What I’m reading

A few days ago, I tried penning a piece that explored what I’m writing about and thinking about as a teacher and a magician and a thinker, by giving you a taste of what I was reading.  And just yesterday I provided some links into the deep archive here on my site. Today, I’m going to delve into my current reading, and give you a taste of what’s on my mind.

First of all, I’m thinking about borders, in part because I’m soon to go to Montreal, and it turns out that you can to some extent monitor the crossing points from the US to Canada and back, and get a sense of how long the transit will take. Given that I’m returning from the North on the same day as I have / get to compete in a toastmasters competition, I’m more than a little interested in how long the crossing will take: ten minutes or two hours?

Nation of Change thinks that students have a shot of using usury in the Bible and Indiana’s newly restrictive laws to make a case that debt peonage for student loans is unfair. I’m not sure that I agree with this assessment, but it makes for an interesting idea.  More than that, it raises the real possibility that the October sky-is-falling that Greer hinted at a few weeks ago, and that Gordon indicated is on his mind, might have something to do with student debt default, which is past the 10% mark and holding steady at between 10-15%.

In this context, a friend of mine posted a couple of links, one about the Food App deciding to abandon Facebook because it wasn’t serving their interests very well (and the follow-up that nothing happened when they did). As a result of reading my friend’s note about Facebook, this 19-year-old’s comments about Facebook and other social media make perfect sense — the awkward social media network that they can’t quite let go of, but find really embarrassing.   The other link was a speech about how important it is to sell strawberries — a great speech from 1973, as it so happens, about how to get your whole organization to buy into the process of selling the corporate message, and how you have to create incentives across your organization to get results that make your whole team into a salesforce.  (I’m reminded of Gordon’s note in his recent column about how the shadow state has been using magic’s techniques against us for decades, actually).

At the same time, I see the state beginning this process of trying to figure out how to unravel the drug war. This is signaling behavior, the extension of clemency to life prisoners — and there’s a measure of throwing them back out to their families before their healthcare needs become expenses to the shadow state, right?  There’s also some question, though, of how long we’re going to have public schools, especially since their leadership can’t be expected to behave responsibly toward their charges (although why there’s a picture of the shamed children rather than the shamed principal in the story, I don’t know… connection to the school-to-prison pipeline, alive and well?). The problem, as any teacher can tell you, is that the business of teaching is complicated, and there’s a lot of stuff which defies measurement.

And there’s an interesting effort afoot to help Americans think about guns differently; I wonder if this will become a traveling show, or if it’s only intended to play in New York? How is this going to play in Montana or South Dakota or Arkansas, I wonder?  The audience in the video is probably quite different than the people who walked through the door; and why don’t we get to see who wasn’t dissuaded and bought a gun anyway? Hmm.

America is in the midst of the 150th anniversary of Sherman’s March to the Sea, and the New York Times published a pretty god-awful editorial about it on the anniversary of the burning of Atlanta last November. I found the counterargument which I quite like: let’s face it, in modern warfare you do not let the enemy control the airport, or the hills around it, or the airspace that approaches it. Why would you do the same for the railroad center?

I hate the design of this next website, but it’s interesting how science and medicine is backpedaling from WHAT WE KNOW IS TRUE ABOUT FOOD AND HEALTH.  This is quite in tune with what Greer said about the View from Outside, and how science, in its recent workings, hasn’t really helped its own cause very much.

On the magical side, Sam has gotten around to publishing his discoveries about the Mansions of the Moon and geomancy, which I’m looking forward to playing around with.  There was this article about the problem of secrecy in a Panopticon sort of world, too, which I’m processing in accord with this new blog from Ivy (which I found through Gordon).  I appreciate the way that she’s bringing project management skills to bear on magical work, and vice-versa. This is very much like what I’m doing in the Design Lab, actually, and more or less how I brought the Design Lab makeover project to fruition — Backward Planning makes a difference, people: I saw this on the Wizard of Oz head, and on a number of props and projects that didn’t get finished for the show because of a lack of planning for perfection. Chris Schwarz has some good advice for woodworker on that kind of striving for perfection that applies to designers and magicians (is there a difference?), about equally. And how about magical notebooks that light up LEDs when you use them, or run power through the circuits of sigils? I’m also wondering how to use this device in magical work, even though I found it because I was looking for things to build in my Design Lab. And this would be a stupendously cool addition to my Design Lab’s electronics workshop projects:

But I’m also thinking about Dogger Bank, and Doggerland.  Something like 16,000 years ago, what we call the North Sea was dry land; then around 6000-ish years ago it flooded — possibly suddenly, possibly gradually over several decades (one wonders what will happen to Florida, all at once and in complete denial, or gradually). I read this story about the new discoveries on Orkney, and this ancient temple there, and I thought — people didn’t sail to Orkney and discover Orkney and make it a sacred site: it was already a sacred mountain BEFORE THE FLOODING OF DOGGERLAND.  If you look at the maps in the article about Doggerland, you can see it, set apart and lonely (almost a home for dragons, if you will).  The Storegga Slides would have drowned the lands all around the sacred mountain (makes you wonder if the temple was for giving thanks for safety from the flood; or if it was part of an effort to cause the seas to turn back — thanks, Canute). The Roman-era’s druidic eye-rolling at Roman coercion — “is the sky falling? Is the sea bursting its banks?” — makes more sense in this context, doesn’t it?  Why fear anything but the terrifying storm that drowned the world and made it new.

I started out as a world history teacher, lo these many moons ago, and it still fires my imagination, but every so often someone posts a comment on my YouTube channel which amounts to, “the f@&*k do you know about anything? You’re wrong!”  And those comments, and the discussions of Doggerland that are starting to fire me up, help me understand that in fact I know very little about the history of the world — that my timeline of the last 20,000 years or so is probably wrong, even leaving aside questions about whether dendrochronology or carbon-dating actually work.  But it is clear that hiring a professor who cares about democracy to run your corrupt country’s elections commission is probably a good way to lose power, and that the residents of the Doggerlandian province of the Orcades were probably not the last people to engage in building massive earthworks against the sea, and that the abilities of sea-power and air-power combined are not enough to stop construction of artificial islands.

Reviewing this text, I have to say that I can discern the thread of the narrative, but I’m not sure anyone else can. Maybe it’s obvious, maybe it isn’t.  But for those who follow the threads of what I’m trying to say, or choose to guess at it, you might say that I’m trying to discern how my work fits into a world where the powers-that-are, are threatened by the powers-that-will-be, and what Mother Nature might have to say about how one becomes the other.  What’s clear is that the knowledge base I had as a history teacher is becoming tattered by what I am learning now; what I am learning now is changing how I feel about the present, and what I want to learn is changing how I feel about the future.

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