Saturday, August 21, 2004

Never Too Early to Think About Halloween

Check out this link for children's Halloween costumes.

You can now get ten dollars off for dressing your little girl as a ho and your little boy as a pimp. Something to aspire to, hmh?

Why does this bother me so much? Children dress as ghosts and vampires and as all sorts of horrible creatures for Halloween anyway. So why not go as a whore or as someone who sells whores? Isn't the idea to scare adults?

But the costumes are not sold to children, they are sold to the parents of the children, and it is the parents who decide that it would be cute to have a little girl dress as a ho. Cute to have their little children walk the neighborhood dressed as hos and pimps.

The mainstreaming of pimps in popular culture is a fascinating phenomenom. Pimps used to be portrayed as the slimiest, creepiest, most disgusting creatures imaginable. Now they're almost admirable. Whores have not been mainstreamed in the same way at all; they are still regarded as dirty and cheap. This has to do with power balances, probably, as it's the pimp who lords over his whores and the whores who do what he tells them. But it also means that your little boy in the pimp costume might be admired and your little girl in the ho costume might be... What? Seen as cute? Desired by pedophiles? Regarded as showing her true colors that early? I don't know.

I can't help feeling that the whole recent sexual revolution: the mainstreaming of pornography, the "Girls Gone Wild" view of female sexuality as consisting of only pleasing the male sexuality, the rehabilitation of pimps and so on is part of the backlash against moves towards true equality of the sexes. I'm not prudish. But the 'new sexuality' is not at all new: it's the underbelly of the old-time sexuality with the prudish veils torn off. Nothing has changed in the scenarios, women are still supposed to serve or service, still supposed to enjoy being yes-women, still supposed to relish their objectification.

As I said I'm not prudish. Sex is wonderful. But violence as quasi-sex is disgusting, oppression does not turn me on and those who need objectification in sex should avail themselves of the vast range of sexual toys now available. And dressing little children to correspond to our most unappetizing sexual images is wrong.
Thanks to mystic_bovine for the link.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Kerry and the Slow Boaters

This just in:

Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry asked the Federal Election Commission on Friday to force Republican critics to withdraw ads challenging his military service, and accused the Bush campaign of illegally helping coordinate the attacks.
The Kerry campaign said it filed the complaint against the group behind the ads, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, "for violating the law with inaccurate ads that are illegally coordinated with the Bush-Cheney presidential campaign and Republican National Committee."
The campaign said there is "overwhelming evidence" that the group is coordinating its spending on advertising and other activities with the President Bush's campaign for reelection.

The Republicans say that the suit is frivolous. However, Atrios has Kerry's press release on this issue, and it includes the following:

Tallahassee -- On the same day that the Bush-Cheney campaign repeatedly denied coordinating attacks with the anti-Kerry group "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth," the Bush-Cheney campaign in Florida was caught promoting a rally in Gainesville for the group.

A flyer being distributed at the Alachua County Republican party headquarters, which doubles as the Bush-Cheney campaign headquarters for the county, promotes a weekend rally sponsored by "Swift Boat Vets for Truth, Veterans for Bush, Alachua Bush/Cheney Committee," and others

So the mittens are off on both sides. Naughty kittens! I'd rather watch some other game, but if it has to be this way I'm glad that Kerry is not taking it lying down.

Can You Walk and Chew Gum?

I can't. At least I can't drive and think. I've been on the road for three days, and the only act of thinking I have been capable of was to communicate with some very nice pine trees. I understood the real meaning of e pluribus unum, but I can't express it in anything but pine language. So.

This morning the temperature was 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Four hours later it is 90 degrees Fahrenheit, and I'm still attired for 68 degrees. Of course four hours ago I was in a different state of the union, one much cooler and more piney.

Pine trees are not very fond of people. I suspected that, but to be told so in very direct words (not repeatable here as children might be looking over your shoulder) was shocking to say the least. One of the pines wanted me to take over as a temporary goddess of pines, largely as a PR stunt, I suspect, but I had to refuse as I'm a very minor goddess and have my hands full of snakes.

The job is open and I have been given the permission to advertize it here. The pines don't discriminate on the basis of gender, religion or sexual orientation. They couldn't care less of any of that, but they're adamant that any successful applicant must hate chainsaws and property developers, must have chewed on pine tar as a child in lieu of gum, and must be willing to learn to speak Pine within a year. The duties consist of tree hugging, advocating in Washington, D.C., and of pouring sugar into the gas tanks of chain saws. The remuneration is deemed extremely good from a pine's point of view, but I'm not sure what it consists of, other than the fact that the selected goddess or god will not be decapitated by anyone belonging to the pine family.

Let me know if you're interested (not with a paper application!) and I'll forward the particulars to the Big Pine.

Words Not Yet In The Dictionary

ACCORDIONATED (ah kor' de on ay tid) adj. Being able to drive and
refold a road map at the same time.

AQUADEXTROUS (ak wa deks' trus) adj. Possessing the ability to turn
the bathtub faucet on and off with your toes.

AQUALIBRIUM (ak wa lib' re um) n. The point where the stream of
drinking fountain water is at its perfect height, thus relieving the
drinker from having to suck the nozzle, or (b) squirting himself in
the eye.

BURGACIDE (burg' uh side) n. When a hamburger can't take any more
torture and hurls itself through the grill into the coals.

BUZZACKS (buz' aks) n. People in phone marts who walk around picking
up display phones and listening for dial tones even when they know the
phones are not connected.

CARPERPETUATION (kar' pur pet u a shun) n. The act, when vacuuming, of
running over a string or a piece of lint at least a dozen times,
reaching over and picking it up, examining it, then putting it back
down to give the vacuum one more chance.

DIMP (dimp) n. A person who insults you in a cheap department store by
asking, "Do you work here?"

DISCONFECT (dis kon fekt') v. To sterilize the piece of candy you
dropped on the floor by blowing on it, somehow assuming this will
'remove' all the germs.

ECNALUBMA (ek na lub' ma) n. A rescue vehicle which can only be seen
in the rearview mirror.

EIFFELITES (eye' ful eyetz) n. Gangly people sitting in front of you
at the movies who, no matter what direction you lean in, follow suit.
Props to heini.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Bad Poetry, Once Again...

I keep promising not to publish any more bad poetry. But gods and goddesses never honor their promises. So here is some more really good bad poetry for August afternoons:

Fairy Tales

The Sleeping Beauty sleeps.
The thorns have pierced her will.
The Snow-White scrubs the sheets.
Her mind is white and still.
Cinderella sweeps.

Three ravens watch and wait
for the three princes. They are late.

The years pass by; they must.
They eat away the Sleeping Beauty.
The Snow-White turns to rust.
Her mind is starched with duty.
Cinderella's dust.

Three old men totter past.
They are the princes, come at last.

Death, a decisive master,
came and acted faster.

Good, huh? And quite feminist in tone. And the next one is a meditation brought on by the white teeth of Americans!

In this country Sundays
are ironed glaring white.
Prayerbooks and promises
and the searing, searing light.
God, we have dropped by
to tell the deal is on.
But tell us. Tell us why
you shunned your only son.

Never mind. On weekdays
we run the business right.
We climb the human ladder,
we bare our teeth. They're white.
God, you do not understand
the modern world. It's tough.
This land you gave us. This land
has made us hard and rough.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

More on Canada and the Sharia Law

I wrote about this topic some time ago. Canada has a system of arbitration where religious bodies are allowed to arbitrate certain legal disputes. This has been widely used by people of various religions, including the muslims who use the traditional sharia law in this. But recently the whole idea has provoked controversy in Canada, starting with the decision of a group of muslims to formalize the use of sharia. Here is a summary of the issues in the debate:

Sharia is a centuries-old Islamic system of justice based on the precepts of the Koran. It's legally used by religious scholars and imams in Ontario to mediate a narrow range of disputes - from clashes over property and inheritances, to matters in marriage and divorce.
Proponents say it is the only way Muslims can live true to their faith. Critics see it as an unsettling expansion of a system that stones women and hangs apostates in the street.
The Ontario government redrafted legislation in 1991, granting religious leaders the authority to mediate civil matters. The law, called the Arbitration Act, was designed to help unburden an already over-taxed court system. At the same time, they hoped it would enhance the country's official doctrine of multiculturalism, the notion that a society is made richer when ethnic groups are encouraged to share their cultural expression and values. Rabbis and priests have also used the act to adjudicate squabbles over everything from dietary rules to monetary disputes between parishes.
But critics of sharia charge that, in this case, the principles of multiculturalism are being exploited to enforce oppression. They argue that the practice of sharia in Canada undermines the country's Charter of Rights and Freedoms because it discriminates against women.

The discrimination against women consists of the fact that the sharia gives men more rights than women in cases of divorce and child custody. One critic of the law is Alia Hogben, president of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women:

What bridles those like Ms. Hogben is a system of justice in which divorcing women are cut off from spousal support after three months. The system also awards divorcing men with custody of the children as well as the bulk of the marital assets. Participation under the Arbitration Act is voluntary, though critics say Muslim women can be pressured in participating.

Being cut off from spousal support after three months could indeed cause serious problems for any muslim woman who has not been in the labor force, thinks traditionally and does not have other relatives in Canada. The awarding of custody is a painful matter in all divorce courts, but especially so in a court which will not even give you a chance to get custody, I would think, and not being able to retain many marital assets would complete the psychological and economic destruction. Why would any woman then choose such a system of arbitration? The answer of course could be social pressure which might be quite efficient, especially if the woman in question is also very religious.

Those who advocate the law are astonished by the publicity this debate has gained:

"A lot of the hyperbole and the foreboding of doom is just nonsense," says Mubin Shaikh, a spokesman for Masjid El Noor, a Toronto Mosque. "No one is advocating amputations in the public square. We accept that the Charter of Rights is supreme. Sharia won't be used to contradict that supremacy."

Still, it seems likely that the current review of the Arbitration Act has been affected by the protests of those who fear the treatment of women under sharia. Marion Boyd who is spearheading the review and Pascale Fournier, a legal scholar, both believe that the law will be substantially overhauled to protect human rights. This might mean that divorce and child custody cases could be removed from its domain, and thereby also from the domain of the sharia.

Are You Famous?

Probably not. I'm only well known within the snake world nowadays, and I was never much more than a footnote in the annals of history.
But should you happen to be famous and kind, please let me know. I will then pester you to add your famous name to my "Goddess Praise" column on the right. (If you say that you really hate my blog I won't publish that, however. This is a fair warning of my biased nature.)

Don't you think my praise-column looks striking? Katha Pollitt is a wonderful writer and a very funny speaker, so I am extremely proud to have her statement head the column. And I didn't even lie! She really said this. Probably by accident, but nevermind; I grabbed the opportunity.

This is called capitalism. Everybody must advertize, every dog must wag their own tail. It doesn't come naturally to many people, including goddesses, but it's an absolute must nowadays. Otherwise there will be no adulation, no big presents on Fertility Day and no sculptures of my divine form.

It wasn't actually any easier in the olden days, though the advertizing was slower and involved all sorts of ethical problems with pigeon entrails. Artful Asp wants to work up that old trick to advertize me as she now dreams of a career as my PR manager. Other ideas she has is a "Guys Gone Wild" program. I leave interpreting that to your imagination. She is all hormones right now, is our Asp.

I appreciate her efforts, nevertheless. And I really appreciate everybody who reads my blog whether famous or not. I can't think of any way of writing this without appearing to ask even more praise in the comments section. So just to make it clear: I am not asking for praise in the comments section; I already did that this week.

But what would be fun is a discussion of what makes someone famous and whether being famous is a good thing or not. Greta Garbo (an old Swedish actress who was very beautiful and hated publicity) didn't like fame, and I suspect that many other famous people would also like to be a little less famous if they could. It would be nice to go out to buy foot powder or something without having it written up or pasted all over the tv screens.

Notoriety, now that could be quite exciting. But it's hard to be notorious and unknown.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

The Charter School Case

Charter schools are something that the current administration would like to see everywhere, and the No Child Left Behind program encourages their establishment. It comes as a bit of a cold shower, then, to find out that the most recent study shows charter schools doing poorly:

The data shows fourth graders attending charter schools performing about half a year behind students in other public schools in both reading and math. Put another way, only 25 percent of the fourth graders attending charters were proficient in reading and math, against 30 percent who were proficient in reading, and 32 percent in math, at traditional public schools.
Because charter schools are concentrated in cities, often in poor neighborhoods, the researchers also compared urban charters to traditional schools in cities. They looked at low-income children in both settings, and broke down the results by race and ethnicity as well. In virtually all instances, the charter students did worse than their counterparts in regular public schools.

Supporters of charter schools say that there is no cause for concern yet; these data are 'just the baseline' and besides, charter schools may have enrolled the most troubled children from the public school system. It would then be expected that the schools would do poorly at first.

Yes. But there is no evidence on the types of students that charters have attracted. Maybe they attracted the most talented students in the public school system? If this is the case the findings are worrisome indeed.

What's more worrisome is the fact that:

The findings, buried in mountains of data the Education Department released without public announcement, dealt a blow to supporters of the charter school movement, including the Bush administration.
(bolds mine)

This smacks of an attempt to hide the findings from public scrutiny. Why on earth would the government want to do that? Except, of course, to continue pushing for more charter schools.

Flippety Flops

This is a really fun little list of Bush flip flops. Something to read during the lunch hour, perhaps? Just one example of the riches to be unearthed:

BUSH WANTS OSAMA DEAD OR ALIVE... "I want justice. And there's an old poster out West, I recall, that says, 'Wanted: Dead or Alive.'" [President Bush, on Osama Bin Laden, 09/17/01 ]

...BUSH DOESN'T CARE ABOUT OSAMA "I don't know where he is.You know, I just don't spend that much time on him... I truly am not that concerned about him."[President Bush, Press Conference,3/13/02 ]

Monday, August 16, 2004

Olympic Lessons for Children

With thanks to the American television broadcasters of the games:

1. Only winning matters. Earning a silver medal is nothing, you whiny loser.

2. Only American gold medalists matter. You can cut the awards ceremony short by just showing the American athlete getting his or her laurel leaf wreath and medal while pretending that the other two steps on the victory podium are empty. Although we might make an exception to show an American who should have won getting a silver medal. Just to remind you of rule no 1. Look at their long faces!

3. Success is due to the athlete's own hard work if the athlete is American. Success of other athletes is due to either the devious behavior of the judges or to the government power of alien countries. The exception that can be made is for any athlete who is photogenic and has a good sad story to tell. Such athletes can also have success based on hard work.

4. The correct view of Athens is that of Disney. Don't believe anything else.

5. Commercials are more interesting than the games, especially car advertisements that use the 9/11 theme to attract interest or peddle sexism with the four wheels.

I should stop watching the games. If I had such a thing as blood pressure it would have already caused this continent to split into two.

Today's Word to Munch On


This is today's favorite. I like it a lot. First, I hardly know what it means (have to look it up), second, it tastes good (try it slowly, in the back of the throat) and third, it makes me feel so erudite (say it with an upturned nose).

The runner-up was 'munchkin'. The dogs liked it but the postman was less excited. He thought it was too intimate to be used for postmen. I'm going to test it on my martial arts class, too, to see if it reflects martial spirit or not.

From Around the World

It's interesting how hard it is to notice bias in reporting, even when one is on the lookout for it. For example, I've been reading articles on the Chavez election for some time, and only yesterday did I spot how most of them set up the stage in a biased manner, at least for American readers. Even the most neutral-seeming report emphasized the anger against Chavez, his extreme left-wingedness and the chaos in the country. There was very little about why he was elected in the first place in 2000.

Thus, it came as a bit of a surprise to read today that Chavez seems to be leading in the vote by a wide margin. Of course the opposition argues that this is the result of an election fraud, but international monitors on site seem to counter that claim. We'll see. In any case:

The national electoral council president, Francisco Carrasquero, announced at 4 a.m. that Mr. Chávez had won the backing of 58 percent of voters, with 42 percent supporting the opposition's drive to recall him.
But the opposition, which soon after the polls closed at midnight had giddily predicted victory, said that the government had cheated and that it had won by a wide margin. The Organization of American States and the Atlanta-based Carter Center, which monitored the election and conducted their own highly accurate voting samples, had not commented on the dispute as of 11:30 a.m.
"We categorically reject the results," Henry Ramos, spokesman for the Democratic Coordinator, the umbrella of 27 political parties that opposes the government, said in a televised announcement. "They have perpetrated a gigantic fraud against the will of the people."
But a diplomatic observer, who did not want to be identified, said late this morning that the O.A.S. samplings are in line with the voting results released by the national electoral council.
The president of the council said the government mustered 4,991,483 votes, while the opposition collected only 3.6 million votes.
The diplomatic observer said that representatives of the O.A.S. and the Carter Center had a long meeting with the opposition in the early morning hours and showed them the results, telling the opposition that they thought they were accurate.
The opposition was stunned by what they were shown, the official said, and continued to say there had been strong irregularities.
"The opposition is basically saying there was computer fraud, but that's almost impossible," said the official, noting that electronic touch-screen machines were used to record the votes.

What might be useful to remember is that Venezuela is a country with a large majority of very poor people, and a small hierarchy of the very rich who have traditionally held the power. Chavez has at least listened to the poor whatever else he may be guilty of.

In Iraq, the situation does not look good as we all know:

Dozens of explosions echoed here early today as American marines fired artillery shells into the cemetery from their base three miles to the north, pressing on through the night in renewed fighting with rebels loyal to the cleric.
Barely a day after truce talks collapsed, two American soldiers were killed here on Sunday, part of a force of Army and Marine units that had pushed into the outer edge of Najaf's Old City and battled Mr. Sadr's fighters in the cemetery just north of the shrine of Imam Ali, a mosque revered by Shiite Muslims.
The American military said today that a third soldier attached to the First Marine Expeditionary Force, deployed in Al Anbar Province, was also killed on Sunday.

And then there is the whole awkward question of protecting the shrine of Imam Ali. Some damage to an outer wall has already taken place. If the shrine gets destroyed we all better pray to whatever divine forces we have our trust in. And yes, it is true that the insurgents are using the shrine to shelter in and thus causing the possibility that it will be destroyed by the Iraqi government and U.S. forces. Still, the blame for any damage will not be placed on them but on the infidels. Such is the human way of thinking about religions and others, and the American administration must be aware of this. They must also know that nobody in the Muslim world will accept the premise that it's other Iraqis attacking the shrine. Oh how I hate writing about Iraq. Violence and greed and religious intolerance are always unattractive topics, and even more so when they exist largely due to stupidity.

But at least we are not living in uninteresting times. Remember the old Chinese curse:"May you live in interesting times!"

Sunday, August 15, 2004

On Graven Images

I never understood what's so bad about graven images. They're just images, aren't they? But they certainly seem to upset people who are true believers in a god who doesn't like images. Remember the Bamiyan Buddha statues in Afghanistan that are no longer because of the zeal and godliness of the Taliban? Something similar may have happened in Lubbock, Texas, where a recent sculpture of the Wind God has been defaced. Though the figure in the sculpture was named the Wind Man, many Lubbockites decided sculptures of a pagan god do not make suitable decorations for a town which is fervently Christian. The General (from whom I stole this story) lists several letters by local residents, all of whom express outrage (in astonishingly similar terms and sentences) about this violation against the one-god-rule.

None of the opponents of the Wind Man approved of the destruction, though. But it's hard to see why anybody else than a Christian fundamentalist would want to destroy an innocent sculpture of some guy with puffy cheeks and air coming from his mouth.

What does the destruction of these graven images accomplish? Is it intended to wipe out alternative faiths so that nobody would, even by pure accident, come upon them and find them attractive? Why would anyone's faith be that weak? Maybe someone can tell me why graven images are so frightening. None has ever attacked me, which I cannot say about humans.

I'm a bit worried about the Sphynx in Cairo (she happens to portray my daughter), and also other great works of art all over the world. Are we going to find them struck down as some evil messages from ancient gods and goddesses or perhaps the post-modernistic art lovers? I hope not. But then I didn't think that the fourteenth century could return so quickly either.

How To Televise the Olympics

In the United States this goes as follows:

Remember that the main objective is to frighten away all sports lovers. Never forget this important principle: if it ain't suitable for a soap opera, it ain't olympic enough. Remember to skip from event to event, always leaving just when things get interesting, then returning four hours later with a quick recap which must be made very hard to decipher. Remember to do a lot of closeups of people that might be the same athletes we thought we'd see in the actual competition, but make sure that these closeups are taken several years earlier and show no sporting aspects. Search high and low for athletes who might be orphans or at least fatherless, who might have broken out of a tremendous addiction for Twinkies, who have a third cousin who is cheering for them in some distant and hopefully wartorn place.

Try to find the Human Interest! This attracts women, and women, as we all know, are not the same as sports fans. Women like to hear about terrible personal duels between two athletes, as long as both of them look cute. This is a known fact. And women don't want to watch the events themselves, so don't show them. Instead, give them background stories on one or two athletes who might or might not do well in the games. Spend a lot of camera time on the families of American athletes in the audiences. Women like this a lot, especially if a world record is broken at the same time.
As you may have noticed, I'm spitting angry. I'm a female goddess and I like sports just fine. I also don't like the way women are being blamed for the inane decisions of some television corporations.

To compare this coverage to something that many Americans might relate to, consider an important baseball game in which most of the time is taken by closeups of the players and stories of their family backgrounds and trials and tribulations, then a quick scan is given of the start of the game, then back to 'close and personal', then a quick view of the fifth inning, then perhaps some graphs about the rules of the game, then a final summary of who actually won the game. This is how most of the olympic events come across to me. I really don't know why I bother watching.