Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Open Letter to the Vatican and American Bishops

                                                          


Although I've been raised in the Catholic Church, I'm no longer satisfied in the antiquated teaching principals of the church. You may ask why a woman in her early sixties is now complaining, but this is not a problem that just reared its head...no, it is a problem that was boiling under the surface for many years. The Bishops complain that people aren't coming to church. Allow me to make a few suggestions.

The changes that you would need to make are not catastrophic except for a few. The biggest change would need to be in the music selection. Do the American bishops purposely only allow brain numbing music to be sung in the churches every Sunday? It sure seems that way. Is there some unknown commandment handed down by Moses that says "There shall not be any lively, toe tapping, hand clapping music in God's house."

                                                                  

I doubt that because I've been visiting many Christian churches this past year and the most inspiring part of the service, before the sermon, is the music. Music is what reaches my soul. Not the kind that is played in the Roman Catholic Church and, I'm specifically pointing out the lousy music because if the music doesn't inspire, the rest of the mass is going down hill.

When I visit a non-Catholic church, the congregation is treated to music that is played by young people. These kids are happy; their music is happy; I'm happy listening to the music. I join in on the singing along with everyone else. People sway back and forth to the music and clap their hands and, you know what? GOD is right there enjoying the music with us. His presence is palpable.

Sermons

The congregation in non-Catholic churches don't recite mindless words by rote, that over time, mean nothing. The pastor talks about the love that GOD has for his people and, the pastor (male and female) talks about everyday life and how we can use the grind of daily living to find GOD everywhere.

I think it's time to get rid of ninety percent of the prayers said at a Catholic Mass. How about we just recite the "Our Father" and, read the words that Jesus said without adding political meanings to them, which leads into one of my biggest gripes with the church.

                                                              

Don't side with the Republican Party and tell me that the poor are at fault for being poor. Don't tell me that Jesus said women can't use contraceptives in today's overcrowded world. Don't tell me that Jesus said women can't be priests. He had women disciples around him, always. Don't tell me that a person's sexual identity is wrong if they are not heterosexual. Show me where Jesus said this, or shut your mouth.

Actions

New Rules!!!Don't preach hell to me after the disgraceful way the church hid the molestation of children by priests. Don't dare! Don't talk about helping the poor when you are closing churches all over America because the bishops are living high and mighty on weekly donations. We don't need big expensive buildings. We can meet in a tent on a field if need be. Don't cry that the young are leaving the faith when you won't come down from your pedestal and teach by example: Feed the poor, care for the sick; comfort the hopeless. I see the Nuns doing this, but not the priests.

You don't want women using contraceptives, but I don't see you giving out free education to these children. I don't see you fighting for universal health care for the people who can't afford to even get needed medicine for their children. I only see you acting like the very Pharisees that Jesus ranted against.

Conclusion

I have become anti-religion in order to protect my relationship with GOD. I will not hate a person because of their sex, race, religion, or political views...but I will shake the dust from my shoes and walk away from any church that does.

                                                                      

If you want the people to return to the church, you need to change. Are you are following  what Jesus taught? If you're only interested in retaining your power over the followers, then you might as well close the doors to all the churches because your heavy yoke has been broken and, the cattle have awoken from the matrix.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Waiting for the Train

                                                           

There is this little girl that I’ve been babysitting for since she was three months old. Isa is an amazing singer and was featured in an earlier blog of mine here. Now that Isa goes to school full time, I watch her little brother.

                                                       

This past winter was too harsh to go wait for the train, but the other week Isa and I were lucky enough to reach the center of town just in time to wave to the conductor. We don’t know the train’s schedule and most of the time, we miss the train.

                                                           
Once or twice a week, Isa and I make the journey to the center of town with snacks in hand. While we sit under the shade of that old gazebo we chat about everything her little five year old mind can think of.

                                                                 
I intend to contact the Mayor to see if he knows the train’s schedule because when you love trains as much as Isa and I do, it’s no fun missing them. On the bright side, waiting for the train to pass gives me time to chat with this little girl, who has become like family to me. We talk about nature, about planets, about her school project for that week. We talk about everything and, sometimes we sing songs while we wait for that distant whistle that warns of the approaching train.

I like waiting for the train, even when it doesn’t come. It is during these quiet moments shared with this amazing little child that I feel at peace with the world. I’m not rushing to finish a writing deadline, I’m not thinking about household chores or doctor’s appointments or family drama.


                                                                                                                           
I’m waiting for a train that may or may not pass. I’m learning, or should I say re-learning what it means to be a child. It feels good to sit and chat about the many possibilities that seem possible to a child. When you’re young the world is yours to command. Train schedules, on the other hand, or not, but that’s okay for now. When you’re a child, the excitement lies in the hope that the train will be on time.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Steampunk Granny's Take on Ex Machina

                                                              
                                       

I love robots and, I love films about artificial intelligence. I wrote about my love of robots is an earlier post here. Is it possible for a robot to surpass humans? Would they also exhibit a will to survive?  I was especially interested in watching Ex Machina because I have a similar plot going on with one of my characters in my Roof Oasis apocalyptic series, but we’ll talk about her at the end of this film review.

Ex Machina is a British science fiction thriller written and directed by author & screenwriter, Alex Garland. The film stars Domhnall Gleeson, Alicia Vikander and Oscar Isaac.

Plot

Caleb Smith (Domhnall Gleeson, a computer programmer working for the world’s most popular search engine company is chosen in a company lottery to meet and assist the company’s CEO, Nathan Bateman (Oscar Isaac).  The quiet and reserved Caleb is flown to the CEO’s secluded mountain hideaway to assist in a project.
                                                           


Everything is about the project is top secret and to move through Nathan’s home, Caleb has to use a swipe card. There is only one other person there, a young Japanese woman named Kyoko (Sonoya Mizuno) that Nathan speaks to in a disrespectful manner.

                                                     

Nathan is a cocky genius who spends most of his time lifting weights and getting drunk.  Nathan wants Caleb to perform the Turing test on a humanoid robot named Ava (Alicia Vikander). The Turing test is used to research a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligent behavior equivalent to, or indistinguishable from that of a human. Would Ava be able to generate enough human-like responses to pass the test?

Conclusion

Over the next few days Caleb gradually develops a friendship with Ava who is exhibiting real human emotions. During one of the sessions Ava asks Caleb what will happen if she fails the test. Ava wants to survive, but if she fails the test, her memories will be erased and a new and improved artificial version will take her place.

I won’t go any further with this review because I want you to see the film. The premise of Ex Machina is thought provoking and, I find myself connecting the consequences of cloning and artificial intelligence. Cloning and humanoid robots are both possibilities that can create a moral dilemma that must be dealt with by the Supreme Court.  

What rights will cloned people have in a society that wants them only for their body parts? What rights do humanoid robots have after they’ve been given the ability to think and feel emotions just like a human? The human race has failed miserably in caring for the fauna and flora that share this world with us. We have shown a callous lack of concern for fellow humans in the wars that we rage. Do you really believe we would do better with a cloned person? 

What would happen to us if machines evolved past the three laws of robotics? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_Laws_of_Robotics

                                                         

In my Roof Oasis apocalyptic series, there is a robotic character named Patty that started out as a child’s companion, but in the second book, Saving Solanda which will be released this summer, is now exhibiting actions that deal with this very topic. When we take that huge step into the realm of creators with either clones or intelligent robots, we face the reality that our creations might consider us, primitive and prime candidates for extinction.

Go see the film! Roof Oasis can be purchased on Amazon and Kindle.

 

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Steampunk Granny's Interview of Snake Blocker, Lipan Apache, Navy Reserve, Martial Arts, Writer, Poet, Actor

                                                              

A month ago, I had the pleasure of being part of Kung Fu Martial Arts Expo 9. I met a lot of talented people, but one person in particular caught my attention because he wasn’t only doing martial arts, he was also an author. Snake Blocker is from the Apache Nation and the book he wrote is about the history of his people.

Granny: Tell us a little bit about yourself?

Snake Blocker: I was born in California. My tribe is the Lipan Apache Tribe of Texas that is considered as one of the four regional tribes in the Apache Nation. The Apache Nation is a very large and vast community that stretches from Texas, Old Mexico, Arizona, and New Mexico to Nevada, to tips of California and Colorado. Some tribes have been known to travel as far north as Canada.

The other closest regional tribes are the Jicarilla Apache and the Mescalero Apache which are our closest cousins on the Apache side and the Navaho Apache is also our bloodline cousins. The majority of my mother’s relatives come from Corpus Christi, Texas. My mother and father got married in Corpus Christi and my father was in the Marines for a short time and ended up being in Camp Pendleton in the San Diego California area, so I was born in Los Angeles, California and lived there for thirty years.

                                                                     

I was an active child, very competitive and stayed away from drugs, never smoke or drink. I had a very strict upbringing as well with my dad being in the Marines. I grew up very conservative and very involved with our church group. The Apaches generally have a nice family base just like many other cultures. We had constant mentorship from our parents, grandparents and cousins.

I was a scrawny child and one of the smallest in my class until high school when I finally ‘shot up.’ To combat the bullying, I worked out to get stronger and studied to be smarter. It was my motivation. I always wanted to do better and got me involved with martial arts; I loved watching Kung Fu theatre on television.

Granny: Do you teach classes?

Snake Blocker: I do. I worked as a certified personal trainer and opened my own studio in California in 1993 (Executive World Fitness), then started a martial arts program in 1995 called Blocker Academy of Martial Arts. In June of 2001, I joined Navy Reserve. A lot of my relatives serve in the military. Then September 11th happened and before you knew it I was in Kuwait. I lived there for nine months and then came back, then went to Iraq for eleven months. When I came back, I moved to Colorado and then in 2009, I was sent to Afghanistan for a couple of tours. As of this June, I will be fourteen years in the Navy Reserves. I’m a Petty Officer First Class E6. It’s my way of giving back to the country.

             Snake Blocker with baby Sierra Ravin Blocker                                                       

Granny: Thank you for serving and for protecting us.

Snake Blocker: You’re welcome. It’s an honor serving. I have my passion with the martial arts, with serving in the navy and, with my family life. The biggest thing that I’ve learned over time is don’t try to change people. Offer them opportunity and they’ll make the decision to change, if they wish.

Granny: Did the military ever ask you to teach martial arts to the people in the reserves?

Snake Blocker: I have. In the four different units that I have been in, at various times, I had been designated as the Command Fitness Coordinator which is the person who is going to be doing your PT and, within the physical training we’ve added the combative aspects to it, particularly the Military Close Quarters Combat (MCQC) program in which you’re fighting multiple attackers and taught in the way of using knives and other like weapons.  I was designated to teach MCQC in Kuwait, Iraq, and Afghanistan and was recognized for my instruction.

Granny: Did you use the Apache knife fighting and battle tactics like you demonstrated at the Kung Fu Convention?

Snake Blocker: I do, so when you’re talking about close quarters combat, you try to get the soldier, sailor, airmen or Marines to learn to use other means to protect themselves if they run out of ammunition. I incorporate the battle tactics of my culture that I’ve learned about through oral tradition. I always include the Apache knife fighting and battle tactics into the military close quarter combat program.

                                                                          


What’s interesting is that even in the Naval War College they still study a Native Americans to learn lessons from them and, Geronimo (Goyathlay) is often brought up because of the guerilla warfare battle tactics of the Apaches.

When people watched cowboy and Indian movies they’d visualize twelve Apaches surrounding a wagon, but if you study history, before the Spaniards, Columbus, Germans, French and English came over, there were at the least ten million to two hundred million natives that were in the area we call the United States today. There were massive amounts of people who lived all over the area and as people came over, they began pushing them into smaller areas and, there was mass genocide going on. I’ve never seen an accurate depiction of the genocide of early America. Millions and millions died over a hundred year period, but it’s the victor who writes the history.

If the native people had joined forces there wouldn’t have been enough people to resist us, but there was segregation between the tribes and nations. I bring this history into my training and explain that nobody is safe forever; genocide is not a thing of the past and, just because we have superior fire power, you might not always have access to it. You have to learn to fight with as many resources as you can. What was considered savagery by the invaders was considered regular day to day battle tactics for the Apache. Up until the 1940’s the U. S. Government was still chasing down renegade Apaches.

Granny: You were speaking about your people’s history and that brings us to your book, Apache Warrior Journey 1. I wish I had more time to go through your book at the convention. The stories and the photos were absolutely breathtaking. What prompted you to write this book?

Snake Blocker: I learned a long time ago that unless something is written down, it will be forgotten. If you can preserve a language like Latin and Greek in a cultural sense then it will live forever. Then you have these other people who only had an oral tradition and when they were wiped out, their history was lost. There thousands of native cultures that we’ve lost their history completely. When I looked at the books that were out there on Apaches, the majority were written by Non-Apaches. The ones that were written by Apaches spoke specifically of only one tribe of Apache.

                                                                    

Over twenty years when I traveled, if I found someone who was Apache, I’d sit down to talk to them or got their e-mail and learned their stories. Some only had a few stories or had a picture of their grandfather and they would say, “I remember that my grandfather told me how to make a bow or he told me how to cook and here is the recipe.”

You pick out bits and pieces from different Apaches. It was good stuff and, I was in Afghanistan getting the finishing touches on the book; twenty years of me collecting notes. Half the book is about oral history from modern Apaches that had never been in print before and it tied in with some of the stuff from the history books. The book is a more complete picture of the Apache Nation as a whole.

Granny: I thought so as I scanned through the book. There was so much in there about the land, the people and especially the women. You could tell that it took you a long time to pull this together.

Snake Blocker: I put some footnotes in there about the military tactics but I realized it was a bigger picture than that. We needed to understand who my people were and are today; who we are as a nation; what is the diversity of our culture.  For example, the Jicarilla Apaches see the snake as a bad omen where the Lipan Apache see the snake as a symbol of strength. Even with my name comes from the fact that a snake sheds its skin and, it never looks back.

That is how we should be in life. This is the realization of the stories that we do. The most important and favorite part of the book is the stories, myths and legends. There is some truth, there is a moral to the story and, always a lesson learned from the different tribes.

Granny: This book is so amazing, and you also write poetry. How many poetry books have you published?

                                                                 
                                                                      

Snake Blocker: Four, which are titled:  The Art of Boundaries, The Art of Expression, The Art of Emotion and The Art of Compromise.

Granny: You also have a Muay Thai Manuel. Are your books self-published or traditional?

Snake Blocker: I went traditional with the first one, The Art of Emotion with a small run publication under Hidden Thoughts Publication in 1997.  The reprints and newer books are done under Blurb.com

Granny: Are you working on any new books?

Snake Blocker: I have enough notes to finish the next Apache book. They can buy my poetry current books as PDF download, table top hard cover limited book or in eBook form.

Granny: I saw that Apache Warrior Journey 1 can also be purchased as an Ebook or PDF download.

Snake Blocker: The books can be purchased on Blurb and I donate portion of the funds to the Apache Bison program in Texas. We started with two bison and the Lipan tribe gets no funding but we have a community tribal museum that is opened to the general public and we have a small lot of land, which is privately owned by tribal members. Our goal is to produce more and more bison, but everything relies on donations. Fifteen dollars buys some food for those bison, which will lead to more bison and, that’s how we’ll build the program. You can find more about my tribes programs at www.lipanapache.org

Granny: Thank you so much Snake Blocker for taking the time to do this interview and I will be promoting your books on my blog and, I would like to touch base with you later on to learn more about the second Apache Warrior book and the bison program.

For my readers, you can learn more about Snake Blocker on the sites below.



Snake Blocker’s books can be purchased here: http://www.blurb.com/b/988166-the-art-of-compromise   Apache Warrior Journey 1 EBook http://www.imdb.com/name/nm3396783/

Snake Blocker’s next seminar event will be with W. Hock Hochheim in Oberlin, Kansas:

Monday, May 4, 2015

Don't Look For God in Church

                                                              
      

I was raised in the Catholic Church and, went to twelve years of Parochial school. My teachers were the religious sisters (Nuns) the whole twelve years. I even considered becoming a nun when I was in high school, but then the Beatles came onto the scene. Need I say more? I was in love with the quiet Beatle, George and no longer interested in working as a missionary. God understood.

                                                                  

I was always in trouble with the nuns because I always asked questions about the church's dogma. I guess the good sisters didn't know what to make of a free thinker. I had questions. Why did pagan babies go to Limbo? What is purgatory? Why would God send you to hell for eating meat on Fridays? Why does the Catholic Church have the most boring music in the world? Why are the sermons so empty of meaning? Just didn't make sense to me. How could the church ever explain its actions during the inquisition. There are no excuses.

Religion's main purpose, and this is for all organized religions, is to control the commoners, that's us. Do I really need a cleric to explain the bible to me? I am an intelligent woman and I can figure out the meaning of the parables.

                                                      
                                                            
When you hear the priest, minister, rabbi or Islam clergy say that God wants to punish us or, that man is above woman or, that it is okay to kill in the name of God, I say, "Bullshit!"

This isn't the God I know or love. When people try to use religion to shame others or to isolate them, they always shout out that their hate is justified because the bible says they're right. Yeah, well guess what? I read the bible and Jesus didn't say half the stuff that people claimed he said.

What he did say was to love his Father; to love one another; to feed the poor; to care for the widow. I didn't read anything about women not being allowed to be priests or that he hated gay people. And, he sure as hell didn't give the Republican Party the right to use his name whenever they want to push through a bill that will make the corporations and them, richer. I'm pretty sure he was for the strict separation of state and church. "Give to Cesare"....Don't use GOD to pass a law.

I've stopped going to the Catholic church every Sunday. One priest was bad mouthing the poor. What the hell? Jesus hung out with the poor, you dumb ass! I've decided to try out different religions like I would shoes. The church I went to this past week is called the Trinity Christian Church. They have great music to stir the soul and the minister talked about real things to help the poor. Next week, I'm going to my niece's church in South Philly. I want to go to a Hindu Temple next. After that, I might go to the ocean and commune with God, because it's not in church that I find GOD.

                                 my daughter and oldest grandson                         

I find GOD in the stars that shine down on me, or the moon so bright in a night sky, or in holding a baby in my arms. I find GOD in a child's laughter or a breeze that cools the night. I find GOD in the people I pass on the street each day. My GOD is all about love, forgiveness and allowing us to explore who we are and, find our places in this big wonderful universe HE created for us.

Any religion that doesn't treat woman and men as equals, or isolates a member because of their sexual preference or political ideas is no church for me. Any religion that encourages people to kill in GOD's name is not worth the dust from my shoes.

                                                      


I will walk in my GOD's footsteps. I will respect all people even if I don't agree with them. I will consider every woman on this planet, my sister; every man, my brother. Every child will be loved as my own, but expect a smack to the back of the head if you act like a fool. I don't care what gender you are. If you are a kind, loving and caring soul, you are my friend. I don't care if you are poor. I don't care about your race. We are all part of one race; human. I will speak out against the people who rape Mother Earth and pollute the food and water. We don't own the planet. We should leave it in better shape than when we arrived.

                                                         

I think I've covered everything. A friend of mine, Janice Wilson, keeps inviting me to go hiking with her. I think I will. I know I'll find God on the trail.




Saturday, May 2, 2015

NPR, Wait Wait Don't Tell Me and, Prairie Home Companion

                                        Taken in Napa California                                     


Every Saturday and Sunday afternoon if I'm not at a book signing or ghost investigation or with my grandkids, I love listening to National Public Radio. There are three shows that I love to listen to: Bluff the Listener, Wait, Wait, don't tell me and Prairie Home Companion.

Bluff the Listener offers three absurd stories and the listeners have to guess which of the stories are real or false. It's not as easy as it sounds and a lot of times, the weirdest of the stories are the real ones. I've posted the site of the latest program.  http://www.npr.org/2015/05/02/403772162/bluff-the-listener

                                                             

Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me is another NPR show that features Peter Sagal as the host. There are also guest panelists, usually well known people who are offered a real or fake news story and they have to guess the answer the correct answer along with the lucky contender who calls into the show. Bill Kurtis is the scorekeeper. http://www.npr.org/2010/12/10/110997427/about-wait-wait-don-t-tell-me

                                                      


Prairie Home Companion is my favorite show. http://prairiehome.org/about/  Garrison Keillor is the main person on this show which aired in 1974 to about 12 people in the audience. Today, this show is hear by more than 4 million people on more than 600 public radio stations.  I love this show the best. Here is a sample: http://prairiehome.publicradio.org/listen/?date=2015%2F04%2F18

                                                               

I didn't even know this show existed until I saw the movie which starred Lily Tomlin, Meryl Streep, Lindsay Lohan, Kevin Kline, Tommy Lee Jones, Woody Harrelson and of course Garrison Keillor  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Prairie_Home_Companion_(film).

I like to share the things I enjoy with my friends. Take some personal time one weekend and listen to Garrison Keillor's masterpiece in entertainment. While you're at it, support your public radio http://www.whyy.org/91FM/


Sunday, April 26, 2015

Steampunk Granny chats about Godzilla, Cemeteries, Rabbits and Gardens Gnomes

                                                             

Since my last post about Godzilla's battle against the worse case scenario of a yeast infection, my husband and I now had him on grain free foods for almost a week and, we've been washing him every couple of days and rinsing with a baking soda rinse. They did say that the condition will appear worse the first week and then, hopefully, begin to disappear, but we're talking a few months here. His immune system is compromised from chemo and steroids.

                                               neck area              

Here are a few pictures to show you that the skin under Godzilla's neck is almost free of hair and his skin feels like elephant skin. The skin under the fur on his lower back, is raw. I sure hope this treatment of foods and meds works because I hate to see the little guy suffer like this.

                                                  rear area                  

Today, my friend Rita and I were at the Laurel Hill Cemetery for their Bones, Bells & Whistles Event which ties in with Philadelphia's Science Festival Event. You can learn more about this event here: http://www.philasciencefestival.org/calendar

                                                          

I love the Laurel Hill Cemetery and its a place rich in history. They have a neat gift shop, too. If you look closely you'll see my book on the shelf. While we were packing the activities to be used at today's event and gentleman came in to buy my book. Lucky him, I was there to sign it for him.
                                                            

My magnolia tree is in bloom and so is my cherry blossom tree.
                                                                

There are rabbits living under our shed in the back yard and you can see that Snowflake and LeLe are trying to introduce themselves.
                                                                

I just took out all my garden stuff, fairies, dragons, frogs and lots of gnomes. I try to set up a mystical theme in my secret garden. I'll take a picture when I'm done setting up Gnome Town.