Wednesday, December 31, 2008

On the Literary Front #2

Looking over the past year, I've come to realize that my self-discipline is horribly lacking, and I'm a fiend for distractions. I'm not trying to punish myself, nor is this a set-up for a New Year's resolution. I resolved once upon a time to not make such resolutions. The word resolve has a few different definitions, doesn't it? To make a resolution stick, one needs plenty of resolve. Over the past year, although I have dedicated quite a bit of time to my projects, it is just not enough. In the past, it was just an extreme craving to read just about anything that struck my fancy. Right now, I'm starting on a book of Matthew Arnold's works. A little dry but I'm a fiend for Matthew Arnold, so it's okay.
The problem is that I've become something of a gamer, and this new interest eats up time I don't dedicate to reading. Computer games are all I can afford (financially), but it's enough to swallow up time I should be dedicating to typing and fleshing out plot and characters. When I started working again, I knew I had to cut down on a few pastimes, but during my Xmas break, I've done a little bit of work on one of my projects, and I've come to understand that I really haven't done as much as I could and should. There must be give-and-take, so for me to give more time to working on my projects, there must be some take from the other things I do (not including ingestion and rest).
The gaming would have to be the first thing to go, I should say. All I need now is the self-discipline to get going. Maybe blogging should also fall by the wayside, but considering I just started doing this several months ago, I think that decision can wait. Hard to say. Also, I really need to get a couple of chapters out to that writer-in-residence I mentioned earlier this year. Somehow, all that resolve and drive got lost on the way. Ouch!! Time to change and get working. If I were to make a resolution, I would be thinking along those lines. Time to get back to Matthew Arnold. BYE.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Oh God! Oh Karma!

Merry Christmas! I've had a couple of experiences that drove me to thought and action recently. I take full responsibility for my thoughts and actions, and let the karmic chips fall where they may. First, at a Xmas get-together with the extended family yesterday, one of my cousins asked me what adds up to a loaded question in my book. He asked me which god I thought was the best. Evidently he's been studying a little religion (and psychology, I later found out), and wanted to ask my opinion. I'm at a point in my own spiritual path where all I can say is God is the best. God in all His names and identities, so to speak. God has more avatars than World of Warcraft, and they all equal the same thing, so any question about whether Allah is better than Vishnu or Krishna is better than Yahweh meet with the same answer. Be it from within or without, believe in something! Call it Yahweh, Allah, Gitchie Manito, Buddha, or Krishna if you need to ID it, but just go forth and believe in something!
I doubt I got through to my cousin. However, a Xmas get-together is not really the best place to have a lengthy sit-down and talk about gods and belief systems. Perhaps one day, when all schedules are in alignment and my cousin really does want to know my thoughts on this topic, we'll sit and talk about it, but I don't see that day coming up any time soon. Now for the second topic I wanted to write about.... I finished reading 'Way of karma' by Judy Hall and I felt unsettled. I've bashed other writers for books they've written, and I was ready (at first) to bash her out of the ballpark. However, 'Way of karma' does supply several useful facts and attempts to introduce the concept of karma to the West. Her intentions are good, I'll give her that.
For the most part, it's the way she packaged her message. Her sources scream WEST much louder than EAST, and this bothers me for some reason. Then the red flags waved wildly in front of my semi-Buddhist eyes. It was when she started laying natural disasters at karma's doorstep that I started tuning her out. I also found myself at odds with her suggestion that things happen to teach the soul. I have come to understand that the soul knows everything already, but that Ignorance has blinded the soul and has hidden everything. It's not a question of learning, but of remembering. She also goes out of her way to insist that the soul needs to gather as much good karma as possible for future positive rebirths. This flies in the face of what I understand, which says that good and bad karma must cancel each other out. Good and bad karma are the same, really. It's just the skewed perception getting in the way.
Okay, this post is long enough, and I have Xmas chocolate still to get through. BYE!

Friday, December 19, 2008

You are getting sleepy...

My alarm is set to go off at 6 in the morning so I can get out the door around 7 and be at work for 8. To guarantee that I get enough sleep, I've been going to bed around 10 at night. Seems like a reasonable course of action, right? And for the first three months or so, things were going very well. Then in the month of December, things changed. I started waking up at 3 or 4 in the morning and was unable to fall asleep again. I figured that by going to bed around 10, I was getting enough sleep as it was and my body was just ready to get going. It takes me a while to fall asleep at night, so if I wake up at 4:30 or 5, I don't see any reason to even try falling asleep again. Besides, if there's one lesson I've learned from various sleepless nights and insomnia attacks, it is not to try and fall asleep, or it will never happen. My journals are full of such reminders, and the night before was no exception.
I usually write in my journal or read when I can't sleep. Complaining is useless as I go nowhere fast. The night before last, I was awake at 2:30 or so, and I tossed and turned about the bed, just trying my darndest to fall asleep. I should know better by now, right? This most recent event reminded me of the theory I have been working on. Perhaps my body doesn't need so much sleep, and that perhaps going to bed for 10:30 or even 11 wouldn't hurt my situation. I yawned my way to 10:30 last night and woke up around 5:30 this morning. Already, it looks like my theory might be correct. Of course, it's better not to take things on faith like this. I'll start going to be at 10:30 every night starting in January and see where this plan takes me. Maybe I just don't need that extra half hour. Maybe I was just so exhausted yesterday that I slept like a log and my theory is worth little. I will keep at it and see what happens. If it's significant, I'll keep you posted.
My present book of choice is 'The last word' by my beloved Matthew Arnold. Not only was he a good poet, but he also had a steady job inspecting school systems in England and in Europe. Working in a school system myself, I'm enjoying the comparaisons he's making between schools in Germany with schools in Austria, with schools in France, and of course, with schools in the United Kingdom. He also discusses Ireland and the 'Home Rule' plan, which he was very much against. Unfortunately, I don't know a whole lot about the 'Home Rule' concept. I just know that Winston Churchill had to deal with this concept during his time in Parliament. His father had to deal with it as well, I understand. Maybe looking closely at 'Home Rule' is all moot, considering the Ireland of today, but if we do not examine the past, we may have to repeat it, so any information I can get about Ireland of those years would be welcome.
Okay, that's what's on my mind right now. There's also Xmas, but that can wait for a few more days. BYE.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Greasy roads and 40s music

Anyway, my sister says my driving's getting better, and it's a good thing, considering Winter is firmly upon us now and I'm plugging my car in. Windchills of -30 or so = plugging the car in at home and running out during lunch to start it so it doesn't get hesitant and snarly at me when I need to get going in the morning and at 4 in the afternoon. I'd rather not have to call Mid-town and wait the who knows how long it would take before someone came to boost my car. Winter driving is stressful and rough enough; why make it worse by not taking precautions? I've done some winter driving since the snow-that-stays started falling in late November, and I have a few thoughts.
It seems that people's commonsense diminishes when they get behind the wheel and get'er started in the winter. The roads are apt to be greasy and slippery (especially during a snowfall), but some people keep going at or beyond the speed limit. My parent's voices ring clearly in my head; give yourself time to make the trip or face the consequences! Traffic lags almost every afternoon when I get off work and start the half-hour trek for home. It has taken me an hour and a half a couple of times to get home. Imagine the time it would take if I rode the bus? At least two bus rides between my place and either of my two workplaces. Still, when you're stuck behind the wheel and things are moving slow enough to make a turtle the next champion sprinter, patience wears thin.
What gets me are the cars that go from lane to lane, trying to find a faster lane and a shorter drving time. I liken it to a weird sort of ballet - the cars are doing a meaningless dance and going nowhere fast. People who cut ahead without signalling their intention are a universal bane that won't go away anytime soon. Luckily, I have the comfort of satellite radio and over a hundred stations to play with while waiting out my time. First I listen to the 80s station (child of the 80s I am) and then I go over to BBC radio 1 and listen to what's quickly becoming my favourite quiz show. After that's done, I usually go back to the 80s station. However, coming home one evening, I discovered a station that plays 40s music. Now that's become a new interest for me. Most of the music sounds the same, all groups of male singers for the most part, with the occasional big band thrown in for flavour.
I was listening to the 50s station yesterday, which was somewhat fascinating, although I went back to my favourite 80s station soon after that and howled as Frank Zappa sang about 'Valley girls' and his daughter bitched about teenage life. They really talked like that, eh? Stay tuned, for my next post might have me complaining about mall parking lots and a near-death experience. BYE.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Cult Cops

I was hoping to do some huge post on Existentialism, but that's going to have to wait until I've finished reading 'In pursuit of Satan: the police and the occult'. I've been reading this book of late, and my skeptic's eye glares at law enforcement's ridiculous and unjust treatment of some 'non-traditional' belief systems. I believe that there are many ways to reach the summit. Law enforcement (American is the only one examined in this book) doesn't seem to see it this way, and some of its number rush forth to brand anything that isn't Christian as a cult to be feared and, in some cases, persecuted. Here we are, in the 21st Century, and there are folks out there who would gladly throw the switch on the time machine and take us back to the age of ignorance.
It saddens and worries me that some groups would lump ancient belief systems (Aboriginal and Wiccan, for instance) together with Satanism. I'm not as well acquainted with Satanism as I could be, although I have been curious about this system that eagerly makes a mockery of Christianity and praises the id in lieu of the superego. Based on my limited exploration, I see that Satanism is very hedonist - 'If it feels good, do it.' - but I have my doubts that today's Satanism subscribes to sacrifice. It might've in the past, just as the pre-Christians did in the days of the Old Testament, but if Satanism wants to remain viable, it must evolve, just as Christianity has done (not nearly fast enough, but that's for another post).
Anyway, lumping tribal religions and Wicca, which are older than Christianity for the most part, with Satanism and declaring them all as wrong and suspect, goes against the American Constitution. I shake my head at the 'cult cops' Hicks speaks of in his book - law enforcement is in place to enforce the LAW, not ignorant, regional biases and suspicions. The days of the 'witch hunt' should be long behind us; not just lying dormant, awaiting new crimes that look hinky enough to explode into tell of Satan-spawned vandals, murderers, and rapists. I do believe that Evil exists (but that's for another time), and that every last breathing sentient creature on Earth has the capacity for Good and for Evil. If 'God' spoke and commanded people to kill each other, would we lay this command at Satan's feet or would we go in blind obedience? The answer to that will be different depending on who you ask, I guess.
One more note before I end this post. Before a Roman Emperor embraced Christianity, it too was a cult, and was violently persecuted. Think on it. BYE.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Da future

At least as far as Summer 2009 is concerned. I passed my first evaluation nicely, and once March rolls around, I hope to pass the second evaluation just as well. Assuming I do, I'll have a steady job and can start branching out. This means moving away from the homestead and getting my own apartment for a year. From there I hope to move on to condo, but the apartment will be the major test of my mettle. It isn't the lack of cooking skills that worries my parents and I (assuming I follow the recipe, I don't do too badly with cooking). I've never been on my own before, so I don't know what this aloneness will do to me. My sister tried living apart and lasted about a month. This will be a trial (at least for a while). If I survive for a year in an apartment, I can move on to a condo and start getting some equity. I'm looking at this as pragmatically and unemotionally as possible right now.
I already have a car and fairly good credit, so that gives me the toehold I need. With a steady job, I can move into an apartment and then a condo. I'll have to pack my share of boxes once everything is said and done. I won't have to bring the family cat (he's eleven, and I don't think he'd handle such an earth-shaking change). Bascially, the only things I need are my diary, my computer and laptop, and enough clothes and utentsils to get by. My bed and a couple of sticks of furniture wouldn't hurt either. My bedroom here will look pretty empty after I've gone, although my sister, once sure I won't be back, will move in without another thought. I don't need monster amounts of space - just enough for myself and maybe a guest from time to time.
My parents are already okay with me dropping by the homestead from time to time for supper (call before I come). Yes, I'm thinking ahead; no, I'm not counting my chickens before they hatch. I'm just looking at this in a positive light. I've wanted to get out of the house since I was in my teens (although I haven't really been all that vocal about it). Assuming all goes well, I might possibly be in a new space by Fall 2009. We shall see.
This entry was not about books or Buddhism, as you will notice. This time, I'm being a little more practical. I'll keep you in the loop on the house-hunt and other practical matters from time to time. Rest assured, I'll have tons to say about books another time. BYE.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Rushdie in Central America

I'm feeling my years (strange thing to say for a 28 year old). I took out Salman Rushdie's 'The jaguar smile' the other day, and am nearly finished reading it. The book is an account of a trip Rushdie made to Nicaragua during the Contra-Sandinista battles of the mid-80s and of the people he met and the things he learned. He paints a vibrant picture of the turmoil and conflict of this tormented yet unabashedly proud country. I was only six or seven when the whole mess came to light, so I've had to rely on the history books for more information about it (hence my feeling my years so keenly). I had heard about the Iran-Contra scandal, with Oliver North, the CIA, and the late prez. Reagan from MAD magazine and other reliable media sources, so I had a clear enough picture of what had gone on, but Rushdie was actually there during the worst of it, so his picture is a little clearer than mine.
The locals were usually more on the Sandinista side, as the tons of anti-Contra graffiti proclaimed. Reagan and the CIA were reviled from every side and by every voice. There was (and probably still is) an insiduous thread of Americanism slithering in through the radio and on some signs (Coca-Cola's presence was everywhere). Whatever corruption there was, it was all blamed on the Contras and on America. Such is the way things are. Hypocrisy knows no borders, neither does corruption. All countries have them, and they reside in every soul, so I'm not singling anyone out here. Politics is not my bag (and I'm glad for it), and now I'm going to blast politics and its vicious circles and games. I could apply this to any country, but Nicaragua provided Rushdie the spark, so I'll use it as the example.
I recently discussed multinationals in one of my posts, and it looks like I'm back to the topic again. For starters, multinationals, no matter how they're reviled at home, are loved by other countries. They give people good, well-paying jobs. For the regular dude walking down a street in Nicaragua, the local multinational is a godsend. Perhaps the only way this dude can feed his family. He does the job well, likes what he's doing, and gets paid better for it than anywhere else in the country. Then someone back home starts screaming that the government out there is corrupt, the US imposes heavy sanctions, and the multinational has no choice but to close up shop and move on, thus depriving that dude of his livelihood. Poverty is on the rise, and the screamers back home howl that these countries need food, but the US won't send it because of the sanctions.
All governments have some level of corruption. How long would it take the US to howl if someone successfully imposed sanctions on it? It's just as corrupt as the next country, but its hands seemingly stay clean. If folks in the US are complaining about the economy now, imagine how much people would complain if what happens everyday to Nicaragua happened in the US? Frightening thing to consider, but it could happen someday. Okay, I'm done with my soapbox. BYE.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Fumbling toward insight

Shamelessly lifting part of Sarah McLachlan's album title here.... Anyway, some of my neater insights come from musing in my diary, but I was astounded by the source of this latest rambling. I was reading Keay's "The honourable company" and marvelling at the irony that manifests itself when I compare the concept of honour and match it with the deeds done by the East India Company. Nothing honourable about bribery, massacres, and plain and simple greed, so what makes this company so honourable? Was there ever a period in history that could forgive such barbarisms? No amount of temporal distance can justify what was done in those years. If there's anyone who can rationalize what men like Josiah Child and Clive of India did in the name of greed and wealth, I welcome all comers with an open ear. Don't give me 'manifest destiny' and don't give me capitalistic rhetoric.
Some people in the world today condemn multinationals for a variety of sins. The East India Company could be considered the first multinational, and the sins are more or less the same, only bloodier. I'm speaking from my own viewpoint - I am no expert on the economy or on multinationals, by the way - it just looks like they do more harm than good. Anyway, back to the East India Company and temporal distance. Anyone who's read this blog knows I take stock in karma, and reading "The honourable company" got me thinking about the sheer negative karmic debt these 'entrepeneurs' must've accumulated in this one lifetime alone. I tried to look at all this conquest in the most positive light and could find no justification for it. What could they have possibly brought forward to justify their actions? Surely, most of them met with a worse life next time.
Lately, my thoughts have been on karma and its myriad actions and the outcomes we go through when there's imbalance. I felt at one point like cursing karma for being so complicated and intricate. Wouldn't it be nice to know the karmic output of every last little action (thought/word/deed) we do? It would make the path to Nirvana a little easier. However, I quickly realized that most people (I hope fewer than most, but I'm too pessimistic to think otherwise) would rack up positive karma in the hopes of being reborn in paradise. That, according to what I have learned, is NOT the reason for it all. Nirvana would get completely ignored by such people. For Nirvana, the scales have to be completely balanced and the perceptions completely changed. Therefore, knowing the karmic output of every action is probably a big mistake.
Interesting where insight comes from, isn't it? BYE.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Chicken or Egg?

I am now going to meander for a long time and fill this space with convoluted typestrokes about the inevitable. Please excuse my being long-winded. Thank you, and now I go ahead...
Anyway, I was thinking and scribbling in my journal about Time and how it's inevitable that things age. My mother was lamenting about my being so close to 30 it scared her. My Grandpa is 60 years my senior, so when I turn 30, he'll be 90, and this was unnerving. Grandma's death three years ago was hard enough on my dad, but Grandpa's passing with all the messy details will be even harder to bear. Then and there, Mom said that I could not, under any circumstances, turn 30. I must stay 28 for the rest of my life. I reminded her that time's movements are inevitable and I will turn 30 regardless of what anyone says.
Naturally, this got me thinking about Time and what changes it brings about. The planet will rotate and the sun will shine upon our hemisphere again no matter what anyone says. Then the revolution will complete itself and we'll have the four seasons. Everything changes, and that is the one constant in the universe. People cannot stop change, for they change with every cell death and birth. Change is inevitable. Then I thought up a question which could very well get people thinking for weeks, at least. Is Time a result of Change, or is Change a result of Time? Which is the cause and which is the effect, in other words? A stunner of a question, and without a doubt, there are probably people out there who have gone through this question at least once.
Briefly, I am going to examine this question. They both seem inevitable, but does one follow the other? Looking at the question with Semi-Buddhist Eyes, I came up with the idea that Time could be an illusion; a reference point so desperately needed by people. Without such reference points, the ID would be lost. Does this mean that Time (or what we call Time) is a result of Change? Things change and we need reference points to remember these changes. It happened 'yesterday', but according to some Buddhist paths, there is no yesterday (or is there a tomorrow). Time is another way to ID.
I am not, for a moment, saying I'm right. This is just something I was toying around with in my diary. If there's anyone who wants to discuss the question further, please let me know. I'd love to chat.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Probationary employees

I'm on probation, but my term is half over. I should be getting evaluated by the end of the month. My last evaluation was a complete and total failure, although my family was sure the deck was stacked against me. I wish my previous employer well and hope my replacement is living up to my employer's expectations. Anyway, back to the present job. I've got two principals to keep happy, and I think I rose to the challenge yesterday with thinking on my toes. I was quick-thinking and accomodating, and what employer would fire someone who's quick-thinking and accomodating? Okay, it's just my towering doubts and fears insisting I will be fired any day now. I have plans for the future and I really would rather carry out said plans instead of being let go before my probationary period is up.
I attended my first union meeting (for this union; I've been part of several unions over the years) and while nothing exciting happened, I took the time to read and re-read that part about probationary employees. Once the 120 days are up, I cannot be fired without DAMN good reason! Right now, I'm not really paying much attention to the union, for it will not pertain to me until the 120 days are up and I actually have some say in what's going on. For now, I'm sort of on life support, I guess you could say. As long as I keep the teachers and principals happy until I pass evaluation (and after, of course), things should be all right. I don't think one principal is allowed to fire me without checking in with the other principal. After all, it is a full-time job, and both principals were on hand to interview me.
My sense of raging paranoia, however, will not leave me alone, so until the probation period is up and I'm fully in the fold, every meeting I have with my bosses is a potential dismissal. I wonder if it's just a question of self-preservation; sort of cushioning my fragile psyche for the possible crushing blow. That's pretty much how I see it. I know that this entry is shorter than previous ones, but this is what's been on my mind today. Perhaps next entry I'll have some rousing chatter on mysticism for you, but today things are pretty concrete. BYE.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

As close to the action as I wanna be

My family wonders why I never became a teacher. Given my love for school from Kindergarten onward and my strong background in Language Arts, it might've seemed a given that I would become an English major or get an Ed. degree and become a teacher. I've said, for most of my adult life (and all through my adolescence) that I don't want kids. I've got about a decade left before having kids becomes difficult but I'm perfectly content to let others have the children. My sister knows I'm going to be the crazy aunt with the cats who scares the neighbourhood kids etc, etc.... I've been lucky to turn my love of reading into a job where I can share my love and knowledge with those who really could use it.
My experiences in the school library system are not numerous yet, but I've been around long enough to see the WHY (as in, why I never became a teacher) of this whole thing. I'm not knocking teachers and EA's -- they have difficult but (for the most part) rewarding jobs, and I applaud their mountains of patience. I just do not have the patience for it. I learned that when I was trying to help my sib with her homework eons ago. I was not a very patient person then. I don't lay these experiences at the foot of adolescence, either. I don't think I'd be very good with kids nowadays, either. My motto is 'As long as they aren't mine, I'm fine.'
A parent from the Parent Council came in with her year-old to do some work in the library at one of the schools. I tried to keep the little girl busy with the board books my predecessor kept for the Kindergarteners. The parent noticed and complimented me as being good with children. She asked the question I sometimes get when I do well with kids. 'Do you have any children?' My immediate (though unspoken) answer is 'God forbid!' I usually smile and shake my head. Makes one wonder why I got into the school library system, eh? It is a little frustrating when you have a half dozen kids asking for your attention, but I think I'm getting better at keeping myself in check. It isn't like I'm snapping at the yard-apes yet. Give me a few years...
Anyway, I had an experience today at one of the schools that brought everything into focus for me. A couple of EA's routinely bring in some of the Special Needs students to the library to work on Math or Reading. I know almost all these students on sight, which I consider to be a minor triumph in itself. Anyway, I was working at my computer and occasionally listening to this group's progress. One of the EA's had the patience of Job, as her student was just constantly getting stuck in quicksand and stumbling along. I know, if it had been me as the EA, I would've submitted my resignation without too much thought. Then again, what would I be doing as an EA?
Being a Library Tech. in the school library system brings me close enough to the action without going through the whole mess of teaching, and that's as close to the action as I want to be. Thank you.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Praising Piers

Mundania's most esteemed traveller to Xanth is whom I praise this evening. Piers Anthony of Florida; author of Bio of a Space Tyrant, Xanth, Apprentice Adept, and MANY other series. It was the Xanth series I first fell in love with. My dad, to whom most laurels must go, introduced me to puns when I was in my pre-teens, and I seized upon the copious punnery one finds when one travels to the extraordinary land of Xanth through such novels as Demons Don't Dream, Isle of View, and my personal favourite, The Color of Her Panties. I've read his earlier Xanth works and have learned that the series wasn't always so pun-ridden. There's barely any pun-work in Centaur Aisle or Castle Roogna; not that I miss it when I read these earlier works. His most recent works in the vein of Xanth are becoming overly-cluttered with puns. Who can blame him, when the fans are the ones who send truckloads of ideas and embarrasingly dreadful puns to him every day?
He has, of course, written series in a more serious vein, which is where Bio of a Space Tyrant and works like Incarnations of Immortality come in. The latter is a most remarkable series as well, and I recommend it highly. The idea to praise Piers Anthony came while I was reading the Apprentice Adept series. This series also deals in alternate universes and is lightly sprinkled with punnery and doggerel, but is more serious than Xanth and jumps from SF to Fantasy with nearly every chapter. I am coming to enjoy this series as much as I have the Xanth series. Just the right amount of realism and punnery without the plot getting lost, and the characters are fantastic.
Stile, the main character of this series, crosses into the Fantasy universe of Phaze to escape being killed, but continually has to shuttle back and forth from Phaze, where magic rules, to his home world of Proton, where he plays increasingly competitive games to keep himself alive. I'm presently reading Blue Adept, which is the second book in the series. Again, highly recommended. The one series I should read but have not yet had the pleasure is Bio of a Space Tyrant, but that will shortly change. I close this post down with a few final praises of Piers Anthony's work. There is no doubt that Xanth is my favourite of the series he has crafted, but to be completely balanced, I would suggest that you read as much of his other masterworks. Man cannot live on bread alone -- he'd just loaf around that way.

Friday, October 17, 2008


There are thousands of articles and books out there where women are looking at men with all manner of lenses and thinking about men from every angle. I'm rereading Sam Keen's 'Fire in the belly' these days, and I asked my dad if he was interested in reading it. He politely declined. For those not in the know, 'Fire in the belly' documents 'the path' men must take if they are ever to feel comfortable with their gender; especially in relation to the female of the species. Contrary to popular belief, men are not in charge and they never really have been. Although men still receive higher salaries (for the most part) than women do, women have always had power over men on a psychic level. Anyone remember Oedipus and his problems? Keen's remedy for men lost and fumbling is to first get as far away from Woman as possible, and then rediscover their maleness while surrounded by other men.
I don't know if Keen is right, but looking at my pater, I'm tempted to disagree with Keen. My dad was an only child; he's married with two daughters (which is plenty of Woman for any guy), and is doing rather well. My dad never (as far as I know) went through the supposed mid-life crisis when he hit his forties (mid-fifties right now, and no crisis in sight). It makes me wonder if this mid-life stuff is really as intense as popular culture insists it to be. But, getting back to Men in general.... There seems to be an intense reliance on Woman if one looks through the history of music and literature. One song that's been echoing through my head (and my radio) lately brings this reliance to life. Prince's 'Raspberry beret' from the 1980's.
First off, I'm not that fond of the song, and the video could be better (even considering the decade it was done). I've had the time lately to listen to the lyrics and it seems to me that, for the 'hero' in the song (too-leisurely him that works in the local five-and-dime), nothing really changes until 'the girl' walks through the 'out' door with her second-hand story raspberry beret and very little else (listen to the lyrics for more info). She knows how to kiss, according to Prince, but it seems that before she walks through the door, nothing matters. Just a really silly and illogical example of Man's intense reliance on Woman one sees in pop culture.
Anyway, I'm going to continue reading 'Fire in the belly'. Do I agree with the message Keen's presenting? There is no doubt that men these days are stuck in a kind of paradox, and without one you cannot have the other, so I guess Woman has him trapped again. Perhaps I do agree with the message, but for some men, this paradox is not a real big deal. Anyone out there thinking differently? Drop me a line. Thanks and have a great weekend.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Personal myth

I finished reading 'The stories we live by' the other day, and even now, I'm not sure about it. The author speaks of cultivating our personal myth as a way to understand the self and share the self with others. I've read this book before (about a year ago) and it blew me away then. After a year of thoughts and looking at the world through semi-Buddhist eyes, I'm not sure I am able to put together a personal myth. The author speaks of creating said myth, regardless of whether or not it is illusion. I'm not looking for illusion, but 'reality', so wouldn't following this concept be defeatist for the path I'm travelling? I'm not obligated to do this, and for now, the question is mere rhetoric. I'm not saying this wouldn't or shouldn't be for everyone. If cultivating your own personal myth brings you closer to a better understanding of yourself, go for it. I just don't think it would work all that well for me.
I first came across the concept of the 'personal myth' while reading 'The manticore' by the late, dearly-beloved Robertson Davies. One of his characters underwent therapy and he and the therapist constructed his personal myth over several weeks, starting from his childhood and going all the way up to the present. The personal myth concerns discovering all the facets of one's personality (characters) and influential people in one's life (also characters, to a lesser extent). Keeping a diary will also help this process, for then one's established a sort of timeline and illusion can be anchored by 'historical record'.
I have said that I doubt very much that my beliefs would let me get away with cultivating a personal myth. Also, I might be a little too young for such an activity. Most people, those who put such an idea into play, have lived for several decades (in their late thirties, at least) and are trying to understand the meaning for their journey, be it very painful and difficult or easy as pie and smooth as silk. I'm at thirty's doorway, but not over the threshold yet, so I think I'll just stick with my diary and my own explorations. Perhaps a time will come, in the not-so-distant future, when I will have a sit down with a therapist and recount my history as I know it in an attempt to cultivate my personal myth. Just not right now.
Very good book, however. Informative and worth a read. Au revoir!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

With great power comes great responsibility

Everything is neutral. It's what you do with it that matters. I was going to dedicate this post to financial scandals past and present, but I figure enough's been said (and will be said) about this topic. Instead, I'm going to talk about charisma, for it seems that all these CEO's and politicians have the charisma to get their dreams off the ground. Charisma is an incredible thing, but like everything, it is neutral. Your course is determined how you use your charisma; for good, for ill, or for good-intention-that-becomes-ill. Some people, like JFK and Hugh Hefner, had and have enormous amounts of charisma. Some people, like yours truly, have barely enough to be noticed. Most people have it in the amounts that are just right for them, and they do well enough with what they have.
Charisma can and usually does bring dreams into being. Whether it's political, financial, or even spiritual, if you have someone charismatic at the head of it, it usually comes to pass. How many uncharismatic men have become President? Paul in the New Testament had tons of charisma, and look what he did to get Christianity off the ground. And don't forget the men like John Law, Paracelsus, Leonardo da Vinci, and countless folk who made history while they were still alive. How many of them were lacking in charisma? Can one put a number to all the dreams that would have died at birth had it not been for charismatic minds? I can assure you that it would be a very high number indeed.
However, with such power comes great responsibility, and not everyone has been ready for such responsibility. How many personality cults have crashed and burned because a charismatic leader, whether through his own deep-set flaws or through criminal behaviour, created a frightful chain of events? Jamestown, the Branch Davidians, and Heaven's Gate, for starters. Jim Jones was one of the most charismatic of men before he became isolated and let his demons out to play. David Koresh was very similar to Jones, in a way. And then there's Charles Manson, but enough has been said about him to fill a hundred volumes (be they paper volumes or computer volumes).
Finally, the sinister dealings of Ivan Boesky, Michael Milken, and Robert Maxwell are other examples of charisma gone horribly wrong. I was inspired to write about charisma after reading a book about the crashes of the late 1990's, and the company the author chose to use as an example this crash reminded me of how charisma can go wrong. If not used wisely, crashes and deaths can occur. Luckily, I don't have that kind of charisma that would lead me to start a company or a cult. One less thing for folks to worry about. Have a good evening.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

On the Job Sites

My job sites are school libraries of the K-5 variety, and I've been learning a lot about K-5 students. Things that I never would have thought about when I was going to school a lifetime ago (well, it sure feels like a lifetime ago to someone over the quarter-century mark). I still get self-conscious when someone makes a comment of my lack of height thereof - even if that someone is in second or third grade, and they really don't mean anything by it. There were dozens of books, written during and before my time, that I totally missed because I was already reading adult works by the time I was twelve or thirteen. (That's just my own sense of weirdness, I guess)
As the Authority at these libraries, I want very much to get the kids reading quality material, but that's hard to do when some of the kids' comprehension is lower than mine was at that age. I keep forgetting that Captain Underpants is a much bigger hit than Harry Potter for these kids. The teachers of fourth and fifth grade at these schools are forever bringing me down to earth (me and my hopes) when they politely insist I skip chapter books and just stick to reading picture books to the kids. I can't help but believe that reading a picture book insults these older kids. I've been able to get a chapter book started at one of the schools, but only because each chapter is like a short story and each of these chapters is funny.
Humour works - whatever works, of course, and while I champion guys like Dav Pilkey for coming out with really funny stuff, I would love to see the older grades taking up Lemony Snicket more often. Meanwhile, I have started introducing a Canadian writer or illustrator every month to the staff and students at one of the schools I work at. October is Barbara Reid (I just chose her because I love her artwork - I didn't choose her because some chart or expert suggested her). If you ever get a chance to read 'Fox walked alone', 'Peg and the Yeti', or 'Gifts', I promise that you will not be disappointed.
Well, I guess I should climb off my soapbox for another day. Tomorrow is Terry Fox Day! In pace, good runner.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Good vibes and peeves

Middle of the fourth week at work, and the good vibes continue. Figuring a lot out and everyone has been helpful. I got flustered a couple of times over the past couple of days, but I figure once I get everything set up to my satisfaction, things should move quite smoothly. There are some things I am going to have to change at one of the schools I work at. Guinness Books are enormously popular, but they end up in the Reference section, and I have kids saying they're allowed to take such books out, while I have other kids saying they cannot be taken out because they are Reference books. This is one of those things I am going to need to address before the kids get too comfortable taking them out.
Technically, it's the first week the kids have been able to take out books from the library, so I've gone a little easy on them. They're K-5, so going easy on them is almost standard, right? Well, I shouldn't be a complete and total pushover, either. I am THE authority, and as such, MY word is as close to law as one can get in the library. Consistency is the key (why does that sound familiar to me?) to keeping everything going smoothly. I think I am going to have to change what goes under REF and what doesn't to suit MY point of view. That does not mean that I'm going to go overboard on this - the most recent Guinness will stay REF while the older ones will go in the main stacks, for instance.
The next thing I am going to have to deal with is the fact that K-5 kids have a tendency to speak very softly. I don't fault them for this, for I was that age once upon a time, and even now, I sometimes need to speak up (usually when in a crowd). I want to properly interact with these kids, but am not quite sure how to go about it. I did implement reading a chapter book to the 4/5 classes at Brooklands this week. 3 classes like that, and I hope they like the change. I just think that reading picture books very possibly insults a class of 4th and 5th Graders. And if it doesn't, it should! I would probably be insulted if someone dragged out a picture book to read to me at 10 and 11. But, I wasn't normal for that age.
Met with the Brooklands principal to discuss the budget. It sounds like my predecessor spent every last penny or so, but at least the kids will get a ton of books, so it all works out. I'll have to do a ton of weeding this year. Keep 'em crossed that I survive to make it through the 3 month evalutation, because I like this job!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Muhammad: Man and Prophet

Warning! This entry is not meant to belittle the memory of 9/11 or lessen the soldiers who are fighting in Afghanistan. I intend only to discuss a wonderfully-written book I finished reading yesterday and wanted others to know about it. The fact that this blog post falls on 9/11/08 has not escaped my attention, but I never meant for anyone to make any malicious connections. Thank you and have a good day.
Anyway, I finished reading an awesome book called 'Muhammad: Man and Prophet', and I have to salute the author for bringing the Prophet, his world, his followers, friends, family, and foes to such intense, honest life. He made me understand how devout Muhammad and his followers were in those dawning years of Islam. It was this unshakeable passion and faith in Allah that kept Islam from faltering when it looked like its foes were going to snuff it in its cradle. I had no idea of the number of peoples out there who wanted very much to see the Prophet die, taking Islam along with it.
I liked how the author used more realistic spellings for Mecca and Medina in the book, and his retelling of anecdotes added much needed colour to what seemed to me like a most colourless religion. I think, though, the best and most important thing about this book was the fact that the author continually linked events in the book to chapters in the Qur'an, which added a whole new dimension to a book I have considered to be very dry, repetitive, and lacking. For anyone interested in seeing Islam's beginnings in a new light, do have a look at 'Muhammad: Man and Prophet'.
Just a word of warning, though. Not for the faint of heart, topping the chart at 741 pages. Better be serious about wanting to learn about the Prophet and his world before you dedicate yourself to reading this behemoth from cover to cover. The writing is good and there are both heroes and villains on this long and winding road. Definitely a book to visit and enjoy.
This concludes my review. Again, I hope nobody assumes I mean anything malicious by posting this on 9/11. It's just the way things worked. Thank you.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

They're Baaaaaack!

Classes started at the schools I work at today, and the halls at Stevenson were alive with chatter. I heard at least one heart-rending screamed plea a Kindergartener made for her mother and I sighed. Ah, Kindergarten. I don't recall if I threw any fits like that. I took the bus to school from day one, as far as I can recall, so I hope I didn't throw any fits like that. It makes me want to hug my mom and thank her for putting up with me. It was quiet in the library for the most part, with occasional visits from teachers and EA's. Some of them brought their classes in for a visit but did not stay long. I did have a sit down with a Grade One class today. I read them a Munsch book and things went quite pleasantly. The teacher was there all the time, and he kept them in line far better than I could.
I also met with a Grade One/Two class and observed them reading in the library - again with the teacher close by. While I want nothing to do with having children of my own, there were more than a couple of these kids who were just so CUUUUUUTE! Almost elfin at times, you might say. They are all shorter than I am - another reason I enjoy working in an Elementary setting. There was a morning assembly and all the staff were introduced to the children, including myself. I rejoiced in being a Ms., although it will take some getting used to being called by my last name by all these kids.
I work with a library system called LibraryWorld, and it, like all computer programs, has some kinks that need working out. I finally nailed down the secret art of printing out barcodes (not hard once you know what you're doing) today but I had some trouble with printing out patron barcodes for the dozen or so classes at Stevenson. Hopefully I'll get it all ironed out at Brooklands tomorrow and then on Monday I can do the same thing for Stevenson. Apart from that little kink, things were pretty good today. I met with the woman who volunteers in the library for the two schools. I hope we'll get along all right.
I've already started checking books for the teachers as well and keeping a running tally for when I have to work on the stats and monthly report for the principals. I also have parking spaces there now. No plugs but I don't mind running out during my lunch break this winter. That's the scuttlebutt so far.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

My hot gig

More to the point, my new job. I started work this Tuesday, and I've gotten such a good vibe from my surroundings and the people there that I can't help but feel good. I work as a library technician for two K-5 schools on the other side of the city. Brooklands School and Stevenson-Britannia School each have awesome qualities about them that really make me happy to be working there. The division runs on the 6-day cycle, and I'm working at one school days 1, 3, and 5, while I work at the other days 2, 4, and 6. 50-50, you might say. I got a new car so I could drive out to these days, as it would take 2-3 buses to get to either of the schools.
A few details about each of these schools would be in order. Stevenson's library is on the second floor and man, it's huge! High ceiling makes the library look larger, and it has a lamination machine and a die press machine (which has to be the most amazing and fun doo-dad in the history of the world). I understand the library goes through a lot of lamination plastic, so I should get ordering some more in a few months. The secretary seems nice and the teachers were extremely welcoming. I got my billboard up and it looks all right. I'm no expert on billboards, but some of the teachers and some of the other library techs are, so their advice will be wonderful.
Brooklands is an older school, with part of it having been built in 1911. It's also a much smaller school than Stevenson, with a library just a little larger than our living room. The paint job in the library could be better, but I'm not complaining. The neighbourhood is made up of diverse ethnicities and tons of school spirit. Again, the teachers were really welcoming and offering me whatever help I needed. The principal is new and he wants me to figure out ways to improve the library. First on my recommendation list will be a phone in the library for me. The library computer system has its kinks, and it will be hard to troubleshoot if I'm always running back and forth from the office to the library.
Despite several kinks (I've only been at this for three days, so kinks are expected), I'm excited about the new job and ready to make tons of recommendations and see what happens. I also have to talk to my predecessor and see what she's done. Bye-bye.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Rising and Falling

I've had an eye for financial and economic scandals these days. I finished reading a book called 'Safe as Houses' and am presently reading one of my favourites right now. It's called 'Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds'. It's by Charles Mackay (father of equally talented author Marie Correlli), and this book discusses the deadly speculations like the South Sea Bubble, Tulipomania, the problems of alchemy, and anything else that schemers used to trick the gullible out of their hard-earned money. This book was written long before the likes of Robert Maxwell, Michael Milken, and Ivan Boesky (to say nothing of B-REX), but there are many villains here as well.
I'm not going to condemn these legendary and contemporary villains, as other people have done it much better than I could do. I want to talk a little about money and the economy. I don't know a whole lot about the economy and financial matters (that's what the library is for), but based on what I do know, the Stock Exchange rises to mountainous levels, sinks deeper than the sea, and then smoothes itself out again. At the end of it, some are richer, more are poorer, and the rest of us are no different than before. For those who can ride out these lumps and bumps, things end up no different, I mean. Take 'Tulipomania', for instance. I use this example because it's just so appropriate when discussing things going wildly out of control and then settling down again.
I also love the story about the sailor who sat down to eat an onion with his breakfast, only to find out that his 'onion' was an impossibly expensive tulip bulb. People who are willing to pay thousands of florins for a couple of tulip bulbs, in my opinion, deserve to have their profits literally eaten up like that. After the bubble burst and people found themselves a little poorer, things settled down in Holland again. Today I don't think that people are going to shell out like that for a couple of bulbs. I'm just saying that once the bubble burst and the names of the wealthy changed, the country returned to normal.
Perhaps I'm looking at this whole thing with Semi-Buddhist Eyes again, but once things have wildly gone up, and then just as wildly down, very little has changed. Same people, different names, you might say. It isn't that I don't feel for the regular people who put their trust in guys like Robert Maxwell and Ivan Boesky, for I know they were swindled by junk-bonds and thieving, greedy minds. In the end, Boesky got in trouble and Maxwell took the coward's way out. Karma wins out in the end.
I'm done rambling for now about economy. I need to get reading up on it some more.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

On the Literary Front #1

I can multitask fairly well and have several projects working all at the same time. For now, I have three projects and am trying to juggle them all. My new job starts in about a week and I suspect that without all my leisure time, one of my projects will fall by the wayside. This is not what I wanted to talk about today, however. The impossible dream is to get published writing for yourself. I think the vast majority of published authors know this. I don't call this blog genuine published writing; if it's not physical, it's not real. I'm glad I have the chance to share my thoughts with anyone interested on this blog, but pardon me if I don't consider it the genuine article.
The genuine article will only come when I get a letter from a publishing house telling me that they like my work and want to publish it. That is published material. I've complained about the phrase 'unsolicited manuscript' before, so I won't go down that path again. Actually, I wanted to talk about writing for myself vs. writing for money (which is writing for someone else, I think). In my short career as an unpublished writer, I have never written for anyone but myself. I cannot write for someone else (but I appreciate someone else's opinion of my work) and that's that. The rejection letters I have received in the past say 'My work is not suitable for such-and-such a publishing house' but they wish me luck. I would like something better, but I'm patient.
I would like to write for a paycheck; no matter how crass or empty that sounds, and no matter how hellish the deadlines would be. I have two projects ready for submission, but I'm waiting for a published author's opinion to encourage me. The Winnipeg Public Library has a yearly 'writer-in-residence' post and I'm just waiting for them to choose a new 'writer-in-residence' so I can submit my work for perusal. Wish me luck on that front. Until something gets published, I'll be a library tech and unpublished writer with the sole dream of seeing something I've written on the shelf at 'Chapters'. That is the only goal, although the money would be nice as well.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Semi-Buddhist Kant?

Was Immanuel Kant a Buddhist? As far as I can tell, no way. I came across, in this book, a reference that suggests he was in no way linked to the 'Theosophists', which, unless I'm mistaken, was the term used to describe Buddhists back in Kant's day. (Feel free to correct me on this point, somebody.) I've nearly finished reading a hefty book of Kant's writings, and my Semi-Buddhist eyes zeroed in on a few things. Kant had a way of looking at things that strikes me as Buddhist; especially when he says Space itself, however, as well as time, and with all phenomena, are not things by themselves, but representations, and cannot exist outside our mind. Doesn't that sound at least a little Buddhist?
I interpret this offering as 'nothing exists but our perception of things', which is what Buddhism suggests. My Semi-Buddhist eyes caught onto that right away. The second thing that Kant discusses in this selection of writings that impressed me was his take on the ancient 'What is x?' question. Socrates used the question 'What is virtue?' but one can fill in x with any word of their choosing. Kant went after Beauty, which is another word that has an equally broad definition. Once again, I got to thinking about words and how people interpret said words. Words like virtue and beauty are intangible, and can be defined a myriad of ways. A term like 'tree' or 'house' can be defined a multitude of ways as well, but a tree or a house are tangible things, and are much more limited in their definition.
What one considers beautiful is open to countless interpretations, and this is the conclusion Kant pretty much came to. He tries to find universal qualities that can be used to define beauty but does not really find too many connecting words that all opinions can agree on. Anyway, I'm not done reading this really fascinating book, but I plan to return to it in a year's time and see if I've come to any more conclusions on my own. Word of warning; not an easy book to read through. The first 150 pages are something of a snore, but then it gets better. All depends on your level of patience, really.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Dialectic and Dialogue

I forget who it was that first said that everything is connected. A good friend of mine came to the conclusion when he was younger and he told me about it. I'm coming to believe it myself. I'm sure it's one of those maxims that, sooner or later, everyone ends up discovering if they look hard enough. About a year ago, I read a phenomenal book by Francisco J. Gonzalez called 'Dialectic and Dialogue: Plato's Practice of Philosophical Inquiry', and I promised myself to re-read it in a year's time. Here we are a year later and I finished reading it last night. Reading this book has lead me to believe there are connections between Philosophy and Buddhism. Buddhism is probably one of the more philosophical religions Humanity came up with over the last few millennia, although many Zen masters will tell you that Buddhism cannot be examined like Philosophy can.
Plato had Socrates share his revolutionary points of view and ideas with men he admired and with students looking for a new way of perceiving the world. It's all about perception in Buddhism as well. What a person sees with their senses is not the reality -- it's part of reality, but not the whole thing. For one to know the entire reality, one would have to see the object from countless points of view. Plato's Socrates, on the other hand, accepts with some resignation that since we cannot 'know' an object this way, all we can do is learn facts and details about the object and use that as our basis of 'knowing' an object or an experience.
One word Gonzalez uses constantly is aporia: a difficulty encountered in establishing the theoretical truth of a proposition, created by the presence of evidence both for and against it. Socrates, unable to confirm or completely prove his ideas before the Sophists he seeks to vanquish, ends everything in a draw. Personally, I don't think the Sophists took his ideas seriously, or anything seriously, for that matter. It was safer for them not to take a stand on something they believed -- I personally find it hard to believe that Socrates' critics believed in anything except trying to bring him down by trapping him with words.
Words and labels are all we have to communicate with, and Homo sapiens is too social an animal to keep from communicating with others. Here is where Buddhism and Plato part company, as far as dialectics is concerned. Words and labels serve their purpose of communication, but they also tie a person down with a constant identity, and Buddhism is all about merging the I, thus losing the identity. Labels especially keep the I from merging. Still, there are too many connections between Philosophy and Buddhism to ignore.
Time to gush over the book in a physical sense. Well-written and thought-provoking, I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in Plato's work. Apparently, this book presents an alternate view of Philosophy, so be sure to give yourself a few weeks to enjoy this treasure.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Stinky Stuff

I guess I should really call this one 'Sensitive Nose and Gag Reflex' but I like a little bit of alliteration. One of my pet peeves is that I have a sensitive sense of smell, and it has a tendency of picking up unpleasant-smelling stuff very strongly. Another reason why I'm not into pot - the stuff smells God-awful. Make it smell like roses or chocolate and I might reconsider my stance. Tobacco smoke is another big one. I'm more or less immune to the Canadian variation, but watch out when I'm in the States! Not very pleasant. This sense of smell is linked to my gag reflex. It does not take much to set me off, and I do not enjoy dry heaving my brains out.
And then there's the sickeningly musty smell of age. I cannot be in an antique store for very long, before my stomach starts making signs for me to get out before something disgusting happens. I mention this because I am trying to get through a book written and published in the 1960's, and my sense of smell is on the warpath whenever I open this book. After a few pages, I either have to close the book or pinch my nose with a free hand so I don't have to breathe in the smell of aging paper. That or I just breathe in through my mouth, but that doesn't work for very long, and I catch a whiff and start feeling nauseated.
As a result, I don't often hang around those book sales the Children's Hospital hold every few months. Just too many old books for one sense of smell. I also don't have too many old books on my shelves. I'll give most of my books away in time as it is, preferring the library over my own cache. Unfortunately, I find a lot of old books at the library - hence the reason for my posting today. Perhaps I can find the same information in a newer book. We'll see how long I last with this book. Maybe I can ask the library to get a more recent reprint - if such exists. Call it a case for weeding. Libraries do it all the time. I should know.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Locke, stock, and barrel

Okay, I know that's a pretty corny and well-used title, but I couldn't resist. I finished reading a biography on John Locke and started reading about David Hume's 'philosophical politics', and decided I had something to say. The division of church and state is something that's been taking a few hits these days, what with people trying to bring back morning prayers and prayer in general to the school system. There was a time when church and state were not on either sides of a wide gulf. One has only to look to Ireland to see the whole Catholic vs. Protestant ordeal and know that church and state intermingle better than most would think. It was like this in England as well during Locke's day (and even before), what with Popish plots and Protestant plots against whichever king or queen was in power back then. Look back far enough, and the ghosts of QE1 and Queen Mary rise up. Queen Mary had tons of Protestants killed, while QE1 did the exact same thing to as many Catholics.
By Locke's day, the rampant bloodshed had calmed down, but loyalty to a specific religion was still a huge factor in advancement in the British world. 'Popery' was wrong when a Protestant ruler was in charge, and when a Catholic ruler was in charge, the Protestants were in the wrong. People still spent time in the Tower of London based on what they believed or who they followed. Locke himself had to escape to Holland for a while following one of these famous plots. Not a bad thing, considering he suffered from asthma and the smog in London was brutal in those days. (It wasn't really that good during the early 1900's either, but moving on...)
Things were not nailed down and set in stone like they are now. QE2 is of the Anglican (Protestant) Church, and nobody in their right mind would dream of trying to bring her down. Then again, her power is severely limited by the British Government, and government is no longer based on religion, like it was in the days of Whigs vs. Tories. The Middle East is now the only place where groups go at each other based on religion, but I can discuss Muslim vs. Israeli another time. Still, things are more or less nailed down, and I have to wonder what would happen if this was not the case.
There's a lot to be said for religious tolerance, which is what Locke was calling for, and I am grateful that he and many others called and continue to call for it. Still, life would be a little more interesting if things weren't so set in stone, I think.

Friday, July 18, 2008


One plot twist I'm getting a little sick of in Fantasy novels is the Prophecy plot. You see it in most Fantasy novels -- the one where the hero is destined to either doom or save his world depending on what he does. Much of the Fantasy series I've read (perhaps this is a failing on my part) bring this tired old chestnut out (Dune and its progeny, Belgariad and Malloreon, Sword of Truth, Wheel of Time, the Thomas Covenant novels). Destiny is a fascinating concept to address, and certainly worth the ink to write about, but I'm getting a little sick of reading a book and finding that the hero was destined from the dawn of time to do something heroic and vanquish some ancient evil. Where did this fascination with prophecy come from?
I'm no stranger to the Old Testament, and a book I was reading recently -- about the OT prophets and their prophecies -- got me thinking very hard about this business. Fellows like Ezekiel, Joel, Hosea, Malachi, and of course Jeremiah roamed the Old Testament world warning the Hebrews that a vengeful, bitter-hearted God was watching their every move, ready to crush and damn the daylights out of them at the first sign of betrayal. You can also find prophecy in the New Testament, with the coming of the Messiah. He was destined to save the New Testament world (and all the worlds since then) by sacrificing himself.
This leads me to wonder how many times the Messiah can be recreated in Fantasy. Some books out there don't take this route of prophecy, and I applaud them. Be original for once, folks. I appeal to the writers of today and tomorrow to avoid this well-trod path and study destiny in some other way. Also, if there's anyone who can suggest some awesome novels that have nothing to do with prophecy, please let me know. Thank you.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Losing my religion?

I was going to dedicate today's post entirely to St. John of the Cross' 'Dark Night of the Soul' but I came across a book that needed discussing. This is going to be a 'good news, bad news' sort of entry, I think. Let me start with the good news, which is that I read 'Dark Night of the Soul'. I read it last year and decided that I wanted to re-read it. St. John of the Cross, a legendary Christian mystic, suggests that we all go through our own 'dark night' or crisis of faith at least once in a lifetime, and he details this transformation of the soul in this wonderful book he wrote. The soul, or the anima, is female in his account, and she goes through several tests of faith where she has to abandon material concerns and fully become one with God.
The concept of 'lover and the beloved becoming one' is one that mystics of all religions return to again and again. I have seen this concept in the works of Rumi as well, and he constantly returns to the union of lover and the beloved. The soul becoming one with God and losing itself to God. It sounds rather Buddhist as well. The soul becoming one with Nirvana and losing its own identity. It is this incredible and oft-discussed concept that really impresses me. Before the soul can become one with God, however, it must go through doubts and agonies to free itself of all the sins and other impurities that keep it separate. St. John of the Cross details the soul's struggles very well. We have all struggled with the Seven Deadly Sins and countless doubts about our own sense of faith and piety. Without a doubt, I will be reading this book again before long. It serves as a good yardstick to determine where I am in my own spiritual journey.
From good news to not-so-good now. I finished reading a book called 'God: the Evidence' by Patrick Glynn, and I was a little disappointed by it. This professor Glynn started out in his adult life by turning atheist and skeptic. He accepted that God was dead and that Reason, not Faith, would always win out. When he made his choice, Science was there to back him up. Science and Spirituality have been interesting neighbours for hundreds of years, with Science burning brighter for a while in the 20th century. However, Science's most recent discoveries (Quantum physics) are starting to come up with things Faith knew hundreds of years ago.
Glynn, starting to realize this for himself, did a 180 and embraced Faith fervently, revising his opinion on Reason.
His book struck me as a little one-sided; championing Faith and snubbing his nose at Reason. I would accept some of his results from 'scientific' studies if the results weren't from 30+ year old tests. The book I read was done in the late 1990's, but that's no excuse to use tests and material from the 1970's. If a man is going to try and reconcile the two sides, be as recent as possible, okay? My apologies if I have come across a little harsh, but Glynn messed this attempt up. To top it all off, the book was too short as well. Have a little respect for both neighbours, sir! People will be arguing about Reason and Faith for centuries to come, I expect, so one day, there will be a book out there that will do the two sides more justice. I have a reasonable amount of faith that this will happen.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Dialogues, paradox, and stuff

It took me a while, but I finally broke through to the end of David Hume's 'Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion'. This copy I read came from the library, but I have the piece in a big thick book I got when I took my 'Intro to Philosophy' course several years ago. I plan to revisit it in a little while. It would have taken me less time to get through had the Introduction in the book not been longer than the discussion itself. That's the trouble with in-depth critiques and observations in Philosophy. The Introduction is usually much longer than the real meat of the book. The Introduction was also much more confusing at times than the real meat of the book was. Philosophers. I don't really see myself as much of a philosopher, and this time, I'm glad I don't.
Hume, as some folks might know, did not have much faith in religion. He was raised a Calvinist, and I understand that a Calvinist house is very strict and forbidding. If there's anyone out there who can suggest otherwise to me, please do. Anyway, I really enjoyed reading 'Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion' for several reasons. One does not see the 'dialogue' method used much. Plato was very fond of this method; considering that was how he observed Socrates work, it stands to reason he would use this method. I admire Hume's use of the method.
I also was happy to get a look at what I call 'the major paradox in life and belief'. Evil and God are discussed in this paradox. If God is willing but not able to end Evil, He is impotent; If God is able but not willing, He is cruel; If God is both willing and able, why does Evil exist? Philosophers and theologians have been debating this paradox for millennia and they will debate it for millennia to come. I guess, in the end, everyone who comes into contact with this paradox has to accept that the answer can only come from within. We just have to accept it, I guess.
By the way, I might not have quoted the paradox correctly. If I got it wrong and someone would like to correct me, please do.
Happy Fourth of July to Americans around the world! That's all for me.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Worth 520 pesos

One of my goals during my family's fun under Cancun's sun was to buy some books. My parents have always been able to pick some CD's on past vacations, but they never seemed to be able to find books. I don't know enough Spanish to do the language justice, but a book in both Spanish and English would be both great and helpful. Anyway, I got hunting in the resort's gift shop for books, and I turned up an English copy of 'Popol Vuh'; it's a book that contains the creation story of the Quiché Maya. Their Bible, for lack of a better word. As the title suggests, the book costed 520 pesos, or $52.00 U.S. The high price kept me wavering on whether or not I wanted to buy it. I wouldn't buy a book in Canada or in the U.S. at that price, but I've never come across such a find and I wanted something special from my trip. I could not find anything like it in Playa del Carmen or at the little shops just beyond the resort, so I went ahead and bought it.
The other day, I finally got around to reading this book. Sometime in the 16th Century, a unnamed member of the Quiché Maya wrote down as many oral legends as he knew and eventually, this book reached an open-minded parish priest who translated the manuscript from Latin into Spanish. This book goes through the creation story and recounts legends that really would have come in handy during that tour we took of that newly excavated palace two hours or so from our resort. Anyway, the story is similar in some ways to the one found in the Bible, but because it is a new experience, I am finding it a great story. The creator gods of the Maya tried several times to create humanity, and destroyed their mistakes and false starts. This proves that not all gods are perfect.
To my folly, I must say that I am not yet done reading this really fascinating book, but I am close. Most of the book's space is taken up by the Introduction, but the narration is pretty easy to follow. I admire Fr. Francisco Ximénez for being so open-minded and respectful of the Quiché Maya. Most of those priests tried to drive anything not Christian out of the world. Take that, small-minded fools! This book is definitely worth 520 pesos.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Mes vacances

I usually post on the weekend, but not this time around, as paradise beckons me. My paradise is a place a few hours outside of Winnipeg. A little farm-red cottage powered by propane and the sun, in a place where Hydro is non-existent (and has been for a very long time). My grandparents built their little paradise back in the 1960's and brought their kids there every chance they could. My grandparents have two photo albums-worth of summer scenes (b/w and colour) by the water at the lake. I started going when I was six weeks old, and have long cherished those trips we made on long weekends, spring breaks, and the ever-popular summer vacation. I guess that's why I still feel an overwhelming sense of peace and serenity when I'm there. I have gone so far as to call it my 'home away from home' and I have a very strong feeling that the lake is what Heaven will be for me when I get there.
May 1987 was a tragic time for my youth, for that was the year the forest fire ripped through my paradise and burned most of the cottages to the ground. I feared at one time that this virginal place would never be restored. I should've had more patience with Nature. The trees grew back with a vengeance and the birds returned. There are squirrels there now, as there were before the fire. Tomorrow we're going for a few days. My grandparents sold the cottage to one of my aunts, so we can still visit paradise on earth. The water is warm and the fishing is probably really good. The mallards and loons will be out on the water, looking for bugs, fish, and all the leftover toast they can swallow. Hot dog and marshmallow roast ahead. I cannot wait to return to the paradise that is the lake.
It would be even better without the mosquitoes, but hey, I can't complain. A la prochaine!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Be like Nike

I wonder what the PR brains at Nike were reading or experiencing when they came up with their philosophy of 'Just Do It'. I had their motto running through my brain when I got half-way through 'Wanting Enlightenment is a Big Mistake'. This is a book made up of various speeches made by a recently departed Zen Master. He had two important points to make to the students he was with, and these two points were repeated time and again in his speeches. One point was that when you think more than feel, what you say becomes complicated. People have a tendency to talk in circles or hide their confusion behind their fine-sounding words. I am among these people more than I care to admit. Anyway, this Zen Master counters this talking and thinking in circles mentality by saying 'Don't think -- just do it'. Sounds something like what Nike was talking about, doesn't it? The latter part, at any rate.
The second point this Master discussed time and again has to do with identity. In the final analysis, we as a people are very fond of labelling things and naming them. We call a dog a dog and we name the sky with the name blue. The dog doesn't name himself as a dog and the sky doesn't name itself as the sky. Our species needs to think of names for things, but I think we're the only one (on this planet, anyway). Through identity comes ego. Drop the name, you drop the identity. The answer to the question, 'What am I?' usually ends as a label. The Master in this book suggests that a more appropriate answer would be 'Don't know'.
Do I agree with these two points? I am not sure. The first point is not an easy one to live by for someone who does most of their living in their head. I do much more thinking than is good for me, it seems. My diaries are just full of thinking, and thinking is a hard habit to break. Of course, it is important to consider the pros and cons of something, but don't go too far. At the end of the day, just go for it and Do It. Thinking oneself into mazes and circles might seem safer, but the time comes when you need to stop thinking and just do what needs to be done. The second point makes me laugh. I usually say 'Don't know' to everything I'm asked around the house. Go figure.
Can I be like Nike? So long as I don't have to wear their overpriced running shoes, sure.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Unpublished and unsolicited

I love and highly respect the written word, and do what I can to honour it -- be it by reading voraciously or writing copiously. Hence the diary and the two blogs I'm occasionally part of, but it has never been enough for me. I am a frequent slave of a mercurial Muse as well, that comes and goes at its leisure. Sometimes I don't hear from my Muse for months, and then suddenly it shows up and I'm stuck to my laptop or to a pad of paper and hard at work scribbling. I decided when I was eight to become a writer, and have been a slave to my infuriating Muse ever since. I started in Fantasy but have gradually gone into regular fiction. I guess I will always have a soft spot for Fantasy, as I have quite a few books of this genre on my shelf. I wrote out a trilogy when I was in my teens that would have probably gone down okay in the bookstores (pre-Harry Potter). It did not get beyond a couple of polite rejection letters. I revised it until I was sick of looking at it, and it went nowhere after that.
I had a dry spell for a bit, then moved to Mystery. The premise was good, or so I thought. (An actual published author thought otherwise, but he's a whiner, so the point is moot.) I still think the premise was good, only I lost interest in continuing with that. At this point, I am working on two projects, both fiction, and both look promising. Rest assured, I will perservere. My Muse is with me once again, and I cannot ignore its lure.
The thing I wanted to complain about is the phrase 'no unsolicited manuscripts'. This phrase ticks me off to no end. Publishing houses are supposedly on the lookout for new and exciting material. Okay, so why then do they say 'no unsolicited manuscripts'? This is a source of unending frustration. Perhaps I do not understand what they mean, but based on my understanding of 'unsolicited', wouldn't new manuscripts count as this? If you solicit materials, you are asking for them. Anyway, I am a little peeved about this phrase. If there is anyone out there who can explain the situation to me a little better, I would be grateful. Otherwise, publishing houses who add 'no unsolicited manuscripts' can go to the Devil.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Imagine no possessions

My exploration into belief and spirituality affirms the point again and again: possessing more than what you need is unnecessary. The Bible says 'it is better to store treasures in Heaven' rather than here on Earth, while the Buddhists see all possession as, like just about everything else in this life, illusion and delusion. Have what you need, not what you want. Bonus if what you want and what you need are the same (but that's irrelevant). Take the books on my shelf, for instance. If, God forbid, a fire swept through and the contents of my room were reduced to ashes, would I feel grief at losing all the books on my shelves? In truth, not for the most part. All these books are possessions, and most of them can be bought over again if the need was great. There are only several books that would cause me some grief to lose, but that grief would be neither great nor enduring, for I can, for the most part, buy them over again.
My sister got me a copy of 'The Flight of Dragons', which I do not think you can buy any more. Losing that book would cause my sister and I some grief, for it's one of the most wonderful and most inspiring books out there. I also have a 'Complete Wordfinder' which is like a second Bible to me - granted, I can get another one just like it - I'm sure Reader's Digest wouldn't begrudge me. And finally, I have a Study Bible (to my shame, I have not yet read) that would be a pain to lose, but I got it from Chapters, and have no problem looking for again.
In truth, with the exception of 'The Flight of Dragons', the books that would cause me the greatest pain to lose would be the ones I can never get back - my beloved diaries. No amount of money would get me back my memories. If I had enough time, I would get at least my most recent diary out before the fire hit. And if I had tons of time, I would grab my laptop and run for it. More stuff I can never replace. However, in the final analysis, you can't take it with you when you go, so everything I'm saying here is moot and ephemeral. That's all.

Saturday, May 24, 2008


I view death as a transition - passage from one life to another. It's more or less a Buddhist view I have. I was doing some scribbling recently and I got to wondering about the 'realm between lives'. In Tibetan Buddhism, this is called bardo (please correct me if I'm wrong). In Christianity, there is the 'Gates of Heaven' and St. Peter judging everyone who approaches him seeking passage into Heaven. He then looks through the person's record (checks and balances) and decides whether or not they go to Heaven, to Hell, or to Purgatory (some people do not believe in the latter, and I'm not trying to convert anyone anyway). As I have said, I like the Buddhist take, for it means that we always have another chance. I get this feeling that with Christianity, wherever you end up, it is FINAL.
I got to thinking about what happens at the moment of transition - regardless of what view one has. A person who has done nothing but wrong all his/her life will go into (it is assumed and even hoped) a very grim and awful place. In the Christian view, one who does much wrong in this life will go to Hell. The Buddhist view is more complex view. Reborn an animal, a demon, a hungry ghost, or a creature born in Hell; each life has more ignorance (and pain) than the human life ever will.
But I digress. Actually, I was trying to figure out what happens at that moment. Does a person really get judged and sent for reward or punishment? People have been asking these questions for thousands of years and will ask them for thousands of years to come (as long as awareness exists, anyway). Being something of a writer, I was trying to set such a scene up. It would be helpful if I could remember my own transition from my previous life to the one I'm living now. That sort of miracle only happens to certain people, and only if they've trained long and hard to reach such a remembering. Is it like climbing up the stairs to meet St. Peter, or is it more like the Greek model of crossing the River Styx on Charon's ferry? Hard to say.
It is easy for me to think about these things in such abstract, intelligent terms. Someday, I will face my mortality and fear going to sleep at night, certain that death is just around the corner. They say facing death is easy - it's the dying part that is hard to deal with. At least the Buddhist view is not so FINAL.
I think I'll stop with such morbid stuff and wish everyone a great weekend instead.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Thou C of E!

My literary explorations sometimes take me down what might be considered very boring pathways. Being RC (but only on paper), I like to see what other paths other faiths have taken to get There. A few years ago, I took up 'The Book of Common Prayer' and read it cover-to-cover. Well, I figured that it was time I looked into reading this book again - mainly because I cannot recall what my thoughts were about this book back in the day. So, I've been looking at this wonderfully illuminated work by Eubury Press that I found at the library. Like the Bible, 'Book of Common Prayer' does not change over time, and like the Bible, it's full of prayerful material.
I am not done reading it yet, but I figured the time had come to say something about it. I like this book, for it sort of gives a picture of the Christian church as it evolved. It is actually much more of an evolving book than the Bible is. After, the Church of England is 'lead' by the present ruler of England and the Commonwealth (as well as the Archbishop of Canterbury, I think). The copy I'm reading has to have been published after 1952, for is uses QE2 as the ruler it calls on God to bless (as well as QE2's Royal Family, although there is no Princess of Wales anymore, right?). I guess when Elizabeth II passes away (God Save the Commonwealth!), William's name will go in her place (assuming Charles passes away before his mother does).
I also like 'The Book of Common Prayer' because it is not really the same thing as a Bible. It's also a handbook for the minister, as well as a missal, for it lists the holy days (and saint-days) and what is to be said on those days. Definitely a more evolutionary material than the Bible, and it has all the necessary Biblical bits everyone knows and wants to see. I can't deny it gets a little repetitive, but it is a holy book, and the writers did want to drive home their points, so it's okay.
If anyone has anything they want to share with me about this very fascinating book, please let me know. Now, I will get back to reading and enjoying.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Who is John Galt?

For all those unfamiliar with Ayn Rand's massive tome "Atlas Shrugged", this is the empty, rhetorical question posed countless times by both the main characters and most of the secondary characters. I get a chill when I gaze on the world Rand has created, for I cannot help but feel sometimes that our species is heading for a future like this. A world where people who do the thinking and the hard work are not credited or respected for what they have done, while those who are content to sit on their butts and whine about how they are not being respected are being heard with open ears and open wallets. A few areas of today's society leap to mind when I think of what Rand calls 'the looters' - people who would gladly take the credit - and the money that comes with it - from other people who dream big and actually have the nerve to act upon their dreams.
Rand's concept in 'Atlas Shrugged' sounds oddly communist, while the big businessmen are derided as being greedy and not worth respecting. The big businessmen started out small and worked hard to get where they are today. Bill Gates, Donald Trump, and the more faceless CEO's and presidents of companies; they all started small and worked hard to attain the height of their respective mountains. As much as people poke fun at guys like Trump, they have to respect them for getting as far as they have. The downfall of the world is not heralded by a hellish shriek, but by the cry "It's not my fault!" Okay, so it isn't your fault, but that does not mean you should abdicate all responsibility for what you do here on in.
I admire a line in the book that says the 'greatest guilt is to accept an undeserved guilt'. People need to start taking that truth to heart and accept the guilt that is theirs but no other guilt. Consider how much freer we would all feel without that huge burden weighing us down! Time to accept responsibility where it is due but not to feel guilty about something someone else did. If more people accepted this truth, I can imagine how much would change... especially in Canadian politics, but enough muttering about such stuff.
I read "Atlas Shrugged" a little over a year ago and loved it so much I wanted to return to it again. Well, it's been a year, so I took it up. I'm on Part 3 now, and loving every moment. (Spoiler! It's in Part 3 where the reader finally gets to meet the mysterious John Galt.) Time to get back to it!

Saturday, May 3, 2008

The 90's, Waugh-style

Not the 1890's, but the 1990's. My diaries from this decade center mainly around my own life and how the world affected it. I came across 'Way of the World' by Auberon Waugh recently, and decided to see if Auberon was as good a writer as his illustrious father. Does anyone know about 'Way of the World'? Is it still in the papers in England? Is Auberon Waugh even still alive? Anyway, I got to reading this book, which was made up of Waugh's best articles from the early 1990's. He talks quite a bit about Robert Maxwell, John Major, BSE, the Royal Family, bats, giant pandas, and the quirks of life in England. I was too young to know much about the 90's, but Waugh nicely fleshes out the bits and scraps I picked up as events happened.
That is one of the good things I got from this book. Auberon Waugh is also a fair writer. Bear in mind that this is a collection of articles and not a real novel. I really cannot compare Evelyn with his son unless I can find a more level playing ground. Auberon did successfully inherit his father's thoroughly cynical sense of humour, and it made for good reading - at first. Over time, as I continued to read, my opinion began to turn. I believe I called Waugh a git in my diary after I finally closed the book. He strikes me as being rather ignorant about things like global warming, AIDS, and other topics that even I know more about.
Of course, these articles were written at the dawn of the 1990's, so Waugh can be forgiven for being so pompous. There was still a great deal of innocence in the general public about these topics. There's also a touch of exaggeration that runs through just about everything Waugh dissects in his articles. For instance, giant pandas are wonderful creatures but they would not make good members of the clergy. I'm not even sure the current clergy cuts it, but that's just my opinion. I don't know if Auberon Waugh is still alive, but if he is, I hope he doesn't mind me calling him a git. I'm sure he's called people that in the past as well. His father probably would have called people that if he knew the word.

Saturday, April 26, 2008


John Lennon's 'Happy Christmas (War is Over)' is for me a special song, for it sends me back to X-mas 1992. The song was playing as I received a diary as a gift from relatives. I had tried keeping a diary in the past, but nothing had come of it. After a half-hearted start with this one and many, many days between entries, in 1994 I fell into a serious routine of keeping a diary. It is 2008 and I started my 10th diary earlier this month.
The timing was perfect, for I hit adolescence and all its turbulence in the early 1990's, and really needed a place to vent. I'm glad I kept a diary in those years, for now I can look back and smile at all my diatribes and emotional storms. They really are funny and make me shake my head at the person I used to be. After the waterworks and angst-storms of my teenage years, I went to university and recorded my experiences in Religious Studies, which was my major, and other courses needed to get my B.A. There were other storms and events to record, and in the years since those days, my journals have become very useful. My folks ask me when something in our family happened, I usually have some sort of answer for them.
I had my journal near at hand September 11, 2001, and can recall where I was when I watched CNN give its grim report in the morning hours of that day. Each vacation we have taken, be it to do cross-border shopping, to the lake for summer holidays, or to Cancun (our most recent trip), I documented to the best of my ability. On a more personal level, I have watched as my spiritual beliefs have evolved over time thanks to my keeping a consistent journal. I'm a voracious reader and I have kept notes of books that really piqued my curiosity. Someday, should destiny choose me for notoriety, I will have more than enough documentation to write an auto-biography.
There does not appear to be any end in sight, as I have another empty journal waiting in the wings when my 10th one is full. Nor would I want this to end. Keeping a blog is fun but very ephemeral. Keeping a diary is just as much fun, and is also solid and will not disappear like so much html. It's been close to 15 years since I heard 'Happy Christmas (War is Over)' and received the best X-mas gift I could ever get. It's a gift that truly keeps on giving.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Saints preserve us!

Some people have a favourite saint. My favourite happens to be St. Jude Thaddeus, the patron saint of those who despair. Actually, I just like the name Jude, which I first heard in that eternally wonderful Beatles song from 1968 (first 'really' long song I ever heard, but that was all na-na-na's). Anyway, St. Jude also has a little bit toward the end of the New Testament, and I guess it's the subject matter that makes him the patron saint of despairing people. He was writing to comfort and reassure the Christian people who were facing a lot of despair in those days. It's a noble enough goal and it must've done the job. Hey, he got into the Bible, and that's a feat in itself. Of course, being Jesus' cousin did not hurt either. A few of Jesus' cousins got into the Bible as well, either by being mentioned in the Gospels or they had letters of their own in the New Testament.
Anyway, I've done some not-so-serious thinking about saints, especially the ones who are in the Bible. God, to my knowledge, never said to anyone that so-and-so should be a saint. It's been the popes who have canonized and created saints. I have to assume that guys like St. Jude got in because they are in the Bible or have some connection to Jesus - like blood ties, for instance. Jude was also one of the Twelve Apostles, which adds to his supposed holiness. However, in the early 21st Century, there are people working perhaps much harder than Jude ever did to make the world better in the name of the Church and they will probably never be beatified and canonized.
I'm sort of hoping there's an authority somewhere that's reviewing the histories of these saints, especially the ones in the Bible, just to see if they still deserve the title of St. I understand that Pope Paul VI did do some housecleaning back in the day and removed the title from some saints, but I wonder if the saints that are in the Bible should be checked out to see if they still warrant the title. I don't know if St. Jude still warrants the honorific, but I don't think I'm any authority to make such judgments. I'm still waiting for Mother Theresa to be made a saint. It takes the Church a while to make such decisions.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Happy Birthday!

Not to me, but to one of the most wonderful people I know. Mother's Day is not for another month, but my Mom's birthday is tomorrow, and I wanted to celebrate her day before the rest of the family does. My mom was born on Easter Sunday 56 years ago tomorrow. Easter Sunday has not fallen on her birthday since then. She's had her fair share of Friday the 13th's, though. I would not say she's unlucky because of it. She's been married for over 30 years, has two lunatic offspring and a gargantuan old cat, and is enjoying her first year of retirement from life as a registered nurse. Kudos to my mom!
A little history about her. She was born in a small town in Manitoba and lived on the family farm until she was five. She is the second of five living children (and certainly the most sensible of all of them). Her family moved to Winnipeg and she got married in the mid-70's. For any Canadians listening, she attended Expo 67 during a Girl Guides trip. That would've been cool to see. Anyway, at the dawn of the 80's she had her first little lunatic and she and dad moved west. (Apparently, I cried all the way there and all the way back two years later, but enough about me) After a succession of moves back in Winnipeg, my mom and dad settled down long enough to have my bespectacled sister. Then one last move (Halloween 1985, and we haven't moved since) and mom was hard at work in the nursing home until her recent retirement.
My mom's quite a traveller these days. Mexico every February with dad and cross-border shopping with my sister. Since her retirement, she's rediscovered television and likes CSI and Criminal Minds. I would love to see her get back into reading, but that will come when it comes. I cannot imagine what will happen in the future, but I think my mom's going to do really well. No grandchildren yet, but she's said she really doesn't want any right now.
I love my mom for her incredible patience and her sense of humour. May the next 56 years be just as rewarding for her! Bonne fête, ma mère!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

SOC stuff

I talk in stream-of-consciousness all the time, going from point to point effortlessly. Some might say I'm being totally random. I know that people who are not in the loop with all the jumping get confused and frustrated. (Apologies, parents) Anyway, I finished reading "Tristram Shandy & A Sentimental Journey" by Laurence Sterne and was once again boggled by the SOC I encountered in these two books. "A Sentimental Journey" was less stream-of-consciousness than "Tristram Shandy" was, but still boggling all the same. "Tristram Shandy" is a hard book to follow and well-nigh completely plotless. A hundred little side-plots flowing through Shandy's shifting, meandering narrative. There's much more about his father and uncle than about himself in this book. Constant dialogue between these fellows, and it goes so much deeper than a few remarks per scene.
Sterne also has to flesh out just about every back-story he creates, which leaves the reader spinning and gasping for air every now and then. I'm not saying the book is bad. For its time, and even for these days, it's a ground-breaker. People still like a ghost of a plot that they can follow, so I don't know if "Tristram Shandy" would be welcome had it been published these days. Of course, there's also Joyce's "Ulysses" for those seeking a SOC experience. I've read that book, and I know I'll have to read it again, because I was totally lost.
Before I wrap this up, I have one more SOC experience to discuss. In 1968, the Monkees came out with their 'flawed but interesting' movie "Head". Our familiy was enduring a rebirth of Monkeemania in the late 1990's and my sister bought "Head" to see what it was like. Anyone who has seen the movie knows what kind of experience it is. The heroes jump from event to event, and yet it all hangs rather well together. Considered ground-breaking in a technical sense (underwater camera action), it was a huge bomb at the box office. "Head" was my first encounter with stream-of-consciousness outside the house. Not my favourite movie, but better than some movies with actual plots.
Just like "Tristram Shandy" and "Ulysses".