Monolithic: Kandakes of Kush, Queens of Stone

Unbound

By the early portion of the 1st century, it seemed that all the world knew of Rome and its might. Further, it knew of the great Caesar Augustus that reigned at the helm of the Roman state. But in the land of Kush[1], at the edges of Western interest, this was not the case. The feeling was mutual, or more accurately, mutual disinterest and ignorance, neither Rome, roman culture or the man that ruled it meant very much to the Kushites or their great queens, the Kandake.[2]

It is uncertain when the Kush royal heredity moved from male to female, but we do understand that a series of women headed the state as independent sovereigns. These women were rulers by their own right, not by widowhood, regency nor marriage. Additionally, Kandakes did not lose or diminish their power when they married or bore Meroe_1sons. Instead, it was…

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Revolt: Morisco Women on the Way to Alpujarras

Unbound

During and following the Reconquista of Spain and Portugal, Morisco women donned traditional veils and heavy layers of clothing reminiscent of their Moorish roots and appeared to go about their lives as newly minted Catholics. But their existence was much like their clothing, shrouded from full view, at once both familiar and foreign. Their presence reminded the Castilians that there were limits to the control of Morisco cultural and religious devotion. It was an idea that both attracted and repelled, creating with it a sort of mystique.tapadas

Encapsulated in Morisco veiling, Castilian women took up the practice, adopting it to their own uses evolving into tapadas, a type of veiling that covered the entire face, leaving only a single eye exposed.1 Interestingly enough, Castilian women who popularized the style embraced the same two-fold experience, becoming enticingly exotic yet threatening. More importantly, women dressed in tapadas found freedom in the act of veiling, a…

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Unequivocal Voices: The Sacred Feminine Challenges Authority

My recent blog post from the UNBOUND project!

Unbound

As so many things do, this begins with a story… 

Many stories in fact, but I’m going to start out with just the one.

In 508 BCE, the great Spartan King Cleomenes joined forces with the exiled family of Cleisthenes in the hope of overthrowing Hippias, the tyrant of Athens. (Take a breath, I know that was lot of ancient Greek names.)

victorian-engraving-of-the-ancient-interior-of-the-parthenon-athens-efn0e4King Cleomenes managed to get himself to the acropolis, the central and most important part of the ancient Athenian polis, also the location of the holy temple of Athena. Weary and looking for a moment of spiritual reflection, Cleomenes, King of Sparta enters to the holiest place in the city of Athens, to pray. I imagine he opened the temple door, ready to step into the welcome cool dim within when he heard an angry female voice. An angry and powerful female voice, accustomed to being obeyed.

An…

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On History and the Status of Humanity

I spend quite a bit of time thinking about history. If I’m not teaching it, I’m pondering it or am chasing a new historical bit of mystery down a rabbit hole and learning, learning, learning. The learning never stops, not matter how many degrees you get or time you’ve already spent huddled with a tower of books.

With all this, I’ve become something of a past people watcher. Just like I do with the modern people around me, I wonder why people do the things they do. What motivates them? What philosophies and beliefs do they hold that support their actions? What justifications do they establish for these beliefs? Because it is these idealizations that create the worlds in which we live. Thought is idealization and this can become reality. Powerful right?

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Dune – The Pain Box 

Yet the absence of idealization can also be a powerful factor to the creation of that reality. Throughout history, people do not universally identify each other as human. This is equally true today. I use this label of “human” to identify not a group of biological entities on our planet, but as creatures not only fully capable of positive attributes but emotional depths. Within this, there are differing levels of humanity. And it is from this inability or unwillingness to grant this label some of the worst atrocities have occurred.

Now we could use the word dehumanize. But that would suggest that human status was granted in the first place.

Let me talk quickly about some examples pulled from Western Civilization.

pcrome.37The ultimate expression of Roman-ness was civic involvement and that involvement required citizenship. While citizenship expanded to include groups outside of the people who founded Rome, that status had to be granted. In fact, it was granted when a boy came of age. Note that women, children and slaves all technically belonged to a male that dictated their lives. In fact, the Paterfamilias had the power to choose if they lived or died.

Essentially the identification of “human” only occurs to a select group of males once they have come out of childhood.

One of the most powerful elements of Christianity as it came into the Empire, is that it created an inclusion of individuals into a higher group; a spiritual group. Whenever matters of the spirit arise, it is based in tenants of the human experience. One’s humanity and spirit are inseparable. It is no wonder that Christianity was particularly popular with disadvantaged groups. The religion first found gateways into Roman homes through women and slaves.

Move into the Early Medieval Period – we see the early standardization of infant baptismbaptismKingChild as a rite. Look closely at rites in general. Not only do they signal important events in a life, but also membership into groups. Group membership requires identification as human. Don’t just assume everyone (throughout both history and today) is given that identification by their societies. Baptism is the ultimate membership into the human club. It is a signal that this infant’s life is valuable. This means a lot of things, but significantly defines the difference between ceasing-to-be and death. Death is a rite in itself. But in order it to happen, the status of life has to be assigned in the first place.

To me, history is applicable in understanding our world today. How we think about other people affects our realities. There is no way any one of us can be completely inclusive or to be knowledgeable in all cultures, subcultures and experiences of everyone around the world. We cannot always grasp the finer points of identity, the reasoning of others, or create bounds of camaraderie over race, sexuality, gender, political beliefs, religious beliefs, etc. I do not advocate ignorance, we should always seek to learn and reach outside of our comfort zones with the spirit of understanding. Yet, no matter how big those good intentioned arms may be, we cannot learn all the things all of the time.

What we can do is think human when we see others. As thought becomes idealization, it becomes the reality of our society. And when we think human, we know exactly how that feels. We know the full weight of experiences, value and capacity for suffering and love that entails.

We all know what it’s like to be human and I’d like to think all of you are.

Flannel, Target and Reaching Nirvana

b49d60c0-e14c-0132-4643-0ebc4eccb42fLately, the world is rediscovering the 90’s and I’m kinda happy about it. Kinda. It’s the same sort of feels I get about GoTs hitting the big time. (Remember Arya, I was fretting over you when nobody knew who you were.)

h3br2e-l-610x610-plaid-plaid+shirt-flannel+shirt-flannel-chic-casual-grunge-soft+grunge-shirtSo yeah cool. People like Nirvana now, youngin’s, even. But, I’m getting why generations before gave me lopsided grins when I proclaimed my love for Pink Floyd or Led Zeppelin. The sense that they were saying, “awww, aren’t you cute.”

There is so much more to it than music. You see, I’m a little confused when I hear the pop tunes layered with Nirvana and flannel fashion on sale at Target. In fact, the more I think about it, the more I realize the connection of the 90’s grunge and punk with bigger ideas.

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Frances Bean Cobain and her portrait of the  garden shed.

 

I’m not talking about noble movements like world peace or saving the planet. Nah, something else. So hear me out. Let this little piece of 90’s child pride well up and burst forward with all the flannel, grungy, doc martin spirit I didn’t even realize still pervaded my soul. I am a product of the 90’s coming-of-age experience.

The 90’s had an general social awareness of the emptiness of modern life, especially the pressures to adhere to it’s code. We wanted to look at the shit because we certainly didn’t understand why the hell working 9-5 at an office for the rest of our lives sounded so great. We wanted to see the low in order to come to terms what society told us was the high. We didn’t have many answers but we had a lot of questions.

Why is this so important? Why do we feel so empty? Why are some people valued more than others? Why the hell am I here? What’s the point?

Well, what the hell’s the difference!?! I’m still asking all this today. I like to think we were the generation of Depression — ultimately introspective, critical and externally stagnant. But internally, oh man, we were a’ blooming. And many of us, still are doing just that.

Our internal gears and workings of our head coupled with the emotions and base needs that drive us insane. How we focused on the grotesque, mundane and arbitrary beauty that just will not be contained into some medicinal daily dose no matter how much we want it to. Look, there’s really no difference from any other generation, except perspective. The 90’s wants to shovel the shit in order to understand the creatures that pooped it.

This my friends, is the art of the 90’s. The music was the gateway, as is all art. Art allows us to pull out pieces of truth and put them on display for study, camaraderie, inspiration. It is the raw, unfiltered essence of sweat and tears, the story of how the addict ended up *here*. The humanity of loss, mistakes, hopelessness, anger….the candid validation of these and thrust of them into the fabric of society.

“Here take this, it’s the only thing that I know is real,” and, “please, don’t medicate it away.”

tumblr_n5qr1b6k8M1sstdtao1_500That each experience is home grown and valid and can be set to poetry. The basis of the whole 90’s DIY movement, particularly promoted by the Riot Grrrl movement is a huge element of this. It was our version of Gandhi and the Salt March. Do it different, fucked-up, insane and weird, but try it anyway.

So when I say I’m jarred by flannel at Target. I mean, I like Target as much as the next person but my reality is no where near a marketing plan. And I’m pretty sure Target won’t sell flannel that smells like cigarette smoke, BO and mildew-rank hopelessness.

Tool – Stinkfist

The Killing Joke: The Joker’s Denial of the Ulysses Pact

When the layers are stripped away, when we aren’t our little dresses and clear skin and toned muscles and shiny hair, when all we are, are the leftovers of beating hunks of blood and spirit and emptiness . . . all that is left is that choice that lives in our little heads.

There is a point in life, for most people, who have crossed a threshold from inexperience to experience. When we step onto the opposite side and know, thoroughly how pointless the existence we garnish ourselves within. And then we choose, a minuscule adjustment of the gears within our thoughts.

Batman sees the world as dualistic, his conflict with the Joker as the setting for his choice which he relives over and over. The Joker sees the world as a monochromatic entity, as something layered with inevitability. Batman is no more opposite to him than anyone else, a point he makes when bringing up that some event occurred to make him choose to be Batman. He suggests it all as lunacy.

I would love to see a comic where Batman and the Joker wake up in the “Gotham” nursing home together, rivals in their own states of dementia. Batman is utterly convinced of their rivalry and the Joker, not so much. They war over their daydreams and a nonexistent past.

ulysses pactThe Joker suggests that we question this idea that we are the culmination of the past. Instead, we are who we are, as we are right now. There are no true Ulysses pacts, just the raw state of being in the present, however putrid or rosy that may be.

When do we cease being the things that happen to us? Is the Joker anything but a container for a broken man? That choice allows us the capacity and bravery to continue, to make other choices, or simply choose to no longer liveAHS Tate. The Joker, is like having this inverted, his insanity is the result of the lack of choice. He has become the essence of his insanity, the chaos of indecision. But he is reflecting something here that I believe we are aware of something and fear as a society… a sense that something isn’t quite right. A sense of emptiness, a darkness that lurks within all of us.
Heath Ledger’s depiction of the Joker in particular was acclaimed, but it is my Joker HLopinion, not only because of his acting but because of his death. Whether it is true or not, Ledger became symbolic of the Joker: a broken man, an empty death, so much possibility, gone.

It’s not that I don’t believe he’s right. Loosing one’s mind, snapping at a moment and becoming another thing that is the personification of one’s suffering is only a bad day away, a bad moment away.

Yet the complexity of his story is interesting, but his message and viewpoint that most people have broken down at some moment and asked, “why bother?” It is a question that no one can answer for us, that we have to come to terms with. Perhaps the Joker has made a choice, perhaps he has chosen to be the perpetual bearer of bad news, the clown that pops the bubble of shiny hope. His “why bother,” is to spread its very sentiment. He sees himself akin to a force of nature.

How can anyone see the Joker as anything but troubling, yet so many generations have been drawn to his corruption. Comics are can truly be a depository for modern philosophic thought and questioning. And I’m not even a DC fan.

Ketchum’s Joyride

Wayne Lock, yep he seemed crazy but more than that, he seemed cruel. If anything, this story was a comparative study of two individuals: Wayne and Carole. Both were molested as children by the opposite sex parent (this is suggested on Wayne’s part). Both people are broken in some way. Wayne becomes fascinated by cruelty and dying. Carole becomes something of a lost soul. As a reader, we can easily identify Carole as mostly a good person in horrible circumstances, and Wayne as a bad person created by an abusive childhood. Yet it is important to note that Carole is the first to commit murder in the book. The murder of her ex-husband Howard is one of the more gruesome of the many murders committed. Yet Ketchum expertly makes us want Carole to survive.

A couple inconsistencies didn’t jive well with me. Mostly the quick death Wayne imparted on his victims. In the beginning of the book when he looks at Howard’s corpse, Wayne realizes that it is the dying that fascinates him. While I am relieved the author doesn’t spend time agonizing over slow deaths, it doesn’t quite fit with Wayne’s psychology to me. The comparison between Wayne and Carole would have benefitted from some greater focus. This would have taken the novel from solid to something more significant. This isn’t really a complaint but I saw a lot of potential in this that I feel wasn’t quite tapped.

Was it just me or did anyone else find some editing mistakes? I was quite surprised. Once point loon changed to toon and I was unsure if that was on purpose.

Ketchum does a great job with POV. I love how he switches perspectives, it really ramps up the tension. This is no easy feat, but man, he sure makes it look easy. If anything, I want to keep this book around to learn how to do this. I love the fast paced short chapters. These really move things along and give a sense of speed. I really enjoyed that he gave perspectives of each of the victims. This really humanized everyone and made me more invested in them and upset by their deaths.

The characters are interesting, but I had a difficult time being enthralled by them. I think this may be due to the amount of perspectives. As much as this was a strength in the story, it also stands in the way of the reader really latching onto the characters in a really deep and meaningful way. I feel that more focus on Carole by herself would have been helpful, especially when it came to her experiences up to the point of Howard’s murder. For example, what were her hopes and dreams? Was she attracted to Howard’s money? What drove her?

So I’m not a big fan of this sort of murder tale, but Ketchum is an effective storyteller. By the end I was almost physically sickened by the killing spree. While I hated Ketchum for writing the story, it is a testament to his skill that I was unable to stop reading yet had such a deep reaction to the story.

Easy to read with a clean and straight-forward style, Ketchum’s Joyride is a fast moving story that strattles the line between crime and horror.