Tuesday, June 30, 2015

2015 Booklist (First Half Of Year)

I know there are many who claim listening to audiobooks does not count as reading.  I personally object, given the fact that I spend a great deal of time commuting between home in the St Louis area and work in the Chicago area this is the only way I get to read quite as many books a year as I do.

I am very ecclectic in my listening, with titles coming from philosophy, politics, economics, science. and fiction.  Although I have enjoyed most everything I have read this year, this favorites list seems to lean heavily toward fiction.

#5 - Sex At Dawn - Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha


This title is the only nonfiction to make my favorites list.  Dan Savage is quoted as saying, "Sex At Dawn is the single most important book about human sexuality since Alfred Kinsey unleashed Sexual Behavior in the Human Male on the American public in 1948." I really would not disagree with him.  While tasked academically with bringing together evolutionary biology, cultral anthropology, and excelent archeology, the book manages to remain entertaining.  I enjoyed this book so much, I listened to it second time along with my teenager, because I felt that it's message was that important.


#4 - Big Fish - Daniel Wallace


Definitely the oldest title on this list, and in many ways the one I do not how I had never managed to read previously.  I am a huge fan of both Tim Burton's movie adaptation and Andrew Lippa's musical adaptation, and still I had never read this source text for both those amazing works.  I am so glad that is no longer true.  Wallace tells a story that is too much to be believed, with emotion that is too real to not be felt.  I can truly say that this book, the movie, and the musical are all masterpieces.




#3 - Zane and the Huricane - Rodman Philbrick


This is a story of a mixed race middle class yankee who due to an unfortunate set of circumstances finds himself stuck right in the middle of the Huricane Katrina tragedy.  This story is powerfully character driven, and each principal member of it's cast becomes a cause whose sucess you are cheering for.  Although this title, like the one beneath it is sold as young adult fiction, there is no need to be young at all to be affected by the wonderful narrative this author uses to expose the conflict of race and class faced in the aftermath of the tragedy.

#2  - The Night Gardener - Jonathan Auxier


Unlike every other story on this list The Night Gardener does not have any point to make on social issues.  Instead, this book is just great storytelling at it's best.  I want the author to tell me a bedtime story every night.  In many ways, I would compare the "fright" factor of this book to M Night Shamalyan's "The Lady In The Water."  In this way the story seemed suspensful enough to hold it's youth audience as horror, and yet never crossed a line where that audience would be troubled with resulting nightmares.  



#1 - The Ocean at the End of the Lane - Neil Gaiman


My only regret with this title is that I did not write a review the day I finsihed reading it.  I can not say enough positive things about this work.  To look at the bibliography of Neil Gaiman's work and believe that any title could be better than The Sandman and Coraline is a tough claim to make. Yet I will unequivocally state, that this is Gaiman's best work.  What I enjoyed most about this book was the writing voice Gaiman chose.  In many ways it felt like I was listening to young adult fiction, and yet this story, and it's moral message is clearly aimed at his adult audience.

Although Ocean at the End of the Lane was not able to dethrone Lois Lowry's "The Giver" from it's number one spot as my all time favorite story. I do feel I can safely say that after finishing "Ocean" Ursula LeGuinn's "The Dispossessed" had to move back to the bronze medal seat of my favorite novels.

I would encourage anyone to read any or all of these great books.  Each were magnificent gifts rom the authors.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

A Word For Baltimore!

When the people of this country share equal access to academic and economic opportunity; then we will sit quietly.

When the people of this great nation share one justice system and that system seeks justice, then we will gather peaceably.

When the people of this country recognize the wounds of systemic disenfranchisement are not mended by apologies and new laws, then we will no longer need to shout the classic anthems of liberation.

But today is not that day and today we scream. 

We cry out for the voiceless ancestors who were beaten till they cried out no more.

We interrupt your comfortable life for those who have been cheated of the chance of justice.

We agitate alongside those generations of agitators who never saw economic and academic parity.

Though my skin is not dark like yours, and I lack the fire of your youth. I stand with you Baltimore! I stand with you Minneapolis! I stand with you Ferguson! I stand with all my brethren of color and I cry out alongside you; "Black Lives Matter," until this anthem can not be ignored any longer.

The Power is the problem! The People must be the answer! 

Disunity is the weapon of our captors, interdependence must become the salve of our liberation.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Mosaic Rel8 and CJHS - Dialogue is Key

Mosaic has rallied their base and posted a response to my open letter. As you can see, I am accused of lying, which I certainly do not feel I have done.

I have only made claims of what my daughter relayed to me about the class, and the things I have learned from their website and Facebook page about the organization.  I am certainly open to hearing where I lied, and if I have I will certainly apologize. I do not want a religious group proselytizing in our school district, but I do not want to accomplish their removal through any form of deceit or misdirection.  I desire an open honest dialogue.

Mosaic PHC does not want dialogue.  Her mother posted the following comment on the post I displayed above:

My daughter attends the participating school that you reference here and it is a public school. I have taken a screen shot of your post. I find it interesting that you call yourself abstinence education when the school refers to what you do as sex education. Those are two very different types of education. One is science based and one has religious motivation. I have no problem with you teaching abstinence based education to your youth groups, your church rallies... Your private schools... But I do have a problem when you come into a public school with a religious agenda. Right, wrong, or indifferent my husband and I would not be fighting this had the school sent home an opt out letter being honest about what they intended to allow. We would have just opted our daughter out of the program. Other people I know would have taken up the offense while also not letting their child participate. It is humorous to me that you call my husband a liar. We are the ones who feel lied to by the school our daughter attends. They never told us the "sex education" would be abstinence education.

I grew up going to private Christian schools. I had abstinence education foisted upon me. I know what it is you believe & I understand why you do what you do. I could have raised my children in this environment, but I chose & continually choose not to. It is one of the reasons why my husband and I send our children to public schools.

I don't want my children thinking young earth creationism is a valid alternative to evolution nor do I want them to fear sexual relations outside of marriage. I know you disagree with me, but I believe relationships help you on your own road to self discovery. No young adult should have to hurry thru this process and grow up too quickly via marriage which is what abstinence until marriage propagates. I don't want my daughter getting married until she has had all the time in the world to figure out who she is. Telling her she has to wait until marriage to have sex hurries up that process because sex is natural and we all are born with curiosity and curiosity leads us to places where we get to come face to face with who we are & make the decisions we want to make and grow from there.

If my husband and I don't fight this fight my daughter will think we agree with what is being taught because we have sent her to this school... By not fighting we are guilty by association. She may make assumptions about how it is I feel and she may not feel comfortable coming to me with questions about her budding sexuality; she may think that I want her to wait. If she does not come to me, the chances are high that she won't get the information on disease & child prevention that she needs to stay safe and child free. She is also not likely to go to a place that will help her stay protected without my knowledge. My daughter will more than likely end up with the very things you don't want for her, like STD's & unwanted pregnancy.

Your scare tactics don't help prevent the things you strive to eliminate... They just silence the young adult. Young adults are going to do what they are going to do... History proves this. Abstinence education has been taught for years...to no avail. Teens are still getting pregnant & getting STD's. Why not tell people that sex is normal and natural and that we can help you protect yourself when you feel ready? I know your answer... It is against your religion... Which brings me full circle... I don't send my daughter to public school for a religious education... And that, Mosaic, is where you are guilty of being the liars.

You feel you have a mandate from your God to infiltrate places where the constitution has clearly given you no access. What you are doing is an insidious violation of the separation between church and state. I should have to take my child, extracurricularly, to another place to get your type of education... I should get to choose this for my child... But my right to choose it for my child was taken away by you and now I am having to fight to get you out. This is not how this should work. As Christians you would be aghast to find that your children were getting Islamic ideas on marriage forced upon them in their sex Ed classes... Why can't people like you see that you do the same thing that you hate?
I do not feel her mother was rude, or condescending. I feel like her post was an open invitation to dialogue. Mosaic did not feel the same. Her comment was removed, and she was blocked from the site.

Our meeting with the CJHS principal went NOTHING like my wife's attempt to reach out to Mosaic.  Although the meeting did not resolve the issue of this group continuing to have access to preach their message and instill their shame based rhetoric; it did open doors to further discussion with the school.  I do feel very confident, this program will be removed from District 118, and a program which is in compliance with state law will replace it.

This does not mean I am washing my hands and declaring the matter finished.  I am continuing up the administration to lobby for sex education that is in compliance will Illinois law. I now have been provided a copy of the curriculum and I will be reading it, and presenting my thoughts to the Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum here in District 118.   I am willing if necessary to face the school board with my concerns, however after the positive meeting this morning, I do not feel that will be necessary.  As has always been my experience with District 118 in the past, the school is open and participatory in this dialogue. the

I do believe dialogue is key for all stake holders.  I want to invite Kathy Sparks, Julie Mayfield, Megan Tinney, and any other stakeholders in Mosaic's mission to an open dialogue.  I would love to have lunch, here in Belleville or over in Granite City; I will even buy.  Although we certainly disagree on methodology and meaning, I believe in dialogue you will see we are ALL interested in the best future for our area's youth.  Access to youth is a great responsibility; If you want to preach your message to my children, I only hope you will be willing to meet with me.  Dialogue is key, and the invitation in in your court.


EDIT 12/15/2014: My daughter's mother and I have separated since this post was written. I have edited my language to reflect that, but left her's in tact as posted to ReL8.  Her mother and I remain close to each other and will continue to be joint allies in the raising of all our children. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Troll Feeding: My response to Abby.

After my previous two posts I had a woman I don't know respond on a Facebook post I had made.  I wanted to take a few moments to quickly respond here.

"I went to mosiac when I found out I was pregnant. They never spoke to me about religion."

I am very glad you found the support you needed at Mosaic PHC, I am quite sure that the world needs organization that offer all kinds of opinions.  I will say though, that you testimony makes them liars to the many 100s of people who support their ministry.  I have spent quite a lot of time on their website and Facebook these past few days and their claim is every woman is "shared the gospel of Christ"  If this did not happen, that means you were used, since the organization is making claims about your experience that are not true.

They spoke about the safest practices. Abstinence. 

Perhaps if you had read my posts you would see that I have no issue with abstinence.  You are correct that unless you're theotokos abstinence works; so long as it is practiced.  The issue is when it is no longer practiced.  See evidence shows that abstinence education programs do not stop teens from having sex, it only leaves them unprepared when the time comes where they do begin sexual activity.

They gave real facts about stds and plan b. How BC hormones can harm you. They are well educated and great educators. 

Sorry, you lost me on the "how birth control is harmful" and great educators.  You're going to have to choose one or the other.  Again, that pesky evidence keeps popping up.  Rumors about the harmful effects of birth control have been debunked repeatedly.  In the medical world lying about a drug causes you to lose your license and livelihood;  generally speaking under that threat people do not hide the real facts.  It does creep in and it is quickly rooted out and repudiated. This is the real facts.

Yes they are faith based. So what! I was offered a Bible when I left.  I'm glad they were there.

I have no issue with Faith based organizations. I am glad you were offered a Bible as you left. I am also glad you found the support you needed in a difficult time.  Different people have different needs, and I am glad you found the place which met your needs.  In political philosophy we call this "free association."  Free association is the right of individuals to form social contracts and the freedom for the individual to secede from those contracts when they no longer seem beneficial to the individual.  I have certain social and religious institutions that I also practice free association with.  So long as the terms of the social contract with a faith based organization is rooted in free association I support that organization.

People need to chill out.

I'm going to skip this one, since in the entire basis of your point is that this organization has the right to it's message, but I do not have the right to respond.  That seems both disingenuous and hypocritical.  I am sure the ability to write such a lengthy response with out actually reading my posts demonstrates you are not the kind of person who fires off disingenuous and hypocritical rants, so we will just pretend it is not there.

 I'm sorry but its ok to talk about condoms and sex but not about abstinence and religion.

Once again, if you had actually read my posts there is NOTHING against abstinence or religion in
either of them.  The problem with programs like this is they violate the "free association" that I wrote about earlier.  When a particular religion is given preference in the secular classroom that violates the free association of religion.  My religious view differ from the instructors. Fortunately there is medically accurate evidence based  material available for the classroom; and everyone is left to teach their values in a free association environment.

Open your eyes people, we need more religion in our world...cuz its blowing up with out it!!!

You feel the world is "blowing up" because it needs more religion.  I think Martin Luther King Jr more accurately surmised the state of the world when he said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”  I think what the world needs is love and justice. I guess we'll have to agree to disagree.  

I am going to keep demanding for justice.










 




Sunday, October 26, 2014

Belleville District 118 - Masturbation, Morality, Manipulation, & Malfeasance

On Thursday I sent a strongly worded letter to the administration of my daughter's school regarding a
teacher who instructed her class that "masturbation is a form of self harm."  As my daughter and I continued to discuss the program over the following two days I once asked her, "Has Ms. Tinney (the instructor) said anything else that would concern you?"

"She always uses boyfriend or husband. Not once has she said partner or significant other."

This sent the red flags waiving in my head; not that using boyfriend and husband are wrong to use, just the unwavering hetero-normative language confirmed my suspicion that this teacher had an agenda.

Sure enough, with research and dissection my suspicions were confirmed.  The instructors warnings against masturbation had nothing to do with sex education and everything to do with proselytizing a particular pro-life Christian morality to public school students.

 Meet Rel8. "The ReL8 program exists to influence youth as they pursue a lifestyle of saving sex for marriage. " and "Our core values are a set of unchanging beliefs or principles that guide and govern the decisions of ReL8. Uncompromising Integrity - living right at any cost,  Undeniable Relevance - being who we are in today’s world. Unwavering Excellence - nothing less than our best"

Although the Rel8 page was fairly sanitized, further surfing around the organization's support website made it very clear,  "Mosaic PHC is a Christ-centered organization that shares the Gospel of Jesus Christ and reveals His love through our words and compassionate care."
This group exists to proselytize.  The Rel8 program purpose is to instill their religious morality on adolescents under the guise of sex education.

Please do not mistake what I am saying. I am not opposed the work and ministry of this organization.  Mosaic PHC has every right under the law, and a responsibility under their  faith to provide the ministry and teachings they provide.  I am certain the Rel8 program is a wonderful method to teach adherents, to their faith system, the moral teachings of their understanding of their sacred texts.  Youth programs at church, Bible Studies, youth rallies, and youth camps are ideal settings for the message of the Rel8 program.

I am opposed to evangelism by manipulation.  I am opposed to marketing to schools a sex education class while promoting a mission that is wholly different. If you want to present your core values to students in the public school system then you should promote an opt-in after school program like Child Evangelism Fellowship, Boy Scouts of America, and other similar groups.  I believe the bible mentions lying as part of the ten commandments.

Which brings me to the District 118 school board allowing teaching that is in clear violation of Illinois Public Act 098-0441. Whether this is ignorance or intentional I don't know. However, the malfeasance remains the same; this school board is endorsing the proselytizing of a particular brand of Christianity under the guise of academic instruction and without the informed consent of the student's parents.

Mosaic PHC founder and president in an interview on teach.com states, "Condom-centered educators believe promoting birth control and contraceptives addresses all these needs. But schools try to prevent any type of teen risky behavior — drugs, alcohol, smoking. They’re not going to say, “We know you are going to smoke, so here’s a pack.” Sexual activity among teenagers is a risky behavior, but schools take a secondary approach. They say, “We don’t want you to, but if you are, just be safe about it.” Rel8 believes a primary approach is the best whether it’s sex, drugs or alcohol."

To Mosaic, sex is a morally corrupt activity, harmful in the same way drugs, alcohol, and smoking are harmful.  However, I challenge her to present me one peer reviewed study that shows sex damages organs, stunts brain development, or otherwise physically harms it's participants.

Morally speaking she is correct under her religious beliefs, however Illinois state law clarifies
material presented in school sexual education programs must be "Evidence-based and medically accurate." Mosaic fearing this reality writes on their Facebook page that the proselytizing Rel8 program is jeopardized by using science and evidence as the measure for school sexual educational program.

Thankfully, Illinois has laws like this in place, unfortunately The District 118 Board of Education has chosen to ignore both the law and our student's civil rights by allowing Rel8 to continue "ministering" in our schools. Evidence based medically accurate information should not be the standard only because it is the law, but instead our Board of Education should want our children educated not evangelized. I am sorry to learn that the current program ignores the education in favor of the evangelism.

Mosaic PHC must be removed from our schools. Their manipulation and deceit must be called out for what it is. Our classrooms should be places of fact and evidence, not religious beliefs or principles.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Open Letter to Belleville District 118 on Sexual Traumatizing of Female Students

I have been silent.  Despite the overwhelming body of evidence that dress codes derived from the sexualitization of young girls result in clinical depression, eating disorders, reduced cognitive function, sexual dysfunction and professional inhibition[i]; I have not said anything.  I have chosen to combat the misinformation being internalized by my daughter, as a result of your dress codes which have no basis in social research, at home.  However, my daughter’s report of what is going on in the health class she has recently began will not allow me to remain silent any longer.

According to my daughter’s retelling of the instructor’s lesson, she told them that "self-pleasure is a form of self harm," and like all other forms of sex it should be avoided.  I was aghast, even first telling her there was no way this was being sanctioned and taught in a 21st century public school classroom. Yes, Kellog, Freud, and others taught this kind of nonsense in the early twentieth century but a hundred years of medical and psychology research has thoroughly debunked and rebutted these unscientific ideas.[ii]

Current research finds that masturbation in adolescent girls is an early indicator of future sexual health.  “One of the best predictors of whether a woman will be able to achieve orgasm in her sexual relations is a history of masturbation in adolescence.”[iii]  This kind of misinformation and stigmatization of natural and beneficial human behavior is counterproductive in society’s goal to create safe healthy sexual beings. As Masters and Johnson wrote “Although masturbation is the safest sex of all, negative feelings that may be associated with it can threaten one’s individual health and well-being.”[iv]

With the preponderance of research supporting the fact that self pleasure increases abstinence levels, improves sexual health, and reduces spread of STIs[v] it is unacceptable you would employ an instructor who would teach these thoroughly debunked and puritanical ideas.

This brings me full circle to my original criticisms of the district’s dress code.[vi] This dress code perpetuates rape culture by sexualizing our daughters and making them responsible for the “distraction” of their male peers. It is not a far stretch from, “It’s your fault he can’t concentrate on his school work;” to “It is your fault he could not control himself and sexually assaulted you.” I wonder about the harmful attitudes being forced on these young women.  Are we teaching these girls to play their sexually inhibited gender role, while teaching the glory of the male conquest in our male health classes? Are the young men also being taught that masturbation is a form of self harm; or is this attitude reserved for castigating our daughters into their proper gender roles?

I am including below a further reading section.  Parts are taken from the previously referenced research and others from additional source material available online.

For the sake of our daughters and their future as the women of our society it is your task to educate them using science, not myths and stigmatizations.   

Thank you,
Kevin J. Bowman and Christi L. Bowman

FURTHER READING:





Dress Coded: An education on Unnecessary Sexualization - http://sophieologie.me/2014/05/16/dress-coded-education-sexualization/


EMAILED 10-23-14 To:
Rock Horrighs - CJHS Principal - rhorrighs@belleville118.org
Lacey Schmersahl - CJHS Dean of Students - lschmersahl@belleville118.org
Tim Baum - CJHS PE Instructor - tbaum@belleville118.org
Joan Hasenstab - Raider Way Instructor  - jhasebstab@belleville118.org
Wendy Gallaher - Learning Lab Instructor - wgallaher@belleville118.org
Matt Klosterman - District Superintendent - mklosterman@belleville118.org






[v] ibid
[vi] As a side note, it is unacceptable that I as a parent can not find a copy an actual copy of said dress code on the district website. Without a clear and defined document available to me I am left to assume the enforcement is arbitrary and subjective.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

John Green - The Fault In Our Stars

I finished The Fault in Our Stars by John Green over a week ago now, and I have intentionally postponed posting about it while I continued to process the story.

I would certainly think somewhere between 15 and 19 everyone needs to read this book.  Not only is it beautiful storytelling of the highest order, but it addresses our invincibility myth so powerfully in that these characters have no illusion of being powerful or invulnerable.

Now on to the subject of reading the book in your late thirties, with three children approaching their teen years, is that I still recomend reading it, but am compelled to note that the painfulness of the book amplifies so much greater.  I was left in a deep sense of sadness and emotional connection to not only the two protagonist, but also their parents, and even the antagonist with his own journey leading him to where he was at too.

I knew I was impressed, and I knew I was touched by the profundity of the story, but it took me several days to figure out why.  The story certainly moved on the muscle structure of great characters, but most stories that have risen to the level of fame and appreciation that this one has received have great characters that move the story with power and grace. I must tell you when I finally realized what Green had done, when I determined the connective tissue which brought the novel together every bit of my emotional connection to the story was explained by my logical understanding of the piece.

Carl Jung, as Wikipedia explains it, "rejected the tabula rasa theory of human psychological development, believing instead that evolutionary pressures have individual predestinations manifested in archetypes." Jung's archetypes were not only the connective tissue of the story, the story was as much a parable to express Jung's theory of archetypes as the "Allegory of the Cave" was written to explain Plato's "Theory of Forms."

If you have not yet read the book, stop reading now and get a copy. It is only $7.99 on Amazon Kindle, so get it and read it.  The remaining paragraphs will contain SPOILERS. Please stop reading now if you do not want characters dissected in a story you have not yet read.

 I knew immediately after reading the book that the conversation between Hazel and Augustus at Oranjee was the fulcrum point the novel was balanced on.  As the days passed and my pondering about the book continued, it was here that I first realized where Green was going as I mulled their conversation at Oranjee over in my head.  Up until this point in the story everything between Hazel and Augustus was based on their archetypal roles as anima and animus, or in more common terms the idealized male and female . However, in the conflict and resolution of the evenings conversation the couple attains Jung's syzygy.  This unification begins in the metaphysical discussion on the afterlife and coalesces on the park bench outside Oranjee as they discussed the disintegration and death of Caroline Mathers.

As I thought about how Green transformed the images from "anima/animus" to "syzygy" between Hazel and Augusts, I saw how Jung's archetypes were pervasive throughout the entire story.  I was blown away how the narration of the story had been so often by Hazel as self and about Hazel as shadow.  Hazel the narrator, Jung's "the self" archetype, is strong, self actualized, and at times even dismissive of her cancer. The cancer itself, present in both their bodies was a physical manifestation of a story about the pieces of ourselves Jung refers to as "the shadow." The weakness, chaos, and unknown mystery of the cancer within the bodies of these two protagonist, were so easily emotionally connected to because our own psyche is shadow, it too is weak, chaotic and mysterious to us.

Jung's other images are equally well woven into the story, the conflict between Hazel's mom as caregiver and secret student as Jung's "the Mother."  Hazel's father's working and providing  as Jung's "the father." Isaac's surgery leading to blindness and his learning to experience the world through different senses as Jung's "the persona."  Each of these well crafted archetypes made the story so easy to connect with.

One of my favorite illustrations of Jung's archetypes was his usage of Otto Frank, real life father of Anne Frank, to serve as Jung's "the wise old man." One of the most touching points in the story is in the Anne Frank house tour,
 "I must say," Otto Frank said on the video in his accented English. I was very much surprised by the deep thoughts Anne had"..."and my conclusion is," he said "since I have been in very good terms with Anne, that most parents don't really know their children." 
The quote, the timing within the story, and the tragedy which at this point has only been foreshadowed makes for, especially in retrospect, a perfect characterization of Jung's wise old man.

 Earlier in the post I wrote about my emotional connection and sympathy to VanHouten as antagonist of the story. As I finished reading I was conflicted about how I could feel so much empathy for a character who was clearly the antagonist of the story.  Clearly, one is not supposed to have such tenderness for the bad guy.  Except, VanHouten isn't a bad guy.  Carl Jung writes about another archetype, "the trickster."  VanHouten moves through the story changing forms between heroic author, general asshat, pathetic drunk, and broken father.  The trickster was by Jung's explanation the darkest most extreme pieces of "the shadow" archetype.  Jung writes, "...trickster is both subhuman and superhuman, a bestial and divine being, whose most alarming characteristic is his unconsciousness." As Paul Radin writes in the same volume, "Trickster is at one and the same time creator and destroyer, giver and negator, he who dupes others and who is always duped himself. . . . He possesses no values, moral or social, is at the mercy of his passions and appetites, yet through his actions all values come into being.”  (source) 

The emotional connection to VanHouten, and proving this is a parable of Jung's archetypes comes in the following paragraph by Jung himself.
The peculiar thing about these dissociations is that the split-off personality is not just a random one, but stands in a complementary or compensatory relationship to the ego-personality. It is a personification of traits of character which are sometimes worse and sometimes better than those the ego-personality possesses. A collective personification like the trickster is the product of an aggregate of individuals and is welcomed by each individual as something known to him, which would not be the case if it were just an individual outgrowth"  (source)
John Green has titled the book, "The Fault in Our Stars." VanHouten in his first emailed response to Augusts takes issue with a William Shakespeare quote,
 "and never was Shakespeare more wrong than we had Cassius note "The fault dear Brutus in not in our stars / but in ourselves" Easy enough to say when you're a Roman nobleman (or Shakespeare!), but there is no shortage of fault to be found in our stars."
 This "fault in our stars" is what Jung writes about in all his work on myth and archetypes.  Jung traces our archetypes passed on from earlier generations, and even earlier evolutions that continue to affect us as a species, as societies, as communities, and as individuals.

This story matters because we are part of a tapestry that weaves back millions of years, and will continue on into time forward.  As Green himself stated in the author's note before the story, "...made up stories can matter, which is sort of the foundational assumption of our species."

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Galbraith Is Magic - The Cuckoo's Calling

In life we find oursleves in the prescence of magic.  As we read we discover this magic too.  As I was travelling to and from Chicago this week I decided to listen to an Audible recommended read.  This is a new author, and am I ever glad the algorithms that be thought I would enjoy this book, because oh boy did I ever.

Cukoo's Calling is just another murder mystery, with just another Columbo hero.  Although the actual story was only average, a good mystery with a good twist ending; there was something in the writing style that made the book special.

Rober Galbraith had a very rare talent.  He writes with cadence.  There is a magic to his style, it is like a well directed play or movie that moves along with a pace that is clearly designed to entertain and evoke a precise emotion at a precise moment.  In many ways I use this word magic precisely be his writing moves with the same sene of direction and levity that I first fell in ove with reading the Harry Potter novels.  In many ways it seems as if Galbraith grew up reading the Potter novels and has taken the magic of Rowling's unique style and applied to a story of murder and mystery.

I am definitely looking forward to reading more by Galbraith.  The story clearly leaves room for more.  I encourage everyone I know who loves to read to enjoy this book.  I think we as readers are going to need to have a lot more oppourtunities to enjoy his work. Let's hope that is made possible by the monetary success of his debut work.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

I have seen so many comments about the #Trayvon Martin jury. There is disgust, disappontment, and outrage at the verdict. I do not feel the jury is to blame for the injustice of this young man's life. The injustice lies on the system and authorities in this community.

The police who valued a young man so little because of the color of his skin that they sent Zimmerman home that evening are to blame. The Attorney General who charged Zimmerman with "Murder 2" knowing no jury could meet that burden of proof is to blame. The judge who allowed the young man's THC blood count to be admitted as evidence is to blame.

Blame for the injustice lies firmly in a local government who had no concern for the life of Martin at all.

Even if Trayvon did "throw the first punch" it was because he was being chased down and harassed by Zimmerman. This does not make Martin's actions right, but Zimmer
man's vigilante antics were the source.  The system which conspired under pressure to present nothing more than judicial theatrics never intended Zimmerman any harm.

The injustice of this event is not the verdict itself, but the systemic endorsement Zimmerman's bigoted assumptions which led to his vigilante encounter with Martin and therefore ultimately to Martin's death.

The injustice is ultimately that white people feel that racism isn't an issue and that we as a culture need to move on. So long as it is acceptable for neighborhood watch captains default assumption at seeing a young  black man to be suspicion, we are not living in a post racial world. The greatest injustice is that white people  can not hear the cries of their black neighbors and would rather cross on the other side of the road.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Next To Normal: A Musical Sacrament of Grace

I see a lot of Musical theater.  On average between professional, college, high school, and community theater shows I see approximately six shows a month.  This means I see theater that is great, and theater that is not so great.  I love theater, I love to be a part of shows, and I love to be a part of the audience of shows.  Theater is a religious experience for me, tightly connected in my spirit as an unadulterated form for interaction with the divine.  Stephen Sondheim wrote, "Music is mysterious and I think it’s as necessary to human life as breathing." For me I would take his illusion farther to state that if music is air, than a script is food; it can be be organic and healthy or sugary crap but either way it is meant to be ingested and digested.

One would think in the midst of all this praise for musical theater, that I would sit in shows and be blown away by the story, the music, the production with great regularity.  This is not the case.  In fact, I have been left breathless by theater only four times that I can remember.  My first story takes me back to a ten year old boy seeing, "Who Can Paint The Dragon's Wagon" performed by a community theater troupe, in an NCO club in Ramstein Germany. This is my first experience with musical theater, and I was enraptured by the entire experience that a story could be brought to light this intimately  My second mountaintop, was the first time I saw Lion King at the Fox Theater here in St. Louis, if you have seen Lion King you understand, if you have not, it can not be described.  Third in this journey through my most euphoric theater experiences is a performance of "Children of Eden" in a small Black Box theater in Chicago; I have never been in a room other than that evening where the lights came up for intermission and the entire audience was so engaged by the show that everyone sat in reverence for what they had just experienced for several minutes before the room began to stir.  The fourth and final summit of this story takes place about seven years ago when I saw Wicked for the first time.  Defying Gravity as the Act 1 conclusion is pure theater magic, and since seeing that number, in that show, that evening nothing else has blown me away.

That is to say, in those past seven years nothing has blown me away before this past Saturday night.  Saturday night I traveled to a small theater to serve as an usher for New Line Theater.  I have never seen a New Line show before, and was only there at all because I have a buddy who is the sound designer and as I stated before, I love musical theater.  I was here to enjoy a show, as I have enjoyed many many other shows through out these years.  I had no idea I was walking into a sacred space that would one again recapture my spirit, rekindle the search for beauty, and most importantly show me I had not previously been to the summit but instead had only walked a lofty escarpment leading to another peak.  This peak was so magical because it perfectly brought my wonderment of the previous peaks into perfect harmonization.

I need to stop here for a moment to include another favorite quote of mine. The quote is by GK Chesterton in Tremendous Trifles,
 "Fairy tales, then, are not responsible for producing in children fear, or any of the shapes of fear;fairy tales do not give the child the idea of the evil or the ugly; that is in the child already, because it is in the world already. Fairy tales do not give the child his first idea of bogey. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey. The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon."  
There is not one of us who walks through life without some sense of dysfunction.  As the character Natalie responds to her mom in her character's emotional climax,
 "I don’t need a life that’s normal
That’s way too far away,
But something next to normal,
Would be okay.
Yeah, something next to normal,
That’s the thing I’d like to try.
Close enough to normal,
To get by." 
This is the zen we are all searching for, something close enough to normal to get by.  We all know there are dragons, monsters, and creatures that frighten us from within in the deepest most lonely hours of nighttime's darkness.  Next to Normal, moves into that intimate space of our own imagination and reminds us that the weapons against these monsters are closer than it seems.

Scott Miller directs New Line theater's production of Brian Yorkey's and Tom Kitt's masterpiece "Next To Normal."  In his production he encapsulates everything perfect about live musical theater.  Pulled into the dysfunction of the family so perfectly, you feel as if there needs to be an empty seat at the dinner table for you.  A set that is fairly minimalist and yet is disconcerting and haunting by itself, before a single actor has walked on stage sets the audience off kilter and prepares them to enter the world of the story dysfunction.  His characters are priestly in the way they become arbiters between the physical and metaphysical crag the story treacherously sets as it's path.  The experience perfectly completes the circuit between stage and audience. Without ever physically breaking the fourth wall the story's metaphors completely obliterates the safety and comfort  the fourth wall provides the audience's perspective. There is no better description for this show than to refer to it as sacramental. No matter which character's dysfunction we find ourselves illustrated by the lesson of the show is that, there is grace, and that grace is sanctifying. Perhaps it is put better in the show's own words, "When our long night is done, There will be light."

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Always Be MY Gallifrey - A Valentine Popup

Valetnine's Day, UGH!!! I have a total Scrooge attitude when it comes to this "holiday." I find it disgusting that the top three gifts to celebrate the day of love are flowers, chocolate and jewelry; three of the worst offenders on human rights and environmental conservancy. I also feel like it is an excuse for people to be second rate all year and then choose to shine in a single moment, which I find pathetic. Love is something we build everyday, it's built around busy schedules, screaming kids, sickness and health. So I say Bah Humbug and Good Riddance.

Yet despite all that, there is still something about it, that makes me want to do a "little something" for the beautiful person I get to spend my life with. I am in love with this woman, and she really does complete me. She is not the person I come home to, she is my home. Whenever I am with her, I am home. That being said, I wanted a fun project to celebrate that this year.

 Our favorite show is Doctor Who. So I made a pop-up book using clipart to let my bride know that she will "always be my Gallifrey."

I originally started working on this as a comic strip. I made the frames using stencils and a font I found online. I later decided it would be more personal and that a Pop-Up book would be cooler. So I proceeded with the new plan a first using scrap paper from the pages to make the "Z" which would become the pop. I had so much fun experimenting with making the book that I started taking pictures. I eventually determined thas a consistent "Z" was a better plan, so I added 4 little strips 3/8" x 1.5" to the file. So here below is my collection of tests, and all the pages of the book. It was a blast!



I did generate a PDF of the file, each page contains the base card, the pop up mechanism and a second copy of the clip art which you can cut out and attach using the pop up tabs. The more tabs you use, the more stable the art remains, so I only used one on the sonic screwdriver and bow tie so each would remain floppy.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Black History Month Project - Phillis Wheatley

Today is the beginning of black history month, our annual celebration of one of the most important minority groups in the history of America.  I have been working the last couple weeks with my oldest daughter to complete a poster project as part of her classrooms curriculum.In the beautiful laziness of any child her age, she wanted to reformat a project from last year that was on Rosa Parks.  I however challenged her to pick a lesser known person, who she wanted to learn more about.  That person ended up being Phillis Wheatley who she had first experienced watching Liberty Kids.

So I present to you the poster project for your viewing enjoyment.  I hope you too are inspired by the life and influence of Phillis Wheatley, America's first published African American poet.

POSTER


PHOTO

QUOTES

TIMELINE




Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Meandering About: Veganism and Tolstoy

I am not a vegan, nor am I even a vegetarian. I try and keep my meat intake to a minimal level, but that is more based on a health decision rather than an animal rights motivation. I have heard arguments made by many people, and many faith traditions to support veganism and most of the fall very short, and even those I agree with in certain ideals I am not convinced enough to be motivated to stop the consumption of meat and other animal products.

I know there is a sect of believers within my own tradition of faith that believe a vegan diet is strongly endorsed in the Christian canon. Citing examples such as the diet given to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, as well as the diet in the book of Daniel eaten by the 4 young men. These stories do not address the ethical questions involved in consumption of other animals and so have very little impact on my thinking, except to note that even ancient people had an understanding of the health benefits of veganism.

Hinduism supports veganism as an action which benefits one's Karma. As my views on sin within my tradition are considered heretical by many Christians, my views on Karma would be nearly identical to my views on sin. Sin is language to discuss that which destroys. Any behavior that brings destruction to ourselves, our relationships, or the world is therefore sin. In the same way, I would see Karma in a very similar way. This leads to the weakness I find in the Hindu argument is that they fail to convince me that meat eating is destructive to the world. I certainly would be motivated by their ideas on Karma to avoid meat which is attained by the factory farming system, since it's practices produce great ecological damage to the planet, and I believe emotional damage to the people who work in that degradative environment. I avoid factory farm meat for the same reasons I avoid pornography, because it's production dehumanizes the people involved in it's production, and therefore I am responsible for that act of violence. So I am still left as an "ethical" meat eater.

Now Krishna's teachings seem to have the wisdom that has most left me thinking on these matters. In their teachings I read a parable about a parent that had "normal" children and a child with severe mental disabilities. The parable asks the question of whether the loving parent would allow the intelligent child to consume the developmentally disabled child because their intelligences were viewed as unequal. This speaks me to as a parent and if I thought the parallel worked I would certainly become a vegan with no second look back. Although I do agree that ALL THINGS are the creation of loving God, I do not believe that since all things come from a common source of love, they are coequal in the eyes of that source. I "created" my children, and I created a vermicompost system with about 5000 worms in it. I LOVE my children, and I also LOVED my worms, and I lovingly ground up all their food in a blender before adding it to the food trays to aid their digestion. However, a day came when my worm bin got infested with maggots. I had tray upon tray of maggots. That day I dumped the worms bins, releasing the remaining worms back into the soil. Yet if one of my children came home covered in maggots, I would certainly do everything in my power to keep her alive. Now I love my children, and I love my vermicompost systems, but I love them in VERY different ways. So my philosophical ideas are challenged by the Krishna thought, but my lifestyle remains unaffected.

Currently my views on the consumption of animal products would be best described as compassionate and moderated, since I have seen nothing that convinces me to move past this idea. I however came by a quote today by my philosophical hero Leo Tolstoy, "As long as there are slaughterhouses there will be battlefields." This quote has me thinking again. Is the Buddhist that when we ingest meat we ingest the violence committed against the animal at slaughter the point Tolstoy is making here? Is he saying that a person who numbs his conscience by taking the life of another species is capabler of the same numbness toward the "other" of his own species? Is he agreeing with the Jains who believe in the "peaceful coexistence of all things," considering that as long as we accept violence in our existence in anyway, we will accept it in a plurality of ways? This point is made by the wonderful work of feminist theology in their discussions of the societal prevalence of kyriarchy.

I do not know what I think about the quote except to say that it has me thinking. I respect Tolstoy immensely, and will get to the source of the quote and try to understand more in it's intended context. Questions like these excite me; and I love both the intellectual challenge of considering them, but also the dialog of people from a perspective of ideas also. I call this blog "Dispossessed" because I always feel like a nomad in a world of cities, this is where I am wandering today.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Feminist Dad

I have an addiction. Every free moment of my time, and some extra that are not actually free, I am spending on Pinterest.  I heard of this site a while back, but it was not until the last several weeks that I was sent an invite from a friend and have started using it.  Now after this short time I find myself in the process of looking for an addiction support group.

Seriously though, it is an amazing site and I have had a blast seeing so much of what it has to offer.  With one exception.  I feel that a large percentage of the site's current active users are traditional "Stay At Home Moms" (SAHM).  This is not to say I have a problem with the SAHM decision.  Our family was blessed by my wife's decision to fill this role for ten years between the time our oldest was born until out youngest started school.  I believe that the SAHM or SAHD decision is a very personal decision to each family, and there are both obvious strengths and weaknesses to either or neither of these decisions.   My problem is the very traditional "gender roles" I see posted with great regularity by many of these SAHM members.

I am a father of two daughters, and although I supported the ideals of gender equality before becoming a dad.  I became a feminist in that delivery room when my wife gave birth to our oldest daughter.  I can not believe ANY MAN can look at his daughter and want anything less than everything the world has to offer for her.

 I want daughters who have the strength of character of Rosa Parks; the commitment to justice of Dorothy Day;  the tenacity of purpose of Margaret Sanger; the outspoken voice of Elanor Roosevelt; and the commitment to the impoverished of Mother Teresa .

We need to raise a generation of girls who are not limited by the patriarchal prejudices of our civilization's history.  We need girls who will grow up to understand that beauty and femininity are not tied up in heirloom ideas and archaic bigotry.  I want to stand as part of a generation of fathers who treasure our daughters so deeply we offer up the stories of Marie Curie, Hariett Tubman, Virginia Woolf, Amelia Earhart, Jane Jacobs, Margret Thatcher, and Georgia O'Keefe as more inspirational than the fiction of Disney's Cinderella, Belle, and  Snow White.  We need daughters who would be more likely to call the police on a 200 year old obsessed stalker vampire than to maniacally adopt it as the greatest love story ever told. OK, perhaps the last sentence was a bit tongue in cheek.

I am a feminist dad and I plan on offering the world two daughters who are fiercely independent, driven, free thinking, investigative and see their femininity enhanced rather than diminished by these traits, and I know there are other dads out there working to do the same.

UPDATE: I saw this image and thought it  needed to be tagged onto the bottom, because the UP opening sequence is the kind of love story I want my daughters to see:

Monday, November 28, 2011

All Natural Bird Seed Ornaments

Heart Ornament
It's time to decorate the house for Christmas, YAY!!!  In our house my wife is responsible for interior decor and I am responsible for exterior decor, with veto power vested in both parties.  It is a system that works.  For me that meant I needed to be thinking through how I was going to decorate the outside of the house with Christmas cheer.

I have seen bird seed ornaments at the Bird Store, or in garden sections at the local hardware store, but they always have strange ingredients that one finds in prepackaged foods, and that scares me.  I have also seen people post bird seed ornaments on sites like pinterest, but they always seems to rely on gelatin as the binder.  This rubs my hippie sensibilities the wrong way.

Now a delicacy I like to make around the house is Sprouted Lentil Cakes.  In my work with improving my recipe for these cakes, I have learned quite a bit about all natural binders, I know what works and what just crumbles back apart.  So I decided to use that information to make my own recipe for bird seed ornaments.  So if you're looking for an all natural recipe (glitter pipe cleaner not included) then here it goes.

INGREDIENTS:
1/2 Cup Raw Golden Flax Seed
15 Ounce Jar of Crunchy Peanut Butter
4 Cups Wild Bird Seed
Several Seasonal Cookie Cutters
30 Pipe Cleaners of Pieces of thread / yarn

MIXING INSTRUCTIONS:
Bird Seed Mixture
Step 1: Cover Flax Seed in water and soak for 3 hours.  This will create a natural gelatinous solution that needs to be blended along with the excess water in the food processor.  Do not drain excess water. After processing flax seed, it should look like a chunky meringue.
Step 2: Place blended flax seed and the entire jar of Peanut butter into your stand mixer.  Mix together well.
Step 3: While Flax seed and peanut butter are busy getting all mixed up.  Rinse and drain birdseed.  This whole thing works better if your bird seed is damp before adding to mixer.
Step 4:  Slowly add bird seed to mixer 1/2 cup at a time. 

SHAPING INSTRUCTIONS:
Place hook in middle
 Make sure you choose large open cookie cutters.  I tried a Santa, a bell, and a reindeer that all crumbled from too much detail.
Step 5: Lay cookie cutter upside down on parchment or on a silicone baking sheet. Tightly pack the bird seed mix into the cookie cutter filling it half way.
Step 6: Insert pipe cleaner or thread  making a loop to hang from. Press lightly into packed seed mixture.
Step 7: Fill remainder of cook cutter with seed mixture packing tightly.  I used a flat spatula and pressed my weight down on it to ensure a firm packing.
Step 8: Clear excess mixture from sides of the cookie cutter before attempting to move.
 
Ornaments Lined Up On Tray
DEHYDRATING INSTRUCTIONS:
I have a nine tray Excalibur dehydrator which I set on 115 degrees for 4 hours.  An oven set at 175 and propped open would also work if you do not have a dedicated dehydrator. 
Step 9: Flip cookie cutter right side up using a flat spatula if ornament stick to baking sheet.
Step 10: Place down flat on dehydrating tray or cookie sheet, and lift slowly using your thumbs to press against ornament so it remains flat on tray.  The ornament is VERY delicate at this point and if it breaks apart just move it back to your work area and start over.
Step 11: Dehydrate until ornament is no loner crumbling.  This took me 4 hours at 115 degrees.

With all this being done this way I still had about a 10% loss after dehydration as I was hanging them on the Christmas tree.  I thought that was VERY GOOD result being I had not used any outside chemicals or gels as binders.

FINISHED PRODUCT:
While the ornaments were drying our family sat down and strung popcorn garland to hang on the outside tree where our ornaments would be featured.  It was very fun for a while, but as with most tedious projects the kids lost interest and my wife and I were left finishing the garland alone.

All together we made a wonderful all natural decorated tree for the neighbors and the neighborhood birds to enjoy.  The remaining ornaments made a wonderful early Christmas gift for our children's teachers and staff.



May you and your family have as wonderful time as we did making these cute all natural bird seed ornaments.