Sunday, November 23, 2014

2002 Review of "Goddess Unmasked"

Editor's Note:  This is a review I wrote in the early aughts.  I've edited out some of the snark.


Unmasking the Unmasker:
A Review of Phillip Davis' Goddess Unmasked


The cover illustration of a green scowling visage of oldish woman looking out from behind a Botticelli Venus mask should have been an indication to me that Phillip G. Davis, author of Goddess Unmasked had a unsympathetic bias towards NeoPaganism. But I believed the reviews which indicated that Goddess Unmasked would be a neutral, scholarly review of Wicca, witchcraft, and NeoPaganism in general. I had hoped Davis would offer scholarly insight to such questions as "Why do NeoPagans celebrate on solstices and equinoxes?" and "What are the historical antecedents of The Goddess?" Alas, Davis's desire to save NeoPagans from the destructive cult he believes it to be interferes with his scholarship.

Goddess Unmasked attempts to show that feminist Goddess Worship specifically and Wicca generally are dangerous institutions with a subversive political agenda, and that Wicca is based on a foundation of historical and ideological feminist lies.

It succeeds in casting uncertainty on some of the archaeological theories behind popular myths of matriarchy, whom Davis traces back to Johann Jakob Bachofen's 1861 book Das Mutterrecht. Davis asserts that an incomplete 1967 translation influenced early feminist writers Elizabeth Gould Davis (The First Sex), and Merlin Stone (When God was a Woman). Other NeoPagan feminist writers Davis trashes are easy targets such as Margaret Murray, Riane Eisler, and Mary Daley.

Goddess Unmasked fails, however, to convince that Wicca is a dangerous lifestyle. It does convey the sense that Davis has a strong preference for monogamous, heterosexual relationships; transcendent spirituality; and orthodox scholarship. 

In the heat of critiquing female chauvinists with political agendas, Davis fails to make a distinction between the agendas of feminists (women and men are equal), NeoPagans(to practice an earth-based mystery religion), ceremonial magicians (to use magical tools to manipulate the environment), ceremonial mystics (to use magical tools to seek the divine spark, especially the inner divine spark) and environmentalists (save the earth). Although there does tend to be overlap between these groups, it is as appropriate to lump them together as it would be to lump Catholic, Lutheran, Baptist, Unitarian, and Russian Orthodox Christians together.

Part of the difficulty critically reviewing NeoPagan literature is that there's so much material to work with that is not scholarly, or uses questionable source material, or comes to patently silly conclusions, or was written to make a quick buck (I am waiting for Chicken Soup for the Pagan Soul to be released any day, now). Critical review needs to happen to weed out old information, fraudulent interpretation, and archaic values because the amount of entrenched misinformation makes it difficult to tease out clear thinking. [Editor's note, this review was written before the publication of Ronald Hutton's Triumph of the Moon, and his later work, Pagan Britian.]  Davis's scathing observations on the robustness of NeoPagan research are neither impressive nor original, as NeoPagan writings of the last thirty years tend to be intuitive applications of their authors' experiences and the authors he tends to focus on are particularly woo-woo.

One problem I had with Davis's review of the literature is that it was not clear when he was attacking NeoPagan ideas or their authors. Davis spends much of his critique following the personal lives of the contributors of NeoPaganism with persistence worthy of Kenneth Star. The sexual exploits, straight and queer, are commented on. If Nazis or swastikas are associated with a text or an author, we hear about it -- that Nazis took an ancient symbol and used it for their own purposes is not commented on.  Near the end of Goddess Unmasked, Davis unsuccessfully attempts to disarm objections to his approach of presenting NeoPagan source authors as "unsavory characters."

Davis's bias undermines trust in his reporting. He misinterprets NeoPagan writers and he appears to be selecting sources based on sensationalism and low levels of scholarship. As an example in one of his early chapters, after scathingly quoting Elizabeth Gould, Merlin Stone, Rianna Eisler, and Mary Daly for pages, he follows with several quick paragraphs mentioning the work of the (usually) more scholarly Starhawk, Marija Gimbutas, and Margot Adler.  This tactic is like presenting the spiritual teachings of Jerry Falwell, Jim Baker, Pat Robertson and then mentioning Bishop Desmond Tutu as an afterthought.

It would be enough for me as a student of NeoPaganism to know if a key text from a NeoPagan source was based on archaeological evidence, limited information, or outright imagination.

To be generous, perhaps Davis has waded through so much Renaissance, Enlightenment and Romantic writing on magical theory, revolution, religion and gender roles that he has stopped looking for where 20th century writers have departed from old or silly ideas. As I only have exposure to materials written after 1900, I am not qualified to comment on the accuracy of Davis' reporting on documents older than a century.

His quotation of Starhawk is misinterpreted as a license to throw orthodox morality to the winds in a narcissistic spirit of situation ethics. A closer reading of Starhawk reveals that she is advocating integrity and pointing out that to choose a particular action is to also choose a particular constellation of circumstances. She goes on to argue that as a NeoPagan, one should know one's own value system (in Starhawk's example a clean environment) and to act in accordance with one's values.

Davis looks at the archaeological evidence and criticizes the goddess writers of coming to false (and in some cases fraudulent) conclusions. He is able to compare the writings of Daley and Eisler with the archaeological source text they are working from to demonstrate some of their questionable (and embarrassing) interpretations about a widespread matriarchal culture that worshiped a supreme Mother Goddess. He paints a picture of Gumbutas as a once-qualified archaeologist, but in the end lead astray by the writings of Eisler.  But based on his own arguments, Davis should conclude that the archaeological record is inconclusive and that any theory of ancient spiritual practices cannot be supported. Instead he pronounces the theories of preliterate Goddess worship as lies designed to promote a feminist agenda.

Davis objects to the elevation of sex as a sacred ritual, an idea whose popularity he traces back to Merlin Stone (1976) and Dion Fortune (1938). He seems to have forgotten that NeoPaganism is an earth-based mystery religion. Davis also takes pains to point out when NeoPagan authors express sexual preferences outside the normal mainstream. He does not mention NeoPagans with normative preferences.

Although Davis ascribes some importance to Fortune's writings as source materials for late 20-th century NeoPagans, a review of the endnotes in Goddess Unmasked shows no indication that Davis has read any Dion Fortune; it seems he is quoting quotations. This is too bad, as the prolific writings of Fortune range from the meticulously methodical to quaintly racist, and a solid review of her writing would be of service to students and historians of pagan thought.

For example, he quotes a quotation about Dion Fortune's fictional work, The Sea Priestess wherein the main female character espouses a sacred marriage. Davis makes no mention of her non-fiction works, Sane Occultism and Psychic Self-Defense.   Sane Occultism was written specifically to instruct neophytes about shysters and sexual predators in the occult biz. In Psycic Self Defense, Fortune takes great pains to instruct the reader to seek physical, earthly, or medical reasons behind occurrences before ascribing them to psychic malice. Davis' omission is akin to critiquing C. S. Lewis' theology based solely on quotes from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.  Davis instead focuses on Fortune's psychic battles with Moira Matthers.

As evidence of a female bias in NeoPaganism, Davis paints a picture of Janet and Stewart Farrar as exclusive Goddess writers. Although he focuses on their book, The Witch's Goddess, he makes no mention at all of one of their other books, The Witch's God.

As an example of an overlooked NeoPagan writer with normative sexual values is Vivian Crowley, who espouses magic works and NeoPagan rituals performed between a married man and woman. She describes the Great Rite not as a Davis-esque orgy of debauchery, but as a sex-positive celebration of the divine that is done as a pantomime if the couple is working with a group, or else done privately behind closed doors.

Davis even questions the validity of Jung in an attempt to discredit Joeseph Campbell and any writers who attempt to validate their work by citing Jungian psychology.

Goddess Unmasked takes a twist in the concluding chapter. The author describes the conflict of academic freedom with the political agenda of Women's Studies Departments in the Canadian university system. He also examines the university process of resolving complaints of sexual harassment.  The phrase "as a family man,"makes an appearance.   All of this gives the culmination of Goddess Unmasked a vendetta feeling. 

Goddess Unmasked is a general, far-flung attempt to provide historical context to goddess worship. Unfortunately its greatest contribution is the endnotes section that lists the source materials. Students of NeoPaganism will best be served by using Goddess Unmasked as a syllabus for their own studies.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Saturday Morning Writing Closet

This morning has been an editing morning.  I've been working from my Writer's Closet while the family goes about Saturday Morning Activities (mostly involving the star of Minecraft, StampyCat Longnose).

The focus today has been 100 word micro-fiction.  I enjoy micro-fiction because it's brief and it forces a focus on words and their flow.  The challenge for me is to include enough information and to make sure I haven't become so amused at my own cleverness that I've stopped speaking to the reader.  

On that note, back to work -- one last edit and read aloud to make sure everything makes sense.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Squick and Unicorns

Last night I discovered that the funny sexy-farce I'd written was squicking people out because readers missed the single cue that the couple was married and not brother and sister.   I was assured later that at least I hadn't won a Leon West award.

Yesterday was a craft day.  On the plus side:  Unicorns!  On the minus side, a star mesh that I'd worked on had a misconfiguration in it, with the result of creating a triangular bowl and not a hexagonal one.  I could have gone on to make half a tetrahedron, but I'd been aiming for a dodecahedron.  

The unicorns came out really well.  The shop keeper and I were in squee! mode for a full five minutes.  I particularly like the way the unicorns' horns came out.  I'm hoping to turn this into a shadow shade for my niece.

Throwback Thursday: Construction Notes.

I was rooting around some old writings and stumbled over these notes from when we were constructing a brick path and some raised beds for the front yard of the place we were renting.


These scenes probably illustrate why we aren't handymen...


September 4, 2002


Scene:  Mark and John are talking about the placement of wooden forms with Gretchen in the front yard.

Mark (to John):  ". . . you've spent the day dinking around and now you have a better sense of how things are working.

John (slightly indignant):  "I wasn't dinking around.  I was trying to find the precise point where the paths meet so I could make all the formwork line up."

Mark:  "You were dinking around."

Gretchen (attempting to move the conversation forward):  "It's important."

John:  "I want the brick pattern to line up so it looks good."

Mark (suddenly suspicious):  "Is this pattern part of some pagan thing?  Are you  going to stir up the astral cooties?"

John:  "No.  This isn't pagan.  It's decorative.  Besides, you came up with the  pattern."

Mark:  "Yeah, but you were leading me to it. . . "





Scene:  Two hours into an attempt to line up various warped pieces of formwork within a network of strings.

John (kicking a board into place so it lines up with a string):  ". . . Stupid. (wham) Wood. (wham) You. (wham) Will! (wham) Obey! (wham) MY! (wham) WILL!!"  

(Board moves into place.  Pause as John discovers that one end of the string has  gotten caught on another form by the door and that the string was in the wrong place, and that in  all likelihood, the board he's been kicking was in the correct place all along.)

John:  "AAAUUUGH!!!"

Mark (asleep in house):   "Zzzzzz."





Scene:  John attempts to motivate Mark in the importance of proper angle measurement.

John (pulling string from side of landfolks' house):  "OK  (to Mark) this string needs to come from a 45 degree angle over here.  Actually, that doesn't matter so much as that  it makes a 90 degree angle from this string here (indicates string coming from own front door), which makes a 45 degree angle from our house.   I know that the string from our house is right, but what I don't know is where on the string the path from the side gate intersects.  That point is where the two strings intersect; it needs to be a right angle.  Once I know where that point is, everything else builds up from it (maniacal looks becomes even more fanatic).  Once I have that point, I can build everything; 51 inches this way marks the width of the path here, and 51 inches the other way marks the end of the path there.  (Senses a wavering from  Mark, looks at him)  Does all this make sense, or do I sound like some kind of mad man?"

Mark:  It makes sense; I just think you're putting in too much effort for results you're going to get.





Scene:  Having gotten most of the forms within acceptable placement parameters, Mark and John are laying down bricks.

John (picking up a white brick from the bed of builder's sand).  "EVIL!  (little rubber 1 / 4 inch spacers scatter to the ground)  It's a Brick of Evil sent to torment me!  Be gone, Evil Brick!!  (Throws brick into blue recycling bin set on top of the plastic trash can that acts as a cistern).

Mark (coming back from sand pile):  "You can't throw that brick in there."

John:  "It really is a Brick of Evil.  It'll screw up the pattern.  It's longer than the others.  I measured it this time to be sure."

Mark:  "Where'd you get that bin?  You can't steal the landlady's recycling bin.    Take out the brick."

John (taking the offending brick in hand):  "But this is a Brick of Evil."

Mark (walking over to landladies' front porch with bin):  "You're talking about masonry and I'm talking about moral issues."

John (looks at pile of other bricks waiting to go into the fledgling pattern of bricks):  "Do you have a cardboard box or something?  I need to put this Brick of Evil away somewhere or it will sneak back to torment me later."

Mark:  "Put it in the living room."

John:  "Really?  (Thinks back to all the times Mark has complained about all the  books, magazines, art projects, portable Aubrey Holes, clothes, magnetic toys, plates, three-ring-binders and other detritus in the living room.)  Wow.  (Places Brick of Evil under a coffee table)  Cool."

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

On Erotica

Monday.  The other week I had a dream that dipped into the erotic.  When I woke, I realized that the image went well with a writing prompt and I felt like I had to write it.  So now I'm writing erotica and I'm slightly embarressed.  The difficulty is that I want it to function both as an idea piece and as erotica, but I don't want to write a smutty wham-bam-thank-you-sam piece.  That and Moon Unit Zappa is reprising her part in Valley Girl as I write:  "Are you into S and M?  Ohmigod!  Hurt me, hurt me.  I am so sure."   I'm definately using a pen name for this one.

Word Count:  300 words in a half hour.

--

Tuesday.

And now I'm in the "Why Is It Important to Write This, Again?" stage.  Because my id presented me with an image that just happens to work with a word-prompt?   It's embarrassing, in a "OMG, I can't believe I'm writing this," way conjoined with "ugh, people are going to think I'm a pervert."   Or is pervy the new normal.  Should I treasure the imagery in the silent sanctuary of my heart, or share it?   Is this fan-fic / Fifty Shades of Gay?

And extrapolating my characters into the scene ... well, let's just say it's harder for to write a kinky scene than a vanilla scene or even a killing the monster scene because I feel so self conscious or because I start laughing.

I"m thinking if all this squirmy angst is from a 1000 word contest, then I'm tapping into something.

Word Count:  460 words in an hour, plus some editing.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Fever Dream: Mystic Dancing Octagon Cult

Maybe it's the last vestige of a cold.  Maybe it's all the Ricolas.  Maybe it's all the extra naps... But I had one of those never-ending, really wacky, totally detailed John Dreams.  I was more or less myself in my own body throughout the dream.  The most changeable aspect was the location  -- although looking back, the dream kept returning to octagonal structures.  The dream was more continuous that I'm remembering, and I'm guessing at the sequence.

It's also Extra Wacky -- all it's missing is a section with a Samba Beat where I and every character in the dream become cartoons and dance with two-dimensional foldy-ness into an origami symbol for the intersection of divinity with internet-enabled peanut butter.  That's a warning.

#

I was at some kind of birthday party, and there were two rival rock bands there.  It was like a teen-aged Josie and the Pussycats vs. the Evil Girl Band sort of thing.  There was the nicer three girl band versus the wilder, not so nice five girl band.

Folks were dancing in an octagonal performance space--I'm very strongly reminded of the Octagon at Arcoanti, a single story building made out of two meter long concrete panels with circular windows arranged around a octagonal pit living-room.  The dance was dark and it was difficult to see people at a distance, sort of like a dimly lit high school dance.

I think there was a musical sing off here, but I don't remember the conclusion (although it's likely the Josie and the Pussycats girls won).

#

A group of us were cleaning up after the birthday party or some gathering.

I was trying to return a empty soda bottle to the social hall's recycling area, except that my drink had had caffeine in it, and the religious beliefs of the people in the hall proscribed them drinking anything caffeinated, so I had to hang onto to bottle.

I'd left my shoulder bag in another hall far away --  we were in a high school or other large campus building with distantly located halls, so I began my wanderings through really long hallways.

#

I walked through a doorway.  The walls were yellow woven thatch, made of straw and sticks.  The door was a rough and warped plywood?  It had a Gilligan's island feel to it.  I believe I was at a zoo or natural history museum.

I was outside, on the banks of a swamp. It was day time, and I was on a narrow margin of dry ground running along and slightly above a swamp.  Three very large crocodiles sped out of the swamp toward me.  I had a dash of about thirty feet to another door.  On one hand I was up a ways, and the crocs would probably stay in the swamp area.

On the other hand, it was a dream, and I remember smacking a crocodile on the nose because it got too close.

I think there was a group of African folks behind me, and we were all waiting for the crocodiles to get distracted enough so that we could continue along our way.

#

I was on some sort of boat or else a museum tour.  At the time it didn't seem odd, but I was at the head of the tour and everyone else was a stereotypical fourteen-ish black student from Botswana in a school uniform of a white oxford shirt and dark slacks.  

The tour guide / boat steward was a prim, authoritarian fortyish woman.  We'd wound our way to the bottom of the boat on some kind of museum tour.  The concrete floor, slightly rough, and painted either a battleship grey or drab olive green, had about a eighth of an inch of standing water  puddling in places.  There were exposed pipes and ducts along the ceiling and walls.  We were walking on bright reddish-brown walkways of wooden slats -- which in waking life remind me of the wood deck chairs we own.

The authoritarian guide suggested that we take a nap.  So we all crowded into the end of a hall and lay down on the slats, trying to keep out of the pooled water -- which was pretty much impossible.  Most of us had to trail feet or hands in the water.  Even in the dream, I felt like I was in some kind of slave transport.

There were waterbugs in the water, and while they weren't like flying mosquitoes or leeches, they did have the tendency to wriggle up against one's legs and feet and browse for whatever it was they ate.

I got up and had a mop or floor squee-gee to try to get some of the water up off of the floor.  I had a "What Are You Doing?/That's futile" conversation with the docent where she seemed to be annoyed that I was trying to improve sleeping conditions.

#

I stumbled into a back room.  The entry way was supposed to be secret, but once you got to the door, it wasn't hidden or locked.  It was security through obscurity.  I somehow knew that I'd stumbled into an abortion clinic, which on one hand struck me as very progressive, but on the other hand seemed really weird for the cult (which seemed repressive), but back on the first hand for a medical procedure seemed really heavy on the woo-woo and very very light on the science.  In the distance there was a young teen mom lying on an examining couch.

The emotional atmosphere was tense, in a "We're doing this, but we're not really doing this, but although we publicly say we don't do this, we're following an approved method for doing this" official way from the staff and a "OMG, I'm sneaking into this place" way from the young moms.

The room was well lit, wide, and had a lot of pipes and ducts in it, like a mechanical or air handling room.  There were, at most, three young women getting abortions.  The only privacy was by placing the examining couches far enough away that the women and nurses could pretend no one was there.

"Do you mind," one of the nurses scowled at me and said in a hushed voice "we're helping a soul to commit suicide."

#

I'd entered a gathering hall for my bag, and discovered the beginnings of a religious service.  More people entered behind me, and although I wanted to leave, I was in one of those awkward dream moments when it seemed socially and physically impossible.

The congregation was mostly white older folks.  In waking life I'm reminded of the Unitarian congregation I hung out with several years ago.  But these folks were culty.  They were the elect and they knew it; they were socially conservative somehow; they were evangelical and full of public displays of rapturous spirituality; and they were smiley friendly because we had all come together to share the same dogma--or would be sharing the same dogma by the end of the service.  It was sort of like Baptist Pentecostals meet the Mormons, I think...

There was a lot of pageantry going on.  The congregation was in the middle, looking out a walkway where a procession traveled doing a kind of stations of the cross thing, except it was scenes of 19th and 20th century European Christian Mysticism more than anything else.

At one pint there was a tableau of a circle 1890's women hiking up their skirts and pressing opened blank books onto their vulvas.  Others rapturously held the books against their bosoms.  I have an impression they had inked themselves and were leaving embossed impressions on the pages.

There must have been a scene change, because now I looking down on an octagonal stage that had a book on it displaying the twelve or so holy books of the sect.  The one that I picked up was a slender picture volume by Robert Louis Stephenson (Or Percy Shelly).  I was surprised and impressed that the author was there and it lent a kooky legitimacy to the event.

I don't remember text, but the pictures were white-inked woodcuts on beige paper (yes, it was hard to see).  These were done in a Craftsman style which looked medieval .  In the woodcuts, women -- pretty much naked -- were holding  books against their bodies.  Heavenly, seraphic fire emanated from the contact and left behind mystic quasi-Hebrew runes on the books.  Think a drawing by tarot card artist Pamela C Smith or a woodcut by Sir Walter Crane, with lots of hod flames and rays mixed with cabalistic symbols meets the tablet scene from The Ten Commandments.

Throughout this whole thing was a sense of "We have to keep our dirty, dirty, inconvenient and embarrassing and sinful bodies ritually clean and covered so we can partake of this holy mystery."

#

I woke up and it was 4 AM and I was completely awake...








Sunday Test Drive

This is mostly a test drive of a system. The weather has gotten colder and sunnier. Saturday night it got down to 20 F, but we've been lounging away on the back porch in the meridian sunlight the last two days when the sun bounces between the side of the house and deck. I'm afraid I still have a bit of a cold, and it strikes me that I've been off-again-on-again sick for the last month. I'm hoping that stops soon.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Journal: November Storm

Word Count:  Um... I've been doing a lot of editing lately.  Actually, I've been fighting a stuffy nose and cold, so make that some editing.  Thursday morning I typed maybe 300 new words of on a fairy tale.  I realized that I'd had a two-dimentional princess, and I need to figure out more of her personality and agency.   I've received a critique on a short ghost story from the Wordos and I need to address some of the confusion caused by the piece (surprise, John confused the readers).  I've also just submitted two pieces of flash to the table (one's a romance... although I suppose both could be) and we'll see what sorts of critiques get generated.

Working-Out:  I did my usual routine Monday.  Wednesday, I felt tired and skipped the gym.  I will need to do some free weight work at home this afternoon.

This last weekend was a long no-school weekend, so routines were out of whack Friday, Monday and Tuesday.   We did go on a mushroom hike near Oakridge, at the Larisen Creek Trailhead.  It was fun, and I stupidly didn't check the batteries in my camera, so no pictures this time around.  

There's some from the same trail last year here:  



Friday -- I think I might have had a fever last night.  Despite lots of blankets, I was really cold when I first went to bed, but at some point in the night I was burning up.  I dreamt I was making tea at my folks' house when it was too late in the afternoon to be making a huge mug of tea, so I was kind of being furtive about it.

Word Count:  I'm guessing another 300 words.  Probably less.  The tone is fairy-tale, and I have to keep in mind that it can easly fall into narrative summary.  I am trying to make the dialog sound like it's from the 70's mini-series "Elizabeth R", and I should probably watch it again to refresh my memory.  The princess's name in the story had been Philomel, which I borrowed from the madrigal, "Though Philomela Lost Her Love," but then I did a little research and the Greek story of Philomel is a little rough (with rapine and tongue removal) so I settled for renaming her Selene.  

Tonight I've agreed to play the harp and read a short story.  I'm hoping I don't take a 1 PM nap and wake up nex tweek.  At least I don't feel as congested and stupid as I did yesterday.

The first really big winter storm hit this week.  We didn't get any snow, although a wintery mix was forecast.  We did get about an inch of rain, which, combined with the leaves, clogged the storm grates, so driving to work Thursday was extra entertaining:  lots of of deep puddles to whoosh through and lots of people you'd think this was their first time driving in rain.  

Smokey changes his mind pretty quickly when he wants to go outside.  


Friday, November 07, 2014

Stirrings of Bleah

Wednesday Work-out:  Spent a little extra time on the rowing machine 130 calories in 15 minutes.  Then did various things with the weights-on-strings station.  I also try a free-weight thing that has my upper pectoral muscles sore two days later.

Thursday Word Count:  I thought if I looked at a Very Rough Draft of a story, that my brain would work on it as I slept.  It didn't.  When I woke up a little early, I wanted to get a little more sleep, but I tried to think about the story some more.  I didn't.  I got up at about 5:30 and had a slow morning.  I edited the beginning of a short piece, and by edit, I mean I typed in the long-hand stuff (75 words?) I'd penned in the previous night.   Then I did administrative stuff, like posted my story for critique, and posted another story for my prompt swap.

Friday morning I slept in.

The last three mornings, I've felt the Stirrings of Bleah.  The opening of the Pit of Despair in my stomach.  The Bleak Tea-Time of the Soul.  It's not sadness, exactly, more just a sense of futility -- and then I start feeling like a French Existentialist or a Ingmar Bergman.

I don't want to think about it too much, otherwise I'll get focused on feeling Bleah and have a Sisyphean boulder to push around until the Spring Equinox.   Maybe I need to get a little more sleep, or maybe the switch from daylight savings has thrown me off, or maybe it's the shortening daylight hours.  It's possible that I might have to switch from early morning writing to working past 8:30 PM... Ugh, that seems like a really good way to Not Get Enough Sleep.  Sometimes, doing more graphic and paper design helps.  Oh well.  I think it's time to break out a really big lamp or something.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Dream: Minecraft Trails

Minecraft is big at our house.  Mindfull of how much time time (too much!) I spent in SecondLife, I'm trying to keep my Minecraft play down to about one or three hours a week; my current long-term project is building in creative peaceful single player mode and I'm working on a "Hanging Gardens of Babylon."  (Now if someone would be a little more careful about where and how much dynamite they use...)

Last night Mark was figuring out how to ride a horse, and I think that might have been why I dreamt I walked alone on a steep and narrow mountain path through a wooded area.  There was something about riding or finding a horse, and I was supposed to meet up Mark and some other friends, but I wound up in a kind of Forrest Ranger chalet structure based loosely on the ranger station near Belknap Hot Springs.    There was a CD of music playing in the store, two operatic singers performing something like "Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes," but it might have been something like "Never Weather-Beaten Sail."   It was getting late, and I needed to get back, but I made a wrong turn, and wound up not going back on the path along the wooded mountain slope, but to a mix between the Oregon Enchanted Forest and a trailer park.


Word Count:  800 words in 87 minutes.  Mostly I'm thinking about how I want the story to go.  I think I've got the ending very roughly blocked.  I've got the beginning.  For a change, I should try "writing the story backwards" and polish off the end and work toward the beginning.


Monday, November 03, 2014

Journal: November 3

Today I pumped out a rough collection of words for a monthly prompt swap I'm doing.  At one point, I put on some music (300: Rise of an Empire, by Junkie XL) to help focus, which made the words come out much more dramatic and eye-candyish.  Previously, I'd been writing some settings sketches to use as indicators of the year passing and some character thumbnails.  With the music, things took a turn toward Cirque du Soleil, which gave me the same thrill as I got RollerBlading Halloween night.  I'm at the writing stage, so I don't know how much I'll edit out; but writing (when it works) should feel like good ritual.

Word Count:  1060 words in about 80 minutes.

Work Out:  Sigh. Must. Visit. Gym. Today. -- 180 calories in 16 minutes.  Plus various free weights downstairs.  

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Ides of Autumn Ritual

This October 31, the forecast for one-hundred-percent rain panned out; instead, it was a clear and dry night, and a half-moon rode the sky toward the west.  This called for RollerBlades.

I went into the garage and got out the bag that holds my old RollerBlades, my fingerless gloves, and my wrist guards.  My gloves have seen better days:  one of them has deteriorated so much the leather palm clings only by a few threads and is held in place because the wrist guards holds it there.  I looked around briefly for some glow-sticks, but I hadn't planned ahead.

I 'Bladed up.  First I clasped my black and purple cloak; the black has grayed.  It's easier to put the cloak on before the wrist guards, and it's easer to get the 'Blades on, too.  Then I navigated the concrete steps of our front porch and launched down the driveway.

When I RollerBlade in the darkness, I have to expand my awareness for cars and for any tricker-or-treaters who may be coming up the street.  I have to feel the pavement underneath my wheels, and be ready to shift my balance away from whatever stick or crack or gravel threatens to spill me.   And my hair trails behind me, and the moon is above me, and the shadows move with me.  Gravity is my dance partner, and there are stars, like an audience in box seats all around.

When trick-or-treaters come by, I like to lean against our dark garage door, a shadow on a shadow in my cloak, and then roll forward silently.  There's usually that moment where they're not sure:  is this a machine or a person?   Unless they're really little kids, in which case I unveil the candy first and kneel down to their level.  This year there were some adults returning from a shopping trip, so I swooped over to them, candy bowl extended, and wished them a happy Halloween.

But there weren't that many visitors, so I was back on the street, rolling between an aisle of trees in darkness, looking up at the moon, wishing that I was at a spiral dance with other cloaked RollerBladers, swooping through the night halfway between the gates of Autumn and Winter.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Late October Rejection

Probably not the best writing session this morning, for various early-morning reasons.  I made the mistake of checking my e-mail before wrting, and sitting in my inbox was a story rejection.  While I appreciate the slush reader took some time to give feedback, at 5:30 before tea it came across as one of the more harsh critiques I've ever received.  Three hours and two cups of tea later, it's not quite so harsh, and I'm consoling myself with the recollection that previous feedback I've gotten from other slush readers was much more encouraging.  Luck of the slush pile, I guess--and I should do a quick re-read for any obvious confusing parts.  

And... yeah.... rejections like this can make me wonder if I'm a mediocre writer who will always struggle to be a B-list author.  An old B-list author.  I think it's time to sing "Smelly Cat" now. 


Word-count:  350 words in 80 minutes.  Plus some editing.  On the plus side, the story (a ghost story based on a photo prompt) has gone from a Very Very Rough Draft to a Very Rough Draft.

Work-out:  Still recovering from whatever GI-track thing is going on.  I will need to do some at-home weight maintenance stuff before my muscles turn to jelly.


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Pre-Halloween Musings

Yesterday, I needed to make a run to the store.  It looked pretty rainy, and I thought, what the heck, I'll wear the ankle-length, purple-and-black cloak.  Man, you'd think folks around here would be used to theatrically dressed people; I got more odd stares in three blocks than I have since I don't know when.  I guess it's good to know that "freaking the mundanes" is still possible in Eugene... but, sheesh, if I wore tye-die, hippy beads, and hemp clothing no one here would bat an eye.


Writing: 610 words in 80 minutes.   I'm testing out a new writing app to track time better.   I do wish it would work in landscape mode, but it's stuck in portrait mode.  Other than that, it seems servicable so far.  On the down side it only tracks one project at a time until I pay to unlock it.

Working-out:  The stomach bug continues to quash my work-out routine.  I'm not sure I'll go in today, which means I have to figure out something for Saturday.  

On the plus side, the bug has forced me on a crash fast of sorts, and I don't feel like eating too much Halloween candy.  

I missed the Wordos Halloween reading, which is a bummer; I've managed to be at it for almost the last twelve years.  

The stormy weather has returned to the valley, and it's looking like October 31st will be a very wet Halloween.  I'm hoping that it clears up some so it's not too horrible.  


Monday, October 27, 2014

Dream: Underwear Theatre

Gah. Another Sunday (and Monday) kaboshed by some kind of stomach bug.

At least there was an entertaining dream segment.   A older woman in a very full blue "old lady" dress hopped off of a chair, walked a short distance and stood (or sat) on her head.  The folds of the dress fell and hid the upper part of her body.  Underneath her skirts, her underwear was divided into two fields, and there were two faces looking at each other.  The older woman's legs were covered in striped hose, and became the two figure's two arms (and then through the magic of dreams, the arms had hands instead of feet).  A kind of puppet show followed (don't ask me how the figures could talk, they just could).

It was very Muppet-esque.  Or like those old folk-dolls where if the dress falls one way, it's Red Riding Hood, and if it falls the other way, it's Granny.