Light at the end of the tunnel

I didn’t get a blog post written for this week, because the rough draft of Thalia’s Musings 3 has been taking all my writerly energy. I’ve finished 13 of a proposed 16 chapters. The book may actually be readable sometime this decade! So if you haven’t read volumes 1 and 2 in awhile, or at all, now’s a good time to catch up. Click here to read both volumes online for free, or here to purchase either volume for Kindle or NOOK. And now, back to writing!

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Adonis Is Risen

So, it’s Easter week, or Holy Week as it’s called in many Christian denominations. Some variation of “Christ is risen!” “He is risen indeed!” is a common greeting throughout the Christian world around this time of year. But did you know celebrating the death and resurrection of a young deity killed in his prime is a spring custom that predates Christianity? Centuries before Jesus was born, people were celebrating this time of year by proclaiming, “The lord is risen!”

Or, if you skip translating the deity’s name, “Adonis is risen.”

In his 1922 volume The Golden Bough, Sir James George Frazer writes:

When we reflect how often the Church has skilfully contrived to plant the seeds of the new faith on the old stock of paganism, we may surmise that the Easter celebration of the dead and risen Christ was grafted upon a similar celebration of the dead and risen Adonis, which, as we have seen reason to believe, was celebrated in Syria at the same season. The type, created by Greek artists, of the sorrowful goddess with her dying lover in her arms, resembles and may have been the model of the Pietà of Christian art, the Virgin with the dead body of her divine Son in her lap, of which the most celebrated example is the one by Michael Angelo in St. Peters. That noble group, in which the living sorrow of the mother contrasts so wonderfully with the languor of death in the son, is one of the finest compositions in marble. Ancient Greek art has bequeathed to us few works so beautiful, and none so pathetic.

Michelangelo’s Pietà in St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. Image via Wikipedia.

Remember the scene in Snarled Threads where (SPOILERS!) Persephone is cradling Adonis on the barge? Michelangelo’s Pieta was the image in my head when I wrote it. Though hopefully it goes without saying that Thalia’s Musings isn’t a Gospel allegory, and that my Adonis is not Jesus. :P

But it is fascinating to me how Christianity co-opted so much of the Adonis story and rites into the Easter story and rites when, other than being killed at a young age, Jesus and Adonis didn’t have that much in common. Well, that and geography. Frazer continues:

In this connexion a well-known statement of Jerome may not be without significance. He tells us that Bethlehem, the traditionary birthplace of the Lord, was shaded by a grove of that still older Syrian Lord, Adonis, and that where the infant Jesus had wept, the lover of Venus was bewailed. Though he does not expressly say so, Jerome seems to have thought that the grove of Adonis had been planted by the heathen after the birth of Christ for the purpose of defiling the sacred spot. In this he may have been mistaken. If Adonis was indeed, as I have argued, the spirit of the corn, a more suitable name for his dwelling-place could hardly be found than Bethlehem, “the House of Bread,” and he may well have been worshipped there at his House of Bread long ages before the birth of Him who said, “I am the bread of life.”

And then there’s the heralded by a star in the East thing:

But the star which the people of Antioch saluted at the festival was seen in the East; therefore, if it was indeed Venus, it can only have been the Morning Star. At Aphaca in Syria, where there was a famous temple of Astarte, the signal for the celebration of the rites was apparently given by the flashing of a meteor, which on a certain day fell like a star from the top of Mount Lebanon into the river Adonis. The meteor was thought to be Astarte herself, and its flight through the air might naturally be interpreted as the descent of the amorous goddess to the arms of her lover. At Antioch and elsewhere the appearance of the Morning Star on the day of the festival may in like manner have been hailed as the coming of the goddess of love to wake her dead leman from his earthy bed. If that were so, we may surmise that it was the Morning Star which guided the wise men of the East to Bethlehem, the hallowed spot which heard, in the language of Jerome, the weeping of the infant Christ and the lament for Adonis. 

Astarte is an early Mesopotamian fertility goddess. Aphrodite is thought to be her Greek counterpart, with Venus, of course, as the Roman reboot. Other variations on Astarte’s archetype include Ishtar and Eostre. Can you guess which major Christian holiday derives its name from theirs?

Halloween. Duh. (Image by deviantART user Steph-Laberis)

My intent here isn’t to ruin Easter for anyone. And I’m certainly not trying to make the point that the Gospel is BS because it’s one more retelling of stories humans have been telling as long as we’ve existed. On the contrary, I think the fact that every civilization has basically told their own variation of the same stories makes those stories that much more significant and that much more real. Whether or not they’re derived from events that literally, historically happened, they’re about True things. Solstices, equinoxes, plantings, harvests, the phases of the moon, the path of the stars; there’s an innate beauty and power to these cycles. That’s what Myth is, not a mere synonym for “fallacy”. Myth is taking the beauty and power of these cycles and turning it into Story.

Whatever stories you’re celebrating this week, may your celebration be a good one!

 

The Great Mosby: How I Met Your Mother Finale Feels

SPOILER WARNING. This is all about the series finale of How I Met Your Mother. Which aired a week ago. It’s taken me this long to process it enough to write a coherent blog post. If you haven’t seen the finale and want to see it unspoiled, DO NOT read further. Here’s another nice article I wrote about a popular sitcom. Go read that. Okay, you want the SPOILERS? You can have the SPOILERS. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Image by deviantART user Nerdcadet.

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Why Amy Santiago is my favorite Latina character on TV

“You’re all…articulate. And smart.”

“So are you! Wait, why does that sound like an insult?”

~ Rosa Diaz and Amy Santiago, Brooklyn Nine-Nine

A couple weeks ago I delivered a rant about how most Latina characters on TV tend to fall into a few basic stereotypes: maids, immigrants or the daughters of immigrants, from the ghetto, thickly accented even when the actresses playing them aren’t, and hypersexualized in contrast to the prim and proper WASPs around them.

Or all of the above.

Most of the Latina characters I like fall into at least one of these. Even the ones that, overall, are unique and well-rounded. I can’t overstate my love for Betty Suarez from Ugly Betty. Betty is Jess from New Girl before Zooey Deschanel made that kind of character cool. But a major plotline in that series is the discovery that Betty’s immigrant father is undocumented. Carla Espinoza Turk from Scrubs is serious, responsible, a leader in a professional career, and attractive without being overtly sexualized. But, again, immigrant backstory, though at least her family is legal. Santana Lopez, one of my favorite characters on Glee, starts out overtly hypersexual in contrast with good blonde suburban Evangelical Quinn, whose sexuality is safely hidden under a facade of chastity clubs and purity balls. Santana’s arc is somewhat salvaged when it turns out that her earlier promiscuity was her attempt to convince herself she wasn’t a lesbian. She’s actually been pretty restrained in that regard since coming out. But, even though early episodes established that her father is a well-off doctor, in later episodes Santana claims residence in seedy, violent “Lima Heights Adjacent.” Yes, even small rural towns have a ghetto, because where else are the Latin@s supposed to live? Gloria Pritchett from Modern Family is funny, likable, and to be honest, a character I identify with in some ways. But she is pretty much the embodiment of every Latina stereotype in the history of television.

I’m throwing pinches of wood and knocking on salt as I write this, because even after an awesome first season, I’m still afraid Brooklyn Nine-Nine is going to to make a liar out of me in Season Two. But so far, Detective Amy Santiago is possibly the least stereotypical Latina character I’ve ever seen on TV. Like, ever.

Melissa Fumero as Detective Amy Santiago. Image via TV Tropes.

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Buy An Ebook, Help a Disabled Kid

Quick version: The royalties for all Thalia’s Musings ebooks sold between 3/1/14 and 4/1/14 will be donated to World Vision’s Child and Family Health Fund. Want to know why? Keep reading.

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UPDATE: World Vision has reversed its new hiring policy because of pressure from their financial supporters. I’m still making this donation because (1) everything I said about World Vision’s work and why I admire it is true, and (2) I’m bigger than the people who effectively turned the children helped by World Vision into hostages in a culture war that we’re all sick to death of fighting. If you’re as upset by this turn of events as I am, please don’t take it out on World Vision. In all likelihood, they only reversed the decision because it was the only way to keep helping the people they were helping. Also, as far as I know, they still stand by their repudiation of Uganda’s discriminatory laws.

World Vision is an international charity that supports children in need and their communities around the world. They’re most well-known for their child sponsorship program. As Rachel Held Evans explains in this post, the money from the sponsorships is pooled to support things like schools, housing, and clean drinking water for the whole community. World Vision makes a point of employing local people in the communities it serves. Their business model is designed to stay in a community for only 15 or 20 years, with the goal of training local people to take over their work entirely when that period ends. Although World Vision is a Christian organization, they do not require the people they help to be professing Christians or to take part in proselytizing activity of any kind. They’re just trying to fulfill the Bible’s commands to care for those in need, especially widows and orphans.

So, why has this awesome organization lost over 2,000 sponsors since Monday?

Because the director of their USA branch announced that they would employ Christians in same-sex marriages.

Christianity Today’s coverage of that announcement is at my Tumblr, including my initial reaction to the news:

This is a huge deal. Personally, I’m not a fan of employers requiring anything of their employees beyond “Show up on time and fulfill your job description,” and I wouldn’t work for anyone who wanted to regulate my sex life. But this is a big deal because World Vision is acknowledging that the morality of a sexual relationship is not determined by the genders of the people in it. They’re holding queer employees to the same standard as straight employees: you can only have sex with the person you’re married to. They’re acknowledging that a same-sex marriage is as valid as an opposite-sex marriage. While I don’t agree with World Vision’s definition of what qualifies as a moral sexual relationship, I completely agree that the genders of the people involved is irrelevant to the issue.

Oh, and World Vision Uganda issued a statement condemning Uganda’s anti-gay laws. You know, the ones that say you can be imprisoned or executed for being gay? The kind of laws even Glenn Beck calls “heterofascism”?

Now, as to why I’m donating book royalties instead of just quietly making a donation myself…I’m broke. That’s it. That’s also the reason I’m (full disclosure) not currently sponsoring a child myself, although I really wish I could. I don’t have the funds and this is the best way I can think of to raise them. But this really is just about supporting an organization whose work I believe in, not drumming up book sales. If you aren’t interested in buying Thalia’s Musings ebooks, or if you’ve already bought them both in the past, or if you don’t trust third parties to make charitable donations for you, please consider donating the price of one of my books ($4.99) directly to World Vision’s Child and Family Health Fund or any of their other projects. I picked the Child and Family Health Fund because, as someone who’s dealt with chronic medical conditions since childhood, this is an issue close to my heart. Maybe there’s another issue close to yours, like education or supporting small businesses in the developing world or fighting human trafficking.

If you’re as broke as I am and can’t even spare $4.99, then please at least go to World Vision USA’s Facebook page and leave them a nice message and a 5-star rating. Or send a friendly tweet to @WorldVisionUSA and the #WorldVision hashtag. However you’re able to help, I want to see this incredible Christian charity rewarded, not penalized, for actually practicing Christian charity.

5 Crossovers That Need to Happen on Once Upon a Time

Once Upon a Time, in case you haven’t heard, is an ABC show currently in its third season. The best way to describe it is “Enchanted for grownups.” Or “the ultimate Disney crossover fanfiction.” Or “that show where Snow White and Prince Charming’s daughter got knocked up by Rumpelstiltskin’s son and their kid got adopted by Snow White’s evil stepmother who was almost the lovechild of Rumpelstiltskin and the Miller’s Daughter and that’s just the beginning.”

Or “LOST, with Disney characters.” Image via Wikipedia.

Although Once‘s original pitch was classic fairy tale characters living in the modern world, it quickly became obvious that “classic fairy tale” = “anything either in the public domain or owned by Disney.” So far the world of the Enchanted Forest has intersected with Wonderland, Frankenstein, the Knights of the Round Table, Robin Hood, Neverland, and most recently, Oz. Which is AWESOME. Go big or go home, right? Once Upon a Time is almost sure to get a fourth season. Here are a few yet-untapped veins in the Disney properties and public domain gold mines.

5. SHERLOCK HOLMES

There’s always a mystery afoot in Storybrook. Who better than Sherlock Holmes, the world’s greatest public domain detective, to show up and solve one? Sadly, it’s unlikely that CBS or the BBC would loan Miller or Cumberbatch to a rival network. Just as well, though, since pulling Holmes and Watson out of 19th century London seems more in keeping with Once’s style. Most likely scenario: Sherlock must solve a paternity case, and he discovers that he himself is the Blue Fairy’s son, Aladdin’s brother, and Captain Hook’s father.

4. DRACULA

Srsrly tho, WHY have there not been vampires in Storybrook yet? Half of Regina’s Evil Queen costumes look like they were designed for a vampire (hmmm, maybe Carmilla would be better?). There could be this whole storyline about Dracula only being able to drink blood from someone if they have a heart, and Regina has to use her magic heart-stealing powers to save the whole town from being vampired, and Dracula is Jiminy Cricket’s son, Grumpy the Dwarf’s brother, and Mulan’s father.

3. NARNIA

The property rights situation on this one is complicated, but Disney distributed the Narnia movies, so I’m throwing it in here anyway. We’ve already seen several characters travel to and from Storybrook via wardrobe. Agrabah, a major location in the underrated Wonderland spinoff, could easily be part of the Calormen Empire. Come on, writers; I want a twisted, tangled backstory about the War of the Drobes in the land of Spare Oom. A story in which Mister Tumnus is revealed to be Red Riding Hood’s son, Ariel’s brother, and Mushu’s father.

2. MARVEL

Specifically, a Once Upon a Time/Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. two-part crossover episode. The big reveal would solve Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s major ongoing mystery regarding Skye’s parentage thusly: Aurora is currently pregnant with Skye, and Mulan is the father.

1. THE FRIGGIN’ MUPPETS

Miss Piggy: “Mirror on moi’s dressing room wall, who’s the biggest diva of them all?”

Muppet mirror: “O Queen of Hams, if camp could kill, we’d all be slain by Regina Mills.”

Miss Piggy drags the Muppet crew to Storybrook to investigate. A battle royale between her and Regina ends in an accidental curse that turns everyone in Storybrook into Muppets. They spend the whole episode trying to put things back to normal. Chaos and random musical numbers ensue. All is put to right at the end, but not before it is discovered that Miss Piggy is Cora’s other long-lost daughter, Kermit the Frog is Princess Tiana’s brother, and Gonzo is Rumpelstiltskin’s grandfather.

You Are Better Than Fred Phelps (and that’s why he was so dangerous)

Image via Wikipedia.

I’ve been around some pretty extreme religious types in my life. You know those rhetorical arguments about modern Christians not really taking the Bible literally because they don’t see a cotton/poly blend as a sin? I’ve known Christians who believed wearing a cotton/poly blend is a sin. Yet, not once in my life have I heard anyone say, “I approve of the Westboro Baptist Church’s work.” I have never personally encountered a Christian-identifying person who said “God hates fags.”

Oh, I’ve heard people say that acceptance of homosexuality would bring God’s judgment upon our nation. But they would never say “God hates fags.”

I’ve heard people say they aren’t required to show love to people the Bible clearly calls an abomination. But they would never say “God hates fags.”

I’ve heard people say they need laws that allow them to refuse jobs and housing to “homosexuals” to protect their sincerely-held beliefs. But they would never say “God hates fags.”

I’ve heard people insist on using the word “homosexual” to refer to all LGBTQ people, because calling gays and lesbians “gays and lesbians” allows them to normalize their perverted lifestyle, and because bi and transgender people don’t really exist anyway. But they would never say “God hates fags.”

I’ve heard people say, “We’re losing our country,” not knowing they were speaking to one of the people to whom they’re supposedly losing it. But they would never say “God hates fags.”

I’ve heard people say we should love homosexuals the same way we should love addicts, adulterers, and pedophiles, with the obvious implication that these are all on the same moral/psychiatric plain, and that the end goal of that love is saving these people from their dysfunction and perversion. But they would never say “God hates fags.”

I’ve heard people say homosexual desire is a temptation like any other, and that it’s no sin if you never act on it – that is, if you choose a life alone, a life with a spouse you can never fully love, or a life of the impossible task of shutting down half of your sexuality while keeping the other half alive enough for functional relationships. But they would never say “God hates fags.”

I’ve heard people say homosexual love can never be real love, only broken, shallow, selfish, insatiable lust. But they would never say “God hates fags.”

I’ve heard people compare my first love, which wouldn’t have been considered inappropriate in any way if it had been with a boy, to bestiality. But they would never say “God hates fags.”

I’ve heard people say that we can’t grant homosexuals the right to marriage and families because we have to protect the institutions of marriage and family. But they would never say “God hates fags.”

I’ve heard people say that, while they believe in reaching out to unsaved homosexuals, they couldn’t continue to fellowship with unrepentant homosexual Christians as believers. But they would never say “God hates fags.”

I’ve heard people go out of their way to find something, anything, in someone’s past to which they can attribute the “brokenness” of same-sex attraction, to explain away as dysfunction something they’d see as beautiful and healthy if it were between two people of the opposite sex. But they would never say “God hates fags.”

I could go on for a hundred pages. If you think I’m saying that all these people are really no better than Fred Phelps, you’ve completely missed the point. These people are better than Fred Phelps. These are nice people. These are people who don’t want to hurt anyone. These are people who sincerely want the best for their neighbors, for their nation, for the poor broken homosexuals. These people feel sincerely torn over how to discriminate in the kindest way possible. They might be you. They have been me. You, most likely, are better than Fred Phelps. I was and continue to be better than Fred Phelps. And that’s his true danger. Fred Phelps and others like him let us believe that being better than them is good enough.

Fred Phelps is dead. Let the scapegoating die with him. Let us all resolve that we can do better than “better than Fred Phelps.”