Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Costume + Play = Cosplay

A couple of the earliest-known examples of fannish cosplay:

BELOW: 1912, Mr Skygack, from Mars (from comic strip)
BELOW: 1939, Morojo (Mildred R. Jones, later Douglas) designed and made costumes based on the 1936 film Things to Come for herself and her boyfriend Forrest J. Ackerman to wear to the First Worldcon. (Until recently, only he got the credit as first cosplayer.)

The skirt of her long gown converted into a cape.
photos via

Ackerman went on to sci-fi fame. Morojo didn't and has only recently gotten attention--she's going to be my next Wikipedia article. A couple sources:

"The First Lady of Cosplay" (2014)

"Meet the Woman Who Invented Cosplay" (2016)

Monday, November 28, 2016

Mr. Skygack & His Wireless Notebook

Mr. Skygack, from Mars, by A.D. Condo, is considered the newpapers' first sci-fi comic strip, running from 1907 -1912. 
The panels I've seen are genuinely funny, as Mr. Skygack tries (and fails) to decipher human behavior.

"Saw two Earth-beings evidently glued one to the other"

 
 ^ fromComic Book+

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Game Night

Maura, left, and I with the Enterprise before & after playing the tabletop game Star Trek Panic last night. 
The ship's not supposed to catch on fire and fall apart like that.

I'd bought the game at the Star Trek 50th anniversary event downtown in August, and finally got around to playing it last night. 
I usually hate games (I only bought it because it was Star Trek), so I was surprised how much I enjoyed this one. 
It's a collaborative game---everyone plays, one at a time, to guide the ship through threats, in pursuit of some goal––and it involves some thinking and strategy (lightweight--this isn't chess). It's very satisfying to navigate correctly through the dangers.

But even if you get it wrong, the game rewards you--things blow up, which is satisfying even if it's just cardboard cut-outs of explosions. It taps into that thing I've been saying about violence: 
we like to feel our power, our effect on things––after all, I know I exist if I can pop bubble wrap... 

We didn't accomplish all our missions before we lost the ship. But it was our first time playing.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving, Blogland!

This morning I'm making cranberry sauce for an "orphans" Thanksgiving dinner Laura invited me to. The host, who I don't know, is newly returned from a job in telecommunications in Nigeria, and I'm excited to talk international infrastructure––something I truly got interested in working on geography books years ago. 

Laura told me the host has bought an entire Cajun turkey from fast-food restaurant Popeye's. That seemed really odd to me, but I googled it and these turkeys actually get good reviews. (Geez, they also cost $44.) (I also learned that Popeye's full name is Popeye's Louisiana Kitchen. Huh.)

The toys are "helping" me prep the cranberries, as you can see here.



Here's an amusing article from OUP on Benjamin Franklin, food, and Thanksgiving--including making BF's recipe for boiled(!) apple pastry: "Thanksgiving with Benjamin Franklin".

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Holiday Movies #3: Thanksgiving

Actually one movie, one ballad, and a couple short stories.

1. Broadway Danny Rose (1984, Woody Allen)
Not only my favorite Thanksgiving movie, but one of my favorite movies. 

Danny Rose (Allen) is a talent agent who always represents losing acts.

He feeds them frozen turkey dinners every Thanksgiving:

Finally one of his acts, lounge singer Lou Canova, hits it big. Danny goes to pick up Lou's girlfriend Tina Vitale to go to Lou's big show. Tina is Mia Farrow in her best role ever, and the best female character in any Allan film. Tina's also the ex-girlfriend of a mobster.

And now...
  
It's also a great visual representation of New York--more like gritty Taxi Driver than Allen's lovely Manhattan
Here Danny Rose is running up 7th Ave. after Tina:
[image via blog Jeremiah's Vanishing NY
________________________________

Hannah and Her Sisters is also a Thanksgiving movie by Allen, and while there's some brilliant stuff in it (the Marx brothers as a reason not to kill yourself), the last time I tried to watch it, the male/female relationships repelled me so much I couldn't finish it, (and knowing anything about Allen's personal life doesn't help).

Woody Allen's filmmaking career is such a disappointment. He had real brilliance, and for the past twenty years he's just churned out pap. Not that I've seen many of his later films. I walked out of the last one I saw--Midnight in Paris, a pathetic, jejune fantasy. 

It got great reviews. But to quote Isaac Davis (Allan) in Manhattan:
"This is so antiseptic. It's empty. Why do you think this is funny? You're going by audience reaction? This is an audience that's raised on television, their standards have been systematically lowered over the years. These guys sit in front of their sets and the gamma rays eat the white cells of their brains out!"
But Danny Rose remains. "Star, smile, strong!"

2. Alice's Restaurant, Arlo Guthrie. 16 min. ballad (1967), on youTube

A family I babysat for when I was a teenager had this album, and I listened to it a lot.  It's set at Thanksgiving. Does that matter, or is it incidental? I don't remember! Anyway, it's about and the inanity and hypocrisy of social codes in the Vietnam War era.

There's a movie adaptation (1969), but I've never seen it. 
Maybe I should now. The film's director, Arthur Penn, said of the film in 1971:
'What I tried to deal with is the US's silence and how we can best respond to that silence. ... I wanted to show that the US is a country paralyzed by fear, that people were afraid of losing all they hold dear to them. It's the new generation that's trying to save everything.'[9]"

3. A Thanksgiving Visitor, by Truman Capote

Capote narrates the 1967 TV production, for which Geraldine Page won an Emmy. It's is on youTube (but it's poor quality).  

Oh--here, you can download the audio recording (60 min.)

I love the back of the LP album cover:

Also on youTube, also narrated by him and starring Page, Truman Capote's A Christmas Memory.
"It's fruitcake weather."

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Holiday Movies #2: Rocky

What's my criteria for winter holiday movies here?
Just to limit myself, I'll say the movie must not only feel suitable for holidays (that is, it should acknowledge human vulnerability as well as hope--or, even, merriment), it must also at least mention a holiday.

By those lights, Rocky counts--all about the possibility of redeeming failure, plus it has one of my favorite quotes about a holiday; it's sometimes made me truly at peace about being alone at Thanksgiving.


I found the photo in my review of Rocky, one of my old Movie Moments posts from 2008. (2008! gives me pause.)

Anyone want to say what your favorite holiday movies are? 

Holiday Movies #1: "Metropolitan" (Movie Moment)

I'm way behind on blogging about Movie Moments, and I'm thinking about what to watch over the holidays.
So...
One of my favorite holiday movies (or movies anytime) is Metropolitan (1990).
[Link to a review, about its popularity, 25 years on: "Writer-director Whit Stillman was so green that he brought a copy of the book How to Direct a Movie to the set with him".]

It's set at Christmastime, when middle-class (but Ivy League) college student Tom (redhead, below, in yellow hat) accidentally falls in with a group of UHB ("urban haute bourgeoisie") Manhattanites on winter break.


It's funny, and it includes references to obscure stuff, like Brook Farm and Lionel Trilling.


Just yesterday bink and I were talking about her ongoing graphic novel about Camino and about whether a writer should include obscure information readers might not know.  Metropolitan is a reminder that if you do it well, it works. 

(Though it depends on your audience too---like, who watches this movie?)

Anyway, a viewer/reader like me might look up the unknown-thing  and get that extra layer of pleasure. (Brook Farm is a comic tragic tale of mismanaged hopes of its own.)

So--here's a movie moment, How to Insert Esoteric Knowledge: Tom (right) talking to Charlie about his political philosophy.


Charlie: You’re a Marxist?

Tom: No. I’m a committed socialist, but not a Marxist. I favor the socialist model developed by the 19th century French social critic Fourier.

Charlie: You’re a Fourierist?!

Tom: Yes.

Charlie: Fourierism was tried in the 19th century and failed. Wasn’t Brook Farm Fourierist? It failed.

Tom: That’s debatable.

Charlie: That Brook Farm failed?

Tom: That it ceased to exist, I’ll grant you. Whether it was really a failure, I don’t think can be definitively said.

Charlie: For me, ceasing to exist is failure. That’s pretty definitive.

Tom: Everyone ceases to exist. That doesn’t mean everyone’s a failure.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Love works. But how?

I'm seeing a lot of frustration with the politics of nonviolence or even respect mere politeness lately. 

Trump's fractious, thin-skinned nature isn't helping.
His babyish ill-tempered response to the Hamilton casts' heartfelt & respectful address to v.p.-elect Pence* for instance, is being held up on Tumblr as an example of why polite discourse with him and his followers isn't going to be possible.

The contrast with how Obama and Hillary took public humiliation--actual intentional humiliation--is stunning.  But it worries me to see people like (Buffy creator) Joss Whedon tweeting what looks like some kind of threat:

The replies to his tweet involved a discussion about who would win a civil war. Not the hipsters, everyone agrees. This was one reply to Whedon's tweet:

But, guys---a civil war?
HOW ARE WE EVEN TALKING ABOUT THIS?
The American Civil War wiped out at least 6% of the population.  Today that would be around 21 million people. And that's just the deaths.

Meanwhile, I saw on Tumblr this quote from Anne Frank.
It has more notes (1,795,393 kudos or reposts) than any post I've seen there:


How do we transfer that belief into political action?

Along with frustration, I'm seeing groups dust off nonviolence and civil disobedience training. 
bink told me about a meeting she went to that involved a training on how to intervene on behalf of someone who's being harrassed or attacked. There was a lot of concern about how to do this and stay safe yourself
That might not always be possible. 

Nonviolence plays the long game; it may not work in the short run, and it's hard on the nerves, and on life and limb.
But what more effective weapon do we have in our arsenal?

It can even happen on Twitter, that not-very-nice site. You've maybe seen this New Yorker article from 2015:
"
Unfollow: How a prized daughter of the Westboro Baptist Church came to question its beliefs."

So, geez it feels weird to be writing about this, but it seems the time has come to start training.  Love, like any tool, takes training to use well. It can't hurt to bone up on nonviolence--it applies to all of life, anyway, not just politics. 
Like,…going to the family home for Thanksgiving, for some people. (I don't even try that anymore--haven't for decades.) Or, in my case, I'm looking at being around family when my father's health declines.

(After I blogged this, I emailed my sister accepting her longtime offer to go see a family counselor together. Gotta take my own advice, I guess. Also, I keep having nightmares about SIL.)

As astronaut Chris Hadfield says: 
“Anticipating problems and figuring out how to solve them is actually the opposite of worrying: it’s productive.”
―  An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth 

He also says, be prepared, and enjoy yourself!

I'm meeting the week after Thanksgiving with the communications director at the church to see about starting up an art group, which could fit the bill for me:
Art has power (rather more along the lines of gardening than guns),  and also, frustrations aside, being creative is almost inherently enjoyable.
________________________________________

* This is what Hamilton cast said to Pence:
“We, sir — we — are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights. We truly hope that this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us.”

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Second Sunday

This, my second, Sunday at church was better than my first, which had been pretty good. 
I'd met the pastor this past Wednesday at their annual Meal of Thanks, and far from acting like the alpha jerk I'd feared he'd be, he acted like a squirrel puppy.

I stayed for his sermon this week (I'd skipped out last week), and he sort of reminded me of Robin Williams:
enthusiastic, good natured, and brokenhearted. 

He was talking about Joseph's brothers plotting to kill him (in Genesis or Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat), and he showed a photo the site of Martin Luther King's assassination where there's a plaque that quotes the brothers:
"And they said to one another, Behold, here cometh the dreamer, let us slay him and we will see what becomes of his dreams." 
--Genesis 37: 19-20
Wow. I did not know that.
[What becomes of Joseph's dreams is that his brothers' actions guarantee they will come true.]

That was good. Also, they have good snacks after church, like a bowl of clementines, not just donuts. But also donuts.

I am cautiously optimistic that this is a good place for me to be.

Stained Glass Diptychs

I took my camera to the new (to me) church this morning. The Romanesque Revival building and its original stained glass and trimmings date to 1889. There's been some modernization but not a lot. (The building doesn't much reflect the current congregation, who overall would not bring to mind Turner & Tiffany's.) 

I put my camera lens up against the stained glass to get their colors. I matched them with a heating grate, painted wall, wood boss on a pew end, and a gold acanthus curlicue.
_____________________________












Looking through the camera lens against certain faceted orbs of stained-glass, I could see the street outside refracted. Here, I gave a street scene to the relief angel on the front of the building:


 ____________________________

And here I am in the church bathroom mirror, with blue floor tiles:

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Star Trek Orange Crate Art

I made these Star Trek orange crate labels as a prize for Michael of Orange Crate Art for identifying not only the name of the actor who played Charlie X (Robert Walker Jr. ) but also his parents (Jennifer Jones & Robert Walker--I didn't know this).


"Hang on tight…" (Star Trek: Charlie X)

This year, 2016, is behaving like the beyond-bratty adolescent Charlie Evans rescued by the Enterprise crew in the Star Trek episode "Charlie X" (1966): unable to control his emotions, Charlie uses his special powers to wreak havoc, making crew members disappear, turning them into lizards, or wiping away their faces.

Here, Kirk tries to explain to Charlie how to survive disappointment in love:





(As always, thanks to Trekcore.com for the screencaps.)

Red Bear Relative in Space

Dr. Julian Bashir (Alexander Siddig) from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine…



…talking to his bear Kukalaka, obviously a relative of my Red Bear,

Friday, November 18, 2016

Do the Right Thing

I. The Easy Right Thing

In the midst of a fog of uncertainty about what to do post-Trumpit, I was happy that an obviously right and more or less easy-to-do thing presented itself this morning.

When I opened the curtains, still in my p.j.s, I saw that the morning's heavy rain had flooded the road intersection half a block away.
And I knew why.
Knowing I'd get soaked, I didn't bother to get dressed, just put on a raincoat over my p.j.s, a pair of boots, grabbed my downstairs neighbors' leaf rake, and headed out into the rain.

The thing is, with unseasonably warm weather, the city's regularly scheduled street sweeping in late October had missed many leaves, which were still on the trees. 

Now the late-fallen leaves mingled with pop cans, cardboard, and other garbage, blocking the grates and mouths of the drains. The rainwater backed up into the street, forming a small lake.

I took the rake and clawed out the wet glop from all the drains on each street corner, breaking the rake's bamboo tines in the process.
A couple car drivers stopped at the stop sign waved at me.

I had to stand in the freezing water in the gutter to get at it, but it was very satisfying to see the water rush into the opened drains, and the lake disappear in a matter of minutes.

II. The Right Thing Is Not Always So Easy


This fall I happened to pick up from a Little Free Library box a copy of Comedy in a Minor Key by Hans Keilson (first published in Holland in 1947).

This is the best book I've read in a long time. 

It's about a nice, young, well-meaning, Christian couple in WWII Holland who agree to hide a Jewish man from the occupying Nazis. 
He lives for a year in their spare room, and then he dies of pneumonia, and they have to figure out how to dispose of the body.

It's funny, but if its humor were a dessert, it'd be an egg custard (unlike Life is Beautiful, which would be a chocolate raspberry cream cake), and also, of course, deadly serious.
I won't say more about it---it's short, and I recommend it highly.

Do the Wrong Thing

"Don't just stand there, Lieutenant they told us again and again at Officers' Basic School; Do something, even if it's wrong."

--Broken Vessels: Essays (1991), by Andre Dubus, a former Marine

I've also heard that Marine teaching put this way:
The best thing to do in a crisis is the right thing;
the next best thing to do is the wrong thing;
and the worst thing to do is nothing.
I was lying awake last night, pondering the post-Brexit/Trumpit popular use of the safety pin, meant to symbolize support for people at risk in these benighted times. I had painted pins to give away, four days after the election, wanting to do something hopeful.

The pin as a symbol is not universally liked, however. You can google it and read the perspective that it's a sign of white privilege:
trite, pointless, no-risk, fashionable outrage. Etc.

So, in the middle of the night I was wondering, should I drop it?

I decided no. 
I thought of the Dubus story. I'd rather look like the insipid white person that I am, (I'm no revolutionary!) who's trying and getting it wrong, as a member of a  privileged class who "means well" (the crushing contempt of those words, and yet…)
than look like someone who doesn't try, or doesn't care, or doesn't even notice something's going on.

I also thought of Elie Wiesel. 
He said that the hardest thing to understand as a Jewish boy who alone of his immediate family survived the Nazi concentration camps wasn't the viciousness of the guards but the silence of the bystanders who watched him and his family and all the others be deported and didn't say anything.
(Yes, I know some people say Wiesel was a problematic person but that hardly invalidates his points.)

In his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, he spoke of and to his young self [boldface mine]:
"I remember: it happened yesterday, or eternities ago. A young Jewish boy discovered the Kingdom of Night. I remember his bewilderment, I remember his anguish. It all happened so fast. The ghetto. The deportation. The sealed cattle car. The fiery altar upon which the history of our people and the future of mankind were meant to be sacrificed.

I remember he asked his father: "Can this be true? This is the twentieth century, not the Middle Ages. Who would allow such crimes to be committed? How could the world remain silent?"
I explain to him how naïve we were, that the world did know and remained silent. And that is why I swore never to be silent whenever wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation.
We must take sides.
Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere."
Finally, I invoke the Good Samaritan law:
if you, an ordinary civilian, in good faith try to help someone in danger, say, a stranger having a heart attack in front of you, and you end up getting it wrong, you cannot be sued.

At least you didn't just cross the road.

When we who believe in speaking up come up with a symbol that everyone agrees on, I'll wear that. But until then, I'll stick with the safety pin to represent even just the possibility of a pinprick of light in the darkness.
_____________________________



Thursday, November 17, 2016

A Present for Red Bear

Orange Crate Art recently posted some orange cloth a friend had designed, and I requested any leftover scraps for stuffed animal clothes.

Yesterday a package arrived. Red Bear helped me open it: 
 

Michael had included the ruler from a local outdoor store. 

I am looking forward to sewing the wonderful fabric up.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

From Being Annoyed to Being Amused

Just had coffee with my pal John S. I've known for twenty years, from the Catholic church I used to go to. I was telling him about try, try, trying again to find a way to work well, even be happy with groups. 

He said, 
"I try to find a bridge from being annoyed to being amused."

Ha. That's a really helpful way of framing it.
He also said that he thought I was not as prone to annoyance as some. He probably thinks this because he is very annoying (just a fact), and I am still his friend. 

Not sure that's a good indicator, but I'll take it. 

At any rate, I know I'm not unusual in finding groups annoying and conflict difficult! Sometimes I go on so much on my blog about feeling resentful and annoyed, I think I must sound way more touchy and unpleasant than I am! I think I'm probably pretty normal.

John was entirely unimpressed with my idea that we may need to step up to help one another more in the coming Trump years. 
He practically rolled his eyes, "We always need to help one another."

Of course he's right---the need for help always far outweighs the help on offer. But sometimes the balance tips one way or another. Or sometimes you just see the need more clearly. Those are good times to act.

Teamwork? Who, me?

I very much liked the people at the church I went to on Sunday. It's just down the block, and the congregation reflects the neighborhood---a mix of races, classes, ages, etc. 
I liked every single person who stood up to talk during the praise/protest/prayer time, mostly about their distress over the election, from one perspective or another.

Except the pastor.
He says things I like, such as, "Just like migrating geese take turns being the lead flyer in the V, in order that everyone can fly longer and farther, so we take turns being leaders in this church."


But his alpha–body language and voice say things I'm not that keen on. I heard, "If I share leadership, it's because I own the power to chose to adopt a policy of sharing leadership."

Leaders like that and I have never worked well together.

Still, the congregation was just what I'm looking for---they initiate and do a lot of things themselves, which always impresses me. It's so different than the Catholic Church I've been used to, where you practically have to get the bishop's approval to turn around. If this congregation wants to do something, they can. They started a farmers market in their parking lot this summer, for instance.

I emailed their artist in residence (they have one!), asking if they have an art-makers group. She wrote back saying they don't, it's a great idea, but she just had a baby and doesn't have time: 
would I like to start such a group?

I wrote back saying, "Oh lord, no! Within the year, I would be yelling at your pastor. I better keep a low profile." 

No, I didn't.
Maybe I should have, but no. I wrote back and said, "Um, sort of? I would at least be willing to start a conversation if anyone's interested."

She and I are going to meet in the next week or two to talk about it.

I want to position myself REALISTICALLY here. Some of you've witnessed me burn in resentment and ultimately crash into the stupidity of [me in] groups. 
And yet I want to get better at working with people. Eyes wide open, I want to practice being confident and self-aware enough that I can function better in concert with my fellow humans, annoying as we may be. 

Partly I want this for political reasons: looking ahead, I see that more of us are going to have to pick up the slack of helping one another when government drops that responsibility. 
For instance, the low-cost/sliding fee scale health care clinic in this neighborhood closed after Obamacare came in. I'd bet anything that people are already scrambling to try to get it back up and running for when Obamacare is wiped out.
That's not my arena, but I do want to be in the right arena.

Also, I think I'm alone too much, more than is good for me. I like being alone––or, anyway, I'm very comfortable being alone.
So I wouldn't say I'm lonely, exactly, but I do miss face-to face chit-chat and the unintentional stuff you pick up from being around people--the good kind of germs.
I really enjoyed talking with people on Sunday, and I'm looking forward going to the Thanksgiving pot luck at the church tonight. 

(I'm making roasted butternut squash brushed with coconut oil, drizzled with lime juice and honey, and sprinkled with parsley.)
__________________

So, what works?
Avoiding conflict, and being able to handle (or even resolve) conflict.

Timing
This is key: I need to speak up (gently) when I don't like something, at the time that I don't like it. I need to say no thanks (gently) to stuff I don't like or want, and not just float along thinking it will be OK later. Or, like with the art group, keep my options open--I'm willing to consider it but retain the right to back out.
If I wait too long, resentment festers.
IF I do these things in a timely manner, they're mild, no big deal. 

Distance
Also key. The thing with people like the powerful pastor is,  I don't much like them, but they're magnetic. You can just sense their invisible sheriff's badge. 
With these people, I think the best thing I can do is to STAY AWAY.
With other people, it's a matter of finding a sustainable distance.  

Those are the Big Two. Then, lots of other things, all of which fall under the heading of the most important thing:
DON'T FOOL YOURSELF.

"Star Trek, My Love", 2008 fanvid

Longtime readers may have seen this, my autobiographical Star Trek fanvid from 2008. It's blocked on youTube now because of the song "In My Life": whoever owns the Beatles' music usually insists youTube block vids that use it.
I don't know why youTube left it up so long.


A friend had downloaded a copy, which she sent to me today, so I'll put it here, if it's not too big for Blogger... 

[OK, it plays on my computer anyway. It's a very small image--that's the way it was saved.]



I hadn't seen this for a long time---watching it today I was surprised by how well the theme of getting through hard times with Kirk & Spock fits this weird political (and environmental) climate, a climate that feels like it could be the setting for the intro to a sci-fi story:
"In the final November of the old order, the humans were bickering among themselves..."

Monday, November 14, 2016

For You

I think a lot of us could use some manatee love right about now:


[off tumblr somewhere...]

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Safety Pins

I painted twenty safety pins this morning, with real pins attached, to leave around for people to take as a symbol of support and safety for all people threatened by the election. (It's a long list.)

I'm humbled by how hard it was to paint these everyday objects.


Marz at the March

Marz e-mailed me yesterday about going to an anti-Trump protest:
"I went to the protest last night. There were a lot of people. Thousands, I think the news said. 

"We marched through the West Bank and a lot of Somali people came out on the sidewalk to wave and cheer.
A car full of Somali women who were stuck in the traffic were literally bouncing on their seats and clapping. We passed a Somali man in his car who rolled down his windows to give a thumbs up and he was crying.

"One man was there with his teenage daughter who was carrying a rainbow flag. He had a sign that said 'Keep your hands off my daughter and my daughter's future!' It was written in the most mild font, and it took him a couple miles before he would join in any of the chants.
I don't think it was his typical scene, which made it all the more moving that he showed up. "

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Looking for a Team That Fits

Did I say I was going to stop looking at election news?

You know, normally I really would--I'm not a news hound-- 

but this election is different. I just wrote to a friend that I feel like a pinball rocketing around the... the playfield. [glossary of pinball terms] I keep looking for things to navigate by.

So here are a couple things I've read in the past couple days that like a lot. They both analyze, mourn, and end up with a call to action.

1. "A letter to America from Leslie Knope, regarding Donald Trump," Vox, Nov. 10, 2016 
“The point of the lesson is: People are unpredictable, and democracy is insane.
The point is: People making their own decisions is, on balance, better than an autocrat making decisions for them. It’s just that sometimes those decisions are bad, or self-defeating, or maddening, and a day where you get dressed up in your best victory pantsuit and spend an ungodly amount of money decorating your house with American flags and custom-made cardboard cutouts of suffragettes in anticipation of a glass-ceiling-shattering historical milestone ends with you getting (metaphorically) eaten by a giant farting T. rex.” 
Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler), you know? is the annoyingly irrepressible & optimistic character who "works for the US Department of the Interior, Midwest Branch, in her hometown of Pawnee, Indiana"--in other words, for the Park Department---from Parks and Recreation:

2. Bernie Sanders' "Where the Democrats Go From Here", NYT, Nov. 11, 2016
"Trump won the White House because his campaign rhetoric successfully tapped into a very real and justified anger, an anger that many traditional Democrats feel."
Yes! Thank you for saying that. 

I'm in shock, yeah, but when people go on as if Trump supporters are insane, I don't get that. They may have voted against their own best interest, but that's predictably human (she says as she eats another waffle with whipped cream), and it was in response to very real and obvious situation (waffles taste great!).

____________

Leslie Knope's letter ends,"Now find your team, and get to work."

I'm bad at teams, (and teams are bad at me), but I'm willing to try some on again, see if I can find one that fits--no need to jam my foot into an ill-fitting shoe.

Tomorrow morning, I'm going to the service at that church I  mentioned in my last post. It's important to me that it says it's about social justice... and that it's only one block away. Also, the church building is beautiful red-stone structure from 1886. 

I know myself. Realistically, I'm not going to take a bus across town throughout January (even with global warming) to sit in a folding chair in a VFW basement. 

Anyway, I'm doing this because I want to get more plugged into my neighborhood, in case we all need to help each other (more than we already do need to), even just to the extent of learning where to go, who the point people are.
I'm not judging it as I would if I were on a personal spiritual journey. They have a good rep for multiculturalism and social justice, and that's the main thing.

[You've seen? Americans are borrowing the safety pin from post-Brexit Great Britain to signal opposition to racism.]

But there are some things I see on their website that I do like, personally.
Their Statement of Faith, for instance, defines sin as "an enslavement to self."
I like that. It's a torment to be trapped inside your self. 

It reminds me of a quote I like from Iris Murdoch:
"Love is the extremely difficult realization that something other than oneself is real.”

 
This isn't achieved by self-denigration, of course, but proper perspective, so I also appreciate the statement says:
"
We believe that each person is created in the image of God and therefore merits consideration as a person of infinite dignity and worth…"

It does concern me that the church doesn't proclaim itself as LGBT-welcoming. But then, neither did (nor could) the Catholic Church I used to love anyway.
And they DO say,
"All members of the church are privileged by the Spirit to share in the ministry and mission of Christ and proclaim in word and deed the values of God's kingdom",
…which no Catholic Church can say, since the church doesn't ordain women, nor do they seem anywhere near about to start doing so. (Talk about insane.)

So, we'll see...

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Be Not Afraid, Be Not Scary

In these two days since the presidential election, I've noticed a lot of people around me are frightened. It's not just a sense I get, people are saying it out loud. I imagine lots of us are hearing this?

This morning at the YW someone said to me, "It's scary."
A cashier at the grocery store said, "I drank a whole bottle of wine by myself yesterday."
I went to get a flu shot this evening and the nurse told me how freaked out she and her coworkers are. 
Etc. 

Even people who seem angry instead of frightened, I think at least some of them are angry because somewhere they are frightened. 

This appears to be a very big problem we have.
I'm afraid some politicians have awoken and called forth some really bad ju ju. It feels like the Lord of the Rings out there. Some fearsome force has woken up, and the folks who woke it up can't control it.

How to respond?

I've come across a few attempts at humor, but they fall flat.

I'm missing the wisdom of religion.
I mean, the non-political side of religion. The mystical, philosophical, psychologically insightful stuff.
Like this:
"There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment." --1 John 4:18(KJV)

And all the many times it says some variation of BE NOT AFRAID in the Bible.
What a helpful teaching. 
I don't think this is in the Bible (?), but it seems to me the matching teaching is,
BE NOT SCARY.


Fear not, neither cause fear.

The more interested we are in controlling people, the more likely we are to use fear. Fear is like a ring through our noses we can lead others or be led around by. 
It takes a lot of energy to hold onto that ring though, and what if you let it go? It can be like Thomas Jefferson said of slavery, the ultimate fear-based relationship:
"
As it is, we [his white society] have the wolf by the ear, and we can neither hold him, nor safely let him go."

The more interested we are in loving people, the less we use fear. Love is like the scent of a flower---it's freely given and we are perfectly free to walk away from it. 
It doesn't eat up energy because it's a free moving exchange.
It would be wise to be cultivating this sort of thing instead of catching more wolves, I think. 

I've been missing a religious pov---one thing I'd loved about being in the Catholic Church for five years was that you often didn't know the politics (or even the job) of the people  around you---the emphasis was always on the perspective that humans share one all-important unifying quality:
NONE OF US ARE GOD. 

This perspective is often missing in politics.

I don't mean to be preaching, but I guess I am?
I'm just really sobered by what I'm seeing and hearing, and I'm trying to get my thoughts up and running. After the election, they were lying on the floor like a bird that flew into a window. 

I mentioned earlier that I've had a headache for two days. I must be holding my muscles tight. My jaw aches the way it does when I can't cry.

Am I frightened?
I mostly feel fatigued at the prospect of the future, which is a kind of fear. 

Like, Oh come on, humans! Do we really have to play this wasteful, effortful game? So much energy is going to be lost. It's going to be so much pointless work!

Could we just ... not do it?
Is that even possible?
To be not afraid, and to not cause fear?

Maybe not?

For myself, within myself, I'm going try.  

I'm going to keep listening to everyone who's a person, but I'm going to stop taking in media. 

I'm going to stop talking in terms of blame, because that just tightens the scary "Us vs. Them" screws. There are discernible facts in the matter, but they are already known and I don't need to keep going over and over them.

I am going to think about how best to position myself to help, if the going gets rough. My neighborhood has a lot of immigrants, some undocumented, people of color, LGBTQIA folks---they could all be on the front lines, if there's political violence. 
I can't be much help by myself, but I really don't do well in political settings. I've had better luck in religion. (Politics is the art of the possible. Religion is the art of the impossible.)
There's a church nearby that's big on social justice--it's Baptist, which is far from my experience, but I hear it's the Martin Luther King kind of Baptist, so I'm going to check them out. 
And there are other options.

I don't know.

When I was playing pinball on Election Night, I got talking to a guy who was as unhappy with the results as I was.
"We'll just have to be kind," I said, "and take care of each other."

He looked at me. Then he nodded, like in recognition. "We have to keep doing what we've been doing," he said.

He seemed sad, but he didn't seem afraid.

My Auntie's Advice

This is the best post-election cheer-up I've had.

My 91-y.o. auntie e-mail every day. This morning I told her I've had a terrific headache ever since election night---"I think I must be clenching all the muscles in my head!"--and that I hope going to the YW will help. She also knows I've been cutting back on treats.

She wrote back:
"Yes, the exercise will pump some oxygen into your brain to make you feel better. 
I don't usually give you advice but I think you should eat some fat! 😉. Something rich and gooey.
 How about some pumpkin pie with whipped cream at that lovely bakery you've told me about in the past?
Love you lots and lots. 💜"