Monday, July 18, 2016

Love and the Headless Chunky Shapeshifter in Modern 'Literature'

I'm noticing a disturbing trend in romantic fantasy literature. I call it the Headless Chunky Male Shapeshifter trend. These books can be identified by the picture on the cover of a large white man's well-built chest and no face - there being no room on the cover to waste on such a triviality. Or maybe it costs more for an artist to paint a face. Dunno.Also there is a picture in the background or the bottom-left of whatever creature the character turns into.
I subscribe to two lists of free and cheap Kindle books that arrive in my inbox daily. They know I like Fantasy literature, so this type of book is thrown into the mix.
my mother used to read novels of this ilk, except that they were all real-world stories that didn't include anything magical or paranormal- just lots of sleaze that was peddled as literature. That was before vampires and werewolves became mainstream, back when you could still consider yourself edgy for reading Anne Rice.
Maybe Anne was the one responsible for making vampires mainstream. Maybe it was the Twilight series. Maybe it's been evolving that way for some time. I remember Frank Langella climbing the wall in the 70's version of Dracula, and my 15-year-old mind and body going haywire to the point where the girls I was with asked if I was all right. Shape changers have always been sexy for me, but then I was the odd one out. I was what we would now call a "girl geek' - a title I would proudly have claimed. I didn't know the word,"Geek" then, and this was decades before the word would be claimed as a term of respect and camaraderie. I knew that a lot of boys were into Star Wars, and no girls besides me. I really didn't know anybody of either gender who was into Paranormal fiction.
Skip forward to the twenty-tens: Every mediocre writer who wants to be published is putting out a paranormal fantasy novel. Either that, or an Outland-type romance featuring time travel. Like "it worked for Twilight and Outland, so if I follow the same formula to the letter, it will work for me," kinda thing.
While I realize that mediocre copycat literature will always be with us, what bothers me most now is the way men are depicted on the covers. It's de-humanizing. It's like you're telling a story about a woman who falls in love with a bulky chest, not the man who owns it.
And what is it about a human chest that is even fascinating in a story about a shape-shifter? To me it's like, Never Mind what he looks like as a human; he can turn into a FUCKING DRAGON for gods' sake! He could be the Guy who Gets Sand Kicked in his Face at the Beach, and once he turns into a dragon, or a wolf, or a bat, he's absolutely got my attention. More so, in fact, if his human persona is one that can be easily overlooked.

Oh, that and a decent storyline that isn't constantly interrupted by pages and pages of passion and innuendo that fail to move the story forward at all. You see, I can find porn online any time. If I'm reading a book, I want the story, thank you very much.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

I tried Portugese Knitting. Here's what I discovered.

A few years ago, prompted by a class on Craftsy, I ventured off the beaten track and tried my hand at Continental knitting. I had read that it is easier on the hands and faster than English knitting. All this was true. Unfortunately it took me a long while for my stitches in Continental to be a regular as my stitches in English. Thus I was not able to immediately  apply the new method to the projects I was already working on.
In fact it turned out that the only way I could make Continental work for me was to do everything the instructor on Craftsy said not to do, such as wrapping the string around my finger to control the tightness. Really I think I might have picked up the skill quicker if I'd had less 'instruction.'

Meanwhile, I'd also heard of a thing called "Portuguese Knitting" and had vowed to learn that skill once I could afford the Craftsy class. There was no need to wait though; The two videos below were more than sufficient to teach me all I needed to know. The first video teaches how to do a knit stitch; the second, how to do a purl stitch.



It took me about two minutes of watching the video to "get it." I started out first on some scrap yarn, but quickly moved to my major project.The knitting was coming out fine and there was no need to spend more time practicing.
One thing I do recommend is to get a Portuguese Knitting Pin. Because while you can wrap the yarn around the back of your neck, this makes it hard to pick up and put down your knitting at a moments notice, especially if you have long hair.
If you are learning to knit for the first time, I highly recommend that you start with the Portuguese style. It will save you having to learn it later when your hands start aching or you want to knit faster.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Thoughts on becoming Pagan Clergy


The following is an excerpt from something I have been studying in preparation for the Correllian Ministry.  It was an address to the clergy of the Church of Gaia, back in the day. The essay is called "What Gaeists Believe" and it's published as part of "Correllian Philosophy" 
This really struck me, as I have been trying to pin down why I want to become a Correllian Minister, and what that will mean for my life and purpose. The 'energies' referred to are those of the changing age, and the power and destruction, and eventually rebirth, that will accompany them.



"...At this time we Priests and Priestesses have the special
task of understanding and assisting these energies and
those affected by them.
In becoming a Priest or Priestess you commit to helping
both the planet and society as well as individuals. There
will be many problems and crises on both large and
personal scales with which you may be called upon to
help, as well as the High Magic of Priestcraft. You must
be caring and compassionate to those who look to you for
guidance, yet also be strong enough not to be misused.
You must be teacher both of universal truth and correct
action, and a facilitator of universal life –helping those
who turn to you to overcome all blockages and hindrances
to their own greatest potential. You are taking them and
helping them to find their places in the universe, and to
weather and even rejoice in the coming changes. You
must be their advisor and friend, their leader when
needed, and their defender and protector. To be a Priest/
Priestess is not an easy path. It is a vocation –a calling,
not a job. It requires courage, persistence, and dedication,
as well as psychic and magical training. It is a high calling,
not accepted lightly. Yet the rewards are great. The world
will change. The changes can be easy or hard, the results
to our liking or not –it is to guide this that we are called. If
we do not, the world will change without us. It is a window
of great opportunity in which great things can be done, if
we choose to do them. This is the choice put before you.
Think on it well, for it is not a one-time choice, but a
choice to be remade and more deeply made each day. A
steep path leading to great heights and ancient magical
things. Think on it well".

Saturday, October 18, 2014

A perspective from the Front Lines

My friend Janelle Wintersteen, whom I've known longer than any other person on the face of this earth, has this to say about the lifting of the Gay Marriage Ban in Idaho, and the role played by the local Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship:

" I watched the couples with marriage licenses come out of the courthouse and what struck and humbled me was how far the general community has come from the implicit and public demand when I first came out, for secrecy. For most people, LGBT and not, the first condition of gay life was secrecy. This was a demand that came both form the "straight' side and from the LGTB side. Older Lesbian women whom I met could be made physically ill at the thought of coming out. The hidden Lesbian life that I encountered was ridden with alcohol, characterised by" serial monogomy" and organized into all sorts of groups who were suspecious of other groups. The secrecy and repression had motivated this. I could come out at BUUF (the Boise Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship) and I was coming out at work, but it was several years after I began coming out before I met Lesbians who were feminists and unafraid, cheerful and encouraging. Wednesay, October 15, what I teared up over was not the marriages but the fact it was done , joyously, in front of Boise, the entire population of Idaho, and beyond. That is the change I rejoice in and I do not take it for granted.


   Wednesday what humbled me was the amount of Unitarian-Universalist's on the courthouse plaza. I chose the right group, one of the most wise decisions I ever made in my life. Because you are not so personally involved with LGTB life, it is sometimes easier for you to push new freedoms forward when I have a "yeah, that's the way it has always been" attitude. I am not naturally a leader who can bring people together and I deeply appreciate those with more leadership than I have stepped forward time after time, especially now in the planning for the "At Last party." I am delighted by Micheal Casias and Sara Olsen's leadership of the Rainbow Connection. They are fresh and original and hard working-they would ben any situation and I am thankful that it is ROC benefiting from their talents.

    The morning that brought  LGTB marriage to Idaho was one of the many times that I felt very glad that I have seem such changes in my adult life time among and within the members of the LGTB cummunity. I am very thankful for the moves and shovers among LGTB and I know that people in this congregation have helped empower those leaders and added their many talents and good energy to the effort. There is still more work to be done, but I am taking the time to pause and tell you all how much I thank you all at this Boise Unitarian Universalist church and how much I appreciate you."
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Monday, July 14, 2014

Mykah's 2d Birthday!

video
Mykah Alexa opening her birthday present from us. She's 2 on Friday!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Roll of the Dice: An Introduction to Tabletop Role-play

Are you looking for a new experience that challenges your creativity and your intellect? Are you interested in a type of game where players cooperate with each other against their environment?  Are you bored with Monopoly? You may be a good candidate for tabletop roleplaying,   also known as pen and paper role-playing.
Playing Morrow Project at our church
The best-known  tabletop role-playing game is Dungeons and Dragons, a game plagued by stereotypes of pimply adolescent males dragging their two-dimensional characters from room to room of a 'dungeon' defeating predictable monsters.  Thankfully the quality and depth of tabletop roleplaying has gone far beyond this trope.
 Unlike in online roleplaying, tabletop role-players gather together in person. There is no computer required (although one may be used by the game's facilitator or game master).  Players roll dice or use other means to determine such things as the outcome of a battle, or whether a character is able to convince someone to do something in his favor.

For the Love of a Character 

In my late 30's I was introduced to a game master  who was running a role-playing  game known as 'Harnmaster', which I've later come to describe as 'Dungeons and Dragons goes to college,' due to its emphasis on detail and realism.  He helped me create a character that was as rich and three-dimensional as any character in fiction that I've ever read; a young priestess of a goddess of chivalry, who had spent her adolescence as a slave in a brothel. Further, he gave me a world to play in; the island of Harn, with its many cultures, religions, and intrigues.
It can be difficult to explain the appeal of tabletop gaming to someone who has never done it.  Being involved is not the same as watching on the sidelines – it’s an entirely different experience when you’re making the decisions and viscerally experiencing the outcomes.
In trying to describe quality tabletop gaming to people who are unfamiliar with it I have developed two analogies. One compares it with theatre, the other with fiction writing.
Have you ever been in rehearsal for a play?  There's this period when everyone is just starting to get into character and is playing with the concepts of the play and what it's trying to say. Everybody’s having fun, because at this stage, perfection is not expected.   Then opening night approaches, the tension sets in, the play goes on... then it's over.
Now, imagine that that fun part of rehearsal could go on.  No opening night, no stress, no ending - just you and your friends playing your characters and a plot that is ever unfolding.
For the second analogy, imagine you're writing an epic novel with friends. Each one takes the point-of-view of one character and adds to the story by writing about what their character does. One writer, called the game master, is in charge of describing the world and the minor characters, intrigues and situations the characters will encounter within that world.  This analogy is not that far-fetched, in fact. The Dragonlance Series was written based on a Dungeons and Dragons campaign.

Why So Many Rules? 

... only an environment that is fundamentally rational, has a high level of internal consistency and is carefully maintained can give the feeling that one is involved in an epic.
                              -N. Robin Crosby, the creator of Harnmaster, 1988.
In any game, there are rules that make it possible for everyone to have fun.  This is especially true of tabletop gaming. Remember when you were a child and played make-believe?  Do you remember why you stopped? It may have been because someone said, "I shot you, you're dead!" and someone else said, "no I'm not. You missed."  Having no way to determine who was right made it impossible to keep playing.
For this reason, good roleplaying has rules and limitations.  Most use dice to make the decisions, with the odds weighted according to the abilities of the characters and the difficulty of the situation.
The enforcer of the rules is the gamemaster (or the Dungeon Master, as they are called in Dungeons and Dragons).  He or she not only oversees the dice rolls and the rulebooks, but makes sure no character is so powerful that they overwhelm the other characters and make them unnecessary.  The main purpose of the gamemaster is to make sure everyone has fun so that the game can go on.

You sold me on it. Now what? 

If you want to find a group to role-play with, a good place to start is your local game store.  Many game stores host tabletop roleplaying games,  and may have bulletin boards to help gamers connect.  Another way is to go online.  There are several sites that are designed to bring role-players together; one such is at http://www.rpggamefind.com­.   Another good source is http://meetup.com , where you can find groups that meet in person for almost every purpose imaginable.
One night the lights went out. We kept playing.
Can’t find a group?  If you’re brave, you can start one.  Becoming a game master requires, first of all, that you choose a gaming system and study up on the game mechanics – basically the way decisions are made.  Secondly, you need a setting – the world of the game and the scenario the characters will be starting in. Thirdly, you need to find a group; either sell the storyline to your friends, relatives, or co-workers, or advertise for players online or through your local media.

Final Thoughts

In the end, tabletop roleplaying is simply cooperative storytelling.  It stretches the imagination.  It allows people to come together to create something profound and amazing, blended from the talents and eccentricities of the players, and the characters they create.  It is addictive and fun.  It provides a form of social bonding.

Speaking of social bonding:  that gamemaster that introduced me to gaming?  We were married about a year later and are now approaching our tenth anniversary.  He runs two games every week now, which I play in.