Regular Love vs Psychic Love?

Flier listing various services offered by a psychicSo, this is a first.  We’ve had our share of Christian proselytizers of various denominations around these parts, but never an advert for our local psychic.

Found this flier hanging on my door this afternoon.  Our yard is a bit of a mess, so I suppose it’s fine to assume that our spirits, loves, and auras could use a good once-over too, perhaps.

Maybe I’m being a bit pedantic here, but I think if I were going in for love spells, I’d like my intended target not to be psychic.  A bit of mystery keeps the magic in the relationship, right?

From Around the Web: 9 May 2017

A few links of interest from around the web:

  • Climate change fiction: Jonathan Strahan and Gary K. Wolfe talk with Kim Stanley Robinson about climate change and his new novel New York 2140  (Episode 305: Kim Stanley Robinson and the Drowning of New York)
  • Gender and (TV) SF, from The Guardian: “The final frontier: how sci-fi is becoming less male
  • And Robots in Space!, from Astronomy Cast: “When you think of a robot, you’re probably imagining some kind of human-shaped machine. And until now, the robotic spacecraft we’ve sent out into space to help us explore the Solar System look nothing like that. But that vision of robots is coming back, thanks to a few new robots in development by NASA and other groups. “

Redbud in Bloom

redbud tree bloomingSpring sprung up a bit early around here.  The altheas came out first in mid-February, which seemed too early.  A desert willow that I feared had died last year came out a couple weeks ago, too.

Here’s an attempt at a picture of the redbud tree nearby, behind which is an elm that has been gracing us with quite a bit of pollen of late.

My attempts at gardening with annuals always seems to fail–far too many critters around here end up eating what I plant.  Ah, well.  Maybe I should say I’m growing the odd assortment of small birds, muscovies, and squirrels?

From Around the Web: 20 February 2017

A few links of interest from around the web:

  • From still eating oranges, “The significance of plot without conflict“: ‘The necessity of conflict [in stories] is preached as a kind of dogma by contemporary writers’ workshops and Internet “guides” to writing. A plot without conflict is considered dull; some even go so far as to call it impossible. This has influenced not only fiction, but writing in general–arguably even philosophy. Yet, is there any truth to this belief? Does plot necessarily hinge on conflict? No. Such claims are a product of the West’s insularity.”  This post is from a few years ago, but in a time when all is conflict, it seems, it’s an interesting way to look at narratives.
  • A poem from SF author Mary Anne Mohanraj:  “A Valentine for my Country, in the Time of Trump.
  • And an escape. One of the best snarky descriptions of the current US political situation would come from the BBC, wouldn’t it?  From last Friday’s News Quiz: “The wonky-wheeled shopping trolley full of flaming skulls that is the Trump administration.”  Indeed.

Fundraiser for DFW Detained

The attorneys who assisted the travelers detained by Trump’s “Travel Ban” at the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport are asking for help in maintaining a space to continue their work.  From the DFW Detained GoFundMe page:

These funds will be used to secure meeting space at DFW International Airport and puchase necessary supplies. NOT ONE DOLLAR of the money raised will be used to compensate the attorneys involved, who are donating their time and talents to this humanitarian effort.  Any funds which are leftover after our work concludes will be donated to ACLU.

Chip in if you can.  And if you know of similar calls for funds from around the nation, feel free to post in the comments.

From Around the Web: 24 January 2017

Here are a few links from around these parts and around the web:

  • After this weekend’s Women’s Marches, I’d hoped to see more concrete steps from the organizers that we could take to carry forward the momentum.  Glad to see their 10 Actions, 100 Days campaign.  I’m getting my postcards ready for later this week (along with more letters).
  • And you’ve probably already seen a number of posts around FtB about the Go Fund Me page for the Carrier suit.  Chip in if you can.
  • Let’s end with a distraction.  Series 15 of the BBC Radio 4 program The Infinite Monkey Cage is under way.  Science!  Comedy!  Goodness!

Reading Group: The Left Hand of Darkness

The first time I read Ursula K. LeGuin’s The Left Hand of Darkness years ago, I focused on the way in which gender, sex, and sexuality were portrayed in the novel and how they affected the ways in which the off-world envoy, Genly Ai, interacted with the people of Gethen.

This time around, I was primed to read the novel with a view to politics.  The Left Hand of Darkness is a novel about gender, but it’s also an exploration of governments and their machinations, and how those involved in politics can destroy one another for personal gain.

As I noted in an an earlier post, Estraven’s view of patriotism is a dark one.  Later in the novel, Ai meditates on the views of this former prime minister of Karhide:

And I wondered, not for the first time, what patriotism is, what the love of country truly consists of, and how that yearning loyalty the had shaken my friend’s voice arises, and how so real a love can become, too often, so foolish and vile a bigotry.  Where does it go wrong? p. 300

Though Estraven is proclaimed a traitor by his political enemies, we see that he is far from it.  Rather, his attempts to prevent war between Karhide and Orgoreyn– as well as his belief in Ai’s mission–that appear to work against the sovereignty and strength of Karhide are acts of loyalty to the nation.

But even this exploration of patriotism wasn’t the most poignant and politically relevant section in my reading.  Instead, it’s when Ai is jailed, and he is languishing after interrogations near a dying fellow prisoner in Pulefen Farm in the bureaucratic nation of Orgoreyn.   For days, Ai and Asra share tales from their respective homelands.  Ai reveals the differences between the genders and sexual expressions of the people of his planet and those of Gethen:

A night or two after that, he went into a coma, and presently died.  I had not learned what he had been sent to the Voluntary Farm for, what crime or fault or irregularity in his identification papers […..] p. 197

It’s easy to read the second line in light of Texas Senate Bill 6, the “Bathroom Bill,” which, if passed, would legislate use of bathrooms based on biological sex, which the bill defines as follows:

“Biological sex” means the physical condition of being male or female, which is stated on a person’s birth certificate.

Are we facing a time when birth certificates becomes identity papers of a sort?  Ones that are not only descriptive, but that help legislate a type of patriotic ideal?  What unnerves me about politics in the US at present and the supposed “greatness” national and in some cases, state, governments aim for is that this “greatness” implies a homogeneity within the population.  To be patriotic, to love and serve this great nation, implies that one must look like, must act like a patriot.  Any deviation from this “norm” is not merely a personal matter; rather, it’s an affront to the nation.  It’s criminal.  And this is where the purported love of country turns into “so foolish and vile a bigotry.”

As LeGuin asserts in her 1976 introduction to the novel, “Science fiction is not predictive; it is descriptive.”  That is, SF functions as a way to for the author to present a critique of the world as it is through the lens of speculation and metaphor.  So too the reader brings their present to the imagined future.

Climate Change is Real, Y’all

After the last few days of confirmation hearings, I’m wondering if something’s in the water, or in the environment anyway.  Anyone else think it’s odd that climate change deniers Scott Pruitt, Ryan Zinke, and Rick Perry have all changed course on their total skepticism about anthropogenic global warming?

One can hope that it’s because they’re listening to scientists on this issue.  But I fear other forces may have contributed to these reversals.  I suppose we’ll find out when we see what policies are put into place by the agencies they’ve been nominated to head, and, ultimately, who those policies favor.

Open Book for 19 January 2017

Most recent stack of letters that went out to elected officials.

The most recent stack of letters that went out to elected officials yesterday.  Yes, that’s a Star Trek stamp above the New Horizons stamp. 

Though I’ve been writing quite a bit lately, the bulk of what I’ve written has been to my elected officials regarding the confirmation hearings and the Affordable Care Act, among other things.  The same for reading: it’s all been about proposed bills and potentially disastrous nominees.

That said, I am trying to read more poems, especially political poems.  There’s something energizing about political poems that manage to capture both the urgency of the situation as well as the personal, even if the speaker of the poem isn’t the author.  So it was with this morning’s poem from Rattle, Abby E. Murray’s “Poem for My Daughter Before the March.”

Which brings me to the first of the Open Book posts, in which I ask, “What are you reading?”

From the Archive: Space, Science, Stamps, and Storytelling

Just used up the last of my stamps on letters to elected officials.  Time to order more.  This freethinkingahead.com post on postage stamps is from January 2016.  I’ll order more flag stamps, given my audience.  Though I have thought about going with Wonder Woman next time….

Admission: I buy far more postage stamps than I’ll ever need for the cards and letters I mail. Something about the imagery—these neat presentations of nature and history and culture—combined with the utility of stamps makes them irresistible. To me, anyway. So, of course, I was excited to see the preview of the USPS’s 2016 stamps, specifically the ones that feature present and former planets and the moon.

Messenger stamps, still unopened

Mercury Messenger stamps, still unopened

The images on these stamps are fascinating, but the visuals interested me less than what I’m hoping their presence signals. Given that many in the US Congress engage is so much science denial, for instance, it’s good to see images of the eight planets and Pluto accompanied by information on the missions and technology that made these images possible. We as citizens need to support this sort of research. And putting eye-catching representations of the results of that research on something as public as stamps will, I hope, bring this need to our collective attention, if in a small way.

Here’s where you’re probably wondering why I’m writing about something as trivial as postage stamps, even if they can promote the wonders of science. Letter writing is essentially a luxury hobby engaged in by a rather small subset of the US population. And most stamps won’t be used for letters but for mailing bills and other business correspondence in circumstances wherein the imagery most likely won’t be noticed.

That said, let’s look at another of the 2016 stamps: those celebrating Star Trek. Yes, Star Trek is science fiction, not science. It’s become part of our national mythos, part of the story that we tell about ourselves as Americans. We’re willing and able to go to the moon; we’re contemplating going to Mars. Why not further out? Why not work—peacefully, with other nations, with a focus on discovery—toward the sort of future Star Trek allows us to imagine ourselves in?

This story telling is the sort of conscientious activity that letter writing is: we craft who we are, who we want to be. Sticking a stamp on a letter may be a minor part of that process, but it is very much a part of it. So yes, there are postage stamps with images of planets and information on how those images were obtained, and that’s a good start. But it’s not enough. Quite often, people deny scientific claims for religious reasons, and religions abound with stories that their respective followers can find themselves in. Anecdotes function in much the same way to promote unfounded health claims. What we need as a nation is more ways of getting ourselves individually and collectively into the stories science tells us.

Can a postage stamp do that? Probably not. But it’s a start.