Some thoughts about budo.

If you train every day, by the time you reach the end of your life, you’ll be able to look back and say, “I trained.” That’s really all there is to it.

— Kisshomaru Ueshiba, as quoted by Diane Skoss

I’ve been interested in budo, the Japanese martial arts, for most of my life. To be fair, though, it wasn’t an active interest until relatively recently. I didn’t start training until I was in my thirties, mostly because I didn’t think I could. More on that later, though. The point is, I’ve been fascinated by martial arts, and specifically by those emerging from the Japanese archipelago, for about as long as I’ve been aware of them. It probably helped that I grew up with a Japanese step-grandmother who exposed me to the more portable elements of Japanese culture—Edo period dramas and Japanese food among them—and, in turn, inspired a lifelong interest in the less-portable elements. That alone, however, probably wouldn’t have done the trick; my step-grandmother is many things, but a martial artist is not among them. Another contributing factor, I have no doubt, was the physical and psychological abuse I grew up with between the ages of three and seven. My first stepfather, the son of the same Japanese grandmother who introduced me to Botan Rice Candy and Japanese soap operas, was my abuser. That’s probably significant in some way, but I’m going to pass over it in relative silence.

The deciding element was something a little, unexpected, perhaps, and maybe even embarassing… but I can trust you all, I’m sure.

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Oh, I wish that I could live it all again….

Confession time: I was a teenaged Rush fan. I got into them in the late ’80s, just before Presto came out, so I had just enough time to get well and truly indoctrinated into the Cult of Syrinx before seeing them in Greenville, SC, on the very first date of the Presto tour. I’ve seen them a couple of times since, on the Counterparts and R30 tours, and enjoyed myself thoroughly.  When they came through Seattle last year, on the first North American leg of their Clockwork Angels tour, I missed the show… or more accurately, I decided not to go.  Honestly, I don’t have a good reason. I usually cite them as one of my favorite bands, but I hadn’t actively listened to Rush for a long time, so I may have just assumed I wasn’t really into their music anymore, and that missing the show wasn’t really a big deal.

And then I picked up a copy of Clockwork Angels, and was absolutely blown away by the album.

And then I talked with someone who raved about the Seattle show, and began to have serious misgivings about giving it a miss.

And then, my wife Meg and I watched Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage.


The point at which Meg (who cordially dislikes Rush’s music) turned to me and said, “I still don’t like their music, but they’re awesome!” was the point at which I fully realized the depth of my error of judgment.

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Some brief thoughts on same-sex marriage.

Most days, the idea of making political statements is intensely uncomfortable for me. In all likelihood, this comes from a childhood spent trying to be a social chameleon out of self-defense. After all, the nail that sticks up gets hammered down, right? So, I’ve been relatively quiet, most days. It’s common knowledge that I self-identify as a moderate-to-far-left liberal, but I don’t usually talk much about it.

Today is a little different.

As you’re probably aware by now, the Supreme Court of the United States is hearing arguments this week on the subject of same-sex marriage (SSM). Today’s hearing was on California’s contentious Proposition 8, and tomorrow they’ll hear arguments on the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

My phrasing probably gives away my feelings on the subject, but just in case it’s not obvious: I support the right of same-sex couples to marry. I’m fully in favor of marriage equality, here defined as the right of any adult person to marry any other consenting adult they want to marry, regardless of gender.

The disclaimer here is that I have several family members and literally dozens of friends who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.

Of course, that shouldn’t matter, if I believe that all human beings have a right to pursue love and happiness, regardless of their physiology or their orientation or any damn thing else.

It shouldn’t matter, but it does. It matters because my experience of growing up around LGBT people are what taught me that they’re not scary, mysterious Others; they’re just people. It matters because if I had grown up without that experience, I would probably have a different understanding of the world, and a different view of LGBT people. If I hadn’t grown up with LGBT relatives, if I hadn’t met and become friends with people who identify as LGBT, I might not see them as “just people,” but as dangerous people, as “not our kind of people.”

When you see someone as “not our kind of people,” it’s an incredibly short step to seeing them as less than human.

I know there are people on all sides of the issue who feel threatened, or who feel that their way of life is at risk. As much as I support the LGBT community, I can also feel compassion for those people who, in the face of the current upswell of support for same-sex marriage, might be afraid that the world is turning against them. I can feel compassion, even if I don’t agree with them, because it’s a terrible thing to feel like the world is against you, like you’re surrounded on all sides by people who disagree with everything you believe and condemn your very existence.

I can feel compassion for people who feel that way, because I know what it’s like to feel that way. And so does every other LGBT person out there. That’s what it is to be Other: to know that, no matter what you do, the world around you wishes you dead, wishes you erased and gone.

Those who oppose same-sex marriage may protest that they’re not wishing anyone dead, that they love the LGBT community, that they can love the sinner while still hating the sin. I’ve heard that exact argument from people I love, and from people I wouldn’t cross the street to sneer at, and every time I do, it makes me both angry and desperately sad, for the same reasons. The short version is this: when someone says that a part of you as fundamental to your very being as your desire for love and companionship is innately and irrevocably wrong, it carries with it the message that you shouldn’t have love or companionship, that you don’t deserve those things. That you deserve to die, alone and unloved. That your very existence is a mistake.

If that’s not what people mean when you say that same-sex couples shouldn’t be allowed to marry, then those people need to sit down and think long and hard about what they do mean.

And, while they’re doing that, perhaps they might take some time to stop speaking, be quiet, and listen to the voices of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people. Listen to their stories, find out where they come from, where they’ve been, and where they are now. Learn who they are, beyond their genders and their sex lives. Learn about their lives, their dreams, their fears.

Learn that, in the end, they’re just people. Just like you, or me, or anyone else. They mean you no harm. They just want to live their lives and love who they love. Their loves, their families, are no threat to you or yours.

I am thrilled as an individual, a parent, a member of my community, and a citizen of my country to see the tide turning away from hatred and exclusion and fear, toward acceptance and inclusion and love. I am grieved that it’s taken so long, and turned so slowly — too slowly for Harvey Milk, Brandon Teena, Roxanne Ellis and Michelle Abdill, Matthew Shepard, Gwen Araujo, and all the other named and nameless victims of violence against LGBT people — but the fact that we’re even having this conversation on a national level, in the highest court of the land and in local coffeeshops and workplace break rooms, is astounding to me. It may not be the mad rush to change that many would like to see, but neither is it the stasis and reifying of the status quo that many others would like to see.

It’s not a revolution, only a resolution to find a way forward for all of us, one that welcomes everyone to the party: gay, straight, bisexual, or something else entirely, transgendered or cisgendered or beyond gender. That’s what inclusion means: if you can accept that the person sitting next to you is a human being like yourself, and equally deserving of the love and respect that are, ultimately, what we all want, you’re invited to the party.

There may even be cake.

How we turned a bedroom door into a TARDIS.

My daughter is an amazing little creature, as anyone who knows her (and isn’t a complete bozo) will tell you: bright, sassy, creative, funny, sweet, and blessed with impeccable taste. This means, among other things, that she’s a fan of the British science fiction television programme Doctor Who.  This fact makes me inexpressibly proud. Of course, whereas my first and best-loved Doctor was the FourthTom Baker (he of the bugged-out eyes and ridiculously overlong scarf), hers is Matt Smith, the Eleventh and current Doctor. She’s written a fan letter to Matt Smith, complete with a handmade card depicting the TARDIS in flight, and has now successfully watched most of the new episodes 2005-present. (The general consensus among those of us responsible for her viewing privileges is that the Weeping Angels are perhaps a bit much for a six-year-old to handle.)

Like most kids, she’s also quite keen on incorporating the stories into her play. She has a few different Whovian toys (including a plush Dalek, of all things), and she’s spent a fair bit of time at her mother’s house building a TARDIS out of a refrigerator box and various bits and bobs. When I heard about this, it set me to thinking. I wanted her to have a TARDIS here in Seattle, as well; however, neither her bedroom nor the common living areas of the house are really set up to accomodate a large cardboard box.

This led to an obvious solution: why not make her bedroom door into the TARDIS?

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In which we change phones, and paradigms.

Well, hello again.

So, the gastronomic and emotional endurance trial that was the Thanksgiving holiday is now safely past.  I hope those of you here in the Colonies have recovered from your exertions, and those of you elsewhere in the world have thanked $DEITY_OR_RANDOM_CHANCE that you didn’t have to suffer with us. Things were actually quite pleasant here at the House of Flying Bookshelves. My wife Meg, the Girl and I had a relatively low-key meal with my wife’s parents and a friend of hers from work, at which wine, roast chicken, and root vegetables made star appearances, whilst turkey was noticeable only by its absence. The following day, we were joined by an old friend of mine and his charming wife for the traditional Eat Nothing But Leftovers Day and a hilarilously interminable game of Talisman. (Why, yes, we are geeks! What gave it away?)

Between those two meals, however, Meg and I did something I once swore I would never do: we went out on Black Friday and purchased something.  In our defense, we weren’t at a shopping mall or a big box store buying Christmas presents, which I mention solely to soothe my wounded, indie-hipster-cred-craving ego.

We were, instead, replacing our phones.

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Some thoughts on rational discourse.

This is, as the description text helpfully points out, a blog about “life, work, play, parenting, relationships, homemaking, food, drink, books, music, movies, writing, crafts, martial arts, spirituality, religion, philosophy, politics, and dreams. And sometimes ponies.” (Or something like that, anyway.) These are all subjects that interest me, and I generally like to talk about things that interest me. These are also all things which, as conversational topics on the Internet, often have the potential to incite white-hot, reality-warping flame-wars, the likes of which have ended relationships, schismed churches, laid waste to entire countries, and changed the very course of history.

Of course, I’m mostly talking about ponies. But the other stuff has been pretty bad, too.

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A sort of homecoming.

Well, hello.

It’s an odd thing to be starting a new blog now, here at the tail end of 2012.  I suppose some of that oddness is attributable to a kind of historical inertia.  I first started using computers to communicate with other people in the 1980s, back in the days before everyone carried the Internets around in their pockets, when the idea of communicating with other people on the computer was seen as outlandish, esoteric, and potentially disturbed.  I began my first online journal (or “blog,” as they came to be known) in 2001, shortly after the September 11th attacks, and blogged my way through the better part of the decade to follow.  Sometime toward the end of 2008, I found that I was posting less and less, and saying less and less when I did.  Finally, I realized I had stopped posting anything of value, apart from an occasional entry to check in with those few people who hadn’t made the jump to some other social media outlet. It wasn’t that I didn’t write, you understand.  I just wasn’t posting.  That was due in part to the realization that I had less and less I wanted to say, to fewer and fewer people, and in part to some personal situations in my life at the time, which caused me to feel increasingly uncomfortable sharing my thoughts and feelings with The World At Large.  Thus, silence.

I miss blogging, though. Continue reading


and here at the trembling page-turning edge
between not quite yet and too late
a dog-eared storybook child
with scorched fingers and grubby face
follows a trail of crumpled words
to the room where a feast was set, years before
and fills his plate with others’ leavings
picking out crumbs of a favour whose flavour he craves
even devoid of the memory of taste
and sifting sand through dust and ashes
for this handful of succulent morsels of meaning
as the waiters clear tables and whisper:

take only what you need
and nothing for the journey
empty your cup
that you may fill it anew
a draught of clear water
to rinse away the travel-dust
from your lips and your heart
that you may sing
give us this day
only this day
give us this moment
teach us each and only this:

the unparalleled sparkling joy
of one breath following another
until we can cherish
the taste of each second
as honey and wine
a salve for our wounds and a balm for our hearts
that we may bind wounds and wipe away tears
that we may give water to those on the journey
that we may feed those who cannot reach the table
that we may be silent and listen and speak:

and through these words i yearn to touch the word
whom words cannot touch
and lips cannot shape
aching to hold and be held
to be whole and behold
i will hope without hoping
not to speak
but to be spoken
and to come at last
to rest within
the shelter of thy wings.

09 may 2012
with appreciation and apologies to t. s. eliot