Magical Language

Magical Language

BA

Ba is the Egyptian word for soul—specifically the personality part of the soul. There are nine different parts to the soul. The other eight are: the khat is the physical body, the sahu is the spiritual body, the rn is the name or identity, the ka is the double, the jb is the heart, the šwt shadow, the ḫw is intelligence, the sḫm is the power or form and the akh is the combined spirits of a dead person.

I thought Ba was apt since I began my Tales from the Stork project. The form the Ba often takes the form of a stork in Egyptian Hieroglyphics. Storks are common along the Nile and were thought to carry the personality to the other parts of the soul in the afterlife. It makes sense that the stork be associated with bringing babies because it associated with the spirit or soul.

I finally finished The Red Pyramid and am about to begin The Throne of Fire, so Egypt is still very much on mind.

Abracadabra

Abracadabra is often used on stage for magic tricks these days, but it came from ancient mystical texts. Apparently, the Gnostic Basilideans of Alexandria originally used it as a secret magical formula. Then word showed up in the form of a Magic Amulet or Abraxas Stones. Eventually, it spread beyond the Gnostics to physicians in Rome who would write it inside a triangle to help heal the sick. In 1904 Alistair Crowley wrote about Abrahcadabra in his book The Book of Law. He used Hermetic Qabalah to explain its significance. Many think that since the word has a value of 365 it is meant to represent the Father El or the Sun God Ra. The five letters in the word are: A, the Crown; B, the Wand; D, the Cup; H, the Sword; R, the Rosy Cross. In Egyptian Mythology this would refer to Amoun the Father and Thoth his messenger as well as Isis, Horus, Osiris—the divine-human triad.

Abracadabra is also thought to be a variation on the Greek term Abraxas. Abraxas referred to the Great Archon. It also has a numerical value of 365 and refers to God or the “The Uncreated Father.” The lost Compendium of Hippolytus said that Abraxas is specifically as “the power above all, and First Principle.” It is “the cause and first archetype” of all things. Therefore calling upon Abraxas is to call upon God the Creator himself. You can see why it would be considered a powerful word.

I had never heard of Abraxas before with the exception of the boy’s home on State Route 39 between Shelby and Mansfield, Ohio. The place used to be The Sacred Heart Seminary School for those who wished to become Catholic Priests. Since 1993 it houses male juveniles who need treatment for drug and alcohol addiction or who are sex offenders. I suppose it is fitting.

Abracadabra ties into my week in two ways: First through my continued reading of the Kane Chronicles by Rick Roirdan to Sebastian and, secondly, through my typing of my Critical Canon Class. I am up to my notes on the Kabbalah and the mystical use of language.

Magical

The word magical is derived from Magi, which referred to the priest sorcerers of Ancient Persia. Magus is the plural of Magi. It was Three Magi that came to visit baby Jesus in Bethlehem, however Magi is often translated as Wise Men. This would mean that Priests of Magic came to see the baby. That ties into the theories that the miracles Jesus later performed was essentially magic he learned from his time in Egypt or possibly Persia and beyond.

This connects to Zoroastrianism and Medes. Zoroastrianism was probably the first Monotheistic religion and the basis of a lot of Christian Mythology. The Medes were Ancient Tribe of people called the Media in 550 BC Iran.

Anyway, Magu is Persian for Magic. The Greek appear to have borrowed this word and called it Magus or the Art of Magus. Latin transformed that word into Magica or Magicus. The Old French word for Magic is Magique.

This relates to the past few weeks in several ways. First, I have been dealing with three separate systems on the computer at work. The first is FAMIS, which stands for Family Assistance Management Information system. The second is MEDES, which stands for Missouri Eligibility Determination and Enrollment System. The third is MAGI, which stands for Modified Adjusted Gross Income. I would like to think MEDES and MAGI have a secondary magical meaning. Certainly it can seem like magic to those in need.

In addition to these etymological parallels, I am currently reading a new series by Jessica Cluess. I read the first book A Shadow Bright and Burning and am working on the second book A Poison Dark and Drowning. I will read the third book A Sorrow Fierce and Falling next. The book centers on a Magician Born Sorceress named Harrieta and her love interest Magnus. The books are set in Victorian London, which gives them a sort of Harry Potter feel. But the world more like that created by the SyFy TV show Magicians. It also echoes the sort of young adult adventure found the books of Jennifer Nielson.

The name Magnus ties into the Magnus Chase series I’ve been reading to the kids. We are on book three The Ship of the Dead. The name Magnus means Great. It doesn’t seem to be directly related to the word Magus. However, Magnus was first a Roman name that the Norse borrowed and used about as frequently as they did Erik in the Middle Ages. The character of Magnus Chase does possess the magical ability to heal via his father Frey. I wanted to write about Valhalla or Valkyries, but I couldn’t think of how to tie them into my life. Then I found the Magical Thread and followed it!

Zarathustra

Zoroastrianism is one of the world’s oldest religions and, in many ways, a precursor to Christianity. Founded in Persia or Iran, it is a monotheistic religion that preaches a dualism between light and dark or good and evil. Ahura Mazda is the Creator Lord whose name means Being of the Mind. Zoroaster or Zarathustra is the Prophet or Christ-like figure. Similar to Jesus, Zarathustra went into the river and came out renewed at age 30. He then began preaching about the God of Wisdom and about Free Will.

Zoroastrianism shows up in many places, including Game of Thrones. George R.R. Martin has stated that the central element of the religion of R’hllor in A Song of Fire and Ice is that is the idea that there is one true good god that locked in eternal combat with an evil deity. This is also central to Christian Gnosticism and is described in the Pistis Sophia.

This symbolism of the light in the darkness is why Christmas is celebrated just after the Winter Solstice. Scholars believe Jesus was probably born in July sometime, but leaders of the church moved the date to coincide with pagan festivals of light. It merges the historical figure earlier mythologies, thus cementing reputation of Jesus as a Lord of Light.

This year I chose to speak of Zarathustra because I believe that the struggle between the light and the darkness has been the subtext of this past year. The darkness of oppression, depression and fear interplays with the lightness that is freedom, happiness and love. I see this dichotomy or this tension not only in current events, but within myself and those around me.

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13 Reasons In Reality

13 Reasons In Reality

13 Reason Why
Season 3

I just finished watching Season 3 of 13 Reasons. It reminded me of people I knew in High School once upon a time. I will not name names, but I do think it is an important story that needs told.

It starts with me starting my Junior year of High School. I attracted the attention of a certain young man we shall call Bob (not his actual name.) Bob fell madly in love with and tried to woo me. He wanted me to be his girlfriend. I wanted to take things slow and get to know him first. I suggested an actual date before we made a commitment. He agreed, but nothing had been set up yet.

We had gotten off the bus one morning shortly thereafter. We were laughing and having fun. I made a joke that he did not find funny. It was a reference to the rumors around school that he had indulged in bestiality. Bob’s mood changed suddenly and he shoved me up against a locker. It surprised me more than it hurt me.

Later, Bob sent me flowers and the girls in class were impressed. Their boyfriends didn’t send them flowers. They thought I was crazy to reject him. I shrugged and said I simply wasn’t interested. I didn’t feel like explaining that his violent outburst scared me. I was smart enough to see it as a red flag. If he could get that mad in public, what was he capable of in private I wondered.

My friends were still friends with him, so even though we didn’t date, I still heard about his life. We spoke casually when we met in the halls or at a school function. I was polite, but distant. He moved on fairly quickly to date some girl from another town named Tiffani (also not her real name.) They dated for a few weeks or maybe a couple of months. I don’t remember. They broke up and he began seeing Tiffani’s friend Dani.

It was nearly a year later when I met Rachel (not her real name either!). She began seeing my ex-boyfriend Rob (not his real name) shortly after he broke up with me. At first I was jealous and I hated her, but then we met in person and began to talk. We became fast friends despite the awkward situation. Jump ahead a few months and Rob was out of the picture.

My friends decided that I needed to go to Prom. Since Bob didn’t have a date and I didn’t have a date, they thought we should go together. I agreed to go with Bob, but only as a friend. I made it clear that I was not interested in more. He picked me up and we went to his house so his Mom and Dad could take pictures. We went out to eat and then went to Prom. When we got there, he refused to dance with me. He met up with some other chick and left Prom to go have sex with her. While I was not jealous of the other girl, I was angry that he had left me stranded at school. I had no ride home. Eventually my friend and her boyfriend took me home.

I recalled this bad prom experience to Rachel, who then dropped a bombshell on me. Bob had raped her. It was well over a year since it had transpired. She told me the story about the seemingly nice neighbor boy she hung out with. They began to make out when she’d visit him. He wanted to take it further and have sex, but she did not. He was 16 and she was just 12 at the time. That afternoon he forced himself on her.

I was shocked. Ironically, Bob had claimed he was still a virgin for all of last year. And even though he had never had sex with me or Tiffani or Dani, that didn’t necessarily mean that he was actually still a virgin. It struck me that he might not have wanted to advertise that he not only cheated on his girlfriend, but that he had raped a 12 year old girl. Bob was many things, but he wasn’t a complete idiot.

Anyway, somehow Rachel’s parents found out. Rachel’s father was enraged and ready to march over to Bob’s house and kill him. Rachel begged him not to. She didn’t want to call the police or to press charges. In fact, she just wanted to forget the whole thing ever happened. Rachel spent the next year doing drugs and acting out, but she had found a boyfriend and was ready to be healthy and happy now.

What she neglected to tell me is that she had been suicidal. She had been hospitalized at one point and had been in counseling on and off. I never had any idea the depth of her depression. I wish she had trust me enough to share some of her burden with me.

Anyway, skip ahead another year. Bob graduated and left town. He was gone for several years before returning. My friends report that he had gotten some girl pregnant and gotten married. Then he got divorced and gotten somebody else pregnant. His adult life was a mess!

That is when I met Tiffani in college. She and I became friends. Later, I learned she was the very same Tiffani who had dated Bob. I recounted Rachel’s story to her, but she refused to believe it. She and Bob were still friends. Yes, he had a temper, but he had never hurt her. She couldn’t imagine him raping anyone. I don’t think I mentioned it again for a long time. We had plenty of other things to talk about.

Some ten years went by and Tiffani had an epiphany. She had heard complaints over the years from Bob’s former girlfriends and wives that sex had not always been consensual. They would accuse him of rape, but somehow charges were never pressed. Tiffani began to wonder if the rumors were true. I reminded her of Tiffani’s story and she finally was ready to accept it as a possibility.

Both Tiffani and I had seen his temper as a warning sign. We were the lucky ones. The other girls he dated were not so lucky.  I have no proof Bob is a rapist, but I see no reason for any of these girls to lie to me or to Tiffani. What would they have to gain? Clearly, Bob’s reputation had not really suffered over the years. Despite all the rumblings, he had continued to live life as he always had.

Rachel was not my only friend who was sexually assaulted. My friend Beth was raped at knife point by her first boyfriend. My other friend Diane was raped by a trusted friend who wanted to be more than friends. And another friend Amanda told me she had been raped by two or three teenage boys when she was walking home along the train tracks. And my friend Jamie had been date raped. My neighbor Sue told me about how her ex-boyfriend coerced her into having sex with him under the threat of kidnapping their son if she didn’t do what he wanted. None of these rapes were reported either, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t happen.

Why didn’t they report the rapes? Many reasons. Many of them were teenagers when it happened. Some were terrified that their parents would be pissed at them for being sexually active, even if it wasn’t their choice. Some feared indifference. Some didn’t want to piss off their attacker any further because nearly everyone knew the person who had raped them. Others dealt with trauma by trying to forget it or repress it. It seemed like the general attitude was that it was an everyday occurrence that could not be prevented or punished. I suspect that whatever the reason they told they told themselves, the truth was that Rape had made them feel powerless, so why would they assert their power by prosecuting?

I, for one, hope #MeToo and 13 Reasons Why makes a difference.  Women need to change the Rape Culture we grew up in.  It has gone on for far too long.

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Hermes Helps Out

Hermes Helps Out

This collection of poetry, Persephone’s Echo, is about the echoes of the past in both mythology and my personal life. This collection combines the Jungian archetype with Sylvia Plath like confession. It also combines the personal with political. The topics are traditional yet told with an intensely emotionally slant. Although each poem tells a story unto itself, they are each part of a larger story. In order to experience the full power of the poems they should be read in context with the others.

The title Persephone’s Echo refers not only to the echoes of the past, but to Greek Mythology as well. Echo was a beautiful nymph who was a favorite of Artemis. Echo had one weakness, her love of talking. Now Zeus’s weakness was women and he often came down from Mount Olympus to cheat on his wife Hera. Echo would often detain the curious Hera by talking to her until Zeus returned from one of his trysts. Realizing she had been deceived, Hera cursed Echo. Echo would get her wish to get the last word, but she could never again have the power to speak first. After Hera left her to repeat only other people’s words, Echo fell in love with the beautiful Narcissus. Narcissus was a beautiful, but vain young man. He mistook her voice for his own and could not properly return her love. Echo withered away in misery until all that was left of her was voice.

Although Persephone best represents my personal journey, it is Echo who best represents the spirit of these pieces. I find that I am cursed by my ability to get the last word, but never be able to change the past. Narcissus best embodies the subjects of my poems; therefore Echo best embodies my effort to voice these thoughts and feelings. Unlike Echo, I will not wither away. I will persevere and publish these poems instead. My power comes from sharing my journey and experiences, and in that way, my voice does retain some capacity for transformation.

The prologue frames the rest of the poems as a journey of self-knowledge and academic intellect. I convey through the poems in the prologue that you will need to know Greek history as well as my own personal history to decode the poems. I discuss the idea of Hermeneutics as a sort key to unlocking the secrets of my poems.

Hermeneutics centers on the study and interpretation of texts. It encompasses the idea of seeing the text from someone else’s point of view and understanding all of environmental factors that went into creating a particular text. The social, cultural and psychological forces behind the words can be seen as part of the subtext or the unwritten meaning. Hermeneutics often enlists the help of parables and metaphors in order to convey meaning. At its most cryptic, Hermeneutics can be a circle or a sealed set of symbols that one needs to know in order to interpret a specific text like the Torah or the Bible.

Having said all that, Part 1 chronicles the journey of Persephone, who is my alter ego. In Greek Mythology, Persephone is the daughter of Demeter and Zeus. She was kidnapped by Hades and made Queen of the Underworld. Her mother was so distraught that the world withered and died into winter. Eventually Demeter convinces Zeus to send Hermes (in some versions it is Iris) to fetch her daughter back. By the time rescue came, poor Persephone had eaten several seeds of the forbidden pomegranate fruit. That meant that she would have to return every year to see her husband. In the end, she spent half her time with her mother and half her time with her husband. This caused the four seasons to take place.

My personal journey is a long and complicated one. In order to deconstruct my words you must know a few things. My life was relative of Garden of Eden until it was shattered at age twelve. I lived in blissful ignorance of the cruelty and hatred of the world outside my own. I was content to read fairy tales and myths and play pretend. I lived under the protection of my mother who was very much Demeter. It was at age twelve that I was ripped from my mother’s loving arms and forced to visit my estranged father out West. My mother and father were divorced before I was a year old and my father left the state not too long after that. He was a virtual stranger to me. When he took my mother to court to force me to fly several hundred miles to see him, I was scared. I was adamant about not going, but neither my father nor the judge heard my cries. My visit with my father was transformed into Persephone’s journey to the underworld. My boating trip down the Rio Grande became a trip down the river Styx.

I spent my teen years in the underworld, which is another way of saying I spent my teen years deep in depression. I suffered from panic attacks during school and I even had thoughts of suicide. For many years I did not comprehend why I was so miserable. It wasn’t until I was much older that I realized that being forced into that visit was akin to being abducted or even raped. I eventually came to understand why my father had done what he did and forgive him for being so selfish. Like Persephone, I felt some affection for my captor, but I had still been a prisoner. From the underworld, I experienced my first relationships and first heartbreaks. These turbulent and tragic relationships only added to my depression.

At nineteen, I took a trip to Phoenix, Arizona, to visit relatives. It didn’t escape me that the Phoenix is a symbol of rebirth. Thus, I was reborn. It was a slow process, surfacing from the underworld. Margaret Atwood and Sarah McLaughlin both helped me with this process of transformation though their writing.

The second part of the book is concerned with my odyssey of longing. Though the worst of my depression had passed, I was still struggling with feeling unfulfilled and empty. I found a great relationship with the man who eventually became my husband, but I couldn’t enjoy it as fully as I wanted to due to my unresolved issues. I still had a lot of work to do and a long way to go in order to end my odyssey. This is where I use Odysseus and his journey to symbolize my own. Then I blended in other Greek Mythology to round out the symbolism. Each of the men I choose to resolve my issues with only provided more confusion. I found myself deceived by their labyrinth of lies. As I made my way through the lies, I came to center myself and see things with great clarity. Like Odysseus, I found my way back to my true love after a long journey.

Lastly, I use Greek myth to voice my opinion on feminism and politics. Many of the political poems are scattered throughout, but the largest concentration is at the end. After all of the chaos had cleared, it was much easier to find my voice and use it effectively. Echo is a great persona for addressing the issue of voice or lack thereof.

Many of the themes I found in the Greek Mythology could be applied quite easily to things that go on in modern society. It was fun see the see the synchronicities surface with each new poem. These blends, I believe, are the future of literature. These poems, then, are a message to the masses that it is time to return to our roots and realize that we need a sense of unity. Making myths our own is the perfect way to create a new sense of community, which we so desperately need during this time of disconnection.

Complimentary Compilation: Songs Referenced in Poems

Strawberry Field Forever by The Beatles

Fallin by Alicia Keys

Possession by Sarah McLaughlin

Stay by Shakespeare’s Sister

Dead Souls Nin Inch Nails

All Apologies by Nirvana

Heart Shaped Box by Nirvana

Bring Me to Life by Evanescence

Broken Seether Featuring Amy Lee

Here with Me by Dido

I’m No Angel by Dido

White Flag by Dido

Love is a Battlefield by  Pat Benatar

I and I Taja Seville

Building a Mystery by Sarah McLaughlin

Burn for You by Kreo

I See Stars by Robin Fox

Rapture by Iio

Recommended Reading

Aeneid by Virgil

The Art of Love by Ovid

Cassandra by Christa Wolf

Cities of the Interior Anais Nin

A Dark Muse: The History of the Occult by Gary Lachman

The Divine Comedy by Dante

Electra a play by Sophocles

Electra a play by Euripides

The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje

Histories by Herodotus

If on a winter’s night a traveler by Italo Calvino

The Iliad by Homer

The Lethe of Heaven by Ursula K LeGuin

Medea by Christa Wolf

Metamorphoses by Ovid

Mythology for the Modern Reader by James Wiegel, Jr

Mythology by Edith Hamilton

The Neverending Story by Michael Ende

No Exit and Other Plays by Sartre

The Odyssey by Homer

The Penelopiad: The Myth of Penelope and Odysseus by Margaret Atwood

The Prisoner of Azkaban by JK Rowling

Sappho’s Leap by Erica Jong

She Who Remembers Linda Lay Schuler

A Short History of Myth by Karen Armstrong

Surfacing by Margret Atwood

The Road to Oz by L. Frank Baum

Weight by Jeanette Winterson

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Ulysses by James Joyce

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Private Government

Private Government:

How Employers Rule Over Our Lives (And Why We Don’t Talk About It)

By Elizabeth Anderson, 2017

Elizabeth Anderson gave a series of Tanner Lectures at Princeton University in 2014 on Political Philosophy. During these lectures she discussed the rise of Industry and the loss of Independence of  the Industry Workers.  First she outlined the idea of Free Market and how it has been associated with the Far Right and Libertarians. She explains how the Free Market originated as an Egalitarian or Progressive Agenda. The Free Market was developed in opposition to Monopolies. Some famous Egalitarians were John Locke, Adam Smith and Thomas Paine. However, Adam Smith and Thomas Paine were for a System of Social Insurance.

In the Preface to her book she says, “If the US Government imposed such regulations on us [the same as private companies], we would rightly protest that our Constitutional Rights were being violated. But American Works have no such rights against their bosses. Even speaking against such constraints can get them fired, so most keep silent.”

The concept of the Free Market varies wildly from Adam Smith to Karl Marx. Adam Smith believed in Equality in the Exchange of Goods. It wasn’t until after the Industrial Revolution that Marx came along and saw a great deal of inequality in the system. Smith did not anticipate the corruption that would creep into Free Market System and take over.

The press would have us believe that we only have a choice between the Free Market or State Control. Those who support the Free Market often do not realize the truth.  And the truth is that most people’s lives are ruled by Private Government.

Egalitarianism are referred to as Levelers. This revolutionary belief in the Free Market was a stark contrast to the Hierarchy of England. It was a world ruled by rich lords and other masters. It was a world of Patriarchy and Religious Rule. Women as well as men found that being the master of your own fate was appealing.

Paine believed most problems were the result of The Government. It is sentiment that Republicans echo these days—thought for a different reason than Paine did. Abraham Lincoln did not buy into the idea that Wage Labor and Slavery were the only choice available. Even Lincoln didn’t take into account Unpaid Domestic Labor though. Business owners raised themselves above the wage earners in the Hierarchy.

The Industrial Revolution dramatically widened the gulf between employees and employers. It is no coincidence that the 1800s not only gave rise to Industry and Factories, but to Prisons, Asylums, Hospitals, Orphanages and Poor Houses as well.

People rail against Communism, but they neglect to notice the Communist Dictatorships in our midst. Superiors at work give Inferiors rules to follow. The rules are often arbitrary and subject to change. We can’t remove the bosses or leaders of these Communist-like Companies. There are dress codes and rules to determine hair styles and accessories. There are random drugs tests and rules about fraternizing with co-workers outside of work. People can get fired for Facebook Posts. There is no privacy in these private companies. The Board of Directors operates like an Oligarchy. The CEO is a self-appointed dictator or appointed by the Oligarchy. And the consequences for leaving the Communist-like Company result in Exile (Firing) or Immigration (Quitting).

Essentially, the modern work place is a Private Government. This modern work place is where government and individual liberties overlap. Corporations and Churches are both examples of Private Government. A Government is Private with respect to subject if it can issue orders backed by sanctions in some domain of your life. Private Government has arbitrary and unaccountable power over those it governs.

Unregulated Commons are Anarchist Commons. Anarchy is not conductive to Business Production.  If anyone can take whatever anyone else has produced then chaos reigns. Those who own Private Property have Exclusive Rights over that Property. Corporations must balance Exclusive Rights with Individual Liberties.

The Philosophical Ideals of The Egalitarian Free Market did not foresee or take into account the unequal power structure inherent in factories and corporations. About 25% of workers are subject to these dictatorships at work. Some workers are lucky enough to be self-employed or become management in someone else’s business, but not everyone is so lucky.

Works have been struggling for years to prevent abuse at work. They formed Unions and created a Bill of Rights. OSHA or Occupational Safety and Health Administration was created to prevent injury and death to workers due to poor working conditions.

Early Modern Theories of Equality and Freedom rationalize, but do not justify our current Market Driven Society. The Government is okay because it had a system of Checks and Balances put into it. We can hold Public Officials accountable in the Public Government. Private Government doesn’t have this system of checks and balances to protect the people. Workers need a voice.

Some jobs and some work places try to be fair. The lower the income at the job the less fair the conditions often are. The bottom half of the work force deals with low pay for long hours and substandard conditions. There are unpredictable schedules that don’t take into consideration the needs of their employers—particularly the need for childcare. There is often harassment, disrespect and downright abuse that is tolerated because the workers are desperate for income and don’t feel they have a choice.

As a nation, we need to reexamine our system and try to make it better. Perhaps we could find inspiration in The German System of Co-Determinism. They do have make less profits for shareholders, but the workers gain a lot more freedom and flexibility because of it. What do you think might be a reasonable solution to the problem of Private Government?

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College Unbound

College Unbound: The Future of Higher Education and What it Means For Students

By Jeffery J Selingo, 2013

Students are pressured to go to a 4 year college, but many drop out. Some find success in a 2 year Community College, but others never finish their education.

We live in a risk adverse, self-satisfied industry. The Education Bubble is about to Burst. The Education System needs to evolve if it is to survive. Online Courses are an example of the evolution of education in the right direction. College is no longer a one size fits all experience.

1999-2009 is referred to as the Lost Decade. There was a flood of new buildings, new students and new student debt.

Chapter 1 Explores How We Got There. The Master’s Degree is the new Bachelor’s Degree. Slowly there has been a “Credential Creep.” The amount of people getting a Master’s Degree has doubled. Colleges have added more degree programs.

Chapter 2 discusses the fallacy of the idea of how The Customer is Always Right. From 1999 to 2009 prices rose 68%. Colleges began using more and more part time professors or adjuncts. This was partly in response to the revolving door of students. Colleges Graduation Rates dropped. Professors were supposed to act as Performers and keep the attention of their students. Many colleges rewarded students with good grades for merely showing up. 45% of College Students showed little to no improvement in their knowledge and skills during their first two of college. See the book Academically Adrift.

 Why does Tuition cost so much? Because it can. Some Colleges Compete by having what has been deemed “Resort Campuses.”  Because of the outrageous cost of college, most students are no dependent on Student Loans. It is surprising that these colleges are not kicked out of the Federal Loan Program. In the 1950s and 1960s Colleges offered lower tuition in order to gain more students. This was part of the Higher Education Act of 1965. In 1972 the Federal Government took a role in colleges with the creation of the Federal Pell Grant.

Colleges also had a habit of inflating the Rates of Graduation and Job Placement when they advertised. Today most Graduates will fail to obtain a job in their career fields.

Part 2 of College Unbound goes on to talk about The Disruption all this has caused. Colleges have been struggling since 2008. The States have cut budgets and Colleges are unable to expand Programs. Some have even started cutting programs and departments. Due to this lack of resources, the Colleges cut costs wherever they can.

Khan Academy is a non-profit educational organization created in 2008 by Salman Khan with the goal of creating a set of online tools that help educate students. The organization produces short lessons in the form of videos. Its website also includes supplementary practice exercises and materials for educators. All resources are available for free to users of the website. Khan Academy is the result of a Nation of Students worried about Student Loan Debt.

Chapter 5 explains how Personalized Education is the next step. Some colleges are working on creating personal algorithm for College Students similar to how Netflix takes our preferences and creates viewing suggestions. There is a program that acts like a Matchmaker for College Students and Colleges.

Check out Naviance, which is an American college and career readiness software provider that partners with high schools and other K–12 institutions to provide students with college planning and career assessment tools.

Colleges are also working to make the Transfer from 2 year to 4 year Colleges almost effortless for the students.

Also mentioned is MOOC, which is a massive open online course, aimed at unlimited participation and open access via the web. MOOCs are a recent and widely researched development in distance education, first introduced in 2006 and emerged as a popular mode of learning in 2012. This allows many students to obtain an Elite Education for Free. The University of Manitoba is an example of this. Carnegie Mellon also has an Open Learning Initiative as well. These classes often utilize Hybrid Online and In Person Classes.

Chapter 8 covers Degrees of Value. Money should be a factor in choosing a degree or career, but not the only factor. An Engineering Degree will definitely get the student more money than an English Degree. However, the world needs at least some people with English Degrees. If it is your passion, then you should pursue it. The job market has shown that Employees with Liberal Arts Degrees are Preferable. They are often more well-rounded than someone who has trained for a specific job, trade or role.

The Magazine US News and World Report puts out a yearly Ranking of Colleges. Most people equate a Higher Ranking with a Better Education. Perhaps Colleges should receive certificates and be encouraged to improve weak areas.

Colleges are becoming Ala Cart. They are allowing students to pick and choose not only their degree program, but the classes to meet the degree requirement. They create an education that leads to a specific skill or area of expertise. Some 45% of managers are looking for an employee with a specific skill. However, 55% of managers want a broad base of education in an employee.

Roger Schank says what subjects you take in college really doesn’t matter. It is your cognitive ability that matters. He says that the focus should be on mind, body, law, information, language, networks, space, time, media and money. Deep active learning is what is important. See A Whole New Mind by Daniel H Pink. Pink suggests that we should be moving away from logical, linear education and move toward creative, big picture education that is flexible. Countries like Finland, Sweden and Norway have already implanted programs similar to what Pink outlined where topics are taught in multiple subjects.

Harvard and MIT have created EdX online programs. India wants to copy this education system.

Checklist For The Future:

When Choosing A College Check Out These Factors

 Calculate Return Investment For The Education There

Check Out Mobility of Credits or What Transfers

How Tech Savvy is the College

Get A Sense of College’s Priorities and Their Academic Rigor

Find out of the College Prepares Students for the Future

Check Out the Ability to Learn Through Travel Abroad Programs

Study The College’s Financial Aid Programs Closely

Asses The Financial Health of College Overall

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After The War Zone

After The War ZoneReturning Troops and Their Families

By Laurie B Slone, PhD and Mathew J Friedman, MD, PhD, 2008

The book was written to help understand the cycle of deployment and dealing with changes during deployments, as well as the homecoming.

Frequent Combat Experiences include being attacked or ambushed, receiving incoming fire or being shot at, discharging their own weapon, seeing dead bodies and remains, knowing somebody who has been seriously injured or killed and feeling in grave danger of being killed.

Switching Gears can be difficult. Something to help is the BATTLE MIND Acronym:

B=Buddies or Cohesion vs. withdrawal
A=Accountability vs. Control
T=Targeted vs., Inappropriate Aggression
T=Tactical Awareness vs. Hypervigilance
L=Lethally Armed vs. Locked and Loaded
E=Emotional Control vs. Detachment

M=Mission Operational Security vs. Secrecy
I=Individual Responsibility vs. Guilt
N=Non-Defensive Driving vs. Aggressive Driving
D=Discipline and Ordering vs. Conflict

Spouses can also have a difficult time adjusting. There is a BATTLE MIND Acronym spouses.

B=Buddies (Social Support with others)
A=Adding or Subtracting Family Roles
T=Taking Control
T=Talking It Out
L=Loyalty and Commitment from Both Partners.
E=Emotional Balance

M=Mental Health and Readiness
I=Independence
N=Navigating The Military System
D=Denial of Self or Self Sacrifice

Chapter 5 Discusses Common Reactions to the Trauma of War. Soldiers who have returned from war may experiences: trouble sleeping, trouble eating, upset stomach, headaches, bad dreams or nightmares, poor diet, poor health, rapid heartbeat or rapid breathing, existing health problems may get worse, trouble concentrating, are jumpy or easily startled, being on guard or always alert, excessive drinking, drug use, flashbacks, avoiding triggers, irritable, often angry, shock, numbness, easily annoyed, helplessness, mistrust of others, emotional shutdown, detachment, becoming controlling or overprotective of loved ones and having lots of conflicts.

All Soldiers experience these symptoms after combat, but many find it only temporary. If the symptoms listed above persist and continue on long-term than they may receive the diagnosis of PTSD or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Friends and Family will often try to be helpful, but they may say things that make it worse. If you are dealing with a loved one who has PTSD don’t put pressure on them to talk and don’t tell them to shut up if they are able to talk to you. Dont use clichés like, “War is Hell.”  Don’t say it will be okay or it could have been worse. Essentially, try and not to invalidate or belittle their experiences.

Chapter 6 talks about how Anger is the most common issue returning veterans face. Why? Anger is easy. It is easy to get angry at others in the civilian world for not listening or obeying orders. When they don’t do what they are supposed, there is no recourse. Angry often stems from trust and betrayal issues. Anger is in response to being victimized. Anger also comes from feeling fear and a loss of control. Anger cause can be caused by Physical Issues as well.

Chapter 7 discusses Guilt and Moral Dilemmas. Many Veterans suffer from Survival Guilt. Hindsight of the events is biased. They feel like they were given a test of faith in the foxhole. They ultimately feel responsible for the outcome even if they had no control over it. Grief is a normal response death and loss. Grief can become Traumatic Grief when the loss is sudden or violent.

Chapter 9 covers Reconnecting with a Partner, Family, Children and Friends. The authors suggest avoiding the pattern of withdrawal and isolation. It is important to reestablish trust and intimacy. Talking through anger and not exploding can aid in this process. General Communication skills often need improved to avoid further conflicts.

Chapter 11 deals with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder specifically. The first month after the trauma nearly everyone suffers from Acute Stress Disorder. The problem occurs if this state lasts longer than a month.  Anxiety and Depression that lasts two months or longer is a problem that needs treated. They will have triggers that keep them re-experiencing symptoms over and over. They may even try to avoid the memories, feelings and triggers. PTSD is NOT a weakness though.

PTSD can negatively impact family and friends. The Veteran may change and seem like an entirely different person. Those around the Veteran who suffers from PTSD may suffer from Depression as well as drug and alcohol abuse.

PTSD treatment includes talk therapy and medication. Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors or SSI’s may be the first line the defense against the overwhelming feelings. Sometimes CBT or Cognitive Behavior Therapy is recommended. There is also Exposure Therapy which helps them regain a sense of control. EMDR is Eye Movement and Desensitization Therapy. CPT is Cognitive Processing Therapy. Also, yoga and meditation have been shown to help.

The last couple of chapters suggest that you learn to recognize anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts. Recognizing Panic Attacks and GAD or Generalized Anxiety Disorder can also be helpful.  Learn to recognize drug and alcohol abuse. Violence and physical abuse can also become a huge problem for some. Notice the physical effects of PTSD-related issues—including pain, fatigue, sleep problems, muscle cramps, rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath and chest pains.

Sometimes TBI or Traumatic Brain Injury can cause or add to PTSD. A brain scan and other tests can help determine if this is a contributing factor or not.

In any case, the book stresses how important it is to seek mental and physical help via the Veteran’s Administration and other Community Groups.

Overall, I found the book easy to read and good resource. The only complaint I have about the book is that I would have liked to have seen more on alternative therapies.

 

 

 

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Nutcracker Nonsense

March 25, 2019   Nutcracker Nonsense

I just watched Disney’s 2018 movie The Nutcracker and the Four Realms and I was disappointed. To be fair, I had pretty high hopes for it. When I was in 6th Grade we did a production of The Nutcracker and I fell in love with the music and story over twenty years ago. When I was in 12th Grade I got to see a professional ballet performance of it as well.

So what was Disney thinking? The movie barely resembles the tale The Nutcracker and the Mouse King by ETA Hoffman from 1816. It barely even resembles the Tchaikovsky Ballet. To begin with the Nutcracker isn’t even a Nutcracker. In the book and the ballet he is the wooden doll who cracks nuts come to life. In the movie it is a boy with a name that is barely mentioned. Disney leaves out the entire back story of how the Mouse King was killed by one of Drosselmeyer’s traps and the Mouse Queen transformed the Prince into a Nutcracker as revenge. The Nutcracker is like German version of Beauty in the Beast in a way, but Disney ignored that angle entirely.

In the book the main character’s name is Marie while in the ballet it was change to Clara. In the movie they explain the Marie was Clara’s mother. Somehow Marie found the Four Realms and became Queen. But then she left and had a family. Before she could return, she died. How she died or why is not really focused on.

Disney has Clara go to Drosselmeyer’s mansion for a Christmas Ball where she discovers a portal to the Four Realms. In the book Marie is playing with the Nutcracker and her other toys when they come to life. The Nutcracker engages the Mouse King with the Seven Heads in battle right there in Marie’s home. In the movie the battle is moved to the end of the movie as a Climax instead of being the jumping off point.

In the book Marie falls into a glass cabinet and injures her arm. She awakes and recounts the tale of the magical battle. Her mother and father scold her for taking about her dreams as if they were real.

The next night The Nutcracker returns and asks for a sword. He kills the 7 headed Mouse King and takes Marie to the Land of Dolls as a reward. It is there that she is entertained by a series of dancers.  In the Ballet we are treated to performances by Spanish, Arabian, Chinese, Danish and Russian Dancers who all represent various treats. The Spanish are associated with Chocolate, the Arabians are associated with Coffee, The Chinese are associated with Tea and so on. The Sugar Plum Fairy brings candy.

For some reason Disney decided to make The Mouse King a minor threat and make Sugar Plum the villain. I am not sure why. Yes, it was unexpected, but it seemed rather unnecessary. I guess they needed to fill the plot hole left the absence of the Nutcracker back story.

Sugar Plum seemed to represent the anger that Clara felt toward her mother for leaving her. Even though she knew her mother did not choose to die, Clara was still struggling with feelings of abandonment. Sugar Plum’s greedy grab for the Throne could have been a projection of Clara’s own bitterness.

Mother Ginger in the Disney movie was perhaps a stand in for her feelings toward her mother. Clara’s deceased mother was at first feared and than vilified before coming to Clara’s aid. It turned out Mother Ginger was a hero, not the villain.

The book and the ballet focused more on the relationship between the two main characters though. Marie comes back from the Land of Dolls and is met by Drosselmeyer’s Nephew, who happens to be the Nutcracker. The young man has broken the curse and is quite handsome. The book hints at a possible romance blooming between Marie and the Prince.

The subtext of The Nutcracker and the Mouse King is the struggle between being a child and growing up. Marie played with dolls and craved sweets like a little girl, but as the story unfolds we see her start to embrace the more adult world of romance.

The book is a product of German Romanticism, which examines the power of imagination. The Natural and Supernatural world played a large part in shaping their perspective. Certainly, The Nutcracker embodies those sublime characteristics. However, the Disney movie moved away from the root tale to embrace the successful formula found in their other live action adaptation—Alice In Wonderland.

Alice was rebellious and full of feminist ideals. She marched into battle against the Red Queen and won. This template was laid over The Nutcracker so we have Clara taking over the role of Alice. The Four Realms is her Wonderland. Her White Rabbit was a mouse who stole the key to her Magical Egg. The Polichinelles reminded me of Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dumb. The problem is that The Four Realms is does not have the same illogical logic to it. It is a chaotic world that was not well developed.

We also see bits of The Wizard of Oz in the Disney movie. Like Dorothy, Clara meets the ruler of the land and is sent to take out the opposition. In this way Sugar Plum is like The Wizard and Mother Ginger is like the Wicked Witch. The life size Tin Soldiers are like The Tin Woodman.

In the end The Nutcracker is left in the Four Realms and Clara returns to the mansion. She visits with Drosselmeyer and then finds her father. She explains what she learned in the Four Realms and how she is learning to deal with her grief better. The movie ends with a father daughter dance rather than Clara marrying the Prince.

I suppose they were trying to pull away from the traditional Fairy Tale mold. And that might have been welcomed had we had a dozen other versions of this tale. While Mickey Mouse and Barbie have all taken a turn at telling their versions, we’ve never had a big budget blockbuster or even a full length animated version for that matter. I feel like they really should have stuck with the source material.

The only real compliment I can give The Nutcracker and The Four Realms is that the visuals were stunning. I just wish I would have been drawn into the world more instead of feeling like I was merely looking at a pretty picture book.  If you haven’t read ETA Hoffman’s tale The Nutcracker and The Mouse King, I suggest you find a copy. It is a magical tale that no movie or even ballet has done justice.

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