Wednesday, June 25, 2014

We gotta start teaching our daughters to be somebodies, not somebody's

"We gotta start teaching our daughters to be somebodies, not somebody's"* is the best quote I've read regarding self esteem in young girls and the advancement of women's rights in a long while.

Why? Because I was on a cheer squad with a girl who thought I was progressive because I wanted to go to college. On her cheer application she wrote that her biggest aspiration was to be a stay at home wife, "as women should". Because I have friends who find their self worth in the boys they date. Because women all over the world go their entire lives basing what they do, how they feel, and how they act off the opinions of men who have no idea what it is like to be female. Because I have been told more times than I count that some man is going to come along and tame me someday. Like I am a piece of property to be claimed by a brave pioneer. If that's the case, I prefer to remain the wild, wild, west. Thanks. Because when girls get raped there is a small amount of them who think it is their fault, not the rapists. Because women continually justify the abuse they receive from their partner. Because women still believe they belong to whoever they are in a relationship with, like a pretty thing, to be fucked and looked at, but never to feel, speak, or voice opinions. And until these opinions change and we agree as a whole that women are equal to men and belong to no one but themselves, we cannot achieve true equality with them.

That's why.

*Quote by Kifah Shah

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Alexis Reads "An Abundance of Katherines" by John Green

In case you haven't noticed, I've taken to reading books all in one sitting lately*. Tonight's three hour long adventure was John Green's "An Abundance of Katherines".  Also, because I have a life and work until around 10 pm most nights, I finish my reading around two am. That would explain these late night blog posts. But hey. I'm an adult I can do whatever I want.

Anyways, just like "Paper Towns", "An Abundance of Katherines" follows a young boy around graduating age. Colin is a child prodigy who is particularly good at anagramming. I tried to think of a witty anagram for this blog title, but it is two in the morning, and I'm not good at anagrams even when I'm well rested. Colin has dated 19 Katherine's in his short life, and been dumped by all 19 of them, most recently Katherine the XIX who dumped him the night he graduated from high school.

So Colin, the boy who speaks 11 languages including Arabic, and Hassan, his Arabic best friend decide to go on a road trip to cure the depression that quickly follows the end of Colin's 343 day relationship. The book is a chronicle of what follows. I'm not going to say what happens because I want everyone to read this book, but it is a great adventure where our main character learns what it means to love and be loved, and tries his had at writing mathematical equations that can predict the future.

Keep in mind this is definitely a YA novel. Although I am technically in that demographic (I keep forgetting I'm almost 21, come on guys), sometimes I feel like I'm a little old for these books. But whatever. Frankly, I would read John Green's grocery lists**. As such, it is a pretty easy read, which is more fun because it is one of those books where you can just read through it and not have to be a genius to understand the message the author is trying to convey. A prodigy maybe, but not a genius. I did feel at times that the main character, Colin, was a little bit annoying, but, then again children who win $10,000 dollars on a show that is basically "Baby Jeopardy" aren't the most socially adept human beings.

I also felt...I don't know. There's romance in this book but I felt that it was justified romance. I mean, one encounter happens on accident but then Hassan is so happy that something has finally happens to him that he just keeps going with it. Another happens because "TOC" is a scumbag. And the third, well, normally you see a romantic encounter coming. The sexual tension between the main boy and girl is evident, but in the end he isn't awarded a female for learning a life lesson, it is as if they are meant to be together. And that makes me so happy.

Even though Colin is a super genius - excuse me - prodigy, the reader never feels out of the loop. John Green does an excellent job of making sure that if there is anything said or mentioned that the reader might not know, be it a translation of phrase someone speaks in French, or the mathematical equation of the length of a relationship, it is information readily available to the reader. I never for a second felt like the book was being condescending towards me. And if you read a lot of books, you know EXACTLY what I'm talking about. Sometimes there are books that you pick out for fun and after they speak in seven languages and ask you to solve a philosophical puzzle in the middle of the book you realize you need to go back to college and get your PhD and then MAYBE you'll be ready to try it again.

Weirdly, this book is also in third person. The book is told from an omniscient point of view, which surprised me when I started reading, because the other three books I've read by John Green are very, very first person narrator oriented. So it was a welcome change to his writing style and I quite enjoyed it. But in the end, it was John Green's ability to create characters that come alive and are relatable and enjoyable that really sold this book for me.

Alexis is a 20something part time waitress, full time diva who enjoys staying up late to read all the wonderful books that are being put forth into the world. She would like to thank Johannes Gutenberg for printing books en masse possible, and her pre-k teacher, Crystal Click, for teaching her how to read. If you have any suggestions for Alexis, leave them in the comments below!

*Not that they are particularly long books, YA novels never really tend to be, but I guess some people don't possess that focus and are therefore amazed that one can read a 215 page book in three hours while also snapchatting and browsing tumblr. Also, the cover totally advertises TFIOS which wasn't even published for another six years. I love reprints. Also this is a reference. Read the book. You'll understand after literally the first page.

**Also a reference. I'll send a coffee gift card to whoever tells me what its from. 

Monday, June 23, 2014

Alexis Reads Veronica Roth's "Divergent" Series....and more!

Pictured: Me and my last paycheck
Welcome to Alexis Reads! A new thing I'm going to be doing on my blog where I talk about the books that I finish over the course of my day to day life. Since I read a rather large volume of books (ha) quite frequently, this should be fun!

To kick things off I'll be reviewing the "Divergent" series by Veronica Roth, which I'm assuming you already knew if you read the title. But later on, I'll talk about John Green's "Paper Towns", which I just finished about ten minutes ago.

If you are friends with me on Facebook you may have seen the review of this series that I posted on my Film Annex blog a few days ago*. While this review will be similar, because my opinions haven't changed, it may also be fleshed out a bit more. If you don't want to read that review again, skip a few paragraphs and go see what I thought of John Green.

Let me start by saying that I think that this trilogy is one of the most well-paced, action-packed, dystopian novels that I have read in quite a long time. Possibly ever. Following the success of "The Hunger Games" series, many more novels and series began to spring up in the dystopian genre, hoping to get them some of that readership. Because of this, I feel that the books have gotten a little...formulaic. Take one love triangle, a world divided by something, a post apocalyptic area of the U.S., a power struggle, add water and voila! You've got yourself a hit. I miss books and authors like Orwell and Huxley. Orwell has fully admitted to basing many ideas and themes for "1984" off of Aldous Huxley's "A Brave New World" and in that, there are many similarities to be found, however, the books are vastly different. There is almost no way to confuse one with the other. The differences between "Divergent" and "The Hunger Games" are not so staggering.

So I went into this series with a little bit of timidity, fully knowing that many of my peers had liked the book and had hyped it up to absurd levels. I was afraid it wouldn't live up to all of the amazing press it had gotten. I was in love by page three and finished the entire first book in four hours. I went back to the store the next night to by "Insurgent" and "Allegiant". One of the great things that I loved is that there are strong female characters that are central to the plot and easily are the most bad-ass out of all the characters. These are women you wouldn't mock, because you would be afraid they would eat you for breakfast. Raw. Yet, they are still women, they are still people. Oftentimes in the effort to create a strong female, her femininity gets left out, or her humanity altogether. It is important to me that these are characters who COULD be real, because as a reader, I related to them more.

The series employs a lot of devices and themes that are marks of the genre, such as separation of society, corruption amongst the lawmakers, coming of age (which is a more recent thing in dystopian literature again, because of THG series), and lots of action/violence. However, these are used well. The faction separation that Roth presents here is not only smart, but an amazing turning point to build a series around and she executes it flawlessly. Plus, no love triangle! For a brief moment in book one I thought a triangle might emerge, because one is hinted at, but nothing happens and the people who fall in love only fall in love with each other. There is no dramatic decision making involved. There are also excellent examples of racism and discrimination that make themselves more and more apparent as the books continue, leading to a (spoiler alert!) civil war. Because if we don't learn from history, it will only repeat itself.

From the non-whiny leading lady narrator to aptly described fight sequences that lead the reader begging for more, the "Divergent" series is a must read.

After reading a million quotes on tumblr from "Paper Towns" by John Green, I took a hint and went out and bought the book. Also, in case any of you are wondering, yes, my goal in life is indeed to start my own library. I am constantly at senior centers and yard sales looking for great finds. To date the best I've ever done is to by a book that contained four of Jane Austen's novels in it that only cost me three dollars. Some people just don't know what they have. Anyways.

This book is about growing up, leaving your small town behind, and I want to say being in love, but at the same time, it really isn't about being in love at all. It is about discovering that people aren't enigmas to be solved, they are just people. And sometimes, the adventure isn't in the execution. It is in the planning.

For a book about a boy who goes off on a search for the missing girl who he has had a crush on since the fifth grade, "Paper Towns" does an excellent job of not being cheesy. And if there are cheesy moments in the book, another character calls them out and we giggle together. Yes, I sit alone in my room and laugh while reading good books. Don't hate me because you ain't me. Anyways. I was really afraid towards the end of the book that this would end up as another "boy goes on long soul-searching journey and earns a girlfriend" type book, because I honestly hate those. But something marvelous occurs in this book. The boy doesn't really get the girl in the end, and also, the main character, who is a dude, is also totally a feminist (my opinion but if you've read the book I bet you'll agree), and there is more to the story than him just going on a soul searching journey. It is about realizing that for everything that people are, they are just people.

I read this book in about four hours, meaning all in one sitting, and I couldn't have been happier. Although it isn't a particularly difficult book to read (hooray for YA literature) you may find yourself experiencing secondhand emotions a lot, considering that the characters are so well written it feels as if I'm watching the action in the book take place in front of me, like a play.

All four books were fantastically good reads and a good showing of how good YA books should be written. Now on to "An Abundance of Katherine's" by John Green and another full week!

Have a book to suggest to Alexis? Leave it in the comments below!

Alexis Olmstead is a 20something waitress, diva, bibliophile who spends her days hiding in her room reading too many books. She is currently learning to paint her nails in the lines and perfecting her cat-eye liner. For more rants, raves, reviews, and irrelevant opinions, check back often. 

Friday, June 20, 2014

What To Do When Your Friend Is Dating a D-Bag

It's always exciting when your friend gets a new boyfriend (or girlfriend). It's like fresh water was added to the pool that is your friendship and you can have an outsider give opinions and honestly, sometimes new relationships can add a lot to the circle of friendship you already have. Unless that person is a douchebag. I'm pretty sure that we have all experienced this at one time or another. Your best friend brings over her new boyfriend because she thinks you'll love him and then it turns out their new S.O. is the worst person possibly ever. What do you do? Well dear reader, as a survivor of a friends recently ended 2 year relationship with a complete asshole, I have some helpful tips.

     1. Don't Blame Yourself

We're supposed to be there and protect our girls from dating these jerks. I know. But sometimes, no matter what you say or what you do, one falls through the cracks. Or he's a douchebag in disguise. So just know that sometimes you can't do anymore than you have already done and you can't blame yourself for her relationship. After all, it is her relationship and you don't have control over EVERYTHING.

     2. Practice Self Restraint

Chances are you're going to have to hang out with this jerk at least once. And he is probably going to offend you in some way, whether it is by continually making rape jokes while everyone in the room gets more and more uncomfortable, being blatantly racist against you in particular every time he sees you, or making fun of your obvious feminism, you're going to have to hold your tongue because this is someone your friend cares about. So do some conditioning. Or buy a journal. Or get a blog. Throw shade in a less obvious way than saying directly to his face "you're an acne scarred troll who knows nothing about anything and I kind of hate you so take yourself and the rest of your brony gang back to the place you came from and never come in my house again" is probably not the best way to keep your friend. 

     3. Never Be Fake

I only said you had to be polite. I never said you have to completely hide the fact that you do in fact, hate the human in question. Use your intelligence to undermine everything they say or do. This does in fact seem petty (probably because it is) but also just wait to your friend goes away for a bit and explain in great detail just how much a flaming asshole you think they are and that you only tolerate them because your friend is "in love" with them. Continually point out more attractive, generally better, potential dates to your friend in the presence of their S.O. ask them if they think your target would be a better match for your friend. 

     4. Don't Say "I Told You So"

Chances are you're going to tell your friend how much you hate their boyfriend. I know I did. Often. I also insulted his intelligence quite often because I believe that the only worse thing than a douchebag of a boyfriend is a stupid douchebag of a boyfriend. But when they inevitably start treating your girl bad and become a totalitarian dictator rather than a boyfriend, support your friend. Support her and tell her she is a free thinking woman who can do whatever the hell she wants and doesn't need any man to control the way she breathes, walks, and talks. This will make her significant other hate you more than he already does, but who cares? You're not dating him. However, don't rub it in her face that things aren't working out just like you said they wouldn't. She already knows. She doesn't need that from you.

     5. Give Her Strength

Sometimes the hardest part about breaking things off with a douchebag is that they usually stick around for a while. Like 2 years. I dated a douchebag for an entire year. Why? Why do we do that? Because we feel that no one will love or care for us like they do, even if they are rough about it. So when your friend says she is thinking about breaking with her ball-and-chain, give her the strength she needs to actually do it. Let her know that you will still love her, and that if love comes at the price of disrespect it isn't worth it. Be the wind beneath her wings. Let her soar. 

     6. Don't Blame Her

Wolves hide in sheep's clothing. Like I said earlier, maybe he was sneaky about revealing his douchiness until the very end. You can't blame her for making a bad relationship decision. She's only human and can't see through people's personalities. The only one who should be getting blamed for how horrible the douche was is the douche in question. 

Once you live out the relationship through to the end at your friends side, party. It's over. You did it. If she dates another asshole ever again smack her. But for now, take her out for some celebratory coffee and lunch. She deserves it after dealing with that jerk for so long. 

Alexis Olmstead is a 20something diva in the stage of life where everything is either awesome or awful. She believes that people shouldn't date until they're over 25 when their prefrontal cortex develops but hey. That doesn't stop her! You can find her in her room playing Sims and scribbling down blog ideas that she'll get to sometime next year. 

Things That Grind My Gears: This Week's Letter to the Editor

I rarely buy newspapers. Honestly, in a town as small as Omak, chances are I've already heard the news either because I saw it happening, or it's just gotten around town quickly. If I want a more factual report about any incidents, I'm probably not going to get one from the Chronicle because they run on gossip. I would rather save my weekly dollar than read stories about what someone THINKS happened. 

I would also rather not buy a paper that allows a letter to the editor that is title "Islam is the world's worst enemy" to be printed. A letter that spreads hate, a lot of lies, and and discrimination. By allowing a letter such as this to make the paper the editor, Roger Harnack, is admitting that he believes a small amount of the things printed in this letter, otherwise he wouldn't have let something so horrible go to print. 

I understand and believe in the freedoms of speech and press, but this letter isn't really a display of either of those things, it shows bad decision making in its purest form, and is an embarrassment to out-of-towners who might pick up a paper. I believe that a paper should be a representation of those who live in the area. And all this letter is showing is that we're all crazy right-wingers who believe that keeping peace with a group of people who have been labeled as dangerous in the past is a bad idea. Also, this just in: Obama and his "socialist enablers" follow the "Nazi program to destroy this nation" and "there is little time until the end of freedom". Yeah. You've been warned. 

So that you do not have to go out and purchase a paper that is not worth supporting here is the letter as it appears in the paper (Copyright The Omak-Okanogan County Chronicle 2014 and that guy who wrote it, I guess). 

Islam is the world's worst enemy

     Islam, governed by the Koran as defined by its murderous prophet Muhammed, is the largest, longest-lived cult ever established on planet earth. 
     With its 1,400-plus-years worship of death, it leads mankind with acts of cruelty, terror, torture, rape and murder. If Muslims find no 'Kaffirs' to kill, they go to war with each other, faction against faction.
     Islam's six main branches are hate filled, mostly over minutia.
     Muslims, in creating an Islamic world Caliphate ordered by their deadly prophet, kill all unbelievers in the Mesopotamian Moon god, Allah, according to the Hadiths and murderous practices commited by Muhammad and friends in the 7th Century A.D.
     Their ideal medieval religous world consists only of Muslims with all other creeds erased from memory and all Christians and Jews in the world dead.
     Liberals, socialists, and the liberal press promote dialogue with these animals, but that is an impossible pipedream. One cannot talk rationally with religious terrorists whose only goal in life is to kill you through deceit and lies. 
     There are no moderate Muslims. America, under its President and his socialist enablers follows the Muslim Caliphate agenda and the government is using the Nazi program of the 1930s to destroy this nation. 
     There is little time left for us until the end of freedom and few care enough to cry a warning.
     It may be too late already.
- J.T.*

I have already drafted up several versions of a letter to the editor that I will be sending as son as I get the wording correct so that I can call out the editor for being dumb enough to allow this to be printed, and the idiot who wrote this letter for being such a discriminatory asshole. But maybe that's just the liberal in me talking. 

I encourage you to do the same, reader. If you live in the Okanogan county (and even if you don't!) and are as enraged by a letter like this going to print, write the editor a letter and send it to:

The Omak-Okanogan Country Chronicle
Attn: Letter to the Editor
P.O. Box 553
Omak, WA 98841

Just a quick run down of their policy: a letters must be under 250 words, include the name and hometown of the writer, and cannot contain any personal attacks or thank yous. They are also subject to editing (so don't bother saying you read about it here, they will take out that reference so that no one reads my blog instead of their paper, because apparently I'm a competing news source). Go forth, and start writing. 

*Name omitted to protect privacy.

Alexis Olmstead is a 20something diva who lives in Okanogan County. She spends her days reading, writing, neglecting her blog, and getting angry about newspapers. For more rants, opinions, and irrelevant updates on life, check back often.