Tuesday, June 26, 2012

I win. So I win. aka Sanil's Study Circle

Announcing, after much pestering (which is just proof that the Stick of Pestering works!), Sanil's Study Circle!

This is going to be a discussion based online class run by Sanil, who as we all know is adorable and clever and full of wonderful knowledge that she is willing to share.

Monday, June 25, 2012

My friend Donna watches TBN in the middle of the night. She's not religious and she doesn't watch the shows during the day, but she says that the movies they show are so gruesome that she can't quite look away. I don't know, I've never watched any of them so I can't judge their relative gruesomeness levels.

But we were sitting in the theater yesterday waiting for Brave to start, and that was fun, trust me, sitting surrounded by kids and their parents and Donna slips out with a 'shit' and I'm just sitting there, elbowing her and trying to sink into my seat. Because of course the one time she decides to curse we're surrounded by *children*. Which is not the point!

So she decides that surrounded by small children is the right time to start a discussion about how at the end of every movie they start talking about how you need Jesus to save you, that his death saves you and how it just makes no sense to her.

And you know what? I got to say, 'No, it makes no sense to me either.' Sure, I can follow the explanations and the rationalizations for what it's supposed to mean and do. But at this point...

Here's the thing. I don't think that I'm a bad or 'sinful' person. I have faults, I have things that I need to do to be a better person, sure. But none of that requires someone, let alone god himself, to die for me. (And what about the distinction that god cannot ever really die anyway?) If anything, the state of my soul and my eventual disposition in whatever afterlife there may be is between me and whatever god(s) may exist.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Better than LKH: Codex Alera by Jim Butcher

I'm not sticking strictly to 'urban' fantasy books, or even those set in modern times. FYI. Basically, this is just me telling you about fantasy novels/series that are *way* better than anything LKH has ever written. So, you know, *everything* else that's ever been written.

What? I'm not bitter. Stop shaking your head at me!

For today's entertainment, I present to you the Codex Alera series by Jim Butcher.

Codex Alera is a six book series that is complete, so if you pick it up you at least know that you can read it from beginning to end without the gnawing, desperate need for *more*, *right now* that has to wait to be fulfilled for a year or two until the next book comes out. Not that that's not it's own brand of fun, mind you, but it's also insanity inducing. The series is more along the lines of high fantasy than anything else.

Okay, so Codex Alera is set on a world called Carna, where several races live in less than harmonious fashion. The Alerans are the main power on Carna and are essentially human but for the fact that each and every one of them has access to great powers through their relationships with elemental creatures known as Furies.

Furies live in everything and can be manipulated into different forms and uses. They've been categorised by the Alerans based on what elements they live in, so you have six different types: earth, wood, fire, air, water, and metal. Some of the furies are tiny and can't be seen, it takes a gathering up of a lot of this type in order to effect any change on the environment. Others are larger and can manifest themselves in various forms. They can cause real damage, when they put their minds to it, or when they're used to do so by an Aleran controlling them. There are also things called the Great Furies which, as only makes sense, are very old, very big, very powerful furies. Most people don't realize that they even exist, though they swear by them. It's more of a cultural habit than anything else.

The story starts in the Calderon Valley, a small and peaceful section of Alera along the border between Alera and their barbarian neighbors the Marat. Tavi is a small for his age apprentice shepherd who has been raised in the Valley by his Aunt Isana and Uncle Bernard (brother and sister, not a couple). He is quick and clever, though still very much a young man who does stupid things to impress girls, and Tavi is the only Aleran *ever* to not have any furies at all.

While out trying to recapture his Uncle Bernard's sheep, who were allowed to wander away and get lost while Tavi was off trying to impress that girl, Tavi is sucked into a plot to topple the First Lord of Alera. He finds himself trapped alone but for a scarred and unreliable slave in the land of the Marat, the people who had attacked and slaughtered the Princeps, the heir to the throne of Alera, years before and who look to be willing to repeat the performance on the First Lord.

Tavi has to use his brains to find a way to escape with his life in order to bring help to his family and the other people in the Valley and to ultimately help save the Empire.

This is just the first book and I'm not going to lie, it gets better and better as the series goes on.

One of my absolutely favorite things about this series is that it features a great variety of people being both good and evil without making one species *evil*. There are good and bad characters in all the different cultures that live on Carna.

I also love that the women are portrayed as being just as strong as the men. Yes, in Aleran society (which is based on and descended from ancient Roman culture), there are expected roles but there are women throughout the series who defy those roles and are working to gain equality with the men.

He shrugged beneath the blanket. “I can’t explain it. We just—we don’t treat our women the same way we do our men.”

“That’s stupid,” said Kitai.

There is some violence, of course, this is a high fantasy swords and armour kind of story after all, but no sexual content. Some characters, over the course of the series, are clearly pairing off and *having* sex, but it's all off screen.

Possible trigger warnings: There is discussion of slavery as it is legal and a large part of the Aleran economy. There is also use of mind control and the fall out from that, the damage that it does to a persons psyche as well as torture. My biggest warning would be that there is mention of rape and intention of certain characters to rape others. Nothing of the sort happens on screen however, and even the references are veiled and non-graphic.

I hate that these are so short but I really don't want to give away plot points and twists.

Monday, June 11, 2012

'Because we could'

David: Why do you think your people made me?

Holloway: We made ya cause we could.

David: Can you imagine how disappointing it would be for you to hear the same thing from your creator?

Okay, I should first admit that I have so many Prometheus feels. The movie is a little heavy handed with the message, yes, I admit that. But I love it anyway. True, I would have liked it a little better with some few changes to bring it in line and make it a true prequel to Alien, but I'm okay with it and honestly, I should turn in my fangirl badge if I can't fanon it into submission. :)

So many things that I loved about this movie, but we'll keep it to just this one quote for the purpose of this post.

This is a scene between David who is an android designed to look like and for the most part imitate humans in order to serve them without weirding them out by looking too 'strange'. He is played, fyi, by the incomparable Michael Fassbender. Here, have a picture:

You're *welcome*.

Needless to say, if you're at all familiar with androids vis a vis science fiction, David is not as emotionless or harmless as the people around him would like to think he is.

But that's not the point! *drags self back on track*

Holloway in this scene is upset because they've travelled across the galaxy to try and find the beings who he and his partner Elizabeth Shaw are convinced created the human race. Unfortunately they arrive to find what appears to be a dead world, with none of the 'Engineers' left alive to answer their questions. David, for reasons that we won't go into at this juncture, is making small talk. Sort of. Seemingly. Like I said, not important for the post! Or, well, maybe it is. But I digress! *stuffs her David feels back in their corner*

David asks this in what is perhaps a hint to Holloway that it's better that the Engineers are all dead, this way they can't fail to live up to Holloway's expectations as humanity has *clearly* failed to live up to David's.

The point, if such a thing can be said to exist in this post, is that my immediate thought about David's question was that I wouldn't be disappointed at all. Who cares why? Would it matter if you found out that humanity was created as an experiment, just to see if it would work?

Admittedly, 'because I could' can go very, very wrong. David. I'm looking at you. Because of *reasons*.

/rambly post

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Sacred Space/Places vs. Sacred Time

So I'm in the middle of reading God is Red by Vine Deloria, Jr. It's mainly an exploration of Native American tribal religion contrasted with Christianity. I'm really, really enjoying this book. There are a lot of things that I just didn't know because Native American religion or culture has never been of any real interest to me.

One thing I found interesting is the distinction he makes between the tribal focus on sacred places as opposed to the Christian focus on events in time.

"American Indians hold their lands - places - as having the highest possible meaning, and all their statements are made with this reference point in mind. Immigrants review the movement of their ancestors across the continent as a steady progression of basically good events and experiences, thereby placing history - time - in the best possible light. When one group is concerned with the philosophical problem of space and the other the philosophical problem of time, then the statements of either group do not make much sense when transferred from one context to the other without the proper consideration." - p. 61-62

The importance, as I understand from what I've read, is not that an event happened at a clearly defined and specified point in time, but that it occurred and that it occurred at a place. The place becomes sacred and is remembered within the culture of the people to whom it is important, and the lessons that were learned from the event and integrated into the lives of the tribe, but it doesn't matter *when* exactly it happened.

So for Christians it is more important to figure out that the earth was created at moment 0 in the universal timeline and that every important event since then fits somewhere neatly on that timeline. Of course placing things on a line like that, with a definitive beginning means that it will, eventually, have a definitive end. Which is where the obsession with the 'end of the world' comes from and why you have so many people trying to predict when it will happen.

It's also part of why, perhaps, Christians are unable to accept tribal (or any other religion) stories as true. They don't fit with the timeline that has been imagined, where the Hebrews and then the Christians are the center of the universe and the focus of all of God's attention.

I'm thinking that the problem of being obsessed with time started when Christianity went from being a specifically Jewish cult (still a tribal religion) to being 'universal'. Once the conversions began, aside from bringing in their own Greek and Roman thinking, the new Christians were part of this religion, but not a part of the tribe that had spawned the religion. They had no connection to the spaces where the sacred events had happened, and weren't exactly accepted as part of the tribe so they had no chance of fostering such a connection.

Another thing I found thought worthy was the impression that Deloria seems to have, that Christians are afraid of dying. If it's true, it is rather confusing. After all, Christians know what's coming after they die. A glorious, resurrected life with God, right? So why do so many of them go to such lengths in order to extend their lives just a little bit longer? Shouldn't they be able to embrace it without fear as the reward that they've been working so hard for?

I don't think that *all* Christians are afraid of death, any more than you could say that all of any group is afraid of anything. But there must be something that has given this impression since as I was reading it my first reaction was, 'Yes. Why is that?'

I mean the example he gives is ridiculous and I don't think it's a very good one. It also fuels my Evangelists are Full of Shit! mindset. He talks about how Oral Roberts went in front of his congregation and told them that God had come to him, very angry, and told him that if he didn't raise $10 million that God would 'call him home'. I have no respect for tv personalities that claim to be doing what God tells them in the first place, but this is rather silly, isn't it? God is extorting money from Oral Roberts, for what, exactly? What does God need $10 million for? I was talking with Heather about this the other night and I joked that maybe it was for back child support. It's ridiculous. God doesn't need money, so why would he care how much money one specific man raises? He wouldn't. If Christianity is utterly, absolutely true then it doesn't matter how much or how little money is used to spread the word. It will be spread and those who would respond to it will. So the only conclusion is that of course the money is for Oral Roberts (or whichever scuzzy televangelist we're talking about) and not for God.

*cough* Anyway...

As Heather said, the conclusion you have to reach is that people, specifically Christians, who *are* afraid of death are clearly not as certain about their salvation or their choice as they like to pretend.

ETA: Susanne reminded me that she read this book last year and did some posts about it, so here you go: God is Red Posts. Don't say I never gave you anything!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...