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28 February 2013

still alive... sorta

I miss having time to blog... or think... or breath...
I really bit off more than I could chew this semester.

I'm totally caught up in all but one class right now... and I'm four assignments behind in that one. Which is every assignment so far this semester, because he's only assigned four. The last day to drop that class (with "only" $275 in extra fees) is 5 March, so I'm giving myself til the 4th to get all those assignments done and turned in. Otherwise I'll withdraw. On the bright side, Archer's going to help me with those assignments this weekend. So there is hope.

I did finish reading Assata Shakur's autobiography (it was for a class), and I'll have a post up about that soon. That woman is amazing. She's still alive, in Cuba. I hope I get to meet her someday. Anyway, yeah, more on that later. Short version: read the book, it's that good.

26 February 2013


I'm fed up. I'm fed up with trying to help everyone else sort their shit out. It probably isn't fair of me, considering how much I've had sorting my own shit out. I am finally becoming functional as an adult, and I'm sick of having to be patient with people who need help but don't acknowledge or want it. My deal-with-shit quota is FULL.

22 February 2013


Archer: "Has loneliness been a big theme in your life?"
Me: "Yeah, I guess so. I'd never thought so before, but I'm realizing it now."

Writing my autobiography has brought a lot of patterns into focus. Forests that'd I missed for the trees, are making themselves known. It started out as an assignment for one of the History courses I'm taking this semester: write an autobiographical account of your first thirty years, and point out major crossroads in your life and how you were affected by the events of the time. This has morphed into a person project of much greater proportions. When my professor reviewed my rough draft, she commented that it seemed I was writing the next Oprah's Book Club novel.

The version I'm writing now - the one I'll turn in for grading - is G-rated. I left out so much that I had to work really hard to make it feel in any way authentic in my eyes. I think I've managed, though, and I'm relatively pleased with the progress. And when this semester is over, I'm going to delve into for real.

There's a pattern of unhealthy relationships which I had recognized before, but never understood. I had vague notions of how it was related to my history of abuse, and my mental illness, but I couldn't explain it in a useful way. Now, I'm seeing how loneliness has driven so much of that.

I've written before about my fears concerning my inability to live alone. I've also thought extensively about how that affects my relationship with Archer, who cannot be happy living with another person (he probably wouldn't phrase it quite like that, but I would). I've considered the possibility of needing a roommate for... I don't know, my entire life maybe. I want very much to figure out how to mitigate my loneliness without jeopardizing my relationship with Archer, which is so very precious to me.

Lately I had begun to wonder, how much loneliness is healthy? That was the wrong question. Even "how to I deal with loneliness in a healthy way" wasn't quite what I needed to answer. Not first, anyway.

This morning, I had my first therapy appointment. I'm going to a civilian therapist, since the VA doesn't have time for me. Spendy, but worth it. 

I tried to describe how I experience loneliness - that it goes hand-in-hand with my depression, sometimes so much so that loneliness seems as though it were the root of the feelings of depression, as I experience them. She asked me if it were possible that the depression was causing the loneliness, rather than the other way around. 'Of course,' I thought and said, because it seemed so obvious and because that had  occurred to me. But, I hadn't really given it full consideration before. Nor did I, in that moment. The idea was dawning, though, and now, just a few hours later, it's coming into bloom. If I can begin to think of loneliness as a symptom  of depression, perhaps I can push it aside as I do my depression.

I'm not talking about normal loneliness. I'm talking about the fearful, painful type that doesn't let go even when I'm surrounded by people, even people who love me and whom I love. This is the loneliness that has driven me, unwitting, to nurture unhealthy relationships just for the sake of having one, and simultaneously driven me to seclude myself from people I cared about. This is the loneliness that kills.

I can already begin to imagine, just faintly as though through a veil, what it might be like to someday be ok with being alone in my home. Thinking of the loneliness as a projection of the depression, instead of a separate entity, makes it somehow less threatening, less powerful. Maybe I won't need a roommate after all.  

20 February 2013

He asked me a question...

...and then there was Silence.

Silence was met by the sleeping Cold.
Loneliness sighed - she sank to the floor;
Hope shattered, but gamely tried to keep his feet.

Shackled, they sang.
They sang to the Silence,
they sang the Cold awake,
they sang their tears to ice.

Hard, so hard, they armored themselves;
wrapped in frost and pain,
waiting for warmth, waiting for another song.

Also published here:

19 February 2013

What does FauxNews have against Pagans?

I read about the FoxNews travesty this morning.

I couldn't help but noticing - in addition to the simple issue of disrespect that has us all pissed off - that this article treated every  non-christian religion mentioned as a "fringe" religion... as though being a minority made a religion less valid. The title and the text do pick out pagans as the ones to take least seriously, but the tone of the entire article indicates that none  of the religions mentioned 'deserve' to have their holidays paid attention to, nevermind the two weeks off school regularly take for christmas.

So of course I had to find and watch the accompanying video.
Oh but wait, there's two.

Nothing like a little blatant lying on a major news channel to get my blood boiling in the morning.

Makes me wonder, can we sue them for slander and libel? It's both spoken and written, after all.
Better yet, can we ban them like Canada did, for misrepresenting what they do as "news"?

Besides their erroneous equation of pagans and Wiccans...


Host "Tucker": "The University of Missouri's religious guide says no exams ought to be scheduled on Wiccan and Pagan holidays; that puts those days on par with Christmas and Hanukkah."
(OMG! How dare those Wiccans and Pagans think their religion is just as valid as Abrahamic religions![/snark])

Host: "In fact, 20% of the holidays in their guide are Wiccan holidays."
(The guide lists 47 holidays. 20% of 47 is 9.4. Well, maybe they're rounding... don't worry, this will come up again. And again. Only it's a little different each time...)

Host: "Tammy, how many Wiccans are there out there?"
TB: "Well, I -"
Host: "-Is that a big religion?"
TB: "Not many. Maybe you and I should go for it though, because we'd get a heck of a lot more days off, wouldn't we?"
(You would get eight days, each year, which you wouldn't get off. Instead, you'd plan you holidays around your work schedule, like the rest of us non-Christians. Even the Mizzou guide they're referencing doesn't 'give days off' for the listed holidays - it's just for awareness' sake. On the other hand, if you're in school like the Mizzou students and you stick with Abrahamic religions - especially Protestant Christianity - you get somewhere close to two weeks or more off every Christmas, some days for Easter, etc...)

TB: "I don't know any Wiccans. I think maybe on a really bad day I might turn into one, I'm not sure."
(Way to spread the hate, TB.)

TB: "It's less about elevating other religions and other individuals and it's more about diluting the dynamic about what's important, uh, in people's lives..."
(I just have to interrupt here to point out that this person is a radio talk show host who can't put together a sensible statement. Diluting the dynamic? Really? Please, explain how promoting awareness of diversity dilutes a dynamic. And, pray tell, explain what the 'dynamic about what's important in people's lives' is, in your opinion.)

"...And, look, I think if you're a Wiccan or a Pagan, Tucker, you're really anti-establishment and I don't think you need the establishment to recognize ya."
(Right. Because Wiccan and/or Pagan = anarchist. Fucking retard.)

Host: "Who could name eight Wiccan holidays? I mean, I doubt your average Wiccan could."
(Because you're clearly an expert on what Wiccan people know/do/anything. You're a fucking journalist - do a little research! Or, so-called journalist, anyway - maybe that's more accurate.)

TB: "You know there's like ten of them [holidays]. They out-number, uh, most of the other so-cal-.. uh, you know, religions, actual religions."
(I caught that. You were going to say 'the other so-called religions' but you caught yourself, because Wicca and Paganism aren't actual religions in your view. And we're back to numbers again, briefly: again, the guide they're referencing lists 47 holidays, right? That's not all the holidays of all the religions the guide discusses, obviously. It's only a listing of the religious holidays which the school thinks might be relevant to planning and for which there isn't a corresponding school holiday - that means they are not days off, so the faculty should be aware that these holidays might interfere with their students' performances. So yeah. Not the comprehensive list Fox is trying to pass it off as.)

TB: "And I think that, look, there's ways people can take days off for their special days, I think though you're going to be looked at kinda funny if you insist that you need Halloween off."
(Exactly. That's a problem Wiccans and Pagans and the lot of us who celebrate Samhain have to deal with, when really we shouldn't have to. That would have been an intelligent statement if she hadn't meant it as a statement on why we shouldn't ask for Samhain off.)

TB: "I do think it's insulting to, if you're a Wiccan or a Pagan, and besides if you're an atheist or even a Pagan, isn't every day a holiday? You know, if you're celebrating nature, that's an every day experience."

Host: "Only a country that had been too rich for too long could be this frivolous and silly."

Host: "So they hate orthodox Christianity, that's kinda what this comes down to."

TB: "Well, I - I think that there's a - there's a - a - a rejection of tradition. I think that this is, again, not about elevating anyone up, it's about Pagans and Wiccans being used for a political agenda to downgrade what's important to a majority of Americans...."
(Right, because minorities having rights downgrades the privilege of the majority, who once had those rights all to themselves. Makes sense, if you're an asshole. Now, if only this guide they're wrecking havoc all over were actually an official government acknowledgement of minority religions' rights, that actually changed... anything.)

"...I think that this is, uh, an anti-tradition action. I think Pagans and Wiccans should be very angry about being used by the establishment, and I think that, uh, uh, there should be a backlash of - look, tradition in this country is - is what allows people to be Pagans and Wiccans and to enjoy their lives. Really, good luck doing that in any other country."
(She must have read a different history book than I did. Or civics book. Or maybe she just lives in a different America than I do. First, "tradition" is not  what allows us to have religious freedom in this country, even to the extent that we do. I... I'm not getting into the history lesson. Nor am I going to get into her 'political agenda' that is supposedly using us.... by letting others know about our holidays... Right. Just read a fucking book, woman. Second, America isn't the only industrialized country, and there are at least a dozen which accommodate minority religions just off the top of my head - and I'm no political scientist. I'm sure there's more.)

Host: "Yeah, you wouldn't want to see the Wiccans when they're angry."
(More with the 'witch' jokes. Lucky for you, Tucker, you will  see angry Wiccans after this broadcast.)

I don't know the names of these fucks, nor do I care to. I'm not even going to label them.

"There are more Zoroastrians here than there are Wiccans."
(As if either religion should be dismissed because they are minorities. Also, that's false.)

'Wiccans need their holidays recognized because they are a large percent of the population.'
(See above.)

"The bad side of Wiccanism [sic] is, it's obviously a form of witchcraft..."
(That's false. Also, witchcraft is not inherently "bad," though you may think so if you're a fundamentalist of the Abrahamic sort.)

"... but the upside is, you get a ton of holidays. 20% Of all school holidays as described by the University of Missouri are Wiccans holidays."
(Numbers, people, numbers. See how this line has changed, each time they use it? Now it's 20% off all school holidays, but earlier it was 20% of holidays in the guide... Again! Wiccans have eight holidays. The guide lists 47 holidays - by my quick count - which are not school holidays, but should be something faculty and staff are aware of, as they plan their schedules. Again, these are NOT school holidays, they are religious holidays which do not have a corresponding school holiday. In fact, none  of the Wiccan holidays are also school holidays.)

*See commentary on the first video for my thoughts on Tammy Bruce's spewings.*

"And somehow, if you're a Christian in this country, uh, too, that - you can't say 'Merry Christmas' to somebody or else you're trying to push your Christian faith on other people. -"
(Oh you're so persecuted! Asses. The general problem has never been with individuals wishing each other any sort of holiday cheer, it's in the proliferation of businesses pushing that shit. But that's not even related to this topic - you just wanted to get that little "we're so persecuted" dig in there. Well bra-fucking-vo.)

"-Right, but you get 20 holidays now if you're a Wiccan at - um, I guess that's the one to go with, right? I mean, if you're going to pick one, go with the one with the most holidays."
(See how they did that? It was 20%, now it's 20, as in the quantity 20. Let's play the telephone game... or, we could just watch Fox.)

"Except any religion whose most sacred day is Halloween, I just can't take seriously. I mean, call me a bigot, I'm not - uh, you know, I'm not offering an editorial against Wiccanism [sic]."
(Actually, that's exactly what you just did, and saying otherwise doesn't change it. And yes, I will call  you a bigot, bigot.)

"Well that would be more the Pagan side of it, right? Would be, would be Halloween."
(Um, you're an idiot.)

"How many Wiccans can name every Wiccan holiday? Or 50% of Wiccan holidays?"
"I don't know a single Wiccan."
"I will say this, because, you know, we're journalists [that's highly suspect, as claims go], and I have covered this. I actually went because there was some backlash over the years ago against Wiccans, and I remember I had to do a story and I went and interviewed a number of Wiccans. And they say, 'look we are the most peaceful individuals, we just - we don't practice crazy things, we just of the earth [sic]; we believe in-"
"- I think that's right. Every Wiccan I've ever known was either a compulsive Dungeons and Dragons player or is a middle-aged, twice-divorced older woman living in a rural area who works as a midwife."
"And likes a lot of incense."

Yeah, cuz, totally, you're retarded, and your bs is being passed off as "news" on a major channel. That has to be grounds for some kind of fraudulent advertising or... something.

Know what I think? That the Pagan community doesn't need a petition demanding an apology from Fox. It needs a lawyer.

The guide can be found here:
Video 1:
Video 2:

17 February 2013

some thoughts Hurston

I read most of Dust Tracks on a Road, an autobiography by Zora Neale Hurston, pretty quickly, but I had to force myself to finish it. The book is informative, about Hurston certainly, and less obviously about the times she grew up in, but the reader never feels engaged. I never felt as though the 'main character' were truly a sympathetic one. The book could just as easily been written in the third person, and might even have felt more real if it had been.

There's much discussion in the literary and civil rights circles about Hurston's apparent apathy toward the massive problems facing blacks in the US at that time (the turn-of and early years of the twentieth century). Maya Angelo talks about this controversy in her forward to Hurston's Dust Tracks, and she offers some perceptive analysis of Hurston's personal distance throughout the book.

Hurston does keep her readers at arm's length, and through her narration we can see that she participates in the world in a detached sort of way. Reading her story, I came to believe that Hurston doesn't intentionally keep people at a distance. She's smart and a capable anthropologist, but as we so often are unaware of ourselves, she is unaware of her detachment from the world of social constructs.

It should be no surprise that Hurston views the racial conflicts of the times through a distant lens which only affects her sparsely, and seems of little consequence to her. Nothing affects her strongly that isn't related to her father, mother, or step-mother. In fact, even her siblings are mentioned only in how they affected her directly, never for their own sake  She's not an overtly or intentionally selfish person; rather, she's barely aware of the outer world, blinded by an almost benevolent hubris. She can't see what the big deal is.

By her recollection, Hurston's childhood seems almost idyllic, in terms of racial relations. Perhaps it's the setting - an incorporated black town in Florida - or perhaps it's that Hurston doesn't process events the way other people might; there could be a psychological component to her lack of awareness. Later, Hurston comments on how it was more important to make one's own way in the world than it was to try to make the world better for others. A black man came into the barber shop where she worked, which catered to white men only, and the employees - all black - threw him out, refusing to serve him. She described her perspective of the experience this way:

     "An incident happened that made me realize how theories go by the board when a person's livelihood is threatened... that night in bed I analyzed the whole thing and realized that I was giving sanction to Jim Crow, which theoretically, I was supposed to resist. But here [we were] all stirred up at the threat of our living through loss of patronage... Perhaps it would have been a beautiful thing if Banks [the manager] had turned to the shop crowd with customers and announced that this man was going to be served... Then we could all have gone home to our unpaid rents and bills and things like that... There is always something fiendish and loathsome about a person who threatens to deprive you of your way of making a living. That is just human-like, I reckon." (Dust Tracks, 134-136) 

When I first read that, it felt significant, but honestly I was just trying to get through the book. I noted it for later consideration, understanding that Hurston preferred her life of relative ease (compared to the lives of other blacks, especially at that time). I struggled, as I've said, to finish the book. It was enlightening, but not engaging. When I finished it, I put it down in relief, grateful to be done with it and more than somewhat resentful of the essay I still had to write about it for my class (which I still haven't written - I skipped it, taking the hit on my grade rather than brutalizing my sensibilities trying to answer the asinine questions being asked).

That passage of Hurston's was illuminated in perfect clarity when I read the next book on the class list: Assata Shakur: an autobiography. Where Hurston noted troubles and ascribed them to immutable human nature, Assata notes troubles and determines to change them, by her own force if necessary. Maybe it's only that Assata lives more fully in the world of people than Hurston does; I think it's that Assata is involved in life and is driven by compassion, or empathy, or a wiser sense of the human experience. Perhaps those characteristics can't really be separated. Regardless, Hurston is one to work around problems rather than trying to solve them, and she doesn't pay much attention to those which aren't obstinately in her way.

And regardless of my own issues with reading through this book, I do recommend it to readers interested in this section of US history. Viewed through an awareness of the lens of Hurston's detachment, her story is useful in that it provides the view of those blacks who chose not to support civil rights. Perhaps some understanding is to be had here for that cause, though understanding of course should not be confused with endorsement.


Version cited:
Hurston, Zora Neale. Dust tracks on a road: an autobiography. Harper Perennial Modern Classics ed. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2006. Print.

15 February 2013

it's Friday morning

I'm sick. Head cold, flu, whatever. It sucks. Haven't had the energy or presence of mind to write. And I have to cancel my plans for this weekend, which sucks even more. I'm not even going to try to do a Pagan Blog Project post today. Next week, I will. I'll feel better by then, I'm sure. I'm behind on so much right now. School work, personal projects, house work, you name it.

Last Tuesday evening - when I still just had some sniffles - I attended a talk at our local library, given by a local historian, Mr. Jack Ziegler, who just happens to be awesome. The subject was the "entertainment" culture in Victorian-era Bisbee (our town): saloons, gambling, and prostitution. As you can imagine, I'm really glad I went. I learned tons of cool stuff about Bisbee, and got a hint on research project to pursue. And as a bonus, I ran into some old friends I hadn't seen in a while, and got to chitchat with them a bit. It was great.

I'm going back to bed now.

08 February 2013

c is for Chimpanzees

Two species of primates conduct organized warfare. Humans, and "chimps."

By "chimps" I mean common chimpanzees, not their close cousins the bonobos.

In a sense, looking at chimps, if we could do so as a species, might be akin to seeing ourselves in a fun-house mirror: Our differing appearances belie our internal consistency.

Yeah, physically there's a lot of differences. But in ethnographic terms? Not so much.  The cultures of our species have more overlap then deviation. We both experience the range of "human" emotions - joy, fear, anger, hate, love, humor, etc. Their body language mimics ours in their shaken angry fists and their tender, loving kisses. They pass cultural learning to their next generations, thus developing regional behaviors not shared among the species as a whole.

It seems that in popular culture, chimps are more feared than liked. We're moderately aware of their capacity for violence - a rival to our own, no doubt - but we don't tend to notice that chimps, as people, are more rounded than that. They're more developed in their personalities than we would give them credit for.

In laboratory testing, Chimps recognized themselves in the mirror; they recognized that they were seeing themselves, not a different chimp. Theory of mind has long been held as an exclusively human trait; we presumed no other animals could have the same level of awareness or cognition that we do.

This is the lesson of the Chimps, as I see it: don't be fooled by the plain or off-putting appearance of another being. This is about empathy and perspective. So often we see someone or something and form an instant, two-dimensional idea of who or what they are; there's no shame in this, it's how our brains work. The shame is in allowing ourselves to believe that the little we saw in that sketch of the person, is all there is to them. Remember: what we see is only the surface, and people hide far more on the inside than the tip hides of an iceberg. This concept extends to ourselves, our theory of mind: the thoughts that occupy your time right now, are not all that defines you. Know your holistic self; know who you are seeing when you look in the mirror.


Jane Goodall on Chimps (2007)

04 February 2013

b is for bonobos

"Isabel Behncke: Evolution's gift of play, from bonobo apes to humans"

The transcript of this video can be seen at the TEDtalk website.
It's available in 29 languages.
I recommend watching the video; a picture is worth a thousand words, and all.
It's also quite funny.

I recently said this about apes: "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?"

This holds true for Bonobos; they are a species of chimpanzee, which is a genus of ape. They are great apes, like us. And their lesson is: play. 

Play  in the Bonobo lesson is a means to empathy, and a means to community and personal happiness, regardless of the form it takes. But more to the point: play is a way of taking oneself and ones sexuality less seriously. It's as though they're telling us not to be such puritans; quit worrying about societal fears and just have fun with your playmates. Enjoy yourselves - that's what creates happiness and builds strong relationships. If you can't play together, somehow... well, that's not healthy.

also: wine

I'm catching up. Made myself a calendar with all my due dates. There's just too many of them this semester to keep track my usual way, which is not at all. I have a writing-and-homework schedule, a class schedule, an events schedule, and an errands-and-house-cleaning schedule. What I need is a sedative schedule.

Archer's off to in-process at his new job... which means he's gone to the east coast for the week, and I miss him like hell.

I'm finding a balance, getting things done. I'm in two history classes: "The Nature and Practice of History" and 'African-American Women's Autobiographies' (which actually has a much longer title). One psychology class: Experimental Psych, and one anthropology class: "Energy, Society, and Culture." The anth class is going to kick my ass. Hell, it already has. Way more chemistry than I expected, or am good for. I'm trying to work my way around that aspect, rather than through. It seems the better part of valor in this case.

I'm also building a website for myself. And reading like a hare on fire. (I don't know why that simile makes sense to me, but it does.)

With all that going on, I've made a very important discovery: red wine can be tasty. Added bonus: I sleep very well after having a glass. I bought two bottles yesterday.