Saturday, February 28, 2004

Editing Canadians

As The Pomegranate changes from being a Canadian journal with a Canadian editor to being published in Britain with an American editor, issues of spelling, punctuation, and usage arise. Contributors come from those three nations and others as well, including some for whom English is not their native tongue.

Having taught composition, rhetoric, and advanced nonfiction writing at the community college and university level, as well as having worked on newspapers and magazines, I think that I have a good grasp of formal American usage.

Canadian writer Stephen Henighan comments that his fellow Canadians veer inconsistently between American and British spellings and wonders if their inconsistency is not partly ideological: "A conscious move away from British spelling toward American forms might be interpreted as an ideological statement in favour of integration into U.S. culture�and to some extent the promotion of U.S. spelling in Alberta and British Columbia may be seen in this way. "

The Pomgranate's British copyeditor, an advanced member of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders in the UK, admits to having given "considerable thought" to the matter and quotes another SfEP member as saying, "There is a whole chapter about spelling in the Editors' Association of Canada's style guide, Editing Canadian English. The tone is rather despairing. Basically, there is no such thing as standard Canadian spelling--it is a hybrid. Choice of spelling style can be determined by the intended market, the client, the subject matter or type of publication."

The copyeditor reminds me that the contributor guidelines specify either British or American spelling and punctuation, consistent within each article if not for the journal as a whole. What this comes down to is that I can leave Canadians their "labour" and "honour" and otherwise Americanize [not -ise] their writing. Probably no one will notice or object. Hegemony marches on.

Friday, February 27, 2004

Witchcraft and folklore

Folklorist Sabina Magliocco, an anthropologist at California State University-Northridge and a previous contributo to The Pomegranate, has a new book out, Witching Culture: Folklore and Neo-Paganism in America.

From the publisher's catalog:

Taking the reader into the heart of one of the fastest-growing religious movements in North America, Sabina Magliocco reveals how the disciplines of anthropology and folklore were fundamental to the early development of Neo-Paganism and the revival of witchcraft.

Magliocco analyzes magical practices and rituals of Neo-Paganism as art forms that reanimate the cosmos and stimulate the imagination of its practitioners. She discusses rituals that are put together using materials from a variety of cultural and historical sources, and examines the cultural politics surrounding the movement--how the Neo-Pagan movement creates identity by contrasting itself against the dominant culture and how it can be understood in the context of early twenty-first-century identity politics.
Paul Bremer as Pilate, 2

Ah, the bloggers at Crooked Timber had indeed noted the parallel.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Paul Bremer as Pilate, 1

Today is Ash Wednesday, the day that Mel Gibson's movie The Passion of The Christ opened at theatres. (I noticed a student with a smudge on her forehead and almost called her attention to it--then I caught myself!)

I am waiting for all the political bloggers to leap on this:

Paul Bremer, US administrator in Iraq = Pontius Pilate?

The Ayatolla al-Sistani = the Jewish high priest Caiphas?

Rampaging mobs of followers of an Abrahamc religion = rampaging mobs of followers of an Abrahamic religion?
Shocking for evangelicals

Although he does not use Harvey Whitehouse's division between "semantic" and "episodic" experiences of religion (or, "arguments" and "icons"), this review of The Passion of the Christ by Kenneth L. Woodward in the New York Times (free registration required) takes a similar approach--which explains why the movie is stranger for Protestants than for Catholics--or for Pagans, possibly.

Monday, February 23, 2004

Sueños, part 2

A follow-up to my post of the 22nd: The CD made to accompany Elijah Wald's book is available from Down Home Music. It contains many of the featured artists, including Los Tigres del Norte, Jenni Rivera, Pedro Rivera, Los Pajaritos del Sul, and Chalino Sánchez--but not Los Hermanos Gaspar.

Sunday, February 22, 2004

Who looks down on whom

An interesting graphic on the hierarchy of snobbery in Pagan/entheogenic/shamanic circles--and fairly accurate, too. (Link courtesy of The Pagan Prattle). The chart was created by Ashley Yakeley, who runs the Seattle Pagan Information web site.
Mis sueños

Having sent all the text for the next issue of The Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies to the copyeditor in England, I thought I could rest for a couple of days--just read books and do mindless work like shoveling snow and restacking the woodpile, partly soaked by melting snow.

But my Dream Self would have nothing of it. Since I had been reading Narcocorrido: A Journey into the Music of Drugs, Guns, and Guerrillas, by the musicologist Elijah Wald, I was treated last night to a editor's nightmare, in which I suddenly remembered that I was also responsible for a second journal, one on the literature of the American-Mexican border region--there is Wald's influence. In the dream, I was struggling to think of someone whom I could ask to edit the second journal, since I obviously was not keeping up with it.

Put Narcocorrido in a boxed set with Charles Bowden's Down by the River--there would be a useful combination to help you understand all the "War on (some) Drugs" craziness/locura.

From a corrido recorded by Los Hermanos Gaspar and translated by Wald:

Un compadre que yo tengo sinaloense
El me trajo la semilla de amapola,
Me dió clases por sembrarla y abonarla,
Que bonito siento andar rayando bolas.

A compadre of mine from Sinaloa,
He brought me poppy seeds,
He gave me classes in planting and fertilizing them:
How good I feel as I go along scoring pods.

(And ahí en British Colombia, what we Americans think of as el norte, perhaps someone is tuning his guitar and singing "The Ballad of BC Hydro," how it keeps the indoor grow lights burning brightly and must not be privatized.)

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

A Cigar for Ken Hanson

The Reed College alumni magazine came today, announcing the passing of several faculty members of my time there, including my thesis advisor, the poet Kenneth O. Hanson. (I like the way the article calls Greece "the country that he discovered in 1963." Land ho!)

Regrets: that I never gave his poetics and prosody class the attention it deserved.

Hanson was something of a "Poundling," an admirer of the poet Ezra Pound. I was much more under the influence of Robert Graves; it was in the summer between my junior and senior year, while helping to build a house in Talpa, New Mexico, for another of Hanson's friends, Robert Peterson, that I read The White Goddess, was swept away, embraced Her faith, and set out to read virtually everything Graves had written.

Graves' essays included much criticism of Pound, whom, among other things, he considered uneducated; Pound's background in Latin was lacking, raw American that he was (both Pound and Hanson had roots in Idaho.)

During one of our thesis conferences (held always in Hanson's living room), he puffed his cigar, admitted Graves' fine command of poetic diction, and then added, "But then there is that Moon Goddess nonsense."

I bit my tongue.

The relationship with your thesis advisor always has multiple levels. While I did not ever become a great admirer of Pound (leaving his politics entirely aside), I did start smoking cigars. Because I was an impoverished student, getting food stamps, walking or hitch-hiking everywhere, the cigars were usually cheap ones, such as Swisher Sweets.

Today I bought a medium-priced cigar at a tobacconist and smoked it, walking up and down the muddy drive, putting away the garbage cans at the cabin, listening to the rushing of Hardscrabble Creek, watching cloud-blurred Venus hanging in the western sky.

My thesis was A book of poems titled Queen Famine, after a line by Graves. In a letter to Peterson that I sneaked a look at after my graduation, Hanson wrote: It was good, he said, but not as good as it could have been. That comment burned into my soul, of course.

Hanson's example also stopped my cigar-smoking. First, there was the experience of coming home to my little apartment, part of a tall wooden house by the southeast Portland rail yards, and smelling the reek of stale cigars.

Second, I remember stepping into Hanson's kitchen, where he had a wall-mounted white telephone--a rotary-dial telephone, as most of them were. Under the dial, going all the way around, was a brown smear, left by his cigar-stained fingers as he dialed. I was grossed out.

But I still have my copy of The Distance Anywhere. And I have reached the age that he was when he was my advisor.


Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Saint Valentine . . . not a mullah?

All right, Valentine's Day was four days ago, but the stories just keep coming.

Monday, February 16, 2004

Robert Anton Wilson's cultural influence

Jesse Walker writes from Reason Online that "We're living in Robert Anton Wilson's world."

The co-author of the Illuminatus! triology, he says, is "the unacknowledged elephant in our cultural living room: a direct and indirect influence on popular books, movies, TV shows, music, games, comics, and commentary. (His late co-author has left less of a mark: Many of Wilson�s books have cult followings, while the only Shea effort to make a big splash was the trilogy he wrote with Wilson.) Allusions to Wilson�s work appear in places both classy and trashy: There�s a Wilsonian stamp on films as diverse as Magnolia, The Mothman Prophecies, and Sex and Lucia, and it�s because of Wilson and Shea that the Illuminati, a secret society that once lurked only in right-wing conspiracy tracts, became the villains of Lara Croft, Tomb Raider. Now Wilson�s the star of a lively documentary, Maybe Logic, that�s being screened at film festivals and distributed on DVD."
Saint Valentine . . . not a culture hero?

Those fundamentalist Saudis mentioned earlier are not alone in their hatred of hearts, flowers, and by extension, divine Eros. They have company on the Indian subcontinent, where other Muslims and the Hindu Shiv Sena party also rage against the evil foreign holiday, or at least they did last year.

Other people who simply felt out of the romantic loop this year can find their consolation and links to Web anti-Valentine sites here.

Saturday, February 14, 2004

Saint Valentine . . . the pagan?

Islamic clerics in Saudi Arabia (our good friends, the Saudis) denounce Valentine's Day as a "pagan Christian holiday" and forbid its celebration in the kingdom. Other news reports speak of reprisals against shop owners selling Valentine's Day items. Ah, wonderful, a jihad against hearts and flowers. More here: scroll down.

Valentine's Day was just fine in this Pagan household, thanks for asking.

Rejection Collection is a web site to which writers submit their rejection letters and then comment on how the letters made them feel.

While dwelling on their feelings, few seem to resolve to write better and to research markets better.

Here, an editor reflects at greater length about how these wounded writer egos are missing the whole point and/or are ignorant about how publishing works. Zowie!

Remember, the first million words are just for practice.
The Three Fairly Sagacious Persons

The Church of England abandons the term "Three Wise Men" for "Magi"--unfortunately, it's just kneejerk political correctness rather than a reappraisal of Zoroastrian influence on the birth of Christianity. Read more here, and don't overlook the joke at the end.
"Hello, Pagan"

Despite the best efforts of those of us at The Pomegranate and such writers as Michael York, author of Pagan Theology (and a member of The Pom's editorial board), some people continue to use "Pagan" as a synonym for "irreligious."

Consider the "Pagans Only" page at the fundamentalist Christian TTW Ministries. (Thanks to The Paris Project for the link.)

Like too many of my students, preacher Todd Friel is confused about apostrophes and the use of the comma in direct address. "Pagan's" is not the plural form of the word "Pagan, and that "Hello Pagan" makes me think of "Hello Kitty," which sends my mind off in entirely unsuitable directions. (Love the blue hair, though.)

Sometimes to feel as though I am truest to my Pagan heritage when I am teaching rhetoric and grammar. Maybe we need some WWQD bracelets: "What Would Quintilian Do?"

Friday, February 13, 2004

Teen Witches

Some people are saying that the "teen witch" craze, symbolized by the 1996 movie The Craft, has peaked. I don't think so. My latest Llewellyn Publications reviewer's catalog recently arrived, and I saw that Silver Ravenwolf's Teen Witch had been redesigned. Whereas the former cover art had something in common with the poster/box art for The Craft, the new cover seems more in common with last year's movie Thirteen.

It's all about Pouty. Adolescent. Sexuality.

In his review essay "Sifting the Ashes," an expose of the tobacco industry (collected in the book How To Be Alone, Jonathan Frantzen desconstructs the industry-funded anti-smoking ads aimed at teens and comments how "several antitobacco newspaper ads offer . . . the image of a preadolescent girl holding a cigarette. The models are not real smokers, yet despite their phoniness, they're utterly sexualized by their cigarettes. The horror of underage smoking veils a horror of teen and preteen sexuality."

Witchcraft, the new cigarette?

On a more positive note, a Colorado Witch describes sitting in on an interview of several teen Wiccans by a National Public Radio reporter.

"I spent the afternoon in the upstairs of the Oh My Goddess coffee house in Denver, listening to Barbara Bradford Hagerty of NPR interview 6 teenage Wiccans and one Christian teen learning about Wicca. She was amazed at how articulate, intelligent, and self-aware they were. She's planning on doing a segment or show about teens and Wicca. They wouldn't stop talking! She used more than one minidisc to record, which she says never happens in an interview. The 6 Wiccan teens were all raised Wiccan, more or less.

"She spoke briefly to most of the parents and to me; she may talk to me again in a couple of days if she can on her way to the airport. She is a colleague of Margot Adler's, and therefore actually knew something about the topic. She asked each of the Wiccan teens if they thought it was a phase that they would grow out of, and the general consensus was 'No. This is who I am.' It was an amazing experience.

"Based on the kids that were there today, I have to say I think that the future of Paganism is in pretty capable hands."

UPDATE 4/29/07: I had not looked at this post for a while, but it appears to me that the cover displayed, which is on Llewellyn's web site, is not the one that I described as "pouty" a couple of years ago. Does anyone know for sure?

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Pagans in Canada

Canada's census asks questions about religion, and in 2001, slightly more than 21,000 Canadians (median age, 30.4) reported themselves as Pagan and/or Wicca. Of course, defining "Pagan" broadly, I would include the followers of "Aboriginal spirituality" as well, which would more than double that number. Statistics are here.

The obvious question is, how many felt constrained not to answer the question honestly?
Weapons of Singing Destruction

Since Google sends some readers seeking news and photos about such new Arab singing stars as Haifa Wehbe and Nancy Ajram to this blog, here are two articles by Charles Paul Freund that might interest you.

"Look Who's Rocking the Casbah: The Revolutionary Implications of Arab Music Videos," Reason magazine, June 2003.

"Weapons of Singing Destruction" The Escalating Storm over Arab Pop Videos," Reason magazine, October 29, 2003.

Freund writes: "If you add the voluminous press and publicity machine that has grown around this scene, it begins to take on the proportions of a cultural frenzy. Such phenomena have a long and fascinating history; they occur when a cultural form becomes available to an audience that uses it to assert and validate its quickly shifting sense of itself. The Netherlands famously experienced such a phenomenon in the 17th century, when members of its suddenly enriched middle class latched onto paintings of themselves and their world as a way to express and validate their new social power. At the time, such subject matter was a departure for painters; indeed, it was the first time that anyone outside the aristocracy had owned paintings. The emerging British middle class of the 18th and 19th centuries went through a fiction-reading frenzy (of Grub Street "trash," mostly) as it sought models for its emerging social opportunities and identified with characters grappling with an industrializing, urbanizing world. Similarly, movies and rock music were powerful forms for different generations of 20th-century Americans. They used such forms to play with the new possibilities of identity that were coming within their grasp."
Skiing is Wrong, says Jack

It's been a snowy winter here on Hardscrabble Creek: a good thing too, since we are still in a drought overall. By the end of January, according to a nearby ranch wife who had been keeping count, we had had 32 inches (81 cm) of snow, although it comes a little bit at a time, and most melts away between storms.

Thus far in February, some 22 inches (56 cm) more has fallen, and twice this month it has been possible to go skiing out the front door, instead of having to drive into the higher mountains. I go for the "Camp Hale" look close to home: baggy olive-green pants, ex-Army white skis, and perhaps the last bamboo ski poles in use in the state of Colorado.

LEFT: A World War II ski trooper from the 10th Mountain Division, during training at Camp Hale, near Leadville, Colorado. (Photo courtesy Denver Public Library)

But there is one problem: Jack, our Chesapeake Bay retriever. Like all good Chessies, he loves water in all forms: rain, rivers, swamps, ponds, fog, and snow. But, evidently, for his people to travel by skis is wrong, completely wrong. Every winter we go through this: Mary and I ski, and Jack runs alongside barking at us. The hills and ridges echo with his bark. The other dogs run too--they think that it's all good fun--but somehow Jack takes skiing personally. Double-poling is worse than a diagonal stride in his view.

The only solution is to keep skiing until he gets tired of barking. Mary and I need to get away and up into the higher mountains.

Saturday, February 07, 2004

Kennewick Man update

The saga of Kennewick Man, the 9,200-year-old Caucasoid (which is not the same as "Caucasian"!) skeleton found in Washington state in 1996, continues. An federal appeals court panel has ruled in favor of reseachers who want to continue to study his remains, now stored at the University of Washington, and against the tribes that wanted to rebury him. Go here and here for more background on the controversy.

He was a tall, strongly built, middle-aged warrior who probably died a violent death. The question "at whose hands?" produces all sorts of fascinating speculation. Those speculations tie into theories of "diffusionism," once discredited as ridiculed as "racist," but now enjoying a bit of a quiet comeback.

Norse-tradition Pagans, led by Stephen McNallen claimed him as a European forebear, part of their argument that Heathenism was the natural spiritual path of today's Euro-Americans. Some anthropologists suggested that he (and other, anomalous, non-Mongoloid skeletons found over the years) suggested that long-ago Polynesians also came to this continent, but were, perhaps, exterminated by the ancestors of those people now designated as Natives.

The Covill, Umatilla, Yakam, and Nez Perce tribes claimed the rights to rebury the skeleton as one of theirs, generally speaking, because he was found where they lived in historical times, from the 18th century onwards, at least. Their attorneys are not happy with the judges' strict reading of the North American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, as described here in Native Times.

The tribes' argument does not convince me either. We cannot assume that the population 9,000 years ago was the same as now/. It's possible, but we know that tribes did change homelands--the Kiowa moving from Wyoming into the Southern Plains, to give just one example. NAGPRA was passed to repatriate the remains--thousands of them--of more recent skeletal remains, whose removal from their graves by scientific researchers had embittered many American Indians over the past century. But to claim a 9,200-year-old skeleton as "ours" is just too much of a stretch.

Kirk Mitchell's mystery novel, Ancient Ones, was inspired by the battle over Kennewick Man's remains. For more on the whole genre of "American Indian mystery novels," go here.
Nature blog

The students in my "Nature Writing in the West" class have started blogging. Read their thoughts at Nature Blog.

Now to crack the whip over them: more posts! more links!

I am adding Natureblog to my links list.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

What is Wrong with a Moon God, Anyway?

The fun-loving gang at Chick Publications have a new one, Allah had no Son, which offers evangelical Christians Chick's comic-book take on the notion that Allah was originally an Arabic Moon god, which, I suppose, makes Islam a sort of failed polytheism. Thanks to Allah himself for the link.

You will find a bibliographic essay on the "Was Allah a Moon God?" issue here, which cites most of the dubious texts out there. (It's a Christian apologetics site.)

The ubiquity of Chick's little booklets once led Tim/Otter/Oberon Zell of the Church of All Worlds and Pete Davis of the Aquarian Tabernacle to create their own small series of Pagan anti-tracts, done in the same style and format. The first, The Other People, took the approach that since most Western Pagans consider themselves to be neither literal nor metaphorical "children of Abraham," all those Middle Eastern holy books simply do not apply to us.

Chick also champions the anti-Wiccan, anti-Masonic writer Bill Schnoebelen, dealt with effectively here.

Monday, February 02, 2004

Some Hae Meat

On Saturday the 24th of January, a colleague invited me and the notorious M.C. to the "Burns Nicht Supper," an annual event in many locations around the world, celebrating the birthday of the Scottish poet Robert Burns. Go here for a typical evening's program, Alberta version.

"You'll see," she said. "The Presbyterians provide the organization, and the Pagans provide the music and energy" . . . or words to that effect.

I tied on my dress Gordon necktie (Victorian invention, all that specific clan tartan stuff); the notorious M.C. combed her red hair and dressed in black, and off we went, to the dining hall of The Retired Enlisted Association in Colorado Springs, a suitably banner-hung and martial venue. Aside from one singer/guitarist and his companion, who set off my . . . what's the Pagan equivalent of "gaydar"? . . . I would say that the Presbyterian influence dominated the evening.

All the elements were there: the haggis was piped, the toasts were drunk, and the wee laddies and lassies danced around basket-hilted broadswords as large as they were. I give the Scottish Society of the Pike's Peak Region credit for this: they are not afraid to let children handle large edged weapons. Imagine such a thing in a public school in this safety-crazed age.

But eventually it all wore on us, and we slipped away before "Auld Lang Syne" was sung, pleading the long drive home.

The same Scottish Society of the Pike's Peak Region will be "kirkin' the tartan" in our former home of Manitou Springs come April 3. A little research reveals that this seemingly ancient "tradition" was invented early on in World War II to build American support for the British cause, in the months before the Pearl Harbor attack brought us into the war. Now it has become a major American and Canadian tourist event: here is one example from Nova Scotia.

As for the Pagans, I think that they are at the Highland Games that are spreading everywhere.

Labels: ,

A strike against spammers

Here is some good news on the anti-spam front: a group of Nigerian and Beninese (Beninian?) spammers nailed in Amsterdam. But, reading the article, I was surprised to learn of the hoodwinked Swiss professor, which damages my stereotype of the Swiss--educated ones, at least--being financially canny.