Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Decade in Review: 2011

January 2011:  After some deliberations, I decided to write on a train from Eugene to Portland.  So I dressed up as a Pegasus Ranger!   The train ride was fun.   I discovered the Crumpacker Family Library (The Temple of Books!) and I had a lovely pizza dinner with Jay Lake.  The summary of my Adventures of a Pegasus Ranger follows:

In the manuscript of Pegasus Ranger in Portland, I see someone using artifice as a tool to search for an axis mundi. He dons a costume and begins his search with a train ride; he discovers that the meridians and parallels of the world are blurred. He thinks he's discovered an axis mundi in a temple of art, but his vision of artistic logos overwhelms him and he retreats. A fellow writer, a kind of shadow-shelf of the searcher, turns his attention to Death. Each of the searcher's encounters contrasts and compares chaos and order; control and surrender; expectations, fantasy, and reality. At the end, he tries to connect the dots into a paradigm, but they don't mesh perfectly. The story ends with the searcher almost home, passing a shadowed milestone.  As he recalls life, art and Georges-Pierre Seurat, who painted A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, the Pegasus Ranger concludes that the Geometry of Life is always Deconstructed by Entropy.  But Life -- which includes its terminus, Death -- is not about seeing, it's about how one looks. The act of observation not only changes the observed, it changes the observer. Look well.  Bring outfits.  Look good.

February 2011:  The grey days of Winter were officially getting to me.  To combat them I would  use a halogen torchiere and fill the house with Summer-like light.  The Winter Light never used to bother me (that I'd been aware) and I attributed my sluggishness and despair to (undiagnosed) seasonal depression.   But some days not eve the torchiere would help, and I'd have to take a picture of myself wearing a turban made out of a starry polar fleece blanket.

March 2011:  We went skiing, where I had the pleasure of admiring a stranger's skiing moves, and discovered I was looking at Mark.  Going home, we got trapped on the highway about twenty miles out of Eugene by a a windstorm which blew a tree over a road and knocked electricity out of the McKenzie River corridor.   Mark drove us to Belnap Hotsprings and discovered a lovely outdoor temple folly.  I was glad I was with him, because I would have pulled the car over at the side of the highway and froze.

April 2011:  I officially began fiddling around with zellij tile design and launched a fascination with producing ten five-pointed stars whirling around each other.  I'd already played with Penrose Tiles, so it was an easy jump.  I find that constructing geometric forms calms me down and is rewarding; I'm not sure if it's the process, of using a compass or the pleasure of creating an ordered design, or the challenge of fitting different things together.

On the writing front, I tried to create an e-book and got stalled.

May 2011:  After watching University of Oregon want ads for about a year and applying for a few jobs, a writer friend from the Wordos clued me in to an IT job opening in the UO Psychology Department.   I got hired as a temporary part-time worker.    This was a good thing; and the extra income made a lot of things a whole lot easier.

June 2011:  We visited Mark's family on the east coast.  It's always fun to visit them because they are New York Direct, which is a refreshing change from Corvallis Nice.  We usually do some site-seeing, and I often visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art -- this visit included a reminder to finish projects.  One day, Mark and I made a pilgrimage to Olana -- we dressed up, and got to be fabulous gays touring an architectural palace (with sketching and a picnic afterward).

September 2011:  My micro fiction, "The Book Deal" was purchased for "Twisted Tales," a micro fiction anthology by Delving Press.  "The Book Deal" was a fun, 66 word horror story.  Alethea Kontis and Damon Kaswell were also in it.

Through the late summer and throughout autumn, I worked on writer craft.  I read Dracula, and I couldn't understand what was so horrible about the vampire until someone explained to me at OryCon that the count was operating outside the circle of Christian Grace.  I read some dreadful steampunk genre stories (one kept flipping back and forth between a romance and something else), and apparently zombies (er, revenants) must be included.  I wrote my first steampunk story, and then another, to mixed reactions at the Wordos table.

And I thought about masculinity, and gay male desire, and story, and what is it that I want to explore as a man who is gay and who is a writer.

If there was a theme for 2011, it was the geometry of life cycles.  I wanted things to be pretty and ordered, but it seems that having a pretty and ordered life takes a lot of practice -- and in the end, the geometry is left open by Death.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Decade in Review: 2010

January 2010   I got a cortisol injection for my Ithiopathic Adhesive Encapsulitis, which finally fixed itself.  There's nothing like not being able to lift or bend to highlight how fragile a body is, how easily an accident can alter one's lifestyle.

I spent a lot of time in Second Life, an on-line game where players create virtual versions of themselves, called avatars, and interact in a virtual world.  A friend from high school, Amy Beltane, had introduced me to "UUtopia," a collection of virtual land parcels owned (well, actually, leased) by Unitarians on Second Life.  At the time, Amy was attending seminary school, and her wife, Sharron, would meet in Second Life in their tricked-out treehouse.  (This was before Skype was common.)  When I first joined, UUtopia was bordered by Anarchists on one side, and Communists on the other.
I found Second Life interesting because players in it can design virtual objects; because I found the fuzzy boundary between the physical reality of people pushing buttons on a keyboard and the virtual reality of interacting with players' avatars fascinating on psychological, philosophical and theological levels; and because I could have interesting discussions with people.   OK, it was really fun to make things, and before two weeks had gone out, I was scripting programs to build things.

Once I'd been introduced, the UUtopians were incredibly nice to me and let me build stuff on their land.  I built Wiccan-flavored altars in Second Life that would chat the words of ritual in response or create a circle of blue flame in response to an accurately typed ritual phrase.  I built candles that would echo the intents of the candle lighter when virtually touched.  I made ritual labyrinths, glowing pentagrams, and hollow hills.  Sometimes I would help out and make a foundation or dome or something.

Most of the other folks I met were not builders.  They were programmers, grandmothers, students, poets, and many of them seemed to live on the east coast.  I think the most interesting was the person who frequently wore a fox body -- so yes, I've had religious discussions with a fox.   Occasionally, I would attend UU religious services in UUtopia (the UUtopians took leading services and giving sermons in turns); but since it was Mark's night out and I had to attend to The Child, this usually didn't work out.  I did manage to present one night, and that was well received.

Sadly, Amy and Sharron got divorced.  Which I leaned virtually.  Expressing my condolences to both of them was one of those times where the virtual and the real seemed both extra virtual and extra real.  Their parcel of land went up for sale.

Eventually, the UUtopians got tired of being collateral damage from the "Griefer War" going on between their neighbors.  ("Griefing" in Second Life is when players do things like cause it to rain giant penises, or create objects that duplicate wildly and use up all the hosting server's resource with junk objects, or otherwise crash the party and behave obnoxiously.)  They moved to a new island that was all UUtopia.   The move -- with its discussion of rent and sub-letting -- made me uncomfortably aware of how I was playing in a sandbox that other people were paying for.

However, the UUtopians (for the most part) seemed pleased to have me tinkering around and building things for them.  Probably the most involved build was a "bridge" (and café), which was like a museum of history display about the development of Neo-Paganism and its subsequent incorporation as a UU Sixth Source.  At one end was a large world map, about ten feet across.  I got some help and figured out a logarithmic scale so that fifty feet away from the map represented the year 2020, twenty-five feet away from the map represented the year zero CE, and fifteen feet away represented the compressed centuries of hominid development.  Then I placed various markers (the death of Hypatia of Alexandrea) and objects (Stonehenge) along the time-line and lined up where they would be located on the map.  

The objects had "hover text" over them labeling them.  Some even would dispense virtual cards with museum text on them.  What became evident to me was that there was a cluster of events around 1880 CE and 1980 CE, coinciding with the English mystery lodges in England (e.g. the Order of the Golden Dawn), and the introduction of Wicca and Goddess Worship in the United States.  To be sure, there were markers for events before the Common Era, but there was also a gap after about 300 CE were events thinned out.  But, to my mind at least, it showed how new Neo-Paganism (at least the Wicca-flavored part I'm most familiar with) is.  

As 2010 progressed, and after the Bridge was more-or-less done, I spent less and less time in Second Life.  The laptop I was using at the time was an older one, and I was at the trailing end of supported hardware for the game.  I really wanted to design things in it, and I'd told myself the typical maker's lie that I could make a living selling Second Life merchandise; but the reality was that it was a hobby, not a job, and I felt like a mooch creating virtual stuff on other people's virtual land.  Also, it was difficult not to spend less than an hour or two playing, and Second Life began to cut into my writing.  And it was something that was difficult to share with the family.

Spring 2010   This was the year we had to get The Child into a school.   We had some friends who were Montessori teachers who were encouraging us to enroll in their school (four blocks away!), but getting in depended on the openings at the school, which were assigned by lottery.   The previous year, without the threat of enrollment hanging over our heads, Mark and I were able to look at the various schools calmly.  We decided most of the 4J schools were fine, and that the temperament and qualities of the individual teachers would have a bigger impact than a particular school.

I was really glad we'd practiced getting into a school.  The Eugene 4J school system has neighborhood schools, with the option for parents to move their kids to a non-neighborhood school if their kid gets a good number in the 4J lottery.  It's supposed to be equitable and flexible, but it engenders a heightened sense of an educational scarcity and encourages a cult-like following in the school a family eventually chooses.   I can't tell you how many frazzled parents I saw who were about to have a breakdown over the fear that they were somehow doing something wrong and about to mistakenly doom their child to a lifetime of consequences of Not Getting Into Yale.

The Child got good numbers, and we got into the Montessori system.   Over the summer there had been a fire at the Montessori school, with the result that the kindergarten was no longer at the facility four blocks away.   We wont discuss the Driving Habits of Other Parents (in SUVs).

I volunteered to help out with kindergarten P.E.  Wow; the coach was a miracle worker, and I took several pages of notes from him.

September 2010:  My story, "The View from the Top" got published on the Analog website:    It was part of an experiment the Wordos did.  We nailed down the main character, the setting, and the plot elements.  Then everyone went out and wrote stories; the idea was to see if we could isolate parts of a story.

After we'd critiqued them, Jerry Oltion sent a packet of the stories to Stanley Schmidt, explaining what we'd done.  Stanley chose Jerry's story for inclusion in the print version of the magazine, but was gracious enough to include the other stories he would have bought if he'd received them the standard way.  Although it would have been nice to have the story printed, it was an honor and a thrill to be published electronically at Analog.

November 2010:  I tried participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month).  That lasted about five days.  Despite just writing and "daring to be bad," NaNoWriMo requires about two weeks of preparation before hand if anything is going to come out of it -- and I'd have to agree with the mother who recently wrote, "Whoever planned this thing wasn't a parent with familial expectations about Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas."  One of these days I suppose I'll have NaNoWriMo in June/July.

December 2010:  Was pretty much all about the lunar eclipse, which happened on the Winter Solstice.  The holiday card was about the eclipse, I wrote haikus about the eclipse, and I concluded an early birthday celebration with a hike up the hill to see the eclipse.

When I think about 2010, I'd have to say that this was the year of virtual hopes and fears.  So much of the focus was on the realm of ideas -- and what might or could happen.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Decade In Review: 2009

Spring 2009

I was hanging out at the preschool after classes with a klatch of moms who shared lunch while our children played.   The discussion wandered from construction contracters to men in general.  At one point one of the moms realized they were trashing men, paused, looked me in the eye, said, "No offence," and went right on trashing men.

This was the most blatant encounter with what I would call "The Soccer Mom Club."   The SMC wasn't limited to any particular place.  At other times, I could be speaking with one or two member of the SMC; but if they reached a critical mass, they would either slowly close ranks into a circle with me on the outside, or spontaneously Feel The Need to Have a Deeply Personal Discussion (which would be signaled by a demi-glare -- eye-brows down, head thrust forward, chest turned away and a shoulder aimed in my general direction, and an unspoken "why don't you run off and do your little guy-things?" -- before backs were turned toward me).   If I didn't get the hint, the conversation would stall, and in the awkward silence, I would be stared at.

I could never quite tell if I was being excluded because I was a guy, or because I was gay, or both.

March 2009.  Under the (non) guidance of the new(ish) settled minister, I officially withdrew my membership at the Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans and the UU in Eugene.  I was devoting a whole lot of time to something that wasn't speaking to me.  This resulted in a bitchy, sarcastic, thirty page critique of (Eugene) NeoPaganism.   The Nice Version got posted to the blog.

When I think about my spirituality, I wish I could do it in a community setting, but I haven't found a community that's a good fit.  My credo is that one should attempt to live in a state of dynamic balance between different modalities of being (logical, emotional, physical, spiritual) and the cosmos.   OK, and I like numinous moments.

I'm still interested to some extent in group Neo-Pagan Ritual with other Gay Men, but the more I think about it, the more gender and eros seems like a mask deity wears for the benefit of human comprehension.  And the less involved I become in gender and orientation identity politics, the more connecting spiritually to trees and avoiding humanoid depictions of deity makes more sense.

April 2009.  Still feeling the burn of not preparing for preschool, Mark and I started looking at various kindergartens a year early.  We decided that most schools are pretty much the same, that the individual teachers probably have a larger impact than the general school, and that Parent Associations are functionally the same as cults.

We were pretty sure we'd try to get into a Montessori school, mostly because we already knew some of the teaching staff there and because it was  less than four blocks away from our home.

July 2009.  While at the beach, The Child cut open his big toe with a clam gun.  This happened at the same time that I was alone with him on the beach, on the strand, when the tide turn and inundated all the plastic pirates we'd set up in the sand.

Part of me wanted to gather all the plastic toys floating away in the surf while I slung a shrieking child onto my shoulder for the trek back to the beach house.  I jogged from the surf until my breath started coming out in puffs.  I walked quickly through the dunes and grasses, wondering if The Child's toe was still attached.  And then I started walking, with a stitch in my side, realizing that I would be a failure if a tsunami were coming and that I was a total failure anyway because now my Child would be maimed for life because I couldn't toss him over my shoulder and run a half-mile over sand in less than three minutes.   And I was an unfit parent.   And a lousy gay husband for being out-of-shape.

Thankfully, Mark was at the house, because the rest of the folks there were Mostly Not Helpful.

August 2009.  We're not sure if it was coming off of the water slide at the local pool the wrong way, or catching The Child a million times in the pool at my folks', but over the summer I developed Ithiopathic Adhesive Encapsulitis.   Every now and then I'd have a moment where I would forgot that my shoulder and humerus were essentially fused, reach out to catch a football or open a door the wrong way, and nearly fall over from the pain.

I wound up seeing a physical therapist who seemed have gotten his certification straight out of high school (he was young).  The pain meds I was taking to help me sleep through the night made me loopy and destroyed my short term memory; after a while weren't doing anything to help, so I stopped using them.  I ended up doing a zillion stretches.

I was lucky, because although my shoulder Really Hurt A Lot, it didn't hurt all the time.  And the PT helped.  But I still couldn't lift things or get books from shelves above my head.  Having a frozen shoulder made me feel ancient and useless and crippled.

Not being able to move my shoulders made dancing the Abbot's Bromely Horn dance at Shrewsbury difficult, and sleeping on the ground in a tent impossible.   This was the first time in almost a decade that I hadn't camped on site at Shrewsbury -- and I didn't miss it.

Late 2009, I sold two stories to Thaumatrope, a Twitter e-zine.  With a 120 character limit, these were fun to write and gratifying to see tweeted.  I wrote one in thirty seconds, in the clutch of inspiration, after The Child ate a Christmas Angel Cookie's wings off.   Sadly, Thaumatrope closed a year or so later.

This year was the first year where I was confronted by the limits of my body.  I think I don't worry too much about getting old, but it would be really nice if I wasn't in chronic pain.  Also, opening doors shouldn't be that hard.

Decade in Review: 2008

Feb 20, 2008.  A CUUPs ritual was planned for the full moon eclipse.  Although I voiced my suspicions, no one confirmed that the full moon would be visible from the church site.   Five minutes before the eclipse began, one other person appeared.  We looked for the moon, but it was below a near-by hill.  Ten minutes later, as I was leaving to go watch the eclipse with my family, a third person appeared and wondered why I was leaving.

Later, I hooked up with Mark and The Child at the Eugene Reservoir, where the Eugene Astronomy club had set up telescopes.  After my family left,  I watched the dark moon and harped for it and for the people milling around the telescopes.  Most folks appreciated the gesture for the gift it was, and I can't think of nicer (if laid back) public ritual.

June 2008.  Savoré closed completely.  The retail store closed and the web store as well.  Even after almost three years, we still hadn't found a replacement.

September 2008.  Suddenly, The Child was Ready for Preschool.  The clingy days were over.  Mark would come home from work and the two of us would be sitting on the couch, looking straight ahead and not making eye-contact, waiting for Mark to step through the door.

We asked around for preschool recommendations, and the next thing I knew, I was touring a preschool connected to a church.  Little "Gee, these folks are Extra Religious" alarm-bells were going off in my head, but I kept telling myself that some pretty cool parents had recommended the church.

Then I put down Mark as the other parent on a form.  The pre-school teacher started back-peddling and babbling, and the next thing I knew, I was in the principal's office with The Child.

"Well," he said.  "This has never happened before.  I think I'd have to speak to my bosses before we can let your child attend.  It's really in the best interests of The Child for him not to attend [because we will let all the kids in a preschool for four year olds know that men who have sex with other men are going to Hell and The Child's family is damned and we don't want him to have go through hating his Devil Dads and being shunned as a sinner by the other kids]."

Since I didn't want to have a Scene or Educational Moment with The Child sitting there wondering when we were going to have lunch, I said.  "You know, I think there's been some mistake, and I should be somewhere else."

So Much for Hippy Eugene.  On a happier note, we found the right school, in a church a few blocks away from The Wrong Church.  We had to wait a few more months to get in, because A Child's Educational Application Process must start three weeks after conception if you want to get into the Yale Track.

On a slightly related note, around now I got a phone call from a UUCE member who was working on a sex-education panel for the UUCE youth.  She needed someone on the panel who had multiple sex partners and wondered -- since I was a gay man -- if I knew any gay men who would be willing to sit in on the panel.   No, she didn't realize the implied assumption that all gay men are sleeping around; Yes, she was suitably horrified when I pointed out what she was asking.   All in a Day's Work as Mr. Gay Resources at UUCE.  Sigh... I'd sort of hoped there might be gay spiritual men at this liberal, welcoming church.

December 2008.  My short story, "Up" (this was before the movie of the same name) was accepted at the (then) Whidbey Student Choice Award (now the Penn Cove Literary Award)    This was a cheery Wordos Holiday Story, where a socially isolated protagonist has to deal with the aftermath of a fatal family car crash.   My worries that I might be unconsciously trying to kill my family off were eclipsed by the fact that this was my second (professional rate) sale.

In terms of writing, 2008 was tough -- I was getting stories out into the mail, and although I was getting rejections more quickly than I had before, no one was buying.  The Whidbey sale helped me not feel like a "wanna-be has-been."

Decade in Review: 2007

Feb 17, 2007.  New Moon.  After months and months of knowing I was a finalist, I received the news that I had placed Third in Writers of the Future!  I was going to LA for a week-long workshop.   I'd submitted twelve manuscripts over a four year period and it had finally paid off!

March 2007.  Having jump-started CUUPs at UUCE, I was encouraged to give a four-minute presentation at a local Interfaith gathering.   After a brief introduction Neo-Paganism, I lead a quick visualization of the four elements.   The presentation was well received, probably because I used my radio voice (someone  commented that I should make relaxation tapes).   The presentation resulted in a jump in CUUPs attendance.

I'm trying to find the exact date, but sometime around now the Rev. Carolyn Colbert retired from being the UUCE minister.   She'd been serving there for seven or so years, and everyone was used to her style.  With her departure, a search began, and various interim ministers took over the pastoral care of the church.   What I learned from this was that I'd been coming to UUCE to hear Carolyn's sermons, which I always found challenging.

A year or two of being parents put the final nail in the coffin as far as our involvement with the gay community went.  Not that we were terribly active in gay community events after the Outdoor Club (a local LGBTQ hiking group) imploded, but we stopped hearing much or seeing our gay friends.   And then they began the exodus to Portland.

Sometime in the spring, I went to a Eugene LGBTQ Community building event, held at a local high school.  After listening to folks talk about self-esteem issues on the University of Oregon campus, lesbian dance parties, queer youth, and the logistics of building a Eugene Queer Resources Center, the question came up about community.  What did members of the LGBTQ community want to build for ourselves?

When I was my turn to speak I said, "Hi, my name is John and I'm a gay dad."  (pause for applause)  "My husband would be here, but he's at home caring for our child.  I'd like to remind planners that if you want to include more parents, many toddlers take a nap at this time [11 AM - 1 PM].   So, I have a question:  could the gay dads in the audience raise their hands?"  One other guy in a room of about a two hundred raised his hand.  "Thanks," I said, "that's kind of what I thought." ("But hooray for lesbian moms, too," an older woman across the aisle said encouragingly.)  I sat down.  The other gay dad disappeared by the time the meeting finished.

As Mark pointed out later, just because someone else is  a gay dad doesn't mean that we'd get along with them or want to hang out.  Which is true, but still....

May 2007.  I attended a wonderful local writers' workshop with Ellen Datlow.   She wasn't enamored with "The Colossus of Rhodes," but she did like "Sky Dance" (although apparently it's too much like, "Love is the Plan, the Plan is Death").

August 2007.  I flew down to LA for the Writers of the Future (WOTF)  workshop and awards ceremony.  Fellow Wordo Damon Kaswell had also placed in that year's volume, and we flew down together.   At the LA airport, some of my luggage got lost, which included my wedding jacket and shirt.

My roommate during the workshop was Tony Pi, the other half of the Canadian team which was in a friendly, unofficial contest with the Wordos to get into WOTF.  The workshop was like a giant Wordos marathon, only with more professional advice.

What I learned was that I could pound out a rough draft of a 4000 word story in in less than 24 hours.  Writing it was scary, because we had to interview a stranger as a character prompt.  My stranger was a kind of homeless, down on his luck, hot-chocolate loving, fifty-something art-dealer theologian.

I could follow some of his rambly connections very easily and  throughout our conversation I kept thinking, "Oh crap; we sound like we've started in similar places and what do I need to do so I don't turn into some shabby, damaged prophet, mumbling a burnt-out vision to himself in the streets?"  Considering how this Ghost of Christmas Future kept sitting in the middle of the story I was feverishly trying to write, I'm amazed I produced any manuscript at all.

What I learned is that writing is a business, and that there's a lot of competition.  Charles Brown sat  down with us, and the first words as he looked around the room were, "Out of the twelve of you sitting here, only one or two of you are going to make it."

This was followed later in the day by a moment where I overheard a hotel hallway conversation.  Another hotel guest asked a big name author who all the folks in tuxedos were (we were getting fitted).  And the author said, "This is part of the Writers of the Future contest; these folks are all writers."

"Oh! Writers!  And who are you?"  the guest asked.  "Are you famous?  Have I read you?"  I could imagine her reaching into her purse for a pen and pad to autograph.

The big name author told her who he was.  "I write science fiction and fantasy."

"Oh," she said, obviously let down he wasn't Stephen King, Tom Clancy, or John Grisham.  It was obvious she didn't read the genre and she'd never heard of the author before.

I let myself into my room, thinking, "And let this be a lesson unto you."

I learned that it's good for my mental health to hang out and talk with other writers.

I learned I should have started banging out a novel as soon as I had heard the news I'd placed in WOTF so I could have a draft of the manuscript to hand out to various folks and agents.

I learned that KD Wentworth remembered "Briallan Dreaming of Myrmidons," "Skies of Dreaming," "Sky Dance," and "The Colossus of Rhodes" -- stories that had made it to semi-finalist status in previous years -- and we had a great conversation about writing, editing, and submissions.  The woman who had been a gatekeeper became a new friend.

Mark and The Child came down for the ceremony, as did my parents.  The ceremony was kind of cheesy, but I loved it anyway.   And it was validating; instead of wondering what the heck I was doing, my family could now say, "Well, he's an award-winning author."

There was a lunar eclipse, which wasn't the most visible from the hotel, shining the the sky of LA.

Oct 2007.  Damon and I appeared briefly on the local TV station to talk about our stories in Writers of the Future.  It was part of a four month period of book signings up and down the Willamette Valley.  Damon and I had a lot of fun, and I learned how to hawk books.

Shortly afterward, I took a break from being the Wordos chair.  About four years prior,  Jerry Oltion wanted a break from running the Wordos meetings.  He called a meeting of various folks and because I was so consistent about attending that I got dubbed key-holder.  For the next couple of years, I was part of a triumvir consisting of Eric Witchey, Jay Lake and myself.  and then the next thing I knew I was facilitating the meetings.   And then gas prices went up  and folks from out of town stopped coming to Eugene for Wordos messages and for a while I was running things solo.  But I was done facilitating, and I took a break from the Wordos.

November 2007.  A particularly poorly attended CUUPs ritual was a wake-up call that the honeymoon with UUCE was over.  Clearly, I was doing something wrong, because I wasn't attracting a consistent core group of Neo-Pagans.

Neither Ronald Hutton nor Margot Adler clones had appeared for deep theological discussions or numinous moments.  Many women dropped out of CUUPs to pursue a multi-week, women-only, program entitled "Cakes for the Queen of Heaven."  And, while they were warmly interested, many of the regular Sunday going UUCE members were more focused on Neo-Paganism as part of a cultural diversity course.

Into this vacuum crept prosperity-focused folks, and before long we were having rituals about writing "prosperity checks" and "reclaiming your personal power."

Around this time UUCE hired a settled minister, who everyone had high hopes for, but who ultimately (to put it kindly) did not work out.   I'd thought, based on some of the things he had said, that he would engender a sense of wonder and worship with regard to the natural world; unfortunately, that never panned out.

November 21, 2007.  I had a fun time being a panelist at OryCon.  I had so much fun dancing Saturday night, I managed to get really sick.

December 2007.  For my 43rd birthday, Mark decorated the house as if it were Savoré ("Tea the Way It Used to Be").  He dressed up like a French waiter, put lovely linens on the tables, and served tea, sandwiches and petit fours.   At some point we realized The Child had pilfered quite a few petit fours and moved them to a higher table. 

2007 was the Year of the Gay Pagan Writer.  It felt like my writing career was picking up, and even if Neo-Pagan events had fizzled a little at the end, the year started out strong.

Decade in Review: 2006

June 2006.  On the solstice, Mark and I signed a zillion papers and became the owners of a new house.  We probably bought at the hight of the housing bubble.

Our realtor was great; she put up with me pretending to be a drunk undergraduate and shrieking "I am soooo drunk" as an illustration of why we didn't want to live in the Student Hell part of town; and put up with Mark asking during one open house, "So, is this where they hide the bodies?"

June 27 2006.  I lead a Wicca 101 ritual as a Sunday presentation at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Eugene.  The presentation was a brief lecture on the stations of the sun, followed by a Tree of Life meditation and a Spiral Dance.  It went really well, and everyone seemed friendly and enthusiastic.  It was so refreshing to find a "Neo-Pagan Church" that wasn't a collection of (in my harsher moments) "flakey, superstitious refugees from Math and Science."

I was very excited to be at UUCE, and I was hoping for rabbinical discussions of the Spirit of Life as experienced through rituals of the four elements.   In the months that followed, I had high hopes for an active Covenant of UU Pagans, actively, ardently, and jubilantly exploring the Seventh Principle (Respect for the Interdependent Web of All Existence of Which We Are a Part) with the tools of the Sixth Source (spiritual teachings of earth-centered traditions) tempered with those of the Fifth Source (the guidance of reason and the results of science).

September 2006.  After lots of painting and scraping and cleaning, with lots of help from my dad, we moved into the new house.  About this time I crenelated what I thought was the front boxwood, but was in fact, the front azalea.  Mark was horrified and the azalea has only recovered in about 2013.  I've been banned from pruning or trimming in the garden ever since.

Against Mark's advice, I set up a green gazing globe in the back yard.  We'd had the gazing globe in our old place's front yard and I loved it:  it was an axis mundi for me.    It lasted about a month before The Child grabbed its base as I was picking him up.  Let's just say the whole event was like a Greek play by Euripides.

Decade in Review: 2005

Spring 2005

Mark and I joined Mark's family on a trip to Disney World!  I'd never been.  I'd say the coolest ride was the humungous water slide at Blizzard Beach.  OK, maybe Tomorrow Land.  No; it  was our meal at the French Pavilion at the Epcot Court.  Oh, wait... it was the giant tree in Safari World.  It was all good.

A week or two after we got back, Mark climbed up the ladder through the ceiling hatch to my writer's loft (we lived in a converted garage which had two ladders to attic living areas).

"Uh oh," I thought, "Mark's coming up here; he never does that.  This is really important."  I removed my hands from the keyboard and folded them in my lap.

"Want a kid?" Mark said....  The child would arrive in four or five months.  We spent the next months with a lawyer, arranging things.  Although I was not the mother, I compensated by dreaming that the child was born a gerbil.

March 2005.  I went to NorWesCon.   Although the drive up was daunting, it was lots of fun -- like OryCon, only much larger.  I had a great time being roommates with Jerry and Kathy Oltion, who were kind enough to introduce me to Gordon VanGelder.

June 2005.  I became a parent and the stay-at-home caregiver.  Since I was no longer employed, I got health coverage via Mark's work.  This was a taxable benefit, which would not have been a taxable benefit had we been a heterosexual couple.

My hat is off to any parent who has more than one child, and it's off twice to single parents.  I understand why nature has wired us to have children when we're twenty (or younger), because it's exhausting being a forty-something parent.  And yes, infants engage in chemical mind-control because The Child altered my biology so that my pee smelled like him and he fiddled with my artistic sense so that the Mother Pegasus saving the Baby Pegasus during the wind storm in Disney's Fantasia is the Most Beautiful Piece of Art Ever (sniff).

Oh. And men, it's true:  after your first child You Will Never Have Sex Again (mwha-ha-ha-ha-ha!).   OK; that's not entirely true:  you will have sex, but you will never have wild unbridled sex (assuming that you're awake enough to want it) without the nagging sense that the sex must be done before The Child wakes up and walks in on you.

The child's bio-chemical wizardry also activated our Dad Super-powers.   Mine was the ability to identify all threats to The Child in a half-block radius.  And to karate-chop overly-friendly German Shepherds.   Mark's was the ability to clear The Child's respiratory track by sucking up blocking mucus.

In addition to taking the night shift, learning to change diapers, and picking up baby sign-language, having a child brought societal roles as a gay, male, forty-something to the forefront.

First and foremost, was the Baby-Military-Industrial-Complex, which insisted that we brand The Child's gender with either Pink Flowers or Camouflaged Weapons.   Diapers were covered with cartoon characters for early indoctrination.  And we were extolled by The Fearful Parent Magazine to spend every waking second of our lives doing everything in our power to Enrich Our Child, to Super-Charge His Self-Esteem, and to Sterilize and Protect The Child from All Forms of Lurking Danger.

Being the stay at home male caregiver exposed me to:

  • Over-praise as a Sensitive Father, 
  • Pity as the Out Of Work Partner Doing Child Care,  
  • and Suspicion as a man with a child.  
  • (And accusations of being a grand-parent.)

I must have taken a break from Wordos.

I remember going to Scary Baby Reading Hour at the local library.  It was scary because most the other parents were 17 year old moms with tattoos who wore hip-hugger jeans showing off their thongs.  Presenters tended to speak  "helium voices."

I quickly bonded with "The Geriatric Parents' Club."  We sat in the corner and traded snarky comments with each other.

Sept 2005.  In a terrible blow to our social life and general culture in Eugene, Savoré, the premiere tea shop in Eugene, closed its salon an relocated to a tea retail shop at 15th and Willamette.   Savoré was our bar; Mark and I would frequently have tea and scones there on weekends.  We could call ahead and the staff already knew what we wanted to order.  I often would go there after work or after-work workouts and write.

Savoré had small tables with white linens, little tea lights, French music, and upholstered chairs.  Canisters of white, green, black and herbal teas lined the walls.  Wire sculptures of the Eiffel Tower adorned tables displaying various tea accessories.   Gilded mirrors hung on the dark red walls.  There had been two over-stuffed davenports, but these had been removed because undergraduates would take naps on them during business hours.

I learned to love rooibos, lavender, and ceylon tea there; once, when the shop's supplier switch plantations on them, I could taste the difference in the ceylon.

Eugene became more dowdy, frumpy and uncultured when Savoré closed.  

Decade in Review: 2004

July 2004.  Our beagle, Pickles, died of various medical complications.  Mark had found him at Greenhill after our England trip in 2001, and conditioned him from an obese, so-fat-his-back-is-flat chow-hound obsessed with food to a lean, mean eating machine obsessed with food (able to steal cookies out of children's mouths with a single bound).

Living with Pickles was sometimes a challenge, because he used all of his low animal cunning to eat things like other people's Thanksgiving stuffing, other people's children's Halloween candy stashes, and slug bait.   Sometimes I think Pickles was practice for having a child.   And we still had Muriel, the world's crankiest, old-lady cat.

August 1, 2004.  I married Mark in a garden, in a ceremony not legally recognized by city, state, or federal governments, and overseen by the Rev. Caroline Colbert (the Unitarian Universalist minister at the local UU church).  Our friend, Lime-Green Larry From New York was the best man:  he compiled and presented all the statements about marriage and love that we'd asked everyone to write.  My sister, Julie, gave a very funny toast.   My friends in a recorder ensemble played Renaissance music.

The wedding was a huge affair -- a lot of our friends and both families gathered in our landladies' garden and cried as we exchanged vows.  Mark said his.  I was a wreck when I said mine.  Afterward, we had chocolate cake in white suits.  And I led folks in a round of "The Shark Song."

But since I couldn't exactly say, "Mark is my husband," without it being a political statement, I sometimes referred to him as my "husband out-law."

December 2004.  I started this blog on Blogspot, back before it was slurped up by Google.  Before this, I would send out e-mail missives to a long list of folks.  

At the beginning of the decade, I was interested in the spiritual lives of gay male Neo-Pagans and in the expression of deity as a gay male.  I was hoping that I'd find something like a gay Cernunnos,  or a gay male Isis.  Or maybe something like a spiritual minded sacred band of Thebes.   I'd even asked Starhawk if she knew who a gay male Starhawk could be, but she didn't know.

I put together the beginning of a e-newsletter called "Lavender Leaves" hoping to attract like-minded men, but it never amounted to anything -- and the musings, book reviews, and general thoughts on queer theory and theology were channeled into this blog.

I turned 40.  For the birthday celebration, we set up a throne for me to sit on, and guests were required to bring a Wonder of Science or sing a song.  Turning 40 was a breeze, especially compared to when I turned 30.  Mark teased me that I was middle-aged, which I denied -- claiming that I planned to live to a hundred, and I wouldn't be in the middle of my life until I turned 50.

Decade in Review: 2003

** May 2003.  Starhawk comes to Eugene.  

OK, this is outside the decade of 2004 2014; but it's Starhawk.   Think of it as a prologue.

Scene:  Evening. The garden courtyard.  John is sitting on a wooden bench under an apple tree, cradling a phone in his shoulder and looking at an invitation entitled "Honoring Starhawk" and subtitled "A Wise Woman Council Dinner."

Phone picks up.

Woman (on other end):  "Hello."

John (duplicitously):  "Hello, my name's John and I'd like to RSVP for the dinner with Starhawk, Friday the 22."

Woman:  "Oh.  Well.  What was your last name?"  (Sound of rustling papers)

John:  "Burridge... B-U-R-R-I-D-G-E."

Woman:  "Hmmm.  Well."  (More paper rustling.)  "You see, John.  I'm not seeing your name on my list.  How did you hear about the dinner?"  (Subtext:  it's an exclusive, secret, $15-dollar-a-plate dinner that isn't being advertised on all the "Starhawk in Eugene" flyers all over Eugene.)

John (thinking the woman on the other sounds like someone's grandmother and he should be extra nice to her):  "I have an invitation."

Woman:  "Oh.  Oh.  Who gave you the invitation?"

John:  "S.H. gave me hers."

Woman:  "Oh.  Well, you see, um, it's a women-only event.  I wonder what wasn't clear about that on the invitation?  The idea is that the women would trade their success stories during the dinner with Starhawk."

John:  "Oh." (Getting to the point on his secret agenda.)  "In that case is there a concurrent event that men may attend?"

Woman:  "Hmmm.  I don't know.  I'll have to call around; may I have your phone number?"

John:  "Certainly." [Gives number]

Woman:  "OK.  I'll make some calls and get back to you.

John:  "Thank you very much; I look forward to hearing from you."

Starhawk led a workshop and a very cool ritual.

The things I learned personally from the workshop were:  1) sometimes I'm a little too nice, with a combination of laziness and spaciness that gets me into doldrums with the other "left over" people.  2)  Often people go into relationships with people and groups looking for the perfect relationship, and then get annoyed or frustrated when they aren't perfect.

Afterward, Sunday, I realized two additional things.  The first thing is I think everyone who's read and admired Starhawk hopes that they will go to an event and have five minutes or so alone with Starhawk.  They hope this will be a life-changing event; Starhawk will say something that validates their life, or she will solve the one problem that's been bugging them for the last decade.  Or people hope that maybe there's something that they might say or do that is a missing puzzle piece; something that will ease whatever Starhawk is burdened with.  This makes people act a little goofy.

But the biggest thing I learned from this event is that there are A-list Hippies in Eugene.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Dream: Snapping Fire Turtle Sorceress

The recall on this dream is mixed up, but the elements go something like this.

An evil sorceress, basically Malificent al a Angeline Jolene, (or possibly Annie Lennox) was breeding cannibalistic snapping turtles who also liked to eat books.  This was part of her long-term plan to beed a giant sort of turtle-dragon, which she would enchant by feeding it magic books.   The fire-breathing, enchanted snapping turtle-dragon played a key role in her plans for conquest and revenge.

I'm not clear where she lived, because I'm pretty sure I dreamed at least twice.  For most of the dream she lived in the shadowy caverns and waterways underneath the castle of an old magician. Or else she lived in a largish house tucked away at the end of a golf course at a fancy resort.

I was the old magician's apprentice; sometimes (at the beginning of the dream) I was a youngish man, other times I was a twelve or thirteen year old girl (in the middle).  

Earlier in the dream (this happened as back-story) I had found an old underground cellar in the castle.  Underneath the rotting timbers an underground stream flowed, and I had dropped the leaves of an old, beat up book one by one into the stream.  The pages contained a spell, which enchanted the snapping turtles living there.

There was a tribe of Goblins or Gnomes living under the castle.  They weren't High Elves; more like indigenous natives or the Goblins out of Labyrinth (or Muppet Rats).  The Sorceress didn't rule over them, but they were afraid of her and usually did what she asked.


A fiery dragon-turtle had hemmed the Old Magician and me into the stone hall of the castle.  My sense is that the magic of the walls kept the flames out of the hall, but they licked along windows and archways.  The Sorceress appeared, and I rushed her (or the dragon).  The point of view switched to a bird's-eye view from the rafters of the hall.  Rushing in wasn't the smartest move, but it did distract folks long enough for the Magician to get the upper hand.


Now that the Sorceress had been defeated, I was directing the Gnomes to maintain the waterways underneath the castle.  In the darkness they rebuilt a course-way and reservoir in order to redirect the stream so it wouldn't stagnate in slow muddy underground swamps.

The lead Gnome (in a plucky, bumbling comic role) had stacked a bunch of stone bricks up, but the water had built up behind the dam and as he stood proudly in front of it in a ta-da moment, the water burst through.


I was talking to the Sorceress in an author speaks with the character way.  She was in lab with white table-tops cutting up live turtles and feeding them to other turtles, and putting hungry turtles in the same enclosures to encourage them to fight.  We had a behind-the-scenes conversation, which I don't recall much of; something about her plans.  I was pointedly not looking at the turtles.

In the second or third iteration of the dream....

As a young girl, I went to help the sorceress.  She seemed nice, and it was neat to go to her house.  When I got there, I forget what we did -- I think I was helping her take care of animals.  She said she had to leave somewhere, and we locked up her house and animal pens and then she followed the stream-way back up toward the Old Magician's stone castle.

She didn't wait for me, and I have the sense that she was speedily traveling over the curving creek, which I had to run along the bank.

I came across a river gazebo.  One of my girl friends and her nurse(?) were there, dressed in 19th century clothes.  It's possible she was a mermaid, because a mermaid with a glowing green tail was in the creek.

But the sorceress was beginning her conquest, and so river snakes were appearing everywhere.  Twenty at least infested the gazebo, and I had to stop and walk around them very carefully.  Insert Poisonous Snake Anxiety here.  This part of the dream ended with me trying to open the door to get out.

When I woke up, I tried to figure out what the snakes meant.  The whole dream has a very Jungian feel to it, with shadow selves and underground water.

I haven't had a dream like that since something like 1980, when I used to dream about a poisonous snake threatening to bite me in my Grandmother's basement.  I have dreamed about snakes within the last few years, but they've usually been singular or non-threatening.  The snakes in the latest dream felt like the anxiety scorpions I used to dream about when something was bothering me at Arcosanti; so it's possible something was bothering me (like my stomach).

Fire-breathing snapping turtles are new.

Happy Solstice!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Holiday Home Stretch

Lots of fun the other night at the Wordo's Holiday reading.  I read a silly mash-up with Santa and his reindeer as Charles Xavier and the X-men.  I think the Patrick Stewart/Jean-Luc Picard joke got the biggest laugh.  But the funniest story was probably a post apocalyptic story about "Santa Chicken."   We had the usual mix of creepy stories, sad stories, and family dysfunction

The traffic in town is getting goofy.  I don't recall things getting so weird last year.  Yesterday we nearly got T-boned at an intersection when someone tried to make a right when their light was red.  I'm not sure if people are just preoccupied or if the weather's too warm for snow so they aren't concentrating on driving.   I'm working on not swearing at people.

Writing:  Well... this has been the Week of Craft!

Working out:  Managed to break 200 calories within 15 minutes.  I tried visualizing stuff, which helped the exercise go more quickly... but on the other hand every now and then my breathing got off.   Did the other free weight stuff; the 25 pound dumbbell was a little hard.  I felt the triceps exercise.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Meditations and Working Out

Send More Chocolate!  Alas, the last of the la Maison du Chocolat, sent as fiftieth birthday tribute, has been consumed. Man, that went fast.  I think next time I'll have to document the consumption so I slow it down.

Writing.  277 words in about an hour this morning... which will be interesting shoe-horning into tonight's story.   Luckily, the format lends itself to chopping and narrative summary.

Working Out:  Surprisingly, given how much eating I did this weekend, my weight went down a notch.  Got to the gym a little late, so I had a truncated workout.   Did the rowing machine uh, 170 calories in 15 minutes.  The machine is a little boring. I can't really watch the TV's in  the gym;I have to pay attention to how many calories per hour I'm burning or else my burn rate goes down.

So I decided I'd try Rowing Machine meditation and visualize Wiccan ritual symbols in my head while going back and forth.  At the very least, I think it improved my posture on the machine (and afterward).   Given the repetitive nature of rowing, it seems like a good way to let meditative images flow through my head.  Although chanting "Rhyton. Priest. Snake," under my breath might have garnered a few odd looks.  At least it's tamer and  less explicit than some of the unspoken chants I've thought....

After I ran downstairs for some triceps curls, lateral pulls, some curl-ups, and a very short free-weight session.   I did some free weights at home later in the evening.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Mid December

Saturday we got a tree for the house.  We usually go to a tree farm about a half-hour out of town and then tromp around.  The tree hunt started out sunny, but as we got to Fern Ridge, the clouds rolled in and it became grey.  I thought it might rain, but it didn't.  

The Friesan We Didn't See
In the past, we've managed to be at the farm the same weekend as Friesan Horses, but we missed them and had a ride around the farm in the horse trailer pulled by a tractor.  After the ride, we found a tree pretty quickly.  Mark sawed it down and we took it home.  It's in the tree stand now, soaking up water and undecorated.  The house smells like pine.

This weekend was the weekend of craft.   I think I may be peaking out on craft.

As I've been writing this in the PLC parking lot, a woman of a certain age has driven up in her red SUV with Death Metal blaring loudly enough that I can hear it clearly through her car and through my car one stall away.  Now she's sitting in the car with the engine off but the music on.  I think the song must have ended, because she's getting out.  She's in a fuchsia rain slicker, and walking away with a poinsettia in her hand, looking like Amanda King's grandmother and not like a Death Metal Rocker.  

Writing:  45 minutes of mostly editing the Tuesday Holiday story.  Which is very silly and will probably need trimming or an abrupt end.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Rhyton. Priest. Snake.

I've been collecting pictures on a Pinterest Board called  "Rhyton. Priest.  Snake." (kind of NSFW) to try to work with various dream images I've had exploring the intersection of maleness, desire, and spirituality.   It's not working as well as I like.  

When I try to find images of desire-filled priests, I often wander into beefcake.  Not that I don't mind beefcake, but it's frequently not expressing a connection to spirit or connection to the numinous side of nature.   Maybe desire is the wrong word; maybe I mean fervor.  

Sometimes when I follow what can best be called radical fairy pins, I feel like I'm getting closer, but again it usually turns into lithe young men coyly arching their taut and lichen-clad bodies in the middle of a field.  Or illustrations of a heterosexual Cernonus flexing his eight-pack abs and wearing an afterthought.  Or pictures of random scruffy looking guys who've taped deer antlers onto their heads.

I really know when I've followed the wrong pin when all the images become frolicking Celtic fairies crap.

I sometimes have better luck following pins of Ancient Greek rhytons and other pottery, if only because they actually paint religious-feeling scenes of men presenting libations.

Oh well... imagining a spirituality which speaks to me is a work in progress.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Jounal: Writing About Love (and Sex)

Work-out:  160 calories in about 15 minutes on the rowing machine.  Plus weights; I got a pointer on doing a torso twist the right way (one handed, pulling with hand instead of bracing with both) and I started doing some tricepts curls... which I think I can feel this morning.

Writing:  About 45 minutes of writing.  I broke up next week's story into ten sections and sort of outlined what I want to do.  

The "Fifty Shades of Gay" flash piece I wrote got rejected.  I think I'm relieved -- I have a feeling that in terms of literature it's a little flat (although I did put character development into it), and in terms of erotica it's too vague (because I was sending it to a literary market, not a smut market).  I need to look at it and contrast and compare it with the last two pieces I've run through the Wordos table.  All three have had an element of sexual tension in them.  I'd intended for the two Wordos pieces to be funny in a Three's Company kind of way, but the first one creeped a few people out, and the second one got mixed reviews.  

One thing I've learned is that I'm not speaking to readers' belief or rule-set -- they don't accept that a story element is magic, they want to know how and why it works.   The other thing is that I want to explore themes of sex, love, attraction, desire, lust and modes of being, and I haven't yet figured out a way to disarm the lines of taboo around these in a way that preserves the story.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Angel Cloak Dream

I dreamed ...

Over all of the dream was the sense that I was going to be late for high school, and that 8 AM was looming.

I decided to run away to a small wooden cabin in the woods.  In the dream the cabin was somewhere in the woods on the hill where my folks live.  An angel had lived in the cabin, but he had left many years ago.  He had been a seven foot tall dark man -- I'm not sure if he was African or not, because he spoke with an Irish accent.  All he left behind was his large dark cloak.  It was of some thin black material, and it was more like a duster or a cassock with a hood.

I got into his cabin.  At one point Mark might have been there with me, but I"m not sure.  The cabin was cold.  I had brought some supplies, but I was still kind of cold, so I wrapped myself up in the angel's large dark cloak.  My dream point of view shifted and I watched myself from above looking down at myself, my white hands drawing the dark material around myself like a pea pod.

I dreamed in the angel's cloak, and I was reliving his life.  I was eating a soup or thin stew.  All I saw was a white porcelain bowl, a large spoon, and the broth.  I was in the point of view of an angry, slightly drunk father; I saw the meal through his eyes and heard the conversation through his ears.  I was eating with my sons, thirteen and fifteen.

We had a dysfunctional conversation, (in an Irish or Scottish accent) which involved the father (me) warning the sons about slutty girls, the older son weaselly not-accusing the younger son of hanging out with one, and the younger son (who would become the angel) whining that his friend wasn't like that at all.   The father (me) was getting angrier and angrier, and the part of me having the dream in the angel's cloak saw that the older son was baiting the younger son into a beating from their father.  During all of this, I was eating the broth and hearing the conversation like a radio play.

I think I woke up in the angel's cabin and the dream went on to other things...

Monday, December 08, 2014

Dec 8 Journal

Whew.  Saturday was a craft day.  I've designed some paper constructions which I think will come out very nicely, especially since Mark and I are teaming up and it will incorporate his origami to provide some visual tension. 

I did manage a mini-workout of sorts.  The gym at 5PM on a Saturday is very different  from a weekday afternoon:  much more grunting and hissing from manly men, and more folks working in pairs.  I had a quick warm-up on an excercise bike, followed by the usual free weight training.  
Sunday was a family day.  Actually, make that tech day.  I needed to do some computer work for my mother.  Luckily, the problems at her house were more configuration and "where are the files" hiding than otherwise.   Mark and The Child came along and had fun at my sister's house while Mom and I were ensconced in Mom's Computer Den of Iniquity.

Monday:  This morning was an editing day.  Earlier, I'd worked in critiques on a paper copy of manuscripts.  Today I transcribed corrections and changes to an e-copy of the files.  I'll have to re-read them, but I think I have two mail-ready manuscripts to submit (and I wish Daily Science Fiction would up their word-count limit to 2000).  

Tuesday:  I had some sort of "processing" dream.  I remember someone offered me a discounted membership (possibly to the gym) because I was turning fifty.  Mostly the dream was meta:  there were two sets of characters, and one set could influence the whole dream... there was something about singing in a tunnel.  I wonder if thinking about the relationships between dodecahedrons, icasahedrons and icasododecahedrons got my brain working on underlying structures and that simmered through my dreaming.

Tuesday morning's writing was me trying to come up with something for next weeks holiday reading.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Squirrel Sensei

Scene:  Saturday morning.  John is sipping post-breakfast tea and looking at social media.  Mark is preparing to bake gluten-free rolls.

Mark (talking about his bonsai):  "...and I have a waiting list for the aspen -- (suddenly unlocks the sliding door to the deck) Curse you squirrel!  Get away from my plants!"

John:  "Hmm.  Maybe I can ask around for what the Japanese word for squirrel is, and we can make a kami shrine to appease them."

Mark:  "We don't need a shrine.  We just need to give The Child a quarter every time he shoots one with his water gun."

John (nearly dropping his tea):  "But -- I thought 'we don't shoot animals with our squirt-guns.'"

Mark:  "I thought we had an agreement with the animals."

John wonders if he'll have to put on a low-cut dress and start singing into a wishing well....

Friday, December 05, 2014

Journal Bits

Wednesday workout:  manged 200 calories in 15 minutes.  Did various weight work.  I seems to be doing the endorphin thing -- at least that's the only reason I can think of for finding knee-ups on a knee-up station funny.  I'll probably get a reputation as "the giggling guy" soon...

Thursday:  Managed to arise at 5AM.  Worked in the critiques into the 950 word flash piece for about 90 minutes.  I think it's mostly ready, I should do another pass for anything I missed, and submit it this weekend.  The biggest problem the Wordos had with it was that they mistook a married couple for brother and sister.  There's a touch of "As You Know Bob" dialog, but I think it's justified.

On a different note, my wireless keyboard seems to be having problems with the space bar.  I'm hoping that it's not a sign that I need to get a new one.

Friday Morning:  The spacebar seems to be working -- maybe typing in a parked car is causing the problem.  

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Old Photos: The Fire Egg Shrine

 Several years ago, I used an X-acto knife to cut a hole in an egg.  I filled the shell with isopropyl alcohol.  (Careful, kids, this device is almost 90% pure divorcium.)
 Mark insisted that I not set the house on fire or display this for The Child, so it was in the back part of the yard.  Then I lit it.  Of course I had a camera, so I spent the next two hours (while the summer sun set) photographing it.
 I call this shot the "Virgin Mary" shot.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Retrograde Tuesday Dream

OK...  Well... not the best morning today, and I seriously think something's gone retrograde.

Smokey decided it was time to go out at 2 AM.  I'm trying to throw him into the garage where he can't bug us, but I wasn't awake enough to locate the the cat door cover.  So he got around my blockade and Mark threw him out at 3 AM. 

Waking up was difficult, but I managed to get tea and oatmeal started and then sat and stared at the ending of the story I'm working on.  Insert minor interruptions here, but I did manage to wrap up the manuscript.

Then I tried printing it. Which failed:  after two paper jams, the printer refused to return the ink cartridge to its resting spot and the internal gears whined.  Something's stuck in the printer, and it's not printing. I think it's broken, so now I have to figure out an alternative.

Work was... entertaining.  This is the part of the year where people sort of realizes there's only three effective working weeks left in the year.  And everyone's a little strung out because of the GTF strike.

I was going to work on Holiday Craft, but decided that I needed to print out the manuscript so that it would be done.  And it's my turn to cook dinner and shopping works more efficiently when I go alone... So I came home, unhooked the InkJet Printer and cleaned it.  While I was air blasting it, out rolled a ballpoint pen.  I fiddled with the paper handling mechanism and unjammed it from the cartridge assembly.   Then it was time to shop.  Probably a good decision to do less.

On the plus side, I did have a coolish dream.  I was watching a movie.  Insert samba music.  The camera pans above a North Easter European river (I think we're in Norway or something).  It's twilight, I'm guessing 5:30 PM.  The sky is orange, and the camera swoops down about six feet above the river and passes through a village that spills down the hills and out onto stilts over the river.  The buildings have a mid 20th century feel to them.  They're made of wood which has been weathered by rain and snow.  There's no rotting wood, but many of the small houses look like they could use a paint job.  

White light sources in and alongside the houses light up the mist from the river in artistic bands.  There's a persistent cloud of mist on the edge of a narrow deck or wide plank extending from one house over the river.  The camera moves in closer.  Through the thick mist, which now looks more like cigarette smoke, I catch the edges of a blocky, upholstered easy chair.   There's a middle-aged woman, the lady of the house, smoking so much we cant see her or the massive cube of a chair she's sitting in.

The camera pans along, and we see early evening village scenes with the introductory shots of the rest of the characters in the movie, who are housewives, and fishermen, and office staff, and handifolk.  The movie is gearing up for one of those madcap comedies.

Then there was a break in the dream and I got distracted from the movie... when we returned...

A group of Egyptian antiquities folks were working around a dusty cedar box.   The box is decorated with a Egyptian queen sitting on a big blocky throne of stone slabs, surrounded by ankhs, rods of dominion, neffers, sedge and reed and other hieroglyphs.   The sunlight was very bright, and everything was very dry and dusty.  The box is big and blocky, and somehow I know that the smoking woman's upholstered chair is inside.  Which is funny, because everyone dusting and preserving the box thinks it's an ancient Egyptian artifact.   

Monday, December 01, 2014

First Monday of December

Looking back, I've gotten out of the habit of posting my workouts.  I was fairly good last week, I worked out Saturday, Monday and Wednesday before Thanksgiving.  I continue to do the rowing machine to about 160 calories or so.  I've switched my routine to the weights-with-strings station and I upped my dumbbells to 30 lbs.

I'm going to try doing planks at random times during breaks between other stuff; I tried it in the craft store the other day while I was waiting for the cutter-plotter to finish a job.

Later... this afternoon I did 200 calories on the rowing machine in 15 minutes.  And I managed not to drop a 30 pound dumbbell onto my foot laughing when "I Guess You're Just What I Needed" started playing.  

Writing... I submitted my erotica.  I think in terms of writing it was interesting because it forced me to write from a character's POV that I don't necessarily share.  When I'm writing science fiction or fantasy, it's hard for me not to be in the character's POV as they fly a starship or cast a spell.  When the POV character did something in this story, I thought, "Ugh. I would never do that."  Anyway, we'll see what happens. 

I finished up a short story to bring to the Wordos table for next week.  I also polished up a 800 word romance (still needs work).  I've got some other things that are close.  The writing goal for December is to finish up the half-completed drafts and polish up things the Wordos critiqued.  There's a prompt swap story I need to work on, and also the Wordo's holiday short.   And I should submit manuscripts now before the rejections start rolling in.

Dreams:  I had a Dr. Who dream, which turned into a Returning to Arcosanti Dream, which ended with me tearfully singing "Memr'y" from Cats with someone who had created a steam-driven foundry out of snow (The foundry was cool.  But the duet?  Really?  That was twenty years ago...and it was doomed before it began...).   I'm guessing this might have been sparked by reading about the tarot card Strength, because I did a Significant Tarot Reading for this person, which turned out to be more about me (sigh).

Saturday, November 29, 2014

November 2014 Holiday Report

We had a nice Thanksgiving at my mother's sister's house.   There was lots of food.  And wine (when your cousin's a vintner, that helps on the wine front).  

Mark made a delicious (and gluten free!) cheesecake.

The cousins and second cousins (and the first cousins, once removed) get along very well.  One of the highlights of the day was assuring cousin Sameer that, yes, Oregonians in fact really did blow up a beached whale near Florence in the early 1970's.  Thank goodness for The Internet (you should have seen his face when raining chunks of exploded whale blubber crumpled car hoods).

The next day was Tree Decoration Day at my folk's house.  They do a lot of holiday entertaining, and like to get the tree up early.  It's an industrial strength artificial tree that's very tall.  It takes three or four grown-ups to set up.  

After about ten years, we finally figured out that unfolding the limbs at the bottom, one-by-one, and "fluffing" out the side branches makes the tree look a whole lot better than assembling the whole tree and then trying to fill out the places where forty-eight weeks of being in a box have flattened branches.

Although it can be cumbersome, it's much easier on the front door's frame than dragging a real live dead tree inside, there's no needles falling onto the floor, and we'll never have to fire up the chainsaw (in the house) to trim a few extra inches off of the trunk.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Navigating Literature

Last night at Wordos we were discussing Hugo nominees and invariably drifted into the "is it science fiction, fantasy, or literature?" realm.  I think the answer to one story is "yes" -- but on the other hand, the science part of some of the stories was pretty soft.   Sort of like if Dracula was a story with blood-sucking creature who could turn into a bat, but it focused more on the marital conflicts of the Harkers.  

In any case, it seems like science fiction and fantasy are picking up more literary bits from magical realism or slipstream.  This confuses the hard science fiction folks, and I'd have to admit, sometimes when I'm reading a story expecting it to be hard science fiction and it veers into literary territory, my initial reaction is to wonder why the author didn't do more research, because [dirigibles, water, computers, whatever] don't really do that.  And then to realize, "Oh, dirigibles are a metaphor for sex--so that's why they look like that in this story" later.

After Wordos I spent about an hour editing a previously critiqued draft at a near-by bar and grill.  I managed to snag the usual post-Wordos table and spread out with a salad and drink and manuscripts.  There's something to be said for having a large round table to use, and I pretended I was an Inkling in a British Pub.  There's a couple of places where folks indicated they were confused by what was happening, and I hope that I've clarified those.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Choosing a Pen Name

Another slow writing morning.  I did manage to start wrtiing around 5:30, which was good.  I started to work on the October Prompt piece, but only got about 182 words into it before I switched over to the erotica piece.  About 200 new words on that, and some editing -- once I figured out how vague to make the naughty-bits editing went really quickly.  I should finish polishing it and send it out.  But first I have to come up with a pen name.   "Bugrider" is an anagram of "Burridge", but while Bugrider would make a good children's author's pen name,  I'm pretty sure it doesn't work for erotica. Unless one has an insect fetish.  Not. Going. There.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Journal: Writing


I was looking at Portable Stonehenge last night and there's still about six weeks until the Winter Solstice, which means twelve more weeks of darkness.  I recall the days in May, June and July when I would spring awake -- OK, probably stumble around -- and write at 4:50.  

I've been focused on coming up with a hundred word story for a contest.  It's a long-shot, and the competition is fierce, but the prize is twenty thousand dollars.  Looking at past winners, what places are essentially prose poems of about seven sentences.  I'm trying to approach the contest as a string of seven tweets.

--- Later...

I polished the stories and sent them in.  I'm hoping the submission web site was working, as a funny error flashed across my browser's screen and I've yet (as of Monday) to receive an e-mail acknowledgement.  However, it wouldn't surprise me to learn that the web-host was being pounded into the ground.  



This morning I dreamed a not-too-unpleasant Dr. Who dream.  At the end of the dream I was writing down my dream and managed to reset the computer, with the result that I lost my file.  Then I woke up with scattered bits of the dream falling out of my memory.  The strongest bit was being outside as burning embers fell; this is influenced, no doubt, by watchin "The Secret of Kells" last night.

 Not the best writing session.  400 words in 60 minutes.  I caught myself writing too much eye-candy and not enough character emotion or plot.  

Sunday, November 23, 2014

2002 Review of "Goddess Unmasked"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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