Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Sacred Cactus

I didn't have room to bring my big pot of sacred cactus inside this year. There are many cuttings from it which live year-round in the yard so I figured it would be okay outside. Then it started drooping from the frost so I had my husband put it in the garage. Big mistake. I opened the garage on Monday and it had gone totally limp and dark. I thought it was dead and I felt horrible. But just now I cut it up and the heart piece, the one I got from Florida in 2003 during my shamanic training, which was already old then, looks okay and a few older chunks growing off it it look okay inside. When I cut between the growths they were still green and moist inside.
The new growth on the ends, which was very long and thin this year, rather than short and fat, looks like it's not going to make it.
The pieces I KNOW will live I'm bringing inside in a separate container. The rest I'm leaving outside (not in the garage) to fend for itself.
I wore a pair of thick plastic gloves under a pair of thick cotton/poly gloves and you know I still got spines in my fingers. Silly plant, I'm trying to help.
It's funny that I posted this today because one of the first growths off it was shaped like Manik the hand.

the road from monotheism to atheism

I read a wide variety of material, both online and in book/magazine form. Lately it seems to me that atheists are getting louder, or maybe there are more of them. I also recently met a very spiritual, enlightened person...who is an atheist. That really got me thinking how that could be. Then I saw the connection, and saw that it's a logical outgrowth of my path. Someday I will be an atheist. Probably not tomorrow, but in 10 years? Maybe.
This is the path I see.
  • Monotheism. Usually forced on you by society/parents. Rigid rules. One god, usually male, jealous, vengeful. Look at the first commandment: thou shalt have no other gods before me. Wow, does that ever open up a can of worms. #1, it surely implies there are other gods. #2 it also says that as long as Vengeful is god #1, you can worship those other gods. Which leads you to:
  • Polytheism. If there are other gods, why not explore them? Check out ancient pantheons. Greek, Roman, Celtic, Norse are all popular. I've gone to the Native American/Meso-American pantheon myself, and some also choose that path. Now might be the time to dabble in Buddhism as well, although there's no god there! Wicca, with its Lord and Lady, fall here too. (I tend to group everything that's not "monotheism" or "atheism" under "Pagan" which isn't a label everyone likes or agrees with.) The more research you do as a polytheist, the more you come to a couple of conclusions: when you get down to it, all religions are very much the same when you get to the essential concepts. (Love people, don't hurt them, be nice) Then you start hearing/reading/figuring out the next step, which is that we are all a part of god:
  • Pantheism: Everything is god and god is everything. My pen is equal to me, and so is my cat, and so is the tree outside, and my cactus plant, and my favorite piece of quartz. My higher self contains all the wisdom I need (a concept from Huna, Hawaiian spirituality) so I don't need to go to any gods, goddesses, ascended beings, etc. I just need to ask my soul. A wise person once told me if you keep re-framing your question, the answer is within it and will come out. So if there are no gods, just your higher self, that leads you unerringly to:
  • Atheism. There is no god needed. Nothing to worship. Be a good person because you WANT to be, not because some bearded old man living on a cloud wrote it on a rock 5,000 years ago. There are different types of atheists.
    • The skeptics, such as you'd run into at the James Randi Educational Foundation, disdain anything they can't measure with science. Some of these call themselves secular humanists. I do visit that site, but they are so close-minded that it's annoying. It seems to me their lives must be devoid of joy and wonder while they have to measure, analyze, poke and prod every little thing to make sure it's "real".
    • Religious humanists, which is what the man I met was, practice spirituality without any defined god or defined religion. Buddhism and Taoism live under this branch but are often visited by those under the polytheism branch.
  • There are also Agnostics, which I was for a long time, but I don't see it as a necessary step along the path. It can really fit in anywhere.
This is not meant to be the definitive guide to any of these religions (or non-religions) just a starting point....actually just a way to put my thoughts down on paper (on screen). Please feel free to comment or look up these concepts for yourself. (c)

dream lesson

I had a dream this morning. The actual content of the dream wasn't important because I got the message right away.
It was about me being in unequal relationships, where I give and others take. Wait, that's fair, isn't it? I'd like to get once in a while.
In the dream, I was in a relationship, which started out looking like it would be a mutual give/give type thing, but very soon, it degenerated into the give/take, and I was helpless and hopeless to break out of that cycle. Just like I feel in real life.
I keep taking on "volunteer" jobs which suck up enormous amounts of my time and energy, hoping that I can turn them into paying jobs, or at least use them as experience toward paying jobs. But instead they just lead me to more "volunteer" opportunities. I feel like I have no time for myself, and I still have very little money. I'm very frustrated.
Right now, I am doing the following "volunteer" work: editing at E-press, editing at the Shamballa Foundation, editing for a friend, writing for the ASC, and now I'm apparently part of a start-up group on a new publishing house--but no one's said anything about money yet. Plus all my own stuff, all my blogs, my web page, my own writing...who helps ME with that? No one. I've always got my hand to help (and today is Manik, after all, the helping hand) but when does someone hold their hand out to me? Even when I ask for help, I don't get it.
I submitted one article, as a test, to Associated Content. They were supposed to respond within 5 days on my payment and then put it online. That was 8 days ago and I've heard nothing. It's not online either. 8 Manik 0 Kankin

Monday, December 18, 2006

Eragon movie: don't do it

When I first saw the trailer for Eragon, I thought it was for a Dragonriders of Pern movie. Then I thought the effects were cheesy. Perhaps they fixed the effects between the trailer and the big screen, because the one thing the movie didn't have was bad effects. Horrible costumes, wooden acting, plots stolen from every movie you can think of...but not bad special effects.
I slouched in my seat, surrounded by children who wouldn't SHUT UP, who were scared and too young to be at the film, trying really hard to care about the plot or the characters. I couldn't.
My husband said, "You know how you can tell when a fantasy movie is bad? The farmers and peasants are clean." 6 Chicchan 18 Mac

Friday, December 15, 2006

Apocalypto thoughts (spoilers) 3 Ik 15 Mac
I don't think I'm going to write a "review" exactly of Apocalypto. Just a collection of thoughts; take what you will and leave the rest (as always).
It starts out with the quote about how a civilization can't be destroyed from without until it's destroyed from within. I saw a review (no I don't know where, so I can't link it) which said that quote set it up to be a metaphor for today's society, and then failed.
That reviewer didn't see the same movie I did.
The people screaming that the movie portrays the Maya as blood-thirsty savages with no redeeming qualities didn't see the same movie I did.
The basic conflict, to boil it down, is the peaceful jungle-dwelling villagers versus the more advanced city-dwellers.
I will briefly recap the plot:
A bunch of men from a jungle village are out hunting. Over their kill, they tease one man about being sterile (reviews said that it was ED, but it's not, because the older man asks if everything works all right, with a crude gesture, and the younger man says yes, but no babies). Yes, they are eating some raw parts of the animal they've just killed. That didn't bother me. It sets them up as people, just like us.
They are surprised by a band of other villagers who ask for safe passage through their jungle. These people are thin and look awful and say that something terrible happened to their village--they were ravaged, I think he says. The main character, Jaguar Paw, tries to ask for details, but his father takes him aside and says that the others are infected with fear, and for JP not to "catch" it and spread it into the village, as if it's a contagious disease. (This reminded me a lot of 28 Days Later, that "zombie" movie which was really about rage.)
JP has a dream that night where he sees the leader of the other band telling him to run. He wakes up to hear a barking dog abruptly silenced, and finds that a party of men is in the village preparing to attack. He gets his pregnant wife and son out of the village and lowers them into a cenote (it's dry, not wet, so it may have a different name) for safety. The attackers kill about half of the villagers, including JP's dad, rape some of the women and take others captive. They leave all the children behind and take the living adults captive (including JP). One of the warriors cuts the vine rope to the cenote.
The children band together and follow the captives, who are led to a place where more men wait with more captives--the other villagers from the day before. The children from JP's village meet up with the children from the other village. The last you see of them, they are on a river bank, and the oldest girl is saying "they're mine now and I'll take care of them" to the women being led away. (This is a plot hole--at the end, when JP and his wife go into the jungle, they should have hooked up with those kids. It had only been a few days, they'd still be alive.)
My thought while watching the brutality of the captive-taking? "So this is what a Flowery War looks like." (Yeah, I've read Aztec too many times.)
They reach the city after 2 days of marching. This is a problem. If the city was only a 2 days' walk away, the villagers would have known about it. Instead they are in awe, as if they couldn't possibly know such a thing existed.
Along the way they meet a child with (apparently) small pox, which establishes the timeline as after 1519 (when the Spanish first came) as small pox was unknown in the New World before then. However, the Mayan civilization had fallen years before (8th/9th century!) and most of the cities had been abandoned by the time the conquistadors arrived. It was the AZTECS who were doing lots of sacrifices at that time, not the Maya.
Around the city, the crops are failing and the people are starving. Again, a two-day walk from a lush jungle. If there was a drought, it would have affected those in the jungle as well. It's almost like they time-traveled as well as walked. One brief scene is the captives being led through a limestone quarry which is seemingly being run with slave labor. Slaves are also shown painting and decorating buildings. I don't know for sure, but none of that feels accurate to me.
The city is gorgeous (to me) but wikipedia points out: On a very basic level, the movie contains a number of items unknown in precolumbian Mesoamerica, such as metal javelin blades. The Maya city inaccurately combines details from different Maya and Mesoamerican cultures widely separated by time and place....(T)emples in the shape of those of Tikal...decorated with Puuc style elements....The mural in the arched walkway includes elements from the Maya codices combined with elements from...Bonampak...and...San Bartolo ....Elements of such non Maya civilizations as those of Teotihuacan and the Aztec are also seen.
The "average" people of this unnamed city appear as starving and wretched. In sharp contrast are the nobles, who are well-fed and dressed. One fat little noble child laughs at the human sacrifices, while a noble girl yawns in ennui over it all. The sacrifices are the assembly-line butchery of the Aztecs, with the timing seeming to be about 1 person killed every minute or so. Yet they only had to go 2 days to find captives? Where have they been getting all these healthy young men? And yes, there has been ongoing large scale sacrifice here (more on that later). Jaguar Paw is just about to be killed when a solar eclipse happens, which the priests are in awe of. Considering that the Maya could predict eclipses that weren't even visible from where they were, they would have known this one was coming. Instead, they say that "Kukulcan" has had enough blood (Kukulcan did not ask for human sacrifices) and "free" the captives. This involves saying "run" and herding them down a ball court (I had high hopes they'd play ball in the court. Oh well.) while hurling javelins at them and then killing them at the end. JP escapes, but kills the slave trader's son, so they go after him (what happens to the captives that haven't gotten to run yet is left unexplained).
He runs through a dead cornfield and over a cliff...into a pit of beheaded captives. Thousands of them. (Why didn't they EAT some of these people if they were starving? That would have been historic.) Where did the people all come from? Could that many small villages be closer to the city than JP's village was? Why didn't all these villagers know each other? Wouldn't they have traded, intermarried, etc? Why would the city-folk have been so stupid as to leave thousands of rotting bodies right next to their crops? Right next to their CITY? And then whine to the gods that "pestilence" walked among them? Duh.
JP is then chased for 2 days at a full run back to his village to save his wife and child. This includes all sorts of amazing feats of endurance, such as doing all this with a massive wound from a javelin stuck right through him, jumping off a 100 foot waterfall, getting drowned in quicksand, getting shot with an arrow, no food for 4 days, etc. This is all straight fiction--enjoy it for what it is.
The last two surviving slave-takers pursue JP onto a beach very near his village. Again, this beach was a 2 days walk from the city. An ocean not yet polluted and over-fished, it could have fed the population with no problem. The three of them stop running. Not because they've run out of land, but because the Spanish are landing. (Convenient.) The two captive-takers eagerly run to the Spanish, proving they are dumb, and JP runs into the forest, proving he is smart.
JP saves his wife, who is no longer pregnant, having had the child in the cenote after it filled with water during a storm. They go off into the jungle rather than visit with the conquistadors.
The end.
Of course, between small pox and other diseases and the Spanish war on the infidels, 90% of the population of "New Spain's" natives were dead in 10 years. Bye bye Jaguar Paw. So much for your sons and his sons hunting the land after you die.
As far as it being a metaphor, our society is pretty screwed up right now. I guess we're ripe for the aliens to come down and kill us all, if they don't die first from our disease. (A sly dig at War of the Worlds.)

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Apocalypto angers Maya people 8 Ix 7 Mac
A day before it's released, Mel Gibson's movie is already controversial.
I'd go see it regardless, but I find the debate interesting. And it's certainly more interesting (to me, anyway) then reading about Britney's Spears' naked crotch. (shudders).
Much like his bloody epic about the death of Christ, a new Mel Gibson production about the collapse of the Mayan civilization is angering members of the culture it depicts even before it hits the screen. ...
Now indigenous activists in Guatemala, once home to a large part of the Mayan empire that built elaborate jungle cities in southern Mexico and northern Central America centuries ago, say his film "Apocalypto" is racist.
From my understanding, the film starred only native Maya people. Did they have a problem being in the film or being depicted that way?
Only trailers for "Apocalypto," which will be released on Friday, have been shown in Guatemala, but leaders say scenes of scary-looking Mayans with bone piercings and scarred faces hurling spears and sacrificing humans promote stereotypes about their culture. ...
Richard Hansen, an archeologist who Gibson consulted on the making of the film, says the director took pains to ensure authenticity and historical accuracy.
The entire script is spoken in Yucatec Maya and the star is a Native American dancer named Rudy Youngblood. Gibson's use of indigenous actors has won praise from Latino and Native American groups in the United States.
You know what? You can't ever make everyone happy.
I never saw The Passion of the Christ. Know why? Not because it was controversial. Not because I think Mel Gibson is or isn't a racist. But because I have no interest in a film about Jesus (except Monty Python's Life of Brian).
The Maya? They're my thing, I guess you can say. I hope the calendar's in it. I'll find out this weekend. Look for my movie review!

Friday, December 01, 2006

Mel Gibson & the Maya

There was a commercial on TV last night for Apocalypto. I switch channels a lot, but I think it was while I was falling asleep to the Sci-Fi original movie Basilisk (which recycled some of the sets & plot from the recent Manticore, which was better).
Today there's an interview with Mel Gibson on and course they have to focus on his DUI and drunken anti-Jew rant. Whatever. Jews could not have anything less to do with the Maya and that's what I'm interested in. Maybe I can learn Yucatec if I watch the movie enough, who knows?
Anyway, here are some snippets from those interviews:

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Of all the subjects to make a movie about, why the Mayans?

MEL GIBSON: If I went to the cinema, what would I want to see? That's where I always start. You're always looking to do something you have a thirst to see in your own heart and mind. And there has always been this shroud of mystery about the Mayan civilization.

I went down to the Mirador Basin and saw the pyramids and they're so enormous you can't get your head around it. One of them is the biggest pyramid in the world, bigger than the ones in Egypt. They're 3,000 years old and they've got jungle stuff growing out of them, but they're intact. They're just there. The Mayans just left -- but why? That's a massive question mark.

Apocalypto is an action movie, but it's got a political point. It's about a dying civilization — a great culture destroyed by fear and corruption. A lot of people are going to wonder if it's a metaphor for our own society.
We're all afraid. That's something I've been finding out more recently — how racked by fear we are as a society. It all comes back to that. If you watch the news you're going to be terrified. That little banner that runs along the bottom of the screen — today we're in a state of red alert, with a 98 percent chance of being bombed to the s--- house. That's an exaggeration — we're in a state of orange now — but you've got to wonder where this information is coming from. If I'm watching a video of Osama bin Laden looking through a rifle, how do I know he's not just some shoe salesman they told could be in a movie? You know what I mean? There's no way to verify it. Nobody has provided me with a good reason why we're sending our troops to all these places. I don't know how it jumped from Afghanistan to Iraq. I don't get any of this stuff.

Earlier, you mentioned visiting the Mirador Basin. Is that where the idea for Apocalypto came from — a trip to the Mayan ruins?
Oddly enough, I just wanted to fashion a really exciting chase. I wanted something fast and exhilarating. And I thought, What kind of chase? Cars? Nah, I'm sick of cars. Trucks? Planes? Been done before. Foot chase? I haven't ever seen a really good foot chase. A foot chase could be really primal, with animals and all sorts of stuff. So I ran an idea past my assistant at the time — Farhad Safinia, who ended up writing Apocalypto's script with me — about a Native American guy who gets captured. Because we always have this conceit that history started when Europeans got here, but the history of these indigenous people goes back thousands of years.

You get away with a lot of violence in the film. There are beheadings, people's hearts being cut out, one guy getting his face chewed up by a jaguar...
The world is a violent place. Violence is a recurring part of our history. But this movie is not as violent as a chain-saw movie, not by a long shot. That's just some teenager with pimples being hacked to death. This is less violent than Braveheart, I think. The sacrifices at the temple are puny in comparison to what they did to the guy on the rack in that movie. But I want people to close their eyes sometimes. There is one point where a guy jumps over a waterfall and brains himself on a rock. I don't want people to watch that piece. I've given them plenty of time to close their eyes, because that's really heinous.

So I have to wonder if this movie will spark off a big interest in the Maya or just more of the same old 12-21-2012 "calendar is ending world is ending" crap that I am getting SO SICK OF.
The interview doesn't say much about it being historically accurate or even what year it's supposed to take place in. Hmm. Well, it's a movie about the ancient Maya. I'll go.
When I first heard about it, I thought it was going to be about when the Spanish came (same era as my beloved Aztec) and Mel, being a big-time Christian, would do it from the Spanish point of view and make the Maya look like insane savages. But he didn't. Yay. 2 Lamat 1 Mac