Saturday, December 29, 2007
Here are a few more gratuitous pics from our Christmas, and a priceless video of my Mom and Dad playing tennis on Em and Elliott's Wii (note how my mother shamelessly gloats at the end).
Clare hugs her baby doll
Emily. Loves. Butterscotch.
only decent pic of me all season. Nifty hat & scarf, right? I'm not the only Christmas knitter around...Thanks Ma!
Saturday, December 08, 2007
The Magoo version stands out for several reasons: there is a lot of dialogue verbatim from the original Dickens story, a possibly off-color pun on the name Dick at one point, occasional jokes worked in about Magoo's nearsightedness, and a quite extended scene with "the laundress, the charwoman and the undertaker" (see below)--an element quite often deleted from adaptations of the story as it is both narratively superfluous and kind of gruesome. (I inevitably wonder every time I see this part of the cartoon about the implications for estate sale practitioners...) And the whole third ghost sequence is undeniably kindof scary for a kid's cartoon. (Not a cartoon for Sophia, Joe!)
But mainly what I've been wondering lately is how deliberate Dickens might have been in crafting this story as a retelling of Jesus' story about the rich man and Lazarus the beggar. Remember that one? The rich guy ignores Lazarus, begging at his gate, and then they both die and in the afterlife are separated by an uncrossable chasm; the rich man, now in hell and who therefore understands that he should have been a lot better person, asks that someone go talk some sense into his five brothers so they don't end up in hell too. And the answer comes back: if they haven't listened to Moses and the prophets to begin with, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.
And of course, that's the exact plot of Dickens' Christmas Carol: Marley comes back from the dead with a message to Scrooge to repent, or else. And Scrooge listens. And so the Carol is a mirror image of Jesus' story, where the answer is essentially a denial of the possibility of a Scrooge repentance. If Scrooge hasn't listened to Moses and the prophets, why should he listen to Marley and the three ghosts?
It's a hard answer and one I don't really like. I prefer the Dickens story, with the optimism and hope that everyone, even the most hardened and greedy and awful of us, can change given the chance...and that that chance will always be there. I guess the question is, which one is more true to life?
Monday, December 03, 2007
But I do love Christmas trees.
Our tree is a pathetic $16 Wal-Mart fake we bought the first year we were married, nothing to get real happy about. I hope next year we will finally be settled enough and have space enough (wherever we are) to upgrade to some kind of decent Christmas tree. I am totally envious of people who can buy one of the gorgeous, sweet-smelling real trees they're selling just outside the seminary. (I am going to console myself by purchasing a $10 wreath.)
But I love our Christmas tree anyway, even though it is a dreadful fake that sheds plastic bits, has a broken stand, is consequently precariously wobbly, and was purchased long ago from The Evil Empire. Because our Christmas tree, like the very best Christmas trees anywhere, is totally ours.
We have three "first Christmas together" ornaments (this is what happens when you get married a week before Christmas). These are always the first things on the tree. Our basic glass ornament sets--in gold and white--are from the tree we decorated for our wedding reception, and these are the next things on the tree. Then the antique ornaments from Brent's mom, Malda, from her own treasured store of beautiful things gathered from estate sales over the years: Brent's favorite, a little elf that sits in a nook (or a cranny, depending on my mood), an antique glass ornament, a little rocking horse, assorted Santas, and my favorites, a pair of pink glass clip-on birds that perch jauntily on the ends of branches. A picture frame ornament, from my Aunt Nancy, with Clare's Christmas picture from last year in it. A set of Charlie Brown Christmas ornaments I bought last year while shopping with Ally. Some dainty woven ornaments that Sarah & Andrew gave away as party favors at last year's Christmas bash. A set of little Chinese dolls from keyrings that I don't remember acquiring in China that make much better tree ornaments than keyrings...
Underneath our tree this year is a quite respectable collection of Christmas storybooks (especially considering Clare doesn't read yet), all gifts from people who love her. And a beautiful white plush teddy bear in red scarf and stocking cap, her "Mimi bear." But no presents. And there won't be many, this year. But--except for the fact that my eye is of course trained to behold Christmas trees without presents underneath as "naked"--that's not the point of Christmas trees. It's all about the history--what each little item says about who we are, and where we've been, and who we love and who loves us.
I love that on my parents' Christmas tree there are still, every year, things from our childhood. The ceramic mouse ornament that I cast and painted in the 6th grade. The drummer boy drum Ally made in 4th grade (that has Denessa's name on it too from when she tried to steal it). The preschool picture of Emily glowering at the camera like she wanted to shoot the photographer in the butt with a BB gun. I can't wait till Clare gets old enough to start making hideous additions to our Christmas tree history every year. I want the construction paper, the scribbles, the glitter, the smeary glue, the sullen I-won't-smile-for-you-right-now pics, all of it. And I especially want an elf head with a scary crooked grin and a paper clip hook stuck in him sideways, made out of dried playdough.
Sunday, December 02, 2007
Also after like a month of dragging my Facebook Scrabulous stats up by finally winning some games with my mom, about a million people challenged me to games all at once and I am losing ALL of them. I have decided that four person games suck, in general, and in particular I never want to play with GKB, Scott and Travis ever, ever again. Hear that guys? Next time I'm just resigning. Last time I held on to "jeez" for like the entire game angling for a triple word spot, which I could never get...so this time, I played "quoit" right away, but again--the prime spot I was hoping for got blocked by someone else's word and quoit didn't get nearly the points it deserved. After that I decided I was going to lose anyway and quit trying...big loser.
Plus I'm still sick and that really sucks. I could go into detail about all the snot but that would be gross.
So I'm just feeling bad. Big snotty loser, signing off.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Sunday, November 18, 2007
I was really good and only slipped up once. But seriously, the best I could figure that I saved from not consuming beverages other than tap water was seriously less than some other people. Now, that could make me feel smug and virtuous, as in, wow I spend so much less than other people, blah blah blah, or it could make me feel like a heel for not generating a whole lot of revenue for the organization we're donating to. I'm a little conflicted about it. But the truth is, I pretty much drink water and coffee--and the coffee I brew at home. So my estimates were a good faith effort to reflect reality...but I'm glad we have a few Starbucks junkies around to make up for my lack. I don't know yet what our final tally as a church is.
Best of all, Brent helped me celebrate the end of this spiritual discipline with a brew from Grumpy's.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Monday, November 12, 2007
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
I really need coffee.
And no, I haven't cheated. Sunday evening I had a ritual last cup and made it all through yesterday. Today will be tougher. Not just because it is Day 2 but because it is a Dissertating Day, and I typically make it through the day on cups of coffee and not much else as I sit shackled to my computer and try to think thoughts at a speed that really requires some cyborg-type upgrading. I take a grudging break to slap together a sandwich at some point, generally, and then take it to the desk and cram it down while at the computer. Caffeine is sort of a requirement for this sort of crazed academic output.
I will probably have gained 5 pounds from the amount of compensatory chocolate I'll be consuming over the next two weeks.
I could just cheat, I know. But I have this feeling that the point is more than just collecting the money I'm (theoretically) saving by drinking only tap water for two weeks. I have this feeling that there's some good to this consistent reminder that my "right" to coffee is illusory and nothing more than my habitual expectation of a rather cosseted existence. Or that there will be, once I pass through the five stages of caffeine withdrawal (I'm out of "denial" and into "pissed off"--I wonder what comes next?)
This was not a new thought for me, but what was astonishing, and made me giggle aloud as I sat there and contemplated the blackboard diagram, is that it reminded me forcibly of a particular afternoon at Harding in the Benson auditorium, where I beheld a diagram remarkably similar while listening to a lecture on fellowship from an author based on his recently-published book.
This can hardly be a coincidence.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
I know that this is fairly normal but I feel almost ready to bite someone myself...that maternal protective instinct is fierce!
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
I was the only woman in the theatre.
Apart from that, my main observation about the film is that I was pleasantly surprised that the inevitable negativity toward Christianity was not the whole message, but was rather well-balanced by the stories of Jake Reitan (Lutheran), Bishop Robinson (who grew up Disciples of Christ in KY but now, obviously, Episcopalian), and others. Rather than simply dismissing Christianity as a religion too hateful and xenophobic to accept gay people, the film makes the case that hatred is not the center of the Christian gospel.
from the Sundance review article:
Karslake mostly avoids demonizing the religious right, instead simply
holding up the families at the heart of his story and saying: Here they are.
These are the gay people you so fear, and they are your sons and daughters, your
brothers and sisters, the neighbors you've known for years. Karslake has made a
powerful film, one that I hope will be widely seen, because it addresses the
fulcrum of the religious right's objection to homosexuality without attacking
those who hold those beliefs. Rather than smacking down with a righteous hammer,
Karslake instead simply takes those who would believe that there is no common
ground between faith and homosexuality and gently, relentlessly chisels away at
every argument that bolsters those beliefs.
One of the more striking things about the film is the difference in the quality of religious speech made so obvious by the film. Karslake "mostly avoids demonizing the religious right" because the religious right's own words--from the mouths of Jimmy Swaggart, Dr. James Dobson and others--so self-evidently angry and fearful and hateful, do the job without any outside help. The vitriol is paired against the quiet, ultra-reasonable, peaceful replies of people like retired Bishop Desmond Tutu, and the difference is never directly commented upon but allowed to remain implicit and yet unmistakeable.
My one disappointment: that I was the only woman in the theatre, and Brent and I probably the only two straight people. This isn't, in the end, a film for gay people or for welcoming and affirming Christians. It's a plea directed toward those people, like the families featured in the film, who find themselves caught in the middle between intolerant beliefs and the moral imperative to change. But those people weren't there. And they weren't likely to be, at the Quad Cinema in Greenwich Village. Will the film reach the people for whom it is an offering? I don't know. But if it does not, in fact, make it to a theatre near you (in Abilene or Oklahoma or Tennessee or wherever you are)...Netflix.
Saturday, October 13, 2007
Monday, October 08, 2007
Any other suggestions? What have I missed in my musing? Or has someone already written this book, and I should just go check it out and read it?
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
But I do have a blog (thank goodness blogger is free) and GKB's modest request is to link back to his website to let as many people as possible know about the work he'll be doing through the organization Invisible Children. I haven't checked statcounter.com in forever and for all I know, only 2 people ever even read this blog anymore, but hey, you two, if you can spare some $$ to help get GKB over to Africa and do some good work there...God bless you, and GKB, and the children that no one sees that Greg will be photographing on this trip.
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
Since the point was just to get out while the gettin' was good, there wasn't anything in particular we wanted to see. It ended up a toss-up between The Brave One and The Kingdom. I like a good no-brainer action movie as much as anyone, but I can't say I was real excited about either. Jodie Foster's pretty good, but brutalized-woman-seeks-revenge-then-realizes-she-has-become-her-own-worst-enemy just sounded ho-hum. But, who cares...we're out and we're Clare-free!
So off we went. I must say that going to a movie in NYC was different from going to a movie anywhere else I've ever been. I now understand so much better why Law & Order is so packed with those god-awful cheesy one-liners. New Yorkers eat it up. Nicky Katt's whole function in the movie was to deliver Law & Order style dialogue (which, I have to say, he did with enough comedic flourish that it was on occasion funny). But the movie as a whole was disturbing, and even more so because we saw in a theatre in NYC. Jodie Foster's character, Erica Bain (despite the alternative orthography, certainly a symbolic nomenclature at work there), understandably traumatized, begins carrying a gun--and repeatedly experiencing situations in which she uses it fatally to protect herself and/or others from violent harm. There's an issue of plausibility throughout the movie, but passing over the need to suspend one's disbelief beyond the level ever required by an SF tale, the real issue I have with this movie is the frank and unnuanced sanction of Erica's action. Erica's counterpart, the good cop who befriends her, the steady symbol of respect for the law and restrained ("moral") use of force, at the crucial moment departs inexplicably from his convictions, hands her his gun (with the inevitably unfunny one-liner) and not only makes it possible for Erica to execute one of the men who had assaulted her, but also devises her escape. Erica is ready to be arrested, even after his complicity in the execution, but he tells her to run. The most disturbing thing of all: when she shoots the guy in the face, the audience whooped and hollered and applauded.
The movie ends with Erica climbing the steps in Central Park, the site of her assault, with a voiceover that makes clear that she has been irrevocably changed and damaged by the incident and its aftermath, and that there is no going back to the person she had been and wished she still was. In the last, say, ten seconds of the movie, it seems that the violence has been futile and pointless and has not changed anything--except Erica, who is less than she was. But the possible message of total lack of redemption in the violence she's perpetrated was probably lost on the audience that cheered her on as she blew the dude's head off.
Friday, September 28, 2007
Hayles begins her story with a prologue on the Turing test. What everyone knows about this test is that it has become the litmus test for identifying the moment when machines become "intelligent" (intelligent=ability to fool human beings, which, all things considered, is a pretty poor benchmark but, zenme ban). What no one remembers is that there were two versions of the test in Turing's proposal, the first being that one would interact via computer terminal with two unseen entities, and depending solely on the electronically transmitted responses to your questions, you would determine--not which was human, and which machine--but which one was a woman, and which a man.
"If your failure to distinguish correctly between human and machine proves that machines can think," Hayles asks, "what does it prove if you fail to distinguish woman from man?"
Andrew Hodges, a biographer of Turing, argues that the intent for inclusion of gender test is to show that gender, unlike intelligence, is in fact dependent upon unalterable physical reality. Hayles disagrees; the cases as presented are parallel, and point to a willingness to define gender in terms of symbolic manipulation similar to intelligence.
All of this reminds me of the hermits' marvelous diversion, the “gender genie” test, a kind of variation of the Turing gender test. What does this say about gender and identity? I fooled it successfully, and rather grandly—now I am a man? No; but it does tell you something interesting about my identity, that is, I am a woman who can successfully represent myself through verbal/semiotic markers as a man. And perhaps that is interesting.
The crucial move, as Hayles points out, is “distinguishing between the enacted body, present in the flesh on one side of the computer screen, and the represented body, produced through verbal and semiotic markers constituting it in an electronic environment.” And this, BTW, is the advent of the cyborg... Why? Because technology is the bridge connecting the physical and represented body/ies. The test requires disjunction, therefore: “What the Turing test 'proves' is that the overlay between the enacted and represented bodies is no longer natural inevitability but a contingent production, mediated by a technology that has become so intertwined with the production of identity that it can no longer meaningfully be separated from the human subject.”
And, of course, Gender Genie's verdict on the above:
Female Score: 428/Male Score: 701
The Gender Genie thinks the author of this passage is: male! (and in any case, definitely cyborg)
Monday, September 24, 2007
Friday, September 21, 2007
During the service at the church I went to a couple Sundays ago, they apparently regularly take time to recognize specific ministries of the church and thank the people who serve in them. That Sunday it was the coffee and donut ministry (an all-around important service, I say, with great great sincerity. I'm thrilled that CCfB is now initiating a coffee and bagel table and hey, thanks to Cara, Ashlea and Regina for doing this!!!). So anyway, up on the screens in front there was a large graphic to announce the name of the ministry, show some pix of people, etc., and to the right there was a graphic of a white church with a steeple in front. As the thank-you progressed, a large donut hurtled down from the "sky" and ringed the steeple (visualize this, people! Come on!) and stayed there for the remainder of the announcement...and no one laughed.
A thought: perhaps now that we too have a screen, CCfB can borrow this graphic when it's time to publicly thank our bagel and coffee people?
A final note. I enjoyed the sermon, although it was definitely a message for a large suburban CofC. The main theme, that the US is now a "mission area," based on the observation that church involvement in the US is declining while it is growing exponentially in areas such as Central and South America, Africa, and China is probably indisputable. But what I wish I had heard more of is, what kind of a mission area is the US? Is it a mission area of unchurched people totally ignorant of Christianity? Hardly. If the US is a mission area it is one unlike our usual conception of the term; it is a mission area comprised of people who are so Christianized that they've forgotten what that means, and who didn't notice when their religion got coopted and politicized and economized out of existence. So maybe we're in the middle of a mission area, sure. But it's a mission that requires a kind of Christian message we've never preached before--here or China or anywhere else.
*I did however have a nice thought about the lateral passing of Communion trays between laypersons. It has the potential to embody an implicit message of equality and fellowship between brothers and sisters in Christ. If, say, we repeated the words of institution to each other as we handed on the tray, perhaps even broke the bread for someone else rather than ourselves, rather than taking the tray while avoiding eye contact, breaking the tiniest possible crumb and munching it in imagined total solitude.
Saturday, September 15, 2007
Brent's great-grandmother, Zada Belle Gravette, died this afternoon. Above is the picture we took during our visit this past Christmas--our five-generation picture. I like this one the best of the bunch because you can Nanny's smile. I always thought she had one of the best smiles ever. She smiled a lot, too, and it was always a kind of gift.
I didn't know her well, and only got to know her towards the end of her very extraordinary life. But I liked her a lot. I think it was impossible not to.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
How many of you do a job you know is worthwhile? Is fulfilling? Is just? How many of you would call what you do a "vocation" or say you feel called to it? How did you come to that calling? How many of you would quit a job if you realized it was contributing to injustice in the world? How many of you have chosen to earn less money in order to do a job that was more worthwhile than the bigger paycheck? How many of you would happily quit your job today if you didn't need to earn that money? What would you do instead?
Sunday, September 09, 2007
Tuesday, September 04, 2007
Clare's first day at The Children's Garden. And my first Dissertation Day.
How did we do?
Well, Clare didn't notice when I left, being engrossed in some new fascinating toy she'd never seen before. There was no agonizing tearful scene or anything. She loved playing outside, they said, and ate all her strawberries and most of her crackers right when I said she would get hungry. But she wouldn't go down for her nap. And she's got a runny nose. (I don't think this was childcare cause and effect--I have a runny nose too.)
I did not do quite so well. I did re-read my proposal and was pleasantly surprised at how organized my thoughts seemed, and how intelligent it sounded overall. Oh yeah, I thought, this is what it's about--good thing I read this thing again so I could jog my memory. And then I covered about 40 pages of Andy Clark's Natural-Born Cyborgs, which I'm finding quite congenial so far.
Then I took a shower--something I still find quite difficult to schedule in on a regular basis. It's amazing what a baby does to the logistics of personal hygiene. (Not to mention the motivation--after all they don't care if your legs are hairy or your armpits smell.) Then I went to the grocery store because there was nothing for Clare to eat for lunch, and bought lots of bananas and stuff. Then I picked her up. And that was that.
So, I think I'll give myself a C- for today. But Clare gets an A-. Maybe Thursday she'll nap, and pull it up to an A.
Friday, August 31, 2007
I was watching the whole world change, right before my eyes. None of the rest of you knew it was happening, but I was there, so I got to see it. Every single one of us lives in a totally different world now than the one we all lived in at 9:29. Because at 9:30, Annalise Justine Miranda-Borrero joined us out here in the big bad world, and the world became bigger and less bad and totally new as a result.
Sure, babies get born every day. And it changes the world every time.
It's a sacrament, even if it happens in a hospital (or birthing center or home or heck, taxi cab for the unlucky ones) and not a church, with a doctor (or midwife or taxi cab driver) and not a priest. It's a sacrament because it's a moment where the distracting details of human existence as we've constructed it get swept away as the divine rushes in, that moment where a brand-new life becomes a part of human existence as it really is, underneath and behind and all through the distracting details. That first cry reminds us what our voices are really for. That first glance reminds us who we really are. That first grasp of the fingers makes the rest of our lives make sense in a way they never did before.
So...announcing the arrival of a whole new world, for all of you who weren't there to see it.
Sunday, August 26, 2007
So if there are those curious about my p.o.v. on the veil thing, feel free to inquire (or just wait and read the article in Leaven). I have now read more articles on those verses than any person ever should, and my own more or less idiosyncratic interpretation to throw into the mix. I don't think it's the last word on the subject or anything, and I have no clue whether Paul would recognize it as his intent. But I wasn't trying to mindread the dead guy, so that doesn't bug me too much.
So on to The Next Thing. Just one more thing to go until The Big Thing. Yup, The Dissertation. Wow, the day rapidly approaches when I shall find myself at the computer, coffee at hand, Word and Endnote open, and a blank screen will confront me with the state of my unreadiness to begin.
I'm hoping someday soon that we will have some pics of our new abode, especially Clare's room with the super-cool blue and yellow flags courtesy of Priscilla, to post as well as some views of the neighborhood and the Close (where Clare and I will be hanging out a lot--it is lovely!)
But for now, my first fun city anecdote: yesterday I went to the local grocery, Gristedes, to get the supplies for making Ben and Jerry's Mint Chocolate Cookie ice cream so that we could celebrate Brent's birthday properly. As I was walking back home, there was a guy outside a shop handing out free condoms. "Condoms?" he asked me. No thank you, I said--very nonchalantly given the fact that I was actually quite startled--and smiled at him because, you know, I am despite myself a Southern woman and we smile at everyone. He smiled back and gave me a quick up-and-down glance that left me thinking, now why did I think he was gay...just because this is Chelsea...
Sunday, August 19, 2007
kitchen storage is awesome
can hear the church bells ringing this morning
sleeping in our own bed again at last
it's bigger than I thought
the bathroom isn't pink tile from floor to ceiling
Things that suck about moving:
where the hell is that thing I wanted a minute ago but can't remember what it is now?
Clare doesn't sleep well in her new space (yet)
I'm handicapped in the furniture arranging department
having to search in boxes for clean underwear
no more dishwasher (sigh)
Miraculous things about moving:
where did all these people come from? oh yeah, CCfB rocks!
nothing got broken
nothing got left (that we wanted to bring...)
cat's calming down even though Clare's still not napping
we're in New York City!
Joe, Tom, Gilda, Hilary & Jeremiah, & Lucas--you are all marvelous people with an amazing capacity for carrying way too many heavy boxes of books. I am so humbled and grateful that you would spend your day working so hard just to help us out!
Monday, August 13, 2007
*7:00 pm Mom and Dad arrive at Newark
*pack, pack, pack and clean, clean, clean
*load the truck, turn in keys
*stay at K & D's apt across the street because, now, we're homeless for 2 days
*hang out in Princeton because we're suddenly not allowed to move in yet and do...what???
*maybe get the car cleaned and ready to sell?
*get Mom and Dad to NWK to fly to Nashville
*Brent drives truck into city, get a parking spot right after the street sweeper comes by (10:30am)
*I come later with Clare and the cat??? Or go with and someone hang out with Clare while we move? Or???
Friday, August 10, 2007
I'm sad to be leaving Princeton, although I truly do look forward to having a bedroom and sleeping in our own bed again.
Expect more blog inactivity for the next couple of weeks as I'll be doing things like attempting to create order out of chaos...
Wednesday, August 01, 2007
Monday, July 30, 2007
I'm just worn out. It's frakkin hard being a mom, and this summer with Brent in CPE--gone from 7:30am to 6:00pm, and on call for 24 hours every 10 days--has meant intensive full-time parenting. Hard enough that I freaked out after the first week and called my mom for help and bought a bunch of toddler activity books and spent a great deal of $$ at Michaels on construction paper, tempera paint and bubbles, and occasionally get brave enough to put on my swim suit (bought 10 years ago) with all my mommy blubber hanging out, and take Clare to the swimming pool, just out of desperation for a fun activity that gets us both out of the single room we live in. Arrgh. Why I thought that teaching an online course on top of that would be negotiable God only knows. I think it was the money panic that made me think I should do it. After all, how else is a full-time mom/academic going to earn any money? But I had forgotten that online teaching means hours and hours of sitting in front of a computer. Saturday I literally spent the entire day staring at the computer screen, grading and grading and grading, setting up the innumerable Blackboard groups, writing email after email after email. But okay, that's just life. You have to work hard. And sometimes life sucks. But I really, really wish that I didn't have to do all this online work with Clare tugging at my arm, wailing because she feels ignored--because she is. This morning I wrote my daily email to the class while Clare nursed on my lap. Desperation. Guilt.
Maybe after the course is over, a review of the things I hate about Blackboard and the impersonality of online coursework as interruptor to effective pedagogical relationship. But more than likely not. One the course is over, we're moving, and once we're moved, it will finally be time to start dissertating, like I've been supposed to be doing this whole past year. Guilt, guilt, guilt.
Monday, July 16, 2007
Now that that's done..on to the next project...1 Corinthians 11, here I come!
Thursday, July 12, 2007
Really it should be "Harry Potter and the part-human," but Rowling deals with it all: non-, part- and post-humanity. This theme has grown in the series right along with Harry, Hermione and Ron; as they have matured, this dark element of the wizarding world has become more and more prominently the source of the evil Voldemort represents.
It begins with a simple distinction between wizards and witches, and non-magic people: Muggles. It's not, I think, insignificant that we poor non-magical slobs have a label, though not necessarily mean-spirited (one can imagine it being said affectionately). But this divide is absolute. One is Muggle or magical; one lives in the Muggle world, blissfully or otherwise ignorant, or one lives in the entirely separate magical (=real) world as a witch or wizard.
Unless you're a Squib: the in-between people who do not inherit magical ability but who remain a part of the real world. That Rowling introduces this in-between category is indicative of her penchant for complexifying the initial simplicities of the early books. I like this.
What's interesting is that although these distinctions and categories and derogatory labels have real force, Muggles, Squibs and non-pure-blood wizards (as Rowling's term is clearly analogous to the n-word, which I cannot bring myself to say or write, I will avoid it as well) are all considered obviously human.
But not everyone is human. There are part-humans, including Hagrid, the centaurs, Lupin the werewolf, and vampires. And there are non-humans: goblins, giants, house-elves. What we begin to see most prominently in the fourth book, with Hermione's creation of S.P.E.W., is that there is a huge and until now mostly hidden problem in the wizarding world: the unquestioning assumption of the superiority of wizards over other kinds of beings.
And it is this very assumption that, carried to its logical conclusion, leads straight into the pure-blood mania that serves as the rhetorical appeal of Voldemort and his followers. The echoes of Hitler and Nazism are hard to miss.
But Voldemort tells Harry as early as the second book that he is no longer concerned with the goal of pure-blood wizard ethnic cleansing. Voldemort's real goal is the attainment of immortality. This ambition, and fear, is what makes Voldemort the posthuman figure. Human, for Voldemort, is synonomous with mortality, the enemy. And so all humans are to be despised--not simply mixed-blood wizards and Muggles, but everyone. He alone is the enlightened and powerful one.
What I would anticipate most about the seventh book is how the different threads of this theme will come together and prove to be the basic conflict between the Order and Voldemort and the Death Eaters, the thing that distinguishes the good from the bad: who is willing to accept the Other in all its varied forms, and who is determined to annihilate them?
Sunday, June 24, 2007
don't forget 1) eggs and 2) milk and the dry cleaning.
maybe pick up some italian for dinner tonight?
and a bottle of wine while you're at it (hint)
Oh, and BTW,
STOP USING ME AS YOUR ALL-PURPOSE EXCUSE FOR VIOLENT BEHAVIOR ALL THE TIME!
love you, kiss kiss
Just me. Twenty-five pounds lighter than normal because Clare wasn't situated on my hip. Liberation! I certainly did have my moments of maternal melancholy (should never have let myself visit rude baby's blog, big mistake), but overall, it was wonderful to rediscover a me that was my own again.
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
But of course the real worry is that this is my first trip alone since Clare was born, and I'll be gone for three whole days. It's not that I'm worried about her being taken care of--Brent's mom is coming to help us out in that department, which is a godsend. But I'm not exactly sure how I'll do. I'm fairly certain that I have completely lost all former skills of how to be by myself. By myself? I haven't been by myself for a year! I can hardly even visualize it at this point.
So my anxiety is expressing itself rather indirectly through teen-like angst about my ridiculously bad hair (I'm at that fragile point where growing it out, again, feels like the dumbest idea I ever had) and equally ridiculous complexion, which is all the worse because pregnancy played havoc with my pigmentation and "freckly" is politely euphemistic at this point. Plus, of course, I had a baby--and haven't exercised in a year. (Doing three sessions of my postnatal yoga video hardly counts.) I'm in all my old clothes, have been for months and months, but sadly, the body that fits into them is at least 10 pounds over what it used to be, and really bulgy in places it wasn't before. None of this has bugged me until this week, when I suddenly realized with horror, oh crap, I have to get up in front of people and be impressively academic, and for a whole year all I've been is slobbily maternal at best (and unshowered and unshaven and still in pajama bottoms while cooking dinner at worst).
It's easier to worry about shallow crap than analyze exactly why it is I dread being separated.
Thursday, June 14, 2007
And Clare was born.
There should be some voice other than the passive for this.
In celebration, here is Clare's birth story as I wrote it a few weeks after her birth:
On Wednesday morning we woke up early (though we decided to aim for the 7:00 end of the 6:00-7:00 timeframe Brynne recommended for checking in). Maria had arrived Tuesday night late, and we all went to fortify ourselves with a good breakfast at the Princetonian Diner, a.k.a. Clare’s diner, where Brent and I would eat after almost every prenatal appointment. I had whole wheat pancakes and since I didn’t want to order coffee, even decaf, I decided on grapefruit juice, completely forgetting that Maria had once advised against citrus juice before labor. That issue came back up later.
So from there we went to the University Medical Center and checked in. I was now 15 days postdate, and the plan was that we would break my water and see what happened. For two weeks I had been 3-4 cm dilated, and had been having irregular, very light contractions after stripping my membranes on my last few visits to the midwives. So we were pretty confident that this was all it would take to push me into real labor.
And so it was! Brynne did the amniotomy at 8:30 and by 10:00ish I was in labor. Maria and I took a couple turns around the hallways, chatting while the contractions got stronger.
After that, I stayed in the room (room 436) for the rest of the time and labor really got underway. At some point I threw up that wretched grapefruit juice (which left me with really nasty breath and that bothered me every so often later, but Maria did this great aromatherapy thing with the pillow that really helped). For a while, and from this point I have no time reference other than that, I sat on the birthing ball while the contractions got stronger. I really felt like leaning forward and resting my head on my forearms—that seemed to make it, not less painful, but easier to negotiate. But the monitor kept slipping down off my belly—like all my maternity pants had been doing for the last 2 weeks—and the nurse had to keep patiently readjusting it. I’m sure that was annoying to the nurses, and it certainly was a little bothersome for me, especially when I would have a contraction in the middle of being fiddled with. So on Maria’s suggestion instead of leaning forward, Brent sat behind me for support and I leaned back into him. It was very hypnotic at this point for me—I just kept trying to relax, more and more, breathing really deeply and just diving inward and experiencing what my body was now doing. It was in its own way very very peaceful. Eventually Brent got a little fatigued, and Mom took his place and I leaned back into her. It was wonderful for me and later Maria told me that Mom said to her all she could think of was holding me and nursing me as a baby.
Eventually my back began to ache steadily, even between contractions, so I moved to the shower. The Jacuzzi might’ve been nice, but I didn’t want to wait or to have an exam before getting into it, and the shower was right there. So I moved to the bathroom once the shower got going. I remember hearing Maria comment, “look how well she’s walking!” and wondering in a sort of detached way how other women would be walking. I got on all fours in the shower, with my back to the water, and Brent and Maria and Mom took turns with the shower nozzle, moving the stream of water up and down on my back. That felt really good. I stayed in the shower a long time. While I had been mostly silent while leaning back into Mom and Brent on the birth ball, I made a lot of noise in the shower. I would moan as each contraction built up and released and gradually just got louder and louder. I didn’t expect to feel so uninhibited about making noise. I didn’t anticipate being a screamer—I’m just not—but I didn’t think I would be making all that much noise at all. And at first I didn’t, but making noise was something to concentrate on that gave a bit of release as things kept building and building in intensity. There came a point where I thought, this has got to be about as bad as it gets, because I wasn’t sure I could take any more intensity in what I was feeling. I think at that point I asked where I was—luckily no one took that as a sign of dementia but understood that I was asking where I was in the process. I was in transition.
During the whole time there was a chorus of voices near me, encouraging me and helping me negotiate the increasing pain of the contractions. I could hear everyone very clearly and the voices were a connection to the present moment, keeping me from just floating away into inner space but not interfering with my concentration, either. I never replied to anything anyone said, but it became very important to hear praise and encouragement as things went on. The voices never stopped even though I never acknowledged hearing them.
Finally, I was out of transition. I don’t know how that was decided or who noticed, but there was a definite point where I became more aware of the present and felt like I could get out of the shower. I had a bit of a rest between this point and beginning to push. I actually felt no real urge to push right away at all, and even when I did start the pushing, it was more that I felt like I should start because that’s just what was supposed to happen next. I also wasn’t quite sure how to go about it and I didn’t feel like I was getting any helpful cues from my own body, so I told Brynne I felt like I needed some direction. I pushed awhile in the bed, sort of sitting upright, and tried some different things, different places to brace my feet, and different things to hold on to with my hands as I pushed. After awhile I tried the birthing stool, which I really liked, and I think I remember Brynne saying later that she thought I had made some good progress in that position. I remember it feeling pretty comfortable and powerful to sit on it and push down. At some point I moved back to the bed, I think because everyone thought I was about ready to be done soon. After moving back to the bed things like the baby warming unit were wheeled in—signs that people were anticipating the end. But I still felt like even though I had been pushing for a while, that I wasn’t really making any progress. I couldn’t feel any progression, unlike with the contractions earlier where there was a definite sense of increase and intensity and moving forward. Pushing was more like stasis—it just felt the same every time I did it, and I just had to trust that something was happening even if I couldn’t tell. It felt like I pushed for a very long time. Eventually, Brynne set up the mirror and I was able to see some of what was happening and a tiny glimpse of a head. For a long time it seemed like I would push and the head just stayed right where it was. I could hear Mom (and others, but Mom especially) get excited when I pushed because they could see the head getting bigger. But by the time I was done pushing and could look in the mirror, it would be right back where it was before the push. This was discouraging, even though I could still look into the mirror and see that there really was a head and the baby really was slowly but surely coming down. This lasted a long time. At one point I felt really tired, and felt the need to say to someone, “I am really tired.” I didn’t feel like saying, “this hurts a lot,” or “I feel some stinging,” or anything like that, because I knew that was just part of what happens and there was no sense complaining about it. But I was really tired, and it worried me to feel fatigued because I already felt like I wasn’t making much progress. But I knew, too, that there was nothing to do but break on through to the other side no matter how tired I felt, because it wasn’t like I could just pause and take a break and resume when I decided I felt more like it. So I kept pushing anyway. And eventually there was more of a head visible, and then I could touch it. That was pretty cool, and encouraging. But again, I seemed kindof stuck there, and so it was a little less encouraging than I thought it would be.
I made a lot of noise! But it wasn’t screaming, it was just that the force with which I would have to expel air from my lungs was so great when I pushed that it had to come out as this enormous grunting sound. This was way different than the moaning I did through transition, which was way more hypnotic and focusing. This new sound was simply the audible evidence of hard, hard work. Like a weightlifter grunting through lifting some enormous weight or something.
And then, suddenly, it was time to push again and I began, just like all the other pushes, but this time, I heard Brynne say, this is it!, and, “Brent, you’d better get down here if you want to catch this baby,” and although my eyes were again squeezed shut I could feel the difference in what was happening, so I didn’t need to see anything. It took me by surprise—I thought, my God (and this was prayerful), this is it, she’s really coming out!—and I felt this enormous burst and release of pressure, and then felt my baby sort of slide right out—and then she was just there, right there on my chest, really really there. I felt like crying (I want to cry now as a matter of fact) but I was too busy being dumbfounded and fascinated and stunned to bother. I just wanted to look at her forever.
I didn’t pay attention to anything else after that.
Saturday, June 09, 2007
I read this book because 1) Dr. Johnson is on my dissertation committee, and 2) it's about gays and the church. Although the book seems to be mainly directed toward a "mainline" denominational audience, and perhaps even more specifically, Presbyterians, I found that Dr. Johnson met his goal in making it useful for other possible church audiences as well. What I really mean by that is that I think CofCer's should read this book, and sadly, since our religious reading seems limited to Max Lucado and pop Christian stuff from God knows where, most CofCer's will never know this book even exists. Which of course would be the real reason I'm talking about it here. Hopefully the small handful of readers that I like to believe is out there (a fond dream aided and abetted by the free services of statcounter.com) will be intrigued enough to click here and get a copy.
And so, on to the reviewing.
First, it's a sort of dauntingly thorough task that Johnson sets himself. Not only does he want to speak broadly enough in a religious sense for his analysis to be useful cross-denominationally, but the subtitle is, "Same-Gender Relationships in Religion, Law, and Politics," clueing us in that not only is he tackling the theological and ecclesial issues, but the broader societal issues of gay marriage vs. civil unions, etc., as well. He can do this because in another life, apparently, he used to be a lawyer. Thus the book consists of two parts: Part One, Religion, and Part Two, Law and Politics. While I found Part Two extremely informative and clarifying in a number of important ways, I will be concentrating on Part One in what follows.
Johnson is admirably straightforward about his own convictions, stating on page 3 of the introduction, "I argue that same-gender unions should be consecrated within our religious communities, validated within our legal systems, and welcomed within the framework of our democratic polity." (Those of you who disagree, I dare you to stop reading now. It won't make you more pure or righteous. It just makes you closed-minded.) Of course, anyone daring to write about an issue which is currently threatening not only the ecclesial unity of various denominations (Episcopal, Methodist, Presbyterians, you name it) but also (as Johnson argues) the democratic fabric of our nation, should go ahead and say up front where they stand. But what makes this particularly admirable from Johnson is that he accomplishes successfully the goal he sets for himself: "Even though the stance I take here is one of advocacy for gay couples, I try to positively engage people from across the spectrum."
In fact, one of the most important contributions of the book, IMO, is that he provides a seven-fold typology of current theological stances regarding same-gender relationships, offering not only a practical way of breaking down the harmful either-or, pro- or anti-, rhetoric of the heated (non)discussion now current, but a fair description of each stance, written in a way in which proponents of each category will easily recognize themselves. This kind of respect for the integrity of each stance is invaluable in a contentious debate where demonization and caricature are the rule of the day. Personally, I was able not only to say, "hey, that's me," but "hey, there's Brent," and "hey, there's my dad," and "hey, there's Mom." (And need I add that we were all different categories? Indeed.)
- prohibition: same-gender attraction is a perversion; repentance of gay identity and behavior necessary; solution=return to heterosexuality
- toleration: same-gender orientatation is a tragic burden; repentance of gay behavior, "hate the sin, love the sinner"; solution=acceptance of the necessity of life-long celibacy
- accommodation: same-gender attraction is tragic burden but like all fallen states open to traces of God's grace; gay and lesbian relationships may be "disobedient in form" but "obedient in substance" if monogamous; solution=encourage gay monogamy as lesser of evils & believe nothing is beyond God's redemptive reach
- legitimation: same-gender attraction is no worse than any other sinful condition; gays/lesbians' status in the church therefore no different from any other person; solution=equal treatment, including possibility of ordination
- celebration: same-gender attraction is an essential quality of gay personhood; gays/lesbians should recognize the goodness of their sexuality; solution=repent of internalization of societal homophobia
- liberation: same-gender attraction, like human sexuality in general, is socially constructed; the binary categories male or female are oppressive in multiple ways; solution=acknowledge the complexity of human sexuality
- consecration: human sexuality, including same-gender attraction, is ambiguous; sin is not located in orientation or single behaviors, but in the overall ordering of one's relationships; solution=consecrate human sexuality through the context of marriage
In reading the book I resonated most strongly with Johnson's description of the liberationist stance, although I am in agreement with his conclusions on the desirability of the church's consecration of gay relationships. But what I found even more helpful than having a handy label for myself is that I could trace the evolution of my theological thinking on this topic through the categories listed.Johnson approaches the task of Part One from a theological framework of "the three-part story [of God's relationship to the world] of creation, reconciliation, and redemption" (41). This three-part story provides the analytic framework for examining each of the seven theological viewpoints identified. What is most helpful about this strategy is that it brings to light the differences in theological emphasis between the seven viewpoints: some emphasize creation as the theological locus, others reconciliation or redemption. These differences generally remain implicit or go completely unrecognized during the heat of theological battle, but they are fundamentally significant in that they constitute the reason why 1) everyone is talking past each other, and 2) people can disagree vehemently without either party being necessarily "unfaithful."
Of more interest to the CofC reader, perhaps, will be that Johnson does engage the biblical text thoroughly and knowledgeably, and even provides a separate index for scripture references (326-330). Of course, most CofC readers will disagree with Johnson's biblical hermeneutic, making this an exercise in listening to the voice of the Other for the CofC audience--all the more reason to read it, say I.
Finally, Johnson offers a theological definition of marriage as a "means of grace" which provides the proper context for three basic human needs: companionship, commitment, and community (110). Despite the fact that they all begin with C, these are not arbitrary choices fueled by a predestined conclusion; rather, Johnson spends a great deal of time in the biblical text (Genesis, Leviticus, Song of Songs, parts of Pauline corpus, to name a few), demonstrating how these aspects of human life are acknowledged and provided for by God. Finding that marriage is ultimately about transformation, Johnson concludes that marriage is not "an order of creation," but an "order of redemption" (153); and thus the search for a suitable companion is one defined by this ultimate purpose of redemptive transformation. This means that the suitable companion for a gay person is a gay partner: one who can fulfill the redemptive aspect of relationship within the committed context of marriage. Such a relationship requires and deserves the recognition of the community, and this forms the basis of Johnson's advocacy of the consecrationist position. He is then able to say, in all seriousness, that the consecrationist position he advocates is quite as theologically conservative as is the prohibitionist position, in that it upholds the Christian view of marriage without compromise.
What little criticism I have to offer is this: in his conclusion, Johnson notes, "The main argument made against gay couples is that their love violates certain biblical prohibitions...By and large, these biblical prohibitions were directed at protecting male gender identity in a world in which male superiority over women was sacrosanct; thus they are ill-suited to guide moral or political action in the present day" (225). Do I disagree with this? Not at all--I think he's right on. But what this statement misses, which I find glaringly obvious, is that most Christians who read the biblical prohibitions in Leviticus as universally binding also read the prohibitions in 1 Tim 2:12 as universally binding...and thus Johnson's easy assumption that all will agree that "male superiority over women" is a principle "ill-suited to guide moral action" is not warranted in all contexts--and specifically, not something which can be so blithely assumed in a Church of Christ context.
Why should you bother reading it? Especially if you know that you disagree with the conclusions Johnson tells you at the outset that he's reached? Because even if you disagree, you will recognize your own stance in this book, treated respectfully and engaged with honestly. In return, you will have the chance to learn about what other people might possibly think about gays and why they think the way they do. At the end, if nothing you've read has changed your mind, you will at least have some better understanding of why your neighbor, your daughter, your gay cousin, your non-CofC friend or that lone liberal (or conservative) elder who disagrees with you. And that can only be a gain, for everyone.
Friday, June 08, 2007
So I'm just now learning that last night Jon Stewart made a posthuman joke.
See? It's really real, people, and it's coming. Someday we will all have gills. Jon said so.
Wednesday, June 06, 2007
So, what's with the ears? In retrospect, I think I should have interpreted it as the latest of a series of intensive investigations in Clare's new fascination with Holes I Can Stick My Fingers In. It started with my bellybutton, then she found my nose, then she found her nose, and now she's found her ears. Of course, any incidental holes in the environment are fair game.
Now, I ask you...could there possibly be anything more "masculine"???
Monday, June 04, 2007
There is a new post on rude sermons, the first since February. I'll be preaching again in July, and perhaps a bit more often after we move to the city in mid-August.
A note on the sermon: the Hebrew Bible lectionary text for Sunday was Proverbs 8, Wisdom's speech. Those of you familiar with her work will recognize the debt this sermon owes to Elizabeth Johnson's text, She Who Is (alluded to in the sermon title). I was nervous about this sermon in a way I haven't been since my first couple of sermons a few years ago at West Islip Church of Christ. Partly because I propose in it that Trinitarian language, while descriptive and important and vital, occupies no special status as more true than any other image or metaphor used for God by human beings. And partly because I was afraid that is was too theological-ish and therefore not really very edifying. But, it was what I got--and I can only ever preach whatever I got.
I did have some very encouraging responses from people afterward, which was quite a relief. But I would appreciate comments on the sermon (on rude sermons rather than here), critical, constructive, and if you want to say nice things you can say them too. But I am still a novice preacher, who's only had one preaching, ahem, "religious speaking for women" class, and I know there's a lot to learn.
Sunday, June 03, 2007
Long long ago on a blog far far away I mentioned that I would be interested in keeping tabs on my daughter as she grew to see if all the anecdotal evidence I was getting from other parents on innate gender differences was true. Everyone I talked to, it seemed, was so convinced that this was so, and had so many charming stories about Billy and Susie to back up their convictions, that my own skepticism began to seem arbitrary and ill-informed: yet another wrong opinion about childrearing held by someone who had not (yet) raised any children.
This question still interests me, and as Clare approaches that enormous milestone, her first birthday, I am still wondering if I'm observing any innate feminine behavior, or not.
So as I was catching up on my What to Expect reading for month 12, one of the FAQ's addressed is "Gender Differences." The question is phrased, "We're trying very hard not to raise our children in a sexist way. But we find that no matter how we try, we can't induce our 11-month-old son to be nurturing with dolls--he prefers to throw them against a wall." What to Expect answers with a neurobiology-based innateness hypothesis, and follows up with detailing some of the behavioral differences observed between girl and boy babies. The authors hasten to add, of course, that this only applies to groups as a generalization and that any individual girl or boy may exhibit behavioral tendencies of the opposite gender. But then they go on to describe how boys become more physically active, and are better at math.
It was at this point that I began to be disturbed.
And then I turned the page, and read footnote 5: "Boys who display feminine traits early in childhood, like to play with dolls, and avoid rough sports are more likely to become homosexual in later life if their parents (particularly fathers) try to force them to 'be a man'...these boys become estranged from their fathers and, it is speculated, may ever hunger for male love and companionship in adulthood..."
Well, that just explains that, doesn't it.
Then I read that by letting Clare watch TV before she was 10 months old meant that she was going to become, obese, stupid, and immoral, and it's all my fault.
So I think I'm done with What to Expect now.
I still haven't noticed any particularly feminine behaviors from Clare this first year. When she plays with her doll, she tries to bite her face off. Not exactly nurturing. She does exhibit a clear and enduring fascination with buckles: car seat, high chair, stroller--she is trying earnestly to figure out how they work. Masculine?
Friday, June 01, 2007
Anyhow, if you like reading theology-type blogs by seminary-type people, check out the new stuff in my PTS bloggers section. I can't say that I'm in agreement with all that I've read on these blogs--in fact I can definitely say that I'm not--but as GKB tirelessly demonstrates for us, disagreement in the blogosphere is one of the most stimulating (distractive, addictive) things around.
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Monday, May 28, 2007
Saturday, May 26, 2007
Monday, May 21, 2007
So fumed Podkayne of Mars, in the lovely sort of creative euphemism so often employed by RAH in his YA novels from the 1950-60's. Because, of course, nice little girls and boys don't swear. Not that this blog suffers from that kind of senseless taboo, but I can never resist a literary allusion.
Well, it seems that through a dreadful misunderstanding--akin in kind and disruptiveness to the clerical error which begat Podkayne's fury, though it does not involve the accidental decanting of frozen embryos--we may not be moving to NYC after all. It is of course ultimately a matter of money. Unfortunately, imaginary money doesn't have the same cash value in the real world as real money does, so finding out that a big chunk of one's financial aid ought to have an italicized i written next to the $$ amount is really a staggering discovery. I'm at a loss to explain how it is that funding offered as if it were really there, only not, is actually financial "aid."
[Disclaimer: the above is my ranting, not Brent's. He's a lot nicer person than I am in almost every respect.]
Unless thousands of dollars suddenly drop from the sky, NYC is out of reach. There's a limit to how amazingly miserly even I can be with a weekly grocery list.
So it seems we are once again in Limbo. GTS does seem to really want Brent, and we are now waiting to see what else they might could do. I'm not holding my breath, frankly, but there's nothing to do but wait and see.
Limbo sucked the first time around. A second helping is ever more dreary. Ambiguity tolerance! is my battle cry. (Spoken from the diaphragm like any true superhero.)
Sunday, May 20, 2007
Here are some pics Casey took for me and hopefully Nate will send me the pics from his camera so I can post them too.
Best of all was the knowledge that Clare made 200% of her fundraising goal thanks to ONE awesome donor! HTB, you are a little girl's hero.