Author: Alyssa O'Neil

The Final Post

Throughout the semester, I found that it was a joy to think of ideas to write about on the blog post, and for the possibility of others to respond to those thoughts I had decided to publish. Or to connect ideas in ways I never thought possible. I had never written on a blog post before, and was a bit anxious and confused on how to pursue this new challenge in front of me.

Coming up with the ideas was never a challenge, but forcing myself to delve deeper into the idea that I had focused on, to ‘unpack’ every thought that came to mind in a succinct way that would be sufficient for the blog requirements. There was some initial fumbling in the beginning, but with some helpful tips and guidance from Dr. McCoy, I was able to see what needed to be expanded upon and more explained in future posts.

I found that blogging was a great way for me to reflect on the discussions that we had each week in class, for I would write down any major or minor topics we might have discussed and I would then choose one that I wanted to write more about from my point of view. It was a better reflection than having a real assignment of writing a paper on each book that we read, for there was no real pressure to get a say about everything in class, when I could expand on it more in a blog post.

Each blog post that I wrote out and published was usually re-written about four times to be more effective and be easily understood so there would be no confusion. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t, the point is that I tried my very best to crank out my thoughts for all to see. Many would find it cumbersome and annoying to find that they have to crank out 10 blog posts within the semester, but it wasn’t that hard of a task for me to accomplish. I enjoyed this prolonged assignment very much, and will miss posting a blog every week about a topic in class that was stuck in my noggin.

 

Forgetting who you were

In a previous post of mine, I delved into the fact that Mark Spitz is not the real name of the main character in the novel Zone One, but that he allows others to call him that. He was called that, because he is superb at killing skels, and would rather go swimming through a sea of the un-dead rather than cross the water to the side of safety. The idea came to me when I was perusing Taha’s post, accessed here about losing your identity.

Although that post talks about teeth with losing your identity, the thought came to me about another reason why Mark Spitz would allow himself to be called that in this time of chaos. Before the apocalypse happened, and the world was separated into these domes of safety, Mark Spitz was a kid who wasn’t bad, but he wasn’t the shining star pupil in the classroom. “His aptitude lay in the well-executed muddle, never shining, never flunking, but gathering himself for what it took to progress past life’s next random obstacle.”(Whitehead 11).

In his past life he wasn’t anyone of importance and just did the bare minimum, but in this one, he has a purpose where he is admired by those around him, and is appreciated for his skill of killing. What if another reason that he allows himself to be called Mark Spitz is because he wants to forget his non-achiever self, and remain in the persona he is in right now? By going by someone else, he is essentially erasing his lazy life away and becoming this high-achiever, and being repeatedly called Mark Spitz is a reminder of the person he is now and not to regress back to his life of just coasting by.

Of course, when the apocalypse is over and all the skels have been eradicated it will be a new world, where he can make a new world for himself if he wants, but he doesn’t have to go back to his original self. He can become someone new, as the new world  won’t need Mark Spitz, the excellent Skel killer in a world where skels are a thing of the past.

Zombies Across Media and Novels Alike

The Apocalypse is a subject that everyone has thought about or discussed with friends when trying to come up with something to do. The most common question asked is what would you do if the zombies came after us, which results in a bunch of speculation that was unlikely to happen. There are many quizzes across the internet that will help you figure out whether you would survive post-apocalypse, or anything that is wrought forth with it.  Along with the topic comes the inevitable talk of how its going to happen; will the world end by storm, fire, an outbreak of a disease that separates us into different groups?

Everyone likes to think that they would survive the apocalypse based on the movies or novels they have read. Either secluding themselves in a bunker hidden away from civilization that will keep them safe and occupied for years to come. Or going head first into battle with each other, or against the adversary that was made from the disease or outbreak that has caused the disarray. Most of the time when people think about the Apocalypse, they don’t always think of a weather disaster, there is one thing that comes to the forefront when thinking about the world ending and wanting to survive. And yes, I am talking about everyone’s favorite subject to discuss or avoid: Zombies.

Zombies have had a pivotal role in post-apocalyptic lore across the television. Everybody tries to make their own version of zombies so that their idea can seem original, but they are all seen as the same; slow moving, can be killed by decapitation or fire. From shows or movies such as Game of Thrones, to the Walking Dead, to World War Z, and I Am Legend. Even though none of the motion pictures state there are zombies in it, everyone who has watched them agrees. Even in Zone One there are two new subgroups of Zombies to add to the board of variety.

What classes a zombie as a zombie is the reanimation of a dead human or animal corpse. Everyone has a general sense of how to kill zombies and defeat them. Every show or book that wants to incorporate zombies comes up with their own way to defeat them, but they all tend to fall into the same category. For Game of Thrones, the White Walkers go around behind the wall, turning the dead into wights, extremely fast and strong people who can only be killed by fire or a special material; in the movie I Am Legend, we have a ‘cure’ for cancer that has gone wrong and is turning those infected into these strong creatures (darkseekers) that can’t handle daylight and actually die when exposed to UV light; in World War Z, the zombies can be destroyed by head shots, or the complete destruction of the head; in the Walking Dead, the zombies, or a variety of zombies, with different names for the type they are, and can only be killed by destroying the brain. And recently in Zone One, we have two groups of zombies; one that moves fast and is active in trying to kill you, or one that sits there and doesn’t do very much, and the only way to kill them would be to shoot them in the head, or death by decapitation.

Stereotypes Never Die

Stereotypes are a part of human history and will never truly go away. Every race has a stereotype that follows them through the ages, and new ones crop up with every passing year. Some of the more typical stereotypes are those that surround race, gender, culture, groups of individuals and their posses, and sexuality. It is very ignorant, naive and rude of those who mention stereotypes to people’s faces, as just because it is true of a select few does not mean it is true for all. The more common stereotypes that surface surround race, gender and sexuality with jokes against black people and the LGBTQ+ community. You would think that with the passing years, and as people grow older they would stop believing stereotypes about people and making assumptions about people without knowing them, but no dice.

Some would hope that the world would become more accepting of everyone in the future, especially when the unthinkable happens, say a possible apocalypse where you could die at any moment. Everyone across the globe would band together and try to beat their adversary without bothering with making jabs at someones orientation, skin color or demographic. But in Zone One, we are proven wrong about our assumptions of humanity in the future.

In Zone One the main character, Mark Spitz, was not born with that name, no. He was given that name as a running joke, for he is a black man that would rather shoot his way out of a horde of zombies bent on killing him, rather than swim in water. Mark Spitz in turn is a very famous Olympic swimmer that has been replaced by Michael Phelps in commonality. It is a well known stereotype that Black people can’t swim, and its true that many cannot. But there are plenty that can swim very well, (me included since I was on a swim team for 9 years), and two summers ago African american swimmer, Simone Manuel set an Olympic record at the 2016 Olympics for the 100 freestyle. Even though Mark Spitz knows they are making a racist joke, he allows them to continue with this running racist joke. He is an easy going guy, and a good Skel-killer, so if he can have a good moment with his team that brings some light into these dark days, why ruin it by not being passive about it.

Oracles and Premonitions

Everybody has some concept of some mythology that has been unearthed on the planet. The most common mythology anyone claims to know something of is mostly Roman, Greek, Norse etc. Mythology has been a part of human history since the beginning of civilization. There have been plenty of authors that have written their own interpretations of these myths, more famously Rick Riordan with his Percy Jackson/Heroes of Olympus series that delves into the Greek/Roman mythologies. The one thing each of these mythologies have in common though, is their own type of oracle/augur/psychic that will have a prediction about the future. It was brought up by Francesca in class on Monday, that when Mark Spitz and crew went in to see the psychic, it was sort of like some books I have read before that have to do with mythology.

The Oracle of Delphi was a crucial part of Greek Mythology, most of the heroes we’ve read about wouldn’t be as great as they are if the Oracle wasn’t there. The Oracle is the one who gave out the prophecies, or riddles that the hero was to decipher and work out to complete an assignment or quest. In Rick Riordan’s hit series, Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Phoebus Apollo’s Oracle is placed within the Camp full of demigods (children of the Greek gods, half-human half-god) and she is who the young heroes go to seek counsel from when they have a questions, or a quest that needs fulfilling. In the books, the Oracle is described as having an air of reptiles or snakes wherever she walks, and the Oracle is described as ‘a human female body shriveled to a husk. The skin of her face was thin and leathery over her skull and her eyes were glassy white slits, as if the real ones had been replaced by marbles; she’d been dead a long, long time.’ (PJO: The Lightning Thief). The Oracle was integral in making heroes heroes, but without fail, whenever a prophecy was issued, chaos followed in the years to come until that Prophecy was fulfilled. The main prophecy in this series spoke of the second Titan War against the Greek gods, and how the demigod son of Poseidon can either save the world or let it die with a single choice (sorry for spoilers).

In Zone One, before Gary met his end by another one of his microaggressions, the trio of Mark Spitz, Kaitlyn and Gary happen upon a Fortune Tellers shop, and Gary wants to go in and get his palm read. Everything was going fine, and the straggler fortune teller wasn’t moving one inch as Gary laid his hand in her palm. But as soon as Gary moved his hand from hers, she moved and chomped down on Gary’s hand, sealing his doom, even though he tried to stave off the plague rushing through his body with ‘anticiprant’. The straggler fortune teller is described as having, ‘a hunk of the fortune-teller’s neck beneath her right ear was absent. The exposed meat resembled torn-up pavement tinted crimson, a scabbed hollow of gaping gristle, tubes, and pipes: the city’s skin ripped back.’ (Zone One). As in any mythology, after visiting the oracle to have a reading of the future, and having Gary’s thumb savagely bitten off, chaos ensued as pointed out by Prof. McCoy. In the streets all of the dead are surrounding the city, the few survivors are trapped in the building with no way out and it seems to be the end for our characters.

Spread of Disease

For any disease that is new to the world, there is always a ‘patient zero’ or a source for where the disease first originated.  For the Bubonic Plague, commonly known as the ‘Black Death plague’, it was the traders’ ships sailing in from the Black Sea with most of the crew either dead or gravely ill. Even though authorities in the sailor’s port ordered the ships out, the disease still made it to land, spreading across the continent and caused devastation over the next 5 years ( Black Death). The 1918 Spanish Flu was first documented with Private Albert Gitchell, a soldier in the state of Kansas on a military base. Due to Private Gitchell being a cook on the US Army base, the disease spread rapidly throughout the camp, and then moved across the states to wreck havoc (Spanish Influenza).

The most known epidemic to hit the United States is the AIDS/HIV epidemic in the 1980s. Patient zero for this epidemic was Canadian Flight attendant Gaetan Dugas, as he was named repeatedly from different sources as having come in contact with those who had contracted the disease. However, after extensive researching it was confirmed that Duags, wasn’t exactly the source of it coming to America, seeing as he landed in California, and most cases surfaced in New York City. Nevertheless, many still point to him as being an important person in the outbreak ( AIDs outbreak). In Octavia Butler’s Clay’s Ark, there is a patient zero with a disease that is spreading throughout a secluded community, and that patient is Asa Elias Doyle, a geologist aboard Clay’s ark venture into space who has returned to earth.

Since the AIDS/HIV epidemic has been known, it is now considered a felony to have sexual relations or share a needle without letting your partner know you are HIV positive. If you do not tell them, and these actions commence it is considered a felony, and the repercussions are severe, with the possibility of jail for 7 years and a fine up to 5 grand. ( The Law). In recent news in the state of California, Governor Brown has changed the penalty for those who knowingly transmit the disease through sexual relations. Currently, the law in California states that if a person knowingly transmits the disease without informing their partner, they have committed a felony which is punishable by 3-8 years in prison. Under the new law which takes effect in the new year, the felony will be downgraded to a misdemeanor, and an imprisonment of 6 months (California). Even after the devastating effects that AIDS caused, there were still some people who knowingly spread the disease to others without telling them about it. Of course there are those that didn’t know they had the disease, despite healthcare officials recommending you get tested once a year if you are sexually active.

In Clay’s Ark, Eli knowingly spread this disease to the family that was trying to help him out, and the community that he now lives in is doing to same. Sure Eli didn’t want to spread the disease in the first place, but because of the compulsion of the organism inside of him, he had no choice but to, and the same goes for those he infected. Of course in this case, there is some disclosure to those they are going to infect before the deed is done, but it isn’t always on mutual terms, which can cause some discourse. Eli is different than those those who knowingly spread a disease only in the sense that he tries to keep the amount of those affected at a minimum for a short while, until the need to infect comes again. The only consequences of spreading the disease to others is the possible death of one victim, and having to move on to find someone else to infect.

The Dystopian Conundrum

Novels with a Dystopian Society are all the rage now, ranging from The Giver by Lois Lowry to The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and so many more from the English High School days. The core of these books include a life set in the future where the government is in charge of every facet of life, and restrictions surround the citizens. In this instance, the book we are currently reading in class, Zulus, it reminds me of these two dystopian society books that I have read in the past. For each protagonist in each of these novels, they’re lives are dictated by order of the government, and what they are to do with their lives; Jonas and his job of taking the planets memories, Katniss and needing to fight for her life for entertainment, and Alice Achitophel and her fertility in a non-fertile world.

Nowadays, you can’t read a book without it being about a dystopian society, or a corrupt government type that needs to be taken out for the Greater Good. Dystopian societies has always been contrasted with Utopian societies to figure out which one is the better. A utopia is a place where you can only dream of how wonderful it is.  A dystopia is a where the illusion of perfection is forced onto its subjects, there are different types of dystopias, but for this post, we will focus on the bureaucratic control. (Dystopia). In The Giver, the world has been ravaged by war and disease, so a small community bands together to create a world of ‘sameness’ for everyone should be equal and the same. Once a child hits their tweens, they are given an assignment of what their future job is to be. One child, who is different from the others in looks and thoughts, is given the very special job of being the keeper of the memories of the community. Since he has those memories of how society was before this regimen of ‘sameness’, and he found out how his community keeps their subjects submissive, he runs away to another place where he can be free to live as they once had. There is so much more to The Giver than this, but for this blogs sake, we will focus on Jonas and his difference from the others in his society (Giver).

For the connection to Zulus, Alice Achitophel is the last fertile person in the non-fertile world, so she is special and she knows it. Jonas is special for he looks like no one else in his community, and he is destined for the position of having the communities’ memories given to him. Of course, Alice wasn’t destined to be the last fertile person, she only had a bout of rebellious attitude and didn’t go to her sterilization and Jonas was picked. Then again, both Jonas and Alice realized it was better to go back to the life that everybody used to have before being forced into the society they live in now. Jonas left his community in the hopes that since he is not there to receive the memories of the past, that everyone will soon remember how it was, and Alice leaving the city to go to rebel country in the hopes that she will be welcomed and reveled due to her condition.

For the Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen is just trying to get by one day at a time, but she puts herself in danger of being killed to save the life of her younger sister, who is drafted to go into the Hunger Games, an entertainment venue for rich people to watch the poor and despot fight for their lives and kill others. Of course with every book that has to do with corrupt government, there has to be a rebellion, and Katniss is just the girl chosen to be the symbol of the rebellion, The Mockingjay, Katniss Everdeen the Girl on Fire! For Katniss’ society, there is a corrupt ruler, but the cause she is fighting for is also corrupt in its own way, so really there is no true winner.

The Hunger Games connects more to Zulus for me, as Katniss has played on either side of the fence in her story. She has played the capitol’s game to try and keep the ones she loves alive, but when they pushed too far and tried to kill her again, she joined the other side. Once on the other side however, she found that the rebels leader wasn’t all sunshine and morals as she turned out to be. However, once shown Katniss quickly rectifies the situation in her own way, killing the leader and going on with the rest of her life in a meadow. Alice realizes that even though the city she came from held out no favors for her, the rebel life was not her friend either. In any instance the rebels treated her worse than in the city life, for in the city Alice had more freedom while with the rebels she was literally shoved into a tiny room and left to fend for herself. Neither the rebels or the government life are bad guys, but for Alice both options don’t emit welcoming feelings from Alice. Although there are no obvious comparisons between Katniss and Alice, their situations are somewhat similar, due to the constant danger both of them face.

Alice Achitophel, the new Skywalker?

Star Wars can be applied in many situations or can be referenced for the fun of it. The gist of Star Wars is there are two constant orders battling for control of the galaxy, (the empire and the resistance, Jedi’s vs. the Sith), there is always a small group of plucky warriors ranging in on the front to fight for the good of the people. Star Wars is a complicated universe that many don’t delve into, but it has some relevant importance for this post. For this instance, Star Wars can be seen as a sort of out-there parallel to Percival Everett’s Zulus. 

Alice Achitophel, protagonist from Zulus is pregnant in a society where pregnancy has been eradicated for the survival of the small population on a dying earth. After she brings too much attention to herself with a rebel act, knocking down her neighbors chimney, she runs to a work friend to help get her to safety. Surprise Surprise, he is a part of a rebel group that lives on the outskirts of this town she has lived in, and doesn’t follow what the government says to do. Of course, seeing as she is seen as the last hope for humanity to continue, there is an initial celebration as she arrives in the rebel camp, but that soon dies down, with everyone staring at her. As she arrives at the camp, she travels with three companions whom she considers close friends, the short Theodore Theodore, the small and pretty Lucinda Knotes, and the black man Kevin Peters. But as she soon realizes, the rebel camp is not all that it was talked up to be, at least not for someone like Alice. Being fat, in a world where the threat of reduction camps, and thin people is something she has had to deal with her entire life, but with the knowledge of her being pregnant, it should bring some reprieve to the ridicule dropped on her, but to no avail.

Alice could be likened to Luke Skywalker, for she is a new hope for the world she lives in now like him. She is the last person to be pregnant, while Luke Skywalker is the last person in the galaxy to be able to train to become a Jedi and use the ways of the Force to defeat Darth Vader, another Jedi whom also uses the Force. However Alice soon realizes that in this rebel camp where she should be able to be free she is not, and faces more obstacles just as Luke Skywalker did on his journey to become a true Jedi master. The two can be compared to each other, as both of them didn’t really know their mothers; Luke’s died in childbirth (RIP Padme) and Alice’s died when she was a little girl. Both of them were raised with paternal figures, Luke with his uncle and Alice with her father, and both of their families were ripped away from them in a time of war. Of course there is a fact that the both of them had been handed the poor end of life, Luke had to live in a desert on Tatooine in a small hut, while his sister got to live it up in a palace on a different planet. Alice was treated poorly because of her body weight, with scarce amount of kindness in her life from people other than her family and Theodore Theodore.

Alice is pregnant which should be a huge deal and she should be treated like a human in this camp, but yet again, as in back in the city with all the other people, she is treated as dirt and is only useful for this baby that she is carrying. “Don’t misread your position, Alice Achitophel. Your condition is hardly one for which you can claim credit and it is this fact we bear in mind in our gauging of you. You are a vehicle and nothing more, an any-woman, and you just happen to have been raped, you instead of some other unfortunate.” ( page 105). Of course being treated this way is nothing new to her, but the fact that she is being treated as a vessel, being shoved in a room only to be fed, is not how a pregnant woman should be treated, especially when she could possibly be the last person on the dying planet to be able to get pregnant.

Home Remedies

Many families have their own types of ways to heal any sick person that enters their house. From grandmas special soup, to the poultice that your great-great-great grandmother made that is sure to cure a fever. In some communities that are so close that when someone that everybody knows is desperately sick or in trouble, the neighbors band together to help out. In Modern time, it isn’t as common for someone with a serious illness to stay home and not go to professional help; but pre-1970s,  African Americans sometimes did not have the option to go to a hospital for serious ailments, and had to rely on the medicines used by their ancestors. Even if they did go to the hospital designated for African Americans, since there was the common practice of racial desegregation in hospitals up to the 20th century, the care there was of low quality and subpar (Hospitals). This is no different than what happened in Home when Frank brought his sister Cee back after rescuing her from the Doctor that caused her. What happened to Cee was caused by a doctor, and even if they took her to a hospital, she was African and they were unlikely to admit her to their care, and try to cure her.

In this case, Cee was in need of the women of the small town of Lotus to heal her from the experimental damage caused to her by her boss, because Cee thought that what he was doing was great work and saw no harm in it being done to her. ‘And they knew how to repair what an educated bandit doctor had plundered’ (page 129, Home). The methods they had to heal Cee back to her somewhat former glory, was unorthodox, and for modern times they would seem like hogwash, but they worked to heal Cee, with the unfortunate side effect of her never being able to have kids. The crux of the matter here though, is that the doctor, who was educated and helped so many others, had experimented on Cee, with her approval, and almost killed her. But these women who watched her grow up, banded together to heal her of this sickness that was threatening her. Without any medical training, such as Dr. Beau had, they healed Cee and now she can live and learn from her mistakes.

The law inside the Law

Today in separate groups, Dr. McCoy introduced the fact that after the emancipation proclamation, new laws were invented that would allow free slaves to be forced back into slavery. Once the 13th amendment was made, the first section states, ‘Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duty convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction’ (constitution center) Basically stating, you are a free man or woman, as long as you don’t commit a crime, for if you do, you can be put back into slavery. Outside of stores, there were signs stating ‘No Loitering’, and if someone was seen standing outside of the store (loitering), they could be arrested.

The discussions in our groups today, about which topics resonated with the course title within Home, it was brought up by Grace what ‘vagrancy’ means, homeless, and Frank Money stated as he was escaping the Psych Ward, that he could be arrested for either loitering, being barefoot, or for vagrancy (page 9). Frank was in a mental hospital, but he doesn’t remember how he got there; now Frank is a Korean vet, just out of the war, but he is still being treated lower than dirt, even though he fought for his country. At the Psych ward, his top and jacket were taken, but he still had his pants only because they weren’t effective for suicidal attempts; they took everything he had on him except for his medal (page 8). When thinking of a vet, you immediately think of the respect they deserve for the service they have done for the country, but for Black Vets, they are treated as they were before the war. They are not shown the respect that any vet deserves for putting their lives on the line for freedom. This could be contrasted, for in the novel Home, when Frank is out with Billy from the diner, the police show up, and when the younger policeman notices his medal, tells him to ‘Get lost pal’ (page 37).