felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
Happy (belated) Midsummer/Solstice/Litha to those who celebrate it, and happy first day of summer to those who don't.

I did my usual high-speed catch-up on LJ. Which is why some of you have spammed inboxes today :)

I keep meaning to review books I have in an ever-growing stack on my desk. One that really deserves more than the short shrift it's going to get is Douglas Coupland's Generation A. I believe this to be his best book. In fact it pretty much gathers together the best of his other work in one delicious, richly-written piece, and leaves the dross. So if you only ever read one Coupland, this is it.

It's a short, simple novel of a likely dystopian future - one where "Colony Collapse Disorder" has wiped out the bee population. Most flowers are dead. Most kinds of fruit are rare delicacies. As the novel progresses, the dystopia deepens, and even worse horrors are in the offing.

In the midst of this, five strangers are stung by the supposedly-extinct bee. They're isolated, studied, and strangely become friends. They wind up on Haida Gwaii, where they start to piece together the mystery of what happened to them, to figure out how they got there and where they're going.

After years of mid-quality and poor-quality efforts, Coupland's more than back in form with this one. He restricts his obsession with ripping plotlines from the headlines to just the bee extinction, so it doesn't feel like he's just cribbing Yahoo News to flesh out his books. The iciness and callousness of his later work isn't here. This one is sensitive, intelligent, and the themes and plot and character are all rich and engaging.

More than that I couldn't say without giving too much away. Except that it's highly recommended.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
On Wednesday, I went to the memorial for Isaac Bonewits. For those who don't know Bonewits, he was a neo-Druid and the founder of Ár nDraíocht Féin - an umbrella organization that supported different Pagan reconstructionist groups - Celtic, Germanic, Hellenic, Roman, Slavic, and Vedic. It's the largest Neo-Pagan organization I know of.

Bonewits' legacy )

Another thing I learnt about Isaac Bonewits is that he was a consummate geek. Not too surprising. And though he'd written many songs himself, he requested the song Annie Lennox had written for Lord of the Rings be played. So here it is:

felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
On Wednesday, I went to the memorial for Isaac Bonewits. For those who don't know Bonewits, he was a neo-Druid and the founder of Ár nDraíocht Féin - an umbrella organization that supported different Pagan reconstructionist groups - Celtic, Germanic, Hellenic, Roman, Slavic, and Vedic. It's the largest Neo-Pagan organization I know of.

Bonewits' legacy )

Another thing I learnt about Isaac Bonewits is that he was a consummate geek. Not too surprising. And though he'd written many songs himself, he requested the song Annie Lennox had written for Lord of the Rings be played. So here it is:

felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
So, yeah. Among the books I have on my pile to review is the strangest thing I've ever read - and I speak as a fan of manga, and someone who's read Beautiful Losers, Nightwood, and parts of Finnegan's Wake.

I'm talking about The Malleus Mallificarum, of course - the greatest witch-hunter's manual of the Middle Ages.

Maybe again the Burning Times? Plus, there's no good answer to the question, 'What does a witch do with stolen body parts?' )

So, yeah. A useful historical text, and good for any writers trying to build a realistic Middle Ages. I wouldn't exactly recommend it as pleasure-reading, though.

In infinitely more pleasurable entertainment, I saw the Scott Pilgrim movie last night with good friends. I'll talk more about the series when I get to reviewing the graphic novel, but I will say this - I'm startled by how well they adapted such a potentially hard-to-film work.

I wasn't thrilled with the choice of actors - I was sceptical more for their appearance and voices than their acting talents - but they all interpreted their parts excellently. Kieran Culkin made a (surprisingly) perfect Wallace Wills.

The ending hadn't been written yet when the film was made. The graphic novel ending is much better. But that's a very high bar and the movie was still really, really good. I highly recommend.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
It's been a quiet few days.

Writing progresses. This heavy edit is about 70% of the way through. I've heavily altered the tone. There's a couple of characterizations of secondary characters I'm not entirely sure about, and the dream sequences are always a sticking point, but I notice there haven't been any massive structural changes in the last two re-writes.

I don't think there will be any more full re-writes, just more edits.

Otherwise, I've been reading Drawing Down the Moon. I also finished the video game Okami, a strangely beautiful Japanese game in which the hero is the sun goddess Amaterasu, and the style of art is drawn from traditional illustrations of Japanese myth.

It's funny -- if a game like Okami were made here with Christ as its protagonist, or in the Muslim world with Mohammed, the studio's main offices would get bombed. In Japan, you can use Shinto's chief deity this way without fear.

And in spite of the game's many little irreverences and its playfulness, it proves to be very pious in its own way by the end -- an update of myths rather than a negation or parody of them.

Now I'm playing another game frequently mentioned on people's lists of video games that can be considered high art -- Shadow of the Colossus. And it is a sweet little jewel of a game, almost eerie in its unclutteredness, and more a lyric than narrative. It has a very Ursula LeGuin feel to it, and something of a dream, while being disturbingly realistic in all the ways that count. Here's the opening scene.

It's such a strange game, though. The RPG genre is usually so cluttered. This is an RPG with no levels or stats or menus or magic or lines of attack or random encounters or limit breaks or stores or money or treasure or towns. Just a teenage boy who can't do much of anything you can do, except maybe use a short sword passably well, and ride horseback. His only magic is a sword that points the way to things.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
From Christianity & Paganism in the Fourth to Eighth Centuries, in the section dealing with Christian attempts to eradicate the "rustic" paganism of the illiterate country folk once they were done with the priesthood and temples in the cities:

"Take the learned Agobard of Lyons, bishop until his death in 840: he writes a treatise titled, though perhaps not by the author, 'Against the stupid opinions of the masses,' in which he begins, 'In these parts nearly everyone, noble or lowly, citified or rustic, old or young, thinks that hailstorms and thunder are within the control of man'; and from here he goes on to describe a universal belief in practitioners called tempestarii or weather-men who can be called in to control the source of the phenomena, which most folk say come from a sky-land called Magonia and are born along celestial ships.

"Now this, says Agobard, is madness, a great stupidity; and the most profound stupidity of all which he recently witnessed was the exhibiting of four people tied up and held in the public prison who, it was advertised, had accidentally tumbled out of the ships!"
Am I the only one who thinks that castaways from weather-controlling skyships into Dark Ages France would make a great basis for a fantasy short story? I'm filing this one away for later.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
So today's the eve of the American election. I guess that means that obsession will be over for me, but Quebec's government is expected to call a general election tomorrow.

After that, there won't be an election for me to obsess over until the Montreal elections in late 2009, unless one level of government falls in the meantime.

Obama's grandmother died yesterday. The fact that creepy Republicans conspiracy theorists are coming out of the wordwork and screaming that Obama killed her to cover up something related to his birth certificate just makes me like them even less -- and I didn't think that was possible.

John McCain, meanwhile, was born in a place that isn't even American territory anymore (Panama Canal Zone) and you don't see anyone trying to get him disqualified.

Meanwhile, many blogs and newspapers are carrying a story in their man-bites-dog sections about a witch doctor neighbour of Obama's other grandmother who cast the bones to predict and Obama victory.

Kenya and witches have been coming up a lot this election -- even more than lipstick on pitbulls and pigs. First it was Sarah Palin belonging to a witch-hunting church, and crediting her Alaska gubernatorial victory to a prayer from Kenyan witch hunter Thomas Muthee. Their church claims to fight witchcraft with miraculous effects brought about by prayer.

I wonder if Muthee and Radima have ever met? Probably not, but it would be interesting. Maybe the American election should be determined by an anime-style, apocalyptic battle of magic between the two.

Hell, it makes about as much sense as the electoral college system.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
Today I finished Lover's Legends: The Gay Greek Myths, Andrew Calimach's attempts to restore at least one version of the more homoerotic Greek stories. Few of them are direct translations -- they're all mixes and matches of different fragments from a wide variety of sources to create possible lost versions.

He uses the Erotes of pseudo-Lucian to frame it. The Erotes is an old debate (1700 years old) over which sexual orientation is best. I've read the Erotes before, and Calimach keeps close to the more popular translation (although his is more poetic).

It's absolutely beautiful, and Calimach puts a lot of his own poetic and spiritual energies into it -- he's especially interested in shamanic ideas underneath some of the mystery faiths and older myths.

One idea he discussed only in one of the footnotes intrigues me -- the idea that the mystery cult of Dionysus may be one of the sources of Christian mythology/religious practice. I've always been quite interested in the roles other religions played in the development of Christianity and Judaism, which have been traditionally portrayed as appearing fully-formed with the arrival of tablets and/or messiahs.

This claim always seemed suspicious to me, and it seems now that Christianity especially arose out of a soup of local religions and traditions in the eastern Empire -- the Cult of Isis (and Horus), Zoroastrianism, Cynic philosophy, and Mithraism. Virgin births were a dime a dozen, as were sons of gods, saviours of humanity, and harrowings of hell. Now we can add Dionysus to the mix, too.

I'm going to read Jim Egan's biography next, and after that -- having read something like five books in a row on gay topics -- I'm going to move on to other subjects. I have Seamus Heaney's Beowulf here, which is probably a good candidate.

After all, nothing less homoerotic than sweaty, muscled men.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
Just wanted to wish a Happy Lughnassadh to my fellow celebrants!
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
You know, I know lots of wonderful, open-minded Catholics. But the Catholic Church itself seems to be one giant machine for spewing evil. It was only a matter of time before they'd take a break from their homophobia, anti-safe-sex tirades, and sexist tirades, and rear their ugly head towards the environment:

"But in a speech to US Catholic business leaders, [Archbishop of Sydney, Australia, George] Pell said Western democracy was also suffering a crisis of confidence as evidenced by the decline in fertility rates. "Pagan emptiness" and Western fears of the uncontrollable forces of nature had contributed to "hysteric and extreme claims" about global warming.

'In the past, pagans sacrificed animals and even humans in vain attempts to placate capricious and cruel gods. Today they demand a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.'"
There's definitely an emptiness here, but it's not a Pagan one.

Meanwhile, I was considering reading The Da Vinci Code. My experience with Harry Potter taught me not to snobbishly despise popular literature. Some things really are popular becuase they're genuinely good. Plus, I was familiar with the Holy Blood, Holy Grail conspiracy theory.

So I read excerpts. Mad albino monks? Who is this Dan Brown? Horace Walpole? And the French people talk like rejects from an Inspector Clousseau movie. I think this time, my snobbery has been confirmed :)
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
Holidays

You know, I have no objection at all to people celebrating their own holidays. And while I know some other Wiccans get cantankerous about being wished a Merry Christmas, I certainly don't. I know it's meant well.

I do object to being pinched for not wearing green on St. Patrick's Day, as one of my co-workers did yesterday. It's not exactly an act of violence, but it is creepy, and makes me wonder why a non-Irish Neo-Pagan should be expected to celebrate the death of Paganism in Ireland.

I keep joking about it, but one of these days I really am going to celebrate Bring Back the Snakes Day. Some people already do. We could have our own parade :)

Politics

Harper, Secrecy, and Afghanistan )
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
In other news, there are apparently 40,000 Greek Reconstructionists living in Greece, at least according to the organization that represents them. Greek Reconstructionists are people who are trying to bring back a modernized, updated-for-the-21st-century version of the ancient Greek religion.

If those numbers are accurate (and they are comparable to growth of neo-Pagan faiths throughout the West), then that means 40,000 Greeks -- or 0.4% of the population -- have returned to Zeus, Apollo, Athena, Aphrodite, and the others.

I predict they're going to be accused of being "inauthentic", as any kind of neo-Pagan group invariably is. Which always raises the twin questions for me of a) what's "authenticity" in religion -- how is it measured? and b) what would the original Christians hiding in their catacombs think of modern Catholics, Baptists, United Church members, Pentecostals, etc?

The Greek Reconstructionist organization was recently refused the right to build a temple in Athens. I wonder if the style would have original or modern? Marble must be expensive these days.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
I almost forgot -- a happy Mabon to those whole celebrate it :)

Profile

felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
felis_ultharus

September 2011

S M T W T F S
    123
45678910
11 12 1314151617
18192021222324
252627282930 

Syndicate

RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios