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Archive for April, 2012

She encourages, she cajoles, she lures. She commands, she hustles, she coerces. If all else fails, she won’t think twice about using threats and bribes to get me off my back side and to work.

Who am I talking about? My ultimate taskmistress, Spring season.

This is the longest lasting spring in my 15+ years of living in this part of the world. The season usually lasts, at the most, for measly three or so weeks, and leaves behind faint memories of early morning dew and balmy afternoons in its wake.

Each year, I keep hoping that spring – however brief its existence –  has a mellower effect on me. I’d love to recline in a hammock in my shady backyard snacking on a lovely mystery novel, a glass of pink lemonade sweating on a table next to me.

Yeah, right! Every year spring becomes a stricter taskmistress than the year before.

She wrinkles her nose and says, “Look at your garden, weeds choking my poor seedlings. And don’t even mention the hedges! A disgrace to even call them by that name.”

I can’t so much as admire the flowers in a neighbor’s garden without Miss. Snooty jumping at me. “If only you spent some time on your flower beds, you wouldn’t have to turn green at the sight of someone else’s flower patch,” she admonishes.

So, this year, hoping to stem the scolding from the bossy lady, I gave myself a head start. Winter being a mild one – which meant a happy reprieve from sudden April frosts which nullify any premature gardening efforts – I started early this year. I began making rounds of the local nurseries as soon as March rolled in; and I was weeding, pruning and planting by the middle of the month.

As my new plants settled in, I began to anticipate the arrival of Miss. Slave Driver with barely contained glee. I was sure I’d one-upped her this year – she’d pat me on my back and applaud my resourcefulness.

You think?

Miss. Spring sashayed into my yard a couple of weeks ago, knotted her eyebrows at the budding annuals and perennials in my flower beds, and refused to utter one word of encouragement, let alone praise.

I would’ve somehow gotten over her lukewarm response towards my earnest – if modest – efforts if only she’d left it at that. No sir! She then stalked into my kitchen, shoved the pantry doors open and muttered, “Oh my! Is this the best you can do? I expected better from you.”

That’s when I threw in my shovel and scrambled after her. I hurriedly mixed a fresh drink of Mango Lassi, hoping to distract her before she took it upon herself to shed light on any more cupboards and closets.

You see, I desperately wanted to keep some of the murkier corners of my house hidden from Miss. Perfect; until inspection next year, at the very least.

One day earlier this month, dozens of bees and Monarch butterflies swarmed the Holly shrub in our yard. They buzzed and flitted about for two days. Then, probably after they've had their fill of the nectar, they disappeared as suddenly as they'd appeared.

Can you detect the bees toiling away among the flowers?

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Merriam Webster dictionary defines Dystopia as:

  • An imaginary place where people lead dehumanized and often fearful lives
  • Anti-Utopia

Dystopia derives from the combination of the two Greek words dys (meaning bad/hard) and topia (meaning place/landscape). Dystopia is also sometimes referred to as Cacotopia.

Humans have always been fascinated with imagining what future — near or far — has in store for them. Weaving dystopian stories is a natural progression of this attraction. So, dystopian fantasy (stories set in a less than optimal world) has been around, I’m sure, since man could exchange ideas with fellow humans using words. Dystopian novels have been published for more than a century now.

Dystopian fantasy is a popular sub-genre of science fiction or, more broadly, speculative fiction.

The young adult market is teeming with dystopian fantasies (Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix, The Giver by Lois Lowry, The Uglies by Scott Westerfield, to name a few), although many dystopian adult novels (The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, The Children of Men by P.D. James among others) have been popular over the years, too.

With the recent release of the movie The Hunger Games (based on a YA book of the same name), this genre is probably more popular now than ever.

These novels depict either an individual fighting against oppression or a group of people coping collectively as a society with the dehumanized conditions.

Some of these stories are set in non-specified (in terms of time and geography) worlds, though generally speaking they are set in a future that is dark, dismal and oppressive. The reasons why society, in each of these books, has slid into this state is one of many:

  • The rise to power of one political or religious group of people who then begin a systematic oppression of the society.
  • An apocalyptic disaster, natural or otherwise, resulting in pockets of survivors.
  • An unnatural/mysterious fear or disgust of the world outside. This usually is the consequence of a disaster in the distant past, the details of which none of the living members of the society remembers.
  • Advancement of technology at a more rapid rate than humans could handle. So man has shunned technology and gone back to the dark ages.
  •  Technology has taken over humans, making puppets of them.

 When I first began to read dystopian fantasies I refused to take them seriously, because they seemed overly fantastical and set so far in the future.

And then I picked up The Handmaid’s Tale. This story takes place in the United States where a theocratic regime has made the lives of women sub-human.

The ultimate shock for me? The story unfolds (in an eerily unemotional first person narrative) the truth of how the society has hurtled towards this state within the life span of a modern American woman. This novel forced me to look at the disturbing possibility that something like this could happen to any country, any time.

Despite that realization, I’m not a big fan of dystopian fiction. Why? Because, the eternal optimist in me shrivels up at all the gloom and doom in these stories. Who is to say what the future holds for us humans? Why look at it only through a pessimistic lens and expect the worst?

And the mom in me balks at the supposition that we may be leaving our future generations to such a miserable future.

Even if you haven’t had a chance to read a book set in dystopia, you may have encountered it in movies such as: The Matrix, Minority Report, Total Recall and Avatar.

So, do you like dystopian fantasies? Why or why not?

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