The Power of Parents

The Power of Parents

Scene I
A father and mother are in the living room. The father is on a desk writing notes. He is sitting away from the mother and daughter. The mother is buttoning up Ana’s coat. Ana is holding a package of cookies.

Ana: Mommy! Mommy! Can I have some cookies!?
Mom: No.
Ana: But I want cookies!
Mom: Dije que no! No, I said no! Grabs cookies from Ana.
Ana: But I waaant cookies!
Mom: Stop that! Stop that right now! No seas niña fea. Eres una niña fea cuando lloras. Quieres ser niña fea?

Child begins to cry.

Ana: Noooo! Aaaaah! No quiero ser niña fea!
Without looking up from his work Dad chimes in.
Dad: María! Deja que agarre una galleta! Give her the cookie!
Mom: No, Francisco! It is going to spoil her dinner! Lugo no va querer comer!
Dad: Ana! Stop your crying and listen to your mother! De ja de llorar!

Ana begins to wail louder and throw a fit.

Mom: Francisco! Don’t yell at her like that! La vas hacer llorar más!
Dad: Yelling!? I am not yelling! You two were yelling! Haciendo un escándalo!
Mom: See, now you’ve done it! Ay, Francisco.
Ana keeps crying and shivering. Mom grabs the cookies opens them and gives them to Ana.
Mom: Here you go. No more crying. No más esta vez. Okay? Para la otra te pego. No more crying. Lla no vas a llorar?

Ana shakes her head “no.” Ana immediately stops crying. And munches on the cookies. Characters freeze on stage. Ana and Father remain motionless. Mother walks to center stage.

Mom: I want my niña to be a good girl pero no hace caso. She doesn’t listen and I have to yell. That is sometimes the only way I can get her to listen.
Mom goes back in to position and freezes. Unfreeze Dad and walks towards center stage.
Dad: Disciplina! Los niños need disciplina! Si no, they get out of line. Kids need to fear their parents. Without fear, there is no respect! What we say goes and that’s that! Ellos no tienen que opinar nada.

Dad goes back in to position and freezes. Unfreeze Ana and walks towards center stage.

Ana: This is so confusing! Yo nomas quería una galleta. She said no, but I wanted one! She let me have one last time. No dijo porque no podía agarrar una this time, and that is what makes me so mad. Luego me dijo fea! She said I was ugly when I cry, I don’t want to be ugly. I don’t want to disappoint mom and dad. Am I an ugly bad kid? I got my cookie but I don’t think mom and dad are happy with me. They aren’t happy and it’s my fault!

Ana goes back to position and freezes. Family unfreezes and they rewind to their starting positions. The movements should be as if rewinding a movie.

Ana: Mommy! Mommy! Can I have some cookies!?
Mom: No.
Ana: But I want cookies!
Mom: Dije que no! No, I said no! Grabs cookies from Ana.
Ana: But I waaant cookies!

Mom takes a knee to talk to Ana at her eye level.

Mom: Ana, you can’t have cookies right now porque vamos a ir a comer. We need to eat healthy food. After we eat healthy food you can have a cookie for dessert.
Ana: But I want a cookie now!
Mom: Ana, we need to eat healthy to grow strong. Para que crezcas fuerte.
Ana: Nooo!
Ana grabs cookies and goes to Dad.
Ana: Papa, can I have a galleta?
Mom follows after Ana and stands next to dad.
Mom: Francisco, I told Ana que no porque it is going to spoil her dinner.
Dad stops what he is doing and makes eye contact with Ana.
Dad: Ana, your mom already said no. You can have a cookie, but not right now. You have two choices, you can either have a cookie for desert or no cookie at all. It is your choice. So que va hacer?
Ana: But…I want.
Dad: Those are your two choices. Si vas a querer una galleta te tienes que esperar después de comer o no agarras nada. So, cookie or no cookie?
Ana: Cookie.
Dad: Okay, good girl. Please give them to mommy.
Ana gives cookies to mom.
Mom: Thank you sweetheart. Thank you for being a good listener.
Dad: Gracias por hacer caso. Me hace feliz cuando haces caso. Thank you.
All freeze on stage. Mom unfreezes.
Mom: Es importante para mí que Ana sepa las razones why she can’t have this or that. I want her to understand that es para su propio bien. If I just tell her “no” she is going to be frustrated and feel like I am being mean. I am honest with her too. Soy honesta también porque si yo soy honesta, ella va aprender hacer honesta conmigo y crece esa confianza. Por ejemplo, si voy a la tienda and si algo está muy caro I tell her, “no, it is too expensive” or “no, because it is too sugary” or “no, no tengo dinero para eso, escoge algo diferente.” Talking with her is better than saying “no” or giving her esperanzas falsas by just saying “arratito.”
Mom goes back to position and freezes. Dad unfreezes and goes to center stage.
Dad: Being on the same page as your spouse is important. Tienen que estar de acuerdo con su pareja cuando disciplinan a los niños para crear consistencia. Consistency is important so the child does not get confused or get two different answers. I find that if I give Ana choices she has control over her actions making her feel empowered and responsible. She realizes that las decisiones que hace son su responsabilidad.
Dad goes back to position and freezes. Ana unfreezes and goes to center stage.
Ana: Mom and dad are happy that I made them happy by listening. Although I wanted a cookie, hablaron con migo y me dieron la razón. They told me why I couldn’t have the cookie and they didn’t call me names. Although todavía estoy molesta porque no agarre una cookie, I see that I have to be patient. Mom and dad always follow through, siempre me dan su palabra y la cumplen. So I know que no me están mintiendo. Estoy lista para ir a comer.
Ana goes back into position and freezes.

Scene II
All unfreeze and change into a different position. Dad is watching TV and mom is on the phone.
Ana: Hi! I am home! Que hay de comer?
No one answers Ana. She puts down her backpack and walks up to Dad. She has a letter in her hand.
Ana: Hey, so parent teacher conferences are coming up.
Tries to hand it to Dad.
Dad: Parent teacher conference? No, no, no. Eso es cosa de tu mama. Ella se encarga de eso. Give it to her so she can read it.
Dad resumes watching tv. Ana sighs.
Ana: She’s on the phone.
Dad doesn’t respond.
Ana: Dad? How come you never go to las juntas.
Dad: Porque eso es cosas son de tu mama. Oye Mija, estoy viendo el partido.
Ana goes to mom. Mom is still on the pone. As Ana approaches she puts her hand over the mouth piece.
Mom: Que paso?
Ana tries giving her the letter.
Ana: Parent teacher conference is –
Mom: Dáselo a tu papa. Que él lo lea. Que aprenda porque yo siempre voy yo sola.
Mom shoos Ana away and resumes her conversation on the phone. Ana walks back to dad.
Ana: Ma says que la leas.
Dad seems a bit annoyed at being distracted.
Dad: Ahorita, en los comerciales.
Ana and dad wait for a couple of seconds for the commercial.
Dad: Okay, ha hora sí. Que paso.
He takes the envelope from Ana and tries do read it.
Dad: A ver hija, tu lea me la está en Ingles. My English is not too good.
Ana: ‘Dear Parents, we are having our parent teacher conferences this Thursday at – ‘
Mom gets off phone and joins Ana and Dad.
Dad: Mira! Ya se desocupo tu mama. Go, mejor dáselo a ella.
Mom looks annoyed and takes letter from Ana. Dad resumes watching tv. All freeze. Ana unfreezes and walks up stage.
Ana: I don’t know why dad doesn’t want to be involved. Nunca quiere saber nada de nada. Siempre es mama. Sometimes it makes me feel like dad no le importa. It makes me sad. Me hace muy triste. And sometimes it makes me angry.
Ana goes back to position and freezes. Unfreeze mom and walks towards center stage.
Mom: Franscisco frustrates me sometimes because he puts a lot of the pressure on me when it comes to Ana. Yo también trabajo y estoy cansada pero I make time and I get it all done. Ya se que le cuesta mucho el Ingles pero no le cuesta nada que me acompañe o que pregunte o que trate de saber lo que está pasando.
Mom goes back to position and freezes. Dad unfreezes and goes to center stage.
Dad: Llego de trabajar, y estoy cansado. Si quiero ser parte te la vida de mi niña, pero es muy difícil cuando todos han dan hablando Ingles. El inglés a mí me cuesta mucho. I am not very good. I can talk it a little bit but I am too old to learn now how to read en Ingles. I let my wife take care of that because she is better at it and porque no quiero que me vean que no se, o que no puedo. Mejor que ella se encarga a que me vean o traten diferente porque no se mucho el Inglés.
Dad goes back to position and freezes. They all unfreeze and rewind to go back to the original position.
Ana: Hi! I am home! Que hay de comer?
No one answers Ana. She puts down her backpack and walks up to Dad. She has a letter in her hand.
Ana: Hey, so parent teacher conferences are coming up.
Tries to hand it to Dad. Dad takes the letter and tries to read it.
Dad: Parent teacher conference? Oooh Okay, Okay. Mejor ay que esperar a tu mama.
Ana: She’s on the phone.
Dad: Oh, okay. Mejor lee me la tu hija porque ya sabes que mi Ingles no es muy bien. My English is not too good.
Ana: Should I just wait for mom?
Dad: No, read. I listen.
Ana: ‘Dear Parents, we are having our parent teacher conferences this Thursday at 5pm in room 105. Please – ‘
Mom walks in as Ana is reading to Dad.
Mom: Oooh parent teacher conference. Francisco, are you going to come with me?
Dad: Pues claro que voy air. Tengo que saber lo que está pasando. Sé que ala mejor no le entiendo mucho a la teacher pero tengo que estar ahí. Tu me dices que dice, mija. I can follow a long a little, pero I have to learn. Anquease un poquito más.
Ana goes and hugs dad. All freeze, Mom unfreezes and goes to center stage.
Mom: Tenderly. I know que Francisco le cuesta el Inglés. He has trouble with English and he at times feel self-conscious. But he has the motivation to learn. He is there and he tries and that is what is so important to me and to Ana. He is trying to learn and trying to be involved.
Mom goes back to position and freezes. Ana unfreezes and goes to center stage.
Ana: I am so happy que mis padres are involved in what I do and how I am doing. Although, my papa struggles with a language barrier, he is present and he is attentive. It makes me happy and it makes me feel like I can count on both of them. Papa makes an effort and because he has been involved siento que estoy más cerca de él y que valúa mis ambiciones.
Ana goes back to position and freezes. Unfreeze dad and goes to center stage.
Dad: Llego de trabajar muy cansado y quiero relajar me y ver el partido. Pero I it is important to me to be involved because it opens mucha comunicación con los niños. Quiero demostrarle que estoy aquí para ella. Aunque mi English no es muy bueno, I am trying and I am practicing. It is never too late to learn and I know que si puedo. Aunque no voy hacer profesional I can at least communicate with my daughter and make an effort. If I can show her that I can and that I am trying she will be inspired and know that she can too.
Dad goes back to position and freezes.
Scene III
All unfreeze and move positions. Mom is on her laptop and dad is scrolling through his phone. Ana is reading a book on a chair with her feet up.
Mom: Oye Francisco, aquí hora nos vamos a ir a la playa con tu hermano? Si vamos a ir?
Dad: En unas dos horas, a las 10.
Mom: Ah, pues me vieras dicho! Déjame empiezo a preparar las cosas.
Dad: Cuales cosas? Si no más trae te una toalla y tu traje de baño. Vamos aquí a la playa no a Cancún mujer.
Ana: We are going to the beach with Tio?
Mom: Your cousins are coming too.
Ana: Nooo, Ma, I don’t want to go to the beach with Tio and my primos again! We should just go ourselves.
Mom: Ana! Que sangrona eres!
Dad: Ana, son tus primos. Be nice.
Ana: I know but –
Mom: Ay Ana. Como eres tu!
Ana: But ma! I really don’t want to go this time. If we go out we should take one day to just –
Mom: Mira muchacha, te me marchas a tu cuarto y te arreglas para irnos. You have one hour to get ready and half an hour to come down and help me.
Ana: But Ma! Listen! I just want one day –
Dad: Lla! Ana, vete a arreglar. Deja de alegar.
Ana: No estoy alegando, I am trying to explain! But you don’t let me.
Mom: Nah! ‘We don’t let you,’ Aver pues. What?
Ana: Like…why can’t we just go hiking or something or maybe just us for once. I feel like when we go I get left out since my primos are older and –
Mom: No hiking ni que nada. Vamos a ir y ya.
Dad: Ándale mija, ya por favor.
Mom: You feel left our porque ya se cómo eres! No quieres hablar and I see que nomás te la quieres andar pasando comiendo. Here, I will tell your prima to play with you and I will tell your Tia to tell your primos to include you in the games. Okay?
Ana: No, mom its not that and –
Dad: Ana! Ya! Go get ready.
Ana folds her arms and begins to walk away. All Freeze. Unfreeze mom and goes to center stage.
Mom: Esa niña needs to learn how to be social. I feel sometimes she hides away too much y no quiere hacer nada. I am trying to force her so she can be more independent. Cada vez cuando salimos con la familia siempre pone su cara. I need to expose her more so she can learn to enjoy it. Para que no se vaya perder de nada.
Mom goes back to position and freezes. Unfreeze dad.
Dad: Ay esa Ana. En vez de estar feliz que vamos a salir con familia o que vamos a estar juntos se enoja! Que mal agradecida la niña. No, no, no. I have to teach her that she needs to value family. Sometime niños these days are so selfish y no piensan. Es todo mí mí mí y no piensan en los de más.
Dad goes back to position. Unfreeze Ana goes to center stage.
Ana: My parents don’t listen! No están escuchando. It is so frustrating. Grr! (Takes moment to recollect herself). My parents talk over me and they think they know what I am going to say or how I am feeling. Tienen su opinión y no me dan al oportunidad de expresar lo que siento. And when I do, no me creen o piensan que nomás estoy de berrinchosa. I don’t want to go to the beach because I just want to spend a day with them alone. We never go alone. Siempre vamos con todos and I just want it to be us. We have not spent family time together that way. Also, my primos are bullies y siempre han dan con sus cosas. Last time they threw dirt in my face and when I told my mom she said to ignore them. I don’t have fun. It is not that I don’t want to NEVER go, I just wish we just had ONE time where it could just be us.
Ana goes back to position and freezes. All unfreeze and rewind to starting position.
Mom: Oye Francisco, aque hora nos vamos a ir a la playa con tu hermano? Si vamos a ir?
Dad: En unas dos horas, a las 10.
Mom: Ah, pues me vieras dicho! Déjame empiezo a preparar las cosas.
Dad: Cuales cosas? Si no más trae te una toalla y tu traje de baño. Vamos aquí a la playa no a Cancún mujer.
Ana: We are going to the beach with Tio?
Mom: Your cousins are coming too.
Ana: Nooo, Ma, I don’t want to go to the beach with Tio and my primos again! We should just go ourselves.
Dad: Ana son tus primos, be nice.
Mom: Ana, aver porque no quieres con vivir?
Ana: It is not que no quiero convivir Ma. It is I just don’t want to go this time. I feel like we don’t do things just us.
Mom: Nah, como de que no. We do stuff. Estuvimos a qui todo el dia ayer!
Ana: No, ma! Like together doing something fun! We cleaned all day that’s not fun.
Mom: Well, someone has to do it. La casa no se va a limpiar sola.
Ana: Mom, I am serious.
Dad: I think what she is trying to say Maria, is that we haven’t really been spending time with family. Just us. Is that right mija?
Ana: Yeah, like I don’t mind going with Tio and los primos once in a while. Even though they are mean to me.
Mom: They are mean to you?
Ana: Yeah, like even though you tell me to ignore them I feel uncomfortable.
Dad: I think I am going to have to talk to Ramon about his sons. I noticed they were a little rowdy pero no savia que te estavan bullying.
Mom: Oh, I see. Okay. Mira, como lla hicimos planes con tu tio vamos a ir. Pero, now I know how you feel. I am sorry, I thought que nomas estavas de berrinchosa.
Dad: If they bother you, llo me encargo. No mas dinos.
Ana: Okay, thanks Dad. And no mom, I am not antisocial I just really wish we did more things together. I like socializing and I like being part of the group. It is just that sometimes I feel like spending time with you and dad.
Mom: Okay…hhm.. se que no tenemos tantos días libres y también tenemos que pensar que las cosas divertidas son caras. Pero where would you like to go? Or go do?
Ana: It doesn’t even have to be expensive ma. I just want it to be us.
Dad: Okay Mija, we will think about what you said and make plans.
Mom: Today we are going with Tio, pero now we know. We will make plans.
Ana: Thank you mom, thanks dad.
All freeze on stage. Unfreeze mom and goes to center stage.
Mom: I am glad que me dijo what was going on. I didn’t know how bad she was feeling or that she wasn’t feeling like we were listening. Tampoco savia que los niños eran tan malos con ella, pensé que nomás era ese incidente de la arena. Es importante que escuche a mi niña porque si no pregunto o no le doy la oportunidad de comunicarse no me va a querer decir nada y luego a la mejor no voy a saber si algo malo está pasando en su vida. If I don’t listen or try to understand I might push her away. I know now that I need to be a more active listener.
Mom goes back to position and freezes. Dad unfreezes and goes to center stage.
Dad: A veces es fácil pensar que los niños están equivocados porque son niños y jóvenes. Pero a veces se dan cuenta de más que a nosotros se nos pasa. Since we already past that age we forget to pay attention. Yo no puedo ignorar lo que me dice I niña. La familia es importante y es mi responsabilidad de valuar los sentimientos de mis niños, no los tengo que aceptar pero tengo que escuchar para saber su lado de ellos. Just because I may think I know, doesn’t mean I actually know why they are thinking what they are thinking. There always might be more.
Dad goes back to position and freezes. Unfreeze Ana and goes to center stage.
Ana: Sé que a veces estoy mal y que aves si estoy de berrinchosa pero I appreciate that my parents are taking the time to actually listen to what I am saying. It makes me feel like I am valued and that my opinion matters. It makes me feel like I matter and that I belong, that I am important and that I have a voice in this family. Siento que me respetan y escuchan y eso me hace ser más abierta con ellos. Me apoyan y también me disciplinan pero es parte de crecer. That is family.
Ana goes back to position. All unfreeze and stand in a line.
Mom: Family should be a safe place where opinions and feelings matter.
Ana: It is a place to love, learn and grow.
Dad: Where everyone is supportive and invested in the future of their child. Remember, la educación empieza en la casa. Thank you. Gracias!



E-Waste: Where does it go?


                  Getty Images: Thomas Imo

The evolution of technology in the past two decades has transformed our way of life. Technology is integrated in our day to day lives and has become a central part of our culture and we are constantly seeking new and improved versions of electronics we already own.

However,what happens to our old unwanted electronics after they are tossed away? Where are those millions of indestructible Nokia phones we once owned? Where did the old dinosaur computers we once played with go?


                   Getty Images: Thomas Imo

In our absorption of our own day today lives we have become oblivious to some of the harsh realities our consumer behavior has on the environment and other people. However, it is dire to understand what is happening and who we are impacting every time we throw away our electronics.

The United States ships over a million tons of electronic waste to Ghana, Nigeria, Pakistan China and India and other underdeveloped countries every year. It shipped overseas because it is cheaper to recycle since the impoverished people will work for little pay. It is also beneficial to the U.S. because protective environmental laws are non-existent or not enforced in those countries which allows toxic waste to be disposed of freely without consequences for damages caused to the environment or the people.


                     Getty Images: Bloomberg

It is a grim way of life for the people who live in the wreckage. Unimaginable. The people of the slums do what they can to survive, however, the waves of discarded rubble keep coming from across sea into their land. Wave upon wave. The pieces of electronics they cannot salvage are burned which release greenhouse gasses and toxic fumes which pollute the air around them. Items that can’t be burned are tossed off into the sea creating more pollution and making fishing nearly impossible. Exposure to lead, mercury, and carbon monoxide has poisoned the citizens of these countries making them prone to premature deaths, birth defects and cancer.

It is a different world. A world of waste where the piles of broken computers and machinery are the hills in which kids roam and scavenge through rubble for scraps of metal that might be traded in for half a cent to buy a morsel. Where the valley is black. Scorched and littered with metallic and plastic remnants from the bodies of what used to be functioning equipment that enriched the lives of many privileged Americans. Smoke and ashes rise from the heaps of garbage like specters hovering around the people foreshadowing their nearing fate.

In our hunger for more we have left these people with less. Let’s do our part and be conscientious people of the world by disposing our waste responsibly. Let’s want for more by wanting for nothing. If not for the people of Ghana or Pakistan or the children of India and China let’s do it for us and for the fate of our future. It is a dying world and it is our duty to preserve it.

Dr. Pimple Popper: Making Zits Cool


                            Dermatologist Sandra Lee, aka “Dr. Pimple Popper.” Photo Credit: Getty Images, Barcroft Media

A deep blackhead at the base of an old man’s neck may seem uninteresting and maybe even a little gross; however, for many people it is a source of exhilarating entertainment.

Dermatologist Sandra Lee has provided eager viewers with hours of pimple-popping-cyst-extracting entertainment through her website Dr. Pimple Popper. While many people may say “EEW!” over two million viewers are saying “Bring out the popcorn!”

With every cyst removed and with every whitehead squirted more and more thumbs go up. She is a HIT.

Her pimple popping filming crusade began in 2015 – with the patients’ consent of course – to educate the public about dermatology and skin care. Dr. Lee has taught us that dermatology is more than just prescribing lotions and potions to self-conscious adolescences with pimply chins. In fact, most of her patients are elderly folks and older adults with cysts and lipomas which require a skilled surgeon’s hand to remove.

Many find seeing a white head squirt from pore or a fatty sack extracted from an incision absolutely satisfying. I say, “Cool, but nay.” However, if a ripe pimple is your forte, tune in to Dr. Pimple Popper for your guilty pleasure.


Lobotomies:Strange Medical History

“Insert the spike in the eye and with two little hits the probe reaches the brain. Now swish. Give it a turn, pull out. Grab the gauze to stop the bleeding. Boom, the procedure is finished. The patient – cured.”

The doctor wipes the blood from his hands with a towel and like a magician gives it wave and bows to the astounded crowd. Another impressive show. The audience continues to clap, awed by the simplicity of the behavior correcting surgery that has revolutionized the nation. The lobotomy.

The nurses wheel the patient out of the room. The Doctor is left with his audience as they praise him as a godsend. A miracle worker!  They beg him to continue to cure. In the next room patient 1,659 begins to spasm. Blood begins too ooze from his eyes and from his nose. He jerks his head back forth then is still. A sigh escapes his cooling lips.


Dr. Walter Freeman performing lobotomy. Photo Credit: Getty Images, Bettman

Dr. Walter Freeman was on a mission to cure those whose modern-day 1940’s medicine could not and operated over 2,900 patients in hopes to cure their mental illness. He is known by historians as: The Lobotomist.

The modern lobotomy began with Egas Moniz in 1930. In order to help patients of mental illness Moniz would make an incision to their frontal lobe and inject alcohol into their brain in order to dissolve the tissue that was believed to be the source of their illness. The procedure would alter the patient’s personality making them more docile. His work was so revolutionary that he was awarded a Nobel Prize.

Although Freeman was not a licensed surgeon he began to dabble in modifying Moniz’s procedure and simplified it in order to perform it himself without the added expense and limitations of an operating room. It was modified significantly – a long metal rod with a sharpened edge resembling an ice pick was inserted under the eyelid and hammered into the brain with a surgical mallet.

Much later in his career he faced some scrutiny from colleagues about his practice. In his attempt to defend his procedure he followed up on his patients to record their progress. What he discovered was tragic. Most of his patients did not benefit from the surgery. Many were left paralyzed and others were left at childlike state.

One shutters to think that such a practice existed not too long ago. That patients without families had their brains scraped from their scull with a rod without legal consent. Freeman’s last lobotomy was in 1967; 49 years ago. The progress we have made since then is surreal, however, it makes one wonder about the things happening today. What pills, injections, or operations are our modern day lobotomy? It makes one wonder about the ambitious Walter Freemans of today and the vegetative patients of tomorrow. What atrocities we will one day read about fifty years from now? What a side effects will we develop?

2016 Election: America Exposed


Photo Credit: gettyimages

A dark shadow looms over many Americans today. Whether by name or by document, Americans face the grim reality that things are about to change. “Make America Great Again!” rings through some neighborhoods as a threatening reminder that racism, homophobia and misogyny are present, non-relenting, and now have power. It is surreal that a man with a pending child rape case and several allegations of sexual assault set against him has been elected a world leader by a country that is seen as a beacon of progress; a paragon of greater development where people are free. Is and was that all a happy illusion? Perhaps living here in California has sheltered us from the truth; the majority of Americans are threatened by and opposed to a country where the power does not rest in the hands of middle aged white men with century old biblical values. The truth that most of the U.S. does not believe in climate change or in a woman’s right to her own body. Today, I am not proud to be an American. It is clear now where America stands. We have been given a mirror and in it there is an ugly beast.

Photo Credit: Aaron Burden

Corn: The Great Provider

“All around the happy village
Stood the maize-fields, green and shining,
Waved the green plumes of Mondamin,
Waved his soft and sunny tresses,
Filling all the land with plenty.”                                                                                                                    – Blessing the Cornfields, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Stalks of golden corn swaying gently in the wind, or a buttered cob on a plate on a hot summer day, may not seem to anyone anything of great significance. Just another vegetable. However, this impeccable earthly gift has more influence on human civilization than we – the common folk – can imagine. To start, corn is not a vegetable; corn is a true grass – a Poaceae. The stalks originated from Mexico and were once a short grass that held ears no bigger than our pinkies; however, through much genetic modification they have become the big juicy cobs they are today.

Our livestock – our bacon and ribs – would die off without corn. Our plastic, our oil, our antibiotics, our good ol’ Jack Daniel’s in our cupboards and so much more would cease to exist. Maize is so crucial to our existence that Controlled Pharming Ventures and the U.N. have an underground vault with various corn seeds to protect them in case of a catastrophic event – disease or nuclear war. So, next time you pass by some corn, thank it because it has been good to us. They truly are little miracles.

Zombie Ants: Brain Controlling Fungi

A stillness looms over the jungle. There is something out there. I can feel its presence, its power. It waits. It waits for us. I once again cast my eyes towards the wilderness. Little tingles begin to creep in the pit of my stomach, I forget to breathe.

One step, two step, three step. I continue to march. The usual heap of foliage from which we gather our supply lies close. One step, two step. Halt. I can see heads out of formation. They’ve lost the scent. We pause but the one behind me pushes past me and continues to march. What’s he up too? There is shuffling and murmurs as he falls out of formation. He staggers off the main road and begins to thrash his head violently as he lifts his arms up, wafting away frantically at the bare air above him, his shrieks causes many to leave formation and circle around his now convulsing body; another wail in the distance causes heads to turn and then another shrill scream emerges – this time from the circle. Within seconds shuttering bodies are writhing uncontrollably besides me, panic sends me sprinting away from the havoc and into the heart of the jungle. Faster and FASTER I run. Where am I to go?

I pick up a familiar scent and surge of hope overpowers me, the next colony is near. They can help. Climbing and crying for salvation I tumble down into a hole, delirious and weakened I try to stand but my legs have sunk into a pile moss. What is this? Where am I? I take a second to process my surroundings, to my horror thousands corpses lay still; mangled, corroding, frightening. Bodies pierced by thorns. Thin spiky strands protrude – no, grow – from the innards and orifices of the dead like hatching vipers. I try to escape

the gruesome crypt in which I am captive but my legs to my dismay are wedged not within moss but inside a putrid cadaver. As I struggle to be free, a little ball bursts from the tip of a nearby strand that sends a puff of smoke in my direction. I feel dizzy. I know I will die. I know I will be…another dead ant.


Photo Credit: Flickr

It is hard to imagine that such a tale can be true, however, in the miniature world of ants and other arthropods, such a horror does exist. Cordyceps is a parasitic fungi that invades the central nervous system of insects making them lose control over their motor functions making them “zombies”. Eventually, the creatures are brought to a slow starvation allowing the fungus to continue to sprout from within the body of its host, sometimes killing entire colonies at a time. The fungi spreads by releasing spores – or puffs of itself– into the air. This strange phenomena has captured the sci-fi world and has even appeared on the popular television series “The X-Files”.



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