The leaves are turning, a nip is in the night air, and the Month of the Dragon is just around the corner. There will be fun, wisdom, and even prizes.
Join us here and over at WAFDE on Facebook.
The trailer for my friend Eric’s new book. Check it out!
Now and then, especially in the summer or when my days are so pocked with interruptions that it is near impossible to find a decent block of writing time, I switch from the verbal to the visual. I pick up pen and ink or pastels, and frolic in a different sandbox for a while. It shakes up the mind, clears the cobwebs, and is a great time to work on the year’s Yule card.
This year, I find myself playing in the digital realm, toying with faux oils and watercolors, textures and hues I could never afford if they were not on my computer. How liberating to be able to wipe out this clumsy stroke or that mud-colored blotch (it seemed so good in my head!) with the touch of a key!
At the end of the day, I worry it feels a bit like cheating, but ’tis fun, nonetheless.
It is in the spirit of fun that I offer up a few of my most recent endeavors. Enjoy. All comments welcome, though I hope you will be kind.
It is the time for light-weight summer movies. Mild diversions to fill a couple of air-conditioned hours in uncomfortable seats for outrageous prices. (Don’t touch the popcorn, it will kill you!) Hey, nothing wrong with that. When it’s 90+ degrees outside and your brain is on a low simmer, most of us aren’t looking for mind blowing cinema that digs deep and lingers long after we leave the theatre.
That said, I am always thrilled when I come upon a film that stands apart and challenges the stereotypical summer fare. Joon-ho Bong’s new film, Snowpiercer, seems to be that film.
Joon-ho Bong is a South Korean film maker of rare and growing skill. His first film, The Host, is a marvel of a monster movie, that takes the whole genre and tips it on its head.
He followed that with Mother, a powerful, very human story of a mother’s titanic efforts to prove her son is innocent of murder.
Now comes Snowpiercer.
Based on a 1982 graphic novel by Jacques Lob and Jean-Marc Rochette, it is dystopian, prescient, and boasts one hell of a cast. (Anything with Tilda Swinton in it is worth the price of admission, imho.) And getting rave reviews across the country – not that reviews are everything.
I don’t know if Snowpiercer will make it to the theatre in my tiny corner of the world or if I’ll have to wait until it comes out on disc, but either way, I can’t wait.
I do not often get political here, but today seemed to demand it.
This past week, certain factions in this country – and you know who you are – have leapt at the most recent turmoil in the Middle East as a reason to beat the drums of war and fatten the Military Industrial Complex’s already-bloated golden calf. They wrap themselves in jingoistic “patriotism” and deride the President at every corner for not being bellicose enough, for not blithely flooding foreign sands with more precious blood and treasure in a fight centuries in the making of which they have absolutely no understanding.
It is at times like this that Emma Goldman’s words on Patriotism become particularly salient.
Emma was an anarchist, atheist, and activist for any number of radical causes. The sort of person the right wing would bury under mounds of knee-jerk ad hominem attacks just for breathing. And yet, she understood more about the true nature of American patriotism than the GOP/T-Party in its entirety. And she was not afraid to tell it.
Worth being reminded of where we are going and that we can still stop and change direction.
Emma Goldman Speech – What Is Patriotism
San Francisco, CA
Men and Women:
What is patriotism? Is it love of one’s birthplace, the place of childhood’s recollections and hopes, dreams and aspirations? Is it the place where, in childlike naiveté, we would watch the passing clouds, and wonder why we, too, could not float so swiftly? The place where we would count the milliard glittering stars, terror-stricken lest each one “an eye should be,” piercing the very depths of our little souls? Is it the place where we would listen to the music of the birds and long to have wings to fly, even as they, to distant lands? Or is it the place where we would sit on Mother’s knee, enraptured by tales of great deeds and conquests? In short, is it love for the spot, every inch representing dear and precious recollections of a happy, joyous and playful childhood?
If that were patriotism, few American men of today would be called upon to be patriotic, since the place of play has been turned into factory, mill, and mine, while deepening sounds of machinery have replaced the music of the birds. No longer can we hear the tales of great deeds, for the stories our mothers tell today are but those of sorrow, tears and grief.
What, then, is patriotism? “Patriotism, sir, is the last resort of scoundrels,” said Dr. Samuel Johnson. Leo Tolstoy, the greatest anti-patriot of our time, defines patriotism as the principle that will justify the training of wholesale murderers; a trade that requires better equipment in the exercise of man-killing than the making of such necessities as shoes, clothing, and houses; a trade that guarantees better returns and greater glory than that of the honest workingman.
Indeed, conceit, arrogance and egotism are the essentials of patriotism. Let me illustrate. Patriotism assumes that our globe is divided into little spots, each one surrounded by an iron gate. Those who have had the fortune of being born on some particular spot consider themselves nobler, better, grander, more intelligent than those living beings inhabiting any other spot. It is, therefore, the duty of everyone living on that chosen spot to fight, kill and die in the attempt to impose his superiority upon all the others.
The inhabitants of the other spots reason in like manner, of course, with the result that from early infancy the mind of the child is provided with blood-curdling stories about the Germans, the French, the Italians, Russians, etc. When the child has reached manhood he is thoroughly saturated with the belief that he is chosen by the Lord himself to defend his country against the attack or invasion of any foreigner. It is for that purpose that we are clamoring for a greater army and navy, more battleships and ammunition.
An army and navy represent the people’s toys. To make them more attractive and acceptable, hundreds and thousands of dollars are being spent for the display of toys. That was the purpose of the American government in equipping a fleet and sending it along the Pacific coast, that every American citizen should be made to feel the pride and glory of the United States.
The city of San Francisco spent one hundred thousand dollars for the entertainment of the fleet; Los Angeles, sixty thousand; Seattle and Tacoma, about one hundred thousand. Yes, two hundred and sixty thousand dollars were spent on fireworks, theater parties, and revelries, at a time when men, women, and children through the breadth and length of the country were starving in the streets; when thousands of unemployed were ready to sell their labor at any price.
What could not have been accomplished with such an enormous sum? But instead of bread and shelter, the children of those cities were taken to see the fleet, that it may remain, as one newspaper said, “a lasting memory for the child.” A wonderful thing to remember, is it not? The implements of civilized slaughter. If the mind of the child is poisoned with such memories, what hope is there for a true realization of human brotherhood?
We Americans claim to be a peace-loving people. We hate bloodshed; we are opposed to violence. Yet we go into spasms of joy over the possibility of projecting dynamite bombs from flying machines upon helpless citizens. We are ready to hang, electrocute, or lynch anyone, who, from economic necessity, will risk his own life in the attempt upon that of some industrial magnate. Yet our hearts swell with pride at the thought that America is becoming the most powerful nation on earth, and that she will eventually plant her iron foot on the necks of all other nations.
Such is the logic of patriotism.
Thinking men and women the world over are beginning to realize that patriotism is too narrow and limited a conception to meet the necessities of our time. The centralization of power has brought into being an international feeling of solidarity among the oppressed nations of the world; a solidarity which represents a greater harmony of interests between the workingman of America and his brothers abroad than between the American miner and his exploiting compatriot; a solidarity which fears not foreign invasion, because it is bringing all the workers to the point when they will say to their masters, “Go and do your own killing. We have done it long enough for you.”
The proletariat of Europe has realized the great force of that solidarity and has, as a result, inaugurated a war against patriotism and its bloody specter, militarism. Thousands of men fill the prisons of France, Germany, Russia and the Scandinavian countries because they dared to defy the ancient superstition.
America will have to follow suit. The spirit of militarism has already permeated all walks of life. Indeed, I am convinced that militarism is a greater danger here than anywhere else, because of the many bribes capitalism holds out to those whom it wishes to destroy.
The beginning has already been made in the schools. Children are trained in military tactics, the glory of military achievements extolled in the curriculum, and the youthful mind perverted to suit the government. Further, the youth of the country is appealed to in glaring posters to join the Army and the Navy. “A fine chance to see the world!” cries the governmental huckster. Thus innocent boys are morally shanghaied into patriotism, and the military Moloch strides conquering through the nation.
When we have undermined the patriotic lie, we shall have cleared the path for the great structure where all shall be united into a universal brotherhood — a truly free society.
Every so often, especially in the spring, the spirit is moved to rattle the old cages, break out, and shake things up. Which is just what I have finished doing here and, more specifically, over at the Dragon’s Nest website .
We’re now all spruced up, lean and clean, with fiction, fun, and an ever-expanding gallery of the rare and fantastical. Dragons are represented in abundance, of course, but you will also find manticores, gryphs, kelpies, and proper unicorns, to name but a few.
If you are looking for an editor or
A treasure trove of prose and images,
If you wish to join WAFDE or get a
Certificate of Adoption for your Dragon,
Then come to the Dragon’s Nest.
If you cavort with the Rare and Unusual,
If you find more truth in Myth than in History,
If you are thrilled each morning by a Sense of Wonder
Too large for the mundane world to hold,
Then come to the Dragon’s Nest.
Here all things are possible and all beings
~no matter how fantastic~
So, it is Saint Patrick’s Day once again, a curious religious-turned-secular celebration which in its modern incarnation owes far less to fact than fancy. Still, it gives those who need it an excuse to hoist a pint and dream of leprechaun gold and other Hibernian stereotypes which have little if anything to do with a saint who wasn’t even Irish. The facts are, Patrick—aka Patricius—was, as his name attests, a well-born Romano-Briton, kidnapped from Wales and raised as an indentured shepherd across the Irish Sea. When he escaped his captivity, he became a priest, in time returning to Eire as bishop and evangelist to the heathen Celts.
Arguably the most famous bit of blarney connected with Patricius is the story of him driving all the Irish snakes into the sea. That there never were any Irish snakes in the first place proved a minor inconvenience to the hagiographers. It was the Dark Ages, after all. They were dealing in myth and metaphor, in selling the Faith to the masses with broad strokes and simple symbolic tales.
Never let the truth get in the way of a good sales pitch.
But, in the truth they so blithely ignored lay something far more insidious. To understand exactly what was going on, we must take a step back, to a time before the one God replaced the Many. A time when Druids held sway and Dragons ruled.
Learned men and women, the Druids were the moral compass of the people. They were also blessed with the ability to converse with all manner of creature, including Dragons. They looked into Dragon eyes and saw a part of the oneness of nature: as with tree and spring, deer and human, so too with Dragons. They recognized the Dragons were old before time with spirits indwelling and immortal. Like the stones beneath their feet, they could roar with joy, speak, and sing. As keepers of their people’s justice, faith, and wisdom, Druids formed an intimate bond with the Dragons of Prydain, Cymru, Brittany, Eire, and the outer isles, receiving both guidance and instruction from their long-lived associates. The Druids shared their knowledge with kith and kin, and, in the process, Dragons became the most powerful creature in all Celtic lore. They represented the entirety of creation, from the rolling solidity of hill and mountain to the sinuous turn of river and stream. To a people who honored the eternal unity of the universe, no being could be more magnificent.
When Constantine obliterated the separation of Church and State in the 4th century, any previous laissez-faire attitude towards Pagans vanished, and the Christian notion of Dragons as demons straight from Hell was fine-tuned into the strictest article of faith. To Medieval minds, draconic physique not only made them perfect models for Lucifer’s minions but also linked them to Satan in his Serpent garb, tempting humanity to sin. (Note: A look at Genesis suggests that the Serpent was actually a Dragon—certainly a legged reptile—who only lost his limbs after that little kerfuffle with the apple. Gnostic texts, particularly On the Origin of the World, are much kinder, casting him as the descendent of Zoe [Life], the “instructor,” and “wisest of all creatures.” This more pro-Dragon take may have affected the Church’s decision to label Gnostics as heretics. But that’s another story.)
To anatomy and temperament add their association with the God-less Pagans and Dragons became the peerless targets of an increasing number of fanatics. Would-be saints and tin-pot heroes were lining up around the block, scripture and swords at the ready, as Dragon slaying became a quick—if dangerous—path to fame, fortune, and heavenly reward.
This was the stage upon which Patricius played, the script which informed his legend. No real snakes in Eire? No matter. There were Druids and Dragons, beings as figuratively serpentine as Satan himself. For the Patrician mission to succeed and the Church to claim ascendancy, one way or another both had to be eliminated. So Druids and Dragons fell under siege, their sacred springs and blessed woods seized in the name of the new God. No one knows how much blood was spilt in their defense—record-keeping gets a little sloppy when fighting for one’s life—but tales from sidhe and weyr speak of the Dark Times, “when rivers ran red.” Among the survivors, a band of adventurous Dragons emigrated to the New World (“driven into the sea”), while others retreated beyond the veil, dwelling in the land of the fey until the human madness passed. For centuries, the only reminder of Ireland’s rich draconic history lay in the verdant hue of her hills. From a dracophile’s perspective, Patricius left the isle much poorer than he found it.On March 17th, take a moment between sips of emerald lager and think back on the dear price our scaly friends paid—and continue to pay—simply for being themselves.