homosexuality is curable, any behavior can be modified with the proper application of the right pressure on a particular subject, and I am not saying that modifying a behavior is a cure. The underlying causes are still in the subconscious. Many of the modified, or reformed, gays report living miserable lives that they have to keep hidden. Gee, I wonder why that might be. If you gave me a chair, a laptop, a pellet vibrator complete with the rubber ring, a shocking electrode, peppermint spray, a dark room, and 90 days, I could turn Padre Alberto Cutie into a raging homosexual. Actually, the procedure would be quite simple: strap a nude Cutie to a chair, hook the pellet vibrator and the electrode to his penis, continuously display x-rated pictures on the laptop. Every time a woman appears on the screen shock him. Every time a man appears on the screen hit the vibrator and spray the peppermint mist. In 90 days, he will at least be agreeable to getting down on his knees. And from the things that I heard that these cult leaders use to reform a gay person, my way is humane. I mean dumping people in bathtubs full of ice for hours on hours on end. Do you really think this is humane?

Lastly, to the point that animals do not have anal sex…. What planet have you been living on? Have you never been on a farm? Have you never owned a dog (I don’t know may be you eat dogs in Uganda)? Particularly, male animals (domesticated and wild) have two responses to other males of the same species; either they are trying to fight each other or hump each other. Horses, moose, stags, bucks, whales, dogs, apes and monkeys all have been known to have sexual intercourse with the same sex. Look it up on the internet and the Discovery Channel if you don’t want to take my word as proof.

We’re here; we’re queer. Get over yourself.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Robert Langdon is Getting Old

The main character of Dan Brown’s three books that are more popular: Angels & Demons, The Da Vinci Code and The Lost Symbol, Robert Langdon is getting old. Maybe the more appropriate way of expressing this view is that Langdon does not grow as a character. Brown seems to treat Langdon as if he has a “reset the character” button at the beginning of each of the books.

When the audience first meets Langdon in Angels & Demons, he is a professor of Art, Architecture and Symbology at Harvard University. He is awaken in by a telephone call by Maximilian Kohler, the head of Conseil Europyen pour la Recherche Nuclyaire (CERN), because Langdon is an expert in ILLUMINATI art and symbols. Through a ambigramatic brand, the ILLUMINATI has taken responsibility for the death of one CERN’s leading Elementary Particle Physicist. After teaming up with Vittoria Vetra, the dead physicist’s daughter, Langdon learns that an antimatter containment (failing) unit was planted at the Vatican and counting down to annihilation. He and Vetra must follow the path of ILLUMINATION to track down the Hassassin, who can tell them how to find the antimatter canister and get it out of the Vatican. Through the plot, Langdon demonstrates denial that the ILLUMINATI could have reemerged, Skepticism that Hassassin could be working with the ILLUMINATI, and realization that the ILLUMINATI tactics are alive and well.

Langdon next appears in The Da Vinci Code. In the beginning of the story, Langdon is led to the Louvre under the pretence of assisting Captain Bezu Fache in deciphering symbols, which the dying Director Jacques Sauniere drew on his body in his own blood. Agent Sophie Neveu, cryptologist, enters the crime scene, luring Langdon away to tell him that Fache suspects that Langdon is Sauniere’s murder. Through a series of coded messages left behind by Sauniere, Langdon learns that the Priory of Sion continues to be an active group, and Neveu needs his help to discover Sauniere’s real killer. However, the signs left behind by Sauniere have Langdon and Neveu on a quest for the Holy Grail. During the plot of the story, Langdon goes through the same process of denial, skepticism and realization. He is in denial of Leigh Teabing’s assertion that Mary Magdalene and her family line with Jesus Christ is the real Holy Grail. He is skeptical that the Priory of Sion and the Knights Templar are still functioning. He realizes at the end of the book that Sophie Neveu Saint-Clair is a descendant of the Royal Bloodline.

In Brown’s most recent book to be released, Langdon is once again lured to the macro-setting, in this case Washington DC, under mysterious circumstances. He arrives at the Capital Building for his lecture to find that the lecture was a rouse. Just as he begins to figure this out, Langdon receives a telephone call from Mal’akh, who tells him that he has Langdon’s mentor, Peter Solomon, and if Langdon wants to see him alive again, he must decipher the Ancient Mysteries. To add to the threat, Solomon’s hand is found under The Apotheosis of Washington Fresco, and the hand has been staged as the Hand of the Mysteries.

From this point, the story is off and running, following the same plot points that Brown has used in the other two books. The over-zealous fanatical antagonist, a repetitive arch-type in Brown’s writing, wants the “Word” that will make him a god-like being that the Ancient Mysteries are supposed to reveal. Also like the other two books, Langdon teams up with the emotionally wounded female relative of the catalyst victim. Langdon goes through the same formula of denial, skepticism and realization. He denies that the Ancient Mysteries exist. He is skeptical that the Freemasons had knowledge of the “Word.” He then realizes that the “Word” exists in a form that is hidden in plain sight.

The formula of Langdon’s psychological development is no longer likely after The Da Vinci Code. Langdon has been through too many implausible situations for him to go through the same repetitive cycle of denial, skepticism and realization. After spending time with Vetra, who has been able to produce and contain Antimatter, Neveu, who is the last decent of Christ, and Katherine Solomon, who has proven that the human soul exists through scientific means, Langdon should learn to reserve judgment on what is and what is not possible. One key moment, which illustrates his inability to grow, is when he is trapped in a sensory deprivation tank where Mal’akh shows him a puzzle. Of course, he is given a time limit to solve the puzzle and goes through the inevitable panic; however, if Langdon was able to grow and learn, he would have remembered that Vetra once advised him not to try to solve a problem but to try to remember the solution. Furthermore, Langdon is an academic. His whole life revolves around learning and passing on what he has learned to his students. So, through facing fanatical zealots, he should know that the small snippets of truth that they cling to are the keys to unraveling the mysteries around them. This method is a key most teachers use to promote learning in their classrooms to help students understand a concept; use a student’s pre-existing knowledge to increase their understanding. Langdon has had two sets of extraordinary yet similar situations, his third time of repeating the acceptance cycle is just not believable.

Brown treats the character of Robert Langdon as if he starts fresh every time he uses the character. The character goes through the same psychological cycle for every new set of circumstances. Brown cares more about his plot than making a lead character that is a living person.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Did Dumbledore and Yoda make the same mistake?

In their respective genres, Yoda and Albus Dumbledore are considered the wisest and most powerful beings in their somewhat magical professions. Yet with all of their wisdom and power, each of them not only let the biggest threats to “good” come to power but also taught them the tricks of their trades. What were their motivations for letting evil rise?

From the moment the audience meets Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, the character is reckless. He antagonizes a Dug, Sebulba, who in no uncertain words tells Anakin that he will kill him. He brings absolute strangers to his home without telling his mother that they would be having company. He even scavenges for parts, which he steals under the nose of his master, Watto. This slave boy has no sense of self-preservation.

Master Jedi Qui-Gon Jinn finds Anakin on the run down planet of Tattooine. Anakin Skywalker, then a ten-year-old boy, wins a pod-race, which essentially brings the Jedi Master enough money to fix his broken down Naboo-ian Space Ship. When Qui-Gon Jinn presents Anakin before the Jedi Council for consideration to join the Jedi Order, Yoda attempts to read the boy’s future. Yoda explains that the boy’s future is clouded. The Jedi Council agrees at once “the boy will not be trained.” Qui-Gon Jinn argues that Anakin is a person that a prophecy claims will bring balance to the force. After the battle of Naboo Independence from the Trade Federation, Obi Wan Kenobi decides that he will honor the promise he makes to Qui-Gon Jinn while the master is dying after a duel with Darth Maul. In a dramatic turn of events, Yoda tells Obi Wan that the Jedi Council agrees with that the boy should be trained as a Jedi against Yoda’s reservations and recommendation. The audience is left to speculate that the reappearance of the Sith accounts for the reason behind the Jedi Council’s reversal.

In the book, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Dumbledore uses the pensive to show Harry his first meeting with Tom Riddle, or Lord Voldemort. Before being taken to Riddle’s room, Dumbledore first meets with the head of the Orphanage in which Tom Riddle has lived since his birth, Mrs. Cole. Mrs. Cole, under the influence of some heavy gin drinking, informs Dumbledore of some strange going-ons surrounding Riddle. She suspects Riddle of hanging a rabbit that belonged to a fellow orphan with whom Riddle had had a run-in. Further, Mrs. Cole tells Dumbledore of her suspicions that Riddle had tortured two other orphans during an outing to the sea shore. Dumbledore is then taken to meet with Riddle in person. The eleven-year-old Riddle refuses to talk to Dumbledore because he believes that Dumbledore is a doctor [psychiatrist] that Mrs. Cole has brought in to have a look at him. Dumbledore uses a Freezing-Fire Charm on Riddle’s cabinet to convince the boy that Dumbledore is a wizard. The burning cabinet reveals objects that Riddle had stolen from fellow orphans. After this demonstration, Riddle is quick to believe that he is also a wizard. He tells Dumbledore that he can control people and make them hurt if he wanted to. Riddle also reveals that he can speak Parseltongue, meaning that he can talk to snakes. After reliving this encounter in the Pensive with Harry Potter in tow, Dumbledore states that he did not know that he had just met the evilest wizard of all time but had resolved himself to watch him carefully. Dumbledore chooses not to tell his colleagues about his concerns about Tom Riddle.

Both Yoda and Dumbledore express concerns about the pupils they take on prior to the pupils attending classes. Yoda is insistent that Anakin Skywalker’s future is clouded and should not be trained. Though the exact reasons for the Jedi Council reconsideration of Anakin is unclear, the Jedi Council overrules Yoda. The one consistent value that Dumbledore has is his willingness to allow second changes, or his belief that people can change for the better. However, the fact that Dumbledore keeps his suspicions from Headmaster Dippet is disturbing. At the time when Tom Riddle was getting ready to go to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry (Hogwarts), Dumbledore would have been well served to inform the headmaster. As headmaster, Armando Dippet had the right to consider Tom Riddle’s worthiness to study at Hogwarts.

In conclusion, Yoda and Dumbledore made very different mistakes. Yoda showed solidarity by not fighting the Jedi Council about Anakin Skywalker’s inclusion into the Jedi Order. Yoda may have found keeping the Jedi Order at peace in a time of adversity more important than pressing the issue of Anakin clouded future. Dumbledore chose to act on his own by not revealing his reservation about Tom Riddle to others. Dumbledore did a serious disservice to the school and the wizarding community. The fact of the matter is that the only person responsible for his / hers actions is that person. Neither Yoda nor Dumbledore are responsible for what their pupils had become.