Archive for June, 2008

Speaking Of

***Speaking of folks who show up making searches, I feel sorry for the poor person who wants to know “who sang all along the watchtower first.” I admire them for looking it up but I’m sad that it isn’t common knowledge.

***Speaking of potato salad, how come I am never capable of judging how big a container my ingredients will need? Or, conversely, only cooking and chopping the amount of ingredients which will fit the containers I do have?

***Speaking of rounding up the menfolk AND potato salad I opened my own jar of pickle relish. Of course I cried for a few minutes and then had my hand wrapped in a heating pad. But I did it, by golly. Hooray for my will!!! G. Gordon Liddy would be so proud.

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My post about sexy men just got my husband in trouble. I feel all like the Wizard of Oz controlling things from behind my curtain…

This is so much more fun than making potato salad.

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This all started over here. And it touched a nerve that throbs. Surprising absolutely no one, that nerve has to do with “women’s work”, “men’s work” and the church.

My dad is a good dad. He never cared that I was a girl. Let me rephrase that…. When it came to his workshop and all the tools in it, it didn’t matter to him that I was female instead of male. He still taught me to use whatever he had in there. He let me watch, learn and help when he built things and fixed things around the house. He has been in the legal profession for nearly 5 decades now, but he has always retained the ability–learned when he was young–to do work with his hands. To this day he will put aside the cases he has to study for adjudication to go out to the back of their property and repair a fence, carve a downed tree into firewood or build something for the grandkids.

I grew up seeing that, and I also grew up knowing that I could do it, too. It didn’t matter that I was a girl. I got an A in Woodshop. I built a few small things. I still like construction-type work, especially anything to do with saws. I like cutting and reforming wood.

A few years ago my church did a remodel of the old Rescue Mission building to turn it into a halfway house for women leaving prison. I about cried when it was made clear in Sunday School that only the men would be accepted as volunteers for the remodel. When I complained I was told that it was one of those Iron John Butch Male Christian things we do now, thanks to Promise Keepers and the whole Manly Men For God deal. So I quietly put aside my sadness and went on. I guess if the women can have Missions in the Morning where they eat salad and talk about whatever without inviting the men then the men can have Burly Building day.

But then there was the Habitat For Humanity house. I wanted to work on that so badly. When I went to the Narthex (or whatever First Baptist Nashville calls it) to sign up, I was told that they only took male volunteers for construction but that I could make some food for one of the lunch or snack breaks.

That about did me in. One of the things I’ve always disliked about the Menno-Amish culture I grew up in was the whole “Men Build, Women Cook” thing. Not that I can’t cook. I just don’t understand why I can’t also build. I’m grateful to both my dad and my mom for not really instilling those gender roles in us. (Although the boys could have had to load the dishwasher more often.) But in a way it’s always made my life harder. When you’re taught to colour outside the lines, the lines never make sense.

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Other than my husband–for whom I have direct evidence of other people finding sexy–I tend to have crushes on some not-so-mainstream people.

I was reminded of this the other day watching Ghostbusters. I went through a whole decade of my life convinced that Harold Ramis was one of the ten sexiest men alive. Or dead. (Seeing as how my list of What’s Sexy is ALWAYS topped by Abraham Lincoln. Well, Lincoln now cohosts the top spot with my spouse. But still.)

And then our little conversation of Prog Rock reminds me of that crush I had on Ian Anderson my Junior Year of high school. I dumped him, though, when it turned out he was only 5′ 9″. My men have to be at least 6’1″. That’s just how it is.

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I have been bribed to go against my principles. One drive to Watertown, one concession-stand pizza and the ability to take my dog with me to the movies seems to be the going rate for cajoling me out of a firmly held stance.

I’m going to see Wall.E on Saturday night.

I didn’t want to see it, because even though I love Pixar movies and all things associated with Apple Computer, I just cannot stand it when movies preach. Even moreso I can’t stand it when movies aimed at kids preach. Right or Left, Christian or Athiest. It doesn’t matter. Wrapping your message in candy-coating so the kids will swallow it unaware is just dirty pool in my book. Not to mention the fact that such stories often suffer by being turned into a heavy-handed morality tale. (Phillip Pullman, I’m looking in your direction.)

The man to whom I’m married insists that Wall.E isn’t propaganda, and that it’s a fun happy good time story about robots in outerspace. I, on the other hand, think that he may have missed the part where the whole set-up is that the hero robot (Wall.E) is stuck all alone on Earth cleaning up the trash that humans left behind.

No message there at all. Right? Right?

Spare me.

Since it’s Pixar I presume that I’ll be wowed by the graphics, bowled over by the cuteness and awed by the technical prowess of the filmmakers. But I’m really ticked at having to sit through the bran to get to the raisins. Oh well. At least it isn’t Davy and Goliath.

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I seldom write about music. First, there’s that whole ‘dancing to architecture’ thing, and then there’s the fact that I live in Nashville. You can’t swing a pack of dead catgut guitar strings without bumping into someone who Knows All About Music. Everywhere you go there are Music Majors, Music Theory Majors, the grandchildren of country artists from yesteryear and songwriters. Songwriters. Songwriters. With all the songwriters, who needs me to write about songs?

Me, I just like what I like and pass on what I don’t. I just turn it up loud when I need to clear my head or dance or feel a bit of what it’s like to fly.

And that’s why, no matter what other folks say, I am seriously dedicated to Jethro Tull. Yes, I know they have a flute in the band. I know that Ian Anderson’s signature flutist pose, with his left foot anchored into his right knee, looks rather fey and unrockgodlike. It isn’t cool, like the devil horns or the bat decapitations and it isn’t authentic like the stink of alcohol drifting off Hank Williams, Jr. in waves even after his death.

But I don’t listen with my eyes. Or to impress other people. I listen with my inner self, and that’s the part which likes the rumbling-train base and funk jazz piano of “Locomotive Breath”, the bittersweet melody of “Stuck In The August Rain”, the sneer of “Cross-Eyed Mary”.

My husband often tries to hide my portion of the CD collection, because the Tull and the disco compilations and the showtunes and the entire shelf of Meat Loaf are just so uncool. But to me the music I like is what I like for me. I’ve always loved music and it’s always been essential to who I am. It was only later that I found out there is the music You’re Supposed To Like and the music You’re Not Supposed To Talk About In Public.

So I’m breaking the rules. I like Jethro Tull. And I’m talking about it in public.

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This New York Times story announces happily that 70% of “religious” Americans believe that many faiths can lead to eternal life. Breaking it down further, they said that 57% of Evangelical Christians believe that.

Now, Universalism is not a new idea of course. Many Christian theologians, including C.S. Lewis, have some form of Universalism as part of their theology. Me, personally, I’m kind of where Lewis seemed to be–wrestling with it. How do you reconcile “No man cometh unto the Father but by Me” with Salvation being for everyone? How do you reconcile the parable of the lost sheep? If the Jesus in the story was so determined to find that one lost lamb, even with the other 99 in the pen, then why would the Actual Jesus be willing to let certain folk slough off into the ether? I’ll be honest. I don’t know. I know that I personally claim the cross of Christ and the Gospel. I figure the matter of other people’s salvation is ultimately the decision of the fellow who gave me mine. I’ll do what he told me–go into all the world and preach the Good News of Grace–but I don’t sit at that throne of judgement. Thank God, because I am unsuited to the task.

But this isn’t about religion. What I’m really concerned about is the wishy-washy nature of surveys. Honestly, most surveys are so poorly-worded as to boggle the mind. Especially the ones which come from the Pew Forum, where it seems they have a bunch of people who don’t understand religions asking questions of religious people.

Take, for example, this question:

“Do you believe other religions than your own can lead to eternal life?”

Now, the asker probably means “Do you believe that adherents of faiths other than your own will experience the same after-life as you?” Or, “Do you as a Christian believe that Jews go to heaven?”

But I know from personal experience that many evangelicals would see the original question and think “Yes. All religions lead to eternal life. The only thing is that if you follow one of the other religions you will spend that eternity IN HELL.” After all, we are called “evangelicals” because we, er, EVANGELISE. That means we think we have the right path and we want to let you all know. So you could safely answer “yes” to the Pew question and look all magnanimous and ecumenical while clinging to your doctrinal guns.

There has been a softening of Evangelical opinion over the years. I do think that there are many more like me–we’re the messengers, not the judge and jury–than there used to be. But I do know there are others out there who are firmly in the “You’re all going to hell and that’s your own damned (haa!!!) fault for not listening to me” camp.

I just think that maybe the people at Pew Research are so interested in getting grant money and fees from various campaigns that they maybe don’t fully grok the world they’re ostensibly studying. And the biased way they poll means that what the world thinks they know about what we religious schmoes are thinking and what we actually think are two different things altogether.

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But I’m going to give this the old college try.

Coming a few days late to the picnic, I was recently made aware of this editorial from the writer of Enders Game, Ender Strikes Back and Field Of Ender. Or something like that.

I used to think highly of Card as a good example of a working writer. Over the years, though, I’ve watched him seethe with rage at J.K. Rowling for writing better than he does and it has gotten tiresome. When he isn’t trying hard to drive home the key points of his Mormon philosophy in the guise of literature, Card can come up with some entertaining set pieces. Like Rowling he can create vividly imagined alternative universes. As he eagerly points out every chance he gets, there are many similarities between his Ender series and Harry Potter.

A young kid growing up in an oppressive family situation suddenly learns that he is one of a special class of children with special abilities, who are to be educated in a remote training facility where student life is dominated by an intense game played by teams flying in midair, at which this kid turns out to be exceptionally talented and a natural leader. He trains other kids in unauthorized extra sessions, which enrages his enemies, who attack him with the intention of killing him; but he is protected by his loyal, brilliant friends and gains strength from the love of some of his family members. He is given special guidance by an older man of legendary accomplishments who previously kept the enemy at bay. He goes on to become the crucial figure in a struggle against an unseen enemy who threatens the whole world.

Of course both of these stories–Potter and Ender–bear striking similarities to many other works of fiction out there. (Has Card ever acknowledged his debt to Heinlein’s Starship Troopers?)

Since Card doesn’t seem to see it for himself maybe I can explain why Rowling is a gajillionaire and Card is still trying to make ends meet by giving seminars in dank hotel conference rooms.

J.K. Rowling’s books are written in a voice which smiles and crackles. She knows how to engage her audience without being pedantic or churlish. Her world weaves together elements from the universal mythologies in such a way as to reinvent those centuries-old tales within her framework. Where she writes speculatively she does so in a simple, straightforward manner that is easy for readers of all ages to grasp. Rowling wraps her stories in sparkle-bright nuggets like ice cream cones, joke shops and treacle tart. Card, on the other hand, takes the same source material and weaves a dark, dystopian world of cold metal and space. Even the language is harsher. Where Rowling has poetic words rooted in French (‘Voldemort’) for even her villians, Card resorts to hard, cold gutteral words (‘bugger’) which leave the reader feeling raw instead of intrigued. To say the books are the same is to say that I am the same person as Barack Obama because we both have a skeleton.

It’s absurd.

What’s even more absurd is that Card is one of the legion of people who have decided that J.K. Rowling has no right to criticise Steve Vander Ark because she has lots of money and Vander Ark doesn’t. It’s the oddest argument against intellectual property rights that I’ve ever seen and seems to be springing from a sort of envy. Why else would he use words like ‘stupid’, ‘pretentious’, ‘coward’, ‘pathetic’ and ‘bully’?

Oh well. Card says in the piece that he makes enough money off Ender’s Game to be content. That’s good, because I doubt I’ll be throwing any more of my book-buying dollars his way.

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Since realising around age 14 that I can’t sing, I switched to ‘thinking’ in the shower, and that is where I do some of my best thinking.  During this morning’s wash-and-wax I got to thinking of the events of the past week, and it riled me.

Here’s the thing.  I have multiple chronic pain conditions.  (By multiple I mean “two”.)  Because of living with these for years, I’ve developed allergies and/or holes in interior body parts that prevent me from taking most over-the-counter pain meds.   I’m very self-conscious about this, because I feel like one of those people that the doctors on “ER” are always mocking behind their backs.   (“Oh, she just wants the pain meds.”)  The thing is–I do.  I DO want the pain meds.  Not to float off on some glorious cloud of euphoric high like a disenchanted film student, but to be able to walk from the bed to the bathroom without passing out.   To be able to actually do work instead of laying on the couch with a heating pad and whimpering.   I don’t love the pain meds.  They often make me queasy or sleepy, but if it’s between feeling like I had a big day at the mall or like I’ve been gutshot in an Old West mining camp and left for dead by savages, I’ll take the pain meds.

Here’s where the DEA comes in.  (No, I haven’t forgotten the premise of this post.)  This week I was having a bad endometriosis flare.   My doctor prescribes 12 Lortab a month for this purpose.   He will not prescribe any more because of the “danger for addiction.”   I’ve told him that since I’ve been told I can no longer supplement the Lortab with Anaprox (an NSAID), I need an alternative for pain management.   His office’s official alternative?

“Go to the ER.”

Well, I’ve been to the ER, gang.  More times than a 25 year old ambulance rig.  I know my ER bills by heart.  My average trip to the ER costs me (and my insurance company) around $890.   Had I an extra 12 pills–all it would take to manage the flare–it would cost me and the insurance company around $22.50.

On my last visit the ER physician said that my gynecologist “needed to do a better job of pain management for [my] condition.”   My gynecologist wasn’t impressed with the criticism.   Because of the DEA he sticks hard and fast to his self-imposed perscription limits.  I can’t say that I blame him, really.

I know this is a topic I’ve whined about before.   I know there’s precious little I can do.  I’m deadly embarrassed whenever the topic comes up, but I’ll be honest.   In a world flooded with press about addicts, where a good junkie-in-the-family story can net you a million-dollar book deal (whether the story’s true or not) I think it’s important for pain patients to speak up.   We’ve been ghettoised by the bullies who abuse the medication we need for survival.  By being so vocal they’ve turned anyone taking a course of pain management into craven, wasted blues musicians in the eyes of society.

Guess what, society?   It’s starting to cost you.   Remember next time your insurance premiums go up at work.  Don’t blame the poor immigrants.   Blame the DEA which has a hand in making folks like me pay monthly visits to emergency rooms for basic treatment.

This month?  I stayed home and gutted it out.   I’ve been gutting it out for a lot of years.   It would be nice if instead of writhing in pain I’d gotten to go to the Eddie Izzard show at the Ryman.   Just once I’d like the cake instead of the death.

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I’m going to talk about the two tv shows I watched this weekend which made an impression. My rant about homosexual men on reality shows turned out to be longer than I thought, so I’ve more-tagged the Design Star portion…

First, though, let’s talk about Battlestar Galactica
[spoilers here, gang]

Finally. I sat through what felt like at least four excruciatingly dull episodes about Baltar As Ascendant Christ and Starbuck as Cassandra and Laura Roslin as Mother Mary/Passion Christ. It got to the place where I was happier doing something else at the computer while the show played out in the background. Otherwise I was as bored as a child at a church budget meeting. (And I know whereof I speak.)

Then they knocked it out of the park. Adama literally breaking at the news about Tigh. The naked sense of betrayal in Kara’s face to find out that her husband was a skinjob. Baltar’s “Holy Cow! That makes THREE Cylon’s I’ve nailed!!!” upon Tory’s big reveal.

And of course Earth. You just knew they weren’t going to land in the middle of Central Park to the strains of a marching band–the story is too dark for that. When they step out into a barren wasteland, geiger counter ominously ticking announcements of radiated soil, I just know the writers were counting on all of us to think “Planet Of The Apes”. We’re supposed to just know that the Humans made it to Earth after we bastards had destroyed it already.

Sorry, no. I don’t buy it. I think the big twist is that the motley crew of Humans and Lovable Cylon Kin are going to actually prove to be our forerunners in that whole Chariots-of-the-Gods way. That’s why the ruins on “earth” were so nondescript and vague. Besides, the Human scriptures are always full of that “It’s All Happened Before and It Will All Happen Again” circular futility.

Since my last set of analysis proved to be so on the money I feel good about going with my gut on this one.

Design Star (more…)

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