Saturday, December 30, 2006

Until it snowed

o one knew
The fox walked past
The house at noon.

Ok, That Was Bleak

Try these six word short stories for relief.

Thanks to Ursula K. Le Guin for the link. Her website is wonderful.

When Life As We Know It Becomes Impossible to Sustain

Posted by olvlzl

What are the consequences for a world in which the food supply has been greatly diminished by global warming? What are the exigencies of a world in which the absolute necessities of life are vastly more expensive than they are now? It’s a question occasioned by the breaking away of that huge ice field in the arctic this week. Assuming that there are no willfully ignorant global warming deniers* here, then it is a question that we should be considering with a lot more urgency.

While there is no way of knowing what will happen, if the food supply and the supply of many other things is disrupted or destroyed then there are two general schemes that seem likely. There is the 1960s, macho sci-fi concept of a dystopian fascism of some kind. That would certainly be attempted. Life would become a bleak, violent and cynical endeavor. The idea of a democracy in such circumstances is impossible. If the thankfully brief viewing I’ve seen of the cabloid stations this past year, it’s the one they favor.

But there is another possible response, one that should be a matter of reflex in a modern democracy, equal sharing of scarcity, an equal distribution of necessities and the practice of the common-wealth in services and enrichment resources whatever those are. In short, putting the alleged ideals of enlightenment into effect. It’s not nearly as popular as sci-fi fascism in theatrical or literary speculations mainly because it is inherently undramatic. I can’t imagine any of them being able to make a hit movie out of it. Anyone who could pull it off would probably be a creative genius of the first order, Ursula K. Le Guin level. It’s absence from the popular imagination is a danger that will become more evident as things get worse. And there is every reason to believe that is what is going to happen during some of our lives.

If we want decency in the future there will be a price, selfishness, greed, ignorance and a host of other personal indulgences can’t be indulged. The consequences of them become ever worse in a more crowded more impoverished milieu. A good item to consider is what will happen to the right to have children. What will happen to that if the level of starvation increases several fold? It’s not pleasant to think about but it will become impossible to ignore the problem in the near future. There are some horrible alternatives already in place, both one-child policies and the vastly worse, non-governmental systems that arise though malign neglect, gender inequity and organized crime. We can, of course, keep ignoring this or we can try to come up with the least bad solution before it becomes impossible to choose to do nothing.

If we are fortunate, the choice isn’t between violent disorder and fascism, it’s between gaudy, unequal misery and modest decency. But we are going to have to cultivate the idea. The fans of privilege will be at work the whole time and many of them are in the judiciary and government. They won’t think twice about playing dirty, that’s just practice for when things really get bad.

This is a theme I’m going to be looking into next year. It won't all look bleak but to ignore those possiblities would make it a waste of time and that is growing ever shorter.

* When real scientists make predictions and those predictions start to come true, that means they’ve won the argument, Hirelings of industry, ideological fanatics and their journalistic equivalent, you’ve lost. That is already beyond doubt in the real world.

End of Year Badness Blogging

Posted by olvlzl

Fever's down, throat's scratchy, nose stuffed, look more like the old Willa Cather than the young David Nivin.

Maybe this is a good time to get this in before I make a resolution not to pick useless fights. But


There, that felt better. More to follow.

Happy New Year!

To us all. May 2007 be one of those years that are not even worth putting into history books. Because only nasty events tend to be recorded.

Good energy to you and yours.

Echidne and Henrietta the Hound and the snakes, even Green Mamba

Friday, December 29, 2006

On Saddam Hussein

He has been hanged by the neck until dead. At least it was done so fast and secretly that we are unlikely* to get videos of it on the internet or even in the mainstream media. Only yesterday I saw a poll on some website about whether we should be allowed to watch the hanging from the privacies of our own homes, perhaps with popcorn included, and I went all despairing about the human species, once again. Because I don't really like the idea that public executions used to be a major form of family entertainment.

Added: After surfing the blogs I find that we are now supposed to feel safer than before. Ok. I will try.

*Added even later: Looks like there is a video. Damn.

Health Care Politics and the Elderly

This piece of news is a few days old but what it describes is still relevant:

Some prescription drug plans did not inform Medicare beneficiaries of impending changes in their costs and benefits, as they were required to do, Bush administration officials and Congressional aides said Tuesday.

This could be a serious omission in a program where beneficiaries need accurate information to choose among dozens of competing private plans.

Administration officials have told Congress that they may give these beneficiaries a six-week extension of the open-enrollment period, which ends Sunday. Beneficiaries could use the extra time to compare the options that will be available to them in 2007.

Drug benefits are administered by private insurers under contract to Medicare. Premiums, co-payments and the list of covered drugs vary by plan. In general, people who are enrolled in a drug plan and take no action by Sunday will remain in that plan throughout next year.

Even when a Medicare drug plan keeps the same name, its costs and benefits may change substantially on Jan. 1. Medicare officials repeatedly told insurers that they must notify beneficiaries of such changes by Oct. 31 of this year. But some insurers did not send out the "annual notice of change" documents, which can be 30 or 40 pages long.

Thirty or forty pages of information to decide which plan to sign up with? How many of the insured elderly can digest that and make meaningful choices, what do you think? How many of the non-elderly could do so?

This is a real problem with the patient-initiative school of pro-market health care politics. Patients don't really have the time and the expertise that is needed to make sense of the myriad different policies which often differ in ways that are hard to spot but which may come back to bite your ass. Note that people are not just asked to compare prices the way we do when buying ordinary groceries. They are also asked to compare the quality of the services and to try to predict their own health needs in the coming year. Now, a voodoo board might do as well for all that as poring over those forty pages.

And Yet More Feminist Blogs

Melinda Casino noted in my comments to the earlier post on the feminist blogosphere that I only linked to the large blogs (though not even to all of them, say, Majikthise), and she is right. I was trying to avoid the work of linking because link-minding is the one part about blogging I truly dislike. But she is right, so here are some links to a bunch of interesting feminist or profeminist blogs. (There are more in my blogroll, enough for a second post later on.):

Women of Color blog is always interesting, whether I agree with the posts or not, and so is Angry Black Bitch. It's a useful thing to learn about how race makes a difference in feminism. I like A View From a Broad for slightly similar reasons, to let me see how other people think about issues when they are not placed where I am placed. And the Gimp Parade is a good place for understanding the intersection of disability rights and feminism.

Maya's Granny is a blog I enjoy, even when the contents are not explicitly feminist ones. Mad Melancholic Feminista has a lot of good academic stuff. And Sour Duck has good feminist commentary on social and cultural issues. Then there is Reclusive Leftist and Faux Real Tho!, both good in general on feminism.

Then there are the sites which are more like expert blogs. For example, Our Bodies Ourselves and Feminist Law Professors. I haven't blogrolled these types of blogs in the past, because I saw the role of the blogroll differently, but I may change this policy.

The characterizations above are my own opinions, and others might find different aspects of these blogs more interesting.

Grumpiness Coefficient: High

Blogger doesn't have the ability for me to say how I'm feeling while typing each post in, and mostly that is just fine, but right now I want to point out that I'm grumpy. I don't want to write about Gerald Ford and I don't want to write about silly plans about how to win the unwinnable war that is the Iraq occupation. And most nobody reads my economics posts or that's how it seems to me.

So I wanted to put up a picture of an embroidery which has a neat feminist theme but I gave it away and I can't find the jpg of it anywhere. Grrr. And explaining the embroidery in words would spoil it should I come upon it later on.

Usually when I'm this grumpy I'm coming down with something.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Julius Caesar - Irresistible to Women!

I'm listening to a public radio station running an interview with some guy who has written a book on Julius Caesar. As part of the conversation, the interviewer and the interviewee discuss Caesar's supposed bedroom triumphs. He is said to have bedded not only the wives of his political enemies but also those of his political allies. Because he had to be the best in everything, they say.

So women went all gooey over Julius Caesar, the conclusion seems to be. Then the next topic is about how violent politics had become during that era. Will the two men discussing the topic manage to link the political violence to the question of how a woman might have had the gall to refuse THE EMPEROR her bed? And what might be the result for a woman who refused him or for her family?

Odd blind spots people have. This is a little similar to the argument that women really desire the rich old guy with all the power. Not his money or the power he can wield to hurt you or help you, but the guy itself. Now, some rich old guys can be quite sexy, of course, but the idea that having money or power somehow makes the guy himself sexy is crap and largely promoted by old guys who have money.

Other Feminist Blogs

There are so many good ones, these days. Just check out my blogroll for some. I have many others waiting to be added in the to-do-list, but you can also find more in the blogrolls of Pandagon,, feministe, BitchPhd and so on. Also at Shakespeare's Sister and Rox Populi and...

This wasn't the case when I started blogging. Alas, a Blog was around then but few other explicitly feminist blogs, or if they existed I didn't find them. I'm so happy with the growth in feminism in the blogosphere, so happy! For the obvious reasons but also because it allows me to specialize in only certain feminist topics as I know that others are covering the rest of the field much better than I ever could so I don't have to try.

That's one reason why I don't write a lot on rape, for example. Not because it wouldn't be a very important topic but mostly because I read what needs to be said on those other excellent blogs. But another reason I don't write about rape has to do with my reluctance to write about the one time someone tried to rape me. I don't really want to go there, and that tells me that I should. So I will, tomorrow... Thanks for the reader who told me to write about something challenging.

Check out the vast world of feminist blogs. Lots of thinking and debating going on there.

Sex Your Brain!

Phila gave us this interesting "sex on the brain" link to a test on the BBC website you can take. It's supposed to tell you if you think more like a man or a woman. Sadly, it is quite a biased study. Here, for your information are a few of the statements in the test which are intended to tell if you are good at systematizing or empathizing. Naturally, the first is defined as a male attribute and the second a female attribute.

Ready? The idea is to see how strongly you agree or disagree with the following statements:

I really enjoy caring for other people.

I find it difficult to read and understand maps.

It is hard for me to see why some things upset people so much.

I find it easy to put myself in somebody else's shoes.

I find it easy to grasp exactly how odds work in betting.

If anyone asked me if I liked their haircut, I would reply truthfully, even if I didn't like it.

I find it difficult to learn how to programme video recorders.

I do not enjoy games that involve a high degree of strategy (e.g. chess, Risk, Games Workshop).

Other people tell me I am good at understanding how they are feeling and what they are thinking.

I can remember large amounts of information about a topic that interests me e.g. flags of the world, airline logos.

I am able to make decisions without being influenced by people's feelings.

People sometimes tell me that I have gone too far with teasing.

I know very little about the different stages of the legislation process in my country.

I usually stay emotionally detached when watching a film.

I can easily visualise how the motorways in my region link up.

I can tell if someone is masking their true emotion.

Note anything funny? Notice how the emotional questions are left mostly vague but the systematizing questions have very specific examples, examples which all have to do with male roles in the society? For example, we are gently steered to think about odds in the sense of BETTING (still largely a male hobby). Then we are told to think about the ability to remember large amounts of information and the examples are FLAGS OF THE WORLD, AIRLINE LOGOS. Then there is stuff about MOTORWAYS. And references to very specific games of risk.

It would be fairly astonishing not to find the answers biased by sex even if systematizing was an equally likely characteristic of both sexes. Now think about how those questions could be changed to make the test less biased. Why not add examples which apply to hobbies women have? For example, in the statement about remembering large amounts of information, why not add an example to collections of Barbi dolls or 1930s jewelry or embroideries? And in the empathizing questions, why not give some specific examples that might apply not only to women's traditional societal roles? Something about what a man might do when coaching children in sports, for example?

I was also annoyed to find that the tests don't pay any attention to cultural aspects in general. For example, the little summaries one gets after completing a part of the test tell us what we should believe based on evolutionary psychology theories only.

Here is the list of the experts BBC contacted, by the way:

Dr Simon Baron-Cohen
Autism Research Centre, Cambridge, UK

Dr Richard Lippa
California State University, Fullerton, USA

Dr John Manning
University of Central Lancashire, Preston, UK

Prof David Perrett
University of St Andrews, St Andrews, UK

Dr Stian Reimers
University of Warwick, Coventry, UK

Notice anything odd there? If men and women think so very differently, how come is the whole test created by men?

On Islamofascists

Atrios links today on a post by Sadly, No, which gives this quote from a wingnut blog:

As I have said again and again, if you, as a Muslim, want the American people to stop eyeing you with suspicion, then you and your brethren will need to do something about those who use Islam as an excuse for perpetrating mass murder. It would also help if you quit acting like terrorists when you board an airliner. Don't ask for special treatment. Be part of the solution instead of being part of the problem. You want us to view you as just another American? Then start acting like someone who's actually on the team.

And Cultural sensitivity? How about some cultural sensitivity for Americans who lost nearly 3,000 of their loved ones early one morning on 11 September, 2001? Why should "cultural sensitivity" for your "feelings" take precedence over the current and future safety of our citizens? Sorry. You can take your "cultural sensitivity" and stick it where the sun don't shine.

Try a little substitution here. Put in "men" for "Muslims", "rape" for "9/11" and "women" for the "real Murkans". I bet that the writer of this post would scream in rage at what that substitution would create. It is very weird.

Snake Scales Are the Ultimate Aphrodisiac; Or A Melange Of Thoughts On Gerald Ford and Friends

Nothing, but nothing is as sexy as snake scales on a goddess. So says one Echidne of the snakes. Are you convinced? You shouldn't be.

Why then, are so many people convinced by Henry Kissinger's statement:"Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac?" Me and Henry are in the same boat here as neither of us has much else to claim than the thing we tout.

Enough joking. I have lots to be modest about, just like the recently departed Gerald Ford. It's interesting to watch the process of his sanctification, though I do wish it wouldn't last so long, what with the lying-in-state and the funeral and so on. I fear that I will learn more about Gerald Ford than I ever wished to know.

Though it would have been fun to know earlier that old Gerry was opposed to the Iraq war escapades. Sadly, we were not allowed to know that when the information might have done some good. Now it's safe to publish as the wingnut party enforcers can't whip Gerry. Or it doesn't matter if they do.

This embargo business makes me wonder how many other secret interviews there are. I guess we will never know.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

On Darfur

This is a topic that got the better of me. It was just too depressing to shout into the barrel. I started in March, 2004 and wrote more about Darfur in November, 2004. Then there was an action alert in February, 2005. Then I just gave up. I apologize.

Here are some more recent news on Darfur:

Sudan has agreed to a United Nations peacekeeping role in the Darfur region, but U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said he is taking "nothing for granted" after many false starts in getting relief to the war-torn area.

Sudanese Foreign Ministry spokesman Sadeq al-Magli on Friday didn't specify how many troops would be accepted but said the U.N. would mainly provide technical assistance, consultants and military and police experts. He added that the force would be commanded by the African Union.

Annan said earlier Friday he was encouraged that Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir would agree to a hybrid AU-UN force, along with a cease-fire and renewed peace efforts.

"I do fervently hope that we are now at last close to rescuing the people of Darfur from their agony," he said. "But after so many disappointments, I take nothing for granted."

The United Nations had been pushing for a much larger role in Darfur _ where AU peacekeepers are already operating _ in an effort to put an end to fighting that has claimed more than 200,000 lives and left 2.5 million displaced.

But al-Magli's comments reflected his government's long standing opposition to the deployment of 20,000 U.N. troops as proposed by the U.N. Security Council.

Between my early posts and today, how many people have died in Darfur? That came out wrong. I don't mean that my posts would have mattered, but that the wheels of international help grind so slowly that it's hard not to lose hope.

The Last Stance Against Femifascists

I thought that I was a feminazi but now I also seem to belong to the more general category of femifascists. This according to a forthcoming book by a sitting judge:

A liberal-bashing book by a veteran St. Louis judge is to become available publicly this week, but it is already causing a stir in political and legal circles — and prompting some to say it could cost him his job.

Chapter 1 of Circuit Judge Robert H. Dierker Jr.'s book, "The Tyranny of Tolerance: A Sitting Judge Breaks the Code of Silence to Expose the Liberal Judicial Assault," has circulated via e-mail since last month and been widely read in legal circles, lawyers and judges say.

The sentiments expressed in that chapter, which frequently uses the term "femifascists" and is titled "The Cloud Cuckooland of Radical Feminism," have already prompted a complaint with the state body that can reprimand or remove judges.

Other judges and lawyers have said that Dierker may have violated a state rule against a judge using his or her position for personal profit. One judge said it would be surprising if Dierker was not removed, calling the book "professional suicide."

Dierker ends his book by reassuring all us femifascists that he would rule fairly and justly from the bench should one of our cases come before him. So I am not at all concerned, naturally, as Mr. Dierker clearly doesn't have strong prior prejudices to combat.

It's odd how extremely powerful and evil feminists are in this country. How fascist and nazi-like they are. How vicious and evil. And powerful, did I mention that? You can see the influence of feminists everywhere: Those long government-funded maternity leaves and those bans on inquiring about pregnancy when interviewing women for a job! The long, unbroken chain of only women in the Supreme Court! The female bishops and of course the woman Pope! And nothing but women to run the large companies or this country! And of course women own all the media corporations, too and the porn providers on the internet.

No amount of my sarcasm will make any difference. It's like that old cartoon showing a boardroom meeting with about twenty men and one woman sitting around a long table while being introduced to a second woman to join the board. The thought bubble over the sitting woman's head says "Still only two women!", whereas the thought bubbles over the heads of all the men say "We are surrounded!"
Hattip to mbcviews.

A Feminist Pet Peeve: The Hairy Armpit Wars

A recent wingnut cartoon adventure story (read: incitement towards civil war) has the picture on the left about the horrible enemies of all right-thinking wingnuts: animal rights activists and I guess the animals they protect. They're coming to get you and your Bible!

But look at the stubble on the woman's legs. That is a signifier that she is a feminist, a feminazi, a woman who will probably eat her children. She's having leg hairs! Eek. She probably has hairy armpits, too. Pardon me while I vomit.

The history of the armpit wars is an interesting one. To understand why feminists focused on the womanly body hair requires first understanding how absolutely necessary it was deemed for a woman not to have hair except on her head and in her genital region. All other body hair was deemed as masculine and unnatural. Which is really weird, because women in fact grow hair on their legs and arms and in their armpits.

Now that I re-read the above paragraph I realize that the armpit wars are not at all over. Indeed, they have intensified, because now the only place where women can legitimately have hair is on their heads. The genital area is supposed to be waxed to look like that of a little girl or a porno star.

It is all very weird, because women do naturally grow hair on their legs and arms and in their armpits. The body does this, even in a good wingnut woman, and usually it is the wingnuts who argue that women are ___________ (insert some negative female characteristic here) naturally, biologically and unavoidably, and that the Bible decrees it so, too. But when it comes to the perfectly natural and possibly god-given body hair on women, these wingnuts and many other Americans go bonkers. Shave, you slut!, they screech. Because those who don't shave are Evil.

From a thinking angle the armpit wars are part of the war on accentuating sex differences. Women must somehow look more like women should look if women had been designed properly in the first place: bigger breasts and more torpedo-like breasts, more bare, smooth and hairless skin. And men are supposed to go to the other extreme with body-building work. There are even studies which show that women tend to use a higher voice in societies where femininity is prescribed, and of course we all know how a real man will not wear pink (in this culture and time period) or lace (in this culture and time period) or skirts (in this culture and time period).

Hence what is "feminine" has been socially decreed to include hairless legs and arms and empty armpits, even if Mother Nature disagrees. These things happen. But it is very fascinating that the societal decree is so often interpreted as the real truth, that somehow women indeed are hairless like little Easter eggs and that it is only the evil feminazis who manage to sprout hair everywhere.

Is this enough background to explain why the armpit hair became an issue in Serious Feminist Circles? Because women do naturally grow hair in the armpits and the society states that this should not happen, even though it does happen, and quite innocently, too? And that this is the reason why all woman are expected to spend money and creams and razors on themselves on a regular basis. To refuse to do any of that shaving was a statement that women are just fine as they come, that women don't need to be shaped into totally alien life forms to be acceptable, that even after all that reshaping and plastic surgery and shaving, shaving, shaving, women were still not acceptable in most places.

Besides, making the nonshaving statement cost something to the maker. Unpleasant attention, at a minimum. And this was a way of trying to change the society and to make a sacrifice. Then of course many women just liked the idea of cutting back on all that shaving.

I seem to be telling this story both in the past sense and in the present sense, and perhaps that is the correct way to tell the story. Here comes the twist to the story: The reactions to the armpit hair revolution were swift and of the expected type. The hairy armpit wearers were condemned as ugly (why not talk to Mother Nature about that?), as manly (ditto) and as unable to attract men and therefore giving up on the fight. But the hairy armpit wearers were also labeled as focused on a trivial matter, on something that has to do with body grooming, on something that was so silly as to endanger the whole feminist movement. You may have read the sort of thing I'm thinking about here: Someone writes about the horrible plight of women in some other country and then points out that all American feminists do is to stare into their armpits, and besides, armpit hairs are yucky.

And so this became one of my pet peeves: Because the gesture did not make the point it was supposed to make. Because women are still expected to reshape their bodies to be closer to some fictional (and extreme) ideal of womanliness. And because very few people point out how the whole concept of women's bodies as so faulty is the really ridiculous one and the one that we should discard. After that discarding has taken place, who cares if some women would still shave or not?

I would love to stop discussing the "to shave or not" topic in feminist circles and to start focusing more on what the ridiculing opposition is really saying. Just think about it for a few seconds. Their message is that it is not nature that defines what a woman is, but they, the namers and deciders. And they have decided that a woman in this culture should be without body hair but with very large and perky breasts and basically no hips. It is not some historical or theological concept of womanliness but a purely cultural one, and it is based on the accentuation of gender differences, with a few cultural quirks thrown in.

I see an analogical case in the discussion about cognitive differences between men and women*. The anti-feminist point is always to try to make women and men into two quite different species, two "opposite sexes" as the saying goes, whereas the evidence I've studied and my life experiences all suggest that men and women are like two overlapping Venn diagrams in almost everything. Partly different and partly the same. This messiness, like armpit hairs on women, is unacceptable to the patriarchal mind.
*Today's example of the wingnut tendency to essentialize the sexes (though really only the women) is in this Praeger rant. Note also the strawwoman he erects about how the "left" believes that the sexes are identical.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The New York Times On The Gender Gap in Earnings

An article worth reading, but with some reservations, which I shall graciously provide here. The first reservation has to do with this comment:

Like so much about gender and the workplace, there are at least two ways to view these trends. One is that women, faced with most of the burden for taking care of families, are forced to choose jobs that pay less — or, in the case of stay-at-home mothers, nothing at all.

If the government offered day-care programs similar to those in other countries or men spent more time caring for family members, women would have greater opportunity to pursue whatever job they wanted, according to this view.

The other view is that women consider money a top priority less often than men do. Many may relish the chance to care for children or parents and prefer jobs, like those in the nonprofit sector, that offer more opportunity to influence other people's lives.

Both views, economists note, could have some truth to them.

This description may reflect the two views fairly well, though there are more views than these two (as the article makes clear later on), and even these two should be interpreted in a more complicated manner. But the real reservation I have is this: People tend to use stuff like this to support their own preferred view as if the evidence from a particular study could be interpreted whatever way you prefer. This is not correct. If you wish to learn more about all this, click on the website given at the top of this blog and read my three long posts on the gender gap in wages.

The second reservation I have is the old one about differences in gender preferences, you know, the idea that women don't care as much for money or want jobs with better amenities. This may well be true, on average, in the sense of a small percentage difference between how men and women would rank different characteristics of a job. But the presence of these differences doesn't tell us why they exist. Yet wingnuts, especially, assume that all this is "choice" and therefore nothing to worry about.

Consider, for a moment, a woman who has grown up in a society where women do most of hands-on childcare, are expected to do most of it, and where many women take time off from the labor market to do this and where the expectation is that the husbands of these women will enable them to take that time off. How would this woman plan her own future if she wishes to have children one day? Might she not decide, quite rationally, that she needs to find a job with enough flexibility so that she can drop out of the labor market for a few months or a few years and come back without getting tremendously punished for that in terms of lost future earnings? And might she not also decide, equally rationally, that she must accept lower earnings in exchange for this greater flexibility?

What I am trying to explain in the above paragraph is the idea that our preferences and desires may not be some completely inherited biological instincts but may equally well be formed during our childhoods based on how the actual society works for women and men, respectively.

My final reservation in reading these types of articles is always to do a gender reversal inside your head. It shows you all sorts of interesting things. In the case of this article, for example, it made it clearer to me how unquestioning we are about men's "choices" in the labor markets.

Pope And Prejudice

A riff on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice? Or just a bad title early on Boxing Day? The title has to do with Pope Benedict's odd ideas about prejudice. Here he talks about the need to overcome prejudice for world peace:

At the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI used his weekly Sunday blessing to appeal for people to recognize their common bonds.

"Jesus came for each one of us and made us brothers," he said from his window overlooking St. Peter's Square as pilgrims and tourists began gathering for the Christmas Eve midnight Mass to be celebrated by the pope.

Benedict said people should strive to "overcome preconceived ideas and prejudices, tear down barriers and eliminate contrasts that divide or worse set individuals and peoples against each other, so as to build together a world of justice and peace."

Nice, isn't it?

And here is Benedict, again, on the topic of prejudice:

"I cannot silence my worry about the laws on unmarried couples," Benedict said. "Many of these couples have chosen that road because, for the time being, they don't feel up to accepting the judicially ordered and binding cohabitation of marriage."

"And so joining a man and a woman, and two people of the same sex becomes the same," Benedict said. "With that, the ominous theories that deny any relevance to the human person's masculinity and femininity are tacitly confirmed."

Butbutbut... Did you notice how Jesus came in the first quote and made us all brothers? You know, male siblings. What happened to the relevance of the human person's masculinity and femininity? Or is it rather that we should discard prejudice among men and not otherwise?

Monday, December 25, 2006

Five Pieces

Of personal trivia most people don't know about me. I got tagged by postcards from guyville. Some of you know that I freeze with these kinds of topics and usually absolutely totally refuse to contribute to the game, but today is Christmas Day and we are supposed to be merry and relaxed, so here I go. All these are true, by the way, but a variation of the game allows you to have one false one in the group of five and then others can try to guess which one it is. You could play that one in the comments with your own five personal secrets.

Things about me that not many people know (and even fewer want to know):

1. Echidne of the snakes doesn't really exist, you know. Or at least doesn't have a physical form. She may have just taken over an empty husk to have access to fingers and a keyboard. Then again, perhaps she is quite real and right now gently tickling your left earlobe.

2. I have one asymmetrical toe, longer than it should be. They always refuse to have that put into my passport as the identifying feature. According to evolutionary psychologists, this longer toe should make me completely unfuckable, because only symmetrical people are alluring.

3. I find temples fascinating. The temples on people's heads, that is. They are beautiful and make me melt with compassion and wonder. And have you noticed that there is an upside-down Donald Duck's head inside your ear? Miraculous!

4. I am right-footed. You can test your footedness by asking someone to suddenly push you from behind. If you prop yourself up by stepping forward with your left foot, then you are a foot southpaw. Even my dogs favor either the right or the left paw.

5. Once I overslept a cheap prepaid flight even though I had two alarm clocks rigged to alarm, one after the other. I had to take out a loan to buy a new ticket for the flight which was sorta important to be on. This matters, because if I had not taken out that loan I probably wouldn't be here.

I know the real game, of course. It is to judge the answers to see what one leaves out and puts in. But I'm playing on that level, too, nananah. (Sticks out viper tongue.)

Merry Christmas To All

From Henrietta the Hound

Merry Christmas!

Peace, Joy and Happiness to All!

I like this Coptic poem for the occasion:

The Thunder, Perfect Mind

I was sent forth from the power,
and I have come to those who reflect upon me,
and I have been found among those who seek
after me.
Look upon me, you who reflect upon me,
and you hearers, hear me.
You who are waiting for me, take me to yourselves.
And do not banish me from your sight.
And do not make your voice hate me, not your
Do not be ignorant of me anywhere or any time.
Be on your guard!
Do not be ignorant of me.

For I am the first and the last.
I am the honored one and the scorned one.
I am the whore and the holy one.

I am the wife and the virgin.
I am the mother and the daughter.
I am the members of my mother.
I am the barren one
and many are her sons.
I am she whose wedding is great,
and I have not taken a husband.
I am the midwife and she who does not bear.
I am the solace of my labor pains.
I am the bride and the bridegroom,
and it is my husband who begot me.,
I am the mother of my father
and the sister of my husband,
and he is my offspring.
I am the slave of him who prepared me.

I am the ruler of my offspring.
But he is the one who begot me before the time
on a birthday.
And he is my offspring in due time,
and my power is from him.
I am the staff of his power in his youth,
and he is the rod of my old age.
And whatever he wills happens to me.
I am the silence that is incomprehensible
and the idea whose remembrance is frequent.
I am the voice whose sound is manifold
and the word whose appearance is multiple.
I am the utterance of my name.

I am the knowledge of my inquiry,
and the finding of those who seek after me,
and the command of those who ask of me,
and the power of the powers in my knowledge
of the angels, who have been sent at my word,
and of gods in their seasons by my counsel,
and of spirits of every man who exists with me,
and of women who dwell within me.
I am the one who is honored, and who is praised,
and who is despised scornfully.
I am peace,
and war has come because of me.
And I am an alien and a citizen.
I am the substance and the one who has no substance.

Re-run Of A Story

This is a story I've already posted here, but it's feminist and it's about Christmas and I'm cooking so here it is, again:

Christmas Church

Mommy and daddy and brother and me are going to church. Church is god's house. You can't actually see god, daddy says. He is invisible. Maybe like fairies. Today is the birthday of baby Jesus. That's why we are going to church. I have new white boots and a white ribbon in my hair.

It is very very early. Really black outside and cold. Mommy is sneezing. She is not well because daddy's uncle and auntie came without telling us first, and mommy had to stay up late to cook and bake more. Mommy didn't want to come to church but daddy said it is just nerves. When I grow up I will have nerves, too.

The church doors are heavvy! It is dark inside, too, with candles in little cups on the walls and lots of people sitting on the benches. They don't talk. All I can hear is coughing.

We sit down at the end of the bench. It is too high and hard, like Grandma's outhouse seat. There are books with songs in them. I can't read them yet. We have to wait a long time before there is music. It is called organ music. First all the people on the little balcony sing. They are good singers. Then everybody sings. One lady sings really high and crackly, and one man sings really slow. He is still singing when everybody else stops. I think it is funny but daddy says god doesn't like little girls who giggle.

Then the minister goes to the front. He wears a dress. He does something at a table and then he starts talking. He says let us pray. Which means cross your fingers tight and close your eyes. He says in the name of the father, the son and the holy guest. God has an uncle visiting, too.

Then there is more music and singing. I really want to sing, too. I don't know the words so I make my own. I sing mom-my, dad-dy, brotherandmee. Mommy pokes me in the side. I am supposed to be quiet.

Then the minister is standing inside a barrel in the wall. I don't know why. He talks a lot. I am beginning to fall asleep. The flames in the candles look like they are dancing. He says in the name of the father and the son and the holy guest again. I think that mommy is crying. Daddy shushes her. If there is daddy god and little boy god, where are mommy god and little girl god? Have they gone visiting?

There is more singing. The candle flames are tied from both ends to the candle. They look like they are all trying to get loose from the candles. I hope that the one next to me wins.

Church is really boring. I am cold and need to pee. I want to go home.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

La Bolduc, The Queen of Canadian Folksingers.

Joyeux Noel, Mes Amis

On a trip to the Gaspé region of Quebec about ten years ago, my sister-in-law and brother bought a box of cassettes titled La Bolduc L’Integrale. That was my introduction to Mary (Travers)* Bolduc, "La Bolduc". If the phrase “pheomenon of nature” is overused sometimes, this wasn’t one of them. The first song on the album was the last one she recorded when she was already quiet ill. It was an amazingly long winded, cumulative song about going to the market to buy, if you can imagine, body parts. I’d love to include that and several other of her more astonishing feats of lung capacity, but couldn’t find a link for those. Her singing, her technique and phrasing were stunning. Singing almost entirely in French, her practice of “turluteage”, mouth music, was an iron link between Irish and French-Canadian folk traditions.

While on occasion her lyrics are pretty old fashioned, reflecting the fact that she was very much a traditional woman living in the early decades of the 20th Century, the same is true for most folk artists before the revival of the 1950s. You can take that into account and appreciate her wonderful artistry for what it is.

Collections Canada, has the most extensive English language site I found. It also has podcasting links which I haven’t tried. It has extensive links to recordings of complete songs. With its pop song references, "Gédéon amateur", on the third page, is particularly funny.

Here is another site.

And you can hear her yourself here:

Les Souffrances de mon accident

Si Vous Avez Une Fille Qui Veut Se Marrier

J’ai un bouton sur la langue

Les Policier

La Bastringue

Les Maringouins

Johnny Monfarleau

* Yes, Mary Travers. Seems to be a good name for great folk singers, doesn’t it.

Update: Someone explained Mp3s to me. Try Quand j'étais chez mon père and gape in amazement.

If the link doesn't work you can find it under Édouard Bolduc on this page of marvels and wonders. You wonder why they couldn't have at least put the title Mde in front of the name so people wouldn't be confused. This site is a goldmine.

New Blogger

You mean this isn't Beta?

Tales From The Road And Other Places

Timothy Anderson, a writer who is also a gay trucker, has written some interesting stories. Here is a collection of his Christmas stories. His other stories are pretty good too, giving a view of life and especially gay life that isn't talked about much.

A Computer Christmas Cracker

Posted by olvlzl.

First, Jokes to tell children, puzzle the youngest, make older ones roll their eyes and make a very few in between laugh.

What is different about the Christmas alphabet?

- Noel

You know, Christmas is just like a cat on the beach.

- Sandy claws. I’m told by a nine-year-old that if you have the right kind of family you can say, “a cat in the litter box”. Use your discretion.

Why would you give someone a broken drum for Christmas?

- As a present, you can’t beat it.

What did Adam say the day before Christmas?

- It’s Christmas, Eve.

Why does Dracula hate snowmen?

- They give him frostbite.

Variation: Why did Dracula scream when he saw the snowmen?

-They are cold blooded chillers.

Why are there snowmen but no snow-women?

- Women know better than to stand outside without a coat.

What do you call someone who is afraid of Christmas?

- A Claustrophobic.

Please share more with us.

What did the parents say when their daughter told them she was engaged to a snowman?

- Yes, he's very nice, dear, but what about the chilldren?

Second, some 3-d pictures, always guaranteed to keep children busy.

Third, Games that are fun and avoid hard feelings and temper tantrums. I love the New Games movement.

Fourth, Beauty, wonder and mystery, The Astronomy Picture of the Day