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I have not forgotten my promise to talk about The Religious Case Against Belief! But tonight is my littlest sister’s 21st birthday party, and so I will get back to work on Monday, probably. Thank you, very much, for your patience.

Also: Woohoo! Flapper party!

I posted a ton of fantastic links last night on Facebook and found another small ton today, and realized that I should blog these!

This is a burstingly lovely start to the day. The bit about the monks, especially, is true and far too easy for me to forget.

I have read so, so many essays on why Twilight is bad for girls that I find it hard to believe that anyone does other than scoff at it, but sadly I know many otherwise kind, intelligent, considerate women and men who thinks it’s great.

On that note see here why thinking about even crappy pop culture is not only good, it’s almost intrinsic to the fact that it is art.

But, when you’re having that terribly deep argument about the Platonic underpinnings of Batman Begins, make sure you don’t make this mistake.

In other entertainment news, I am very excited for this movie. As a private-beyond-all-bounds-of-normalcy person, the popularity of Facebook scares the bejeezus out of me (yes, even though I use it myself. My family will literally not allow me to leave). I am eagerly anticipating the arrival of Diaspora, which will be privacy aware and completely within the user’s control, and will interact with every other social network, so that everyone can pick Twitter or Facebook or Orkut as they please, and not have to convince all their friends to join them.

When I went to the Sen. Byrd memorial two weeks ago, it was cool and cloudy in the morning, and I was sleepy and so I wore a camisole under a sweater and neither wore nor brought my 100 SPF Goth-Approved sunscreen. Of course it cleared up and I got a horrible sunburn.  Then it was really hot, so I took off my sweater and burned some more. After a week or so most of it turned to tan and I finished peeling, and I lamented my newly less-pale skin to a friend. He blinked and said, “This is you dark?” And by my standards, yes, and I am unhappy about it. This article on not tanning helps to explain why.

Here’s Ian McKellen giving me another reason to love him by letting you know that some people are gay, and what you can do about it.

And finally, the absolutely sweetest XKCD comic in a long time. Have tissues ready.

Until Tuesday at the earliest.  I miss my second brain.

I am currently sitting on the couch with my head and hair covered in herbal mud which is covered in plastic wrap with a heating pad on top and a towel over that.

I’m feeling more girly than usual tonight.  I got some great family news today, which I mustn’t share until I can.  I finished my class today and should, inshallah, be more or less a college graduate now.  Feeling like celebrating, I mixed up some of my utterly beloved Lush Caca Rouge Henna Hair Dye.  It’s been on for about 2 hours, and I’ll probably leave it on until I get ready for bed.  If you don’t know about henna hair dyes, definitely click on the link and read up!  I’ve dyed my hair since I was in the 8th grade and I wish I’d know about henna years ago.  It’s easy and fun and makes my hair feel like adamantium, and it makes me smell like incense!

I’ve been reading Gala Darling a lot lately. She is an amazing creature made up of pure delight and magic, as far as I can tell, and she always makes me happier and more interested in my life. Tonight I re-read her about me section, and discovered this site , took a test and found out that I’m a Five. It was really interesting and fit me better than any other personality test has.  I also just retook an online Myers-Briggs test, and had forgotten that I’m an INFP, not an INFJ.  I love personality tests!

I will go paint my fingernails and toes some garish color now.  but before I go, do me a favor: paint some color into your life.  Pretend you’re a Libra, if you’re not, and seek out some tactile and visual pleasure.  Remember that your senses are alive and that they need fed, too.  I believe that our senses are similar to muscles in that the more we use them the better they get at their jobs, and like our brains in that exposing them to new experiences makes them work better.

Have a fantastic night!

I just wrote a 3 page essay for class in which I was supposed to take a claim from the film Coal Country and examine if it was science or non-science. Instead I attacked the whole film as non-science because it used anecdotal evidence and emotional manipulation as it’s primary tools. It was much more fun, interesting, and engaging this way.

Prof. Terry Shank slept in class again today.  I apologize for the poor quality of the picture.  The room was dark, since another movie was on.  However, I’m sure that over the next five weeks I’ll have many more opportunities to document this disgrace.

(The only alteration done to the picture, by the way, was to lighten and crop it in GIMP.)

Today we “learned” about particles like protons and electrons.  We learned what determines an element’s atomic number, and what makes it an element.  Then we spent about an hour watching the *sequel* to What the &^%$( Do We Know?”.

One of the first things he mentioned yesterday was the importance of recognizing junk science–but I guess when science gets confused and tries to be religion, he doesn’t mind so much.

To answer the question I would certainly also be asking, no, I have not spoken to him about any of the problems I have with this charade.  First of all, where would I begin? With his verbally treating members of the class like animals by “Ah-ah-ah”-ing them?  With his naps? With the constant movies?  With the fact that he’s starting the course in high school for any student from West Virginia or North Carolina (the only two school systems I can definitely affirm require basic science courses to graduate)?

I’m not going to drop the course or stop going to it.  I am extremely ready to be graduated.  Regardless of what everyone from West Virginia seems to think, however, I believe that when one encounters something wrong, one should try to fix it!.

One good thing to come from the past couple days is that I now realize how deeply fortunate I was to be tested as academically gifted at a young age.  Barring last semester’s breakdown, the only courses I’ve ever failed were the ones that bored me, that didn’t challenge me.  And I’m sort of sorry if this offends anyone or causes them to laugh at me, but I not only refuse to, I cannot comprehend being the “typical” college student who is eager and happy to have an “easy” class, one that does not teach, does not challenge, in which nothing is learned, the classes where you pay your money and serve your time and get your B on the other side.  I’m actually here to learn.  I always have been.  Getting back to my gratitude for passing that AG test, I realized this today:

If I had failed the AG test

and been put in classes this bad or close

for ten years

I’d be shocked if I didn’t drop out, too.  I, or anyone who cared to, could learn more and better by going to the library and reading a book.  Not only am I not learning, I am actively prevented from learning by being forced to spend my time listening to this placeholder instead of doing something worthwhile.

I’ve had people tell me that this is just a hurdle to be jumped.  What a cowardly way to avoid confronting the fact that Marshall is utterly failing its community as a school and as a business–if a mechanic charged me almost a thousand dollars and then napped in front of me–I can’t logically finish this example, because no mechanic who did anything other than fix your car after charging you that much money would ever get any work!

If he sleeps again tomorrow, I’ll send that email to the deans.  Apparently nothing will come of it, but if that’s the case, I do know how to reach the local newspaper and television stations.

Last night I received a comment on my last post. This person used an alias and no contact info, indicating a wish to hide their identity. However, the content of the comment immediately and unmistakably identified this person as someone who once knew me. She/he laid down some old, familiar tunes that were rather less welcome than sudden and explosive diarrhea. Because I absolutely do not want to have anything to do with this person for the foreseeable future, I deleted that comment and posted one of my own saying that it was removed for reasons of gross incompetency–and that’s true too. People who are uneducated about protecting privacy on the internet certainly get to use it, despite putting themselves and others at risk, but they also get to deal with the consequences of that. This includes having their data mined, having online communications read by undesirables, getting worms and viruses–and having their comments removed.

I might be alone in this, but I treat blogs and personal websites like houses. I would never go into someone’s house and pick an argument with them, especially if I did not have all of the data, and especially if I had previously hurt that person in some way. Yet this commenter did, and that left me with a quandary of how to keep my blog-house a safe space for myself and my loved ones? At first I thought I would make the blog invitation only, and I even changed that setting and sent out some invitations to trusted friends. But over the course of the (remarkably rotten) day, I changed my mind. Like many people my age, I both jealously guard my privacy and wish to be open–in specific, chosen ways. I want it to be up to me, and not others.

So, I have decided to get rid of commenting and make the blog public. Nearly all the comments I ever got were negative/uninformed, so really the problem was commenting, not privacy as such.

I am trying to take this up again more seriously. I think it’s a pretty good practice, and it helps keep me honest. If I’m writing on here, although I never say, you can assume I’m writing for myself as well, and that is of course something I need to do more of.

I hope this new arrangement works out, and I hope that I pretty much never hear from that person again–not from animosity towards them, mind. My life is simply better without them in it.

Because privacy really does mean a lot to me, I won’t out them, either. I will, on the other hand, out Prof. Terry Shank of Marshall University. I have one final class to pass before I can graduate, and it met for the first time today. After the same lecture on “What is science?” that I’ve been listening to since the third grade, it was time for “lab”. “Lab” consisting of Prof. Shank putting on a movie and taking a nap. In his chair, right at the front of the classroom with everyone watching. When the movie was over and he woke up, he saw that one student had left–whether from boredom, an emergency, or sheer disgust with the spectacle, who knows. He then spoke sternly that “that behavior will not be tolerated” and that the student would not receive credit for today’s “lab”. He told us to pass it along to whoever it was that

We all stared at each other in shock, and then left. “Class” was over.

If a professor smacked a student, called them a nasty word, or sexually harassed them, I would know who to report it to and I would feel fairly certain that appropriate action would be taken. In the face of this kind of neglect, however, what does one do? I’ve prepared letters for both the deans of his and my own college. I can’t decide whether to send them now, or to wait for him to fall asleep again and attach pictures. I’ll sleep on it.

I don’t really understand people. Anyone who knows me well could confirm this. I am frequently confused when people do one thing and say another, or do something that doesn’t make sense, or fail to live up to a principle out of laziness and don’t feel like they’ve failed.

I’m by no means indicating any kind of perfection or steady making-of-sense on my part–I snap too much and when I’m hungry I become downright shrewish and stupid. For contrast, I’ll give you an example of the kind of thing I just don’t get.

This past semester I had a pretty major breakdown and missed a bunch of class. When I started to pull myself together, I emailed my teachers and told them what was going on, said I didn’t expect any slack or anything, I just wanted them to know that I was neither dead, nor just ditching. All of them wrote back quickly and said that under the circumstances, they would work with me so I could finish the semester.

One of them wrote that he hoped “God turns your pain” and that several of his family members dealt with similar issues and he would definitely work with me. I was very relieved, because I hadn’t been doing well in that class, although I was probably the most engaged, interested person in it as far as in-class performance. I immediately emailed him back and asked what exactly I’d have to do, since most of the rest of the assignments were group projects.

He never emailed me back. Never. I re-sent the email several times, checked my inbox and junk folders almost hourly for days, then weeks. I was having panic attacks every time I spoke to someone I wasn’t related to, so I never called him or went to his office. I accept my measure of culpability in this.

But even so…from “May God turn your pain” to completely ignoring a student in need? I just don’t get that.

Chris and I had a long talk the other day. I had rewatched Return of the Jedi for the first time in a month or so, and as I watched the final battle between Luke and Darth Vader, I had a revelation: Darth Vader did nothing good or redeeming. He merely repeated the same mistake he had always made–except this time we like it. We like that he saves Luke, we like that he kills the Emperor and we like that he dies doing it.

I had always thought of the ending of Return of the Jedi like this: Luke confronts his father and the Emperor. He tries to stand up to his ideals, but he falters, and so he fights his father. Vader goads him into a fury (which is a further failure) and Luke wails on his father. Then he slices off Vader’s hand, revealing a hidden connection between them. This wakes him up enough to realize what he’s done and so he throws away his lightsaber, preventing himself from failing in that way again. The Emperor sees that as far as getting Luke to submit, he is beaten, and so he starts electrocuting him. Luke finally asks someone, anyone (in this case his father) for help. Darth remembers what compassion looks like, and tosses the Emperor into a pit, thus saving Luke and redeeming himself.

Basically canon.

What I now think is this: the only reason Darth Vader killed the Emperor is because the Emperor was taking control over Luke and his death away from him, and Vader’s obsession was always that the people close to him die as he wishes. For all of Revenge of the Sith he runs around insisting that he will find a way to keep Padme from dying. At the end of the movie, what happens? He kills Padme. It isn’t that he wanted her alive, he just wanted her alive (or dead) on his terms. Same with Luke.

I brought this up with a friend of mine, who occasionally talks about “necessary changes” to ROTJ in order to “make it work within its own mythology”. I’ve always disagreed with him about this, and I think I’ve finally figured out why: I think texts are inviolable in a very specific kind of way.

I’ve heard a story about the Buddha, where he said that seeking the cause of suffering was like getting shot with a poisoned arrow, but refusing treatment until the poisoner had been found and his motives laid clear.

I feel the same way about texts.

They are mixed up and nonsensical within themselves. This isn’t news. And yet over and over and over again humans find new ways to understand old texts, and get into arguments about the different understandings. I feel that with Return of the Jedi and the Bible alike, the text isn’t the problem. Even if it is, who cares? That’s not the point, or the changeable point anyway. What can change is one’s mind, and one’s understanding.

When I was young I had a young, binary view of Return of the Jedi, heavily informed by the fact that I had never truly questioned my Christian culture. Now I am older, and I have begun to learn how to understand different worldviews. Now I can see the movie through different lenses, and in some of those the idea of dying in pain to make up for past misdeeds makes no sense. It is horrifying and grotesque. In others, it is the only possible way to repay the debt.

We know George sucks at mythology. He managed to get it mostly, gloriously right exactly once. Every time he goes back and touches that shining ephemeral beauty, he messes it up worse. We are discussing a man who couldn’t be bothered to make sure that in the final film of the prequels, Obi-Wan had become Ben, and thus fulfill a promise he’d made decades before. And a promise is exactly what it is every time an author tells the audience any given detail: having mentioned a gun, someone must shoot it. This is why Lost is so frustrating: it has far too many broken promises.

So, we have authors who don’t know what they are doing, are occasionally lazy and basically mess up a lot. Is questioning them and rewriting for them, or working on deepening and widening our understanding going to benefit us more? If we rewrite Return of the Jedi, we have rewritten Return of the Jedi. Maybe we’ve honed our editing and critical skills. If we find a new, more satisfying way to understand the text, we enrich our whole lives–other characters making similar mistakes, other times we failed to read carefully, all these things become clear to us.

And then we suffer less.

Some interesting and edifying bits for today:

The Buddhist Literary Heritage Project website has gone live. It seeks to preserve and translate all the Buddhist scriptures it can, which if you don’t know, is really a lot. You know how if you went to the Louvre and spent one second in front of every work, it would take you something like 60 years to see everything? Reading all the Buddhist scriptures would take many, many lifetimes.

Rev. Danny Fisher posted today about a group seeking to help homeless meditation practitioners, and asks you to donate a cushion, or reach them with help on getting donations from companies, etc.

The US military has apparently decided that truth is a threat to national security–no surprise there, and I’m sure in cases of deep cover operatives and suchlike, that’s fair. In cases of covering up war crimes, not so much. My thoughts and deepest sympathy with the victims families.

A coal mine explosion in West Virginia is the worst mine disaster in decades. Just to be clear for the outsiders shaking their heads as to why anyone would work in a mine: the school here are wretched. There are no jobs other than mining in many of these counties, and this situation is enforced by outside forces who basically have their hands on the testicles and ovaries of our elected representatives. Please don’t be confused that anyone is choosing anything.