Saturday, 28 April 2007
So during the week I designed a little flyer, and today I got it printed out 20 times (6 flyers to a page) and got a paper trimmer, cut them up, and went for a walk around the block distributing them.
I carefully avoided the letterboxes with "No Circulars" signs; I have one myself, and it infuriates me when people ignore it; I would never give business to someone who did so. REAL ESTATE AGENTS, I'M LOOKING AT YOU.
Anyway, I'm out there now, and it will be interesting to see what happens. Helen reckons that for her massage therapy business that's the most effective thing to do, walk round and put some flyers in letterboxes.
Saturday, 21 April 2007
This is now the fourth straight weekend that I've gone out and bought native plants. Besides the ones I got from the council, I went the following weekend to a closing down sale at Olsen's in Ranui and got some great deals, including several more pigeon-attracting plants. This is going to be Pigeon Paradise.
I went back there today and got 20 more rengarenga lilies (since they seem to thrive here) and a dozen more cabbage trees (ditto, and they fit in between other plants), plus a nice little rosemary and a groundcover. The lilies and the cabbage trees were half-price, a dollar each. I also went to the native plant place in West Coast Rd where I got the Council plants and picked up a couple of climbers and a pukanui, and lucked into a lovely little nikau palm for $1 at a church fair I happened to pass.
Last week I went to Gordon's on Scenic Drive for pratias to (hopefully) spread across the bank, and more ferns for the fernery. It's starting to look much more filled in. Mum has some little hen-and-chicken ferns for me as well, so I've left some room for them - they grow quite densely.
By the end of today I'll have planted well over 100 plants in the course of a month, or about one per square meter of garden.
Next week, I think, it's time to plant bulbs down near the road, where we and passers-by can both enjoy them in the spring.
Friday, 20 April 2007
Could this be at all related to the fact that I'm rereading Roger Zelazny's Amber books, and yesterday evening read the part in The Hand of Oberon where Corwin has a positive conversation with Julian, who he never previously got on with? Probably. But it's part of a trend of dreamed positive conversations with people from my past who I've had conflict with. (One of them was another Roger, Roger Osbaldiston; another was Rachael, just the other night.)
The name Roger has cropped up a bit lately. It's the name of the guy who trained me as a hypnotherapist. It's also the name of an undisciplined child who contributed to Cityside's Easter service being very difficult for me (I was struggling at the time, ironically, with being "devoiced" by my family, so the fact that the child's parents were doing nothing to quiet him while he was speaking loudly across the people leading the litugy...)
And speaking of authors and names: In Terry Pratchett's Maskerade, the publisher of the Diskworld Almanack (and Nanny Ogg's suggestive cookbook, The Joye of Snackes) is a Mr Goatberger. I realized, of course, that this grasping, profiteering publisher was a satire directed against publishers Pratchett has had to deal with, but I only just got the name. Mumble it a bit. Put an extra "r" on the end. If you still haven't got it, reflect: The goat probably wishes it was a hedgehog. (And if you don't get that, read Maskerade - it's hilarious.)
Monday, 16 April 2007
Disclaimer in advance: I know that this idea is very much not likely to be implemented, both because of human nature and also because I have no way of bringing it to the attention of anyone who could even start to get it discussed more widely. Also, the whole idea of nationalism is a bad one anyway. But even so, from an Innocent Man perspective:
One of the sentences in the article begins "Accepting that international statecraft has never developed effective tools — short of war — for readjusting faulty borders...". What if we didn't accept that and tried to think of some? Perhaps a UN convention which governments could sign up to, kind of a protocol that they promised to implement?
Something like this. If a certain percentage of the population of a defined region signs a petition, a binding referendum must be held on the issue of how that region is governed and from where. If, say, 50% of those qualified to vote do so, and 67% of those voting approve a change, that change will be implemented. The same protocol is binding on any new entities that result.
The options for a region would be:
- Territory (governed centrally as part of a larger country, with limited local autonomy and no legislative body of its own). Example: The Northern Territory in Australia, which has repeatedly rejected statehood (basically, from what I understand, because it doesn't want to pay for more politicians), or Puerto Rico, which has repeatedly rejected becoming a US state for, as far as I know, much the same reasons.
- State (part of a larger federal entity, with its own legislative body for internal affairs, but with foreign affairs, many laws, and some aspects of law enforcement residing with the federal body).
- Nation (an independent entity, wholly self-governing in all internal and external matters).
And in that world - this world - tens of thousands of people die as guerillas fight government forces for the right to be a nation (or, at a pinch, a state) rather than a territory. As an Innocent Man I can't figure out how this is worth the death of anyone, but then, I don't live in a country where I'm oppressed.
In the rare cases where such a territory does eventually become independent or self-governing, years of attempting to gain one's ends and decide by whom one is governed by means of shooting people who disagree are usually not shaken off overnight. Having won their independence, the inhabitants of the region generally begin fighting among themselves. In fact, the Palestinians have started doing it already, and they don't even have a state yet.
To adapt G.K. Chesterton's remark about Christianity, the problem with this approach is not that it's been tried and found wanting, but that it hasn't been tried. But the real problem with it is that national governments (for a reason I also don't understand) are extremely reluctant to lose territory. I mean, why do you want to govern people who hate you and kill your citizens and who are costing you more to fight than they will ever produce in tax revenues? It's a hell of a way to run a railroad.
OK, there's my ignorance of the real workings of global geopolitics out in the open. I'll shut up now.
Neighbours of ours once took their young sons to a production of The Mikado in which Dad was playing the title role, and Dad was highly amused by the question one of the boys (about 8 or 9 at the time, I think) asked his parents afterwards: "Now the play is over, can Mr McMillan go back to being a nice man?"
All of which as introduction to why I'm really enjoying playing Garan in Vaxalon's Amber wiki game.
Garan, I've come to realize, is like a stereotypical D&D character, only HARDCORE! (to use Jess Hammer's technical terminology). Not only does he want to kill Corwin and take his stuff, he wants to chop the corpse into small pieces and create a zombie Corwin army (which I suppose would make him Chaotic Evil, in D&D terms). He's also suggested killing Brand: "If the blood of Amber is so great, I'd like to see some."
The format of the game helps with being able to do stuff like this. Because it's a wiki, we can retcon and revise, and I can indicate either in the wiki or on the out-of-character email list we are using to coordinate in the background that I'm not seriously suggesting this (besides which, the scene is set within the existing Amber canon, so I know going in that the suggestion isn't going to be taken up). We're creating a shared fiction in which Garan is a particular kind of extreme character, who pushes things in a particular direction but isn't going to get his way most of the time. I'm loving that; I get to propose mayhem, with the knowledge that it won't get acted on.
In other words, it's a safe way to indulge my desire to be a complete loose cannon and sow mayhem and destruction - not something I actually want to do in real life, because unlike Garan I'm aware of consequences.
I remember years ago reading a Philip K. Dick story (the one with Lincoln in it, I think) and being struck by the term Maschenfreiheit, which means "maskfreedom". This is the freedom you have to act in what would normally be unacceptable ways, by virtue of wearing a mask. Garan is an instance of maskfreedom for me, just as the Mikado or Dick Deadeye were for my father.
EDIT: See my follow-up post.
Friday, 13 April 2007
• Setup fee: 0.00
• Per book: purchased via Lulu 4.53, via distribution channels 1.50.
• Per page: 0.02
• Distribution/catalogue fee: 99.95, one off (gets you to Amazon, B&N etc.)
• Proof copy: whatever the normal price + shipping turns out to be; required
• ISBN barcode must be manually included
• Publisher must be Lulu (unless you are US-based) in order to have distribution outside the Lulu site.
• US only
• Setup fee: 50.00 for cover, 0.15 per page (electronic)
• Per book: 0.90
• Per page: 0.013 (0.015 for publisher direct orders, i.e. sold off my website, plus $1.50 per order handling, plus shipping)
• Distribution/catalogue fee: 12.00 per year
• Proof copy: 30.00 per copy; required
• ISBN barcode automatically included
• Publisher can be me.
• Also UK - separate setup, similar terms.
So being the nerd I am, I did a spreadsheet, and it looks like this:
|Num pages||Num books||Per book (Lulu)||Per book (LSI)||Better deal|
I'm assuming a 5-year period, so the catalogue fee for LSI is $60.
Assuming I've got the calculations right, that makes a pretty convincing case for Lightning Source if I expect to sell more than 30 copies of my 100-page book, and as the page count rises that difference between 0.02 and 0.013 per page just has a stronger and stronger impact.
Not a really big surprise, since if I understand correctly Lulu prints through Lightning Source themselves. But interesting.
So I guess it's off to get myself an ISBN so I can self-publish.
I am comforted by the thought of the many good books that had trouble finding publishers, and annoyed by the thought of all the crappy books that have been published.
Would have been nice to have Macmillans' distribution working for me, though.
EDIT: Not only do the National Library of New Zealand not charge you for supplying an ISBN, they emailed one to me with stunning rapidity. And a moment's Googling found me a site where you can get an ISBN made into a barcode, online, for free.
I love the Internet.
Of course, now I have to lay my book out and create, or have created, a cover on which to put the barcode.
Wednesday, 11 April 2007
The three (current) major organizational groupings of Christianity are Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant. Some time before the Reformation and before the rise of Islam, the third great grouping was the Nestorians, who spread from the Mediterranean to China, but there are only 200,000 of them left now. There are other small groups that don't fit into the three large groups - the Mormons spring to mind - but for most purposes, "three major groups" is close enough for jazz.
As it happens I'm part of the Protestant grouping, which gives me more flexibility in cherrypicking bits from the various traditions. I like to say that tradition funds my exploration rather than restricting it. There is a danger in cherrypicking - you can leave out important aspects because you don't happen to like them. I'm aware of this risk. The counter-risk of taking the whole package on is that you take on some really stupid stuff uncritically because it's historically part of the whole, even if it doesn't apply well any more (or even if it was a bad idea from the start). This is the essence of being protestant-with-a-small-p: To take a critical stance towards your tradition (including, in my case, the Protestant Reformation itself and some of its historically and culturally rooted assumptions). Protestants with a capital P haven't always been good at this.
I'm also orthodox-with-a-small-o. I've talked about this before in "Orthodox, open-minded, skeptical and happy". And I'm catholic-with-a-small-c, that is, I consider myself a part of the whole Church-with-a-capital-C, which exists across time and space and merely organizational boundaries (and doctrinal boundaries, which aren't necessarily the same thing any more). I suppose - I just realized this - that the "open-minded" bit = "catholic", and the "skeptical" bit = "protestant", kind of.
I'm not sure what my point is. Perhaps it's that these labels are more useful when we think about their original intents than when we use them as the names of tribes. And that all the bits are important; nobody has everything right and nobody has nothing right.
It's also part of my continuing attempt to find a way to describe myself. I really like the Gospel of Thomas, a very likely early although non-canonical gospel text which may preserve genuine sayings of Jesus. (I treat it as a Scroedinger's cat in this regard, neither affirming nor denying.) At one point in it, Jesus asks his disciples, "What do you say I am like? Or to what will you compare me?". John says, "You are like a philosopher of the age." Peter says, "You are like a holy angel." But it's Thomas who "wins". He says: "My mouth is unable to say what you are like." I sometimes think that not only is my mouth unable to say what Jesus is like, it's unable to say what I'm like either. Apparently this is part of the point of centering prayer: you sit wordless and eventually you realize who God is and who you are beyond all the words.
I'm rambling. I'll shut up now.
...A mask is made, not only by the craftsman whose hands have formed its physical being – as parents form our bodies – but by the wearer and by those the wearer encounters – as we, and those we befriend and oppose and learn from, form ourselves as human beings, form our souls.
The soul is a flame, we are taught, like and yet unlike to this flame which burns beside me; it is a flame which feels, reasons, speaks, forms relationships of love – and also of hatred. And like this flame beside me, it can be seen, and when we make it manifest, we call this a mask. For the mask which hides is not the true mask, it is not the light but the darkness; it is the mask which reveals that is the true mask. This is why, when we honour some man or woman by naming him or her a Character, the mask that is given to him or her is the mask of his or her own face. We are saying: This man has portrayed himself, this woman has portrayed herself. Only his face, or her face, can represent who and what this person is, for he or she has been himself or herself.
And so I say to you, brothers and sisters, children of the Lord Sun, put on the Sunmask each day in your lives. Take upon yourself the light, not as something merely external to yourself, but as something that rises up from within you, that is the truth of who you are. Each day arise, each year renew yourselves, in the struggle against evil, in the struggle against ignorance, in the struggle to bring truth out where it may be seen. Wear the true mask. Do not have one appearance in your words and another in your actions; be whole. Do not wear the mask of darkness; wear the mask of light. Wear the mask of your own face and let that be the face of the Lord Sun. And if you do so, you too, in your daily lives, in your daily business, in your daily rising and your daily shining, in small ways and in large ways, you will be heroes of the Sun.
Now, personal context.
I realized during Centering Prayer on Easter Sunday that the next thing I need to work on in myself is the way I was "devoiced" by my family - which includes the critical voices they implanted so I keep second-guessing and editing myself. I read a chapter in Psycho-Cybernetics on exactly that on Monday night, "as it happens". Part of what Maxwell Maltz recommends there is to just talk, without constant vigilance and self-censorship and self-criticism. He answers the inevitable "But it's important to think about what you say!" with: Yes, but not for people who already do it too much. Body temperature is important; if you don't have it, you're dead. But if you have too much of it, despite the fact that it's important to have some, a doctor will try to reduce it. Same principle.
I was talking about this with Andrew at spiritual direction last week (hence the realization on Sunday), and also last night, and we were looking at strategies I could use. One I came up with was to start another blog, a pseudonymous one, one that didn't have my real name and my photo and links to my professional website, where I could behave badly - cuss people out, be sarcastic, rant, vent - without feeling the need to self-censor.
I thought about it on the way home and thought, "No. There's already too much of that on the Internet. That's like deliberately dissociating that part of myself and saying it isn't me. It's putting on a false mask."
So here's what I'm going to do instead.
When I'm blogging away and I think of something sarcastic, negative or critical to say, I'm going to say it. I'm not going to censor it out so that I can look like a nice guy. BUT, I will go back before I post and put an advisory at the start of the entry. Something like:
Advisory: Sarcastic and critical comments about a named group (theological liberals).
That way, I can be more spontaneous, but at the same time I can demonstrate that I'm aware of the fact that I'm acting badly.
I don't know whether that's a good solution or not. The more I look at it the more stupid it sounds. I'm going to assume that's my critical voice, and post it anyway.
Tuesday, 10 April 2007
Firstly, I was busy last week, and then there was Easter, and I didn't check it for a while. It has threaded discussions, 30 threads to the page, and when I tuned in again today the last thread that I'd read that hadn't been subsequently posted to was on page 6, of 12.
Partly this is because Vincent (the moderator) has introduced a two-tier system of membership, and the criterion for becoming a "full" member is to start a thread about "a time you felt human", so that he can weed out people who won't fit. And this is the second reason; like some others on the forum, I kind of resent being made to jump through a hoop like that, though of course it's his forum and he can do what he likes. I just don't find the discussion as it is at the moment pulls me in enough to make jumping through that hoop worth my while.
And this is the third reason. I started posting there because there were some interesting religious discussions there, slopping over from Vincent's blog, which was why he started the forum in the first place (the blog wasn't serving the discussions well). At the moment, people are talking about a great many other things, some of which I have opinions on but none of which are nearly as interesting to me as the religion topics. If I had more time or motivation or something I would probably start my own forum (and, ironically, would almost certainly steal Vincent's method of weeding out the participants, despite my irrational resentment of it). But I don't.
(As far as I know there's no comparable forum in the interfaith realm, which surprises me a bit. No - actually, when you Google, there's http://www.interfaithforums.com/. It's using vBulletin forum software, which looks ugly and clunky after the nice clean Vanilla of the Knife Fight, but... maybe I'll check it out.)
And, finally, I agree with some of the other Knife Fight members that the tone of the discussions tends to assume a set of political views that I don't necessarily possess, largely because the core members of the community are a particular group of friends who hold these views. In part, I don't possess them because of lack of recent reflection upon the issues, so hanging out with people who do possess them has been good stimulus for such reflection. But given that I don't have my disagreement well-articulated, in the cases where I disagree, I just feel a little bit alienated and a little bit lacking in anything to contribute and a little bit uncomfortable.
Actually, they're pretty much the same kinds of views that I find slightly uncomfortable (and that Erin finds very uncomfortable) at Cityside. Maybe the problem is that people who think alike in many ways and are in a tiny, fringe minority tend to assume that anyone who agrees with anything they say buys into the whole package. When it's pointed out to them they do, of course, acknowledge that this isn't the case, but the assumption still tends to be there. At least, the older ones understand and acknowledge it; I remember having a discussion with a young guy at Cityside who was puzzled about why we didn't talk a lot more about politics, and who, I think, was still puzzled when I explained to him that there were diverse and incompatible political views within the congregation and this wouldn't necessarily be a good idea, community-harmony-wise.
So - currently not knife-fighting, and feeling basically OK about that. This isn't a final decision; I'll check back now and again, see what's on the front page, and if it's something important enough to me will jump through Vincent's damn hoop.
Brenda recently sent me some stuff around the Draft National Statement on Religious Diversity. The statement itself is fairly bland, as you might expect - apparently a horse designed by a basically liberal committee, with wide consultation, isn't a camel; it's an amoeba. But I was amazed at the, um, diversity - no, the multiplicity of interfaith initiatives that are going on. It's a hive of activity. Perhaps a relatively small number of people are involved in a large number of initiatives, but it seems too many for a small group to sustain.
At the same time, I've heard several people reflecting aloud that maybe it's time that Christians started to coalesce back into a new grouping that reflects recent changes. The first to say this to me was Nicky Jenkins, who works as a community celebrant and is a graduate of the same celebrants' course as me. The most recent is this guy who visited Cityside earlier this year and said:
"Since CrossWalk America walked across the U.S. in 2006, we have been insisting that there is a more inclusive, compassionate form of Christian faith emerging at the grassroots in America that is almost entirely overlooked in the popular media.... While this emerging faith is not homogenous, and cannot easily be labeled as “liberal,” “moderate,” or “conservative,” certain characteristics tend to cluster in these communities:
- openness to other faiths
- care for the earth and its ecosystems
- valuing artistic expression in all its forms
- authentic inclusiveness of all people - including God’s lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender (lgbt) community
- opposing the commingling of Church and State
- promoting the values of rest and recreation, prayer and reflection
- embracing both faith and science in the pursuit of truth".
It also makes me think that something like my fictional White Star Order is likely, almost inevitable.
One thing I have to say, though, is that I hope we don't go the path indicated by Matthew Fox's new 95 Theses (posted at Wittenburg in imitation of Luther). I agree more or less with many of his formulations, and I know that "theses," in the original Luther context, are questions for debate rather than articles of faith (does Matthew Fox know this?). However, I think he's taken the wrong direction in proposing specific theological formulations, including an explicit Christology (nothing is more guaranteed to divide Christians than Christology):
"15. Christians must distinguish between Jesus (an historical figure) and Christ (the experience of God-in-all-things)."
Must we? I don't make a sharp distinction between them, because I'm not a classical Liberal drawing from the 19th and 20th-century debates about "the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith". This isn't an essential distinction for me to make in order to make my faith work. If it is for Matthew Fox, then good for him; but I think that the way forward for faith convergence is not this. Rather, as he says later:
"38. A diversity of interpretation of the Jesus event and the Christ experience is altogether expected and welcomed as it was in the earliest days of the church."
Now, that I can get alongside (apart from the pretentious wording).
Sunday, 1 April 2007
Finally, I got yet another email back in February about using my play The Ready Room: A Play of Archangels as an Easter performance on 25 March. I think this makes about eight times that it's been produced, all in the US as far as I know (the first time in Japanese, but it was a Japanese-speaking church in Oregon). All of them have mentioned adapting it; sooner or later I'll probably revise it myself.
It's satisfying to know that the things I write are appealing and useful to people.
Much as I'd like to say that I don't take any crap from my mother, it's not true. She gave me a sack of goat manure to use in planting the trees. Hopefully it will bring them away like the young rainforest she has in her front yard, which was a barren piece of lawn five years ago.
Of the nine kinds of plants I planted, five of them attract native pigeons and/or tuis, so we, the birds and everyone nearby will hopefully be benefiting from my hard work for years to come.
Below: I've unloaded the trees and assembled my tools (and the big sack of manure). In the background you can see some of the existing trees, including the puriri I planted last year partially visible on the extreme right of the photo. The trees are, approximately from front to back: kahikatea; coprosma/kanono; hangehange; puka (Griselinia lucida, not the large-leaved puka which is a different species entirely); pigeonwood; lacebark; kawakawa; whiteywood; and titoki.