THE BLOGCOMBER.

May 09, 2007

13 Things About Nicholas (author of "A Gentleman's Domain.")

                                 Thursday2smalljpg_2

Thirteen things about Damozel's husband, Nicholas (author of   "A Gentleman's Domain." and also a Thirteener!)

THIRTEENERS WHO WISH TO COMMENT:  I don't have "Mr. Linky," butI will publish a link to your blog on the front page of The Flatland Almanack (my most highly ranked blog and the place where people will be most likely to find it).

1.  VINTAGE JAZZ! His hobby is vintage jazz, ragtime, and “hot dance” music. At his website, "A Gentleman's Domain," he often writes "Jazz Jottings," discussing his favorite (and un-favorite) jazz musicians/bandleaders, composers, and tunes.  He likes only vintage jazz, from the period up to the period immediately after the start of WWII (before the "swing" era).  He doesn't like contemporary jazz.  (Nicholas:  Because it's not jazz.")   

His favorite jazz musicians and bandleaders include: Bix Beiderbecke, Al Bowlly, Jean Goldkette, Jelly-Roll Morton, Jack Payne, and Bennie Moten. His favorite composer is Cole Porter.  If you look at the sidebar, you'll see some links to his favorite jazz and other sites. 

I've listed below some of his favorite jazz tunes.  If you click the links, you can listen to them yourself.

  1. Tiger Rag (Original Dixieland Jass [sic] Band)
  2. Cotton Club Stomp  (Duke Ellington and His Orchestra)
  3. Feelin' No Pain  (Miff Mole and his Molers). 
  4. Copenhagen    (California Ramblers).
  5. Bessie Couldn’t Help It (Hoagy Carmichael and His Orchestra).
  6. Blackbottom Stomp (Jelly-Roll Morton and His Red Hot Peppers).
  7. St. James Infirmary  (George E. Lee and His Novelty Orchestra) [*my favorite jazz song of all!]
  8. Blue Baby (Fred Elizade and His Orchestra).
  9. Harmony Blues (Benny Moten and His Orchestra).

These and hundreds more Vintage Jazz Songs are Available at Red Hot Jazz (link is on the left).  PS.  He does like the Beatles.

Batikncik2. FAVORITE TELEVISION SHOWS. His television shows are: The Amazing Race, Extras, The Office (BBC and NBC versions), Rome,   Curb Your Enthusiasm, Peep Show),  Knowing Me, Knowing YouLove SoupOnly Fools and Horses, and Life on Mars.  As you can see, his preferred TV genre is comedy (with Rome the only drama), and he still prefers the heavy-on-irony British comedies to American ones. 

Continue reading "13 Things About Nicholas (author of "A Gentleman's Domain.")" »

May 04, 2007

WEEKEND BLOGCOMBING: "Who's Yo' Mama?" by Kuanyin.

Ovals_2 Lately, I've had the opportunity (through Thursday 13!)  to browse many wonderful "pleasure blogs" (meaning blogs that I read to feel good about the world and better about the things that sometimes get me down).  I am pretty bad about commenting---always feel too shy---but I wanted to give some space to the ones that I find myself going back to, at home, at work, and on my travels, for refreshment and respite.  So here' s the first one---others will follow.

Every now and then I get that torn feeling inside that tells me how far I've strayed from the path I once pursued toward peace of mind and enlightenment.  I find this blog celebrating Mother Maui particularly healing to read (and to look at ,because the Maui photographs are AMAZING).  The author is clearly a woman who has reached a level of peace and illumination that most of us will never achieve.  I read her blog to remind me of what is still possible. 

Here is what I found to be a very evocative and memorable account of her decision to move to Maui 16 years ago.

Here are some recommendations:

There are so many things about Maui that are so different from any place I've ever been.  This blog is an extended

The Dalai Lama recently visited Maui and Kuanyin posted two links to articles relating to the visit. If you're an admirer or the Dalai Lama, or just very curious about what he's all about,  I highly recommend both of them:

April 22, 2007

Random Link O' the Day. The Barnum Effect, the Mystery behind the Commonplace, and one Blogger's Tarot (recommended).

Lapisandgoldxl First, go to this link.  Then take this personality test.  Marvel at its amazing accuracy (using almost no data whatsoever). 

When you are done, you will understand much better why personality quizzes and your daily horoscope always seem to be more---or less---on point.  People in the fortune-telling business can also exploit this universal tendency of human beings to find references to themselves in everything, including the patterns of the sky or tea-leaves.

Of course, people who use divination properly understand that this is actually what it is FOR;  you get a generic answer and work out how it applies to you.  It's a shift in focus that makes you see trends you were previously blind to.  Something like that.  At any rate, it works for the people who use it, Barnum effect or no Barnum effect; that is to say, I know that you can use it YOURSELF to pull out of your unconscious or the ether or whatever you prefer information you didn't know you knew.  At least, that was my experience when I used to use the I Ching.

I don't know what to tell you about people who are in the business of performing divination for other people.    I have certainly experienced one instance in which someone calling herself a psychic proved to be exactly as advertised.  I had recently remarried (my late husband, Don) and my friend Frannie had come down for a visit.  While she was there, she and I took a road trip in and around the general area of Kissimmee, Florida, where I was living at the time.   

One place Fran had always wanted to visit was Cassadega, which refers to itself as a  "spiritualist community."   I was curious myself, having heard about it for years.   

Continue reading "Random Link O' the Day. The Barnum Effect, the Mystery behind the Commonplace, and one Blogger's Tarot (recommended)." »

April 13, 2007

Random Link Of the Day for 13 April 2007. Vonnegut and Me in the Me Decade.

RadiantclayxlFor my generation, Vonnegut was a big part of what remember about coming of age in the Seventies.  I was 18 in 1976 and somehow, Vonnegut's shaggy hair and craggy features are inextricably mixed up with my memories of those days----associated, in my case, with a desperate wish to be living a very different sort of life than I in fact was living.  I wanted the direct experience of the energies he channeled in his work. 

Perhaps because I don't look back at that period in my life with any satisfaction (why did I waste so much energy doing things I didn't want to do when I still had the choice?), I've not gone back very often since that time to Vonnegut's work.  It's all bound up with ties that yank open drawers in my memory I'd rather leave closed.  Just seeing the title of one of his books hauls me backward to a certain day---my first day of college, in fact---that I never want to remember again.  I can smell the hot, oppressive green scent of early September in North Carolina.... No, I don't want to go back there because the image overlaid over everything (including that iconic image of Vonnegut I seem to have hard-wired into my memory) is my own navel.

But I feel that it's the end of an era, because it's the end of an era.  One of my generation's most pervasive influences just upped and walked off the stage, just like THAT.  What do you do about that?  I didn't know him, and though I loved his books, circumstances conspired to ensure that all of them would end up making me sad.  And yet you can't help feeling you have some sort of personal connection with someone who had so much of an impact on your way of thinking---not just through the impact of his books on me, but through their impact on the people who were teaching me to think about writing, literature, humanity, the world.  His influence was formative, and---as I said---pervasive.

So I wanted to provide a further link here, to the Vonnegut tribute at The Elegant Variation, where a number of links are provided to sites which provide other links....  Yes, it's momentous, the passing of Vonnegut, to the extent someone who put so many hooks into so many psyches  can even be said to have passed....

April 12, 2007

Random Link O' the Day for 12 April 2007. 13 Quotes from Kurt Vonnegut and 13 Lasting Memorials.

G0pds8jxlAfter struggling to come up with a few suitable elegiac words on the death of the great Kurt Vonnegut, I found this timely posting at The Computer Diva Diaries, for which I am most grateful. 

I think of all the quotations included there, this one resonates with me most:

"True terror is to wake up one morning and discover that your high school class is running the country."

Man, it ain't the truth?  Where, you ask yourself, are all the people who know what they're doing?  And then you realize, finally and fully, that nobody ever knows or ever knew.  I sometimes think this realization was my first sobering contact with reality.

For a more graphic tribute, click on this link at JMSnyder.com.  They make their own eccentric light.

March 25, 2007

Random Link O' the Day. Blog Cliche Detector (Best. Cliche. Detector. Ever.)

Silverandgold_2

The internet is a marvelous thing; among many other benefits, it provides us with limitless access to other people's ideas. 

But as Laurie Anderson tells us, "Language is a virus," and some of the witty phrases which have evolved and gone viral really need to be exterminated.  I honestly don't know how website moderators don't end up clawing out their own eyes and running amok after reading poster after poster after poster typing "You owe me a new keyboard,"  "meh,"  and.....well, I'll just link you to this list at Gawker, shall I?   And be sure to read the comments as well. 

So Gawker kindly published the Blog Cliche Detector: Bad Lingo: Blog Cliche Detector Is The New Proofreading Carefully!

And----because I never promised I'd stop at just one or even two-----check these out as well (also from Gawker).

March 15, 2007

Aside: Beware the Ides of March!

Orangesunx Anxious to find a way through the trackless wastes of the blogosphere, I decided to join a couple of meme sites.  After considering some of my options, I decided I'd try out "The Thursday 13," a site which allows you to post 13 pieces of information about anything, as long as it's something that would help people get to know you. 

I picked it, frankly, because it seemed like a well-established site geared to women, and because it didn't set themes I couldn't respond to.  Anyway, you can see my first meme ever posted here (seemed like something that needed to go on the main page, since you're supposed to create links and things).   I have no idea what I'm doing; while I enjoy READING memes, I've never given any thought to posting any of my own. 

Anyway, participating in this site gives you a way to find other blogs to read, and I almost immediately stumbled on this site, Susan Hated Literature.  This entry is filled with interesting facts about the Ides of March, and even more thrillingly, with many appealing links, such as (but not limited to) this relating to this Roman cat sanctuary.

I am no fan of Caesar, being firmly in the camp of dear Brutus; and I always thought Mark Antony was a thug (damn HBO's Rome for giving him all the best lines and making him out of  James Purefoy).  But I am pleased to be reminded that the ides come on the fifteenth day in March, and that today is in fact an important anniversary in western history.  One of the few fights Nick and I have ever had was over whether Brutus or Caesar was in the right, with me firmly in the camp of the Junii and Nick---British monarchist as he is----arguing on behalf of Caesar. 

We'll never know how history would have differed if Brutus had never done the deed, or if he had prevailed against Antony and Augustus, but it's certainly food for thought.  And I still say that Brutus was the noblest Roman of them all, even though he didn't in fact meet his death marching single-handed into the midst of the opposing soldiers (cf. Rome).  So here's to you, Marcus Junius Brutus.  At least you never nailed Cicero's hands to the Senate door.   I like to think you were worth ten of Antony and that you had the consolation at the end of knowing you tried to do the best thing for Rome. 

February 18, 2007

The Mil Millington Website and Related Millington-Based Goodness. (Part 1 of A 2-Part Blogcombing Adventure)

Orangegardenxl_1<<<Back to introduction (with meta-commentary!).

BACKGROUND.  I stumbled upon this webpage called Things My Girlfriend and I Have Argued About while I was stumbling through Stumbleupon.  It's the work of  of British columnist and writer Mil Millington, though I didn't know when I was reading it that he was a columnist OR a writer, because his books are linked at the bottom of a VERY VERY long page.  I found out about his column by googling his name.   I knew all along I should be delving more deeply into The Guardian Unlimited, to which I subscribe but seldom get around to reading. 

If you, like me, were living in a sadly ignorant Millington-free state prior to reading this blog, the history of his site, and his transition from website-publisher to published writer, is described here.   The page, being exceptional for reasons described below, eventually got him a book deal which is---or may be---leading up to a film, in due course and in the fullness of time.   

FIRST, SOME GENERAL OBSERVATIONS ABOUT THE PAGE AND WHY I AM POSTING ABOUT IT HERE.

1.  The page is apparently what remains of what was once a more extensive site.  Though it ISN'T a blog, it somewhat resembles one, consisting principally of a seemingly endless scroll of one fine writer's reflections on life with his girlfriend (of 15 years, i.e., it's about an adult relationship, or I would not be reading it). 

Instead of blogging in a blog, he just posted his thoughts right there on his website, next to her attractive picture.  Which, if you happen to run your mouse over it, turns into a comical picture of a monster. 

There are numerous signs that the page dates back several years.  It doesn't matter.  The subjects he canvasses are timeless.

Furthermore, other people have blogged about it and him.  I'll be getting to them next, but not today.  Today I'm just laying the foundation for the real work of blog-combing.

2.  Second----and in a way, this reason really should be first----the writing at te site is brilliant writing.  By "brilliant," I mostly mean that having begun to read, I want to go on reading.  When I was done the first time, I went back and read it all again.  If this writer described clipping his toenails----one of the domestic issues this page touches upon---- I would read that. 

Millington  writes in that special headlong in-love-with-the-language-for-its-own-sake British fashion that I first encountered when I began to correspond with my dear friend Rumcove.  We yanks don't write that way.  I'm pretty sure it's because we can't, which is not to put us down, but simply to acknowledge a difference in the way we use language.   For us, writing is generally a means to an end.  For certain Brits it's an end in itself. 

I'm not British and I can't explain it any better than this.  You'll just have to continue reading till you get to the excerpts (or skip my observations and go right to the source).  CAVEAT! If you're American like me, there really are a couple of things you should know first.

Continue reading "The Mil Millington Website and Related Millington-Based Goodness. (Part 1 of A 2-Part Blogcombing Adventure)" »

January 26, 2007

Blogcombing: Great Sorrow/Great Joy: Steve Irwin's Last Shout & Some Notable Tributes from Bloggers.

Irwin <<BACK TO INTRODUCTION.

<<Yet another clipart tribute to Steve Irwin.

With Steve Irwin's documentary just out, and with his death far enough in the past to allow me to really process how I feel, I decided the time was ripe for me to live up to my intention to write, not a fitting tribute, but the best tribute I could: one with links to other and more authoritative sites than mine. 

First, here's Newsweek's article about the completion of Irwin's final film, The Final Hunt, by Devin Gordon.

[quote begins from Newsweek article]
During the 90-minute "Ocean's Deadliest," which will premiere Sunday, Jan. 21, on Animal Planet and the Discovery Channel, the only direct reference to Irwin's passing comes at the film's end: a still photo of him smiling and giving two thumbs up. "This film isn't about his death," says Stainton, who produced it. "It's about the animals we set out to film."... Irwin ends up as a kind of supporting player—an irrepressible scene stealer who comes and goes without explanation, though of course we all know what the explanation is....

Yet the film, in tone, is also a marked change of pace for the Australian naturalist. "Ocean's Deadliest" is a science-first adventure, a plea for ocean conservation—and a poignant rebuke to those who had dismissed Irwin as a clownish circus act. "There was a purpose to each of the expeditions in the film," says Cousteau. "It wasn't just, 'Hey, let's go look at these animals.' You're seeing brand-new research. And Steve was in absolute heaven about that."...

Finishing "Ocean's Deadliest," then, became essential. And almost unbearable. Cousteau was on Irwin's boat, Croc One, when the accident occurred, and was one of the last people to see him alive.... Now Stainton was asking him to get back on the same boat, and go back to the same reef where Irwin died, just hours after it happened. "A million things went through my mind, but in a split second my answer was yes," says Cousteau. "Like John said, I was the only person who could finish [the film] in a cohesive fashion. I had a responsibility."

[quote ends]

I plan to see it, but I haven't yet.  I'm not ready for it. 

Despite the skepticism of people like  Bill Maher (another hero of mine about whom I may never feel quite the same), it is possible to grieve over the loss of someone you don't know and would never have met who nevertheless helped light up the world for you.   Steve Irwin was  a person who affected my understanding of reality and way of seeing the world directly, definitively, and with absolutely finality.  I'm glad that I lived during his lifetime.  He was one of the people who showed us all how a truly joyous and passionate human life can be an example, a guide, and an inspiration.

Right: this sounds a bit soppy, even to me.  But it also has the feel of a visceral truth, for me and for a number of people.

Continue reading "Blogcombing: Great Sorrow/Great Joy: Steve Irwin's Last Shout & Some Notable Tributes from Bloggers." »

September 02, 2006

Real Live Preacher---The Nature of Evil; an alt-Christian reflects on his reflections.

Bead1l_1 I've decided to create a new category for blogging talk about blogs I've read that really snagged my attention, engaged my interest, and evoked a response. 

Sometimes just leaving a comment isn't enough and in fact, I rarely do comment on other people's blogs.  Though I should be less shy than I am about doing this (why? why do I always feel as if I'm taking a liberty?), it wouldn't in any case be enough of a tribute to a piece of writing that really produced a response.

Though my first such venture (below) deals with the most serious topic in the world, I don't plan to limit myself to serious issues.  I'm going to blog about any blog that makes me stop and take a look at the world, test my own reactions, or search for that visceral response.

Otherwise, why read?:

Dragonflygeml_1 At "Real Live Preacher", my favorite blog about living the christian life in the Modern world, Gordon Atkinson has---as of today---published two particularly intriguing essays on the "Elusive Nature of Evil."  (I couldn't find permalinks that linked directly to them, so I'm providing the category link where they are listed. 

1.  The problem of evil.  The essays intrigued me on two levels:  first, because of the intrisic interest of being privy to a fellow Christian's attempts to come to terms with the mad fact of evil at play in the world; second, because I'm always intrigued when good people are baffled and surprised by evil.  It particularly interests me here because the writer is----as represented---a preacher.

At the conclusion of his first essay, he writes:

[quote from essay by Gordon Atkinson begins]

I am still fascinated and repelled by serial killers. They are the bogey-men of the modern world. Because of them, we still fear the darkness. They are legendary and powerful in our minds, though in person they are weak and pathetic. And having entered the God business, so to speak, the existence of evil in our world has become something of a professional concern. 

What is the deal with these guys?....[P]ain and suffering excite them....How is this possible?

[quote ends]

Serial killers must be held responsible for hurting others, but our growing understanding of the complex nature of their personalities must guide us as we decide how to deal with them.

As a fellow Christian, I honor him for recognizing the need to look behind a truly monstrous series of deeds to see the damaged person who performed it.  It's always startling when you look at a monster and just see a deeply confused, irreparably broken fellow human being.   

At the same time, I am, as always, bemused when people ask how it is possible for a human being to do such acts?

I think this is the natural response of a good person to brutality.  And perhaps the fact that I am continually surprised that we have (relatively) few people in our society who in fact engage in such brutality reveals that I am in fact not a very good person.   

I don't find the nature of evil elusive.  I find it commonplace, dull, tedious even.  I consider what other people call "evil"----that self-serving drive to subjugate, possess, punish, humiliate, dominate others----to be a basic component of the human psyche.

When we see people who have committed truly monstrous acts----I just saw a documentary about John Wayne Gacy---it's almost impossible to say, "There but for the grace of God go I." because every civilized fiber of our being protests the very notion.  If the thought crosses our minds, our automatic response is, "Surely not."  And in fact, we regard them as somehow different from the rest of us. 

But they are different only in degree, not in kind, of course. 

2.  The universality of evil.  It's easy for a 21st Century American to forget for just how much of human history the expression of this drive has been the norm rather than the exception.  That Americans can put this knowledge aside shows how far we've evolved, but I wonder if the ability to put it aside makes it more difficult for us to cope with it when we actually encounter it.

As an alt-Christian, I reject the idea of original sin without quite being able to avoid noticing its universality.  Because it starts out small, and surrounds us on all sides, it's too familiar in its original original state to be very frightening; and it's quite easy to deny.  But it's there, I think, though we've given it other names.  It's the primitive animal part of us that civilization is still just barely learning to control. 

The impulses that drive people like Ted Bundy are, according to me, the same impulses that drive small children to scream and throw things when they're angry or hit other children when they're angry, to break their own toys when in a certain frame of mind, and to relish games involving the pretense of intimidating or harming others.  Aggression and the will to power are ingrained in the human race.  At one point in our history, they were essential to our survival; in the places and times when (most) people have been able to get along without them, those qualities may be mostly dormant in most people, but they are just as present as they ever were.  Every human being comes equipped with a fully operational program for ferocity and ruthlessness. 

The question for me has always been not "how is it possible that there are serial killers", but "how is it possible that there are so few of them"? 

One of my friends calls me a cynic, but I am not.  I simply try to look at the world---and its history---clearly, as it is.  If Adam had not fallen according to the old tale, Christ need not have died.  In the Tao te Ching,  Lao tsu wrote that in order for there to be good, there must also be evil.  Western civilization has emerged from this duality, which it constantly evokes while trying to deny it.

To ask how people can become serial killers seems to me to ignore the broader context.  It's a good question, of course, but to assume that serial killers are fundamentally different from the rest of seems to me to ignore what's happening all around us.   

How can young children, particularly those in deprived circumstances but not only them, turn into cold-blooded killers?  How could Columbine happen?  How did the killers turn themselves into murderers in the first place and how did the schoolmates who had mocked and tormented them manage to convince themselves that that was a good and amusing thing to do?

How do people---especially children, but not only them---find such gleeful fun in violent videogames or "graphic novels" that focus on death, vengeance, and sexual psychopathology?  If we weren't naturally disposed to like it, why would such games and stories have such appeal to those we choose to consider innocent?

It must be quite easy to open the door to the impulses that make a sexual psychopath or a mass murderer because nobody has to be taught how to do it; it seems to happen naturally to some people, and particularly to those whose parents don't see such impulses as automatically wrong; who either give way to them themselves or who selectively permit their expression in certain circumstances.  E.g., A member of a white supremacist group who teaches his children the ten commandments, but also teaches that the command against murder doesn't apply to people outside the tribe of white supremacists. 

3.  How I gave way to the desire for possession and the will to domination when I was five.   When I was a child of about five, I clearly remember giving in to a completely childish version of the desire to dominate, control, and possess.  The child of a neighbor, age three, was a golden haired, dimpled, curly-haired cherub, who looked more than I could believe like one of the Madame Alexander dolls I coveted.  I remember staring at her wishing I could own her.  I longed for her to love me; I was awfully jealous of her older sister, who seemed indifferent to her most of the time, but to whom the little girl always ran when she was hurt or upset.

For the two weeks or so when I was in the grip of this doubtless primitive emotion, I remember fantasizing that something would happen to her---that she'd fall and scrape her knee, that kind of thing---so she'd run to me.  Finally, it happened:  she fell down, her sister shoved her away and she turned to me.  She needed me!  After that, all I wanted was for the same thing to happen again.  I wanted something to happen to make her cry so I could comfort her.  It's not, I think, an uncommon fantasy for adults. 

Don't many people have that fantasy---the fantasy that something terrible will happen to the indifferent loved one so that the loved one will need them? 

There are lots of levels to that feeling, but its components are things like the desire for possession, control, the subjugation of the loved one, and ultimately, dominion (even if exercised in the kindest way)?   

In my case, the feeling was not accompanied by anything I'd recognize as sexual feeling, but later when I developed sexual feelings, the sort of feeling I'd had toward that little girl was one of its components. Stalking, obsession, sexual jealousy, and the whole uglier side of what some people call "love" is all based on this feeling.  It all gets mixed up together in our heads with the desire for power and possession.  It is mixed up together.

In my case, it led to my finally pushing down the little girl myself in order to have the joy of consoling her.  I didn't want to hurt her; but I wanted the consequences.  To me, she was basically a walking, talking doll.  I never thought of her as having feelings of her own; meaning that her feelings were irrelevant to me except as they served my own ends.  There weren't any consequences; she cried, I comforted her.  But because I'd already had a certain amount of moral sense instilled in me by age five, I didn't enjoy it the second time.  Afterwards I felt, not exactly ashamed, but exposed.  And I blamed her.

After that, I ran away from her whenever I saw her.  She'd run after me crying; and I found this distinctly satisfying.  I no longer loved her or wanted to possess her; but I remembered feeling that way and I didn't want to be reminded of it. 

My mother would say, "Why are you being so mean to poor little Amy?  Why won't you let her play with you?"  And I didn't know how to answer. 

Was that evil?  No, because I don't think evil is a thing, but a consequence.  It's the consequence of willingly giving in to your own impulses toward ruthlessness and ferocity in the service of reducing one or more people to objects or something less than you.  I think it was exactly the same drive that allows some people to become serial killers; others to become gangsters; still others to become child or spouse abusers.  It's the same drive that led to the Holocaust and that allowed people to tolerate slavery.  It's also the same drive that leads so-called white collar criminals to feel indifferent to the anguish of people who are deprived of a pension, a livelihood, a lifetime's investment of work.   

All part and parcel of the same primitive drive, I think.

4.  People who give in.  I think if you open the door to that drive, and let it possess you, you and it become inseparable.  It makes you oblivious to the harm you do; it allows you---even while you go on thinking of yourself as a pretty decent human being---to treat other people or another person wretchedly, and perhaps even to relish it.  And if you were one of those born without the ability to feel empathy, or if you learned by example to ignore the anguish of others, you are predisposed to choose your own gratification over the health, safety, and peace of mind of your fellow man.

In other words, I think evil has shades and gradations, but that it all arises out of the same primitive darkness, where the drive to acquire control and possession at the expense of others was essential to survival.   I don't think it's something a person IS; but something a person DOES.  Which is exactly why it's hard on a Christian to move on to the next step:  deciding what to do about it.  Leviticus provides some pretty clear guidelines, but I don't think anyone really wants to follow all of it, and going through the Old Testament and cherry picking the parts you want out of it (which is what christian fundamentalists do) is neither logical nor sane nor in line with what Christ said.  As I've said myself, Christ's statements about the law are ambiguous at best; and he certainly showed by example what he thought about laws such as the death penalty for adultery

He was all about acknowledging our common humanity and rebuking the sin (gently), leaving judgment and punishment to God.  That's one absolutely crystal clear thread that runs through all the Gospels if you read them whole and not in pieces.  So the author of "Real Live Preacher" and "Christian Century" is 100% correct that dealing with the perpetrator of an evil act is something a Christian must approach mindfully.  I'd go further and say that for a christian, there cannot be one rule for all; each determination must be made case by case, weighing all factors, and holding in mind at all times the hope---and promise---of redemption. 

So:  To get back to the original point, I don't think there's a special brand of evil unique to serial killers like Bundy.  I think some people are predisposed, due to genetic or environmental factors, to give free rein to their impulses, but if it takes some sort of special training to behave that way, how can we explain events happening right now in Africa and other parts of the world?  Sex is simply one of the ways that violence expresses itself; but whatever its form, it all comes out of the same place.  I really believe that and this is well:  that there may be a few people who genuinely ARE evil---i.e., 100% predisposed to choose it 100% of the time---but in most cases, evil is something people do before they go home to their families and kiss their children good night. 

5.  The concept of original sin.  I believe that it was this perception that led the ancient Hebrews to develop the concept of "original sin."  We are born predisposed to pursue power, control, possession, and domination;  we have to be taught not to.  I see the concept as a shorthand way of saying not that we are born sinful, but predisposed from birth to make choices that place the gratification of our own will over everything else, including---or especially---the suffering of others. 

This is who we are.  When religion and civilization fail us---or when we open the door to our original impulses---we quite easily revert to our original primitive state.  Afterward, we may be astonished at ourselves; we may say, "Who was that?" and argue that we acted while not in our right minds or as our true selves.  I have no doubt it seems that way to the person who has gone over to the old gods, or whatever you want to call it. 

I don't know what to call the thing that drives us except the desire to win, to conquer, to dominate, and subjugate.  My friend said, "Aha; you're an Adlerian," and I suppose it's true in a way.  But if I am, I got there independently, and based on my own observations, not through any process that would pass muster as the basis for a comprehensive theory of human behavior.  It just seems clear to me that if you subtract civilization and the social contract, power in one form or another is essential to individual survival.

The drive to survive---and at a later stage, to prevail----at whatever cost to others seems to me the foundation for the concept of original sin. To me, it just seems that if you don't allow yourself to filter out the things we tend to discount---the violent impulses of young children, our society's proclivity to favor stories about violence, crime, and their consequence; the real violence of certain societies against their own members, and so on---one can't help concluding that those impulses are the natural ones. 

That same friend calls me a cynic; but I don't feel that believing in the non-elusiveness of evil----makes me a cynic toward the individual human beings I encounter.  Instead, it keeps me from viewing even the worst and most brutal human beings as fundamentally much different from the best or from me.  When I have to deal with people who have unquestionably done the wrong thing, I find it quite easy MOST of the time to refrain from judging the person and to stay focused on the act itself.  It helps me maintain my compassion---most of the time, anyway.  Not always, I admit.

I am no fan of C.S. Lewis---I find him (or rather the "good" characters in his various works of fiction) insufferably priggish and judgmental--- but one scene in Perelandra has always stuck in my head:  Ransom's confrontation with Satan and his realization that he is after all just a rather dull, ordinarily stupid brute.  The elegant Mephistopheles so often imagined in fiction---the comic book "evil genius"----those are wishful thinking.  Evil is brutish because it evolved out of our brutish past.  It expresses itself most often in acts that are not really monstrous but pathetic. 

For me, the joyful fact that arises out of the existence of evil is the proof that's all around us that we have an equal and opposite drive to transcend those impulses and to live according to the precepts that Christ (though not only Christ) taught his followers.

It says so much for humanity that we manage so often to resist it and that we strive so hard to be redeemed from it.