Wednesday, February 17, 2010

spiritual warfare

came across an article on a movie (Legion) i hadn't heard about. not that i have any desire to actaully go see it but i'm hoping the film talk boys review this. should make for an entertaining discussion. but it's the title of the article that did it for me. brilliant.

(if you actually go read it, note: it contains 'adult' language from the start.)

Mauled by an Angel: Why Do Americans Need “God’s Secret Agents”? | Media/Culture | ReligionDispatches

Thursday, February 11, 2010

compassion in action

an important update...

the appropriate links are:

Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe: CRST 2010 Disaster Relief

Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Storm Relief - Emergency Assistance 
they are continuing to take cash donations and also will accept non-cash gifts such as warm clothing and non-perishables. details on the site.

Native American Heritage Association

“I know there are hard economic times across the country and those who are able continue to respond with prayers, money and muscle to help our neighbors in Haiti.  I find myself in the humble position of appealing for your support in our time of emergency.  I would not ask you for assistance unless I was confident we are doing all we can.  We are.” 
-- Tribal Chairman Joseph Brings Plenty, Cheyenne River Sioux, Eagle Butte, South Dakota, 01 February 2010 (Tribal leaders declared a state of emergency on 27 January.)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

hope n change

"How's that hopey, changey stuff workin' out for ya?"

- Sarah Palin, Saturday 6 February 2010, Nashville TN

A political attack this may be, but on a broader level, fewer words strike me as more cynical. Who would choose to speak out with such snide disparagement against hope and change? To mock hope is to do violence to the human soul. I didn't think anything at the tea party convention in Nashville could be more offensive than Tom Tancredo's speech on Friday night and yet i've been wondering if I was wrong. A different kind of offense, but offense nonetheless.
This strikes me as cynicism one needs to resist beyond mere party politics. But not with aggression or yet more cynicism. Rather, mindful of the very tradition out of which that campaign of hope and change came. That tradition is the very civil rights movement that worked to challenge and overturn the injustice of the Jim Crow days to which Tancredo and the tea party audience who gathered in Nashville would apparently like to return.
On Sunday night I watched the behind-the-scenes HBO documentary, By the People: The Election of Barack Obama simply to be reminded of the specific hope and change Palin was attacking and the ongoing legacy of the civil rights movement that brought so many people out to vote in November '08.

Seeking a broader sense of resistance to cynicism I finally got around to reading The Charter for Compassion, started by Karen Armstrong and launched last November. I reflected on it, affirmed it and share it here. It's available in English, Spanish, Hebrew and Arabic:

or hear it in English:


If you're looking for some really reasoned and reasonable conversation between people with opposing ideas on contemporary issues, you'd do a lot worse than checking out there's a range of podcasts to choose from and I'm currently really enjoying the "audio of the week" podcast. The level of conversation is amazing on some of them. There's a commitment to explore the range of opinions on any given topic and to try and get the conversations to a place beyond discursive warfare.


The feminist I

This desiring for voices of hopefulness comes in a week in which I've been resisting and wrestling the tension that exists in some of the work I'm doing - having to accept that I won't be able to reconcile the text I'm working on. Which is what makes the text so interesting - that very tension makes it a site of energy. But I have found that intellectual exploration an emotional experience.

Part of feminist academic principles is that one rejects the idea of an assumed academic, scientific or social objectivity. One has to expose one's subjectivity, place oneself at the heart of any debate and reveal rather than conceal bias or privilege - the impact of the self on research and enquiry. This reflexive act, known as the 'feminist I", is to be put on the page, sometimes explicitly, other times implicitly. Rather than pretending one is writing about the world as it is, one must acknowledge one is writing about the world as one finds it from where one stands, limited by a subjective perspective and a range of privileges.
But this feminist "I" has another function. It speaks to the tradition of the personal as political. It links the self and experience to any given issue, requiring us to see ourselves in the work and be open to transformation - to acknowledge that one's ideas transform and change as one learns and writes. If feminist work is meant to seek liberation, then that starts with the personal - with the I. With me.
And there's a third. This concept of the I pushes us to write about our passions. To work on themes and issues that we care about, that link with our own narrative, or indeed to find the link. One is consistently being pulled back from the abstract. (This also of course requires the balance of that reflexive observance in that first function.)
If one is going to have to write oneself into the text, one might as well write about something one connects with, feels affected by, wants to see progress or change in. All of this makes the theory real. It injects energy and emotion as one attempts to bring the whole self to the page.

It's not only liberating, but challenging. One can't hide behind some 'intellectual' voice of reason. One must research and write from the self. For all the energy it can inject into one's writing, it is also requires one to really engage with other texts. To stand inside one's reasoning and really own it.

As I engage with a text I know I will not be able to reconcile to itself, or to myself, I must accept the tension as well as the energy. To write with hope is to be mindful of history. History tells us that things have changed. This means they can and will change again. If meanings, culture and identity are unstable, then there is always the possibility of transformation for the better. There is a real artistic spirit to this... just as the artist stands before a canvas or block of clay or in an empty space and has to embrace not knowing what one wants to create (even if only for a moment), here too in an academic context, embracing instablity, insecurity, ambiguity, complexity and vulnerability one can find new paths of creativity and insight - and hope.

The is a relief in not knowing and not having answers if one is open to the insecurity of it. Suddenly, instead of one elusive answer, there are limitless possibilities for transformation.  


A humanitarian emergency in need of urgent attention

For information on the crisis on the the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Reservation in South Dakota see this video from Olbermann. Props to him for saying something... 

Donations to the relief effort can be made by clicking here on the razoo page mentioned in the video above. i can't speak to facebook or twitter but those who use them might be able to spread the word there too or via good ol' fashioned email.


That hopey, changey stuff? I don't think we have a choice. I believe it's what we're called to by virtue of being human and thus being interdependent.


Sunday, February 07, 2010

things fall apart... mere anarchy is loosed

**spoiler warning** if you've not read V for Vendetta and don't want a _major_ spoiler, look away now and don't read the rest of this post... 

so. i got the green light of encouragement to pursue my key area of interest at school this semester and over the summer. a meeting with my supervisor the other day went brilliantly and i came home armed with a big pile of books to get started on shaping my bibliography. for the next six or seven months across a series of papers, including my thesis, much of my time is going to be spent exploring some of the following themes and/or others:

psychoanalytic feminism -- feminist literary and art criticisms -- the gendered identity of political ideology -- queer voices as agents of change -- gender masks -- theatricality and camp -- anarchy vs fascism -- sadomasochism -- gender as performance -- violence as gendered performance -- love -- torture -- redemption -- gender transformation -- the rejection of the gendered self -- feminist ethics about violence -- etc.

right now that's a vast mixed bag, which will progressively get narrower and more particular. but the thrilling bit for me is this: as a site for looking at these issues, i'm going to be immersed in the world of comics and very specifically writing about what we might be experiencing as a young woman called Evey Hammond,

is transformed into this:


Joel is (not surprisingly, for those who know him) rather thrilled that his gal is reading comics for school. He found this 1983 article by Alan Moore for me: Invisible Girls and Phantom Ladies: Sexism in Comics. (click on the pics at that link to open up readable pdf versions of each page) Makes for fascinating reading. And by fascinating I mean as outspoken and ambivalent and problematic as V.

rubs her geeky hands gleefully...
bring it.

Friday, February 05, 2010

in a lopsided world...

If The Vagina Monologues encourages women to connect to and celebrate their sexuality, desire and physicality then Eve Ensler has shifted her focus with her latest work, I am an Emotional Creature: The Secret Life of Girls Around the World, to exploring the emotional self and being called into one's power and pleasure through the voices of teenage girls she has met. I'm looking forward to getting my mitts on the full text.

Joel was recommended this week's NPR On Point with Tom Ashbrook interview with Eve and promptly brought it to my attention. It's a great piece of radio and unsurprisingly caused a lot of listener reaction. You can hear the interview here and the 2 featured monologues she performed for the show are posted as separate audio files here.

Yesterday I encountered the work of NZ feminist author and women's human rights activist Marilyn Waring in the Canadian film, Who's Counting? Marilyn Waring on Sex, Lies and Global Economics. you can watch it here. There are several points of connection between her thesis and Ensler's.
There is a edited-for-radio audio-only version of this 1995 documentary here. i recommend the full-length film version if you can make the time. Still shockingly pertinent 15 years on. She has a commitment to only using comprehensible language when exploring economics and exposes the problem of work that is considered "women's work" is also considered unimportant and unproductive to a economy. She explores the value in measuring 'time use' and the environmental impact of global economic principles based purely on 'growth'. 

Deeply grateful for both these women.


Thursday, February 04, 2010

nature goes wild, human wastes half an hour

i think this Tumbleweed Invasion is my favourite mental health break ever on the Dish. a delight to watch and hear. highly recommended.

a spot of browsing of related videos as i drank my morning coffee then produced this Australian tumbleweed tornado and that led to crazy footage in a storm and then a cruise ship got caught in a cyclone. hold on to your breakfast. seriously.
the nausea was slightly tempered by the stream of associative google ads. here's a grab of the *ahem* pitch. sorry. couldn't resist the pun. sorry.

(passenger video footage from inside the ship here)

oh, while i'm here. Brook - you wanted to know what "film talk 104" was awhiles back. apologies for belated answer. see right hand side bar - blogs i'm following - there's a link to the film talk. or click here. "104" referred to the 104th episode. available to live stream on the blog or as a free podcast on itunes. it's good stuff.


Wednesday, February 03, 2010

"when the book's wrong..."

thanks to Shirley for highlighting this post over at Paul Cornell's blog on being out of the closet as a liberal British Christian against homophobia and one who feels his voice is lost amid the clamour in the media over the equality bill vote in the House of Lords. impassioned stuff this. he's started a twitter hashtag - #godlyforequality
it's currently spreading the tweet:
I'm a religious person, and I'm *for* LGBT rights. RT if you are too. Many of us. No voice.

if that's you, and you're the twittering type, you might wanna join in.


on not entirely unrelated matters, there's a superb piece critiquing the "definitional argument" against marriage equality at the Independent Gay Forum. (hat tip to The Dish.)
i'm meeting with my lecturers today to discuss the papers i'm going to write this semester. in one i'm probably going to explore what is termed the  "intersection" between masculinities* and homosexuality, particularly in popular culture and media in the past year in the US. this piece has gone straight directly into my research file.

*(i'm doing Women's Studies and i took an elective last semester on the Equality programme on Masculinities, which, i confess, before i went back to school i didn't even know was a subject. but it is. and a fascinating and provocative one. and one heavily influenced by feminist theory. and was an opportunity to be in a classroom with men in it. i'm sure i lose some feminist stripes for saying that. RIP Mary Daly.)


while i'm here, i'll also flag Channel 4's new series, The Bible: A History. (this follows their series, Christianity: A History. <-- that's still available in its entirety to viewers in Britian and Ireland.)
i really enjoyed Howard Jacobson's first episode exploration of Creation in Genesis as he looks for a path between creation literalism and new atheism. you'll find it at the link above.

this series, like the previous one, is looking like it'll have the ability to fascinate and frustrate in equal measure and in moments leave one feeling a bit like Paul Cornell if one holds to a non-literal form of religious belief. but this episode on Creation was one of my favourites so far. possibly because it's less uncomfortable than others, (including Jacobson's episode in Christianity: A History series about Jesus the Jew, which explores the history of Christianity and anti-semitism, and which left me feeling more than a little troubled on a number of fronts). or, i have to admit, maybe because as an author Jacobson reads the Bible as literature and myth this just confirms my own beliefs or readings. we're always looking for someone to confirm our own bias. he's looking for a way to release the poetry of the creation story from absolutes of belief and doubt. ("The creation myth and science are on entirely different errands.")
and i guess i am just glad that there's increasingly more of this stuff out there exploring a third path between theism and atheism in the public square. well worth your time if you're on this side of the pond and into that kind of thing.

right, must get in gear,


Tuesday, February 02, 2010

quick update

quick note to say all is good.

i have been distracted since i got back. hence lack of posts. January and the return to Dublin brought with it a new school term, adjusting to a totally different timetable and new classes that i am so far loving and getting my teeth into.

it also brought the first stage of the visa application. my bit of that is now done and with a massive piece of work for TSU out of the way, (well done, Dr! i'm very proud of you) Joel is going to compile my stuff and his and get it all submitted very soon. and then we wait. it'll be months of wait so please don't come asking. as soon as i know something i'll say. until then, i want to put it out of my mind and the only deadlines i'm going to think about are Joel's spring visit, his summer months here with me (dear Lord, how heavenly that will be. weeks of sharing space and the same timezone) and various academic dates, most notably the 19th august - my MA thesis deadline.

so for now, all other bridges and procedures for crossing them can wait til they happen. right now i am working very hard on living in the present. i don't want to lose this year to constant thoughts about the future and all that lies ahead. it's far too stressful dealing with unknowns. so for now, joel and i are focussing on being the best partners we can possibly be to one another despite the miles between us and enjoying each day being as together as we can possibly be. and most days i think we are doing a pretty good job of holding it together and loving one another really well out of our best selves.

i found the second half of January an emotional couple of weeks. the amazingness of the holidays with family and friends, the joy of our engagement, the mutual longing that comes with long distance and the sheer immensity of what it means to be emigrating for the second time in my life finally caught up with me. it brought up a lot of feelings i didn't realise were sitting there needing to be felt. last week saw me frequently getting teary at random and not so random moments. but i've breathed through it and had no meltdowns. instead i just put the brakes on and have been taking one day at time as i've tried to let a lot of mixed emotions bubble up to the surface and be released as needed.
i took a weekend break up to see Jayne and caught up with Pád, Beth, Mark and Sara too. it was lovely to curl up on the sofa and feel the comfort of friendship. Jayne and i had lots of lovely chat, ate lots of yummy biscuits under blankets and watched Where The Wild Things Are. i loved it. and Pád gave me a dvd box set of Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys shows from the '70s. we watched a couple of episodes of that too. big hair. very. big hair.

tonight, for only the second time since i got back from the US, the water pressure in this corner of Dublin isn't being reduced overnight. hurrah. thanks to the ongoing repairs to the broken and strained water system, i'm now very used to being without running water between 7pm and 11am and it looks set to continue for weeks if not months. one's daily ability to flush the loo, run taps and shower, launder clothes is currently controlled by the dramatic sounding but actually mundane DLR emergency updates blog link over there (--->) on the right hand side bar. so for once i'm going to ignore the requests to conserve water and enjoy the chance for a long deep soak in the tub.

with visa documents sent off i can shift firmly into school work mode. there is a lot to read and write. but my grades so far are giving me confidence that i can do this and i'm aiming to write papers i will enjoy writing wherever possible. i meet with my head of department tomorrow to talk through my pre-Christmas papers and look ahead to the themes for the next lots of papers due in this spring and also my thesis. more on what i plan for the latter to follow once i've had that meeting. so far the department has been pretty receptive and if i get the green light tomorrow to start preparing a proposal on my theme of choice, then this summer will be spent not only in the company of my beloved but researching and writing about... well, you'll just have to wait and see. i don't want to be pre-emptive. by which i mean, jinx it. but as theses go, this is pretty cool stuff. as it's an MA thesis, i'm not going to be able to publish it but it will hopefully be a good grounding for a range of possible avenues i may go down once the course is complete. all of which are creative and potentially very fun. joel is excited as my proposed theme is totally up his alley too. [nope. not Dr Who. :)] so, more on that very soon.

right, where was i? oh, yes. a tub of bubbles is calling. and then i am having fish fingers and beans and chips. because you're never too old to have one of your favourites for tea.

be well.


p.s. sorry to anyone waiting on emails. i'm still ploughing through a backlog.
p.p.s for those wanting photos of my engagement ring, it's coming to dublin with Joel in March (we hope). pics will follow then.