Where’s Your Spirituality?

I signed up to do 10Q this year. It is a sort of introspection and self-examination exercise that is followed up on one year hence so that one can better peer into their past self.  I’ll let them explain:

10 Days. 10 Questions.

Answer one question per day in your own secret online 10Q space. Make your answers serious. Silly. Salacious. However you like. It’s your 10Q. When you’re finished, hit the magic button and your answers get sent to the secure online 10Q vault for safekeeping. One year later, the vault will open and your answers will land back in your email inbox for private reflection. Want to keep them secret? Perfect. Want to share them, either anonymously or with attribution, with the wider 10Q community? You can do that too.

Next year the whole process begins again. And the year after that, and the year after that. Do you 10Q? You should.

I was quite busy this weekend and they piled up on me but I thought I would share a brief version of my answer to one of the questions. Here is the question for day 5:

Have you had any particularly spiritual experiences this past year? How has this experience affected you? “Spiritual” can be broadly defined to include secular spiritual experiences: artistic, cultural, and so forth.

Now I am an atheist agnostic. There was a time when I begrudged others their faith, but that time has passed and I have no issues with anyone’s faith so long as it is their own and they harm no one else in its practice. Basically, no fundies.  That said, I’ve felt in better spiritual communion with some important people in my life in the past year and I thought I would share my answer to this question.

My girlfriend is a religious person but I have self-identified as an atheist agnostic since I was 18. Neither of us thought we’d date someone like the other and yet two years in we live together and have begun to plan for the future.

For a long time, religion has either been a taboo topic (with my family) or a point of disagreement. Neither of these was particularly welcome. Yet talking to my gf and her mother has been huge in rehabilitating my view of religious people if not organized religion in general.

In a talk with gf’s mom, I found that we could both speak very openly not only about religion and spirituality but also about philosophical differences in general. Through that discussion, we found that to a point we believe much the same about god (little ‘g’) though we come from different directions. It boils down to this. She believes in god and believe the old adage that “God is love,” a platitude I never much cared for myself. Except that, to an extent, I can believe in /god/ myself. For me, love is God and God in created between people to towards a great purpose and faith in humanity. It matters not at all that we come at this from different angles, only that it works for how we engage with others, kindly and towards understanding.

Interestingly, this led a month later to a similar reservation with my gf wherein we found that we have much the same conception of life after death, once again reached through vastly different philosophical mazes. It has been wonderful to find such communion with my SO and her mother through these talks. The devil, as they say, is in the details, but god (or any number of other words or ideas you might ascribe to this phenomenon) is found in generalities and in one another.

Sadly I’ve had no such revelations with my own family, but even so it has been nice to connect with adoptive family (as well as and including one of my oldest friends, TheJackoSpade) is such a way.

I’m looking forward to reading my 2014 answers in the Fall of ‘15. I may even share an answer or two at that time, along with updates.

itswalky:

totally disagree with this dave willis jerk

This actually made me feel a lot better about a work interaction I had earlier this week. Badly wanted to desk the jerk, but instead I asked if he’d like to door pulled to (as it had been before I went to his office).

itswalky:

totally disagree with this dave willis jerk

This actually made me feel a lot better about a work interaction I had earlier this week. Badly wanted to desk the jerk, but instead I asked if he’d like to door pulled to (as it had been before I went to his office).

Wedding Season is Upon Us

In the last year, my lady has been to two weddings. I found out recently that these were the first two weddings she’d ever attended. That was a bit surprising, given that we have two more coming up in the next month and at least one next year and the promise of more soon after. She is part of almost all of these and unlike the last two, I’m included as well.

Chels and I have an anniversary coming up as well, on the day of one of these weddings, and she has an anniversary of her own (life anniversary … if only we had a term for those). All of this makes for a month and a half of wedding and bridal showers, bachelorette and bachelor’s parties, and weddings with the odd birthday (there’s the word) dinner, anniversary dinner, and cross-country trek.

It’s going to be a busy one.

Why is everyone getting married now? In the middle of her favorite month? It just seems mean.

On the plus side, we have an upcoming trip to Boston not related to wedding activities.

On the other side of everything, we have Fall and Winter holidays coming up and Chelsea is big on every bit of it. I’m having a hard time seeing through to the next truly free weekend, but so far I’m pretty excited.

Is this adulthood? Does it start at 28?

"Celebrate" Banned Books Week?

I love the very existence of Banned Books Week. Like so many positive things, it is an expression of utter revulsion set against a societal ill. In this case, the idea of banning books and thereby hindering the freedom of speech as well as true intellectual freedom.

In a piece posted to Book Riot this morning, Kelly Jensen took exception with “celebrating” Banned Books Week. Like some other readers—as indicated in the comments—I immediately wanted to roll my eyes, believing this piece must be reframing an argument for little to no reason. Instead, Ms. Jensen made a solid argument for why “celebrating” Banned Books Week turns the situation into a marketing opportunity. It most certainly does. And she points out that what needs celebrating during this week is the protected right to intellectual freedom, a fight that should and shall exist as long as sentient sapience remains.

She also points to the privileged inherent in people saying they can always buy the book elsewhere. That’s all well and good for an adult with spending money and fair access to goods and services, but it misses the impoverished and those without ready access to good bookstores and online retailers. What of the young student whose only access is the school library that’s been forced to remove a work from the shelves by a knee-jerk school board worried about the upcoming election?

On this point, I have to differ. I would like to acknowledge that I have exactly the privileged above mentioned. I would also say that I had none of those privileges during much of my childhood. In the small town of my youth, I moved to the adult section quickly—with my parent’s written permission as I recall—because of the paltry offerings in children’s and YA lit. Still I would like to “celebrate” BBW in this way at least. Access can be tricky, but reporting banned books is ever easier. When a group seeks to ban books, it is often along petty lines like cursing, but often it isn’t. Instead, we find in these books the contentious social issues that plague us as well as a manifestation of why these issues need our attention.

It is unacceptable that the neighbor boy’s terrified parents want to assert their will not only over their own child but over the whole district, but it is not something likely to stop. Yet it presents an opportunity to rally to the cause and say that no idea, no matter how unpopular, is anyone else’s to police. Short bodily harm or the provocation of the same, you should celebrate the push back against this with BBW at your local library. Away from the trappings of capital, it is part and parcel of celebrating intellectual freedom as well.

Movie Clubs, pt. 2: The Pay-Off

Alright, so in the previous post I somewhat circuitously got around to explaining how keeping up with my friends has resulted in my being exposed to movies I would not otherwise have seen. That was only half the fun. I’d like to share with you some films we’ve watched over the past few months along with absolutely ironclad reasons why you too should watch them.

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Elevator to the Gallows was our first film and an absolutely fantastic film. You can hardly go wrong starting with a Criterion restored flick. The first film from the director of My Dinner with Andre and Au revior, les enfants, it is the story of a successful businessman who plots to kill his boss—and love’s husband—and the series of circumstances that follow. It is somewhere between film noir and New Modern and features an unexpectedly spectacular score.

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One of my own picks—though I’d never seen it—and one I was unlike to watch on my own. I first heard of Ordinary People from Martin Starr’s character on Party Down. There should be no mistake, this is one amazing downer of a flick and it is as likely as anything else in your life to drive you to nihilism. It features perhaps one of the worst mother’s this side of Baby Jane and plenty of early influence of contemporary mumblecore. All that said, it is a very powerful movie and for my money, a film that everyone in their late twenties out to watch.

Ordinary People

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Chosen by my lady and promoted to the group as “The Crucible with lesbians’” The Children’s Hour tells of the witchhunt that ensues when spurious rumors against a grade school teacher’s sexuality earn her the ire of the community. A good deal more follows after that, as well. Chelsea chose this flick for us because so many of Hepburn’s films have fallen by the wayside in modern consciousness and, as she said, we far too often do not get to see her talent on the silver screen. Acting along side Shirley MacLaine, she was quite right. Hepburn had chops.

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Dark Star was my friend Walter’s pick and I can only assume he was trying to play his (and his lady’s) love of camp against my affinity for sf. This was another film with which we were all unfamiliar and we went into it unaware that it was meant to be a comedy. Even so, it is often funny unintentionally, features a scene of inter-species sexual assault, more ’70s hair that you’ll know what to do with, and the best space surfing ever seen. This was John Carpenter's first film, evidently written and rewritten during the course of his adolescence.

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Another of my picks, though in this case I had previously seen the movie. I love recommending The Man from Earth to people because though the acting is very strained and the entire action takes place in the living room of a remote cabin, it is great fodder for conversation. The story depicts a man who has survived 14,000 years revealing to his latest group of colleagues and friends his hallowed past. My group is pretty evenly split between religious and non-religious folks and when you see the film, you’ll recognize immediately why that is significant as well as just one of the many discussion topics this high concept film evokes.

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Did you know there was a made for TV Star Wars Holiday Special? Well, I did, but for reasons that are perhaps quite obvious I never sought it out. Why? Ok, well, I don’t care for variety shows. Doesn’t much matter that I never sought it out, as it has never been released for purchase. It only ever aired once and with good reason, though we can thank or lucky stars—or maybe Satan—that someone out there got the whole thing down on … I wanna say Betamax?

The TV special opens with Han and Chewy before quickly moving to a scene featuring Chewy’s family utterly devoid of subtitles that culminates in what I can only imagine must have been the Wookie grandfather’s orgasmic to his Life Day gift. Confused yet? It won’t get any better. Honestly, never watch this movie. Even the RiffTrax version was virtually unwatchable and we bailed about half way through. Lots of good jokes, sure, but almost all of it gallows humor. You know, the jokes you tell your similarly scarred war buddies.

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LATE BONUS ADDITION:

Another of Jenn’s favorites, this movie is beyond ridiculous in so very many ways. Part of a slew of gang flicks from the ’70s, Swtichblade Sisters is what happens when you drop politics and court intrigue into the middle of modern day Detroit. If you like Tarantino’s obsession with grindhouse, check this one out. I can’t stand the guy—not since Kill Bill, at least—but it’s a ton of fun to watch with a group of friends.

Movie Clubs, pt. 1: The Build-Up

We watch entirely too much TV, and I’m sure I’m no exception. When I was a kid, I remember seeing the average number of hours spent by America’s youth watching television and thinking it seemed low. But, of course, I was propping that number up. Some kids watch nothing at all while others, you own ilk, watch ridiculous amounts.

I was a latch-key kid and somewhere between my childhood adoration of books and the late teenaged rekindling of the same.

That isn’t to say I don’t still watch a lot of TV. We all Netflix is crazy, passionate sessions. Netflix says that most people finish a seasons of television in a week. Not to knock it. Some TV is far better in binge form. But just as I read voraciously as a youngster before giving it up for a time, I once jumped on the no-TV bandwagon, only to abandon it a couple of years later for a Nintendo Wii.

Over that same time, I swapped from a diet heavy on TV to one wide ranging in films. Then, it seemed, I went back on that as well. It seems I spend far to much time watching TV, often at the expense of movies. It isn’t hard to see why. Stephen King has lamented the unwillingness by most people to read short fiction. In his estimation, we like novels and series especially because we can down play the risk of not liking a character with the promise that, should we find one we love, we get to cozy up with them for days, weeks, or in the case of enormous fantasy series, months. We’re afraid of short stories, King insists, because ever new title is a game of Russian Roulette.

I’m inclined to agree, even as I see myself doing the same things. Over the last couple of years, I’ve read more genre than not and more series than standalone while also watching more episodic television than films. It is very cozy to be wrapped in people and stories you understand. I also try to fight that impulse by making myself read short fiction and watch unfamiliar films. Much like a morning run, I’m never sorry when I do and I’m often disappointed when I don’t.

Recently, some friends and I inadvertently made part of this process easier for me. Trust when I say I have no shortage of films I want to see, just limited time in which to watch them. With the constant constraints of work, my friends, lady, and I have been getting together weekly for movie nights. We all live in close proximity, but even so it can be hard to get to see people. Once a week, we meet at rotating houses to pick movies on the same basis. Sometimes there is a theme, other times the only rule is that no one else can have seen the film.

It’s been a mix, thus far, of exposure to new flicks and an absolute riot. Though we have all trod a common ground, those places where our tastes differ have been rich ground for movie nights, exposing each other to missed gems and under-appreciated titles. Of course, sometimes that leads us to absolute garbage flicks and out come the catty remarks, cat calls, and tomfoolery. All fans of Mystery Science Theater 3000, we almost always descend into ridicule at some point in every movie. These movie nights have been a great way to keep us in good company, keep close to good friends, see new movies, and have a laugh.

It occurs that the more interesting version of this post might have been my favorite flicks from the new movies club, so let’s do that next…

A 15 Question Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Book Meme – SF/F/H Reading/Buying Habits

It’s Saturday morning and I spent last night with excellent people sipping fine cocktails, eat dive bar food, and dancing to the ‘80s. I’m not quite ready to embark on writing today, so a little pseudo-writing procrastination, why not.

What was the last sf/f/h book you finished reading?

  1. The Shadow of the Torturer (Book 1 of The Book of the New Sun) by Gene Wolfe

What was the last sf/f/h book you did not finish reading and why?

  1. Dies the Fire by S.M. Stirling. I was onboard for the premise, really wanting some post-disaster survival, but the constant good fortune of the clan and the convenience of Mike’s side story made it hard to care about anyone. Post disaster, everything is coming up roses. No.

What was the last sf/f/h book you read that you liked but most people didn’t?

  1. I honestly can’t say. Based on Goodreads reviews, I would say that opinion on The Book of the New Sun is fairly split, despite numerous avid fans. I disagreed with the negative consensus, so that works I suppose.

What was the last sf/f/h book you read that you disliked but most people did?

  1. Maybe it hasn’t aged well, but I really didn’t care for The Stars my Destination by Alfred Bester.

How long do your 1-sitting reading sessions usually last?

  1. I don’t often find long stretches to read but rather read in fits and jags all day every day. I usually read for a solid half hour before bed, though.

What are you currently reading?

  1. I’m rereading books 4 & 5 of ASOIAF using a proposed merged reading order for chronology’s sake. This is the first time I’m reading the physical books, having listened to Roy Dotrice’s excellent audiobooks before. The reading order has been great so far. http://boiledleather.com/post/24543217702/a-proposed-a-feast-for-crows-a-dance-with-dragons

Do you like it so far?

  1. Reread, so…..

How long ago did you buy the book you are currently reading (or the last book you read)?

  1. The set of ASOIAF books was bought for me for my birthday last month. The last book I bought and read was The Shadow of the Torturer. I bought it six months back and read it last month.

What was the last physical sf/f/h book you bought?

  1. Hate to repeat myself, so see above.

What is the sf/f/h sub-genre you like the most and why?

  1. This changes with the wind. Just a few years ago I couldn’t get into high fantasy on the page and now I’m very much into it. I love a good space opera for the elements of humanity or at least people placed into the harshest possible environments, not to mention the frequent upheaval of power structures.

What is the sf/f/h sub-genre you dislike the most and why?

  1. I’m very selective about horror and find much of it utterly unfulfilling. I’ve never seen the appeal of urban fantasy, though I love Mieville’s Perdido Street Station, so maybe I’m just very select there as well.

What is your favorite electronic reading device?

  1. I like the feel of the kobo sized like a MMP, but I’ve never actually read a book on one.

What was the last sf/f/h eBook you bought?

  1. Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie, but I’ve not yet read it.

Do you read books exclusively in 1 format (physical/electronic)?

  1. Oh hell no. Print, eBook, audio. Just read!

Do you read eBooks exclusively on a single device (eBook reader/ smartphone / tablet)?

  1. Almost. I read comics on the computer as well, but I primarily read digital books on a Nexus 7 tablet.

Oh damn, I’m done. Time to write, slacker!

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