Chapbook: Poems for The Behenian Stars

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I’ve published a chapbook.  It’s a digital PDF that you can download (and choose to print, if you so desire, for your Book of Shadows, your poetry binder, your vademecum, your 3-ring circus of astrological or mythological lore.

The Poems for the Behenian Stars is available immediately through my Etsy store for $10.00. It’s a collection of eighteen poems — for magic, for praise, for learning the stars, for learning to read and recite poetry, for supporting me.  The poems will take you on a journey through some of the astrological lore, imagery and powers of the Behenian Stars, while waking you up to their power in the world.

Screen Shot 2017-01-17 at 7.50.22 PM.pngAnd what are the Behenian Stars, I hear you ask?  Well, they’re a list. They’re most of the brightest stars in the Northern Celestial Hemisphere (I’ve added three to the traditional list of fifteen), and they range from Caput Algol, the snake-haired head of fierce Medusa in the constellation of Perseus, whose baleful eye allegedly wreaks havoc at first but then brings protection… to Sirius in Canis Major, the dog-head of Orion’s hound, who grants us peace-making and mediation skills.

Whether you’re a magician, an astrologer, an astronomer with a penchant for poetry, a poet with a penchant for astronomy, or just a lover of the other poetry on this website — here’s a collection for you.  None of the poems in this chapbook has appeared on this website before, and likely won’t ever.  They’re a secret testimony, a hidden hymnal, and a way to begin your study of the stars!

I hope you enjoy them.

Book: Your Starter Guide to MakerSpaces

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This is a book review. It’s part of a new series on this blog that began last week.  I hope you find it useful.

Your Starter Guide to Makerspaces
by Nicholas Provenzano (@TheNerdyTeacher)
Blend, published 2016
ISBN-13: 978-0692786123 (Paperback) N.B. I read the Kindle edition.

✦ ✦ ✦ ✦ ✦ ✧ ✧

I’m deeply interested in MakerSpaces, of course, and I make quite a lot of things myself.  This is a fairly short book, as well, and more of a workbook than a true book.  As the author titles it, it’s a Starter Guide, not an exhaustive examination of the topic.

Yet given how many times I say, “I teach about and in makerspaces,” that the response is “What’s a MakerSpace?” both Nick and I have a good deal more work to do (fair warning, Nicolas Provenzano and I follow one another on Twitter) in bringing this idea to the masses.  It’s not part of the common lingua franca yet, and it could be and should be.  But that means that we have to do the job of educating the public, and stakeholders in schools and libraries and other institutions that could have MakerSpaces successfully.

The book contains eight short chapters:

  1. What is Making?
  2. I know what Making is; why should I care?
  3. Where does a MakerSpace go in a school?
  4. Making allies
  5. What goes in a MakerSpace?
  6. MakerSpaces and Project-Based Learning
  7. Failure and MakerSpaces
  8. Final Thoughts

He also concludes with information about his own identity as a Maker and teacher, and how to reach out to him and use his skills as a teacher-educator in your own institution. Which is awesome.

One of the things that I didn’t benefit from, that readers of the paperback edition may enjoy, is that this is a workbook.  As any good Maker will tell you, the interaction process between the thing that you make, and the audience you make it for, matters.  That’s certainly true here. Even in the Kindle edition, the illustrations and workbook pages give you the opportunity to engage with the book by writing your own (offline) lists and make your own mind-maps of the things that the book inspires in you.

The book’s primary audience is a teacher, particularly one who is already invested in the idea of project-based learning (PBL), or who has support within her institution for a change to a more hands-on program that involves building and creating within STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) fields.  I’ve argued elsewhere that it should be STEAMED (adding Arts, Entertainment, Design) but very sensible commentators have responded to that.

Provenzano admits that this is not a book for an advanced practitioner, but a starter guide.  It’s not systematic, but rather it’s a combination of encouragement, first-hand accounts from a MakerSpace-as-classroom that he himself ran, and top-level considerations of equipment, toolkit, and mental attitude that help MakerSpaces get launched and succeed.  This kind of teaching and learning is valuable and important, though I wish he’d included more discussion about budgeting and financial planning for MakerSpaces, because money (where it comes from and how to get supplies, tools and equipment with it?) and time (how does the MakerSpace avoid burning out the teacher[s] who run them?) are rarely addressed in MakerSpace books and articles to nearly the extent they need to be.

That said, Provenzano does address a number of important points, like the scale or size of a MakerSpace, what equipment and tools it needs to have, and how much access a school should/could provide to its student body to use the space.  He addresses the process of finding allies for a MakerSpace program, in the student body and administration, in the parent and alumni community,  and in the local business climate.  The book concentrates to a high degree on what is wrong with schools, and shows some cheeky rebelliousness — but this is often the only posture a would-be change agent can take in the modern American school climate: if schools weren’t doing anything wrong, there wouldn’t be a need for MakerSpaces, would there?

All the same, Provenzano’s points echo my own sense of Maker work in schools. Hands-on practice with tools, with materials, with construction and design process, all help make students and teachers into more well-rounded, more competent and capable people. They’re more skilled at solving problems outside their own usual wheelhouse,  because they’ve solved problems involving physical materials and invisible forces (like the flow of electricity through a circuit, or the arrangement of parts so a thing stands on its own).  I think this is a great book for teachers or librarians starting out, who have curiosity about how to get a program started; and I’d happily recommend Provenzano to come to your school or library to help your MakerSpace get started.

Poem: For Jupiter & Saturn

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On Thursday this week, there’s an unusual astrological moment.  Jupiter will be in the third decan of Libra, and — 120° away or at a Trine Aspect, in the language of astrology — Saturn will be in the third decan of Sagittarius.  The two large outer planets, one governing expansion and rulership and the other governing discipline and boundaries, will be in a highly-beneficial relationship called “mutual reception” where each reinforces the other:  Jupiter granting expansiveness of ideas and courage in the face of challenges; and Saturn reinforcing discipline and deliberateness to accomplish difficult tasks.  A friend of mine, A.A., is undertaking a special operation, and this is composed for his work.

Hail, great lords of the outermost darkness,
stern Saturn in the skull of a stallion,
Jove at the center of spinning swiftness!
Guiding stars who lead this treasure galleon,
I glory in your lights and praise your Names.
For you, old one, with great discipline rule
the mariner’s careful contemplation
and the discipline that achieves results.
Jupiter — riding ocean like a pool,
remaining steady amid gyration,
the cheerful captain whom the world exalts!

Now each of you in palaces reside
where your dignities sit, enthroned in grace,
and each of you also may hear and heed
the other’s degrees, turned to each friend’s face.
Secret allies in steadiness of will,
and unafraid in the tumult and strife
of all the hazards of troublesome years:
when all is wording ’round, you remain still —
charting out the course of a mindful life,
and steering true, like clever engineers.

Great and glorious, reliable, stern —
steady and sure as the music of spheres:
make this ship a home, and often return:
be my bankers, my cautious financiers,
who grow my wealth and keep my accounts black,
avoiding the wave-troughs of debt and waste,
while leading me through confusion and cheat.
When the winds change, guide me to the new tack;
then help me face the gale properly braced,
with an agile ship, and sea-ready feet.

 

From Dictatorship to Democracy

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This is a Book Review.  It’s part of a new series on this website, and I hope you find it useful.  

From Dictatorship To Democracy
by Gene Sharp
fourth U.S. edition, the Albert Einstein Institution, May 2010
ISBN 978-1-880813-34-8 • Kindle edition

✦ ✦ ✦ ✦ ✦ ✦ ✧

Sometimes books are enormous and exhaustive and exhausting to read.  Sometimes they are sturdy scaffolding.  Gene Sharp’s magnum opus is a short volume outlining how societies move from being totalitarian states to being thriving democracies.  It’s not an easy process, by any means.  There are pitfalls and dangers outlined along the way.

The book is divided into ten chapters, with three appendices — the three appendix sections provide a list of the methods of nonviolent action, a brief history of the four editions of the text, and the guidelines for reprinting the text in languages other than English (translation).  Yet the meat of the book is in its ten short chapters:

  1. Facing Dictators Realistically
  2. The Dangers of Negotiation
  3. Whence The Power Comes?
  4. Dictatorships Have Weaknesses
  5. Exercising Power
  6. The Need for Strategic Planning
  7. Planning Strategy
  8. Applying Political Defiance
  9. Disintegrating the Dictatorship
  10. Groundwork for Durable Democracy

At the core of Sharp’s work is a recognition that the work of dismantling a dictatorship is inherently dangerous.  It’s easy to ask why dictatorships last for decades at a time, for example, from outside the dictatorship; but the lived experience of the citizens is that they are often wholly captive to the lived realities of surveillance, midnight knocks at the door by security forces, and radical damage to the institutions and social norms of government. Many totalitarian states are run under the surface of institutional and constitutional realities that create the illusion of normalcy, while the general state of affairs is in fact quite dangerous.

Moreover, negotiation with a dictator creates the illusion of legitimacy — for an opposition movement to negotiate with an authoritarian leader and his supporters, there is usually an intention to negotiate in good faith; but dictators want their authority to be recognized as legitimate, and will change the negotiations’ objectives or cut off the negotiations once their legitimacy is recognized.  Negotiation carries the risk of giving the dictatorship greater legitimacy.  At the same time, refusal to negotiate can result in the opposition being labeled a terrorist movement, forced into imprisonment, exile or worse.

Defiance thus comes in many forms, and some are more effective than others.  Yet Sharp argues for an overall, defining strategy — the establishment of both principles and goals, and the defining of limitations and boundaries for negotiation with and submission to the totalitarian state’s official apparatus.  He argues (effectively, I think) that the opposition must be transparent about what these goals and principles are.  On the one hand, these goals and principles are then subject to attack by the forces of the dictatorship; on the other hand, the opposition is then giving notice to the wider society of what their aims are, and providing opportunities for the citizenry to recognize where their own political, economic and social interest lies.  It also means that the opposition movement is capable of defining its means, and recognizing acceptable solutions when they appear — as well as identifying agents provacateur when they appear, since they will appear.

One of the key elements of the book is the recognition that every dictatorship has weaknesses.  Some will have the absolute loyalty of the security services.  Some will have the loyalty of the spy network, the intelligence systems.  Others will have the loyalty of the military, or a political party.  Yet few dictators command the loyalty of all the branches of their nation’s government; and fewer still command the loyalty of the entire citizenry.  The exercise of power within a dictatorship requires negotiation and compromise, and Gene Sharp identifies seventeen different points of weakness within a dictatorial command structure which can be identified and exploited by an opposition, not least of which is that the value of the nation’s traditional symbolism may be separated from the dictatorship’s use of those symbols; and that sectors of the military and paramilitary agencies of the government often have objectives that can be at odds with the dictatorship’s particular focuses and blind spots.

At the same time, Sharp notes that any opposition movement must have clarity about the nature of its opposition. A palace coup, which replaces one dictatorial dynasty or command structure with another, such as the replacement of a civilian ruler with a military one, or the replacement of one tribe or social group with another, is not a democracy.  Nor is it a democracy when all the leaders of the opposition simply establish themselves in the same positions occupied by the dictator’s henchmen.  Irresponsible success is not the same thing as responsible success; and a successful opposition has to be careful not to fall into the same mindset as the dictatorship it replaces.

Overall, Gene Sharp’s book is the best thing I’ve ever read on the subject of regime change.  I’m able to see a number of elements from the ‘color revolutions’ and the ‘Arab spring’ of the last dozen years, as various societies have tried to make the transition from dictatorship to democracy.  I can also see the failures of such efforts, and the pitfalls that were not avoided as Gene recommended.  But Sharp, who wrote this book at the request of a prominent Burmese exile for the resistance movement in Burma, notes again and again that this is by no means an easy row to hoe — overall, though, he emphasizes the importance of local and transparent decision-making, the recognition of a dictatorship’s weaknesses and strengths, and the points of transformation.  Reading it has helped me understand international news and history more effectively, and I look forward to reading other books and pamphlets by this author.

 

Fourteen Minotaurs

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Blogos, over at Hermetic Lessons, wrote about the Fourteen Minotaurs recently, and I’ve been playing with this idea for a few weeks quite happily.  It’s the sort of thing that Robert Mitchell could really groove on with his Cabal Fang workouts, actually, so I’m sort of tagging him here.  And it’s also related to stuff from Jason Miller’s Strategic Sorcery course, so if you want to learn how to do this, consider taking his course, as well (an example of the wealth/poverty divide and thought process is here).

The essence of this idea is pretty simple.  Quantum mechanics indicates that there are maybe billions of “yous” in existence, because each time you make a decision, reality forks and you have a chance to become someone new — your ‘yes-self’ goes off into one alternate universe, and your ‘no-self’ goes on in this one, or vice-versa.  Charlie, a friend of mine, suggests that this is kind of like a tree model, where your first-ever decision to cry, or not-cry, becomes the root of your being — and each further decision ‘forks’ your reality until you end up at one of millions of trillions of possibilities.  Blogos argues, based on the book of Raziel, that that’s probably not the case, that maybe there are really only fourteen possible selves, fourteen minotaurs in the maze of human soul-in-animal-body, which you can become. As is common in much astrological and occult wisdom literature, these seven are associated with the seven visible planets (the ones that can be seen with the naked eye).  These are: More

Poem: Hymn to the Three Kings

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Today is the Feast of the Epiphany.  Among other things, it’s the feast of the Three Kings, or three wise men, or the three magi, who brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the Christ child in Bethlehem of Judea.  This is a hymn to them, (as opposed to a sonnet) as witnesses and greeters of Jesus, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.

Hail to thee, wise ones in search of a king,
bearing gifts of myrrh, frankincense, and gold:
you beheld a star, a marvelous thing —
a royal birth in Israel, long foretold.
From distant lands you traveled, while the star
chatoyant and shimmering in beauty,
ascended from the East to find its throne,
to shout glad tidings: “The child is here!”
You three of great wisdom knew your duty,
and went to the place where the star shone down.

What gifts you brought! Shining gold for a king;
myrrh, because death is the fate of all men,
and — since for this child, the angels sing —
not the soldier’s sword nor the prophet’s pen,
but frankincense offered to deity.
How else does one welcome a conqueror
who sets down his arms and makes you his heirs,
Imparting the peace of eternity
On those who believe? Still, baby-terror
startles the chickens, the ox and the mares.

Purpled linen and rich embroidery
becomes stained with mud, and urine, and straw
as you worship the babe. No finery,
no gold cradle — just the prophets and law
fulfilled as you need in adoration,
while Word Made Flesh bawls. Guide me and send grace,
wise men three, who saw in that star good news
of a king sent from God for Creation—
transcendence immanent in time and space —
show me the Light where my knees sink in ooze.

+ 20 + C + B + M + 17 +

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Painting gifted to S: The Final Approaching

Giordano Bruno: Wheels in Wheels

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I’ve been reading Scott Gosnell’s translations of Giordano Bruno, on Gordon’s recommendation over this holiday.  Giordano Bruno was an Italian, a Dominican monk, a university professor, a heretic, a scientist, and probably a magician of some great capacity, and was executed on February 17, 1600.

CipherDisk2000.jpg

Caesar cipher (Wikimedia)

He was also an expert on memory palaces, and used the work of Raymond Llull, the 13th century logician, as a basis for developing his own ideas.  At the core of both Llull’s work and Bruno’s extension of that work is a paper machine similar to a Caesar cipher wheel, to find multiple combinations of images and attributes, to invent memory pictures for study and recall… More

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