Crazy, Crazy Day

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I pulled myself out of bed promptly at six this morning. So early that the sun wasn’t up yet, nor even the cats—though they did slink around the corners a bit. It’s a nice time, and for once I had the house to myself. This could do wonders for my mental health.

Having a goal made the endeavor far more palatable. Not that it was much of a carrot, it still gave me purpose.

I revised my short story. It’s not a good story, and never was, but hopefully it’s a little better. Got some of the little edits in, playing with paragraphs and sentence structures, that sort of thing. Most importantly, I filled in a sort of missing scene. The story itself had no indication that this scene existed, much less missing, but it builds the step between the ignorant beginning and the “epiphany” of the climax. Nothing quite so grand actually, but it’s far too late after my early morning to remember what the term I want is. Oh, the shame!

Then at 7:40 I got the call to sub. Maybe I planned the early wake up as me time, but it certainly made it possible for me to get to school that quickly. And it was the last day I needed this month to pay the bills.

And at 4:30, my brother and I had to head toward the theater to set up the movie. But brother had locked his keys in the projection room. And when he finally called other brother, he found that the other set of keys was in other brother’s car. Which my mom was driving, since other brother is out-of-state. So we went home. I remembered to pick up my jacket if it got cold again at night (it didn’t) and my glasses to focus the movie. We got back to the theater and brother got started setting up the movie, and my friend came over to hang out since we hardly ever see each other. Brother was kind enough to let me get away with this. Friend and I made fun of a certain book that she had lent me from her sisters’ collection.

Now, we could have finished the day off like this, the three of us: setting up the movie, and watching it (to check for errors of course). Except M.P.A.T. schedules “blocking” (play practice) at the theater on Thursday evenings. I forgot to inquire as to why this is so.

I had to go and walk about on stage while trying to read my lines and several actors not present.

It wasn’t much fun. I’m the only newbie on set; as brother put it, I “haven’t been in a play since kindergarten.” I told him that was a little excessive, because who could count kindergarten pageants plays? Other than possibly parents. Nothing against kindergarteners here. At any rate, I can’t enunciate and I don’t know what to do with myself on stage. As every other person in the cast has, I think, several years experience at least, I found this to be hugely embarrassing. Maybe not hugely. And even ’embarrassing’ doesn’t convey all that much, as I get embarrassed by almost everything. Although at least I can finally spell the word.

We finally cleared out the play paraphernalia (that is to say, the metal folding chairs on stage) about 8:30, at which point brother and I were finally able to eat dinner. An over-backed bake-at-home pizza. It was hot though, and dad delivered honey too, so it was almost palatable.

Brother helped me actually set up the movie—run the film through the projector and flip most of the switches. And we finished the rest of the flip switching by eleven.

Crazy, crazy day, I tell you.

Only a Little Link Happy in Justification: Part 2

There is still so much more to come from Killing Time! I mean, I only just got through two issues, and about 30 pages.

But then I realized that it looks like all I do with my time is read bad Trek publications and read TOS fanfic. Which is so not the truth. I’m still reading Spies (the first person manages to be convincing from both the adult and child perspectives), mentioned in an earlier post, and of course the topic of said post, The City of Falling Angels. And because that couldn’t possibly be enough, I’m also reading The Nobility of Failure (about the tradition of Japanese heroes and tragedy, published in ’75 and drawing maybe too heavily from Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces, but still fascinating and eminently readable for its genre); I’m also working on two “literary” novels: Clover, which I want to write a blog about, because so far I’m finding myself disappointed, and Separation, a French novel that is beautifully written and personally challenging, and will likely also get its own blog post. Assuming, of course, that I can finish Killing Time before it kills me.

Those last four books are library books, by the way. After I’m done with those, I still have The Biography of a Cathedral and The Lost Girls. And it looks like I still have Deadheads checked out for my eventual post on Reginald Hill even though I’ve finished it, and If You were a Tadpole and I was a Fish, which I think I’m just going to turn in. It was a fun read though.

And then I have a whole slew of other books I want to check out from the library once I get those returned, including Rebels Against the Future, An Uncommon Friendship, and The Music Room*. Volunteering at the library means that I’m the one who gets to do the grunt work like shifting the fiction and history sections, which means I come out with huge long lists of random books to read (or rather lots of little lists written on post-its folded into tiny square and littered all over my desk).  Lately though, anytime I read anything I’ve been wondering what to say about it. But I have piles of unread books I own (so much easier to put off when I don’t have to give them back). And I want to read City of Bones or Twilight**. Well, the last two only because I see so much making fun of the second, and the first because the author used to write Harry Potter fan fiction*** and the trilogy, I’ve heard, draws heavily from her experience. So I’d maybe pick on them a little as I’m doing here. (Or find value, as the case may be.)

Reminding me I have a purpose in this post, which is to say:

I do not understand!

See, in Killing Time, the alternate universe (AU) is one that the Romulans created through, well, let’s not get into that for now. But in the AU, apparently, the Vulcans are in charge, and earth people (Terrans?) are inferior. At least I think so. The universe is rather confused.

In the Rogue Agent series, I loved Mills leaving out any treatise on the set up of the world, but here it just doesn’t work. Mostly because it is based off of an already defined world (or galaxy, I suppose) and the alternate world isn’t familiar. Now, Van Hise does successfully make her alternate universe distinct from the original, but fails in giving it any internal logic of its own. Yes, the Vulcans are in charge, and the Enterprise now has the Vulcan name ShiKahr and apparently Vulcan labels:

Instead of the Vulcan inscriptions denoting deck levels and instructions, Terran English swam before his eyes.

(He’s undergoing the transition between worlds, because they first thought the alternate universe was a dream, and now the opposite. I haven’t yet gotten to how that works either, though based on the Romulan plot, it still makes no sense).

Having shown that the Vulcans, for whatever reason, are in charge in this AU, Spock almost immediately reflects on how he was disowned by his father for accepting the captainship of the ShiKahr. Why? As far as I can tell, because he was disowned in the original series for joining Star Fleet. But here, the Vulcans are in charge, and I can’t see any reason for his Vulcan father to object to his half-Vulcan son joining a Vulcan career. And doing well at it. Sarek (the father, disowned his son for becoming the captain. So if he’d stayed a druggie ensign like Kirk, it’d be okay?

If I read an explanation for this, I will bring this all up again. Since I’m writing as I go along, I’m completely willing to be shown wrong.

Although as he’s being disowned, Sarek reminds Spock that he will be “alone.” There is lots of emphasis on his being alone. Spock does not want to be alone. That’s a bad thing. In fact, he remembers T’Pring (his fiancée equivalent, which in canon didn’t end so well). And…I’m not sure what’s happening when he thinks of her:

Vulcan. T’Pring. Home and wife and family and expectations: gone. What remained? The stars—something T’Pring would have forbidden. Space—freedom. Isolation—acceptable…for a Vulcan. And Command—a different type of home altogether.

So, I’ll admit this isn’t badly written. And I think I’d enjoy reading it as a commentary on a closer world to canon that this, but I’m not sure how it’s supposed to work here. Did Sarek break off the engagement after disowning his son? I don’t see why he would, because I can’t imagine how it’d be the ‘logical’ thing to do. T’Pring doesn’t seem to have had anything to do with it. If she would have “forbidden” space, and he’s been in space for years, it must have been over a long time ago. I can see this being included as a shout-out to the original series, but I don’t know why it would be necessary. You don’t read novelization spin-offs from a TV series unless you’re already familiar with it.

But you know, it’s really the ‘alone’ thing that gets me. Spock, in the earlier quote says isolation is acceptable for a Vulcan (except that if he doesn’t have a wife, it’s only acceptable for a couple of years) but the page before we got this:

Somehow, whatever companion he’d once envisioned finding among the stars had escaped him.

In other words, his father disowned him for being so completely illogical as to go to space to hopefully just stumble across some random, drugged out ensign who would not only be a lifelong companion but soul mate. Just like that. Now this right here is, when only an implicit theme, drives me nuts (and Killing Time is more than willing to keep beating me over the head with it for the foreseeable future, as much of it as I’ve read). True love? Okay, I can live with that, or at least I’ve learned given that it’s become such an ingrained focus of the cultural lexicon. But a true love that is simply the only one ever and there is no other even unto there never even being allowed any other significant relationship of any kind at all. So, so wrong.

T’hy’la? Spock thinks. He wondered briefly if this human could be the companion, the friend, the brother. But…no. Images received during periods of physical—or mental—illness could not be considered accurate.

You came so close, Spock! Of course, he’s hallucinating Kirk at this point, who is “the” companion. And what really bugs me here is that Spock is not looking for a companion. No, he’s just hoping to randomly stumble across one. In space.

Plato's Stepchildren

Ah, if only he took seriously the mental illness theory…

And here I give up because, yay! it’s page 37. Out of 311.

*This is not the memoir by William Fiennes, which I found in looking for the link, and also sounds interesting. Sigh.

**Is this inflammatory?

***And was totally involved in the fandom wank that I mentioned in my very first post!

True Evil

Oops. Been awhile.  Before I get to new content, may as well at least cross-post the last 6 or so articles from the class…

Is evil really a simple concept? We like to think it is, we like to think we can recognize evil as something evil, and something other. But most people don’t actually have any real experience with evil, no direct experience.

Craig Williamson was an operative for the South American apartheid government. He was granted amnesty from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. He now works in a market, selling produce, but despite the official amnesty he says that he does not feel that he is forgiven. In his defense, he claims a sort of “just following orders” defense. If he’d been told it was evil to do the things he was ordered, he would have thought about it more. Apparently because it was presented to him as the “greater good” he just didn’t question anything. As weaselly as this sounds, and, really, is, the fact is that once people get into the mindset of distinguishing “us” from “them” this kind of thought process can be used to follow through with all sorts of terrible actions: it’s probably very similar to what urban gangs to do each other.

However, though at times during the documentary “The Ones That Got Away” Williamson does seem to have accepted his actions, and is genuinely trying to make some restitution and, in a way, make up for his evil, he also resents what he sees as an over-positive fairy dust solution. Part of his reasoning behind this resentfulness is that “there will be people…who hate what I did.”  This is problematic, because he should also hate what he did. Everyone should hate what he did. Forgiveness means that we shouldn’t hate him, as an individual, but apparently, somewhere in his mind, he may still believe that he wasn’t entirely wrong.

In A Human Being Died that Night by Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, who was a part of the TRC and is a clinical psychologist, believes that “even atrocities call for an apology that is sincere, unencumbered by explanation or justification.” I believe that is true. It’s very hard to make a sincere apology. No one likes to admit being wrong, and to make a sincere apology they have to be able to face what they did. They have to strip away their mental defenses against whatever wrong they committed…and even minor every-day infractions, like forgetting to take out the trash, can be very difficult to admit to, especially when the person apologizing feels they are in the weaker position: also a hard place to be.

As Gobodo-Madikizela says, an apology “clears…the air in order to begin reconstructing the broken connections between human beings.” An apology doesn’t come from weakness, but it does require the speaker to completely acknowledge their own faults—and that admits weakness. Actually truly apologizing is strength. But an apology enacted to put the apologizer in a position of moral power is even less likely to be sincere. Gobodo-Madikizela uses the example of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, and her official apology in front of the commission for the death of Stompie Seipei. The young man’s body was discovered just outside of Soweto, and linked to the activities of the Mandela Football Club. A court hearing found that there was evidence that Seipei’s death was related to events that had taken place in Madikizela-Mandela’s home.

During the TRC public hearing, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela refused to admit she knew anything about anything, whether or not it had happened in her home. Gobodo-Madikizela does not give details as to what specifically she said, her focus was on how Madikizela-Mandela used that opportunity as a way to offer an “apology” and keep a position of moral strength: “She approached Stompie Seipei’s mother while the TV cameras rolled. With a triumphant smile and open arms, she embraced her.” Unlike Gobodo-Madikizela, I don’t know that I believe Seipei’s mother was stripped of dignity in this interaction, if only because she seemed to be behaving far better than Madikizela-Mandela, but I wasn’t there, and I don’t know the details of the interaction. Unfortuantely, Madikizela-Mandela was unwilling to face what she’d done, or even what she hadn’t done, much less try to heal the wounds she left behind.

Both of these people did very wrong, and hurt people. But where do they fall on the scale of evil? Is there a scale? I would judge that, at least to a certain extent, Williamson is willing to face what he did during the apartheid—even if rather obliquely. But Madikizela-Mandela does not face any possible damage she may have done, what part she played. And Williamson undoubtedly killed more people, and was far more directly involved. So should we not forgive them, because they aren’t doing enough? Perhaps so. After all, we know what’s Right.

Sacred Profanity

All religions have a sacred place. But a sacred place isn’t necessarily a religious or spiritual place. Sacred is not incompatible with secular concepts. Many consider Jerusalem to be a sacred place. Others find sites like Gettysburg, or even Yellowstone National Park, sacred.

In Buddha or Bust, Perry Garfinkel relates the story of his travels to Bodh Gaya, one of the most sacred sites in Buddhism. It is where, one could very simplistically say—and I will—the Buddha became the Buddha. Siddhartha Guatama struggled with his spirituality, first trying to attain it through deprivation, nearly starving himself. When he realized that he was none the happier for it, he changed tactics. After recovering, he decided to meditate: “he simply notes [his thoughts] without judgment as the focus of this minute attention rises and then, inevitably, fades away.” Kind of a “don’t sweat the small stuff” realization.

After he realizes this, he finds a nice tree and sits under a tree, vowing not to leave until enlightenment. Under the tree, he confronts M­āra, in the Vedic mythology, a god of love…thought the name means death. M­āra tempts him, with the traditional temptations of power, lust and fear. Siddhartha calls upon the earth to testify—which it does. This is not the end of his journey though. To become the Buddha, he continues with his meditation and gains knowledge of his past lives, the “superhuman divine eye” and the Four Noble Truths,” pillars on which he builds the dharma. And then he hangs out at the tree for another several weeks—understandably a bit overwhelmed. The area is known as the Vajrasana.

I didn’t mean to talk quite so much about Buddhist history. But without knowing the history, it’s hard to determine why people consider a site sacred. Especially one from another tradition. But knowing that history, it is clear why Buddhists see Bodh Gaya as such a sacred place.

Like most sacred sites today, though, Bodh Gaya has caught the attention of Tourists. And the place has been overrun. Not just by the tourists, but by those taking advantage of the tourists. As Garfinkel puts it, it’s more of a “spiritual three-ring circus” than simply a spiritual epicenter. There is simply no way, as he discovered, to recreate the Buddha’s experience. And ironically, the attention may have begun to harm the sacred site: the Bodhi Tree had been infested by the mealybug—possibly relating to the activities of the devout.

Garfinkel does not actually say that he sees Bodh Gaya’s “three-ring circus” as a bad thing. When writing of the plans the Indian tourism department has for bypass roads, Garfinkel points out that “Bodh Gaya will have less traffic, less noise and less air pollution—and less character—than when…I was there.” Generally, for the US and journalists, character is considered a virtue. He also points out that people look for distractions from Enlightenment. That’s why the Buddha is so revered. If it was easy, anyone could do it.

Garfinkel calls it “the sense of peace that nonetheless manages to transcend even the chaos here.”

All the while Garfinkel discusses his visit with the tour, he points out how superior he feels to the others with him. He knows how to ignore the beggars, and to rise above the surrounding poverty. He isn’t naïve like that poor rich woman from, and is perfectly aware of social injustices as a fact of life—even when she cannot. Then, when he is in the Mahakala caves, he finds himself confessing to one instance in which he was particularly obnoxious to another traveler. He confesses, and then realizes that he can let the incident go. He doesn’t have to feel guilty, or even superior, any longer.

But in the caves, he’s already pointed out, it still feels to him as though they must be the same as 2,500 years ago. But in letting go of that instance, he also let go of his own expectations. “Bodh Gaya is no place for intellectual nitpicking.”

Because Bodh Gaya wouldn’t be a tourist destination if no one believed in the Buddha and his teachings. People come to the site to connect with their history…or at least the history of their beliefs. They find their own meaning there, not dependant on the outside conditions. If Buddha found his enlightenment there, then not everyone else needs to. He went to teach others his principles so that they could find enlightenment in their own place.

Bodh Gaya is sacred because the believers make it so. That doesn’t mean it isn’t important. Little plastic Buddhas? Well people only like marble because it’s expensive. Let’s not be elitist.

*Another post from my class blog.  I’m not as happy with this one, but not quite ready to edit it. I need to think some more about it.  I’d appreciate feedback though.

Disrespecting Icarus

I do not remember when I first learned the story of Icarus. I do remember exactly what I thought of him, which was, essentially, that he was an idiot.

No, there really wasn’t any sympathy involved. Rather, I empathized most with his father, who had to watch his son fall to his death. I never quite understood why someone would not be willing to follow simple directions that would have allowed him, in this case, the joys of flying without the whole falling part. They do say it’s not the fall that kills you—but you still end up dead.

Which goes to show, I suppose, that I’d have to identify myself with Hestia…goddess of the home and hearth. Well, I’m about as forgettable as she, although should someone write a Homeric hymn to me, I wouldn’t warrant even five lines*. But then again, I try to avoid walking in front of buses, and my family has always done well longevity-wise.  Still, though I spend much of my time at home, that doesn’t mean I actually look forward to tending the hearth.

Of course, I’ve been taking the application of the archetypes of the Greek myths rather literally. A metaphor will break with you stretch it too far.

I would be far more adventurous if it weren’t so expensive. But I have had a few chances to spread my wings, as it were, with travel. Only once though, “internationally.” And almost always I had to rely on family. My only venture past the US border came when I visited my grandparents in Roseau, Minn. It’s a very tiny town, only a few miles of the border. So one cloudy, blustery day, my brother and I convinced my mom to drive us up to Canada. Unfortunately, it was closed.

Well, actually, we did get in. But it was Sunday, and though we drove through two good-sized towns, nothing was open—excepting an A&W Root Beer restaurant where we stopped for lunch. The only place we could find to get “souvenirs” was a gas station minimart. I got a little crystal-covered cat-bangle watch.

One of my main reasons for being such a homebody, I admit, is because I tend to recognize the similarities of a place and people before the differences. I really have to work to understand—or even to realize—why people wouldn’t get along. For instance, that day in Canada, though everything was closed, and we only drove through, I didn’t see that many differences. Well, they did use the Canadian dollar, which I couldn’t convert, and all the speed signs were in kilometers per hour, which I couldn’t convert either. I’ve never been good with math.

But there were a lot of big box stores, even if they were different from the common ones in California—which they are in the Midwest and eastern US anyway. But just because the names are different, the places really aren’t.

Growing up I spent most of my free time (and not-so-free time) reading. I still read too much, or at least checking out too many books from the library. I’ve never decided what my favorite genre was. I love all the different fictions, really. And most kinds of non-fiction: biographies, histories, sciences, etc. Really, I can’t think of anything I don’t like to read. But this is where the Icarus-Hestia myth comparison just doesn’t work for me. For instance, though staying home reading is probably very “Hestia,” what I read gives me a way to explore parts of the world I will never experience (like Victorian England), and then a new way to interpret the world when I am adventuresome.

So, yes, though I still don’t respect Icarus’ decision to be stupid, I never mind learning more about…well…anything!

*Yes, I wikied it. That is a verb by now, yes?

Hair Salons and Dentists and Personal Weird-itry

I recently went to the dentist.  Not particularly good news, as I had two cavities filled that same visit, but then again, the dentist thought one would be a root canal.  So I was rather relieved.

I had another reason to be relieved as well.  Before that visit, it had been awhile since I had been to the dentist…years, minimum.  I mean I brush my teeth the requisite two minutes plus every day twice a day (I haven’t quite made it the the new requisite of three or four quite yet) and I even usually floss. Hey, even the dentist and the ? man (don’t know the title) who did the x-rays said I had a really small mouth, it’s really hard to reach!  So I just avoided it until it felt like I had broken a tooth, and couldn’t chew anything on that side of the mouth.  But now that I have been, and have discovered that I will have to revisit before to long to get braces and lose wisdom teeth.  Fun yes?

Yes. Well not fun so much as not scary.

It turns out I’m not afraid of the dentist.  Lucky, lucky me.  Bad enough that I have all four wisdom teeth that need to be removed, but at least I’m not going to get a panic attack on the way to the appointment.  And I’m not making light of those who do either.  I’ve had panic attacks, and they aren’t any fun at all.  But when I was getting my cavities filled, I was watching the dentist.  I could feel him scraping and drilling, and I was fascinated.  Weird? Very.  Don’t worry, I do know that.

Especially since, and this is where the title comes in, I don’t like getting my hair cut because when my hair is getting shampooed it freaks me out.

You read that right.  I’m fine with some strange man with scrubs and latex glove sticking his fingers in my (numbed) mouth with power tools, but some lady sudsing my hair is the situation that really bothers me.  I am a very odd person in my head. And with my head.  Large personal bubble, usually.  Then again, first situation, drugs and “shiny-new-type-situation” is involved, and the other a significant likelihood of actually having to listen to the hairstylist talking at me.  Not that I dislike hairstylists, specifically, but I don’t like being a captive audience, as much as I like having one.

In (one of) my editing class(es) we had to read a story about a women who worked at a one-hour-photo place and who happened to be crazy. It’s called “Picture Perfect” I think, and the story was connected to an essay by the editor who published it.  Apparently, the author herself didn’t actually feel it was worth publishing because she didn’t think it was good enough. (It was.) But everyone else focused on how crazy the Laurie character was, and yet, I could only think, well, yes, she’s crazy: but I was already sympathetic with the author, and you know, should I ever go crazy, I probably would be something like Laurie.  Never answer my phone–not so much obsessing over the neighbor’s answering machine though. Then again, maybe I shouldn’t take it that personally, because, frankly, I can empathize way too easily.  I don’t necessarily think it’s a flaw; but when I start realizing that I can understand what reasons people give for reasons such murder and other crimes against societies “mores” (dangit, that sociology class is going to be of use somewhere!) then I know I’m going a bit far in my identification with their character.

You know, I probably just read way too much as a kid.

(Randomness is my forte.  I could go back to wrap this up so it makes sense with the beginning of the post, but I’m too lazy to go back and read it.  So there.)