Sunday, December 7, 2008

Music Meme!

Yes, somewhere in the middle of scribbling frantic thoughts on boddhisattva's, homoeroticism in the lives of holy fools, and queer critiques of marriage theology, I stopped to play this game.

Put your MP3 player on shuffle, and write down the first line of the first twenty songs. Post the poem that results. The first line of the twenty-first is the title.

i’ll tell you something…

destiny, destiny protect me from the world --
the Mississippi Delta is shining like a national guitar --
they watch you, your expert double exs

your cd collection looks shiny and costly
you can look, but you can’t touch
whatcha gonna do when the party’s over?
take me back to dear old blighty?
time is like a broken watch

isn’t god allowed to think?
i am he, as you are he, and we are all together
touch your thighs, i’m the lonely one
i tried to fall in it again

adia, i do believe i’ve failed you
what you want, what you got . . .

i can’t believe the news today
because the world is round
a sub-granite wall numbs our bones
on nights like this when the world’s a bit amiss
give me some of this
anytime i need to see your face

Monday, December 1, 2008

When beauty standards met punk cabaret...

Punk cabaret said "Fuck You." Amanda Palmer is leaving Roadrunner Records, because they insisted that shots of her "fat" belly be removed from one or her videos. More at Feministing.

We break from contemplation of ascetic practice and marriage theology to insist that Amanda Palmer's belly is a smoking hot belly. (What with Amanda Palmer being a smoking hot person and all...)

We shall now return to our originally scheduled day of theorizing.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Minister too tired for seven days of sex.

(yes, that was CNN's headline, deal)



I wonder what he would think of the early Christian practice of celibate marriage. And I'm bothered (but not hot) from the emphasis on wives realizing they needed to be more available to their husbands, and not so much the other way around. Seriously though, this is about the third evangelical minister I've heard of running something like this in the past year or so.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

One of these days...

I will get back to rambling here...but until then...

Congrats to Barack Obama!

And shame upon a bit over half of California, Florida, Arizona, and Arkansas. Shame.

Friday, October 3, 2008

The Hegemony of Representation

Two semesters ago, whilst reading an article on unofficial Soviet art, I encountered the quite useful term -- a hegemony of representation. I can't remember the technical definition, so here's how I internalized the term: what you get when one ideology or model dominates discussion and dicourse to the point of excluding all other models. By creating and maintaining a hegemony of representation, one group within society can effectively oppressive minority groups whose lives and realities are not reflected by the dominant paradigm. Pretty much a common sensical no brainer. But a useful concept when you want to analyze political function.

Friday, September 12, 2008

In Which Metra Longs for a McCain/Rice Ticket...

...'cause at least we wouldn't have this nonsense.

Attacking Russia would be a absolute disaster, and given that the USA and the Russian Federation have the largest stockpiles of nuclear weapons has a very good chance of heralding an actual eschaton.

I bet that didn't just leave Condi Rice cursing -- she probably had to fall back on her fluency in Russian.

Monday, September 1, 2008

A Swing...

...and a miss for Cindy McCain.



Are you serious, ma'am? Do you understand how flipping big Russia is? Is your entire understanding of foreign policy based on Risk where you can launch a nice attack on North America from Kamchatka?

Repeat after me: Putin is not an idiot. He will happily piss off America by expanding Russian Federation control over former Soviet republics. He will not attack America. Why? Because Vladimir Putin is not an idiot.

If John McCain were that great on foreign policy, you might think he might correct a misunderstanding on the part of his wife that's this glaring.

h/t to Pam's House Blend

Saturday, August 30, 2008

I am not now, nor will ever be, a member of the pre-pregnant party.

The Apostate on pregnancy, abortion rights, and bodily control.

I agree. One hundred percent. You should see me freak out when I think too much about the shard of wood embedded in my leg -- the drugs I would have to be on to carry a pregnancy to terms would probably result in a miscarriage anyway. Reproductive control is psychologically important.

And read down in the comments, it's also true that women are simply expected to hand over control of our bodies far more frequently than men, and with no fuss. If a man avoids doctors, the response is a shrug -- boys will be boys. If a woman avoids doctors like the plague and maintains an extreme distrust of medicine -- we're categorized as being irresponsible. Probably because for a good chunk of our lives we're categorized as "pre-pregnant."

Monday, August 25, 2008

Things You Should be Reading

Terrance at the Republic of T. has a series of posts on hate crimes that have occurred recently in Memphis. Part One, Part Two, and Part Three. I'm ashamed to say that I was only aware of one out of the three incidents.

"Transphobic Words and Deeds" at Questioning Transphobia is one of the most enlightening and thought-provoking posts I've read in a while.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Yes, Picard would totally kick Kirk's Behind

And I don't know enough about Doctor Who to make a prediction, but I totally wish I could see this production of Hamlet.

Monday, August 4, 2008

As usual, Fox News Should Be Ashamed

The story is that Mary Winkler has been awarded full custody of her daughters, who will continue to have visits with their paternal grandparents.

Unfortunately, the media vilification of Ms. Winkler continues with Fox News in the lead. Their headline for the balanced AP article: "Killer Mom Gets Kids" with a blurb that only identifies Matthew Winkler as a preacher and Mary Winkler as the convicted killer. (The screencap below is of Fox's home page, which I frankly don't care to link to.





I've previously ranted about similar treatment of Ms. Winkler by the Memphis Commercial Appeal and CNN, but that biased coverage pales in comparison to this travesty of journalism.

Fair and balanced, Fox News? Yeah. Better word is hypocritical.

h/t to Fran

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Book Meme

According to The Big Read, the average adult has only read 6 of the top 100 books on this list.

The instructions:
Look at the list and:
Bold those you have read.
Italicize those you intend to read.
Underline the books you LOVE.

1. Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2. The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3. Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4. Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
5. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6. The Bible

7. Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8. 1984 - George Orwell
9. His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10. Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
13. Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14. Complete Works of Shakespeare
15. Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16. The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17. Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18. Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19. The Time Traveller’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20. Middlemarch - George Eliot
11. Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12. Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
21. Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22. The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23. Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24. War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25. The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26. Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27. Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28. Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29. Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30. The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
33. Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34. Emma - Jane Austen
35. Persuasion - Jane Austen
36. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis Why on earth is this book on here twice?
37. The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39. Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40. Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
31. Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32. David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
41. Animal Farm - George Orwell
42. The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown (This really shouldn't get anyone credit.)
43. One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44. A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
45. The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46. Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47. Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48. The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
49. Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50. Atonement - Ian McEwan
51. Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52. Dune - Frank Herbert
53. Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54. Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55. A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56. The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57. A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens

58. Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60. Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61. Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62. Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63. The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64. The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65. Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66. On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67. Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68. Bridget Jones’ Diary - Helen Fielding
69. Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
70. Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71. Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72. Dracula - Bram Stoker
73. The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74. Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75. Ulysses - James Joyce
76. The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77. Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78. Germinal - Emile Zola
79. Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80. Possession - AS Byatt
81. A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82. Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83. The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84. The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85. Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86. A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87. Charlotte’s Web - EB White
88. The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90. The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91. Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92.The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93. The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94. Watership Down - Richard Adams
95. A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96. A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97. The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98. Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100. Les Miserables - Victor Hugo


And a final point of contention, where the heck is the Brothers Karamazov?????
Delete The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrode -- since it's included in the Chronicles of Narnia -- and add TBK.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Carnival!

The Carnival for Progressive Christianity is up!

More on the Knoxville shooting

Two pieces of analysis from the writers at Alas, A Blog.

The Dangers of Demagoguery
My additional comment here is that Tennesseans have experienced not one, but two major incidents of demagoguery put into action this year. The first was the burning of the Islamic Center in Columbia, TN. And now this. Maybe Tennessee will manage to wake up at some point and recognize their political grandstanding does actually hurt people.

Also from Alas: Guns, Killing, and People

Yay, Kiera Knightley!

Kiera Knightley is insisting that her breasts not be digitally enhanced in the publicity for her upcoming movie. What a novel concept!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Knoxville Church Shooting

A gunman walked into a Knoxville area Unitarian-Universalist church yesterday and opened fire, killing two members and injuring others. His actions probably were influenced by the church putting up a sign declaring support for GLBT persons. The Knoxville police report that in a letter he wrote he claimed to target the church because of it's "liberal stance on things."

There's a number of blogposts following this with more info:
Box Turtle Bulletin: here, here, and here
Pam's House Blend
and
The Wild Hunt

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Zombies!

From Zan at Butterfly Cauldron:

And now, to the meme:

You are in a mall when zombies attack. You have:
1. One weapon
2. One song blasting on the speakers
3. One famous person to fight along side you

My weapon of choice: Oxy-acetylene cutting torch, tanks on a hand-cart, of course.

Our themesong: "Mean Town Blues" Johnny Winter

Famous side-kick: A certain college prof, preferably about with a certain college friend. That doesn't count, well...fiddlesticks. St. Andrew of Constantinople, then. (There is method, here, I promise.)

TAG!

Hello, Berkeley!

I am in Berkeley.

Getting here was harder than it should have been. The flight I was supposed to be on was delayed by more than four hours. Southwest rerouted the passengers, which caused nice full-to-the-brim flights, oh and everyone's baggage got nice and left-behind. By the time I got myself and my luggage together it was too late to get to the hostel in Berkeley, so I ended up at a hotel near the airport for the night, fuming and having vivid dreams of trying to catch my luggage. Murr... So instead of arriving in Berkeley at about 7 pm on Thursday, I arrived in Berkeley at about 11 am on Friday. Dropped my luggage in the hostel office, found lunch, bought a bus pass :), and made it to my first potential-roommate interview with next to no trouble.

So far, Berkeley is quite pleasant. The streets and buses are crowded with people. This has produced a small degree of cognitive dissonance, as my brain associates crowded streets and buses with hearing Russian. So I've been walking around expecting to hear Russian. This wasn't helped by the three Russian-language conversations I overheard today within ten minutes. (There was also a lady speaking some Slavic language on the bus on day one, but I think the language was Polish.)

So far, I'm quite happy with the bus system. I'm sure that eventually, I'll even absorb that bus schedules actually mean something here. I'm also happy that street-harassment is nothing like Memphis. As of yet, nothing, and that includes my trip today to a not-so-nice (but still not really bad) area of town.

The only "fun" thing I've done was wandering down to the Marina, which is quite pretty and pleasant and nice and SUNNY, so I'm nicely burnt.

The goal is to find a room, so if anyone knows someone looking for a roommate is Berkeley, holler, sing out, do whatever it is that you do!

And no, I haven't yet had the guts to even try anything purporting to be BBQ.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Memphis...

I fall in love easily. Or at least, that was the case with Memphis, when I was sixteen and declared to my mother while visiting that I thought Memphis was great and I wanted to live there.

I "left" Memphis a couple of weeks ago, but it hadn't really sunk in. Tomorrow, I'm leaving Tennessee for Berkeley, CA. The vast majority of Tennessee I'm kind of happy to be escaping, but glorious, midtown Memphis . . . Memphis, I will miss. I'm going to miss the bungalows. I'm going to miss driving down North Parkway with a canopy of trees. I'm going to miss not being able to figure out for certain if it's the monkeys at the zoo or the fratboys making noise. I'm going to miss Al Rayan's amazing food, the BBQ Tofu at Tracks, Central BBQ, the freaking Sputnik outside of Joe's Wines and Liquors, getting lost and exploring a new part of the city, Cooper-Young, the Campus Safety office, the churches, Elmwood cemetery, the random funky signs that are everywhere, hitting all the thrift stores on Summer Ave., Summer Ave., the pretty that is Peabody, driving back from West Memphis at night, the Mississippi, the flat terrain . . .

I'm going to miss that Memphis won't allow her lovers to become trapped in a white tower and forget reality, both the ways it's beautiful and flaws that need to be fixed.

Memphis, I will miss you.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Big Summer Movie!

If you have anything of a geek in your body at all, you should probably go see The Dark Knight at some point. As superhero movies go, this one's up there with the first of the X-Men trilogy and the first Spiderman. The plotline is well enough developed to carry the special effects, the hand to hand combat, the chase scenes, and the techie gadgets.

Yes, there may be spoilers in the rest of this, read with caution.

This may only be due to Heath Ledger. And I would say that even if I weren't dangerously close to being in the category of people who are only seeing The Dark Knight in his honor. Ledger's take on the Joker is brilliant. To paraphrase the WaPo's film critic -- you can see the broken boy peeking out from behind the makeup. The Joker is twitchy, goading, sadomasochistic, terrifying and often appears saner than the population around him: at one point, he comments that people are calm as long as everything goes according to the plan -- no matter how terrible that plan is. He's a man who has stared straight into the void and realized that you can ask why all you want but an answer won't be forthcoming. The Joker exposes the madness of the paradigm by taking it to it's logical extreme.

I was underwhelmed by the film's other two leading men. (The effect was probably intensified by my lack of finding either Christian Bale or Aaron Eckhart attractive in the least. Conversely, my sister grins a little when talking about Christian Bale who's "just so cute.") Bale doesn't need a wide range to play his character. He has to be brooding and gruff with a side of plastic playboy. Aaron Eckhart was not bad, but he didn't manage to capture much of an edge to add to his character.

Sadly, Maggie Gyllenhaal was visibly constrained in her role. Rachel had more guts in her left little finger than Harvey had in his whole body, and yet she's stuck playing second fiddle to him and Batman both. Sad times. She's definitely an improvement over the withering "Betty" from The Incredible Hulk, but it's rather maddening to her Harvey Dent mourned as "the best of us" and Rachel essentially forgotten.

Which brings me around to my next feminist beef with the film. It's my understanding that Commissioner Gordon's daugther, Barbara Gordon, aka Batgirl, aka Oracle, has far more of a role in the Batman universe. So why is Commissioner Gordon's son the child who is somewhat developed in the film? (Daughter appears, but only to be shielded from seeing bad things by mom.) Ergh. Come on, people! It's okay for girls to want to grow up to kick some supervillain ass!

But, honestly, I wasn't expecting a feminist subtext, and the film was a definite improvement on strongly anti-feminist subtext of The Incredible Hulk and the somewhat less anti-feminist subtext of Prince Caspian.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Eye rolls of the Day

First and foremost -- Christians feel "offended" by English translations of the Koran being left on their doors. Read more at Barthlomew's Notes on Religion. (Via. The Wild Hunt and The Jaded Hippy.)

Now how many Gideon Bibles and Chick tracts have I scored lately? Hmm...

Second, via Ramblings a gay man is suing Zondervan and Thomas Nelson claiming that the references to homosexuality in the KJV and NKJV and probably NIV have violated his constitutional rights by causing him emotional suffering.

The intent of the publisher was to design a religious, sacred document to reflect an individual opinion or a group's conclusion to cause "me or anyone who is a homosexual to endure verbal abuse, discrimination, episodes of hate, and physical violence ... including murder," Fowler wrote.

You know, I'm sure that the translations in question have caused him pain and contribute to the anti-gay bigotry of evangelical Christian culture. I'm inclined to think that the verses implied are, in fact, mistranslated. (Of course, I also think that to a great extent they are untranslatable.) And as for Zondervan's study materials, I don't think too highly of them. But, seriously, is this the best way to go about educating people as to the problems with those translations and study materials? And to paraphrase answers to one family of anti-porn arguments, the Bible doesn't kill people, violent bigots kill people.

In defense of the rest of us on the super-progressive side of world, this is not how we generally operate. I shall now return to reading subversively. ;)

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Michelle Obama

Frankly, folks, I kinda wish she were running for president. It's high time some leader in the country stopped pandering nationalistic bullshit and did something to fix the problems that can be fixed and improve what demands to be improved. It's all relative, darlings. I doubt the British papers painted Jefferson, Madison, Washington, et al. as "patriots."

It's also high time that the supposedly fair and balanced Fox news network quite using fearmongering and smear campaigns to up their ratings.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Let's Talk About Sex

The following theoretical was written as a response to a question about how to determine correct sexual ethics on a rather nicely varied discussion board of the Christian persuasion. I'm debating whether or not to post it, and probably sign it -- the celibate libertine.

I’m very wary of declarations of the “Biblical” code of sexuality. I think to a very large extent concepts don’t translate well between 1st and 2nd centuries C.E. and today.

The Biblical view of sexuality is complicated, to say the very least. For instance, if I said that rape (in the modern sex-without-consent understanding) is immoral, I would hope that I wouldn’t get much argument. But if you consider the way marriage has worked for the vast majority of human history, an awful lot of sex-without-consent has taken place while being dubbed marriage. (Ladies, close your eyes and think of England!) The idea of consent is constructed in a very different way – for instance, modern ethics would insist (and rightly so) on the consent of both parties involved; whereas, historically, the consent of the fathers involved was considered to be more important to forming a legitimate marriage or sexual union. Examples off the top of my head: Lot offering his daughters to be raped and the rule in Deuteronomy 22: 28-29, where if a man “rapes” a unbetrothed girl he’s to pay off the father and marry her. (I recognize that the law at least ensures financial security for the woman involved, or perhaps just relives her father of needing to provide for her – but I think it still illustrates the vastly different understanding of “moral” behavior in different times.)

The Bible is also an extremely androcentric book, which is another point to consider. There was a thread on another board about whether or not masturbation was moral. Well, the directly applicable Bible verses relate only to male masturbation. If we limit the scope to the Old Testament, this also applies to homosexuality. Male homosexuality is condemned, but there’s no mention of female homosexuality. Much of the Bible also assumes a male audience – one illustrative quip I’ve heard is that if a group of lesbian women were instructed that they were not to lie with a man as with a woman, the response would be something along the lines of “well, of course!”

My point is not that the Bible, Church tradition, community standards, what have you, should be ignored -- a egotistic standard of sexuality that is not in conversation with these and other sources is certainly not going to be moral. My point, which I think, a number of us here would agree on to varying degrees, is that reasonable people could disagree of the exact parameters of "moral" sexuality in good faith.

Working from Jesus’s command to love your neighbor as yourself, and the recognition of the basic personhood of women, I think the most fundamental rule for any Christian of any gender would be that exploitative sex and nonconsensual sex are absolutely wrong. The description of marriage in Ephesians 5 is one of the relatively few positive descriptions of human sexuality in the Bible. Frequently, the headship of the husband is emphasized as the defining feature, but it really is more proper to emphasize the idea that the husband is to love his wife as his own flesh. The trust, love, and loss of egotism in the relationship between the two partners is the defining element.* In fact, my feminist addition, is that the androcentric nature of the text should lead one to emphasize the action of the husband as the defining factor. (Now if we harmonize this with Galatians 3:16, treat husband and wife as arbitary constructs of human society, things get interesting.)

Depending on one’s understanding of the Bible, Church tradition, which Church tradition, I also believe that there can be a number of good faith understandings of how that principle should be put into practice. Additionally, while I firmly disagree, I don’t take issue with the belief, based on a literal reading of the Bible or logical paths, that homosexual activity is a sin provided that the person holding said belief treats all people with basic human respect. And now, I'll piss people off and say that treating all people with basic human respect means NOT forcing your opinions on what constitutes sin onto someone else's life via the secular government.

‘Tis complicated. To not even bring up the issue of exactly how the categories of immoral, unethical, and sinful should be broken up. Cheerios!

*There's varied several texts I'm drawing this idea from: First, a podcast from Ancient Faith Radio, you can find at: http://audio.ancientfaith.com/paradosis/par_2008-06-18_pc.mp3
For an extremely different and yet similar understanding see Vladimir Soloviev's essay, "The Meaning of Love" (which was actually written to defend a long-running affair). It's published in the collection The Heart of Reality, trans. Vladimir Wozniuk.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

mmm...catharsis

My excuse for seeing Wanted is that I, as a Russian major, must support the foray of director Timur Bekmambetov into American cinema.

My reason is that he's a slick and stylish director, and I like slick and stylish movies -- even if they're a bit low on the substance part. That and I'm in a mood where an ultraviolent flick is good for the mental health.

To begin, Wanted meets my basic demand -- it was worth the ticket price. (5.50 -- yay, for the local cinema's ladies' night!) Bekmambetov used an interesting series of cuts to keep the exposition from being too dull. (Can the Time Warp be dull?) The car chases were thrilling. The violence was creative and artful. The pacing felt a little slow at moments, but overall, it worked.

The movie relies heavily on a voice-over from James McAvoy. I'm not certain how I feel about it. I suspect it was a nod to Fight Club. The film also bears some strong similarities to Bekmambetov's campy Russian vampire film of gloriousness Night Watch. Both films open with a lesson in the history of the film's universe -- in Night Watch, the formation of a truce between the armies of light and darkness and here, the formation of the mysterious Fraternity. Both films have an underlying theme of creating and preserving balance (more on that later). The parallels between Wesley and Anton (the protagonist of Night Watch) are extensive -- wimpy dude suddenly finds himself killing things in visually nifty ways. And there are daddy issues.

Oh yes, and Konstantin Khabetsky -- who played Anton in Night Watch and appears to be Johnny Depp to Bekmambetov's Tim Burton -- appears as a Russian assassin with a collection of pet rats and a damn good bottle of vodka. (Platinum Russki Standart -- I wants it, precious!) His character is a little "off" -- I think blazhennii might be the Russian word for him -- and throughly delightful. We also have an Easter egg with the buzzing flies. Poor flies.

James McAvoy did well with his character he was believable whether he was wimping out, babbling in terror, or kicking ass. Morgan Freeman was predictably solid and created enough ambiguity around his character to make the twist that shall not be revealed fairly satisfying. Angelina Jolie was the weak link. Yes, she's hot with the guy and tattoos. But she apparently has two modes in this movie. Grim face and smirk. What happened to the Angelina Jolie of Girl, Interrupted?

If you go to this film, go expecting style, enterntainment, creative ways of inflicting a lot of damage. Do not go if you want a lot of substance.

But lest it be said that film has no substance at all, I will argue that it has some. The theme of balance provides some meat -- particularly if you wanted to force the film into conversation with the larger body of Russian philosophical work on the difference between egotism and individuality. Our assassin squad seems to operate with a binary of the wolves and the sheep. Are you going to be a sheep, blindly stumbling to your "destiny," or are you going to be a wolf and take destiny into your own hands? The movie doesn't provide a clear answer -- which I do think was on purpose -- and I like that. I wish that the film had taken a little more time to explore not playing that game at all -- which is suggested by the wishes of Wesley's father for his son, but whatever. Summer action flick.

Also, no one in their right mind should bring their six year old to this film. Someone did. The film is rated R for a reason. Shame on you, parent who did so!

Friday, June 27, 2008

On the Theme of Small and Cute Animals...

When I was younger, I was huge fan of the Redwall series. (I still take a bit of pride in having been an active member of the online fanclub Dibbuns Against Bedtime that was integrated into one of the later novels. Even if I haven't read said later novel.)

So, I thought I'd reread Redwall -- why not?

The opening scene is our bumbling little novice friend, Matthias the mouse tripping across the abbey in an oversized tunic and sandals. What's my first thought?

Geez, Abbott Mortimer is certainly failing according to the Rule of Saint Benedict, which specifically instructs the Abbott to ensure that all novices and brothers have properly fitting robes.

Ah -- the joys of being a religions geek!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Well, look what the cat dragged in...

Today, my sister's cat merited his oh-so-cliched name. Rascal brought us a baby rabbit.

Mind you, we're quite used to finding small dead animals on the doorstep, courtesy of Rascal or the other cats multiple suitors. So if he had brought us a dead baby rabbit, we would have sighed, and buried it, and gone on with life. However, Rascal decided not to kill the baby rabbit. In fact, other than piercing the baby's ear, he didn't harm the rabbit at all. He just brought the baby in the house and dropped it at the sister's feet

So, now we have a baby bunny, eyes not open, in apparently perfect health. (He's as active as a comparably aged kitten, so we don't think there are any internal injuries.) We've got him in a box with an old dishtowel and a heating pad of microwaved rice. The plan is to wait until it's close to dusk (when momma rabbits return to the nest according to a couple wildlife rehab sites), put him outside where we think the mother might find him, and hope for the best. (The mother's won't take them back was they've been touched by a human tale is apparently false.)

The baby is cute. Especially when he's dreaming. Or having nightmares about being picked up by a huge tomcat and dragged away from his nest. He "pops" every now and then. And there are pictures and video when I get them from the sister's camera.

Stupid cat.

ETA: We believe that the baby rabbit (dubbed George Michael by my sister, for reasons unknown but presumed to be sufficient) has been reclaimed by his mother. We left him in the area where we suspected the nest might be and were checking on him every now and then. Around 11, I shown a flashlight down to the were he was from the deck and saw a full-grown rabbit hopping away. Cut the lights, waited thirty minutes, and then walked down to check. No George Michael in his box, no signs of raccoon or possum dining, we suspect momma rabbit has her baby back.

Good thing too, as the closest wildlife rehab center is a 140 mile round trip. Saving this bunny could have gotten quite expensive. And, although, my mother was well on her way to trying to domesticate him . . . well, we really don't need an illegal pet rabbit -- cute though he might have been. (Little white stripe on his forehead. Very adorable. I mean, if a great-aunt had domesticated a skunk...)

Again. Stupid cat. But all's well that end's well.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Submission and Authority

I found a draft from a while back, and I can't figure out why I didn't publish it. So from February:

Russ Adcox (one of the CofC preachers/thinkers who I find well worth the reading time) has an interesting post up on the issue of authority. The particular context is the idea of discipleship and submission to the authority of Jesus in Christianity. A member of the congregation apparently brought up the problem that the idea of Jesus as an authority figure could cause an individual who has been abused by authority figures in his or her life.


I think there's a difference between a spiritual authority to whom you submit to for teaching and guidance and who recognizes that your submission is only possible because you have a basic authority over yourself, and an authority that claims you have no real choice, you will submit, or else.


On Beale Street the other night (I had friends in town), a group of about three people were hanging out with a large sign, informing everyone there that if our names weren't found in the book of life, we'd been spending eternity swimming in a lake of fire. This would be the submit or else version of authority. This would be the type of authority that kicks my fight or flight instinct into high gear. Should I ignore them and go elsewhere on Beale? Or should I sit down in a half-lotus position and start chanting the lyrics of "My Sweet Lord"?


This second type of authority is destructive and oppressive. It's the type of authority that has to assert itself through violence -- whether the spiritual violence of being damned to hell for eternity, or the realized violence of destroying another's house of worship. The implication is that one does not really have a choice. Anything which challenges the hierarchical norm will be punished.


I can see the fundamentalist reply of tough cookie -- that's just how it is, submit now or burn. To which I really can't reply with anything other than -- no. Ain't buying it.


Free submission to an authority is a different matter, of course

WTF?

Don't ask how my internet browsing ended up at beinggirl.com. But, eww! Shouldn't there be some sort of public outrage over this garbage being handed to girls?

"Shaving is a part of growing up. It's ladylike and fun so EMBRACE it."

Is bad grammar ladylike as well? That one I may have in spades. (Yes, the comma in the quote is also missing on the website.)

And just ugh! Not that I feel the need to be embraced as ladylike with my gloriously hairy legs, but . . . how on earth did this myth that women shaving their legs is somehow natural and innate become so f'ing pervasive? Oh, yeah, marketing. Like this crap!

Shaving one's legs is not a part of growing up. It is a part of a particular ideal of feminine beauty that one should feel free to participate in or reject.

As my sister -- who does shave -- says: They're your legs!

Calling Progressive Christians!

Check out this new carnival, submit your writing, and anticipate other writings!

July's theme is Community, and the carnival will be hosted at Reweaving.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Discernment is a Big Word

When one is the resident of a Religious Studies department, one sees a lot of flyers advertising meetings for the pre-ministry kids on how to discern the call to the ministry. With the combination of my background in CofC land and my cynicism of organized religion – I typically ignored them. Other than stopping to think: only RS people can come up with such a impressive sounding way to phrase that classic post-adolescent problem: what the heck am I doing with my life?

Now, the Metra is finding that she wishing she had better heuristic devices for dealing with said question. Discernment might have to be a foreign word to adopt into the vocabulary – like theois, or Eucharist, or sanctuary.

So why isn’t discernment a strong part of the Southern Restoration Movement heritage? Part of it probably the anti-intellectualism you get in CofC land. Discernment is just a fancy word with too many syllables. The Christian Chronicle has a rather nifty and informative little article up on the history of the Harding Graduate School of Religion. It touches several times of this anti-intellectualism. Even someone from my generation has probably heard the crack that Harding is where you go to graduate from religion. This attitude goes hand in hand with the notion that the Bible is sufficient for its own interpretation, and the sneaky notion that there is only one correct interpretation of the meaning of scripture which will be blatantly obvious to all people irregardless of gender, socio-economic status, race, sexual orientation, etc.

(At the point in time, a quip repeated by Deryn Guest in When Deborah Met Jael comes to mind. If the audience of the verse: “You shall not lie with a man as with a woman” is a lesbian woman, the answer is a hearty “well, of course!” At this point in time, I ask – how are we defining man and woman in this context? The social location of the person reading the text – it’s quite important.)

You can guess where I fall on the question. Firmly on the side of being an overly intellectual smart-ass.

But I think the absence of an idea of a process of discernment is also an effect of the CofC’s take on the priesthood of all [male] believers. For a long time, the idea of having a minister paid by the congregation was heresy. A preacher should have a job on the side to support himself (and his family). This is less en vogue today, but there’s still this assumption that every boy in the congregation should aspire to hold a church office. More likely the pressure is to aspire to be a deacon or an elder – the notion that God might call certain people to these positions and not others appears to be non-existent. (The notion that God might not be calling all persons in possession of an uterus to marriage and children is even more non-existent.) There is, however, a lot of effort put into training all the little boys for their roles in public worship. The attitude might be well described as: of course, God is calling you to lead the church, why would you need to discern that?

Of course, I’m not at all convinced that the Divine works like that. Nor am I convinced that view of the Church is Biblical, if we’re placing a great deal of emphasis on that element.

And, now, I’m off to continue looking for a good heuristic device to make off with. Lock up the techniques of discernment, my friends, Metra is breaking out the hunter's camo!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Embodiment, bodies, resurrections, all that fun stuff.

If you're looking for something thought provoking to read, you should check out this article on debates over the practice of cremation in Judaism. It raises a number of questions about the psychological benefits of funerals, the problems with modern burial practices, and the ecological impacts thereof.

Monday, May 19, 2008

And all the Whos of Whoville

Go read this article: "Horton Hears a Religious Left."

And I agree, what's up with this misinformation that the Founding Fathers were all about the "sanctity of life" and "preserving marriage?" I can buy the interested in religious freedom bit -- but for some reason, I suspect that the FFs had a somewhat different conception -- if indeed, we can even treat the FFs as a monolith who all agreed with each other. (p.3)

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Deus Ex Machina makes for Cool Special Effects

I dragged the siblings out to see Prince Caspian on Friday.

I should note that I don't remember much of anything from the novel. I didn't bother going to see The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. But Eddie Izzard is the voice of Reepicheep -- who is basically the only character I remember from the novel. So, yes! (And if Eddie Izzard is involved, the fundies can't be too involved.)

After I got the bits of my mind that are familiar with post-colonial theory and feminist theory to shut up, I enjoyed the film quite a bit. The special effects were superb. The casting and the acting were both quite good, and I was just jonesing for some sword and sorcery action, of which there was plenty, convincing shot while still managing to avoid extreme gore. (I was impressed with how the violence was handled -- it didn't feel like a PG rated movie at all.)

That said -- you could tell that Mr. Lewis was a citizen of an empire. The Narnians (all magical creatures) need human leaders -- because apparently, Narnia has never been right except when sons of Adam and daughters of Eve are in charge of things. Uh-huh . . . yeah. This is not a movie about Narnia gaining independence -- this is a movie about Narnia fighting to have an benevolent dictator ruling over them.

Trumpkin the dwarf was a delight in the film. He's cynical and sarcastic. He raises the difficult theological and ethical questions of the film. (Unfortunately, the film chooses not to deal with these questions.) He questions the existence of Aslan, asking where he has been and why he hadn't come to the aid of the Narnians before now. He calls out the pretensions of the Pevensie siblings. One of the best lines in the movie is when he overhears Lucy refer to him as the DLF (dear little friend), stops short and yells back, "Don't you think that's a bit patronizing." He and Lucy do form a true friendship in the course of the growth of both characters. Unfortunately, his resolution with Aslan doesn't share the same charming sense of mutuality. He reluctantly kneels, and Aslan roars establishing his dominance.

I'm also a bit hesitant to award the film firm feminist credentials. Lucy is goodness itself -- the eternal feminine. She's charming, but ultimately well on her way to climbing up on the pedestal of the cult of true womanhood. There's no edge to her, no bite, no kick. She's no Lyra Belacqua (of the excellent novels, not the travesty of a film).

Susan's portrayal is even more disturbing from a feminist angle. Certainly, the girl can kick some ass and demonstrates as much courage as her brothers. I can even justify the scene where Caspian rides in and rescues her from Telmarine soldiers (the odds of her winning that fight on her own where none). However, as best I can tell, the lesson Susan needed to learn from Narnia is nothing more than anti-feminist backlash.

The film opens with Susan shutting down (rudely, yes) a boy who is trying (badly) to ask her out. He comments that Susan is a bit of loner. Over the course of the time in Narnia, Susan begins crushing on Caspian, kissing him before being returned to our world. Aslan comments that she and Peter have learned what they needed to in Narnia. And in Susan's case, this lesson is, apparently, that she does need a boy in her life -- or in the terms of religious fundamentalism, she comes to terms with complementarianism. Returning to London, she gives the boy she blew off a smile.

Oh, please . . . and Philip Pullman has pointed out, Susan is later excluded from Narnia because she's too interested in boys. Damned if you do, damned if you don't. Poor girl.

So, in sum, go to see Prince Caspian because it's got cool special effects, well-written dialogue, sword and sorcery goodness, and Eddie Izzard. But beware the subtext.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Continuing Commentary on Mary Winkler

...from your friendly neighborhood Restoration Movement feminist guerrilla.

In latest news, the custody battle for the girls continues. I've said before that I'm not certain what would be best for the girls. There needs to be substantial proof that Ms. Winkler's mental health has stabilized before full custody for her should be considered, and I haven't heard anything that isn't a rumor to suggest that the girls aren't being well cared for by their grandparents. (I do think that visitation rights for Ms. Winkler are in order at this time and am delighted to here that she's been visiting with her daughters.) In any case, my sympathy is first and foremost with the girls.

That's not what I want to talk about. I want to talk about how Ms. Winkler has been subtly condemned by the media. Case in point, today's article from the Commercial Appeal.

The first paragraph identifies Ms. Winkler as "the woman convicted of killing her preacher husband" (emphasis mine). Now, in the area in which the CA circulates, identifying Matthew Winkler as a preacher is automatically going to build up sympathy for him. The fact that Ms. Winkler was only convicted of voluntary manslaughter because she was able provide sufficient evidence to back her witness that Matthew Winkler was abusive is not mentioned until the third paragraph. The order in which the information is presented is a subtle sign that the media has condemned Ms. Winkler and privileges the image of the "preacher husband" over her testimony.

Yes. I find it a bit problematic.

So I'm a bit late...

but can we get a AMEN!

California Supreme Court Affirms Equal Marriage Rights for Gays and Lesbians!

Good news -- I like it!

Monday, May 12, 2008

I is bored

so I steal meme from enGender

A couple of recent memes:

  1. What is your favorite word? koneshno
  2. What is your least favorite word? hush
  3. What turns you on? hmm...
  4. What turns you off? theological fellatio
  5. What is your favorite curse word? currently, k cherty, which is a fairly mild russian curse
  6. What sound or noise do you love? rain on a tin roof
  7. What sound or noise do you hate? crickets
  8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? film director
  9. What profession would you not like to attempt? business
  10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? rock on

and

  • If you get something out of a vending machine, it’s most likely the: highly caffeinated citrus soda
  • A word you sometimes catch yourself misspelling: secede -- yes, I'm a sorry excuse for a southerner
  • You least want people to see you as: normal
  • You’re a little scared of: walking alone
  • The least attractive thing you do in your sleep: drool
  • The number of contacts in your cell phone: i haven't the foggiest
  • How many of them are relatives: relatively few
  • You lose your cool when someone: paraphrases Bill O'Reilly
  • When you go to the drugstore, you often can’t leave without buying: chocolate
  • Your dance moves can best be described as: sugar high or drunk
  • The majority of your underwear is: hipster cut
  • Something you eat even though you hate how bad it is for you: soda pop, soda pop
  • You think you’re really not a great: artist
  • How much cash is in your wallet right now: eighty something
  • The majority of your shoes are this color: hmm...black
  • You don’t think you’ll ever be able to get rid of your: book-collecting habit
  • If your breath is bad, it’s most likely because you had the: soda pop
  • You feel embarrassed when you: completely mispronounce words
  • The last public place where you used the restroom: EV Lodge
  • Something you don’t like to debate in mixed company: you know, I'll pretty much debate anything anywhere
  • You don’t think you can pull off wearing: short skirts
  • Something you own entirely too much of: books? no, there can not be too many books
  • Someone you would love to see in concert who might bring down your street cred: umm...Depeche Mode
  • The last thing that you spilled on yourself: soy sauce
  • If you were on a reality show, the producers would likely portray/characterize you as the: I'd say holy fool, but that might be a delusion of grandeur -- um, the screwball intelligent

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

When I Get to the Bottom, I Go Back to the Top...

So, I now have, hanging in my closet, graduation regalia. (Including the snap in white collar for the girls that I will not be wearing, as I shall graduate in dress pants and a button-down.)

Holy crap...I'm actually graduating.

I'm graduating. I'm moving across the country to Berkeley, CA -- a place I have never been. But I hear it's warm. I'm moving to California without a car -- not that I could afford it. I'm playing the monastic game and getting rid of things -- or trying to do so. I seem to be bad at the monastic game.

Yeah, it's just now sinking in. Meep. And that I will be on a very long sojourn from Memphis, if indeed I ever return. And I like Memphis, or at least "the forbidden zone."

Making friends with Craigslist. Need a room in an apartment and then a job. Maybe clerical at a nonprofit office -- that could be a good job, if I could snag it.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Theologizing in Exile

Deryn Guest discusses the concept of being in exile from one's spiritual home in When Deborah Met Jael. It's a good concept, and one that I think fits my experience with Christianity better than some of the metaphors I've thrown around.


I'm an exile from CofCdom. I could not remain a part of the CofC out of fear for my soul, yet I find if difficult act like the rest of America and ignore the CofC's existence, find some other spiritual home, and get on with life.


I feel pressured at times to simply be silent about the degree of hurt I feel from the CofC. I feel as though I am supposed to just get out and stay out, and never speak to the damage done by their exclusionary practices -- of being shown each Sunday that I was unworthy of distributing the Eucharist (okay, they didn't use the word Eucharist), unworthy of speaking to God publicly, unworthy of sharing my thoughts with the congregation. I have been sexualized in unwelcome ways by being told that if, as a girl, I was allowed to formally debate the boys, then I "might dress provocatively in order to distract them." (Ha!) My right to existence has been constructed as entirely contingent on entering into a patriarchal marriage, and my sanity and the existence of a heart have been questioned because I had no interest in doing so. I have mocked by peers and teachers for being nothing more than young, immature, and anger -- all of which might be true, but none of which should result in open disregard and mockery. CofCdom -- at least, the Tennessee version -- is hostile to my sense of myself and not above using spiritual violence to try to break down and reform my sense of self. I have felt abandoned by God, created only to be an anathema and scapegoat. And yet, I'm supposed to not take it personally, get over it, and move on. Forget, forget, forget -- and definitely don't talk about.


I do not mean to suggest that my injuries are cases of extreme spiritual violence. They is far worse done on a daily basis. I acknowledge that the majority of the people who have hurt me and attacked my person never intended to do so, and yet, this doesn't change the fact that violence was done. Violence of a more systematic than individual nature, but violence did happen. If I repress that, how am I supposed to move past it in any real way? And if I remain silent, how many more of my siblings will be injured by the unjust structures that govern CofCdom?


Despite all this, I have a sense of loyalty to CofCdom. I have been shaped by indelible ways by Restoration Movement thought. I'm an exile, an expat. I left my home behind, and I despair of ever being able to return, but still something in me continues to hope. To hope that the regimes and structures of CofCdom will change, and it will be a space that doesn't do violence to my person.



Thursday, April 24, 2008

Are You Going to be a Missionary?

I was just chatting last night about how a lot of people from the church I was raised in assumed that since I'm (was? -- oh god, just finished the last undergrad class!) double majoring in Russian Studies and Religious Studies that I'm going to go out and convert the heathen masses of Russia.

Yeah, I don't want to make Putin that mad. (And there's that whole opinion I have that Orthodoxy, while not perfect, is far superior to the Evangelical groups who tend to be running missions in Russia.)

There are huge problems with the way that the Orthodox Church in Russia has been caught up in a nationalist movement. There are issues of freedom of religion. (However, we Americans should be careful to not read our experiences with certain religion dominating government policy into the situation with Russia.) Obviously, Orthodox bishops dubbing Protestants "Christ-killers" is a problem. But the article would have you believe that the Russian Orthodox are all hateful barbarians and that the Protestants are squeaky-clean.

I really feel like this article didn't do justice to the colonizing element of Protestant missions in Russia. Many people involved with these missions seem to not even recognize Orthodoxy as Christianity. I have heard comments that dehumanize and defame Russians. (Most famously: "They just don't know how to love each other.") It's difficult to sort these colonial attitudes out from some genuinely good impulses that are also present in mission work, but the colonial attitude can't be ignored. That is -- the poor, persecuted Protestants aren't necessarily as innocent as this article would have you believe.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Scary, but charismatic...

So, I'm a bit behind times, but have you seen this video of Putin's latest take down of Bush?



Not that I'm interested in having Russian style democracy in the U.S. (Although, with the Real ID, that lovely document carrying at all times portion of the Russian experience might be coming to a state near you!), but stuff like this is why I just can't bring myself to completely dislike Putin. He's got guts. He's intelligent. Witty. And he calls Bush for what he is to his face.

Oh, and yes -- if push comes to shove, I'd rather be living under a Russian style democracy than the mess that's passing under that name in Iraq right now. I think the survival rates in Russia are a bit better for the average person on the street.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Wherein Metra's Butt is Kicked by the Last Semester of Undergrad

Yes . . . as in, I think this has been my most difficult semester despite having the lightest course load to date.

That and the whole questioning of what I want to do with my future thing. (Granted, if I don't receive any financial aid that decision could become easier in the short term as I try to weld my way into the camo boys' club.) I've been admitted an M.A. program with a specialization in Orthodox Christian Studies and I've had an awkward conversation with the director about how I'm not o/Orthodox. (His response: "But your name is Demetria.") Unfortunately, my mind has spun into overdrive and is now convinced that I can't possibly survive moving across the country, and then throwing in doubts that I'll be able to fit in with the program -- what with that whole extremely heterodox thing. I then remind it that I would be in Berkeley, CA -- I will be able to find many places in which I can be heterodox to my heart's content -- but it doesn't listen. The option is a general MTS program in Atlanta, which will have very few opportunities to work on Orthodoxy but lots of opportunities for queer theology, general iconography/metaphor/imagery, and Buddhism of the Tibetan variety. Atlanta also has the drawback of not really getting me out of the South. Somewhat soothed by the possibility of working summers with an absolutely amazing youth program. And neither program has gotten back to me with scholarship/financial info.

I have discovered that schools favor M.Div. students and show little love to the M.A./M.T.S. students. 'Tis frustrating.

In the course of doing some quick searching for the current paper, I have also learned -- according to Harding University -- ponytails on men are an "extreme" hairstyle. Yes. Special, no? That and gays and lesbians seem to be completely invisible at CofC schools -- although, to give credit where it might be due, Harding's sexual harassment policy seems to be phrased in a way would protect GLBT students from being harassed because of their identity. I can't be certain thats the purpose, but if it is -- it's an admirable action on the part of a University, regardless of any other policies they have.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Du-buh?

Questions that have run through my mind recently:

Just what is Bill O'Reilly referring to when the words "the far left" leave his mouth? Does he realize that the "far" left actually isn't that excited about Barack Obama? I suspect the far left is too terrifying for the BOR to even imagine.

Disregarding other things Rev. Wright may have said (my gut feeling is that, for the most part, he's being unfairly taken out of context), how on earth is the statement, "America is run by rich, white people," incendiary? It just seems to be factual. Angry, yes. Offensive, no.

Why is this book in existence? Seriously, I kinda want to get my hands on it for laughs. I love the scrambling to shore up the hegemony of representation. And my two cents on the matter: Eastern Orthodoxy is very much Christian.

Why does much of Christianity purport to conform to Chalcedon and yet completely ignore the FULL HUMANITY of Jesus Christ?

How did I manage to miss the word theosis until today? How sad for me. Much easier to say than bogochelovechstvo.

How can it be so difficult to find a picture of two broken pots on the interwebs?

Now leaving my brainspace...

On another note -- to anyone and everyone celebrating the Resurrection today -- Happy Easter!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Pipe dreams of the Kingdom of the God

Check out this article from Alternet on the New Atheists.

I've only read a few pages of Sam Harris, but something struck me -- just within those few pages as he denigrated the idea of nonviolence and the work of Gandhi -- that something was very wrong with his argument. The more I heard arguments borrowed from Harris and company, the more it appeared that something was very wrong. Something was very wrong in the way the authors were defining religion, and something else was wrong there, but I couldn't put my finger on it.

I think this article gets at a lot of what I was feeling to be wrong with Harris's arguments. And has some good points on its own. My one caveat is that I'm not certain the degree to which I want to endorse the rejection of the idea of progressing towards a better future. There's plenty of reason to be skeptical about the idea (as any Russian Studies major can tell you). I'm more inclined to caution against thinking that progress as a society is inevitable -- it must be worked for and carefully guarded through vigilance -- and to firmly reject any utopian ideas that deny the value (and the rights) of the individual. Further, it is an imperative to understand that movement (forwards, backwards, or sideways) creates a shift in perspective, which changes the very vision of the end, the utopia, the kingdom of God. One can have a sense of what utopia should be -- a construction, if you will -- which allows one to analyze and critique the present, but one must not confuse that construction with reality.

testing something...


Religion and Spirituality Blogs - Blogged Blog Directory

Friday, March 7, 2008

Notes on the Wacky Weather

Yesterday, my toes experienced a brief and beautiful liberation as I broke out my Jesus sandals.

Today, it's snowing. And not just spitting. Snowing. No acclumulation on the streets yet, but the yard areas on campus are covered nicely.

I got up this morning, kicked around for an hour, and next thing I know the kids in the high school across the street are leaving, and I'm thinking -- oh, crap, did I oversleep? No, nope. Memphis is just getting some snow tonight.

Fun times.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Do Conservatives Need Safe Spaces?

Yes, it's a joke. (Has momentary daydream of a guerrilla movement, then simultaneously reminds herself that she's ideologically a pacifist and looks forward to the arrival of Les Guerilleres.)

Angry id -- back in the closet! Angry not-id -- front and center!

Wait! What? Would someone please tell me when the last time a conservative was assaulted or murdered for being a conservative? When was the last time someone was harassed to the point of committing suicide because he was a conservative?

However, the anti V-day campaign doesn't seem to be a joke. I'm not the biggest proponent of the Vagina Monologues that you'll ever meet. I'm too inclined to wanting to completely dissolve the coherence of the categories of man and woman. There are several monologues in the play that I don't personally identify with, and at least one that actually makes me feel queasy. If someone asked me what my vagina would wear, I would likely look at them askance, explain the difficulties of designing clothing for vaginas, and finish up with murmuring something about how weirded out I am by female condoms (note: I'm no more opposed to female condoms than I am to tampons, but both weird me out for reasons unknown to my conscious mind). And I'm not head over heels in love with the treatment of gender in the play. I'm extremely sad that this year's performance at Rhodes was not inclusive of transwomen (it has been at least once in the past.)

However, I heartily support the main idea -- THERE IS NOTHING SHAMEFUL ABOUT BEING EMBODIED WITH A VAGINA. Oh, and you get to decide upon the meaning and value of that vagina and the rest of your body for yourself.

Madness, ain't it? It could even be hysterical! But least I be told that I am missing something -- here's a closer analysis of the brochure, The Vagina Monologues: Exposed!

Violence against Cupid?
In their effort to redefine a day meant to celebrate love and romance, Ensler and her “Vagina Warriors” proclaimed Valentine’s Day as “V-Day” until the violence against women stops, and then it will become “Victory Day” (Ensler 173). So long, Cupid. (page 13)
OMG! They killed Cupid! Because it's so terribly empowering to have bad chocolates (or maybe good chocolates) showered upon one. Terribly empowering to have a day dedicated to social pressure to mate and then reproduce. Actually, I'm detecting a capitalist/consumerist concern here. We have to have this excuse to consume, consume, consume -- and yes, it's just a subtext but I do believe that it's here.

Do the Vagina Monologues Objectify Women?
It perpetuates the very attitude that often leads to sexual violence: treating women as objects. (page 24)
Dear person writing this brochure -- are you familiar with the use of subject and object? Defining myself, defining the meaning of my own body rather than letting society dictate that meaning to me is being a subject. Do the Monologues threaten at times to create a new hegemonic "we" of women's experience? In some ways -- yes -- but the format of the play -- a diverse collection of voices, offering a multiplicity of ways of relating to vaginas -- is itself in tension with that possibility. The Vagina Monologues are about allowing women to be the subjects of their own sexuality. It's when the meaning of vagina possession is imposed from without that we have objectification.

But in reality, that's the problem that this organization has with the Monologues -- it's a bunch of women defining their own sexuality, and god knows, god's agin' that! Really, while the difference in age between the participants in "The Little Coochie Snoocher that Could" is waved a banner for why the Monologues are evil -- the real problem seems to be with the idea that women can be sexually fulfilled without men. Separate from the more legitimate critique of the age difference we get this gem:
The girl also reveals her seducer’s ultimate lesson. “She tells me to always know how to give myself pleasure so I’ll never need to rely on a man” (Ensler 82).
(page 11)
Given that this is used as punctuation for that segment, it seems that the composer of this brochure is more concerned that women might not be relying on men more of a problem than a possibly exploitative situation. The professed concern for the sixteen year old girl is just a smokescreen. Of course, conservatives do tend to let their anxieties about maintaining the normalcy of man-on-top-woman-on-bottom sexuality override any concern for the exploitation of women's bodies (please, see anti-gay interpretations of Sodom and Gomorrah).

Oh, and in case anyone was wondering -- it appears that any expression of sexuality other than penis in vagina is perverted. Including Bob's love of looking at vaginas.

(Found the actual organization via Feministing. Encountered the logic in a editorial in the student paper at my college last year, was hoping against hope that it was an independent operative.)

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Living Dead Girl

I have a copy of the Life of Saint Andrew the Holy Fool in English! *happy dance* And more reasons to love Memphis's Orthodox community!

First, zombie maidens! This alone is knocking the Life of Saint Andrew into the category of one of the best things I have read recently.

Second, I'm getting the feeling that the Byzantine Christians were not in love with their Ethiopian brethren. Betting on a conflict of hierarchies. And wikipedia is indicating a heresy of semantics -- well, okay, whether Christ had a human nature and a divine nature, or one unified human and divine nature, might be a little more than semantics.

Third, reading this saint's life in conjunction with Theodore Jennings, The Man Jesus Loved, is produces some interesting directions in interpretations. *grins devilishly*

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Nothing New Under the Sun

It always frustrated me when I was little that their weren't character with my name, or anything akin to it, in stories. My little sister had a picture book -- Bread and Jam for Frances. Andrew is a very common name -- and in my house, if you had a name from a Biblical narrative you were set. Try finding Demetria in a children's story book. (Or on name bracelets.) I remember being very excited when the movie Anastasia came out. Dmitri is close enough. And yes, in a class discussing The Brothers Karamazov, I did jump every time the name Dmitri was mentioned.

The point being -- I feel like I've always had some trouble finding myself in the narratives I was handed. Trouble that extended beyond just having a strange name. Tomboyish, hard-headed Laura Ingalls (of the books, I've never seen the TV show) was close between second and fifth grade. But the narratives that I was supposed to be using for models (i.e. Bible narratives), I was having a bit of trouble with those. I loved the story of David and Goliath, but I wasn't supposed to identify with David, or Peter (I have soft spots for characters who continually open their mouths and see just how far they can jam their feet down their throat). Frankly, I'm not sure who I was supposed to be identifying with -- let's face it, you've got to do a bit of looking to find strong female characters, and they were emphasizing that Mary of Bethany repented, not that she was blatantly transgressing gender roles by sitting with the men instead of helping in the kitchen -- oh, and this chick has an attitude and didn't seem shy of taking J.C. to task over letting Lazarus die. (Let's not count how many Marys I just conflated into one.) There is a reason why Martha has a place in the patriarchy described in The Handmaid's Tale, while sister Mary has been forgotten.


I've been thinking on narrative, folklore, and story-telling for some time now. Early Christian hagiography has become my pet subject. "Weirdos", of course, transvestite and transgendered saints last round -- holy fools this time around. (Incidentally, it's easier to dig up English translations of the lives of holy transvestites than it is to dig up english translations of lives of holy fools.)


It's hardly an original point, but storytelling really is inseparable from how we construct, or make some sense out of, ourselves. And without a narrative -- a metaphor for yourself, a name that other people recognize -- it's difficult to feel confident and solid in who you are. Reading the life of Mary of Egypt, and hearing her praised as worthy and good, was like a license to just be who I am. Rereading the material surrounding Mary of Bethany and finding her transgression and her contrary attitude accepted, and even lauded -- where was this when I was little?

Hiding underneath the dominant narrative. The narrative that said if you have a uterus, shut up and save thyself through childbearing and submission to your husband. The idea that there is one script. Or two scripts, rather. Take the one we assigned you, and that'll be that.

But somehow, and I feel that this is the miracle of miracles, the dominant narratives never quite manage to completely crush and completely hide the other narratives. They're there, waiting for someone who needs them enough to go and to look for them and to befriend them and if necessary to fight for them.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Dear Fellow Students,

Please justify a review of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition in
this week's student paper. No, establishing a patriotic tone by
celebrating that the USA has the hottest chicks won't cut it.

Thanks,

Metra

Turn off your mind, Metra.

Over the past couple months, I've been getting distracted by forms and things misusing the term gender. For instance, financial aid application forms -- gender: male or female. These little blood alcohol content chart card things -- gender: male or female. Seriously, I don't know how socialization really affects how quickly my blood alcohol content rises with each drink? Socialization affectly my alcohol tolerance, okay -- that one I would understand. But BAC?

No, you mean sex. It's not that difficult of a concept. Get it right already.

One of these days, I will learn to simply stop paying attention.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Can I get a ticket outta here?

Not Memphis -- Midtown and I get along just fine. I continue to fear and loath Nashville. And seriously, I want the hell out of Tennessee.

Like, now. Like, five months from now ain't soon enough. Like, I seriously want Midtown Memphis to secede from the rest of the state, citing irreconcilable differences.

As reported by feministe and feministing, Tennessee State Senator Doug Henry thinks that rape just really isn't what it used to be:
"Rape, ladies and gentleman, is not today what rape was. Rape, when I was
learning these things, was the violation of a chaste woman, against her will, by
some party not her spouse. Today it's simply, 'Let's don't go forward with
this act.'"

Wait -- what?
What? You, sir, are a misogynistic creep. No, creep is not strong enough for what you are. I don't know if we have a word strong enough for what you are.

*begin the Southern Belle accent* Oh, I'm sorry, ignore that bit above. I keep having these strange delusions that I'm a actual individual person with some sovereignty over my body. Silly me! I don't have spouse, so I guess I'm just fair game until it's established which manly man owns me. Maybe I should start looking into getting that lobotomy. *end the Southern Belle accent*

Yeah. Right.

(P.S. I misspelled "secede" the first time around. This makes me a bad southerner. That makes me grin today.)

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Ooo...can I be a part of this agenda too?

Given my last paper was titled originally Origen and the Angry Inch, and then retitled Breaking Both the Vessels: Narrating the GenderQueer Kingdom of God, I think I'm already there.

Via Peterson Toscano (who will be in Memphis this month!), Christianity Today's take on the "Transgender Movement."

This article demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of gender identity, overlooks transgendered persons who do not feel the need for SRS, as well as genderqueer persons, gender outlaws, and any other persons floating about in the gender spectrum.

Further, anyone who is paying any attention at all when they read the Bible should be able to pick a cue here and there that gender is constructed in different ways in different times and places. Elements of gender queering remain in the New Testament -- eunuchs for the kingdom of God anyone -- even if J.C. didn't mean that statement literally, the implication of saying that in a society which considered eunuchs to be walking the line in between women and men, is certainly a striking idea. Mary of Bethany is praised for ignoring her traditional womanly gender role and taking up a studious masculine gender identity. Early church hagiography is rift with gender bending saints. The early church didn't seem to have much of a problem with "glorifying wierdos." And this is only what made it past the canon redactors.

Do a bit of digging and a lot of other stuff pops up! Joseph's "technicolor dream coat" -- yeah, the only other time that Hebrew word is used in the Bible -- it refers to the garment worn by the virgin daughters of King David.

Suggested Reading:

She's Not the Man I Married, Helen Boyd, of (en)gender -- I'm only about halfway through, but this is both clear and nuanced introduction transgenderness.
Homoerotic Narrative in Hebrew Bible, Theodore W. Jennings, Jr.
The Manly Eunuch, Matthew Kuefler
Love Between Women: Early Christian Responses to Female Homoeroticism, Bernadette Brooten

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

RadHumor

Radical feminist I may not be, but damned if they don't have an amusing since of humor.

Today's exhibit: Mary Daly's Website.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Update on Columbia Mosque Arson

Three people ranging in age from 19-32 have been arrested.

Also, this article contains responses from a couple of area churches. I'm glad to see churches calling for respect for all religions. Unfortunately, the comments at the end of the article are reviving my desire to leave Tennessee and never look back.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Home Grown Terrorism

The neo-nazis in Maury County burned the Islamic Center in Columbia, TN to the ground. Thank the Divine in all the forms and faces that no one was injured.

It's a hate crime, which means the FBI is involved and hopefully the good ol' boys won't be able to sweep this under the rug if they were so inclined. I hope they catch the bastards and prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law. Those bastards are terrorists.

They intended to spread fear through the Muslim residents and citizens of Maury County, Tennessee, and the United States of America. They intended to reassert their sense of being powerful and being able to oppress others. To violently assert their mistaken sense of superiority and self-righteousness. To communicate what they would like to do to every person who doesn't share their skin color, religion, etc.

This is the result of the anti-Islamic rhetoric that has taken over the Republican party. This is the result of people who believe the lies that the television is feeding about Islam -- usually, without ever having met a single Muslim individual. That mindset allows the hatred and the misunderstanding to grow, until it does become violent. Words can and do support terrorism, and every slur against Islam, every misrepresentation of Islamic culture does just that. It supports and undergirds the mentality that leads people to do things like this.

I expect to see and hear a number of arguments that this doesn't reflect the actual attitudes of people in Maury County, and on a certain level it doesn't -- most of them wouldn't actually go out and commit a violent crime. However, the people of Maury County, the people of Tennessee, and the people of the United States as a whole, have to realize that incidents like these don't form ex nihilo in the mind of a racist redneck one night. They grow out of, and are supported and informed by, a cultural context and a cultural rhetoric, and when something like this happens, it's time to take a look at the social constructs that fostered and gave birth to it.

The rhetoric of hatred is a problem anywhere it is found.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Wrong number

File under things I do not have the power to do, number 100 and something.

No, I can't reinstate your driver's license.

I love my job. I get the best questions.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Dangerous Question...

At least for someone whose head has been and is infested with a rather Gnostic sense of reality. (And Gnostics and Manicheans are difficult to kick out of your head, which is why Western Christianity is infested with everything dysfunctional about Manicheanism, with none of the more interesting insights -- thank you, Augustine!)

"Are bodies and sexuality essential parts of being human--or are we, perhaps, merely souls inhabiting bodies?"

So that's this week's topic for the reading response journal thing we have for Feminist Theology. It's also one of my personal, philosophical hang-ups. The issue of embodiment. What does it mean to be embodied? Why am I embodied in the body I'm in? Why do people confuse the body I'm in with me? (Yes, I'm still mad that I'm barred from many monasteries.)

Incidentally, the accompanying reading is Dawne Moon's God, Sex, and Politics -- which is a fascinating and though-provoking study of two United Methodist Churches and their responses to gays and lesbians.

In related news -- sky burial is more awesome than I had previously thought.

Monday, January 28, 2008

This is what a Post-Feminist looks like

I think I'm disillusioned with feminism.

No, not in that way. Patriarchy is bad. Sledge hammers should be taken to it with gusto, preferably on a frequent basis. Castrate the idols, already!

Here's the sit.

I'm currently in a redux of Feminist Theology. Which means I'm reading roughly the same texts as I was two years ago when the class had a different number and was taught by a different professor. In some cases, the texts are just as delightful the second time around as they were the first. (Ada Maria Isasai-Diaz's Mujerista Theology remains highly recommended.) But coming back to intro-level Feminist discussions after having read Judith Butler is somewhat painful. (We're talking very intro-level here. Rhodents can apparently make it to their junior or senior year, not know the first thing about feminism, and be "concerned" about taking a feminist theology class.)

For instance, during a class discussion of creating feminist religious rituals to embrace womanhood and womanliness, I was sitting in the back corner of the room (in a gray vest and a matching gray fedora of gloriousness!) twitching a bit, and wanting to throw out the question -- does it really do any good to create feminist rituals, if the only thing you are accomplishing is reinforcing the boundaries between the constructed categories of gender? Couldn't this just be adding to the problem and continuing to force individuals into categories that are not based in their experience and so not adequately describe them? Does this lead to liberation?

I did not do this. I felt it would be rude (this was a student led discussion). Also, it would have been completely unproductive. I might have managed to engage three people out of the class of 25 or so. The rest would have been staring at me, thinking, "constructed categories of gender, buh?"

See, I wouldn't mind reading texts that I find to be outdated and essentialize the idea of some essential (non-biological) difference between the sexes, if I felt I could actually pull off getting a discussion going about possible critiques and so on and so forth. But I'm in a class that may very well suggest that Womanist and Mujerista theologies are excluding (silencing might even make an appearance, who knows?) white women. I mean, the class did decide that a feminist rereading of Genesis 2-3 was too anti-male in tone. (The exegete, Phyllis Trible, was using narrative theory and analyzing the characterization of Adam and Eve. She argued that the narrative presents Eve as far more curious than Adam, who's far more passive in the text. At no point did she suggest that this was a reflection on the male portion of the population -- her point was that traditional readings have not paid attention to the actual narrative, because they were too busy reading in the patriarchy.)

Murr.

So, I have both an example of why feminism remains a necessary movement, and an example of why I may well be post feminist at this point.

Or not.

Darned categories. If I had a hammer, I'd smash the categories. And then the patriarchy would fall into the abyss.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

You Wanna Hear About My New Obsession

If I weren't already fairly convinced that Garbage was the love-child of Depeche Mode and one Seattle grunge band or another . . . this video would have convinced me.




Please, compare with the video for "Walking in My Shoes."

Bad Language! Bad, bad language!

No cookie for you, English.

Holy Fools. Fools for Christ. Holy Foolishness. Etc. Etc. and so on and so forth.

You see, I would presume, how these are not good terms. Especially for net and database searches. What with different people using different versions and making up their own and making me sad.

Russian has a nice, concise word for this amorphous-in-English concept: юродство / yurodstvo.

This proves (at least until I change my mind) that Russian is a superior language.

Shame on you, English.

And, I have reminded myself why I don't like donut holes. Oh, well, college campus -- they shan't go to waste!

How do I get out of this one?

I know! I'll use a plot device!

This Dominic Deegan strip makes me smile. I should probably print it out and hang it over my desk.

If, that is, it looks as though I will ever have time to write another word of fiction again.

I wonder if the Religious Studies department has ever had a major turn their senior paper into performance art before. But there are so many possibilities for a project on Holy Fools, and such a frustrating lack of blindingly obvious scholarly resources on the Internet.

Who knows -- should the insomnia keep up, performance art of a follyful persuasive might cease to be optional.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

More on Buses

Saint Petersburg is a much safer city than Memphis.


Sure, Peter is not a perfectly safe city. But, it is much safer. I noticed that. One of my Russian professors fields phone calls from concerned parents by telling them that if their kid has navigated Memphis thus far, they'll be perfectly fine in Peter. (Granted, the extent to which Rhodents navigate Memphis is limited -- Bubble!)


I'm sure there are a number of factors involved in that distinction. Many of which wouldn't be noticeable to the untrained casual observer, wandering through the city while barely speaking the language. But there was one obvious one.


There's a lot of people in them there streets. And yeah, that whole safety in numbers things -- even if you're technically alone -- there's something to it.


Virtually everyone in Peter uses some form of public transportation, be it the bus, the metro, the marshutkas. And foot power for shorter trips, or the trip to the bus stop or metro station.


Walking home along at night is far less frightening if you are constantly passing people on the sidewalks. I do think that people's fear of being out in Memphis is 95% completely irrational. (I have had roommates who freak out from going to a thrift store on Summer Avenue -- IN BROAD DAYLIGHT!) But also think that interesting the number of people out walking and using public transportation, would do a lot to make the city feel safer, at the very least, and I highly suspect that it would make the city safer in fact.

So, perhaps encouraging people to use public transportation (start with offering a monthly pass, work on more convenient routes), would not just make Memphis a more eco-friendly city, but a safer city.