Saturday, December 30, 2006

Books I Read in 2006

The Claw recently posted a list of the best books he read in 2006. He and I started keeping (only semi-competitive) lists of the books we were reading back in 2003.

Now, this may seem excessive, but I'm going to post all of the books I read in 2006.

Erm, their titles, I mean.

But I'll post them at the bottom so as not to mess up this post. And at the top I'll post the Best, the Worst, and the Honorable Mentions. Oh, and not all of the books are actually books - some were just really long articles. All in all, I read approximately 53 (not counting each article as a book).

Which means that if I started reading 'hardcore' at age 8 in grade 3 (which I did) and read the same number of books each year and live to be 88, I'll only have read 4,240 books by the time I die which is no where near good enough!!!


The Best Read of 2006
Howard's End by E.M. Forster
The Night Watch by Sarah Waters
To Sail beyond the Sunset by Robert A. Heinlein
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will be Killed With Our Families: Stories from Rwanda by Philip Gourevitch
A Room with a View by E.M. Forster

Honorable Mentions
The Knight (The Wizard Knight, Book 1) by Gene Wolfe
Colour Blind by Catherine Cookson
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Book 6) by J.K. Rowling
POSSESSION: A Romance by A.S. Byatt

The Worst Read of 2006
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? by Edward Albee
On the Road by Jack Kerouac
Angels & Demons by Dan Brown*
Awakening the Virgin by Nicole Foster*
Seventh Son (Tales of Alvin Maker, Book 1) by Orson Scott Card

The Books of 2006

The Knight (The Wizard Knight, Book 1) by Gene Wolfe
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? by Edward Albee
The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester
Howard's End by E.M. Forster
The Night Watch by Sarah Waters
Eloise: The Ultimate Edition by Kay Thompson, Hilary Knight
The Borrowers Afloat by Mary Norton
The Borrowers Avenged by Mary Norton
The Borrowers Aloft by Mary Norton
The Juniper Game by Sherryl Jordan
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
A Room with a View by E.M. Forster
Colour Blind by Catherine Cookson
A Little Piece of Ground by Elizabeth Laird
Written on the Body by Jeanette Winterson
Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon
Ozma of Oz by L. Frank Baum
On the Road by Jack Kerouac
Foundation by Isaac Asimov
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
Hexwood by Diana Wynne Jones
Elsewhere by Will Shetterly
Crisis Volunteer Training Manual by Klinic
Nevernever by Will Shetterly
Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman
To Sail beyond the Sunset by Robert A. Heinlein
Seventh Son (Tales of Alvin Maker, Book 1) by Orson Scott Card
The Lions of al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay
Darfur – Assault on Survival: A Call for Security, Justice, and Restitution by Physicians for Human Rights
When Neutrality is a Sin: The Darfur Crisis and the Crisis of Humanitarian Intervention in Sudan by Nsongurua J. Udombana, from Human Rights Quarterly
We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will be Killed With Our Families: Stories from Rwanda by Philip Gourevitch
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Book 6) by J.K. Rowling
Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation in Africa: Issues and Cases by Lyn Graybill
Healing Genocide by Timothy Morgan
After Arusha: Gacaca Justice in Post-Genocide Rwanda by Alana Tiemessen
The Introduction of a Modernized Gacaca for Judging Suspects of Participation in the Genocide and the Massacres of 1994 in Rwanda: A Discussion Paper by Peter Uvin
Consolidating Democracy Through Transitional Justice: Rwanda’s gacaca courts by Aneta Wierzynska
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
Understanding Contemporary Africa by April A. Gordon and Donald L. Gordon
Silent No More: African fights HIV/AIDS by United Nations Department of Public Information
Why Are There So Many Civil Wars in Africa? Understanding and Preventing Violent Conflict by Ibrahim Elbadawi and Nicholas Sambanis
Native Son by Richard A. Wright
Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
Stolen Life : Journey Of A Cree Woman by Rudy Wiebe, Yvonne Johnson
POSSESSION: A Romance by A.S. Byatt
The Adventures of Tony Millionaire's Sock Monkey by Tony Millionaire
Angels & Demons by Dan Brown
Peril at End House by Agatha Christie
The Passion by Jeanette Winterson
A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray
Awakening the Virgin by Nicole Foster

* Unspeakably terrible. I stopped reading it part way through.
* This must be the worst book of lesbian erotica ever! Why oh why didn't I notice that the description said
"amateur writing" and "true tales" before I ordered it on Amazon!

Things that have been making me happy lately...

The Knight & The Wizard, by Gene Wolfe - At first I didn't like them because they felt very video-gamish in plot and because Wolfe likes to kill off a lot of minor characters that you've grown attached to. But then about a third of the way into the first book, the main character thinks out loud to himself " was like a big video game, except I was on the screen. Or virtual reality maybe. I sort of felt at my head for the gear, but there was not any..." Once I read that I felt better. I decided to read it as if it were just a glorified video game plot made into a book (or a glorified TV- show-to-book...*cough* Neverwhere *cough*) and then the plot and the sometimes forced-sounding dialogue became more acceptable. And now - part way through The Wizard - I've actually let myself start to like some of the characters and I'm finding myself reobsessing over medieval concepts of honor and 'knightliness.' (As for the minor characters - well, a bunch were killed in the first half of book one but now things seem to have calmed down. Some minors even made it into book 2 - wow!)

The Fellowship of the Ring, the movie* - No, not the entire series because, though it pains me to say it, I think The Return of the King was just slightly less good then the others. I think that Fellowship was the best. It might be that I feel this way because 1) I just rewatched the extended version of Fellowship for the first time in over 1.5 years and 2) in the Fellowship, the Quest has just begun and so there seems to be more light then darkness to it, whereas Return of the King is so very dark in places, especially the Mordor bits with Sam and Frodo and 3) the Fellowship seems to capture the perfect combination of humour and heart-wrenching emotion (as well as splendidly showcasing the archetypal human flaws, but then, that's more Tolkien's doing then Jackson's).

However, I haven't rewatched The Two Towers lately so perhaps tomorrow I'll be rambling on about how The Two Towers is the best of the three! I do seem to do an awful lot of mind-changing!

Battlestar Galactica, the 'reimagined' TV series - I love how its grittier and darker then any Star Trek series ever was. (Actually, I think the only series that I could compare it to somewhat would have to be Buffy - but only to certain seasons, particularly 6 and 7.) And I like how I can sometimes predict what's going to happen in an episode not because the plots aren't well-written or challengingly tricky enough but because the writers/producers aren't big on soap opera storylines - the kind that drag on and on, where nothing is ever resolved.

I could say more about BSG... Much more. Oh, and about FFXII too! But another time...

*Colin and I started watching the extended version of Fellowship on December 25 with E & M and tonight we finished it up with J's kids. Good grief! Little kids sure can be distracting! Over the course of an hour and a half I lost count of how many times I had to say "Shush!" to A and of how many tumbles and somersaults and yoga positions she went through on the carpet as she tried to find the Perfect Movie-Watching Position.


I'm not complaining, really. (Well, maybe just a little teensy bit.) I think its good for me to be around Real Children and not just the ones who are tiny perfect figments of my imagination. Its very... educational. And cautionary.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

At Night

How can I call out? How can I shout?
In silence everything is fragile as glass.
Having laid its head on the receiver,
the telephone sleeps soundly.

I'll walk across the sleeping city
through a snowy side street.
I'll go up to your window,
quietly and tenderly.

I'll protect you from the street sounds with the palms of my hands,
the streets ringing with drops of melting snow.
I'll put out the lamps to keep your eyes in sleep.
I'll command the spring to put the nightsounds in order.

So, what kind of person are you in sleep!
Your arms have grown so weak
Fatigue is concealed in the wrinkles of your eyes—
tomorrow I'll kiss them so no trace remains.

I'll watch over your sleep 'til dawn,
then leave in the clean snowy morning,
forgetting about my tracks in the snow,
through the dry leaves of last autumn.

Daniel Halpern with Albert Todd

(Just before Jade closed down LOTL, I dashed in and grabbed everything I thought I might wish I had kept - including almost all of the poetry, particularly the ones written by us. I can't remember who posted the above, but its one that's always stuck in my head - that first line especially.)

Friday, December 22, 2006

Just in time for Christmas...

Its official: the final book will be called Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

"I'm writing scenes that have been planned, in some cases, for a dozen years or even more," Rowling wrote. "I don't think anyone who has not been in a similar situation can possibly know how this feels: I am alternately elated and overwrought. I both want, and don't want, to finish this book (don't worry, I will)."

In unhappier news, I fear I need a new computer. This one is deathly slow.* Eeep.

* Meaning I feel like smashing it to death.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Sick of shopping? Feeling mauled at the mall? Consumed by consumerism? Board the "Burnout Bus!"

"While many of us don't do the shopping routine, we still have a heart for the people lost in the maze of the search for the perfect gift," said Enns, the Winnipeg-based founder and publisher of Geez magazine and former Adbusters staff member."We will have a couple of chairs to sit on, a church pew, a couple of ministers from the United Church of Canada on hand ready to talk with people who feel stressed out, who feel they've lost a sense of meaning in this season."

If we all buy nothing this Christmas, won’t a lot of people lose their jobs?

Yes, and now we’re getting close to the core reasons for why Buy Nothing Christmas is necessary in the first place: Our economy is based on a consumer-driven capitalism. And because it’s the only economy we have right now, if we stop shopping we stop the economy. Hence we had President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Jean Chrétien telling citizens to get on with their lives after the September 11 terrorist attacks and shop. But there are pitfalls of our current economic system: We work too hard to save money to buy things we don’t really need, we buy into a standard of living that that reinforces the gap between the rich and poor, and we ruin the earth to a point where we’ll eventually all lose our jobs anyway.

from the FAQ on How to Have a Buy-Nothing-Christmas
Thoughts on Kids & Christmas...

Yikes, I wouldn't have thought we'd be hearing about robot rights so soon! Does this mean we're entering... the Future?

So anyhow, speaking of the future - when I have kids* I'm going to do all sorts of weird experiments on them. Like, denying them TV and home schooling them (if I can afford to...) and having a weekly family study night (in a non-JW way, which should be interesting) and enrolling them in community service activities.

Along those lines, lately I've been thinking about how it was perhaps quite beneficial to my sister and I to be raised without so many (stupid?) forced holidays. When I think of the countless birthday presents I was saved from having to buy, I feel... relief! One part of me thinks that birthdays are a nice idea. Another part of me thinks that there's a fine line between celebrating the day of one's birth and excessive, obligatory present buying.

It all comes down to the fact that I feel present buying and even celebration should be motivated by desire rather then a feeling of compulsion. I really don't like the idea of my children feeling that they are entitled to gifts at certain times of year and feeling that they can gluttonously ask for (or demand) presents galore.

I also don't appreciate that everyone celebrates this present-giving festival all at once. As a result many of us don't associate Christmas with peace but rather with crazed shoppers.

So my plan is to skip presents at Christmas when I have kids. Okay, maybe one or two presents each, but that's it. Instead the focus is going to be on family and cultural activities - e.g. taking time to go sledding, having a stay at home cooking day, decorating the house, having a family & friends Christmas party, going out to hear a choir, taking a drive (or walk) out into the country.

Please note: I could also list off numerous "good works" that I'd like to do with my kids but those aren't going to be limited to the holiday time. (Ideally, I'd like to replace the JW service with a new version of service. More on what I associate with true service some other time; my quotes may give you some insight.) You see, last year, Karina and I called the Salvation Army at Christmas time to offer ourselves as willing workers in their soup kitchen. We were treated very rudely and flat out rejected and that's when it dawned on us that Christmas was the ONLY TIME OF YEAR that most people volunteer! We naively thought that everyone else in the world would be so busy with their families at Christmas that no one would be out helping! We figured since we had no family to spend the holidays with and most of our friends were busy with their own families that we would do some useful work instead.

I still feel rather peeved about the way the SA person brushed us off, but at least I get it now. Still, if they'd been a little friendlier and had suggested that we volunteer at a different time and mentioned a time when they really could use the help they would probably have acquired some new volunteers. Instead they just assumed that we only wanted to volunteer at Christmas so that we could feel we'd 'done our part.'

Ah, well. If anyone does know of any charities/organizations that could use some help around Christmas (just tell them we're Jewish, for Pete's sake), please let me know.

*A new era of non-fundamentalist Christian children will arise!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

I Don't Wanna Grow Up...

When I’m lyin’ in my bed at night
I don’t wanna grow up
Nothing ever seems to turn out right
I don’t wanna grow up
How do you move in a world of fog that’s
always changing things
Makes me wish that I could be a dog
When I see the price that you pay
I don’t wanna grow up

I don’t ever want to be that way
I don’t wanna grow up
Seems that folks turn into things
that they never want
The only thing to live for is today…
I’m gonna put a hole in my T.V. set
I don’t wanna grow up
Open up the medicine chest
I don’t wanna grow up
I don’t wanna have to shout it out
I don’t want my hair to fall out
I don’t wanna be filled with doubt
I don’t wanna be a good boy scout
I don’t wanna have to learn to count
I don’t wanna have the biggest amount
I don’t wanna grow up
Well when I see my parents fight
I don’t wanna grow up
They all go out and drinkin all night
I don’t wanna grow up
I’d rather stay here in my room
Nothin’ out there but sad and gloom
I don’t wanna live in a big old tomb on grand street
When I see the 5 oclock news
I don’t wanna grow up
Comb their hair and shine their shoes
I don’t wanna grow up
Stay around in my old hometown
I don’t wanna put no money down
I don’t wanna get a big old loan
Work them fingers to the bone
I don’t wanna float on a broom
Fall in love, get married then boom
How the hell did it get here so soon
I don’t wanna grow up

Lyrics by Tom Waits by way of Zota

If you wanna see Tom Waits sing it (although I like the version sung by Holly Cole better)

Monday, December 18, 2006

The Claw has posted about the disappointment that is the Eragon movie.

I can't say I'm surprised. I picked up the first Eragon book and couldn't even get through the first chapter - it just seemed like a not very good rehashing of LOTR. (Even worse, it almost reminded me of Terry Brooks! *shudder*)

Anyhow, among the comments in response to Elliot-the-Claw's original post, I said (yes, I'm about to quote myself...):
...Its nice to get kids involved in fantasy and adventure but most are anyhow, regardless of what movies they see. It bothers me that there is such a lesser quality standard for childrens' books and movies then there is for adults.

I've been watching a lot of kids movies lately with Aelys and so many of them are just rubbish - pathetic dialogue, illogical plot, no moral lessons - just tripe.

It makes me think that just screening movies for violence and sexuality and profanity isn't necessarily good enough. You have to screen movies for intellectual worth too!

I'm not saying that all kids movies should teach things but even a kids comedy should have a challenging level of humor rather then taking a dumbed down, thinly veiled 'South Park' approach.

Further to this - I think that if we want to raise intelligent, creative children we shouldn't just be plopping them down in front of the TV and letting them watch sub-standard "entertainment." Challenge children and realize that they are capable of a lot more then we tend to give them credit for. I've read in more then a few places that this concept we call "childhood" is a relatively new thing and is particularly isolated to North America/Europe. In my African Development class one time I remember we were talking about child soldiers and many of the Canadians in the class were ranting about how terrible it was to steal innocent children. The African people in the class didn't disagree that it was awful to concscript young people into such terrible battles but they did question our notion that a twelve or thirteen or fourteen year old boy could not be considered a man.

That said, in many ways I think our concept of childhood is wonderful - I think its a fantastic thing to give children 18 or so years to play and explore and learn without being tied down to the more difficult of 'adult' responsibilities. But those years should be formative ones used to help children grow into citizens of the world. When children turn 18, adulthood and adult responsibilities should not come as any shock. Adulthood should not be about sending children out into the 'real world,' as if for the first time. (After all, its not as if anything particularly magical happens when one reaches one's 18th birthday!) Rather, perhaps it should be about conferring youth with new privileges and new opportunities - ones that they don't have to dread but can be excited about. It should be about receiving, after much preparation, the right to full participation in all aspects of human life - civil, social, and otherwise.

More on this another time, gotta get back to work. But I will add one last thing... there are a growing number of activists working to have the voting age changed in their countries to 16 rather then 18 or 21. I'm sure you can deduce the reasons for that. The push is towards giving youth more of a say in the world, rather then less.

I say, if we're going to give youth a say at an even younger age, let's start informing them.

Friday, December 15, 2006

If I should learn, in some quite casual way...

If I should learn, in some quite casual way,
That you were gone, not to return again--
Read from the back-page of a paper, say,
Held by a neighbor in a subway train,
How at the corner of this avenue
And such a street (so are the papers filled)
A hurrying man--who happened to be you--
At noon to-day had happened to be killed,

I should not cry aloud--I could not cry
Aloud, or wring my hands in such a place--
I should but watch the station lights rush by
With a more careful interest on my face,
Or raise my eyes and read with greater care
Where to store furs and how to treat the hair.


(The painting is The Bayswater Omnibus by George W. Joy via ArtMagick)
I dreamed I went to Heaven...

I dreamed I went to Heaven, once, and in the bookshop there
I went, the way I always go, to R.
Even though I've all the Renault, even though it isn't fair,
Even though I know there won't be any more.

And there were six new Renaults, six new books I've never seen,
Six unknown books she'd written since she died,
And I picked them up and held them feeling happy as a queen,
And a voice said, "Have you looked the other side?"

"There are four new Tolkiens waiting, he could never write them fast,
There are thirty Heinleins, written at his best,
There is Piper, there's Dunsany, there's more Sayers here at last,
And O'Brian, and Zelazny, and the rest."

And I staggered there in Heaven, as my arms and eyes spilled o'er,
And I said "Now where to start I just don't know,
I am rich in wealth of Heaven's books, here gathered on the floor,
Amd four hundred years of Shakespeare still to go!"

(June 2000)


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Mary Poppins goes horror.

Wondermark challenges our indignation over super-chain book stores.

Have you heard about the new Pentecostalgon?

Annnnd.... Anactoria has no time to post anything very 'meaningful' on this blog right now because she is too busy obsessively playing Final Fantasy XII - the most beautiful video game in the world!*

* Sorry, ICO...

Thursday, December 07, 2006

You know you're really sick when six pain killers have absolutely no effect on your physical state.


(I know, I know - I should be braving the pain naturally and suffering in silence like the gods intended, right?)

In other news...


All this time I've been under the misimpression that the 2006 Beowulf & Grendel movie was the one with the screenplay written by the not-as-awesome-as-Gene-Wolfe-but-still-pretty-fracking-awesome Neil Gaiman! My expectations were crushed when it received terrible reviews (from critics and reliable friends alike) and I still haven't watched it.

However, today I was catching up on my pop trivia by reading Wiki bios when I stumbled across this:
"Beowulf is a motion capture film starring Ray Winstone and Angelina Jolie with a scheduled release date of October 2007"


I blame all of you who know me well! Why didn't you use your Esper powers and correct my error earlier?

In any case, I suppose I can take pleasure in the fact that my disappointment was all for naught and I now have 2 hopefully-good-movies-cross-your-fingers to look forward to - Stardust and Beowulf.


* Hey, I never said my blog would be meaningful or that I'd post in it often. I mean, I do aim for meaningful but so do a lot of other bloggers... *nudge* *nudge* (Forgive me, I blame the cold.)

Monday, December 04, 2006

Stating the obvious

Did you like The Confessions of St Augustine? Well, then you'll probably hate Sherrilyn Kenyon's Night Pleasures. Is Immanuel Kant's The Critique of Pure Reason on your bookshelf? In that case, stay clear of Confessions of a Shopaholic!

The Unsuggester safeguards you from book you may be foolish enough to think you'd like... but won't.

Of course, its not by any means foolproof! I happen to think a person might enjoy Screw the Roses, Send Me the Thorns and still find Little Women a good read, too!

And yes, before you ask. Yes.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

On this half lit day
With your crown beneath your wings
Ev'ry word just echoes
And the empty world sings

Where have you gone, my feather light heart?
I never imagined I could leave.

In the glistening
Of the lost and open sky
Tiny piece of you sits
Simple wish waits for reply

Where have you gone my feather light heart?
You mustn't forget what love can see.

"Where" by Lisbeth Scott

(It sounds much better put to music.
I emailed my cousin today. Cross your fingers for me.)

Sunday, November 19, 2006

The strains of "O Canada" being sung in a shrill female voice can be heard emanating from our living room. In the kitchen Colin stands pounding t-bone steaks with a hammer. J and A relax on our new couch with beer in hand.

That's right - its Grey Cup Sunday.

The biggest hockey night in the world, or so I'm told.

And once my baked ziti has finished... baking, I'm taking off for a Social Justice/Buy-Nothing-Day- potluck-party-meeting.

Perfect timing if you ask me...

Friday, November 17, 2006

A quote for my sister...

"I am grieved for your clerk. But it is all in the day's work. It's part of the battle of life."

"A man who had money," she repeated, "has less, owing to us. Under these circumstances I do not consider 'the battle of life' a happy expression."

"Oh, come, come!" he protested pleasantly. "You're not to blame. No one's to blame."

"Is no one to blame for anything?"

"I wouldn't say that, but you're taking it far too seriously. Who is this fellow?"

"We have told you about the fellow twice already," said Helen. "You have even met the fellow. He is very poor and his wife is an extravagant imbecile. He is capable of better things. We - we, the upper classes - thought we would help him from the height of our superior knowledge - and here's the result!"

He raised his finger. "Now, a word of advice."

"I require no more advice."

"A word of advice. Don't take up that sentimental attitude over the poor. See that she doesn't, Margaret. The poor are poor, and one's sorry for them, but there it is. As civilization moves forward, the shoe is bound to pinch in places, and it's absurd to pretend that anyone is responsible personally. Neither you, nor I, nor my informant, nor the man who informed him, nor the directors of the Porphyrion, are to blame for this clerk's loss of salary. It's just the shoe pinching - no one can help it; and it might easily have been worse."

Helen quivered with indignation.

"By all means subscribe to charities - subscribe to them largely - but don't get carried away by absurd schemes of Social Reform. I see a good deal behind the scenes, and you can take it from me that there is no Social Question - except for a few journalists who try to get a living out of the phrase. There are just rich and poor, as there always have been and always will be. Point me out a time when men have been equal - "

"I didn't say - "

"Point me out a time when desire for equality has made them happier. No, no. You can't. There have always been rich and poor. I'm not fatalist. Heaven forbid! But our civilization is molded by great impersonal forces" (his voice grew complacent, it always did when he eliminated the personal) "and there always will be rich and poor. You can't deny it" (and now it was a respectful voice) "and you can't deny that, in spite of all, the tendency of civilization has on the whole been upward."

"Owing to God, I suppose," flashed Helen.

HOWARD'S END by E.M. FORSTER (pg. 151, 152)

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Cars are evil.

Last winter I bought my first car.

I admit the decision was made impetuously. It was mid-December, thirty-below, and I was sick of taking the bus and begging for rides (what can I say, I'm a wimp - I hate being cold, I think my ancestors were crazy to move to this country, so much for hardy Ukrainian stock! *sigh*).

With help from some boy friends, I located a snazzy blue 1995 Volkswagen golf. Its beautiful shiny blueness called out to me, as did its silver rims and its fancy CD player. Even though it lacked power doors, power windows, air conditioning, was a standard transmission, and was over my price limit ($5,500), I ignored all criticisms and rushed to buy it.

A little less then a year later and I've spent almost $1,500 in repairs and a recent 'car check-up' reports that I will soon have to spend even more as my car is evidently experiencing a mid-life crisis.

I love my car. I love driving it. I love having the freedom to go wherever I want, the freedom to drive my friends around, go out in the middle of the night, accept weird work shifts, take night classes, explore whenever I please - all without having to first consider dreadful bus schedules or the weather.

(Oh, and I love my winter tires, too - those were at least a smart bonus.)

But I want to finish school. Ideally in this lifetime.

And when I think about the fact that the money I spent on my car and on repairs for it could have been used to pay for almost 2 years of full time study (or alternatively, to go to the Maritimes 6x, Europe 3x, and Japan at least 2x) I feel a little... nauseous.

Plus, now that my place of employment is being moved to a new building, I will no longer have a parking spot. Which means the idea of driving my car to work each day is no longer going to be just plain selfish and environmentally unfriendly but also completely unfeasible.

So, the way I see it I have 2 options. I can stop cold and give up my car addiction completely by selling Bluebell (my car's name - stop laughing! my family has always tended towards farm animal sounding names for their vehicles!) and buying a bus pass.

OR I can stubbornly dig in my heels, sell my 'expensive' car and buy a tiny, old, "beater" to use only for school and other 'fun' stuff...

What to do, what to do.

[P.S. While I bask in indecision, please let it be noted for all you who read this that I will happily accept any offers of 1) money, 2) car repair assistance or 3) free advice on buying a better used car!]
South Africa's parliament has voted to legalise same-sex weddings - the first African country to approve such unions

I don't know about the rest of you, but it makes me happy!

Especially since...

This is unusal in Africa where homosexuality is largely taboo..."

Monday, November 13, 2006

'The Revenge of Ned Flanders'

"If you win by moral values, you can also die by moral values. By courting conservative Christians with a family values agenda, Republicans set themselves up as the party of superior morality. And when their glass house started to crumble, the very voters they had worked so hard to become active participants in the democracy turned on them."
The BBC reports on the swift change in American power

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Ban organized religion, says Elton John.

Now, the question is - do I send this to my parents?

They could add it to their "Peace & Security!" pile of clippings!*

(*This isn't going to make much sense to any of you non XJWs.)

Thursday, November 09, 2006

The phrase "things fall apart" has been ringing in my ears the past couple of days.

It doesn't take a lot to make me happy and so Sunday was a very good day - I enjoyed having a room full of friends to sit with again. Especially nice, geeky ones who like a good scavenger hunt once in a while.

But other recent occurences have been been bringing me down a bit. My sister left on Monday night. And I spoke with my parents for the first time in six or more months (I stopped keeping track) on Friday and then saw them on Saturday. I learned from them that my beloved cousin's marriage disolved less then a year after it began due to some sort of abuse... but they weren't clear on what.

I didn't think I cared anymore about what went on in that 'other world' but it seems I still do because I'm so pained to think of her pain. And I want to call her but... at the same time I'm afraid to.

Another thought in my mind of late is that even friendships which survived the transition won't necessarily last forever, even though I hope they will.

People change. Am I changing?

Maybe so slowly that I don't even notice.

Monday, November 06, 2006

The Polls are in...

... and the Scavengirthdayparty was a success.

Its funny how fast good days go by. Yesterday is all a blur now.

A good blur, though.

A blur of lots of laughter and excitement.

Getting things started initially was a bit stressful. From past experience in organizing things like scavenger hunts or treasure hunts, I have learned that the breaking point of the event is when everyone gathers together to divide into 'teams.' With a fair number of people - some of whom know each other, some of whom don't, some of whom get along with everyone, some of whom don't - the challenge lies in creating teams in which no one will kill each other and everyone will have fun. The catch for the planners/hosts of said event is that sacrifice may be necessary in order for everyone else to have a good time. The sacrifice may be in using yourself as the 'social glue' in a team that would otherwise be dysfunctional - being the glue means everyone else gets to have fun but it can be a precarious balancing act of willed tactfulness and self-control.

Yesterday, when the team organizing process started to get out of control I decided to go and hide in the kitchen until it was all over, cowardly leaving it to Colin and Sarah to get everything settled. It was decided to use the democratic method of names drawn from a hat and soon I was being passed a handful of team member names to hold onto. (Later I learned that the hat method was not as simple as it was meant to be due to some confuffle on our dear ninja's side. *sigh* Silly ninja.) However, democracy was soon forfeit as everyone began to barter themselves onto more desirable teams in which they would know more people or feel more comfortable.

I soon ended up on a team (and we won't say how) that was altogether desirable - one person I didn't know but wanted to know and two people I knew and liked very much and wanted to spend more time with.

Soon everything was settled and there was a mad dash for the door to put on shoes, grab coats, take instruction sheets... and the race began.

Whoops! I mean, there was no race! See, Sarah and I had the good fortune to participate in a scavenger hunt a few weeks back. It was a car rally style scavenger hunt - like ours was - but in this one you didn't need to get out of your car to get answers for the scavenging questions. This may have appeared to be a brilliant idea for the Hunt organizers, but in reality it was a huge pain as it involved slowly driving a car up and down streets with other cars honking behind you as you frantically scanned buildings for the answers to clues. And as the driver in that particular hunt, it was no fun at all because of the hell of having multiple directions yelled at one and having to avoid hitting other vehicles... you get the picture.

So yesterday's hunt was much more relaxed as the oh-so-smart Sarah had intelligently planned the hunt around a few key locations in Winnipeg so that we could park and leave the car behind and walk around for what we needed.

To be continued...

Friday, November 03, 2006

I've been thinking a lot about school (as usual) and about what to do once I finish (as usual). A lot of times it seems that I think more about school then I actually am in school or doing school work...


One of the after-degree possibilities that interests me is the JET program (which has captured my imagination ever since I heard about it from a boy I used to date who was getting his Masters in English).

And so a few days ago I started to look up info on it and in the process I stumbled on to this absolutely awesome blog called An Englishman in Nyu-gun. Sadly, the guy who wrote it has stopped writing since leaving Japan and returning to the UK but there are still a good two years of posts to wade through.

It seems a common thing that 'expats' encounter cultural differences between our Western world and that of Japan - and Lewis the Englishman writes about many of them with hilarity.

My three favorite anecdotes so far are: bear bells, Japanese national holidays, and the samba-playing coffee machine.

In the spirit of global brotherhood and inter-cultural understanding, go and check them out!

Thursday, November 02, 2006

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.


Its simple but powerful. Isn't it?

I'm debating wearing the poppy this year. Its the meaning behind it I always feel confusion over. By wearing the poppy am I simply saying "I remember" all of the soliders (and civillians?) who've fallen in times of war? Or by wearing it am I silently giving my agreement and approval of warfare and saying that I believe that patriotism is a cause worth dying for?

I've never worn one before and I'm not sure I should start now. Supposedly there are white poppies you can get but I'm not sure where to find them...

I guess my fear is that by not wearing a poppy I'm being... disrespectful, unappreciative. I hate the idea of the older generation thinking the younger generation really has forgotten - because by no means have I.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Lately, I've been indulging my Anglophilia by reading a lot of British novels and watching a lot of British movies (and by a lot, I mean some because UNICEF/Boo stuff is currently consuming a lot of my time). I finished up Jane Eyre and loved it. Then I watched and read A Room With A View. Most recently I watched the BBC miniseries adaption of Middlemarch and now plan to read the book.

I'm finding that instead of being put off by movie versions of books, lately I'm being so inspired by them that I go out and find the book immediately after watching the movie - just so that I can read for myself all of the details that I know have been left out of (or botched up in) the screen play.

Anyways, Middlemarch was excellent. Extremely long, but excellent. It took me almost two and a half weeks to get through the entire thing - I think it was about 7 hours long! Which was annoying (damn those movie late fees!) but wonderful - to have something that good not be over in an hour. Happiness is a British miniseries!

(And chocolate - one cannot forget chocolate.)

There's a quote at the very end of the Middlemarch series that gave me tingles and the cinematography of the scene is beautiful itself, too.* So when Colin came home from the studio, there I was, scribbling it down into my notebook with the close-captioning on. I'm not even certain its a direct quote from the book; guess I'll find out when I start reading it...

"And Dorothea...

She had no dreams of being praised above other women, feeling that there was always something better which she might have done, if only she had been better, and known better.

Her full nature spent itself in deeds which left no great name on the earth, but the effect of her being on those around her was incalculable.

For the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts, and on all of those Dorotheas who live faithfully their hidden lives, and rest in unvisited tombs."

George Eliot's MIDDLEMARCH
*And when I Googled it, I was led to this discussion group of mostly women who gathered to discuss what the movie and book meant to them.... back in 1997.

I know its just a small insignificant page, but when I stumble onto some neat-little-coincidence-of-a-site like that I'm struck again by how amazing and cool this crazy thing called the Internet really is. Especially a site where it feels like you've come across... well, footprints in the sand as it were: you can see people were gathered there once, where they are now no one knows, but cyber traces of them remain - their words have taken on a strange kind of immortality.
I love this story...

The most visible action of CORE in the movement was the Freedom Rides, designed to test the federal law prohibiting discrimination on interstate public transportation. Small interracial groups boarded Greyhound and Trailway buses, beginning in Washington, D.C. They found that the "colored" and "white" signs had been removed in the bus stations of Virginia and they encountered no problems until they crossed into Alabama.

In Anniston, Alabama, their bus was fire bombed and the riders were beaten with sticks and had rocks thrown at them as they tried to get off. One sixty-year-old man went into cardiac arrest. When the riders were taken to the hospital, no one would treat them. The hospital demanded that they leave, but this seemed impossible because an angry crowd surrounded the building. Fortunately for the riders, a caravan of fifteen cars, led by Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth of Birmingham, showed up to rescue them.

As Hank Thomas, one of the Freedom Riders recalled "everyone one of those cars had a shotgun in it. And Fred Shuttlesworth had got on the radio and said – you know Fred, he's very dramatic – 'I'm going to get my people… I'm a non-violent man, but I'm going to get my people!"

The issue of armed self-defense highlighted one of the many differences in approach among those committed to non-violence. CORE and SCLC members were always unarmed during demonstrations and actions. Some like King and Lawson were committed to principles of non-violence as a way of life. Others like Shuttlesworth were committed to non-violence as a tactic, but reserved the right of self-defense. For hundreds of participants in demonstrations, non-violence was a useful and pragmatic tactic. Ernest Green pointed out the logic of non-violence in his situation as one of nine black high school students daily surrounded by hundreds of potentially hostile Whites – police and parents, as well as the other students at Little Rock's Central High. The white South had always held the upper hand in terms of guns and arms. To respond in kind would have been disastrous. Furthermore, the unarmed presence of demonstrators revealed the violence inherent in maintaining white supremacy. When dogs and fire hoses were turned on praying people in Birmingham, it was clear to even casual observers who the aggressors were. Or as King wrote in his "Letter from a Birmingham Jail," "we who engage in non-violent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive."

from Chapter 11 "The Civil Rights Movement: Participatory Democracy and Nonviolence in Action" in the book The Missing Peace: The Search for Nonviolent Alternatives in United States History

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Did you know that of the original, ancient Seven Wonders of the World, only the Pyramid of Giza remains?

Did you know that there's a competition under way to choose the new 7 Wonders of the World?

Go here to cast your vote!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

There's nothing more attractive then church-strutting, is there?

(Yes, yes, I know - but I didn't really want an answer.)

(The image is from Final Fantasy's Advent Children - one I've had saved on my PC for over 3 years now.)

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Book bargains are wonderful!

Two recent trips to McNally have resulted in the following:

The Borrowers Afloat, The Borrowers Aloft, The Borrowers Avenged - all for just $3 each, thus completing my collection of the series

The Cider House Rules by John Irving ($7 - I like Irving even though he seems to incorporate the same odditities into each of his books over and over again, leading me to conclude that he has a serious fascination with prostitutes - particularly those from the Red Light District in Amsterdam; but he does write about other things and he's a very good story teller.)

The Sad Truth About Happiness by Anne Giardini ($7 - this was my risky purchase as I know nothing about the book)

The Knight by Gene Wolfe ($7)

Dragon's Blood by Jane Yolen ($4 - another risky purchase; I mistook it for a book that I'd read and loved back in junior high; sadly, this is not the book I was thinking of nor did I find it at all intriguing when I picked it up last night and attempted to get into it. It seems Jane Yolen is a hit-and-miss author at best and in my experience usually a miss.)

* * *

Conversation with the bookstore guy (B.G.) when I went to pay for The Borrowers Avenged and Gene Wolfe's The Knight:

B.G. "Oh, Gene Wolfe! He's great."

Me: "Yep, I know! My favorite by him is... the Long Sun... no, wait the New Sun... well, whichever one has Severian in it."

B.G. "I don't think I've read that one..."

Me: "Have you read this one?" [pointing to The Knight]

B.G. "Oh, yeah!"

Me: "And is it... fairly comprehensible?" [laughing]

B.G. "Well, you know Gene Wolfe - every sentence he writes is deep." [Pause] "Its definitely not a beach read."

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Schwarzenegger signs landmark global warming bill

"We will create a whole new industry that will pump up our economy."

(Of course, I'd be all over that statement if it wasn't such happy news! Especially in contrast to this - argh!)

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Who knew?

Evolution isn't incompatible with faith; human goodness is a result of natural selection; atheists are drastically outnumbered. All this and more in...

The New Naysayers

Atheists "are seen as a threat to the American way of life by a large portion of the American public," according to a study by Penny Edgell, a sociologist at the University of Minnesota. In a recent NEWSWEEK Poll, Americans said they believed in God by a margin of 92 to 6—only 2 percent answered "don't know"—and only 37 percent said they'd be willing to vote for an atheist for president. (That's down from 49 percent in a 1999 Gallup poll—which also found that more Americans would vote for a homosexual than an atheist.) It is funny how atheists can cause such a fuss and yet be such a minority.

But its actually one of the responses to the article above that I find more interesting (or at least arguable) then the article itself....

Wordverter airs his grievances on atheist thinkers - here

(And, to make much sense of anything further past this point you'll probably want to go and read what he has to say first.)

Now, how to word this...

Let's just say I find it... funny when Christians (usually of the more liberal/moderate/academic sort [is that too wide a generalization?]) grow annoyed at the idea of anyone taking what the Bible has to say - heaven forbid - literally.

Its true that some books, not just the Bible, can be read on many levels and literalism is not the only way to interpret a text.

However, when most of us first pick up a text, the first time we read it we usually assume we should be reading it literally. Reading for symbolism or figurative meaning, etc - that comes later, usually after at least one read in which you (correctly or incorrectly) assume literalism.

And so when Wordverter says that choosing to take the Bible in a literal way "doesn't speak well" for Harris - he seems to be implying that no educated/informed(?) individual would read the Bible and do so. I'm not sure what that goes to say about a great many Christians who do accept the Bible's literalism, but I've grown to wonder why a book like the Bible is thought of by so many to require the assistance of numerous manuals just to be understood.

The fact of the matter is that the Bible is a... I'll just go with the word "mysterious"... a mysterious book that can be (mis)understood on any number of figurative or literal levels.

Because divine inspiration or not, its just not the most easily comprehensible book in the world.

Which is why so many different Christian denominations exist.

Which is why so many Christian academics exist - all with their different interpretations and translations.

Back to the point.

The point was - can you really pick on an atheist for taking the Bible... literally?

Moving right along...

Wordverter comments:

The same questions are posed [by the atheists in the article]. If there's a God, how can there be evil in the world? [Italics mine] Really, this question presupposes a lot; it's a loaded question, in fact, which is why I dislike it. Presumably God would not allow disasters, either natural or man-made, because He's so gosh-darn good. But because these do occur - well, how could there be a God? So goes the reasoning.

Well, actually that wasn't the question. What Harris asked was: "How can anyone believe in a
benevolent and omnipotent God who permits a tsunami to swallow 180,000 innocent people in a few hours?" (pg. 1, par. 4)

I personally think it's a reasonable question and I would think even the most stalwart believer must wonder about it at some point in their lives - particularly in the face of mass tragedy.

For Christians are told that "God is love" and takes no delight in evil and injustice. And yet still they exist all around us. Many (or most, should I say?) Christians take comfort in Christ and a Biblical promise that suffering and injustice are temporary.

But is it so impossible to accept that not everyone can find such comfort in the Christian ideal of Christ dying for our sins and redeeming us? Some cannot reconcile the idea of a loving god with ongoing human misery. Perhaps its just a trait of we imperfect humans to want instant solutions (and really this debate goes back as far as the Garden of Eden, doesn't it?), but just as Harris said - the idea of a loving, all-powerful god (which Wordverter himself may
not believe in but which many, many do) allowing humanity to suffer for whatever reason is abhorrent and unbelievable to some.

Wordverter goes on to give an illust
ration of a human parent, who possesses greater wisdom and foresight then their child and then says:
Now, if it's so easy to understand that fact, why isn't it so easy to see it in religious thinking? Maybe God knows something we don't? - what a concept! Maybe God doesn't have to play by our rules. Indeed, why should He? I'm not saying I can sit back and cheerfully watch all the hell on earth around us today, like some Dr. Pangloss, only that the combined intellect of those atheists - the combined intellect of the human species, for that matter - is pretty paltry when held up against the wisdom of God.
Of course its easy to see it in religious thinking.

But speaking of presupposing, this confidence in god's greater wisdom, greater knowledge, greater intelligence, etc. - all of these are suppositions based on faith.

Faith in a god that agnostics and atheists don't believe in. Faith grounded in a book that they see no reason to put any trust in. And so you can use the illustration of a wise parent all you like - its not going to sink in as anything more then a trite analogy that just doesn't make sense to some who are looking for a more satisfying answer then "Father knows best."

With that in mind should it really come as any surprise that Harris can acknowledge religious faith and belief but cannot understand it?

And here is where I start to wonder whether there is any point in addressing any of Wordverters' remarks because he, we, and the atheists are all coming from such different places. *

And as the wise Conciliator recently commented:
I'm not sure if ANY two people whose presuppositions differ can ever find a common reasoning ground! Isn't that one of the insights of postmodernism?
Wordverter himself has caught on to almost the same idea when he says in frustration...
What we find here, then, is a position that is unassailable - unbeatable because it refuses to fight. Walled itself up in its own circle of logic, it is impenetrable. Kind of like conspiracy theories.
... except that what he seems to forget is that the same can be said for both sides.

Both sides refuse to accept what the other holds as unassailable fact - and so how can there be understanding?

(No, really, I want to know. I'm taking Conflict Resolution this year and any attempts at an answer would be interesting. [smile])

As for the rest of Wordverter's post - I'm not going to bother with most of it as (I think) it really comes down to a matter of personal opinion (e.g. "What I find most striking about the so-called debate is how much religious thinkers have developed over the years, and how little the atheists have come along.")

However, I do want to respond to this one last comment:
I get the feeling that most arguments against the validity of the Bible come from people who are very uninformed about the Good Book, reading it selectively, partially, or not at all.
Speaking of tiresome conclusions, this is one I'm sure growing tired of - this somewhat arrogant assumption that anyone who misunderstands or chooses not to accept the Bible has simply never read it before. Or if they have read it, there comes the more insulting insinuation that they must have misunderstood it. Or read it with severe bias. Or any other number of things.

The point is, there exist individuals who have indeed read the "Good Book" cover to cover* and while they may have been intrigued and impressed by it as a marvelous work of some historicity and not a little literary worth, have not been moved to the point of faith or conversion.

I sure would be curious as to how many of those who identify themselves as Christians have read the Bible in full.

Because just going on what I remember from my earnest preaching days, I could make the (equally unfounded?) statement that what most Christians know of the Bible is acquired solely from sermon.

However, I won't make that statement because while it might be quite accurate, I can still hold out hope that it is not.

In summation, I agree with Wordverter (*gasp*) that there were some highly annoying parts to that MSNBC article.*

  • Harris' condescending statement "Tell a devout Christian... that the book he keeps by his bed was written by an invisible deity who will punish him with fire for eternity if he fails to accept its every incredible claim about the universe, and he seems to require no evidence whatsoever."
  • Harris' (almost hopeful sounding) comment that "many readers will expect, or hope, to see him burning in hell." (As well as his hilarious request that "the name of his current university not be publicized" for his own protection.)
  • Dawkin's belief that "the impulse for generosity must have evolved while humans lived in small bands in which almost everyone was related, so that goodness became the default human aspiration."

* Even for my personal satisfaction, I mean. Ha.
* Of which I am proudly one.
* Which, in typical media fashion, ultimately takes no position whatsover but instead plays each side off the other, eschewing any attempt at harmonious relations, and instead glorifying happily in "highly inflammatory material."

God's World

by Edna St Vincent Millay

O world, I cannot hold thee close enough!
Thy winds, thy wide grey skies!
Thy mists, that roll and rise!
Thy woods, this autumn day, that ache and sag
And all but cry with colour! That gaunt crag
To crush! To lift the lean of that black bluff!
World, World, I cannot get thee close enough!

Long have I known a glory in it all,
But never knew I this:
Here such a passion is
As stretcheth me apart,—Lord, I do fear
Thou'st made the world too beautiful this year;
My soul is all but out of me,—let fall
No burning leaf; prithee, let no bird call.
Airport Oversecurity

How to get kicked off an airplane....

1 - Wear a shirt with Arabic writing on it

2 - Pray

3 - Read Harry Potter

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

And now for a fantastically written review of Sarah Polley's new movie which is based on a short story by Alice Munro...*

“The idea that you can be a sexual being past the age of 45 is something we don’t deal with in cinema,” says Polley. “And we don’t do devotion, either — what it looks like in a real way, as opposed to a Hollywood version."
Sarah Polley discusses her moving directorial debut, Away From Her

*I wanted to throw in some endorsements here - for Sarah's movies in general but My Life Without Me in particular; but I'm feeling very lazy & incoherent today so elaboration will have to wait. *yawn*

Monday, September 11, 2006

Just to keep track of things...

Eve has responded to my earlier post (which touched on original sin and homosexuality) on her blog - here.

As always, its an interesting read but part of it tells me we are still not on the same page (understanding-wise).

Or actually, maybe we are, because when Eve says...
"In order to figure out if something is okay to do, you can't just ask whether people who seem like good upstanding citizens (according to some culture or subculture's definition of "good"!) want to do it."
... I am in agreement.

However, the fact that Eve thinks that I would disagree with the logic in that statement tells me I haven't presented my thoughts as clearly as I would like.

But that's okay; this is a good challenge for me as I often spew out ideas without thinking them through clearly enough. (Zip it, Elliot!)

So, it may take me a few days but I plan on writing a post that 1) goes back to the original question I had asked on Elliot's blog * (which may seem like an annoying repetition but isn't meant to be as I really don't think its been fully answered; however, I am also willing to accept that it may never be) and 2) clarifies my position on why I am... pro-gay.

I may also delve into the question of whether or not a Christian and a non-Christian can ever truly find a common reasoning ground but that may be a topic that is over my head! :P

*Anactoria said...

Her position has always really disturbed me.

Does her choice of inaction mean that she believes god would condemn any action on her part towards her lesbian desires? Since her sexuality is part of her, like it or not, does that mean she abhors a part of herself? Or believes that god does?

Its funny. How can someone be a prolific, well loved, innovative author and yet be such a very bad writer?

I've been reading Foundation by Isaac Asimov and though I went in with high hopes and great expectations I'm ending up disappointed.

As with everything I've read so far by Aismov, the concept is an very interesting one and the plot has many witty twists and turns but the execution of it all is carried out so poorly that the ideas which should be captivating, instead end up being dull when read.

Asimov's writing puts me in mind of cold steel, uncomfortable medical procedures, and stern faces...

I suppose I'm saying his writing is to me... robotic.

Lifeless. Lacking in warmth.

Also, where are the women???

I'm 25 pages from the conclusion of the first Foundation book and with every chapter a new cast of characters arrive (since the book transitions from generation to generation) but of those, all have been men!*

How can you write an entire book without a single woman character? Not even the wife of a main character or a secretary!*

* * *

"In 1940, Asimov's humans were stripped-down masculine portraits of Americans from 1940, and they still are. His robots were tin cans with speedlines like an old Studebaker, and still are; the Robot tales depended on an increasingly unworkable distinction between movable and unmovable artificial intelligences, and still do. In the Asimov universe, because it was conceived a long time ago, and because its author abhors confusion, there are no computers whose impact is worth noting, no social complexities, no genetic engineering, aliens, arcologies, multiverses, clones, sin or sex; his heroes... feel no pressure of information, raw or cooked, as the simplest of us do today; they suffer no deformation from the winds of the Asimov future, because it is so deeply and strikingly orderly."

(from the 1985 Washington Post)

*Actually, since writing this a woman has appeared for all of three paragraphs. She is simpering and silly, the trophy wife of a monarch. She does nothing for the plot.
*And the same men! Different names but the same men - simply reincarnated over and over with different positions and labels but the same attitudes and manner of speaking.
(Of course, since this is the Foundation series we're talking about I guess it could be argued that Asimov did this on purpose to show how his whole psychohistory theory can be played out over a milennia. Strong, similar leaders arise from every generation, shaping history as predicted by Hari Seldon.)

Sunday, September 10, 2006

"It ain't no sin if y'all truly love each other. "

Rogue - the (lapsed) Southern Baptist?

Friday, September 08, 2006

Something old and something new...

An older, excellent post (one of my all time favorites) from Rose and Rock on whether who one desires is a matter of choice (relating to homosexuality)

I particularly like this thought and there really will have to be some kind of a post here on bisexuality soon (if you're reading, do please read the entire R&R post so as to get the full context):

"Sexuality is so complicated that I think we have to concede that desire exists along a continuum, when we speak of what is given to us; what we actually have control over is a much smaller continuum. If you’re like me, you desire women; if you’re gay, you desire people of the same sex; if you’re bisexual, you desire both and can “choose” one or the other; but all of us find it exceptionally difficult, perhaps even impossible, to change what we discover early on in life, so long as we’ve been open to its discovery and not repressing it. A bisexual person can choose to have sex with only one gender, but cannot choose to desire only one gender, and can make a “choice” in behavior only because restricting your sexual appetite to one gender does not force you into celibacy."

I also like R&R's use of this Aquinas quote:

"First, the truth of Scripture must be held inviolable. Secondly, when there are different ways of explaining a Scriptural text, no particular explanation should be held so rigidly that, if convincing arguments show it to be false, anyone dare to insist that it still is the definitive sense of the text. Otherwise unbelievers will scorn Sacred Scripture, and the way to faith will be closed to them."

And as for the 'something new'...

"Sex is powerful, sex is important, sex is profound, sex matters": from Noli Irritare Leones

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it,
and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking successive autumns.
George Eliot

No spring nor summer beauty hath such grace
As I have seen in one autumnal face.
John Donne

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

On the constitutional right to wear t-shirts...

Get this: Raed Jarrar, a man of 'Iraqi descent,' was recently stopped by US airport security (specifically from the airline JetBlue) on his way home to California and forced to change his clothes.


Because his t-shirt had a slogan written in Arabic script.

According to airport security staff, wearing any shirt with Arabic writing is comparable to "wearing a t-shirt that reads 'I am a robber' and going to a bank."

Such impeccable logic.

To have Raed tell the story go here.

This bit is particularly amusing:

Inspector Harris said: "We cant make sure that your t-shirt means we will not be silent, we don't have a translator. Maybe it means something else". I said: "But as you can see, the statement is in both Arabic and English". He said "maybe it is not the same message". So based on the fact that Jet Blue doesn't have a translator, anything in Arabic is suspicious because maybe it'll mean something bad!
'Red Hot & Filthy Library Smut'

Oh, Jan and Elliot will be drooling over this one...

sex libris

(Its work safe, don't worry!)
"Ninety per cent of the cluster bomb strikes occurred in the last 72 hours of the conflict, when we knew there would be a resolution."

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Recently Elliot made a small post in his blog regarding Eve Tushnet* which set off a string of comments between myself and a number of other readers of The Claw. Elliot's been an Eve-reader for a number of years and we've discussed her position a few times before on Eunoia.*

Eve's position has always disturbed me and so a few days ago I made the following query on Elliot's blog:

"Does her choice of inaction mean that she believes god would condemn any action on her part towards her lesbian desires? Since her sexuality is part of her, like it or not, does that mean she abhors a part of herself? Or believes that god does?"

To clarify, its not the celibacy portion of Eve's position that I'm trying to pick on. Its the fact that she seems to consider her celibacy from homosexual sex a 'cross' she must bear in order to live as a faithful Catholic. That's the part that gets to me (but of course, this is Catholicism we're talking about and so there are many components of it that disturb me), the fact that Eve presents as a lesbian but that her homosexuality is not something she is proud of, rather it is something of a thorn in her flesh.*

As someone who was raised as one of Jehovah's Witnesses ( just like The Claw), I was taught that homosexuality was biblically condemned and punishable by 'everlasting condemnation', etc, etc. If a JW happened to be gay,* they most likely would either 1) hide the fact indefinitely and try to continue with a "normal" JW life or 2) make their 'condition' known to the appropriate authorities (i.e. congregation elders) who would then take the steps to counsel, caution, and overall reaffirm condemnation of homosexual acts. Were the individual to ever begin to act on their desires without remorse, they would be expelled from the congregation. Their parents would cease to speak to them. They would be utterly cut off from their family and friends.

I'd always believed the above was totally normal, approved by god, and all that good stuff. In fact, at that point in my life, if my best friend had suddenly confided to me that she thought she might be having 'homosexual longings' my first instinct would most likely have been to turn her in so that she might be guided and prayed with (and for) and hopefully turned away from the course that led to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.


I remember the night that my view of homosexuality was altered irreversibly.

In my family, I am the eldest of two sisters and when I was still a JW I was encouraged to be a role model for my younger sister and to support her spiritually as much as possible. This I generally did with much earnestness.

One night (one of those nights Before All Hell Broke Loose as I tend to think of it), my sister and I had a passionate argument on whether homosexuality was wrong. That was the year that my sister had acquired not only a boyfriend but also a library pass and was causing no end of worry to my parents. I was worried about the very real possibility of her 'falling out of the Truth' - the JW way of saying, 'leaving the religion. ' Its not a pleasant thing to have to think about the possibility of having to shun one's own sister.

And so when she started to say she'd been thinking and didn't believe that it was right to condemn homosexuality... Well, alarm bells went off, I started to panic, and I began to argue strenuously on the JW side for all I was worth. We tossed the usual lines back and forth for a while "The Bible says in Romans..." "Its genetic not acquired..." "Its unnatural..." "Its not hurting anyone..." etc. etc.

This went on for quite a while and I was getting pretty upset. Finally my sister asked me, "Are you telling me that if you had a child and they were gay that you would shun them? Or think that they were evil for having been born with those inclinations? And try to force them to be straight?" *

I considered for a moment and forced myself to be totally, totally honest. I don't think of myself as having very maternal instincts but even so, I do believe I have an adequate capacity for imagining.

I think that was one of the starting points that resulted in my sister, her boyfriend (my best friend), and myself leaving the JWs, joining Elliot in the cruel, cruel immoral world, and subsequently being shunned by our former friends and family.

Fast forward four years later and the thought of Eve - or ANYONE! sorry, don't mean to pick solely on Eve here, she's just closest at hand - choosing to submerge and despise a part of herself so as to be a good Christian... Well, I think its awful. This is very much my emotions talking, because my head knows that its not like Eve is a rarity. There are many gay folk who choose (or are coerced) to be celibate for religious reasons. Many religious people truly believe that being gay is unnatural, disgusting, wicked, something you can change,* something that is abhorrent to god, something that is scripturally condemned, something you should hate about yourself and in others - should they display the inclination.

Now, in my mind, a lot of this goes back to the Christian notion of original sin, made most famous in the Genesis account - of which (yes, thank you, Elliot) there are many, many interpretations but of which the most common seems to be that - to put it very generally - something happened long ago (literal or figurative - you decide) that changed humankind's position from perfect to imperfect, without sin to sinful. Before that point in time, all was possible and we were approved by god. After that point in time, humans were flawed and in need of redemption and god's grace and... Christ's death.

And now to trim this whole thing down to a finishing point...

Earlier as part of this whole discussion, I made the comment on Elliot's blog:

"I suppose it would help if I believed in the whole concept of humanity being an inherently sinful and "fallen" race but I don't. The Genesis account of man's supposed fall from grace doesn't mesh with my idea of a god of love."

And Eve (very kindly took the time and) responded to it. I'll just quote the part I would like to respond to. Hopefully I can be brief...


"But what I want to know is, what does she call it? What does she call that yearning toward hate, that reverse heliotropism? What does she call the damage that all of us bear from the time of our earliest memories?"

In answer to 'what would I call' the undoubtable fact that humans are capable of much evil... Well, I would call it the way things are, the way things have always been. (I'm not sure that's quite what I personally believe but it makes more sense to me then the idea of original sin.)

"Chesterton, I think, said something about how the Fall is the only obvious Christian doctrine (?). And I agree with that so thoroughly that I'm not even sure how useful I can be in defending the idea--it's too central to my experience of the world. I mean, look: My mom works in prisoners'-rights litigation. If you want to be convinced that humans are not naturally good, I am hard pressed to think of a better school.

People want, and want very badly, a lot of really awful things. The fact that somebody really, really wants to do something, or believes it's embedded in and intrinsic to him, doesn't actually tell me very much about that thing's moral worth.

But I absolutely, 100% deny that humans are naturally bad or evil, either. If that were true, how could we ever long for or recognize beauty and truth? To be Fallen is to share both the legacy of Adam's sin, and the memory of his happiness. (See--right up there in the title, I promised you some Augustine, and there it finally is....) Something's gone wrong with us, yes, but somewhere deep down we do still remember what it was like to be able to love. And by following that submerged and occluded memory, we can learn to accept grace, and be healed, and love truly."

I don't believe that we - humanity - are naturally bad or evil. Or naturally good and innocent - so perhaps we're on the same page there. One thought on this is, perhaps we are born everything. When it comes to our actions, our inclinations, what if we are born with the potential for everything? * (Or at the very least, to determine whether the course of our life will be good or bad.)

I don't understand this drive, this need to believe that at one point we were more then this. That at one point we were some sort of ideal species/creation.

Yes, we are born 'flawed' if by flawed you mean that we become diseased and our bodies eventually run down, collapse and die.

But sinful? I will never believe that a child is born sinful.

I could never believe again that god's idea of justice was to permit sin to pass into the world as some sort of screwed up punishment for something that happened millennia ago... only to go the trouble of... well, the rest is history, isn't it?

Inherited, original sin. Where is the justice in that? Where is the comfort?

(I'm going to stop here for now. Apologies for length. Please feel free to comment. Although I'm not sure I have quite finished my thoughts.)

* Eve Tushnet is a blogger who converted from Judaism to Catholicism and has been very open in her blog about the fact that she is a celibate lesbian.
* A small MSN group of close friends.
* Eve, if you read this, please feel free to correct me on any of these points ; this is just the impression I've gotten.
* Though it wouldn't have been called 'gay' per se, it would more likely be labeled as impure desires and lustful longings - actually, Elliot, help me out here, what was the proper term? Hmm...
* After all this time, I'm actually not sure how the heck she worded it exactly. I doubt she would have used terms like 'gay' or 'straight' at that point... But anyways, essentially that was what she said.
* In fact there are even groups who advertise their ability to 'change' you into a proper straight person. Ugh!
* And THIS - to me - seems much more in line with the idea of a loving god!