Thursday, November 19, 2009

search strings

According to Google Analytics, these are a few of the search strings that people have used to find my blog:
  • carl sagan haircut
  • cold and drunk as i can be
  • inappropriate things to write on a cake
That last one is my personal favourite. I should probably come up with more inappropriate things to write on a cake so I can be sure I'm pleasing my audience.

Monday, November 16, 2009

untitled poem

I submitted this poem to the Chronogram for November, and apparently it made the short list but didn't fit in the final layout. The poetry editor suggested that I resubmit it in the future. Since it's a spring-themed poem, I think maybe I'll resubmit it in March. Until then, I make it available here for your reading pleasure!

I have known silence
luscious and austere, all coarse and rarefied -
louder than a drum
louder than any hustle and bustle
I could ever devise.

In the fractional pause
between ringing gadgetry
and digital embrace,
some quiet thought
pervades -
some kind, unfettered thing
softens the void.

I learned to listen
in north Ontario, early spring.
In that sharp, naked season of light
not so much as a bird chirping
nor wave lapping
stirs the cool, dry air.

and Sometimes
I can still hear
that raw Canadian landscape
creeping across my threshold
bearing treasures and trinkets -
and Release.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Drawing Down the Moon by Margot Adler - a review

So, I've once again been chewing my way through Drawing Down the Moon, by Margot Adler. This is my third try; I first picked it up in spring of 2001 (inspired by liner notes for a Dar Williams song), but was soon distracted by an immediate and unforeseen need to leave the place I was living at the time. I started reading it again a few years ago; can't remember why I didn't make it all the way through that second time. Anyway, this is attempt #3, and I'm making good progress. I'm further into the book than I got on my prior attempts, and a lot of it is sinking in and making sense (or in some cases very clearly not making sense).

I just finished the chapter on "Women, Feminism, and the Craft". The first half of the chapter didn't do much for me; I'm reading an old edition of the book, and a lot of it seemed dated. Second wave feminism. I understand (at least, I think I understand) the importance from a historical context, but it all seems a bit reductionist/dualistic to me. I'm glad we've moved on.

With those caveats in place, there are some really rich passages in this chapter. Let's start with these two quotes from page 210:

Despite what some psychologists say, no one really has the slightest idea what a woman (or, for that matter, what a man) is.

"...the great mystery of our society is that men and women are exactly alike and this truth is hidden from us under an incredible load of bullshit."

That second quote gets right down to the heart of the matter. Politics, religion (which is just another word for politics), and 99% of what we call gender - they are all based on the bullshit of false dichotomies and a fearful desire to call things Other. Apart from the gross physical level of genetics, hormones, brain structures, and plumbing (important to note that the last two list items are wholly dependent on the first two list items), is there any inherent difference between men and women? (For the moment, let's pretend that these two categories are mutually exclusive and exhaustive.) And how amazing is it that this dichotomy that every one of us buys into to some extent is almost wholly fabricated? We as humans have the capability to invent something that orders our entire universe and never, ever gets questioned. Wow. I'm not saying that's either good or bad. Mostly it's just amazing.

Also, quoted from Robin Morgan's Sisterhood is Powerful on page 206:

If you are a woman and dare to look within yourself, you are a Witch. You make your own rules. You are free and beautiful. You can be invisible or evident in how you choose to make your witch-self known. You can form your own Coven of sister Witches (thirteen is a cozy number for a group) and do your own actions...

Your power comes from your own self as a woman, and it is activated by working in concert with your sisters...

You are a Witch by saying aloud, "I am a Witch" three times, and thinking about that. You are a Witch by being female, untamed, angry, joyous, and immortal.

Part of the reason I started with the discussion of gender was to lend this description of witchcraft some degree of universality. What I love about this quote is that it makes it very, very clear that witchcraft/neo-Paganism is not about superficial action; it's about essence. You can't convert. You either are or aren't, and if you aren't, there's no way in, and if you are, there's no way out (stakes and bonfires notwithstanding). Also, modern witchcraft, unlike conventional religion (and much of the rest of neo-Paganism), is independent of power structure, hierarchy, bureaucracy. It is wild, untamed. "You make your own rules."

Another element of witchcraft/neo-Paganism that's really struck me on this third voyage through the book is the idea of imminence rather than transcendence. The divine is not off floating in the clouds shooting the shit with saints and angels. If it's anywhere, it's right here. Where else could it be? And here's where the connection to yoga comes in. (You knew that was coming, right?) The first line of Patañjali is atha yoga anusasanam - now, yoga instruction. The key word is NOW - not yesterday, not tomorrow, not in the afterlife. Now. Here. Imminence. Not transcendence.

The risk with a philosophy of imminence is that the divine has nowhere to hide; it's all out in the open, immediately available to everyone. This is a threat to traditional religion because traditional religion is based on hierarchical power structures. If those at the bottom of the hierarchy have equal access to the divine as do those at the top, it obviates the need for the hierarchy. Also, the game of "I know god's will but you don't so you need to listen to me if you want to go to heaven" becomes impossible to play. There is no heaven, there is no hell, and we all have access to divinity.

This post is dedicated to the memory of my friend Byron, who would have been 40 today, and probably would have humoured me by listening to all these musings.

Monday, November 9, 2009


Some scribblings from my lunch break, after spending all morning listening to reflections on the CBC about the twenty year anniversary of the Berlin Wall:

the danger of history
is viewing the past as an inevitable series of events
like dominoes, clockwork, death.

the danger of the present
is approaching the future as an untouched canvas
open to experimentation and wild, boundless play.

Addendum:  song for today - Titanic Terrarium, the Tragically Hip

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

from the IT department

Fellow employees,

We in the IT department, in accordance with recent regulatory mandates, have recently updated our password policy. Effective immediately, all passwords must meet the following criteria:

  • At least 47 characters in length, containing 12 or more of the following: lowercase letters, uppercase letters, numerals, nationals, cyrillic characters, Japanese Kenji characters, and Chinese ideograms.

  • You are required to change your password(s) every 14 seconds. If you do not, your access to our computer network will be terminated immediately, you will be stripped of your clothing, and you will be thrown out on the street. We will disavow any knowledge of you.

  • You are not permitted to reuse any password you have used in the previous 30 years. If you attempt to do so, we will hang you.

  • If you are like most computer users today, you probably access dozens of services which require passwords. You are not permitted to use the same password for more than one service. If you do, we will shoot you.

  • You are not permitted to record your password(s) in writing anywhere. If you do, we will hang you, then shoot you, then hang you again.

  • We have provided several examples of good and bad passwords:

    Bad password:

    Easily remembered good password:

    We in the IT department have every expectation that these simple to follow rules will vastly improve the security and efficiency of the company. NOW GET BACK TO WORK!

    Your friends in the IT department

    Tuesday, November 3, 2009

    "Escape Is At Hand For The Travelling Man"

    Last Tuesday, I walked down town to the bike shop on my lunch break to sign up for a bicycle repair course.  The weather was lousy; misty rain, chilly weather, grey skies, piles of wet leaves everywhere.  I loved it.  I just wanted to keep on walking until my legs would carry me no further, but I had to get back to work.

    There is a lot of appeal, I've been thinking lately, in not doing the thing that you think you're supposed to do.  What happens when you start colouring outside the lines?  Not out of mean-spiritedness or a desire to throw other people's plans all akimbo, just out of curiosity of what we miss when we always do what we assume we're supposed to or expected to.  Are our actions fated or freely chosen?

    old scribblings

    I was cleaning out my nightstand/bookshelf last night, and I found a few scraps of paper that I want to be able to throw out, but not before first recording their contents.

      A quote from Charlotte Brontë:  A Passionate Life, p. 145: "Jane Eyre is, above all, a pilgrimge.  It follows child and woman through pitfalls en route to her new Eden:  a love which unites goodness with the dream of sustained passion.  In this new map for the soul, the Fall is not disobedience; it is obedience - unthinking obedience.  Mrs. Reed, Jane's guardian aunt, complains that she has never seen a child like her.  What sets Jane apart is that she is incapable of not thinking for herself."

    This quote well encapsulates what I loved about Jane Eyre, what made it such a vibrant and revolutionary novel.  If I weren't in the middle of something else right now, I'd want to go back and re-read it.  Charlotte Brontë:  A Passionate Life is an excellent biography of all three Brontë siblings, with an emphasis on Charlotte, who outlived Emily and Austin.  I remember thinking how familiar a lot of their life story sounded, and how similar their childhood was to mine in some respects.  I could see how the emotional stresses of early life affected the way each of their lives unfolded, for better or for worse.  All three were incredibly creative, but only Charlotte and Emily seemed able to find relief by this route; Austin unfortunately channelled his energies into addiction and anger.  The unsettling possibility that that difference is attributable to gender has not escaped my notice.

    I also remember the horror of realizing that Emily, Austin, and their father all died within about a year and a half of each other.  I can't even imagine living through that.  But of course, we are a lot more removed from death than our forebears were, even a century or two ago.  So perhaps everyone developed stronger skills for dealing with loss back then.

      Additionally, I found a scrap of paper with an old to-do/wish list:
    • finish Anne [a novel I started writing some years ago; it remains unfinished]
    • rebuild the Rideau Queen [a rather fanciful idea that sometimes haunts me.  The Rideau Queen was a steam ship that transported passengers up and down the Rideau Canal in south eastern Ontario around the turn of the 20th century.]
    • Ghosts Along the Rideau [an idea for a novel that I toss around in my head sometimes.  I'm unclear regarding the plot, theme(s), and characters, but other than that I think it's a good idea.]
    • buy house [done]
    • teach yoga [done, or in process anyway]

      Another scrap of paper entitled "Phases of Rideau History" (probably preliminary notes for Ghosts Along the Ridea):
    • Pre-Euro residence
    • Trapping?
    • Surveying
    • Construction
    • Military
    • Commerce - logging [I remember hearing on CBC radio that at the turn of the 20th century, 1/3-1/2 of the men in eastern Ontario were engaged in logging.]
    • Tourism - Rideau King & Queen
    • Tourism - Fishing
    • Tourism - Cottaging
    • (Anyone who sees any overarching themes in these phases of history, speak up!  I'm kind of stumped (ha-ha, a logging joke.).)