Wednesday, December 19, 2012

"Poems about Love" by Che'neka Wilson

How I Am

How I am when I'm around you:
I'm so silly and funny.
I'm sweet to you like cotton candy put together.
I feel like when I see you,
I just want you hold me and don't let go and
just hold me in your arms for as long as you can.
You can tell me things I want to know
not what I want to hear
you have a way with with words
you say sweet and nice words
makes me smile all the time.
You can talk to me for hours and
never get tired.
You can say my name and it never gets old to you
I can be myself funny
but you already know how I am when I'm around you.

"The Girl See Her Mom"

The girl see her mom try her best to be the best she can to help her understand.
That life is not easy as you think it is.
The girl see her mom work day and night so she can put food in the house and clothes on her back.
The girl see her mom get treated so bad how people talk to her. The girl try so hard in school to do right.
The girl looks at her mom and said mom, you are doing the best you can to be there for me, helping me see that life is hard.
The girl cry with tears in her eyes with happiness and smile on her face.
The girl said mom you are best mom a kid can ask for.
The girl see her mom with so much hard work she did to be the person she is today.
The girl see her mom with so much love she gives her child every single day.
She said to her child I love you, my child and we are going to be just fine my lovely, little girl.

"Be Real With Me"

Love me for who I am cause if not, if you can't, then you can just walk away and never come back, just like that.
You said that you want to be with me, but then again, I don't know what you want.
I can't read your mind and see what you're thinking.
Tell me something that is special about you.
Tell me things that you never told anyone else.
Let me be there for you when you need me, let me listen what you have to say.
Let me hear what you need to tell me cause I'm here for you.
I want you to be there for me when I need you, too.
I want you to hear what I have to say because I know deep down I care about you and you care about me too.
I feel in my heart I can tell a lot about me, but to me you're holding back. tell me what I need to know not what I want to hear.
Don't just tell me anything so I can just take it.
Oh no, it don't work like that, so be real with me or just leave me alone and don't come near me ever again.

"You Are The Light"

You are the light like the sun.
I am the a star above the moon, no matter where you are, you will be.
I will always have you with me.
You shine so bright like a light in a house with so many colors. I am sweet like honey, you can have me all the time.
You are like a pillow, so soft and nice.
You have a way with words, you say you are so caring to another. You are more than I knew you.
To me you can be sweet like candy and soft like a baby cat.
You are like a book, you are never closed, you are always open minded.
I am always open to you.
I can always be myself when I talk to you.
You can be quiet at times, but when you talk it's like a lot of words you say.
I feel so closer everyday when we talk, what more can I say?
You make me feel like everything is going be okay.
You are so light and smooth like lotion,
You make me feel like everything is going to be all right.
You are something I can hold onto and never let go of this force
that put us together.

"When It's Raining"

When its raining outside, it makes me want to cry thinking back on my past life.
I know that I have to go on to my future and leave my old past life alone.
It's just when its raining outside I be crying cause the things I been through.
I feel when it's not going to rain outside
the sun is out, I get this feeling inside that it's a warm feeling inside my heart.
My time is everything to me with my family because at the end that's all I have to start with.
Time to leave my past old life and live my life right here, and right now, not thinking about nothing else, just me deep down. When its raining outside, I start to cry and this is the main reason why!!!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Poetry by Che'neka Wilson


Growing far apart from one another not really hanging out anymore.
We lost our friendship when we got older.
We use to be so close
all the time thinking back when we use to hang out so much when we were young.
Growing far apart from one another not really hanging out anymore.

I would always come to you when I had a problem
with something and you would always be there for me no matter what
now it's not the same anymore
you were my best friend for so long.

Our friendship use to be so strong and real but now its broken apart not knowing what happened
when we got older and grew up growing far apart from one another not really hanging out anymore.


Poetry is sweet Poetry is nice
Poetry can be anything I want it to be
Poetry takes me how I feel about myself Poetry is everything
Poetry is passion inside of me
Poetry can be what I want it to be in reality
Poetry makes me happy cause I can write about anything!

"The Words I Say About Me"

I see with my eyes
I think with my brain
I speak with my mouth and when I talk it sounds so fresh and clean and sweet like honey and passion like fashion.
I walk like this with my head up high looking in the sky with my feet down low.
People talk to me like it's nothing, like they know me but you have to think again they just met me so they really don't know me.
I think outside and I think inside my brain
How I write things I be going like a car
it stops then it keeps going and I can go with the flow like the

ocean in the motion wow, it feels so clear like lotion.
I think about things that I don't over think about
It just comes to me so slowly.
How can I explain I just did
I don't want to repeat it.
I don't have time to say because if you didn't get it the first time this will be your last time.
My last thing I will say out of my mouth with the words I say and how I say it
It's easy
You just need to think and see what I am saying about me.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

"The Spring Festival- Chinese New Year" by Li Yi Huang

New Year Fireworks display, Hong Kong
The Spring Festival is the most important festival in China, and I like it very much. It comes from a legend. In the ancient time, there was a monster called "Year" who always attacked the people on January 1st of the lunar calendar. Fortunately, "Year" was afraid of firecrackers. So people set off firecrackers to beat it out. People celebrate this day and call it "New Year". Nowadays, we also celebrate the Spring Festival as the harvest festival and reunion day. It lasts for 15 days until January 15th.

We do a lot preparation for the holiday. Before the holiday, we do a deep cleaning of the house and go shopping for new clothes, some beautiful flowers and red scrolls for the new year. We decorate our house with the flowers and paste the red scrolls on doors or walls.

Chinese Dragon
On New Year's Eve, we cook a lot for a big dinner, like the whole chicken, the whole goose and some special dim sum. Before the dinner, we used to worship heaven and the ancestors with chicken, goose, and joss sticks. After the joss sticks burn through, we can start our big dinner. All the family members sit around a big round table chat and laugh. That's the happiest time.

After dinner, we watch some TV shows and wait for the count down to welcome the Spring Festival. In the morning of the first day, we wear new clothes and new shoes to go out and walk around for the New Year fortune. For the New Year, we must say some good words to our parents and other elders. At the same time, we receive the red packet called lucky money from them. That was the most exciting thing when I was a child.

Lion Dance
From the first day of new year, different kinds festivities start. We have a Lion Dance, a tug-of-war competition, volleyball match, and a wonderful fireworks display at night. And these activities last for several days.

We really enjoy this holiday. Not only do we have a week off, but also all our family members can gather together to share the things that happened the year before, and welcome the New Year.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

"Easter" by Adrian Sanchez

Easter is one of the most enjoyable holidays of the year, however, we (Mexicans) celebrate it differently than Americans because of our religion and beliefs. Most of the the Mexican people are Catholic, and my family and I follow Catholicism too.

Easter has two meanings according to the people I grew up with. The first is; Jesus is tortured to death for a week. So many Mexicans go to Catholic church and pray for a week. During the week, they don't eat red meat because red meat represents Jesus's body.

The second meaning is very different from the first one because the second meaning is to have fun with loved ones for a week by going to the beach; however those people do not eat red meat because even though they do not go to church for a week, they still believe in God. So during this holiday, we just eat seafood, chicken, or other type of food without eating red meat at all. My family and I do a bit of both. We go to the church, but not the whole week because we also go to the beach. I enjoy more going to the beach instead of going to church because I really have a great time with my family and friends.

A day before the holiday, my mom starts preparing some traditional dishes like ceviche, sandwiches, some, snacks, and other type of food. Ceviche is made of shrimp or fish, all mixed with cucumber, tomatoes, onions, avocado, cilantro, and jalapenos. All these vegetables are sliced in pieces of squares, put together and mixed. While my mom is doing that, my siblings and I are in-charge of getting all the supplies that we are going to need for the beach like towels, sun cream, umbrellas, and clothes. We also take our four wheeled motorcycle to the beach, which makes our holiday even greater.

On the day of the holiday we start getting ready when we get up and by ten o'clock we're ready to put all the stuff on the truck. When we get there, the first thing we do is to get in the water and just play with each other. Being on the beach is a wonderful feeling because I love being on the beach. After playing and swimming at the beach for a while, we start to feel hungry, so we eat what my Mom had prepared for this holiday.

After eating, we have to wait at least 40 minutes before getting into the water again, because if we go earlier than that, we might drown. During those 40 minutes, we ride on the four wheel motorcycle around the beach from one side to the other. And after that, we get in the water again. We stay almost all day, and by evening, we start packing up and getting ready to go hack home. At the end of the day, we are all exhausted and remember what a great holiday it was. This is why I like this holiday and it's always going to be one of my favorite ones.

"My special Christmas" by Raymundo Valdez

"La Piñata" by Diego Rivera
Christmas season is my favorite time of the year. It's not so much for the holiday itself, but for the fact that I get to travel back to my country to see my loved ones. Christmas in Mexico can be very religious because for Catholics, it is the celebration of the birth of Jesus, and people in Mexico take it very seriously. This special holiday is full of symbols and rituals like the Posadas (Shelters) and the Mexican Christmas piñata, for example.

My first stop is to go Christmas shopping here in San Francisco, because my family loves presents from the U.S. My nephews are the ones that enjoy those presents the most. After I have everything, I pack my bags and travel to Mexico City, where my
family lives. As soon as I get there, I visit all my good friends to catch up. I really miss them. During those days before Christmas, I really enjoy putting up the Christmas decorations teaming up with my nephews.

They have a lot of fun with it; we put up the Christmas tree, the Christmas lights, and the nativity. I like to do those activities too, especially because we have a nice bonding time together. I also like going to the posadas every day until the 24th. The posadas are special "parties" to celebrate (and re-create) the 12 stops that Joseph and Mary had to make before having their child, so we re-create the scenes, chant posada's songs and have delicious tamales and atole (a sweet and hot Mexican beverage made out of corn) with neighbors, friends and family members.

On Christmas. day I wake up early to help with the long dinner preparation. My siblings are in town too, so it really feels like back in the days when we were children. My sister prepares the turkey stuffing while my brother marinates the turkey in white wine. Mom starts the Mexican Christmas punch by boiling all kinds of seasonal Mexican fruits. That is when the yummy smell of it takes over the house. The smell is so good and to me, it is really the symbol of Christmas.

By the evening, the celebration starts! By 6:00 pm all my relatives arrive to my parents house. Everyone brings a special Christmas dish to enjoy later at dinner. My aunt brings Bacalao (Dry Cod fish) and my grandmother brings the Romeritos (Mojave seablite herbs prepared with Mole sauce and dry shrimp biscuits). Both dishes are so delicious!

Before dinner, we have some Mexican ponche, share stories, and catch up with all family members. After dinner, we toast and wish everybody happiness. At this point, we are ready to open presents. My nephews are always first, and because they are the little ones, they get a lot of presents from everyone. Then, we start with the "Secret Santa" like gift giving, and everyone gets a present.

By midnight, we are ready to break the piñata! The children go first while adults watch but some of us participate in the piñata breaking too. Tradition says that the piñata represents the devil and his luring to get us to sin. By breaking the piñata, we are "destroying" devil's temptations and because of that, we are rewarded with sweet small fruits like crab apples, jicama, sugar cane, oranges, Mexican candy, and peanuts. After that, women in the house rock baby Jesus and everyone has a great time.

Lastly, the children go to bed and the adults stay and start dancing to salsa and disco music until dawn. It is so great to see my loved ones during this holiday. That's why I love this time of the year.

"Chinese New Year in GuangZhou" by Yao Liang Lu

Chinese New Year in GuangZhou is interesting. Also, GuangZhou Chinese New Year is a flower festival. Before three days of the new day of New Year, the flower markets are built in some main districts, such as downtown of GuangZhou. Flower markets are open 24 hours per day and end 2am on the first new day of the New Year. The flower markets are amazing. There are many kinds of beautiful flowers are provided for people to choose such as: winter sweet, daffodil, orchid, mandarin orange, miniascape (nature's miniatures). Usually people choose about three or more kind of flowers to decorate their house. The flower markets are crowded; all people including children enjoy buying and negotiating prices with the sellers.

I prefer to buy small or middle mandarin orange, daffodil and other flowers. By law, Chinese have three days of holiday, plus two weekend days, Sunday, Saturday, making a total days of seven. The government of China makes a schedule according to different year's calendars and announces it to the people. Usually the holiday begins the last day of the old year. Some companies make it a 16 day holiday, because the 15th new day is also a lantern with light festival and Chinese lover day in the tradition.

Chinese New Year Lanterns
Many different shapes of lanterns are beautiful and are made to become different style lantern ships. Tree lanterns are exhibited in some parks of GuangZhou. The lantern
lights and lantern covers are very colorful. They shine in the night to decorate every place for a full month. Lots of children with their parents enjoy visiting them.

Also this day is Chinese lover's day, and we can find some descriptions from some poems and folk stories in China. But now the younger generations prefer to choose the West's traditions. They go dating, send gifts, or do some activities for celebrating.

During Chinese New Year time, the 1st day of the New Year is also an important day known as everyone's birth day. So the GuangZhou people always make a big dinner or delicious food to celebrate this special day. Even eating is topic in Chinese New Year holidays. The people enjoy eating and eating but they have special, diet on the first new day without meat. This is a traditional. I love GuanZhou Chinese New Year and I miss it.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

"The Cursed Canvas" by David Barrera

How you have fallen from heaven, morning star, son of dawn!

You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations!

You said in your heart, “I will ascend to the heavens; I will raise my throne

above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly on the utmost heights of Mount Zaphon.”

Isaiah, 14 12-13

Poland, September 1945

Autumnal Breezes signaled the end of summer as well as the most perfidious war in the human history, World War Two. Lt. Dittmar Snider was very nervous. Even the Nazi flag has dropped. After hearing the news of the last air raid on Berlin, however, all his attention was on a group of men who worked arduously in an excavation. At first there were more than five hundred, but for strange reasons the group shrank to be only twenty five. Snider wasn’t a soldier, nor belonged to the party to which he had sworn absolute loyalty. His true vocation was the art of painting. He was a true professional, a critical success, recognized as such among the highest spheres of German society.

Vienna, June 1943

One day, while reviewing old books in a library in Austria, he suddenly ran into a strange manuscript written in French indicating the whereabouts of a treasure hidden in a small town north of Poland. The manuscript described this treasure: a work of art, of uncanny beauty and magical power. Snider knew he must see it. It took almost a year to prepare for the exploration, because, not only were funds needed to finance the the trip, but the villagers would have to be evacuated so that Snider's team could work without interruption. Something amazing was buried at that town, so Snider always kept the same pace as his soldiers, and although he was aware that sooner or later they would find the enemy troops, his obsession with the project was in no way diminished.

Suddenly, someone shouted in the cave, and then the whole group of diggers emerged carrying a strange black box at least one square meter. Just as he saw his men leave the cavern, the Lieutenant rushed to open the mysterious package and then discovered something that astonished him.

With exception of Snider, the rest of soldiers didn’t share the joy of discovery, even threatened to burn the package, as they perceived very little worth in this so called treasure to have worked so hard, but he suggested they continue to dig until they found a gold casket, and the everything would be shared between them.

Pleased by the proposal of their officer, all the greedy men were admitted back to the cave to find the promised reward, and they were all inside. The lieutenant then lit a whole cartridge dynamite and threw it in the hold where they were, causing a terrible detonation that completely buried the cavern, along with those wretches who found the most desperate of deaths. He knew beforehand he didn’t have it in him to carry out such a horrendous act, however, he understood that he had no choice, it was the only way to escape to the continent of dreams, so he took his light luggage and began his journey into exile.

Montevideo, February 1977

It was barely midnight when a shadow crept down by a rope tied to the roof and crept inside the famous Gallery “El Parnaso”, while waiting for another figure covered up dark clothing that supplied the camouflage of the opacity of the night, and afforded an invisibility to the few people who still roamed the street.

It was not the first robbery by the small band of thieves, nor the first taste of stealing valuable property. Members of the team had on more than one occasion been wounded or arrested, therefore, Alberto, the leader of the band, produced a careful plan to carry out the theft, while henchman Sebastian infiltrated the group of trustees of the gallery, and ushered his fiancee Camila between observers of the latest exhibitions, with the intention of obtaining sufficient knowledge of the territory so that the thieves would have a detailed picture of the selective merchandise the gallery contained.

It took months to choose the perfect day. Sebastian was on duty with another security guard. However, it only took a little chloroform to send him to the shadow world, then, cleverly he disabled all the alarms, and allowed his accomplices to enter without any problems.

Flashlight in hand. They began to inspect the place, looking for new acquisitions including contemporary art: paintings or sculptures from Italy. El Parnaso even had lost relics of ancient civilizations such as Egyptian, Persians, and fragments the Greek Empire, not to mention a vast of collection of ancient books.

The catalog of the possessions of the gallery was a cherished dream for any thief. Alberto estimated that he'd get enough money to retire from this sordid business and focus on something else that didn’t involved risking life. He had even already contacted some smugglers to sell the loot. But, they ignored the main room and headed to a small room, where access had been denied the public. According to Sebastian, only the owner could to get into that secret place. No one else knew what was hidden in the mysterious vault.

Four locks secured the door like steel spiders, but that didn’t stop the ambition of those men. They had prepared for this kind of problem. One lit a torch and put the flame on the steel to make a reddish color, then the door opened slowly and the three bandits waited to lay hands on the hidden riches, but their expectations were dissolved at once. There was only a box inside lined with a kind of dark leather sheath. Alberto remarked that this was no time to think about trivialities, they had to leave as soon as possible with their loot. Every second posed a risk of being caught. Rapidly they collected a number of paintings and sculptures they considered valuable pieces for collectors of arts, which usually were the customers smugglers were familiar with.

Thanks to the ingenious plan, they managed easily open the doors of the establishment, because they had all the keys to the locks while someone else was waiting outside in a truck.

They spent nearly half an hour with the coast clear, although the situation was starting to get tense, but by then, the list of items to steal was complete, and there was only one object left for stealing. Therefore, Alberto decided to return to the gallery, but the protest of his companions was swift and demanded he dismiss the idea, but his obsession overruled the pleas of his buddies, and he returned to the scene.

Sebastian decided to accompany him, because, he sensed that something bad was about to happen. Although he was well aware of the cunning of his friend, with whom he had worked for over fifteen years, he didn’t allow him to enter alone. After they entered, both men came to the small enclosure, and carefully, Alberto lifted slowly the painting, then, they headed outside, where a phosphorescent light gleamed in the dark. They could be perceived by the figure of a man holding a flashlight and also, unfortunately, a twelve-gauge shotgun.

“Stop right there” The man said.

Sebastian instantly recognized the voice of the owner of gallery, and seeing that he was armed, he attempted to step forward, pretending that he was just doing his routine rounds. However, the old man didn’t fell into the trap, he quickly raised his shotgun and held it pointed at his head.

“Move again and I promise I’ll blow your head” He threatened without lowering his weapon.

By the tone used by the elderly man, they knew that any movement could cause a certain death. There was nowhere to run. The man had cornered them without the remotest chance to escape. They were certain they would return to jail, when suddenly, Sebastian spotted a shadow coming up behind the old man, and he noticed that in her hands she held an object. But, nerves betrayed him, and he made a sign to the reckless Camila to back off. This only served to alert the elderly owner, who quickly turned and simultaneously pulled the trigger. The discharge of the weapon was so powerful that it threw the fragile girl’s body a few feet back, and her faint moan drowned in mute silence. She was dead.

Making a great effort, the old man tried to get up, but by then, Alberto’s hand had reached the long barrel of the gun. He wrenched the weapon away from the owner, and in a fury mercilessly beat his fiancee’s murderer with all his might, repeating the punishment over and over again until he felt gnashing his wrist. Then, the face of aggressor was bloodied. He was badly wounded, but although he was wounded, he still managed to articulate a few words.

“Please don’t take the painting.” the wounded man begged.

“You killed my wife and yet you dare to ask for favors” Replied Alberto angrily.

The enraged robber gave him another blow.

"Tell me, why you don’t want me to take this picture?" He inquired, ready for another round of punishment.

“The painting is damned.” The owner replied almost dying in a voice barely understood, because of the mixture of saliva and blood that flowed from his mouth.

The response of the gallery owner didn’t sit well with Alberto. Without hesitation, he shot the owner in the face.

For a moment there was a silence. Sebastian was shocked after seeing his friend in coldly murder the elderly man. Although he understood that the revenge was just, but he didn’t know how to react, it was the first time a colleague had snatched the life of another human being. At the moment, they heard sirens in the distance. This sound prompted an immediate escape. Alberto had no choice but to leave the corpse of Camila. However, he felt a pang of guilt for the tragedy, and all for the painting, but he shrugged off these feelings with Sebastian ran away holding the painting his arms.

They managed to leave before the police arrived, and at full speed ran to an old warehouse where they expected to meet the smugglers and make the transaction. But the wait became a torture, and Sebastian and Alberto began to fight with each other. Sebastian blamed Alberto for Camila's death, all because of his obsession for that painting. Alberto meanwhile tried to reassure him, but even though, he insisted he failed to placate his impatient companion. Angrily, Sebastian pulled a bottle of paint remover from a shelf. He opened it,and when he was about to pour it on the canvas, a knife struck his head. Then, he fell on his face, dead. Alberto found the knife in his hand, bloodied. He was appalled by what he had done, and in his anguish, he buried the same knife in his heart, instantly he fell over the corpse of his comrade.

Two hours later, smugglers arrived at the warehouse, and found the body of Alberto on the floor. However, despite the tragedy, the smugglers were glad, because since the buyer was dead, They no longer had to pay for the goods, and without looking back, they collected all the stolen items. Among those objects was the cause of tragedy of that day. The cursed painting again undertook a new journey.

New York, January 2012

A white sunrise had fallen over the huge skyscrapers. The climate showed less mercy than in previous winters. Down on the street, a man pressed the taxi driver to evade the congested traffic of the eight am, at which time the executives undertake the infernal race to get to work on time.

James was concerned. He felt like his head was spinning like a fairground carousel. He could hardly believe that his dead father left him an unknown masterpiece. His father had found the painting during an exploration of an Amazonian jungle. The director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, wrote in a note indicating that it was an unusual discovery that compared favorably with the The Mona Lisa or any other existing painting. James father died soon after the discovery from some unknown tropical disease.

James was very curious about this piece. He wanted to trace its source. He searched for help, and turned to one of his father’s old contacts in France, who was a distinguished art conservator. Currently, the expert worked at the majestic Louvre Museum. James kept pressure on the driver to step on the gas, and just as he came upon the building, he ordered the taxi driver to stop in front, then he quickly ran up the stairs, and headed toward the expert's laboratory, where work had already begun on a careful study of the pigments.

For more than seven hours, James watched the process. The expert said nothing. Even when James offered to help, he simply rejected him shaking his head. The procedures used and the artifacts were completely unknown. Certain liquids emitted unpleasant smells that made all observers leave the room. However, by almost sunset, the scientist took his gloves and mask, and instructed James to follow him to a more comfortable place. By the tone and expression, James understood that something was not right.

“I’m sorry Mr. James” He started to say “I don’t know what the hell that is.”

“I don’t understand” James responded.

The Frenchman explained to him with his mispronounced English, that the particles impregnated in the canvas, didn’t belong to any color made by man, or existing nature. He couldn’t help. even though, he had implemented a carbon dating test. It failed to specify an exact date of its manufacture. It could have been painted yesterday or it could have been made hundreds or thousands years ago. However, he confirmed with great certainty that the painting was real.

The fact that the painter was anonymous didn’t help the expert much, and thus further increased his restlessness. Now, he was required to submit in three days an anonymous painting, which turned out to be a real predicament. He is knowing that the press would devour him alive, if he doesn’t have a specific report about it. Even at the night, he was rummaging his thoughts in order to find an answer to the questions that gravitated around this mysterious work. His tension did not allow him to fall asleep. And at about six in the morning, he took his car and drove the museum, offering a slight bow to the guard, who seemed a little surprised to see him come so early. Then, he opened the box and stood staring at the female figure reflected in the painting.

“Please tell me who you are and reveal to me the name of Faust, who was fortunate to have painted you” James said, as he was speaking to the lady in the painting. “I’d give anything to have viewed the ocean color of your eyes.” He expressed himself thus, bewitched by the enigmatic woman’s look.

France, April 1615

The aurora bird sang away his evening secrets while a solar flare slowly dawned, ending the reign of the night. But despite the presence of the sun, the cold wind that ventilates the region didn’t diminish. Near the vineyards, up on the second floor of a small castle, there is an open window. Inside, a semi nude woman was posing on a chair.

Her skin was clear and fragile, but exposed overnight to low temperature. Her natural beauty was under strain. At times, she felt like jumping from the balcony because she had been imprisoned for the last two weeks. However, she didn’t make any movement, not the slightest wiggle. She even breathed carefully so as to avoid moving. In front of her, a man slid his subtle brush with precision on the canvas, throwing furtive glances towards her, to capture the most information possible, and then, recreate it with the skill of a master. While he was painting, he conjured up in his mind his years as a student of the Catholic Academic of Art. When he was a child, he learned to master the watercolors with much ease, and he developed a strong discipline even though he was often beaten.

He still remembered clearly, the times when his teacher destroyed his body with a whip, every time his brush slid on the canvas in error. Such severity was due to his father’s consent. His father was a wealthy Catholic bourgeois, owner of acres of vineyards and properties throughout the Loire Valley, but, despite his economic power, he wanted a flagship in the family. Consequently, under these hostile conditions, perfidious qualities were stamped on his personality, including a high degree of narcissism and despotism toward anyone who came near him. Nevertheless, his exquisite works delighted everyone. Rich and poor alike admired his art. Models across Europe scrambled to find glory in the study of the great Jean Pierre, but many of these naive aspirants were victims of a sadistic artist, who easily lost his temper and violently punished girls who committed errors. Although he was reported many times, he never set foot in jail due to the influence of his family. He was always cleared of any charges, and even many of those who complained ended up in jail unjustly.

He had a great contempt for the poor, as well as religious believers. Generally, he hobnobbed with other artists of the same class, or members of high society. but even among his peers, he chose to behave with arrogance over them. They accepted him out of convenience, and that angered Jean Pierre. One particular morning, his irritation was higher than usual. He was bothered by a severe headache that burdened him.

He had been suffering with that pain for about a month. The pain was so debilitating that he had to stop working. Luckily, the painting was finished. He held out a bag of coins to the girl. Then, he sat back on the bed waiting to take a nap. But, he couldn’t sleep.

His discomfort became so intense, that he decided to visit a prestigious doctor, and see if he could find a cure.

The professional doctor did several tests, and despite the rudimentary technology of that time, he detected a tumor in the back of his skull, and from it’s size, he judged that the painter had only three years left to live.

The awful news collapsed all his aspirations, like a lead ball hitting a house of cards. He was frustrated. He didn’t understand why cruel death had chosen to make an exceptional case of him, taking one so young. As he walked back to his house, he couldn’t figure out why this was happening to him. Jean Pierre crossed an area of homeless shelters, and amidst this miserable environment he felt the fangs of hate digging his bowels.

“Cursed be the fate that ironically intends to tear me out of this world, when so many decadent people occupying a place that they don’t deserve.” He screamed with agony and no one paid attention to him.

During that month, he began to seek a second opinion from other doctors, but the sentence remained the same. Nowhere else to turn. The dying man resigned himself to his misfortune. However, he meditated on all he had achieved so far, and then, a feeling of a dissatisfaction hit him hard. In twenty years of career, he had painted more than thirty-five paintings of which according to the critics from across Europe, twenty-eight were among the best work of art of the Century. He was practically the most celebrated painter existing. But in his egocentric thinking, he didn’t consider any of his works immortal, as had happened to other celebrities. He needed to create a masterpiece that would lead to glory for all eternity. But there was one detail in which he would find a muse for his portrait. Since death was at his heels, It was necessary start a journey to find the woman that could meet his grand expectation.

For more than two years, he traveled the entire continent giving paid interviews to candidates of all ages and languages. But all was in vain, none of the girls inspired him to paint his desired picture, and to top it off, his finances didn’t show enough zeros to continue his search, and he had no choice but to return home to the his privacy of his castle. The artist fell defeated on his bed, suffering so much that he loudly called for death to take him right away..

He prayed for a miracle, and daily he attended a church, anticipating that the creator would send one his angels, but he ended up exhausted without any of the saints hearing his words.

It was then that he gave up. In tears, cursed his father for sending him to the master craftsmen, also cursed God, and finally cursed himself. He became a compulsive drinker and spent all his time in seedy taverns. Then, his personal appearance was unkempt, and he’d completely abandoned his talents. In short, He was delivered to death.

One afternoon, as he was drinking a jug of beer, one raggedly dressed elderly woman approached him. With her hand beckoned him for a coin. He reluctantly handed her the coin, but she didn’t move.

“Take this. I have no more money,” he replied with an atrocious voice.

The old woman just smiled.

“Silly boy, don’t waste your time. I know what you want.”

“Shut up old decrepit woman! and you’d better get out of here before I lose my temper.” He was thinking that maybe she was laughing at his misfortune.

“God didn’t hear you, true?” She asked biting her lip.

“How did you know that?” He responded very surprised.

“You know, when God doesn’t hear the prayers of the afflicted, there is someone who does, if you talk to him with faith, he will come personally.”

The unexpected news aroused his lost hopes, and desire to dig deeper, but at that moment, in front of his eyes, the old woman disappeared mysteriously.

He looked around and there was no sign of the woman. However, he got the message clearly, and quickly left the tavern. On his way home, the painter bought some candles and inquired until he found a secret group of spiritualists who for some coins sold him a book with a red ceramic cover painted with a ram in the front. Then, as directed by the old woman, he began to pray to the creator of evil, called by the Bible the fallen angel from heaven, and commonly known to humans as the devil.

According to the dark manual, he made all sort of diabolical ceremonies to be heard. But nothing happened so he laughed at himself for being so credulous. Then one night as he struggled with a strong torment caused by advanced disease, he heard someone knocking on his door. He looked at the clock and noticed that it was almost the two in the morning.

“Who could it be at this hour?” he wondered.

He came out of his bedroom, and down to the stairs to the hallway, and when he was about to reach the door, he heard again that knocking on the door, but he realized it didn’t sound like a hand, but the stroke of a horse’s hoof, and an every step he took, a loud whinny of a horse arrived with perfect clarity to his ears.

Although the man was a skeptic, in those moments, he experienced a terrible sense of fear of what awaited behind that door. He was undecided whether or not to open the door. But amid conflicting doubts, he recalled his two years in the Calvary and the bleak fate which would have happened to him, if he hadn’t done something.

So, he finally resolved to open the door and face whoever it was.

The door open slowly, and he could see that a little girl with dark hair was standing outside of his door. Her face was angelic and innocent with a look that showed a febrile child sweetness. She wore a white silk dress, which extended to a stylish shoes of the same color.

Jean Pierre guessed that the girl was about five or six years old. He was surprised that a child of that age was walking on the streets so late. While he was contemplating this fact, the strange visitor came through the door without permission,.

“Tell me little girl, what are you doing here?” he asked her with soft, gentle voice.

The girl looked up.

“You called me, and I’ve come to grant your wish,” she replied meekly.

The painter felt a cold jolt throughout his spine, after he learned that he was talking to Satan himself. He almost felt faint, and before uttering a word, the tiny girl stepped forward.

“Don’t worry. I’m here to help you,” she said.

“But you look like a girl,” he replied stuttering.

“If I showed you my true appearance, surely you would die instantly. That’s why I took this infantile form. But even so, this conversation will last only ten minutes. So. I want you to listen carefully.

Then, the evil entity began to say.

“The lady that you are looking for is buried in a cemetery. Her name was Dorianne Mercier, the only daughter of the Mayor who for over fifty years governed this city. But when she was scarcely 18 years old, she was the victim of a cholera outbreak, so you must find her grave and water it with the moisture of your feeling in order to resurrect her.”

With her frail hand, she held him a bottle with a red fluid. Then she continued.

“Certainly. you will get what you want, but you’ll have to stick to three conditions.”

“Which are?” he asked with fear.

“For a month, the muse will pose for you, and it will be just at night. So, you’ll have to get used to painting with low visibility.

He only nodded his head.

“You will keep our covenant with stony silence, and for no reason shall you reveal it to anyone”

She paused.

“And finally and the most important requirement,” she managed a slight but infamous smile. “You must abstain from physical contact with the deceased, as it is prohibited for the living to touch the resurrected dead, so you’re limited to just seeing her. You understand?”

“And what happens if I break the rules?” he asked her.

“ You will disappear completely from this world, and your name will be removed from any existing memory or record. No one will remember you,” she said with a threatening gesture.

The thought of what could happen to him, if he disobeyed the regulations, made him shiver. He even felt an urge to cancel the deal, now that there was still time, but on the other hand, the painter imagined the eternal greatness achieved if he performed his masterpiece, and the recognition that it would accompany for the rest of history. Immediately, he approved the conditions.

The evil being stretched out his hand, as if to seal the deal with a handshake. When Jean Pierre took the devil’s hand, he felt a sharp pain in his heart, as if a thorn pierced his chest. However, after a few seconds it dissipated.

“Illustrious painter, see your dreams come true, and see that I am right. I will give you one year with good health, and you will enjoy the fruits of your masterful painting.” she affirmed,

“And you will get your return.” The painter asked very thoughtfully about the proposal. “My soul?”

“Actually, I’ve owned it for a long time. So, take this as a simple favor from someone who admires your talent. Besides, I left a black mark on your hand that over time will spread, as a reminder of our covenant .”

When she finished speaking, the door opened by itself, and the little girl walked to the outer darkness, and by supernatural magic, the doors were closed again. Jean Pierre heard its departure as if a herd of wild horses had run out of his house, until all was silence.

The next morning, the painter woke up in his bed, and immediately noticed that the headache had disappeared. He even felt in an excellent mood, as if he were reborn. However. a set of fuzzy images addressed his mind and pieces of a puzzle were coming together to bring back that fateful encounter.

He imagined for a moment that he had had a nightmare caused by a headache. But then, he remembered the last words of the girl. Quickly, he set out to check, and he noticed that there was a peculiar dark spot, that he hadn’t seen before.

“The mark of the devil!” exclaimed the painter while contemplating the strange mark on his skin.

There was no other explanation. The evidence of his harsh reality was strong. He had sold his soul to the devil.

While he was experiencing a bit of grief, Jean Pierre saw on the table a set of brushes. On one side was an empty framed canvas and he noticed that there was also a bottle of red liquid, and then he recalled the gift he had acquired.

With great resignation, he took all objects and awaited for night to fall. Under a splendid moon, he headed for the cemetery, looking for the grave the demon described in which the muse that he had sought was buried.

New York, February 2012.

It was in winter when a crowd of people was leaving the museum. Shortly after the painting’s discovery, the unknown artist had attracted scholars and enthusiasts worldwide. In spite of it’s not being the best time to visit Manhattan, they ventured to come in order to see the mysterious artistic phenomenon, recently acquired by the museum. The show brought huge profits for each exhibition, and a colossal fame that exceeded existing standards of any museum. However, not all were beneficiaries of the black muse. James Coleman was going through a terrible situation, because in the last six exhibits, the harassment of journalists had managed to discredit his career. They accused him of being ignorant and illiterate because he had not provided them any information regarding the enigmatic work. As a consequence, the museum administration gave him an ultimatum. He must explain the work in a way that would please the demands of the media. Otherwise. they would remove him from his position as CEO of the museum.

There was no escape. The judgment was impossible to evade. His work for which he had fought was going down the drain. He was devastated by the way they treated him. He was the one who brought them the painting, and now, because of it, his future was turning black. Nor, did he find peace in his home. After telling her of the possible bankruptcy of the family, she stopped talking to him and threatened to take their children to her parent’s house. His life was in ruins.

“Why did it happen to me?” he wondered in tears, without being able to explain the misfortune of his destiny.

Poland, May 1617.

The city of the dead wore a creepy face. As in all cemeteries, the atmosphere was heavy and dark. The trees looked stuffed with dried branches that stretched like tentacles to his head, creating shadows that seemed to be right out of hellish graves. Nevertheless, in its burial passages, a silhouette moved moves slowly. With patience, and the dim light of a candle, the painter was examining one by one all the inscriptions on the tombstones. Beside him, his horse was carrying around a bag of painting materials. He reviewed almost half of the cemetery until finally, in the shade of an old Haya tree, he found a neglected grave surrounded by weeds and fungi over the entire surface. He thought it odd that this grave was so removed from the rest of the cemetery. Curiously he approached with the candle to verify the name of the owner of the tomb, and although some letters were blurred, he could still read the inscription:

Dorianne Mercier


There was no doubt that he had found the tomb was seeking.

Immediately, he opened the jar and poured the red liquid on the grave. He noticed that it smelled like fresh blood. Suddenly, a terrible wind huffed around, followed by the howls of night birds who fled in terror of the place.Even his horse burst out of his harness and ran wildly, leaving all things scattered on the ground. Jean Pierre saw the tomb was opened in two parts, and then, the silhouette of a girl came out of the jaws of the earth.

As the Devil told him, the golden-hair lady was a real venus, as taken from the famous epic poem. Because her beauty could only be compared with the divinity of a heavenly angel. Her eyes cast a seductive gleam that conjured a man’s desire to dream, love, and sin.

The egocentric painter fell to his knees, a prisoner of the charm of the young resurrected, who kept him in focus with sublime attention. The breeze died down and everything returned to normal.

The girl walked to him, and offered her hand to be helped up. Then, she sat on the grave, and pointed with her finger to his painting utensils. Instantly, The painter understood that the lady was ready to be captured on canvas. Therefore, he collected all his instruments and installed a small studio there.

After lighting 3 candles, he began to address the greatest challenge of his career as a painter.

He approached the canvas with the skill of a surgeon. But at times, his thoughts were lost in the spell of the model. Although she didn’t belong to this world, she raised a set of unknown feelings that he had never felt before.

By the time the night almost ended, the paint was already showing a feminine image. But, before the sun begun to appear, she had to return reluctantly to the bowels of the tomb, and again, the painter was left alone in the middle of the necropolis.

He returned home very abstracted, because in his mind he harbored only a the image of the young girl. Even in his dreams, her enigmatic gaze was present, as if he had been infected by her beauty. But he also noticed something different about when discovered that the black spot on his hand had enlarged to the size of a grape. However, he ignored it with disdain, and just waited awake for the evening anxiously, to see again the muse.

To avoid disruptions, Jean Pierre paid the undertaker a number of coins, so as to afford private space, since that was one of the conditions of the covenant. And so he continued painting the majestic lady who night after night posed exclusively for him.

He often tried to talk her. But, she never answered him. In fact, she showed disgust every time he spoke to her. Therefore, always in each session there was a deadly silence that became toxic for Jean Pierre. But he wasn’t aware of it, only his obsessive admiration for her. From time to time, he even brought her expensive gifts like jewelry, fine fragrances and elegant clothes. But, his attempt to please her didn’t get the expected result. It wasn’t until one night, when he showed her his work, and although the painting was unfinished, she gave him the most beautiful smile that he had ever seen. Consequently, his adoration of her increased even more.

It was the 25th of the month, and the task of Jean Pierre still could not be completed. Beforehand, he was aware that time was running out, and that sooner or later, the muse would leave him forever. That haunted him so much, and that made him so sad, that he began to spend all his time in the cemetery, becoming a resident over the city of the dead. However, his strange behavior attracted the curiosity of the old gravedigger. One night the gravedigger slipped quietly into the bushes, and watched the arrival of the dead girl. He didn’t know what to do so he just ran away in fear.

The next day, at the office of the cathedral, the old man cried for an audience with the bishop, and for over an hour. His Grace listened to the old man’s stuttering story. Besides the bishop, was one of his assistants, who waited in silence listening carefully to the story. But at times, this assistant expressed disbelief of the undertaker’s story. But the abbot corrected him. Because as the ultimate authority of the local church, he had a duty to carefully examine every kind of heresy. Therefore, he found it necessary to investigate the practices of that eccentric painter. And if it was true, the painter would certainly go to trial before the inquisition tribunal to answer for the crime of necromancy. According to the laws of the Holy Inquisition, such a crime would be punishable by death. Unaware of the coming investigation, Jean Pierre continued to paint, without imagining the danger stalking him. Also, his hand had completely taken a dark color. However, that was not exactly what took away the excitement of his endeavor, rather, it was the sheer anguish of knowing that his beloved would eventually return to the underworld. Therefore, he didn’t realize that a group of men had made inquiries in every house around the cemetery. Some soldiers were accompanying them, and without exception whatsoever, they went door to door asking very probing questions regarding the activities of the painter. With fear, most of the respondents gave them similar testimonies, in which they swore to have seen a mysterious figure lurking in the vicinity of the cemetery. But given the circumstances, none of them had dared to investigate the painter’s activities, so they didn’t contribute much to the investigation. However, it was sufficient to satisfy the curiosity of angry bishop, who by then was already planning to make the arrest. To avoid suspicion, the Bishop decided to miss the week. Then, he began to make his move. For that task, he chose to be accompanied by only his personal assistant and three more soldiers. Therefore, the small group would not startle the grave defiler, so he could not escape, because at night, it would be feasible to catch him by surprise. So, they waited until the last night of the month when the moon was absent. Jean Pierre meanwhile was quietly sobbing on the grave of his beloved, aching with a yearning to see her again. But this time he looked tired. His face was the picture of distress, and while the paint was missing just a few alterations. The painter was drowning in a sea of sadness. He knew this was the night of the farewell, and nothing would change that fact.

An hour later. The muse appeared. As usual she looked as magnificent as ever, almost like she had been molded by God in person. But, Jean Pierre felt sorry to see anything different in her, as if she didn’t care if she left him. Even sunk in that gray world, and with tears in his eyes, he finally finished the painting, and when he was just clearing the brush from the canvas. The bishop and the soldiers advancing briskly toward. Their footsteps were heard nearby, while the France man could have perceived them. Then, in an impromptu action, Jean Pierre turned the painting and showed it to the muse, who after seeing the work just smiled. Then, she headed back to her burial chamber. At that moment, the armed men appeared, and without thinking twice, Jean Pierre ran and grabbed the girl’s hand. All at once, a strong wind begun to shake the trees, and suddenly the youthful beauty faded into a gruesome corpse.

An onslaught of terror attacked the painter, who desperately tried to break free. But, he couldn’t be loosened from the bony hand, and with an enormous force the cadaverous woman dragged him to the depths of the grave. Then the two stones rejoined again, sealing the painter obsessed life.

After the terrifying incident. the soldiers ran away leaving only the bishop with his assistant. A girl appeared in the dark, and with delicate step is directed towards painting.

The mysterious appearance of the child-like creature, foul the environment. Making it heavy and hard to breath. All these strange changes Bishop made up suspecting that something evil was about to happen, and although he didn’t have the escort of soldiers. he decided to confront evil being. For it, he pulled a wooden crucifix and pointed it at the little girl, who immediately stop walking. The religious man quickly took advantage and grabbed the painting. Then, he turned to the girl and noticed that she looked at him with a menacing gesture.

“Who are you?” Bishop asked with authority.

“You know very well who I am, geezer” she replied with a child-like voice.

The bishop felt a scourge of terror, however, he continued.

“Tell me, why there’s so much interest in this painting if you’ve already possessed the soul of that wretched painter.” He continued.

“He and I had a pact, so he gave me that painting” Claim the devil.

“Never” He cried, raising the crucifix. Even if my soul should perish, you will never get this painting.

The Devil didn’t reply, but she turned her head to where the bishop’s assistant was, and just smiled.. Then, floating on the air, she disappeared into the darkness.

The bishop and his assistant perceived that they had had an encounter with the Devil, and that this work was an evil abomination, and that at all costs it must be destroyed. First, they threw it to the boiler to be burned. But after the fire was extinguished, they noticed that the paint was intact. So they tried dipping it in acid, but their attempt was unsuccessful again. After their failure, the Bishop implemented all kinds of methods to destroy it, even breaking with his own hands, but nothing they did seem affect the canvas or color of the image. Finally, he decided it was best to bury it as deep as he could, so that diabolical possession would remain away from men. So, he traveled to Northern Poland, and there, with the local archdiocese, they began digging a deep tunnel, which took nearly three years to complete. Then, they lined the painting with cowhide, and sealed the entrance, so that nobody could access it. However, the Bishop’s assistant wrote a secret map to remember the whereabouts of this work of art, and hid it in a book of prescriptions. His plan was to sell it for a good price, but a sudden illness snatched his life, before he could carry out his ambitions. And so the work of Jean Pierre remained buried for more than three centuries.

New York, April 2012,

It was seven in the evening, when the news crew were preparing for the exhibition. There was commotion among them. Three days ago, the museum board had announced the nomination of a new director, who unlike his predecessor, was open to speaking with the media. He shared the information of the mysterious painting. Giving the importance of the news, the press gathering was immense, without imagining that was all a farce. In fact, the new manager had no information about the origin this strange work. He was simply chosen to be a tool of political forces. A plan was developed in order to calm the harassment of the press. He just had to pretend and answer in front of cameras with lies to the interviewers. These Ideas weren’t new, and before it had been proposed to James. But for professional ethics, he refused to collaborate in the lie and so he was dismissed. So for fear of retaliation from him, all the guards had been ordered to block his way, as a preventative measure if he dared to appear. They would not allow anyone ruin the night.

Security was tight. It was impossible to cross without having to show an I.D. However, a strange man sneaks between service staff. His face is unidentifiable, because he uses some dark glasses and a dark beard. He wears a black coat that falls to the knees, so no one perceives that beneath his clothes brings death. Thanks to the busy night, he goes unnoticed and reaches the main hall, where he had lived so many days of glory. But at that time, he held his tongue and without word, he began his evil revenge. The deafening roar of a shrapnel invaded the room, and within seconds, several journalist fell to the ground. Then, a second burst appeared, and this time, the victims were members of the board who were hit by bullets while trying to flee. Although James wasn’t an expert with weapons, the thirst for revenge dominated him, and without mercy he shot right and left, venting his fury on anyone who was around, until a bullet hit him in the back. He then fell flat on the floor, and there, swimming in a pool of blood, James saw the officer who shot him, while the people were still running in terror.

Almost dying, he looked to his left and saw a beautiful girl wearing white who was dancing among the corpses. The ground that she walked was completely dyed red. But to his amazement, he noticed that she smiled as if amused by the bloody massacre. However, in his last breath, he recognized the face of the devil himself, and understood the art of the devil, for the world is tragedy.

After this sinister event, a federal decree ordered the canvas’s exile in a hidden corner in the basement of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Even It was detained without registration and only placed it with other classified objects. Thus, the tool of the devil didn’t follow doing more damage, and actually the muse peacefully slept without witnessing more tragedies.


Friday, June 15, 2012

"Who pays for health care in the USA/CUBA?" by Graciela Cubas

Michael Moore and his film, "Sicko" about
the "sick" state of US health care

The USA is the only industrialized country that doesn't offer a universal health plan to all their citizens. Therefore 50.7 million people are uninsured across the nation. This means that 15 out of each hundred people don't count on health coverage. Research shows that a great percentage of insured citizens get their insurance through an employer. These represent 59.70%; 27.00% is government funded and only 9.70% is purchased individually. But the main question remains unanswered. Why doesn't the USA offer a universal plan to all citizens? Isn't this nation one of the richest? Well, the USA does offer some health coverage but only to certain citizens. Not all can qualify for these programs. Some of these programs are Medicare and Medical. Medicare is a health insurance for people 65 years or older. On the other hand, Medical is a health care program for certain individuals and families who are low income and have limited resources. People who receive supplementary security income (SSI), Cal Works, refugee or foster care assistance automatically qualify for Medical coverage. Others who are blind, disabled, pregnant, under 21, a parent of someone under 21, may also be eligible.

Even though the government offers these two programs, a lot of citizens are still unable to get insurance coverage. But for those who are able to pay for private health coverage, which only represents 9.70%, are expected to pay $14,000 a year for a family of four. But what about those how are not able to pay for private health coverage? What happens to these people? Some of these people end up receiving urgent care at emergency rooms which can cost up to $5,000 dollars, or in some extreme cases these injured uninsured patients perform treatment themselves which can be extremely dangerous to their own health. While in the USA congress, politicians debate whether the government can or can't afford to offer an universal care to all citizens, in France, England, Canada and even Cuba all citizens count on a universal health coverage. How can this be possible? How can these countries afford to do this? In the case of England, Canada, and France the answer is easy: these countries are wealthy, but the million dollar question here is: how can Cuba offer universal care for all citizens on the island? The Cuban health department believes that the key to keep from spending lot of money to treat a patient from chronic diseases is prevention. They believe that prevention is essential. The Cuban government invests $251.00 per person compared to the USA with an average of $7,000 per individual a year. How can this be possible? Patients in the USA without insurance don't have access to preventative care, therefore these patients postpone needed care or recommended treatment until it is too late, and they end up in the emergency room with the average cost of $5,000. Wouldn't be better if all were able to get preventative care? Would there be in THE USA a universal care plan for all one day? That is a question that every American without insurance has. Maybe the answer to that question is almost here. In 1993-1994 former president Clinton and his wife Hilary tried to change our health system by introducing a proposal to change the broken health system, but a campaign against Hilary's health care plan was cobbled together to fight Clinton care even before debate began in congress. The insurance industry, the pharmaceutical industry, and other companies against this proposal spent over 16,000,000 to kill the health care reform.

But The Clinton administration wasn't the only one trying to change our broken health care system. The Obama administration also believed that a change needed to be made to our health care system. Therefore on December 24, 2009 the patient protection and affordable care act (PPACA), informally referred to as Obama Care, passed the Senate with all Democrats in favor, and all Republicans against it and in March 21, 2010 passed the House of Representatives, and finally on march 23,2010 the PPACA was signed into law by President Obama. On that day, every American without access to health care was happy to hear this news, but that is not the end of the story.

From the beginning, Obama care was faced with a great opposition, a majority of the states and numerous organization and some individual persons have filed action in federal court challenging this new law. As of March 2012, two or four federal appellate courts have upheld it. On March 26-28, 2012 the Supreme Court heard six hours of oral argument and is expected to make a decision by the end of June.

Why can't we be more like Cuba or France and offer a plan that allows every citizen the coverage that all need to be healthy and productive? Why can't the Republicans and all the opponents to Obama Care see and understand the need for health care reform?
In my opinion, a healthy and educated nation is needed to be able to compete with other nations. If this government is not able to provide health care and education to all its citizen, the USA will become another third world country in the near future and that will be a shame.

But there still some light at the end of the tunnel, and I can't wait to see the end of this. I really hope for health care for all. Health care and education should be a right and not a business.

A devastating clip from Moore's film, "Sicko",
a must see for anyone interested in the problems
Graciela raises in her essay.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

"Interior Design During the Victorian Era" by Natasha Hauser-Middelberg

The Victorian era ranges roughly from 1837 to 1901. In this period of time,
new inventions had become available due to the Industrial Revolution, which also
affected the world population. It had both grown in numbers and become more wealthy. These changes in turn affected interior design in many different ways. The population growth and the increasing wealth resulted in building bigger houses or enlarging existing ones, adding new rooms for the family and for servants that worked and lived in the families' houses. The new rooms required the design of new furniture. Two examples are a room to play billiards, which became a very popular sport during the Victorian era; and a room for smoking.

At that time it was considered impolite to smoke in the presence of the
lady of the house. For that reason, they designed a separate room with specially
designed ventilation. The presence of servants also required some adjustments.
For one, there was a need for a piece of furniture where servants could put both
food and drinks before they would serve them to the family and, if present, their
guests. For this purpose, furniture makers designed the sideboard, which
became an important piece in the dining room.

With people becoming wealthier and the Industrial Revolution having
improved ways of transportation, people were able to travel further than before.
This possibility triggered an interest in foreign cultures, which was expressed
both by using elements from foreign cultures in furniture designs and by taking
home memorabilia, which had to be displayed. Elements from other cultures that
were used are, for instance, the sphinx head and depictions of the goddess Isis
from Egypt; the use of bamboo and laque from Japan; and the more refined
carvings from France. Wanting to display the memorabilia people got on their
journeys created a need for space to lay them out. In order to do so, furniture
makers added shelves to sideboards, people fixed shelves above their door
posts, and designers came up with the mantelpiece.

Finally, the Industrial Revolution had made it possible to use and/or create
machines that could do certain things more quickly and more accurately than a
human being could do it. In the case of interior design, this led to ornaments
becoming more detailed and complex, and to the possibility of using new
techniques and materials, like paper-maché and cast iron, a material that had
not been used for structural purposes before the late 18th century. During the
same period, gas and electricity were discovered, giving way to the design of
elaborate candelabras, and sanitary facilities were improved, creating a market
for bathroom designing.

The Victorian era didn’t just consist of one style. Just as with exterior
design, there existed several different styles for interior design. At the beginning,
interior design was mostly influenced by Greek art, resulting in symmetrical
shapes. Furniture was kept very simple, with balanced ornamentation. In reaction
to this style, a more picturesque trend emerged, incorporating different kinds of
styles, like the Elizabethan style, the medieval or gothic style, and the French
Rococo style. Main features for the picturesque styles are unsymmetrical shapes;
a vigorous look; and an animated, not refined use of ornaments. The styles differ
in relatively small ways, and could be seen as reactions to one another, although
they existed along side each other for many years, until approximately 1851.

The Elizabethan style is the most vaguely described style, and the term
often has been used in the wrong way. Also, it is thought to have been an
undervalued style in its own era, gaining more appreciation in succeeding years.
This style is said to combine elements from the Gothic and the Roman/Italian
style. In the Elizabethan style, we see a revival of old oak furniture and the use of
a lot of ornaments. You could say ornaments were being overused. The
medieval/gothic style looks a great deal like the grecian style, but with a few
more ornaments. Finally, the French Rococo style was characterized by curved
lines and an excess of curvilinear ornaments. All designs were carried out at
great expense.

Between 1851 and 1867, there was a big influence from France. The lines
became straighter, moving away from the Rococo style; the carvings were no
longer placed all over a piece, but, instead, were more contained; and the
outlines of the pieces were shown more clearly. This period is referred to as
modern English Gothic.

After 1867, furniture wasn’t just designed by furniture makers anymore.
Architects and designers would be designing furniture for years to come. During
this same period, influences in style and use of material started coming from
Japan, for it had just opened its border. One of the last styles during the Victorian era was the Queen Anne style. For interior design, this meant a revival of neo-classic/Greek furniture. People got tired of the contemporary furniture, which was no longer considered to be an art, but merely an industry. Furniture makers would either use original, old pieces or
make reproductions, and they would add on ornaments to give the pieces a more
decorative and richer look. The focus, however, was on technical rather than
artistical beauty.

At the end of the Victorian era, William Morris influenced furniture making
and designing to a great extent. Eventually, the arts and crafts movement
emerged, reviving ornamentation, and, once more, emphasizing artistic beauty.
As described in the former paragraph, ornaments were being used
throughout the Victorian era, forming the most important key feature, with
changes, now and then, to what extent ornaments were being used. Most of the
ornaments consisted of wood carvings. They could be made in one of two ways:
1) carving the wood from the furniture piece itself, or 2) making a separate
ornament from another piece of wood or from sawdust pressed together, and
then adding it onto the piece of furniture; thus creating relief. Along with the
different phases throughout the Victorian era, not only did the quantity of the
ornaments and the heaviness of the carving changed; so did their shapes. During
some periods, ornaments were round and/or had a lot of curves in them. During
others, ornaments were very linear, so that there was less wood being cut to
waste. After 1851, larger pieces of the furniture, such as the sideboard or
wardrobe, were left blank. These panels would then be used for paintings.

Usually painters would depict (part of) a (heroic) story.
Another key element, that stayed rather consistent throughout the era,
was that furniture was made to look heavy. A lot of emphasis was being put on
the wood, which for the biggest part was dark colored. In most cases, pieces of
furniture that were put together in one room, would be designed to match each

Furthermore, the drapes were voluminous. They were created that way by
using lots of fabric, pleating them heavily, and trailing them on the floor. Back
then, drapes were not only used as window blinds. In addition, drapes were hung
around the bed. They were be closed at night, supposedly as an extra protection
against the contagious night air. Halfway through the era, people used fewer
drapes around the bed; at that point only stretching half the length of their beds.
Since the family home had become an important part of people’s lives,
furniture was made as comfortable as possible. The shapes of chairs, for
instance, changed throughout the Victorian era. At first, they made rectangular
chairs, which were later replaced by balloon-backed chairs, to give more comfort
to people’s backs. Even later, upholstery was added, to create soft and
comfortable seats and backs.

Not only furniture was decorated, so were the walls, ceilings and floors.
For the walls and ceiling people could use wall- and ceiling paper respectively.
Another way to decorate the walls was to use wooden panelling. The floors
would either be showing the parquet or they would have wall-to-wall carpeting.
As the mantelpiece made its entrance into the Victorian houses, so did the
large mirrors that were hanged above them, usually as part of a larger
overmantel. Large mirrors were also used in the master bedroom and in the hall
way, either for visitors to check their appearance before meeting with their hosts
or for people going outside to put on their coats and hats. In the hallway, the
mirror usually was part of a bigger hat and coat stand.

Two important elements that were widely used in the Queen Anne style,
and even before that, were colored mosaics and stained glass. The mosaics
would often be used for the pavement, either in front of the entrance or in the
hallway. Using stained glass was a way to get light into the house without people
from the outside looking in. In the bathroom people would use ceramic tiles for
the walls and either tiles or a mosaic for the floor.
Some of the most used materials in the Victorian era have already been
mentioned in the former paragraph. The most important material that was used
was different kinds of wood, such as oak, mahogany, ebony, and later on, due to
Japanese influences, bamboo. During the larger part of the Victorian era, the
wood was left unpolished in order to let it be able to get old and change color.
The front door wood be varnished to protect it from the weather conditions, still
allowing you to see the wood clearly. During some periods, for example when the
French had a big influence on Victorian furniture, wood would be polished.
Papier-maché made its entrance during the Victorian era and was often
used as a substitute for wood in making ornaments. Instead of carving separate
pieces of wood or pressing together sawdust, they would make papier-maché
shapes and treat these in a specific way in order to resemble real wood. A large
number of the materials used during this era were either actually expensive or
made to look expensive. Expensive materials are, for instance: ivory, gold, pearl
shells, and different kinds of gems, like lapis-lazuli and jasper. Again, most of
these materials were in some way used to ornate pieces of furniture. The gold
could be replaced by a mix of copper, brass, zinc and silver to make it a little less
expensive. For candelabras gold-plated silver could also be used. The pearl
shells were used for drawings or paintings. Painters used varnish to paint an
image, then used acid to burn the shell; leaving the painting in tact, and ready to
be added on to a chest, wardrobe or sideboard. Marble was very popular for
countertops in the kitchen and bathroom and later on for tabletops. It could also
be found in the master bedroom, used for a table with a water bowl on top and
for a splashback behind the bowl, to prevent the wallpaper from getting wet.
Upholstery and wall- and ceilingpaper were mostly made of satin. Also,
velvet was used for upholstery of chairs and for draperies.

Finally, metalwork and cast iron are important materials to be found in a
Victorian home. Due to new inventions, it was now possible to shape the iron in
practically any way people desired. At first, the iron was used as an element of a
piece of furniture. At the end of the Victorian era, furniture makers made
complete chairs and tables out of cast iron. Usually for the garden or the
greenhouse, but occasionally for inside the house as well.
Looking at all the information presented in this paper, it would be fair to
say that the Victorian era was an interesting one. It was an era in which many
things changed, either by completely new inventions and ideas or by
improvement of already existing concepts. The Industrial Revolution was very
influential in this development, changing not only the way people lived, but,
moreover, the way furniture was made. All and all, it was an era of wealth, which
people were encouraged to show off. This lead to crowded and very heavily
decorated interiors, in which different expensive, or expensive looking, materials
were used. Less certainly wasn’t more during this era; “the more the merrier”
sounds like a better credo to describe interior design in the Victorian era.

"The Victorian Era" by Laura Rodera

Queen Victoria: Britain's Monarch
from 1837 to 1901

The origin of the term “Victorian” is found in England on the 19th century. It
is the name of an era of British history, The Victorian Era. The word “era” refers
to a long period of history and it usually takes its name from the reigning
monarch at the time the period belongs. Queen Victoria was the monarch
reigning England for more than half of the 19th century, which is the reason why
that period was named Victorian. The era was preceded by the Georgian period
and succeeded by the Edwardian period.

Queen Victoria’s reign was the longest in British history until now, and it was
a long period of peace and prosperity. She inherited the throne of Great Britain
at the age of eighteen from her uncle William IV. Her reign lasted 63 years, from
June 20th, 1837 until her death on January 22nd, 1901. Since it was a long reign,
the Victorian age compromised several periods.

The Victorian Era was characterized as a paradoxical age, and it was a
period of industrial, cultural, political, scientific, and military changes. The
Victorians invented the modern idea of invention; that man can create solutions
to problems. They felt that they could improve society in the same way they
were improving technology. Rapid changes and developments in medicine,
sciences, and technology came with the Industrial Revolution.

Culturally there was a transition from the rationalism of the Georgian period
towards the romanticism of the Belle Époque. The Victorians attempted to
combine Romantic emphases, emotion, and imagination, with The Neoclassical
public role of art and the responsibility of the artist. This age saw the birth of
political movements like socialism, liberalism, and feminism. But more than
anything else what makes Victorians Victorian is their sense of social
responsibility, their regard for religion and sexual restraint.

The Victorian Era was a time of unprecedented demographic increase in
England. The population almost doubled form 16 million in 1851 to 30 million in
1901. The main reason was the positive impact on living standards of the
Industrial Revolution. At the same time, about 15 million emigrants left the
United Kingdom in the Victoria Era and settled in the United States, Canada
and Australia.

American Victorianism was a branch of the lifestyle that was being lived
in Europe which reflected the heavy British cultural influence on the nation
during the time. The Victorian Era in America was a time of massive
immigration. The wealthy people were not yet sure what it was to be an
American, and they showed their uncertainty by borrowing from European
culture. Immigrants from Europe fled the poverty and politics of their homelands
for the New World.

The American West, an enormous territory, attracted settlers from all
over the world. People from Europe, Asia and the east coast of North America
came to this new land which was full of opportunities. Laws, such as the
Homestead Acts, helped Europeans and their descendants take lands used by
Native Americans.

San Francisco’s Victorian Era started in 1848 with the announcement
that gold had been discovered. The Gold Rush was the cause of one history’s
greatest boomtown. The population increased from 500 residents in 1847 to
100.000 in 1865. Since most people and supplies arrived by sea, San
Francisco’s action was the waterfront. The harbor was the root system for the
developing of urban land. The modern city of San Francisco raised from the
coast line overlooking the bay.

A Victorian home near Alamo Square,
San Francisco
The city started being built as ramshackle architecture. Wooden shanties,
lean-tos and canvas tents were the first houses of the new population.
Abandoned ships were recycled for building. Gradually people started to settle
into this new city as permanent residence. Solid frame buildings, copies of
architecture back east, were erected. The Victorian Houses started being built.
Many of them are still standing, and you can see them across the city.
The Victorian style was the main architectural style at the time the city of
San Francisco started becoming in the great city it is nowadays.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

"Memories of a Dead Soul" by David Barrera

Sometimes I wonder if my life is over. Other times, I wonder if I am just an illusion. Well I think that all these questions are just some forgotten memories. I hate to remember, but I can’t stop all those ghosts of my past bothering my mind every night. One of them is an unusual night like tonight when the moon leaves the land in a complete darkness. I am in a horrible prison. Nobody here understands me, although we share the same destiny. They only ignore me without talking to me, even though in their faces a deep fearful expression can be seen, and that drives me crazy. Today, I will finish with this eternal punishment with a final cut. Yes, I’m going to commit suicide. But, before I do that, I would like to talk about of my suffering.

I was born on a rainy day. Maybe you are wondering how I know that. Well, let me tell you. My father often mentioned that terrible storm of the winter of 1970. Since my birth, they had thought my life was going to be short. It would be different from my older brother’s life. He was always expected to be the best. I understood their love for him. His qualities were above mine. He was a big, strong, and a handsome boy. During his life, the whole neighborhood talked about his nice personality, without mentioning his years in school. He always got the best grades in all subjects, and his athletic skills helped him to become the most popular boy in the school. I remember the cheerleaders always flirted with him when he played and won a game. You needed just to listen for ten minutes, to be mesmerized by his words. Everybody loved him except me, me, his own brother!

We shared blood, family and life, but I never could stand living under his shadow. I hated him from the bottom of my heart. While we were growing, many times I wished he would disappear, or be kidnapped, taken away from our life, but his luck was always with him.

It was in December, when I expected the best gift a child can wish for, a bicycle.

I was counting the days to get that bicycle that never came. Instead, my brother got one. My hate increased more and more until I reached the point where I planned to break his bicycle. First, I cut the brake wires, waiting for him to suffer a little accident. After that, I hid behind a tree and just waited for the moment when I saw him. He was riding the bicycle and crossing the street. Suddenly a car came fast. He tried to stop, but the brakes didn’t respond. The car hurt him so badly that he died due to the accident, despite the fact that he was attended quickly by the paramedics. Everybody cried his about his death; my parents and relatives were very sad. Nobody took notice of my joy. My brother never did anything against me even though I never missed him. Since that day I grew up alone without anybody ruining my life. But it was no use. My parents never forgot him and always talked about him if he were alive. Over the years, I muddled along being the second son to whom nobody paid attention. Because of that, I decided to leave my home and study in a foreign country so far from my past, so far from my brother.

It was my 28th birthday when I decided to major in industrial engineering, and finally my parents gave me the attention that I had always wished for. I graduated from a good university with honors and then I got a high paying job working in the city and county of San Francisco in a prestigious design firm. Therefore, I thankfully was able to erase my brother from my world. But, one day in the office the phone rang. Normally my secretary answers the calls but unfortunately She was on her break. Well, I picked up the phone, and I said “Hello” waiting for a voice. But I heard in the most creepy voice, I’ve ever heard, “Hello, brother.”

Brother! Oh my God! I couldn’t believe my ears. Immediately I felt a terrible chill traveling in my body as soon as I hung up. I harbored so many questions that I could hardly breathe. I felt that my heart was jumping out of my chest. In that moment, my secretary came in the office and was scared to see me in such a panic state. She asked me how I felt and what had happened during her absence, but I couldn’t answer anything. My voice was broken. I was determined to keep silent for fear that somebody else would know my forgotten childhood years or worse. They would think I had gone mad. So I decided to delete the thought from my head and continue to enjoy life. However, the next day when I collected my mail, I found a strange envelope without a stamp or a return address. It simply said “To my brother from his older brother”. I was again dominated by the feeling of terror, and without realizing it, I crumpled up the envelope, then I took the car keys and I headed to the office. I opened the doors in a bad mood without greeting anyone. I sat at the desk and I turned on the computer ready to go to work, and that’s when hundreds of unread messages appeared that said, “ Hello, brother.” At first I thought it was some small joke by a colleague, and because of that, I started yelling at everyone. Because of my nerves running rampant, my boss sent me home for one month and suggested visiting a psychologist. But I refused. I didn’t have any intention of anyone knowing that I had killed my own brother, I couldn’t allow that. My brother is dead, and the dead never return. I thought this was a prankster’s trick. But I can’t believe that anyone could have seen me sabotaging bike cables that day. Moreover, I hadn’t said anything concerning the crime I had committed. The more my head kept spinning, the less I could find any logic to the strange messages which unfortunately didn’t stop coming. They appeared in letters, text messages and emails. In short, all my communication devices were with messages from him. It was so difficult to endure this nightmare that I started missing work for fear of seeing more notes from that ghost of my childhood.

I got fired and my bad luck continued. The bank froze my accounts, due to the fact that I had overdrawn all my credit cards. After that, I lost my house and ended up begging in the streets. Even so, the messages kept coming. Strange children passed to my left leaving messages, then disappearing without explanation. One of these many notes made me shiver to the bone. It was a warning that told me to get ready for a visit because we had accounts to settle. The warning note indicated precisely the date of his death anniversary: December 25th.

In my childhood, I had always looked forward to Christmas, but instead of joy, I was dying of fear. So I stole some fruit for the purpose of getting arrested and thereby avoiding the awful encounter with the ghost.

No one else was in the cell. The cops on duty regarded my presence as unimportant and ignored me. Despite my loneliness, however, I felt safe behind the thick bars. But the chiming clock warned that the twenty-fifth day of month 12 was approaching when my brother would soon appear. A sudden cold began to invade the premises. The light bulb began to flash unleashing a huge fear in me. I closed my eyes and I collapsed into a corner. Then, I heard a few steps approaching at a slow pace and the unmistakable voice of my brother echoed in the halls of the prison house. I had hardly opened my eyes to see what was happening around of me when I found the ghostly figure of my brother with me in my cell. So I looked up to view his face and that was when I ran into the worst nightmare I ever imagined. His eyes were intensely colored dark, protruding from the pale skin of his face. But what shocked me most was his mouth which was sewn with a wire that I instantly recognized. It was the same blue wire that I had intentionally cut in order to hurt my brother and which then ultimately led to his death. I wanted his forgiveness and to explain that it wasn’t my intention to kill him. but it was impossible. Each time I tried to speak a word, I only offered strained whistles and gurgles. My tongue was made of knots. My brother said nothing either, just looked at me and cracked a wicked smile as if thrilled to see me petrified. I didn’t know what to do or where to go because my muscles didn’t respond to any commands, and in my helpless situation. I resigned myself to pay for my sins or rather die once and for all. However, he placed his head on mine and for a moment the fear was gone. It was then I felt his hand. It had a small knife and with cruel violence he began to cut me leaving serious wounds on my arms and face. I blacked out and didn’t remember how long this hard ruthless punishment had lasted. I woke to find myself in Saint Luke’s Emergency Ward.

While I was still in critical condition, the police interrogated me about the bloody incident looking for a logical response, because no police recalled seeing anything unusual. They just found a knife and an envelope addressed to me. And when I related with details that my brother had returned from beyond to torture me, that explanation only served to convince them to send me to a mental hospital. There was no witness to attest to the validity of my version. So, it ends here, living with the community of the forgotten. According to the letter that I’m writing now, tonight will be the last visit. Tonight he is destined to take me. and it's one minute before his arrival. I have only this knife to defend myself, I know I must lose this final bloody battle. Therefore, I’ve decided to take away my own life before he comes through those doors. At this moment there is the first sound of twelve strokes, and again the lights begin to fail. Oh my God, my brother is here, help me God, please help someone there, nooo....

One hour later, his corpse was found and covered with wounds from all sides. A coroner doesn’t take much thought about it and stuffed the corpse into a black bag. Then the ambulance took him to the morgue.

Currently a nurse gives him the record of decease and reads quickly. She discovered that the patient suffered from schizophrenia caused by childhood trauma after the loss of his older brother whom as an adult, he claimed to see and hear, even receive messages of all kinds. She explained that his mental breakdown over time developed into depression and paranoia which led to a suicide attempt. She wrote in her report about this death that the evidence is a letter with a strange written message in his own blood that says “Goodbye everyone, I’m happy that my older brother is now by my side. Greetings from hell,” your forgotten brother.

The perspective in the nurse’s analysis did not adequately explain the contents of this last manuscript. The writing was inconsistent with the disastrous death of the patient. However, the coroner acted as a professional and only noted the strange phenomenon in his book.

No more doubt remained to disturb his reasoning intelligence. He ruled that it was just another case of suicide.


1. One Christmas, the narrator was disappointed because _________________________ .
a: his brother received a bicycle for a present, but he didn't
b: he received a bicycle, but it was damaged
c: his father promised to teach him to ride a bicycle, but didn't
d: his brother didn't lend him his bicycle

2. The narrator went to jail because he _____________________________ .
a: murdered his brother
b: left his parents
c: stole some fruit
d: stole money from his firm

3. The narrator's parents expected ____________________________ .
a: him to be the best
b: his brother to be the best
c: both of their children to be successes in life
d: neither of their children to succeed

4. The narrator's brother died in a bike accident because _____________________
a: he rode too fast
b: he rode in heavy traffic
c: the brakes were damaged, so he couldn't stop
d: he rode his bike over a cliff

5. Schizophrenia is ________________________________________ .
a: a stomach illness
b: a serious mental disease
c: an inability to control thoughts and feelings
d: a form of insomnia

6. After the narrator's death, the police _______________________________ .
a: apprehended the brother's ghost
b: found a note written in blood by the narrator
c: found the gun used by the murderer
d: found a broken bicycle next to the dead man

7. When the brother's ghost visited the narrator in prison, his mouth was _____________________
a: larger than his face
b: sewn with blue wires
c: missing all of its teeth
d: constantly moving, but with no words coming out

8. As a child, the narrator was extremely _____________________________ .
a: jealous of his brother
b: happy for his brother
c: full of admiration for his brother
d: interested in the same things as his brother

9. The Narrator was fired from his job because ______________________ .
a: he began acting strangely
b: he didn't show up for work
c: he became angry with his co-workers
d: his email was flooded with messages from his dead brother

10. The narrator was a successful engineer until ___________________________ .
a: he began to receive messages from his deceased brother
b: younger engineers competed successfully against him
c: he made a major error in a construction design
d: he met a woman who distracted him from his job