Saturday, July 24, 2010

Thou Art That by Joseph Campbell

Thou Art That:  Transforming Religious Metaphor by Joseph Campbell is actually a posthumously collected transcription of several of his lectures.  Some chapters are even pieced together from more than one lecture.  With chapters like "Metaphor and Religious Mystery" and "The Experience of Religious Mystery," the sweeping knowledge of Campbell's scholarship is evident. He comfortably quotes from various people, sites a wide range of myths, and weaves them all together as he explores the ideas and themes.

However, because this book is pieced together from a lot of different lectures, the chapters often read as such.  There are subtle shifts in tone or occasional redundancies that the careful reader will find odd although understandable given how this text was put together.  I think if I had read the book more slowly, over weeks or even months rather than in a few days, I might have noticed it less but even so I saw evidence of the piecemeal way in which the material was put together within individual chapters.

Still, the content is interesting even if it feels like a mishmash at times.  Campbell argues that reading religion as anything but metaphor reduces the meaning from something personal to merely a moment in history.  He even suggests that in doing this, by making the metaphors more literal, religion is reducing the experience of mystery.  Not that the atheists get off any better than the theists, asking the rhetorical question "Which group really gets the message?"

The obvious answer is neither.  The point is not what you believe but how what you believe informs your life.  And that is an important idea to ponder, epecially in this day and age when so many can so easily pick and choose from a variety of spiritual paths without ever committing to a single belief long enough to put anything into practice.  Not that this book will actually offer a detailed explanation of what it means to "follow your bliss" but it will provide some ideas about how one can approach spirituality and how mythology can still have meaning in a technological age.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Friday Randomness

This website is "I Write Like" and if you input some of your own writing it will analyze what you put in and spit out a writer whose style is similar to your own. I seem to write like Anne Rice (novella), Margaret Atwood (blog), and David Foster Wallace (poetry and blog).  So whose writing is yours most like?

This site is really interesting although frankly I think it could do without some of the text.  Photographs of different things with an emphasis on form.  Everything from a clock to cars to architecture is represented and it is just interesting to appreciate craft in the daily things of life.

This class was originally scheduled to start .  . . I forget when.  It's been rescheduled and now it starts this Friday.  Erm, next Friday I mean.  Today is Friday.  Not today.  Next Friday.  yeah.  Learn to watercolor paint.  Woohoo!

I realize that this is not a lot of randomness.  I'm still not feeling well and not spending a lot of my time sitting at the computer.  Eventually I'll be doing more online and, when I am, I'll stumble into more interesting things online.  In the meantime, I'm doing the best I can.  Enjoy!

(And since I don't have a lot to share, here's a pic of Romanov sleeping with his pokey tongue sticking out.)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

More Movies--All Four Three Stars . . . Hmmm . . .

Jacob the Liar is a rather odd little film set in the ghetto of Warsaw Poland during World War II.  Jacob overhears a radio news report while being questioned by a Nazi and when he offers good news to his fellow Jews the rumor that he has a radio quickly spreads throughout the community.  The confusion and complications that follow never lighten the reality of what is happening around them but the performances are good and it doesn't hurt to be reminded that the human spirit is a remarkable thing even when in the midst of horror.

3 stars

La Femme Nikita has been remade by Hollywood into Point of No Return.  I don't really see the point in this.  Frankly ,the original is edgy and uncompromising while the remake is pretty and less unrelenting.  I decided to watch them both to make sure I wasn't misremembering some details but I had never seen the original.  Yes, the original is somewhat dated in insignificant ways.  The grittiness and brutality of it shines through, if such things ever do shine.  An intense movie with a less pat ending than the remake.

3 stars

Man on Wire is a documentary about Phllipe Petit's remarkable feat, doing a highwire act between the two towers of the World Trade Center.  It is amazing how easily he and his crew managed to make this seemingly impossible event happen.  What's more, I found myself marveling at what I thought I would never hear myself say or even think--those were more innocent times.  How the 70s, with the decadence of diso and drug usage, the sexual revolution in full explosion, could ever become more innocent is hard to explain and this film makes it possible.  A rebellious bit of performance art that celebrates something the like of which we will never see again.

3 stars

Zombieland . . . Okay.  So Rob picked this one but let me be honest.  I've seen so many zombie movies in my lifetime that I tend to enjoy the quirky ones, the zombie movies that dare to take on the iconic and tear it down.  There's something weird about even thinking about B movies as being iconic but there you are.  I would recommend making a day of it and do a B movie triple feature.  Watch these three movies in this order:  Night of the Comet, Shawn of the Dead, and Zombieland.  Fun fun and more fun.

3 stars

Man for All Seasons is Broadway brought to film and history homogenized for the masses.  Sir Thomas More is tasked with facilitating Henry VIII's divorce from Catherine of Aragorn.  More is the good guy and Henry is the self indulgent megalomaniac who cannot and will not see reason.  Hey, at least Anne doesn't come off as a manipulative shrew but that's because her scenes are few and her role nothing more than eye candy.  I wanted to like this movie more, no pun intended.  What I will praise the performances and if drama compromises history for the sake of story, then so be it.  If you want history, read a book about More.  He was a lot more interesting and complicated than this movie would make him out to be.

3 stars

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Alan Moore Reviews

When we went to see V for Vendetta, I was aware of Alan Moore and his influence within the literary community, legitimizing, if you will, the graphic novel.  Of course, the fact that he himself loathes the term "graphic novel" and tends to be a bit of rebel even within the community says a lot about Moore as an artist and as a person.  

And, of course, his art probably says a lot as well.  After seeing the movie, I was left with a profound distaste for Moore, influential or not.  It took me a while, even knowing how much he hated how his vision was translated to film, to consider reading his works for myself.  Throughout it all, I knew that I was making erroneous assumptions on hearsay and other people's opinions and information.  

So, when I saw that one of the libraries had a copy of two of his books, I dared myself to let go of my preconceived notions.   

What follows are my thoughts about some of the books I have read by Alan Moore.

Alan Moore's Writing For Comics Volume 1 by Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows, as far as I can tell, is the only volume about how to write for comics because I can't seem to find a volume 2 by Moore or anyone else.  Is it supposed to be ironic that there isn't a volume 2?
I find it an oddly amusing title which promises more but then offers nothing else and this book is, itself, not very long at all.

Nevertheless, I was pleasantly surprised by this very slender book.  Referencing his own writings for the most part, Moore discusses the act of writing so well that I could honestly recommend this book to any writer whether writing for comics or not.  What he says about character, plot, setting, etc. holds true whatever your creative writing ouevre may be.  In spite of the sloppy editing, I wanted to immediately recommend it to others.  And you don't have to be dead familiar with Swamp Thing or any of his other comics to appreciate his writing advice.

I was convinced (and maybe a little convicted) that I had made a mistake in avoiding his writing for so long.

Watchmen was my next leap into Moore's universe and I was a little put off by some of it.  I could definitely see how this graphic novel must have exploded onto the literary scene.  The story holds up as edgy, something that is not always easy to do after enough time has passed, and Moore dares to take surprising risks.  The illustrations by Gibbons work on a level that I could appreciate intellectually but did not enjoy aesthetically.  They look like old school comic book illustrations, which absolutely makes sense.

The distaste, however, was back.  I found myself asking the same questions.  Is Moore homophobic?  A misogynist?  Both?

Apparently not because I knew he was politically active against heterosexist politics but his women characters in Watchmen are either already dead (for being lesbian) or completely unlikeable.  He's a happily (I'm assuming) married man although he was also divorced but neither of these suggests he is or is not a misogynist.  And yet one of the characters is nearly raped by another and she later comes to his defense, almost suggesting she asked for it or something.  Which wasn't far removed from what I found so distressing about . . .

V for Vendetta, which was the obvious next choice because I had to concede the interpretation of his graphic novel may have become skewed in the scripting, directing, and/or acting as it was translated from one form to the other.  Unfortunately, those parts I found the most loathesome were present and accounted for in the text and I won't discuss them again.  (If you must know my feelings on this matter, I've already blogged about them here.)

The artwork by David Lloyd is good and the power of Moore's story-telling is beyond contention.  Moore trusts his reader and allows for some intellectual awareness.  In other words, he doesn't dumb himself down to make his writing more appealing nor does he waste the reader's time explaining his intention.  Good for him.  However that doesn't change the fact that I can't help feeling how much he hates women as he obviously has no problem abusing them horribly and, if they are lesbians, they simply must be destroyed.  Again we have a woman who is abused coming to the defense of the man who is the instrument of her abuse.  And while I can understand the whole Stockholm syndrome, at this point there is a pattern in his writing emerging that doesn't seem to disturb others as much as it does me.  

From Hell, the last book I chose to read, was obviously left for last intentionally.  After all, this time Moore is writing about Jack the Ripper who can hardly be considered anything but a misogynist.  I couldn't see myself not projecting my own assumptions, given the context of the book itself.

This book is very well done.  The illustrations by Eddie Campbell complement the content wonderfully, evoking the Victorian era perfectly, and Moore's own research into the subject is overwhelming.  I even have to commend what he implies about his own choice to write this graphic novel.  I get it.  Truly I do.

And still, whether he fights for gay rights in his own country or not, he just keeps slipping this sly homophobic tone into his writings.  I don't know why.  It disturbs me because a less refined reader would probably get off on Moore's writing, even going so far as to suggest that Moore hates homosexual men and especially women, as should we all.  Does Moore's writing shed a harsh light on homophobia and encourage the reader to dig deep within themselves to remove the roots of these feelings or merely reinforce them by complicity?  And what about his seeming misogyny?    

It is not enough that in the appendices Moore clearly defines what he is doing.  Or does he?  See, therein lies the problem because Moore truly trusts his reader and doesn't feel he needs to explain his more subtle intentions.  As disturbing as one of the murders clearly is, what he is trying to say by looking so  very closely at this one murder (as explained in the first appendix and then implied further in the second) is the sort of thing that less invested readers will overlook.  It is almost as if he were daring his reader to loathe women, lesbians, homosexuals, and then slapping the reader on the back for doing so.

I feel I've given Moore a fair shake and enough is enough for me. There's a lot more of his work out there I haven't read.  I've read more than enough already.  I suppose someone will feel a need to tell me how wrong I am and come to Moore's defense.  Good for you. We don't have to agree.  And someone may even recommend I read a specific text written by Moore.  Unless you are will to send me a copy, I wouldn't waste my time telling me what I should read. And even if you did send me a copy, there's no guarantee I would bother reading it.  As I said, enough is enough.  

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Sable & Squirrel - Journal - Ten steps

Sable & Squirrel - Journal - Ten�steps:


  1. Paint.
  2. Paint more.
  3. Paint even more.
  4. Paint even more than that.
  5. Paint when you don’t want to.
  6. Paint when you do.
  7. Paint when you have something to paint.
  8. Paint when you don’t.
  9. Paint every day.
  10. Keep painting."

Hands hold key to Reiki healing

Hands hold key to Reiki healing:

"Matthew Lubbert, 49, of Emsworth, who has had two abdominal surgeries over the past month, says the Reiki, which he had never heard of before, made him feel better physically."

Television Shows

With my Netflix account in place and my relapse prohibiting me from doing much more than watch television, that is precisely what I have been doing.

I began by watching Lost, at the urging of my son's friend Matt.  I was immediately hooked.  Season 2 nearly lost me but then I was back on board with the following seasons and now I'm just waiting to see the sixth season but it has to come out on dvd first.  Someone suggested I check out but they were only showing the last few episodes of the final season so I avoided that altogether.  I can wait to see the entire season when it becomes available.  I have to say that the character development on this show is remarkable.  There isn't a single character on the show that is fully likeable and not one that isn't rather loathesome.  Okay.  Maybe one or two of the minor characters are drawn with broad brush strokes of good or bad but the rest are so layered that just when you think you feel one way about someone they say or do something that turns you around.  Or at least gives you second thoughts.  The writers also do a remarkable job weaving the various stories together and how the various timelines of different characters overlap and criss cross is an example of how good television could be but rarely is.

Going back in time, I watched the first season of Soap. I was surprised by how well it holds up.  I think some of the jokes won't be appreciated by a younger audience.  For instance, does anyone under 30 know about Anita Bryant?  Probably not but the punchlines that included her are funny if you are old enough to get them.  It is also rather edgy, all things considered.  The cast is especially good although mostly the older characters really have the brilliant comic timing.  There is some overacting from some performances but that isn't very different from how the acting on traditional soap operas goes and since this is a comedy that is making fun of soap operas it works on that level.

Fame, on the other hand, does not hold up well at all.  The story lines seem so contrived and some of the dialogue is so trite.  There are occasional songs or dance numbers that still sound and look fresh but mostly it's pablum.  I confess to being more than a little disappointed by this because I remember really liking the show at the time and how it was canceled and revived and had changes in the cast every couple of years as students graduated and such.  There was some really good talent on the show including a guest appearance from Gwen Verdon and even Art Carney but mostly it's schmaltz.  (I surprise for me was recognizing Jasmine Guy as one of the dancers and I had to laugh when in the first episode Debbie Allen called one of the actresses by her real name and not by her character's name but it's a minor character so maybe she didn't have a character name yet.)

From one teen drama to another, I watched Skins, or at least the first couple of seasons anyway.  From what I gather, the cast rotates every two years as one class graduates and moves on to university.  Pretty young people doing really stupid things and getting into all kinds of mischief.  It's all very unrealistic but quirky enough to watch. I especially liked the young actor who played Sid (Mike Bailey) but apparently he's decided to give up acting altogether and focus on writing and directing.  I can understand his wanting to do that but I'm a bit disappointed.  I thought he was interesting to watch, as was the young boy who played Maxxie (Mitch Hewer).

I also plowed through Weeds which I confess I enjoyed more during the first couple of seasons than I did towards the last couple.  The concept is amusing and the characters are broadly drawn, more like caricatures than true characters.  But even people with over-the-top characters, the show has enough funny moments to keep it fun to watch.  Don't get me wrong--it can be dark at times and even poignant.  Unfortunately, the direction it took in season three started losing me.  I think when the focus was on Nancy, the suburban housewife, trying to support herself and her children by selling pot and absolutely in way over her head I found it funnier than I do now that she's invovled with the Mexican mafia or whatever.  And once again we have a woman choosing the dangerous guy over the sweet one.  Yeah.  Let's perpetuate that emotional bullshit some more.  Grrrr . . . (I may still end up watching the next season, however, because the acting is good and I'm curious about what direction they are going to take the characters next because where they are now is a complete mess.)

I tried to give The L Word a chance but it is just . . . I dunno.  I am not a big fan of chick flicks and this show just seemed like a slowly dragged out chick flick.  Good acting.  No, great acting. And really amazing music.  The ensemble cast is large but I didn't like any of the characters except for one and I found one other character interesting but not necessarily likeable.  I think that in order for me to be more engaged with this show I would have needed to care more about the different characters but I truly didn't.  I will say this, however:  I am very happy to see someone allowing a pregnant woman to be sexual and to show it on television is bold and brilliant and about damn time, thank you!  So kudos to the writers for pushing that envelope.

But the real reason I tried to give The L Word a chance is because my mother asked me if I'm watching The Real L Word which suggests that she is.  So now we are, me and Rob, too.  I have to say that real lesbians are a lot more interesting than fake ones.  Even more interesting was reading Mickey's blog in which she comments upon "the magic of reality television."  I simply have to quote what she shares:
So, this episode was very interesting, as the only thing accurate about this episode in regards to me, is the fact that I did play tennis with my friend Lisa in the morning on Valentines Day. Raquel did indeed have to work, as did I, however, we did end up spending the night together after we were both done with work. My aunt’s day of beauty and meeting Whitney at the Abbey happened two weeks prior to Valentines Day. Also, when I go to bed alone, that’s another completely different day than Valentines Day and my aunt’s beauty day. This, my friends, is the magic of TV!
I also have to point out how weird I think it is that the promo photo for the show has them all naked, as if seeing them naked with strategically placed palm tree silhouettes makes the show edgier or something.  I especially find myself pondering the glowing sunrise between Tracy's leg.  For the record, it's men who usually think that the sun rises and sets down there--women know better.

The Real L Word

Monday, July 19, 2010

Scientific Studies on Reiki | Methadone Treatment for Pain and Addiction

Scientific Studies on Reiki | Methadone Treatment for Pain and Addiction:

"Findings: Both the instruments showed a highly significant (p 0.0001) reduction in pain following the Reiki treatments."

More Caldecott Medal Books (and a bonus book for nostalgic reasons)

This book is a surprising charmer.  I would highly recommend it to the independent reader because there are actually four stories in one being told here and trying to read all four at once to a child would just be confusing.

But for the somewhat older reader who is learning to enjoy the magic of words, this book is brilliant.  The four stories stand alone but each also informs the other so that there is an overlap, something that is not fully realized until you finish the book and flip through it again to see how each story works with the next.

No need to explain this to a child, however.  The fun here is to let the discovery be made without any help from a supposedly wiser adult.

This is such a pretty book.  In some ways it made me a little sad (because before I woke up with vertigo I had been talking with Rob about doing some slack lining in our back yard and . . . but I digress).

There is a subtle moral lesson in this book about facing fear.  A good book to read aloud to the child and then let the child grow into as an independent reader.  The lesson of the story is there to be learned when needed.

I was thrilled with the author's book Flotsam (Caldecott Medal Book) and this book is equally enchanting.

The story is told without words.  One Tuesday night something magical happens and each page turns onto a new part of the evening's adventures.  When the sun rises, the magic ends.

But then next Tuesday, as the very last page suggests, something magical happens again.  And therein lies an invitation to the "reader" because the child can easily make up an endless series of Tuesdays filled with magic (with a little urging from parents).  Get this book out on a rainy day and let the magic begin.

I adore this book.  The visuals are luscious and the text touches the heart.  And yet . . . I wonder if children will find it as evocative.  I don't know.  The story is about immigration and the idea of home.  In some ways, the deeper meanings are the issues with which a child won't contend until adolescence.  This is not to say that a child won't enjoy the book and it may be one to hold onto, to read aloud occasionally and let sit on the shelf for such a day when the older child needs to find some new meaning within the pages and within himself or herself.

I liked it a lot but I wouldn't be surprised if a young child having this book read aloud might find it less than entertaining.  That's okay.  This may be one that grows with the independent reader.

This book made me feel a deep sadness.  I lived in NYC during two of the blackouts and I remember the looting and violence that occurred.  Even at my adolescent age I could understand the explosive rage that ignited it all.

The story has a broader meaning, however, as bridges between races begin to be built by the end of the book.  I literally had tears come to my eyes at the end and perhaps it is overly sentimental but I tend to resonate with the idea that although we've come a long way with racism there is still a lot more that needs to be done.

This book is a quirky picture book, not one of the Caldecott Medal winners but I wanted to read it because I love the Metropolitan Museum and thought I would enjoy the book.  And I did.  It was fun to see how clever the creators were in pairing the images of masterpieces from the museum's collection with what was happening in the story outside the museum.

Unlike other strictly picture books I have reviewed, this one doesn't lend itself quite as fully to the idea of having the young writer give text to this book that tells the entire story through pictures.  This is not a complaint so much as an observation.  I would definitely recommend that, if your child is going to go to the museum for a visit, sharing this book beforehand would be a wonderful place to start and might encourage the child(ren) to look in the museum for what they saw in the book.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Tibetan Book of the Dead trans by Robert A F Thurman

The Tibetan Book of the Dead trans by Robert A F Thurman is one of those texts I wish I had read with another person and know that I will have to read again and again if I ever hope to get beyond even a surface level appreciation for the content. In fact, Thurman suggests that traditionally this text was not readily given to anyone and was taught by teacher to student not as a means of creating superiority of an elite group of learners but to ensure a readiness in the student before progressing further.

Thurman repeatedly encourages the reader to seek out a teacher, if at all possible, but suggests that where no teacher is available it is acceptable and even beneficial to read the text for one's self.  In fact he contends that reading the text is better than not reading it, whether there is a teacher involved or not.

I cannot argue the point.  As I read the text I confess to my being overwhelmed intellectually with content that simply was too difficult for me to immediately comprehend.  It didn't help that the text I was reading referenced the "color plates" which my edition of the book did not include.  This is more a criticism on the part of the publishers who were obviously too careless to remove these references to content they chose to remove in a later edition.  Or perhaps it's because I was reading a paperback edition.  Whatever the reason, I found it annoying and would recommend that anyone who reads the book either find a copy with the color plates or be prepared to look online for images that are possibly similar.  You may even want to print them but you will want to use a color printer, obviously.

This is not an easy book to read and yet I found myself utterly engaged with what I was reading.  I also noticed that my hands were incredibly warm as I was reading which is not something I expected to experience.  The images, even without the color plates, that Thurman creates with his words are vivid.  The text itself is divided into content you read aloud, content you read to yourself so you can better understand the reason for what you are reading aloud, and finally there are further expositions by Thurman himself to help the reader with what is inarguably a difficult book to comprehend.

It is not unusual for highly mystical texts to be hard to understand.  You almost have to take some of the content on faith, whether you understand the details or not.  It is said about some sacred texts that just the act of reading the words, whether you feel you fully understand them or not, is a blessed discipline.  I've a feeling that this book falls solidly into that category.  I wish I had read it with a teacher.  I would have even enjoyed reading it with someone as ignorant of its meaning as I clearly am because I think that in discussing the book I would have understood it more if not better.  Perhaps someday I'll meet someone who would like to read it with me and the opportunity to reread it will be irresistable to me.

The introductory material in part one is invaluable and well worth the effort to read regardless of whether or not you read the rest.

Note:  The review is based on the out of print book linked in the title.  The link with image in the side bar is to a book that is currently still in print.  I have a feeling that the content is not much different because both were published in the same year and translated by Thurman but I can't attest to the fact that the introductory material and references to color plates carry over from one to the other.

Why This Middle-Aged Woman Loathes Twilight--An Encore | Psychology Today

Why This Middle-Aged Woman Loathes Twilight--An Encore | Psychology Today:

"So the big reason to loathe Twilight? Fear of your lover should not be an aphrodisiac. Ever."

I know I am not alone in my "appreciation" (or utter lack thereof) of the whole phenomenon but I figured I would share this link for reasons I choose not to express at this time.

And loathe is just the perfect word.

For my own thoughts on Twilight, you can read my blog post here.

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