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)
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)
Just thought I'd stop in to wish a happy Lughnassadh/Lammas to those who celebrate it - and a happy August to those who don't.

[livejournal.com profile] em_fish and I had a lovely afternoon chez [livejournal.com profile] jenjoou today. Other than that, it's been a quiet day of writing (twice my daily quota), and cleaning the apartment (mostly) top to bottom.

I'm not looking forward to another week of lots of overtime this week, though :/
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
Happy (belated) Litha/Solstice to those who celebrate it!

Things are much better this week than last. Another day I might post more about it. But I've got lots of overtime this week, so time is short and I'm not up to my quota of writing.

I did want to say that I have very good friends, though.

Also, how many of you have heard of the Cult of Antinous? Knowing my friends' list, probably quite a few.

For anyone who hasn't, though, Antinous was the beautiful boyfriend of the Emperor Hadrian, one of the best-respected of the Roman emperors. He died in AD 130 - drowned in the Nile, and whether accident or murder is still debated. Hadrian was distraught. He built a city in Egypt (Antinopolis) on the spot where Antinous died. He had statues and monuments to Antinous built. He put his face on coins.

Most of all, he declared him a god. People could and did worship Antinous.

Well, some gay Neo-Pagans have resurrected the worship of Antinous. One of them will be making a guest-post on The Wild Hunt Blog tomorrow.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
So I became the last person on earth to see Avatar this week. Probably the last person on earth. The indigenous Dongria Kondh people of India are using the film to draw attention to their plight. Poor Chinese folk are using the theme song to protest the demolition of their homes. So it seems to have made it out of the bubble of well-to-do West.

And this movie has had a lot of resonance. And that's because it is brilliant as a work of art, and - just as importantly - touches some important nerves.

The genius, the genius loci, and flaws of Avatar - long and spoilery, but who hasn't seen it really? )

So in short, if there's one person left who hasn't seen it, they probably should. Its only seriously flaw is the racist implications of being Dances with Wolves in space. But there's so much else there, just in terms of its sheer beauty, and its ecological and its spiritual themes, that I have to recommend it.

In more immediate political news, please call up your MP and ask how they're voting on bill C-389 tomorrow. That's the bill to give a small number of basic equality rights to trans people - on-the-job and as-a-customer stuff at airports, at banks, and with the federal government. It's minimal, but it's a start. Currently it's legal to discriminate against trans people in pretty much everything.

If you don't know who your MP is, you can use your postal code here to find out. The real risk is apathy. Most MPs probably don't think you care, and they have a nasty habit of playing hooky from the House of Commons when they think the public doesn't care.

The transphobic, meanwhile, will be in the House for sure to vote against it.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
So I have a pile of books on my desk I've been meaning to review. The oldest of these is The Wind in the Willows, a book many read in childhood but which I only came to as an adult.

I knew it mostly as the book Margaret Atwood mocked. She even wrote a much-anthologized poem about it, called "The Animals in That Country." I didn't even think to read it until I read that Kenneth Grahame was what we now call Neo-Pagan, although the term didn't exist then. He'd written an essay he didn't dare publish, favouring the worship of Mother Nature. His wife was even more fanatical. She didn't want to get married in a church, though Grahame insisted for respectability's sake.

Which brings to The Wind in the Willows. See, there's a deeply Pagan chapter that's almost always removed from modern editions. When I heard that, I started looking for an old edition that still had this chapter, "The Piper at the Gates of Dawn." Then one landed in my hands entirely by accident.

Review continues )

Other than that, things are quiet. I'm working on a third novel right now - I'll need space to re-do the second I nearly finished after I submitted my first. Still waiting to hear back on the first, but it's only been two months, and they said it could take up to six.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
Just thought I'd pop in to wish a Happy Mabon to those who celebrate it, and a happy spring equinox to those who don't :)

I actually had today off as a religious holiday. No static on that. As bad as my workplace has been lately, there are still some things that make it head and shoulders over any other job I've had.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
Just thought I'd stop in to wish a happy Lughnassadh to those who celebrate it.

I'm nearly finished my own current edit on version six of the novel. It's a good day for it, seeing as my main character's name is Lleu, a variation on the Lugh that this day is named for. The Lleu of the Mabinogion was probably originally Lugh the Sun God, before he was shrunk down to be palatable to a then-Christian audience :)
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
Happy Midsummer/Litha to those who celebrate it!

I've lived like a hermit for much of the last week, which I think I needed. I'm about one-third through the a revision of what looks to be a complete second novel, but other than that and work, I've had a lazy week.

I am quite proud of this, though. That resolution was my idea. [livejournal.com profile] montrealais encouraged me to draft a resolution, which he helped edit and presented. He also brought it to MP Peter Stoffer's attention.

Parliament's out so I'll have to wait until after summer to see where it goes from here. It's highly unlikely that it'll pass -- private members' bills rarely do, and even in a minority government, the Opposition parties can't force the government to act on a bill that involves spending money.

Still, it's a thrill that something I wrote is going to be debated in government. And maybe it'll start the ball rolling on a debate that'll end in a real action. It'll probably have to wait until we have a prime minister who's not evil, though.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
I thought I'd pop in to wish a Happy Beltane to those who celebrate it.

Appropriately, I'm nearly finished Drawing Down the Moon, which has been for decades the one book a person should read if they want to have a general overview of Neo-Paganism. The first edition was published in the 1970s, the edition I read is from 1986, and I'm actually amazed at how well it's stood the test of time.

Review continus )

For people who aren't interested in the history, Neo-Paganism as a cultural phenomenon, demographics, and thealogy, here are two fun facts I gleaned from this book:

  1. Tim/Otter/Oberon/Whatever-he-is-this-week Zell -- a leader in that most hippie of Neo-Pagan groups, the Church of All Worlds -- holds the patent on unicorn creation in the US. It's patent number 4,429,685. It's described in detail here. To anyone who says unicorns start with horses, not goats, Zell points out that in the earliest legends, unicorns were goat-like.

  2. Slepnir was the "newsletter of the Asatru Folk Assembly's Aerospace Technology Guild" and it explored "space sciences, rocketry, and aviation from the perspective of Germanic spirituality." I looked them up. Somehow they managed to publish at least twelve issues.
So there you have it. No word yet on whether the Asatruar have surface-to-air anti-unicorn missiles, but I'm certain it's only a matter of time.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
Just thought I'd stop in to wish a happy Ostara to all who celebrate it, and a happy first day of Spring to those who don't.

March came in like a lion, then became a lamb, but that lamb now has distinctly leonine parts. I think I glimpsed a mane this morning, and I'm pretty sure those are claws.

If it further mutates to incorporate goat parts and dragon parts, someone's going to have to call up Bellerophon.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
I finished Apuleius's The Golden Ass just now on my lunch break at work -- now increasingly translated as Metamorphosis perhaps to avoid the misconception that it's ancient Roman porn. Of course, with Metamorphosis for a title, it could easily be confused with Franz Kafka, or with Ovid (who actually was writing ancient Roman porn).

So it's an 1800-year-plus-old book about a man who decides it'd be a great idea to dabble in witchcraft and accidentally turns himself into a donkey. Like most pre-modern novels, it's more a serial set of adventures -- like a D&D game -- than a single novel. In the end of it, he's saved by the Goddess, in her guise as Isis.

Some thoughts:

Review continues )

I've now moved on to Margaret Atwood's Payback, her lectures about debt as a cultural and religious and moral phenomenon (as opposed to a purely economic one).
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
Just thought I'd stop in to wish everyone a Happy Imbolc who celebrates it :)
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
So I just finished Reinventing the Sacred by Stuart Kauffman. Kauffman is a biochemist and biophysicist at the University of Calgary with a master's in philosophy from Oxford -- impressive credentials for the author of this book, which argues for the non-deterministic complexity and creativity in nature as an alternative both to deterministic/atheistic science and religion.

It's an interesting introduction to some of the weirder and more wonderful aspects of science. And I sincerely do hope that he manages to make a dent in determinism and reductionism, which have done so much damage to the world. Here he follows in the footsteps of giants like John Ralston Saul and David Suzuki here.

But, largely, it's a failed book. If he'd taken an additional degree in military history, he might have known not to open up a war on two fronts, especially if you only understand the enemy on one flank.

I'll try to make this as un-dense as possible, and hope it's of some interest to some of my readers. )

My next read is Apuleius's Golden Ass I suspect my review of that will be a lot shorter, and I hope that the above wasn't all that bad.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
Just thought I'd wish everyone a Happy Yule!

I had a small rit for myself here before anyone was awake. It's difficult arranging something like that without tools. Even some decent candleholders would've helped.

BC is trapped under a rare blizzard -- we actually got several feet of snow here last night, and the temperature has been hovering at -10 all week. Of course, BC sold off all of its snow-removal equipment more than a decade ago, so all the snow on the sidewalks has compacted to ice sheets and people are being advised not to travel except in emergencies.

For that reason, I've been keeping mostly to my parents' Tudor-style home in Saanich. I do hope to see Sean today, but the roads between here and there might be impassible.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
I just thought I'd pop in to wish everyone a Happy Samhain to those who celebrate it, and a Happy Halloween to those who don't.

My Samhain is going to be crazy. I'm glad I arranged to take the day off. Before anything else, I have to finish up my story for the CBC Literary awards, which has to be postmarked no later than today.

I bought some very nice paper, and a very nice envelope. Those things help, as I learnt from my days marking papers. But then naturally my roommate's print cartridge is out of toner.

After that, there's preparation from trick-or-treaters -- anyone dressed as Sarah Palin gets double candy -- then ordinary daily life tasks, a get-together tonight at an indeterminate time. And somewhere at night tonight, I need to have the rit I've been planning for ages. I'll probably only sleep for a couple of hours, and do the rit in the early morning.

So it's going to be a very stressful Samhain.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
Not that the Canadian election is over, I can indulge my obsession with American politics without guilt.

Mostly, it's the train wreck called Sarah Palin. I go through waves of horror and laughter. She's crazy, and that seems hilarious until it comes on you that she's damn close to the centre of America's -- and by extension, the world's -- most powerful office. They're behind in the polls, but a day is an eternity in politics.

It's hard to laugh at her sometimes, because my fellow Neo-Pagans in the US are so (rightfully) scared of this woman and her church's obsession with "witches" (by which they mean Neo-Pagans, fortune tellers, and animists and polytheists in countries where these weren't wiped out).

Palin denied she knew that her church was involved in these things. But her favourite pastor had tried to raise a mob against an elderly fortune-teller in Kenya as a "witch." Palin was caught on camera getting a blessing from her pastor to protect her from witchcraft as she ran for governor of Alaska.

Most recently, the leader of Palin's older prayer group -- Mary Glazier -- bragged that their prayers gave a local Wiccan cancer.

Fortunately, she's scaring off the sane, and now McCain has to try and defend Obama against the crazies who now constitute McCain's core, and who are screaming for Obama's blood.

But you have to wonder, how did the US get to this brink? How did someone like Palin get so close to power? This was a country founded by deists on Enlightenment rationalist principles. Why is it now slipping back toward this Medievalism?

Hopefully, when this campaign is over, the only memory of Palin will be all the jokes about her -- Tina Fey skewering her with her own words, or all the Monty-Python era jokes from that other Palin ("Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition" and "She turned me into a newt!").

But it's hard to be entertained when the stakes are sanity in the most powerful office on the planet.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
Just thought I'd pop in to wish a Happy Mabon to those who celebrate it, and a Happy Fall Equinox to those who don't.

I've been scarce lately, and I hope no one feels neglected. After work this last week or so, I've mostly been working on the campaign, though not nearly as much as the heroic [livejournal.com profile] montrealais.

I've also somehow got to almost the one-fifth mark in phase four of my edit. I think there's going to be a phase five now, but that's okay because none of my editors will have time to read it before November anyway.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
I've had my hands full with Canadian politics, outside of work and school. But the bizarre story of Sarah Palin and the Third Wave Christians.

Most people have never heard of the Third Wavers. They're a charismatic Christian sect, very Pentecostal in style. Some Neo-Pagans (like myself) have heard about them through the Pagan news blogs, because of their peculiar obsession with us.

The Third-Wavers believe in magic. They also believe they're fighting "spiritual warfare" in an apocalyptic battle against the forces of darkness. And at the forefront of the army of darkness are witches -- meaning traditional pagans in places like Africa, meaning fortune tellers, meaning Neo-Pagans in North America. Tarot cards and other means are "dark sided," and these "warriors for Christ" talk about "doing battle" with us.

So far, American Third-Wavers have confined their weird Harry-Potter-meets-The-Handmaid's-Tale world mostly to rhetoric. In Africa, though, it's sparked a recent resurgence in the centuries-old practice of hunting witches.

Lately, Neo-Pagan websites have been documenting this resurgence, and this is where Palin comes in. Turns out that pastor whose prayers she credits with having magically put her in the governor's office -- apparently it wasn't democracy -- founded his ministry the day he successfully drove an elderly woman out of a Kenyan village for witchcraft. His name is Thomas Muthee, and he considers himself a witch hunter.

Neo-Pagans are also worried about the possibility that a woman whose church preaches they're the greatest threat the country knows could soon be a heartbeat away from being in charge of the Department of Homeland Security.

Me, I'm wondering now if Harper's Christian and Missionary Alliance are Third Wave. Not that I have any evidence one way or the other, but they do have close ties to the Pentecostals -- a common root in fact.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
I just thought I'd pop in to wish a Happy Lughnassadh to all those who observe it ^_^

I'm very slowly getting caught up on LJ again. Mostly I've been wrapped up in writing, in work, in Timothy Findley. I tried Psychonauts today -- I saw it at [livejournal.com profile] node357's -- and it deserves its reputation.

Er, yes -- how about ancient Roman Graffiti from the city of volcano-buried Pompeii.

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