Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Good of the Many Outweighs the Good of the Few. Or the One.

Ooohhh...bizarre fandom merging with reality question.

I've been reading up/researching for a post on the death penalty and whether or not Christian's can support it. That'll come later. Anyway, while I was thinking about this stuff, I was contemplating...would anyone argue that the preemptive death of certain people would spare the lives of thousands and perhaps millions of others? Or even just a dozen lives, spared by the death of one evil person? Think, Hitler, Mussolini, Nero, Jim Jones, David Koresh, Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy. All the people dead because of them, alive.

Of course, anyone familiar with scifi then comes up with the problem - but you can't know the entire effects of your actions. Butterfly effect. Step on a bug in the Paleozoic Era, come back to a future where dinosaurs run the Earth. The death of one mass murderer or serial killer could allow someone even worse to rise up, or cause a hero not to be born or develop. Even harder, what if the death of one innocent person could prevent horrors? For to the instance: next week's Supernatural involves one of the angels, Anna *boohiss* going back in time to kill Mary and John Winchester (Dean & Sam's parents) because if they die before Dean and Sam are born, no Apocalypse. (Yes, the angels can travel through time - apparently DeLorean's are Standard Angel Equipment. And yet I'm pretty sure Castiel can't drive a car...)

And yes, that *is* the train of thought my brain took.

*Everything* is relate-able to Supernatural. *EVERYTHING*!

Also StarTrek. But that kind of goes without saying.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Book: The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff

I picked this book up on a recommendation from Susanne, who had read and mentioned it on her blog. I'd seen it in the bookstore before that, but I never picked it up - without Susanne's rec, I likely never would have read it, which, in hindsight, would have meant me missing out on an excellent book. (So, thanks! Susanne!)

The book is a mix of two stories, one historical fiction, and the other straight out fiction - a small murder mystery.

(This is a portrait of Mrs. Ann Eliza Young)

The historical fiction part of the book is based on the life of Ann Eliza Young who was a wife of the Mormon Prophet Brigham Young. She was either wife nineteen, or wife mumbltysomething, depending on who's doing the counting. (Seriously, this is an issue - apparently no one's positive how many wives he wound up actually having - the most common number accepted is fifty-five. But there were likely more that no one ever knew about.) Her part of the novel actually begins before she was born, with the stories of how her parents came to be Mormons and follow Brigham Young out to Utah. How they married, and how, eventually, though her father had sworn to marry only one woman, he wound up marrying a total of five wives (three of them in three weeks!). The spread of the doctrine of Celestial Marriage (polygamy) and how it destroyed lives - Ann Eliza's in particular, since it is her story, told (for the most part) from her point of view.

The modern story, the small murder mystery, is told through the eyes of Jordan Scott - a young man who was 'excommunicated' from a cult/sect/whatever you want to call them of the Mormons known as the 'Firsts' (think FLDS, only cult-ier. Really.) for holding hands with a step-sister - ostensibly he was 'excommunicated' because of an inappropriate relationship with her, but of course, it was really because he was hitting puberty and needed to be removed so he didn't 'compete' for wives with the older men, including their current 'Prophet'. (Which is something that happens to all the boys from the town, of course.) But the story takes place years after he was left on the side of the highway with nothing.

It picks up when his father is murdered, and his mother is arrested for the murder. He goes to see her, on something of an impulse, convinced that she'd finally had enough and shot him, only to become convinced that she didn't, and that there's a murderer still running around Mesadale (the town the Firsts own). His story is the one of the mystery of who did the killing, and why - him being forced to go back to the hell hole he grew up in and face a few things he thought he'd put behind him. To see his mother again, after she left him in the middle of nowhere, perhaps to die, because 'God said to'.

For me, the mystery itself....*waggles hand back and forth* not the most interesting part of the book. It's not as though Jordan solves it with his hitherto unknown keen analytical mind. He pokes and prods and eventually the truth does out, but it would have done so without him. His story is more about the reality of what he left behind, blind faith, and the ability of some to see through the lies, and others to be blinded by them their entire lives.

The connection between Jordan's story and Ann Eliza's is revealed through the book, so I don't want to give that away (not that it's a huge plot point or anything, just that I don't like to tell when I think people should read for themselves.), but it's not as though there are two entirely separate stories being told. They do connect, down through the ages.

Warnings, for those who worry about such things: bad language. Jordan & co. have slight potty mouths. I'm not sure the brief mentions of people have sex deserve a warning, but they are there, in case you're an *incredibly* delicate flower. There is also mention of homosexuality (Jordan's gay - not a big secret) and some sex acts in that context, but nothing even close to explicit. They're mentioned, and then gone.

In conclusion, read it. I found it a well written, fascinating book. To be honest, I was almost more interested in Ann Eliza's portion of the story, than Jordan's - maybe because I know that hers is (mostly) true.

The depictions of the reality of polygamy (gone mad, some would say) are a harsh thing, to be sure. It's the dark side, I suppose, where women are raised and taught by men in power that their very salvation depends on them accepting as many wives as their husband wants, and having no real say in it. True, I know that there are women out there that choose a polygamous lifestyle, knowing full well what they are getting into - women who have a clear choice, and take a path that the majority of us would never. While I neither agree with, nor understand their choice, they do so choose - but the women here, in this book (and these women exist in reality as well), have no real choice. Born into it, raised in it, told over and over again that without acceptance of it, they will have no eternal life, what choice is there? The word choice implies that they have another option - and these women really didn't.

And now, I'm off to read an anthology about Dracula. My tastes are weird varied.

Friday, January 29, 2010

I Wonder What My Subconscious Would Rather Be Doing...

To continue my theme of geekishness with no helpful content...

"My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die."



"You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."


"Death cannot stop true love. All it can do is delay it for a while. "


"You rush a miracle man, you get rotten miracles. "

Thursday, January 28, 2010


Guess what today is? Guessssssssssssssss..........

I'll bet you'll never guess....

Today, today is the day that I found a lovely little email from Amazon in my inbox. Do you know what that email said?

It informed me that Season 1 of Merlin is available for pre-order.






Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Eucharistic Ministers - Does Such a Thing Exist in Orthodoxy?


I had this blinding epiphany this morning walking from my house to my car, which takes about a minute. So, y'know, take the thought for what it's worth.

During Communion, in the Catholic Church, there are certain laypeople who have been 'deputized' to be allowed to distribute Communion to the people. The actual title is 'Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion' but they're usually just referred to as Eucharistic Ministers. They are only *meant* to be used in times when the priest (who is the only *true* minister of the Eucharist) is prevented from doing so by illness, or some other issue. Ah...lemme see...

"If there is usually present a sufficient number of sacred ministers for the distribution of Holy Communion, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion may not be appointed. Indeed, in such circumstances, those who may have already been appointed to this ministry should not exercise it. The practice of those priests is reprobated who, even though present at the celebration, abstain from distributing Communion and hand this function over to laypersons." - Redemptionis sacramentum, 157

"The extraordinary minister of Holy Communion may administer Communion only when the priest and deacon are lacking, when the priest is prevented by weakness or advanced age or some other genuine reason, or when the number of faithful coming to Communion is so great that the very celebration of Mass would be unduly prolonged. ... A brief prolongation, considering the circumstances and culture of the place, is not at all a sufficient reason." - Redemptionis sacramentum, 158

In my experience, all Catholic churches use the Extraordinary Ministers in order to keep the Masses 'on schedule'. It's not that the priest or deacon isn't there and capable, but that there are so many parishoners they need to use other people in order to get everyone Communion and out of the church in time for the next 'shift'. My church has...four, I think, for every Mass on Saturday and Sunday. So, unless you sit in the very first pews, you cannot receive from either the priest or the deacon. Which annoyed me as a catechumen, because I couldn't receive, but unless I happened to be able to get in the priests set of pews, I couldn't get a blessing either.

Anyway, I'm fairly certain that I haven't seen a person in the Orthodox church fulfilling a similar function. I know that at the Serbian church only the priest gave out Communion, and I'm pretty sure that only the priest distributed Communion at the Greek church, but I can't be certain because I was busy 'rubbernecking' subtly, checking everything out. So I might have missed something.

But the main reason for the EMHC's use doesn't (to my mind) exist in the Orthodox church. There's no second, third, fourth or fifth Divine Liturgy of the day to 'get out of the way' for. So, yes, while the Communion line needs to be kept moving, I suppose, there's no *rush*.

That's the thought that occurred to me. I've looked around, and I haven't found anything that says they have them, on the other hand, I haven't found anything explicitly stating that *only* the priest or the priest and the deacon can distribute Communion.

I really kind of want the answer to be that only the priest gives out Communion.

Ruth "6:5" but really 1:3

This is one of the books where there is no verse 6:5, or 5:6, so I've decided, for those books, to do verse 1:3. And here you are:

3. Then Elimelech, Naomi's husband, died; and she was left with her two sons.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

It's Either a Miracle or a Sign of the Apocalypse - Maybe Both...

My sister and I are very different.

One of the things we're so different on is reading. I love it, she doesn't.

As far as I know the only books that she has read all the way through are the Harry Potter series and the Twilight series. So, when I can home tonight and discovered she was reading a REAL, GROWNUP BOOK! I plotzed.

My goal is to find more books she might like. I'm trying to encourage the trend, see?

So. She's reading her way through Nicholas Sparks' books. She really, really loves them. The sweet, sappy, tragic, make you cry for three hours kind of stuff as you keep reading.

Which is not my cup of tea. Pretty much, for me, if there's no blood or mystery or death, I don't care. *shrug* There are exceptions, of course. Namely funny books like Bridget Jones or the Shopaholic series. But for the most part....blood is necessary. Anyway.

Do any of you have any suggestions for my sister?

Monday, January 25, 2010


A relic is, in the simplest definition, portions of the earthly remains of Saints - also included are pieces of their clothing, vestments, or, for instance pieces of the True Cross. Now, I know that in Catholicism they break it down into First, Second and Third Class relics. A First Class relic is an actual piece of a Saint - a finger bone for instance. A Second Class relic would be a piece of their clothing - something that they used and touched. A Third Class relic would be something that touched something the Saint used. I'm not certain if Orthodoxy classes their relics in the same way, or at all.

In Catholicism, and, I believe, Orthodoxy as well, a relic is embedded in the altar of a church at the consecration of that church.

We venerate the relics of Saints because of the belief that, even after death, their body remains the temple of the Holy Spirit and that God may still perform miracles through their remains. I believe this is tied into the understanding of the physical world. I've heard it described as a 'sacramental world view' - God acts through physical things to affect us. Thus why all of the Sacraments or Mysteries involve not merely words and spiritual effects, but physical objects as well. Water at Baptism. Bread and Wine at Communion.

Go back to my posts on Moses and the Burning Bush or Elisha's Bones. Both contain verses from the Bible briefly illustrating that interaction with God makes physical, worldly things different. Sanctifies them. Elisa was dead and gone, yet touching his bones brought a man back to life. Why? The power of God working through the physical 'medium' if you will, of a saintly man's bones.

Now no ones saying that if you touch a dead person with the bones or a Saint they'll jump right up, all better, but is it so inconceivable that God can still work miracles in this way? Or do you think that the Presence of God, even in the slightest reflection, does not alter a physical form?


So that's my incredibly late and short relics post.

Any one have anything they want to talk about? Questions you're just dying to know the answers to?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Book: Reconciliation - Religious Tolerance/Pluralism in Islam

Okay, this is still Chapter 2 of this book. I've finished Chapter 2, mind you, but she covers several different topics, so I'm going to try and break up my posts into the topics instead of one, humongous long post. :)

**DISCLAIMER: I'm summarizing what the author says in this book, without editorializing. By no means should any of this be taken to be my opinion or my agreeing with her. Or should the assumption be made that what she states is correct or true.**

She starts with the question that many people ask, can Muslims use ancient texts for explanation and guidance in the modern world? Of course, she brings up immediately the point that *any* follower of *any* religion accepts the universality of their respective doctrine. Whether you speak of the Torah and the Jews, the Bible (Old and New Testaments) and the Christians, or the Qur'an and Muslims - all believers believe that their texts were meant not only for the specific times of their revelations, but for all time. Meant to guide their followers throughout the ages.

Some, undoubtedly, would still question whether any Abrahamic (or, indeed, any faith at all) can be looked at for ideas such as pluralism and individual autonomy or if that isn't merely forcing modernist notions of human rights and other democratic ideals on a message revealed in another era. She claims that for issues not explicitly mentioned in the Qur'an, *modern* scholars must evaluate the historical context at the time of the Qur'an and interpolate universal principles that can be applied to contemporary issues. "The message of Islam is subject to ijtihad and ijma. In every age, reason is applied to its constant principles to arrive at a consensus of interpretation for that age."

As to the 'raging debate' within Islam on how Islam relates to other cultures and other religions, Ms. Bhutto believed that Islam had, throughout its history, actually embraced other cultures and religions in ways far more accommodating and respectful than any of the other monotheistic religions in their early periods. While Islam now has the image (and attitude) of being closed and intolerant, in its beginning, and at the true heart, nothing is further from the truth. Much as extremists would like to believe (and have the world believe) otherwise.

"Islam accepts as a fundamental principle the fact that humans were created into different societies and religions, and that they will remain different: 'And if your Lord had pleased He would certainly have made people a single nation, and they shall continue to differ.' And: 'And if your Lord had pleased, surely all those who are in the earth would have believed, all of them; will you then force men till they become believers?' God did not will everyone on earth to be adherents of one religion or members of one culture. If He had wanted this, He would have ordained it so. This means that God created diversity and asked believers to be just and to desire justice in the world. Thus it flows that God wants tolerance of other religions and cultures, which are also created by Him.

"The Qur'an reveals that God sent 120,000 prophets. Thus, it can be argued that in a Muslim state, diverse points of view will be represented and must be protected. The Qur'an does not simply preach tolerance of other religions; it also acknowledges that salvation can be achieved in all monotheistic religions. Freedom of choice, especially in matters of faith, is a cornerstone of quranic values. This freedom, of course, leads to pluralism in religion, both within Islam and outside. The quranic preference for freedom of choice clearly manifests a divine desire for pluralism and religious diversity; examples of this from the Qur'an are clear and striking: 'You shall have your religion and I shall have my religion.' The Qur'an unambiguously desires choice in religious matters.

"Quite remarkably and uniquely, the Qur'an acknowledges that other religions can lead to salvation. For example, the Holy Book says: 'Surely those who believe, and those who are Jews, and the Christians, and the Sabians, whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day and does good, they shall have their reward from their Lord, and there is no fear for them, nor shall they grieve.'

"Islam embraces all humanity under one God, discrediting all other exclusive religious claims to salvation. I don't believe there is anything quite like this in any religion on earth."

The Qur'an promotes religious pluralism. It does not seek to 'cancel out' or supersede the previous revelations. Rather, the multitude of monotheistic religions is seen by God as serving a purpose: the establishment of morally upright and ethical people. God created man with intrinsic values of justice and equality. This global community that God created is commanded to 'strive with one another to hasten virtuous deeds' or, in other translations, 'compete with one another in good works.'

The Qur'an, according to Ms. Bhutto, specially sanctifies those who believe in the one true God, and live a good and virtuous life. It does not say that only Islam is the route to salvation. "No human being can limit divine mercy in any way."

Islam believes that people must be allowed choice in religion, and that no religion can be forced upon people. Contrast this basic core value to those who claim Islam as their faith, but would force everyone to be Muslim. And not just Muslim, but *their* version of Islam. Conversion or death - the spread of Islam by the 'sword'. Ms. Bhutto believed, deeply, that this is antithetical to Islam, and to the desires of God Himself for the world He created. If He didn't delight in variety and desire it, why create it?

She believed that Islam encourages pluralism. It encourages peaceful coexistence with others. It is God who created the universe into many tribes and nations. All are created equal before God. All have a common ethical responsibility toward one another, having been, as she says, created from a single soul (Adam). This, she says, this concept of equality, is what underlies the pluralism and tolerance at the heart of Islam.

"It is ironic that many Muslim societies became intolerant with the passage of time while Western nations became more accepting of the tolerance and pluralism of Islam. Islam accepts as worthy of salvation all those who believe in one god as the Master and Creator. In Christianity, Jesus is the only route to salvation: 'For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son.'

"In contract to other great religions' attitudes toward non adherents, Muslims accept Jews and Christians as 'people of the Book.' Thus Muslim global terrorists, including Osama bin Laden, display a striking ignorance of Islam. They distort the message of Islam while at the same time using the name of religion to attract people to a path to terrorism. Bin Laden claims, 'The enmity between us and the Jews goes back far in time and is deep rooted. There is no question that war between the two of us is inevitable.' This comment contradicts 1,300 years or peaceful coexistence between Muslims and Jews, specifically in the Middle East and Spain. In fact, relations between the two communities were historically quite good. Indeed, when the Jews of Spain were expelled during the Inquisition, those who fled chose - almost without exception - to relocate in Muslim nations, where they knew they would be welcomed and accepted, and actually were.

"The same sort of bigotry, inconsistent with the teachings of the Prophet and the tenets of Islam, was recently presented by Anjum Chaudri, a radical British mullah, in a BBC interview with Stephen Sackur. Chaudri rather remarkable said, 'When we say 'innocent people' we mean Muslims, as far as non-Muslims are concerned...they have not accepted Islam, as far as we are concerned that is a crime against God.' He went on to say that 'you must hate and love for the sake of Allah...I must have hatred toward everything which is not Islam.' His statements are a contradiction of the Islamic message, which considers believers in one God to be 'Muslims' and accepts the sanctity of all the primary religious texts of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Nevertheless, these hateful misinterpretations receive media attention and thus become part of the infectious distortion of Islam.

"Recently on American television, the right-wing commentator Ann Coulter created a great stir by suggesting that Jews needed to be 'perfected' and by being perfected would become Christians. She repeatedly called Christians 'perfected Jews.' There is no parallel concept of exclusion anywhere in Islamic holy texts and doctrine. In Islam, all monotheistic religions are seen as paths to salvation. In Islam, Muslims, Jews, Christians, and all those who believe in a monotheistic god will be judged by their human conduct while on earth by God and not on the basis of the specific religion that they practice."

~~~~ That wound up being long anyway.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Book: Reconciliation

**DISCLAIMER: I'm summarizing what the author says in this book, without editorializing. By no means should any of this be taken to be my opinion or my agreeing with her. Or should the assumption be made that what she states is correct or true.**

My new book (I finished God is Not Great, and I just don't care enough about it to talk about it. Blah) is Reconciliation: Islam, Democracy and the West by Benazir Bhutto. This is the book she was working on when she was assassinated in December, 2007.

So far I've only read the introduction (written by her co-author for the book, Mark A. Siegel), first chapter, and started on the second. I know I'm an emotional sap, but there were a few times I was tearing up reading the introduction and first chapter. The first chapter is written in the first person and it's her describing her homecoming in October of 2007, and the assassination attempt that failed to kill her, but did kill 179 innocent supporters of hers, many who had formed a human shield around her vehicle to try and keep assassins from her. I cried, not just for the men who died for nothing other than wanting freedom, but also knowing that shortly the people who wanted her dead would succeed.

In the second chapter, she's discussing the 'battle within Islam'. So far it's been taken up with what 'jihad' really means (she claims that it's not the violent wars and terrorism that we know and associate it with), that it's meant to be an internal struggle of the Muslim against their own desires and failings. She asserts that, as in Christianity and Judaism, Muslims are only supposed to fight 'just wars'. But, of course, you have to acknowledge, who defines what war is just? Certainly, we in the West don't feel that the Muslims have any reason to wage war on us, and yet those Muslims who do so feel that their war is just. She has, at this point, named three Muslim 'scholars' that extremists turn to to support their desires for death and destruction of everyone who is not 'them' - Ahmad Ibn Taymiyya (a medieval Muslim scholar) who wanted the ummah to return to the ideals of the first Muslim community at Medina. 'He drew a sharp line between Muslims and nonbelievers and asserted that, "Muslim citizens thus have the right, indeed duty, to revolt against them [nonbelievers], to wage jihad."' This dictum has been copied by many groups, al Qaeda being just one - they draw a sharp line between believers (Muslims who follow their exact flavor of Islam) and nonbelievers (everyone else). Maulana Maudoodi (founder of the extremist group Jamaat-i-Islami in South Asia) believed that Muslim identity was threatened by a sense of nationalism, which he saw as a 'Western threat' - in order to 'protect' the ummah against it, he felt that the West, and all it's ideology had to be destroyed. And, of course, she cites Sayyid Qutb, who believed that the entire world was still jahiliyyah, and that the spread of the Western ideals needed to be stopped in order for Islam to spread (and, you know, fix everything - since it's done so well in making the world a shiny, happy place where it has clawed it's way to the top).

These, she says, are just examples of the mindset that is prevalent in the Islamic world now. 'Using mistaken interpretations of the Quran, they believe that they can justify acts of violence against innocents, people of the Book, and even fellow Muslims in order to achieve their goals. Clearly the Quran does not support the teachings of these reactionary clerics. They may provide an intellectual infrastructure for the terrorist movement, but it is a house of false cards and twisted logic. Fanatics will use every rationalization to justify their terror, and this has traditionally been true for religious extremists.'

Here's a short passage showing why she believes that terrorism is forbidden by the Qur'an, and Islam: 'Certainly, the Quran and the hadith argue for dying for a just cause. Two hadith examples are illustrative. Muslim ibn al-Hajjaj (d. 875 c.E) and Ibn Maja (d. 887) gave reports that claim that God forgives martyrs for all sin but debt. Abd al-Razzaq al-San'ani (d. 826) quotes the Prophet: "When one of you stands within the battle ranks, then that is better than the worship of a man for sixty years." These verses do support God's forgiveness for those who die in just causes. However, later jurists and extremists who allege that the Quran supports the actions of terrorists who take their life to kill innocents do not have textual support. Suicide-murder is specifically and unambiguously prohibited in the Holy Book: On that account:

For this reason did We prescribe to the children of Israel that whoever slays a soul, unless it be for manslaughter or for mischief in the land, it is as though he slew all men; and whoever keeps it alive, it is as though he kept alive all men; and certainly Our messengers came to them with dear arguments, but even after that many of them certainly act extravagantly in the land.

Thus, in the Quran, preserving life is a central moral value. The Quran once again shows God's preference for life over death in this next verse: "He who disbelieves in Allah after his having believed, not he who is compelled while his heart is at rest on account of faith, but he who opens (his) breast to disbelief—on these is the wrath of Allah, and they shall have a grievous chastisement."
The Quran holds saving one's life in such high regard that it allows one to renounce his faith if he is under duress, as long he keeps his true faith in his heart (that is, he does not actually renounce it).
These verses demonstrate the value the Quran puts on life; it does not permit suicide but demands the preservation of life: "And spend in the way of Allah and cast not yourselves to perdition with your own hands, and do good (to others); surely Allah loves the doers of good." The Holy Book goes on to give another specific prohibition of suicide (although on the group level): "O you who believe! do not devour your property among yourselves falsely, except that it be trading by your mutual consent; and do not kill your people; surely Allah is Merciful to you." The Quran is thus explicit in denying the validity of murder-suicide in its teachings.
Let us look specifically at the issue of terrorism. Muslim jurists developed a specific body of laws called siyar that interprets and analyzes the just causes for war. Part of the law indicates that "those who unilaterally and thus illegally declare a call to war, attack unarmed civilians and recklessly destroy property are in flagrant violation of the Islamic juristic conception of bellum justum. Islamic law has a name for such rogue militants, muharibun. A modern definition of muharibun would very closely parallel the contemporary meaning of `terrorists.' The acts that these muharibun commit would be called hiraba ('terrorism'). Thus all terrorism is wrong. There is no `good terrorism' and `bad terrorism.'" Osama bin Laden's creed that "the terrorism we practice is of the commendable kind" is an invented rationalization for murder and mayhem. In Islam, no terrorism—the reckless slaughter of innocents—is ever justified.'

So far, I really love this book. I'll probably be posting more as I keep reading.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

God is Just vs. God is Forgiving

Yesterday was my walk the park day with my friend Donna (she of the snake incident). She's also the friend that I tend to go to the movies with the most, so often, on our walks, we'll talk some more about what we saw the previous weekend. Yesterday was all about the Book of Eli (I can't tell you what we were discussing without giving away large chunks of the plot, sorry).

The discussion that we were having, though, led us elsewhere. Specifically, God's forgiveness.

Her issue is that it does not seem just that a person who lives a horrible life, who rapes and murders, for example, can 'see the light' and wind up going to Heaven, the same place that she, as a person who has led a good life will.

We got sidetracked onto other, related issues (this happens to us a lot, actually). But, to me, if I think about it, I think it makes sense to me because, in my mind, I feel that all sins are equal, to God. Which is not to say that the corporeal punishments should be the same. A murderer, rapist, or pedophile is a far more heinous crime than a person who steals. There need to be punishments, on earth, commensurate with the severity of the crime. But that's here, where everything we do is finite and defined by it's relation to the physical world. But to God, every sin is something that takes you away from Him, something that leads you to death, spiritually. I mean, to go back to the sin as disease metaphor, we don't think of the flu as a 'serious' illness, but people do die from it, from the 'plain old' flu, every year. So we may not think of a sin as a 'serious' sin, but it can still lead us to death. Make sense?

What do ya'll think? How do you reconcile these two aspects of God?

Judges 6:5

For they came up with their livestock and their tents, and appeared just as numerous as locusts; they and their camels were without number; and they came into the land of Israel and destroyed it.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Book: On Women & Judaism by Blu Greenberg

First things first. My second weigh in was last night, and I lost another 3 1/2 pounds, bringing my two week total up to 11 1/2. :)

Now, on to the book.

I've been working through this book since the middle of December, and I just don't know what to say about it. I have two books by this author, this one and How to Run a Traditional Jewish Household. I'm not sure which one I got first, but I haven't read the other one yet.

This book is a collection of previously written essays on the need/attempt to mesh the feminist ideals with living an Orthodox Jewish life. For the most part, it's just an interesting book. I do get the impression, though, that the author sort of wants to have her cake and eat it too. She wants women to be able to do all the things that men can do, while still being traditional women. I'm not saying it's a bad thing, or impossible, but it just strikes me as wanting all the best of both worlds, without admitting that you're going to inherit some of the problems as well. Some of the things, like women needing to be able to request a divorce, in accordance with the halakhic law, make perfect sense. Others, the rights of women to study Torah, to be called up to read it, etc. are perhaps a matter of taste. She does make the point that the law, in relation to women, has always been a living thing, growing and reflecting the larger society around the Jewish people.

The one chapter that I just didn't agree with anything was the chapter on the 'right' of women to abortion.

*sigh* Like I said, I'm really not sure what to say about the book. I enjoyed reading it, but *raises hands* Meh.

So, my next book is God is Not Great by Christopher Hitchens. I've started the first chapter, and I can say, I remember getting this book when it first came out, so excited about it (I was in a semi-atheist phase) and loving it so much. Now, when he's going on and on about how much more wonderful nature is than the cathedrals, etc. All I can think is, well, no duh. Nature was created by God, and is therefore always going to be far more magnificent than anything humans can create. And when he's nattering on about the random perfection of the human genome, I sort of laughed. Since when did chaos breed order and perfection?

Monday, January 18, 2010

My Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church visit

Ah, Greece. Land of the gyro, home of the baklava. (Hush. I am occasionally culturally shallow. Plus, I *really* like gyros. There is nothing that is wrong with them. *Nothing.* They're like...the perfect food.)

Anyway, so I went to the Greek Orthodox church on Sunday. I loved it. I mean, it had all the same ups as the Serbian church I went to...99% of the women were in skirts, I didn't spot a single pair of blue jeans, everyone was at least in slacks. (Not that people can't go to church in blue jeans, it's just that the majority of the time, they don't need to. They just choose to because they lack a proper sense of respect for where they're going to be and what they're going to be doing.)

More people went up for Communion than in the Serbian church, and that's still a little weird to me. I mean, I understand and 'approve' (in so far as that term applies. The practice doesn't, of course, need my 'approval', but it's the best word I could come up with to say that I understand the reasoning and accept the wisdom behind it in so far as I understand it at this point) of the reasons why fewer people will be receiving, but I'm still used to the Catholic church, where the majority of people receive every Sunday. Most, if not all of the women covered their hair at least for Communion, if not through the whole service.

The Liturgy was in Greek, however, the homily was in English. Which is all I want, really. I could follow along in the broad strokes, thanks to the link M shared a while back. I'd printed it out and read through it before hand several times so I wasn't utterly lost. So I knew, broadly, what was going on at any given moment. I don't know, I hesitate to say that I like the Divine Liturgy more than the Mass, but...and here we're going to delve into that vague, 'psychic' kind of a place...I feel 'warmer' than I do in Mass. (It's nothing to do with the actual temperature of the building, you're just going to have to trust me on this. It's an inner sense.) Not that that's any reason to choose a faith, I'm just laying it out there. I failed to take the blessed bread, again. I *know* I can, but I just...I feel kind of awkward. Like I'm going to go up there and they're going to say 'nope. not you.' Which I *know* they wouldn't. I'm just saying, it's an inner issue. I'll get over it. Everyone was very nice and pleasant, but I forgot my allergy pill, and the incense got to me again, so I didn't hang around for coffee hour. Next time, hopefully.

Hmm...I think that's about it.

Friday, January 15, 2010

My Weekend in Preview

Sadly, my computer bit it last night. I'd gotten a virus the night before, we thought Sophos had dealt with it, but when I turned it on last night it asked me for a password (I've never had a password on it), and Dad checked it out (it's good to live with computer people) and says it's been screwed but good. So we're going to (and by we I mean he) get my files/links off sometime this weekend (he hacked into my computer to be able to do that) and wipe it out and start over again. He wants to put Ubunto on it instead of Windows, and I pretty much asked him if it was going to be some sort of weird, computer nerd system where I have to learn code to use it, and he said no, and I asked if I could still do the things I needed to do, and he said yes, so I told him to go for it if he thinks it'd be best. So. I'll be without a computer this weekend until (probably) Sunday evening.

Sunday I'm going to the Greek Orthodox church. The service starts at 10, so I'm assuming that it'll be over around 11:30, like the Serbian service. I will be letting you all know what's what on Monday if I don't get my computer back Sunday night, no worries.

Sunday afternoon, we're going to go to the movies. We're doing a double, which means we're seeing two movies. We're going to go see The Lovely Bones and The Book of Eli.

First, I *loved* the book The Lovely Bones. I also read the author's (Alice Sebold) memoir, Lucky. They're both excellent books, but if dark themes (rape and murder) bother you, best steer away. She doesn't sugar coat things, but she also doesn't go into excruciating detail, which can sometimes be a hard line to walk.

I've also been looking forward to The Book of Eli. 1) I love Denzel Washington. The man can act. He picks excellent movies to act in. 2) Post-apocalyptic movie. I'm a simple woman. I like stuff like this. Also zombies, which aren't in this movie, as far as I know, I'm just saying. Post-apocalyptic and zombies kind of tend to go together. 3) The Biblical theme. It's a button I have. They've pushed it. Again, with the simple woman thing.

And next week, we have Legion. Ummm...angels fighting. Apocalypse. What's not to love? Plus, plus, there's this scene in the trailer, where they're fighting, and Gabriel is ducked and swinging around because the other angel (whose name I don't think we have...) (I sit corrected. It's Michael!) is jumping over him, and it looks like he was using his wings to try and sweep the legs out from under the guy Michael and it's just *cool*. Um, yeah. So. In summary...Angels! *flail*

Thursday, January 14, 2010

There's Something *Wrong* With This Man...

So, we all know my feelings on televangelists, 'evangelicals', etc. (For those who don't, they're not good, warm fuzzy feelings.)

Because I hate strongly dislike them, I don't listen to them, for the most part. All that results is that I get the urge to either figure out a way to reach through the tv and start beating people upside the head or chuck things at the tv. Either way, I wind up frustrated and chewing on the furniture in anger. Not productive. Anyway, because of my trying to pretend that they don't exist for the most part (under the long proven theory of 'if I don't see it, it isn't *real*), I didn't hear about this little gem of Christian compassion and concern until I was driving into work this morning, and the radio show hosts were raking Pat Robertson over the coals for being...well...not to put too fine a point on it, but a douche bag.

I'm sure you guys have all heard this, but just in case, here's the quote:

"It may be a blessing in disguise. ... Something happened a long time ago in Haiti, and people might not want to talk about it. Haitians were originally under the heel of the French. You know, Napoleon the third, or whatever. And they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, we will serve you if you will get us free from the French. True story. And so, the devil said, okay it's a deal. Ever since they have been cursed by one thing after the other." –Pat Robertson, on the earthquake in Haiti that destroyed the capital and killed tens of thousands of people, Jan. 13, 2010

And if you google 'Pat Robertson Haiti quote' you can find links to the video itself. Or here's a link to the search I did on YouTube for it. Just so you can see it really did come out of his mouth. We're not making this up. He's *really* that big of an ass.

I want to know, where's the compassion? Where's the concern for our fellow man? I know of at least a dozen private aide movements that have come about in response to the Haitian earthquake in *fandom*, wherein the vast majority of the people would not label themselves as any particular religion or denomination, if they're not out and out atheists. But Pat Robertson, who is looked up to by, oh, it pains me to say it, hundreds of thousands of Christians, instead of counseling aide and help and compassion for these people who have been struck by a natural disaster, basically sits back and says, 'it's their own fault'. Really? REALLY? I mean, I shouldn't be surprised, given his and his ilks reactions to the September 11th attacks and Hurricane Katrina. And yet. And yet, *every single time* he opens his mouth and shit like this flies out, I want to scream and cry at the same time.

Bravo. Way to show people the Christian reaction to people in need.

Do nothing, and claim that they're pawns of Satan. Kudos. *sarcastic thumbs up*

I try not to judge people, whether they're 'really' Christians or not. I try not to do that, because only they and God know what's really between them. But it's hard, it's hard when faced with people like this, to not out and out say what I feel, which is that they're *not* Christians at all. They're money hungry, power mad despots who've built themselves an empire on feeding people utter *dreck* in the guise of Scripture and God's Word, and some day, they're going to have to answer for that.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Joshua 6:5

5. So Joshua the son of Nun went to the priests 6. and he spoke to them, saying, "Command the people to go around and surround the city, and let the men of war pass on armed before the Lord.

(I include verse 6 because the study note refers to both verses.)

Note: Israel, which prefigures the Church, has been made ready. Now the people must act in faith and obedience. The Lord Himself will bring down the walls, which speak of sin and death. He will destroy the enemies and lead the faithful to safely inhabit a world once held captive by darkness.


Plus, you get a bonus, 'phrase of the day': "I'm not saying that you're lying, I'm just saying that I don't believe you." - me to H2

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Movie: Daybreakers

This is one of those posts where I inflict my nerd on you guys.'ve been warned. There is no substantive information in this post, aside from wild, dare I say it, 'academic' speculation.

For those who know nothing of this movie, the basic premise is that approximately ten years ago, there was an outbreak of a virus that turned the vast majority of the human race into vampires. Transmitted originally from a bat bite (we're not told *how* this bat got this mutated virus), it was thence transferred through the bits of humans-turned-vampire feeding, until the human population is 'endangered'. At the point in time when the movie opens, the remaining humans are kept in 'blood banks' and bled dry to feed the vampire population, and the 'free range' humans are being hunted down. The vampires have reached a critical point, where if they don't find a substitute for human blood (they can feed on animals, but the virus turns the animals into vampires, and so that population has been depleted as well) they will run out of blood in a month, and that's no good, because at that point the lack of blood begins to mutate them into these batlike monsters they call Subsiders (the hunger also drives them to feed on other vampires, which speeds up the mutation). So, there's the set up. Of course, there's a human resistance, and they find a vampire who doesn't want to be a vampire, who wants to help the humans, and they search for a cure, and there's lots of fighting and blood. All the things we need for a good vampire movie. That's not the point though. Here's the point:

Early in the movie, we see that the vampires don't have reflections. This is a common bit of vampire lore, that they cast no reflection. Now, most legends would say it's because they have no soul, what with them being damned reanimated corpses and all. However, let's be fair and say that, even in the legends, that makes not a bit of sense. I will accept the lack of reflection in mythologies where the vampires contain some sort of mystical factor. For instance, in those worlds where a vampire can turn into mist, bats, wolves, or any sort of animal for that matter, control peoples minds, etc. I can accept that there may be a magical reasoning behind the lack of reflection. However, in worlds where that is not the case, most authors give the vampires reflections. Why? Because they have solid forms, and therefore should, according to the laws of physics vis a vis light, cast reflections.

Have you figured out my problem yet?

In the world of 'Daybreakers', the vampires do not possess any sort of magical 'touch'. Everything that they are is a mutation caused by a virus. It's a 'scientific' universe. So why, pray tell, do the vampires not reflect?

A friend of mine, while we were discussing this on our walk, brought up the example of the Invisible Man, saying, perhaps, that there was some sort of chemical component to the mutated virus that caused light to refract around the vampires. I have to reject this theory based on the fact that the vampires were not, in point of fact, invisible. They could see and be seen. Just not in a mirror. She then brought up Superman's x-ray vision, asking if he could have seen the Invisible Man, and no, I'm not sure where she was going with this one, and I said yes, but now I wonder...depending on how the Invisible Man's ability worked, x-ray's may have bent around him too. Which begs the question, could Superman see Wonder Woman's invisible plane?

And...this is why I have no life. :)

Monday, January 11, 2010

I Almost Made My Trainer Cry...

losing 8 lbs!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thanks be to God for making this easy for me. I mean it. I haven't missed the soda, I haven't been hungry, and while the exercise is hard, I've been sticking to it.

Why is there not a sparkly font? With which to better express my sparkly joy?

Kinder & Various Other Things

Kids: We had a small class yesterday, 8 kids. It worked out well - we did the Gospel, which was the Baptism of Jesus from Luke. Debbie had also found a worksheet for them to do with the Beatitudes, so we did those, which the kids like. Funny thing, the New Testament books that we usually use for the class (bigger print and 'smaller' words), were a different translation than the worksheet, so the kids were having trouble figuring the questions out. So I pulled out the full Bible's we have in the class, and they were the same translation, so we used those. The kids were funny, asking who 'Genius' was...they meant Genesis, but couldn't say it quite right. They've heard us say it, but I don't think they'd ever seen it written out before. We did four or five 'words' and that was about it. Busy busy.

Mini Me (Deb's daughter, who shares my name) had a scarf on because of the cold. Of course, she sees me with a scarf on my head all the time, and when we were in the class, before classes start and she had to go to hers, wrapped hers around her head and tied it under the chin. I laughed and told her she looked like a little babushka now. Then I showed her how I do mine for the cold, without tying it, which is just to wrap it around and throw the ends over each other. So, at the end of the day (10:30 am...), when we were leaving, she and her family were going across the property to church, and I was leaving, and she had me help her wrap her scarf so her ears would stay warm. :)

Speaking of cold...our pipes froze last night. Or, well, the water froze. We're on well water, and we covered the well, and kept water running during the night, but it just got too cold. I've had *ice* on my car and in the pond. My abaya makes a great housecoat, and I've been wearing it as an extra layer outside to keep warm. You should see me walking the dogs. I've got regular clothes on, so, pants or skirt & top, socks, abaya, shayla scarf (very early in the morning, the past two mornings, I've worn it niqab style, to boot), winter jacket, and gloves. I may look funny, but I'm *warm*! Oh! And we're having a 'snow day' at the schools down here. FPL is doing load control, and so they've shut down the schools in our county because they won't be able to run the heat.

Hmmm...My first weigh in (well, second, but the first doesn't really count since it was just a 'let's see what we've got to work with kind of thing) is tonight. I'm praying I lost at least the two pounds. I'm just afraid I'll go there, and have done all this stuff, and been eating right, and not have lost any weight!

Next Sunday we're 'off' school, so I'm going to the Greek Orthodox church: Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church.

And...that's about it. The Holmes movie has made me break out my copies of The Canon so I'm reading those at the moment. So much love.

Friday, January 8, 2010

“Envy eats nothing but its own heart” - German proverb

"Envy is the art of counting the other fellow's blessings instead of your own." - Harold Coffin

We all want things we don't or can't have. Even if you live a 'plain' life, you'll want things. You'll want a new washing line, a new cow, a new loft in the barn, new shoes, new quilts, new glasses, etc. I don't think that desiring things that we don't have counts as envy. I want lots of things, things that aren't even useful, or needful, but I want them. Why? Oh, many, many reasons. Acquisitiveness, maybe, or my love of them. Sometimes, they're even useful things. (But not all the time, by any stretch of the imagination.) But I can see someone else *with* that thing, and admire it, and think, 'oh, I wish I could afford/find/have room for one of those' *without* considering the person who does have it. They're (most of the time) not a part of the equation to me. I don't feel a pang of anger that *they* have it and *I* don't. I don't wail about the unfairness of the universe, that they should have this thing I so desire, and I can't.

I'm not saying I've *never* envied anyone. I don't recall any times, to be honest, but that doesn't mean that they never happened. I'm just saying I don't make a habit of it.

But I know people who do, and they want others to *know* about this unfair balance in the cosmos, so that the others can commiserate with them, and feel those sick, stabbing pains too.

Let's take the incident this morning. I was talking with a girl in another department about her department head. We were wondering if he was coming in, because his 'deputy' was off today, and no one had seen him. We joked that he was like a little kid saying, 'Mom's not home, so I'll skip school!' and then we moved on. Another woman I work with muttered something about him being a 'rich momma's boy', and 'whining to mommy and getting a new car'. She said that last a couple times, and you can just *feel* the (oh, I'm gonna sound new agey here, but whatever), the negativity, the *sourness* rolling off, in her tone, in her posture. She was *pissed* about this, and, yeah, jealous. Envious. After a few times of her saying it, I finally asked, 'did his mom buy him a new car?' 'YEAH!' 'okay' and I turned back to my work. She finished what she was doing, and went back to her desk, silent. And, seriously, it left me a little nauseous.

I mean, what difference does it make who bought who what? Is being mad about it going to suddenly make a new *yadda* appear for you? Do you think God is going to lean down and go, 'YOU'RE RIGHT, THAT'S NOT FAIR. HERE YOU GO. HAVE ONE. HAVE A DOZEN!' Nope. All that happens is you harbor this black emotion in your heart, deep down, and it poisons you. You focus on all the things you don't have, and how wrong it is that other people (people who don't need/deserve them as much as *you* do) *do* have them. How is that good? How is that constructive? Can't you be happy for the other person? Even if you don't *like* the other person, if you can't be *happy* for them, can't you just be neutral about it?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Weigh Too Much

Yesterday was my third day with Julie (my trainer).

I see her twice a week, on Monday and Wednesday. I get to the gym and am changed and ready by about 5:30, typically. So I get on the treadmill and walk at a '3' on it until 6:15, which is my time with her. When I don't go to the gym, I've started meeting a friend of mine who lives down the road from my work (she of the snake incident) and we walk a local park, which takes us about 45 minutes. On the weekends, I've been doing my treadmill at home at about a '2.7' for a half-hour (my home treadmill seems to be faster than the ones at the gym). With Julie, we do the weight machines, free weights, and 'abs' (which are terrible and I hate them *so much*.) Last night she introduced the recumbent bike, and wants me to do 20 minutes of that on gym days, so she said to warm up on the treadmill for 5 minutes, go to the bike for ten minutes, keeping my pace in the 70-80's range, to get my breathing and heart rate up, break back to the treadmill and then back to the bike for another ten minutes. *Amber falls over dead at the thought* The bike was *hard*. Of course, I actually *have* a recumbent bike at home. It's not as fancy as the ones at the gym, but my plan is to bike on it on my non-gym days, in addition to the park walking/treadmill, and therefore get better at it faster.

I've given up soda entirely, today is day three without any soda. So far, no deaths have occurred. She's given me a checklist of daily food. It breaks it down into how many servings of each 'category' of food you can have, as opposed to telling you you can only eat a, b and c. It comes along with a sheet telling you how much of each 'category' makes up a serving (but I forgot to bring that, so I can't scan it for you.) Tuesday and Wednesday I ate a salad for lunch (1 cup lettuce, 1/2 cup carrots, 1/2 cup cucumber, 1 oz. low fat cheese, 1/2 cup avocado and 1 tbsp dressing), had my usual banana for breakfast, and a 1/2 cup of dates for a 'snack' around 3 pm. Despite my whining on Monday night when she gave me my new food guidelines, I did not starve, and in fact was not hungry all day. The only reason I ate the dates was I didn't want to get hungry later on, and I'm trying to space out my food intake. Dinner was whatever was cooked, I just measured/weighed out my portions and ate only that. And again, I wasn't *hungry*. I didn't feel the need to have a snack later in the evening. So. That's how the food thing is going. Exercise is going well too. I'm keeping up with my plan, and when we were discussing it last night, Julie says she's proud of what I've been doing.

She has me sitting up straight from my chair at work, not leaning back against the back of the chair. She wants me to get up and walk a little every half hour. I haven't been doing that, but rather, every time I print something (which is quite often) I get up immediately to get it, rather than building up a pile at the printer and then going to get it. Julie says that works too. :)

I'm including a copy of my checklist so ya'll can see it.

It likely doesn't make a whole heck of a lot of sense without the sheet to tell you how much a serving is, but this just shows you how many servings I'm allowed to have. The one thing that pains me (okay, not the *one* - I miss dairy. Not in like, a physical way, but I *love* cottage cheese, and I'm not allowed to sit down and eat a little tub of it anymore. *pouts*) is the meat. Only a 1/4 lb. of meat per day. *weeps* So I can't have meat in my salads! But the avocado makes a good substitute, and possibly nuts. But I haven't tried that yet. Today I have a sandwich for lunch. Peanut butter. Yum. (No, no jelly. I like Peanut butter sandwiches.)

eta: Julie's goal is for me to loose at least two pounds a week. Monday was the first day she weighed me (and God, was that ever *painful* - I'm not telling ya'll how much I weigh, suffice it to say, it's a *lot*. Like....a *lot*. You know those people on Biggest Loser? Yeah, like in that category of 'a lot'.), so next Monday we'll weigh me again and see.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Deuteronomy 6:5

You shall love the Lord your God from your whole heart, from your whole soul, and from your whole power.


Today is the Feast of the Theophany (or Epiphany, to some, though that really more refers to the coming of the Magi to Christ in the cradle, which happens to fall on the same day, even though it's apparently being celebrated this coming Sunday, according to the missalette I was looking at...). It is the feast commemorating the Baptism of Christ, and the appearance of God (which is what theophany means, by the by), the revelation of the Holy Trinity to the world. (For Biblical references, see Mt.3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22 - all of which tell the story of Christ's baptism by St. John the Forerunner (or Baptist, to some) in the Jordan.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

There Comes a Time...

when one must face reality.

The DRE just sent out an email talking about next years classes, etc. and one of the things she wanted to know was whether or not we (the entire group of teachers was emailed) wanted to continue in this ministry next year.

And I emailed her back and said 'no'.

It's not that I don't love teaching the kids. Much as they occasionally make me want to pull my hair out, they're great.

The fact of the matter is that I can't teach the class while I'm in 'limbo' between Catholicism and Orthodoxy. It's not fair to the kids, and it's not honest for me to teach them why the Pope is capable of infallible teaching, or the sole head of the church, when I don't really believe that he is. It's not honest for me to teach them the Nicene Creed (in the form the Catholic church uses) when I can't justify the filioque (and, confession time, have been dropping it myself for maybe a month now...).

(And just for the record, these are not the only things I'm having issues with, just the only ones that I've had to teach to the kids.)

It's not fair to any of us, and I can't do it anymore. I'm going to finish assisting this year, but after that, I'm done.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Book: The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

First book of the new year, and it was lovely and brilliant.

In my quest, quite a while back, for good Biblical fiction, I picked this book up, and unfortunately just got around to reading it. Now that I've read it, I can say I wish I'd read it earlier. It's just a good, well written book. Is it historically accurate in all respects? No, I'd say not. But, dear people, it's *fiction* which means that you are (as the author) licensed to make things up. So. Bearing that in mind, it's an excellent book.

The author takes a character who isn't even in the Bible long enough to be called a 'minor' character, maybe she'd be a 'footnote', an 'extra', if we were going to label people from the Bible that way, and weaves a 321 page novel around her.

The narrator, the 'main character' of the novel is Dinah, daughter of Jacob and Leah from the Bible. Remember her? Maybe, maybe not. She's not in the Bible nearly as much as her brothers, who are *many*. You'll remember them, there were twelve....ten of them chucked Joseph into a well? That whole debacle of brotherly love? Well, assuming you don't recall who Dinah is, go back and read Genesis 34. In my Bible the chapter is given the title 'The Violation of Dinah'.

The author creates her story from this chapter (and she says she was aided by midrash in her storytelling, but gives no references, so I can't tell you what she got from where. Fiction, though, so remember that and give her space.). The novel runs from before Dinah's birth to her death, and the story of her 'violation' is not the central part of the novel. It's about her whole life, though that period is, of course, covered. However, in Mrs. Diamant's story, it was not rape, and her brothers committed terrible crimes when they descended on the city and murdered and raped and stole. (In fact, Dinah mentions, many years after the fact, that her father's name, Jacob, had become synonymous with 'liar' because of the slaughter, and that's why he had changed his name to Isra'el.) But all that comes much later in the story.

We start (before Dinah is born), with the story of how her father and mothers met and married. It follows the Biblical story, Jacob meeting Rachel at the well, offering his service to Laban for her hand, and being 'tricked' into marrying Leah first, instead. However, the details (wherein the devil resides) are a bit changed. I like the fact that Leah is not treated as the 'ugly', undesirable sister, but rather, beautiful herself (though exceptionally tall, apparently), and the 'weakness in her eyes', was not that she couldn't see, but that they were two different colors (one blue, one green) which made most people look away from her (her eyes causing *them* to be weak, see?). She becomes infatuated with Jacob when he meets her eyes and doesn't flinch away. So, roll on to the wedding, through the manipulation of Zilpah (who is a sister to Leah and Rachel through one of Laban's slaves, as is Bilhah), Rachel is afraid of lying with Jacob, and Leah takes pity on her, even though she's convinced that Jacob will have to know it's Leah and reject her, and thus 'ruin' her. Now, in the story, Leah is *much* taller than Rachel, and bigger, more muscular. Veil or no veil, Jacob knew it wasn't Rachel he was marrying. But, in this story, Jacob had fallen for *both* the sisters, and married Leah willingly. They hatch the scheme, together, during their 'honeymoon' of seven days, for Jacob to come out of the tent and accuse Laban of tricking him, and demand Zilpah as dowry for Leah, and to be given Rachel as his wife for seven more months of labor. (Which, since Laban is portrayed as a drunk, he winds up agreeing to, because *he* was too drunk to realize the wrong daughter was getting married...)
Anyway. It's interesting, Rachel is portrayed as jealous of Leah and Jacob's relationship. Because, even though she's the pretty one, the one he wanted to marry, Leah and Jacob have the better relationship. They laugh together, they enjoy one another, whereas Rachel views her nights with Jacob as a duty, and Leah a joy. And when Leah keeps having children, and Rachel keeps miscarrying...well. Dinah does mention, many times, that her mother Leah and her aunt-mother Rachel never speak directly to each other - they speak through their handmaids, the other wives, Bilhah and Zilpah, or through other women. And this, as far as she knows, goes on until Rachel's death. They live together, they work together, and when needed help one another, but they can't quite seem to forgive one another for each having a part of Jacob.

I like this much better than the previous book I read that covered the relationship between Jacob and Rachel and Leah, because Leah is not portrayed as a victim, as the poor, suffering, wronged girl. She lives a good life, in this book - her husband loves her, differently than he loves Rachel, or Bilhah, or even Zilpah, but he *does* love them all. It doesn't make him perfect, because he *does* screw up, but then, so do all of them. It's a good book - the characters are realistic. They're *human*, and you can almost picture this as being 'between the lines' of the Biblical stories.

Now - if you don't want to read about the continued practice of goddess worship in Biblical figures (not Jacob, but his wives), don't read the book. If hints about certain characters performing acts of grievous wrong to sheep bother you (Laban, nameless boys), don't read the book. Or squint when it comes up, because it's brief and then gone. And if subtle hints about the sexual preferences of a major Biblical figure (Joseph) bother you, look away towards the end of the book. But, even given all of that, I loved this book, and would recommend it to anyone who can keep the distinction between history and historical fiction straight.

Friday, January 1, 2010

HAPPY NEW YEARS!!!!!!!!! and 2009 book final count

My final count on books read in 2009 is 135. For a list, see below:

1. Living with the Dead - Kelley Armstrong
2. Wish You Were Here - Rita Mae Brown
3. Rest in Pieces - Rita Mae Brown (1/7/09)
4. Murder at Monticello - Rita Mae Brown (1/9/09)
5. Pay Dirt - Rita Mae Brown (1/11/09)
6. Murder, She Meowed – Rita Mae Brown (1/14/09)
7. Hot Cops – Shane Allison (ed) (1/15/09)
8. Murder on the Prowl – Rita Mae Brown (1/16/09)
9. Cat on the Scent – Rita Mae Brown (1/19/09)
10. Pawing Through the Past – Rita Mae Brown (1/21/09)
11. Catch as Cat Can – Rita Mae Brown (1/30/09)
12. The Tail of the Tip-Off – Rita Mae Brown
13. Whisker of Evil – Rita Mae Brown (2/5/09)
14. Men of the Otherworld – Kelley Armstrong (2/6/09)
15. The Lost Temple of Karttikeya – Laura Baumbach (2/7/09)
16. Roughhousing – Laura Baumbach (2/10/09)
17. Out There in the Night – Laura Baumbach (2/10/09)
18. Furies of Calderon – Jim Butcher (2/17/09)
19. Academ’s Fury – Jim Butcher (2/20/09)
20. Catechism of the Catholic Church (2/21/09)
21. Cursor’s Fury – Jim Butcher (2/24/09)
22. Living Islam Out Loud – Saleemah Abdul-Ghafur (ed) (2/25/09)
23. In the Land of Invisible Women – Qanta A. Ahmed, M.D. (2/28/09)
24. The Caged Virgin – Ayaan Hirsi Ali (3/5/09)
25. Infidel – Ayaan Hirsi Ali (3/11/09)
26. An Exorcist Tells His Story – Gabriele Amorth (3/17/09)
27. Captain’s Fury – Jim Butcher (4/10/09)
28. Princeps’ Fury – Jim Butcher (4/14/09)
29. Tangled Webs – Anne Bishop (4/15/09)
30. Welcome to the Jungle – Jim Butcher (4/16/09)
31. Storm Front – Jim Butcher (4/25/09)
32. Caged Slave – Yuiko Takamura (5/2/09)
33. Qur’an – Abdullah Yusuf Ali (trans.) (5/9/09)
34. Fool Moon – Jim Butcher (5/10/09)
35. Happy Hour at Casa Dracula – Marta Acosta (5/14/09)
36. Grave Peril – Jim Butcher (5/30/09)
37. The Orthodox Church – Kallistos Ware (6/1/09)
38. Dragon Actually – G.A. Aiken – (6/3/09)
39. The Orthodox Way – Kallistos Ware (6/8/09)
40. Summer Knight – Jim Butcher (6/14/09)
41. Storm Front Vol. 1: The Gathering Storm – Jim Butcher (6/15/09)
42. The Pretend Wife – Bridget Asher (6/16/09)
43. Blood Rites – Jim Butcher (6/27/09)
44. Tempt Me With Darkness – Shayla Black (6/27/09)
45. Dead Beat – Jim Butcher (7/1/09)
46. Proven Guilty – Jim Butcher (7/3/09)
47. White Night – Jim Butcher (7/4/09)
48. Small Favor – Jim Butcher (7/5/09)
49. Backup – Jim Butcher (7/5/09)
50. Mean Streets – (anth.) Jim Butcher (7/7/09)
51. Turn Coat – Jim Butcher (7/8/09)
52. The Sacred Bones – Michael Byrnes (7/10/09)
53. Sarah – Orson Scott Card (7/12/09)
54. Rebekah – Orson Scott Card (7/13/09)
55. Rachel & Leah – Orson Scott Card (7/14/09)
56. Kushiel’s Dart – Jacqueline Carey (7/19/09)
57. Kushiel’s Chosen – Jacqueline Carey (7/22/09)
58. Kushiel’s Avatar – Jacqueline Carey (8/1/09)
59. An Exorcist: More Stories – Fr. Gabriele Amorth (8/6/09)
60. Kushiel’s Scion – Jacqueline Carey (8/15/09)
61. Kushiel’s Justice – Jacqueline Carey (8/19/09)
62. Kushiel’s Mercy – Jacqueline Carey (8/23/09)
63. Naamah’s Kiss – Jacqueline Carey (8/24/09)
64. Santa Olivia – Jacqueline Carey (8/26/09)
65. The Devil You Know – Mike Carey (9/7/09)
66. Vicious Circle – Mike Carey (9/9/09)
67. The Accidental Human – Dakota Cassidy (9/10/09)
68. Let Us Attend – Fr. Lawrence Farley (9/22/09)
69. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay – Michael Chabon (9/24/09)
70. The Lost Symbol – Dan Brown (9/30/09)
71. Dead Men’s Boots –Mike Carey (10/3/09)
72. Murder in the Raw – C.S. Challinor (10/3/09)
73. Sea Dragon Heir – Storm Constantine (10/7/09)
74. The Thorn Boy & Other Dreams of Dark Desire – Storm Constantine (10/10/09)
75. Wraeththu – Storm Constantine (10/11/09)
76. Star Trek – Alan Dean Foster (10/13/09)
77. Frostbitten – Kelley Armstrong (10/16/09)
78. Sharpe’s Tiger – Bernard Cornwell (10/19/09)
79. Sharpe’s Triumph – Bernard Cornwell (10/22/09)
80. Thicker Than Water – Mike Carey (10/26/09)
81. The Naming of the Beasts – Mike Carey (10/28/09)
82. Sharpe’s Fortress – Bernard Cornwell (10/29/09)
83. Sharpe’s Trafalgar – Bernard Cornwell (10/30/09)
84. 52 – Greg Cox (10/31/09)
85. Iron Man – Peter David (10/31/09)
86. Catering to Nobody – Diane Mott Davidson (11/1/09)
87. New Moon – Stephenie Meyer (11/4/09)
88. Dying for Chocolate – Diane Mott Davidson (11/5/09)
89. The Cereal Murders – Diane Mott Davidson (11/7/09)
90. The Last Suppers – Diane Mott Davidson (11/9/09)
91. Killer Pancake – Diane Mott Davidson (11/12/09)
92. The Main Corpse – Diane Mott Davidson (11/16/09)
93. The Grilling Season – Diane Mott Davidson (11/19/09)
94. Bread & Water, Wine & Oil: An Orthodox Christian Experience of God – Archimandrite Meletios Webber (11/21/09)
95. Prime Cut – Diane Mott Davidson (11/21/09)
96. Tough Cookie – Diane Mott Davidson (11/22/09)
97. Sticks & Scones – Diane Mott Davidson (11/25/09)
98. Chopping Spree – Diane Mott Davidson (11/27/09)
99. Double Shot – Diane Mott Davidson (11/29/09)
100. First Lord’s Fury – Jim Butcher (12/01/09)
101. Burning Alive – Shannon K. Butcher (12/01/09)
102. Anything Goes – John Barrowman (12/02/09)
103. The Didache: Text, Translation, Analysis and Commentary – Aaron Milavec (12/04/09)
104. Eclipse – Stephenie Meyer (12/05/09)
105. The Face Behind the Veil – Donna Gehrke-White (12/07/09)
106. Dark Tort – Diane Mott Davidson (12/09/09)
107. Ghost in the Mirror – Leslie Rule (12/10/09)
108. Breaking Dawn – Stephenie Meyer (12/12/09)
109. Heart Full of Lies – Ann Rule (12/13/09)
110. Sweet Revenge – Diane Mott Davidson (12/13/09)
111. Abraham’s Children – Jon Entine (12/14/09)
112. Dead Over Heels – Mary Janice Davidson (12/14/09)
113. Demon’s Delight – Mary Janice Davidson (12/14/09)
114. Sleeping with the Fishes – Mary Janice Davidson (12/15/09)
115. Swimming Without a Net – Mary Janice Davidson (12/16/09)
116. Fish Out of Water – Mary Janice Davidson (12/17/09)
117. Hello, Gorgeous – Mary Janice Davidson (12/18/09)
118. Drop Dead, Gorgeous – Mary Janice Davidson (12/20/09)
119. Mysteria – Mary Janice Davidson (12/22/09)
120. Undead and Unwed – Mary Janice Davidson (12/23/09)
121. Cravings – Mary Janice Davidson (12/24/09)
122. Undead and Unemployed – Mary Janice Davidson (12/24/09)
123. Undead and Unappreciated – Mary Janice Davidson (12/24/09)
124. Undead and Unreturnable – Mary Janice Davidson (12/25/09)
125. Undead and Unpopular – Mary Janice Davidson (12/25/09)
126. Undead and Uneasy – Mary Janice Davidson (12/25/09)
127. Undead and Unworthy – Mary Janice Davidson (12/26/09)
128. Really Unusual Bad Boys – Mary Janice Davidson (12/26/09)
129. The Royal Treatment – Mary Janice Davidson (12/27/09)
130. The Royal Pain – Mary Janice Davidson (12/28/09)
131. The Royal Mess – Mary Janice Davidson (12/28/09)
132. Dead and Loving It – Mary Janice Davidson (12/29/09)
133. Derik’s Bane – Mary Janice Davidson (12/30/09)
134. Secrets Vol. 6 – Mary Janice Davidson (12/31/09)
135. Secrets Vol. 8 – Mary Janice Davidson (12/31/09)

This year (2010, for those not paying attention), we will include my manga tankoubon, because I think they should count. But not comics or magazines, cause that would just be *silly.*
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