Saturday, April 21, 2007
Under ~sigh~ "Strange News," CBS reports that: Rangers at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park are launching a program to stop people from leaving religious offerings at the summit of Mount Kilauea - including food [that] they say attracts rats and cockroaches.
. The article sparked an interesting debate over in the comments section at Eschaton. Why must the rangers "stop" people, rather than seeking some other compromise? They can't designate some altars to Pele and then clean them at the end of the day? Really?
Jason, at the Wild Hunt has had a number of recent posts concerning the need for compromise between tourists, historians, and Pagans over the use of sacred sites. This is an issue that, as recent demands by Greek Pagans for access to "historical" religious sites in Greece demonstrate, isn't going to go away. We're going to need to find some way to accomodate everyone's needs, and "everyone" includes the Pagans. I'm willing to agree that it includes the historians, preservationists, and archeologists, but I'm going to demand that it also include the Pagans who claim the right to worship in their own religions' sites.
Let's start by admitting that, in a purely legal sense, the "right" of some Pagans to certain sites is less than legally-well-drawn. Somewhere between the ancient priestesses of Hygia, the Vestal Virgins, and me, the title to the land got lost (stolen, burned, attributed). And let's also admit that this is part of the problem. I belong to a religion where my need to worship at New Forest, Stonehenge, Mount Kilauea, and Great Capacon Park isn't defined by legalities as much as it is defined by religion. But the "legal" title to, for example, Mount Kilauea can't be used to deny me the ability to exercise my religion. The dominant culture can't destroy almost every vestigage of my religion, build their own churches over my sacred wells and groves, steal the land of my ancestors and co-religionsists, and then use "legal title" to prevent me from exercising my religion.
Someday in the future, xianity won't be the dominant relligion. Notre Dame will be a primarily historical site, one with serious archeological value. Should it be possible for the dominant culture at that time to prevent xians from saying Mass at Notre Dame? I don't think so.
In my "perfect" world, there would be acknowledgement -- legal, practical, architectural, social, artistic, and academic -- of the fact that, literally, every inch of the Earth is sacred, is a site for worship, is part of my "church." In my religion, there aren't, actually, sacred spaces in the modern world; it's that the whole world is sacred. There aren't mundane spaces and sacred spaces. The entire world is divine, is alive, is a manifestation of divinity. Buildings would have small altars outside, parks would specify the offerings that the deities of that place preferred, attendants would collect coins from the fountains and use them to feed the poor, park rangers would be respectfull of the need to leave offerings, xian megachurches would be required to plant trees in their parking lots.
Actually, Notre Dame, for example, already allows for lots of tourists who aren't there to worship; they're there to see a historical site. England has worked out a system, less than perfect, for allowing Pagans some access to, for example, Stonehenge, while still preserving the site and allowing archeological access.
Paganism is one of the fastest-growing religions. Pagans trace their roots, even if those roots are only theological and emotional, back to sacred sites all over the world. The notion that a site once considered sacred can become simply a park or a historical site is outdated. We're going to have to come up with a new way of viewing the world. It's going to be interesting. It's not going to depend upon a purely legalistic chain of title to land, nor is it going to depend upon mere assertions by various religions that site X is their own sacred site. It's going to be more interesting that that; it's going to acknowledge that the planet is crowded and that your sacred site may have been built illegally upon my sacred site and that it's now too late to undo what's been done. I imagine it's going to inovolve learning to share.
If anyone is aware of any legal writing on this topic, I'd be grateful for a citation. It occurs to me that this is an area that could benefit from some law review articles.
The Celts, historically, were matrilineal; you were born to your mother’s line, not your father’s. Kingship, therefore, landed upon the son of the king’s sister and not upon the offspring of the king and the queen. Very often, too, the queens were the actual power, with her spouse being a Duke of War, rather than a true king. In order to be a king, one had to marry the land in order to demonstrate his devotion to the sovereignty. Often, this marriage was symbolic and accomplished by the practice of the Great Rite between the proposed king and a priestess of the Goddess. The commission of this act would ensure the king’s love for the land and a lifelong desire to defend her as he would his wife. It is also important to note that there is no Goddess of Love, such as Ishtar, Aphrodite and Venus in other cultures, but there were, throughout the legends, Maiden Goddesses made of flowers or fruit. The most important aspect of the Goddess is triune in nature - the Maiden, the Mother and the Crone - and most legends involve three Goddesses representing these three aspects.
The Legend of Blodeuwedd is also the story of Llew’s struggle for his kingship which was averted and made more difficult by the Goddess Arianrhod who tried Her best to prevent Llew, Her son, his birth-right due to the shame brought upon Her by his companions. (Another story which will be told later.) In short, Arianrhod stated that he would not receive a name, unless it be from Her; he would not receive his arms, unless it be from Her; and, he could never marry a mortal woman. Thus, he could not become king unless it be through Her auspices. In order to assure that Llew would survive long enough to attain his kingship, some magick was given to him in the form of the circumstances of his death. As has been typical of the Celts, his death could only be accomplished through a set of very unlikely and almost preposterous circumstances. He could not be killed indoors or out, on horse or on foot, and the spearhead capable of killing him had to be cast during a sacred period of time. Arianrhod was tricked into giving Llew his name and his arms but the larger problem of having a wife, which would assert his right to the land, was accomplished through the magick of his cousins, Math and Gwydion, who created Blodeuwedd from the flowers of the Oak, Broom and Meadowsweet. Due to the nature of Her Birth, Blodeuwedd - whose name means either ‘Flower Face’ or the ancient name for the Owl - and represents the Earth in full bloom. Through their marriage, Llew’s requirement of marrying the land and thus, his Sovereignty is completed. One day, Llew goes hunting, leaving Blodeuwedd alone with Her ladies in the castle. A young huntsman, Gronw, later seeks shelter and he and Blodeuwedd experience love at first sight. Wanting nothing more than to be together, Gronw persuades Blodeuwedd to discover the improbable circumstances surrounding Llew’s death, an act he would help to accomplish. The plan made, Gronw departs from Blodeuwedd and they remain separate for a long period of time, during which Blodeuwedd feigns anxiety concerning Llew’s death. Eventually, Her pleading persuades Llew to demonstrate these very circumstances in order to allay Her fears by showing Her his death could not be easily accomplished. They prepare a bath on a riverbank, covering it with a thatched roof, being neither indoors nor out. As Llew stands with one foot upon the edge of the tub and the other upon the back of a goat, Gronw throws the specially-made spear, hitting Llew in the side. Llew immediately turns into an eagle and flies off, later discovered and nursed back to health by his cousins, Math and Gwydion. When the two lovers are found, Gronw is killed and Blodeuwedd turned into an owl.
Due to the very circumstances of Her Birth, the actions of Blodeuwedd may be seen in a more sympathetic light. She was created from the flowers of a very powerful Tree - the Oak - and from flowers of an explicitly healing nature,in order to give power to Llew and to be able to continually heal and renew him. She is never asked whether She loves him or desires to marry him. She was created for his purposes, solely to assure his right to rule the land. Her Own desires are impossible to achieve while Llew lives and She is often seen as the epitome of non-assertive femininity, fickleness and the faithless wife, using the passion of two men for Her to seal the doom of both. In truth, Her supposed treachery creates the very conditions to enable Llew to experience the ritual death and rebirth commonly required of the Druidic priesthood, thus ensuring his kingship. Blodeuwedd is seen as a part of his hard and difficult destiny. Throughout Celtic legend, otherworldly women are created and utilized to represent the Land, which is definitely feminine in nature. Owl, the totemic representation of Blodeuwedd, signifies the complete transformation of the initiate as represented by Llew‚s virtual death and subsequent healing. She is signified by the Empress card of the Tarot. She is a Goddess of emotions, representing the matrix that reforms transpersonal and universal energies into well-defined life force. She is also the Maiden Goddess of initiation ceremonies and is known as the Ninefold Goddess of the Western Isles of Paradise. Flowers, the wisdom of innocence, Lunar Mysteries and initiation are Her provinces.
In the end, there was a tie on the poll between Athena and Blodeuwedd. I'll Goddessblog Athena next Saturday. Thanks to all who participated!
Art found here, here, and here.
Friday, April 20, 2007
From today's EEI newsletter:
[New York Governor] Spitzer said he wanted to commit the state to being a leading force in energy reduction. He was quoted as saying: "If government buys fighter planes, we drive the military-industrial complex. Likewise, if government buys clean power, we drive the technology market for wind generators. By embracing ambitious energy efficiency standards and renewable energy goals throughout state government, we will catalyze the growth of the clean power industry." Spitzer made his comments at a corporate executive breakfast sponsored by Crain’s New York Business.
Wrote the Times: "In his speech, Spitzer said that imposing the new standards would ultimately cost less than building new capacity to meet any extra demand. He said that it currently costs one-third as much to save a given amount of energy through efficiency programs as it would to produce the same amount of energy by building a new power plant."
Spitzer makes an excellent point. Government buying can drive the market. If the government only buys energy-efficient cars, it gives manufacturers a huge incentive to produce economical energy-efficient cars and that, in turn, makes such cars more available to everyday consumers. The same, of course, is true if the government will only buy power from renewable resources, will only buy organic food, will only buy green buildings. It's time, and past time, for lots more of this.
["W]hen I am president, I will treat the health and well being of women and our constitutional rights once again as true American values."
Read the whole thing:
The Court took a dramatic departure from decades of rulings that upheld a woman's right to choose and [that] recognized the importance of women's health. Let's be clear: this allows the government to dictate to women what they can and cannot do about their own health.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg disagreed with this decision and warned, "This cannot be understood as anything other than an effort to chip away at a right declared again and again by this court -- and with increasing comprehension of its centrality to women's lives."
When the Senate debated the nominations of Samuel Alito and John Roberts to the Supreme Court, I spoke out on the Senate floor about the danger they posed to our constitutional liberties, including the right to choose. I urged my colleagues to reject them, and I voted against both of them. Yesterday, unfortunately, we saw the consequences of failing to stop their confirmations.
The decade of work that the far right has done to chip away at our rights was paid off in this Supreme Court decision. They worked hard to gain the presidency and the Senate so they could shape a Supreme Court that rewarded them by putting a narrow ideology above our constitutional rights. In their ruling, the conservative majority even used right-wing code language, referring to obstetricians as "abortion doctors."
There's one way we can respond: redouble our efforts to win the White House and more seats in the House and Senate. We need a president who understands that the best way to protect women's health and reduce the number of abortions is to expand access to family planning -- not to threaten doctors and patients. We need a Congress that will say no to rolling back the rights of women.
And here is my promise to you: As a senator, I will do everything I can to make sure women can protect their health, and when I am president, I will treat the health and well being of women and our constitutional rights once again as true American values.
Now, more than ever, America needs a woman in the White House.
If Attorney General Alberto Gonzales had gone to the Senate yesterday to convince the world that he ought to be fired, it’s hard to imagine how he could have done a better job, short of simply admitting the obvious: that the firing of eight United States attorneys was a partisan purge.
Mr. Gonzales came across as a dull-witted apparatchik incapable of running one of the most important departments in the executive branch.
He had no trouble remembering complaints from his bosses and Republican lawmakers about federal prosecutors who were not playing ball with the Republican Party’s efforts to drum up election fraud charges against Democratic politicians and Democratic voters. But he had no idea whether any of the 93 United States attorneys working for him — let alone the ones he fired — were doing a good job prosecuting real crimes.
He delegated responsibility for purging their ranks to an inexperienced and incompetent assistant who, if that’s possible, was even more of a plodding apparatchik. Mr. Gonzales failed to create the most rudimentary standards for judging the prosecutors’ work, except for political fealty. And when it came time to explain his inept decision making to the public, he gave a false account that was instantly and repeatedly contradicted by sworn testimony.
This junta is full of lying, incompetent, assclowns. And these are the people who get to tell me what I can and can't do with my own body? I.Don't.Think.So.
Thursday, April 19, 2007
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
Some Kiss We Want - Rumi
There is some kiss we want with our whole lives,
the touch of spirit on the body.
Sea water begs the pearl to break its shell.
And the lily, how passionately it needs some wild darling!
At night, I open the window
and ask the moon to come and press its face against mine.
Breathe into me.
Close the language-door and open the love window.
The moon won't use the door, only the window.
Oddly, on this cold, late Spring week of the new moon near the end of Aries, Pagans all over the web are quoting Mary Oliver. My circle of women has an expression: "doesn't know that she's a witch" to describe women like my favorite poet.
Deborah Oak quotes Oliver:
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,
which is mostly standing still and learning to be
while buying garden Gnome Chomskys.
Meanwhile, the Furious Spinner links to another of my favorite Oliver poems, one that got me through one of the most difficult times in my life:
Little Summer Poem Touching the Subject of Faith
I listen and look
under the sun's brass and even
into the moonlight, but I can't hear
anything, I can't see anything --
not the pale roots digging down, nor the green stalks muscling up,
nor the leaves
deepening their damp pleats,
nor the tassels making,
nor the shucks, nor the cobs.
the leafy fields
grow taller and thicker --
green gowns lofting up in the night,
showered with silk.
And so, every summer,
I fail as a witness, seeing nothing --
I am deaf too
to the tick of the leaves,
the tapping of downwardness from the banyan feet --
all of it
beyond any seeable proof, or hearable hum.
And, therefore, let the immeasurable come.
Let the unknowable touch the buckle of my spine.
Let the wind turn in the trees,
and the mystery hidden in the dirt
swing through the air.
How could I look at anything in this world
and tremble, and grip my hands over my heart?
What should I fear?
in the leafy green ocean
the honeycomb of the corn's beautiful body
is sure to be there.
~ Mary Oliver ~
I have been reciting this poem to myself, affirming my belief that Summer will come, corn will come, the unknowable will touch the buckle of my spine. So mote it be.
I'll add my own personal Oliver, which I've posted before, to this Pagan homage to Oliver on a difficult week:
When Death Comes
When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse
to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox:
when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,
I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?
And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,
and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,
and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,
and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.
When it's over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
When it's over, I don't want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.
I don't want to end up simply having visited this world.
-- Mary Oliver
You can be young when Death comes for you, as were the students at Virginia Tech, and as are so many students in iraq. You can be old, as was Kurt Vonnegut the other week, It doesn't matter. What matters is whether you end up having simply visited this world or, whether, like Oliver, you spend your time as the bride, married to amazement; as the bridegroom, taking the world into your arms. Go take the world into your arms. It's lonely for you.
Discussing the lives lost at Virginia Tech (so many fewer than are lost daily in Iraq), Robin notes that:
It's okay to weep; the Gods themselves wept, bitterly.
Robin reminds me of one of the things that I love about Pagan polytheism. Yes, the gods and goddesses did -- they did -- sometimes, weep bitterly. They longed sexually, they were angry, they were helpful, they were seekers of wisdom, they were lovers of longing. Meanwhile, they ordered the seas, hunted the groves, carried messages between the gods, made the Earth flourish.
Last night at the dark moon, my circle called to Diana, who pretty much decided that she'd just as soon stay in the forest hunting stags as mess around with men. Diana, who, once she knew what she wanted, simply went out and got it. She could be petty, if, for example, you happened to gaze upon her by mistake. But for our small group of women on a cold, windy, late Spring night mere blocks from the Capitol, she represented the ability to go out and get what it is that you want. I love Goddesses like that.
Our sweet sister Nancy led the ritual, her clearest and best since she was injured on the job a few years ago. It was lovely, and doubly-so because she led it and led it with such a sure hand. We huddled in E's warm living room, with incense, warm cups of tea, warm cats, Salem chocolates, and (the most important part) with each other.
I am a loner, like the Virginia Tech shooter, like Diana. But, like Diana, I have a group of women who hunt with me. I am more grateful to them than I can say. More in debt to them for their concentration, courage, presence than I can express. More able to be who I am because they share with me who they are.
I love these women.
From today's EEI Newsletter:
Retired Officers Say Climate Change Now Matter of National Security
Eleven retired senior U.S. military officers said in a report that climate change endangers U.S. national security, Greenwire reported. CNA Corp. organized the study by the officers, who included Adm. T. Joseph Lopez (Ret.) and Gen. Anthony C. Zinni (Ret.).
The report recommended stepped-up U.S. efforts to reduce the effects of climate change and a change of direction in U.S. military policy to include realizing that "climate change has the potential to result in multiple chronic conditions, occurring globally within the same time frame. Economic and environmental conditions in already fragile areas will further erode as food production declines, diseases increase, clean water becomes increasingly scarce, and large populations move in search of resources." All of these related effects, the officers noted, have the potential to destabilize governments worldwide.
Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, Sens. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., and Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., have introduced legislation (S. 1018) that "would require the daily National Intelligence Estimate to assess the security risks from climate change," the newsletter noted.
Los Angeles Times , April 17; Greenwire , April 16.
This is perhaps too obvious to be worth blogging about, but a significant factor in both the rise and the currently-occurring fall of the American rightwing has been the fax machine.
Conservatives tacitly agreed a few years back to all use carefully-scripted talking points, often faxed to them by Grover Norquist or Karl Rove. John Stewart illustrated the result in his famous video-quilt of one conservative talking head after another calling John Kerry the "most liberal Senator ever" over the course of a few days and a raft of tv shows during the 2004 presidential campaign. The strategy has been successful, with a compliant media almost always picking up the talking point, using the conservative catch-phrase, and suddenly finding an "issue" that only really existed in Norquist's twisted little mind. The Democrats never seemed to figure out how to defend themselves against the fax attacks, nor how to play the game themselves.
But I think that the success of the strategy carried, as is so often the case, the seeds of its own destruction. I was reminded of this point by this post from Media Matters, describing how conservative radio host Neal Boortz jumped on the recent rightwing talking point that blames rap stars for denigrating women (because we know how the rightwing just loves itself some women's rights) as a foil to deflect criticism of Don Imus:
Will we finally end the denigration of black women through rap music? Personally, I think its jealousy. ... I mean, on the part of the rappers, because, you know, I mean, look at black women, black men. Who are the higher educated, who has -- you know, is there a higher percentage of black women in college or black men? Black women. Moving up the corporate ladder -- black women, black men? Black women."
The problem, as MM points out is that Boortz himself recently said that "former Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-GA) 'looks like a ghetto slut,' for which he later apologized."
Lots of Americans were already figuring out for themselves the point that John Stewart emphasized: that what they were hearing was really just a talking point, not serious debate about an issue nor something that the speaker even really believed. The effectiveness of the blastfax talking point is further undermined when it's so easy to show that the head doing the talking, see above re: Boortz, is being completely inconsistent. Americans don't, after all, think that what's happening in our country should be reduced to the level of seventh-grade sophistry.
Boortz also "responded to a statement released by Media Matters for America President and CEO David Brock identifying Boortz as one of many sources of bigotry in the media by asking, '[T]hat George Soros-funded group Media Matters, who are they going to focus on next?'" The MM-is-funded-by-George-Soros talking point is an old one and one that MM and others have shown to be completely false over and over again. Boortz knows this and neither he nor any of the other rightwingers dutifully repeating this lie have ever, to my knowledge, offered ANY support for their assertion. (We'll leave for another day the slimy anti-Semitic tactic itself. Even if it were true that Soros, a liberal contributor, did fund MM, that wouldn't make MM's points less valid.)
Live by the blastfax, die by the blastfax. By now, conservatives are so used to grabbing the prescribed talking points (never mention MM without saying that it's funded by George Soros) and blabbing them, that it's become completely irrelevant to them that a talking point may be completely untrue. Not just a point that they've neither considered nor with which they necessarily agree and not just a point that's inconsistent with one that they parroted before and not just one that's hypocritical. Untrue. Fake. False. A lie. A deliberate lie. We saw this during the 2004 campaign, as well, when Tucker Carlson kept asserting that John Edwards had made his fortune as a personal-injury lawyer specializing in "Jacuzzi cases." As Atrios noted at the time: "This was an allusion to the horrific disembowelment of a young girl who'd been sucked into an open swimming-pool drain. When informed of the facts behind his cruel phrasing, [Tucker] snapped, 'Oh, I know. I've heard that.'"
I know that these folks think that they "make their own reality," but reality doesn't work like that. Reality works a lot more like a boomerang. And you can't lie all the time and not expect people to eventually figure out that you're a liar. And once people decide that you're a liar, they begin to ignore you and to look elsewhere -- for information, for leadership, for policy. We see it in the polls showing that no matter how many times the junta asserts that we need to stay in Iraq, Americans want us to leave. We saw it in the 2006 election when, even with Bush himself chanting the talking point that if the Democrats took control of Congress the terrorists would win, Americans put the Democrats in control of Congress. The talking points aren't working any more.
There's an old saying in Tennessee — I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can't get fooled again."
Monday, April 16, 2007
It is the nastiest, coldest, least-welcoming Spring that I can remember.
The April Dark Moon is rain-dotted, cloud-skudded, colder than April is wont to be. Seeds aren't sprouting, the wind has been a merciless Ban-Shea, trying desperately to tell us -- Something. It is cold, and dark, and nasty and the wind-chime that my madly creative friend K gave to me is singing, singing, singing, saying -- Something. I want to be in bed, sleeping, preparing for tomorrow's work of meeting, conference call, writing, writing, writing. But, the moon is dark.
So I am, instead, outside, on the deck, surrounded by the roses and gardenias that I have planted in between snowstorms, guarded by the oak trees, the old, old oak trees, naked, whirling, whirling, whirling, dancing, whipping my rain-misted hair back and forth and up and down and all around me as I -- well, as I do a dance to the dark moon. And to the Goddess of the very dark moon. As I lift my goblet to Her, as I cry wild poetry to her, as I, well, as I shiver and cry to her.
My Lewellyn calendar tells me that today is the birthday of that deliberate and scholarly Aries Margot Adler. When Charlene Spretnak first informed me that there was a name -- witch -- for what I was, Margot Adler told me that I wasn't the only one. Her magical book, Drawing Down the Moon, taught me, well, taught me to dance naked outside in the nasty weather, taught me to hang on for almost ten years, taught me to believe that I'd find others of my kind.
The prayer that I recite every morning -- "I am a manifestation of the Goddess. Mother, help me to grow into my better self. It's all real, it's all metaphor. There's always more" -- comes, in large part, from Adler.
Adler wrote about people who believed that Wicca was a religion of ecstacy. She wrote about Wicca as a sensual gathering of women with different needs and different goals, but similar skill sets. She wrote about Discordians and Asatru and Dianics. She wrote poety that still chills me and she wrote about some stuff that was embarassingly silly. What she did was to write about the reality of Wicca.
I am more grateful to Margot Adler than I can say. Hail, Dama! Many blessings on your natal day. May the Goddess bring you many happy returns of the day. Ivo! Evohe!
What Woody Guthrie's Guitar said
When you throw 300 million people together in a dog-eat-dog competitive society, with declining resources, artificial scarcities, and zero-sum rules for everything from kindergarten to love and sex;
and then put at the disposal of the frantic, obsessive creatures scurrying around under the ultimate pressure of "success" in this insane environment--it's not just school/job/love, it's the REST OF YOUR FUCKING LIFE--
virtually unlimited fire-power, and a media culture that idolizes and is saturated with voyeuristic violence, SOMEBODY (what are the odds? 1-300,000,000; lottery odds) is gonna crack...
Now add to this the fact that everybody in the game knows--at some level, and despite acre -feet of denial--in their heart of hearts, that they are not only doomed but disposable.
In a patriarchy, where access to acts of love and pleasure depends upon access to guns, power, and "success," it's not surprising that acts such as today's happen; it's surprising that they don't happen more often.
I'm conscious of not aping the mistakes of the Dobsons of the world, of not blaming my particular demons for everything that goes wrong in the world. But when this turns out to be an honor killing, who is going to be surprised? Patriarchy, pace Robin Morgan, ruins people with penises, too.
Ken McLeod on how to write:
It was while I was writing my second novel, The Stone Canal, that I was shown a very good trick. It's a difficult one to learn for yourself but once you've been shown it it's very easy and you can then do it for other people. The way I learned it was this. I was working at Edinburgh University and I had one novel published and I noticed that the writer in residence, Andrew Greig, was a poet whose work I had much admired. So like any shy student I took a sheaf of poems I'd written over the years and left them in his pigeon-hole, pencilled in an appointment for about a week later and tiptoed away. When the appointment came round and I met Andrew Greig I found he was a sound chap and he quite liked my poems. The longest and most pretentious of them you can find in last year's Novacon special, I'm sure Rog Peyton can sell you one later. More importantly it turned out that Andrew Greig lived about ten minutes walk away from where I live and about thirty seconds walk from the local pub. You can see where this is going. I introduced him to all my skiffy friends and he introduced us to the Scottish literary mafia. And to Shirley Manson, which impresses a lot more people, which is why I take every opportunity for name-dropping.
Anyhow, one evening in the pub I showed Andrew a few pages from Chapter 2 of the manuscript of The Stone Canal, and he read through them and showed me the good trick. He took a sharp pencil and worked over a few paragraphs, crossing out phrases and sometimes whole sentences. He called this removing the fluff. The effect was indeed like removing fluff from a record needle. (If you don't know what that means, ask someone older.) Once he had shown me how to do it I could do it for myself, and since then I've shown other people how to do it.
Another good trick was what he called the massacre of adverbs. You go through your text and take out as many adverbs as possible. You can drop them or you can replace the verb with a more precise one. 'He ran quickly.' No, it's: 'He sprinted.' If you have a word processor, you just use 'Find' on ell wye space ('ly ') and ell wye stop ('ly.'). This works. There are entire genres where people don't use these techniques, you know. There's some minor character in fiction, I forget the novel, but the character is a novelist and she writes historical romances 'full of rapes and adverbs.' Imagine an Arthurian fantasy novel with the fluff removed and the adverbs slaughtered. It would more like Chandler than Mallory. 'That Morgan dame was fey.' 'Down these mean glades a knight must ride.'
As it happens, one of the books I read partly for pleasure and partly for research for The Stone Canal in fact does read like a historical novel written in the hard-boiled style. It's called Njal's Saga. Here's how it begins: 'There was a man called Mord Fiddle, who was the son of Sighvat the Red. Mord was a powerful chieftain, and lived at Voll in the Rangriver plains. He was also a very experienced lawyer [...]' The femme fatale of this saga is a woman called Hallgerd. Here are the descriptions of her. At the beginning she is a little girl her playing on the floor, and: 'she was a tall, beautiful child whose hair hung down to her waist.' A little later:
'We now return to Hallgerd, Hoskuld's daughter, who had grown up to be a woman of great beauty. She was very tall, which earned her the nickname Long-Legs, and her lovely hair was now so long that it could veil her whole body. She was impetuous and wilful.' Somehow that last bit doesn't come as a surprise.
Later still, Gunnar meets her at the Althing:
'Hallgerd was wearing a red, richly-decorated tunic under a scarlet cloak trimmed all the way down with lace. Her beautiful thick hair flowed down over her bosom.' These six sentences are all the description you'll get of her. And from them you quite understand why two of her husbands have already been killed and why there are a lot more men murdered before the story is over.
You could definitely take advice from someone worse.
Early this morning my brilliant friend E, guestblogger extraordinaire and author of the Second Best Football Blog in the World, sent this article to me. I'm only now coming up for air and getting around to sharing it, which is the fault of the people with whom I work who fail to understand the concept of "a calendar" rather than E or Bill Maher. (And, yes, I realize that Maher can be a phenomenal ass. But when he's right, he's right.)
It turns out that the Justice Department is entirely staffed with Jesus freaks from a televangelist diploma mill in Virginia Beach. Most of them young women with very little knowledge of the law, but a very strong sense of doing what they're told. Like the Manson family, but with cleaner hair. And more inappropriate purses. And even more embarassing web pages.
Actually, and I've been blogging about this for quite some time, the Bush junta has staffed almost every level of every governmental agency, department, and cabinet with Monica Goodlings -- true believers whose allegiance is to a Christianist state and not to the United States of America. They're going to be sitting there waiting for President Gore or President Clinton or President Obama, ready to undermine everything that the president tries to do. And government employees are notoriously difficult to remove. Think Defense, EPA, NOAA, Treasury, Education, Labor, Interior, etc., etc.
I hope the Dems have a plan for addressing this.
There are, of course, elites and elites. There are elite lawyers who went to Harvard on scholarship, hoisted themselves on their own shoelaces, and who wind up at DOJ where they prosecute bad guys. And, then, there are elite legacies who go to Yale because that's where their daddy went and who grow up to fuck over the entire planet. Perhaps we need two different words to describe these two different things.
Kansas, get the fuck over it.
I live in Northern Virginia, where a not inconsequential number of kids wind up going to Virginia Tech. Driving home tonight, I passed several xian churches that had signs up saying: "Prayer Service for Virginia Tech. Tonight 7:30" or words to that effect. It seems to me that there are times when the organized churches do a better job of this sort of instant response stuff than do our disorganized Pagan selves, although, Goddess knows that our disorganization is one of the things that I most love about us.
Someone once said that a witch's job is to help to turn the wheel, and round and round the wheel must turn. Someone who understands how to do it (and who has the training to do it) needs to get on those grounds sometime soon and do the necessary energy work. Witches all over the place need to send healing to the school, the students, the families, the souls of those who one minute were sitting in class and the next minute were bodyless. We all need to be doing more, on both a mundane and a magical level, to decrease the level of violence in this overcrowded, over-armed, partiarchy.
And, while it's true that, for example, more than thirty people die everyday all over America (hell, probably just all over Virginia) due to environmental pollution, it's still so shocking to us when one of these outbreaks of madness kills so many, all together, at one time.
Ground. Breathe. Ground again. Breathe again. Light some incense. Ritual tonight at 7:30.
Sunday, April 15, 2007
(How revolutionary are they: the words "Praise Her" sung in a church? As revolutionary as it gets, that's how revolutionary.)
Listen to the words of the Great Mother, Who of old was called Artemis, Astarte, Dione, Melusine, Aphrodite, Cerridwen, Diana, Arionrhod, Brigid, and by many other names:
Whenever you have need of anything, once a month, and better it be when the moon is full, you shall assemble in some secret place and adore the spirit of Me Who is Queen of all the Wise.
You shall be free from slavery, and as a sign that you be free you shall be naked in your rites.
Sing, feast, dance, make music and love, all in My Presence, for Mine is the ecstasy of the spirit and Mine also is joy on earth.
For My law is love is unto all beings. Mine is the secret that opens the door of youth, and Mine is the cup of wine of life that is the cauldron of Cerridwen, that is the holy grail of immortality.
I give the knowledge of the spirit eternal, and beyond death I give peace and freedom and reunion with those that have gone before.
Nor do I demand aught of sacrifice, for behold, I am the Mother of all things and My love is poured out upon the earth.
Hear the words of the Star Goddess, the dust of Whose feet are the hosts of Heaven, whose body encircles the universe:
I Who am the beauty of the green earth and the white moon among the stars and the mysteries of the waters,
I call upon your soul to arise and come unto me.
For I am the soul of nature that gives life to the universe.
From Me all things proceed and unto Me they must return.
Let My worship be in the heart that rejoices, for behold, all acts of love and pleasure are My rituals.
Let there be beauty and strength, power and compassion, honor and humility, mirth and reverence within you.
And you who seek to know Me, know that the seeking and yearning will avail you not, unless you know the Mystery: for if that which you seek, you find not within yourself, you will never find it without.
For behold, I have been with you from the beginning, and I am That which is attained at the end of desire.
Gwen Ifill -- the ONLY woman at a tablefull of men -- and whom I often fault for being too "balanced," tries to explain it in syllables of one word or less that Timmeh can understand. You go girl. You go.
Photo found here.
"Whatever You Say,
I'm writing just after an encounter
With an English journalist in search of 'views
On the Irish thing'. I'm back in winter
Quarters where bad news is no longer news,
Where media-men and stringers sniff and point,
Where zoom lenses, recorders and coiled leads
Litter the hotels. The times are out of joint
But I incline as much to rosary beads
As to the jottings and analyses
Of politicians and newspapermen
Who've scribbled down the long campaign from gas
And protest to gelignite and Sten,
Who proved upon their pulses 'escalate',
'Backlash' and 'crack down', 'the provisional wing',
'Polarization' and 'long-standing hate'.
Yet I live here, I live here too, I sing,
Expertly civil-tongued with civil neighbours
On the high wires of first wireless reports,
Sucking the fake taste, the stony flavours
Of those sanctioned, old, elaborate retorts:
'Oh, it's disgraceful, surely, I agree.'
'Where's it going to end?' 'It's getting worse.'
'They're murderers.' 'Internment, understandably ...'
The 'voice of sanity' is getting hoarse.
"Religion's never mentioned here", of course.
"You know them by their eyes," and hold your tongue.
"One side's as bad as the other," never worse.
Christ, it's near time that some small leak was sprung
In the great dykes the Dutchman made
To dam the dangerous tide that followed Seamus.
Yet for all this art and sedentary trade
I am incapable. The famous
Northern reticence, the tight gag of place
And times: yes, yes. Of the "wee six" I sing
Where to be saved you only must save face
And whatever you say, you say nothing.
Smoke-signals are loud-mouthed compared with us:
Manoeuvrings to find out name and school,
Subtle discrimination by addresses
With hardly an exception to the rule
That Norman, Ken and Sidney signalled Prod
And Seamus (call me Sean) was sure-fire Pape.
O land of password, handgrip, wink and nod,
Of open minds as open as a trap,
Where tongues lie coiled, as under flames lie wicks,
Where half of us, as in a wooden horse
Were cabin'd and confined like wily Greeks,
Besieged within the siege, whispering morse.
This morning from a dewy motorway
I saw the new camp for the internees:
A bomb had left a crater of fresh clay
In the roadside, and over in the trees
Machine-gun posts defined a real stockade.
There was that white mist you get on a low ground
And it was déjà-vu, some film made
Of Stalag 17, a bad dream with no sound.
Is there a life before death? That's chalked up
In Ballymurphy. Competence with pain,
Coherent miseries, a bite and sup,
We hug our little destiny again.
What res ipsa loquitor said.
I think res may have left out a few. Walter Reed. People put in charge of distributing birth control who hate birth control. No child left behind. No-bid Haliburton contracts. Osama still walking around free as a bird. Abstinence education. Terry Schiavo. I'm sure that you can think of some others.
To the Londoners
Time is now writing with her impressive hand
Shakespeare's black play, his twenty-fourth.
What can we do, who know the bitter taste,
but here, by this leaden river, re-enact
those tragic lines of Halmet, Casear, Lear? --
or maybe guide, as an escort, to her tomb,
child Juliet, poor dove, guide her with songs and torches;
or play the Peeping Tom in Macbeth's windows,
trembling no less than the hired murderer,
Only not this one, not this one, not this one --
this one we do not have the strength to read.
~Photo found here.