Maddie worked as a travel guide in Argentina and a teacher at several educational nonprofits in San Francisco before joining Mother Jones. She’s also written for Outside, the Bay Citizen, and the Rumpus. She manages Mother Jones' Ben Bagdikian Fellowship Program.
Various Artists The Hunger Games: Songs from District 12and Beyond Universal Republic
The soundtrack to the highly anticipated film version of The Hunger Games (opening Friday) draws inspiration from the futuristic Appalachia that's home to Katniss, our young protagonist. Funny, then, how it sounds much like a playlist one might create from some of this era's hottest indie, roots, and pop stars. Featuring tunes from the likes of The Decemberists, Taylor Swift, Arcade Fire, and Punch Brothers, the star-studded roster didn't exactly transport me into author Suzanne Collins' post-apocalyptic world. But The Hunger Games: Songs from District 12and Beyond has its moments. Its piercing lullabies, for instance, ring true to the story's emotional angst and loss of innocence, and...District 12 makes for good listening, even if its intended identity is never fully clear.
Set in a future Dark Ages, Collins' dystopic young-adult trilogy reimagines America as a feudalistic society controlled by a decadent Capitol where reality TV, plastic surgery, and brutal repression reign supreme. Katniss lives in one of 13 zones under the Capitol's control, a mining province called District 12. The plot surrounds a morbid annual competition forced on the impoverished districts, each of which—in a distant echo of Shirley Jackson's classic short story "The Lottery"—must select two of its teenagers to battle to the death in the Capitol's surrealistic amphitheater until one champion remains. The battle is broadcast as entertainment for the citizens of the Capitol, whose hunger for melodrama rivals the literal hunger of the combants and their families back home. Katniss is a scrappy and fearless heroine (weapon of choice: bow and arrow). The story centers on her struggles to protect her younger sister and mother, choose between love interests, and, oh, yeah, dodge her bloodthirsty opponents.
The meteorologist-turned-adventurer Felicity Aston has had a soft spot for Antarctica ever since she learned of the ill-fated British explorer Robert Falcon Scott, who loomed as large for her growing up, she says, as characters like King Arthur and Robin Hood. But unlike most of us, Aston never abandoned her dream of emulating her childhood hero. In January the 34-year-old became the first woman to cross Antarctica alone and the first human to traverse the 1,084 mile-long continent without dogs or snowmobiles—although, because she had two food drop-offs, Guinness World Records won't credit her for a solo crossing.
In any case, the trek took her 59 days of pulling two sledges behind her on skis, securing her tent against ferocious windstorms, navigating glaciers, and rationing a small tub of peanut butter—her only luxury. In the process, she fell even more in love with "that white place at the bottom of the globe." I spoke with Aston last month, two weeks after her return from the Hercules Inlet, where her journey ended.
Mother Jones: When did you first become interested in Antarctica?
Felicity Aston: I've always had this appreciation that Antarctica was somewhere where you went to prove yourself and where all these kind of legendary people were made. After university, I got a job with the British Antarctic survey and was sent to a research station for three years as a meteorologist looking at climate and ozone. And that kind of bit me with the bug, really. How do you follow that up? Certainly not a 9-to-5 in a London office somewhere.
Zona: A Book About a Film About a Journey to a Room
By Geoff Dyer
Andrei Tarkovsky's 1979 sci-fi film, Stalker, left such an impression on Geoff Dyer that he felt obliged to pay it homage decades later. The film—not a prerequisite for the book—follows three men through a postindustrial paradise toward a room where one's ultimate wish is granted. Even if Stalker bored many observers ("Tarkovsky is the cinema's great poet of stillness"), Dyer's musings on everything from on-set disasters to his desire to join a threesome make for a rich and wacky sojourn. At its heart, Zonais about how art changes perceptions: "If I had not seen Stalker in my early twenties, my responsiveness to the world would have been radically diminished."
In Virginia, a low-income pregnant woman who wishes to abort because her fetus has a totally incapacitating deformity or mental disability may no longer be eligible for the aid she needs to do so. On Thursday the Virginia Senate Committee on Education and Health approved House Bill 62, which would repeal the section of the state code that authorizes the Board of Health to fund abortions for pregnancies with certain complications.
The bill puts no restrictions on women who can afford to abort these types of pregnancies. That's why the Pro-Choice Coalition of Virginia (which includes NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia and the ACLU) has deemed the legislation discriminatory. "When a woman receives a catastrophic prenatal diagnosis, she should have the same options her wealthier counterparts enjoy to end the pregnancy safely and with dignity," the Coalition said in a press release sent out Thursday morning.
It's worth mentioning that the state shells over almost nothing for these types of abortions each year—in 2011, funding was approved for 10 abortions, costing the state a grand total of $2,784. Which makes the bill's passage that much more of a social, rather than a financial, issue.
HB 62 comes on the heels of two other Virginia bills aiming to limit abortions in the state. Just this week, the state's House passed a different bill redefining a "person" to include a zygote, which, as my colleague Kate Sheppard points out, could potentially make abortion and some forms of oral contraception illegal. And another Virginia bill would require all women to get an ultrasound before getting an abortion and be offered a chance to see the imaging, for apparently no other reason than the belief that women don't understand what's happening inside their bodies during pregnancies.
Regardless of race, age, or religion, virtually every American woman who's ever had sex has also used some form of birth control. Yet efforts to block millions of women's access to contraception have reached new heights. Below, a quick reality check on just how widespread (and uncontroversial) contraception use is for the overwhelming majority of American women.
We Are the 99 Percent
Contraceptive use among American women of reproductive age who have had sex (2006-2008). Note: Excludes natural family planning