bnewman: (explorer)
"Rememble" is a combination of remember, stumble, mumble, and maybe resemble. It means to almost but not quite remember something, or to remember something slightly incorrectly.
bnewman: (damselfly)
I wrote this song a long time ago, and never got around to posting it — I think I must have gone "I'll post this around Chanukah", and then "Waa, I'm too busy" (or "Waa, I am not recording another take of this tricky, tricky song"), and then "Oops, Chanukah's over, I'll post it next Chanukah" multiple times. So now I'm posting it, and hey, it's even still Chanukah!

The Real Story of Chanukah (mp3) (possibly an overly ambitious title) covers several key points about the holiday:
  • The military history comemmorated by Chanukah, and its political fallout, were more problematic that is usually acknowledged.
  • Nevertheless, we (Jews) are still here in part because of those events.
  • The whole thing about the miraculous conservation of oil is wholly fictional.
  • Nevertheless it is an essential feature of the meaning of the holiday.
  • (Not least because it helps tie Chanukah to universal themes that everyone else is also celebrating at this time of year.)
Mainly, I wanted another Chanukah song because Chanukah songs are supposed to be peppy and festive, and my first attempt (Dedication (mp3)), which uses the Chanukah story as more of a psycho-spiritual metaphor, came out far too contemplative and edgy. My goal for "Real Story" was to create a song that is peppy and festive while still acknowledging the problematic facets of the story.

And speaking of fried food, I am planning to host a deep-fried party, again, finally, some time between Chanukah and Christmas.
bnewman: (explorer)
Wow, it's been a long time since I posted a batch of songs here — more than 2.5 very eventful years, about which I have said more elsewhere. During that time I have written fewer songs than I might wish (I am afraid this is a side effect of being sane), but I have written some, and I also have a huge backlog of songs written, perhaps posted to my songs page, but not mentioned or discussed here. I will post them in several batches, to give you all plenty of time to comment, because I miss getting comments on my songs.

So, without further ado, some songs )

bnewman: (explorer)
I haven't been keeping up with this journal much since my life derailed a year and a half ago, but things are going well and my life has been steadily getting back on track in most respects. Most exciting of all, I have a real job now. That's right, I have set aside my PhD program and accepted a position as a corporate peon.

Specifically, I am a software developer for athenahealth, a technology company in the health care sector which provides cloud-based software solutions to medical practices. I'm a member of the release engineering team, which means that, rather than working on the software that is the company's product, I work on internal tools and systems used to test the software and roll out new versions of it as they become ready.

I've been working for Athena (I do love saying that, but I'm not going to get into the current state of my made-up religion in this post ;-) since the beginning of October. I neglected to mention this at the time because I wasn't sure what to say and I wasn't sure if the job was really going to stick. I've occasionally had to pinch myself to make sure it's real. But just today I had my three-months-in performance review with my manager, and it went very well. So I guess this is for real. Yaaaaaaaaaay!!!
bnewman: (damselfly)
I have said more in locked posts, but for those who may have heard rumors through the grapevine and who follow my LJ but don't have access to those posts, here's a general update:

I have recently had a personal crisis of the mental health sort. I am in treatment (which seems to be going well) and at present feel almost entirely (a) safe and (b) like myself. In order to give both myself and [ profile] fiddledragon time/space to sort things out, I will be crashing elsewhere (presently with [ profile] carpenter) until things settle down.

All of my overlapping circles of friends have come together in an amazing way to support me and [ profile] fiddledragon, and everyone who has chipped in deserves the highest degree of gratitude. I am presently Okay, and plan (and hope, and (tentatively) expect) to remain so going forwards. I am also happy — I would like to remain so, but happy tends to be a more transient condition than Okay, so we'll see.

I think that's all I want to say on an open channel at this time. Thanks for all the support.
bnewman: (firefly)
(being a tempting taste of a Harry Potter fanfic currently under construction, based on an idea developed by [ profile] orawnzva, [ profile] fiddledragon, and [ profile] batshua)

Hogwarts, two years before Harry Potter's return, sorting day:

"Sly... no, wait..." I could feel the hat searching my mind, my heart, tasting me. "Your desire for power is great, but your heart is as sweet as your name, Melissa."

The whole school held its breath.


The Slytherins gasped. The Hufflepuffs murmured in distress. And then time stopped. I saw my father — what was my father doing there?! — speaking harshly with Professor Snape, but everyone and everything else was frozen. When he had finished with Snape, father turned to the assembled students and raised his wand. His anger was terrifying. I still don't know what kind of spell he cast — was it a memory charm, a compulsion, a curse? "This never happened!" he cried, actually losing his composure as I had never once seen him do in public. Finally, almost as an afterthought, he turned to me. "You are no daughter of mine!" And then he vanished.

Time resumed. The Hufflepuffs cheered, all but one, an older student with brightly colored hair, who made no sound but whose eyes fixed me with an almost frightening look of grim, protective determination. The Slytherins seemed unperturbed. And I would later discover that most students would thereafter claim not to have clearly heard the name by which I was called up to be sorted.

Very well, father. A Hufflepuff stands for loyalty, and you have betrayed me, while I have merely been myself. As you have renounced me, I renounce you, and your name, and your bad faith. From this day forward I will be a honey-fairy princess, all sweetness and light. I will put on yellow and black stripes. I will make real friends, loyal, warm-hearted, and true. I will enjoy my classes. I will bake cookies. And I will wait, patiently, for the day when I can summon my loyal friends to my side to swarm and destroy you. For remember that the honeybee fills its hive not only with sweetness and light, but with venom.

— Melissa Melfée
bnewman: (explorer)
Every time I walk past the lingonberry jam at an IKEA store, I make some kind of joke about "Klingonberry jam", and then I try to figure out what would be in it. This time, I remembered that we do have something in our spice drawer that's actually labeled as Klingon — Auntie Arwen's Klingon-in-the-alley hot jerk seasoning.

Yes, I've been trying to figure out how to make Klingonberry sauce for years just because it makes a good pun. It's also really, really tasty — I tried it on pasta with fake textured-protein "chicken", but I'll bet it would be at its best on real poultry. Considering that lingonberries are a lot like cranberries, this stuff may be making an appearance at future bird-carcass-family-occasions.
bnewman: (explorer)
I decided to look up the exact time online so I could reset our clocks accurately. The site I found (by searching for [time reference]) contained a Java applet, so while it was loading, the page seemed to be saying "The official U.S. time is [a coffee cup]." That's not as precise as the information I was looking for (which did eventually appear), but it is extremely accurate.
bnewman: (explorer)
I was trapped at Walgreens by an epic thunderstorm on my way to fill a prescription for a new medicine that should help with my mood swings. I spent most of the time talking with Persephone (by which I mean the goddess Herself, not any human acquaintance of that name). We stood at the entrance looking out at the continuous lightning. (She says: Whoa, Dad, what's going on?) There was torrential rain blowing horizontally for a bit, but no hail or (thank G!d(s)) severe vortical activity.

We're fine, the most cleaning up we're going to have to do after this storm is putting away some stuff that usually lives outside but was brought inside so it wouldn't blow away, and resetting the clocks on some appliances that don't need to know what time it is anyway. But this was a biggie — there are people out there, whether or not there is any personal connection to them from this corner of the Internet, who are not fine. My heart goes out to them.

On the phone later:
[ profile] scifantasy: I saw Thor
me: No, you saw "Thor: The Comic Book: The Movie". I saw Thor.

That was fucking awesome. Can we not do that again for a while, please?
bnewman: (firefly)
The rite of the Apple of Concord is a spell for achieving balance among the different areas of one's life. It represents a tikkun of the Greek myth of the Apple of Discord — you know, the one that started the Trojan war? Within the circle, participants re-enact the story, but this time a more sensible Paris does the right thing, war is averted, and everyone lives happily ever after.

You will need a large, crisp yellow apple... )
bnewman: (explorer)
I'm way behind on posting songs, but I'm working to catch up )

This newest song, however, I want to tell you about right now. I started writing it yesterday at MASSFILC and finished it today.

Remember the Hymn for a Festival of Sandcastles? That song was inspired by the ritual of a Tibetan Buddhist sand-painting which was created and then ceremonially destroyed at Swarthmore College as part of a cultural festival. Some day I want to actually host a festival of sandcastles... )

"Hymn" presents the festival as a meditation on impermanence as a truth that humans must wrestle with. It doesn't imply a cosmology beyond the simple fact that things end, certainly it doesn't introduce a fantastic setting. I always imagined it as a holiday belonging to our world that simply hadn't been done yet in that particular form. But then the idea of the festival came into contact with the idea of recursion, or of seeing small terrain features (like moss-covered rocks, or tidepools) as miniatures of larger landscapes, or scale-independent fractals, or At the Mountains of Madness, or something by Borges, or whatever, and the shape of the world from which the festival ultimately comes became clear to me.

The liturgy of the public event known as the Festival of Sandcastles makes no mention of any of the disturbing cosmological musings which follow. Little children learn nothing of them. Adults will not discuss them, even though they all know of them. It is teens who initiate their younger peers into the mystery, at the edge of adolescence where the playful life of a child meets with the capacity to take life's big questions seriously. In surreptitious retreats, they organize their own, secret Festivals of Sandcastles. Different stories are told, different songs sung, secrets taught that may only be spoken by firelight, on the beach, in the evening, when the tide has begun to come in and wash the sandcastles away, and even then only in whispers.

So, if you wish to learn, imagine yourself there. See the twilight, hear the breakers crashing, smell the wood smoke, feel the sand between your toes, taste the roasted marshmallows. Today you created a world with your hands. It was good fun, and good exercise, and you feel exhausted but refreshed in both body and mind. You created a world— and now, you realize, you are watching it die. At last you are ready to learn the secret mythology behind the Festival of Sandcastles. )

Read on for a more in-depth commentary on the secret... )

Coming into being at this moment in the history of our own world, this song is dedicated to the people of Japan, for whom the image of human civilization being swept out to sea like so many sandcastles is not a fairy tale. If it touches your heart, consider making a donation to support the ongoing relief effort.
bnewman: (explorer)
Sarah and I have been watching Avatar: The Last Airbender on Netflix. It's amazing — well-drawn, full of plot and character development and world-building and nicely done fantasy martial arts action. I've heard and can well believe that the bending disciplines are based on various (distinct) real martial arts.

Meanwhile, I've been realizing I need more exercise, and specifically more martial arts, in my own life. I studied karate in middle school, and the moves are still there in muscle memory. In terms of a real dojo, I'm probably extremely rusty, and was never very highly ranked to begin with. But, in terms of keeping myself active and working out nervous energy, I remember the forms enough to run some (improvised) kata in the living room when I get twitchy, and I plan to make a habit of that.

And that got me thinking... if we can have muggle Quidditch (well on it's way to becoming a "real" intercollegiate competitive sport), why not muggle bending disciplines? )

Which brings us to water. I can think of two basic divisions of muggle waterbending, depending on whether or not the water is contained. (In-world, the water being bent is contained by the bender's will and skill until released, but we can't do that.) That leads me to two "waterbending" forms I call splish and splash:

Splish )

Splash )
bnewman: (Default)
Groundhog Day, which looks towards the end of winter, is a worn-down leftover of Imbolc, the Celtic pagan festival which celebrates lambing (η: according to one [possibly incorrect — see comments] folk etymology, the name has something to do with milk), the first rising of sap in the trees, the first stirrings of life under the soil in preparation for the spring to come. Maybe that's happening where you are... or maybe you're snowed in like the Boston area. Imbolc is sacred to (and sometimes called by the name of) Brigid, Celtic goddess of the hearth, the forge, healing, and the bardic arts.

Groundhog Day is also a delightfully strange, magical realist, romantic comedy movie, in which a disgruntled weatherman somehow lives the same day over and over again, until he gets it right.

What, besides being notionally associated with the same calendar date, do these two things have in common? I'm glad you asked. Both holiday and film are ultimately about the unfreezing of what has been frozen, the stirring of life in a world — or a heart — emerging from winter's blanket of snow to turn towards the returning sun again.

Many bright blessings of the day. More songs and updates coming soon.
bnewman: (damselfly)
Not those silly, cute Santa elves — real Elves. Think about it. Recall the scene of the departure from Lorien in The Fellowship of the Ring, and recall the Father Christmas scene in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. The gifts are of the same kind — sacred treasures to help in the struggle of light against darkness, the tools we need to be light in the world. Those are always the best gifts. What gifts are you hoping to receive from the Elves at this season to help you do your part to make the world a better place?
bnewman: (firefly)
I don't write about Good and Evil very much — I tend to be more of the It's All Relative school. But Good and Evil do exist, and Heaven and Hell are very real as well, as close as the cartoon angel and devil on your shoulders. This Friday, real, unalloyed Evil, as petty and pitiful as it may be, will be coming to Brandeis University. I speak of a contingent from Westboro Baptist Church — yes, them, the so-called "Christians" who, without knowing anything about you, already hate you because you are different from them. I won't dignify them with a hyperlink.

The Brandeis community has, of course, organized a response. Wisely, it will not be a direct counter-protest, but a celebration of our community's shared values. Community members have pledged money to Keshet, an advocacy group for LGBT Jews, in proportion to the duration of the WBC protest. And Hillel is organizing a Harry Potter themed Shabbat dinner, I assume for the express purpose of pissing off the WBC. Good!

But, for me, as a Jew, as a fan, and as an enchanter, there's more to it than that. Harry Potter and the Torah both teach us that our words matter. G!d created the world with speech, and saw that it was good. We, too, can create the world as we speak — when we say "Thank you," or "I love you," and most of all when we articulate in speech our vision of the world we hope for, and invite others to join us in making it a reality. This is true of all speech, not just some special category of magical speech, but ancient Jewish wizards did, in light of this, seal their spells with the declaration "I create as I speak" — אברא כאדברא — Abara k'adabra. Abracadabra!

We create as we speak. But we can also destroy — this, also, we learn from the Torah and from Harry Potter. Jewish tradition speaks of לשון הרע/lashon hara, the evil tongue. Hateful speech that stings and demeans can poison souls and destroy lives, even kill. The line between creation and destruction may seem stark and clear, but it is very thin, as thin as one stroke of a pen, the one stroke that turns ר/resh into ד/dalet: "I destroy as I speak" — אבדא כאדברא — Avada k'adabra. Avada kedavra, words that kill.

This is what we're up against, the face of the Enemy. But ultimately, Harry Potter and the Torah both teach us, love is stronger than hate. When we stand together in love, G♥d is with us, helping us create a world of hope, tolerance, peace, and good will. So claim the power of your voice. Create the world as you speak — אברא כאדברא — Abracadabra! — just like magic. Because if we do that, together, we'll win.
Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. — Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I have set before you this day life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your children may live. — Deuteronomy 30:19

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness comprehends it not. — John 1:5

Now, after writing Walk in the Day, I'm not sure how I feel about the diurnal assumptions embedded in that last quote. But we are diurnal animals, and that is our metaphor, and our Truth — it's the message of Chanukah, and it's the message of Advent (and Christmas after): The Light will return. Hate ultimately destroys itself. Love triumphs.

Prayers, spells, and all forms of positive energy are welcome in support of Brandeis's response, please direct such energy to the Brandeis community as a whole. Feel free to link to this post.
bnewman: (Default)
So, I already mentioned that [ profile] fiddledragon and I are engaged. But the really awesome thing is that I was already having the best birthday ever (Wednesday, November 17th) before that. I have just turned 32, which is a very auspicious number in both Hebrew, where 32 = לב = heart, and binary, where 32 = 100000.

On this occasion, the world has been going out of its way to buffer overflow in private int self.soul.countBlessings(Context c) — whoops, that exception means that wonderful things have been happening to me faster than I can type. So, here's the executive summary:
  • I no longer seriously doubt that I will complete my PhD. Furthermore, I know more or less what my dissertation will be about.
  • I have been experiencing a profound spiritual awakening which feels like it's mostly going to stick this time.
  • My beloved and I are engaged.
More details will be forthcoming on all points, as well as on my (already mentioned) plans to actually produce my musical, as they become available and/or when I have time to write them down. Some of the spiritual stuff will be in locked posts, though. I haven't decided whether or not to create a separate filter for it.

Anyway, short short version: Life is really good right now, it looks like this is going to be my year, and I'll keep you posted on the details.


Nov. 19th, 2010 12:52 pm
bnewman: (damselfly)
Some of you know this already, but it seemed like time to make the public announcement:

[ profile] fiddledragon and I are officially engaged!
bnewman: (explorer)
I'd like to get my Quaker science fiction action/adventure musical, Walk in the Day, into shape to be actually performed at various events in the next year or so. I'll need several different kinds of help from a lot of people, including of course a complete (and most likely distinct) cast for each event.

Here's the plan.

cut for plan )

If you're interested in helping out in any of these capacities, please comment here. This is for real this time. I'm really looking forward to making Walk in the Day happen with your help.
bnewman: (explorer)
The other day, the following songs came up consecutively on party shuffle: "Danger and Desire" (track 10 on the linked album) and "Hardware Store". And this seemed perfect, because it perfectly captured the essence of what I was doing at the time:

MineCraft is an indie computer game that places you in a world of giant voxels and leaves you to survive with nothing but your wits and what you can wrest from the low-resolution earth. It's currently in open alpha testing, and thus feature-unstable but mostly perfectly playable. There is multiplayer support for both public and private servers which will eventually actually work. It's clever and addictive and really, really nifty, and it's become something of a viral hit. Well, consider yourselves sneezed on. (Wait, that didn't come out how I meant it to...)

I don't know what the timeframe is on MineCraft going from alpha to beta (and from half-price to full-price), but I'd love for people I know to get the game and create community servers where we can build Castle SWIL, or the Mines of Moria, or whatever, and work together to defend our holdings from the creatures of the night... oh, yeah, there are zombies.

MineCraft currently costs 10 euros.
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