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31 January 2013

Boneshaker, by Cherie Priest

Just finished reading Boneshaker by Cherie Priest. Took me a while to get into it. It's been in my stack of books next to my bed for a month or more. I was reading a few pages at a time for a couple weeks. But partway through I started having trouble putting it down, and two days later I had finished it.

I've decided - after some deliberation - that I like the softer look of the ivory pages with brown font. At first I found it charming, an instant attraction of the book. At times it was inconsequential, and at one point I thought I might dislike it, because it was harder to read in the low light of the evening than a conventional color scheme would have been. I had to stop trying to read it when I was tired. My eyes and that light font just didn't work together, then. But... I probably should have been sleeping at that point, anyway. My fault - so the color scheme got its point back.

Why the slow start for such a voracious reader as myself?
How did it finally catch my attention?

Hmm, well,... good questions. I had to go back and skim the first part again to answer them. And when I did, I found it far more engaging than I had the first time. So my answer to both is: I have no idea.

This isn't much of a book review, I'm afraid. But I'll say this: if my son weren't so afraid of zombies, this would have been a great book to read to him. (He's in third grade, reads far below a third grade level, but loves being read to, and is totally capable of understanding higher level books being read to him. I know because I ask him comprehension questions as we read, to make sure he's actually listening.) There was tons of action, which he would love, especially... after the first part - which could explain my initial difficulty.

Ok, back to answering those two questions up there, because I've just figured it out: I didn't know what to expect from this book. I'd never read a Cherie Priest book before, and the cover touted it as full of all the steampunk-action elements, and I wasn't seeing any of those at first. It seemed to be slow-paced, in contrast to a fast-paced cover. It caught my attention when the story began to catch up with the cover, which I should add, was actually pretty soon. In all honesty, my difficulty with the beginning of the book probably had more to do with the poor quality of my attention span than it did with any aspect of the book.

Anyway. It would have been a great book to read to my son because we would both have enjoyed it. Lots of intelligent action, and no unnatural romance - which I'm afraid has ruined a good many action books with its forced, anti-climatic intrusions. And, the plot itself is not formulaic; it proceeds in such a way that I'm convinced the author is pretty damn clever.

Since finishing Boneshaker, I've also read another of Cheire Priest's books, Clementine, which is set in the same world as Boneshaker; Clementine is probably considered a spin-off of Boneshaker, but I haven't verified that. Regardless, I'm glad I read Boneshaker first because the plot of Clementine would have been hollow (though workable) without that background. That said, my suggestion to the author would be to provide some sort of indication of the best order in which to read the books of the series. While they aren't (apparently) serialized, there are major plot elements which are explained in one book and expanded in another. It was a bit of luck that I read Clementine after Boneshaker; I liked Clementine better for it.

27 January 2013

Harriet Jacobs: Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

"I'm not going to start this right now, because I have to take notes for my assignment so I'll need to get my notebook and pen first, but maybe I'll just glance at the introduction..."

33 Pages into the story, I looked up and realized that I would have to re-read that whole beginning, this time taking notes. This book seriously sucked me in.

It was captivating to read; it was depressing in analysis, in the way that only truth can be.


If we were to identify a singular dominant theme in Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, it would be of the sexual exploitation of African American women in the institution of slavery. The length and breadth of the text are streaked through with references, both direct and indirect, to the specific difficulties faced by the women who were slaves. Although the institution of slavery itself creates the framework, the events of her narrative have the sexual exploitation of Harriet Jacobs by her owner, the slaveholder known in the book as Dr. Flint, at their root.

The only period of Harriet’s life that is spared some form of sexual exploitation is her earliest childhood, before she even knows she is to be a slave. It’s a short period, though, and as Harriet learns, the budding of maidenhood is a frightful thing for a slave girl. Harriet speaks eloquently of “the trials of girlhood” (Incidents 26) as she experienced them. She is just fifteen when she becomes aware she is a target of Dr. Flint’s depredations, but by then she already knows what sort of behavior she can expect from a man who is a slaveholder. “Even the little child, who is accustomed to wait on her mistress and her children, will learn, before she is twelve years old, why it is that her mistress hates such and such a one among the slaves... She will become prematurely knowing in evil things.” (Incidents 27) Though Harriet speaks in general terms, it’s clear that she includes herself in this assessment. The reader is made to understand that her experience – the misery she suffered as the result of Dr. Flint’s sexual harassment of her – is common amongst female slaves as they grow into adulthood. The behavior of Dr. Flint and the other slaveholding men in her narrative put the flagrant sexism of the antebellum South on display; they have no concept of the slaves as having human dignity, but nor do they view their own wives as deserving of the dignity expounded as a virtue of monogamy. In reaction, the wives join in the harassment, harboring resentment and jealousy rather than lust, and vent these frustrations on the female slaves who have been subjected to their husbands’ predations. In this way, the slaveholder’s wives are the unwilling accomplices of their husbands, furthering the misery swirling around the slave women’s sexuality.

As Harriet grows to womanhood in this environment, she is still beset by the same hopes and concerns other young women of her age encounter. She briefly entertains the hope that she will be allowed to marry a man of her choice – a choice typically denied and always hazardous for slaves. Nevertheless, Harriet falls in love. She predicts the unhappy ending to this affair; in any outcome, there would be only pain. Even had she married the man – a freeborn colored man – he would have been harmed by his inability to protect her under the law. Instead, she encouraged him to leave because that was the only way she believed he might find happiness. Such was the hold of slavery on the sexuality of African American women in its grip. (Incidents 33-38)

That hold only tightened when the enslaved women became mothers. As chattel, their offspring were no more sacred to slaveholders than the offspring of horses or cows, and motherhood itself brought a new set of fears to supplement the existing ones. First, slave women had little or no choice in who they conceived a child with, or when they did so. Then, their children were the property of their owners, and could be taken at whim. Worse still, if the child were a girl; the mother knew how much more difficult her child’s life would be, just for being female. Harriet describes this with keen articulacy. Though her innate boldness empowers her to choose the father of her children, the choice is made in the context of a scheme to escape Dr. Flint, in favor of necessary expediency, and at the cost of her pride. Harriet is corned by her circumstances, and forced to sacrifice her moral obligation to marry before having sexual intercourse; in this manner, her sexuality is a weapon in her own hands, intended to allow her release from Dr. Flint, but effectively harming her standing instead. (Incidents 47-51)

There is no release from sexual exploitation for Harriet during the life of Dr. Flint. Even in her torturous and extended escape, she is hounded with the knowledge that he obsesses over having her fully in his control, to have her “subject to his will in all things” (Incidents 26). Her existence as a woman is an unpalatable threat to her safety, as long as he holds her as his legal slave.

In Harriet’s case – and likely in so many more cases – her sexuality is threatened, and threatening, from her maidenhood until her release from slavery. For many other African American women in slavery, their release from slavery came only with death. It is a blessing in Harriet’s eyes that she is able to live beyond that time, beyond the soul-rending bonds of slavery which turn her sex and her sexuality against her. For Harriet, sexual exploitation by Dr. Flint is the driving force behind her fears and actions for much of her life. It’s only in the very beginning of her life, and the very end, that she is relatively free from those influences. 

Edition Cited: Jacobs, Harriet A. Incidents in the life of a slave girl (Unabridged). 1861. Reprint. New YorkDover Publications, 2001. Print.


I've decided that, in general, my 'reviews' of non-fiction books will be more "critical analysis" than "review." It's more my thing.

26 January 2013

brain... threatening... mutiny...

Oh my freaking god. So very tired of thinking about climate change and peak oil, and autobiographies and slave narratives. All of which are really, really depressing, by the way. I need a break before I experience internal mutiny.

I've been taking a lot of breaks, actually.

I prefer  housework to doing these assignments. That's how sick of the topics I am. I'm debating doing housework and taking short breaks from that to work on my essays, rather than what I've been doing, which is the opposite. I'd probably be more productive on both tasks.

I'm serious.

23 January 2013

that new-semester rush

The beginning of a new semester is always hectic as the various schedules settle into new places. I haven't been able to write much this week. It bothers me; I have all these ideas that I haven't been able to get written down. I even dreamed a whole scene of my story, which is nagging me to get named (the story, not the scene). As the schedules for Bear's schooling, my classes and homework, housework, errands, and the ever-elusive "grown-up" time come together more harmoniously, I'll set my writing schedule. Writing schedules, more like. And a painting schedule. And a finish-my-website schedule.

I have entirely too much going on this semester to let things go in my usual unscheduled way. Things just wouldn't get done (which would also be my usual).

I also need a job that starts either in the summer of fall of this year. Sigh.

Right now, I have about 6 posts in draft because I had to get my thoughts down so I didn't forget them, but I didn't have time to write a whole post. Soon, soon. This weekend, I think. I have 4 essays to write for my classes, due on Friday, but after that I think my schedule will be a little more settled.

Wish me luck.

20 January 2013

Campbell-Stokes Sunshine Recorder

I want this. 

In miniature, as a ring.

With bronze and azurite. 

How fucking cool would that be?

I have no idea who took this picture. If you know, please hook me up with that info. Thanks.

18 January 2013

b is for... my first Blogging anniversary!

Today's the day!

This is my very first "blogoversary" and I gotta say, I'm pretty excited for where this blog is going in the next year. I'm shifting my focus away from my own psychoses (ha!) and toward my art and writing, and my pagan path. Really, I'm not sure those three are actually separable.

I'm something of an animist, something of a polytheist; I use animal oracle cards and runes, and I'm learning tarot. My path, I believe, is visible in my artwork. That's especially true in the print I'm giving away today, titled Souls.

I have several projects going which I'll be blogging about: I'm working on building a primate deck, which I suppose will be a form of oracle cards, rather than tarot. I'll blog about my work with learning tarot via my new-ish steampunk tarot deck. I'm also helping Kourtney out with the Pagan Pages Blog Hop, and following along with the Pagan Blog Project. Occasionally, I peek in on the Pagan Blog Prompts and see what's going on there, too.

I've joined three reading challenges, too, just in case my blogging projects and the 19 credit hours I'm taking at the university don't keep me busy. They'll blend well with things I'll be reading, anyway, in the course of my studies and research, so it's not actually a big addition to my schedule. The buttons for those are on the left sidebar, if you wanna check them out (it's the Dystopian RC, the "This isn't Fiction" RC, and the "Get Steampunk'd" RC).

Speaking of steampunk... my fiction is going that direction. I'm hoping to finish my first story this year. I'll be adding some new poetry here and there, but that's not the focus this year that it was last year. I'm pleased with my first book of poetry, 40 Pieces, which I just finished at the end of 2012 and will be given away today. This year, my fictional story will be my priority.

If you're just stopping by to see who won the giveaway, here's what you're looking for: 

Congratulations to Magaly Guerrero of Pagan Culture fame!

Pssssst! Today is also Cletus' birthday. Pass on some birthday wishes on his blog!

17 January 2013


It's freezing in my house tonight. Maybe it's just me.
I tried writing about all this when it first happened. The line above was as far as I got.


You have to be very careful with words. They speak your intentions, even the ones you are not aware of. Words are truth on the deepest level. They can change you, inside and out.

I'm probably angry right now. In fact, I know I am. But I can't feel it. There's a lot of things I can't feel. There's a wall of apathy between me and the world outside of my household. On the inside, are my son, my dogs, my cat, and my son's new ferret, who we just got last night. The night before last, Archer finally said the words I knew were coming, and it broke my heart.

He's been so angry lately. Not with me, but with... his life, I suppose. His younger daughter - the other is an adult - was the only person spared the brunt of it (he retained presence of mind enough for that, which speaks to his core as a parent). I knew he was choosing not to answer the phone when he saw my name on the caller ID. I knew he was avoiding me, that he was angry and his anger had no direction, that nearly all of us were feeling it. I thought to be patient, to wait for him to realize this and correct himself. I was foolishly unprepared for the distance between knowing what was going on, and being told what was going on.

He said he felt like he was on vacation from the world, that maybe he just needed a break, to be selfish for a while. To be utterly selfish. And he knew that his younger daughter was the only person who would never forgive him. There's more to that than what I had presupposed. It wasn't just anger; I had been taken for granted, and was no more valuable than any of the people who actually deserved his anger. When he 'took a vacation,' I wasn't part of that. I was on the outside of his walls.

Maybe it isn't totally clear why that was so hurtful. I've been in plenty of relationships in which I wasn't, and didn't expect to be, on the inside with that person. It was ok. It was how those relationships functioned. This is the first relationship I've had in which I felt at any point, that I was on the inside. Here's the thing: I have always let the other person on the inside with me. In previous relationships, that was a problem because it created an imbalance - those relationships weren't really  ok. This one, with Archer, was different. We were inside together. Until he pushed me out, without cause or explanation. Well, there was a cause- he was angry - it just wasn't a cause that had anything at all to do with me.

I told him, in response, that I was going to have to protect myself from him, although I wasn't going anywhere. I still believe this is temporary, and there's a furtiveness to permanent solutions for temporary problems.

I had to shut off that side of me that allows me to put myself "out there" for another person. I had to withdraw into myself, to protect my heart. When he comes back, then so will I.

Based on yesterday and today, so far, Archer seems to be coming back. That conversation, and the brief minutes we saw each other yesterday, seem to have helped wake him up.

I'm still here. Just, waiting in my walls.


I couldn't write about that right away. I had to wait for the words to come, and they come best in the numbness of apathy. In shutting down the side that cares, I have erected a wall between us. I'm hoping that I can keep that wall specific, that I won't allow it to affect my other relationships. And I think I've been successful, except that today I couldn't seem to make myself get out of bed before one pm (and then I got up only because I was running out of time before my class starts this evening). So perhaps indirectly, it will affect others. (My son, by the way, thought it was great because he got to play on his xbox this morning, instead of doing schoolwork. Which isn't great, but I don't mind giving him a short vacation, either. He has been so helpful recently, with housework and taking care of the animals.)

And now it's two pm, and I really need to get breakfast and a shower, and go to class.

14 January 2013


Didn't sleep much last night. Was wide awake until around 5 or 6 am. Things happened between 6 am and noon, but they're all hazy. My little Bear woke up from a nightmare. I remember that. I brought him back to my room and he fell back asleep, probably after I did. I got out of bed at noon. He was already playing his favorite video game.

I have to go to class now.
I probably won't write much today. Maybe I will tonight. I don't know.
I'm tired, but it's an emotional tiredness, probably more depression than exhaustion. Sleep won't come easily tonight, either. I can tell that already. Maybe I'll write through my insomnia. Maybe I won't.

All three of my critters - two dogs and one cat - were cuddling me when I woke up this morning. That helped. A lot.

Ok, class. Really.

12 January 2013

countdown to the giveaway!

Not so, my friends, not so. 

With less than a week until the drawing, have you entered your name yet?

Here's what's at stake: a handmade copy of my poetry book, 40 Pieces, and a high quality print of Souls.

Here's how to enter:

1. Publicly follow any one of my blogs on blogger.
        - this one.
        - Bones's Fiction
        - Bones' Poetry
2. Follow me on facebook at either my art page or my writing page.
3. Follow me on Society6.

4. (And this one is new!) Leave me a comment on this post, telling me what you'd like to see more of, or less of, on this blog. Alternatively, you could leave a comment and just say hi :)

The drawing is 18 January 2013 - next Friday - at noon, Arizona time.

Good luck!

a is for apes... in oracles

A while back I had an idea to create an oracle or tarot deck full of primates. This post is venture number one into that endeavor. It also conveniently features the letter A, thus fitting neatly into the Pagan Blog Project schedule. Win!

I'll start with apes.

But... there are some big differences between the different apes, you say?
Indeed. Don't worry, I'm all over it.

I'm debating whether or not to include humans when I actually make the cards. For now, I'm toying with that idea and trying to develop it a little more fully. Until then, let's discuss the ape family and some of its other members.

The scientific name of the family of apes is Hominidae, by the way. Little bit of trivia for ya. It includes all the "great apes" and humans, with orangutans in one subfamily and the rest of us - gorillas, chimps, and humans - in the other. Chimps and humans are even in the same tribe; the gorillas have their own tribe.

Did I say trivia? Well, it might be meaningful to this post after all. Let's see.

Oh, and in case you're wondering how I'm going to do cards for all 500+ species of primates, or how I'm going to group them without glossing over essential character differences in species, this post will be a great example of that. See, there aren't that many ape species, but some of them would be repetitious. Take gorillas and chimps, for example... well, hang on. Hold that thought.

Ok, so there are two recognized species of gorillas: eastern gorillas, which live in the lowlands of central Africa, and western gorillas, which live in the mountainous rainforests of central Africa. There are more similarities than differences in these species. They weren't even separated into two species until relatively recently. So, gorillas will be one card; the lessons each species has to teach is inclusive of both.

Chimps, on the other hand... there are two species of chimps, too, but these two species are vastly different in their behavior and ecologic solutions, thus they have very different lessons for us. Each species will have its own card.

Make sense? That's how I'm going to do this - one family/tribe/genus/species at a time.


Apes do have some common themes. Perhaps the group of them could almost be considered a sort of 'suit' - much like the suits of a playing card deck or a standard tarot - only there won't be enough apes to make a full suit. Regardless, the common themes of apes should be known and recognized in the deck I'm building.

So, without further ado, here they are: the themes you've been waiting for (or at least, the themes I've been waiting for)...

Apes are the thinkers of the primates; they use tools and seem capable of learning language (personally, I would argue that the great apes do, in fact, use language - maybe better than some humans I know - but that's a hotly debated topic). They have complicated social systems and emotions. They hunt, make war, practice altruism, heal each other, they experience joy and grief. They are the thinkers, and the feelers; great apes are the nearest of our kin. Though each species of ape has a different story to tell, a different lesson to teach, it's likely that the lesson will be related somehow to those truths. Their theme is social cognition: how do we think about our interactions? How do we act on our feelings? How do we process emotions and empathy?


Next time, I'll talk specifics: Bonobos.

11 January 2013

a Pagan Blog Project post... sorta, but not really

Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules.

That's the first title I noticed when I glanced (ok, stared) at my bookcase just now. Google, which is the power behind my automatic spell check thingy, says I spelled "cataloguing" incorrectly, but the book's spine says otherwise. I'll trust the book. But I wonder if perhaps the spelling hasn't changed in the 60+ years since the book was published. Maybe it was right, then, and is wrong, now. And then I wonder, what about the other Americans? Do they catalogue differently? (Google says "catalogue" isn't a word, either. Clearly, google does not know everything.) But that's silly. Then again, maybe 60 years ago, they were the only ones running libraries in any sort of official capacity. That seems more likely. I don't know, just guessing. I'm not strong in librarian history, even as it blends with American history.

Actually, what seems most likely is that the title refers to the British ("Anglo") origins of the American cataloguing system, and has nothing at all to do with the race of person utilizing that system.

Funny how our minds first jump to issues of contention, eh? Or maybe that was just because I'm on the first day of the spring semester - which includes a course on historical African American literature (specifically, the autobiographies of African American women), and we're starting out with a text from 1865.

Surely, I must have a point.


After a brief lunch break, I've decided I might not have a point after all. But the post does  start with "a" so I must be getting somewhere, right? Maybe not.


Maybe I should take my medication earlier in the day. I think my brain's just now getting warmed up.


So, anyway, as I was saying... well, I'll let you know when I remember what I was saying.


This started out as a stream-of-conscious writing exercise intended to work up some "a" post inspiration for the Pagan Blog Project (see button on the right sidebar if you're not familiar). Clearly, that isn't what happened.

On the bright side, I did get an idea for my PBP post.

To be continued... (in a separate post because, really, would you  want to this one to go on any longer?)

10 January 2013

Driven to Distraction - a book review about ADD and me

I started reading this book because my little Bear has ADHD, and I'm struggling to help him.

The book is Driven to Distraction: Recognizing and Coping Attention Deficit Disorder from Childhood through Adulthood, by Edward Hallowell and John Ratey. It's mostly by Edward Hallowell, but includes the ideas of Hallowell's mentor, John Ratey. Not that it really matters. Both men are well qualified to write this book.

Anyway, I started reading it so that I could better understand my child. In the very first chapter, I realized I needed to be taking notes - this was good stuff which I knew damn well I couldn't possibly retain unless I wrote it down. Correction: I started taking notes while reading the Preface, which I almost never read in any book (yes yes, bad student, blah blah... that's not the point here, not exactly).

By chapter three, I was reading the book for myself. I'm still trying to understand my child, and the book is still immensely helpful in that endeavor, but I've become completely engrossed in it because it's about me, too. I'm learning that although I thought I had a pretty good handle on what ADD is (I'm including ADHD under the ADD umbrella), I really only had a superficial understanding. ADD is a spectrum, not a single set of narrowly-variable symptoms which are either present or not. And now, I'm sorely tempted to do that cardinal sin of psychology (and psychiatry, and medicine...), and diagnose myself. The more I learn, the more I see myself. Which would explain a lot. I mean, a LOT.

The book is filled with case studies in which I've seen myself and my little Bear, and it is giving me insight into each of us. It has gone beyond just opening my eyes, and shown me new paths to take which will help us both. It's also the first non-fiction book I've ever read that I couldn't put down. I'll probably read it a couple times. I've actually been taking notes, just because I never remember what I read unless I write it down. And this, I want to remember.

The only caveat I have is that it's dated, having been published in 1995. Some of the medications the author mentions are outdated. However, medication is only discussed specifically in three of the 300+ pages of the book. So this datum is really irrelevant, in my opinion. I scanned through those three pages and went on my merry way. Also, the contact information in the appendix is probably no longer useful, either. That's what we have google for, eh?


I just found a couple more recent (2005 and 2010) books on this topic, by the same author. They're goin on my amazon list... And done.

Also, apparently there's a newer, revised edition of this same book. I highly recommend it, based on this earlier edition's excellence. 

07 January 2013

Terrorism: the third and (probably) final installment

Terrorism, with or without religion (Part 1)
The Psychology of Terrorism (Part 2)


Osama bin Laden was known to continuously step outside his 'small group' to consult theologians; his higher order capacity was very high. However, I think ObL thought of himself as more of an irregular general than as a terrorist. This is important; our own (American) generals don't think of themselves as terrorists, but Palestinians would disagree.


If we consider the capacity for terrorist actions to be a non-pathologic behavior,
then we began to view that capacity as, perhaps, a "normal" or healthy reaction
to what we almost must assume to be an unhealthy environment of situation - or,
more likely, a series of unhealthy situations which either result from or shape that
environment. However, we must consider this capacity as a potential rather than a
certainty because there are too many examples of people surviving the same adverse
conditions as terrorists without becoming terrorists themselves. So, we have two
primary questions with which to begin: first, from where does the potential come?
Second, what influences that potential to develop into action? I will address only the
second question in this essay.

Essentially, to answer this question we are looking for the intersection between the
psychological (micro) theory and the socio-cultural (mezzo) theory, in any individual
terrorist. I'll begin with questioning what it is about the host milieu (population/
culture) that causes or allows terrorism to evolve from potential to action? We have
to look at both the host and the sub-cultures within the host, because portions of the
larger environment might have a greater influence than the larger environment. In
other words, there could be a smaller sub-culture which might be exerting a greater
influence on the terrorist potential than the greater milieu.

We also want to look at the dynamics - the action components. You don't get actions
just by plopping someone in an environment; there is no variation with just being
there. We want to look at the intersection between the domain and the person. There
has to be an interactive effect - a friction, or some type of dissonance - for change
to occur. We have to create a stimulus situation that has enough energy, dissonance,
and difference, so that something happens to create a new pattern of behavior. We're
not going to see that just looking at the broad milieu; we're going to have to look at
the dynamic. We want motility because without that, there is no change. When the
individual factor interacts with the socio-cultural, friction creates change. So, how
does this friction develop?

I'd like to take this opportunity to introduce another theory to our discussion: Lonnie
Athens' theory of violentization. Although he studied violent criminals in America,
not "terrorists," I believe there is an overlap here that deserves our attention. His
underlying question was, what makes people capable of violence? He was looking for
the places where psychology and socio-cultural influences intersect to create a person
capable of taking the lives of others violently, or seemingly "unprovoked." In sum, he
observed a four-part series of events that had occurred in some form in the life of each
person - each convicted, confessed violent criminal he interviewed. The stages are, as
he names them, Brutalization, Belligerency, Violent Performance, and Virulency (in
that order). Without boring you too much detailing those stages, I think it's important
to note that perhaps we need to be examining the lives of terrorists in a similar way
as Athens did with the criminals, if not actually check for the same series of events.
Essentially, Athens did with criminals what we would like to do with terrorists, and
in the end, how much difference is there between terrorists and 'people capable of
violence for no apparent reason (from the victims' perspectives)?'

Well obviously the difference is in the intent behind the violence, right? Maybe
not. Perhaps the difference is only in the scale. The need to create fear is very much
entwined with the last three stages of violentization. In Athens' process, the need to
create fear is specific to the would-be criminal as an individual facing the rest of the
world. That person feels the need to perform violent acts as a way to keep themself
intact, while a terrorist, as we have viewed them in this class, is seeking to further
the security of their group against another group. So for a terrorist, the scale is a bit
different on both sides of the conflict. However, recalling that we have determined
that our terrorists identify so strongly with their small groups, that the group's identity
might be considered their own identity, to some degree. That concept then lessens the
degree of difference in scale between violent criminals and terrorists.

The idea is worth consideration, I believe.

04 January 2013

a is for apples and adaptation: a statement in favor of firsts

Adapt to survive; adapt to thrive.

I'm taking a history course right now entitled, "Native Americans in US History." There are two main themes which I'm taking away from this course, which is nearing its end. The most obvious is that Euro-Americans have been some seriously genocidal motherfuckers. I think we all pretty much knew that already, but I'm getting a much more detailed account of our historical treachery and modern apathy through this course than anything I've gotten before. The second theme is far more uplifting, and that is a theme of adaptation.

We tend to look back on our histories as a listing of chronological events in which monolithic groups of people clashed or merged. Even those Euro-Americans who believe themselves sympathetic to Native Americans in the power struggle between them and the various invading entities (my white girl self included), tend to see only that the Native Americans were beaten back, and beaten down, until their cultures had been all but decimated. What I hadn't given much thought to, before taking this course, was that there were tribes and individual Native Americans who attempted to adapt their own culture in order live peacefully, or even successfully, within the new economic and social structures being built by the Euro-Americans. There don't seem to be many success stories, but some came closer than I had ever realized.

I'm not here to give a history lesson today. My point is, I'm realizing that when we look back we need to remember that nothing happens in a vacuum, everything that happens has a first time, and nothing stays the same. I suppose what I'm working toward is a theory in defense of UPG (Unverified Personal Gnosis), but I think it's more than that. It's a plea for us all to look at each other - all the other humans we encounter every single day - and remember that every thing has a first.

Last autumn, when I needed something for my first-ever offering to Odin, I scanned my kitchen for available potential offerings. My eyes found apples, and something told me that was appropriate, despite having never heard of any connection between Odin and apples before. I offered Odin an apple, just on a hunch, and there are plenty of anti-UPG people who would have cried foul. When I later learned that there was  a verifiable reference to a positive relationship between Odin and apples, I felt validated in my earlier UPG-based offering. It was a good feeling. Kind of a raspberry in the face of the nay-sayers. It was also my first intentional step onto the UPG path, because, what the hell, it seemed to be working for me.

The more I think about it, though, the more I'm inclined to view UPG as the continuation of the longest human tradition of all: adaptation. There had to be a first, after all. Every story we tell, every myth we learn from, every parable and every divine truth we uncover in our reference books - every single one of those had a first time. First time being told, being written, and even a first time being thought of.

When we stop thinking of firsts, we stop growing, and we shut out our natural capacity for adaptation. If we picture all our various cultural paths as branches on a tree, perhaps we can more easily recall that stagnation is death: the tree will die if new branches, new leaves, and even new roots do not continue to grow.

Our species is not stagnant; we are not static. We are dynamic.