Friday, 17 March 2017

4 letters, 1001 decisions

 "When you're backed up against a wall, break the damn thing down" - Gabriel Macht

  A, C, G, and T. Contained in our cells, making up our body are four letters which determine our looks, body shape, build, skin, eye color and much more. These letters are our genetic code. Through the film, Gattaca, the protagonist in this film, Vincent, faced many problems created by his genetics. Gattaca takes place in a world where you can genetically modify your future children to the extreme. This genetic modification is present in our everyday world but is unused on humans. We see technologies like CRISPIR, recombinant DNA Technology, and gene silencing constantly growing and evolving. This film greatly connects to ethical issues in our world. Is it right to genetically modify? Abuse of substance; immortality? While this film connects to ethical issues in our world, how about the world presented by Nancy Farmer, in The House of the Scorpion? In both pieces of work, the protagonists face problems influenced by similar factors.

   In Gattaca, Vincent is what citizens in that world would call a “faith birth”. He was NOT genetically modified to perfection, but rather left in the hands of god. Here, we see connections to worldview, but specifically “Sources of Ethical Wisdom”.  Matt, in The House of the Scorpion was the opposite. Modified to the extreme. El’ Patron created clones, Matt being the 8th, and being a complete mirror image of El’ Patron’s genetic code. While one protagonist was not genetically modified and one was, they both faced discrimination. Vincent was born into a world where human genetic modification is a considerable part of the status quo and Matt was born into a world where this was the opposite. These are intentional choices by the author and producer of both novel and film. While these protagonists were born into opposite worlds, they both wanted to achieve the impossible for themselves. Vincent wanting to travel into space and Matt wanting to be happy with Maria as well as running Opium without violence. Both dreams for main characters are considered impossible because of their genetics. Matt being a clone was created only for his organs and Vincent has a heart problem prohibiting him from gaining access into an academy (Gattaca) which will take him into space. While both protagonists went through struggle because of similar influence, they did so at different ages. Matt was much younger than Vincent and faced challenges only a child would face. He was put into an unhealthy orphanage which wouldn’t happen to an adult. However, Vincent faced challenges only an adult would face, such as financial income. The age of these characters is also an intentional choice in both film and novel.

   Many a time, we forget that we are more than the hand we're dealt. More seldom the not, do we attempt to break our boundaries. Just like Matt and Vincent, we have problems created by genetics, but unlike Matt and Vincent, we fail to break down the wall we're backed up against. We make more than 1000 decisions every day, but we might make only one, which defies our 4 letters.

"Genetics play a HUGE role in who we are, but will plays a larger one" - Unknown

"We used to think our future was in the stars, but now we know it's in our genes" - James Watson 

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

415 816

   415 816 illegal immigrants are caught traveling from Mexico to the US in 2016. Lawsuits were faced, immigration law had its hands full, but the need for escaping goes beyond the letter of the law. I don't know the reason for these immigrants want for a new life and escaping their old one, but I had the vague idea that life in Mexico was poor so they were inclined to take the risk intertwined with a new life. There are approximately 11 million illegal immigrants in the US right now. I had my own hypothesis behind the reason for fleeing and in some cases it was correct, but for many, it was very wrong.

    Oswaldo Aguilar, a Mexico City-born sculptor, writer, and engineer provided insight into why someone might want to take the risk of getting caught at the border.  Mr. Aguilar stated many things, but I'm only going to share my top 2 takeaways. First of all, Mexicans were inclined to take the risk of going over the border because what they were told was nothing short of a fantasy. The life of the US was exaggerated. Mr. Aguilar stated that tales of the US were "Myths" in regard to living conditions. This is similar to what we see in The House of the Scorpion. When Celia shares her story of traveling from Azlan to Opium she sates that a strong reason for her traveling was because of the "living conditions" of the US. We also know that El Patron catches immigrants from both the US and Aztlan because on p. 42 Tam Lin says "They migrate from the United States to Azlan through here". Matt also remembered that El Patron had told him he gets "An equal amount of immigrants from the US and Azlan".

   Mexicans also leave Mexico because of the factor of Impunity. "If you have money and good friends then there is not chance to go -or stay- in jail, no matter how big are your crimes. Only the poor people must pay for their mistakes and often pay for someone else mistakes." - Mr. Aguilar. We see this in The House of the Scorpion when it is constantly stated that El Patron is powerful enough to break the law. For one he made sure that Matt didn't get a "brain implant" even though it's against the law. Imagine the risk that these immigrants are taking. I’m shaking before a test, but if I was about to cross the border with a coyote I didn’t know, I wouldn’t be able to move.

  While many Mexicans flee away from their old life, just as many flee for their old life. The ability to take your family out of poverty, save them from impunity or other dangers are definitely a reason for the risk that comes with illegal immigration. Many immigrants did it for their families and went back after they had helped them.

For those interested in the stories of immigrants here's a whole bunch:

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Friday, 3 March 2017

The Fundamentals of Equality; The House of the Scorpion

  7 worldview elements; Sources of Ethical Wisdom, Relationships of Humans with Nature, Relationship between the Individual and the State, Responsibilities to Others, Equality with Others, View of the Good Life and View of Human Nature. They revolve around our everyday lives like the earth and sun. This is true for fictional and non-fictional lives, books or stories, legends, and myths. Matteo Alacran, a clone also called Matt the main character from “The House of the Scorpion” has an interesting life presented by Nancy Farmer in which Equality with Others and View of Human Nature effect him the most. 

   Equality with Others is self-explanatory. It’s how equal you are with someone else in regard to treatment. In “The House of the Scorpion” Matt is not treated equally whatsoever. Evidence of this has arisen throughout the book constantly. On p. 27 Matt is referred to as “A bad animal” and “Filthy”. El’ Patron only made Matt for his organs! If that’s not unfair and unequal I don't know what is. On p. 138 Matt realizes Tam Lin treats him as an equal. Tam Lin treats him as human. He also realizes that Maria will treat him differently because “He’s an animal”. On p. 245 Tam Lin explains to Matt that “No one can tell the difference between a clone and a human. That’s because there isn't any difference. The idea of clones being inferior is a filthy lie.” Matt has a hard time digesting this because “Everything in Matt’s experience argued against it”. Since the beginning, when Mr. Alacran found out his kids and the Mendoza’s brought a clone into his house he said “We’ll have to burn it” referring to the sheet with Matts blood on it. His kids save someone's life and its treated as a waste because the person was a clone. 

   This isn’t the only worldview which plays a dominant role in Matt’s life. View of Human Nature also constantly effects Matt. In a way, it’s like dominos. Most view Matt to be awful, therefore his Equality with Others is effected. When this happens it leads straight to Matt’s mistreatment. He was viewed only by El’ Patron as a possession, by others as a waste, but a few others believe Matt is human and good such as Tam Lin, Maria, and Celia. Similar to the way a corporate lawyer acts towards a shakedown artist. If you were a lawyer and a man came to you and gave you a whistleblower case you might take it. You figure the same man has filed 4 different suits in 4 years you’ll run as fast as you can out of the room away from him. The man might have a very legitimate claim but doesn’t seem it. You see him as a shakedown artist while he’s an honest man trying to do good. 

   “Until you treat everyone as equal, you have no right to complain about your treatment from others”- Unknown

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Evil and Good; The House of the Scorpion

   Osama Bin Laden, Hitler, and Genghis Khan. You know how I got those names? I searched up “Evil Figures in history” on Google. The reason I did this is because a certain question was brought to my attention. How do you justify the idea that a person can be both good and evil at the same time? Well, I think it’s based on perspective. Back to those names that I stated at the beginning of this blog post. Osama Bin Laden, Hitler, and Genghis Khan. We think that their evil, but what those that think what they did was okay, worth it, or even memorable? These are  individuals who believe that these figures are “good” while we think they’re “evil”. I hypothesized that “Evil” and “Good” are based on perspective and here is evidence from “The House of The Scorpion” as well as our everyday lives. 

   What does this have to do with the mind-boggling book we’re reading in class? Take a look at Felicia, El’ Patron, Rosa, and Tom. All these characters might look good to some and evil to others. An example of this is on p. 4. Eduardo doesn’t blunt Matt’s intelligence because El’ Patron is so powerful. In Matt’s eyes El’ Patron is a savior, but in others, he’s unreasonable and even evil.  On p. 43 Rosa calls Matt a  “Sullen, evil-tempered animal”. In the eyes of Rosa Matt is evil, but in the eyes of Matt Rosa is evil. Celia also considers Rosa evil for putting Matt in Chicken Litter. On p. 56 Willum the doctor betrays Rosa. Rosa considers Willum to be evil after this event, but EL’ Patron considers his doctor to be good for telling the “truth”.  This cycle constantly goes on. It’s not just in this book, but in our everyday lives as well. If a lawyer cross-examines and breaks a witness apart for the sake of a client then the client considers the Attorney to be good while the witness considers the attorney to be well….. evil and bad. I also think that the term “Evil” is bad-faith. In the case of Genghis Khan sure. The word evil is probably appropriate. However, calling your siblings evil for getting you in trouble is a little bit extreme. 

   This question is one of the many that’s come with this phenomenal book, and is “Not the third time, not the fifth time, and not the last time”- SUITS a question like this is going to come up. 

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Page 0-101; The House of Scorpion

    Drama. That’s how I would describe these first few intimate pages. I didn’t expect so much drama when I saw the cover or read the back. I knew it would be an interesting book, but I suppose “You don’t judge a book by its cover”. However surprising this may be I think that this book is interesting and engaging. The drama that I was talking about before can be seen through numerous pages, but even from the start of the story, drop of the puck, kickoff, anything you want to call it this story started with a bang. The story started with Eduardo experimenting with embryos. Even though I didn’t know what it was for at the time it was most important to the storyline. As the story progressed and continued so did my eagerness to find out more. I wasn’t disappointed. At p55-56 the story explodes with even more drama I had to make sure I wasn’t reading it wrong. Willium the Doctor betrayed Rosa a Housekeeper for the Alacrán’s (An extremely powerful family) by claiming he knew nothing about the poor treatment of Matteo Alacrán the clone of human Matteo Alacrán also known as El’ Patron a powerful drug dealer, the most powerful member of the Alacrán family, and a man who’s 143 years old. 

    I’ve also noticed while reading through these hundred pages is that the author made an intentional choice to include Spanish in her book. An example of this is Matteo the clone also called Matt is called Mí Vida by Celia and El’ Patron. I wonder if the author has any personal connections with Spanish history or culture? Perhaps she just enjoys the language, but anyhow this is an intentional choice which reappears constantly throughout the first a hundred pages of this book. While on the topic of languages the author uses latin in her dedication? Again, the same questions arise; Does the Author have any personal connections with Latin history or culture? Perhaps she enjoys the language, but anyhow this is an intentional choice in her dedication which may be a clue to the storyline in which I’m hooked. 

    This book has been captivating, mind-expanding and memorizing. I’m hoping the rest of the book will be like this so that while the book is fascinating I’ll be able to use critical analysis to the ideas of characterization, theme, setting, and other literary elements. 

Friday, 10 February 2017

The Haunted House; Anxious, Excited or Unhappy?

    Reading, reading, reading. From Day 1 of Grade 8, our teacher hammered in her passion of reading into us. I’ve always loved reading, but not when a book is forced upon me. It doesn’t matter if it’s a Novel Study for school or a book my mom wants me to read. I’ve got to find my own book. This year, however, we’ve come across the time for our anticipated Novel study. This Grade 8 Novel Study doesn’t allow us a choice in books, we have one book for 4 weeks, give or take a few days. I wouldn’t normally be excited about this book, but since it’s mention during our inauguration into Grade 8 I’ve been thinking about reading it ever since. 

     This book is called the House of the Scorpion. When I heard this name I thought it was some cheesy joke, but it’s a real name, real book, and has multiple real awards. I’m excited about this book. Its praise makes Percy Jackson look like a piece from Russell Peters. Even though I’m excited I’m also anxious, like the type you get before a pop quiz. The aspect of the project that I’m most excited about is the end product. Not because spring break is close enough to grab, but because I’ll get to praise the book for myself. I’ll be able to judge how Percy Jackson and other series and books really size up. The aspect of the project I’m most nervous about is not liking the book. If I don’t like the book how will I react? Similar to all human beings I have a tendency to limit my exposure to things I don’t like, and if I don’t like this book will my final product mirror my love for the book? Or rather lack of love? If it’s ANYTHING like previous Novel Studies where I didn’t like the book, I’m the one who’s going to be the Russell Peters segment. 

Monday, 24 October 2016

My Perspective on Whimsical Ideas

The famous Walt Disney once said that “All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.” Hope. Imagination. Joy. We need these to pursue our dreams and these are the outcomes of whimsical ideas. What are whimsical ideas? Whimsical ideas are playful ideas which provoke imagination. Whimsical ideas are to a person as water is to a fish. If children have boundaries which prohibit unlimited use of whimsical ideas, they have a limited sense of imagination. Limited, limited, limited.

An example of a world where whimsical ideas and imagination is scarce is The Little Prince. The Little Prince short film delivers an artificial world where whimsical ideas were non-existent and discouraged. Characters lived a life with no risk, and no change, which was just another routine. The little girl in this movie, who was one of the main characters, had a mother who micromanaged her. She had no room to believe or grow. Many of us know risk to be part of our lives because it’s necessary in school and our jobs. She was limited in her beliefs which directly impacted her imagination and risk taking, which not only changed her academics but changed her ethics, values, morals and beliefs in a negative manner. Pablo Picasso once said “Every child is an artist, the problem is staying an artist when you grow up.”. Imagination is essential to our world’s development, and whimsical ideas are essential to imagination. Imagination gives hope when there is none and provides motivation when nothing else can. If the little girl in this wonderful short film had been more exposed to whimsy topics and risk-taking perhaps she would’ve had more fun. Not just more fun, but more fun in her academics as well. Whimsical ideas provide something for children to believe in. Whimsical ideas are the food, sun, and water in which we need to bloom.

Whether these ideas are something to believe in or imagination, whimsical ideas can help you and everyone around you.