Escaping the Shadow of the Burqa

Merry Christmas world!

It’s been ages since I had the liberty to write on this blog. The Christmas season finally found me both the freedom and time to gather my thoughts and get it on paper.

Speaking of freedom, I stumbled upon this thought provoking documentary about Afghanistan, post Taliban era which reminded me that there are still people who do not enjoy such a privilege even if it has already been given them.

For the longest time, it seems Afghanistan culture fed the belief that women need to be protected to such an extreme that they should not allow their faces to be seen by strangers. Such protectiveness would have been flattering, had it not it been complemented by the tradition of forcing women into marriage, forcing women to submit to the dictates of close minded husbands, and, in the worst case scenario, forcing a woman into a marriage to a man willing to pay the family to own his bride.

The burqa. The cage within a veil that has been the instrument to limit women’s freedom to see and be seen. It’s no longer required, but a lot of Afghan men apparently still strongly believe their wives and sisters should wear it. They invoke the Koran as the basis for their opinion, none having the specific knowledge as to which passage justifies such oppression.

And speaking of oppression, this documentary shows its not just the women who were oppressed. The men continue to be oppressed by a culture that has not adapted to the fall of the Taliban. It looks like the Afghan people in general make fun of men who can’t pressure their female relatives to hide their faces behind the burqa. Absurd? I think so too.

A long established culture and it’s consequences won’t change over night. I hope the Afghan women make the most of their new found freedom, and not allow themselves to be shoved back in to the shadows.


Constantine 2005: confront evil and find the road to heaven…seriously?!

John Constantine (Keanu Reeves) is plagued with the unwanted gift of being able to see what normal people cannot. Wanting so badly to escape such circumstances, he attempts to take his life, fails, then spends the rest of his days as an exorcist – to buy his way back to heaven.

This was a movie that compels it’s audience to confront the existence of evil in the world. Or, as that chilling line goes, you may not believe in the devil, but he believes in you.

From a religious standpoint, this once again drives home the significance of God’s presence in our daily lives. The devil is definitely around watching, waiting for a way in to your life…and the less faith we have in God, the easier it is for the devil to sneak his way in.

Another point this movie leaves us to ponder is that road that truly leads to heaven. Can anyone really ‘buy back’ their way to heaven? How do you ‘buy’ what we have all been taught we need to earn?

The most unbelievable message in this movie is that a soul that ends up in hell can be negotiated into heaven…just as John Constantine did with a suicide victim…and his act of selflessness prevented the devil from taking his soul thus securing his entry to heaven. Absolutely the most laughable happy ending I have ever seen.


Knights of Shadows: a love story?

This Jackie Chan movie had a love story angle between a mortal and a demon, one willing to become like the other just so they can be together.

The title refers to a demon who can only exist in the shadows; one day he spots a girl who he so wanted to be with that he enters her shadow; she agrees to allow him into the light while she takes his place in the shadows…unfortunately, she never leaves and gets sucked in to the existence of a demon, an existence that can only continue by preying on the souls of young girls. Meanwhile, the original demon lives the life of a mortal, dedicating his life to destroying the demons in the shadows.

This was a seemingly light movie with some comical scenarios and lots of animated action. The array of funny looking characters and dialogues downplay the real theme of the movie which is the love that develops between beings from different worlds. A common event nowadays, along with the ultimate sacrifice that confronts such love – in the end, someone will have to leave their world behind to be with the other.

Such was the end with this movie, only with a more dramatic twist – the two lovers decided that, if they can only be together in death,.then death is where they will go.

Is this a movie I would recommend? Not really. It’s entertaining and funny. This review may have missed the whole point of the movie, but the love theme was just too glaring to ignore….and, well, it’s Valentines day. So Happy Valentines everyone!


Does the Law of Attraction really work?

More than a decade ago, this movie titled The Secret came out. One of the speakers there was Esther Hicks who has this other persona she introduced to the public as Abraham Hicks. The movie and the seminars where Abraham speaks through Esther have a central theme: the law of attraction.

The message of the law simply put is this: you get what you predominantly think about. Think thoughts that make you happy, you feel happy. Then your life draws more and more circumstances that make you happy. Then the law states that the opposite is also true: predominant thoughts of what does not make you happy brings you more of that too.

It sounded so simple the devil’s advocate in me just had to ask if it really works. Does focusing on the positive really work or is it just blind optimism that will disappoint naive believers in the end?

I tested it for the last few months and what I realized is this: the law of attraction is not a quick fix. You will be disappointed if you practice the law with the expectation that miracles will happen overnight.

Here’s another realization: years of negative thinking won’t change overnight. The essence of Abraham Hicks’ seminars is taking control of what you think and guiding it in the direction where you feel good. Admittedly, I struggled to grasp this one. It was so difficult to catch a negative thought when it arises that it was difficult to also stop it in its tracks – that’s how natural negative thinking had become. For some, it has become part of our system that you can’t distinguish a negative thought from any other thought.

So going back to the question: does the law of attraction really work? Well, I didn’t lose anything for focusing on the positive. I was in a better mood and I got along better with people.

…and is negative thinking really responsible for all the bad things that happen to people? One thing is for sure: it does nothing to improve situation.

In the end, we need to decide: would you rather think positive thoughts which may or may not improve your situation, or think negative thoughts which definitely will not help in any way? Yeah, tough call.


Flowers in The Attic by V.C. Andrews: a saga of consensual incest

Flowers in The Attic was the first installment to a five book series about sole heir Corinne Foxworth who married her half uncle Christopher Foxworth. As a consequence to the incestuous union, Corinne was disinherited by her parents, Malcolm and Olivia Foxworth. Nevertheless, the union produced four seemingly perfect children – Christopher Jr., Cathy and twins Cory and Carrie. The family had then changed their last name to Dollanganger, a distant Foxworth relative. Upon the death of Christopher Sr., Corinne was forced to crawl back to her parents being unable to financially take care of the four children.

After many letters appealing to her parents, the latter finally agreed to allow Corinne and her children to live in the Foxworth mansion under one condition – no one is to know about the existence of the children. Arrangements were made for them to stay in the attic of the mansion where they remained locked up for three years as their mother made them believe that she was making efforts to get back to her father’s good graces, get herself back in his will and the children along with her would become very rich – all they had to do was wait for their grandfather to die.

In the attic where Christopher Jr. and Cathy were forced to spend all their time together, an unusually strong bond  developed. They adapted the role of mother and father to the twins. They watched each other grow from children to adults, and they only had each other to answer questions that arise with the onset of puberty. As both tried to resist the temptation of surrendering to their raging hormones knowing they were brother and sister, they both eventually lost the battle and ended up sleeping together.

Grandfather Malcolm Foxworth finally died to the benefit of Corinne but not her children. She ran off and married lawyer Bart Winslow and left the children wondering when she was going back for them.

Christopher Jr. and Cathy, tired of their mother’s empty promises, devised a way to escape from the attic along with Carrie. At this point, Cory had died of pneumonia. The three children escaped from the attic and took a bus back to where they came from, with no idea where they were going back to.


After escaping from their three year confinement in the Foxworth attic, Christopher Jr., Cathy and Carrie are taken in by a rich generous doctor Paul Sheffield whose house keeper Henrietta Beech happened to be in the bus they were on.

Christopher Jr. moves on to medical school, Cathy pursues her dream to become a ballet dancer. Christopher Jr. cannot get over the feelings he developed for Cathy during their attic days. Cathy, in an attempt to escape from her brother’s longing, moves to New York to pursue her dancing career. Here she meets and marries fellow dancer Julian Marquet.

Carrie never fully recovered from her years in the attic, the deprivation of sunlight stunting her growth. Nevertheless she meets a pastor’s son who asked to marry her. She seeks out her mother Corinne to invite her to the wedding. At this point, Corinne has taken on the role of Mrs. Bart Winslow and denies having any children. Devastated by the rejection, Carrie kills herself.

Cathy vows to seek vengeance against their mother for all they suffered. Upon the death of her husband with whom she has her first son Jory, she goes after her mother’s second husband. She succeeds in getting herself pregnant with her second son Bart Winslow Sheffield.

Cathy devices a plan to present herself and her brother back in her mother’s life at a party in Foxworth Hall, after the latter has established to everyone she has no children. At the same party, Cathy announces her pregnancy with her mother’s second husband.

Unable to bare the humiliation of the present and the confrontation of the past, Corinne sets Foxworth Hall on fire. Cathy and Christopher Jr manage to escape. Bart Winslow dies in the fire attempting to save his mother in law, the already bedridden Olivia Foxworth. Corinne is taken to a psychiatric ward.


Unable to deny the feelings that continue to perpetuate, Christopher Jr and Cathy move to another state to establish a life as husband and wife under their adoptive name Sheffield, with Cathy’s sons Jory and Bart. For some years all is well and the family manages to keep the truth from discovery.

Then a mysterious woman moves in to the next door mansion. She tries to win over Bart and asks him to call her grandma – yes, Corinne Foxworth is back. She moves in next door with her butler and now third husband John Amos, her uncle and the cousin of the late Olivia Foxworth who was taken in to serve at Foxworth Hall. It turns out John Amos had his eye on the Foxworth fortune which he expected to inherit all along had Corinne not returned.

With Corinne’s reappearance, Christopher Jr and Cathy are forced to admit to their sons their true relationship as brother and sister. Jory eventually accepts them as they are. Bart continues to struggle with such acceptance for the rest of his childhood.

Disturbed by both the stories and confessions of his grandmother, Bart transforms from a shy quiet boy to a nasty and disagreeable one, an attitude he carries to adulthood. Upon learning he was a product of his mother’s revenge, he longs for a continuous reassurance of being loved. Such reassurance is long in coming as Cathy’s attention is divided between Jory, her dancing career and a newly adopted baby girl named Cindy. Bart harbors a seething resentment against everyone, particularly Jory who has more of Cathy’s attention being a budding dancer and, unlike him, being born out of love rather than revenge.

Cathy once again confronts Corinne for coming back in to their lives to wreak havoc. Corinne let’s her know she  wants to make amends with her only family left. John Amos takes advantage of the unguarded confrontation between mother and daughter by knocking both of them unconscious and locking them up. Being Corinne’s husband, he has another opportunity to inherit the Foxworth fortune. Christopher Jr eventually finds his mother and sister in captivity and attempts a rescue. John Amos sets the next door mansion on fire which killed Corinne.


Christopher Jr and Cathy return to Foxworth Hall.

Corinne’s will is made public and she leaves everything to her grandson Bart Winslow who has now adapted Foxworth as his last name. Under the will, Christopher Jr and Cathy are to hold Foxworth Hall and the rest of the Foxworth fortune in trust for Bart until he turns thirty-five. This is an arrangement that does not sit well with Bart as he continues to resent the relationship between his mother and his uncle. He also resents his adopted sister Cindy who he feels is feeding off the Foxworth fortune which he feels she isn’t entitled to.

Bart’s resentment for his brother Jory has also not ceased. In a dance number arranged for Bart’s birthday party, Jory suffers an accident that leaves him paralyzed from the waste down. Melodie, pregnant with Jory’s twins, is unable to accept this and leaves for good shortly after giving birth. Though devastated by his paralysis and Melodie’s abandonment, he eventually moves on to marry his caregiver.

Bart’s antagonistic attitude towards his family eventually led them to decide to leave Foxworth Hall. On the day they were about to leave, Christopher Jr dies in a car accident. This twist of fate changed Bart’s attitude and made him more bearable to be with. The family ended up staying and amends were made between Bart, Jory and Cindy. Cathy died peacefully in her sleep – in the same attic where she spent three growing up years.


The final installment to the Foxworth saga drops a new bomb to the already explosive series of events. This last book is a narration from Olivia Foxworth, intended as a justification for her actions, from beating up Corinne and showing her children the torturous scars, to locking up her four grandchildren and refusing to acknowledge them as her grandchildren and calling them the devil’s spawn to their faces.

It turns out Olivia is really not Corinne’s mother.

This last book explains how Malcolm Foxworth ended up marrying Olivia. It depicts a sad story of a smart but ugly duckling who was just too grateful to be rescued from spinsterhood to see through the rotten character that Malcolm Foxworth truly was. While Malcolm and Olivia lived as husband and wife in Foxworth Hall, Malcolm’s father Garland Christopher came home to live with them, bringing with him his new and pregnant wife Alicia who was decades younger. Soon after their moving in to Foxworth Hall, Alicia delivers and their baby take on Garland’s middle name, Christopher.

Malcolm forces himself on Alicia. After Garland’s death, Alicia finds herself pregnant with Malcolm’s child. Not wanting the public to discover his crime, Malcolm conspires with Olivia who devices the plan of hiding Alicia in the attic until she delivers, Olivia will simultaneously pretend to be pregnant, then pass off Alicia’s baby as her own. Upon the maneuverings of Olivia, Alicia is compelled to cooperate, gives birth to a female child to become Corinne Foxworth, then disappears into oblivion with her son Christopher.

Decades later from Alicia’s death bed, a letter arrives at Foxworth Hall requesting Malcolm and Olivia to take in Christopher and continue the role of parenthood Alicia can no longer play. Malcolm and Olivia oblige in an attempt to correct what they did wrong. What they failed to anticipate was that Christopher and Corinne would end up falling in love, without regard to the fact that he was her half uncle.

As this last book reveals, Corinne not only married her half uncle. She unknowingly married her half brother – the father of her four children.



Fifty Shades Freed: movie highlights and insights

Fifty Shades Freed opens with the wedding of Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele. The life of luxury that lies ahead for the couple makes itself evident as they head off to their honeymoon in a private chopper. The life of kinky and erotic sex that has graced their relationship from the first part of the trilogy also continues to the honeymoon as Christian once again let’s his dominant nature take control, and Anastasia plays the submissive object of his desire.

If there is anything realistic about this movie, it is the power struggle between a newly married couple as they find a balance between allowing another person to be a part of one’s life and maintaining one’s sense of identity.

Anastasia relents to Christian’s insistence that she use his last name at work, at the same time defies his demand to stay home when she has plans to hang out with an old friend. Christian, upon learning that he has been defied, takes his erring wife to the kinky ‘play room’ where he once again uses sex as a means to inflict pain to punish her. Christian has also unintentionally reignited ties with Elena Lincoln, the woman who introduced him to kinky sex and whose intervention in his life has helped him cope with the dark memories of his mother – ties which his wife evidently resents as she gives him the silent treatment for a couple of days.

Unknown to Anastasia, Christian was trying to get in touch with his former psychiatrist Dr. Flynn and, only when he could not reach him, contacted Elena Lincoln. They ended up having a few drinks at a bar, but Christian insists their relationship has long since been over.

Anastasia announces her pregnancy which was not well received by her new husband. He was not willing to share her with another person so soon in their marriage, and accuses her of choosing the baby over him.

Jack Hyde, Anastasia’s former boss who was fired for attempting to assault her, resurfaces for pay back. He kidnaps Anastasia’s sister in law, Mia Grey, and​ demands a 5 million dollar ransom. Anastasia comes up with the money but does not tell Christian the real reason she needs it. Instead she makes him believe she​ is leaving to raise their baby alone. Sensing something wasn’t right, Christian contacts the authorities and follows his wife to where she will deliver the ransom to Jack Hyde and rescue Christian’s kid sister.

Christian comes to accept Anastasia’s pregnancy and​ chooses to raise the baby with her. In the latter part of the movie, Christian reveals more of his past, particularly the new found knowledge that he and Jack Hyde came from the same foster family. He also reveals the extent of Elena Lincoln’s significance in his life and why she continued to be a steady anchor he runs to when his life goes berserk.

As with the first two parts of the trilogy, Fifty Shades Freed may serve as great entertainment for the sexually deprived and perverted. However, it is too unrealistic for one to derive any real value that can be carried over to daily life.


Related Article:

A Tribute to Fifty Shades of Grey

The Different Shades of Brilliance

via Daily Prompt: Brilliant

What would you consider intelligence? People have different definitions. Does it mean being a straight A student with the proven ability to memorize anything under the sun? Does it mean being the leader everyone looks to for direction? Does it mean being that quick witted person who can come up with a response to anything? Meet the different shades of brilliance.

Here’s my favorite shade: I love the brilliance known as flexibility. The ability to get along with anyone; the ability to bounce back no matter what kind of adversity life throws your way; the ability to dance to whatever music you hear.

Someone once said: success isn’t about never falling down, it’s about being able to stand up again no matter how many times you fall. Nothing impresses me more than the fortitude of the human spirit.  To me that is brilliance in its purest form – a clarity of one’s purpose in life that is so distinct, so committed to its end game that nothing can get in the way.

Many people in this world do not have the means to get a degree – it doesn’t mean they cannot get an education.