Saturday, December 6, 2008

Christmas Rant

I don’t give a crap about Christmas. There. Call me Scrooge, I don’t care.

I also don’t give a crap about my birthday, my wedding anniversary, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Thanksgiving, or, really, any day that has been set aside as something special, but seems to actually be set aside in order to encourage profligate and unnecessary spending.

Every day I am alive is as special as the day on which I was born. Every day I am married to my wonderful Nigel is as special as the day on which we married. Every day on which I have enough to eat is as special as Thanksgiving. Every day on which I act as a good citizen and enjoy the fruits of democracy is as special as Independence Day.

But I digress. Back to Christmas. Both my family and Nigel’s family are populated by several poor planners and spendthrifts. Without going into boring detail and a 40 page rant, let’s just say that my brother and his family, Nigel’s brother and his girlfriend, and Nigel’s mom and her boyfriend have planned their finances very poorly and can’t control their impulses to spend money they do not have to buy luxury items. We have given Nigel’s mom large amounts of money twice within the past year, simply to allow her to eat and pay her bills. My brother and Nigel’s brother generally leech off of my mom and Nigel’s dad respectively.

At any rate, the tale continues as we plan for our trip back to the US for Christmas. Nigel got an e-mail from his brother recently saying that he and his girlfriend have no money but that their mom has helped him get presents for us and for the kids. This pisses me off on several levels:
1) His mom doesn’t have any money. How does Nigel’s brother have the nerve to leech off her? Why give gifts at all?
2) Again, his mom doesn’t have any money. Why give gifts at all?
3) When we give his mom money to allow her to pay bills and eat food, why would she think it is okay to use that money to buy crap for our kids!? We can buy crap for our own kids without her as the middle man. Why would she think it is okay to buy crap for our kids for Nigel’s BROTHER to give them?
4) Why can’t we just have a nice dinner and stay up all night talking and laughing and listening to music? Why do there have to be gifts at all when nobody has the money to pay for them?

We have asked them NOT to give presents they can’t afford. Why do they insist on it? Especially when they can’t even buy themselves the requirements for life without subsidization? I understand the desire to give things to your grandchildren, nieces, and nephews. I do not begrudge them wanting credit for getting things for the kids. They want the kids to love them the most and apparently think that unless they buy crap for them, the kids won’t love them. Whatever – we’re trying to raise the kids not to think that way. We’re trying to raise them to be responsible and productive members of society, neither dependent on others nor with others dependent on them. We’re trying to raise them knowing that PEOPLE are more important than THINGS, and that love is better displayed through everyday kindnesses than through the occasional giving of things.

There is an additional angle here, too, in that MY mom spent her whole life planning for retirement. She invested the maximum allowable into her retirement fund, made sure she did not spend money she didn’t have, and hired a financial planner to help her maximize her money and prepare for the earliest possible retirement date. Because of her good planning, she actually has disposable income, not as much as in the recent past, due to the current economic crisis, but she does well for herself – through her own hard work and thoughtful planning. This is a bone of contention between her and MIL. MIL feels competitive. While she can’t buy the kids one expensive toy or other gift, as my mom has done in the past, she tries to outdo my mom in quantity, with bags and bags of crappy crap from the Dollar Store.
In addition, Nigel’s dad recently remarried a woman with seemingly bottomless reserves of cash. So there’s competition there as well.

Nigel and I have also been actively planning for the time when we either don’t want to work anymore or cannot work anymore. We have invested and planned for ourselves and for our kids’ futures. We have pinched pennies and minimized spending on non-necessities for the past 15 years and have built up a nice nest egg.

Am I wrong to be offended? Am I a bitch for thinking that the $100.00 my MIL spent on bags of Dollar Store crap that will be broken within 24 hours of Christmas would have been better spent on my MIL’s household heating bill, or that Nigel’s brother would be better off using any money MIL gives him to pay off one of his credit card bills instead of buying crap for my kids? Am I stingy for thinking that if she has the nerve to ask for financial help from Nigel and I this Christmas, I will put my foot down and tell her to piss off until she can swear on a stack of WalMart circulars that she will not buy a single thing for us or our kids during the year? I fear that Nigel and I will not benefit from our hard work and penny pinching because of the profligacy of our families. Will we have to continue working until we die so that our families can buy Christmas presents for people? Fuck that.

I need to think of some sort of solution for the dilemma. My first thoughts are that I need to get Nigel’s support and tell everyone, my family AND his, that next year, for the kids’ birthday and for Christmas, if they MUST give presents, they will contribute to a central pool of money and that money will be used by the kids to buy something they want or need. Nobody will know how much any other person put into the pool, thus removing the competition angle. Also, any additional gifts given will be returned and the money will be given back to the giver or applied to the giver’s utility bill or mortgage/rent. This should also apply to any gifts given to me or to Nigel. We do not need socks or sweaters or potpourri, and if we do, we can get it ourselves.

Can’t we make Christmas, which I hate anyway, into a simple day, one to spend with our family eating and talking and laughing and having fun? Now, THAT, I wouldn’t hate.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

College Student's Suicide Blamed on Dawkins

A young college student has committed suicide. His father blames Richard Dawkins's The God Delusion for causing the young man to lose faith in God and in a fit of hopelessness, kill himself.

Keith Kilgore told WND he feels, by allowing his son to move into the atmosphere of a secular school, like "I put a toddler in the front of my car."

Exactly so. By teaching his child that there is nothing but but hopelessness and nihilism without a god, and that intelligent design is a viable alternative to the theory of evolution and then sending him out into the real world, to a real college, with a real biology class, he DID put his child in the front of a car. I have found nothing in The God Delusion that says life is meaningless and hopeless without a god; on the contrary, Dawkins is consistent in that he loves to write about how fascinating and beautiful life in the real world is and he encourages readers to seek that fascination in their own lives.

Any good biology class will challenge fundamentalist beliefs. This poor young man was taught from childhood all the terrible arguments anti-science religious people parrot long after they have been refuted. It would have been difficult for any child growing up knowing only the " then why are there still monkeys" and "where are the transitional forms" types of argument to stay faithful in the face of actual scientific knowledge that would contradict what he has been taught all his life. How difficult and depressing it must have been for this obviously intelligent young man to finally understand that his family and friends and community had been lying to him his entire life.

"I'm all for academic freedom," Keith Kilgore said. "What I do have a problem with is if there's going to be academic freedom, there has to be academic balance. They were undermining every moral and spiritual value for my [son]," he said. "They ought to be held accountable."

Because, obviously, and as many others have written, colleges and universities should be teaching future MD's how to balance the four humours through bleeding and purging in addition to actual science-based medicine, such as germ theory. And astronomy students should be learning astrology and geocentrism as well. And chemists should learn alchemy. And geologists should learn flat-earth theory. For academic BALANCE, you know.

Damn those scientists and their big brains! Don't they know it is their job to make sure their students' moral and spiritual needs are being met in their classrooms? If I choose to raise my child to believe things that directly contradict reality, and to take pride in his ability to debate his false beliefs against the blasphemers using stale and long-discredited arguments, they should respect that and cater to his ignorance by teaching the falsehoods WITH the reality! That's what I'm paying them for! They ought to be held accountable!!!

IMO, Mr. Kilgore, his family, his church, and his community should be held accountable for lying to this young man and encouraging his false beliefs and hopes, directly resulting in his loss of faith and suicide. Apparently and very sadly, based on the young Kilgore's lack of communication with his father and other family members in regard to his loss of faith, the poor young man felt unable to even discuss his despair with his family, and instead, only communicated his feelings to a few friends who apparently didn't feel it would be appropriate to inform anyone who might be able to help him. While that is not quite as morally reprehensible as watching a young man commit suicide on the internet and doing nothing other than express shock or laugh and encourage him to do it, I still have to wonder how these "friends" will handle the guilt of knowing how depressed and hopeless Kilgore felt while doing nothing to help.

I say that it was this young man's parents, his friends, and his church that betrayed his trust and set him up for this tragedy. Dawkins's books are chock full of hope. Religion is chock full of false hope.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

My Supernatural Pet-Power

I scoff at people who tell me, “It was MEANT to BE!” However, that said, one afternoon, I picked up the kids from school and as we were driving down the not-yet-paved road away from school, a black dog ran right in front of the van. I honestly thought I had hit the poor thing. I screeched to a halt, got out, and ran around the front of the van to look - nothing. I went around the passenger side - nothing. I went to the back - nothing. I could hear the kids shrieking, but thought it was because my fear had rubbed off on them. I finally shook my head and went to get back into the van. Guess who was in the driver’s seat?

There was absolutely no way we could have another pet. We already had four cats, two geckos, an aquarium, and another dog at home, and were preparing to move overseas for two years!

But we all fell in love with Zippy after we had gotten him back up to speed healthwise - he had been living out on the mesa, eating rabbits, and had worms and every other parasitical disgusting disorder possible. He was a loveable dork, with separation anxiety, nervous tail-biting, and a penchant for throwing up in the car.

Soon, though, the day came when I was going to have to find Zippy a new home. We had already prevailed on our families to keep two of the cats for us until we returned home, had found a new home for the geckos and the entire aquarium. One cat had died, and we were taking one cat and our other dog with us. Nobody wanted to keep Zippy. I called a friend who worked for one of those no-kill, all-volunteer, adoptathon places. She said there was little hope, since they had so many dogs who needed good homes, but to bring Zippy to their next adoptathon and fill out paperwork.

The morning of the adoptathon, I had a horrible cold, and almost decided not to go. But I got up and dragged my sorry butt and Zippy’s nervous and excited butt down to the place. I started filling out the paperwork, while Zippy stuck like glue to my leg.

Before I even finished, a man and his two kids came up with their dog and asked about Zippy. He and their dog sniffed each other and began to play. He twisted the kids up in his leash and licked them everywhere he could reach. The man said, “Well, that was easy. We want HIM.” I explained all about his nervousness and barfage, but they insisted Zippy was the one. So, within an hour, we had finished the paperwork, driven one of the volunteers to the family’s house to make sure it was appropriate for Zippy, gotten the volunteer’s approval, and sent Zippy off to his new home. It was so fast I didn’t even have time to get verklempt until I was driving home afterwards.

The family has sent me updates and photos and have reported that Zippy gets along famously with their other dog and cat (cats he did NOT tolerate at our house!), and had stopped biting his tail and never threw up in their car! He is much happier there than he was with us. The three kids fight over who gets to have Zippy sleep with them. The timing was perfect.

So, part of me says it was meant to happen exactly the way it did or it wouldn’t have happened so smoothly. The other part of me says, “Oh, come ON, ya’ freak!”

We also have a ginger cat, Tang, who is with us now, who I had known as a kitten when he was put up for adoption at the vet clinic where I worked. He was the last kitten left and I had almost talked DH into bringing him home, but we had a very old cat and didn’t want to torment her in her old age. After hours, I would let him out and he would follow me around while I cleaned up before leaving, chasing the dust mop, climbing up onto my shoulders, etc.

One day, he was gone. A friend of one of my co-workers had taken him home.

Six months later, this friend came in with him. He was horrible, she was allergic, they couldn’t keep him out in the garage anymore because he was peeing all over everything, etc. They had never vaccinated him, had no litter box (no wonder he was peeing all over the garage!), never neutered him. Basically, the poor guy was alone in a garage 24 hours a day. So I brought him home - after getting his vax done and having him neutered. He’s been perfect and is the best cat I have ever had in my life. When we decided to come overseas, and were looking for babysitters for our other cats, every single family member we asked said, “Oooh! I’ll take Tang!”

Again, it seems like it could have been meant to be! He reappeared just a week after our older cat had died. He seemed to remember me, though I’m sure he really didn’t. Had they just taken him to the pound, he probably wouldn’t have been a good candidate for adoption, since he was no longer a tiny, cute kitten and he had health issues that I was able to have corrected quickly and more affordably, since I worked at the clinic. He fit in immediately with our other cat and our dog. The timing was perfect.

Similar story applies to our other dog, but not as dramatic. A woman came in to the clinic with an adorable black and white dog under her arm. Her first words were, "I want a rabies vaccination and nothing else! How much will it cost?" While she waited for the doctor, the rest of the story came out. She had gotten the dog from AHA for her three(!)-year-old. The three-year-old, of course had no idea what to do with a dog, and was too afraid to go into the backyard anymore. The dog had been alone in the backyard getting haphazardly fed and watered (based on her condition when I first saw her), but never played with or trained in any way for the past six months. She smelled awful.

I suggested an exam and at least one more vaccination, for parvovirus, since I had seen puppies die of parvo and didn't want to see it ever again. She said, "No, just a rabies."

She went into a room to get the vaccine, and soon, the doctor came out from the back room with the dog under her arm. "Does anyone want this dog? The owner is going to take her to the pound as soon as we are done here. She only got the vaccine because she got a ticket for not vaccinating and she needs the vax certificate so she doesn't have to pay the ticket."

I immediately spoke up, "I want her." The doctor put her down and I squatted down and the dog ran over to me right away and tucked her head under my knee, peeing all over the place in excitement and nervousness. I typed up a document for the woman to sign stating that she was giving the dog to me in exchange for my paying for her vaccinations. The woman signed the paper and left with her vaccination certificate.

Before I left work that day, Speck had a complete exam, all the appropriate vaccines, a nice, long bath and grooming, and more love and attention than she'd probably had in her 8 months of life. She has been the best dog in the entire world ever since! The timing was perfect.

So, it appears that I have a supernatural power to arrange the best possible outcome for stray cats and dogs. Or perhaps I exude some ectoplasmic stuff that attracts the needy cases that only I can take care of appropriately. Or some other supernatural power arranged things and they were just meant to be.

Naah, I just got lucky. But it’s fun to play pretend!

Friday, November 7, 2008

When Patriarchy Makes the Rules V

11/11/08 Update: This young woman, the rape and murder victim, is named Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow. I want to always include names when I can find them. These victims should have names so that they are more difficult to forget. Let's not forget Aisha.

Pharyngula has this BBC article today. It is enough to render me speechless, but I'm fighting it.

A 13 year old rape victim was convicted by an Islamic court of adultery in Somalia. Following her family's report of her rape by three men, she was detained. She was placed into a hole up to her neck and stoned by a group of 50 or more men in a football stadium before an audience of at least 1000 people. They dug her up to make sure she was dead. She was not. They returned her to the hole and finished the job.

In further Somalian news, from the same article, two men who helped kill a thief after torturing his mother received 39 lashes, and the man who actually completed the murder paid 100 camels to the dead thief's family and was released.

Penalty for being raped: DEATH BY STONING.
Penalty for torture and aiding murder: 39 LASHES.
Penalty for murder: FINE OF 100 CAMELS.

Among the approximately 1000 fans at the football stadium watching the stoning of the crying, pleading rape victim, exactly NONE stepped forward to try to stop it.

Fucking barbarians.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Skeptic Alert!

While "Stop Sylvia Browne" website author, Robert Lancaster, was recuperating from a stroke, his domain name expired and was snapped up by a believer in/advertiser for psychics. In order to support Mr. Lancaster's herculean efforts to expose and document the activities of the heinous, money-grubbing, immoral, and unethical Sylvia Browne, please link to the new website:, tagging it ,Sylvia Browne. Hopefully if many bloggers do so, it will prevent potential victims of the wealthy scam artist, Sylvia Browne, from being sucked into allowing her or any other so-called psychic to profit from their grief by pretending to communicate with their dead loved ones.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Vote Early and Often!

Yeah, I'm kidding about that "often" part! But I have been reading things that say that lines are already starting to get long at early polling locations all over the country where early voting is allowed. If the lines are getting long now, imagine what they will be like on Election Day next Tuesday!

Don't miss your opportunity to vote by waiting until the last minute and getting there too late! Four years ago, I stood in line for 2 1/2 hours to vote in a PRIMARY! It took me so long, that by the time I was finished and got back home, Nigel didn't have time to go vote at all! Our candidate lost by ONE VOTE! Well, I kid, but really, folks, don't take the chance that you may lose your opportunity to vote! Go NOW! DO IT!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Who's An American?

Some people say Senator Obama is a Muslim. Others that he is a "Muslin." The truth is that he is a Christian. But there's a larger truth:


Photo from:

Saturday, October 18, 2008

In Honor of My Ting-Tang Kitty

My photo skillz are not mad. Caption should say: Yes, yes, this will MAKE excellent barfs.

For the Barf-Master, Tang of the World, Big Fat Orange Kitty. Mummy loves you!

Photo credit (of course)

Friday, October 17, 2008

Watch Out For a New Anti-Choice Meme!

I have a good friend here whom I really, really like. We have similar senses of humor and when we're together, we're almost constantly laughing. We have scads in common - three kids, ex-pats in Israel, Intel employed spouses, and much more.

What we do not ever discuss is religion and politics. I am a registered Independent who supports Obama/Biden this election. I am a strongly pro-choice, feminist, mostly-liberal, atheist. My friend is a die-hard party-line Republican who is stoked about McCain and especially Palin. She is most definitely not a feminist, is conservative and belongs to a fundamentalist evangelical church-franchise.

She knows my views. We have chosen never to go there because we just like each other too damned much and have too much fun together to take the chance.

Her parents are here for a few months to help her out while she recovers from tendon surgery which has put her in a cast for a long period of time and has forced her into immobility for at least two months. Her parents are funny, too, and we've had lots of laughs. They are VERY Catholic and are also anti-choice strict Republicans.

However, yesterday (she was not there), her dad was talking politics. I don't know how much my friend has told him about my views (probably not much, for fear he might tell her to stay far away from me.) So he told me yesterday, "I try to like Obama. I wonder all the time if I don't like him just because I somehow don't like black people. But I do like black people. I don't think I'm racist."

I responded, "If you don't like Obama's policies, then it's probably not because you're racist, but because you don't like his policies. If you do like his policies, but you want to vote for McCain even though you don't like McCain's policies, then you might just be racist."

He then went on (and on and on) about Obama being "pro-death." What the fuck does that even mean? Nigel told me later that I should have said, "Oh, Obama's for the death penalty? I haven't heard any discussion about that!" But I know that isn't what he was talking about. He was talking about being pro-choice and anti-abstinence-only education. I knew he held those views, but I'd never heard pro-choice being called pro-death before. I wonder now if that's the new meme the Catholic church is pushing and has sent out to its priests as a sermon-point.

I really, really, really don't want to lose a great friendship, especially because of her parents, rather than something SHE has chosen to take offense at. So I hemmed and hawed and just told him that you have to decide what your deal-breaker is and base your vote on which candidate doesn't have a policy that's a deal-breaker for you. He said, "Obama has a lot of my deal-breakers." So I said, "Well, there you go," and then changed the subject.

Has anyone else heard "pro-death" being bandied about? Have I just been missing it or is it a new part of the anti-choice discourse? It sure is ugly.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Jerusalem to Be Capital of Despotic World Government!

I have been reading Michael Shermer and Alex Grobman's excellent book, Denying History: Who Says the Holocaust Never Happened and Why Do They Say It?, published in 2000. It is an excellent and fascinating read, not only for the hard work and research the authors did in order to provide the facts, but also for the section about freedom of speech and why it is not necessarily an abridgment of that freedom for an institution to refuse to provide an outlet for lies and distortions.

One example given is that of Holocaust deniers purchasing ad space in college newspapers whose editors then cried, "Freedom of speech! Freedom of speech!" when the shit hit the fan. The authors wrote:
We must never pass a law that says Holocaust deniers may not publish their own literature. But we are not obligated to facilitate that expression.
Too many people do not see this distinction. I think Shermer and Grobman are right on about this.


One quote from the book that stood out to me, in that I burst out laughing when I read it, is from white supremacist and historical revisionist (a.k.a. Holocaust Denier) Jack Wikoff from his 1990 Remarks newsletter:
Revolutionary communism and International Zionism are twin forces working toward the same goal: a despotic world government with the capital in Jerusalem.
Oh, ha ha ha ha!! He may be entirely serious! But he's obviously not been to Jerusalem. It is impossible to find a parking place just to go to the grocery store or the post office, much less for the entire world's population of supposed revolutionary communists and Zionists to come here to set up a despotic world government capital! Plus, in local politics, it is impossible to even get the people from different neighborhoods in Jerusalem to agree on anything. Good luck with that World Government, I say. Batshit crazy that Wikoff is!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Now They're Poaching People!

An article in yesterday's IOL News says that ignorant fools who somehow believe that the blood and body parts of albinos can attract gold and despicable fools who claim the power to make magic charms from such material have opened up a new and lucrative market in Burundi and Tanzania: A market for dead albino parts. I'm not talking about albino tigers like these, or even albino apes like Snowflake. I am talking about albino HUMANS.

Rhinos, apes, monkeys, elephants, leopards, and many other animals have been threatened with extinction through poaching, and often for ridiculous reasons. Are we now to add humans with no melanin in their skins to the list?

A province official has opened his home to albinos who can get there, in order to protect them from roving gangs seeking to kill them for profit.

The report illustrates the path from discrimination to destruction that sometimes happens to minorities. Albinos have been ostracized,actively discriminated against, and mistreated in Africa. But now it has escalated to murder.

I have to wonder where this idea came from. Surely nobody just happened to kill an albino and then happened to notice that his/her blood or body part made gold come up from the ground. Some fishermen think using albino meat to bait their hooks will catch fish with bellies full of gold. Did this actually happen once? Where the hell did the idea originate?

I guess it could be similar to those who used to (and perhaps still do, in some places) blame Jews for things such as plague or financial collapse, leading others to first ostracize and eventually murder Jews. To the ignorant native "sorcerer/doctors", encouraging people to kill albinos and bring the blood and parts to be transformed into gold-attractor charms, it solidifies their power within communities, is lucrative for them, and rids the area of individuals they claim deserve death. Three birds with one stone.

Terrible and stupid! Hopefully the official who is protecting some of these people can find a way to stop this barbarism.

People are so bizarre. In some parts of Africa, people, even children and babies, are being killed because they have been accused of witchcraft. In other parts, people claiming to be sorcerers encourage killing albino people to make magic charms. What if the two groups met? Would they kill each other off?

Monday, October 13, 2008

A Busy Day for The Princess

Here is The Princess's to-do list for Sunday:

1. Clos, brafist, theeth and hair
2. daddy to bus.
3. play, Lunsh
4. compeupuptr
5. james, bath, bed

What a busy day!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Yom Kippur Riots in Acre

I was not at all surprised to read about the attempted stoning and subsequent riots in Acre on Yom Kippur. And it is still going on!

Even Acre’s Arab leaders are now caving in and saying that the driver should not have done whatever it was he did (allegations vary). Maybe not, and my family didn’t drive that day, not out of respect, but out of self-preservation, since we have accidentally driven near religious neighborhoods in Jerusalem and have been threatened with stones before we frantically backed away, but it is still ridiculous to expect non-Jews to follow specifically Jewish traditions.

A mayoral candidate is quoted in the article above as saying that this was a planned Islamic pogrom. What a terrible use of weighted words to raise anger and hostility. He also said that it wasn’t fair because Jews respected Ramadan for a whole month. What does that even mean? To disrespect Ramadan, what would they do? Hold some Muslims down and force them to eat during the day? Try to take away all their Qurans so they can’t read them?

In another stupid use of words, an Arab Israeli MK has called the riots a pogrom against Arabs.

There is no law saying no driving on Yom Kippur. It is considered bad form, but is not illegal, and I saw several dozen drivers on Road 1 during the day. It would be easy to make such a law if the people here wanted to. There is no separation of church and state here.

Or perhaps the Jews who want everyone to follow their traditions should move to the barricaded Haredim neighborhoods in Jerusalem where it is considered praise-worthy to throw stones at cars on Shabbat. But I’ll bet that would cramp their style.

So, we have Day Five of the riots today. Will Acre's Jews have a little something extra to atone for next year on Yom Kippur? If they take their book as a guide, they may not think they've done anything requiring atonement, since their god often commands them to wipe out non-Jews living in their promised land.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Naomi Wolf Puts a Bag on Her Head and Calls It Freedom

Joseph Orosco at Engage: Conversations in Philosophy, has a recent post regarding women choosing to wear bags over their heads and claiming it as a feminist act. In many ways, his post reflects what I've felt about this claim but have been unable to come up with nice words to describe my feelings. I tend to be more likely to laugh uproariously at such transparent ridiculousity. At any rate, go there, read his post. It also has a wonderful comparison between wearing the chador and learning pole dancing as feminist acts. READ IT, I say!

Joe links to a Naomi Wolf commentary which is much in need of discussion. Wolf (who, as the author of the classic The Beauty Myth, should know better! Come on, Naomi!) writes:
...many Muslim women I spoke with did not feel at all subjugated by the chador or the headscarf. On the contrary, they felt liberated from what they experienced as the intrusive, commodifying, basely sexualizing Western gaze.
This, according to Wolf, is GOOD.

Compare this to the message of The Beauty Myth: many Western women do not feel at all subjugated by the beauty requirements of cosmetic surgery and health-threatening diets. On the contrary, they feel liberated from what they experienced as the judgemental, insulting, basely de-sexualizing Western gaze. This, according to Wolf, is BAD.

A warning about Morocco from a poster at Lonely Planet says:
Word of warning for any females travelling alone or as a female-only group: the men of Marrakesh tend to voice their appreciation of the fairer sex. And when I say voice, I mean pester really; snake-like hissing, whispering Bonsoir in your ear, or general ogling (despite being covered up) - you have be [sic] warned...
(emphasis mine)Perhaps Morocco is alone in being a place where women get pestered even when covered up. I somehow doubt it.

Still, is unwanted attention “Western?” And if it happens even if a woman is covered, as in Morocco, are women “liberated” from it by covering? I think RELIEF is a better word to use in such situations than LIBERATE, and that perhaps covering oneself with a bag provides some small relief from constant harassment. Sometimes.

Having just finished reading The Beauty Myth, I would say that Wolf is slipping. In a chapter about cosmetic surgery (under the heading “Violence”), she writes that western women are forced have surgery in order to comply with the social requirement to remain beautiful (according to today’s pornalicious super-model standards). In "Hunger", she writes of how we are forced to diet ourselves sick for the same reason.

Perhaps it gives western women some relief when they surgically alter their faces and bodies, wear those fashionably sultry eye-shadows and the fashionable body-baring clothes, and shave their legs, since it prevents men from looking at them with that "look at the old hairy-legged lesbian hag in the baggy sweats" sneer-with-raised-eyebrow.

In her book, this is BAD. Women should be able to age naturally, to know themselves to be beautiful and be recognized as beautiful as individuals, rather than try to force ourselves into the beauty-myth template.

It is likely that the bagged women Ms Wolf has spoken to also feel relief that they are not harassed in the streets (sometimes) when they bag themselves. One woman Wolf spoke to said, “When I wear my headscarf or chador, people relate to me as an individual, not an object; I feel respected.” Is this respect? It sounds more like approval to me. Respect and approval are very different things.

In her commentary, this is GOOD. Women should be able to choose to hide themselves as a statement about the “Muslim attitudes toward women’s appearance and sexuality [which] are not rooted in repression, but in a strong sense of public versus private, of what is due to God and what is due to one’s husband.” Because men deciding women must wear bags except with their husbands isn’t repressive or anything, I guess. And attitudes towards women in Islam are not rooted in the belief that women are chattel or anything, I guess.[/sarcasm]

Is this any different from a surgically de-aged, dieted into frailness, dressed to fit the most recent arbitrary fashion requirements Western woman feeling as though she is respected, when most likely, she is only approved (USDA choice!) because she has squeezed herself into that template? Why is one considered a symbol of freedom and the other a symbol of patriarchy?

The last paragraph of Wolf’s commentary clears up the question of her agenda. She writes:
…when you choose your own miniskirt and halter top – in a Western culture in which women are not so free to age, to be respected as mothers, workers or spiritual beings, and to disregard Madison Avenue – it’s worth thinking in a more nuanced way about what female freedom really means.

Apparently her goal is to say that Muslim women who choose to bag themselves, and this is the MAJORITY of women in Egypt and Morocco, somehow have freedom that is greater than or equal to the freedom of Western women, who choose to wear miniskirts and halter tops or to disguise aging, all the while being disrespected as mothers, workers, and spiritual beings. I don’t see it. I don’t get it.

Is she saying Muslim women who wear bags are free to age, to be respected as mothers, workers or spiritual beings, and to disregard Madison Avenue? This after she has written, “At home, in the context of marital intimacy, Victoria’s Secret, elegant fashion, and skin care lotions abounded.” And then added a paean to the sensual dance brides are taught “as part of what makes her a wonderful wife.”

If the women Wolf spoke to feel disrespected, saying, “When I wear Western clothes, men stare at me, objectify me, or I am always measuring myself against the standards of models in magazines, which are hard to live up to – and even harder as you get older, not to mention how tiring it can be to be on display all the time.” What exactly are their choices? Put up with it or put a bag over your head? And I guess their husbands NEVER objectify them or make them feel too old, too fat, or not hot enough. I'd like to see that data.

If I feel disrespected for being a mother, for growing older without altering the evidence of my aging, for not wearing the latest haute couture from YSL or pornified fashion from JC Penney, for not trying to fit into some artificial mold, I talk about it. I find different people to hang around with. I work to change opinions. I exhibit my respectability. I teach my children about commercialism, ageism, sexism, and patriarchy. I don’t put a bag over my head and call it freedom.

There is more to discuss in Wolf’s commentary, specifically her belief that sexuality in the more modest culture of Islam is much healthier than here in the West. But that’s a different post. I’ll leave it with this for now: Again, we have an example of religious and political patriarchy protecting (or trying to protect) its child-like men from their baser instincts by keeping women under wraps. And it doesn’t even work.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

No Patriarchy in Southern Sudan - YET

I'm really tired of typing "When Patriarchy Makes the Rules." Can we just do away with the patriarchy now, please?

From MSNBC comes this tale from Juba, a town in southern Sudan. It seems several dozen women were arrested for "disturbing the peace" by wearing tight pants. Deputy Dawg, I mean Deputy Police Commissioner Raiman Lege said the trousers were just too darned tight!

The women were not charged, and were released the following day without charges (good!) after having been thrown into the back of a truck and spending the night in a Sudanese jail (bad!).

So, whose peace was disturbed? Let's see. The article mentions that south Sudan is a more liberal area than "the largely Muslim north" of Sudan. Juba is indeed in the south. The dateline of the article is quite confusing, since Juba is nowhere near Khartoum, which sits smack dab in the middle of the north, while the story location is "Juba, Khartoum." Northern Sudan is under a combination of British-style common law side-by-side with Islamic law (Sharia). Southern Sudan is nominally different, and is supposedly not required to comply with Sharia Law.

The majority of the population in southern Sudan practice animist or other indigenous religions, with small groups of both Christians and Muslims. Many citizens were angry with the arrest of the women, so one would logically want to know upon what authority the arrests were made. Is Deputy Dawg Christian or Muslim? Is there a "conquer from within" agenda among patriarchy supporters in southern Sudan? Have Sharia/patriarchy supporters infiltrated law enforcement in southern Sudan? Do some of the local religions require modest dress for women? I don't know.

If some law enforcement officials support Sharia, then the answer to "whose peace was disturbed" is: that of the child-like and impulsive Muslim men, who are, as usual, unable to control themselves at the sight of a woman's hips or legs and must be protected like babies from such a sight. If not, then perhaps the arresting officers or whoever gave the order to arrest the women has a problem with self-control and would blame women instead of their own personal failings. Either way it is fortunate that the court released the women without charges, though reprehensible that they had to spend the night in jail at all.

Still - Southern Sudan citizens, while I applaud your attempts to separate yourselves from the northern Sharia-infested legal system, your patriarchy is showing!

Photo credit: The Juba Post online

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

When Patriarchy Makes the Rules IV: Equal Opportunity

My last two posts addressed various patriarchal idiocies within specific Muslim and Jewish sects. Here, I would like to highlight a variety, well, just two for now, since this started to get pretty long, of patriarchal idiocies within various Christian sects.

On Sarah Palin:

Some group of christo-fascist freaks' blog, which also includes a section entitled "God's Hitlist [sic]":
You can’t call a woman who wants to be President a “lady”. That just ain’t gonna happen. I don’t mean to be a broken record but Sarah Palin’s gotta stay home with that poor little retard child of hers. Ain’t much else you can say about it. - Billy Bob Neck

From the same blog, having nothing to do with Sarah Palin, but I saw it and snorted tea out of my nose:
I noticed [on Conservapaedia] this astute and sobering observation concerning Hussein Obama’s birth certificate:
It’s interesting that they finally give the, so-called authentic, birth certificate number in this supposedly unfaked photo. It is 151 1961 - 010641. The reason I bring this up, and I think the REAL reason this was masked, is because numerological analysis shows something very disturbing. If you add up the three sets of digits thus:

151 + 1961 + 010641 = 12753

and then add the individual digits of the result thus:

1 + 2 + 7 + 5 + 3 = 18

the final result, 18, is the product of three sixes (3 x 6 = 18). Three sixes, or 666, sort of speaks for itself. I just thought this was interesting.

It’s not just interesting… it blows the whole Obama conspiracy wide open. Do the Demoncrats think that we wouldn’t notice that their candidate was the anti-Christ foretold in the book of Revelation? All it took was the god-given intellect of one Conservapedia reader to bust Obama’s devil-code wide open.

Yours in Christ,

Jimmy Goddard

Oh dear! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!!

NOTE: I do not recommend you go to this blog. It is mostly just bizarre, and in addition to the numerology crap above, also has a post about Senator Obama being a secret Voodoo practitioner. However, it is also an anti-choice blog and has some nasty photos.


From the LA Times:
"The Palin selection is the single most dangerous event in the conscience of the Christian community in the last 10 years at least," said Doug Phillips, president of Vision Forum, a Texas-based ministry. "The unabashed, unquestioning support of Sarah Palin and all she represents marks a fundamental departure from our historic position of family priorities -- of moms being at home with young children, of moms being helpers to their husbands, the priority of being keepers of the home."

Some of the debate centers on whether the Bible allows women to serve as civil leaders. Vision Forum leaders argue that it does not. They cite passages in Genesis, Isaiah, Ephesians and elsewhere that they say establishes male headship over women and are critical of female leadership.

I'll leave it there for now since this is long. Readers be aware that I do not support McCain/Palin. I have many, many, many reasons for this (no room here to list - maybe later), though, and Gov. Palin's womanhood is most definitely NOT one of them. She can work where ever she wants as far as I'm concerned, and she has plenty of money to hire nannies and housekeepers. It would be nice, though, if she would at least publicly recognize her privilege, instead of the bogus folksy aw-shucks crap.

Monday, October 6, 2008

When Patriarchy Makes the Rules III

Who'd a thunk there would be two of these brought to my attention in one day?

My previous post was in regard to a Muslim cleric in Saudi Arabia who has decided that women wearing black bags over their heads and bodies with only a slit for their eyes is insufficient and that women should cover all but one eye.

Now I've seen this article which includes descriptions of a man breaking into a woman's apartment and violently beating her while hurling death threats for being divorced(this is old news, and one article claims there were at least six other men involved in the beating,) a young woman from Bet Shemesh attacked with pepper spray by a group of men for walking around with some boys in Jerusalem, and rocks, curses, and spit being thrown at another young woman, also from Bet Shemesh, for wearing a red shirt.

As an extra, a Jerusalem store was vandalized by groups of men several times, and finally was torched, but not completely destroyed by a man or group of men, for selling MP4 players.

The divorced woman was under suspicion from the local modesty patrol for possibly having contact with men. Her attackers stole her cell phone, possibly to try to find out who she had called.

The girl attacked with pepper spray horrified the modesty patrol by walking with a group of young men.

The girl in the red shirt was attacked because red shirts draw attention.

The MP4 players might have been purchased and used to access the internet (forbidden!) and download porn.

The store that was vandalized and burned now has signs announcing that it no longer sells MP4 players and is under rabbinical supervision.

In addition to these tales of stupidity, chattelization of women, and haredi men's inability to control themselves, this article adds that stores selling clothing considered immodest have also been vandalized by these modesty patrols whose members throw bleach or otherwise destroy the merchandise.

The photo above, if you can't read it, says the following, transcribed without histrionic capitalization, bolding, and font size:
To women and girls who pass through our neighborhood
We beg you with all our hearts
Please do not pass
Through our neighborhoods in
Immodest clothes
Modest clothes include Closed blouse with long sleeves
Long skirt, no trousers, no tight fitting clothes
Please do not disturb the sanctity of our neighborhood
And our way of life as Jews committed to G-D and his Torah

What it doesn't say is:
Our men are unable to control their impulses
They are like children
Or 19th century sexually repressed Victorian men
Who could go batshit crazy with lust
Upon viewing a woman's ankle
Or wrist
Or arm or shoulder
Or leg or even the shape of a leg
If you tempt our men in such a fashion
We will hurt you
And it will be YOUR fault.

Stupid gits.

Photo credit: Kansas City e-Star, Sebastian Scheiner

When Patriarchy Makes the Rules II

What can one do but laugh to keep from crying:

One Saudi Muslim cleric has called for women to COVER ALL BUT ONE EYE! It seems that allowing two eyes to be seen is just too seductive, or rather, it tempts women to put makeup on those eyes, making them too seductive.

Ya know, if you are a man and you see two female eyes through a slit in a black bag over a woman's head and you just can't control your lust, it is not the problem of the woman.

Ya know, women wearing black bags over their heads and bodies, as required in Saudi Arabia, has not, not, not stopped rape from being a common occurrence in that country.

I could go on and on and on about just Saudi Arabia alone, and its backassward WOMEN = PROPERTY crap. And now dude says showing two eyes is too seductive. What the fuck ever, dumbass. Learn to control yourself.

It seems that Islam, at least in this particular sect, makes children of men, unable to control their childish and barbaric impulses. And of course, it's the women's fault! Even when they're wearing black bags.

Ridiculous and sad.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

MSM Has A Story!

I've been lax in keeping up with my regular news reads lately. So, I'm a bit behind the times, but had to share this!

While perusing a site I read regularly,, I ran across this, in the September 14th Weekly Feminist Reader post.

In a previous episode of When Patriarchy Makes the Rules, I had expressed dismay at the apathy of the US mainstream media in regard to "honor" killings and wondered when they would cover such things.

Now they have! And the story now seems to match the original "now with even more disgusting behavior" tale. MSNBC reports that, yes, FIVE women were murdered. A government vehicle WAS used in the murders.

Of note: in the article, notice the "elderly woman" in the photo near the end. I have to wonder just how old this "elderly woman" is. Is she really old or has the oppressive patriarchy she has lived in all of her life aged her prematurely? Just curious.

Also of note: see the photo of "frail shepherd," Ali Baksh. His eyes twinkle and he grins happily as he says, "I am proud of our Balouch traditions and it was the right punishment for those girls who defied the will of their fathers." Nice.

Fuck these fucking barbarians. And for those who say I am not culturally sensitive and ask who I am to judge them, FUCK YOU, TOO. I am me, and I judge them based on my own moral compass, which says "killing people not in self-defense = extremely bad."

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Priorities, Priorities

A Catholic priest has been jailed and suspended from his job for selling cocaine out of his church.

He is now in jail with a $50,000 bail. He's not FIRED or DEFROCKED, just suspended.

Still, that's more than the penalty for child molestation when Catholic priests are involved. That particular penalty is usually being inconvenienced by having to move and find new victims.

Because we all know it's better to be a child raper (traumatized victim) than to SELL DRUGS (victimless)!

Friday, September 5, 2008

When Patriarchy Makes the Rules I - UPDATE

Pakistani police have disinterred two bodies of murdered women, whose plight is detailed here.

The two murdered women are:
Izzat Khatoon and Mai Siyani.

Four men have been arrested, two of whom pointed police to the shallow graves.

Investigators have conflicting reports in regard to the number of women killed. The Asian Human Rights Commission originally stated that five women were killed, but it is now suspected that either the two whose bodies have been found were the only victims, or that one more woman was murdered, or that the two were murdered while a third escaped.

Investigations confirm that the women were kidnapped using a government vehicle, which adds to the suspicion that Pakistani People's Party Minister Sadiq Umrani's brother, Abdul Sattar Umrani was involved. Abdul Sattar Umrani is suspected by some to have been involved in another murder in January, 2006, under similar circumstances in that the three murdered were a couple on their way to be married in civil court and their taxi-driver.

I can only say that at least this is being investigated, though I have little faith that justice will prevail. I am also disgusted as usual, but never surprised that things of this nature are not followed in the international, and especially the US, press. I would love to be proven wrong.

Who's Making the Decisions Now?

August 1, 2007: Obama says we need to go into Pakistan with or without local permission to find bin Laden and shut down al Qaeda.

September 4, 2008: US confirms incursion into Pakistan without local permission to shut down al Qaeda and Taliban forces. Troops entered an area suspected to be a bin Laden hideout.

I don't know if this was already in the works last August, when Senator Obama made his statement. Perhaps that was why the administration didn't slam him too hard. Instead, it was his fellow Democrats, Sen. Chris Dodd and Gov. Bill Richardson, who were running against him in the primaries at the time, among others, who chastised him.

If not, could it be a case of "that's not a bad idea, let's do it and take credit?"

The current administration has been very vocal in its support of Pakistani President Musharraf, and surely knew this would piss him off. But since his resignation last week and in light of today's election to replace him, in which the favorite is a Pakistani People's Party member and the widower of murdered former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, it may be that Bush's people decided the worst we would get would be a frown and slap on the hand.

It is disturbing to note that, while the PPP's stated goals include the "establishment of an egalitarian democracy and the application of socialistic ideas to realize economic and social justice," (source), this party is also home to Minister Sadiq Umrani, whose brother is currently NOT under investigation for possibly having a leading role in the murders of at least two, and possibly five, Balochi women.

If Minister Umrani is serious about his party's platform, he needs to at the very least, support this investigation and work to bring his constituency under the rule of law. Any representative who supports egalitarian democracy and social justice will most emphatically NOT turn a blind eye to murders of women who simply wanted to exercise their legal right to marry where they chose.

But I digress.

I find it interesting that, as Ed Brayton writes, Bush decided to do just what Senator Obama suggested after the very idea was criticized roundly as bad form.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Women: Don't Be Fooled!

John McCain's pick of Alaska's Governor Sarah Palin for VP candidate may seem like a good thing for women, especially to those who are upset and angry at Senator Clinton's loss in the Democratic primaries.


Governor Palin is anti-choice.
She has been endorsed by paleo-christian James Dobson of Focus on the Family.
She has been a supporter of crazed right wing Pat Buchanan.
She is anti-homosexual.
She is pro-drill-the-ANWR.
She is a liar in regard to her statement about not supporting the "Bridge to Nowhere."
She is under investigation for possibly using her authority to force the firing of her former brother-in-law.
She is a creationist who belongs to a dominionist church*.

The fact that she is a woman does not make her a viable option for women! We need to be sure to vote for those who are pro-reproductive rights, pro-health care, pro-pay equity, and generally pro-family (not just white, christian, hetero, married families, but families of ALL STRIPES)!

For more information on Sarah Palin's lies and her staunchly conservative, anti-woman, anti-homosexual, and downright anti-American and anti-family views, see Tapped (type Palin into the search function).

*Previously, this said that "she MAY belong to a dominionist church". However, I have since found the link above and have changed this statement to reflect that. My original footnote is below:

Governor Palin's church is Church on the ROCK, and she has been identified as a Pentecostal-style charismatic Christian, whatever that means. I can't tell by the website if they are truly followers of Dominion Theology, and I am not willing to join their church to find out. If I am incorrect in this statement, I will freely remove it from this post. I will be following Governor Palin very closely as her history becomes better known. That said, I stand by my statement that she IS A CREATIONIST. She has publicly stated that creationism should be taught in public schools.

When Patriarchy Makes the Rules I

This appeal from the Asian Human Rights Commission describes a recent atrocity in Pakistan. In the province of Balochistan, five women were buried alive, allegedly by a relative of a provincial minister who is a prominent leader of the ruling Pakistan People's Party and his accomplices.

The five women are:
Fatima, 45
Jannat Bibi, 38
Fauzia, 18
A young woman between 16 and 18
Another young woman between 16 and 18.
I will provide names as they become available.

When the possibility of a probe was broached in Pakistan's parliament
Senator Israrulla Zehri told a fellow Senator, Bibi Yasmin Shah, to keep quiet when she took up the issue. “This is part of our Baloch traditions. We will not let anyone interfere with this,” said Zehri on the floor of the house.

Another Senator, Jamal Khan Leghari, protested, saying
I am also a Baloch but would not link the Baloch traditions to such kind of act against humanity. No Baloch can dare to even think of taking such action."
(source for both quotes above)

Abdul Sattar Umrani is a brother of Minister Sadiq Umrani is the alleged murderer, along with six or more unknown accomplices, and apparently used a Balochistan government vehicle to transport the victims to a remote area, where they first shot the three teens and began to bury them, wounded but alive. When the other two women, one an aunt of one victim and the other the mother of another, protested, they, too, were thrown into the pit and buried alive.

The supposed reason for Abdul Sattar Umrani to have abducted and murdered these women is that the three teens had expressed a desire to marry men they had chosen rather than be married to men of their fathers' choosing, as required by Baloch tribal tradition.

These types of barbaric tragedies must be stopped! This is patriarchy in its ugliest and most abominable form! When women can't or won't be controlled by men, kill them. Unacceptable in any society! Unworthy of any tradition!

The site linked above, belonging to the Asian Human Rights Commission, has a button for sending an appeal letter to President Musharraf, Prime Minister Gillani, and others. Please go there and use it!


New Title For Bringing Barbaric Asshattery to Public Attention: When Patriarchy Makes the Rules

First of all, I am changing the name of When Religion Makes the Rules to the above name. This will be a series of blog posts regarding various incidences of asshattery, barbarism, or other disgusting behaviors perpetrated on individuals anywhere in the world by other individuals who use various patriarchal "traditions" as excuses for such behavior.

The first of such blog posts was this one written in regard to Rand Abdel-Qader's murder.

The second addressed the murder by god-mandated neglect of Madeline Neumann.

The third was a follow-up to the Rand Abdel-Qader tragedy in which I wrote about the murder of Rand's mother, Leila Hussein, who had been in hiding since Rand's murder.

My next post will be the FIRST of the series, though these previous posts are obvious precursors.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Ignorance vs Willful Ignorance

Greta Christina has a post today called CSI: Deuteronomy, that reminded me of a discussion I had with Nigel one night in which I claimed that religious people today are actually MORE stupid than religious people of ancient times. Nigel disagreed and it ended up being one of the few times I've gone to sleep angry and frustrated with him.

Consider the following from GC's post:
...I have to remember the time and place this was written, and not judge people with a Bronze Age view of the world from my own modern perspective. They didn't have the information or understanding about how the world works that we have today, but that didn't necessarily make them stupid or crazy. Grossly mistaken, yes, but not stupid or crazy.

This was exactly what I was trying to say in my discussion with Nigel, but didn't phrase well enough to make my point.

People today have information and the ability to find information that just wasn't around 2000 plus years ago, or even just 100 years ago. I can understand and sympathize with those who invented gods to explain the mysteries of their world. They weren't idiots. They weren't delusional. They were simply ignorant. This is not an insult, simply a statement that they did not have the tools needed to reach an informed conclusion.

Today, however, the religious seem to have embraced willful ignorance. The information is there. It is easily accessible. Yet many, if not most, of them deliberately choose to remain ignorant and continue using goddidit as an acceptable explanation for the way our world works, even though many of these ways are no longer mysteries, but have been adequately explained using scientific methods. There are still many mysteries, but the only thing that can be said of them by science is that we cannot YET explain them.

Willful ignorance in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence of natural explanations for the working of the world is worse than simple ignorance due to a lack of information. Therefore, I stand firm in my claim that today's religious folk who very deliberately choose to remain ignorant are MORE idiotic than those of centuries and millenia past, who had no such choice.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Movie Review: Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over


The kids and I watched this movie, again, the other day. We have all three Spy Kids movies and have enjoyed them.

It is always gratifying to see strong female lead characters in kids' movies, and Carmen Cortez (Alexa Vega) fits the bill. Carmen is smart, funny, aggressive, self-confident, bad-to-the-bone and all the things I want my daughter to know SHE can be.

In these movies, Carmen works with her younger brother, Juni (Daryl Sabara), to save the world from various villians. She and her brother, while they bicker and often don't get along, just like siblings IRL, consistently end up complementing each other's skills and saving the day together. In Spy Kids 3-D, the story focuses mainly on Juni, but Carmen gets to exhibit her special brand of kick-ass in the last third.

The Cortez family is a family of spies, and one of the pivotal messages of the films is the strength of intergenerational family ties and friend networks.

Spy Kids focuses on both the conflict between Carmen and Juni as siblings and that between the two and their parents, very nicely played by Carla Gugino and Antonio Banderas. There is also an estranged uncle, Machete (Danny Trejo), who must be enlisted in the quest to save the day, and a bogus uncle (Cheech Marin), whom they must foil early on in order to search for their parents. Other actors who appear in the three films include Tony Shalhoub, Bill Paxton, Teri Hatcher, Alan Cumming, and one of my very, very favorite actors, Steve Buscemi.

In Spy Kids 2: Island of Lost Dreams, there is conflict between kids and parents, as well as conflict and competition between other spies within the network, but now we meet the grandparents (Ricardo Montalban - yay, Mr. Roarke -, and Holland Taylor, whom I remember mostly from her fantastic role as Ursula's mother in George of the Jungle), who have conflict with the parents, but everyone, including the other spy kids and outside supporters in the network of friends, has to work together to meet the final goal.

In Spy Kids 3-D, Juni enlists the help of his grandfather to save Carmen and the world from a diabolical video game designer, The Toymaker (Sylvester Stallone!). Again, family and friends must cooperate in order to defeat The Toymaker. There is a cute Moonstruck reference at the very end, when all of the characters whose work made it possible for the good guys to prevail put their hands together, saying, "To family!" Whether or not it was director Robert Rodriguez's intention is not clear, but like in Moonstruck, the last voice is that of Uncle Machete, who says the line in Spanish, similar to Moonstruck's Johnny Camareri saying the final line in Italian.

Our family has enjoyed all three of these films. The special features include some fun sections by director Rodriguez instructing kids on how to make their own home movies, complete with special effects and sound effects. He mostly uses his son to illustrate this, and it looks fun and entertaining. Unfortunately, my kids are not yet allowed to mess with our video camera, mostly due to the fact that our NEW camera replaced our OLD camera, which worked perfectly until one of the kids decided to use it.

Another special feature is a "making of" section, which, for Spy Kids 3-D especially, is fascinating in that most of the sets are simply green screens and the final product is computer generated. Our kids were amazed to see what this entailed and Rodriguez includes enough well-explained detail to make it clear to them how it was done. They were astounded to learn that Ricardo Montalban is wheelchair-bound IRL, not just as the grandpa character, and to see how Rodriguez used CG to allow the character full mobility and super-powers as well.

Now, to my caveat: Since I've become more aware of sexist crap, I notice little things more often that are, perhaps not deliberate, but still quite annoying. For example, in Spy Kids 3-D, there is a female character, Demetra, within the game (the kids are INSIDE the game, a la Tron) who teams up with Juni and some male characters to reach a certain level to find Carmen, who is trapped in the game. At the time they decide to team up, each character says what his particular strength is, a la Aragorn's "You have my sword," Legolas's "and MY bow," and Gimli's "and MY axe!"

Here are the statements of the Spy Kids 3-D characters:
Male 1: I will use my strength!
Male 2: I will use my intelligence!
Male 3: I will use my coolness! (or something to that effect)
Female: I will use my (pause) intuition?

But this is not just an arbitrary thing. Later in the game, Juni is challenged by The Toymaker to defeat one of the comrades or be taken out permanently, ruining any chance he might have to find Carmen and foil The Toymaker. When it looks like Game Over for Juni, Demetra sacrifices herself so that Juni can continue. The male characters just look at him and shrug. WTF?

Later on, Demetra reappears and it is discovered that she is simply a construct, a tool of The Toymaker, sent to lead Juni astray. But with an electronic tear and an exhibition of remorse and love for Juni (oh, those darned feminine emotions!), she is able to overcome her programming and, AGAIN, sacrifice herself to further Juni's goal. WTF?

So, Demetra is The Self-sacrificing one. Natch. But she is also The Siren, The Jezebel, The Traitor Eve. Natch. But she redeems herself by ANOTHER self-sacrifice, (oh, she's a whore-with-a-heart-of-gold!) and is never seen again, leaving Juni to complete his mission and eventually return to his family and his true love-interest. Fucking natch!

Thank goodness for Carmen.

Sadly, though, for Carmen fans, there are three music videos in the special features starring Alexa Vega, the actor who plays Carmen. These videos were filmed in front of a live audience of mostly preteen kids and their parents at the film premier in Austin, TX. Ms Vega, a young woman with a nice voice, gyrates and shimmies and pole-dances-without-a-pole through three songs. Augh!

There are also a couple of instances of nerdism in this movie. Upon being caught using cheats in the game, Juni and Demetra are saved by Juni's grandpa, who exposes the "Designers", who are going to throw Juni and Demetra out of the game, by exposing their IRL selves. Oh, no! They are really Computer Nerds! Below contempt! They scramble away, chittering like little mice. Later, we see the male game-player characters IRL. Turns out they are regular guys, albeit with exaggerated myopia, pocket protectors, and slicked down hair. They confess that they are:
"Not really strong."
"Not really that smart."
"Not really cool."
And they disappear forever, not even getting to join the "To the Family!" cheer at the end, though they were pivotal in getting Juni where he needed to go.

So, as long as I can keep my kids out of the Alexa Vega music videos, and can keep the focus on the Carmen character instead of the Demetra character, and can instill in my kids a strong respect for nerds, we will continue to watch these movies and enjoy the fun, the effects, and the family.

McCain: Thanks For The Support

Here's a snip from an interview by Wolf Blitzer of Senator John McCain, our Republican Presidential candidate and former P.O.W., who prides himself on his knowledge, understanding, and die-hard support of and for our troops:

BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit about some national security issues. You're president of the United States, you've vowed that you will capture Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice.

Now we know that President Bush since 9/11 has been doing the best he can. What would you do differently?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I'm not going to telegraph a lot of the things that I'm going to do because then it might compromise our ability to do so. But, look, I know the area, I have been there, I know wars, I know how to win wars, and I know how to improve our capabilities so that we will capture Osama bin Laden -- or put it this way, bring him to justice.

BLITZER: All right. If you capture...

MCCAIN: We will do it, I know how to do it.

WTF? Wouldn't it make sense that, if he is so very confident that he knows how to capture/bring to justice Osama bin Laden, and if he is so very supportive of our troops in Afghanistan and cares that they spend as little time as necessary in harm's way and come home alive, he might want to share this unassailable knowledge with our military commanders? Instead, he seems to be using the (debatable) fact that he has this knowledge as a campaign prop. Either he's lying or he doesn't really want to help our troops to come home alive. Yet. Until he's elected and sworn in. Until a minimum of 6 more months has passed with our troops in Afghanistan, currently numbering approximately 34,000, but projected to be increased to at least 40,000 by 2009, fighting and dying. What an asshat.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

What Is It With Ballot Proposition Language?

Every time I vote and there are Propositions or Amendments or other extras besides voting for actual people, I notice that these are so wordy and convoluted and confusing that I have to read them several times before I can figure out exactly what they mean and what a Yes or No vote will actually accomplish.

As a college-educated person, I get very frustrated with this and often think of how difficult it must be for the majority of US voters to figure out just what the hell they're voting on.

Most often, I get the handy voter guide from the local newspaper and go through it with a fine-toothed comb well-before the election, write comments on it, and take it with me into the voting booth. This saves me lots of time. I recommend this method.

But wouldn't it be nice if they said things like this:
Library Funding Mill-Levy: This measure will add 1/10 of 1 cent to each dollar collected by the state as sales tax to be specifically used to purchase books for libraries in the state.
Senior Center Purchase Authorization: This measure will not add any new taxes, but will continue to use an existing tax of 2/10 of 1 cent collected by the county as sales tax to purchase the following for senior centers throughout the county if the senior centers do not already have them: One handicapped accessible van; New furniture for lounge areas; One DVD player per senior center and a copy of Cocoon for each.

Often, I have thought that the unnecessary complication and obfuscation in real life is deliberate. Today, I got proof of that.

In California, as many know, there will be a proposition on the ballot in November regarding same-sex marriages. The current wording on the ballot is as follows:

Eliminates Right of Same-Sex Couples to Marry

Then one would vote YES if one wants to eliminate the right or NO if one wants the right to remain.

This is nicely clear and says exactly what it should. Wow! I love it!

But guess what? Supporters of the elimination of the right of same-sex couplies to marry are suing the State of California over the wording!

One spokesperson claims that the language is inflammatory and could prejudice voters against the proposition! Because it shouldn't be called what it ACTUALLY IS, my goodness, the IDEA!

Here are some ideas for what it should be called instead:

1) Eliminates Fear Of Catching Teh Gey. Because if same-sex couples are allowed to marry, it turns all of us married couples into gays and lesbians! And our children, too!

2) Saves Heterosexual Marriage From Destruction. Because if same-sex couples are allowed to marry, all heterosexual marriages instantly become meaningless! Because I can testify that as soon as those dirty gays started getting married in Massachusetts a while back, I immediately stopped having feelings for my husband and just didn't give a shit about our marriage anymore!

3) Codifies God's Statement That Gays (Not Lesbians, But That's Beside The Point) Are Abominations And Should Stay In The Closet Where They Belong. Because if we let them marry each other, what will be next? Wearing two kinds of fabric? Men looking at or speaking to their wives when they are menstruating? Eating shellfish? Not killing our children when they are disrepectful? What kind of end will that bring us to? Why, The End Of The World, of course!

4) Reserves Marriage Benefits For Couples Who Can Reproduce With Each Other. Because you know people only marry in order to have children! Like my father-in-law, who is getting married in two weeks to another 60-something-year-old woman! I'm sure they'll be popping out babies as soon as they can! And my mom and step-father, who already have 4 kids between them - I'm sure they are trying long and hard to have more! Or even me! I am still (barely) of childbearing age! Why am I not popping them out? Maybe my infertility means that I shouldn't even BE married!

Maybe they should add an addendum to the proposition: Any same-sex couple attempting to marry shall be sent to the nearest Pray-Away-The-Gay center for deprogramming.

At any rate, it's a sad statement about the way politics and public relations get in the way of informed voting. And it pisses me off.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Women's Choices?

For several years, I've read articles and book reviews about women choosing to leave paid work and stay home with the kids. What always entered my mind while reading was the question of whether or not this was actually a choice. Some feminists rejoiced at the new freedom women had to choose between equally valuable work outside the home and work in the home. Some feminists scowled at the idea that unpaid work at home was anything like equal to paid work. Some even castigated women who stayed home as anti-feminist.

Some of the truth comes out now:

Judith Warner writesthis article for the NYT, in which she elaborates on a new Congressional report that shows that the choice was actually NOT a choice for many, if not most women.

I had more than one reason for deciding to stay home after my kids were born.

One of the reasons was the fact that I would have to have made more money than I realistically could in order for my wages to even cover gas, car maintenance, and daycare for three kids. The chances of my earning that much were slim to none. In addition, I had to add the cost of bringing home little to no money (see above), meaning that I would be working just for the satisfaction of working, to the fact that my kids would be spending more time with day care workers and/or school teachers than they would spend with me or Nigel. Plus, while they were home with me, after work, presumably, I would be spending the majority of my time keeping up with laundry, cleaning, cooking, and all the other things that have to be done. Nigel is good with these things, too, so I wouldn't be doing it alone, but the fact remains that neither of us would be spending much time at all with our offspring. And we do like spending time with our offspring. Most of the time.

A second reason I decided to stay home is that I have only one time in my entire life had a job I enjoyed. I really don't care if I never work outside the home again. Too misanthropic, I think.

Still, my first reason is the key. I sometimes think of staying home as my choice, but is it really? No. Really, even from my privileged point of view, it is doing the only thing that makes sense, considering that either way, I bring home $0.00. If I'm going to bring home ZERO, I'd rather be caring for my own kids, thank you very much.

I count myself one of the extremely lucky ones and I try to recognize my privileged status. My privilege is that Nigel's salary enables me to stay home instead of forcing us to move closer to our families so that we could prevail on the Grandma's for cheap child care so that I could work for pay in order for us to afford to live.

I think of the majority of women, those less privileged than I am, and my brain hurts thinking about how in the world they do what they do, when their "choices" are even more false and constrained than mine. Often the "choice" provides sub-standard day care, no health insurance at all, public transportation, multiple jobs, sub-standard housing, poor nutrition, and kids who never get to see mom or dad at all.

These are some of the issues politicians need to look at when they talk to women and try to get our votes. Men AND women need good and affordable day care. Men AND women need good and affordable health care. Men AND women need paid time off for family. Men AND women need safe and affordable housing. Men AND women need nutritious foods. Men AND women need safe, affordable, and dependable public transportation. Why is the focus never on these basics?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Rage or Tears? Tears win.

"We who choose to surround ourselves with lives even more temporary than our own live within a fragile circle easily and often breached. Unable to accept its awful gaps, we still would live no other way. We cherish memory as the only certain immortality, never fully understanding the necessary plan."
-Irving Townsend

A Dog's Prayer*

Treat me kindly, my beloved master, for no heart in all the world is more grateful for kindness than the loving heart of me.

Do not break my spirit with a stick, for though I should lick your hand between the blows, your patience and understanding will more quickly teach me the things you would have me do.

Speak to me often, for your voice is the world's sweetest music, as you must know by the fierce wagging of my tail when your footstep falls upon my waiting ear.

When it is cold and wet, please take me inside... for I am now a domesticated animal, no longer used to bitter elements... and I ask no greater glory than the privilege of sitting at your feet beside the hearth... though had you no home, I would rather follow you through ice and snow than rest upon the softest pillow in the warmest home in all the land... for you are my god... and I am your devoted worshiper.

Keep my pan filled with fresh water, for although I should not reproach you were it dry, I cannot tell you when I suffer thirst. Feed me clean food, that I may stay well, to romp and play and do your bidding, to walk by your side, and stand ready, willing and able to protect you with my life, should your life be in danger.

And, beloved master, should the Great Master see fit to deprive me of my health or sight, do not turn me away from you. Rather hold me gently in your arms as skilled hands grant me the merciful boon of eternal rest...and I will leave you knowing with the last breath I drew, my fate was ever safest in your hands.

--Beth Norman Harris

I should post angry posts about crackers, or PZ's opinion of said cracker, with which I completely agree, or perhaps about Bill Donohue's opinion of PZ's opinion, or maybe aboutdeath threats against PZ because of his opinion of the cracker.

Instead, I sit all verklempt, having read about the death of Orac's beloved Echo.

I sit, with a tear-drenched t-shirt sleeve, feeling very sorry for Orac and his family, remembering all the pets I've had the privilege of knowing, even down to those silly hamsters. Maybe boring "odes to my pet" posts will follow.

I miss my:

* disclaimer: I in no way endorse or encourage prayer or a belief in a "Great Master," however, the rest of this is spot-on.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Starving Child's First Album

My eldest son is quite creative and loves to write and illustrate stories. He also loves music. Recently, he made a list of songs to write for his first album, titled Have A Great Time. The titles are as follows:

1) Great Time
2) I Love That Smell (my personal favorite, written while I was cooking his favorite supper)
3) Ahhh...
4) Mmm....

Now, for a song title, you just can't beat I Love That Smell. It is unfortunate that he has gotten no further than titles, except for these exerpts from Great Time and I Love That Smell:

1) I'm having a great time now, right now...
2) I love that smell, ohhh....yep.

I've been encouraging him to finish the songs, and will post lyrics here if I ever get them.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Fox on Michelle Obama - Fair and Balanced?

Please watch the video above and consider signing the on-line petition at foxattacks.

One thing that stood out to me was the statement by some WOMAN who said that Senator Obama's statement that people "lay off my wife," meant that he expects OTHER MEN to PROTECT HIS WIFE. Huh?? I guess because a real 'Merican would call out people like Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity for a duel - pistols at 100 paces or something. After all, Zell Miller did it to Chris Matthews.

I personally would enjoy seeing a film loop of Senator Obama smacking Michelle Malkin in the face with a leather gauntlet. I would watch that over and over and over and...

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Lesson For the Kiddies

We all know the rules about strange animals, right? Do not approach a strange animal. Do not pet a strange dog or cat, even if the owner is present. Yeah, we all know.

So, this is the tale of a cat rescue gone wrong: When Pets Attack.

A cat had been living on and around our balcony for the past week. This cat, of indeterminate sex and age, had a collar, not just a flea collar, but a very nice, studded, green leather job. The cat had occasionally come over to torment our cat and dog through the screen when our windows were open.

Two nights ago, a man walking two dogs behind our house asked if we had seen a cat with a collar. We told him that we had indeed seen such a cat and pointed out exactly where we had seen it. I asked if it was a nice cat and if I should try to bring it in if I saw it again. He said, "Yes, please." Naturally, we did not see the cat again that day.

Yesterday, all day long, the cat lounged about on our balcony and on the wall of our next door neighbors. So, when I saw the man, four stories below, walking a different dog (maybe that's what he does), I hollered out to him, "Hey, here's your cat!" He continued walking after giving me a wave. Later, I saw him on a balcony next door and hollered again. This time, the cat was actually on our balcony and was sitting in the gutter.

I reached down to the cat to let it smell my hand, and began to gingerly pet it on the head after it rubbed against my hand. It seemed to like it. It let me scratch it round its ears and the top of its head, but got tense if I tried to touch any other area, so I confined my attentions to its head.

Once the cat was calm and the man appeared about to come our way, I stupidly picked up the cat. It tolerated it for a minute, but then, suddenly, lashed out with a forepaw and slashed a long cut down the left side of my nose. I was actually lucky not to have lost my left eye. It began to bleed pretty badly and I put the cat down as gently as I could and calmly walked back into the house. Our man had disappeared.

Cursing myself, I tried to rush to the bathroom without seeming to panic, since the kids were all downstairs at the time. The Princess, though, saw the blood and came running over. This brought her brothers, and I had to clean my face up and apply pressure while trying to explain that everything was okay and that Mommy was fine.

I got the bleeding stopped and went upstairs to wash and disinfect my nose better, telling the kids not to follow me. Have been cleaning the wound and slathering it with Neosporin every couple of hours ever since, and it looks horrible, but probably won't be infected. It will, though, leave a nice scar down my nose - a souvenir of Israel, I suppose.

This morning, after I returned from dropping the kids at camp, Dude and his (?) girlfriend/wife/whatever knocked on the door. They apologized for my nose and I showed them where the cat was hiding out. The woman called the cat and spoke baby talk to it, and it came out of hiding. I went back inside to keep from frightening it, and saw it follow her out of our patio area and downstairs. Thank goodness, no more cat.

So, all the stories we know about strange animals are true. Do NOT approach a strange animal. Now, unfortunately, my kids know why - first hand.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Mourning the IBTP Forum

For the past year, I have enjoyed lurking at the I Blame The Patriarchy forum. Reading the varied threads has been extremely educational and not just a little entertaining as well.

This morning, I read a announcement that the forum was shutting down. I am sad. Rest in Peace, IBTP forum, you will be missed!

Happy Independence Day - Party Rant

Long Time No Post!

Nigel and the kids and I returned from our trip to southern Germany a week prior to Independence Day and had to immediately start preparation for our U.S. Independence Day/Death of Jesse Helms fiesta here in Israel. We were having a party for several families from Nigel's place of employment and several families from the kids' school.

Although I do have a hard spot in my heart for WalMart and other big-box stores in the U.S., I was sorely wishing that there was one, just one, maybe a Target, here. It is NOT fun driving all the fuck over Israel just to get all the things we needed for the party. One place has the non-kosher hamburger meat (meat with flavor). One place has hamburger buns. One place has hot dogs that the kids will actually eat. One place has imports such as pickle relish, italian dressing, etc. One place has balloons. One place has streamers. One place has sparklers for the kids. Etc., etc., etc.

At any rate, we sent out about 20 invitations by e-mail, cleaned the house top to bottom, made lists and more lists of things to do, and worked our way through all the pre-party requirements.

As invitation responses started coming in, we started getting a bit freaked out. Not a single invitation was accepted without this: "We would love to come to your party. Can we bring so-and-so and so-and-so and their 20 children and dogs?" We started to suspect that someone at Nigel's work had been leaking the party out to everyone at work and there was the impression going around that our private party was actually a work-sponsored event! Fear ensued! Our house is only so big and we have only so many chairs!

The most ridiculous and disconcerting was this tale: Our best friends over here, of course, were coming, and her parents are in town, so naturally they were also invited - they're fun and very nice. When they arrived, no parents. I asked why and he told me that his SUPERVISOR at work, who neither Nigel nor I know and who was certainly NOT invited and who technically should not even have known about the party, instructed him to bring two of his co-workers and their families to OUR party. Since they knew we were freaking out about all the extra people who were coming, they decided to ask her parents to stay home. I was pretty pissed.

1) Where does this supervisor get off telling a subordinate who he will or will not take to SOMEONE ELSE'S party?
2) Why did our friend not inform said supervisor that a) this is not my party and I am uncomfortable taking people the hosts do not know and whom they did not invite, and b) who the fuck do you think you are telling me who to take to a private party?

I spent a lot of time blocking off access to our back patio area for several reasons. Reason One - the former residents of the basement apartment have still not come to get some of their crap and it is piled up in a corner of the patio waiting for them. Reason Two - same former residents used the "water feature" in the center of the patio as a dirty diaper storage area/trash receptacle. When they moved out, they did drain the water from it, but did not clean it out, leaving a two inch crust of shit along with shit-encrusted toys and trash in it. I am not willing to touch any of this stuff and have complained to the property management company to send someone out to clean and disinfect this, but have seen no results. The stink from this is so embarrassing that I did not want people hanging out on the patio. Reason Three - same former residents used the area behind the patio wall as a garbage dump and it is full of trash and broken toys, which are scattered all over. I have asked the management company to send someone with a pickup truck to pick up all this debris, since I am unwilling to load it into my car, but, again, have seen no results.

So, while I was making sure all the food was out on tables and readily available and Nigel was cooking hamburgers, hot dogs, and chicken on the grill on the balcony (which was sparkly and clean, but empty of party people for some unknown reason), several party attendees decided to take down all my ribbons blocking access (it couldn't have been easy) and start setting up chairs and stuff and sitting outside all around the shit-fountain. Lovely. At one point, someone asked what the smell was. Ha! So I got to explain about the former residents and that I had blocked access to the patio for a FUCKING REASON, PEOPLE!

In addition to that, the patio area is all tile and is very slick when wet. I had bought bubbles for all the kids and had planned to have them blow them outside on the balcony where the tiles are more textured and less slick so that nobody would fall and crack their heads open at the party and had planned no water activities. However, one of the childless party attendees brought a huge bag full of water guns and water balloons, unbeknownst to myself or to Nigel. I went out to the patio and found myself deluged by a dozen water pistols while I watched kids standing in line at our water spigot waiting to fill water balloons. This activity descended into madness as the balloons ran out and kids decided to use my mop bucket and the kids' beach buckets to just fill up and dump on each other and on several of the adults.

There were thankfully no fatalities and no bloodshed, but my mop bucket and two of the kids' beach buckets were destroyed and The Lottery Winner ended up with a medium sized goose egg on the back of his head from slipping. Someone asked my why I let the kids play with water when the patio was obviously not suited for water activities. I rolled my eyes and explained LOUDLY that I did not know WHO brought the water guns and balloons, that I had brought some bubbles for the kids to blow on the BALCONY where it was safer, and that I had blocked access to the patio BECAUSE IT SMELLED BAD AND WASN'T SAFE FOR THE KIDS. The woman who brought all the water stuff did have the good manners to look abashed.

The punch line of the party was that we had been planning this since mid-May. Nigel's tools at work had been moving slowly toward a particular event, but that event kept getting delayed and delayed. You can guess the rest. Said event started becoming imminent the day we returned from Germany. As the week drew to a close and the 4th loomed, the event was confirmed. It would be necessary for Nigel to be at work at 2pm on Friday the 4th and to stay until about 2am on Saturday the 5th. The party time? Yes, 2pm to 6pm. Fortunately, Nigel was able to convince one of his co-workers, who wanted to take Sunday off, to load Nigel's tool at 2pm and Nigel would come at 4pm to take over in exchange for said Sunday off for the co-worker.

Poor Nigel busted his ass cooking all the meat and shoving some food into his face before he had to leave (Nigel's boss and his family were at the party and stayed the entire time - irony?) at 4pm. Everyone was pretty much gone by 7pm, except for two guests who very, very kindly stayed to help me clean up. At 7:15, the phone rang and Nigel informed me that there was a contamination issue and that his process was to be stopped and that he would be on his way home in just a few minutes! So, he missed half of his own party for NO REASON AT ALL!

At any rate, we turned out having over 50 people in our house. The food was great - most guests brought something and each new something was more delicious than the last. I think everyone had a good time. I will not be doing anything like this again for a very long time.