(A review written in August 2005 of a book suggested by the Philosopher's Café group I used to attend. This review, while not that enthralling, is referenced in a later and better blog I wrote on torture. Both are creepily pertinent to today's issues)

An extremely quick read with humorous cartoons on every page; this book presents ethics in a very non-threatening manner. As is the norm for the "Introducing [X]" series, a bit about the personal lives of the various philosophers is offered along with a quick slice of their beliefs.

It was nice to learn something about the private lives of these people, as I feel that helps make them a bit more memorable, and sometimes helps the reader put their writings into some understandable context.

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I found myself somewhat disturbed when the older white male speaker confidently asserted that Gandhi was the first person to really codify nonviolence. Had the speaker never heard of the extensive uses of nonviolence, both interpersonal and inter-clan, by many of the indigenous peoples of North America? The Haudenosaunee (or Iroquois) in particular leap to mind; as far as I know the whole point of their Confederation was to end the inter-clan violence and codify peaceful discussion as a better means of resolving conflict. This occurred well before the arrival of the colonizing whites, and the Haudenosaunee were wildly successful at it… to the point that historically much of our democratic processes are based on learnings from them. You'd think a history (I think?) teacher might want to know about the oldest, still-extant, true democracy in the world today, you know?

Puzzlingly, the speaker had previously mentioned Standing Rock as an example of the success of strategic nonviolence, noting with admiration several cases where the protestors even went to the lengths of aiding the very police and militia who were frequently violently oppressing them. Did the speaker think this was due only to the teachings of Gandhi? If so, with all due respect, he's not a very good teacher of history!

Further, I found myself disagreeing with his referring to the Standing Rock movement as concluded or "finished" – simply because the veterans had arrived. Let me be clear: I understand what he was trying to say, and I agree that once you have the culture's enforcers on your side, your cause is going to win in the long term. I also agree that it's quite likely the cops and militia at Standing Rock were and are reluctant to treat veterans the way they treated the protestors. Quite frankly the cops have clearly dehumanized the protestors to the extent that they – the people in power — were willing to lie about having used mace, tear gas, and fire hoses on the protestors… even when shown film of them doing so!

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I will be marching in the San Jose Women's March on the 21st of January, mostly because traveling to Washington to march is financially currently beyond me. Consequently when I heard there was free nonviolence training being offered in association with the march, I eagerly signed up. Not only do I want to be prepared ahead of time for the march itself (though the police are not at all concerned that there may be violence), but also I believe learning more about nonviolence as a form of protest is an extremely valuable idea.

I went to the training yesterday. It was… interesting. Mostly. I'm glad it was free, though; had I paid for it I would have been mightily annoyed. In retrospect, I think the nonviolence training group is not actually closely associated with the march, but rather is a group which intends to participate in the march, and thus offered this free training to everyone planning on attending… in order to gain access to that extensive group of people. Apparently if they can produce 100 people wearing their characteristic scarves (which they had for sale at the talk for $10) then they'll be allowed to lead the march.

To be fair, there was a handout which gave me something new: I did not previously know about the ACLU of California phone app at www.mobilejusticeca.org which "allows users to record law enforcement in real-time, alert other users to nearby law enforcement encounters, and to submit videos and incidents to the ACLU." I particularly like that it lets you set an automatic 'turn off' on your phone after recording something — so if a belligerent person demands your phone it shuts down and they cannot simply delete the recording.

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(originally published 15 November 2004)
 Still, like L'Engle, I hope we all continue learning throughout our journey of life… and I hope I have a long journey yet to go. I too want to constantly and happily relearn the importance and wonder of touch, of exploration and closeness with those you love.

I love her occasional turn of phrase, as well, as she describes wonderful creative concepts. Read this one, for example — her imagery is as lovely as her acceptance of the beauty of myth-making:

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(originally published 15 November 2004)
 The nature of creation & Self

On the other hand, I did admire the courage of someone willing to continue doggedly to write, even when she sold nothing whatsoever for an entire decade. I don't know if I'd have that kind of determination.

Also, some of her speculations on the nature of concentration rang true to me. I've often felt the focus of a child at play closely approximated the focus of an artist (or other unselfconscious adult) at work. Perhaps that's why it's so easy to lose yourself in activities you love — you're actually playing, not really working per se. As she notes:

The concentration of a small child at play is analogous to the concentration of the artist of any discipline. In real play, which is real concentration, the child is not only outside time, he is outside himself. He has thrown himself completely into whatever it is that he is doing. A child playing a game, … is completely in what he is doing. His self-consciousness is gone; his consciousness is wholly focused outside himself.

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(originally published 15 November 2004)
I came to this book with great expectations. Perhaps if I'd not loved A Wrinkle in Time so much, or hadn't been informed this book was a fabulous exploration of the wisdom of the maturing woman, I wouldn't have felt quite so much vague disappointment later.

Election Day

9 Nov 2016 In: Random

I truly believed we as a nation were better than this.

…I am beyond appalled. I have no words.

I have had such an excellent day today! Got to sleep a few hours later than usual, then took Goldie to her new agility class. She's doing an amazing job! It's a real pleasure to work with such a happy, eager dog, and I'm overjoyed that she came into my life. Now all I have to do is integrate her training into my daily schedule so she gets to play and train a lot — and I think she'll be awesome! Well, okay — I have to get myself whipped into shape too. I have as much to learn as she, after all, in this sport which is new to the both of us.

After agility class I went to an informal ATS (American Tribal Style) bellydance practice at a friend's house, and that went extremely well too. There were just three of us today, and it was my first time, so I got to ask lots of questions on two steps in particular that I'd been having trouble with. Not being in a paid-for class means that I didn't feel guilty about taking up too much time with my requests. That meant our hostess (who has been dancing for almost two decades now) was able to show me slowly and repeatedly what I should be doing, and where I was going wrong. It was so nice to finally figure out where my feet should be going, then get the steps right, and then feel the flow again as we danced!

Dinner was particularly nice too: orange-cranberry pot roast! Very tasty; one of my "dump meals." A dump meal is basically a crockpot meal placed in a reusable Ziploc plastic bag and frozen, and I can make ten to twelve of them all at once in a few hours on a weekend. The freezer the guys got for me has been a real bonus for this! Once I've made a bunch of the dump meals I'm good for a lot of dinners with very little effort on my part — which is a huge win for me. All I have to do is take a dump meal out and stick it in the fridge to thaw overnight, then empty it the next day into the crockpot. Add in some veggies and/or rolls and dessert at the right time, and presto: instant dinners! Also, pot roasts always come out of the crockpot juicy and delicious, which makes me feel gleefully accomplished. :)

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I went to the "Rally to Recall Judge Persky" at the San Jose Hall of Justice on September 2nd. It was the first rally I'd ever been to and, as a friend put it, since it was a rally rather than a protest it was a pretty safe 'first' to try. It was… weirdly fascinating.

Before one of the signs at the Persky recall rally

Before one of the signs at the Persky recall rally

I took Goldie with me. I figured not only would it be good practice for her in maneuvering through crowds, but also she's a really mellow pup… maybe she could help folks stay relaxed a bit. As we left the house I was amused to hear Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyrie" on the radio — it seemed a good omen! We arrived at 11:00 am, an hour after the scheduled start. There were some tall banners set up as a backdrop to the speakers' podium, and a nice, large crowd with many signs. I was pleased and surprised to see how many male speakers there were — I think it's an excellent idea for male allies to start speaking up against rape, since I suspect rapists and rape apologists aren't going to listen to women. There were also many intelligent, articulate, and fascinating women who spoke, including Stanford law professor Michele Landis Dauber, who is leading the recall campaign on Judge Aaron Persky.

Interestingly, though the rally was set to run from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm, the speakers were all finished by 11:30 am. Folks wandered around a bit, chatting with each other and getting last-minute interviews. I watched Prof. Dauber make an effort to speak with every person there who wished to speak with her. That impressed me; she seemed to be a genuinely kind and caring person despite starting to droop a bit by the end of all that talking. I went up to her after everyone had had a chance to speak with her and thanked her for making the effort and leading the charge, so to speak. That kind of thing is hard work, and opens you up to all kinds of flack and other abuse. I figured she'd heard enough of that sort of crap, so perhaps a genuine thank you out of appreciation for her effort would help some. She looked first surprised, then pleased at my thanks… so I think it was the right thing to do.

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I have tons of things I should be writing and reading and painting and training and cleaning and organizing and researching and blah blah blah… but I'm out of givashits right now. This also means it's sometimes hard to come up with something clever and intelligent-sounding for here. The following will have to do instead — because these are just things that made me laugh, and when my brain is all out of brain juice due to scholastic work, having some brain candy that makes me happy is a good thing! :-)

~ * ~ * ~ * ~* ~ *~

C, staring perplexedly at the floor, "Why is there glitter all over the mat here?"

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Bestiaries depict mythical, moralizing animals, but are also potential allegorical sparks that can bloom into brilliant mental bonfires. My bestiary is this mythologizing animal's fascinated exploration of beauty & meaning in the wonder of existence -- in the hopes of inspiring yet more joyous flares of intellectual passion.



Collie’s Bestiary