Monday, December 23, 2013

Gossipers, Hindus and Thieves--Oh, My!

These kinds of pictures pop up every once in awhile on various feeds that I follow, and they're so extreme and ridiculous, that I can only laugh.  Whoremongers AND Mormons?  Christ-rejecting Jews AND sin-friendly heresy teachers?  It's really just too much.  Invariably, if this sign or one like it appears on a blog, Twitter, or wherever, commenters have fun counting the number of times they appear on the sign.  I haven't counted mine, but would consider it distasteful to share the number even if I had.  As we learned in Titanic, "A woman's heart is an ocean of secrets." 
 
Well, readers, no matter how many of these titles (?) apply to you, I want to wish you a very happy Christmas.  I thought about saying that I wish everyone on the sign a Merry Christmas, but not anyone who has ever or who would ever hold such a thing.  Screw it.  I wish them a Merry Christmas, too, and I hope that they get visited by ghosts in the night who, each in turn, show them a perspective that makes them a little kinder by morning.

 

I really will get back to doing some sort of year end wrap up (since I started thinking about it at Thanksgiving, maybe it will post by St. Valentine's day), but until then, here are a few Christmas songs that reflect my humanist perspective.  For me, they are about winter and waiting and hope.  Oh, my!

Merry Christmas, all.  Even you Mary-worshipping Catholics.









Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanksgiving: Stains From Who-Knows-What

Thanksgiving explained by kiddies. The cuteness and hilarity are free! Happy Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Thanksgivukkah, or Thursday, depending on your location and traditions.


Monday, November 18, 2013

Delay, Distraction, Detection

2013 round-up coming, but until then, how cool is this???  It's a literary thumbprint.  Click here for more info.  The down side is that you have to limit yourself to fifty books.  Well, and it costs four hundred USD. 

A memory just popped into my head.  This is a little fun fact about me that's both literary and has to do with fingerprints.  I adored mystery books as a child.  I loved Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, Dashiell Hammett, (and on, and on) starting at around age nine.  All of my detectives inspired me to carry around a notebook, take down sundries, and engage in general, unsolicited sleuth-ery.  I figured out a way to lift prints from my family members...you know, in case they later committed heinous crimes for which I would be able to bust them.  I sprinkled just a light dusting of bath powder on the flushing handle of the toilet, and when I would hear somebody go in there, I would lay in wait in my room.  After they were finished, I'd go in after they left and lift the prints with transparent tape.  Fold the tape, stick it in my note book...then wait for villainy.  No villainy ever transpired, but I had (smudgey, partial) prints of both parents and most siblings just in case.  If any crimes had ever occurred, I definitely would have called everyone together to have one of those end-of-the-story monologues wherein I'd explain everything and call out the evil one and expose his or her deeds.  It would have been so cool.  Alas...
 
I'll be back soon.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Formula

Rum and Diet Coke + Sci-fi + reading Tennyson aloud = FRIDAY NIGHT!!! (All former English majors). Look out! There's no stopping us.

I rejoin Blogger Sunday with a year-end (almost) round-up.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Reason: A Short Fright

So, I’m out on the balcony thinking about the fallout that didn’t happen, the shoes that never dropped creating a collective thunder. I made the announcement several times in varying ways, and those who had done so before me talked about the negative reactions, the disownment, the pleas to come home, just believe. For me there was a gesture or two, an open door, but other than that, it was just like the sounds from this balcony…crickets chirping…nothing. I wonder why, and the sole answer, the only one that makes any sense, arrives with the breeze in a soft whisper…


…they don’t really believe it, either…



Happy Halloween, everybody.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Friday, September 27, 2013

I Love This Christmas Card

Look at the white-bearded mythological figure.


Do you see him? He's in the toy boat that Santa is holding. Ba-dum-ching!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Florence + the (Little) Machine(s)

This is a phenomenal group of young singers in London known as Capital Children's Choir covering Florence + the Machine's song Shake it Out from the album Ceremonials, one of my favorites in recent years.

In the last few months, I've been walking every evening at twilight.*  During that time, I tend to listen to the same playlist of songs, including the original of this one.  It has some heaven and hell, demons and redemption lyrics in it, and for some (including my old self) this song could have a very spiritual and specifically Christian meaning.  This is fine and makes perfect sense to me.  For me (of course, because I can't let this topic go) it's a deconversion song.  It's hard to dance/ with a devil on your back/ so shake him off...

It surely is.  And I surely did.

Whatever it might mean (or not) to you--enjoy.  As for me, it makes me glad to be alive.






___________________________
*Let's take this word back.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Appropriate for Children Part II: Story Problems

My previous post contained photos of text from scripture, specifically from the book of Leviticus (chapters 7, 10, 11, 18 and 19).  The passages are in books clearly marketed to be purchased for children, and read and studied by them.  Here are some story problems that reflect some conundrums I find with the texts.

1.  Billy believes that the book of Leviticus is true, and that it contains quotations from God, as it claims.  Passages in Leviticus state that it is repugnant to God for his people to eat shellfish, wear cotton-poly blends and to engage in intercourse with someone of the same sex.  Billy regularly speaks out against same-sex marriage.  He also eats at Red Lobster and wears cotton-poly blend clothing, almost daily.  Why does Billy feel so strongly about some laws, yet behave so lackadaisically about others?  Can you help Billy reconcile this?

Bonus question for extra credit:  Does Billy really have a say in the matter of gay rights while breaking the other laws?  Circle one:  Yes   No

2.  Sally says that the Bible is needed in our government and schools, and that lifelong atheists like Susie have no moral compass.  The book of Leviticus states that God's people should not have sex with animals or sacrifice their children to Molech.  Susie has never had sex with an animal or burned a child to please Molech.  Is Sally correct?  Does Susie need Leviticus?

Bonus questions for extra credit:  Who is Molech?

Bonus question for extra credit:  How is Molech different from Yahweh (or not)?

3.  Tom believes that scriptures are not to be taken literally, but figuratively.  What is a helpful metaphor that can be gleaned from laws against sex with animals juxtaposed with laws about a man having sex with another man?

Bonus question:  Is Tom crazy?

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Appropriate for Children?

This weekend, I did something I've wanted to do for a long time; I visited a Christian book store for the first time since my deconversion.  I had been inside a few as a doubter, but this would be the first time as a full-fledged atheist. 

Besides having worked in one, I spent a good deal of my twenties inundated in that world, whether it was listening to the music or reading the books that came from it, or even leading retreats and giving talks in front of groups using material sold in those kinds of places.  At the time, the whole marketed Christian culture was at once a little disturbing and also comforting in that it made my belief feel legitimized and at least...well...known and experienced in the same way as others.  Christian stores sold stuff that sort of spread a McDonald's and Wal-Mart generic-ness through American evangelical Christianity.  No matter where you would go for a convention or a concert, even several states away, you'd see someone in a Jars of Clay t-shirt or carrying the Christian bestseller that you had read, and even in addition to the common beliefs you held, you felt like you were among your own people.  For lack of a better way of explaining it, it was comforting being around people who knew the same stuff.

One of the red flags that waved in my face for years about Christianity was the way Bibles for Children were packaged.  I knew the material inside.  I could see the frills on the outside.  The two would never match up.  Eventually, this would be one of the things I would have to take off of the "shelf" in my mind, and look at it, straight on and no excuses.

I have a lot to say about this issue and will write more about it in the next post, but for now I just want to post some pictures of the covers of Bibles for children that I found in the store.  The photos of text are ones that I took on the inside of the cover below with the cartoon drawing of Jesus with some little children on it.  Farther below, you can see a close-up that shows that this version is "easy-to-read."  Maybe, but it's not easy for me to swallow anymore.  I could have posted links to these texts or copied and pasted them here, but I wanted to make the point that these verses are really in these versions of the Bible.

I wonder what you all think of this.  Of course, there's a lot that could be said about marketing, materialization, the whole princess nightmare that has leaked into all facets of girlhood.  Also, believers could argue about versions of the Bible and which are accurate translations and paraphrases (NIV, KJV, NKJV, ESV, The Message, The Living Bible, etc.).  But in this case, I'm really more interested in what people think about the juxtaposition of these covers and the material found inside.  The passages I show here are only a few examples.  I could have spent a lot of time in that store taking more.  I could only stomach a few minutes.
















Thursday, August 1, 2013

Could It Be Love?

ChristianMingle says that a deity matches up couples on their website.  I'm pretty sure it's algorithms.  Either way, I was matched up!

....With a film on Netflix that I'd never heard of called Mary and Max.  The powers that be thought that I'd rate it with an almost perfect score, and I did, I did!  Here's what the poster looks like, and here are a few verbal gems from the movie.


"I wish I could be in charge of all the chocolate, but of course I cannot, because of my atheism." 
--Max

"Mary Dinkle's eyes were the color of muddy puddles. Her birthmark, the color of poo."
--Narrator

"He's scared of outside, which is a disease called homophobia."
--Mary


I loved this film!  Thanks, god!  or  Thanks, math!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Scammed

I feel compelled to start with the disclaimer:  I'm not a Dr. Phil watcher.  Any clips I've seen of his show, at least of late, seem fraught with really toxic shouting matches, and who needs that after a hard day at work, right?  The PR agent inside me (the one I try not to be online or anywhere) doesn't want to own Dr. Phil.  However, today I must, because I got sucked in.

The subject of the show was a woman who clearly had been scammed by an online romancer.  She, in the U.S., had found love on Match.com with a fellow in the U.K. with an accent that is decidedly not from the U.K.  The quickie version is that in a year's time, she has never met him face to face, but she has sent him over one hundred and eighty thousand dollars.  The excuses and needs were completely lame and unrealistic, and she had to scrape up the money by stealing from siblings, cashing out her children's life insurance policies, and quitting her job for the sole purpose of pulling all of the funds from her 401K. 

She continued to believe in this guy's authenticity no matter how concrete and detailed the evidence meticulously stacked against him.  Just as an example of his complete fraudulence, his passport photo showed his hair sticking up from outside the square.  Dr. Phil noted that this man's pattern of behavior and requests matched exactly with other former guests and their online disasters.  The timelines were the same, as if these manufactured identities were part of an organized effort, and that is exactly what it is.  They've traced former guests' scammers to an office in Nigeria where people sit in cubicles, create social networking profiles and fish for people to fool.

It was so painful to watch.  She focused all of her life on a guy who never answered when she called, never gave back...it was like he was invisible.  What a waste of time.  What a waste of money.  What a waste of energy, effort, and invested emotion. 

What a fool.  How could anyone fall for such a...oh...wait a minute...

Well, in my defense, his profile picture was pretty intriguing...

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

That Didn't Last Long: A Letter

Wow, Stoker.  Thanks for wrecking my most recent post so quickly.  Also (since I'm inexplicably speaking to you as if you're a person), I might as well say that I wish I'd seen you in the theater.  Deep love, Stoker.  You are creep-tastic.  You are nuanced and smart.  And...you are my favorite film of 2013. 

So far...

Cheers,
Michelle

P.S.  I really wish I  knew who made this wicked cool poster of you.  It has all sorts of macabre goodies (or, should I say "Goode-ies"?) from your ninety-nine minutes of crazy.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Much Ado About (I've got) Nothing

Every post about Joss Whedon's crack at Much Ado About Nothing has to have a clever spin on the play's title in its own title, but I've got nothing.  I'm writing also about Neil Gaiman's new book The Ocean at the End of the Lane, so I tried to incorporate that...still couldn't find the funny.  The point is, my favorite movie of 2013 (so far) and my favorite book of 2013 (so far) released within days of each other, and those guys are it.

I've seen my share of modern dress/original speech Shakespeare, which can come across really douchey (douchily, verily), but this version of Much Ado feels like it's being played out in exactly the right setting with exactly the right people...almost.  It's practically perfect in every way, but if Joss had swapped this guy...


Good Dogberry

...for this guy...


Perfect Dogberry
Credit: Armando Gallo /Retna Ltd./Corbis
...I would have loved it even more than I already do.  At Dogberry's second or third line, I pictured Steve Carell and couldn't get him out of my mind for the rest of the film when the character appeared.  Carell was hilarious in this!  (In my head).

Any adaptation of this play is as strong or weak, for me, as its Benedick and Beatrice, and I loved the subtlety of these two, with one of my favorite characters ever delivering one of my favorite lines in literature, "Kill Claudio," almost as easlily as someone might say, "Pass the salt." (It feels strange to type that without "please," but Beatrice didn't say "please" either).  Speaking of Claudio, he behaves atrociously.  I have never forgiven him no matter what cutie patootie happens to play him, though I believe we're all meant to.  The modern dress just draws a circle around his ridiculous antics as a groom.  My perfect Hero would walk away having dodged a bullet...er, uh...dagger.  Broadswoard?

Left: Sandy Rivers??!
Anyway...loved the cast, loved the house, loved the lesbian photographer.  Loved, loved, loved.  It was Gatsby without motion sickness.

...

On to The Ocean at the End of the Lane.  This is a story that could have leaked out of Neil Gaiman's 2001 novel American Gods.  It's a horror, it's a fairy tale, and it's not for children to read.  I find it really difficult to write about this book, because it brought back a mindset that I'd completely forgotten.  He conjures so well that feeling from childhood that is trusting in adults, but frightened of their seemingly absolute power.  It paints a picture of the vulnerability of childhood where a boy or a girl first realizes that some adults are really monsters, and how very little you can do about it at that age.

That's young Neil Gaiman up there!

There's not much I can say about the story without getting spoilery, but it's an easy investment at under two hundred pages.  The back of the U.S. edition has an artsy, fogged, shimmery version of the above photo, which is perfect for the story and indeed an old picture of the author. 

...
Those are my favorites so far!  We'll see how they hold up for the rest of 2013.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Tipsy Blogging?

Maybe.

I spent the day working out and running. I have a half marathon coming up. It will be my third. Anyway, I ended the day with perhaps just a touch too much spiced rum. This is not in character, and I was just about to go to bed when "Blood Simple" came on television (after Svengoolie's showing of "The Creature Walks among Us" [1956]). I realize that it's time for a Coen Brothers retrospective. It's going to be a long night. Damn you, film club!!!

In other news...I'm going to the Ai Weiwei exhibit tomorrow at the IMA (actually, later today) with some friends. I can't wait to go and to discuss it over dinner afterwards. I've seen and heard so much about this guy; I'm eager to see the art for myself. We're going on a docent led tour, so I should be able to share all of the skinny soon.

Okay, "Blood Simple"...wow me like you did at Baxter Avenue Theater a bunch of years ago...

Friday, March 29, 2013

I Raise My Hand (or...Marriage: Not Just a Latch Hook-up)

When I was eight years old, I was a latch-hooking fool.  I don't even know if people do that anymore, but in the early eighties it was a thing, particularly among the little girl set of which I was a part.  Common themes in the kits I chose were butterflies, panda bears, unicorns and the like.  I was thrilled when we did it in art class, and once Mrs. Elsner had us create our own designs and run with them.  I copped out and made something super easy, given that it's composed mostly of simple rows, but I had to smile when I found it amongst some old things in a trunk recently.  Eight-year-old me (you little latch-hooking so-and-so), I think you were on to something...



When I was a little girl, I would have raised my hand if asked, "Who likes rainbows and hearts?!" "Who believes in unicorns?!"  Maybe in a Sunday School setting, "Raise your hand if you love Jesus!"  But I am not eight anymore.  I'm thirty-eight, and I've put these things behind.  I raise my hand for different things now...

Who had it wrong...all wrong?  I raise my hand.

Who turns away from the invisible (i.e. non-existent)?   I raise my hand.

Who sides instead with living, breathing, genuinely good people?  I raise my hand.

Who knows that in the past, women were property in marriage?
Who has heard that non-matching skin color was a legal deal-breaker?
Who believes that when we know better, we do better?   I raise my hand to all.

Who supports LGBT rights, including marriage equality?   I raise my hand.

I won't pretend in order to fit a role I've been given in the play in someone else's mind. 

Wherever, whenever, in front of whomever...

I raise my hand.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Conversation with Paul: A Fiction

It's such a confusing thing to explain how all of this came about. It sounds like something Dr. Who would have arranged.  It wasn't exactly a place and it wasn't exactly a time.  Sometimes when I think about it, I'm sure it lasted just over two hours, and other times I think that we were together for a good part of a day...or more?  Anyway, the long and short of it is...I sat down and had a conversation with Paul.  Yep.  That one.

My understanding was that it would be sort a of a show-and-tell, but I didn't bring any gadgets, as I didn't wish to overwhelm him.  It turns out that I didn't have to do much to overwhelm him...he was in the thrall of things I hadn't even really thought about.

Like, what I was wearing, for example.  I dressed very simply, I mean, I didn't wear a robe and sandals or anything crazy just to fit in.  Jeans, a sweater, sneakers.  I was probably the most generic version of a twenty-first century first world person as I could have been, given what's in my closet and that I hadn't even thought about what to put on.  He couldn't get over the sweater--how even and uniform everything was--the weaving and whatnot.  I explained that a person didn't do it by hand, a machine had done it thousands of times to make many of the exact sweater in a variety of sizes.  I mean, he would've seen intricate clothing and jewelry in his time, but I'm guessing it was just the generic uniformity of it all.  Don't ask me, I don't know. 

This bit took a long time, I couldn't believe how interested he was.  The shoes.  Jesus, the shoes.  Don't even ask about how blown away he was by a plain old pair of sneakers.  He couldn't believe that there was tiny little writing on them (he squinted a lot) and the tread on the bottom knocked him out.

We finally got to what I brought for show-and-tell...pictures.  As I said before, I figured a laptop or tablet would be too much, and I was never surer of that after all of the amazement over stitching and rubber shoe soles, for crying out loud.  So, with what I thought was clever foresight, I'd gone on the internet (I would later mention the internet...oy) and printed out some pictures, mostly of space.  Stuff from Hubble, stuff from Curiosity, etc.  Most importantly, I'd printed off a series of pictures of Earth...those really recent ones that are the most high definition that we've ever had.  I'd always thought that we in this era, we who have all grown up just taking for granted what the planet on which we live looks like...well, I just think we're so fortunate.  Most of humanity's history is filled with people with no such privilege, nor even an idea that anyone would ever have such knowledge.  There would have been a few early and terribly flawed terrestrial globes in Paul's time, but were they common?  Would he have seen one?  So, anyway, I'd brought the pictures.

Oh...my...GOD.  Would we ever get to the pictures?  Any guesses?  Beuller?  He was looking at the paper...the PAPER for chrissakes.  Again, like the sweater, it was the uniformity and precision of size, the fact that it was glossy on one side.  Glossy--he didn't have a word for that.  He kept on with his translator trying to figure one out.  Glossy.  Glossy paper...a fucking miracle.  Seriously.

So, the pictures.  I showed him Earth.  This is Earth.  This is where we live.  This is where you lived.  This is where I live.  There is a mountain.  There is a storm.  That place is covered in ice.  That's England, where the language I speak was born, but it wasn't spoken yet in your time...not even in its first forms that would be unrecognizable to me...spoken or written.  That is a wall in China.  Machines take these pictures from space.  We sent them there.  There is a machine driving around on Mars (I didn't want to explain SUVs, so I didn't mention that it was the size of a small SUV).  People are going to try and go there within the next decade.  For the first ones, it will be a one-way ticket.  I explained one-way tickets.

I showed him a picture of some rays of light and a speck.  I explained that the picture was taken from very far away, and that the speck was something that a famous man called the "pale blue dot" and that the dot was Earth.  Paul looked at the photos in silence for a long time.

The speck is Earth from 3.7 billion miles away, taken
by Voyager I in 1990, 13 years after it launched.

Planets were too intense.  I withdrew to cities.  That was intense, too, the citiscapes were hard for him to comprehend, and this one of my feet over Chicago almost made him nauseated.


As I said before, I tried to explain the internet a little, in very simple terms. We have little boxes of varying sizes which are connected, and the boxes give us access to almost all of humanity's collected history and knowledge.  I didn't mention that common uses are arguing with strangers and flinging little drawings of birds at little drawings of pigs.

The details of this event are fuzzy for me, but I do know that I wasn't chosen.  I won the chance to go, or something.  I forget.  The forgetting was part of the deal somehow.  But I wasn't picked, that's for sure.  No one was chosen, so that it wouldn't be some meeting of great minds, or influencers, or whatever.  I was just average.  To him, my averageness was a wonder, and his translator told me that he said that meeting me was the most wonderous encounter he'd ever had in his life. 

Think about that one. 

It only occurred to me later that he was so interested in so many things, he never told me about his life...not even his vision. You know, The Big Show on Damascus Boulevard.

But he never brought that up, and we never even spoke of god.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Toasts for Today

Inside St. Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin.
Saint Patrick was a gentleman,
Who through strategy and stealth,
Drove all the snakes from Ireland,
Here’s a toasting to his health.
But not too many toastings
Lest you lose yourself and then
Forget the good Saint Patrick
And see all those snakes again.


'Sláinte chuig na fir, agus go mairfidh na mná go deo.'
Health to the men, and may the women live forever!

'Faol saol agat, gob fliuch, agus bás in Éirinn.'
Long life to you, a wet mouth, and death in Ireland.

'Beannachtam na Feile Padraig!'
Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Miscellaneous Tidbits



 
I was hoping that Ellen would pick up this much-circulated basketball vid...and she did, she did!
 
 
I really, really appreciate the beauty of this (even on a gray day).  I also really, really hope that this is our last snow of the year.
 

 



I'm not and have never been a United Methodist, but I'm very familiar with the Wesleyan Quadrilateral; however, I was not aware that it had inspired a T-shirt...

 
 
A Wesleyan Quadrilateral t-shirt?  Is this fella meant to be a typical United Methodist?*  If this is meant to be a discussion starter, how would such a conversation play out?  Where does this person live that a fellow townsperson would be simultaniously literate enough to exclaim, "Oh!  You're wearing a WQ shirt!" and tolerant enough not to be offended by such overt United Methodism?  So many questions...
 
_________________________________
*If so--yowza.  I'm not even bothered by the headlessness.
 
 
 
 

Friday, March 1, 2013

Ladies and Gentlemen...Pat Robertson!

There might be something sinister lurking in Goodwill or that funky little consignment shop that you love.


And there you have it. Happy weekend, all!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Weekend Drama

Foreground:  Larry Savoy as Darren Lemming.  You can
click the picture for a piece on the college website.
Good drama, that is--of the stage and screen variety.

Friday night, I went to a local college for their production of Richard Greenberg's Take Me Out, a play about the events surrounding Darren Lemming, a super-star baseball player who makes waves when he announces publicly that he is gay.  This theater department has never disappointed me, but this was one of the handful of times that the set and performances were so stellar that I felt that I must've traveled far and paid to see it, but did neither.  The acting was electric and consistantly good across the board, which is impressive given that some of the actors were first-timers, and star athletes no less (I know, star jocks trying out for theater--sounds a little Glee-tastic).  It was a good thing that the acting was beyond par, because it would be easy to disconnect from the play and just marvel at the set that was created for Take Me Out.  It was all at once, and with little adjustment between scenes, a locker room with working showers, a bar, and a baseball stadium.  That last one especially is probably hard to swallow, but it worked indescribably well.  Overall, the production was very compelling, and the star player magnetic.

I was really glad that I went, and kicked myself internally for not going to more plays and community artist programs over there.  I'm pretty good about going to every art gallery change, but I need to get back in the habit of catching the theater and music events.  It's local and free, so why not?

The cast of Les Miz blows the roof off the joint.
Sunday night brought the Oscars, of course, and for the third year in a row, I went to a party hosted by my friends Joe and Brian from my film group.  They get a kick out of feeding and entertaining us, and we get a kick out of eating and being entertained, so it's a perfect match.  They are both fantastic in the kitchen, and have a bakery business apart from their day jobs.  The rest of us are all too glad to be guinea pigs to test out their recent creations.  For Oscar night, and other events, they project all of the action onto a big screen, and the result is big fun. 

As for the show, I loved the focus on music this year, with performances from cast members of Chicago, Dreamgirls, and Les Miserables, and even an appearance by Barbra Streisand.  At seventy, she looks and sounds amazing.

I took Monday off of work to recuperate.  Taking the day after the Oscars off seems a little indulgent, but it's becoming an annual tradition for me. I just can't get up and roll with the punches after a late night the way I used to. Am I getting old? Becoming a wuss? Too self indulgent? I'll leave it for your consideration.



Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Dear Readers,

Yesterday, Tuesday the 12th of February, marked the second anniversary of Vain Minutia (and, coincidentally, Darwin's birthday). My first post was a photo and a drawn self-portrait. My second was two-year-old vacation photos. I clearly had no idea what to post or why I was posting anything at all. It didn't really matter, because I had approximately one reader. Fast-forward to today when literally, like, TEN or so readers visit on a regular basis! *sniff, sniff* It's been a long journey. *a single tear falls*

Sincerely, I want to thank everyone who drops by, and especially to those who say "hello" by chiming in frequently or just once in awhile. It's so nice to hear from you. I forget how I found some of you, but I'm so very glad that I did. Of course, some of you I've known this many a year, and the chatter we have here is supplemental to phone chats and whatnot. I'm glad you come around, as well.

To those who I know in life apart from the internets and don't chime in, that's perfectly fine. I see you in my stats when you visit, and sometimes wonder...

To those few I know in life who saw a post or posts, and contacted me outside of the blog either out of support or concern, thank you, also. You surprised me. You are the brave ones.

So, it's appropriate that this love fest occurs now. In honor of all of you and the attention you pay to this haphazard space on the webs, here's an art icon from my very own state...a state so loved by the artist that he renamed himself Robert Indiana.

Happy Valentine's Day, everybody! I'll keep stopping by.


Sunday, February 3, 2013

(Took a Ring Off It) Part II: Cinematic and Dramatic

So, we come to June of last year.  It continued to bother me that I still had this symbol that no longer meant anything to me, and that it was an everyday part of my life...putting it on, taking it off.  I'd worn this ring for some months after disposing of other religious stuff I didn't want (we doesn't wants it, Precious) anymore, and it bothered me enough to be finally rid of the thing.

Part of the reason that I'd tarried in tossing it was that I didn't want it to be some big moment, some planned ceremony-ish thing that would make me feel silly later.  My life of faith was so, so full of times like that--either corporate occasions of manufactured drama or ones that I'd fabricated myself in devotional life.  I can't state enough how seriously I took my belief.  It wasn't something that I put on the shelf as many seem to be able to do.  If I could've done that--not taken it seriously--I would be able to wear rings with Hebrew writing on them and not know or care what it means, and talk about how amazing the Bible is and never read it, but read all 4,100 pages of Harry Potter, or indeed all 1,200-ish pages of The Lord of the Rings.  I could've had a cross on the wall and felt only warm, fuzzy feelings about it.  I could've blissfully waded through the foggy illusion that the current U.S. blend of Christianity, Republican politics and American patriotism is the real version of the faith, and not bothered much with history and culture.  I could've ignored how vastly different I am from the first Christians, simply due to the fact that I have seen pictures of the planet upon which I live, and if they could be shown such a thing they wouldn't be able to comprehend it.

So, enough already.  I had to get rid of this ring, but I didn't really want to plan anything about it and have it become some big thing. 

I was driving along an interstate at that hour or so between day and night--I think in the movie industry they call it "magic time," because it's a really difficult time to film.  You have to work fast or the light changes too quickly, but when you can capture it, a scene can look particularly beautiful.  The scene in Titanic wherein Kate and Leo kiss (and "fly" in cruciform, actually) on the prow of the ship is a good example.  So, the nice glow in the sky had me feeling all mushy and Titanic-y, I was driving fast in the beginning of summer--it was already a good moment, but I wasn't thinking of having a ring toss.  I started to slow down and curve into an exit, and I didn't know it yet, but the tune on the radio tightened up the catapult.  I hadn't been paying much attention to what was playing, Katy Perry's Not Like the Movies, but my ears perked up at the phrase...Cinematic and Dramatic...

Boom!  That was it!  I checked the rearview mirror (I didn't want some poor shmuck to have an unknown object PING! off of his windshield and pee his pants over my dumb antics), pulled it off and chucked it, and I mean it happened fast--look, pull, chuck.  Lookpullchuck.  Cinematic and Dramatic.

I laughed so hard and so loud, cackling, as I said before, with my head back and eyes closed for as long as you can do that whilst negotiating a curve.  I laughed, because it looked so funny.  My ring flung out, shrinking as it flew, and I only saw it for a bit because of it spinning toward the tall grass at the side of the exit, and me curving around.  It was on me, and then it was gone.  Yes.

My efforts to make a moment meaningless were slightly wrecked.  Not Like the Movies is a break-up song.  There are lyrics in it about a ring...

He put it on me, I put it on,
Like there was nothing wrong.
It didn't fit, it wasn't right.
Wasn't just the size.

It's sung by Katy Perry, who used to be Katy Hudson, who used to sing Christian music, who had posters and CDs that I put up on a shelf display when I worked at a Christian book store. 

The ring is somewhere off of that exit, I guess.  Close to the Girlie bar and the McDonald's.

They say breaking up is hard to do.  It wasn't for me.  I've never cried about this.  It's just reality for me.  If this is all disturbing for anyone, that's ok.  I get it.  If he (she, it, they) means something big for you, I understand, because he meant something to me, too. 

It's not him.  It's me.

Monday, January 21, 2013

(Took a Ring Off It) Part I: Crosses

Last June, I did something that I thought I'd write about.  I ended up throwing a few notes about it in a draft, and it has resided in that wasteland of a folder all alone for these many months.  Now it seems inconsequential, at the time it was just funny to me, but in the bygone past, it would have seemed like an enormous deal--heavy and frought with meaning.  It's winking at me now in the form of that annoying paranthetical "Drafts (1)" that seems so untidy.  So, without further ado, here is the story of how I lost (gollum, gollum) a ring (gollum).

Actually, not so much "lost" as "took it off and threw it out of a moving vehicle while curving around an interstate exit close to a McDonalds and our town's only titty bar,* head thrown back and cackling."  (Gollum).

This strange event had its roots in previous months, and really years, as I had gradually shed my former faith and religious beliefs.  As these things happen internally, the physical stuff starts to fall off as well, and in this case I really do mean material things like crosses and whatnot. 

Even as a believer...even as a child believer, I always thought that it was really strange that Christians wore little mock execution devices on chains around our necks and used them to decorate (decorate?  yuck) our homes and churches.  Would we have done the same if the Chosen One of our particular faith had bitten it in an electric chair or had been stoned to death (actually, I can picture that one--little rocks), or had been strung up and hanged?  I noticed as a youngster the differences between the ones at various churches.  The ones at my church were usually either brass or wooden, and they were everywhere.  There was one really thin one up on the wall in the front of the sanctuary behind and above the baptistry.  They were the shiny handles on top of the communion trays, covering the tiny cracker-esque things and little glass cups (before we went to plastic disposable ones) of Welch's grape juice.  They appeared in gold foil on the covers of burgundy hymnals. 

The thing they had in common at my church and ones like ours was that they were empty (no dead or dying man), and they had no writing of any kind on them.  The writing was neither here nor there, but it was maniacally important to the adults in our church that the cross was empty.  We focused on the resurrection, not the death of Christ, unlike those guilt-wallowing, superstitious weirdos a mile or so away on Main Street.  You know the ones.  That last bit, after "we focus on resurrection, not death," was never spoken aloud, but we kids got the picture.  When visiting other churches for various events, I noticed that some of the more mainline denominations like Presbyterians and United Methodists had crosses up on their altars or communion tables with the inscription "IHS." "What does that mean?" I would ask various adults in my church, Sunday School teachers and the like, and they would invariably crinkle their brows, look at some vague point in the air, then their eyes would widen with satisfaction as they turned back to me and said, "In His service!"  Of course, this is not what IHS means.**  Only in adulthood would I look back on many of my primary church experiences and realize that there was a lot of guessing going on.  Guessing, and just plain old making stuff up as they went along. 

But I digress...crosses.

At various times, I did visit Catholic churches and homes, and saw the NON-EMPTY crosses that they had.  I don't know.  As a Christian who had a connection to that guy, they did have their own sort of morbid beauty, and to me they weren't any weirder than the empty ones.  Crosses were all about torture.  They were all about death.  And I had been told many times by these same adults who I described above, some truly kind and intelligent, some honestly a little vacuous, that when I did something wrong, I swung the hammer that nailed Jesus to the cross, or I put another nail into Jesus's flesh, or something similar.  I had a vague idea in childhood that Latter-day Saints had a similar view as I did to crosses as decor and accessories--"No, thank you."  I'll have to look that up to be sure.

So, as I slowly came around in the last few years to pulling away from Christianity, and eventually being honest to the mirror and saying, "I don't even believe in any deities anymore," the crosses that I had acquired over the years in spite of my mild distaste for them really had to go.  In addition to my feelings about them and my current disbelief, I just didn't want to give anyone who visited me the wrong idea.  "Oh, see, she's still a believer" or "she's struggling with faith" when the truth is I am not either of those things.  Every space I've ever occupied has been a true reflection of who I am, and the cross lady was no longer me. 

I got rid of a number of things...nothing given to me by loved ones, otherwise I would have kept them because of sentiment and love for people in my life.  I had four cross necklaces, three of which I'd bought myself and one that was given to me in youth group by an upperclassmen I barely knew, simply because she had drawn my name in Secret Santa (or Secret Wise Man--whatever they called it).  I had a really beautiful wall cross that was supposedly made out of stone from Jerusalem.  I purchased that one with my employee discount at a Christian bookstore where I worked years ago.  The stone was rough and imperfect, which made it beautiful and artful, and I really hated to see that one go.  I put it in the big basket where I keep stuff for the next Goodwill run, and eventually it made it there.  I hope someone got it who really enjoys it and appreciates how pretty it is, and who isn't hung up on silly things like how it's an execution device, and who doesn't think about things like science and human origins.  And I hope it's not some gun idiot...

But I digress...getting rid of things (and keeping others).

I kept and still display a mask that I made that has a cross on it, but it has a different meaning for me now, as I explained in this post.  I kept several Christian books, simply because I still read all kinds of books that reflect on religion--Catholic ones, Buddhist ones, Mormon ones, along with the atheist ones, humanist ones...freakin' Baha'i.  Learning is still learning, and history is still history, so for the most part, the books stay, although the syrup-y crap by Max Lucado (and others), who may have given me adult onset diabetes even as a believer, is gone with the wind.  If you dug or looked closely, you'd find Celtic crosses here and there in my apartment, but those are as pagan as hell.  It was funny in Ireland to overhear a shop owner explain how extremely Christian they are to a little old American lady, and then explain how pagan they are to a wicca interested (wi-curious?) young English lesbian (her t-shirt told me so).  Oh, and I definitely kept my Bible--not the many different translations and paraphrases that I used for extra study, but the NIV I'd had since childhood, had recovered when it was falling apart, and used all through college and adulthood.  You can see how serious I was about Bible study in the pictures I posted here.  All of the others got donated.

It's taken me nearly the length of one of those Bibles, but I finally come to the subject at hand, and that is my ring (I won't gollum anymore--pinky swear).***  I've had a few Jesus-y rings that had really been lost or given away, and when the great purge was happening early last year, I only had one left.  It was a sterling silver band, quite plain, with Hebrew writing etched in.  The English translation was found on the inside of  the ring--Jesus, the Messiah.  I didn't part with it right away, because I really liked how it felt on my left middle finger.  I've heard other ring-wearers say that one finger or another calls out to have a ring on it, and for some reason that finger is the one for me.  I feel a little naked without one there, like when I've worn a hat all day, and when I take it off all I am conscious of is the feeling of non-hatness on my head, except that eventually goes away and the ringlessness seems to be there always.  So, I kept the ring for more months than the other things, and just wore it so the inscription was facing down and not as visible.  I really did take this thing seriously about not giving the wrong impression--I do not think that Jesus is the messiah, nor that there is even a messiah to be had.  Honesty is crazy important to me, even more so as an atheist than it was when I was a Christian.

...And, honestly, I have prattled on so long about crosses, that I'm out of time to write.  Next time, and it will be soon, I'll finally get to how "I didn't like it so I had to take a ring off it...Whoa-oh-oh..."

_____________________________________________
*To be fair, this exit also has a Cracker Barrel now that wasn't there at the time, so, you know.  It's really true what they say... "It gets better."

**IHS is a Latin acronym from the Greek letters Iota, Theta, and Sigma.  In English letters, it would be JGS--Jesus, God, Savior.

***A pinky swear is a...just kidding.  No more asterisks, either.