Saturday, April 24, 2004

Things Not To Do

Bet your parents never warned you not to meditate in a dark room at night, or not to read Rumi right before. This combination might make you curious about the effect twirling rapidly could have on your meditation. Well, they should have warned you, especially if there's some window glass around.

I'll have an interesting post later on about emergency rooms in early morning, about how total lunatics are viewed there and about writing blog posts with one hand. When the novocaine wears off.

March for Women's Lives

Tomorrow, in Washington D.C.. Important!

Friday, April 23, 2004

Friday Bitch Blogging

That's what I am, after all, Henrietta the Hound, the Queen of all dogs and definitely a female. Today I want to talk about us other animals. You humans are treating this earth like one big concentration camp for us, and the only reservations you have about this is whether it might harm you in the end. Of course it will harm you, you stupid leg-lacking idiots!

You believe that your god has made us so that you have convenient non-perishable stores of food and entertainment, and now your mad Doktor Mengeles are recreating new species by combining genes from different animals. Why? To make pigs that crap less! To make goats and cows whose milk is like human milk! To make pet fishes that glow pink in the dark! And all this is quite safe, of course, as long as the fishes don't escape or goats start working on the computers.

Well, how does it feel to play god? Come to think of it, don't tell me. I don't want to know. In any case, what the Doctor Mengeles say is that it's all for the benefit of humankind (not for the benefits of bitches or dogs, naturally), and that humans have always been tinkering with nature, or that humans are just following the lead of Mother Nature here. Right! The 'tinkering' humans have done with dogs has given us dogs so small that they can't give birth naturally, dogs so large that they die at the ripe age of six and dogs with such large heads and short noses that they die of respiratory problems. And humans follow in the footsteps of Mother Nature as a dingleberry follows the butt of Hank the Lab.

Ok, now that I've gotten this off my chest (and what a handsome and deep chest it is!), I admit that the readers of the snake goddess aren't that bad, that calling researchers Mengeles is a tad exaggerated, and that I probably should rave and rant elsewhere. But the Little Green Footballs banned me and Instapundit can't be broken in, and the mainstream media completely ignores me. Even the goddess threatens me with exclusion from this silly blog if I don't try to write more sunny.

Sunny: It was sunny yesterday. It rained today, and I was soaked through this morning, though I scared a respectable number of squirrels and rooks. Is that sunny enough for you?

Henrietta the Hound

The American Spirit of Entrepreneurship

Listen to this:

Clothes can make a statement. Urban-bag designer Tom Bihn has discovered that labels can, too.
Bihn's sales have doubled since a French-language presidential insult mysteriously made its way onto the bilingual washing instructions for hundreds of his laptop bags and backpacks.
The labels read: "Nous sommes desoles que notre president soit un idiot. Nous n'avons pas vote pour lui."
Translated into English: "We are sorry that our president is an idiot. We didn't vote for him."

Bihn says that he doesn't know who put this message in the labels, but he's not trying to find which of his ten employees might be the culprit:

"We're not really looking real hard because it's been really good for business," Bihn said. "If somebody admits to doing it we'll give 'em a raise."

Thursday, April 22, 2004


For some odd reason I thought that Michigan is a state full of apple trees and sane farmers. Shows how much I know about American geography and politics. In actuality Michigan appears to be another base camp for the Great Religious War. Its Republican dominated House just passed a"bill to provide standards for personnel policies to protect the right of conscience of health care providers who conscientiously object to providing or participating in certain health care services under certain circumstances; to provide for protection from certain liability; and to provide for penalties and remedies." In translation to ordinary English, this means that the Michigan Catholic Conference has pushed a bill through which will allow Catholic health care workers to refuse to participate in abortions or to dispense morning-after pills. The bill is expected to pass the Republican-controlled Senate, but the Democratic governor might veto it.

However, as it's still not quite legal to pass bills explicitly phrazed to cover only certain reasons for conscientious objection, the bill is actually very vague and fuzzy in its coverage: any religious, moral or ethical reason is covered. This has made some suggest that the bill could be used to deny treatment of injuries or diseases that stem from a lifestyle the health care practitioner opposes. This could endanger the health care of not only pregnant women (the intended group) but also gays, lesbians, alcoholics, snake goddesses and so on. Though emergency health care cannot be denied, the proposed bill could have serious repercussions in rural areas with very few health care providers, especially as everybody knows everybody else's business in small villages.

The whole package of bills also proposes that people who hold such moral, religious or ethical qualms cannot be denied access to medical education on this basis, and that they cannot be sued for malpractise either. Perhaps they will also be released from the Hippocratic Oath* or its equivalents?

The crafters of the bill cleverly excluded the dispensing of contraceptives from its coverage. The intention is, of course, not to anger the vast majority of Michigans (some of whom must be sane and even apple farmers). It's the sort of stealth tactic that I despise: after all, the Catholic church doesn't like contraception, yet any pangs of bad conscience here are not supposed to be worthy of lawmaking. The real reason is naturally to add contraceptives later on when we have become lulled to the soft baby tendrils of Talibanization.

I'm seeing all sorts of interesting ways to use the same 'Conscientious Objector' concept in other fields: teachers who refuse to teach political or economic ideas they find ethically repulsive, stores which refuse to sell clothing to people they think would make their clothes look aesthetically unpleasing, journalists who refuse to report both sides of a story (though this is common enough already). Even bakers could refuse to sell croissants to obese people. What an interesting world we would create!

*The classical version (no longer in use) begins so very promisingly:

I swear by Apollo Physician and Asclepius and Hygieia and Panaceia and all the gods and goddesses, making them my witnesses, that I will fulfil according to my ability and judgment this oath and this covenant:(Bolds mine)

but it deteriorates pretty quickly thereafter. The modern version is a bit less controversial.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Carmen's play and Some News About Garden Rage

Carmen is an important voice in the comments sections here. She also has a blog called Mostly Normal, and on this blog she has a wonderful play relating to the topic I blogged about recently: The Catholic Church's views on women. I thought her play is really good.

In other news, garden rage is rearing its ugly head in the U.S.:

The wife of Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., was accused on Wednesday of hitting a woman in a dispute over mulch at a garden center, police said.

If there's anything worth fighting over, it's mulch. Good mulch is hard to get hold of, as most mulch is contaminated by herbicides and other nasty critters, so I felt quite sympathetic to Wanda Baucus when I saw the title of the article. But it turns out that she wasn't angry about losing the best mulch in the place; she was furious because the other woman was served before she was. So it was just the usual human hierarchy stuff, and illogical as also is the custom: She should have hit whoever was doing the serving, not the other customer.

On Books

Books are an absolutely necessary part of survival, for me anyway. I love books; the way they feel and smell, the sound of the pages turning, their titles and covers and everything. I read books from cover to cover, including all the stuff about what the printface is called. The only problem with books is the space they take. I will have to move soon, unless I can think of a way to store more books in the existing house. I'm already shelving them three-books-deep, and I have installed shelves in the basement and the garage, even though this ruins the books (you can still read them). I have books in every room of the house except for the bathroom (this is because too many fell in the tub).

I haven't written about books very much here, and the reason is probably that writing about any one writer singles that one out and seems to suggest that the others are not as wonderful, and I love them all too much to do this. But I've figured out a way to write about books without making such gross judgments: I'm going to use categories!

The first one is: Books that I can see from where I'm sitting. This includes a book about how to use your tablesaw (it's fabulous!), Octavia Butler's The Dawn (not as good as some of the others), The Annotated Journals of Sylvia Plath (no comment), The Art of Lacemaking(not as hard as I thought), Anna Paword's The Tulip(interesting, but too expensive), Vogue Sewing, The Bible of Karate, The Midnight Sun, the Tzar and the Nihilist (a weird nineteenth century book about a Brit visiting Russia), Patriarchy by Phyllis Chesler and Binmore and Dasgupta's Economic Organizations as Games.
I picked one random book from each group of shelves dedicated to a particular topic, though there are some shelves behind my back, so what's on those will remain a secret.

The second category: Books that are very big or very small. The smallest book I own is called The Little Book of Candy-Making, printed in 1911. The largest book is probably one of the encyclopedias, though I also own an enormous Collected Works by Rabelais.

The third category: Books that are hard. This is easy: Karl Marx's Das Kapital, The Tibetan Book of the Dead and all my books on topology. Also Wittgenstein.

The fourth category: Foreign books that I especially like. Well, almost all books are by foreigners from my standpoint, but I love Dostoyevsky, Turgenev and Austen. I think I hate Kafka, though I read him a lot. He appeals to my sick side too much, and the same is true of Proust. I also dig Marguerite Durand.

The fifth category: Hateful books that I own. Not many, as I tend to stomp on them and then tear them to pieces. But I still own Steven Pinker's The Blank Slate. I hate it for quite complicated reasons.

The sixth and final category: Interesting and weird books. I have an autographed Agatha Christie, several hand-written and hand-illustrated books and a book of poetry by someone called Veranda Porch. Veranda Porch!

Right now I'm reading Rumi. Good stuff, though from the male angle as usual. And what are you reading?

More Bad Poetry

Yes, I know I promised that there would be no more. But where else can I force people to read these? And these are really very good bad poems.

1. A bad poem is good to write,
wholesome to read.
It is as fresh as a sharp bite
in an ocean of mead.

2. The paisley pattern in my tights
reminds me of sperms in flight
seeking hidden ovaries
or contemplating suicide.

Poor things,
they're taken for a ride.
The losers have nowhere to hide.
The winner, taken to one side
becomes the goal of spermicide.

Their life is short and hidden.
To name them is forbidden
in all-mixed company.
You have to stay calm and firm
if you are to be a sperm.
It helps to trust
in life after lust.

About the Kerry Campaign so far

I fear that Kerry is a coward. This is the last thing needed right now, and I hope that I will be proven wrong soon. But there are some uncomfortable signs of Kerry trying to look like some sort of a mild Republican. Nobody in this country votes for mild Republicans: there are two camps of voters now, and they're far removed from each other. I blame the right-wing media for this split and the turning of the Republican party into a homecoming party for Attila the Hun spliced with Savonarola. Not a party to which I'd be invited, except perhaps as an interesting savory course.

So I'd like Kerry to show a bit more guts and courage; those old-fashioned values which suit both men and women equally well. Besides, we all know what Bush is like, and there's no way Kerry could run successfully as a whey-faced imitation. People either want the real thing (poor misguided souls) or absolutely detest it (the rest of us), and if Kerry acts too moderate and tame too soon, the latter group will give up and start planning their emigration even sooner.

I'm not alone with these thoughts. Roger K. Smith's article on this topic is well worth reading. Here's a snippet from it to whet your appetites:

In recent days, Senator Kerry has repeatedly emphasized his centrist credentials. At a top-dollar fundraiser, he assured well-heeled New Yorkers that he was "not a redistribution Democrat." He has already begun retracting his own proposals for new spending programs, signaling Wall Street that paying down Dubya's deficit will trump his domestic agenda. He swiftly approved of Bush's craven concessions to Ariel Sharon -- concessions that sound the death knell for Middle East peace negotiations -- for fear of showing insufficient fealty to the Israeli right.
This all surely placates the DLC mandarins, but it must be recognized that these are perilous tactics. The more daylight he darkens between himself and Bush/Cheney, the more he legitimates their policies and alienates those left-liberals who ought to be his most fervent supporters.

Are you reading, Mr. Kerry?

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

A Few Classical Blog Posts

These are a few of the posts I have marked as worth reading even years later, and if you can do so under a nice, shady tree that's even better:
-Ampersand's Pure Merit, Pure as Driven Snow, an excellent discourse on independence and merit
-Ms. Lauren's For Teachers and Educational Critics Alike, an expert treatise on education
-Jeanne d'Arc's Easy Evil, a story about the coarsening effects of war on families

More of my recommendations will follow whenever I can't think of anything fun to write!

Monday, April 19, 2004

Very Fast News for Those in A Hurry

1. Bush Names U.N. Ambassador as Envoy to Iraq

This is John Negroponte. His appointment means that Colin Powell is on the rise, as the two are pals. Negroponte is famous for his stint as the U.S. ambassador to Honduras where some argue that he engaged in the abuse of human rights via the U.S. funded death squad which worked for the right-wing contras. President Bush thinks his approach is the right one:

"John Negroponte is a man of enormous experience and skill" and "has done a really good job of speaking for the United States to the world about our intentions to spread freedom and peace," said Bush.

2. Powell Says More Countries May Follow Spain in Leaving Coalition

Honduras just decided to do so. Powell is quite heart-broken over these desertions.

3. Hormel to Raise Prices on Spam, Dinty Moore and Other Products

That's the other kind of spam. Spam and Dinty Moore are those ethnic foods that must be explained to non-Americans, but I'm not brave enough to try to do so. Anyway, they now cost more.

None of these news will affect Bush's polling figures downwards. Nothing seems to affect those figures downwards, probably because they're propped up on top of a very large number of millions of dollars.

Define "A Successful Woman"

Please. I think that this phraze is an oxymoron: there is no such thing as a successful woman, or at least no generally agreed-upon definition of one. If a woman has had a life of fame, if she has been a famous writer or painter or scientist, there's bound to be books written about how unhappy she was in her private life: either she didn't have a partner or she didn't have children or if she had both of these, well, the partner and the children must have been very deprived and unhappy. If a woman led a private life, doing things for her family and local community, she was just doing what was expected of women in general: to be the basis on which other things can thrive without getting any fame or reputation from it. She didn't DO anything, you know, she didn't lead armies or invent the theory of relativity.

Yet the fact is that men who we universally regard as successful have equal 'gaps' in their lives, but we don't decide that this would stop them from being successful. Einstein was a terrible father and husband if the existing accounts are to be believed. Can you imagine how this would be portrayed if he had been female? Her theory of relativity would get quite a new meaning.

Of course any person, man or woman, is successful in a sense if he or she satisfies all important private goals for life. Perhaps being content is a sign of success. But the world at large doesn't define success this way, and we do get rewarded on the basis of the world's definitions, and these definitions make it essentially impossible to be a conventionally successful woman. Then some 'genius' writes another book wondering why women still have trouble getting to the top...

You may have guessed that I have been reading stuff that gives me indigestion. It started with two excellent post about the oh-so-wearing mummy wars at ms. musings (The other one is just above the one I linked to). I'm so very tired with this attempt to pull and yank every woman until they fit into the same standard pattern, and what's more, a pattern that is not humanly/humanely possible to fit. Then I read in a comments thread of another blog about what's wrong with Republican women: the ones who are well known are 'cold ice-maidens' that no man would want or 'too busy and career-ambitious to have had children' if some man did choose them. Come on, give us a break. If the 'cold ice-maiden' had three small children at home, she'd be blamed for neglecting them or she would never have been promoted to her current position of power. You can't win if you're a woman, it seems.

Freedom from Religion

Freedom of religion is a fine thing. Freedom from other people's religion would be equally wonderful, but I don't know any country in this world that constitutionally guarantees this important right. Even the Christians who were eaten by the lions in the Roman amphitheater would agree with me on this one. So would anyone who has had a Jehova's witness tell her that she is a whore because all women are (this happened to me) or a Christian children's book seller tell him that his children are going to hell if he won't dole out some cash for the books (this happened to a friend of mine), or anyone who works with one of those religious missionaries, always trying to convert anything that moves (this happens to everybody).

More importantly, many if not most world religions have unfriendly words to say on the topic of women, and fundamentalists who take the two-thousand old writings as literal divine truth can really make women's lives horrible, whether these women belong to the same religion or not. We all know what went on in Afghanistan, and there's probably a plan for a 'kinder, gentler' Taliban somewhere in John Ashcroft's private papers. He'll get to it some time in the next four years if he's not stopped. His right to be a Pentecostal is guaranteed in this country, but my right not to be treated like his religion believes women should be treated is not. A big problem.

Here, my dear reader, you might wonder why I'm worried about all this, given that I'm a goddess myself, and can easily smite anyone who irritates me. The answer is that I'm a Fair and Righteous Goddess, and I do not like injustice. Besides, I'm half a woman and half a snake, and you can guess what Ashcroft would think of this. So I want to stop him.

I'd also like to stop all the other religious fanatics who want to wage war and kill people through vile and despicable acts of terrorism and state terrorism. Most real people are inbetween these terrible armies, and it's these real people that largely get killed in this religious war. Because of someone else's religion or someone else's interpretation of religion. What would Jesus say about this? God? Allah? Unfortunately, the ancient texts contain whatever you're looking for in them, having been compiled over periods of some hundreds of years by people with varying political opinions. We need a revelation, desperately. If none of the Big Guys speak up soon, I need to organize something that might look like a real revelation.

In the meantime, I worry. See what president Bush just contributed towards the idea of a holy war:

Yet Bush, by embracing Sharon's own unilateralism, was in effect throwing sand in Muslim faces worldwide. Other than the invasion of Iraq, there's hardly anything Bush could have done to muster even greater support for the worldwide jihad.

What is Bush thinking? There are clues in statements from his press conference. "Now is the time, and Iraq is the place, in which the enemies of the civilized world are testing the will of the civilized world. We must not waver," the president said. Later, he added, "I also have this belief, strong belief, that freedom is not this country's gift to the world. Freedom is the Almighty's gift to every man and woman in this world. And as the greatest power on the face of the earth, we have an obligation to help the spread of freedom."
Bush came pretty close to proclaiming the fight against radical Islam the divine mission of the United States. He may not have meant that, but you can rest assured that is just how much of the Islamic world will view his comments, especially in light of his actions the next day on behalf of Israel. You can also bet it will be read that way by the American religious right, which sees in defending Israel a way to bring about Armageddon and the second coming of Christ.
We can't know Bush's motives, but it's not difficult to read the effects, and they risk being catastrophic. There are pragmatic reasons why some of what Bush gave Israel Tuesday will be part of a final agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. But it should have come about through negotiations. The way Bush has chosen to do it is essentially saying, again, to radical Islam, "Bring it on."

Reassuring? Not really, unless you belong to one of the two armies who claim to fight for God. If you don't, you better start lobbying for the right of freedom from religion. Other people's religion, that is.

Sunday, April 18, 2004

On Gardening

Gardening is one of those things that old ladies with needlepoint bags are supposed to do. Old ladies with needlepoint bags are very wise: gardening is a wonderful activity. I spent an hour outside today, enjoying the spring sunshine and the lovely new baby greens on the trees. It's very good for the soul (if such a thing exists), and if you grab a spade and a rake, it's also very good for the love handles.

You can commune with nature, as they say, or wonder about the deep philosophical questions of life (Why do I feel like eating the shiny and plump worms that appear from the earth as I shovel? Is old dog poop that has gone white and light still good to dig near the peony roots? Could the problems in Iraq be solved by giving every terrorist and soldier a nice little plot to dig in?) And being so close to nature gives a renewed interest in all sorts of botanical and zoological questions: Why do the squirrels replant my tulips every year into one tiny circle, with the tallest ones on the edges? Why are most of the really interesting plants poisonous (mandrake root, foxgloves, lilies of the valley)? What makes dogs want to lie down on the most fragile tips of lilies? Did I really once see an enormous black-and-yellow striped worm appear from the ground after rain, or was this a nightmare caused by excess red wine and cheese feasting the previous night?

I'm planning a Garden of Hate this year. It's going to have a path covered with sharp gravel (shoes are to be left at the gate). Color will come from bright orange marigolds, form from yew trees tortured into the shape of bloated elephants, and scent from skunk cabbages. The path will end at a viewing seat in full sun, made from unplaned rough wood set insecurely on wobbly stones and surrounded by giant Scottish thistles.

I already have the Mars and Venus gardens, you know, one for men and one for women. The Mars garden has stuffed mooseheads suspended from manly trees with narely a leaf and a waterfall made out of beer cans. The planting is mainly of arums (click here if you want to know why). The Venus garden is all pink and frilly without a single straight line, and each flower bed is in the form of a teddy bear. Nobody likes these gardens, which was a great disappointment for me as the books about men being from Mars and women from Venus were so popular. What people like is my sex garden, but I'm not going to write about that one.

Even if you don't have a garden, you should go out and commune with nature once and a while. It reminds us about an important fact of life: it is this earth that our life depends on.

PS: This is for Daniel: You can build a miniature railway track outside and plant it with tiny plants that look like trees and shrubs from a distance! There's even a nursery that specializes in providing them.

Deep Thought for the Day

If the Rapture comes before November 2004, may I have the White House?