Friday, April 19, 2013

Doing the Impossible Today

Here's the thing.  As the inimitable  has pointed out many times, *people who do evil things do not tend to think of themselves as evil.*  They have a frame of reference informing their actions that says they are enacting revenge, or meting out deserved punishment, or enacting the will of a higher being, or serving their religion/people/country, or otherwise performing a service in the name of something that is to them worthy.

While they might on some level understand that the killing and maiming of people is an evil act, it can be rationalized -- it's war, it's destroying evildoers, it's following orders, it's duty -- it's something that makes the evil act something that can be done.  Anyone is capable of doing evil, given the right situation and the right set of rationalizations. This has been demonstrated in plenty throughout history, in the laboratory, and outside of it.  It isn't a mystery, an enigma, a strange thing.  


It's pretty damned common.


That isn't what bothers me.  That isn't the thing.  The thing is that, when we are the victims of someone else's evil act, so many people immediately start wanting to encourage similar evil acts in revenge.  They suddenly have justification, and yet they do not see their desires as being evil.  And that begets more evil acts, which in turn beget yet other evil acts.  Each action spreads out ripples that affect others without end.  It just keeps going and going and going.


Ghandi said "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind."  We are just increasing the blindness when we seek revenge, when we want retribution.    When we hurt and we want to make others hurt, we are not healing anything.  We spread the pain, and that pain will eventually ripple back to us and hurt us again. And hurting others because we hurt might give us a momentary satisfaction, but it doesn't restore lost lives and lost limbs.  It doesn't restore lost faith and lost innocence.  It just increases the loss.


It's hard to hate the sin and love the sinner, as Ghandi also said.  Sometimes it's well nigh impossible.  It's hard sometimes to separate justice from revenge.  It's hard not to be ruled and overruled by anger and hatred.  But Anger and Hatred sets the bombs, kills the bombers, directs the drones,  inspires new bombers, kills new victims.  It ceases to be about the first cause, the first thrown stone, the first death, the first place to lay the blame.  It becomes about the last cause, the stone tossed down, the life saved,  the forgiveness given.


It is not easy.  Not easy at all.  Maybe it's impossible.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Changes and Changes and Changes

It's been an interesting few weeks around here.

First, some weeks ago Amazon and Goodreads -- my long loved book-sharing social site -- got into bed with each other.  Now, Amazon, in my opinion, is one icky boyfriend.  So, after some thought and conversation, I picked up all my data and moved it over to LibraryThing.  LibraryThing ain't Goodreads (and Goodreads ain't LibraryThing -- apples and oranges, friend,  sharing only that they are both fruit). and it's been something of an adjustment.  It also means all my reviews on this blog no longer exist and I have to do some housecleaning.

Housecleaning has NOT been a top priority of recent days, so, it's not done yet.  I'll get to it eventually.

Second, I'm busy trying to make some writing things happen.  Theoretically, I should have two stories coming out in digital publications this month and next month.  I'm also working on a self publishing project with an excellent artist, +Juan Ochoa , who just wows me with his artwork but who's been hitting one roadblock after another.  So I'm trying to be involved and encouraging without being a pain or a stressor.  I'm excited it is happening at all.

Third, my brain and I are going through spring malaise.  My sleep schedule is totally screwed -- I slept 14 hours last night, around the clock and thensome, and I could go right back to bed now.  But the night before, I had the worst time getting to sleep.  So, it's screwing with everything else.  I have to get that in control.  Brain is resisting any attempts to do work.  When I bear down and make it happen, it's half-assed and exhausting.  Bleah.  I blame spring.  Spring is lovely, but next to summer it's my least favorite season.  I keep best at temps between 60 and 75 degrees fahrenheit.  Also, pollen.  The Husband says that I've started snoring to equal his own nocturnal symphony.  This does not thrill me, as it indicates breathing problems and other nastiness.  What's funny is that I'm sleeping so deeply that I don't wake myself up.  In the past, my own snoring has awakened me.

But I'm feeling reasonably brighter today than I have most of the week.  It's very humid so the A/C is on, and while it's actually rather lovely outside, I'm staying in.  I haven't taken pills yet today -- it's so late in the day!  but pills must be ingested or disaster occurs.  Also, a little bit of caffeine.  Then some more laundry.  It is taking me forever to catch up the laundry.

So, last of all, I'm thinking novel thoughts -- thoughts about the novel, about the next scene, about where I left off, about what my coach has talked over with me, about actually writing.  That's the boulder I'm rolling up hill these days.  No writing, just thinking.

In news of the strange, however, I had a Mythbusters dream last night -- at least, Adam and Jamie showed up in my dream for some project ot other, and were both thoroughly  nice guys.  No drama, just an interesting dream.  Oh, and I got something in my dream eye that Jamie helped me get out.  It was just one among many, many dreams, but celebrity dream visitations are always worth a mention.

 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Review: The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths


The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths
The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths by Michael Shermer

My rating: 3 of 5 stars



Why do people believe in...anything? Well, mostly because we are wired to believe in stuff -- any stuff. The only thing we can do to help ourselves is be more scientific.

That's the basic message I got from this book. It's an interesting trip, this skeptic's journey. I can't really say a lot about it because, well, most of it is right up front there. Schermer goes into a lot of detail about the various little heuristics and mechanisms in our brains that lead us down the path to belief, but the gist is that we are set up for it and it's hard work not to go with that.

Much of what he said I found myself agreeing with. However, I could have accepted his arguments much more readily if he hadn't, more than once, defaulted to the "If you don't agree with me, you're an idiot" stance. And, occasionally, he just fell right off the scientific method platform he holds up as the only method for getting around our limitations. For instance, in listing a variety of current theories about the origins of the universe, he says (referring to the "many-worlds multiverse" theory, he says "The idea of their being multiple versions of me and you out there -- and in an infinite multiverse model there would be an infinite number of us -- just seems prima facia absurd and even less likely than the theistic alternative." (bold is mine) It "just seems"? That's an opinion, and an opinion is a belief (per other areas of the book). Even when you put a Latin phrase behind it, it doesn't meet the standard of logical argumentation he promotes. The lack of the phrase "to me" behind that word "absurd" is a trick to make the statement look like it isn't an opinion.

He does this in several places in the book, even at times tossing insulting descriptions at those whom he classifies as being ruled by their beliefs. Of course, he does state that not believing and basing everything on fact is difficult, and he demonstrates that frequently enough. I understand what he's doing in this book, but it seems to me to be a stance fraught with conflict. That is, one doesn't get to climb up on the platform of scientific method, pure logic, and experimental data to hurl insults at those you do not see as agreeing with your platform, or whom you accuse of misusing the platform.

When he sticks to listing researched data and how knowledge is derived from his particular platform, the book is very good. But those little divergences nagged at me like flies. It isn't even that I agree with the conflicting information or that he stepped on any of my personal beliefs. It was the failure to maintain a non-personal stance throughout rather than taking it on and off like a lab coat. The verbal ju-jitsu he used, trying to phrase his authorial statements of opinion as if they were incontrovertible fact, chipped away at my acceptance of everything. Yes, I could do the research and test what he has said for myself, but that certainly wasn't the intention with which he wrote this book, and in any case I don't have the time to do that for myself, which is why I read the book and others like it.

That just nagged at me, even as I was learning and wondering at other things in the text. I think this book has much of interest in it, but it isn't a last word, or even a penultimate word, on the understanding of why humans belief.



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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Review: Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right


Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right
Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right by Jennifer Burns

My rating: 0 of 5 stars



It's a unique experience to read a biography about a person whom one knows of only distantly, and for whom one has little sympathy. Reading Goddess of the Market didn't change my thinking or feeling about Ayn Rand, but it did make me more acutely aware what those thoughts and feelings are.

I read both [b:The Fountainhead|2122|The Fountainhead|Ayn Rand|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1344618350s/2122.jpg|3331807] and [b:Atlas Shrugged|662|Atlas Shrugged|Ayn Rand|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1358647812s/662.jpg|817219] in my early 20s. I remember them mostly for the mechanical click of the prose and for thinking, at the end of Atlas Shrugged that whatever premise Rand had been pursuing, she counteracted it with her choice of ending. I think I was reacting to the hate and anger that underpin the novel, themes I didn't consciously recall but which, in Burns's analysis of the book, I now see quite clearly. I'm planning on rereading them both.

As far as Rand's philosophical and political ideas, yeah, a lot of people really feel strongly about them one way or another. I don't agree with a lot of them because I don't agree with the basic assumptions upon which they are based, and I think they skip over or simply deny a good many other ideas that have more traction and durability, and can be better demonstrated through rational, scientific means. But that's neither here nor there, as I was never one of the converts. I read those two books and moved on. They didn't rock my world. Rand died while I was still in high school (within a month of my own mother's death, now that I think back on it) and she wasn't even a topic of conversation among my peers.

But there's no arguing that she has influences that affected my life. Learning about her as a person, as Burns is careful to do in this book, gives me a little more sympathy for her but also reduces any chances I had to really respect her. The weaknesses and flaws she had are particular ones I find most distasteful and work hardest to eradicate in myself -- a lack of self-awareness, a reluctance or inability to connect her thoughts, beliefs, and reactions to the particularity of her origins, and most especially her arrogance in insisting her ideas had sprung up, new and whole, independent of any influence. That she was also scarred, insecure, and seeking love, support, and acceptance, that she was amazingly strong and intelligent, that she was human -- those made it possible to read this book about her life without rejecting it from the first.

As a book, Jennifer Burns has written a very engaging, interesting, and intriguing recount and analysis. I admit, I had to hit the dictionary a few times (I love adding new words to my vocabulary) and yet she didn't talk down to her reader. It felt even handed and even mostly neutral, although I may have just not heard any note of bias in either direction because of my own stance.

In general, I enjoyed it and it has given me some new fodder for thought.



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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Sick....and Tired

I've had a cold now for a solid week.  I'm actually on the mend, but by "mend" I mean the "coughing out my lungs because everything is breaking up and clearing away" portion of the cold.  Last night was the worst.  Despite gulping down the last of the Niquil (*sigh*) my sleep was light and broken frequently either by coughing/choking jags or by trying not to cough/choke.  As a result, when I finally did get to sleep (around 7 am) I slept until noon.

The positive part of this was one of the most complete dreams involving the characters from Leverage I've ever had.  It included helicopter flying, madly computer secured buildings, disguises, highschool kids, a guy with a toupee, staples as lethal weapons (in the hands of Elliot, no less) and so much, much more.  It even seemed to have a solid plot -- well, a solid plot for a dream, as I can't really recall it all now, although when I woke up I made a strong effort to recall it all.  The coolest part was that there was a definite break at the end between the "show" and the "not show" where I was hanging around the set with just the actors discussing the end of the show (as this was its last season) and my cats.  Timothy Hutton, I must say,  is (at least in my dreams) an incredibly kind and intelligent person.  I doubt he's an ass, really, but the dream version I have is a most excellent individual.  That's important to note because, as anyone who watches the show knows, the character he plays, Nate Ford, is not a very nice person, in general.

In any case, I am going to make some effort to move around today, although I fully expect the coughing to knock me over.  But the house is a mess and it's bothering me, so I'm going to make a small attempt to rectify that.  I expect coughing will make me so dizzy and breathless at some point I will surrender, but at least I hope to have clean sheets on the bed and some laundry put away.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Annual Cake Day

Today is my 48th birthday.  It's difficult to imagine being 48.    When I was 15, I couldn't picture living past 30.  30 seemed forever away.  It seems forever away now.  But 15 doesn't seem all that long ago when I  remember sitting in my old bedroom in my orange vinyl swivel chair with the chrome base (very Star Trek Original Series, but actually used 70s furniture from the Holiday Inn where my mom worked) and my orange and white desk (same source and worse than it sounds) staring at my Tigerbeat posters of Shaun Cassidy, Parker Stevenson and Leif Garret.  I can see my room, my stereo, my books, my closet doors, and I remember feeling so hopeful, so full of energy, full of ideas, ready to go after whatever was in front of me.  I didn't know what was looming a year or so off and how it would knock me over, run me down, and leave me pretty much in pieces.

Yeah, 15 was good.  I miss that.

I remember 35, too.  35 was pretty great, for the most part.  It was good, at least, for half the year.  My dad died that year, so it wasn't great the whole time, but before that happened, I'd come to some big realizations about my life and how to live it.  I felt like I could handle things that had defeated me before.  I had come out of the depression that descended on me after my gall bladder surgery (reaction to the anesthesia is the suspected cause) and feeling much better.  I'd gone back to finish my degree.  I liked 35.

And now I'm at 48, which is a much better place than 44 was, a better place than 45 or 46.  Once again, coming out of a bout of The Crazy, feeling better about making some changes, trying to get back stuff that fell away.  Sometimes, when I look back, it feels like I'm always having to start over -- life will be good, and then something happens and I'm back under ground trying to claw my way back to air and sunshine.  Or maybe I'm constantly becoming a seed and growing into something new.  I don't know.  But it's my birthday and I intend to have some cake.

Friday, February 08, 2013

Progress is Progressing

Not a bad couple of days.  Got revisions done on LIMO (only been, what, 6 years since I got those notes?) and had someone do a read and come up with a couple more.    Letting it sit for a few days to marinate.

Also, and at long last, revised the latest sections of Temporary Position, getting rid of the stuff that bothered me and stopped me, and liking it much better now.  I cut out a lot of what I'd written last, too, and have to come up with new stuff.  However, that will be tomorrow's task.  Important thing is not to push too hard on this venture back into writing.

And it's hard.  It's really hard to make myself keep my ass in the chair and my fingers on the keys.  That little frog in my brain keeps trying to make me hop, too.  It keeps putting things in the way of the words.  It annoys the hell out of me.  Gee, thanks, Crazy.

But I'm doing it.  I may manage no more than 200 words a day, but I'm doing it.  I feel like it could break, this long dry spell.  It could rain in this desert in my head.  I'm gathering clouds.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

I Am Proud Of This

Last December, my church choir performed a Winter Solstice Singing Ritual.  We'd spent most of the year preparing for it and it went off pretty well.  The Husband stuck his magic video camera under a table and recorded the audio for us.  Yesterday he finished cleaning it up, ripping it, and uploading it to Youtube.  (5 hours + work).





It's about an hour long and includes all the readings (and the audience coughing and someone sniffling), but it also is chock full of singing (d'uh).  I had a couple of little solos.  Of course, the song I love most is Kore Evohe, which I also directed.  It's in the middle of the performance.

Oh yes, I hear all the mistakes.  Every damned one of them.  But for a small group performing in a ritual, which means being directed from the middle of the group, in low light, with no sound system and lots of walking around, very close to the audience (and with me having been without voice for 3 weeks prior -- I spent every second I wasn't singing ducking down to drink water)  I think it went off very well.  When you consider, too, that our only microphone was a video camera under a table in front of us (we used candles in the ritual, so we needed tables to hold them), I think it came off quite nicely.

In any case, I am proud of myself and of the ladies with whom I have the honor to sing.

Monday, February 04, 2013

I Believe in Climate Change

Also, boring talk about dogs.  You are warned.

Saturday I spent a great afternoon with my friend +Tiffanie DeVarso and her cute Chinese Crested, Ringo.  We took Ringo and Zeus to Petsmart for a little doggie beauty treatment (getting Ringo's bangs trimmed and getting the dead grass out of Zeus's fur), then got lunch and went to the local indie bookstore, Booksmith.

While we wandered around discussing books, ooing over cute things, and variously chatting about anything, we both looked out the bit glass windows out front.  We stared.

Me:  Is it snowing?

Her:  It looks like it's snowing.

Me:  It was supposed to be in the 50s today.

Her:  Looks like snow.

And we wandered off, looked at more stuff, then both met and stared out the window.

Her:  It's snowing.

Me:  Yeah, it really is snowing.

And more conversation along those lines.  By the time we'd finished roaming the entire store, the snow had turned to rain.  None of it stuck, of course, and the dogs were both curled up in the car napping and ignoring it all.  There was little sign it had snowed at all, although all afternoon we'd catch the occasional flake amid the rain.  I think both of us still had mild feelings of shock and disbelief.  Snow, while not unheard of in the Upstate, is rather rare and tends to bring about deep desires to clear the bread and beer out of the local grocery store.  And yet, it certainly had snowed for about 30 minutes.

This is only remarkable because only a day or so previous the temperature had settled in the 70s.  It cannot make up its mind.

The other parts of the day were equally amusing and bemusing.  The best (to me, at least) was watching Zeus and Ringo figure out how to be dogs together.  Zeus weighs 65 pounds, and Ringo MIGHT top out around 5 pounds.  The cats were completely confused by Ringo.  They kept walking up to him and sniffing and reaching out paws to pat his big bat ears.  Ringo lives with cats so he was not concerned about them or even interested, but Puck in particular was fascinated and stalked him.  However, it was Ringo and Zeus who entertained me most.

At first, Ringo was not happy about Zeus, while Zeus was enthralled with Ringo.  They managed to settle down when Tiffanie and I left them in the car, but Ringo is possessive over Tiffanie and gets uptight with other dogs, especially  male dogs, when she's nearby.  So at first Ringo was very hostile.  When we returned to my house, we let Ringo wander.  Zeus, of course, wanted to play, and was going through his play bow and his "Play with me" bark.  Ringo, intimidated, made a little aggressive run and barked at Zeus.  Zeus did the most marvelous back pedal, slipping on the hard floor with his paws going in every direction.  Ringo, impressed with his own machismo, did it again.  Zeus jumped back like he was on springs.  And so it began, this new game.  Both had tails wagging and I wished the downstairs was bigger so they would have room for this new game.  Ringo would run at Zeus, Zeus would scramble away, and then he'd be back at Ringo, waiting for that little dog to do it again.  Tiff and I were falling over laughing.

We're going to try to have more "doggie play dates" because Zeus is all pro dog.  Tiffannie has two other little dogs, both Chihuahuas of deep and unusual adorableness, and I rather hope Zeus gets mobbed.


Monday, January 28, 2013

Hat Trick

In that last couple of years, I have developed a hat collection.  Many of these hats have come via Miss Myrna.  Others have been purchased for me by The Husband, who likes me in hats.  Now that my hair is shorter, I feel more like wearing hats.  I have a goodly collection now, wool hats and straw hats.  Two hat boxes in the closet and one in the attic (where my Top hat resides.)

I want a black man's top hat, so I can attach a little veiling to it and feel very 19th century.

Now, here's the hard part.  Where do I wear these hats?  I haven't worked out a method for wearing hats on a daily basis.  Once upon a time a hat was just a part of the clothing one wore, like shoes or a shirt.  You wore something on your head all the time.  Then hats became something you wore because you were going into the public eye.  Gradually they became special occasion wear, then they vanished pretty much completely except for old ladies in church and the fashionably eccentric.   They became markers of certain cultural/social niches.  They took on new meanings.

I just like to wear hats.  I don't always look good in a hat, but I think a hat always looks good. (I need more hat pins, too.)

My car is not hat friendly, though.  Wearing a hat while driving is a problem because it bumps the headrest or rubs the ceiling.  Of course, wearing my hair in a bun or a ponytail creates similar problems.

My birthday is coming up and we are planning a dinner with friends at one of my favorite restaurants.  I am planning to wear a hat.  I have a Miss Myrna original, a beautiful, bright red straw hat with satin roses and feathers.  It's Quite A Hat, and I plan to wear it.  I may declare it a Hat Party.

In my early teens I wore a baseball cap most of the time, usually because I had my long hair tucked into it.  At some point I gave up my boy impersonation and the hat went away.  Now I want to wear hats to be as female as I can manage.

Oh, and today I have metallic green fingernails.  They entertain me.

I guess the trick to wearing a hat is to put it on your head and leave the house.  Still, it seems more complicated than that.