Spacebound video short

Emotion is personal, so this might not make you weep like a little baby.

But this short little video makes me cry every time I watch it (which is often since my toddler loves it to bits). Not sure if its the dog or the very nice music or what.

Oh Guatemala

I have not really posted much about the genocide trial of former Guatemalan dictator, Rios Montt.  Mainly because I have been awestruck that it was happening at all.  When I spent time in the region (mostly 1998-2006) I felt like Guatemala was a nation very, very far from anything like a trial against Montt.

But then it happened and I watched in awe as this country mired in a long history of colonial/corporate abuses did something no other country has – tried in a fair court of law its former dictator.  When he was found guilty, I danced with joy at the way that democracy was happening in this beautiful, amazing place.

I suppose I shouldn’t have been so crushed when the high court of Guatemala simply overturned Montt’s conviction.  I’m so sad to see this unfolding, to watch the hopes of the people who were tortured, raped, and murdered by this man dashed on the pillar of cronyism and, well. let’s just call it evil.

Boing Boing has had some shockingly good coverage of the events as they unfold if you want to know more.

photo: Daniel Hernández-Salazar.

I am a nerd, Durkheim is a genius

This is a post where I lay bare my true nerditude.  Because Emile Durkhem’s “Elementary Forms of Religious Life” is genuinely one of my favorite books of all time.  So I thought I should review it here.

Durkheim set out to explore what he called the archaeology of the soul in search of the “elementary religion.”  While he’s got some outdated ideas about “totemism” he is really trying to understand how “a hollow phantasmagoria has been able to mold human consciousness so powerfully and so lastingly?”

How, he wondered, does religion have so much power over humanity when it is so different around the world and usually based on such kooky ideas.  If there is no shared belief system, how does the whole idea of the sacred manage to be SO important to people.

Spoiler Alert:  His answer is complex but, in a nut shell, he says religion is: 1) based on the real. By which he means, humans feel like there is “something out there” some kind of numinous power beyond us (some neurobiologists would argue this is an artifact of the human central nervous system, but wev) and 2) that religion takes those individual experiences and gives them shared meaning thus creating “collective effervescense” (my FAVORITE concept of all time).  This collective feeling is triggered by rituals, so religion acts like a big ‘ole feedback loop.

I go to church and the music and incense and stained glass windows make me feel like I’m experiencing something beyond myself, something sacred.  The church tells me that I’m experiencing god.  There are a whole series of social and moral rules and legends and ideas based on the church’s ideas about god.  I believe them because they fit with my transcendent experiences that I have in church (and probably also outside of church).  I go to church with a bunch of other people, we all share this moment of the divine.  Society stays together and we all believe the same thing.


So if you’re craving some great social theory and want to read some of the earliest attempts to connect religion with collective belief, Durkheim is yer man.


Stuff Worth Reading: Borges Labyrinths

I hesitate to even try to review this collection of short stories since they are, to me, short story perfection.  Really, these stories capture everything I love about the form and are a sort of dry magical realism that gives me the warm fuzzies.

My favorite story is “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius,” a mystery/sci-fi thing of beauty that basically brings into question the way that reality is (or isn’t) manifest and what role human consciousness plays in the creation of our reality.  If we believe something to be true, can we make it so?  There is a magic mirror, an ever-changing encyclopedia, a fantasy world somewhere in remote Asia Minor, and a linguistic/philosophical treatise, all in one relatively short piece of fiction.

This is exactly the kind of short story I would write if I were a raging, magical genius.


Maya Temple of the Night Sun

This is slightly old news, but just watched the little National Geo video about it HERE and remembered how cool this is.

“Some 1,600 years ago, the Temple of the Night Sun was a blood-red beacon visible for miles and adorned with giant masks of the Maya sun god as a shark, blood drinker, and jaguar.”

This temple was at the ancient Maya city of El Zotz, not too far from where I worked in Central America.  Amazing.

Sabar Senegal

Just saw this great video about Sabar, the drumming events that happen in Senegal.  This is what I was helping to document when I lived in Senegal many moons ago.  Still blows me away.

Or if you just want to watch some kick-ass Sabar dancing.

As if made for me!

Here is an amazing kickstarter that I can’t wait to read (and to submit to)!  Check out Long Hidden.

“Most written chronicles of history, and most speculative stories, put rulers, conquerors, and invaders front and center. People with less power, money, or status—enslaved people, indigenous people, people of color, queer people, laborers, women, people with disabilities, the very young and very old, and religious minorities, among others—are relegated to the margins. Today, mainstream history continues to perpetuate one-sided versions of the past while mistelling or erasing the stories of the rest of the world.

There is a long and honorable legacy of literary resistance to erasure. This anthology partakes of that legacy. It will feature stories from the margins of speculative history, each taking place between 1400 and the early 1900s and putting a speculative twist—an element of science fiction, fantasy, horror, or the unclassifiably strange—on real past events.”

So yeah, I did my entire dissertation on an historic Maya village from the 1850’s, basically trying to move away from the British-focused history of Belize, because there is a whole silenced history out there needing indigenous, non-European perspectives.

AND, I write speculative fiction (or try to).

Perfect, why yes, yes it is.


Stuff Worth Reading: The House with a Clock in its Walls

Young awkward, orphaned boy discovered he is descended from witches and wizards, needs to develop courage and master simple magic to prevent the world from being destroyed by the big bad….Harry Potter?  Nope, it’s Lewis Barnavelt, the main character in many of John Bellairs’ books, my favorite being The House with a Clock in its Walls.

Lewis is chubby and awkward and just wants to be liked, plus he fights evil with weak-ass magic.  There is something very sweet and dark about Bellairs’ writing.  It is full of humor and warmth and, in some places, it is actually quite scary.  Bellairs clearly remembers how it feels to be an outcast and I love his books for it.

Plus, many of his books are illustrated by Edward Gorey.  Perfect.

One of my favorite children’s series of all time.  If you are looking for books for a little one in your life (or if you just enjoy reading great, gothic horror books) I highly recommend this!