August 2018 Overview and Assessments

First and foremost, because I really do need to get better about this… thank you so much to all of you who follow my ramblings.  And welcome, new friends!  

This month has seen some crazy highs and lows, both in terms of page views and in terms of things that happened to me.  Some of this seems like a lifetime ago.  Thankfully, most of it has been good, in spite of the loss of Aretha Franklin.  That hit me a little hard.  The loss of a legend always does, but it does have a way of making me pause and reflect on a life and a legacy.  Hers was a good one, a magnificent one.

Related, we also lost Senator John McCain.  I didn’t write an obit to him, but I’ve been considering his passing quite a bit.  His death marks the potential end of bipartisanship in the United States, at least in the short term until conservatives start marking his example and take back the Republican party from Trump and his cronies.  Time will tell.  Regardless of politics, none could rightfully dispute his allegiance.  He was an American first.  It’s a rare thing when I can say that I didn’t agree with him, but I respected him.  Every politician on both sides could learn and benefit from such a steadfast example.

On a more personal level, this month is largely marked by return.  I can’t tell you the last time that was a theme in my life.

The abnormally scorching heat we had at the end of July gave way to a cooler temperatures at the start of the month.  We’ve since returned to the more normal, hotter temperatures as the neighborhood kids return to school, though thankfully not the oppressive heat that we had.  That was truly unreal.  Outlook for early next month brings those temps into reasonable territory… which also seems odd for Texas (a location known for having weather that changes every 10 minutes), but whatever.  We’ve screwed up the world so much, who can say anymore what end’s up?

My longtime friend and extremely occasional co-writer on this site offered up his philosophies on life.  If you like what you read here, you might encourage him to post more often.  Just saying.  ;)

I’ve returned to my meditations on The Art of Peace.

An old friend I’ve known since before high school has returned to my life.  To update that post, he accepts me for who I am, without question.  As scary and unfriendly as the world can be to people like me, it seems I’ve done very well picking my friends over the years.  I’ve been extremely fortunate.  I don’t take that for granted.

My cat that ran off forever ago, Helena, has been found and adopted into a new “forever” home.  I predict that’ll last a couple of months, tops, as she clearly values her freedom, but it’s just so good to know she’s still alive and well.  I wish her all the love, wherever her road takes her and thank her for the light she brought to my world for a short time.

I’ve cleaned out and restored my terrarium, ready to start anew.  I’m looking forward to the idea of having flowers in the autumn and winter.  I know it’s backwards, but there it is.  Still haven’t quite decided what to put into it, but there’s no rush here.  Right now, I’m letting the soil properly hydrate and absorb the plant food I added a couple of days ago.  Related to the idea of cleaning things out, I’ve also at long last overcome enough depression-induced inertia where I’m reclaiming my house, slowly restoring it to a comfortable living condition.  This process not only includes cleaning, it also means moving some things around and letting go of a great many collectibles.  Now that this is upon me, I find so many memories flooding back upon me.  It’s astounding how my own identity issues over the years allowed me to invest so much of that energy into toys.  It’s… difficult.  But this needs to happen.  In the midst of this, one of the things that will happen is moving the desktop computer and my Linux server (which is still not yet setup) out of my home office and into the much cooler space that’s supposed to be a dining nook.  There’s only one of me in the house, so it’s not like I need a dining space.  That’s why I converted the actual dining room at the front of the house into a library the moment I moved in.  Still one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.  My hope is for a similarly effective use of the nook space.  The office, then, will likewise become a more functional space for research projects and, hopefully a return to the practices of art and music.

Back in April 2017, I acquired a Raspberry Pi 3 with intent to figure it out and use it potentially as a retro gaming platform.  I was rather excited by that at the time.  Since then, it’s become an exercise in madness.  As simplistic as this machine is supposed to be, as “monkey see / monkey do” as it was advertised across the board from professionals and enthusiasts alike, I am still flummoxed by this hell-spawned contraption.  There’s nothing intuitive about it.  None of the instructions I’ve found anywhere — online or in books — seem to line up at any point with what I actually have, from the actual connections on the board itself to any of the coding.  I decided that the only satisfaction I will get is to either put my sword through it or to re-gift it to a friend who will enjoy the challenge.  I’ve opted for the latter, though in my head it would be so satisfying to just go full-on Xena on the blasted thing.  Overkill is underrated in such times.  I fear, however, any satisfaction I get from that would last for about five seconds, tops.  Vengeance has a way of being very empty after the fact.  Best to let my friend have it.

Around mid-month, I returned to Bass Performance Hall to witness the return of the Phantom of the Opera.  In what I can only call a most stunning performance, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Love Never Dies has pulled me again, not only into the Phantom’s story, but into the entire concept of live theater.

Earlier in the month we were treated to the confirmation that Sir Patrick Stewart is returning to his role of Picard.  That news was so big, it made international headlines, beyond just fan sites and industry trades.  Then around mid-month, we learned that Star Trek: Discovery has cast Spock.

My return to the original Star Trek series has been met with some wonderful feedback.  Thank you for that.  I’m currently about halfway into season 2.  Once I’m done with season 3, and before I jump into The Animated Series, I have acquired… well, it’s a surprise.  I don’t want to spoil it.

The weekly Sherlock Holmes and bi-weekly Tolkien projects are still chugging along nicely.  Other projects I’m working on seem to be lending more and more weight to everything Tolkien put together.

Outside of the projects, my reading started sporadic this month and got better.

First, I faced off against The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis.  I was so pissed off, I ended up not finishing it, but still wrote up a review to exorcise my personal demons.  I decided after that dreadful experience, I needed a break from Christianity and its woefully misguided willful ignorance.  Medieval though that book may be, which typically doesn’t bother me at all, much of it still applies today, and even across other religions.  That’s just scary.  That’s the part that made me mad.  Some Christians who follow me on this blog seemed to agree, which is pretty encouraging.

From there, I dipped a little bit into Shel Silverstein’s A Light in the Attic and read an introduction to a book of poetry from Renaissance era women that I’ve had for ages.  No idea yet about the poems, but the intro was amazing.  I started Coriolanus for the Shakespeare project.  I’ve read the play through once now, but there’s still plenty to do before I’m ready to blog about it.  My typical pattern is to listen to an audio performance of the play, find a film version or two if possible, then revisit the script with greater understanding.

While I didn’t review it, I also didn’t finish Tara Brach’s Radical Acceptance.  It made me realize that no matter how accepting Buddhist philosophies may be, Dr. Brach obviously has never encountered a transgendered person before.  The further I went, the more frustrated I became with this well-meaning book for just that reason.  There was simply no place for me anywhere in it.

I’ve been chipping away at a book of neo-pagan essays entitled iPagan,  It’s thought-provoking and far more accepting as modern paganism tends to be on the whole, and quite spiritually inclined, which is always refreshing, but I managed to forget I had the ebook somewhere along the lines, so I need to pick it up again once the dust settles from other reads.

Anne Brontë’s second and final novel, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, was a big hit with me, as was Robert Gottlieb’s biography of Sarah Bernhardt.  To a lesser extent, but no less welcome, I’ve finally come to understand the appreciation for Ursula K. Le Guin, having now read her award-winning novel The Left Hand of Darkness.

And then my reading took a huge left turn.  After reading so many positive reviews of Madeline Miller’s Circe, I decided to take the plunge after reading up on her and learning she actually had credible knowledge of the material.  For a modern novel, I found it quite excellent, but it stirred up some longings to return to Homer.  There are bridges that modern novels can never cross half as well as people think.  This is one of those times.  Since The Iliad and The Odyssey require scholarship to get the most from them, I decided that even though I’m more than familiar with these epics, it’s also been long enough that maybe I need to brush up properly.  That led me to realize that maybe I needed to try something new if I’m to bring more people along for the ride.  Taking a queue from the Dallas Symphony Orchestra concerts I attend, I decided that in addition to a review, I’d begin these classics with a prelude to explain what these epics actually are and offer my understanding of how they became important to the modern world.  My prelude for The Iliad generated a little interest, which I found most gratifying.  I know a handful of you are actually diving in.  Being that it is so long ago, I’m not much help in telling you which translations are better simply because I mixed them up frequently.  But… I know the stories well enough, so even though the internet is most helpful, if I can be of any assistance in adding to the appreciation of these stories, please let me know.  I’m happy to help where I can.  Having said that, my review of The Iliad is now on the site, and from here, The Odyssey awaits.  I have the prelude for that up on the site now too, and hopefully the review will drop sometime next week.  I have to admit to having a small crisis on this front.  I actually feel The Odyssey is one of those stories that would benefit from the same section by section treatment I’m giving to Tolkien.  Such an amazing story.

As my return to Homer was ramping up, my Sherlock Holmes reading buddy BrokenTune managed to entice me with a book written by a devout Christian who was bold enough to slap down the “fairy tales” of her religion in an effort to get back to the actual teachings of Jesus.  Apparently she caused quite the uproar in the process too, which is not really a surprise.  People don’t seem to understand the part of how faith holds strong is to test it by objective means.  As His Holiness the Dalai Lama says, “If science proves some belief of Buddhism wrong, then Buddhism will have to change.”  Or to put another way…

This is why Christianity has stayed stuck in the Middle Ages.  And this is why the vast number of its followers — especially in my neck of the woods, even in my own family — sound much dumber than they really are, because they don’t even know what’s in the book they’re trying to defend.  And those who do lean on it like it was handwritten in fiery letters directly by the Almighty instead of being translated by humans, re-translated, mistranslated by accident and on purpose, simplified and dumbed down over centuries, and voted upon for inclusion into a system that molded itself on pagan foundations of superstition rather than on the ideas that could have made it an instrument of peace instead of so much war and bloodshed.  The religion has been at war with itself for 2000 years, but still the message to the masses is to lie down like sheep and accept it whole cloth without question.  *ahem*  Yes, I have a lot of personal baggage I’m still working through.  I know…  I know…  Not every Christian fits this category, as I’ve learned firsthand thanks to some who actually practice what they preach, but the vast majority of them around me here in Texas are just toxic.  It’s one of the many reasons I hide my identity, because I refuse to be bullied, maimed, or even killed by those self-righteous, closed-minded types.  Living in fear isn’t living, but dying for someone else’s bullshit certainly isn’t the answer either.  Sorry for the rant.  Sometimes I just need to get this out there, and… well, that’s what my blog is for.  I’m human, after all.  If it offends you, it might be time to look within and ask some hard questions.

Back on point, I now have a copy of Uta Ranke-Heinemann’s Putting Away Childish Things.  I’ve read the intro, forward, and first chapter, and I am truly impressed with it so far, enough that I’ve already purchased her other book, Eunuchs for Heaven.  The tone of the book so far is soft spoken, but direct, and highly intelligent.  I’m looking forward to this one for a variety of reasons, not least of which involves a legitimate interest in all things spiritually inclined (as opposed to dogmatic).  Due to the intensive nature of Homer, I’m putting it to the side until after I’m done with The Odyssey.  After that, I’ll be giving the book a properly-focused read.  After all, there’s far more to spirituality than the people who pretend to practice it.

That covers most everything I’m reading or otherwise following, but it doesn’t address some of the inner stuff.  Over the past couple of months since coming as trans on this site, the lot of you have been wonderful.  Really, truly supportive.  You may never fully understand what that means to me, but thank you so much for that all the same.  The thing is, outside of this site, out in the real world, there are a lot of issues that range from laws being passed under the radar to oppress us to bona fide hate crimes.  I’ve posted but a handful of things on this site to boost “trans awareness,” and again, I’m getting some positive feed back from many of you, which is awesome.  I don’t feel like I’m doing enough, on this site, or especially out in the world.

The problem is systemic, I think.  There are some really good trans-directed sites out there that vocalize for our community online.  I’d be willing to bet that few non-trans people know such resources exist, or even think about it.  As I did with my Freedom and Equality Reading Library (which is ever a work in progress), I’m thinking about adding a page to this site specifically for trans awareness, basically a site of links to other pages.  Admittedly, I don’t know that many resources myself, but I’m always keen to dig deeper and to share what I learn for anyone who might be interested.  If any of you know of some sites or resources you’d like to share to be added to this page, please feel free to contact me.  Once I work up the page and get it posted, whenever that may be, I’ll be sure to announce it.

Beyond that, I’m ever working up the courage and means to do more on a number of fronts, both out in the world and within on a personal level.  As is typical, it seems all the parts begin moving around all at once after so much time being fixed in place, which can be disorienting at times.  Each aspect brings its own challenges and its own rewards.

Another month down.  Here’s to a beautiful September for all of you.

10 thoughts on “August 2018 Overview and Assessments

      • Fortunately, my exposure was limited. My maternal GM was Primitive Baptist and was fundamental in her views. My mother rebelled, psychologically. She took me to some Southern Baptist churches, sporadically, when I was little. The only churches I went to when I was a teen was youth groups via friends…and that ran the gamut from Catholic to Pentecostal. My father can count on one hand how many times he’s been to church. My paternal GPs were non-practicing Methodists. My paternal GM attended a non-denominational church late in life, trying to hedge a bet for a seat in heaven, I suppose.

        My last attempt to gain something from the gobbledygook was my year attending an Anglican church in Austin, TX. If I wasn’t already confused in Southern Baptist Bible Belt, I sure as hell was after trying to make heads or tails out of the fight between Continuing Anglicanism & Anglican Communion. OY.

        Then, I went in the other direction and decided to study life from a metaphysical/spiritual viewpoint. Studying yoga tipped the balance.

        Liked by 1 person

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