Book Review – Weetzie Bat

Weetzie Bat (Weetzie Bat, #1)Weetzie Bat by Francesca Lia Block
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Zero, zero ZERO stars if I could. Oh, mercy. I only managed to finish reading this because it was short. And with its reputation, I thought it might get less awful at some point.

Spoiler: it never got less awful. And now my face hurts from grimacing this long.

Are these characters supposed to be this unlikeable? I mean, I know they’re supposed to be just DARLING levels of rebellious cool. That much is clear. I mean, they wear kimonos and Indian headdresses so obviously they’re really unique. And they adore vintage and kitschy decor, so they’re obviously imaginative. And they have token exotic brown friends, so they’re obviously authentic and real as individuals. (Hm, perhaps the book functions best as a guide to what white people should not do.) Oh, and they’re brokenhearted that the shitty fake town they live in is different from the shitty fake town it used to be. So they must be deep.

And I also know they’re cool because they’re incredibly selfish – often bordering on abusive – with no discernible relationship skills. They treat each other – and the children they create – as objects to be manipulated for their fantasy life. Most loving actions portrayed in the story are along the lines of buying someone a burrito, while the ickier actions taken are the size of (SPOILER) secretly getting yourself pregnant by multiple best friends because your partner has made it clear they don’t want kids (/SPOILER). Only when someone is faced with death does it occur to ANYONE INVOLVED that their actions have consequences.

The fairy tale style of writing and the child-like prose could be used to wonderful effect, they really could. I adore magical realism. But when those qualities are a stand-in for characterization, it really just makes for a shallow story about shallow people. And tragedy striking is a great time for tears and real moments where we all realize we won’t have each other forever and we need to love fiercely. But if I still don’t give a shit about any of you, what difference does it make?

I understand it’s a portrayal of gay/bi characters (and AIDS) and blended families in a young adult book. Perhaps that’s why it got the reputation it did for inspiring so many weird kids. And I’m thankful for that. I love my fellow weird kids. But it’s disturbing to think that these terrible characters could seep into anyone’s ideals about relationships. Actually, now I’m wondering how many polyamorous people pattern their relationships after Weetzie Bat, because that would really explain a lot.

View all my reviews

Published in: on February 7, 2014 at 7:05 pm  Leave a Comment  


The great thing for YOU when we get aggravated at having too many books is that we end up giving away really awesome stuff. We’ve pulled 254 titles from our collection… some are from lifetimes and careers long past, some just deserve to be read more, some are duplicates because can’t keep track of what we already have!

Most will go to the Friends of the Louisiana State University Library for their annual amazeballs book bazaar. But I know the religion books in particular may hold interest for friends of mine. Here’s a look at the religion section, with a couple of subdivided categories. Now, ownership on our part should not be taken as endorsement. We certainly haven’t read all of these. But many titles are dear friends. Let me know if you’d like more info about any of them. Every book except one is represented both in a picture and in the text list.

There’s no charge for any of them. If you’d like to contribute to shipping, I’d be delighted to give you a Paypal account to donate to. I’ll be shipping USPS media mail from Louisiana, US. But please don’t let lack of funds stand between you and a book you’d give a good home to.

Click pics for a closer look!

(Claimed titles have a line through them.)

Emergent section

Emergent section

The Evolution of Faith by Philip Gulley
Insurrection by Peter Rollins
Becoming the Answer to our Prayers by Shane Claiborne and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove
Inside the Organic Church by Bob Whitesel
A Generous Orthodoxy by Brian McLaren
Reimagining Church by Frank Viola
More Ready Than You Realize by Brian McLaren
Fall To Grace by Jay Bakker
The Boundary-Breaking God by Danielle Shroyer
An Emergent Manifesto of Hope by Doug Pagitt and Tony Jones
The Jesus Creed by Scott McKnight
A Christianity Worth Believing by Doug Pagitt
Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell

Pastoral interest: counseling, curricula, denominational, textbooks

Pastoral interest: counseling, curricula, denominational, textbooks

The Equipping Pastor (Alban Institute) by R. Paul Stevens and Phil Collins
Basic Types of Pastoral Care and Counseling by Howard Clinebell
A Handbook for Today’s Disciples by D. Duane Cummins (Christian Church/Disciples of Christ)
We Believe: An Interpretation of the United Church Statement of Faith by Roger Shinn and Daniel Day Williams (United Church of Christ)
Feminist and Womanist Pastoral Theology by Bonnie Miller-McLemore and Brita Gill-Austern
Introducing Feminist Pastoral Care and Counseling by Nancy Gorsuch
Religion in Politics and Society by Kelly and Messina
The New Testament Background by Charles Barrett
Crossing the Racial Divide by editors of Sojourners (curriculum)
20 Prayer Lessons for Children by Wezeman and Fournier (children’s sermon resource)
Prayers for a Sojourning People by Susan Gregg-Schroeder (prayers for pastoral care with lens of process theology)
America’s Original Sin: A Study Guide on White Racism by editors of Sojourners
Understanding the Bible by Stephen Harris
NOT PICTURED: The Whispering Word: A Theology of Preaching by Marjorie Suchocki (process theology)

General religion (including a small handful of religion and sexuality)

General religion (including a small handful of religion and sexuality)

Coming Out Spiritually: The Next Step by Christian de la Huerta
Blessed Bi Spirit: Bisexual People of Faith by Debra Kolodny (anthology)
The Political Meaning of Christianity: An Interpretation by Glenn Tinder
Searching for God Knows What by Donald Miller
The Guide for the Perplexed by Moses Maimonides
The Growth of the Early Church by W. A. Carleton
Biblical Perspectives on Evangelism by Walter Brueggemann
Companions in Christ Participant’s Book
Sacred Space: The Prayer Book 2011 by the Irish Jesuits
Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko (fiction)

General religion

General religion

The People’s Mass Book (1975)
Talking about Genesis: A Resource Guide by Public Affairs Television (companion publication to Bill Moyers’ tv series on Genesis)
The Jesus I Never Knew by Philip Yancey
What’s So Amazing About Grace? by Philip Yancey
Resident Aliens by Stanley Hauerwas and William Willimon
God’s Grace and Man’s Hope by Daniel Day Williams
The Song of the Seed by Macrina Weiderkehr
Simply Christian by N.T. Wright
Preparing for Christmas: Daily Meditations for Advent by Richard Rohr
Enduring Issues in Religion by John Lyden
Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth by Mohandas Gandhi
The Talmud and the Internet by Jonathan Rosen
The Divine Library by Rufus C. Camphausen

General religion

General religion

Meditations on the Tarot: A Journey into Christian Hermeticism by Anonymous
Basic Writings of Mo Tzu, Hsun Tzu, and Han Fei Tzu translated by Burton Watson
A Modern Shaman’s Guide to Reality Selection by Alli and Wilson
Rituals for our Times: Celebrating, Healing and Changing Our Lives and Our Relationships by Evan Imber-Black Ph.D. and Janine Roberts Ph.D.
From Beginning to End: The Rituals of our Lives by Robert Fulghum
All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum
Awareness by Anthony de Mello
Sadhana: A Way to God by Anthony de Mello
Anatomy of the Sacred: An Introduction to Religion by James C. Livingston
Blood Brothers by Elias Chacour
The Evidential Power of Beauty: Science and Theology Meet by Thomas Dubay
The Religions of Mankind by Hans-Joachim Schoeps

Oversized Religion and Pastoral

Oversized Religion and Pastoral

Kundalini Coloring Book
Augsburg Historical Atlas of Christianity in the Middle Ages and Reformation
The Fall of Freddie the Leaf
by Leo Buscaglia, Ph.D.

Published in: on January 16, 2014 at 9:28 pm  Leave a Comment  

Book Review: Lia Scholl’s “I <3 Sex Workers: A Christian Response to People in the Sex Trade"

I Heart Sex Workers: A Christian Response to People in the Sex TradeI Heart Sex Workers: A Christian Response to People in the Sex Trade by Lia Claire Scholl
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

First, I will tell you what I know. This book gives a wonderful, accessible introduction to systemic oppression and anti-oppression work in general. These ideas are both critically important and really tough concepts… and this book is a great place to start, with straightforward definitions and examples to explain. Scholl also has some wonderful instruction to give on basic pastoral care: active listening, being truly present to someone, and helping to empower people simply by acknowledging their agency and treating them as children of God.

Now, what I don’t know. I do not have the expertise to say that the book accurately portrays sex work, or that it addresses the needs and desires that sex workers have for their allies. Only those folks who work in the sex trades can do that. I can tell you that a lot of what I read here is congruent with what I hear from sex workers. I can tell you that Scholl clearly loves the people she has worked with, whose lives she attempts to give a glimpse of here. I get a strong impression that their humanity and the complexity of their lived experience is being respected.

Scholl articulates her main point as this: Christians can be allies to sex workers by doing three things: fighting the isolation sex workers face, fighting the stigma sex workers face and being more accepting, open and affirming, and striving for economic justice in our society and world. At another point, she boils her thesis down even further: the only solution that works for every person in sex work is “acceptance and advocacy for increasing personal choice.” Because of this agenda, Scholl is able to invite to the table – with a fair amount of success, in my opinion – readers with a variety of opinions on the inherent moral rightness or wrongness of sex work. She does focus part of the book on those who want to leave sex work… partly because the social stigma that touches each person in the sex trade makes it difficult to leave if they wish to. But “rescuing” sex workers, especially from sex work, is not a goal of this book. Scholl centers her work around us all supporting one another’s agency and personal choice. She mentions those who like doing sex work. She contextualizes sex work as being like any other work, with a range of enjoyment, resentment and ambivalence among the workers in any field. She discusses at length the dangers inherent in sex work that come not from the work itself, but from societal treatment of it, like police misconduct toward sex workers, various legal models of sex work and how sex workers feel these models affect their lives, and the deep harm of and multiple layers of victim blaming. Scholl wants to improve the lives of those who engage in sex work by offering relationship, respect, and solidarity in fighting against unjust systems. Her focus is not on ending sex work, but on fighting systemic oppression that disproportionately affects both those who trade sex and the populations most likely to be in sex work.

Her focus, ultimately, is on embracing those in the sex trade as people who deserve “all the rights and privileges that come with being a child of God and created in the image of God.” (p.150) I believe she does real work here to unpack what it means to honor someone’s agency, resourcefulness and dignity… work clearly rooted in Christ’s admonition to love one another. I am so very excited to have this resource.

View all my reviews

Published in: on April 13, 2013 at 5:35 pm  Leave a Comment  

Strategies for Knowing and Unknowing, and the Queer Art of Failure

In hir 2011 book The Queer Art of Failure, Judith Halberstam 1 has got me thinking about forgetfulness, beginner’s mind, and some new tools I may focus on in my own personal journey living amidst great oppression and deep hope.

Now finding resonance on this particular topic surprises me quite a bit, actually. A lot of my anti-oppression work – on personal and cultural levels – has focused on the theory that forced amnesia is a part of structures of domination. And so the “cure” is the opposite of amnesia. I’ve focused on finding stories and voices (including parts of my voice and story) that were obscured or devalued. Re-membering has been a powerful strategy for me. The remembering, researching, uncovering and reclaiming was liberating for me. I told my story over and over again and each retelling uncovered more of myself that had been buried for years. I heard others name stories that had been forcibly hidden or obscured. And I firmly believe there was a sacred exchange that occurred in the telling. The feminist phrase “hearing each other into being” sunk into my core and resonated with me. And I always defined it as this kind of recovery and remembering of history.

This paralleled a larger coping strategy for me at the time… high levels of structure. I had an upbringing that overwhelmingly taught me to be terrified of everything. It took a long, long time and a lot of work to turn that around. I learned to carve out small spaces where I could be without terror, and to slowly learn to live in those spaces. It was important too to learn how to live just on the edges of those spaces, just far enough out to claim more and more space for myself without churning up my out-of-control fight-or-flight biochemistry in counterproductive ways. I had bad memories of deliberate capriciousness, forced instability, and crazy-making. As we learn in twelve step spirituality, knowing/naming/acknowledging the problem is the key to getting better. On top of that, planning and knowing what would happen next gave the security I longed for. To find rest, peace – or myself, really – to climb out of all those bad habits and learn new ones, I had to have high levels of repetitive, expected structure in my days. Yes, I eased that need up… very, very slowly. But this valuing of structure, planning, and *knowing* had an internal logic when paired with a valuing of knowing history, knowing others’ stories intimately, knowing how systems of domination worked. Knowing was more than half the battle, really.

And, well, sometimes, for me, the only way to live with a painful memory is to know it further, let it live again, and overwhelm, until it doesn’t anymore. That’s another kind of knowing.

In the chapter of “Queer Art of Failure” that I’m currently reading, Halberstam is right in the middle of talking about the value of forgetfulness, how an absence of something like memory can liberate us from capitalist heteronormativity. Halberstam links failure and forgetfulness to queerness and alternative ways of knowing that subvert structures of domination. Zie describes how Dory from “Finding Nemo” rides forgetfulness and unknowing into new and valuable ways of relating and acting. Zie just finished a dozen pages of exploration of “Dude, Where’s My Car?”… an exploration I rather enjoyed, even without having ever seen the movie (another surprise!). I couldn’t do hir exploration justice. But what I get from it is the idea that forgetting and not knowing can release us from the training we inevitably receive that’s meant to perpetuate capitalist heteronormativity… that “stupidity”, memory “problems”, or an absence of knowing how we “should” behave brings us to new ways to behave, new ways of relating to others, new ways of knowing and valuing that stand outside systems of domination.

Now, I’m a forgetful person, and I know I’m enjoying this train of thought partially because it’s a reason not to be so hard on myself about that fact. I also know that the values I’ve embraced more and more over the last five years have brought me further and further away from previous, sanctioned definitions of success that I have had, and so valuing failure is appealing too. But it’s also very refreshing to see someone fighting a fight important to me, with a focus on improvisation and creativity rather than the type of education I have tended to prize and rely on perhaps a bit too much sometimes. I know the answers I’ve found about systemic evil, about privilege, about right relationship are important… but I also know those answers aren’t the answer to every question I meet. I’m also realizing that I’m being reintroduced to an idea I’ve seen before, and often been wary of: beginner’s mind. The absence of preconceived notions. The ability to approach a person or situation without having any assumption of mastery or expertise… so that one can be fully present, fully aware, and fully open to the unfolding moment of connection and transformation. Perhaps there’s a different kind of hearing each other into being here. Bernie Glassman discussed just such a thing in his book Bearing Witness: A Zen Master’s Lessons in Making Peace, which had a big affect on me some ten years ago now. I have to say, at the time, I approached this beginner’s mind thing as a decent idea in theory, but rather incomprehensible for me to approach at the time. Now, I’m seeing something very appealing to me, somewhere in this pile of failure, forgetfulness, and fish that speak Whale.

1. On this book zie is credited as Judith Halberstam; I’ve seen hir named elsewhere as Jack Halberstam and J. Jack Halberstam. Wikipedia mentions Halberstam using multiple genders of pronouns. Until I’m clear what Halberstam prefers, I’m using gender-neutral pronouns zie and zir.

Published in: on January 5, 2013 at 10:23 pm  Leave a Comment  

Notes after reading Fellowship of the Ring

Well, I had determined that I wouldn’t write about this until I was done with the series. But then, I kept falling into rants about it with friends and family. So here’s some quickly jotted opinions from one person who:

a) saw the Jackson movies first, and knew nothing of Tolkien’s universe beyond those films, until a month ago,
b) doesn’t have the best memory for details (especially for content that isn’t emotionally significant), and so may blur together or forget elements of the films, but
c) saw each of the movies several times… not because I liked them, but because I didn’t mind them, and many people around me wanted to see them frequently. So I tend to believe that a Venn diagram of what the filmmakers prioritized and focused on and what I came away with will overlap a great deal.

You should also know that I hold storytelling in very high regard, and I treasure filmmaking as an art… though I loathe the Hollywoodification of stories, and that last will play a huge part of my growing dislike for the films. For me, Hollywoodification centers around the erosion of unique styles of storytelling and creative perspectives, in order to fit a rigid template of storytelling considering the most sellable. It often includes flattening rich characters into stereotypes or “one-word characters” (the innocent one, the brooding one, etc.), not just because of time constraints but to dumb down characters so Hollywood audiences know how to relate to them. Hollywoodification also frequently includes shoehorning cookiecutter romance into any story.

I greatly enjoyed the book “Fellowship of the Ring”, and plan to have a relationship with it that isn’t all about the films! But this post will be a compilation of my thoughts on approaching the books after the films, and on comparing the two (and finding the films lacking).

The first thing I noticed is that the book does not open with a feeling of EPICness. The films – from first to last – were EPIC with EPIC hobbits and EPIC New Zealand. Everything was dazzling and bigger than life from the first moments, as the Shire sprawled out in front of us. This is very different than the quiet, homey beginnings of the book. The hobbits’ world is circumscribed. Most of them haven’t traveled outside the Shire, and their knowledge of the outside world is patchy and scarce. The non-Shire world is an exotic and dangerous place, and those who frequent it are by turns romantic and suspect. I felt the Shire as a familiar place by the time they left it. The emotional space Tolkien gives at the beginning of the book is a pleasant, manageable place to start a journey, and I feel after reading Fellowship of the Ring that I have actually been on part of a journey that is changing me. The movie was more of a travelogue of exotic places to visit, the Shire being the first.

I have intentionally been putting effort into giving the characters different faces than they had in the movies, just to allow the book as much room as possible to exist outside my experience of the films. This can be challenging because, while Tolkien easily spends a quarter of his word count describing the weather, the entirety of his physical descriptions of characters might just possibly fit on a single page!

To understate profoundly, Tolkien has a way with words. So it’s not surprising that a significant portion of the dialogue came directly from the book, in pivotal and in small scenes.

“It has been called that before, but not by you.”
“I will take the Ring, though I do not know the way.”
“It is hardly possible to separate you from him, even when he is summoned to a secret council and you are not.”
“There are older and fouler things than Orcs in the deep parts of the world.”
“That spear thrust would have skewered a wild boar.”
“Fly, you fools!” 1
“Is it not a strange fate that we should suffer so much fear and doubt over so small a thing!”

I’m not sure that the looksism of the movie will be mirrored quite so strongly in the book, as far as good being beautiful and evil being ugly. Tolkien’s already played with that a bit. This is something I’ll reserve judgment (and comment) on for now.

I want to talk for a second about what I’ll call “shoutouts.” In adapting a book to a movie, you generally have a story that is far too long for the medium you are adapting it to, and you must cut or condense. The perennial question is, do you include a larger number of events from the book, and give them far less attention? Or do you reduce the number of events and characters – removing many entirely – in order to focus better on what’s left? With such a series as LOTR, Jackson did have to cut some things out completely. The journey that takes the hobbits to Tom Bombadil is one sad example (but, okay, if you have to). But it’s clear that a great number of writing decisions were made not to tell the story itself, but to reference the story Tolkien wrote, to give a wink to already-established fans without explaining enough to actually tell the story to those that haven’t heard it. My frustrations are with these shoutouts: at what was left in, but glossed over… Lothlorien being my biggest frustration. As far as I knew – from seeing FOTR multiple times, mind you – Galadriel was random Elven royalty, and Lothlorien was a place for the Fellowship to restock their supplies. There’s several different reasons this aggravates me, one of them I’ll return to in a moment. And another reason is a thematic issue that I will have to reserve judgment on until I’m done reading. But I will share my suspicions that an Eden-like land with a woman that quotes Jesus of Nazareth2 might be more important to Tolkien and Tolkien’s story than Jackson suggests in his film.

Additionally, the more shout-outs you have, the larger the ‘just because’ movie-logic looms over the story. The shoutouts increase the number of actions that appear to me in my first visit to Middle Earth as simply the way things are done. Nearly every decision made as to how the Fellowship would travel, for example, was made in the film just because. We’ll go this way or that because it’s the best. People in the know have decided. Throughout the book, decision-making is a more harrowing, more realistic experience. Various people with various incomplete knowledge and skill sets do the best they can to reason out the best decisions on partial information, and we see their angst and struggle. This is a constant vulnerability in the book that speaks deeply to me, that I felt not a whit of in the film.

And I want to talk about the women. On a very personal note, I actually had a loathsome experience watching the first movie in the theatres. I was with my father, and while I found Arwen’s depiction problematic in a number of ways, he fell in love with her. He was visibly moved by this character, and obviously considered her a kind of ideal woman. His feelings, combined with my problems with her portrayal, highlighted a LOT that was wrong about our relationship as I grew up, all rooted in stereotypes of what is feminine, and what is valued in women’s behavior and appearance. To quickly summarize my problems with her portrayal:

A) While she is portrayed as powerful, her so-called power is entirely dependent on her father’s power, and this fact is pretty explicitly involved in the run-in Jackson fabricates between her and the ringwraiths;
B) in said run-in with all nine ringwraiths, she walks away with one, inch-long thin red mark daintily placed upon her cheek, and is otherwise composed and glamorous;
C) She is the far larger part of two named female characters in the movie, and both are Elven. As movie elves, they are beautiful, thin, dainty, never dirty, always composed, ethereal, billowy and distant. Since this is already a problematic female stereotype for me, having two separate characters as the entirety of the female cast BOTH represent this actually made me pretty nauseous.

Despite all this, my impression was that this was one of those old stories written by men that didn’t have any decent female roles, so we’d just have to make our own. I got the impression the script writers were doing us a favor making Arwen a larger part and a stronger woman, and so I let it slide that it was “Hollywood” female strength and not actual female strength.

Then, I met Galadriel in the book.

Mother fuckers. Seriously? As I said before, to my mind the movie Galadriel was random elven royalty (and I don’t have much use for royalty). I know I don’t fully understand yet what Tolkien’s doing thematically with Celeborn, Galadriel and Lothlorien. But Galadriel is a powerful figure in her own right, just completely wiped out of having any significant role in the movie. Which makes it clear to me that having substantial women’s roles really wasn’t a priority for the writers.

I can’t quite put words to it yet, but the characterizations of Frodo in particular and the hobbits in general are so much richer and more satisfying in the book. There’s more than one action or behavior of Frodo’s in the book that enriched his character, that wasn’t present or was only faintly present in the movie. The largest example I’m thinking of was him actually slowly becoming aware of Gollum’s presence, slowly discerning the meaning of the clues he had heard and seen. In the movie, Gandalf hands him (and us) this answer. He is streamlined to the point of feeling like a rather blank character in the films in general. The strongest content of his film character is just generally being the least silly of the hobbits. Hobbits as a whole in the film are only one small step away from being comic relief, which I don’t feel is at all fair to their representation in the book.

In one last comparison, I will say that I was really entirely unaware of any history of animosity between Elves and Dwarves. This is a regretful elimination, as the various exchanges on the subject, and the layers of relationship built between Legolas and Gimli, are all very satisfying in the book.

Now, for a couple of observations of the book unrelated to the movie. My friend Lexi, who inspired me to read the books, mentioned Tolkien’s love of trees, and that shines through in a lovely way in the text. Though I don’t have words now, I know I’ll have something to say about Tolkien’s profound way of relating to the physical landscape of Middle Earth.

It will certainly be best to wait to say much on matters of theology until I’ve seen where Tolkien takes his narrative. But I am thankful that in the books so far, he is not as pedantic as other Christian writers I’ve seen (I’m looking at you, Clive). For this reason, I think I can embrace parts of his story that mean something very different to him than they do to me.

I can see glimpses of what he has famously called his view of “the long defeat” — a concept he describes as quintessentially Roman Catholic, and a concept I am unfamiliar with (and can’t find much on, actually, other than references to Tolkien himself). On one hand, I think the idea of humanity progressing linearly into greater and greater moral and scientific quality is a dangerous narrative. “Progress” as an idea leads easily to ranking societies by who’s more advanced/moral, to a feeling of invincibility in Western culture that we will only keep going and becoming “greater” and to general historical blindness, and attitudes that things have never been better than they are right now. Clearly, an idea called “the long defeat” doesn’t sound progressive. 🙂 It may be the reverse, however: the idea that we once had perfection, and have slowly been falling further and further away from it. It’s my impression that he has built Lothlorien as Eden-like, as perfect at least in how it used to be. The Elves in the first book describe how the world will change, even if Sauron’s evil is defeated. It is clear that things will never be the same. I don’t find value in the idea of anything being or having been perfect. Life just is. Yes, there is better and worse, there is more just and less just, or more loving and less loving. But perfection again requires a ranking of diverse ways of being that I do not desire. It requires layers upon layers of value judgments to define what is and isn’t perfect. It requires an unchangingness that to me is antithetical to life itself. Now, my dislike of perfection certainly stems from my own experience of twelve step work (itself based in certain Christian theologies); admitting that perfection is not possible in this broken world is a survival mechanism for me. But I still find nothing valuable in envisioning a perfect paradise, either at the beginning or at the end of all things. Will this be a hindrance to enjoying the ultimate shape of the book narrative? I don’t know yet. I don’t think so. The sense of mourning in the Elven culture resonates with me. Grief is grief. And one major element of all this that Tolkien weaves together resonates oh so deeply with me: that awareness that defeating evil will not make us who were were when we started our journey. The Elves say that Middle Earth will never be the same. I know certainly that Frodo will never be the same as he was on page one. That single aspect of his journey is what has drawn me into the story more than anything else — that journey of one individual, living with pain and evil moment by moment, every day, and striving not to be overcome by it. That’s what’s really appealing to me, and I want to see Tolkien’s version of that tale.

1. Though, remarkably, the phrasing of Ian McKellen’s now meme-ish line “You shall not pass”, has changed from what it is in the book, “You cannot pass”.
2. Galadriel quotes from the canonical gospels when she says “Do not let your hearts be troubled,” from the passage supposedly of Jesus’ words: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not let them be afraid.” I remember noticing a second quote, but I don’t immediately find it again.

Published in: on July 30, 2012 at 1:19 am  Comments (5)  

“Let folly be our cloak…”

Yes, this is a non-Star Trek post. But how far can you expect me to get from a nerd fandom, really?

I’m reading The Fellowship of the Ring, for the first time ever. I won’t go into the details of my relationship to the story yet, but I want to keep this passage handy:

‘Despair, or folly?’ said Gandalf. ‘It is not despair, for despair is only for those who see the end beyond all doubt. We do not. It is wisdom to recognize necessity, when all other courses have been weighed, though as folly it may appear to those who cling to false hope. Well, let folly be our cloak, a veil before the eyes of the Enemy! For he is very wise, and weighs all things to a nicety in the scales of his malice. But the only measure that he knows is desire, desire for power; and so he judges all hearts. Into his heart the thought will not enter that any will refuse it, that having the Ring we may seek to destroy it. If we seek this, we shall put him out of his reckoning.’


‘At least for a while,’ said Elrond. ‘The road must be trod, but it will be very hard. And neither strength nor wisdom will carry us far upon it. This quest may be attempted by the weak with as much hope as the strong. Yet such is oft the course of deeds that move the wheels of the world: small hands do them because they must, while the eyes of the great are elsewhere.’

Published in: on July 15, 2012 at 11:59 pm  Leave a Comment  

What to Eroticize?

I’m just into the introduction of the first book I’m reading in the sex project: Erotic Justice: A Liberating Ethic of Sexuality by Marvin Ellison. I’ve been reminded of a difference of opinion I know I’ll have with a later book I’m rereading, and that I’ll apparently have with this book as well.

Many ethical frameworks that strive to be body-positive, liberating for all and egalitarian and nonviolent in nature (all characteristics I value) make the claim at some point that the eroticizing of domination and submission is part of the problem. I appreciate and value the issue that I think they’re trying to get at: namely, that the system of oppression within which we are all immersed seeks to wrap itself around our deepest well of power – our erotic nature – and distort that power in order to control us, shape our lives and maintain a toxic grip. It’s a primary way that the system perpetuates itself.

However, rather than naming BDSM (bondage and discipline, domination and submission, and sado-masochism all in erotic contexts) as a reflection of the problem, as every published author that I’ve come across has done, I propose something very different instead. I have found in my own life that BDSM can be a dynamic tool for examining power and agency in our lives. BDSM, rather than only being a reflection of pathologies of power, can be an avenue to wholeness, nonviolence and egalitarian relationships. I am certain I will write more about this.

I look forward to seeing how these ideas unfold in my reading.

Published in: on February 4, 2011 at 3:04 am  Leave a Comment