Saturday, May 25, 2013

Death at Crooked Creek

A Death at Crooked Creek
The Case of the Cowboy, the Cigarmaker, and the Love Letter
by Marrianne Wesson
2013 NYU Press
Received an E-galley from the publisher

Part true crime and part courtroom drama, Death at Crooked Creek explores the mystery of who was actually buried in Lawrence, Kansas in the grave of John Hillmon. Wesson, through the use of court transcripts and news articles of the time, creates a fascinating story around what was thought to be a simple case of insurance fraud, a case that became so much more historically significant. It was this set of trials that introduced a new exception to the rule of hearsay as evidence, an exception whose ramifications are still felt today. She does a great job of distilling six different trials worth of testimony into a compelling story. I was equally as fascinated by Wesson's own troubles in researching the case and hopes of forensically identifying the dead man as I was the case itself. It was my love of genealogy that drew me to the story and though the conclusion is not quite what I'd hoped for, her theory for how it could have played out is much more plausible than any put forth by either side during the trials.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Confused: The Series - Pt 1 Gun Control

I think the theme of confusion will be a series of posts on current issues that confuse me greatly. I'll start it all off with gun control. I know where I stand on this issue and I know I'm not saying anything new. I'm just talking it out to get it out of my head. What I don't get is why this issue should be so hard for intelligent, moral people to grasp. And the first person to give me the bullshit line of "guns don't kill people, people kill people," SHUT THE HELL UP. That may be true, but it does make it hell of a lot easier to kill someone from afar with one. I'm only going to talk about two points, the ones that should be obvious but apparently aren't. Oh, and for the record, I am NOT against the right to bear arms. Having a weapon in the home for protection is a great idea as long as it doesn't end up in the hands of a child. Having weapons to hunt (which I couldn't do, but wouldn't take the right from others) is fine as long as the guns are handled properly.

Background checks

These are done for more than just gun purchases. Employers need to run them for potential employees. Apartments run them to make sure the prospective tenant is safe to include in the community. You want to make sure the new person a few buildings down is not a convicted sex offender. We allow these checks without batting an eye.

So, what is wrong with making sure that the person attempting to buy a gun at a gun show or online was not convicted of a violent crime? Or has a history of mental problems? How many lives would be saved if a person with a restraining order couldn't acquire a weapon in which to harm the individual they were ordered to leave alone? How many deaths could be avoided by not allowing a mentally unstable person access to a gun? Yes, I know that criminals will always find a way to get guns. Background checks are not an absolute guarantee of safety. No rule or law can prevent everything. But, if even one life could be saved by catching that one person who would have no avenue otherwise, isn't a mild inconvenience (waiting a couple of minutes) a small price to pay. Since when do laws have to be all or nothing to be necessary?

The paranoid idea that wanting to keep innocent people safe is tantamount to taking away ALL guns is just crazy. Background checks do NOT equal wholesale confiscation of weapons. It does NOT mean a complete reversal of the 2nd Amendment. It doesn't even mean required registration. It means weapons would only be LEGALLY sold to law abiding citizens. The illegal weapons (like illegal drugs) are a completely different matter, handled by a different set of laws.

High capacity magazines

These don't even make sense in the hands of people outside the military. Why does an individual need the ability to shoot more than ten rounds? If you know how to handle your weapon, are trained to be a decent shot, then ten rounds should be enough to defend yourself. They make even less sense for hunters. Since food is so easily acquired without the need to hunt, it is generally thought of as a sport. The hunters I know do eat what they kill and, I'm told, help keep the deer population under control. To take a semi-automatic with the capacity for 100 rounds or more out to hunt would take the "sport" out of the sport. Wouldn't the ability to manage with only one shot be much more impressive than getting lucky with a large spray of bullets? The only use for a high capacity magazine is to inflict maximum damage on as many targets as possible. It is meant for killing enemies, not dinner.

Who wins and who loses

I think the real problem (like most of this country's problems) comes down to money. The people in charge of the NRA and the gun lobbyist's want people to spend lots of their hard earned money on their products, plain and simple. They know which fears to play on to get just that. When a tragedy happens and there is a fresh cry for gun control, they immediately accuse those in favor of gun control of trying to take away their 2nd Amendment rights (and their guns). They claim that current laws aren't working, so why introduce new ones. They fail to mention that the laws now in place have been neutered by other regulations making them useless. They fail to admit that the group put in place to enforce said laws is woefully shorthanded(a mere 2000 ATF for the entire nation with no boss to run it all) and also very limited in what they are allowed to do to enforce current laws. Any subterfuge to scare people into spending more money. In the meantime, people who couldn't pass a background check are getting guns with the express purpose to kill another human being. People not sane enough to be granted a weapon are getting through the loopholes we aren't allowed to close. We lose, whether it be our lives or our sense of security. They rake in the profits hand over fist, knowing that as long as they can  make us afraid, we will keep handing them more.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

J is for junk drawers and Japanese animation

A typical junk drawer. Image borrowed from the interwebs.
I know they don't seem related, but for me they are. Unpacking reminded me of the many opportunities for magick hiding in my junk drawers. Yes, plural as in three. Just one won't do. I have one in the end table in the living room that tends to hold earphones and cases for my cell phones along with the remote controls. It will also occasionally contain stray items found on the living room floor while vacuuming. The second lives in the kitchen. This one will have scissors, tools, and take-out menus along with more stray bits. After all, they wouldn't be called junk drawers without the stray, random items we don't know where to put but don't want to throw away. And they all have at least three or four pennies. The third one I'll get to in a minute. That's kind of where the Japanese animation (a.k.a. anime) comes into play.

The beauty of the junk drawer is that it unknowingly contains wonderful things that can be used in spells. I recently wanted to refresh my wish jar by taking out the wishes that came true or were no longer things for which I wished. I like to include something small for each element and to represent my most important wish or goal. This time around I pulled from my supplies a shell I collected in Florida, a chunk of dragon's blood, and a feather I've saved from my time living on the farm in Joshua. From the living room junk drawer I used a penny and stones I "collected" on one of my walks along the river. Truthfully, my shoes did the collecting. I pulled them from the tread in my walking shoes. :) The rest were found in the desk containing the third, and largest, junk drawer. My wish is for courage to write. For that, I have a copy of the One Ring (yes, that one) that fell off a bookmark, alphabet glitter, and dried petals from a rose from my grandmother's funeral. That should give me the strength of Frodo to accomplish such a big task, the right words, and my grandmother watching over me. Without my random bits from the junk drawers, it might not be so "me."

Okay, to the third drawer itself. That one contains LOTS more potential for magick. This is also where the Japanese animation relates. The third drawer, in the desk in my room, is a wide range of personal and nerd junk. I have old watches that need new batteries, lots of bookmarks, pages taken from old Llewellyn page-a-day spell calenders, greeting cards, trading cards, sci-fi convention memorabilia, and action figures. Lots and lots of little action figures. There is Legolas, Mulder and Scully, a Mars rover, and Lt. Carey from Star Trek: Voyager (still mint on card). I had to keep that last one. The character survived all seven seasons just to be killed in the finale before they all made it home. That pissed me off and I kept it for his sake. I know, silly but that's how my brain works. All the others are from my obsession with anime.

The human InuYasha
Pretty much all the shows I watch have some sort of magick to them. My very first love, Ranma 1/2, is the story of a boy cursed to change into a girl when splashed with cold water. Hot water changes him back. It's weird but I love it still. Later, came InuYasha: A Feudal Fairy Tale (a magick well that transports a girl to the past and a half demon to her future), Fullmetal Alchemist (alchemy, enough said), Naruto, Bleach, and many others. The beauty of this is that I can use my action figures in spells. Ranma works for the spells to Goddess and God, male and female. InuYasha is a half demon (with adorable dog ears) who loses his demon powers on the night of the new moon so lunar workings are great with his different forms as the focus, which form will depend on the current cycle. As an alchemist, my figure of Edward Elric is a focus for more energy. Naruto's demon fox chakra (or energy) burns red like fire instead of the characters' usual blue. He's great for fire spells or for bringing out hidden abilities (like the demon fox placed inside him). And Ichigo Kurasaki in Bleach is a Soul Reaper, helping good souls pass on and cleansing hollows (or tainted souls) so they too can pass. He's great for spirit work. So, while I may eventually find the lock for the mystery key, where the screws came from, or collect up the pennies to spend, my junk drawers will always contain something magickal.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Book reviews

coming soon! I recently signed up for digital Galleys (advance reading copies) from the site NetGalley and plan to post many of my reviews here. I'm excited to expand my horizons and try books from categories I wouldn't necessarily be able to afford otherwise. My first title wasn't quite what I'd expected (see review here), but the next two books look very interesting. First up is a thriller by author Aric Davis called The Fort. After that, is A Death at Crooked Creek, an old mystery now being investigated by modern forensics. I've got some science, some politics, some writing reference, and some science fiction coming as well, including a book of the best short stories of Connie Willis.

Friday, May 10, 2013


I considered writing about the expected definition of this word. It would be simple enough. I'm so used to being judged (by others, but mostly myself) for so many of my life decisions that it would be easy to add to the list. I instead decided to go with an option much more constructive. My Robin Wood deck and "Tarot Plain and Simple" by Anthony Louis.

The Judgement Card from the Robin Wood Tarot
The card speaks to something much more helpful. It is a card of rebirth, dying to one life and being reborn to something new. The advice in Louis' guide says it is the end of a cycle, a time of renewal and awakening, and a time to reap the rewards of past actions. The time has come to wipe your slate clean and prepare for a positive new beginning.

The timing of judgement as my word for the week is uncannily perfect. Many of my old modes of thinking and feeling are dying, personal and professional. By moving my physical residence, packing up all of my belongings and purging the unnecessary as I unpack, I am seeing things in a new light, deciding what matters and what is a waste of my precious energies. I am learning that I don't have to limit my hopes and dreams. I only need to have realistic expectations. I can only complete one task at a time, can only do so many tasks in a day.

In my "professional" life, I am setting different goals as well. The day job, the one that currently pays the bills and the cat food, has to be less important than my heart's desire. I want to write stories. I want to write blogs and book reviews for the Pagan community. I want to create Pagan greeting cards. I can't do that if I let my retail job be so important, if I let my hard work, passion, and energy go to a job I don't absolutely love. So, it is time to embrace and manifest the message of the Judgement card in my everyday life. It's time to be reborn!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

H is for Home

An offhand comment from a friend made me wonder about my idea of "home" and how my spirituality affects that idea. The comment (which in retrospect hurt my feelings a bit) was that where I live isn't important to me, that my home was just a place for my stuff. The intimation was that I make enough money to afford a nicer place, so I shouldn't settle for something cheap. At first I thought, "Well, yeah. My apartment is a place that holds my stuff." But it is so much more than that and I'm not so shallow as to put material things first.

First and foremost, my apartment is where my babies, my seven fabulous felines, live. They are my top priority, why I stick with a crappy retail job until something better comes along. My previous apartment was tiny. It was on a busy street. It had very little to enhance the lives of my cats, my familiars. While the new place isn't much bigger, it has a floor plan that gives room to run and play. More important, it has a screened-in patio. The kitties can now feel the breeze and smell the fresh air and new scents instead of watching it behind panes of glass. Since I still live in a city near lots of traffic, they must be indoor only. But the new patio gives them some of the outdoors without risking their lives. They love it!

For me, it has separate rooms; individual places I can set up for quiet time, ritual time (including a fireplace), and creative time. My old place was two open areas with very little privacy. Moving also helped me to purge many unnecessary belongings and feelings. Big, dark pieces of furniture that made the rooms oppressive were exchanged for modular, white organizers. My "skinny" clothes, those clothes we hold on to in case we become thin again, were depressing reminders of a time I couldn't get back, a time I needed to leave in the past. They went to people who need them. My writing area has moved from a corner of the living room to its own space. I am free to work on the fresh start I so desperately need.

The best part of the new abode is that it really feels like Home. The energies are warm and peaceful. As a Taurus, I love a fairly sedentary lifestyle. And I'm an introvert, so being a solitary allows me to properly charge my batteries, physically and spiritually. When I'm exhausted after a long day in retail, surrounded by energy draining people, I can come back to a place that relaxes me by simply being here. I'm also very close to a park and the river. Nature is now a five minute walk away, ready for magick.

Home is not about living in the most expensive place. It's not about a place for my material stuff. It is about place for my life.