Mar. 30th, 2017 09:05 pm
naye: nami and a cat both listen to music in headphones (nami chilling)
[personal profile] naye
Yesterday's yoga mishap - I'm still not quite sure what happened except for catastrophic failure at rolling up into a supported shoulderstand - left me so sore I slept poorly and woke up groggy and in pain.

Wife, being the wonderful person she is, talked me into staying home and resting up. And not working from home, either - just sleeping and reading The Fox, lots of pillows propping me up in bed. (Heads are really heavy!)

It was totally amazing. I've been low-key miserable at work for.... uh. A while. And I'm really, really into these books. So getting an unexpected break and a chance to do nothing but read (I had 60% left this morning, and was finished before the delicious dinner [personal profile] doctorskuld prepared for us) was pretty sweet. Even with the pain - it's been gradually fading, an there's not too much alarming creaking in my neck anymore. Some, but not too much. And my range of motion is increasing, too.

And I'm lucky in that my current workload is fairly low and non-urgent, and my boss was very sympathetic (having some personal experience with this type of injury, I believe). So I don't feel too bad, all things considered. Maybe I can even go for a run tomorrow?
osprey_archer: (books)
[personal profile] osprey_archer
If, like me, you read the title Touring America by Automobile in the 1920s and all but swoon with joy - and swoon again when you realize that this is a primary source, a diary that a woman named Hepzy Moore Cook write during two early American road trips with her husband (one to Yellowstone and the other through the South) - then this is the book for you. There’s lots of good information about the experience of road-tripping in early cars,with their constant tire troubles and the poor state of the roads and the all-but-nonexistent hotel system outside the cities. They either camp or rent rooms in private homes.

I realize that capsule summary makes traveling in the 1920s sound awful, but actually as I was reading it sounds delightfully adventurous (well, except for the part where the diary-writer gets dysentery). I wish there’d been a bit more information about the food, but one can’t have everything. And there is a lot of interesting information about the understanding of history at the time, especially the Civil War: it was sixty years ago by this 1927 road trip, but there’s still a sense of it as a raw spot on the national psyche. The highest praise Hepzy can offer for a Civil War memorial is to say that it shows the spirit of reconciliation.

However, if this sort of thing doesn’t make your heart go pitter-patter, it’s probably not the book for you. The interest is all in the subject matter; the writing is pedestrian at best. It also includes a few clunky typos - I’m not sure typos is the right word for them; but there are places where the author/editor, Hepzy Moore Cook’s grandson William A. Cook, has written something that sounds kind of like the right word but isn’t, including this gem:

“The Prohibition era would also be the geniuses of another popular form of racing in America - stock car racing.”

Geniuses. Isn’t that great? (I’m apt to make these too, although I don’t think I ever made one quite as sublime as geniuses for genesis.)

US beefs up muscle in Somalia fight

Mar. 30th, 2017 07:30 pm
[syndicated profile] bbcnewsamerica_feed
The Pentagon said the White House had approved its request for "additional precision fired".

US beefs up muscle in Somalia fight

Mar. 30th, 2017 07:30 pm
[syndicated profile] bbcnewsworld_feed
The Pentagon said the White House had approved its request for "additional precision fired".

Dinner discussion

Mar. 30th, 2017 06:38 pm
[syndicated profile] bbcnewsworld_feed
US Vice-President Mike Pence won't dine alone with any woman who is not his wife - noble or sexist?
[syndicated profile] comicsalliance_feed

Posted by ScreenCrush Staff

If you’ve seen the original Ghost in the Shell anime, you remember some of the classic shootout scenes. But did you know to get authentic gunplay correct in the movie, director Mamoru Oshii took his staff to Guam to practice firing weapons? During their research, they discovered that there are no sparks when bullets ricochet off stone, which is why there aren’t any sparks in the film’s museum scene. That’s just one of the ghostly facts featured in the newest episode of You Think You Know Movies!

Continue reading…

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Posted by Matt Johnson (Editorial Board)

Today, ATU 689, the union representing most Metro workers, announced its own plan to fix Metro. One proposal is a $2 flat fare. However, WMATA noted that a $2 flat fare would cost $185 million in revenue — or have to be $3.05 to break even. Beyond that, a flat fare is not really fair for Metro. Below is a post I wrote in 2012 explaining why:

While a flat fare would certainly be simpler to understand, it’s not a good policy. It would not be more equitable. Nor would it be cheap.

The idea of a flat fare for Metro comes up every so often, especially compared to the current, complicated fare structure that requires looking up fares in a huge table. This idea is to create a simpler system by charging everyone the same amount to ride, as is the case in many subway systems.

For someone used to paying $4.50 (note: the fares mentioned in this post are from 2012) each way, a flat fare like Boston’s $1.70 or New York’s $2.25 looks attractively cheap. But the reality is that even if Metro were to adopt a flat fare, it would not be that cheap.

Michael Perkins ran the numbers and discovered that (assuming no loss in ridership) a flat fare would need to be at least $2.90 to be revenue-neutral. 

Fare’s fair

That’s more than any other system with a flat fare, and is significantly higher than the $1.60 off-peak and $1.95 rush hour base fares. What the flat fare really means is that people making shorter trips (often those living in the urban core) will be subsidizing those making longer trips (often those living in the suburbs). And that’s simply not equitable.

If you’re traveling farther, you should expect to pay more. Can you imagine if all taxis regionwide had a flat fare? Would it be fair to charge the same for a trip by taxi from Woodbridge to Rockville as for a trip from Logan Circle to 12th and K? Of course not.

Everybody else is doing it

As is often the case when subway fares are being discussed, some suggest that WMATA should move to a flat fare because most other subway systems use them. And if all subway systems and regions were the same, perhaps that argument would make some sense. But there are significant differences between our Metro and other subway systems in America.

Part of it is a technology issue. A fare structure like Metro’s only works in systems with exit faregates, where a rider swipes the fare media to exit as well as to enter. Only Metro, PATCO in Philadelphia and New Jersey, the San Francisco Bay Area’s BART, and Atlanta’s MARTA have this technology today. It would not be cheap for systems like those in New York and Chicago to install new equipment to make variable fares possible.

Other systems also have momentum behind the flat fare. It’s very difficult to build the will to allow such a change, even if the infrastructure allows it. A few years ago, MARTA installed new gates, new fare vending machines, and even got a new name for the fare system. Even though a distance-based fare is now technologically possible, Atlanta continues to use a flat fare, not necessarily because they’ve decided it’s better policy, but out of momentum.

Metro is commuter rail and urban subway

Technology and history aren’t all that separate Metro from many other systems. There’s also the structure of the cities and the transit systems themselves. The older subways in the United States generally don’t travel as far as the modern heavy rail systems. When all trips are shorter, it’s not quite as inequitable to charge the same rate for everyone.

Metro is a hybrid between an urban subway and a suburban commuter rail operation. And as such it makes a good deal of sense to have a fare structure that reflects that.

It’s true that all trips on the New York City Subway cost the same. But people traveling the distances that Metro travels might not use the New York Subway. For example, Port Washington is a similar distance from Penn Station as Shady Grove is from Metro Center. But a trip to Port Washington doesn’t use the subway, it uses the Long Island Rail Road, and the peak fare is $10.00. The maximum you could possibly pay to go from Metro Center to Shady Grove is only $5.45.

Many people group Metro in with subways in New York and Chicago and Boston simply because they’re all subways. But it’s important to consider scale. The subway systems in those regions are generally compact and don’t reach many places with the kind of suburban settlement patterns at the end of Metrorail lines.

In those cities, separate commuter and regional rail systems, which don’t use flat fares, mainly serve suburban areas rather than the urban subway.

Let’s compare some Metro lines to similar lines in other cities:

If we compare the Metro Red line in comparison with Boston’s Red Line to Alewife and the MBTA Fitchburg Line, we can get a sense of scale.

Alewife is about as far from Downtown Crossing as Friendship Heights is from Metro Center. In Boston you’d pay $1.70 for that trip. Here, the fare would be just $1.60 off-peak or $2.70 during rush hour.

Bethesda is roughly the same distance from Metro Center as Waverly is from North Station. And in this case, Metro’s $2.15/$3.15 fare is cheaper than MBTA’s $4.25.

We can see similar trends if we compare our Orange Line to Philadelphia’s Lansdale/Doylestown Line.

I chose Philadelphia and Boston because their metropolitan regions are about the same size as DC’s. (Washington is the 7th largest Metropolitan Statistical Area in the nation, while Philadelphia is 6th and Boston 10th.)

Traveling along the Broad Street (in Philadelphia) or Route 2 (in Boston) corridors, a traveler going the distance of outside-the-Beltway stops in DC would not take the subway, but would ride commuter rail.

Our residents of places like Vienna, Rockville, Greenbelt, Franconia-Springfield, and soon Tysons Corner pay less than many would pay on commuter rail in those cities. Plus, they enjoy frequent, all-day, 7-day-a-week service. That has enormous benefits to our region, making walkable places like Rockville Town Center feasible and giving the DC region much higher transit ridership per capita than Boston or Philadelphia.

But just because Boston and Philadelphia’s much smaller urban subways charge a flat fare doesn’t mean it’s unfair that a ride from Vienna to Metro Center costs quite a bit more than a ride from Rosslyn. 

Comment on this article

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Posted by Emma Lawson

With Neil Gaiman’s American Gods coming to television soon, what better time to explore his work? While his writing career is extensive, including short stories, novels, movies, kids' books, and more, we’re going to focus on his work in the field of comics.

Gaiman is considered to be part of the British Invasion, a group a British writers of American comics who rose to prominence in the late 1980s. They tended to move away from traditional superhero tales or, like Gaiman, repurposed old comic characters to tell new stories. Since then, Gaiman has been sharing his delightfully dreamy but creepy sensibility with comic readers, for which we are very grateful.

Continue reading…

APRIL showers of adoration

Mar. 30th, 2017 12:01 pm
[syndicated profile] seattlereviewofbooks_feed

The APRIL Festival farewell tour continues: I talked with Capitol Hill Seattle's Tim Kukes about why this Saturday's APRIL Festival is so important, and why it's important to not get too sad about the fact that APRIL is going away. Go read the whole thing.

The Room Where It Happened

Mar. 30th, 2017 11:48 am
rachelmanija: (I wrote my own deliverance)
[personal profile] rachelmanija
A couple nights ago I attended a meeting of the city council on whether to declare my city, Culver City, a sanctuary city. It was already acting as one, but the measure made it actual law.

Culver City is its own city within LA county, with its own police force; I live on the dividing line, which means that if I observe a crime being committed on my side of the street I call Culver City police, but if it's across the street it's a matter for LAPD. Culver City police is the police force I volunteer with. It practices neighborhood policing, in which police are assigned to a specific neighborhood for years and sometimes permanently, so they can get to know who lives there and what's normal and what isn't. They also believe in de-escalating situations rather than charging in with guns blazing, and I have seen this in action. No organization is perfect... but they're really good.

One of my neighbors emailed me to inform me of the sanctuary city vote, and so I showed up. I live in a fourplex, and found at the meeting that all four apartments in my building had at least one representative at the meeting: a 100% building turn-out! I'm in the first row in the black jacket. The guy on my right is my downstairs neighbor.

It was my first city council meeting. There was a huge turn-out consisting of hundreds of Culver City residents and eight or ten non-resident paid Trump agitators. The Trump agitators were next to me, against the wall.

Because of the huge turn-out, the council had other matters go first. I was charmed by the multiple Farmer's Market vendors who spoke to urge the council to re-hire a guy named Emanuel who had been running the market for nine years, all eloquently praising him, often mentioning "despite his youth." When they were done, Emanuel himself spoke. He mentioned being 29, so he started when he was 20! Impressive. He was voted in. I was also intrigued by the several vendors who made references to the previous manager leaving under what were apparently mysterious circumstances ("Emanuel took over after [I forget his name] left... for whatever reason," and "Since [Whover] went... wherever he went," etc).

Then we moved on to the main matter. 79 people spoke, at two minutes each. All but one of the actual Culver City residents were in favor of the sanctuary city resolution, which is pretty amazingly unified. It was cool to hear everyone's stories - immigrants, descendants of Holocaust survivors, lawyers making lawyerly suggestions, teenagers, pastors, veterans, and a hilarious number of parents of exactly two children, many of them attending the same high school. (Culver City has the fourth most diverse school population in America - 25% African-American, Asian American, Latino/a, and White.)

The Trump agitators loudly booed and cat-called Every. Single. Speaker. This despite the council members repeatedly telling them not to. A high school student from an immigrant family made a very moving speech, and started crying when he spoke about his family's struggles; the Trump agitators loudly mocked him. At that, the entire audience got up and gave the student a standing ovation.

The agitators' speeches were clearly meant for some audience other than their actual one; Trumpers on youtube, I think. They threatened and insulted the council members and audience, yelled, "Sessions is coming for you!" invoked strange Biblical conspiracy theories, and said, "They're gonna rape your women!" and "They're gonna kill you all!" Culver City is extremely liberal and this did not go over well.

The meeting started at 7:00 PM, and ended at a quarter to 1:00 AM. By around 11:00, the heckling and booing was getting pretty old. A Muslim speaker who was calling for peace and brotherhood got called a murderer and terrorist. At that point, I snapped, "SHUT UP!" and a council member had the loudest yeller evicted. When he was allowed back in about half an hour later, he brandished and set off a taser. He was then escorted out by the cops and not allowed back in.

The remaining agitators got bored and left before the actual vote. The council members spent about an hour debating the actual provisions of the measure, with input from the chief of police and the city attorney. In the end, the measure passed 3-1 (the dissenter also voted for sanctuary, but as a symbolic measure only without specific provisions), with one provision stricken (providing funds for immigrants' legal defense) and a few others reworded. Victory!

The whole thing got me interested in city politics, which I haven't been involved in previously in that sense. It was also nice to do something as a part of my community, after mostly living under a rock for the last two years.
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Posted by Andrew Bleiman

1_2017 03 PZ maned wolf pup 2

Paignton Zoo’s South American Maned Wolves are rearing a litter of three pups!

This is the first litter for the pair. The male, Tolock, arrived at Paignton Zoo in September 2016 from Katowice Zoo in Poland, where he was born in 2015. Female Milla was born in December 2012 and arrived in the UK a year later from Nordens Ark Zoo in Sweden.

It has been seven years since Paignton Zoo has bred Maned Wolves. They are part of the carefully managed European Endangered species Programme.

Curator of Mammals, Neil Bemment, said, "Judging by the parents’ change in behavior, the pups were born on 23rd February. Being carnivores, we left them undisturbed to get on with it. The pups were not seen by the keepers for four weeks. Our Maned Wolves are quite elusive, but with patience can usually be seen mid-afternoon. There will be a much better chance of seeing one now there are five and especially when the pups become more mobile!”

2_2017 03 PZ maned wolf pup 3

3_2017 03 PZ maned wolf pup 1Photo Credits: Paignton Zoo Environmental Park

The Maned Wolf (Chrysocyon brachyurus) is the largest canid of South America. Adults stand almost 1 meter (3 feet) tall at the shoulder and weigh 20 to 25 kg. (50 to 55 lb).

They catch small prey such as rodents, hares and birds, but fruit forms a large part of their diet.

The Maned Wolf is shy and flees when alarmed, and their mane can be raised to display aggression. You are more likely to smell them than see them, as their urine, which they use to communicate, has a very distinctive smell.

Although often described as "a fox on stilts", due to their coloration, it is not closely related to any other canid and may be a survivor from the Pleistocene fauna of large South American mammals.

Native to parts of Brazil, Paraguay, and Bolivia, the Maned Wolf is currently classified as “Near Threatened” by the IUCN, thanks largely to the effects of man: habitat loss, poaching, road kill and domestic dogs (which can attack the wolves and spread diseases).

Interns: They get the job done

Mar. 30th, 2017 07:02 pm
movingfinger: (Default)
[personal profile] movingfinger
"Of the 400,000 web addresses JPMorgan’s ads showed up on in a recent 30-day period, said Ms. Lemkau, only 12,000, or 3 percent, led to activity beyond an impression. An intern then manually clicked on each of those addresses to ensure that the websites were ones the company wanted to advertise on. About 7,000 of them were not, winnowing the group to 5,000. The shift has been easier to execute than expected, Ms. Lemkau said, even as some in the industry warned the company that it risked missing out on audience “reach” and efficiency."

From the NY Times.
sovay: (Lord Peter Wimsey)
[personal profile] sovay
Deadlines devour my life again. Yesterday I took time in the evening to pick up a DVD from Robbins Library in Arlington Center—John Cromwell's Caged (1950), a classic women's prison noir which I desire to watch for both research and pleasure—only to discover when I got there that the library's copy had gone missing, possibly as much as two years ago. Tonight I have plans to attend a local Democratic caucus, which is almost certainly the most politically organized thing I have done beyond registering in the first place. (I am not running. I just really want that ethical artichoke in 2018.) Before then, I have to make another deadline.

Courtesy of this conversation, please enjoy album art for this household's favorite indie band:

Photo credit, Rob Noyes. Design, Steve Berlin. Cats, Autolycus and Hestia.
owlmoose: (ramona flowers)
[personal profile] owlmoose
I was mostly offline for a few days last week -- Wednesday through Friday. It turned out those were some pretty eventful days to be offline.

  • Montana's probably-failed vote by mail bill is mostly notable for the state Republican party's opposition letter, in which they straight-up said that they opposed it because it made it too easy for Democrats to vote. They aren't even pretending to make it about voter fraud anymore, are they?

  • This New Yorker article builds a compelling and terrifying case for how the White House halted the US House investigation into the Russian election shenanigans with the active help of US Rep Devin Nunes, chair of the House Intelligence Committee. Democrats are making louder and louder calls for an independent investigation like the 9/11 Commission; it's pretty obvious that we're never getting to the bottom of this otherwise.

  • This Twitter thread is a good explanation of how the GOP broke the ACA by refusing to fund the risk corridor (in which the federal government would help insurers with the cost of covering higher-risk patients). It also links to an article explaining what the risk corridor is and how it was supposed to work, as well as detailing the problems with it now. It's hard not to think that the GOP purposefully made the ACA worse to drive public opinion toward getting rid of it.

  • Of course, we all know how well that worked out. We need to keep wary -- there's no doubt that Paul Ryan will try to kill the ACA again. But for now, we all live to fight another day.

  • The other big story last week was the Neil Gorsuch Supreme Court nomination. The Democrats are, as usual, weighing whether to fight or cave. Myself, I don't particularly care about Gorsuch or his politics; the person who deserves the first committee hearing and up-or-down vote is Merrick Garland. That Supreme Court seat is stolen, and I will never feel differently, and I am perhaps angrier at the Democratic party for letting the GOP get away with it than I am about anything else they've ever done, up to and including the loss of the 2016 presidential election. The Democrats need to consider that rolling over on Gorsuch will demoralize their unusually energized base. Can they afford to do that, when a victory in 2018 depends so heavily on voter turnout? Time will tell, but I still hope the Democrats stand their ground on this one.

  • Here's an article on "blue lies" -- lies that are meant to reassure a group while being obviously false to people outside that group -- and how they might explain the rise of Trump. I think it explains a lot of other political phenomena, too; Bernie Bros come to mind, and climate change deniers.

  • Men Just Don't Trust Women, and This Is a Problem: A thoughtful article by Damon Young looks at the ways in which men don't trust women to speak their emotional truth, and how this wreaks havoc not just in relationships, but throughout public life.

  • In news that surprises no one, the cuts in the White House budget bring the most pain to the people they purportedly "help" by cutting taxes. Newsflash, GOP: most of the people helped by government social programs aren't the ones who make enough money to be paying a lot of taxes.

  • This article on liberal transphobia was a hard read, but an important one, especially in the wake of the controversy sparked by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and her comments about trans women. It's not always an easy issue for cis women to confront, but we need to get better at it. I also recommend Raquel Willis's response to Adichie. I want to make it clear that I admire so much of Adichie's work and think she is an important voice for the feminist community to support, but she got it very wrong here, especially in her attempts to respond to the criticism.

  • For the "actors who were born to play their characters" file, Chris Evans lays out his feelings about the Trump presidency in an Esquire interview. Also, in case you missed it, it's worth checking out his Twitter fight with David Duke.

Today's fun is politics-related, but I couldn't not include a link to the best hashtag of recent weeks, #GOPDND, which re-envisions GOP politics as the worst Dungeons and Dragons campaign ever. The Mary Sue has a good roundup.
[syndicated profile] comicsalliance_feed

Posted by Kevin Fitzpatrick

If the trailers hadn’t clued them in, viewers of Starz’s American Gods are in for one gorgeously trippy experience. That’s no more apparent than with the full opening credits, available to view a full month before the April premiere.

Continue reading…

[syndicated profile] seattlereviewofbooks_feed

The King County Library System dropped a press release yesterday when nobody was looking. Here's the relevant passage:

Gary Wasdin, director of the King County Library System (KCLS) since January 2015, has resigned.

“KCLS is committed to providing a welcoming environment for all of its users,” said Jim Wigfall, KCLS Board President. “When it came to our attention that Mr. Wasdin violated KCLS’ code of conduct, the Board took immediate action. Mr. Wasdin has chosen to resign his position effective immediately, and the Board fully agrees with this decision.”

That is a lot to take in.

When Wasdin moved to KCLS from Omaha in early 2015, he gave an interview to Library Journal about the job. It's a pretty straightforward, gushy interview — Wasdin says taking the new job at KCLS "is like winning the professional lottery" — that doesn't shed any light on the present situation.

If you're a librarian or other KCLS staffer and you'd like to talk about the library, please get in touch with the Seattle Review of Books. I'm proud to say that we have a good record of listening to librarian issues and sharing them with the public. Send me an email: paul@seattlereviewofbooks.com.

19 The Nanny Icons

Mar. 30th, 2017 02:50 pm
aftanith: (arya slicing candle)
[personal profile] aftanith posting in [community profile] fandom_icons

Here @ [blogspot.com profile] AFTanith 
[syndicated profile] thewildhunt_feed

Posted by Claire Dixon

The Path of Paganism coverThe Path of Paganism: An Experience-Based Guide to Modern Pagan Practice by John Beckett. Published by Llewellyn Publications (336 pages).

Walking a Pagan path will always have its challenges and whatever stage of the path we are on, a guide who give us pause for reflection on key aspects of our beliefs and practices is most welcome. This is why John Beckett’s new book The Path of Paganism, to be released in May, is so important.

Beckett is a Druid who was raised in what he describes as a fundamentalist Christian family, finding his way to Paganism when he was an adult. Beckett is a member of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids (OBOD) and an officer of the Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans (CUUPS).

With a foreword by the renowned Kristoffer Hughes, head of the Anglesey Druid Order, Beckett’s book is made up of four parts: Building a Foundation, Putting it Into Practice, Intermediate Practice, Living at the Edge. These areas flow effortlessly together to cover the three main junctures of the Pagan path, the initiate, the experienced and the leader or mentor. 

The book is written from an unashamedly experiential perspective, which I fully applaud, and it includes some solid rituals not only for newer Pagans to practice, but for the more experienced to try as well. It is punctuated with opportunities for reflection upon your path and practice, which are very thought-provoking and stimulating.

The book begins with a discussion of religion and faith, and how Paganism fits into to these belief systems. It’s a thorough look that serves to dispel some misgivings for newer Pagans, as well as being thought-provoking for more experienced ones. I particularly enjoyed the discussion about mystical experiences and how they operate in a Pagan context.

I have often found that many Pagans are reticent to talk about their spiritual and mystical experiences, and there are good reasons for this. However, Beckett is very open about such work without disclosing any private detail. I found this acknowledgement very healthy and refreshing.

Beckett is also very down-to-Earth and grounded in describing such encounters. He states: “Mystical experiences come on their own timetables, but they come far more regularly when you work at them.”

I also agreed with him when he argued in Chapter 4 that lore and experience should be valued in roughly equal measure.

That section of the book also explores what Paganism is and how it operates. Beckett’s metaphor of a big tent held up by the four pillars of self, nature, community, and gods seems to be right on the money as far as I’m concerned. No matter what Pagan path we walk, these four aspects show up time and again, so his metaphor works well, as does his idea that each Pagan will usually gravitate toward one or two of the pillars.

In those terms, Beckett describes himself as a nature ‘n’ gods type of guy and “that is where you will find me in the tent”.

Later on, he describes how all of these pillars are necessary to uphold Paganism and that embracing this variety should be encouraged as it gives the movement depth and interest. The burgeoning scholarly tradition in Paganism can be far removed from Pagan activism, for example, but both are important ways of being recognised in the mainstream world.

The second section is a solid primer for anyone just getting started on the Pagan path. It covers how to establish a daily practice, as well as offering some good, straightforward rituals on how to call the four directions, a devotion to Cernunnos, how to honour the ancestors and information on setting up an altar.

These may be details that a more experienced Pagan takes for granted, but they can be daunting for newer Pagans. As it is written from an experiential perspective, Beckett feels like a very capable pair of hands to lead you through the process. This section is also useful as a gentle reminder for more experienced practitioners, including a discussion on the importance of ritual and daily practice and refreshing one’s altar.

Beckett uses himself as an example on this in a story about his own sacred space in Chapter 8.

He also included an interesting discussion in this section about living as a Pagan in a materialistic, exploitative world and the risk of becoming too hung up on idealistic perfection, especially when it comes to consumer choice. I like the fact that Beckett acknowledges that it is very difficult, especially if you are on a lower income, to make ethical purchases 100% of the time. This epitomises his approach to Druidry: practical, humble, and wise.

As Beckett says: “Do your best to align your life with your values. Make compromises you can live with—compromises some will find too large and others will find too small. Understand that other informed, mindful Pagans will make compromises that look very different from yours. Have some humility and some compassion, because neither you nor they are ethically pure.”

John Beckett

As we enter the third part of the book, it shifts up a gear and begins to speak to the more experienced Pagans. This is important. Many Pagan texts, in my experience, do not address the everyday challenges that can occur further along the path, like being in a spiritual plateau, re-invigorating your practice, widening your circle and considering new roles.Reading this part of the book, in particular, was a real breath of fresh air.

In this section, Beckett also picks up his earlier thread on the importance of community. Having previously discussed how to go about picking a suitable one, Beckett gently invites the reader to contemplate the importance of such a community and to reflect on how your operations in the wider world can serve to embed your Pagan beliefs.

I particularly enjoyed his use of the liminal zones metaphor in Chapter 13 to describe such plateaus and other times when our practice is changing. I found this to be a very uplifting way of dealing with periods when difficult change is upon us. As Beckett says: “There is no point of change, only a zone of change.” I think this is particularly helpful for when your practice feels stagnant.

As the section continues and in true liminal fashion begins to edge toward the leader or mentorship part of the path, Beckett discusses his model of group dynamics. This uses a series of concentric circles and operates on a horizontal level rather than vertical hierarchy. It’s good to see direct democracy-type structures being integrated into Pagan thought.

In his model, the core principles and values are at the centre, with the mission and vision being the second circle. The third circle is the core leaders, followed by committed members and then fanning out to casual members and occasional visitors in the remaining circles respectively, with seekers being outside the circles. It’s a very interesting model, which will hopefully be continued in future Pagan texts.

The section ends with a conversation about how to create rituals and the importance of private and public practice. It also explores how to initiate others and begins to move into the realm of Pagan priesthood.

The final section of the book discusses the cyclical nature of the path and how often we move, as if on a spiral through the forest. The implication is that once we reach the seeming pinnacle of leadership or mentorship, there is inevitably more to learn and new, exciting vistas await us as we, in Beckett’s words, “find our place in the circle”.

A great deal of the book focuses on the experience of being Pagan and the challenges and plateaus we are likely to experience along the way through the forest. His approach is refreshing in that it acknowledges, as with any rhythmic behaviour, that a certain jadedness can creep in. Pagan practice is no exception. This is especially pertinent in the latter two sections of the book where Beckett gently invites those further along the path to consider new ways of practising and contemplating what they do.

The Path of Paganism is a solid guide and knowledgeable companion for anyone on the Pagan path. It has a comprehensive introduction for beginners and discusses at length the various challenges and issues that can arise for people who are starting out. It also has a philosophical discussion on Paganism, religion, and faith that is a good exploration of what to expect, and will become food for thought for those further along the path. The book is also engages concepts for experienced Pagans who seek to keep their practice fresh, relevant, and ever-growing.

The book, published by Lewellyn, will be released May 8. It is available for pre-order at Amazon. John Beckett’s writing can also be found on his blog at the Patheos Pagan Channel.

Enjoy the journey.

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