April 30 is over

It only took me 3 weeks longer than I wanted. But it’s done. At the beginning of April I committed to write at least something ever day. It went well for a while. But then I got sick. I haven’t been hit that hard for a long time.

I feel a bit like I’m eulogizing myself right now. But don’t worry. I survived. I finished the task. And here, friends, are the links:

  1. “I”
  2. The Story Has Been Told
  3. The Scapegoat, Lifted High
  4. We Forgot The Kettle
  5. Some Advice About Length
  6. Benefit Cheque
  7. Weather
  8. Nothing When It’s Done
  9. A Burn Victim
  10. Clutched Prize
  11. Gold Fillings
  12. Last Year
  13. The Face
  14. Story I
  15. Story II
  16. Story III
  17. Story IV
  18. Jump, Fly
  19. Last Horse
  20. Kenosis
  21. Minimum Wage
  22. The Lamb
  23. North
  24. Inflationary
  25. Senseless Beast
  26. My Liking Precedes Me
  27. Butterflied
  28. The Wine of Now
  29. Viscous Liquid
  30. Sonnet XI

I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them.

April 30 @ Elsewhere In Dreams

Just in case you have noticed, I have a new 30 day project going on at Elsewhere In Dreams. I’m going to write a little something there every single day this month. Yes, even on the weekends. I’m not promising it will be good, but I am promising it will happen:

  1. “I”
  2. The Story Has Been Told
  3. The Scapegoat, Lifted High
  4. We Forgot The Kettle

You’re welcome to tag along. Comments are always appreciated. You can also +1 me on Google+ if you’re a masochist.

Wednesday Links

EID: Heat Death – It’s important that you realise that you and I and everything we know will disappear.

EID: Multiplication – Multiplication tables are tricky. They’re at once useful but also deadly.

EID: et cetera – Tricksy meta stuff.

EID: Upon The Death Of An Old Friend – There’s a certain amount of informality in sudden death.

EID: The Happiest Man In The World – Your poem is bad and you should feel bad.

EID: Early September – With infinite apologies to Charles Simic.

EID: Scarcity – Some things that look scarce aren’t and you are one of them.

EID: Conservation – This work is grounded in a real place, but not the part of the real place where everyone goes. No. The part that almost everyone forgets.

EID: Good Luck – Thirty-one years with this good-for-nothing limb.

EID: thank you – Remember pheromones?

Is Islam just another religion… or is it something more?

A rather interesting comment from Reddit. Not sure if I agree with it, but you certainly don’t have to be an atheist to find this interesting, relevant, and perhaps just a little bit true. I reproduce the post in its entirety here.

I live in a small country in Europe named Belgium. We have “freedom of religion”. There is a strict separation between Church and State. Officially, we are a catholic country but nowadays we have mainly agnostics and atheists, our churches stay empty on sundays.

We have many different religions, and many different cultures here in Belgium. None of them posed a big problem, but Islam really is an exception.

What I have learned is that Islam is not a religion like any other. Let me explain: Most religions and most cultures are compatible with Belgian culture and law, and just fit in. Islam however, is not just a religion as how we here define “religion”. Islam is a whole package. Islam contains a political system, economic system, justice, education, culture and religion.

When Muslims come to Europe to live their lives, this creates impact.

We have Police here who’s job is to make sure that the citizens follow the law. People with Islamic roots are showing some kind of immunity against the police. They show this in how they behave towards the police, by not accepting the police as an authority. They literally say and admit that Allah, the Islamic God, is the only authority.

Every week there are cases of violence against police and it always shows the same pattern: 1 Muslim gets arrested, and then suddenly a group of sometimes up to 50 Muslims gather and attack the police. This has happened so many times that the police has decided to no longer patrol certain neighborhoods, because their authority is no longer accepted there so they are just outnumbered by the ( Islamic ) civilians. I’m not speculating about the future here, this is the reality here today in 2012.

Then there is education. We have Belgian laws which guarantee a minimum level of education. It’s a book full of facts that must be taught in every school, they are called the “end terms”. One of those subjects is evolution. The theory of evolution must be taught in both science class and history class. Creationism is not allowed. If a teacher teaches his pupils the theory of creationism instead of evolution, then this is against the end terms.

I personally know a teacher who had the task to teach evolution to her pupils. The children with an Islamic background, we are talking about 9 and 10 year olds here, said to her: “You are talking bullshit, you are just a dumb woman, my parents tell us that we should not listen to you about this evolution crap, Allah has created us and all the animals.” They are ordered by their parents to not do any homework on the theory of evolution and they deliberately fail the tests. This problem is not limited to pupils. There are 20-year olds studying to become teachers, who also deny evolution. There are various reports of Islamic teachers who got their job as a teacher, and they are teaching creationism to Islamic children, denying evolution, and not following the end terms that are actually protected by law and by separation of church and state.

They not only deny the authority of the police, they also deny our education system and its rules.

Then there is the problem of food. Islam does not accept pork as “clean” food. Therefore, they do not buy food in our supermarkets. Instead, they build their own stores which do not allow the sale of pork or alcohol. Here I have an example of one of my relatives: a family member was celebrating her birthday at work. She gave away boxes of chocolates containing alcohol. She got a complaint from an Islamic employee that she apparently had not shown respect for his “beliefs” by not having any non-Alcoholic chocolates. This might sound like a stupid small issue but I’m trying to make a point here: I’m not talking about extremist Muslims here blowing themselves up, I am talking about the everyday Muslim.

Now economy. Belgium has banks, our banking system is interweaved with economy ( ok I know this is not the ideal period to start defending banks with all the economic mess we are into but still … ). They do not use our banks: they keep their money in foreign banks located in Turkey, Morocco, Saudi-Arabia etc… because those banks follow certain Islamic rules. They are constantly draining and transferring money out of Europe. They do not accept our banking system because it’s not compliant with the Islamic view of economy.

I know I’m writing a long text here, but I hope you are still with me, because there is an important point I want to arrive to:

Justice.

The number of hate crimes against homosexuals is increasing every year. It started a few years back with taunting and attacking homosexual persons around areas with gay bars. Since last year, the first murders of gays have happened, by Muslims. No provocation, just hate crimes, hate against gays. The gay community is aware of areas in Belgium where they are no longer safe simply because they are gay. This wasn’t the case 10 years ago. Then there are the increasing reports of honor killings. Just recently, a 22 year old Belgian bared the child of her 19 year old Islamic ex-boyfriend. The family of this Muslim had arranged a wife and a marriage for him, and this child would bring a shame on the whole family. That’s why he and his nephew have killed this young 22 year old girl, to save the honor of the family.

I hope I’m getting my point across here. Although Islam is being defined as a religion, it is not just that. Islam is much more, it’s a whole package, it’s a culture, it’s an entire social system.

And it’s impacting with another system. It’s not impacting with Christianity, it’s impacting with the Western world. We can see it slowly unfolding here in Europe. Slowly but certain.

Let me stress out that Muslims are more attached to their Islamic system, than the European people are attached to the Western system. This is because the Islamic system has a God as the authority, which is a more powerful psychological motivation, than the European people who just have the government as the authority. Muslims are therefore not showing as much indulgence as other Europeans, resulting in an increasing amount of rights for Muslims and a decreasing amount of rights for Europeans.

Other cultures and religions have had no problem with fitting in. But Islam is not just a religion. It’s something different.

When “Freedom of Religion” was written in the Belgian law, it wasn’t meant for something like Islam. This is the mistake and the problem that we are facing. And at this moment nobody knows how to deal with it.

tl;dr We should reconsider defining Islam as “just a religion”

Definitely something to chew over. I think part of the problem is that we all grow up in our own particular frameworks that seem obvious and invisible to us. The West is a Judeo-Christian framework that is not compatible with the Islamic framework. Which is why these people stick out like a sore thumb.

If they integrate and start synthesising both frameworks, I think we can find some common cultural ground. However the problem in Europe is that the Islamic communities are not integrating, remaining a culture within a culture, and that sort of heterogeneity isn’t something that Europe is set up to understand or deal with.

Canada on the other hand has had a lot of success integrating disparate cultures, but we do have this same problem here. We’re just not as close to the problem as, say, Belgium.

About not blogging enough…

Chris Hubbs thinks he’s not blogging enough. I think we’re all not blogging enough.

I remember a wonderful span of 2 – 3 years where everyone had a blog. Everyone. And most of us were on Blogger (regrettably), we had these long blogrolls, we’d all write these long personal posts, and everyone would do the rounds and comment.

Those were the glory days.

Then social media really took off. Now we’re all posting links and commenting on them, or posting tiny snippets of our lives and commenting on those. I guess it’s more like a conversation than a session with a shrink, and maybe that’s good thing.

But I don’t think it is. I don’t feel like I get to know people through social media as well as I do when I read their mini-essays.

Maybe I just miss being able to craft my own façade easily in long form. Maybe I just have less time available.

Maybe I’m just a sentimentalist.

Some wonderful notes about writing.

From Sam J Miller’s blog… some notes from the Clarion workshop.. And when I say “some notes”, I actually mean a lot of awesome notes. He doesn’t say who he’s quoting, which makes it a bit easier to take all the advice and weigh it for yourself without being name-checked into mental submission. Though I definitely picked out I few from Vernor Vinge in there.

Here are a few examples:

“A character’s lowest stakes are his own life, because if they die nothing matters. The highest stakes are his emotional investments. In Die Hard we don’t’ worry that he’ll die as much as we worry whether he’ll save his marriage.”

“How the character responds when the rules are bent or broken helps us understand the rules.”

“In real life, the pettier a crime is, the more forgivable. In fiction, it’s the opposite. Tripping a waiter is just about the worst thing you can do—-but theft is so forgivable it’s often shorthand for awesome.”

“In a romantic relationship, a power imbalance is dangerous. It can get creepy, fast, unless the powerless character has SOME fundamental strength or power that makes the relationship real and complex.”

“With no twist, no turnabout, and no surprises, the story will leave the reader pretty flat. It doesn’t have to be huge. Sometimes a character thinks something will be a very good thing, but it turns out to be terrible. Or they think something is bad, and it turns out to be good in a surprising way. We need a reversal of expectations.”

“Dialogue is always a negotiation. Someone has more power than the other, or has something the other person wants, or loves the other more.”

“You guys want the real secret to being a great writer? Apply ass to chair.”

And those are only a few of a number of great quotes.

Some New Music

I have finally found some new music I actually enjoy. Six albums in all. So I will share:

First off, Herik Jose doesn’t have an album per se, but he sure does have some great music. IDM-influenced with gorgeous vocals and strong melody lines, you can think of him as Postal Service without the bluster and bad metaphors. Free downloads too, by the way.

Jack Penate is a lot of things, but subtle isn’t really one of them. Ballsy dance-rock. “Be The One” stands out on Everything Is New.

I want you to listen to Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit because I they’ve mastered that sort of bluesy slow rock that goes well with whiskey and cigars. Also, great to play along with.

John Paul Keith and the Four One Fives (what’s with all the “and the numbers”?) are throwbacks to another, much more awesome time. Some clear 60s influences here. Awesome music. If it doesn’t force you to get up and dance your legs off, you’ve got problems. Or fewer legs than you should.

Oh dear Kanye West. You’re so ubiquitous that I won’t even link to you. Normally your albums have one, maybe two good songs on them. And then you come out with this. Autotune notwithstanding, 808s and Heartbreak is very, very good. “Paranoid” is wonderful, as is “Love Lockdown”. “Heartless”, though, is clearly the stand-out track.

If you don’t like Ohbijou’s “Beacons”, you clearly have no soul. This is the kind of pop music heaven should be filled with. Perhaps a touch too pitch-perfect, but still. Listen and weep.

These are some things I really love.

It’s been brought to my attention that I use this blog to complain about things a lot. Oh, okay, it wasn’t brought to my attention: I noticed as I was reading that there were a lot of posts essentially bitching about things. The remedy, I think, is to post something positive right now. And in order to do that, I’m going to make a list.

Things I Like

  • CBC Radio 1: For those of you in the US, there’s NPR. For us in Canada, there’s CBC Radio 1. All the stuff the other stations won’t play goes here. No commercial pressure leads, I think, to much better programming. Insightful commentary, excellent in-depth news, and radio documentaries (why have I heard so few radio documentaries in my lifetime?) When I get in my car in the morning CBC Radio 1 is the default station.
  • Zeugma: If you haven’t already heard, Laura and I adopted a cat. Not just any cat, mind you, but the cutest cat in the whole wide world. I’m usually a fan of short-haired cats, but Zeugma is a medium-hair grey, and still in the kitten stage of running-around-and-playing-with-everything. If it moves, Zeugma will bat a paw at it.
  • Nasi Goreng: Best food in the world. Really. Easy to make, painless to store, and spiced with curry. How could I not love a dish so fine?
  • Wordplay: I like puns. I like good puns and bad puns and puns that make you groan. Puns, however, aren’t all. I like other kinds of wordplay, like double meanings, irony, sarcasm, that sort of thing.
  • Kretek cigarettes: Yum. That’s all I have to say. There are quite a few good things in this world, and Kretek cigarettes are definitely one of the top.
  • Friends who give me espresso machines: Best gift ever. Period. I am now well on my way to being an Italian coffee expert. Coming up soon: latte art courtesy of WikiHow.
  • WikiHow: Now that I mention it, WikiHow is — after Wikipedia — the wiki I most often visit. You should, too.
  • My sister Becca: She does a great job at work. And is delightful to work with.
  • And last, but not least, Laura: If there’s ever a moment I say to myself, “Why did I marry you?”, you should hit me with a bear or something, because that’s crazy talk.