Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Cat's Cradle

Cat’s Cradle has been compared with some of George Orwell’ s dystopian stories.  There is a social satire in Cat’s Cradle just as  there is one in both Animal Farm and 1984. Yet Cat’s Cradle relies more on the plot than on the development of the characters. I am not trying to imply that characters are not well developed in Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle, but his approach is different.
  First of all, Kurt Vonnegut breaks the popular rule of writing fiction: “show, don’t tell”. He tells us a lot about the characters. The telling takes precedence over the showing of their identities. I don’t get to feel emotionally close to the characters, even though we learn a lot about their intimate lives. Yet this is not a flaw of the tale but a way of featuring the robotic nature of the society he portrays through humor and interesting insights.
The novel is told in first person by John, a writer who wants to research the life of the deceased scientist, Felix Hoenikker, the man who created the atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima. John gets to interview his three kids who are now adults, and his life changes drastically throughout the course of the tale.
 Kurt Vonnegut creates a fictional religion, Bokononism, through which he shows a society that is more concerned about faith than about the search for truth.  But Felix Hoenikker, the venerated, controversial scientist, was different from the rest (mind you, "different" does not mean "better").
 “I suppose it’s high treason and ungrateful and ignorant and backward and anti-intellectual to call a dead man as famous as Felix Hoenikker a son of a bitch. I know all about how harmless and gentle and dreamy he was supposed to be, how he’d never hurt a fly, how he didn’t care about money and power and fancy clothes and automobiles and things, how he wasn’t like the rest of us, how he was better than the rest of us…”
 Kurt Vonnegut’s  carries us away to imaginary settings and hilarious social situations in which the characters interpret their reality under the light of their dogmatic beliefs. The novel has many twists and turns that are evidence of Vonnegut’s fascinating imagination.
  One of the most important themes  of Cat's Cradle is the role that human stupidity plays on self-destruction.

 I found some thought-provoking quotes in this novel:

“She hated people who thought too much. At that moment, she struck me as an appropriate representative for almost all mankind.”

“It was the belief of Bokonon that good societies could be built only by pitting good against evil, and by keeping the tension between the two high at all times.”

“Sometimes I wonder if he wasn’t born dead. I never met a man who was less interested in the living. Sometimes I think that’s the trouble with the world: too many people in high places who are stone-cold dead.”

“Americans are forever searching for love in forms it never takes, in places it can never be.”

 Cat's Cradle was banned in 1972 by an Ohio School district board. The reason for this is not clear. The decision was later overturned in 1976.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

The moon is not a toy

"Keep your thoughts where I can see them."~ Matthew Woodman

As you know, I am the poetry editor of Southern Pacific Review. This month I selected a poem by Matthew Woodman: The Moon is not a Toy. Matthew is a poet from California.
 You can read his poem here.
 I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did.

Friday, December 5, 2014

The uniqueness of each day

"You can't measure time by days the way you measure money by dollars and cents, because dollars are all the same while every day is different and maybe every hour as well."
Jorge Luis Borges

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Guest House

 This being human is a guest house.
 Every morning a new arrival.

 A joy, a depression, a meanness,
 some momentary awareness comes
 as an unexpected visitor.

 Welcome and entertain them all!
 Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
 who violently sweep your house
 empty of its furniture,

 Still, treat each guest honorably.
 He may be clearing you out
 for some new delight.

 The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
 meet them at the door laughing,
 and invite them in.

 Be grateful for whoever comes,
 because each has been sent
  as a guide from beyond.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Happy Holidays

"Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.” ~ Isaac Asimov

In a few days you will start your Christmas shopping. We all exchange gifts for Christmas, don’t we? Yet the essence of Christmas has little to do with presents.
Bear in mind that many of those Christmas presents will end up in a landfill in just a few months or years, so let’s make conscious choices when we buy gifts.

   We are all in this together.  Mother Nature does not care about human borders. The consequences of our actions transcend the boundaries of our borders.
 There has been a human population explosion over the last 200 years. We are seven billion human beings populating the planet.
 We don’t need to be mathematicians to understand that in a planet with finite resources if the population continues to grow at this rate life on earth will not be sustainable in the future. Is it sustainable now?
 If all the countries of the world consumed at the level of those that consume the most we would need at least three planets to survive.
 I found some interesting statistics:
In the United Kingdom 1.5 million computers are discarded every year in still perfect work order.  The same fate applies to three million cell-phones every year in England.
As far as I know the United Kingdom is not even one of the countries with the highest level of consumption.
 This young lady found herself amid this trash when she went on vacation to this island. You can read her story.
Is this what we want for our grandchildren? 

 There is a lot that we can do. For example, avoid using disposable plastic forks, knives and spoons. If millions of us avoid them we will make an impact. It's easy to blame others but we can all do something, so let's be part of the solution. Reuse, reduce, recycle.
  And, by the way, if you love coffee take your own mug instead of buying one every time you want to drink coffee. The same applies to plastic bottles.

 One of the most serious threats to oceans is plastics pollution. Plastic constitutes 90% of all trash floating on the ocean. Over 100,000 marine mammals and one million sea birds die each year from ingesting or becoming entangled in plastic. You can learn more about this here.
 Last year I wrote about the plight of  polar bears as the Arctic melts due to climate changes.
  Pollution from animal manure can be used creatively. Instead of polluting landfills it can be used to produce electricity, filter water and power your car. This is what we call "clean energy".

Advertising makes you believe that buying stuff will make you happy, but minimalists disagree. My family and I are minimalists. This does not mean that we are hippies. It means that we are responsible consumers. There is nothing strange or mysterious about being a minimalist. (I don't care about buying what is in fashion or the latest version of "x". We buy what we need). Free of debts, we have more time to focus on meaningful activities. I also find that empty spaces open up my imagination and provide a “room” for my creativity. 
  All things considered, I find it more sustainable, realistic and socially responsible. We only have one planet.

 I hope that when you do your Christmas shopping this year you will remember this post. Our future generations will be thankful for your wise decisions.
Happy holidays.


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Taboo matters

Yesterday my husband told me something shocking. He attended a conference where the speaker explained that in the United States of America more young people die from mental disorders than from any other medical causes.
  His timely comment did not surprise me. I referred to this matter when I wrote about The Fall of the House of Usher a few days ago.

Today I want to share a TED talk. Let's educate ourselves and break the stigma.