jewelry question

Mar. 21st, 2019 11:36 pm
yhlee: rose in a hexagon (hxx emblem Andan)
[personal profile] yhlee
In case there are jewelry-knowledgeable people reading this. :)

I have found basically the ring of my dreams, appearance-wise: Le Vian Chocolate Ombre Ring with 1/2 ct diamonds and 14k strawberry gold.

However! It also costs like $1,000. Which, I mean, I get that gold and diamonds are pricey. But that's not a small sum. I am interested in the basic design/colorway. I do not care about my jewelry being made of actualfax diamonds, or actualfax gold for that matter. I would be perfectly happy with a knockoff made out of crystal and gold, or crystal and vermeil, that kind of thing. Unfortunately, I have failed to find any such object through Google. Does anyone have leads, or suggestions for places to look?

(For an idea of where I'm coming from, my wedding ring, which no longer fits me so I wear it around my neck, is a double trefoil in sterling silver. It cost $20 + tax back in 2002. I'm pretty sure it would literally be cheaper to buy a whole new ring than to get it resized. Joe spent the same amount on his, which was a gold-colored plain band. We got them at 3D Light in Ithaca, NY. He doesn't wear it--the rings were mostly for the ceremony--so I keep it safe for him.)

TEXAS!!!

Mar. 21st, 2019 10:58 pm
yhlee: Texas bluebonnet (text: same). (TX bluebonnet (photo: snc2006 on sxc.hu))
[personal profile] yhlee
I'm in Irving, Texas for Dragon Pearl promotional reasons and staying at the Texican Court hotel, which takes Tex-Mex-ness very seriously:



Yes, that is a neon bucking bronco. Also, the enormous wall display at the front desk (which I'll try to get a pic of tomorrow?) features things like Dia de Los Muertos (sp? I don't know Spanish) art, cowboy boots, cacti, etc. And the bar in the courtyard area was blasting country music. *g* Ah, my people, who do not do subtlety.

I had a lovely dinner with [personal profile] telophase and [personal profile] myrialux at a local seafood joint, where they regaled me with engrossing tales of the JoCo Cruise, which I really want to go on someday after we shoo Ara out of the house toward college. *g* I had the crawfish étouffée and rather devoured it all because I was hungry.

I could theoretically have tried to get writing done in the hotel, but I have never figured out a way to make hotel desks/chairs/my laptop ergonomic enough for it to be worth it. :] I also will add that this hotel room's chair is unusually uncomfortable. :/

Friday (tomorrow) and Saturday I'm busy basically all day with book fair stuff, and Sunday morning I fly home.

recent reading

Mar. 21st, 2019 10:12 pm
yhlee: Mirror Georgiou from Star Trek: Discovery, eating an apple (ST:D Mirror Georgiou apple)
[personal profile] yhlee
I picked up the trade paperback of the comic Star Trek: Discovery: Succession some months ago when I hit up a comic store looking for something else (they didn't have it). I finally got a chance to read it in the hotel tonight.

I'm going to talk first about the art, and then discuss spoilers behind a cut.

Angel Hernandez's art (both inks/pencils, apparently?) is technically accomplished, and they're good at likenesses, which is pleasing in a tie-in comic. I often find it really distracting when comic art looks notably different from the actors/characters of the actual show or whatever. (Obviously, art is stylized and that's fine, so this is very much a YMMV thing.) So that's good!

However, there were two other things that I found unfortunately distracting. First, and this is related to the portrayal of characters, in Succession, most characters as depicted had almost no expression in most panels. I'm baffled as to this and wonder if it was some kind of "these characters don't have facial expressions" thing, which I definitely do not remember from S1. This is doubly baffling because in the short story about Stamets that's included after Succession, Hernandez generally does a pretty decent job giving Stamets and the other characters actual expressions. I found this the most discombobulating with the portrayal of Michael, because Sonequa Martin-Green on the show doesn't shout her emotions, but she is very definitely expressive, and seeing her face with this flat affect all the time just weirded me out, even given the context of the storyline.

The other thing that kept bothering me, and I feel bad or maybe out of touch even bringing this up, had to do with camera angles. So many of the panels in Succession were Dutch angles for dramatic effect that it became really noticeable, and the device lost its effect. I guess maybe I'm old-fashioned but while I enjoy a good Dutch, they start looking weird and kind of tired when you have multiples of them almost every page.

Anyway, I suspect I'm nitpicking--I really did enjoy the art for the most part.

Now for the plot: Read more... )
[syndicated profile] strange_maps_feed

Posted by Frank Jacobs



  • At a glance, this map shows both the size and distribution of world religions.
  • See how religions mix at both national and regional level.
  • There's one country in the Americas without a Christian majority – which?

China and India are huge religious outliers


A picture says more than a thousand words, and that goes for this world map as well. This map conveys not just the size but also the distribution of world religions, at both a global and national level.

Strictly speaking it's an infographic rather than a map, but you get the idea. The circles represent countries, their varying sizes reflect population sizes, and the slices in each circle indicate religious affiliation.

The result is both panoramic and detailed. In other words, this is the best, simplest map of world religions ever. Some quick takeaways:

  • Christianity (blue) dominates in the Americas, Europe and the southern half of Africa.
  • Islam (green) is the top religion in a string of countries from northern Africa through the Middle East to Indonesia.
  • India stands out as a huge Hindu bloc (dark orange).
  • Buddhism (light orange) is the majority religion in South East Asia and Japan
  • China is the country with the world's largest 'atheist/agnostic' population (grey) as well as worshippers of 'other' religions (yellow).

The Americas are (mostly) solidly Christian


But the map – based on figures from the World Religion Database (behind a paywall) – also allows for some more detailed observations.

  • Yes, the United States is majority Christian, but the atheist/agnostic share of its population alone is bigger than the total population of most other countries, in the Americas and elsewhere. Uruguay has the highest share of atheists/agnostics in the Americas. Other countries with a lot of 'grey' in their pies include Canada, Cuba, Argentina and Chile.
  • All belief systems represented on the scale below are present in the US and Canada. Most other countries in the Americas are more mono-religiously Christian, with 'other' (often syncretic folk religions such as Candomblé in Brazil or Santería in Cuba) the only main alternative.
  • Guyana, Suriname and Trinidad & Tobago are the only American nations with significant shares of Hindus, as well as the largest share of Muslim populations – and consequently have the lowest share of Christians in the Americas (just under half in the case of Suriname).

Lots of grey area in Europe


  • Christianity is still the biggest belief system in most European countries, but the atheist/agnostic share is strong in many places, mainly in Western Europe, but especially in the Czech Republic, where it is close to half the total.
  • Islam represents a significant slice (and a large absolute number) in France, Germany and the UK, and is stronger in the Balkans: The majority in Albania, almost half in Bosnia and around a quarter in Serbia (although that probably indicates the de facto independent province of Kosovo).

Islam in the north, Christianity in the south


  • Israel is the world's only majority-Jewish state (75%, with 18% Muslim). The West Bank, shown separate, also has a significant Jewish presence (20%, with 80% Muslim). Counted as one country, the Jewish majority would drop to around 55%.
  • Strictly Islamic Saudi Arabia, but also some of its neighbors in the Gulf, have significant non-Muslim populations – virtually all guest workers and ex-pats.
  • Nigeria, due to its large population and even split between Islam and Christianity, has more Muslims and more Christians than most other African nations.

Different majorities across Asia


  • Because countries are sized for population rather than area, some are much bigger or smaller than you'd expect – with some interesting results: There are more Christians in Muslim-majority Indonesia than there are in mainly Christian Australia, for example.
  • Hindus are a minority everywhere outside India, except in Nepal.
  • North Korea is shown as three-quarters atheist/agnostic, but this is debatable, on two counts. In what is often referred to as the last Stalinist state on Earth, religious adherence is probably underreported. And the state-sponsored ideology of 'Juche', although in essence based on materialism, makes some supernatural claims. For instance: despite having died in 1994, Kim Il-sung was declared 'president for eternity' in 1998.
Of course, clarity comes at the cost of detail. The map bands together various Christian and Islamic schools of thought that don't necessarily accept each other as 'true believers'. It includes Judaism (only 15 million adherents, but the older sibling of the two largest religious groups) yet groups Sikhism (27 million) and various other more numerous faiths in with 'others'. And it doesn't make the distinction between atheism ("There is no god") with agnosticism ("There may or may not be a god, we just don't know").

And then there's the whole minefield of nuance between those who practice a religion (but may do so out of social coercion rather than personally held belief), and those who believe in something (but don't participate in the rituals of any particular faith). To be fair, that requires more nuance than even a great map like this can probably provide.


This map found here at map infographic designer Carrie Osgood's page. Information based on 2010 figures for religious affiliation.

Strange Maps #967

Got a strange map? Let me know at strangemaps@gmail.com.

[syndicated profile] lib_dem_voice_feed

Posted by Caron Lindsay

I’m on by-election duty for ALDC tonight. And the first result of the night’s six by-elections was a cracker.

Nicely done, Bev. Congratulations to you and your team.

And in Southend on Sea, there was an advance of nearly 10% for Carol White:

And great to be standing a candidate in Thurroci:

There were two by-elections with no Lib Dem candidate.

Here’s the first result.

And the second:

One more to come – Dalgarno ward in Kensington and Chelsea where Alexandra Tatton-Brown is flying the Lib Dem flag.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

[syndicated profile] markpack2_feed

Posted by Mark Pack

Six council by-elections but only four Liberal Democrat candidates this week.

Vange, Basildon

Seven of the previous nine times this ward has been contested there was a Liberal Democrat candidate. Alas, there wasn’t one this time.

Esh and Witton Gilbert, Durham

A Liberal Democrat defence, triggered by the resignation of Michael McGaun. Beverley Coult was the Lib Dem bidding to succeed him, and she succeeded:

Dalgarno, Kensington and Chelsea

This is one of those councils which demographically looks to have some very promising areas for the Liberal Democrats but where, hindered by council elections only every four years, the local party has never really got rolling as a major election-winning machine. The council currently has one Liberal Democrat. Alexandra Tatton-Brown stood for the Liberal Democrats.

Holditch and Chesterton, Newcastle-under-Lyme council

No Liberal Democrat candidate this time unfortunately even though there was one last time.

Milton, Southend-on-Sea

Carol White stood for the Liberal Democrats.

Aveley and Uplands, Thurrock

This by-election was caused by the resignation of Tim Aker, formerly a Ukip councillor and MEP. He later quit the party, becoming a Thurrock Independent councillor before stepping down from the council. He continues as an MEP, now in the Brexit Party which has just lost its leader.

After four contests with a Lib Dem, thanks to Tomas Pilvelis this time the party was on the ballot paper.

Do you find these posts and my other content useful? If so you can make a small one-off donation to help cover the costs of running this site and associated email lists via PayPal here or sign up for a small monthly donation via your debit card/bank account here. Thank you!

These by-election results round-ups cover principal authority by-elections. See my post The danger in celebrating parish and town council wins for your own party for the reasons to avoid straying too often into covering town, parish or community council by-elections.

Get by-election results by email

If you sign up for my daily email with the latest pieces from this site, you’ll also get included as a little bonus the full set of council by-election results each week:

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[syndicated profile] lib_dem_voice_feed

Posted by The Voice

While Theresa May spoke to EU leaders, Vince met fellow Liberal leaders from across Europe in Brussels today .

Here he is with Catherine Bearder afterwards:

Over on the party website, Vince wrote about last night’s meeting with Theresa May and other leaders except Jeremy Corbyn, whose fit of pique he described. He then takes us through his conversations in Brussels, including the applause when talk of revoking Article 50 was mentioned.

I emphasised to the danger the Prime Minister is placing both the UK and Europe in, by arguing for a short extension which simply postpones the cliff edge we have been facing. What is needed now is a long extension to Article 50, to permit a real rethink and a final public say on the deal.

It is very important on these occasions that we get the chance to remind liberals in Europe that the Brexit story is far from over domestically: government ministers will always say they are ‘delivering the will of the people’. In truth, the ‘no deal’ exit Theresa May is threatening us with would be a total distortion of that result, abandoning many Leave voters as well as the 16.1 million who voted Remain. Now, around 60% say they would vote for Remain rather than the deal or ‘no deal’, so the will of the people is changing.

Perhaps the biggest surprise for my European counterparts was when I articulated our own position – agreed at conference just last weekend. If there is no extension, and we are approaching the ‘No Deal’ cliff edge, Liberal Democrats are clear: we should revoke Article 50 rather than crash out. There was a ripple of applause in the room when I said as much. Revocation would be a major step, causing huge unrest, but it is preferable to leaving without a deal.

The biggest non-event of the week was my meeting yesterday (Wednesday) with the Prime Minister. No 10 called my office mid-morning, asking to meet in the evening. There was a frisson of excitement around the place: might she have something really significant to say? In the event, the only thing that really happened was that Jeremy Corbyn stalked out before anyone had sat down: a childish display of pique when he discovered Chuka Umunna would also be in the room.

Once the discussion got going, it became embarrassingly clear that the PM just wanted to repeat to us all the things she has already said a hundred times in public. She doesn’t seem to appreciate that finding a way through will involve some change in position on her part, and she is needlessly dismissive of the proposition that attaching a referendum to the deal might be the best (and the only) way to get it through Parliament.

[syndicated profile] political_betting_feed

Posted by Mike Smithson

Never have the views of both CON & LAB leaders been so poor

Just out today is the latest Ipsos-MORI political monitor whicht has the Tories taking a lead of 4% over labour. Last time the two main parties were level pegging.

Also, as ever, included are the firm’s  leader satisfaction number a polling series that is now into its forty-third year. For the Corbyn and TMay the ratings are dreadful. The former has the second worst Opposition leader numbers on record only slightly better than last month which were the worst.

TMay’s ratings were the worst she’s experienced since becoming PM although she has a “lead” over the LAB leader in the sense there his net negatives are 16  points worse than hers.

We’ve never had a time like this when the leaders of the two main parties are simultaneously recording record lows. TMay has had Brexit while Corbyn continues to be hit by the anti-semitism rows which simply won’t go away.

In one sense the Tories are in a better position in that TMay has said she won’t fight the next general election as leader. Corbyn’s still there.

Mike Smithson


[syndicated profile] markpack2_feed

Posted by Mark Pack

I’ve talked this week about how you can join the big Put it to the People march on Saturday. I’ve talked about what you can do to help even if you can’t march in person on the day.

But most important is why. Why march?

The reason is very simple. Cliff edges may have become a bland cliche through overuse in political speech. Cliff edges may be the cue for amusement in cartoons.

But what Britain faces is a disaster.

It’s one with its comical edges, such as the secret contract for portable toilets.  It’s one which, of course, Chris Grayling has managed to make worse. It’s one with its anger-inducing illegality (another two fines dished out this week to Brexit campaigners for breaking the law).

But it’s also one with deadly serious impacts on people’s jobs, people’s medicines, people’s freedom and people’s futures.

It’s one symbolised by the box in the other room as I type this. It’s the box which holds the medals won by previous generations of my family. Medals from across the three wars between Germany and France in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries of increasing horrific scale and wider involvement that devastated civilisation. Three wars which were at the heart of the creation of what became the European Union.

Even now, with relations between Britain and our European neighbours at the lowest ebb for decades, the idea of sending troops in to invade is unthinkable. (Sending troops into our own cities to attempt to keep order is, alas, another matter.) It’s that change in outlook which the European project has been central to and to which we, therefore, owe so much.

Theresa May claims she is on the side of the people.

Let’s show her what the people think on Saturday.

Let’s get marching.

 

[syndicated profile] strange_maps_feed

Posted by Frank Jacobs



  • At a glance, this map shows both the size and distribution of world religions.
  • See how religions mix at both national and regional level.
  • There's one country in the Americas without a Christian majority – which?

China and India are huge religious outliers


A picture says more than a thousand words, and that goes for this world map as well. This map conveys not just the size but also the distribution of world religions, at both a global and national level.

Strictly speaking it's an infographic rather than a map, but you get the idea. The circles represent countries, their varying sizes reflect population sizes, and the slices in each circle indicate religious affiliation.

The result is both panoramic and detailed. In other words, this is the best, simplest map of world religions ever. Some quick takeaways:

  • Christianity (blue) dominates in the Americas, Europe and the southern half of Africa.
  • Islam (green) is the top religion in a string of countries from northern Africa through the Middle East to Indonesia.
  • India stands out as a huge Hindu bloc (dark orange).
  • Buddhism (light orange) is the majority religion in South East Asia and Japan
  • China is the country with the world's largest 'atheist/agnostic' population (grey) as well as worshippers of 'other' religions (yellow).

The Americas are (mostly) solidly Christian


But the map – based on figures from the World Religion Database (behind a paywall) – also allows for some more detailed observations.

  • Yes, the United States is majority Christian, but the atheist/agnostic share of its population alone is bigger than the total population of most other countries, in the Americas and elsewhere. Uruguay has the highest share of atheists/agnostics in the Americas. Other countries with a lot of 'grey' in their pies include Canada, Cuba, Argentina and Chile.
  • All belief systems represented on the scale below are present in the US and Canada. Most other countries in the Americas are more mono-religiously Christian, with 'other' (often syncretic folk religions such as Candomblé in Brazil or Santería in Cuba) the only main alternative.
  • Guyana, Suriname and Trinidad & Tobago are the only American nations with significant shares of Hindus, as well as the largest share of Muslim populations – and consequently have the lowest share of Christians in the Americas (just under half in the case of Suriname).

Lots of grey area in Europe


  • Christianity is still the biggest belief system in most European countries, but the atheist/agnostic share is strong in many places, mainly in Western Europe, but especially in the Czech Republic, where it is close to half the total.
  • Islam represents a significant slice (and a large absolute number) in France, Germany and the UK, and is stronger in the Balkans: The majority in Albania, almost half in Bosnia and around a quarter in Serbia (although that probably indicates the de facto independent province of Kosovo).

Islam in the north, Christianity in the south


  • Israel is the world's only majority-Jewish state (75%, with 18% Muslim). The West Bank, shown separate, also has a significant Jewish presence (20%, with 80% Muslim). Counted as one country, the Jewish majority would drop to around 55%.
  • Strictly Islamic Saudi Arabia, but also some of its neighbors in the Gulf, have significant non-Muslim populations – virtually all guest workers and ex-pats.
  • Nigeria, due to its large population and even split between Islam and Christianity, has more Muslims and more Christians than most other African nations.

Different majorities across Asia


  • Because countries are sized for population rather than area, some are much bigger or smaller than you'd expect – with some interesting results: There are more Christians in Muslim-majority Indonesia than there are in mainly Christian Australia, for example.
  • Hindus are a minority everywhere outside India, except in Nepal.
  • North Korea is shown as three-quarters atheist/agnostic, but this is debatable, on two counts. In what is often referred to as the last Stalinist state on Earth, religious adherence is probably underreported. And the state-sponsored ideology of 'Juche', although in essence based on materialism, makes some supernatural claims. For instance: despite having died in 1994, Kim Il-sung was declared 'president for eternity' in 1998.
Of course, clarity comes at the cost of detail. The map bands together various Christian and Islamic schools of thought that don't necessarily accept each other as 'true believers'. It includes Judaism (only 15 million adherents, but the older sibling of the two largest religious groups) yet groups Sikhism (27 million) and various other more numerous faiths in with 'others'. And it doesn't make the distinction between atheism ("There is no god") with agnosticism ("There may or may not be a god, we just don't know").

And then there's the whole minefield of nuance between those who practice a religion (but may do so out of social coercion rather than personally held belief), and those who believe in something (but don't participate in the rituals of any particular faith). To be fair, that requires more nuance than even a great map like this can probably provide.


This map found here at map infographic designer Carrie Osgood's page. Information based on 2010 figures for religious affiliation.

Strange Maps #967

Got a strange map? Let me know at strangemaps@gmail.com.

The Book That Refused To Be Written

Mar. 21st, 2019 06:44 pm
[syndicated profile] andrew_rilstone_feed

Posted by Andrew Rilstone

When my Granny was a little child, most houses in the countryside did not have running water; but there was a pump near her garden gate. From time to time a farmer or traveler would politely knock on the door, and ask if he might have a bucket of water for his horse; a request which was always granted. 

Imagine her surprise when one morning a man knocked at the door and said "Excuse me: could I possibly have a bucket of water for my elephant?"

So far as I know, this story is true. My Grandmother died in her 90s when I was in college; so the story took place, I suppose, 120 years ago. If I tell it to my nephew and he lives to be 80 then at least one person at the beginning of the twenty-second century will know that there were elephants in Cornwall at the end of the nineteenth.

I don't know where my Grandmother was living: I have a mental picture of the house we used to visit when she was a very old lady (which also had a pump, long since dried up) but that was her married home. I have an image of a man walking along a country path with an elephant on a lead: but for all I know there was a fleet of caravans making up a small travelling circus. And naturally I don't really know what he said; or whether Granny or her mother opened the door.

Once upon a time, a man knocked on a country cottage in England and a asked if he could water his elephant....

Events from the past only come down to us if they turn into stories. 


There was a small bookcase at the back of Miss Griffiths classroom, near the gerbils, on the left of the cloak room and the toilets. We were allowed to pick a book to read during quiet periods. Most of the books were much too babyish for me. But there was a creased up paperback edition of Islands in the Sky and a hardback copy of the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes; one of those library editions in a white dust jacket. I read a Scandal in Bohemia, which I didn't really understand and The Red Headed League, which I liked. I liked the crazy idea of a man being hired to copy out the encyclopedia long-hand; I liked the bit where Watson has to test Holmes' memorization of all the street names in London. I was incredibly proud that I spotted that the encyclopedia was a ruse to get the clerk out of his shop for a few hours before Watson did, though not, of course, before Sherlock Holmes. 

A whole floor of the public library was given over to children's books; with a whole silent reference section for people wanting to copy out the Encyclopedia Britannica by hand. Most of the books were very babyish; but there was an Older Readers section which contained stuff that I liked. That was where I found the Tripods and the unbearably boring first volume of Cities in Flight. (I have since read the other four volumes. They are unbearably boring.) If you wanted Tarzan or John Carter, which I did, desperately, you had to go downstairs to Adult Fiction.  

There was a Sherlock Holmes book in the Older Readers section; it was a "best of" anthology with the Speckled Band and the Copper Beaches and an except from Study in Scarlet and some background material about how the Victorians had gone crazy for it when it was first published in the Strand magazine in 1887. (My Granny was alive in 1887. She remembered the fireworks for Queen Victoria's Jubilee. She stayed up way past her bed time and fell asleep in a the back of a cart.) The description of Watson setting up home with his evidently mad flat mate I read over and over. I liked the funny hat and the slippers more than I liked the actual mysteries.

So: the first and only true reading of A Scandal in Bohemia the one which took place in the pre-fab at Church Hill School one rainy lunchtime in 1975. That is the reading I try to hold on to: the reading which informs all the others. That is why "spoilers" are such a terrible sin. They make it impossible to ever read a books for the first time. 

But I am sure I knew who Sherlock Holmes was long before I found Miss Griffiths' book. We all know — from Basil Brush and Sesame Street and the joke about painting the door yellow (*) — that a person trying to solve mysteries would be expected to wear a deerstalker, have a curly pipe, a magnifying glass and say "elementary" a lot. By 1975 Holmes had long since escaped from the printed page; Conan-Doyle's text was preceded by my cultural idea of him. 

(I wonder how long it will be until Holmes is only a man who says "elementary" a lot, in the same way that pirates are only men who say "Arrr!")

So perhaps I came in far too late and the the first and only true reading of A Scandal in Bohemia took place 81 years earlier. To find out who Holmes really is and what the story really means we have to imagine that we are Victorian gentlemen, hunched under the gas lights, reading our new edition of the Strand Magazine. 

It isn't quite true to say that that first reading is unrecoverable. I bet we could find letters and diary entries in which people mention in passing that they have been reading a spiffing new story about a clever chap who catches criminals by the power of induction. Possibly someone is writing a PhD on that very subject as we speak. 

But that would be an exercise of scholarship and imagination, just as much as a clinging to the Church Hill School version is an exercise in memoir and nostalgia. Try to bring the text closer and you end up pushing it much father away. 

*

Two and half years ago I seriously considered writing a book about the Amazing Spider-Man and Jesus Christ. 

My idea was to alternate chapters about my favorite comic book and with chapters about the four Gospels so Amazing Spider-Man #3, "Spider-Man Meets Doctor Octopus the Strangest Foe Of All Time" might have been juxtaposed with Mark 3, "Christ healeth the withered hand, and many other infirmities and rebuketh the unclean spirit". 

It would have suited my sense of the ridiculous and my liking for what might be called "conceptual blogging". It is quite funny to write about Tom Baker's first Doctor Who story on the night everyone is expecting me to talk about Jodie Whitaker. At least, I think it is. So it would have been quite funny to follow an essay on the central text of western civilization with one the New Testament.  

I had an idea that the proposition that "fans treat comic books like religious texts" was one that was worth exploring; and what better way to do that than by treating a religious text as if it was a comic book. Is theology really just a matter of sorting out continuity errors? Could preaching usefully be regarded as Gospel fan-fic? Is St John basically doing a soft reboot of St Matthew?"

My first clear memories of Sunday School go back to when I was about eight years old: approximately the same time as my earliest memories of reading comic. So I thought that maybe "How did the eight year old Andrew understand comic books?" and "How did the eight year old Andrew understand the Bible?" might turn out to be related questions. 


The experiment is worth trying. 

Pull the Old Book down from the shelf. 

Falling apart copy belonging to my grandfather. 

Pretty much fallen apart copy belonging to my grandmother, with the words of Jesus printed in red. (Someone, presumably my other grandfather, has redacted the word "piss" from Isaiah 36:12.) 

Pocket size N.I.V from my Christian Union phase. 

Huge illustrated Good News Bible inscribed by one D. Wynne of the First New Barnet chapter of the Boys Brigade " from when I was confirmed. 

Tiny little New Testament, also with a Boys Brigade inscription ("for Bible class attendance during the 1976-1977 session" apparently.) 

Another N.I.V with a purple cover and the words "study Bible" rather hopefully penciled on the inside front cover. 

A New English Bible, inscribed by one of my Sunday School teachers "a present for learning the books of the Bible by heart". (Which I can still do, give or take a minor prophet.)

Open up Mark's Gospel, which is the probably the oldest and certainly the shortest, and pretend I am reading it for the first time:


Questioning Minds

Mar. 21st, 2019 01:55 pm
supergee: (book)
[personal profile] supergee
Hugh Kenner & Guy Davenport were two of the greatest literary critics of the past century. Now we have two volumes of the letters they exchanged. [New Republic]

Rendering unto Caesar

Mar. 21st, 2019 05:11 pm
[syndicated profile] political_betting_feed

Posted by Carroll Barry-Walsh

Picture credit: Rights Info

At a recent IQ² debate on Brexit, Ian Paisley Jr MP, explained why the DUP was so against the backstop. He was a British citizen entitled to the same rights as all British citizens. This brought the inevitable retort from a certain Jess Phillips about Northern Irish women and gays not having the same rights as other British citizens.

Paisley’s answer smoothly placed the blame elsewhere: Westminster had devolved certain social matters to Stormont and therefore accepted that in respect of those matters British citizens in NI might enjoy different (i.e. fewer) rights than their fellow citizens on the mainland.

The audience’s reaction showed that many did not accept the idea that there could be such a derogation from fundamental rights, devolution or not, for British citizens. Why should a citizen’s rights be contingent on geography? A fundamental right which a British person can only exercise if they live in Barrow rather than Belfast is, some might say, a nonsense.  Well, no doubt the courts will have to opine on this before long.  But for the moment, under devolution, this is the position.

So we come to Parkfield School, Birmingham where Muslim parents have successfully lobbied to stop their children being taught about LGBTQ issues on the grounds that this is incompatible with Islam (though this has been carefully wrapped up as concerns about age appropriateness), the parents presenting themselves and their children as victims of a bullying secular state.

But let’s be blunt.  These parents – and Orthodox Jewish and other Christian parents – are not really bothered about the age at which this is taught or about how it is taught.  They don’t want it taught at all, let alone by a gay teacher, because they believe that their religion should trump all other considerations.

Regardless of the fact that homosexuality and gay marriage are lawful, some religious people consider that this fact and its implications, and even gay people, should be kept away from them and their children.  They claim that this interferes with their rights, even though nothing is preventing them teaching their children the tenets of their religion, when really they object to their views being challenged by other facts and viewpoints being presented.

This is a curious view to take of education whose essence, surely, is to teach children what they cannot learn at home, to introduce them to a world of ideas and knowledge far beyond the confines of family.

They may be British citizens but their religious identity – at least in this regard – is more important. They too are seeking devolution but not via devolved parliaments on the basis of geography but on the basis of religion and as determined by the demands of the most organised and determined group. And, unsurprisingly, such demands always involve reducing people’s rights and freedoms; it is never about giving them additional ones.

Well, if it’s good enough for NI why shouldn’t it be good enough for groups in Birmingham or Bradford or Stamford Hill?

That this question even arises is a measure of Britain’s failure over recent decades to understand that the growth of credal communities with strongly held beliefs at odds with Western values/laws and customs requires more than cliched paeans of praise for diversity and tolerance.

Britain congratulates itself on repealing Section 28 while allowing a far more insidious version of the same thing to spread, through indifference, cowardice and fear.

In a democracy, the key unit is the individual, votes are individual, rights are individual. Individuals are free to choose how they live; their choices should be freely made. Laws are made in Parliament and apply equally to all. If the principle is conceded that someone’s religion or race or any other self-chosen characteristic should exempt a person or group from the rights and obligations others are under, then the principle of equality under the law is damaged, perhaps fatally.

Making rights dependant on group identity devolves power to self-appointed community leaders, usually male, and in a capricious way, often with actual violence (or the threat of it). It means that there are hierarchies of British citizens: those able to exercise all their rights and those whose rights are subordinate to the group they belong to, without them having any say in whether they want this to happen.

It is a form of religious coercive control, sanctioned by the state. It leads to people – usually women, children, gays, atheists, anyone who does not conform to that group’s expectations – being deprived of what they are legally entitled to.  It tends to lead to isolated, enclosed, inward-looking communities, where integration is harder and which can make some of its members prey to extremism. (We were warned of this in 1984 but did not listen.) It can lead to “othering” those who are different, misunderstanding and hatred. This, after all, was the soil in which the DUP was nurtured.

It is a style of governing which is more reminiscent of Britain’s approach to its colonies, mediating with its separate groups of subjects through selected intermediaries, than with a grown-up 21stcentury democracy. It results in a society seemingly determined to root out discrimination and bigotry while oblivious to the fact that allowing religious diktats to determine people’s rights usually results in increased bigotry and discrimination against minorities and the most vulnerable, whether in their own communities or outside. It means that children are deprived of knowledge and help and opportunities which others can take for granted, purely because of where they live or where their ancestors came from.

And it is this last point which is often overlooked: some of those children in Birmingham or in Belfast will be gay or will want to have a life that is different to what their parents expect or want of them or want to question the received opinions around them. They may feel uncertain, isolated, maybe frightened, unsure of who they can confide in. They may be bullied, feel trapped; they may be made to feel wrong for being what they are.

They may want help but not know how to get it; they may feel guilty for not being as their parents expect, for not accepting the life laid out for them; they may have divided loyalties which they are unable to handle or reconcile. They may also be subject to physical harm or threats of it. (In some cases, girls have been murdered for being too Western, for wanting the same life as their friends. Gay men have been forced into marriage with unwilling brides.)

It is immensely cruel to leave children and young people in such a position because we are not willing to say clearly – and enforce – the boundaries beyond which religion cannot intrude, the circumstances in which it must yield to the state. Parents should not be able to withdraw children from any lessons, be they PHSE or music or science or about other religions.  Gays should be free to marry wherever they live.  Women should be able to determine their fertility regardless of their location.

Britain is no longer a country where religion determines law. There are countries where this is the case.  But not here. People are free to believe what they want; they are free to teach their children about their beliefs.  But this freedom does not – and should not – entitle them to deprive their children of knowledge and education and opportunities.

It does not entitle or excuse or justify abuse or cruelty or the infliction of harm. It does not entitle them to deprive others of their rights as citizens. It does not entitle them to demand tolerance for their own rights while denying the rights of or discriminating against others because their justification is religious rather than simple prejudice. 

Bullies are still bullies even if they wear religious garb or claim the privileges of parenthood or of legal powers granted to them. We should not be shy about saying so and about standing up to them.  The right to practise one’s religion, to raise one’s children how one wants are freedoms to be cherished, not weapons to be abused or used against others. It is long past the time this was made clear. 

Cyclefree


First Time at Conference – York

Mar. 21st, 2019 05:00 pm
[syndicated profile] lib_dem_voice_feed

Posted by Sarah Chadwick

As a new member, my first experience of a Liberal Democrat conference was by and large a positive one. I loved York, and the place I stayed was beautiful and, thanks to the Lib Dems, not at all costly. I am not at all well, having had recent serious health problems, but I hoped to get a few clues as to what the Lib Dems are about, and I did.

What I noticed most about my first experience was the under-representation of the country’s poorest and neediest and the abundance of the middle/upper middle classes. I wasn’t at all surprised – it’s a problem politics seems to have across the board. The people who should be making their voices heard the loudest, shouting and crying about deprivation and poverty, were not. They’re not anywhere, not present in the public discourse, not present on TV or only in passing. Its a deafening absence.

It`s an absence that’s been hitting me particularly hard since I started watching all Charlie Chaplin`s films. The tramp character he portrays represents the current state of the working classes better than any public figure in or out of politics. With his ragged clothes, tiredness, hunger and constant way of searching all his pockets for money in hope rather than expectation.

I often feel I may well be watching the future rather than a Britain of the past. For example when Chaplin needs a doctor but can only afford the “horse doctor”: the scorn, disregard and complacency of the moneyed for his impoverished state. The outsider status of people falling off the map through no fault of there own. It`s all very, very familiar, and most of these films were made in 1914.

What people want and what I want from the political classes is representation, and it doesn’t feel forthcoming. In one fringe meeting, I discovered the cost of running a campaign for election is capped at five hundred pounds so that those on benefits can afford it. OMG. Not many I should think! The ALDC which is sent up to help candidates is not free either, I think it may cost about eighty pounds a year. A wonderful service no doubt but so out of reach if you are struggling to pay for food, heating and rent.

In light of these findings, I wondered how I even made it to the conference. It was because I had the time, the need and the interest to search out the grants, the workarounds, the need to ask for discounted accommodation and the need to ask for help. I didn’t expect support, but it is to the credit of the Liberal Democrats that I got it.

I hope as Vince Cable said in his departing speech that these values are not “in retreat” because it is not just me that needs them now more than ever.

 

* Sarah Chadwick is a member of the Shipley and Keighley local party. She is a cancer patient surviving on benefits.

[80/365] Brexit

Mar. 21st, 2019 03:20 pm
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[personal profile] hollymath
My computer crashes every time I try to do a pivot table. So I can't follow along in the tutorials where we learn how to do the data analysis. So I am confused and frustrated.

And somehow it seems even more unfair that this is for a big project due on the 29th of March, Brexit day.

After the second week of a totally baffling and thus terrifying tutorial, I went to the library ocmputers that have magnification software and tried to follow through the worksheet with that. I really didn't have the spoons to go from one of those things to the other, but I only had an hour before my tutor's office hours and if I couldn't understand it or do it, I had to know in time to be able to go and ask her.

It turned out I did manage okay. I still don't understnad why I put which feature in which bit of the pivot table (I think this comes down to my haziness on independent vs. dependent variables still), but at least when I follow the examples it looks like it should. I need to remind myself how to do a chi-square test too, but that doesn't need to be today.

Yesterday was the most scared I've ever been of a no-deal Brexit, but today isn't actually much better. Even the petition thiat's giving people the only sense of a voice they've had in this shitstorm for almost three years -- so starved are we for some actual democracy that we're following the numbers on the petition as if they're our own heartbeat.

A sympathetic friend, on hearing about my uni project deadline, said "Sorry but nothing should be due on Brexit Day. Business as usual is entirely inappropriate." It already feels inappropriate. Everything from going to the shop to making plans for any date in the future to looking forward to even the most innocuous things like baseball season starting is so fraught it's exhausting.

And with nothing at all that seems uncomplicatedly good in my life (not even baseball? not dogs? (yeah because I'm worried about food and medicine for them too), my mental health is in tatters. I know there are people who are just ignoring it, but I have never been able to be one of them. Brexit has contributed to disordered eating. I'm having nightmares and anxiety attacks because of it. The vote is the reason Andrew gives for his mental health reaching the point that he had to quit his job, sending our microworld into chaos the same time the macro one was for the whole country.

I was thinking about all this on the bus home, and when when I got home someone shared an article about how Ichiro finally has to retire. She said, getting teary about Ichiro, it's fine, Ichiro forever. And I did too, but honestly less for him, amazing as he is (And he is: "Already half-out of the batter’s box, as he connected with his inimitable slap swing. Wildly rounding third as he went first-to-home on a double. In right field, making the frozen-rope throw to third that never stopped catching runners by surprise, no matter how many times they’d seen it.") But because Ichiro makes me think of my brother, because a 45-year-old baseball player is a link between the world I live in now and the world Chris knew about. A year ago I realized this, and I finished that will "Now I'm going to be sad when he retires." I was not wrong. But it had to be today I found out?

All the tears I hadn't been crying all day made their appearance then.

But! If you're like me and will feel better if you're doing something, [personal profile] kaberett has e-mailed their MP to encourage them to support revoking Article 50, and has kindly shared the text of that e-mail in case others would find it helpful not to be starting from a blank page. I know I do.
[syndicated profile] lib_dem_voice_feed

Posted by Bernard Aris

The liberal Dutch parties VVD and D66 have two distinct identities and historical predecessors. The VVD is more a car-loving, classical-liberal party with, since 1990’s leader Bolkestein, anti-federalist EU instincts, and has less of an environmental record than D66, who premièred gay marriage and are electoral reformers, very similar to the Lib Dems.

Contacts between the Lib Dems and D66 (both social-liberal) are warmer and broader than the VVD-Lib Dems. In Chris Bowers’ biography of Clegg, VVD figures once (p. 104), whereas D66 & Lousewies Vander Laan are on pages  102-3, 104 and 266-7 as Clegg supporters, also in the Coalition.

In the Dutch Balkenende II government (2003-’06), VVD was constantly squabbling about who was leader, and VVD minister Verdonk tried to rob VVD MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali of her Dutch passport, eliciting a no confidence motion from coalition partner D66.

To detoxify the VVD brand, Rutte in his first year as leader (2006-7) tried to set the VVD on a similar green course as Cameron tried with the Tories; both leaders let environmentalism slip because of insufficient backup from party grassroots and cadres. Rutte is totally absent from the Clegg biography (written in 2010).

The Rutte-Cameron relationship, begun while in opposition, blossomed when in 2010 both became prime minister (Rutte accepting support from Wilders, who was attacked by D66’s leader Pechtold).

Rutte, remembering the 2005 Dutch referendum on the “European Constitution” fiasco, warned Cameron against promising anything like a Brexit referendum.

According to David Laws’ book on the Coaliton (p. 406-09), the success D66 had fighting Wilders in debates from 2006 onwards, inspired Rutte’s advice to Clegg to challenge Farage; as we all know, their first 2014 debate was a draw, their second a PR disaster for Clegg and the pro-European cause.

Meanwhile, after the First Rutte Government was broken by Wilders walking out in 2012, Rutte remained strong in the elections and entered a coalition with PvdA (Labour). After Rutte II lost its majority in the Dutch Senate, from 2015 D66 and the orthodox protestant parties (ChristenUnie and SGP) offered confidence and supply in exchange for huge investment in education (D66) and NATO (all three partners). Thus Rutte II could reign the full term, a rarity. After the 2017 elections, Rutte was able to form a coalition with CDA (Christian Democrats), D66 and ChristenUnie. Thus, Rutte was Dutch prime minister from 2010 to the present, becoming a veteran (and mediator, reconciler) in the European Council.

Picking up the Dutch-British relationship when Cameron stood down, May was much helped by Rutte’s experience and stature in European politics; they’re in regular contact by telephone or in bilateral meetings.

This is what Rutte said on March 14th, after her second Brexit Deal disaster in the Commons. I translate verbatim from the coverage by NOS (our BBC): “What’s the sense of keep on whining to each other for more months, after running around that circle for the past two years?”. In his view, the British will have to start dropping some red lines, especially around Northern Ireland and the Customs Union, if we’re going to have any agreement. Rutte announces that he’ll do nothing; it is entirely up to May.

* Bernard Aris is a Dutch historian (university of Leiden), and Documentation assistant to the D66 parliamentary Party. He is a member of the Brussels/EU branch of the LibDems.

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Mat Bowles

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