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Just Ben

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Atlanta Pagan newsletter now open: A Little Bird [Feb. 9th, 2009|06:10 pm]
Just Ben
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Welcome to A Little Bird!

Spring brings the quickening of the Earth and the new formation of a website connecting and informing Atlanta area Pagans with articles, reviews, regular columns and calendar of events. The editors at A Little Bird invite you to visit our growing nest of thoughts — or to speak up and have your voice heard. Our hope is that “A Little Bird” will tell you about many Pagan or Pagan-centered events in the Atlanta area and that the singing voice of Pagans will grow stronger. Spring begins the quickening and the seeds of change are among us — or at least that’s what A Little Bird said!

A Little Bird includes:

Please let us know what you're thinking.

We'll see you at A Little Bird!

Ben Ranker & Scarlett Ross

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Of Beauty and Aphrodite [Dec. 29th, 2008|11:57 am]
Just Ben
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sannion recently asked for tokens of beauty as part of a month-long devotion to Aphrodite and Hathor. I dunno much about Hathor, but when I think of Aphrodite, one of the first things that comes to my mind is usually a particular Sappho fragment. I posted it for him, and then I offered some additional points for him to contemplate since he’s the kinda guy who’s likely to appreciate that sort of thing.

I’m re-posting my reply here in my own journal, partially for my own reference and partially in the hope that someone else might find it useful someday.

οἰ μὲν ἰππήων στρότον οἰ δὲ πέσδων
οἰ δὲ νάων φαῖσ’ ἐπὶ γᾶν μέλαιναν
ἔμμεναι κάλλιστον, ἔγω δὲ κῆν’ ὄτ‐
τω τις ἔραται

Some say a host of cavalry, some say of infantry,
Some say a fleet of ships, of all things on the black earth
is the most beautiful. I say it is
whatsoever a person loves.
—Sappho (fragment)

There’s a bit more before it goes to fragments. She gives the example of Helen leaving her husband, the best of all men, forsaking her child and her parents, to go to Troy after the particular “whatsoever” that she desired.

Bonus points for contemplating:
1) the relationship between κάλλιστον, traditionally translated as “most beautiful;” and καλός, with its meanings ranging from beautiful to noble, auspicious and virtuous. In fact, bonus points for contemplating this even outside the context of this fragment.
2) the relationship between love and desire, exemplified here by the use of the word ἔραται, typically translated as “love” but with strong overtones of lust or longing and in some contexts even great nonsexual desire.
3) the relationship between Aphrodite’s sexual lust and the bloodlust of her lover Ares. Juxtapositions of love/desire/ἔρος with implements of war present themselves in several well-known Sappho fragments.

Appreciation of beauty is a fine, reserved, and cultured way to look at Aphrodite. One other side (and there are still many others) is to ask yourself what would drive you across the world leaving caution to the wind and epic war in your wake, inspired by Aphrodite’s gift of love or lust or desire. That thing is the most beautiful, greatest, most powerful, and perhaps noblest thing in the world, and thank Kypris in all her glory for it every day.
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New Atlanta Pagan newsletter seeking submissions [Dec. 20th, 2008|12:17 am]
Just Ben
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There’s a new bird singing in Atlanta!

A Little Bird is a new journal of news, events and perspectives preparing to serve Atlanta area Pagans. A Little Bird told us you folks might have some materials for the nest.

Some of you are organizing public rituals. Some of you are attending festivals or discussion groups. Some of you have already attended events and want to write about your experiences. Some of you are researching Pagan academic topics. Some of you have community news to share. We want to publish all of these and more:

  • Local Pagan events and outings
  • Rituals your local coven or group is organizing
  • Festivals, Pagan Pride Day and other Pagan gatherings
  • Discussion groups, including ongoing and one-time events
  • Reviews of public rituals or events you attend
  • News about events that affect the Atlanta area and Georgia Pagans
  • Short articles about your group’s seasonal ritual or spiritual activity
  • Networking classified ads

Even if you don’t have the time to write an article right now, we still want to hear from you! Email us at editor@a-little-bird.org with a cracker for the Bird — you know, little thoughts and events. Or leave a comment right here: we’ll get the word. Even brief listings and contact information can help the entire community learn what’s going on around us.

Email A Little Bird with questions, opinions and your requests for this new community website too. We don’t bite. If you’re looking for something Pagan related then chances are someone else in the area is interested, too. We want to offer resources you need. Please help us spread word of our new publication around the ’Net wherever you see fit.

Thank you for helping us improve communication lines in the Atlanta Pagan community. We look forward to serving you. Remember: A Little Bird told you!

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Reflections on this weekend’s protest [Nov. 16th, 2008|05:41 am]
Just Ben
[Tags|, , , , , , ]
[mood |excitedexcited]

It was a windy day yesterday as Atlantans gathered at the Capitol for the worldwide protest against California’s Prop 8 and similar legislation that would limit family-building to a heterosexual privilege. Fortunately for me, I really like the wind. I was proud to stand up in the bluster with the 1500 or so people who gathered there in support of equality. I was happy to be able to share sign-making supplies with people who wanted to hold their message high. I was moved by the outflowing of support not only from the quickly-mustered LGBTQ community itself, but also from the many equal-rights supporters outside that community.

The Atlanta Gay Men’s Chorus sang an excellent opening piece, and a number of speakers shared their unique views with the gathered crowd. Those diverse voices shared some common threads, though: The gay rights movement has made a lot of progress since its inception several decades ago. Its support base both inside the LGBTQ community and outside it continues to grow steadily to face increasing legislative setbacks. These setbacks demand action, and supporters want to act.

Some anti-gay bloggers dismiss the protests as irrelevant: They already won the Prop 8 vote, after all, and with this year’s additions they’ve refused equal marriage rights in something like thirty states. Protests, they say, are just hot air. We should all just shut up and be glad they haven’t taken away any more, they seem to imply.

Protests, however, can be much more than hot air. An effective protest can be the wind that whips up a firestorm. At the Atlanta protest, there were gusts of action. Speakers reminded people to get out and vote in the December 2nd runoff elections, where each vote means so much more due to lowered turnout expectations. They pointed people toward local organizations like Georgia Equality where supporters could devote time and money to the cause. Smaller organizations passed out flyers advertising discussion groups and other grassroots causes. Old flames whipped up in the gusts, and some new sparks crackled.

It was a windy day yesterday in Atlanta. I like the wind.

An image from the protestCollapse )

(LJ Spellchecker Genius of the Day: bloggers -> blowers)

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For love: Nationwide LGBTQ rights protest Saturday [Nov. 13th, 2008|11:55 am]
Just Ben

Last Tuesday the voters of three states — Arizona, California and Florida — added discrimination to their very core by amending their constitutions to define marriage as a right limited only to heterosexual couples. In doing so they joined a growing number of states in refusing rights to gay and lesbian couples based only on the shapes of their bodies. Around the country this growing discrimination, rooted in personal moral judgment against a class of love, is inspiring people to abuse the power of the majority to reduce the rights of minority citizens to love as they will and to build legally and socially recognized families on that love.

This shameful discrimination is propped up only by couching it in terms of fear and aggression, in claims that loving same-sex couples threaten to destroy social order and wreck heterosexual relationships. This gross misrepresentation is at best ill-founded and at worst pointedly malicious. The fact that so many people hear the propaganda and accept it is heartbreaking. The notion that misdirection and fear can be wielded so effectively to refuse citizens’ rights is frankly terrifying.

To everyone who reads this message, I ask that you stand up against this fear, against this discrimination, against this false division of love. I ask that you stand up for the right of your neighbor to build a family. I ask that you stand up for love.

Please join me in protest for LGBTQ rights this Saturday. Peaceful protest events are happening around the nation at 1:30 PM EST and throughout the day. In Atlanta we are gathering in front of the State Capitol building at 1:30 and for a candlelight vigil at 10th and Piedmont at 5.

Most importantly, please pass the word around to all who love.

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Toscana [Aug. 21st, 2008|11:08 am]
Just Ben
[Tags|, , , ]
[Current Location |30041]
[mood |excitedexcited]

radiantbaby has hinted at it, and I suppose I haven’t actually said anything about it. I probably should. I’m really ridiculously excited about it.

Several months ago, my father decided that he wanted to have his upcoming sixtieth birthday in Tuscany. This isn’t too far out of the way for him since he’s living in England these days. He figured he’d invite family along even though he knew many of us wouldn’t be able to afford it. radiantbaby and I decided to splurge and go despite the airfare price.

So tomorrow afternoon, radiantbaby and I are boarding a British Airways (It was actually cheaper than Delta, surprisingly) flight to London-Gatwick, where we have a several‐hour layover before finishing up our trip into Rome. There we’ll meet for the first time with him and his new wife (who seems awesome on the phone), and hang out for a bit, eventually (maybe that day, maybe the next) driving up to a charming little townhouse in Monterchi.

Monterchi is a small town—just one main street and a couple of alleys from the look of it—just barely on the Tuscan side of the Umbria border. It’s a half‐hour drive from Arezzo, and Arezzo has train service to everywhere, notably including Florence. It’s from our rented townhouse there we will base a whole week of touristic sorties. Details are very loose; we’re playing this almost entirely by ear. We fly back into Hartsfield on the 31st with many pictures and memories.

I’ve actually been to Tuscany before. Around eleven years ago, I toured there with my college choir. Our schedule was a little too busy for my taste, but it was nonetheless an amazing and wonderful experience. I really fell in love with the region when I went, and I’ve missed it horribly ever since. I’m so excited to be going back as an adult.

So my passport is ready. I have Monopoly money in my wallet (though I hear ATM access is much better now than it was eleven years ago). My electrical devices are all charged up, and I have adapters and converters to plug them into the Italian grid safely. I have 5 or 6 GB of SD cards for my camera, though I might maybe be able to find some Internet access there to upload my pictures early. And this time tomorrow I’ll be packing up my car to drive down to the airport. This time Saturday I’ll be landing in Rome.

I’m so excited. I’m literally nearly in tears thinking about it. :-)

(LJ Spellchecker Genius of the Day: Arezzo -> Orzo)
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Spellchecker Genius Special [Aug. 7th, 2008|10:43 am]
Just Ben
[Tags|, ]
[mood |amusedamused]
[music |Mazzy Star - I’m Sailin’]

When spellchecking my previous post a moment ago, the LJ Spellchecker astounded me with so much genius that I simply couldn’t contain it in a single simple tagline like my usual spellchecker genius notes. It warranted—no, demanded—a whole post of its own.

It is with awe and deep joy that I present to you the entire LJ Spellchecker suggestion entry for “Norcross”:

Nor cross, Nor-cross, Necroses, Necrosis, Norris, Recross, Cross, Negros, Nacreous, Uncross, Norri's, Narcoses, Narcosis, Negress, Negro's, Negroes, Across, Micros's, Norry's, Narrows, Nacre's, Cornrows, Norrie's, Necropsy, Coriss, Nero's, Nico's, Crows, Gross, Crass, Cress, Engross, Nooks, Corri's, Nicko's, Corers, Cris's, Cross's, Necrosis's, Corry's, Jorry's, Korry's, Norah's, Corer's, Crow's, Nariko's, Narcosis's, Nook's, Conroy's
(But wait! There’s more! LJ Spellchecker bonus: tagline -> tattling)
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Birthday Party! [Aug. 7th, 2008|10:14 am]
Just Ben
[Tags|, ]
[mood |excitedexcited]
[music |Mazzy Star - Blue Flower]

Sorry for the late announcement, but I was following up on RSVPs today, and a couple of folks said they didn’t get their official invites. I blame aggressive spam filters, but it could just be out‐of‐date email addresses. So if you’re seeing this public post and want to help me celebrate my 31st birthday, come have dinner with us!

When: Sunday 10 August, 6pm
Where: Dominick’s Little Italy in Norcross, GA (That's 95 South Peachtree Street, on the square in old Norcross)

If you haven’t been to Dominick’s before, they serve amazing amazing New York style Italian food. Note the two amazings: I considered putting a third. They’re really that amazing. Take a look at the menu, but don’t get scared off by the prices: radiantbaby and I usually get a “half” portion each and still take home enough leftovers for an extra meal.

So come celebrate my birthday with me on Sunday! The only present I want is the company of all you wonderful friends! Please post here or email/IM me if we should expect you so we can give Dominick’s a good size approximation. We look forward to seeing you!
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Plans. I hear they’re made to be broken. [Aug. 6th, 2008|10:13 am]
Just Ben
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[mood |creative]

Ben: “My personal goal is to have an initial paper edition [of a local Pagan newsletter] available for distribution at Atlanta Pagan Pride on Sunday, 5 October.”
World: “Atlanta Pagan Pride is canceled [for 2008].”

Well, my original idea was that PPD would be an ideal place to introduce a new newsletter. At this rate, if PPD runs (I’m not giving up gently) then I’ll probably have a hand in it and thus won’t have the time to produce a newsletter anyway. So that changes plans a bit.

I had an awesome chat with another local leader last night. (Lots o’ those chats lately. It really gives me hope that something big is starting to grow in the local pagan community.) Last night’s chat was about the newsletter. Without the deadline of PPD, we’re starting up a little more carefully and with a little more consideration. Two fundamental choices we’re considering are:

Paper or electronic. Paper feels real. It’s something you can hold in your hand rather than just another chunk of bits to get lost in your spam filter or another website to forget to visit. Electronic, on the other hand, can be a lot cheaper and easier to manage. It’s especially well‐suited to information resources like a calendar or contact information or news events, which are exactly the sort of thing that this project is meant to communicate and share. Right now I’m personally leaning slightly toward live electronic media with an option to produce physical media from some of our content periodically.

Profit or non-profit. This is a tougher one. We’re likely going to incorporate at some point—for continuity and stability if nothing else—and we’re working on where that fits into the Grand Timeline. (Reference above note about plans and breakage.) So we’re considering whether it makes sense to incorporate as a profit or non‐profit corporation. The decision doesn‘t have to be made immediately, of course, but it decides where the money comes from. Money dictates direction, so it has some important influence on what the newsletter might look like in five or six years and beyond. That’s a good kind of decision to make earlier rather than later, so it’s on my mind. Personally I‘m leaning slightly toward non‐profit and drawing from volunteer effort and donations rather than dealing with selling advertising space. There are some thoughts hiding in there on the economics of information, but I still need to settle on them a bit.

Mind you, this is all very much up in the air right now. We’re working toward a concrete plan for how to make this newsletter happen. With the PPD deadline now gone, we’re switching from frenetic to deliberate, making something to last instead of getting something on paper quickly. This post is just me babbling so my friends know what I’m up to, and so that they can contribute their wisdom and experience to the effort.

That last bit is a hint. Tell me what you think. ;-)
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PLSC, and the Atlanta Pagan Community [Aug. 2nd, 2008|11:33 pm]
Just Ben
[Tags|, , , , , ]
[mood |excitedexcited]
[music |Scout Niblett - Let Thine Heart Be Warmed]

So the past month has been dominated by PLSC. There’s been preparations to make, then going to the conference itself, and then recovery and fallout. It’s been a wild ride, and I think it’s only starting.

The conference itself was wonderful. radiantbaby and I learned some excellent information about group dynamics, and we met some fascinating, dynamic people. But we didn’t just meet them. No, we interacted with them. We shared stories, and we got some suggestions and inspiration on how to address some stuff going on down here in Atlanta.

See, for the eight or so years that I’ve been involved in the pagan community here in Atlanta, activity has seemed to be in a slow decline. People who have been around longer tell me about some big explosions and communication breakdowns that happened a little before I got to the city. There have been a couple of groups that have worked wonders at keeping things going—and some of them are still going strong—but it feels like the communications pathways aren’t there for people to find out about the opportunities and groups that are out there.

Throughout that time, a number of people I know have noticed the problem and started thinking about what to do about it. Some have started to try to fix it. A few of those are still working on it. But so far I haven’t seen any of these groups reach critical mass. That is, not until just recently.

A month or three ago, a handful of local pagan leaders started talking seriously about working together to address the problem. I’m not sure what possessed them to include me in their conversations. Nonetheless, a few weeks ago we sat down together and chatted about what we’ve seen in the past, what we see now, and what reasons we see behind the changes. We chatted about what we’d like to see in the future and what changes we need to get there. It was a productive talk, so we decided to do it again soon.

Then PLSC happened up in Richmond. I learned a bunch about small group dynamics and the forming, growth, and dissolution of those groups. And I chatted with leaders from around the country who have addressed issues similar to ours, from their own local areas and all the way up to national levels. In fact, I chatted with them a lot. I’m grateful that people like Eric Eldritch, Becky Starr, Drema Baker, and Judy Harrow aren’t up and running away from me in full haste with all the time I took chatting with them.

But they’re not running. To the contrary, they and the other leaders in attendance pretty clearly expressed interest in doing even more to support us in pulling back together and organizing ourselves. I got sincere interest from many of the people there and even direct generous offers of time and effort from a few. I was overwhelmed, to tell the truth. Here I was just hoping for some handy skills and contacts to help me in a general sense with local pagan organizations, and I was basically getting handed all of the information I needed for how other people have solved many of the exact same concerns that we’re now facing, and a good bite at direct aid in making it happen, too. All I had to do was figure out how to utilize all of these gracious offers.

I brought their offers back to Atlanta. My local compadres had set up our next chat for today—coincidentally the weekend after PLSC. We had another excellent chat today, and we came away from it with a number of solutions to begin exploring, planning, and implementing. I’ll let others talk about their own plans; personally I came away with support and resolve to make three things happen:

  1. We will organize a pagan leadership summit modeled after the national Pagan Summit of 2001, but with a smaller focus. Instead of bringing in national pagan leaders to talk about national issues, we will bring in regional and local pagan leaders to focus on their own groups’ issues. This will allow us to broaden our understanding of the state of affairs from our own personal experience organizing groups and events in the area to include the experiences of many pagan leaders from different groups around the area. We look forward to finding shared concerns and working together to address them. Or, if we find out that we have different sets of concerns, we look forward to being able to share solutions to problems already solved by other groups, and to growing stronger as a community through the sharing.

    The model adopted by the national Pagan Summit has already been applied effectively in the mid-Atlantic region by MAPLC (Mid-Atlantic (regional) Pagan Leadership Conference) and WaBaPLC (Washington–Baltimore (local) Pagan Leadership Conference), and it’s likely been applied by leaders in other areas as well. We haven’t determined yet whether our current situation warrants a regional or local focus, but we’re beginning to examine how we can draw on the successes of these other groups to run our own successful South East (regional) or Atlanta (local) PLC. Personally I aim to see a firm date set for this event within a year.

  2. We will organize a communication medium to keep local pagans informed about open groups and rituals and about topical news. We’re only in the beginning stages of planning, so we haven’t yet determined whether this will be a standalone paper publication, an organized addition to an existing paper publication, or simply a central website for reliable information for the local pagan community. Our aim is to support local and visiting pagans in staying better informed about resources available to them. We haven’t talked about what to include yet, but preliminary suggestions have included open public event listings, open regular social events, announcements of groups accepting members and individuals seeking groups or other individuals, topical news articles of note, and informational articles about our paths. My personal goal is to have an initial paper edition available for distribution at Atlanta Pagan Pride on Sunday, 5 October.

  3. We will organize a community festival to be passed among active pagan groups in the area. I hesitate a little to say “we” on this one because a few people present raised well‐considered concerns about the idea, but I remain confident that together we can overcome those concerns. This project is based on a model that’s proven successful in a number of other regions, wherein different worship groups from the community take turns organizing the festival and main ritual. The festival’s name and general time and theme remain consistent, but each year a different group takes responsibility for the details. The benefits are many and varied, but overall they contribute to a growth in maintainable shared community. This is not the highest of my three top priorities right now, but I am committed to seeing it in concrete planning within two years.

I’m really excited to be a part of making all of this happen. A stronger, more visibly active local pagan community is something I’ve been wanting to see for several years now, and to share that concern with respected friends is strong and affirming. To share it with friends who are ready to set aside differences and tackle the problem together is downright uplifting. And to have unrequested standing offers from uninvolved remote pagan leaders to help make these things happen is simply indescribable.

This next year or three is going to be insane. I can’t wait.

(LJ Spellchecker Genius of the Day: compadres -> compotes)
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