Wednesday, August 30, 2006

On the constitutional right to wear t-shirts...

Get this: Raed Jarrar, a man of 'Iraqi descent,' was recently stopped by US airport security (specifically from the airline JetBlue) on his way home to California and forced to change his clothes.


Because his t-shirt had a slogan written in Arabic script.

According to airport security staff, wearing any shirt with Arabic writing is comparable to "wearing a t-shirt that reads 'I am a robber' and going to a bank."

Such impeccable logic.

To have Raed tell the story go here.

This bit is particularly amusing:

Inspector Harris said: "We cant make sure that your t-shirt means we will not be silent, we don't have a translator. Maybe it means something else". I said: "But as you can see, the statement is in both Arabic and English". He said "maybe it is not the same message". So based on the fact that Jet Blue doesn't have a translator, anything in Arabic is suspicious because maybe it'll mean something bad!
'Red Hot & Filthy Library Smut'

Oh, Jan and Elliot will be drooling over this one...

sex libris

(Its work safe, don't worry!)
"Ninety per cent of the cluster bomb strikes occurred in the last 72 hours of the conflict, when we knew there would be a resolution."

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Recently Elliot made a small post in his blog regarding Eve Tushnet* which set off a string of comments between myself and a number of other readers of The Claw. Elliot's been an Eve-reader for a number of years and we've discussed her position a few times before on Eunoia.*

Eve's position has always disturbed me and so a few days ago I made the following query on Elliot's blog:

"Does her choice of inaction mean that she believes god would condemn any action on her part towards her lesbian desires? Since her sexuality is part of her, like it or not, does that mean she abhors a part of herself? Or believes that god does?"

To clarify, its not the celibacy portion of Eve's position that I'm trying to pick on. Its the fact that she seems to consider her celibacy from homosexual sex a 'cross' she must bear in order to live as a faithful Catholic. That's the part that gets to me (but of course, this is Catholicism we're talking about and so there are many components of it that disturb me), the fact that Eve presents as a lesbian but that her homosexuality is not something she is proud of, rather it is something of a thorn in her flesh.*

As someone who was raised as one of Jehovah's Witnesses ( just like The Claw), I was taught that homosexuality was biblically condemned and punishable by 'everlasting condemnation', etc, etc. If a JW happened to be gay,* they most likely would either 1) hide the fact indefinitely and try to continue with a "normal" JW life or 2) make their 'condition' known to the appropriate authorities (i.e. congregation elders) who would then take the steps to counsel, caution, and overall reaffirm condemnation of homosexual acts. Were the individual to ever begin to act on their desires without remorse, they would be expelled from the congregation. Their parents would cease to speak to them. They would be utterly cut off from their family and friends.

I'd always believed the above was totally normal, approved by god, and all that good stuff. In fact, at that point in my life, if my best friend had suddenly confided to me that she thought she might be having 'homosexual longings' my first instinct would most likely have been to turn her in so that she might be guided and prayed with (and for) and hopefully turned away from the course that led to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.


I remember the night that my view of homosexuality was altered irreversibly.

In my family, I am the eldest of two sisters and when I was still a JW I was encouraged to be a role model for my younger sister and to support her spiritually as much as possible. This I generally did with much earnestness.

One night (one of those nights Before All Hell Broke Loose as I tend to think of it), my sister and I had a passionate argument on whether homosexuality was wrong. That was the year that my sister had acquired not only a boyfriend but also a library pass and was causing no end of worry to my parents. I was worried about the very real possibility of her 'falling out of the Truth' - the JW way of saying, 'leaving the religion. ' Its not a pleasant thing to have to think about the possibility of having to shun one's own sister.

And so when she started to say she'd been thinking and didn't believe that it was right to condemn homosexuality... Well, alarm bells went off, I started to panic, and I began to argue strenuously on the JW side for all I was worth. We tossed the usual lines back and forth for a while "The Bible says in Romans..." "Its genetic not acquired..." "Its unnatural..." "Its not hurting anyone..." etc. etc.

This went on for quite a while and I was getting pretty upset. Finally my sister asked me, "Are you telling me that if you had a child and they were gay that you would shun them? Or think that they were evil for having been born with those inclinations? And try to force them to be straight?" *

I considered for a moment and forced myself to be totally, totally honest. I don't think of myself as having very maternal instincts but even so, I do believe I have an adequate capacity for imagining.

I think that was one of the starting points that resulted in my sister, her boyfriend (my best friend), and myself leaving the JWs, joining Elliot in the cruel, cruel immoral world, and subsequently being shunned by our former friends and family.

Fast forward four years later and the thought of Eve - or ANYONE! sorry, don't mean to pick solely on Eve here, she's just closest at hand - choosing to submerge and despise a part of herself so as to be a good Christian... Well, I think its awful. This is very much my emotions talking, because my head knows that its not like Eve is a rarity. There are many gay folk who choose (or are coerced) to be celibate for religious reasons. Many religious people truly believe that being gay is unnatural, disgusting, wicked, something you can change,* something that is abhorrent to god, something that is scripturally condemned, something you should hate about yourself and in others - should they display the inclination.

Now, in my mind, a lot of this goes back to the Christian notion of original sin, made most famous in the Genesis account - of which (yes, thank you, Elliot) there are many, many interpretations but of which the most common seems to be that - to put it very generally - something happened long ago (literal or figurative - you decide) that changed humankind's position from perfect to imperfect, without sin to sinful. Before that point in time, all was possible and we were approved by god. After that point in time, humans were flawed and in need of redemption and god's grace and... Christ's death.

And now to trim this whole thing down to a finishing point...

Earlier as part of this whole discussion, I made the comment on Elliot's blog:

"I suppose it would help if I believed in the whole concept of humanity being an inherently sinful and "fallen" race but I don't. The Genesis account of man's supposed fall from grace doesn't mesh with my idea of a god of love."

And Eve (very kindly took the time and) responded to it. I'll just quote the part I would like to respond to. Hopefully I can be brief...


"But what I want to know is, what does she call it? What does she call that yearning toward hate, that reverse heliotropism? What does she call the damage that all of us bear from the time of our earliest memories?"

In answer to 'what would I call' the undoubtable fact that humans are capable of much evil... Well, I would call it the way things are, the way things have always been. (I'm not sure that's quite what I personally believe but it makes more sense to me then the idea of original sin.)

"Chesterton, I think, said something about how the Fall is the only obvious Christian doctrine (?). And I agree with that so thoroughly that I'm not even sure how useful I can be in defending the idea--it's too central to my experience of the world. I mean, look: My mom works in prisoners'-rights litigation. If you want to be convinced that humans are not naturally good, I am hard pressed to think of a better school.

People want, and want very badly, a lot of really awful things. The fact that somebody really, really wants to do something, or believes it's embedded in and intrinsic to him, doesn't actually tell me very much about that thing's moral worth.

But I absolutely, 100% deny that humans are naturally bad or evil, either. If that were true, how could we ever long for or recognize beauty and truth? To be Fallen is to share both the legacy of Adam's sin, and the memory of his happiness. (See--right up there in the title, I promised you some Augustine, and there it finally is....) Something's gone wrong with us, yes, but somewhere deep down we do still remember what it was like to be able to love. And by following that submerged and occluded memory, we can learn to accept grace, and be healed, and love truly."

I don't believe that we - humanity - are naturally bad or evil. Or naturally good and innocent - so perhaps we're on the same page there. One thought on this is, perhaps we are born everything. When it comes to our actions, our inclinations, what if we are born with the potential for everything? * (Or at the very least, to determine whether the course of our life will be good or bad.)

I don't understand this drive, this need to believe that at one point we were more then this. That at one point we were some sort of ideal species/creation.

Yes, we are born 'flawed' if by flawed you mean that we become diseased and our bodies eventually run down, collapse and die.

But sinful? I will never believe that a child is born sinful.

I could never believe again that god's idea of justice was to permit sin to pass into the world as some sort of screwed up punishment for something that happened millennia ago... only to go the trouble of... well, the rest is history, isn't it?

Inherited, original sin. Where is the justice in that? Where is the comfort?

(I'm going to stop here for now. Apologies for length. Please feel free to comment. Although I'm not sure I have quite finished my thoughts.)

* Eve Tushnet is a blogger who converted from Judaism to Catholicism and has been very open in her blog about the fact that she is a celibate lesbian.
* A small MSN group of close friends.
* Eve, if you read this, please feel free to correct me on any of these points ; this is just the impression I've gotten.
* Though it wouldn't have been called 'gay' per se, it would more likely be labeled as impure desires and lustful longings - actually, Elliot, help me out here, what was the proper term? Hmm...
* After all this time, I'm actually not sure how the heck she worded it exactly. I doubt she would have used terms like 'gay' or 'straight' at that point... But anyways, essentially that was what she said.
* In fact there are even groups who advertise their ability to 'change' you into a proper straight person. Ugh!
* And THIS - to me - seems much more in line with the idea of a loving god!

Monday, August 28, 2006

Ingrid Mattson discusses her conversion to Islam:

I spent a lot of time looking at art the year before I became a Muslim. Completing a degree in Philosophy and Fine Arts, I sat for hours in darkened classrooms where my professors projected pictures of great works of Western art on the wall. I worked in the archives for the Fine Arts department, preparing and cataloging slides. I gathered stacks of thick art history books every time I studied in the university library. I went to art museums in Toronto, Montreal and Chicago. That summer in Paris, "the summer I met Muslims" as I always think of it, I spent a whole day (the free day) each week in the Louvre.

What was I seeking in such an intense engagement with visual art? Perhaps some of the transcendence I felt as a child in the cool darkness of the Catholic Church I loved. In high school, I had lost my natural faith in God, and rarely thought about religion after that. In college, philosophy had brought me from Plato, through Descartes only to end at Existentialism-a barren outcome. At least art was productive-there was a tangible result at the end of the process. But in the end, I found even the strongest reaction to a work of art isolating. Of course I felt some connection to the artist, appreciation for another human perspective. But each time the aesthetic response flared up, then died down. It left no basis for action.

Then I met people who did not construct statues or sensual paintings of gods, great men and beautiful women. Yet they knew about God, they honored their leaders, and they praised the productive work of women. They did not try to depict the causes; they traced the effects.

Soon after I met my husband, he told me about a woman he greatly admired. He spoke of her intelligence, her eloquence and her generosity. This woman, he told me, tutored her many children in traditional and modern learning. With warm approval, he spoke of her frequent arduous trips to refugee camps and orphanages to help relief efforts. With profound respect, he told me of her religious knowledge, which she imparted to other women in regular lectures. And he told me of the meals she had sent to him, when she knew he was too engaged in his work with the refugees to see to his own needs. When I finally met this woman I found that she was covered, head to toe, in traditional Islamic dress. I realized with some amazement that my husband had never seen her. He had never seen her face. Yet he knew her. He knew her by her actions, by the effects she left on other people.

Western civilization has a long tradition of visual representation. No longer needing more from such art than a moment of shared vision with an artist alive or dead, I can appreciate it once more. But popular culture has made representation simultaneously omnipresent and anonymous. We seem to make the mistake of thinking that seeing means knowing, and that the more exposed a person is, the more important they are.

More here

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Improv Everywhere is one of my all-time favorite sites/concepts. I stumbled across it months ago and have been repeating the stories to friends ever since.*

Anyways, this has got to be one of the funniest gags I've ever seen.

(Although this one comes in a close second.)

Although I'm really terrible at retelling funny stories - I always mess them up...

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Click here to see Sufjan sing
Goldenrod and the 4H stone
The things I brought you
When I found out you had cancer of the bone

Your father cried on the telephone
And he drove his car into the Navy yard
Just to prove that he was sorry

In the morning, through the window shade
When the light pressed up against your shoulder blade
I could see what you were reading

All the glory that the Lord has made
And the complications you could do without
When I kissed you on the mouth

Tuesday night at the Bible study
We lift our hands and pray over your body
But nothing ever happens

I remember at Michael's house
In the living room when you kissed my neck
And I almost touched your blouse

In the morning at the top of the stairs
When your father found out what we did that night
And you told me you were scared

All the glory when you ran outside
With your shirt tucked in and your shoes untied
And you told me not to follow you

Sunday night when I cleaned the house
I found the card where you wrote it out
With the pictures of your mother

On the floor at the great divide
With my shirt tucked in and my shoes untied
I am crying in the bathroom

In the morning when you finally go
And the nurse runs in with her head hung low
And the cardinal hits the window

In the morning in the winter shade
On the first of March, on the holiday
I thought I saw you breathing

All the glory that the Lord has made
And the complications when I see His face
In the morning in the window

All the glory when He took our place
But He took my shoulders and He shook my face
And He takes and He takes and He takes


(This is an absolutely beautiful, moving song. But you really have to hear it sung; the words don't have quite as wonderful a flow when just read.)
Rogue llama on the loose in Vancouver suburb

A very interesting sounding book... or maybe just controversial?

"At the turn of the century, an unprecedented attack on women erupted in virtually every aspect of culture: literary, artistic, scientific, and philosophic. Throughout Europe and America, artists and intellectuals banded together to portray women as static and unindividuated beings who functioned solely in a sexual and reproductive capacity, thus formulating many of the anti-feminine platitudes that today still constrain women's potential.

Bram Dijkstra's Idols of Perversity explores the nature and development of turn-of-the-century misogyny in the works of hundreds of writers, artists, and scientists, including Zola, Strindberg, Wedekind, Henry James, Rossetti, Renoir, Moreau, Klimt, Darwin, and Spencer. Dijkstra demonstrates that the most prejudicial aspects of Evolutionary Theory helped to justify this wave of anti-feminine sentiment. The theory claimed that the female of the species could not participate in the great evolutionary process that would guide the intellectual male to his ultimate, predestined role as a disembodied spiritual essence. Darwinists argued that women hindered this process by their willingness to lure men back to a sham paradise of erotic materialism. To protect the male's continued evolution, artists and intellectuals produced a flood of pseudo-scientific tracts, novels, and paintings which warned the world's males of the evils lying beneath the surface elegance of woman's tempting skin.

Reproducing hundreds of pictures from the period and including in-depth discussions of such key works as Dracula and Venus in Furs, this fascinating book not only exposes the crucial links between misogyny then and now, but also connects it to the racism and anti-semitism that led to catastrophic genocidal delusions in the first half of the twentieth century. Crossing the conventional boundaries of art history, sociology, the history of scientific theory, and literary analysis, Dijkstra unveils a startling view of a grim and largely one-sided war on women still being fought today."

Idols of Perversity: Fantasies of Feminine Evil in Fin-de-Si`ecle Culture

Monday, August 21, 2006

What's so crazy about believing in aliens?

For once Tom Cruise is right. No, seriously. Isn't it foolish to assume that we're alone in the universe?

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Clementine: Joel, I'm not a concept. Too many guys think I'm a concept or I complete them or I'm going to make them alive, but I'm just a fucked up girl who is looking for my own peace of mind. Don't assign me yours.

Joel: I remember that speech really well.

Clementine: I had you pegged, didn't I?

Joel: You had the whole human race pegged.

Clementine: Probably.

Joel: I still thought you were going to save me. Even after that

Don't surrender your loneliness
so quickly.
Let it cut more deep.
Let it ferment and season you
As few human or even divine
ingredients can.

Something missing in my heart tonight
Has made my eyes so soft,
My voice
so tender,
My need of God


Wednesday, August 16, 2006

'Breathe slowly ... it's going to be OK'

Sometimes I imagine what it would have been like to live through WW2. When I do so, I generally take the day that 9/11 happened and multiply by a thousand.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Waitress offered free kidney

Another one of those "Good things are from god, bad things are from...?"

Iran strikes back

(Not in the WMD-way, don't worry!)

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Jodie Foster speaks out in defense of Mel Gibson

I think the way so many are not only shunning Gibson but publicly condemning him because of this incident is disgusting.

Again, why do we think we have the right? Where is the forgiveness? Who is this man to us? He's not our father or brother or husband. He's not a member of our community. He's simply an actor, an artist. Why do we expect his life to be an open book to us? Why do we expect him to be a model of virtue? What right do we, who are at most his fans, have to feel 'disappointment'?

Mel Gibson doesn't owe us anything.

It wouldn't matter to me if it had been Mel Gibson or George Bush who'd made those comments - my initial reaction would still be wary doubt over the sincerity of the words. What a person says when intoxicated... while we should not perhaps just forget it completely, cannot be held up as a true reflection of a person's heart.

Alcohol is not a truth serum.

Friday, August 11, 2006

"In 1940 and 1941, Lehi proposed intervening in the Second World War on the side of Nazi Germany to attain their help in expelling Britain from Mandate Palestine and to offer their assistance in "evacuating" the Jews of Europe arguing that "common interests could exist between the establishment of a new order in Europe in conformity with the German concept, and the true national aspirations of the Jewish people as they are embodied by the NMO (Lehi)." Late in 1940, Lehi representative Naftali Lubenchik was sent to Beirut where he met the German official Werner Otto von Hentig and delivered a letter from Lehi offering to "actively take part in the war on Germany's side" in return for German support for "the establishment of the historic Jewish state". Von Hentig forwarded the letter to the German embassy in Ankara, but there is no record of any official response. Lehi tried to establish contact with the Germans again in December 1941, also apparently without success."

Lohamei Herut Israel, "Fighters for the Freedom of Israel"

(I'm trying to Wiki-educate myself on the origins of the age-old conflicts in Palestine. Its super interesting! By the way, have I mentioned that Munich was a fantastic movie? Definitely worth seeing.)

You did say, need me less and I'll want you more.
I'm still shellshocked at needing anyone,
used to being used to it on my own.
It won't be me out on the tiles till four-
thirty, while you're in bed, willing the door
open with your need. You wanted her then,
more. Because you need to, I woke alone
in what's not yet our room, strewn, though, with your
guitar, shoes, notebook, socks, trousers enjambed
with mine. Half the world was sleeping it off
in every other bed under my roof.
I wish I had a roof over my bed
to pull down on my head when I feel damned
by wanting you so much it looks like need.

Grief, and I want to take it up in you;
joy, and I want to spend it all inside
you; fear, and you are the place I can hide.
Courage is what leaves me brave enough to
turn you around and tell you what to do
to me, after. Rivers, and downstream glide
I; we breathe together. You look, or I'd
get scared, but you're watching while you take me through
the deep part, where I find you, where you need
to know I do know where, know how to drive
the point home. Wit: you get the point and flat
statement of a gift of tongues. I get
up, and you get me down, get lost, you lead
me home, or I take you, and we both arrive.

How can you love me with the things I feel
that scare me crashing on the window glass?
How can you love me when I'm such an ass-
hole (sometimes) I can't take hold of what's real-
ly there and use it, let you take the wheel
and put my head back as the truck-stops pass?
Where would we go that morning? Would the grass
beside the highway mount to granite, steel
and rubber take us far enough that I
could pull my ghosts out of my guts and cry
for them, with you behind me, on some high
stone place, where water breaks from underground
arteries with hard breaths, that would sound
like mine, letting them go, saying goodbye?

Marilyn Hacker


Book love, my friends,
is your pass to the greatest,
the purest, and the most perfect pleasure
that God has prepared for his creatures.
It lasts when all other pleasures fade.
It will support you when all other recreations are gone.
It will make your hours pleasant as long as you live.

- Anthony Trollope
"I still sense his magic..."

"He protected all whom he loved... It was only yesterday he roamed in my dreams … the tiger who hid behind an orange moustache, behind green eyes... They tell me he is dead but I still sense his magic. In starry nights he protected me from all that is wrong in this world. … He has found a new home. The tiger now lives in my heart."

- Soldier's daughter at memorial

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Bhutan - Where the GNP is measured in happiness

(When I first took the intro course to International Development, our fantastic professor directed us towards at least one interesting website, magazine, organization, or project per week. One week he told us about the Developments magazine that's published in the UK by the DFID. Its a quarterly magazine and I've been subscribing for 3 years now. I've found the magazine to be a bit biased in its perspective at times; or should I say, very narrowly focused - its purpose seems to be first and foremost to show how great the UK's DFID is doing. But even so, its a very nicely put together magazine (and by that I mean, lots of pictures!) and it's a great way of finding out about all sorts of neat little projects going on in the IDS field worldwide. And its free! England delivers me mail for free! Yay!)

Friday, August 04, 2006

I was feeling a bit discouraged earlier because this afternoon I went down to the UofW to drop 2 of my 3 Fall courses. The reason for that is: my work sucks, they're not letting us do trades, and so there's no point taking 3 classes if I won't be able to make it to any of them.

I decided to drop Human Security Issues and Intro to Sociology and stick with Intro to Conflict Res. The 6 credits from the CR course can go straight towards my IDS degree plus it probably won't be as difficult a class as HSI would have been.

Then I went down to Don's to pickup some wedding photos... and I ran into Megan!

(Megan taught Elliot and I Restorative Justice last term.)

She had just returned from the Congo yesterday and was looking very happy and excited. She and her mom had gone down there for a week with a group of people from the UofW and Menno-Simons to act as international observers in the recent elections. She was full of stories of what they'd seen - riots in the street on the day before the election, for one.

Darnit, she told me a bunch of great stories but I seem to have forgotten them all... ah, well, maybe they'll come back to me later.

The great and cheery thing that I learned is that Megan's teaching Intro to Conflict Res this term at the UofW on Thursday nights! So I'm going to switch my slot from Wednesday to Thursday night. She's a great prof - very young but with an amazing amount of travel and life experience and a very charming way of 'lecturing.'

Now I'm excited about school again! Yay!

Thursday, August 03, 2006

There is no frigate like a book
To take us lands away,
Nor any coursers like a page
Of prancing poetry.
This traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of toll;
How frugal is the chariot
That bears a human soul!

Lady In The Water may be considered a "flop" by Critics but I loved it - imperfections (which there were, of course) and all.

M. Night may have yet to get it perfectly down pat, but I think he is definitely getting closer to It as he goes along.

(And that's more then can be said for most movie-makers... right?)

It reminded me of a crazy day dream - and by that I mean a dream that you dream in the day, half-waking, strange and surreal.

A little like a Gene Wolfe short story or a Neil Gaiman book (a la American Gods maybe...).

I think the little tripline "A Bedtime Story" sums it up perfectly: you need to be on the brink of sleep to appreciate this one - to have it scare you and to believe in it.

Oh, and the promo poster is... totally inaccurate in what its supposed to inspire in your imagination, in my opinion. It makes me think... winter, ice, fairies, magic. Look at it - you'd think she was Queen Jadis or something!