The Appeal: Ugly Tentacles of Corporate Tyranny

    “A blatant page-turner… I guarantee you will hate reaching the end.” – Sunday Express
    What should a company’s billionaire owner do when ordered by court to pay a grieving widow a total of 41 million in damages? Why, buy over the juridical system, of course.
Meme caption: www.memes.com

The jury finds Krane Chemical Corporation guilty of water contamination, contamination that caused the death of Chad and Pete Baker, husband and son of plaintiff Jeanette Baker.

Not just the death of this father and son pair, we learn. As the book progress, we discover that the fictional Bowmore of Cary County is cleverly nicknamed “Cancer County”, and not for lack of substantiation. In fact, the cancer rate in Bowmore is 15 times the national average. (Pg 32)

And the people of Bowmore blame Krane Chemical Corporation for illegal chemical dumping, polluting their water, and ultimately, killing countless innocent lives.

And we learn that Krane Chemical is indeed guilty on all counts.

“Ratzlaff had a memo under lock and key. It was eight years old and had been prepared under his supervision. It ran for a hundred pages and described in gruesome detail the company’s illegal dumping of toxic waste at the Bowmore plant. It summarised the company’s elaborate efforts to hide the dumping, to dupe the Environmental Protection Agency, and to buy off the politicians at the local, state, and federal level. It recommended a clandestine but effective cleanup of the waste site, at a cost of some $50 million. It begged anyone who read it to stop the dumping.” (Pg 25)

In other words, shameless and calculated abuse- blatant negligence.

And yet, Mr. Trudeau, billionaire owner of Krane Chemical Corporation, vowed that “not a dime of (their) hard-earned profits will ever get into the hands of those trailer park peasants (residents of Bowmore and casualties of irresponsible chemical dumping).” (Pg 26)

    This fictional tale is a reflection of real world events, or so I gather, reestablishing my suspicions about this wicked and crooked world.

 

THE RICH AND POWERFUL EXPLOIT THE POOR AND HELPLESS

Photo credit: www.wikipedia.org
    Mr. Trudeau’s driver, Toliver, chauffeurs him with his black Bently to his Central Park penthouse worth $28 million, $38 million if you include the additional interior work.

His trophy wife is perched in her dressing room of the master suite while hairdressers fix her $1000 hairdo.

Draped on her size 2 physique (achieved with a daily routine of an hour with a trainer- $300 per, a hour of private yoga- $300 per and an hour with a nutritionist- $200 per) is a $25,000 Valentino dress. (Pg 33-36)

Oh, and she’s eyeing Abused Imelda, an intriguing piece of “art” that Mr. Trudeau eventually does purchase for $18 million (Pg 63).

    In other words, the Trudeaus are not exactly lacking financially.
    On the other hand, the Paytons- the husband and wife lawyer team that dare sue Krane Chemical Corporation- live in a 3 bedroom apartment of an old complex, and at least 4 months behind with rent (Pg 46-47). They own a “battered Ford Taurus with a million miles, at least one low tire, and constant click of a sticking valve” (Pg 19). Life was once financially liberating, but then this Baker case with Krane Chemicals sucked away their BMW, the Jaguar, the credit cards, their house… Eventually they took a bank loan of $400,000 to finance the case.
    For the Paytons, money is tight, and every dollar matters.
    And legal battles require money.
    So when the Paytons manage an impressive win over Krane Chemicals, Trudeau appeals to the Supreme Court, then pull every dirty trick in the book to ensure a heavy tip in his favour.
    Firstly, he’s aware of the Paytons’ fragile monetary position, that a slight jolt will send them down bankrupt-street. And push, he does, buying over the Paytons’ bank- with his mountain of cash.
    Next, why take a chance with wild cards like random Supreme Court judges, when you can rig the judicial election, strategically place a friendly judge, then sway the final verdict to your advantage, all for only $8 million.

Money talks.

Photo credit: www.dreamstime.com

 

RELIGION IS A CONVENIENT POLITICAL MANIPULATION TOOL

Ron Fisk is a small town lawyer from Brookhaven, Mississippi. Fits the good Christian mould perfectly, we gather, and ideal choice for Supreme Court judge candidate in conservative Mississippi.

The idea of running for judge is pitched to him by a low profile yet highly effective firm called Troy-Hogan, who are in the business of “reforming courts”.

“… That’s what we do, and we do it very quietly. When our clients need help, we target a supreme court justice who is not particularly friendly, and we take him, or her, out of the picture.” (Pg 117)

In the case of Krane Chemicals, at a price of $8 million, they place in the supreme court a judge that is willing to protect corporate liability at all cost. One that would vote in favour of overturning the $41 million dollar jury verdict, freeing Krane Chemicals of their lawsuit.

They already have a target- Judge Sheila McCarthy. They will replace her on the supreme court with one of their own. All they need now is a candidate.

And an angle- religious values.

Unaware that he was meant as a pawn in a bigger game, Ron bites the bait. “… change the judicial landscape of this country. And if we do that, we can protect the rights of the unborn, restrict the cultural barrage that is consumed by our children, honour the sanctity of marriage, keep homosexuals out of our classrooms, fight off the gun-control advocates, seal our borders, and protect the true American way of life,” (Pg 152). In other words, a series of religious-aligned jargon.

Ron is convinced. He will run for supreme court member to uphold Christian values at the juridical level.

And play the religious cards, he does, with his campaign manager as a conductor.  He kicks off his campaign at the pulpit of the church he worships. “I seek to serve on the supreme court because I cherish the values that we share. Values based on the bible and our faith in Christ. The sanctity of the family- man and woman. The sanctity of life… I am frustrated by the erosion of our values. They are under attack by our society, by our depraved culture, and… by our courts. I offer my candidacy as one man’s fight against liberal judges…” (Pg 277)

Of course they advertise his opponent, Judge Sheila McCarthy as a liberal (although she is not).

And the churches rally firmly behind him, completely oblivious to the corporate interest of Ron’s puppet masters.

The Christian support is obvious. At a political rally, his supporters hang huge ‘Save The Family’ banners, an attestation to Ron’s primary selling point.

The event begins with a prayer (religious), followed by gospel songs (also religious), and more sermons (very religious). And repeat. (Pg 421-422)

Photo credit: www.dailyherald.com

Pastor Denny Ott (pastor to many of the cancer victims) tries to warn Pastor Ted of the danger of endorsing a political candidate, given their status as a non-profit organisation (church). “Mr. Fisk is being used by a conspiracy of big business interests to stack our supreme court with judges who will protect corporate wrongdoers by limiting their liability,” he writes in a letter. (Pg 414)

Yet, blinded by religious convictions, they are unable to see past the marketed package (Christian judge) to the manipulative forces behind. They are unable to separate church and state.

Picture credit: www.reddit.com

 

GOOD DOES NOT ALWAYS OVERCOME EVIL

    This book has one certainty- the good and evil.
    Unlike books that reveal both the light and dark of its characters, John Grisham’s figures belong to either extremes of the good vs. evil spectrum.

The Paytons are good; Mr Trudeau and Krane Chemicals are evil.

Pastor Denny Ott is good; Pastor Ted is evil.

The people of Bowmore are good; The employees of Troy-Hogan are evil.

Other than Ron Fisk, who has pure intentions, but plays devil’s advocate to the evil Trudeau’s cause, the antagonists of the story are obvious.

The Paytons (good) fought with everything they had, putting at stake their finances, their firm, their family, their reputation, in an effort to liberate the oppressed people of Bowmore (good).

But Krane Chemicals (bad) couldn’t care less about the cancer clusters, the dying people, the pain, the suffering… all that matters is money.

And fight justice with money, they do.

And succeed.

Good loses. Evil wins.

    Mr. Trudeau gets his wish. Not a cent is paid to lawyer or plaintiff.

It Only Happens In The Movies: Love- A Feeling Or A Choice?

Photo credit: www.usborne.com

P.S.: Contains spoilers, fury, blatant honesty and slight profanity.

P.P.S.: If you’re here but resent my rambling, note only this: READ. THE. BOOK.

the book

I’m a chick lit junkie. Despite my resident identity as a feminist, I swoon like a fan girl at the cliches: (1) the rain kiss. (2) The airport kiss (3) The I-screwed-up kiss. And my personal favourite, (4)  the will-they-won’t-they-they-will! kiss.

I was genuinely upset finishing It Only Happens In The Movies. Not at the ending, because that was marvellous on multiple tiers.

Despite his (male love interest) Hollywood-worthy grand apology (for cheating on her), Audrey walks away. She made a choice. She can NOT be with somebody who could hurt her the way he did. The couple does NOT end up together.

And yet, it was a happy ending. Once again, Holly Bourne hits home with a pleasantly felicious finale.

No, the sorrow came latched onto the anticlimactic surge that ensue the flip of the last page; because with that bolded “THE END” concludes my journey with Audrey Winters.

The journey that had me laughing, hurting and fuming to various degrees.

Yet, I have an ugly confession: I wish Audrey’s father a gnarlier fate.

In fact, I wish I could put him in a body suit of red ants, tie him with up with ropes soaked in rat’s urine, then dye his hair green, place him in front of a starving horse, and watch as said horse take big chunks off his grassy-looking locks. I will then gift him nose hair extensions and coat his feet with black tar so every heavy-footed step he takes brings a risk of tripping over his flowing nose hair.

I cruised through the book brimming with anger at that fictional character that is a perfect personification of so many real life men in our world today.

In fewer words, I’m legit pissed at Audrey’s dad and his bitchy new wife, Jessie.

After years and years of marriage, Audrey’s ass hole dad leaves her mom for a wife “upgrade”. He discards them like yesterday’s rubbish. During the first half of the book, he convince Audrey that one “couldn’t help falling in love”. Apparently, “it’s not something you have control over” (Bourne, 2017, p131). Later, he adds salt to the wound by selling the house they live in, only because his bitchy new wife demands so.

Towards the end, Audrey’s mom end up in the hospital. In a flight of rage, she marches over to the house of the man that calls himself her dad yet really is nothing more than a sperm donor her dad’s house.

I’m cheering her on with every fibre in my being. Go, Audrey, go!

She starts by yelling at bitchy new wife. “Are you happy now, you HOME WRECKING WHORE?” (Bourne, 2017, p360)

Yes! Finally! I’ve waited 360 pages for this moment!

Bitchy New wife has the audacity to say “isn’t she (Audrey’s mum) pathetic? Hasn’t she let herself go? I’ll never let myself get like that. No wonder he left her.”

Sperm donor Audrey’s dad walks out and interrupts. So Audrey says, “I’M NOT TALKING TO YOU, I’M TALKING TO YOUR SLUT OF A WIFE.”

DOUBLE YES!!

Bitchy New wife just stands there, “vacant, placid, and passive”. Apparently how sperm donor Audrey’s dad likes his women. (Bourne, 2017, p361)

The exchange continues, and then my favourite part. “…How can you love her, dad? A woman who doesn’t mind breaking up a marriage? Who then tries to strip that family for everything she can get?” (Bourne, 2017, p362)

BINGO.

… “I’M STILL YOUR DAUGHTER, DAD, DON’T TAKE THE HOUSE. DON’T DO THIS. DON’T CHOOSE THAT BITCH OVER US.” (Bourne, 2017, p363)

And then sperm donor says, “Don’t ask me to choose between you and Jessie. Because I’ll choose her.”

He chose.

He could sell his affair as an eclipse of the heart- because love is a feeling- and “you can’t help your feelings” (Bourne, 2017, p315). Here’s news, old man: you sure as rain can “choose what to do about them”.

And “he chose. He chose to let them overwhelm him. He chose to leave (Audrey’s) Mum. He chose to leave (Audrey and her brother Dougie)”. (Bourne, 2017, p315)

He choose to forsake his marriage. To pull the rug that is stability from under two teenagers. Because, love is “a feeling and not a choice”.

on love as a choice and “the one”

Despite my love for ships and chick lit, I consider myself relatively realistic about love. I’ve never subscribed to the Disney version of relationships.

My first boyfriend donned a suit and ran through a mall with a bouquet of flowers for me. Obviously, I was touched, but “touched” summed it all. From my point of view, gestures like that were reserved for the big screen (or iPad screen)- and extremely awkward to live in real life. I know “awkward” was 90% of my inner turmoil when he scampered into TGIF, panting like a mad dog, flowers missing a petal or two. A scene like this would pen out perfectly in a Reese Witherspoon movie with I’ve Had The Time of My Life blasting in the background. But in reality, he looked so out of place in the penguin suit, I had to feign captivation.

In fact, on a later date when I received a loooong out of the blue sms (no WhatsApp then) informing me that he won’t always manage such over the top gestures- no doubt the aftereffect of his overthinking, I secretly sighted with relief. What, no more pretending to love every moment of slow dancing with you while hundreds of people stare and snicker behind our backs?

I now realise that he moulded our time to fit some cooked up fantasy, making assumptions about my love languages- forgivable since it was, after all, young love.

Yet, history repeats itself in the love language department when a later boyfriend march on with blatant disregard for mine. Ironically, one of the first things he said when we started dating was, “我知道女孩子要的是什么” (loose translation: I understand every woman’s desire).

He went on to carry all 6 shopping bags, leaving me none, despite my constant pleas- “just give me something to carry”.

“你的责任是牵我的手。” (Translation: your sole duty is to hold my hand), he replied.

Meme credit: www.pinterest.com

Sorry, was the eye roll too obvious? Oh, I didn’t mean to shoot that boogie in an attempt to mute my snort either, I apologise.

And after a bad breakup, he tried to win me back by cleaning my apartment- completely against my will. “Don’t do it,” I said. “I’ll clean myself.”

If he knew the first thing about me, he’ll know NOT to carry all 6 bags and NOT to clean my apartment- because it makes me feel useless.

And if you want good in my books, you do NOT make me feel useless.

So what he really did, was seal his fate and proved to me that he’s NOT the one.

Which is also how I realised that Dickson was the one (do you believe in the one?). At the yardstick 2 years mark- for the sake of a tangible timeline- he knew NOT allow me any feeling of uselessness.

With regard the one, I once grasp fervently to the notion that love is a choice and not a feeling. The one is a myth fit for fairytales, I insisted. Feelings fade, but a choice endures. When I was young, mama said: “don’t fall in love. Instead, grow in love- for you may fall out of love, yet to grow out of love is an improbable feat.”

When stuck in a love triangle with that mindset, I played the familiar cards- opting choice over feeling. Today, I readily admit there were more feelings for the guy I didn’t choose (Guy 1), not because I discerned him to be the one. Rather, he (Guy 1) hit the right buttons in degrees that exceed the guy I did choose (Guy 2). He (Guy 1) fed my narcissistic complex with words and ego-boosting praises: my love language. On the other hand, “chosen guy” (Guy 2) insisted on “chivalry acts” like opening car doors, completely oblivious to the dreaded feeling of uselessness it cause me.

Yet, I picked him (Guy 2). The guy who looked better on paper- because I convinced myself that love is a choice and not a feeling. So choose the one with better terms, right?- A blunder of epic proportions.

As events have it, neither guy was right for me- my greatest mistake is the failure to recognise it. Turns out, there IS a limit when choosing to love a guy whose core personality disgust you.

Then I met Dickson.

And I didn’t need a conscious effort to fall in love, because I just did.

But despite my exciting depiction of our relationship, there ARE boring days. Here’s a snippet from my wedding speech:

Racing heartbeats, sweaty palms… I remember this warm fuzzy feeling that saturated me. I won’t lie: I fell in love. Over time, the excitement reduced, but in its place: familiarity, security and comfort. Infatuation became deliberate love. The initial high kicks in every now and then, but other than that, boring monotonous love. And I surprised myself: I adore this boring monotonous love. I WANT boring monotonous love.

Is my want for boring monotonous love with him a testament that he is the one?

I don’t know.

What I do know, is the ease in which our conversations flow; that natural sync. The mutual familiarity with body language, and how effortless we read between the other’s lines.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, a previous post said “I once described our chemistry as proteins that fit perfectly with specific substrates. These proteins are called enzymes. We are enzyme and substrate. The key and lock fit perfectly. The two jigsaw puzzle pieces are apt”. Like the slices fell into place and everything just made sense.

There is a difference between a clash in opinions vs. personality. I may not agree with all his opinions, but I have zero issue with his character*. It is my personal theory that to qualify as the one, harmonious personalities are required, opinions and interest being secondary.

*I understand the difference between personality and character too. But in this context, I refer to the traits that makes him, him.

Of course, there is no perfect the one. When two individuals merge lives into one, work is inevitable- a controlled variable. The independent variable is the suitability of characters; and the dependant variable? – The amount of work required for a successful** relationship.

**Success is subjective, but for the sake of this relationship- a functional and relatively happy union.

SO MOVIES- YAY OR NAY?

The theme of the book is that movies are not realistic.

For a school project, Audrey interviews Jane, a relationship counsellor about her views on romance films.

The problem with romance films, she explained, is that they always finish premature. Drag it on and you will see the fights, the discontent, the jealousy, the unfaithfulness.

“The movie either ends when the couple gets together, or someone dies before you can see the relationship develop. So you only see this perfect idea of this couple. You don’t see the niggles that can become cracks and how those can become giant crevices over time” (Bourne, 2017, p312). At this point, I figured out why show ratings drop when popular ships finally transpire.

And then she addresses the trillion dollar question: is love a feeling or a choice?

“A feeling,” says Audrey- spoken like a woman in love.

Then Jane replies, “… ask any couple who’ve been married a few decades the same question? They all say it’s a choice. Every last one of them.”

“… They get up every single morning and make a conscious decision to stay with the person they’re with. On the good days, that choice is easier. On the bad days, they really have to fight the feeling in them to make the opposite choice. To leave. To find someone else. To walk away***.” (Bourne, 2017, p314)

Photo credit: www.lifehack.org

*** In Elizabeth Gilbert’s Committed (sequel to famed Eat, Pray, Love), she presented an analogy of Greeks vs Romans. “The perfect Greek lover is erotic; the perfect Hebrew lover is faithful. Passion is Greek; fidelity is Hebrew” (Gilbert, 2010, p306). A Greek remains in a marriage for love, a Hebrew stays out of duty and religious/moral convictions. With that in mind, 2 people remaining in marriage might not be a sufficient datum as to the health of their relationship.

20 years old Chow Ping insisted that love is a choice. 27 years old Chow Ping says, love is a Kit Kat ice cream. Eat through the sweet, fluffy joy to meet the cold hard centre- the Kit Kat chocolate wafer. Yet, the chocolate wafer’s texture does nothing to cheat its taste- more sweetness.

Different textures, same sweetness.

Love- a choice AND a feeling- both equally sweet.

Photo credit: www.osem.co.il

Reference:

Bourne, H. (2017). It only happens in the movies. London, UK: Usborne Publishing Ltd.

Gilbert, E. (2010). New York, NY: Penguin Group.

What’s a Girl Gotta Do?: My Favourite Moments

 

Picture credit: www.goodreads.com

Because revolutions don’t launch themselves, let alone feminist ones in this patriarchal world.

In Holly Bourne’s What’s a girl gotta do?, Lottie is determined to succeed where NATO (no action talk only) feminist like yours truly, fail. She wants to change the world. Our fearless activist reasons that society’s treatment of women can be allegorised into a pyramid.

Photo credit: www.britannica.com
Here’s a random picture of pyramids.

At the tip of the condensed structure are “honour killings, FGM, women dying in illegal abortions, worldwide structural inequalities…” (Pg 79). Happenings that make us wanna scream foul and punch the perpetrators in the gut.

However, we fail to realise at the base of this pyramid, are layers and layers of seemingly unimportant mindsets and habits. “Silly sexism”, if you will. Things like slut-shaming, or misogynistic lyrics of a rap song (Pg 79). These unknowingly set a foundation for practices that violate women rights to the very core.

In an effort to combat this tendency, Lottie and gang sets afloat a month long Project #vagilante to call out every act of sexism or gender inequality that surfaces.

Below are my favourite moments from What’s a girl gotta do?:

a) Showing male scum who’s boss.

The story kickstarts with a couple of blue collared workers. Lottie is dressed in jeans and a modest jumper (note 1). Her sole mistake? Red lipstick. *gasp*

These men harass her. They corner her so she’s wedged between two hormonal males. “Shy, are you? Shy girls don’t wear lipstick like that.”

The encounter shakes her. She runs aways silently, at first…

… But later returns dressed as a “child prostitute” (not the wisest, I admit. But my fictional heroine, nevertheless).

The perverted male scum naturally took the bait. So she reports them to their superiors, and threatens to call the police. “(What you did) was sexual harassment. I should be allowed to walk down a road without some men… letting me know I’m attractive… to wear whatever I want and walk wherever I want without being threatened or objectified, or even bothered.” (Pg 56)

You go, sista!

Note 1: Her outfit, although irrelevant to the subject at hand, is mentioned because of the public notion that a girl’s dressing is to blame for any bad thing that happens to her. Fun fact: It. Does. Not.

A micro-mini that screams “check out my butt cheeks!” might warrant a couple of glances, but is absolutely NOT a harassment invitation. And unless she literally verbalises “please rape me”, NOTHING else, certainly not her choice of attire or red lipstick, is an “invitation to rape”.

b) Lottie stops shaving.

Photo credit: www.smartfem.com

Cognitive dissonance, she explains. For example, liking cute piglet pictures on Instagram but eating bacon; or rushing to yoga class.

In line with that, why watch rom coms yet shun the idea of Prince Charming? Or wear make up, when we girls rely on substance rather than sheer looks?

“Wearing makeup,” Lottie concludes, “don’t make me feel oppressed.” She doesn’t wear it to up attractiveness points with the guys. She just simply, well, love makeup.

Shaving, on the other hand, makes her feel like a hypocrite. Which is how the decision was made to lay off the shaver for a whole month. (Pg 152-156).

Salute, salute, salute.

I have ALOT of body hair for an ethnic Chinese girl. As a kid, it was the constant focal point of my self-consciousness. There came a point when I wore stockings to school in the intense Malaysian heat, just to hide my leg hair.

The public’s concept of how a woman (or man) should look is the culprit here. If I were a boy, even just for a day, I probably wouldn’t give two hoots about all that unshaven glory (lack of, maybe).

Do we allow society’s perception to shape our actions? Furthermore, ones based on a mere social construct like gender (story for another day)?

c) My pubes are cheaper than yours.

Or maybe, it’s marketing. Marketing that exploits the public’s willingness to pay more for products *dramatic pause* in pink.

Today I Found Out compared men and women’s shaving utensils. They concluded that besides slight design features, there is virtually no difference between the two. Other than the colour, of course.

Lottie and friends will have no such thing. They marched into a local drugstore (pharmacy) and created a diversion while the rest of the gang stick posters on the razor shelf. These posters say “identical cheaper razors that way- just be a man”. The sign is complete with a cartoon dick and speech bubble: “my pubes are cheaper than yours” (Pg 190).

Poor minimum wage drugstore employees though.

d) I’m too thin to menstruate.

Once again, public perception is king.

“Not on our watch,” says Lottie and friends. They dress skinny mannequins at the clothes store in T-shirts that say “#vagilante” and “I’m too thin to menstruate” (Pg 193).

The unhealthy body image media and culture shaft down our throats is disgusting, to say the least. Size negative (because zero doesn’t cut it) models plastered all over magazines and billboards. And apparently, the antonym to “hot” is “fat”. True story.

What’s even more revolting, is the young age when brain washing begins.

Fun fact: it is anatomically impossible for a woman with Barbie’s proportions to walk on two limbs or carry anything heavy. In fact, she is so tragically underweight, that she can’t menstruate. *a million shudders*

Girls, muscles are the new sexy.

e) Lottie and Will’s first kiss. (Pg 233)

Because, I live for ships.

And also, cognitive dissonance.

 

Reference:

Bourne, H. (2016). What’s a girl gotta do? London: Usborne Publishing Ltd.