What Are You Reading These Days?

I’m currently reading All Politics is Local: Why Progressives Must Fight for the States.  How about you?

Midwinter Potpourri

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It’s been climate-crisis warm here lately, but last night, winter returned, which made sent the cats into turbo- snuggle last night. I woke up this morning a little stiff because they had pinned me so tightly on both sides that I don’t think I moved all night. That, to me, is some serious hygge. What makes you feel particularly cozy when it gets cold at night?

Every year, my resolution is something fun I want to learn or try. Some become a permanent (or at least long-term) part of my life (I am an extremely accomplished amateur mixologist), others are transitory (I took trapeze lessons, but I’m not planning to run off and join the circus). Last year’s went swimmingly – I wanted to learn to box, and did, and am still doing it, and just this week, had my first personal training session with one of my favorite coaches to start preparing me to spar later this year. In 2020, I’ll be working on learning Spanish – like second grade level conversational (keeping my expectations in check). What’s something fun you want to learn or try this year?

Elections have consequences, part 1: Did you see Lev Parnas’s interview on Rachel Maddow on Wednesday? Or last night (haven’t watched part 2 yet myself)? He basically seems to have decided, “Fuck it, I’m burning ALL THIS SHIT down.” The only reason we know about ANY of this – the only reason TrumPutin’s Mafia-style attempt to shake down the government of Ukraine didn’t work as planned – was that Dems flipped the House of Representatives in 2018.

Elections have consequences, part 2: The Virginia legislature ratified the ERA this week, becoming the critical 38th state needed for women’s equal rights to be enshrined in the Constitution. There is still work to be done (HAVE YOU CALLED YOUR REP AND SENATORS YET?), but we wouldn’t even be talking about that if Dems hadn’t flipped BOTH Houses of the Virginia legislature this past fall.

Women did that. While the pundits were out interviewing yet another MAGA diehard at yet another diner in the middle of nowhere. While the Rosebros were recording podcasts. Women, as we do, quietly did the work. What are you planning for the 2020 elections? Because, once again, it’s going to be on us to do the work, ladies. Fortunately, we’re up to it.

It’s official: the gig economy is creating the bleak, dystopian future libertarians seem to want. I hate to be that person who says “I told you so” but….

I’m slowly making my way through Zenyep Tufekci‘s dense Twitter and Teargas, which looks at how social media has shaped and influenced – for good and ill – recent social mass movements. What are you reading lately that’s giving you big thoughts to think?

My spouse has been out of town on business this week, and while I miss him (and the delicious, home-cooked meals he makes every night), I am enjoying the unusual solitude: having the whole bed to myself, watching all the subtitled documentaries he usually passes on, not having to share the newspaper, not being the eternal second choice of the super-snuggly cat, the quiet. When you get some unaccustomed space to be alone, what do you value? How do you use it?

Image found here.

Like what you read? Follow me on Twitter @MrsWhatsit1.

When Witches Give Interviews

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Recently, Dr. Gwendolyn Reece  of American University* was interviewed  on Court TV concerning a murder case in which the accused  may have been a Pagan.  Dr. Reece has studied contemporary Pagans for some time and is presented as a specialist in contemporary Paganism.  I think that her interview is worth watching as a lesson in how to handle these sorts of public appearances.

NB:  I spoke with Dr. Reece.  Her university public relations people got the initial request for her to do the interview (likely based on some of her published studies concerning Pagans) and helped her prep a bit for it.  She then chatted with the interviewer’s staff concerning relevant topics.  She did this in order to be prepared.  The lesson here is to reach out to anyone who can help you — staff, friends, colleagues, etc.  Even one prep session where someone asks you questions and you practice answering them is a good idea.  Two is better.  You get the idea.

To start with, Dr. Reece sits in front of a bookshelf and dresses fairly conservatively — it’s easy to see her as a university professor.  She’s obviously good at public speaking — note how she avoids lots of “erms” and “uhs” and generally speaks in complete sentences.  Those are things you can learn to do, even just practicing with a friend and an iPhone.

She also says what she has to say and stops.  This avoids a mistake that too many inexperienced speakers make in these situations.  Often we feel as if we need to fill up any empty space and keep talking.  You do not.  You can make your point and stop.  Again, practice can make you comfortable with those scary moments of empty space.  Similarly, and on a related note, Dr. Reece also avoids going back and repeating herself.  You often see poor public speakers trying to deal with silence by saying, “And, again, as I noted before, . . . .”  We lawyers know the power of silent time:  it’s often when people make confessions they didn’t mean to make — anything to avoid silence.  The best way to get comfortable with this is — again — to practice.

Dr. Reece was fortunate that her interviewer was generally friendly and avoided “gotchas.”  She did refer to “Wiccanism,” along with Paganism, and some people would have felt the need to correct her and insist on “Wicca,” rather than “Wiccanism.”  In a short interview such as this one, I think Dr. Reece was right to just ignore that and focus on her main points. No need to antagonize a friendly interviewer by making her look silly to her audience.  (Dr. Reece does, subtly, use the term “Wicca” instead of “Wiccanism.”  That’s all that was necessary here.  And by the end of the session the interviewer figured it out and was using “Wicca” instead of “Wiccanism.)

Cudos, as well, to Dr. Reece for not starting off on the defense, which is an easy mistake to make, especially in a case where the alleged murderer has apparently attempted to indicate that the murders were somehow religious.  Please go read   George Lakoff ‘s Don’t Think of an Elephant  and any  of my   previous previous posts   on this  topic.  When you attempt to negate a point, you often wind up reinforcing it.  (Think of Richard Nixon saying, “Your President is not a crook.”  We all knew from that moment on that he was, indeed, a crook.)  So note how Dr. Reece starts off with general information about Pagans — they follow the seasons; they are often pantheistic, their religion is based on nature, they honor the divine feminine, they establish relationships with their ancestors, etc.  Well before she has to answer questions about this murder, she’s provided a base that makes Pagans sound pretty reasonable, even if different.

Once Dr. Reece has laid her foundation, the interviewer makes a hard turn towards the murder case.  That’s where I might have started off with a firm statement:  “Let me begin by saying that no form of contemporary Paganism, including Wicca, involves murder or human sacrifice.  These murders have no role in Wicca.”  All of the subsequent information — which gets a bit technical and confusing (When was the Blue Moon? Do Pagans care about Blue Moons?  How are Sabbats and Esbats related?  How did the sheriff misrepresent things? and so on) —  is less important to Dr. Reece’s main point, which is that murder has no role in Wicca, regardless of the phase of the Moon.  This is where it can help to write down on a 3/5 card the one point you mean to get across.  Dr. Reece clearly gets the point across at the end.

Dr. Reece told me that she’d hoped to have an opportunity to explain how minority religions, such as Wicca and other forms of Paganism, are at a disadvantage in modern media stories.  She simply didn’t have enough time in this interview to cover it.  But it’s a good idea to have your second and third important points ready to go if the interview runs longer than you’d expected.

Finally, good on Dr. Reece for being willing to be out there on this.  We need more of her kind of calm, authoritative, expertise on these issues.

*Full disclosure:  I consider Dr. Reece a friend and I serve on a volunteer Board of Directors with her.

 

Picture found here.

Words for Wednesday

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The Snow Fairy
~ Claude McKay
Throughout the afternoon I watched them there,
Snow-fairies falling, falling from the sky,
Whirling fantastic in the misty air,
Contending fierce for space supremacy.
And they flew down a mightier force at night,
As though in heaven there was revolt and riot,
And they, frail things had taken panic flight
Down to the calm earth seeking peace and quiet.
I went to bed and rose at early dawn
To see them huddled together in a heap,
Each merged into the other upon the lawn,
Worn out by the sharp struggle, fast asleep.
The sun shone brightly on them half the day,
By night they stealthily had stol’n away.
     II
And suddenly my thoughts then turned to you
Who came to me upon a winter’s night,
When snow-sprites round my attic window flew,
Your hair disheveled, eyes aglow with light.
My heart was like the weather when you came,
The wanton winds were blowing loud and long;
But you, with joy and passion all aflame,
You danced and sang a lilting summer song.
I made room for you in my little bed,
Took covers from the closet fresh and warm,
A downful pillow for your scented head,
And lay down with you resting in my arm.
You went with Dawn. You left me ere the day,
The lonely actor of a dreamy play.
***********
Picture found here.

Must Be the Season of the Witch

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By now, you’ve probably seen the articles and other media that say that Witches are having a moment.  Maybe it’s due to Donald Trump, or the #metoo movement, or the decline in participation in more mainstream religions.

One thing that I find fascinating is the way that some Pagan themes and practices are showing up in popular culture without being specifically identified as such.  WARNING:  I’M ABOUT TO DISCUSS SOME SCENES FROM THE RECENT CALL THE MIDWIFE SPECIAL AND SEASON 3 OF ANNE WITH AN “E.”

In Call the Midwife, the midwives travel to the Outer Hebrides Islands.  Sister Monica Joan, the aging mystic, wants to go along but is left at home.  She sneaks away from London and joins her sisters on the island where, pressing her hand to a standing stone, she sees a white stag and believes she’s had a vision of The Lord.  It’s glorious and I can’t imagine too many Pagans who watched the scene weren’t aware of exactly what was going on.

In Anne with an E, Anne has been reading about Scotland and suggests to the teen-age girls in her class that they celebrate Beltane, right there on Prince Edward Island.  It’s presented as a simple historical/folklorish practice, but it turns out to be anything but.  The young women wind up literally ecstatic at what it means to be a woman.  Not in the “now I can attract a male” or “now I’m pretty” or “now I’m grown up and can do what I want” sense, but simply at the deep connection with nature and each other and with the what it means to be a woman.   In the way that good ritual can transform us.  (This series has been, all along, a modern retelling of the story, and the consciousness raising of the Beltane festival is no exception.  But, in my opinion, it worked.)

Here’s a tiny clip:

It will be interesting to see if, as Witches become more “popular” our beliefs and practices will find their way into more popular culture.

Picture of Sister Monica Joan at the standing stones found here.

Monday at the Movies

Who will comb out Sedna’s hair?

An Old Favorite