The Wick End of Candles at the Close of a Long Night

The Wick End of Candles at the Close of a Long Night was published in the h2g2 Post on the 21st of September 2006. It’s a rather beautiful story by ianhimself. It’s set in Northern Ireland, and manages to be raw and true while absolutely not being a polemic. Also, it’s not at all about what you might at first imagine it to be about.

In Toastmasters, I’ve given thirteen speeches. I did the ten from the first manual, so I’m now a “Competent Communicator”. In fact, I finished them at the end of our last Toastmaster year (that is, the beginning of the summer: our last meeting before the summer break was my last speech from that manual), but I’ve only just officially registered for the CC award on Thursday night. To get the CC award, you need to do ten speeches, each focussing on different skills: gestures and body language, vocal variety, visual aids, persuasive speaking, inspirational speaking, and suchlike. I found those last two the hardest: my default type of speech is the informational: here’s this cool thing I found out about, let me tell you all about it.

That final speech from the CC manual was actually my eleventh speech, as I’d also  given one in a competition. It is possible to count competition speeches toward an award, if you get someone to evaluate them, but I hadn’t bothered. Besides, it was a recycled, polished up and improved version of a speech I’d given before.

In this Toastmasters year I’ve so far given two speeches. The first was from the Entertaining Speaker manual, I think. I don’t actually have that manual, and am unlikely to try it any time soon, but there’s a speech in the back of the CC manual as a taster, and I had a funny story to tell, so I told it. (It was actually about my visit to Reims for a h2g2 meet at the beginning of the summer. That’s a story I must write up for h2g2 one of these days.) I got that speech evaluated, of course, but it won’t count toward an award.

My next speaking award will be the Bronze. The task is to do two complete manuals. Each of these manuals has five speeches. (That’s why I can’t count my entertaining story: I’m not doing that manual now, and if I eventually do, I’ll start it again from the beginning.)

And, at the last meeting, I made my start on the Interpretive Reading manual, reading a story. Namely, The Wick End of Candles at the Close of a Long Night. It went down very well, I must say. (I did get some constructive feedback, focussing mainly on vocal projection, so that’s something I’ll have to work on.)

I don’t think I want to do too many readings in a row, so my next speech will have to be from another manual. Probably Speaking to Inform. As I said, that’s what suits me. If I do a reading as every third speech, which is what I think I’ll try for, it’ll mean I’ll have two and a half manuals done before I get the Bronze. Nevermind. That would mean I could then jump quickly to the Silver.

TRiG.

“my rights end where yours begin”

That’s the whole conundrum of invoking God as the singular rationale for or against public policy—God says lots of different things to lots of different people, and all of them think that they’re right.
Melissa McEwan, “MREWYB“, Shakesville.

Yup. Melissa McEwan is there talking specifically about “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, but her point is broadly applicable.

TRiG.

Christian Horror Films: Horrific Christian Culture?

Any time people get worked up about a menace they believe in but can’t actually see – demons, Commies, jihadis, hordes of hoodie-wearing thugs — they’re likely to take it out on the weakest and most vulnerable people in society.
— Andrew O’Heihr, at Salon, reviewing the film The Conjuring.

And this is why I read Slacktivist, because he takes wonderful quotes like that and examines them.

This wholesome demonization of marginalized women is expected to “appeal to faith-minded audiences.” And it does.

Oops.

Here’s Fred Clark on Christianity, horror films, and conservative social roles:

  1. The Amityville Horror is not based on a true story.
  2. The Conjuring reminds us that the only way to stop Satanic baby-killers is to punish women.

This film is a pep rally for a witch hunt. Witch hunts do not lead people toward God. Witch hunts and witch-hunters lead people, instead, toward the lethal notion that it is their job to identify and destroy the enemies of God. The stories witch-hunters tell are never true stories, but the victims those stories produce are all too real. And there is nothing “wholesome” about that.

And so it goes.

TRiG.

NOM: Willing, deliberate liars

The National Organization for Marriage has been spreading a host of falsehoods about research into same-sex parenting. Every so I often I lob a tweet about this to Thomas Peters, NOM’s Communications Director. He never replies, which is a shame, because I’ve always wanted to know what he’d say when confronted with these blatant…inaccuracies.

Well, Rob Tisinai finally managed to get through to Thomas Peters. Anyone want three guesses on how he reacted? Well, here’s the answer:

So now I know what Thomas Peters will do when confronted with NOM’s falsehoods: He’ll act like facts don’t matter.

My my, what a surprise!

Peters’s response isn’t surprising either.

TRiG.

No, I’m not going to be polite about it

And I see no reason why I should be.

Many many people have pointed out that a call for politeness, for some kind of superficial niceness, actually rarely serves to make the world a better place, or to deal with any kind of injustice. Often, in fact, it is a form of victim blaming, and/or an excuse to maintain the status quo.

Martin Luther King:

You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations.

We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.

… the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice ….

Letter from Birmingham Jail.

Dianna E. Anderson:

How can I not take that personally?

For me, the discussion can never be abstract. ….

Because for me, it’s not just for funsies. It never will be. It is too real, and too personal for me to discuss it “for fun.”

The Theological Is Personal.

Fred Clark:

Scott wants you to understand that she’s not at all like the infamous homophobic preacher Worley. She’s totally different.

Worley wants to deny LGBT people their basic civil rights and legal equality because he hates them. Scott wants to deny LGBT people their basic civil rights and legal equality for other reasons.

See? See how very different they are? Same result. Same vote. Same fundamental discrimination enshrined in law. But Worley is mean. Scott is nice.

Look, here’s the deal: It doesn’t matter if you think you’re a nice person. And it doesn’t matter if your tone, attitude, sentiments and facial expressions are all very sweet, kindly and sympathetic-seeming. If you’re opposing legal equality, then you don’t get to be nice. Opposing legal equality is not nice and it cannot be done nicely.

You can’t deny people their rights and be nice about it.

TRiG.

 

Were you there in the aspen grove?

I’ve always liked the name aspen. There’s something pleasing about it. And the trees are pleasing too. They’re related to the birch, and it was nice to see some real broad leaf trees when I was in Colorado: the dark pines were making me feel hemmed in: it was quite oppressive, really, and the scrub oak was no help: it served only to remind me that real oak trees didn’t grow there.

I didn’t get to see the Trembling Giant, which is in Utah. It’s an 80,000-year-old grove of aspens, which is actually one single colony (all the trees (roughly 47,000) share a root system), meaning that this is the oldest (and probably heaviest) known living organism. (Follow that link: it’s got more information, and some lovely photos.)

This beautiful aspen grove, is, of course, one of many proofs that the world is older than Ken Ham would care to admit. He wouldn’t accept that. Were you there?, he’d ask.

Well, no, of course not. And then again, yes. The past is ever-present, and we always see things as they were. Michael Busch reminds us that “what we perceive as now is a fuzzy stretch of time many hundredths of a second long”.

As PZ Myers says,

I pity those unable to see the grand arena they are a small part of, who want to deny that history is observable.

TRiG.

I believe: How it works

British pharmacists are allowed as a matter of conscience by their regulatory body to pretend they believe that contraception is an “abortifacient”.

A pharmacist who claims to believe that emergency contraception (or even regular daily contraception) is an “abortifacient” is either lying in order to justify imposing their religious views on other people, or is allowing their religious beliefs to overrule their scientific training.

Meanwhile, in America, Hobby Lobby thinks it should be exempt from covering medical care “they believe” causes abortion.

So Hobby Lobby’s legal claim is that a company has a “religious liberty” right to avoid anything they say causes abortion even if it does nothing of the sort.

If Hobby Lobby were to be granted such an exemption, then, what would prevent any other corporation from claiming that it believes minimum wage laws, OSHA regulations, nuclear safety rules and fire codes are also “abortifacient”?

What Hobby Lobby is seeking isn’t merely some legal permission to be exempt from providing health insurance. The corporation is seeking the “religious liberty” to redefine reality and to rewrite the laws of medicine, human anatomy, biology and chemistry.

The medical care they’re talking about is, again, emergency contraception, which (keep up) does not cause abortion. It doesn’t even cause abortion in the very narrow sense of preventing implantation, which most medical experts would not call abortion anyway:

There were studies done that show that overly huge amounts of estrogen can cause failure to implant in mice, so that warning was stuck on Plan B while they studied it in human vagina owners. But no proof has been found that it happens in human women.

Of course, this is actually all about sex:

If Hobby Lobby said that they believed cancer was caused by sinful behavior, and therefore they weren’t covering chemotherapy, they would be shamed so fast they wouldn’t know what hit them.

Except when it’s all about politics:

I note in passing that Hobby Lobby is neither passionately sincere or sincerely passionate.  They offered this coverage without any qualms until they found out that President Obama wanted to make them do it.

TRiG.