Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Snape Doesn't Know Everything

In Harry Potter Professor Snape tries to show how ignorant Harry is and how important it is for him to know things in order to do better magic. Of course in theory according to the books and movie, Snape is just being a good guy (cough) trying to make Harry stronger so he can defeat Voldemort in the end.

But who would have known that Snape was wrong? Hmm. Makes you think about how that pompous exterior would have reacted, had he lived, to know he had given a classroom of students misinformation.
The truth is that Monkshood and Wolsfbane are not the same. However, a lot of people think that they are.

Monkshood is known as Aconitum napellus and has blue flowers, but Wolfsbane is actually Aconitum vulparia, and has yellowish flowers. Both are, however, quite poisonous. Wolfsbane is said to deter a werewolf (probably because they don't want to be poisoned). In ancient times it was used to poison the water supply of  the enemy. The plants do serve some medicinal purposes, however, mostly topically.

There are actually 109 species of Aconitum - all of which are poisonous. You can order seeds or plants and they are beautiful flowers. Just know that if you handle these plants your hands could suffer from numbness. If you ingest them you could die. There is no antidote.

So, teaching young children about the plants - well, maybe Snape was being helpful, or maybe he was being hopeful. He didn't seem to actually like children a whole lot, after all.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Guinevere Where art thou? on SyFy's "Merlin"

I love watching new shows and especially those that have some fantasy aspect to them. Most of them don't last long on television. I guess not everyone is as excited about new worlds and possibilities like I am. But, (of course there is a but here) I haven't been able to get into Syfy's channel "Merlin."  Not because it's not entertaining. It has some fun things going on. It's not because Merlin is the same age as Arthur. I like a little diversity from the script. It's Guinevere.

Now, I read one blog that says if I don't like Angel Coulby as Guinevere I must be a "white supremist." Really? I don't dislike her in the role because I find her unattractive. She's very cute. I find that she doesn't have a chemistry with her Arthur, for one thing. She's not what I consider Gunivere material.

Besides the fact that she is not a white female actress, which I could care less about honestly, she is not delicate like Guinevere should be. In the fable Guinevere is a noble woman, in the show she is the daughter of a blacksmith. That's fine. She should still be a bit more stately and feminine, in my humble opinion, with a bit of spunk that shows she can take care of herself. In spite of the fact that most people picture the ancient queen as some blonde haired blue eyed bombshell, in reality during that time period the Welsh woman should have been brunette with maybe green eyes. That's beside the point. We can think outside the box.

Let's take a look at a few of my ethnic choices for the role. How about Vanessa Hudgens? She's young, vibrant, and has that minimal air that she could be an unwitting seductress. She has a seriously wide range of ethnicities in her background. She is also extremely talented. She could bring a sense of music to the role of Guinevere as well. I think just about any actor could have some chemistry with this adorable 23 year old actress. Forget that she is with Disney and that she dates Zach Efron. She would make a stunning Gwen. Of course there is the fact that she is not from the UK. I'm sure some people would frown on that, even though they seem to be tolerant of the race change which meant that people came to the UK long before the Vikings invaded and civilizations were travelling across waterways.

So, what about going out of the box then? How about Frieda Pinto? She is a very talented and gorgeous actress. She may not have been born in the UK, but she is from India which has a strong British influence. Especially since it was part of the British Raj until 1947. Listening to her in movies you could hear what might be interpreted by some as an "English" accent. However, if we are going to insist that there was an African influence in Arthurian England then it's not too much to expect that there could have been an Indian influence as well. Frieda would bring a lot of dimension to Guinevere's character, I would think. She's not only stunning, she has that sense of sensuality that seems to be missing in the current character.I could see the Frieda Pinto Gwen seducing Lancelot.

Of course if you really wanted an actress born in the UK there is always Ashley Madekwe! Not only is Ashley stunningly beautiful and a very talented actress, she brings a sort of elfish look to the character, which is perfect for a fantasy. It could also explain a bit of her background if the series wanted to go that way. It uses a lot of magic after all. Ashley has a very fresh and intoxicating look. Not only could she seduce Arthur and Lancelot she could probably give Mordred a run for the money. I think her chemistry with co-star Bradley James would bring ratings up for the Syfy channel.

So see? I'm not adverse to ethnic actresses holding the role of Gwen in the series. I just find it very difficult to like the character portrayed by the current actress. I'm not saying that Angel Coulby is untalented or unattractive - just not well suited for this particular part. I think she'd be a lot of fun to watch on Dr. Who where she could put some spunk into a role.

Of course this is just my opinion on the matter. I won't call you a name if you disagree. It would have been nice if the other blogger, whom I would credit if I could have found it again, would have extended the same courtesy.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Problem with Election Funds and Evil

I heard a lot of people say they voted for Obama because he was the "lesser of two evils." It's sad that people had to think that any of our political were evil. Growing up we were taught to have a deep respect for the President of the United States. Times were definitely different then. Certainly no one presidential candidate collected over a billion dollars. With so many people out of work you would think that the billion dollars raised could have been used in more productive ways than launching smear campaigns. The truth is that 1 billion dollars equals about the salary of 20,000 median income families (that is families that earn 50,000 per year.) Putting that in perspective - The campaign funds from Obama could have easily housed and fed the entire population of Adams County, Wisconsin.  Mitt Romney's campaign funds, by the same token, could have supported 18,000 families. He could have given 50,000 to every citizen in Jasper, IN and still had enough left over to run some ads. But neither candidate did that. Not one penny of either candidates campaign money was used to support a needy family, raise a community center, or feed the homeless.

In turn instead of having an unbiased and fair election we had the battle of the bucks. Big bucks run elections. That's why when you mention people like Gary Johnson, Jill Stein, Laurie Roth, or Virgil Goode most Americans have no earthly clue who you are talking about. Most media outlets won't even talk to them or take them seriously. They have nowhere near the monetary backing that major party candidates receive.

The question is this: How many of you would have voted for the candidate that took his campaign money and used it to help a failing business? What if they took some of that campaign money and actually used it to support a wounded soldier pay off his mortgage? Perhaps they took a bit of the money and opened a community center in a troubled neighborhood? What type of media coverage would this have given them?

Of course neither candidate did that. There is supposed to be laws regarding how the campaign funds can be used. Yet there was proof that those legal issues of obtaining funds weren't exactly followed and there wasn't even a "bad boy" or a hand slap given for the offense. It was met with a simple "oops" and an "oh well."

I'm not angry over the election results. Honestly, it wouldn't matter which candidate won, though I wasn't even the least bit surprised by the results. The media does an awesome job of making the majority of people see and think what they want them to see and think. They seemed to even promote fallacies and twist facts in order to confuse and manipulate.

 My hope was that we had enough votes for one third party candidate to open up new options in our political system. That didn't happen.

The truth is that the only real change in this country can come from people actually waking up to realize that politics isn't about what is best for the country - it is about what is best for the party. Money and power run this country.

George Washington said, "Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master." Our founding father's didn't believe in big government, and today our Federal government is growing like a wildfire out of control through each of our towns and businesses. Some of us see the scorching and realize we need to push it back before we are consumed, while others bask in the heat believing that they will never be burned. They feed the flames.

We have serious issues at home. We have high unemployment with more businesses each day cutting jobs. We have higher prices on commodities and lowering of incomes. Which brings us to remember another great insight of our first president, "Happiness and moral duty are inseparably connected." We seem to have forgotten what our moral duty entails.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Being Called a Racist

When I was teaching in an urban high school in Dallas most of my students were of "color." Now I don't mind people being proud of their rich heritages at all. I think that we should all be proud of who we are and where we come from. I just don't think that being white, black, or hispanic defines us as people. There are so many more things about being us than meets the eye.

This presidential campaign isn't the first time that I have been accused of being racist. When I was teaching and a student didn't do their homework and I gave them a zero I was called racist. I was accused of failing them based on their color. It didn't seem to dawn on the student that not doing their work or having anything to grade might have affected their grade. Nope. It was all on me for not passing them for doing nothing. It also didn't matter that other students in the class, of the same color, were passing. They actually did their work. To this particular student the only reason that I should pass them was so that I wouldn't suffer under the pressure of being name called. It didn't work. I know who I am.

This presidential campaign I dared compare Mitt Romney and Barack Obama. I was called a racist. Nothing I said indicated race. I simply stated that both men were rich, both had gone to law school, and other similarities between them. Romney was being chastised for all the same things Obama was, but for some reason it seemed okay for Obama to be that way and not the other guy. Evidently pointing that out made me racist. I don't buy it.

When I meet people I don't look at their color first. I don't ask them what religion they are affiliated with. I don't check out their bank accounts or worry about how they feel about abortion or gay marriage. Those things may come out in time, but for me it's not what matters. What matters is the person themselves. How they present themselves. How they interact with me and my family. If we click on other things. Honestly I'm not looking to clone myself to make friends. It's great if someone's opinions differ from my own as long as they are respectful of how I feel too.

Do I have friends that are of a different race than myself? Yes, I do. Do I have friends that are gay? Yes, I do. Do I have friends that are Mormon, Muslim, Atheist, Agnostic, or Pagan? I absolutely do. They aren't my friends because of or in spite of these things. These are just part of who they are, and I guess in turn, part of what makes them special. But I don't define them on their race, religion, or lifestyle. They are my friends because personally we clicked and our personalities complimented each other. We support, respect, and love each other.

On the outside I may look a certain way to people, and people may make judgements about me when they first see me. That's okay. Some people do that. I know that there is a lot more to people than what they wear on the outside. By putting people in categories we are severely limiting our own lives and understanding of what this world has to offer. It's one thing to acknowledge that each person is different, but when you identify them simply by the color of their skin or their religion you do them a great disservice.

Besides, there is a lot more to a person than meets the eye. The only way to find out is to actually take the time to get to know them. But, just because I didn't vote for Obama on election day doesn't make me a racist. I didn't vote for him because of his policies and political stance on the economy. If I had only voted for him because he was African American then I would have been doing him a great wrong, because I'm sure that he is much more than just the first Black President in the White House. And just because I don't agree with his stance on issues such as Health Care or Economic Recovery doesn't mean that I am going to start name calling or bashing people because they like his ideas. I respect their right to their opinions differing from my own.

This country was founded on diversity. Each day I recognize and celebrate that. One day, when people stop labeling and start accepting, we may even get past the days where we look at color and start appreciating character. That is the future I hope for my children and grandchildren.