Sunday, April 11, 2021

On balance, some book news.

Just last week, I promised that I would write about writing again, and here I am, doing it. You're welcome.

Authors are often asked where their story ideas come from. It's not a question most of us enjoy answering. Oh, sometimes we can pinpoint the moment or event where the first germ of an idea originated (the Transcendence trilogy, for instance, sprang from a wholly unplanned stop at the Newark Earthworks in central Ohio, and Seasons of the Fool came about because I wanted to write a novel set in the neighborhood where I grew up). 

But sometimes there's nothing in the real world to point to. Once in grad school, when I had a short story due, I wrote an opening sentence by stringing a bunch of words together and then wrote a story to fit the sentence. The story came out okay, but how would I explain how I got there? The Muse works in mysterious ways.

And so it is with my upcoming novel, which I drafted during NaNoWriMo this past November. I was pretty sure, when the first draft was done, that I'd written a steaming pile of crap. But after a couple of rounds of self-editing, I decided it wasn't as bad as I thought -- and could even be salvaged. So I sent it along to my editor late last night. And I now feel confident that The Payoff -- yes, at long last, the book has a title! -- will be published on or about Beltane, May 1.

The germ of the plot was a Facebook post or meme or picture -- which of course I can't find now -- about how readers would love to have a story about an elderly woman who solves mysteries or crimes or something. Hey, if there's a market for books where the main character is old, I'm happy to oblige. So the main characters in The Payoff are a man and a woman in late middle age who haven't seen one another in forty years. Deliberately. Because they didn't want to run afoul of an older woman who tormented them all through their growing-up years. Now this woman is back, and she's causing trouble for someone else who doesn't deserve it, and Our Heroes have decided it's payback time.

After the first round of editing, I sat back and thought about the novel's themes. I came up with three: balance, patience, and justice. Having those concepts in the back of my mind helped me shape my steaming pile of first draftedness into a novel that I'm pretty proud of. So I thought I'd talk about each of them in turn.

This week, the topic is balance. 

ElisaRiva | CC0 | Pixabay
(I could have gone for a pile of rocks beside a rushing stream to illustrate this post, but this image feels more true-to-life to me.)

The main characters are Janis Fowler and Jan Marek. Jan (who is male) has the ability to See people's futures; Janis can See people's pasts. Their talents cannot be called up on command; they happen when they happen. But over the years, each of them has figured out how to create circumstances that will kick their talents into action. 

In a way, Jan and Janis are a matched set. They balance each other. Together, they have a full picture of a person -- the experiences that shaped them, the choices they've made in critical situations, and how all that will play out in their future lives. Janis and Jan realized early on what takes some of us a lifetime to figure out: Choices have consequences.

While balance within ourselves is always worth cultivating, it isn't enough to ensure a peaceful life. We have to interact with others. Some of these others are seriously unbalanced; sometimes they have power over us, holding the tightrope we're forced to walk. One unhinged choice on their part and boom! Down we go.

If we're lucky -- if we live long enough -- we may get to see that person suffer the consequences of their bad choices. We might even be given the chance to deliver the consequences ourselves. And if we do it right, our balance can be restored.

That, right there, is The Payoff

***

I'll put the book up for preorder here shortly. I'll let you know when that happens.

***

These moments of balanced blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Keep masking up and social distancing! The end is in sight!

Sunday, April 4, 2021

QAnon and the New Age.

You would think a person who purports to dislike DC so much would have raced to eliminate all ties to the city (other than those to friends and relatives) immediately upon moving away, wouldn't you? And yet I still have a digital subscription to the Washington Post, and probably will keep it for the forseeable future. It's not super expensive (I'm looking at you, NewYork Times) and their coverage of national news is excellent.

Sometimes, however, they kind of go off the deep end. So for the second time in as many weeks, I'm using a WaPo story as a springboard for a blog post. (I'll get around to writing about writing again eventually, I promise.)

PublicDomainPictures | Pixabay
This week, an article in their Sunday magazine set me off. It's entitled "QAnon's Unexpected Roots in New Age Spirituality," and in it, the author strives to make a connection between the New Age movement and the guy in the furry headdress who stormed the U.S. Capitol on January 6th. I'd read a little bit about this character, whose real name is Jacob Anthony Chansley but who goes by Jake Angeli and who is also known as the "QAnon Shaman." I'm sure you've heard about him, too; he's the guy who complained that his jailers wouldn't serve him organic food, so a judge ordered him transferred to a different jail.

The get-up he wore to the insurrection was a mishmash of quasi-spirituality: the horned headdress was a call to Native Americans, sorta kinda, and among the tattoos on his torso is a rune associated with white supremacy that Heathens in the Pagan movement have disavowed. The author of the WaPo article, Marisa Meltzer, says she recognized the combo as a "cringeworthy and offensive display of appropriation." I agree with her. She goes on to say that Chansley is the founder of the Star Seed Academy, a New-Agey place in Arizona that promises to help people "awaken, evolve and ascend!" His lawyer told Meltzer that Chansley is committed to ahimsa, a principle in some Asian spiritual traditions that relates to nonviolence.

When I read that, I said aloud, "Then what the hell was he doing in the Capitol on 1/6?" 

Well, he's also a follower of QAnon. And Meltzer says that fits because of this thing called conspirituality, which she describes as a "politico-spiritual philosophy" based on two beliefs: that humanity is undergoing a profound awakening in consciousness, and that there's a shadowy group out there somewhere that's controlling society.

She says Robert Bly's 1990 book, Iron John, is one of the seeds of conspirituality. Bly's book created a counter to the women's movement by highlighting masculine tropes in Jungian archetypes and fairy tales. In order for men to claim their true masculinity, he claimed, they needed both to perceive themselves as warriors and to make themselves emotionally vulnerable. 

I remember when Iron John was published. It sold really well. And there's nothing wrong with a man being emotionally vulnerable in his relationships; it kind of helps, actually. 

But then Meltzer tries to tie this view of masculinity to those held by groups like the Proud Boys and evangelical Christianity, where the ideal of men as women's protectors morphs into a belief that women should stay home and shut up. From there, it's a short hop to QAnon. 

Okay, but QAnon attracts a lot of women, too. And whatever happened to Bly's belief that men need to be emotionally vulnerable?

Look, there are some shady New Age characters out there. In my opinion, the New Age movement is less a religion than a self-help phenomenon; misappropriating Native American practices is just one of the sketchy things I've seen. I'm not against self-actualization, but you have to be really, really careful when you search for a "guru"; a fair number of them are only in it to separate you from your money.

And I'm thinking the QAnon Shaman might need to spend some of his time in prison reading Iron John

***

These moments of appropriate blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Mask up! Wash your hands! And get the vaccine when you can!

Sunday, March 28, 2021

When architecture is Brutal -- and where it's not.

I'm no expert in architectural styles. But I lived in the Washington, DC, area for enough years that I can spot a Brutalist building on sight, and I freely admit that I'm not a fan.

So the title of an article in the Washington Post caught my eye this week: "Brutalist buildings aren't unloveable. You're looking at them wrong." Well, maybe. Anyway, I was willing to entertain the possibility long enough to read the article.

Brutalism was kind of a fad in the middle of the 20th century. The article describes it as an "architectural style characterized by unfinished concrete, recessed windows, top-heavy design, and a proclivity for bulk and heft". The term doesn't come from brutal, by the way -- it comes from the French phrase b├ęton brut, or "raw concrete." The author of the article notes the Brutalist style gives buildings a sense of permanence and stability -- perfect for government buildings in the nation's capital.

It also makes them kind of blocky and ugly, if you ask me. But sometimes an architect will figure out that you can make more out of concrete than a big box. Take, for example, the Hirshhorn Museum in DC. 

Valerie Hinojosa | Flickr | CC 2.0
The Hirshhorn is part of the Smithsonian Institution, so admission is free. Its collection concentrates on contemporary art and its sculpture garden is a lot of fun to visit. (The museum building is closed right now due to the virus, but the sculpture garden is open.)

Look at that cylindrical shape. It's unusual, right? Substantial, certainly, but also almost organic?

It occurred to me at about this point in my reading that I know of another city that features a distinct architectural style that uses organic shapes, yet gives the appearance of stability and permanence. 

Give up? Here's a hint:

copyright Lynne Cantwell 2020

This is the New Mexico Museum of Art on the plaza here in Santa Fe. This style of architecture -- with the flat roof, visible ceiling beams (they're called vigas), and adobe exterior -- is called Pueblo Revival. It's meant to mimic the sort of architecture you see at Indian pueblos in New Mexico, including the iconic Taos Pueblo

Wikimedia Commons | CC 3.0

(You can tour Taos Pueblo, but it's closed right now due to the virus.)

I recently learned that Santa Fe didn't always look the way it does now, architecturally speaking. In the 1800s, the city fathers pushed for a more traditional American downtown. The city never really went for Victorian gingerbread, but Greek Revival style was big. Anyway, then the powers-that-be realized if the city wanted to attract the tourist trade, it ought to give tourists what they expected to see in the Southwest -- and in New Mexico, that meant Pueblo style. So a lot of building facades were converted in the early years of the 20th century, and newer structures like the art museum went with the Pueblo Revival style from the get-go.

Here's another thing that occurred to me: Pueblo Revival and Brutalism both reflect their surroundings. Pueblos are built with adobe and adobe is made from earth, so of course the structures are the same color as the earth where they're built -- brown, tan, or terra cotta. And Brutalist buildings are made of concrete, which is gray -- again, kind of perfect for housing government bureaucrats.

I was happy to give DC's Brutalist architecture another chance. But upon reflection, I still prefer Pueblo Revival.

***

These moments of architectural blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Don't unmask yet! Keep social distancing! 

Monday, March 22, 2021

Now commencing: Retirement 2.0.

Yurumi | DepositPhotos.com

I'm sure you've heard the word by now: This past weekend was the spring equinox in the Northern Hemisphere, also known as Ostara. We are now officially out of the dark half of the year that started in September at Mabon; the Oak King has vanquished the Holly King, if that's the Pagan mythos you follow, and will reign for the next six months.* 

Regardless of your spiritual bent, though, for everybody north of the equator, the hours of sunlight will keep increasing until the summer solstice -- and unlike in the days just after the winter solstice, the increased daylight is more obvious now. This is the season for planting seeds, both physical and spiritual/mystical, in the hope that they will bear fruit come harvest time in the fall.

So it seemed fitting to me that the temp job I've been working since the beginning of November ended at noon on Saturday, the day of balance. Having labored for the Man during the darkest part of the year, I am ready to take a significant amount of time off to rest. I'm calling it Retirement 2.0.

Oddly, I now find myself experiencing some of the doubts that keep people in their later working years from retiring at all. 

In the last few years leading up to my retirement from the law firm, I was driven so hard by my need to get out of the job and get out of DC that I was in "by any means necessary" mode. It didn't matter to me how much I had in my 401(k) or how I was going to fill the endless amounts of time I'd have without a job to show up for; I had a plan to execute to get to Santa Fe, the pool of money I had would work if I got a part-time job, and the rest would sort itself out.

So here I am, almost eight months post-retirement. The move has been executed; the part-time job I'd envisioned as being a few hours of work per week throughout the year got slammed into a few intense months; and now I'm out the other side, shell-shocked but standing, blinking, in the sunlight.

In retrospect, I think I may have jumped into the part-time job too soon. I got out here at the tail end of July and started training for the legislative proofreading gig on November 1. I had only three months to decompress before I started working again, and these past two months have been particularly intense: seven days a week, nine hours a day on weekdays and slightly shorter hours on weekends, and no breaks during the day. By the halfway mark, it had stopped being fun. In the final two weeks, I resorted to adding stickers left over from my retirement planner to the wall calendar to help me mark the days 'til the end of session.

Still, the money was good. And that's the lure, isn't it? You show up for the job and in return the company deposits money into your bank account every couple of weeks. What happens when you lose that security blanket?

Not to mention how much people invest of their self-image in the work they do. I thought I'd escaped that mental pitfall; I was always very clear that I wasn't a legal secretary -- rather, I worked as a legal secretary. For the past few months I've worked as a legal proofreader. But now I'm...not working. 

Oh, I'm still an author and editor, but I've done nothing with either of those since NaNoWriMo ended in November. I have the first draft of the NaNo novel to edit and publish (still aiming for Beltane!). That will be my CampNaNo goal for April.

By May, I hope, I'll be vaccinated, and all the things that have been closed since I got here (the performing arts theater a block away, the bookstore and coffee shop across the street) will have reopened. 

For now, though, I'm going to treat myself to a soak in a thermal pool and the luxury of not setting an alarm. After that, I guess I'll let things sort themselves out.

***

* In some Pagan traditions, the Oak King and the Holly King trade off at the summer and winter solstices. From the standpoint of the annual cycle of sunlight, that makes more sense -- but in terms of the growing season, it makes more sense to put the handoff at the equinoxes. And lots of Pagans don't incorporate the myth into their traditions at all. 

***

These moments of balanced blogginess (and only a day late!) have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Keep masking up and social distancing! We're gonna beat this thing together!

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Flora gets dressed.

My life these days has been reduced to three things: the seven-day-a-week legal proofreading job, trips to the grocery store, and making accessories for Flora the llama. (Well, and spending too much time on social media, but that hasn't changed in years.)

 You remember Flora, right? When I introduced her last week, I said it wouldn't take me long to weave a little blanket for her back -- and I was right. Here she is, nearly there but still a work in progress.



I had a discussion with some friends online about the color to use for the tassels on the blanket. A couple of folks suggested that I make each one a different color, and I liked that idea a lot. But in the end I went with gold, because I ended up not using it anywhere else in the project.

The item next to the basket on her back is a butterfly pin crocheted by Kitty.

The choice of headgear was a bigger challenge than I expected. My first thought was a knitted hat, and I may make her one for next winter, but right now I'm thinking spring. So I thought maybe a straw hat, but the only straw hats I've seen are sized either for adults or Barbie dolls. Her head circumference is twelve inches -- bigger than a Barbie but way too small for an adult hat. So I settled for a garland of knitted roses. I think it turned out pretty well.


She needs one more accessory: something for her neck. With pompoms, because c'mon, she's a llama. Tassels and pompoms are required.



I started knitting the band while I was working today. I'd be farther along, but it was giving me fits -- mainly because the pattern I'm using has one of those weird lace moves that cause knitters to tear their hair out. This one calls for a yarnover (abbreviated as YO) right before you purl two stitches together through the back loop (abbreviated, in this pattern, as p2 tog tbl). I think purling through the back loop is pretty easy for English-style knitters. But as a continental-style knitter, I can tell you it's no fun at all. There's contortionism involved. And every time I thought I had it nailed, I discovered I'd lost the YO.

At last I figured out a workaround. It involves an extra step or two, but the stitch comes out right every time and I haven't pulled a muscle yet. If you ever find yourself in similar dire straits, here's what to do: 
  1. If the pattern calls for a YO right before the p2 tog tbl, don't do it yet.
  2. Turn your work slightly so you can see the side of your project that's normally facing away from you.
  3. Insert the tip of your right needle into the second stitch on the left needle. The right needle needs to be pointing toward you. Slip both that stitch and the first one onto the right needle. In that order -- first the back leg of the second stitch, then the back leg of the first stitch. So far, it's just like you would do a normal p2 tog tbl.
  4. Okay. Slide the stitches off the left needle and turn your work back. 
  5. Now the two stitches are on your right needle, and they're twisted. Keeping them twisted, slide them both back onto the left needle.
  6. If the pattern calls for a YO before this stitch, make your YO now. 
  7. The back loops of the twisted stitches are now facing you, so do a regular purl 2 together (p2 tog). And you're done. Perfect every time. You're welcome.
***

This coming week is the final one for the seven-day-a-week legal proofreading gig. I may or may not have the energy to post next weekend. If I do, here's hoping I'll have something more interesting to talk about than llama wear.

***
For those who care about such things: The rose pattern is from 150 Knitted Trims by Leslie Stanfield. The pompom band pattern is called "Single Faggot Stitch" and it's from the same book. Directions for making and binding a tassel are in there, too. It's a pretty great reference, all in all. 

The band for the roses is a seed stitch I-cord and the pattern is in Knit Edgings & Trims: 150 Stitches, edited by Kate Haxell.

***
These moments of whimsical crafty blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Still wearing a mask and washing my hands while awaiting my vaccine...

Sunday, March 7, 2021

A knitting post? Don't mind if I do.

Enough with the heavy, navel-gazing topics already. I'm ready for a crafting break -- how about you?

In our last exciting episode, which was back in November, I introduced you to a gizmo called a Norwegian knitting thimble and showed you the project I was knitting with it: the Community Tunic, a pullover sweater with a colorwork yoke. You may also recall that the yellow-green yarn I picked for part of the colorwork was too pale and didn't provide enough contrast with the main color. And then I made an offhand comment to the effect that I was going to have to go over those stitches in duplicate stitch with a better green.

Now, it usually takes me about a month and a half to knit a sweater. I started the Community Tunic in October. Guess when I finished it? 

Give up? 

Today. 

The holdup was those 14 rows of duplicate stitch. I needed a really bright light to make out the pale green against the gray, so I bought a new table lamp. That was in December, I think. Then I started going around and around, row by row. I got the fourth row partly done before I abandoned that line of attack. It seemed to be taking forever. Then I started working spoke by spoke, which was better, but still so tedious. 


Finally I signed myself up for Great Courses Plus so I could stream lectures to listen to while I worked at the sweater. And at last, I finished it the duplicate stitch. All that was left was to sew on the pockets I'd knitted weeks ago. Of course, I screwed that up, too.

The column of stitches in the circle on the right has five stitches between the bottom edge of the pocket and the start of the ribbing. The column in the circle on the left, alas, has only four stitches from bottom of pocket to top of ribbing. I'd managed to drop down a stitch without realizing it.

There's a saying among knitters: It's not a mistake -- it's a design element. 

A knitting friend picked up a similar saying at a conference: If a man riding by on a horse won't notice it, just keep going.

Normally I would have -- but not this time. Not after the yellow-green yoke debacle. I ripped back to where I'd made my mistake (it wasn't very far) and redid the sewing, carefully counting each column of stitches before taking each new stitch. 

It worked. Attaching the pockets took no time after that. And now the sweater is done -- and I still have time to wear it before it gets too hot. 


The green might be a little too bright compared to the purple, but I am not doing anything else to this sweater. I am done. 

I did finish one other project this winter: a blanket/wrap/thing that I wove on the ginormous loom. Here's what that looks like. It's really long.


Getting that done allowed me to fold up the ginormous loom and gain a bit of real estate in my bedroom, which made me happy. Getting that sweater done and off the couch, where it's been silently rebuking me since Samhain, also made me happy -- it cleared the decks so I can work on accessories for Flora, who arrived yesterday. 

Isn't she adorable? I was going to knit her a hat, but I don't think it will fit properly, given the shape of her head. However, lots of llamas wear pretty woven blankets  and baskets on their backs. And I happen to be extremely close friends with somebody who owns a loom. And I know of a store that sells cute baskets. 

(I haven't gone completely around the bend. I know that Flora's just a statue made out of resin. But she was too cute to pass up. Plus she's cheap to feed, she's potty trained, and the landlady can't complain that I have a pet in this pet-free building.)

The little blanket for her back will take no time at all to weave. I'l show you when it's done. 

***
These moments of crafty blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. I know it's been almost a year since we all went home, but keep wearing a mask and social distancing. We're almost out of the woods.

Sunday, February 28, 2021

On reframing.

I've said it before and it's true again this week: Some weeks provide an array of topics to blog about. This week, for example, I could talk about the shape of the stage at this weekend's Conservative Political Action Conference and why it's so troubling to Pagans (and muse about why the media don't cover any conventions sponsored by liberal and progressive groups  as avidly as they do CPAC). Or I could talk about an interview in this week's Politico Magazine with a liberal Christian theologian named the Rev. Dr. Serene Jones, which is framed on the somewhat ludicrous premise that the "religious left" hasn't been taken seriously in the past (really? So the name Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., means nothing to you?) and misses a trick when Dr. Jones uses the phrase "love your neighbor" without defining who constitutes neighbor more cogently. As a Pagan and an animist, my definition is likely to be a lot broader than hers.

Maybe I'll do that one next week. Today, though, I'd like to talk about a dream I had last night.

Colour | Deposit Photos

I've been known to indulge in dream analysis. I have a book written by Michael Sheridan, an Irish fellow who has made a career out of this sort of thing. The book has a pretty good dream symbol dictionary in the back -- although like a lot of these sorts of dictionaries, his definitions sometimes say more about him than about the dreamer. (For one thing, he seems to be fixated on yeast infections.) But I didn't bother to analyze the dream I had last night. It was enough to experience the feelings the dream brought up for me.

In this dream, I was playing a game I'd never played before. The people who invited me to play gave me a stack of chips -- two blues and several whites. I noticed the chips in their stack were different colors -- a red one and I forget what else -- but they said it didn't matter. Anyway, we played the game, and I did pretty well, and eventually I found out I wasn't supposed to do as well as I had because my starting stack of chips was actually worth less than theirs.

The scene shifted a bit, as dreams do, and it turned out this was all being staged for a reality TV show. And I overheard a couple of the guys on the crew say that they had been sure I would fail -- not just because the organizers had given me a lesser stack of chips, but because I was fat. This was TV, remember, where appearance is everything; the camera puts ten pounds on you, and all that. Because of the way I looked, they didn't expect me to win. I'd surprised them by being smart.

Upon hearing this, I was embarrassed. Humiliated, even. And those feelings were what stuck with me when I woke up. Because this has been a recurring theme my whole life: being judged lesser-than at first glance because of the size of my body, even though my IQ is in the 99th percentile* (which tends to be apparent as soon as I open my mouth).

So okay. If this were a real-world experience and if I were working through it with a therapist, one of the techniques the therapist would suggest is reframing, or looking at the issue from a different perspective. And I could do that in this scenario. In fact, the thought occurred to me after I woke up. After all, with the chips literally stacked against me, I did really well. I overcame the bias in this situation by using my natural giftedness.

But that isn't what my feelings were telling me. Dream Me was hurt. Dream Me would have appreciated some validation of that hurt, you bastards, and an apology wouldn't have gone amiss.

Reframing certainly works for lots of folks. Plenty of successful people have used humiliation as a springboard to their success -- the old "I'll show them" mentality. But for me, it seems like a mind trick. It might work in the moment, but it's not sustainable. It shifts the focus from what actually happened at the cost of burying your true feelings. And those true feelings will come back to bite you in the ass. Maybe even in a dream, decades later.

***

* You're thinking of Mensa. That's for people who score in the 98th percentile on a standardized IQ test. There's a different organization for those in the 99th percentile called Intertel; I've been a member of both at one time or another. 

There's an even loftier organization called the Triple Nine Society for those whose IQs are in the 99.9th percentile. I have never been that smart.

***

These moments of dreamy blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell -- who is once again reminding you to mask up, social distance, and hang in there, baby, the vaccine's coming.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

A woo-woo follow-up.

Free Photos | Pixabay
I want to thank everybody who commented, both here and on Facebook, on my post last week about my weird experiences. I was gratified to get so many responses. (Okay, I didn't get as many responses as I got on this week's viral Facebook post -- "who's the most famous person you've met?" -- but still.) And I'm certain others would have commented if they'd seen my post (thanks, Facebook...) or if they'd felt comfortable talking about their weird experiences in public.

Because a lot of us aren't. One of the stories I shared last week, I'd kept to myself for 30 years. People think no one will believe them -- or that others will think they're crazy. Depending on their religious persuasion, they might even be accused of consorting with the devil.

Our society doesn't give us a useful frame of reference for these experiences. Science is no help; you can't reproduce a weird experience on command. Look, I am a big booster of science.  How else would we have gotten Perseverance to Mars this week? How will we ever be free of this virus without medical breakthroughs like vaccines? 

But science doesn't have all the answers. 

I heard that: "Yet." Well, maybe. Or maybe there are some things science will never be able to explain. Especially if scientists insist on approaching weird occurrances with a materialist mindset. You can't force a ghost to materialize, after all, or allow someone to hear a voice from the Otherworld that's speaking only to you.

And as John Beckett mentioned in his blog post today, the frames of reference we do get from society aren't helpful. A whole lot of them are from fiction -- TV, movies and books -- and the woo-woo just doesn't work in (pardon the expression) the real world the way it does when someone's making it up. I am here to tell you that a real-life Naomi Witherspoon could never demand that a goddess show up in her living room Right Now and have the goddess actually show up. That's just not how it works.

I mentioned religion a little while ago, and I'd like to go back to that for a second. A number of the folks I talked with about last week's post are refugees, if you will, from a fairly mainstream religion they consider to be a cult. They associate tales of the woo-woo with certain practices they experienced in this church, and it has made them skeptical, or more accurately disbelieving, of anyone who says they've had weird things happen to them. That's an avoidance response, and it's a reasonable coping mechanism for someone who has been traumatized. I've read about people who have had similar reactions after escaping from an evangelical church. 

The recovery process for an abuse victim is long and not a lot of fun. But recovery is possible. And as part of the process, it might be worth thinking about whether two things could be true at once: that cult leaders, whether they founded a religion or not, are charlatans who have abused a lot of people and that magic is real.

Thanks again to everyone who commented last week. And if you're still working up to talking about your weird experience, I'm still listening whenever you're ready.

***

These additional moments of bloggy woo-woo have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Keep wearing a mask and social distancing! 

Sunday, February 14, 2021

True tales of the woo-woo.

Mist on the Rhine | copyright Lynne Cantwell 2019

So you all know I write a lot of stuff that deals with the woo-woo, as Naomi Witherspoon calls it. What you probably don't know is that I've had a number of brushes with the woo-woo myself. 

A lot of people have. But those who experience odd things don't often discuss it because they're afraid -- rightfully so, in many cases -- that they'll either be scoffed at or (depending on the religion of their audience) told they're consorting with demons.

Right now I'm taking a Paganism-related class online in which the instructor encouraged us to share our weird experiences in our private group. A whole lot of people came forward. Their experiences run the gamut from seeing ghosts to experiences with deities to, well, weird things.

Here are three of mine.

***

I'm reasonably sure that at least some of what we call intuition is more than just thoughts in our own heads. Take this weird thing that happened to me more than 30 years ago. 

The Mensa chapter of which I was a member organized a regional gathering, and as part of the entertainment, a friend and I offered to do divinations for any attendee who wanted one. I did a Tarot reading for a couple I didn't know, and as I looked at the cards I'd laid out, I was suddenly sure the woman was pregnant. I had no idea what the news would do to their relationship (this was the '80s -- for all I knew, they could have hooked up at the RG) so I said something vague like "big news and big challenges are coming" and left it at that. They weren't from our chapter and I had no way of finding out later whether I was right. But I was sure I was.

You could call that intuition, I suppose. But that certainty didn't come from inside my own head.

***

This next weird thing is more recent -- and a little weirder. As y'all know, I made a big move this past July. And in preparation for it, I sorted through all my stuff, including things I'd inherited from my mother after she died in 2008. In one of my bins of crafting stuff, I ran across a couple of Mom's unfinished projects that I'd kept, meaning to finish them someday. One of the projects was a bunch of embroidered fabric squares for a baby quilt. Mom had done all the embroidery; all that was left was to piece them together. Now I say "all that was left," but it would still have been a ton of work. The blocks needed be sewn together with fabric strips between them, and the batting and the backing fabric attached -- none of which I had -- and then the actual quilting had to be done. And I realized some of the blocks had those rusty stains that old fabric sometimes acquires out of nowhere. I'd have had to figure out how to get those mystery stains out before I did anything else. 

As I contemplated my options, I clearly heard my mother's voice: "Oh, throw it out!"

Mom grew up in the Great Depression. She never threw anything out. But it was definitely her voice. "Are you sure?" I said aloud.

"Yes, throw it out!" she said. 

"Well, okay," I said. "If you're sure." 

Silence. Apparently that was her final word. So out it went.

I am pretty sure I posted about this on Facebook at the time, and I could tell it made some people uncomfortable. I seem to recall that someone tried to talk me into keeping the project anyway. Did they think I was making up hearing Mom's voice to justify dumping those quilt blocks? Or did they think I was delusional? I couldn't tell you. But I'll tell you this: Mom was adamant that I get rid of the thing. Who was I to say no?

*** 

One more weird thing: This one happened in the mid to late '90s, around the time my divorce was final. I had picked up a book called Secret Native American Pathways by Thomas Mails. It included instructions for things like making a prayer stick and a medicine wheel, and for setting up your own vision quest. I didn't have the time to head out into the wilderness, or a helper to make it safe -- but I had floor space in the basement. I marked off a rectangle with string, tied the proper colored fabric on each side to mark the four directions, sat in my square, and started praying to Wakan Tanka, the Great Spirit of the Sioux. I babbled for quite a while. And as I was asking to be made worthy of love, a voice interrupted me -- literally interrupted me -- and told me I already was. 

I began to cry. Trust me when I say this was not a thought that would have come out of my own head back then. 

I think that was the point when I began to believe the woo-woo was real.

***

Now it's your turn. Feel free to leave a comment about your own weird experience. Or if you don't feel comfortable sharing it in a public forum, which I completely understand, drop me an email at lynne.cantwell@hearth-myth.com. I believe the more we share our experiences, the less alone we'll feel, and the more accepted the woo-woo will become.

***

These moments of bloggy woo-woo have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Wash your hands! Stay six feet apart! And wear a mask!

Sunday, February 7, 2021

The shady side of New Mexico's state symbol.

I might have mentioned a time or two that I relocated to New Mexico last summer. During the run-up to the holidays, I thought I might pick up a Yule tree ornament that commemorated my move (rather than anything else that happened in 2020, like, oh, say, the virus). Immediately I thought of the zia, the state symbol that graces our state flag, our license plates, and a whole bunch of other stuff that's made in New Mexico.

Then a friend suggested I rethink that idea. He'd heard that using the symbol was bad luck. Then we both did some digging, and it turned out it's not bad luck, exactly, but bad form -- or more accurately, it's cultural appropriation.

Wikimedia Commons | CC 1.0

The zia is an appealing symbol, all right, with its clean lines pointing to the four directions and its circle in the heart of it all. It looks kind of like a sun. And in fact, that's how it started -- the original design belongs to Zia Pueblo and it symbolizes the sun, which in their culture is the father of all things. 

If the sacred symbol had stayed within the pueblo, it wouldn't have been a problem. But wouldn't you know, some ethnologists from the Smithsonian Institution showed up there around the turn of the 20th century and shortly after that, one of their most sacred pots disappeared from the pueblo and turned up in Santa Fe. This pot had a stylized sun face in the center, with three rays extending from each of the cardinal directions. Then in 1923, a white couple named Harry and Reba Mera reworked the symbol for a contest for a state flag design sponsored by the Daughters of the American Revolution. (New Mexico didn't become a state until 1912.) The Meras had just a circle in the center and four rays, not three, on each side. They made the sun symbol red and the background yellow because those are the dominant colors on the Spanish flag, and Spanish heritage runs deep around here.

The Meras won. And now the symbol is everywhere.

The Zia aren't happy about it, as you might imagine. But by the time they petitioned the federal government to protect their sacred symbol, they hit a bureaucratic snafu: too much time had passed. The symbol had to stay in the public domain. 

The Zia had one more avenue -- state government. In 2000, the pueblo asked the state legislature for payment of $74 million -- a million dollars for every year the state had used the symbol without permission. They didn't get their money, but they did get a state Senate memorial in 2012 acknowledging the pueblo's contribution to state culture and promising to work on "reconciliation, mutual understanding and cooperation with respect to the use of the sacred Zia sun symbol." 

After learning all that, I decided not to hang a zia on my Yule tree. It might not be bad luck, but I'd like to stay in the good graces of both folks who have been here a whole lot longer than I have and their deities, too.

***

These moments of sacred sunlit blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

Sunday, January 31, 2021

A little road trip.

I've mentioned before, I believe, that I'm working a temp job right now, as a proofreader for the New Mexico State Legislature. This year's session started January 18th and will wrap up March 20th, and I'm scheduled to work every day while the legislature is in session. So the hours are pretty crazy. In that respect, it's kind of like being back in radio.

On the other hand, thanks to the pandemic I'm spending all day, every day, in my apartment -- and for the majority of my waking hours, I'm sitting at the same spot at my dinette table. I have a desk, but I like to keeping my writing space separate from my work-from-home space. In Virginia, that meant rolling my desk chair out of my bedroom to a TV tray table next to the balcony doors. Here in Santa Fe, it means swapping out my desk chair for the dinette chair I sit in to eat my meals. The view doesn't change much, to be honest. So I've begun feeling a little stir crazy.

Still, I was all set to power through -- Sixty! Days! Straight! Booyah! -- but then our supervisor said she would give us three random days off. We don't get to pick which days, and if it looks like things will be too busy we might have to work anyway. On the other hand, we can opt not to take the day and get paid overtime instead.

My first opportunity was this past Friday, and I seized it. I knew I had to get out and look at something new and different. So I hit the road for Los Alamos, about 45 minutes away. There's a writing-related reason for my destination that I'll explain eventually. But for now, let's talk about the drive. 

On the way up, I noticed an overlook that appeared to have a killer view, so on the way back, I stopped. I wasn't wrong. 

All photos in this post copyright Lynne Cantwell | 2021
We've had some snow, as you can see, and it helps to pick out the features on the horizon. There's a break in the mountains in the middle of the photo -- see it? To the right is the Santa Fe Ski Area, and to the left (merging wth the cloud cover) is Santa Fe Baldy. Both are over 12,000 high.

Looking in the opposite direction from the stunning view above, the road to Los Alamos seems to disappear. 

Later in the afternoon, as I headed back home, I had just enough time to stop at Camel Rock. It's a distinctive formation just off U.S. 84/285 on Tesuque Pueblo land. 

I walked up the short path to get a better shot of the camel's head. Plus the light was better up there.

So that was my big day out. It will be three weeks before I get another one. I expect I'll be ready to hit the road then, too, if only for a few hours.

***

These moments of stunningly scenic blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. The vaccine's coming! Keep staying home and keep wearing a mask when you go out!

Sunday, January 24, 2021

One of the perks of retirement: never filling out another business visa application.

Gam Khoon Lay | Noun Project | CC3.0
A couple of days ago, I had a Facebook status from 2010 pop up as a memory. It was a single sentence that said I was "getting kind of tired of being the Indian visa 'expert.' (sigh)" When I shared it, I said, "It didn't get any better over the next ten years, either."

I should probably explain. In 2009, one of the partners I worked for began doing a fair amount of work in India, and so it fell to me to fill out the paperwork for his business visa.  For most countries, procuring a business visa is a complex process. You can fill out the form online, which is harrowing enough when you're doing it for someone else ("Hey, what's your mother's maiden name and where were your parents born?"). But it also involves a lot of other moving parts: a passport photo or two; your passport, because the consulate puts the visa in it; a copy of your passport, and it had better be photo quality; a letter from your employer saying you are, in fact, an employee, and you will have sufficient funds to cover your stay; a letter from your client saying you are, in fact, coming there to do business for them; and usually one or two other things. Some countries require a copy of your birth certificate. Some want a photo ID with the same address as the one on your application. Occasionally you'll be asked to provide a copy of your travel itinerary (which means booking refundable airline tickets that you're probably going to have to cancel because the visa won't be ready in time). At one point, Russia required proof of a negative HIV test. One country -- I don't remember which one -- insisted on proof that the applicant had graduated from law school; I recall that involved juggling an associate's massive, framed diploma onto a copier.

Countries also change their requirements from time to time. India, for example, went from accepting regular business letters from employer and client to a bizarre short-answer form that had to be to printed on company letterhead and signed by the big boss, with the company seal affixed. The Indian government issues company seals to Indian companies. Since we weren't an Indian company, we didn't have a company seal -- but the Indian government required us to provide one anyway. So our accounting folks made up something that kind of looked like a seal and turned it into a graphic, and I had to put that on the letters. (Why our accounting folks? Because they also had to affix the thing to the firm's Indian tax forms.)

Also, the Indian government decides whether to issue the length of visa you request. Several times, we asked for a five-year visa and got back a two-year visa -- with, of course, no refund of the additional fee we'd paid for the longer visa.

So it's a major hassle and involves a lot of herding cats ("Did you get your passport photo taken yet? Did you remember to bring in your passport today?") and often some back-and-forth with the visa processing firm. A few years ago, India changed their preferred visa processing firm; I hated calling them -- it was even odds whether I'd get a customer service rep with an accent I could understand. (I admit that was a "me" problem, but still.)

It's bad enough doing one application; if your legal team is five or ten or twenty people and they all need help getting their applications together, it gets old fast. But because I'd done so many, whenever any attorney at the firm had to go to India for the first time, their secretary would end up calling me for help.

Finally -- finally -- we asked for a ten-year visa for the partner I worked for, and the Indian government gave it to him. I was ecstatic. I knew I would be retiring well before he needed the thing renewed. I was finally done with Indian visa applications!

And then he got a new matter that would be staffed by a whole new bunch of lawyers -- including the other partner I worked for. I almost had a panic attack. That is not a euphemism; I came very close to breaking down at my desk. 

Thankfully, that was the last time I had to fill out a visa application for anybody. And now I'm retired and I never have to do another one. Someone else will have to become the firm's Indian visa expert once business travel overseas resumes, and that is just fine with me.

***
These moments of relaxed, retired blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Stay home when you can and mask up when you go out!

Sunday, January 17, 2021

When the broken people see the light.

 

Gerd Altmann | Pixabay
Now that we've had a week and a half or so to settle our thoughts after the debacle at the US Capitol on January 6th, I'm starting to see some anecdotal evidence that some people -- particularly some of the folks who fell for the QAnon conspiracy mess -- are beginning to come around. 

Maybe it's not a lot of people yet. But at least a few folks who fell down the rabbit hole into Trumplandia or the QAnon insanity saw the anarchy on TV that day, learned that people died because of it, and realized what they'd gotten themselves into.

Getting themselves into it was easier than you might think. A game developer wrote a very interesting Medium post that explains how QAnon appeals to people. He says it follows the basic structure of an alternate-reality game: a mysterious stranger hands a player a clue in the form of a puzzle; solving that puzzle gives the player another puzzle; and on and on through the game. Players have to free-associate to solve the puzzles (the author says there's a term for that: apophenia, or seeing a meaningful pattern in random thoughts or ideas). Sometimes players band together in groups to discuss possible solutions. 

The difference is that in an alternate-reality game, the players know it's just a game. With QAnon, people were led to believe it was real. In the author's words, QAnon is "[a] game that plays people. (cue ominous music)"

I'm not a gamer, but I do write fiction, and I'm confident I've used the trope of the mysterious stranger a time or two. But I'm making stuff up. I'm not sending readers off on a real-life snipe hunt -- certainly not one that could get anybody killed.

So let's go back to the QAnon believers who watched the storming of the Capitol on January 6th and woke up to what they were involved in. What should be done about them?

I vote for compassion.

That's not to say that everybody involved in the riot should get a pass. Those who broke the law -- by breaking windows, ignoring law enforcement orders to stop, beating cops with flagpoles, stealing from congressional offices, defecating in the halls of Congress, and all the rest -- should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Any members of Congress who assisted the anarchists should also be prosecuted, and it would be really swell if they also lost their jobs. And those at the top who encouraged this -- up to and including President Trump -- should pay a price for what they've done. Trump has already been impeached a second time for encouraging his followers to storm the Capitol; I hope this time the Senate convicts him and makes sure he can never hold office again.

But what about Mom and Pop at home? They've seen the results of all the stuff they've been led to believe, and maybe it's not sitting too well with them now. What should we do? 

I suggest giving them space to grieve. They were all-in on a common cause. They probably made friends -- and I am here to tell you that online friendships are every bit as real as in-person friendships, and it hurts just as badly when they fall apart. Losing all of that is going to be tough. Give them room to process it, but be there if they want to talk about it, and be kind to them when they do. 

Because just like the people who were killed and injured at the Capitol on the 6th, these folks are victims. They were taken in by accomplished liars. They're already going to be kicking themselves. Don't make it worse by making fun of them or practicing some kind of tough love. Because that will drive them away at the precise moment when we want to bring them home to reality.

This, my friends, is how we're going to heal our country: by granting forgiveness to those who have seen the light, one broken person at a time.

***

In other news: I should have mentioned this earlier, but my Facebook author page is kaput. After I fought so hard to get the page back from the scammers in November, I thought maybe I'd keep it around. But the final straw was when I got a couple of requests to join the Woo-Woo Team from folks with seriously sketchy Facebook profiles. (One said she was from New York, Florida; then she changed her location to Botswana. Uh-huh.) It felt to me like the scammers were trying to get into the back end of my page via the group, which is not a thing I would ever allow and I'm not sure how it would even work. In any case, the author page is now gone for good. But the Woo-Woo Team still exists - yay! And we're still taking members -- double yay! 

In still more news: I need to get busy on editing the NaNo novel, which still doesn't have a title. I expect it will be slow going, now that I'm working as a proofreader for the New Mexico Legislature. This year's session starts Tuesday and I'll be working seven days a week (remotely, thank the gods) until it's over on March 20th -- which also happens to be Ostara. Normally I'd release a new book around that date, but this time I'm going to shoot for Beltane or thereabouts, and we can all be pleasantly surprised if it's done sooner.

***

These moments of compassionate blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. You know the drill -- mask up, social distance, and wash your hands!

Sunday, January 10, 2021

In which I propose a way to bring America together again.

I had to tempt the Universe with last week's post, didn't I? "Keep calm until there's real news," I said. Should have kept my mouth shut.

Not that I'm taking responsibility for the insurrection at the US Capitol on Wednesday. A crowd of President Trump's supporters, egged on by Trump himself, marched on the Capitol building as members of Congress and Senators inside were validating the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Hundreds of them broke into the building itself, and some of them went on a hunt through the building for lawmakers. Among their targets, reportedly, was Vice President Pence, because he would not acquiesce to Trump's demand that he figure out a way -- legal or not -- to invalidate the election returns and declare Trump president for another four years.

No, the blame for this, as far as I'm concerned, is all on Trump. He's responsible for the deaths of five people, including a Capitol Police officer (and possibly another Capitol Police officer who died yesterday, reportedly by suicide). He's responsible for the physical damage his supporters caused to the historic building during their rampage. He's responsible for the emotional trauma he caused the members of Congress who were locked down for hours while the building was cleared -- and who then had to go back to work and finish their job. And if anyone who works at the Capitol -- lawmakers and staff -- catches the virus due to the maskless yahoos who forced their way into the building, I'm holding him responsible for that, too.

And he's leaving an even bigger mess for Biden once he takes office. Not only must he get a handle on the spread of the virus, oversee distribution of the vaccines, and turn the economy around, but now he needs to consider whether to direct the Justice Department to go after his predecessor for his crimes.

Biden promised to unify Americans, and Trump's not interested in making it easy for him.

But it's this idea of unity that interests me tonight, and what it would take to get us there. 

Some commentators have called Trump's hardcore followers a cult. If that's true -- and I think there's a lot to recommend that view -- then it follows that to truly bring the nation back together, deprogramming is in order. But where to start?

I believe we may have to go back to the very founding of our nation. 

I shared this post on Facebook earlier today, and it got me thinking. The post is about four years old, but the author describes himself as poor Mexican who grew up in a rural town in Oklahoma. He observes that poor, white Americans don't see themselves as poor, but as "temporarily embarrassed millionaires." "It is shameful to be poor," he says. "Most men, especially, think they could be Trump were it not for the unfair obstacles put in their way." And when people like Trump point fingers at immigrants or Blacks or Muslims as undeserving, poor folks go along with it because "it takes all the shame and blame away."

"If these people saw themselves as an exploited class of people, if American culture didn't stigmatize poverty so much, it might be different," he says. "To fail to transcend poverty, and to admit you are poor, is to admit you are neither hardworking (n)or clever. It's cultural brainwashing."

Wikipedia | Public Domain
Where does this belief come from? From the very first immigrants to our shores. In The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, German sociologist Max Weber proposed the idea that Protestantism, and in particular Calvinism, created the seeds of capitalism by praising hard work and discipline as virtues. Of course, many of America's earliest settlers were Protestants fleeing religious persecution in Europe. Unfortunately, they brought their own brand of religious persecution with them; it's a short step from "hard work is a virtue" to judging people who can't get ahead as lazy. And that brings on the kind of self-loathing that the Facebook post above describes -- as well as a desire to find someone, anyone, to blame one's perceived failure on.

Moreover, in recent decades, certain Protestant preachers have made a lot of money touting prosperity theology -- the idea that God wants you to be rich, and therefore happy. Not only is it okay to want to be rich, they proclaim, but if you're not -- well. It's a personal failing. You need to believe harder. And sliding the preacher some cash couldn't hurt.

When I shared that Facebook post, I said, "Just think: If our culture (including the allegedly Christian preachers who tout their 'prosperity gospel') had never made poverty a moral failing, Trump wouldn't have been able to gain a toehold in the first place." Because what he did was to hand poor folks a whole host of targets to transfer their self-loathing to -- immigrants, Blacks, Muslims, and "Mexicans."

It's a sickness, for sure. And it's ingrained so deeply in American culture that it may well take something like deprogramming to root out.

A friend asked me what I thought it would take to get it done. I replied that we'd need "a repudiation of the disinformation by those who've been spreading it, for starters -- not shutting down Fox News/OANN/whoever, but convincing them to admit it's all been a hoax. But the churches that have been preaching damnation for the lazy poor, and the ones preaching that Jesus favors the rich, need to admit their part in it, too.

"And then we need to have a big ol' program in place to help folks sort through the cognitive dissonance when everything they've been led to believe has been cut out from under them."

And I said doing what needed to be done to get the right-wing media and the prosperity-gospel peddlers on board would probably be unconstitutional. It's clear to me they wouldn't do it willingly -- they're making too much money by fleecing these folks.

The likelihood of any of this happening is vanishingly small. But as I said to my friend, "I can dream, can't I?"

***

These moments of dreamy blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Keep those masks on and keep staying home!

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Keep calm until there's real news.

I had a topic for this post all picked out and researched and everything, and then this afternoon the Washington Post threw a monkey wrench into my plans. Well, phooey on them. I'm gonna write this post anyway -- and I'll work in their bombshell, too. 

***

Best Graphics dot com | CC0 | Pixabay

It was Wednesday, November 25, 1987 - the day before Thanksgiving. I was at my brother's house in a northwest suburb of Chicago, baby Kitty in tow. (Her father was in the Navy, and I think he must have been on deployment in the Mediterranean Sea.) At the time I was working for WTAR-AM in Norfolk, VA. I'd been a news anchor and reporter for about nine years.

We had the TV on, and the noon news featured a breaking story: Chicago Mayor Harold Washington had collapsed at his desk at City Hall. He was transported to a hospital, where he died that afternoon.

The early evening news ran the story at the top of the show. The story topped the 10:00pm show, too. 

When it was still leading the next morning, Thanksgiving Day, my mother complained aloud: "Are we going to have to listen to this same story all weekend?"

To which I replied, "Of course. It's a holiday weekend and this is an honest-to-goodness news story. The only other things they have to talk about are the holiday traffic death toll and Toys for Tots."

I mean, I don't recall my exact words, but I'm sure that was the gist of it. I had worked enough holidays by then to know the feeling of desperation a newsperson gets when you have to put together a newscast but you have nothing but evergreen stories and wire copy to fill it with. However people might have felt about Harold Washington as Chicago's mayor, his death was a blessing for every reporter and anchor in town who had to work that weekend.

Now, 1987 was toward the beginning of the phenomenon known as the 24-hour news cycle. If we had trouble filling a five-minute radio newscast on a holiday in those days, imagine what it's like for a producer at a cable news network today, looking down the gaping maw of a news-free holiday weekend. What do you do? Well, you have your reporters record a bunch of evergreen stories ahead of time and parcel them out over the next several days. You also have your reporters do what are called pre-writes, or the "this is what's coming up next week, once everybody gets back to work" stories.

Right now today, we are at the tail end of the holidays, the grimmest two-week period for anybody in news anywhere. So many people with regular jobs are on vacation that even when it's not Christmas Day or New Year's Day, reporters have trouble getting hold of sources. So especially now, right after New Year's Day, news organizations run a lot of pre-writes. 

And what's coming up? Big political stuff! Two Georgia Senate elections on Tuesday! Congress meeting to certify the presidential election results on Wednesday! So we're getting a lot of "news" stories about these two events. I've put "news" in quotes because a lot of what we're getting is actually speculation -- and a lot of the speculation sounds scary. 

Here's an example: The Proud Boys are coming to DC on Wednesday, but they're going to wear black so no one can tell them from Antifa! We don't know how many will come, but still! Scary!!!

And then there's all the political theater surrounding the joint session of Congress on Wednesday. Do the Republicans challenging the results have enough votes to keep Joe Biden from winning? (Nope.) Can Vice President Pence refuse to certify the Electoral College results because other electors in certain states want their votes counted instead? (Again, nope.) But what about that lawyer in Georgia who tweeted that Pence should be executed by firing squad if he doesn't declare Trump the winner? It's all so scary!!!

Yes, it is. It's meant to be. That's how 24-hour news operations keep hold of your eyeballs so their advertisers can sell you stuff. 

***

I was going to end this post by advising us all to use our heads over the next few days -- to carefully consider the likelihood of certain things happening, and to spend time, if at all possible, looking for a news story with a calmer point of view. I was going to close by saying we'd all know a real bombshell when we saw it.

And then WaPo went and proved my point. They got hold of tape of a phone call President Trump made yesterday to Georgia's secretary of state, pleading with and badgering the guy into "finding" enough ballots to overturn the state's election results and give the win to Trump. I listened to excerpts this afternoon. I'm no lawyer, but it sure sounded to me like Trump is trying to get Brad Raffensparger to throw the election. 

That's illegal. Someone found guilty of that crime could face a sentence of up to five years in federal prison.

So my original advice still stands: Don't let the scaremongering distract you from real news.

***

These moments of calming blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Keep masking up and keep social distancing!