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 Last night, I watched The Dark Knight. The hype is deserved... well deserved. I'll go through all the basics first:

* Heath Ledger's performance as The Joker is Oscar worthy - He brought a lot of things to his performance as the Clown Prince of Crime that surpassed even Jack Nicholson's portrayal of that role. Notable features include a strange philosophical sense of purpose to The Joker's typical malevolent mirth and an even stranger sensitivity that takes the role well beyond a typical comic villain. 

* Though not as visually stunning as its predecessor, the cinematography is excellent.

* The action element, too, is dynamic, though, again not quite on par with Christopher Nolan's first in the series.

* The story is VERY plot driven - action and special effects clearly take a secondary importance in this film.

* Comic fans will be pleased to note that Nolan borrows strongly from some of the best writing from the Batman series. He tells his own Batman story whilst staying very true to the feel and themes connected with the 'Dark Knight.'

* Despite all the action and effects, The Dark Knight is clearly a thinking person's film, discussing a wide variety of topics, including just how little separates The Batman from The Joker.

Now on to the more serious stuff. There are three principle characters in this film: The Batman, The Joker, and District Attorney Harvey Dent. These three are used as symbols in a deep discussion of what is a person or society willing to sacrifice in order to be secure, especially under the threat of terrorism. The Joker, obviously, acts at the face of terrorism, pursuing goals that completely diverge from worldly agendas such as wealth, power and respect. Indeed, he visibily acts in contradiction to them. Dent becomes how modern Western society would like to see such problems resolved, in a manner that is forthright, honest and just. He is a paragon of conviction and virtue. He is the Hero that everyone wants. Unfortunately, whilst he proves effective against normal criminals, whose motivations are fathomable, he is unable to deal with The Joker. Thus, The Batman becomes what is necessary to defeat The Joker, though often uncomfortably approaching becoming what he stands against. He is effective, but despised for what he feels he must do and the sacrifices he must make. He can be seen as representing the 'War on Terrorism.' How others respond to him parallels the many opinions held of the actions of certain powers against their terrorist foes. Various other aspects of this complex philosophical discusssion are presented and represented by other characters as well. 

Nolan doesn't seem to present any answers to the question, nor does he present this film as an apology for what has been done in the fight against terrorism. Indeed, The Joker makes pains to explain that he exists solely because The Batman does.  What Nolan does seem to offer, however, is possible explanations of why this question exists, a springboard for further thought and discussion.

I did mention that this was a thinking person's film...
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This astounding short fan film, produced by the Ho Brothers, features a mix of light sabers, Hong Kong martial arts film action, great cinematography and a haunting soundtrack by Hans Zimmer. Prologued by the reading of an authentic Civil War letter, the story takes place in the deep woods of a nameless planet, where a young jedi confronts his destiny in the form of a Sith warrior.  

This is among the most amazing six minutes of film footage you will ever see!  

See it here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2OPtXtHcc 2o

(It gives me goosebumps everytime I watch it!)

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 As an English teacher in a secondary school, I wind up going through a LOT of Shakespeare, especially for SAT and coursework preparation. In doing so, I find all sorts of interesting little side thoughts that I just really have to express.

I'll start with Romeo from Romeo and Juliet. I know most of you realize that Shakespeare deliberately made Romeo's early feelings for Juliet questionable, in that it seems he was purely attracted by her beauty at the Capulet Ball (driving out any thought of Rosalyn, whom he believed he loved for the same reason). However, there are a few choice bits of Act 1 Scene 1 which really show Romeo to be truly shallow. Most of these show up in the conversation where Benvolio has a talk with Romeo in order to find out why the latter has shut himself away in misery. It is revealed that Romeo is pining for Rosalyn, the most beautiful woman he has seen. Romeo has this to say about his attempts at courting her:

Well, in that hit you miss. She'll not be hit
With Cupid's arrow. She hath Dian's wit.
And, in strong proof of chastity well armed
From love's weak childish bow, she lives uncharmed.
She will not stay the siege of loving terms,
Nor bide th' encounter of assailing eyes,
Nor ope her lap to saint-seducing gold.


Am I alone in thinking that Romeo is whining because he can't even PAY to get into Rosalyn's pants? 

When Romeo first sees Juliet at the Capulet's Ball, he becomes immediately enamored, forgetting completely about Rosalyn. His first comments about Juliet are entirely about her beauty and how it outshines any he has ever witnessed.

When they first begin to speak, things get a little interesting. Their dialogue takes the form of a sonnet. Many would argue that, as the sonnet was the ultimate romantic thing to do, that this signifies the beginning of "true love" between Romeo and Juliet, as an Elizabethan audience would recognize it as such. However, I would argue that Shakespeare used it for the opposite effect. Afterall, everyone in his audience would have known that it was the thing for a gentleman to write to show deepest admiration. In otherwords, it was a fancy pickup line. This idea is further heightened by the skill with which Romeo lays it on to win a kiss from Juliet. Ultimately, she comments "You kiss by the book," indicating that, not only is Romeo skillful with his lines, but he's a pro at kissing. In otherwords, Romeo is a Shakespearan "playah". (Sorry, I couldn't resist that pun...)

It becomes very clear that Romeo feels very strongly for Juliet as the end of the play approaches. However, is it love? If it is, what is he really in love with? Many mentions are made of Juliet's beauty, but what else? Yes, Romeo proves that he is devoted, but is he still as shallow as he was at the beginning of the play? I wager he is.

Anybody else have an opinion on this?

 PS: The title for this post appeared in my TA's notes. *chuckle*

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Dedicated to all of my colleagues in education - just to remind you of why we do it:

http://www.maniacworld.com/how-much-do-t eachers-make.html

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 This weekend was, as expected, bittersweet. I said goodbye to a couple of very good friends. The hardest was the woman who helped me so much through all the grief I endured during my stay in England (and outside of it). She's the one that gave me Teddy to keep me company during one particularly stressful period in my life. We both had pretty damp eyes when I took a photo of her with him.

But the goodbye that took me by surprise was to the city of London itself. On my way to Aylesbury, I paused in London to get a few snaps of Teddy with Big Ben and a few other sites, as I had yet to take any photos of him there. It was with a bit of sadness that I walked along the Thames, realizing that this, perhaps, would be the last time. It was then that the city itself granted its own goodbye. As I walked by the London Eye, I discovered that the mindnumbingly long queues that were ALWAYS present, the ones that look like they lasted hours and, thus, kept me from ever going up in it, were NON-EXISTENT.

A short time and £15.50 later, I was aloft in the London Eye and treated to a stunning view of the city. It was amazing to be able to see so many landmarks from just one point. Turn one way and you can see St. Paul's Cathedral and the 'Gherkin'. Turn another and both the Parliament buildings and, in the distance, the Battersea Powerstation can be seen from above. Yes, many pictures were taken, including some with Teddy. *grin* Those will have to be added to the growing list of photoblog entries that I need to sort out out when I have the time to do so. It brought back a lot of memories of my many gleeful explorations along the Thames and the city streets. My experiences of that magnificent city will be a treasure I will always hold in my heart.

As I left London by train to return home, I whispered 'goodbye' to the city that I realized that I had come to love, despite whatever else that has happened to me in the rest of England. And I promised myself that I would one day return; a final farewell would be just too heartbreaking to endure.

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For the last several weeks, I have been a slave to Betty, Ugly Betty. Yes, I am now catching up to everyone else on that television show and, I must say, there is some outstanding writing for that show.  

The most powerful piece, thus far, has to be the opener for season 2, which I just saw today. 

Last season closed with fiance of Betty's sister, Hilda, getting shot during a convenience store robbery. The last scene from the season finale seemed to indicatet that Santos, the fiance, was dead. 

However, this episode featured him alive and somewhat well, recovering from the bullet wound and being benignly imprisoned by his wife-to-be, who has been intent on doting on him and ensuring his full recovery during the last three weeks. Though he is humouring Hilda, it's pretty clear he would actually like to leave the house, but Hilda seems quite opposed to that, fearing possibly losing him again.  

The scenes of the two, in her sunny bedroom, are filled with romantic and tender moments, with him convincing her to model the wedding dress and she getting him to read the vows he prepared. 

After he read the vows (quite moving in their own right) he states that he has to leave. She wants him to wait one more day, but he insists, explaining that they have to get on. They embrace passionately, just as Betty knocks on the door and asks if she might be able to get some help cooking dinner. The camera cuts to the door as it opens, with Betty standing there.  

The camera cuts back. 

The room is dark. 

Hilda is alone. 

She weeps as she clutches a pillow in place of Santos. 

"He's gone!" she cries, and Betty races to her to comfort her. "That's the first time I've been able to say that," she tearfully explains. 

The sheer poetry of that scene, and the setup for it, really gripped me. I haven't seen that kind of power in script writing for quite some time.

the_vulture: (tvinflight)
Browsing through the Forums, I came across a discussion titled "Why Are Girls Weird" (http://person.com/forum.phtml?showtopic= 31165&st=0&p=621330&). It's currently about how many women (and some men) seem to have difficulty accepting a compliment.  

Now granted, there is some there is a fair bit of legitimate argument for the simple fact that many people do not KNOW how to gracefully accept a compliment (kinda sad that they don't get enough practice), but methinks the main root of the problem lies within the current Western perception of beauty.  

Taking my role of pastoral care for my pupils somewhat seriously, I've often brought up the subject of our perception of beauty in class, especially for the benefit of the teenage girls who wind up being placed under tremendous pressure to be inhumanly beautiful. I choose the term "inhuman" for a very precise reason, which is revealed in this short film, by the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty, titled Evolution. 

It shows how a normal woman, through the use of multiple makeup artists and hair stylists, professional photography, and (most disturbingly) a subtantial amount of digital modification, is transformed into one of the "Glamazons" that decorate our many adverts. 

The discussion that results amongst my pupils when I show that film can get a bit intense, but it's no where NEAR the reaction I get when I show the short film titled Onslaught (again by the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty): 

It highlights just how strong of a presence the beauty industry can have for young women. I recall, during one showing, three 15 year old girls hiding their faces during one segment that they, as they later explained, thought was pornographic. Interestingly, the "pornography" they saw came from bus stop adverts, music videos and other media rated for public consumption. 

The closing statement for the film reads "Talk to your daughter before the beauty industry does." 

Kinda hits home, doesn't it. 

Now some of you may be thinking, "Why would a guy care about all this?" I think this short film, titled Amy says it all.

All three of the aforementionded films can be found through the video link for the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty.
 

This post is dedicated to every woman I have had to work very hard to convince of the truth of her own beauty, and to those with whom I failed.


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In a previous post, titled "The True Face of Divinity," I spoke briefly on how I saw the various gods, demigods, etc., of all the word's cultures as being facets of just one all encompassing entity.

This is a theme that I often come back to. During my art training, I created a large image composed of a wide assortment of religious imagery. The larger image was cut into 9 squares, which where subsequently folded into origami boxes. In a piece of performance work, I came into the room in a reverrent fashion, knelt on the floor, and began slowly opening the boxes, placing the images, in ritualistic fashion together to recreate the former image.

For me, this particular artisitc performance is about opening the barriers of understanding between the difference faiths and helping others realize that all the superficial differences between them are just that, superficial.

But for all their similarities, the faces of Divinity does have rich variation. Why? Well, when one is turning to faith to help deal with personal issues, it is rather difficult to express one's innermost feelings to a huge, nameless, faceless entity. That's a little hard for our psyches to get around, emotionally speaking. We, for the most part, need something a bit more personable, a bit more "human." In short, a huge, nameless entity isn't all that "user friendly." 

Then there is the idea of appropriateness of task. Can most folk really be absolutely comfortable with communing with their entity of choice for a task such as healing, for example, and then later use the same entity to call down vengeance upon one's enemies (purely in self-defence, of course)? I think not. As such, we've created separate faces for separate tasks. 

Even many of the so-called monotheists employ this thinking to one extent or another. Look at the concept of Satan (Shaitan, etc.) as an explanation for evil in the world. The Catholics even employ a colourful array of saint figures as intermediaries to God for specific purposes (of all the monotheistic religions, I like Catholicism best).

On a personal level, whilst I can intellectually visualize and understand one faceless entity, I still talk to two faces of It, the Goddess and the God. On an emotional level, I need that duality of gender to help me relate better. Similarily, whilst I intellectually recognize that I am welcomed by the Divine in any of Its houses (though not necessarily by Its worshippers), I still prefer my altar by candlelight as the place to commune (oh, and the occasional site of natural drama).

Any other thoughts on this?

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I've been reading a lot of entries and posts in both blogs and forums about the nature of good and evil and their relationship to systems of rules, such as the Ten Commandments.

I've a few rambling thoughts I'd like to share about that. The first has to do about the origin of good and evil. To start, I'd like to change that to altruism and selfishness. Granted, this is not a perfect translation, as it is much easier to label murder as an act of evil, than it would an act of extreme selfishness. Still, it works for the line of reasoning I'm about to pursue.

Why does humanity, in general, have some consensus in regards to what is good? Very simply, we evolved that way. Our apelike ancestors relied on numbers for defense. As such, it simply wouldn't do for members to go around stealing each other's food all the time, as that would result in some member starving to death or the extremely greedy ape being driven from the tribe (and likely dying). As such, high levels of selfishness would not have as much of a survival value, whereas behaviours that supported the continued existence of the tribe would. 

Of course, if any measure of selfishness were completely contrary to survival, we'd all have evolved to be saints. This is, clearly, not the case. It is quite likely that, in a number of circumstance, some degree of selfishness would have a higher survival value, such as when food was scarce. So this aspect of human psychology, too, would have carried on through our gene pool.  

Still, as we evolved, we developed more elaborate methods of interaction. With this, a greater emphasis on cooperative action led would have selected for more altruistic patterns of behaviour. 

Upon becoming human enough to develop culture, many people began to take on increasingly specialized roles, making cooperation between members absolutely vital. Again, this placed greater survival value on altruistic behaviour. 

As such, in general, human beings towards altruistic behaviour, at least towards their own culture groups. 

Are there problems with this line of thinking? Oh, quite probably, but bringing them up and talking about them will be half the fun of this thread.

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This is one of my favourite essays I wrote for an anthropology course in comparitive religion. I didn't get a whole helluva lot of response for it in the Religion section of the forums; let's see what I get here.  

The religions of a people often mirror that culture’s social reality. In broad categories of society such as small-scale hunter-gatherer societies, horticultural chiefdoms, and agricultural/state societies, general trends can be noted in how otherworldly beings are organized, the interactions between these beings and humankind, and the status of mortals within the cosmology during and after life. This contradicts the speculations of many early modern philosophers regarding the nature of religion who often espoused a common, if ethnocentric view, that a culture would “progress” through a series of religious “stages” such as animism, polytheism, and, eventually to the “ultimate” stage, monotheism. These trends also contradict another common assertion amongst early modern philosophers, which is that each stage of religion dictated a culture’s moral and social values. Ludwig Feuerbach, a German philosopher, came closest to recognizing that religion is a reflection of society, as shown by his claims that theology is anthropology and that the history of religion is the history of man. Yet even he still believed that religion underwent a “progression” that was the source of moral and social value.

The organization of divine beings within a society is often a direct reflection of that society’s stratification and class structure. Small-scale hunter-gatherer societies are generally egalitarian and marked by a lack of hierarchy amongst their divine beings save for familial relationships. For the Inuit, political leadership was informal, at best, and usually based on personal characteristics and kinship ties. They believed all things to have a spirit or inua. Like the Inuit, these spirits had little in the way of any hierarchy of power over each other (Scupin, 2000: pp. 146-151). The Australian Aborigines commonly held a belief that all living things are created by ancestral spirits, which live in an otherworld referred to as “Dreamtime”. Again, like the Inuit, the Australian Aborigines only have an informal system of leadership, though, as is reflected in their beliefs, there is more importance placed on lineage and kinship (Scupin: pp. 160-162).

There is a marked difference in hierarchy of divine beings between those of small-scale hunter-gatherers and those of horticultural chiefdoms. A hierarchical arrangement of entities often accompanies more complex forms of leadership. Amongst the Iroquois, there existed a belief in a being responsible for the creation of all that is good in the universe. This Good or Great Spirit held command over the good gods, all of whom are his children. This leadership by lineage reflects and contrasts the matrilineal system of inheritance and influence that appointed a council of leadership that usually consisted of the sons of the elder matrons (Scupin: pp. 151-154). Amongst African chiefdoms, these differences are even more pronounced. The role of kings amongst African tribes is paralleled by the concept of a supreme being, which holds power over all other gods. The gods are also more specialized as are the roles of people. For example, the smiths have their own gods as do a number of other specialists (Carter, 2000: pp. 178-202).

With the introduction of complex bureaucracies in agricultural/state societies often comes a plethora of deities to fill various roles similar to those of human concern. Often, these pantheons include the gods of cultures assimilated after conquest. The importance of the chief deity is also usually more pronounced. The Egyptian pantheon, for example, changed continually throughout the centuries of this cultures existence, and yet has retained the deity Horus, a sky god, as the divine representation of order and kingship throughout most of its history (Quirke and Spencer, 1992: pp. 65-69). There are also more complex interactions between the deities such as factions and alliances. This is shown in the writings of the Greek poet Homer. In his account of the Trojan War, there are factions of gods acting for and against the Trojans. This reflects the importance of forming alliances in the Greek political world (Fuller and Fuller, 2000: pp. 208-213).

The interactions between the divine and humankind also reflect the social reality of a culture. In small-scale hunter-gatherer societies, this interaction is often very personal and tangible. These beings are treated with great respect and reverence. However, though there is pronounced contact between humans and spirits, they stand more-or-less as equals to be negotiated with. The shamans of the Inuit, for example, actually bargain with spirits for better success in hunting and food gathering (Scupin: pp. 146-151). For Australian Aborigines, it is vital to interact with the otherworld or “Dreaming”. The ancestral spirits serves as the all-important intermediaries between this world and that. This same level of respect is shared for the natural world and each other (Scupin: pp.160-162).

Where small-scale hunter-gather societies generally had only one religious specialist; horticultural chiefdoms often have many for specific interactions with the other realm. Amongst a number of African groups, for example, there can be as many as three different religious specialists just to perform healing: one determines the nature of the illness, another performs a diagnosis, and third performs the actual healing. This echoes inreasing levels of specialization of tasks in African society. Another important feature is the concept of rulership by divine right. An example of this is the link between the gods and the genealogy of the high chiefs, or Ali’i. This serves to legitimize rulership.

These interactions are further complicated in agricultural/state societies (Carter: pp. 178-202). The Egyptian Pharaoh was believed to be a god incarnate and ruled with divine authority. Though there were many priesthoods amongst these cultures, including some dedicated to almost every god of a pantheon, there was generally a much greater detachment between the lower ranks of society and religious life (Quirke and Spencer: pp. 65-69). In many cases, common people had to rely almost entirely on priesthoods to intercede with the gods on their behalf. This reflects a marriage between religious power and social power. As the separation between the common class and the religious sects increased, occurrences of mystery cults occurred. These were separate religions founded specifically for the participation of common people. The deities of these religions often reflected a desire for personal liberty.

The status of humans in the spirit world both during and after life tells much of their status in the social world. In small-scale hunter-gather societies, as was mentioned earlier, humans and spirits have little dominance over each other. Most Inuit believed that when something dies, its spirit remains in the world, waiting to be eventually reborn. Thus, no life had special importance over another. All things are sacred (Scupin: pp. 146-151). The Australian Aborigines would perform many rites to gain contact with the Dreaming, and, when they died, they would return to live in it perpetually. Although the spirits of the Dreaming were of great importance to them, they also did not have any political power over the people. These types of beliefs reflected a general lack of any strong central authority (Scupin: pp.160-162).

In horticultural chiefdoms, however, the gods often have a more direct hand in the affairs of humans and are superior to them. In African cultures, sacrifices of animals, food, and valuables are often required to procure and maintain the favor of the gods. For many African cultures, distinguished people continue on in the afterworld as ancestor spirits who continue to interact with the human world. Sacrifices are often made to maintain their favor as well. These kinds of beliefs mirror an increasing need to satisfy the demands of rulership to maintain its good graces. As the gods are superior to people, so, too, are the ruling authorities (Carter: pp. 178-202).

Human beings within agricultural/state societies are usually clearly subservient to the gods. This reinforces the political power held by the leaders of these cultures. These gods, and their rulers, often demand much from the common classes. Political power is also enforced by the concept of judgement. An example of this is found in the Egyptian religious system of later periods. When a person dies, part of their spirit, or ka, is brought to judgement. The “heart” is measured to determine if the person led a life of merit. If so, the person went on to lead a pleasant afterlife that was much the same as his or her former life. If not, the unfortunate person was tossed into the ravenous jaws of a chimera-like beast and destroyed (Quirke and Spencer: p. 94). This system of judgement is expanded in the Greek religion by the concept of eternal punishment. Offending souls, upon arrival in the Greek underworld would be set to punishments they would endure forever. Particularly grievous offenders would be tortured by cruel beings known as the Furies (Fuller and Fuller, 2000: pp. 208-213). The concept of judgement reflected the power over life and death that the rulers of these societies had over most others. And as social concepts of merit where often tied to obedience to the system, the concept of judgement also offered powerful rewards and punishments to maintain the status of the society.

Few cultures follow anything resembling the model of religious “progression” presented by early modern philosophers. In fact, given that these models are based on the history of Western civilization, the only cultures that seem to actually follow these “progressions” are those of Western civilization! Arguments for the “superiority” of any culture over another have been rejected by most on the grounds of ethnocentric and subjective value judgements. The examples of how a religion’s cosomology is a reflection of a culture’s social reality are as varied and numerous as cultures themselves. As such, they lend evidence to suggest that religious development does not follow the models presented by early modern philosophers and, thus, disqualifies much of their arguments regarding the nature of religion.


Bibliography:

Carter, Jeffrey African Religions, Religion and Culture: An Anthropological Focus New York: Prentice Hall, 2000

Fuller, Michael and Fuller, Neathery Classical Religions of the Old World, Religion and Culture: An Anthropological Focus New York: Prentice Hall, 2000

Quirke, Stephen and Spencer Jeffrey, editors The British Museum Book of Ancient Egypt New York: Thames and Hudson, 1992

Scupin, Raymond Aboriginal Religions, Religion and Culture: An Anthropological Focus New York: Prentice Hall, 2000

I reserve all copyrights and such. Basically, quote me if you like, but don't use this stuff in your own work without citing your source and, if you attempt to make money off of it, I want a slice of the action.

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When I look at the world's religions, I seem them much as I do the invididual dots of pigment on a pointillist painting (like works by Georges-Pierre Seurat). Up close, they differ from one another in colour and are both separate and distinct. Yet, they all rest on the same canvas, the threads of which, to me, are woven from all the values and concerns shared by all the world's cultures, such as the desire for peace or understanding. If one begins stepping back from the canvas, the dots appear to move closer and closer together, blending to form diffent colours, tones, lines, shapes and forms. Eventually, when one steps back far enough, a fully resolved image appears.

This, to me, is the true face of Divinity.
the_vulture: (Man/Vulture)
This is the time it took me to complete my first 10k race.

I finished, I did so with non-stop running, and I did not come last - my three primary objectives were achieved. *grin*

And just to add to it all, I decided, as I was feeling pretty good, that I'd walk home from the event. I wound up covering about another 4 miles (I got a little lost). All told, I covered over 10 miles on foot, with over 6 of that at a run, and all before noon!

What did you do with your Sunday morning? *grin*
the_vulture: (Man/Vulture)
I cannot recall the last time I was able to do this; I only know that it has been many years, quite likely over a decade. Today, I tried on, and purchased, a pair of size 40 jeans. Yes, I can now officially fit size 40!
the_vulture: (tvhead)
Every now and then, a member of the religious right will really get up my nose by refusing to accept that there is NO objective evidence to even suggest that any one particular religion is more valid than another. At such moments, I tend to make posts such as this one.  

For those of certain religious orientation who refuse to accept that their views actually DON'T make a whole helluva lot of sense to anyone without the subjective faith experience required to believe, I present this: 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fDp7pkEcJVQ

And the original text version: http://www.jhuger.com/kisshank.php 

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It's been a while since I've posted an entertaining tale from the classroom, but this one's worth waiting for.

I was teaching a group of year 11 boys it ICT (computer stuff). This group is ill behaved and one particular pupil (we'll call him "Mandeep") was becoming a major pain by snatching things out of my shirt pocket and nicking my employee pass card. He'd then hand these off to another pupil and I would have to go, from pupil to pupil, demanding my stuff back until whoever had it at the time finally gave in.

Truth be told, Mandeep and friends were not being malicious, but their amusement at the cost of my time and patience had become exceptionally aggravating and I decided it needed to end. It was time to teach Mandeep a lesson.

Mandeep snatched my pass card again and handed it off to someone else. Instead of asking for it back, I flatly told him that he would be responsible for getting it back to me. He exclaimed, as he had before, that he didn't have it. I explained that, regardless of whether or not he had it or not, as he had taken it, he would be responsible for all consequences should it not be returned to me.

"What do ya mean?" he asked, taking the bait.

I then began to elaborate,in a stern style, that, if I did not receive the card, he would be responsible for the cost of hiring a technician to reprogram the pass card system and replacing ALL of the staff pass cards.

Mandeep began to look a little nervous and began asking around for the card. Sometime later, he returned to me, explaining that no one would give it to him. I reiterated that he was responsible for getting it back. Nervously, he asked if he could expelled for this and I explained that, given his track record of bad behaviour at the school, expulsion was quite likely. He renewed his search in earnest.

Whilst Mandeep was occupied elsewhere in the room, I approached Mike, the pupil I suspected currently had the card, and asked him to return it. He refused, claiming that he didn't have it. In a low voice, I explained that, if he gave the card back, I wouldn't tell Mandeep that I had it. With a conspiratory grin, Mike handed it over.

With Mandeep out of my hair (and currently engaged in searching every corner of the room for the missing card), the rest of the class was spent productively assisting those who needed help with their current projects. Periodically, I would be interrupted by a nervous Mandeep, who would plead that he couldn't find the card. Each time, I would bluntly state "You took it; it's your responsibility to get it back."

Chance allowed me to play it up even further; I received a phone call on my mobile (set to vibrate) and stepped out of the class to answer it ('twas a call from my agency). Mandeep saw me re-enter the class whilst putting my phone back and, with some measure of trepidation, asked if I had called the head teacher. Without missing a beat, I assured him that, yes, I had, indeed, informed the head teacher of the situation. Mandeep asked again if I thought he would be expelled and I replied that it would be up to the head teacher to decide.

Mandeep's efforts to retrieve the card recommenced in earnest, beginning with another round of pleading with those pupils he thought might have it. They responded, quite emphatically (and this time with honesty), that they didn't have it and (as Mike had kept quite tight lipped about this) that they didn't know where it is.

Soon after, I was paid a visit by the head of year 11 (due, as I would discover later, by a chance miscommunication at the front office leading him to believe that there was a problem at my class). Again, taking advantage of the situation, I sternly asked if I could speak to him outside.

In the corridor, I showed him the card and then, loud enough for anyone in the class to hear, I explained the "situation" with Mandeep. He promptly came out of the class, perhaps to explain his side of the story or possibly to fish for sympathy. He was met, instead, by the convincingly harsh instruction to return to the class by the head of year. On seeing the look on Mandeep's face, it took all of the discipline learned during a summer acting course to keep from smiling. After Mandeep returned, the head of year flashed a canary eating grin; it seems that I was not the only one to appreciate the opportunity to give this class clown a taste of his own. The head of year then left to deal with other business.

I decided to let the charade continue till the end of the period, when I would then reveal that I had the card all along. I figured that letting sweat for most of the class would be far more effective in curbing that particular behaviour than any detention would.

It was near the end of the class, though, that this tale took a turn for the surreal.

I was assisting a pupil when I heard, from somewhere near the front of the room, Kelly, a particularly hard young man, state loudly "Brace yourself." With that warning, I turned around to see him punch Mandeep solidly in the side of the face. At first, I wasn't sure what had happened, as they both seemed quite posed, but the reaction from Mandeep was real enough. Assuming that this arose from some form of conflict, I quickly acted to make certain the two of them were separated. As I was doing so, however, Kelly quickly tried to explain that Mandeep wanted him to do so and that he did not "feel right" doing so. After talking further to both, it turned out that this was indeed the case; Mandeep, in a desparate bid to retrieve the card, went to Mike, whom he figured currently had it, and made a deal that, if he was struck by another pupil, Mike would give the card back. Mike, being an evil bastard (unbeknownst to me till then), allowed him to go through with it. He, of course, flatly denied making the deal.

I explained to Mandeep that, had I known this was happening, I would have ended this. I then revealed that I had card the whole time. I have never seen Mandeep look so down as he did then. Kelly even apologized and offered to let Mandeep hit him back (Mandeep declined).

Seeing that both boys had been through enough and did not want to carry the situation any further, I declined giving out detentions and simply wrote and filed an incident report, chalking it up to a random act of pupil stupidity.

My ploy had worked, however; since then, the snatching behaviour, from pupils in general, and Mandeep in particular, has greatly diminished. And, oddly, my rapport with both Mandeep and Kelly has improved substantially.

Yep, just another day at school...
the_vulture: (tvhead)
I got another hilarious response from one of my roommates concerning my hacky sack woes. This one warrants special attention:

From Blaine:


Need theme songs?

Life is a Lemon, and I want my Hacky back.

Money for Nothing
{With the chilling intro 'I want my/ I want my/ I want my Hackysack...'}

Hacky
{'Oh, Hacky. You're so fine, you're so fine you blow my mind. Hey Hacky!'

Little Hacky Sack
{'Little Hackysack, you're the one that we want.'}

Hacky Sack
{'All those other hackysacks / are just imitatin'. / Won't the real
hacky/ please come back / please come back / please come back.'}

Or you could go whole hog, and try something like this...

Ballad of the Sack

It seems last week in Michael's class
some kids were playing hacky pass.
Some kids subdued, some behaved,
as Mike upon their planners slaved.

When all at once the Head came in,
Coming to check this boisterous din.
To Mike she planned to say some stuff,
but that last pass was just too rough.

The hacky hit her in the head,
and she proceeded to turn red.
As her lips proceeded to flap,
Mike had one thought. It was "aw, crap..."

For beginning the hacky's trip,
that student got a concern slip.
The Head of English chewed Mike's ass
"Not behavior allowed in class!"

Then she left with the hacky sack.
Now Mike must ask for his sack back.
Hacky sack was confiscated?
Little sack's incarcerated!
the_vulture: (tvinflight)
A couple days ago, I was watching a documentary about a small group of people who enacted an unusual rite. Guided by a small number of modern day shamans, an assorted group of people underwent an ordeal where they fasted for three days, hiked out to a lonely meadow, dug their own graves, and were buried alive in them overnight. The basic idea was to come to grips with death. I watched this program with a bit of interest and from it came two lines of thought.

First, I realized that I should, at some point in my life, undergo a similar ordeal which would bring me to the alternate states of consciousness that these people obtained. I would like to undertake a "vision quest." Unfortunately, this comes upon me too late to take advantage of the contacts I have here to find a suitable guide for such an endeavor and I would be hard pressed to find someone I could trust in England, given how little time I would have available. Ah well! It's not like I will be away forever. I suppose I could follow the example set by a friend of mine and indulge in 'shrooms or the like, but that seems too "easy." I want this event to have profound meaning for me and popping drugs doesn't cut it.

Second, I realized that I would not want to undergo this particular type of ceremony for the same purpose these people did; I've already come to a comfortable understanding with death. Now agony and suffering, those I still have a healthy terror for, but death doesn't frighten me. It simply marks the end of all concern and desire: game over. But what of the meantime? The people in this documentary spoke of realizing that could come for them at any given moment and they should live life accordingly. How so? Contact all your loved ones and tell them you love them? Spend as much time with them as possible? Go do all things you ever wanted to do right now? I don't think so! There are reasons why we don't do this already and those revolve around emotional, physical, and financial limitations.

For me, the solution to how to approach life in the face of inevitable death is to simply live life well. No, I don't talk to my family every day, but when I do, I let them know that I love them. No, I don't spend as much time as possible with everyone I love, but I do take the time to so now and then. As for doing all the things I wish to, well, I can't to them all yet, but I can take a bit of each day to do something I enjoy. I do my best to find joy and fulfillment in each day and strive to share that with others. Simple, no? As for any regrets of things left undone when I die, well, regret is only for the living.

Speaking of things left undone, I really should get around to doing something to mark Lughnassad; in all the chaos of packing and sorting, I just missed another holiday. Yerg! (rueful grin!)
the_vulture: (Default)
It would make sense that my first journal entry should touch upon why I would chose something like a vulture to represent myself. These two sites will give you a little background:

http://books.google.ca/books?id=SDqPDqKAXggC&pg=PA203&lpg=PA203&dq=ted+andrews++vulture&source=bl&ots=aaE3H-8Id7&sig=Q0kCTQ4pNQeZQBd_-n1H_nCqp9k&hl=en&ei=6T8cS93hM5Gftgf_s7HbAw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CAoQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=&f=false

http://sped2work.tripod.com/totem.html

Now before you make any assumptions, I do not profess a belief in actual visiting totemic spirits manifesting themselves as guides in one's life (or at least not mine). Rather, the concept of "totem," for me, is a symbolic construct serving as a powerful metaphor for aspects of one's inner world. The use of totems is like writing poetry, as opposed to prose, to describe one's spirit.

As you may guess, I am a spiritual person. In terms of religious inclination, I would best be described as "pleasantly Pagan," to coin a phrase from Richard Pini. I am nominally Wiccan, though I am one of the many heretics of that particular faith who believes that Wicca is by no means the "Old Religion," and is, in fact, a very modern synthesis of other faiths designed to enable the contemporary Westerner to reconnect to the living world.

One of the key attributes that Ted Andrews speaks about, in his article on vulture totems, is the ability of the vulture to sense the invisible. Now, while many might interpret this to mean psychic ability (which I do not claim to have), for me, this mirrors both my highly developed intuitive processes and my ability to model large scale movements of events. Both of these are functions of my ability to see things in the "big picture" (which is also linked to reports of the vulture's amazing eyesight).

(As a side note, intuition is simply the quick meta-processing of a vast amount of data to arrive at an impression or decision in a rapid amount of time. For example, at a group meeting, I can look at a proposed plan and quickly tell you that I feel it won't work, but it will take me a while before I mentally sort through all the details and give you the reasons why it will not work.)

Another aspect of the vulture that relates to me is its efficiency of energy. The vulture optimizes and so do I. It's even reflected in my favourite martial art, Aikido, which uses your opponent's energy against himself (as a note, while I have studied Aikido to some extent, I am far from good at it (grin!)).

Even on a physical level, the vulture metaphor fits well. Andrew's descriptions of "techy" digestive tracts and the need to keep legs and feet cool are quite apt for me.

But the key symbolism about vultures, for me, is the contradictions they embody. Up close, the vulture is an ugly bird. But in the heavens, there are few birds that soar as gracefully. At first glance, I look like another average couch potato. Yet I lead a beautiful life, especially in my roles as both an artist and a teacher. Vultures are often associated with solitude, yet most are actually very social, especially the turkey vulture, which is my specific totem. This reflects a long running transformation in my life from being a book worm of the most introverted nature to becoming a socially active person able to thrive in some of the most demanding social situations (ten years ago, I would not have anticipated becoming a middle school teacher! ('course, this may mean I'm simply nuts (grin!))).

There are a lot of other ways that vultures serve as a personal metaphor, but I think I've written a sufficiently large enough tome so I'll leave off for now.

(BTW: cathartes aura means "purifying wind," not "golden purifier")

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