sitting on the edge of the sandbox, biting my tongue

April 28, 2011

Dictators’ Birthday Season.

Filed under: whatever — Tags: , , , , — edge of the sandbox @ 5:34 pm

It’s late April, also known as Dictators’ Birthday Season.  April 20 is Hitler’s Birthday, which is general knowledge more or less.  April 22 is Lenin’s Birthday, as everyone who remembers the life in the Soviet Union knows.  Perhaps I will write something about it in the future.  April 28 is Saddam Hussein’s Birthday.  How do I know that?  Well, it’s my Birthday too!  I like to tell my husband that I should have been a dictator.  He’s not sold on that idea.

Anyhow, I’m off to San Francisco to redeem my Anthropologie gift certificates that’s been sitting in my valet since December.  Better get something there before inflation affects their prices.  Also, a fancy date night is planned.

Praise the Lord and Pass the Crown

Filed under: whatever — Tags: , , , , , — edge of the sandbox @ 12:27 am

I’m not going to pretend to not care about the royal wedding.  I’d rather Fox News didn’t cancel its regular programming to streamline Sky News, and I’m not going to wake up at 4 a.m. to watch the ceremony in real time, but I do think it’s an important event.  The United Kingdom is still a monarchy. One that, I believe, will resume its special relationship with our country in January 2013, and so the monarchs matter.  Kate Middleton is beautiful and has  impeccable taste.

Christopher Hitchens opined that if Prince William will manage to maintain a semblance of healthy family life and produces a male heir, after the queen’s death the crown will go to him.   A male heir can be arranged these days, so it’s the question of whether William can stay married.  Considering the history of his relationship, his chances going into it don’t seem that bad to me, probably better than that of most contemporary couples.

But then there is this: Prince William will not wear a wedding band.  Over the past century and a half wedding bands for both husbands and wives came to symbolize mutual commitment.  Apparently male college students in Britain elect to not wear the ring, which, according to this thread, is contrary to tradition and understood to be symptomatic of infidelity.  Perhaps he’s sending his bride a message that he doesn’t intend on staying that married.  Either way, he should be very careful because she can potentially inflict more damage on him and his family than they on her.

The Brits have a high infidelity rate, so one hopes if a royal is good for anything, he’d set an example of being faithful.  William is a “self-proclaimed cad”.  Stateside he’s mostly known for proposing to Kate and showing up at a party where his brother masqueraded as a Nazi.  I’m sure William is heading some sort of charity or what not, but really, is he mostly setting a high partying standard for his countrymen?

Prince Harry actually went to war, so I don’t know, maybe they should skip both Charles and William, and pass the crown to a more distinguished individual.

Prince Harry secretly serving in Afghanistan.

April 25, 2011

Morally Challenged… Is that a Diasbility?

Filed under: politics, society — Tags: , , , , , , , — edge of the sandbox @ 4:59 am

I think I know a few people who probably thought the ugly Wonkette’s Trigg Palin column was funny.  In the mid-90s, when I was an undergrad at Berkeley, a disturbed old man would sing Sinatra songs near the campus.  I’d hurry by past him, like I’d hurry by the rest of the Berkeley street contingent, but enough students found him hilarious.  Once I wound up at a co-op party where that man was invited to perform.  He thought he was going places.  Students thought that was a funniest performance evah — on the co-op’s part.  So smart, so sophisticated, so… ironic.    A room full of privileged white kids roared with laughter.  There was probably several hundred of them — a small percentage of students, but, on the other hand, as many as would normally come to a co-op party.

Co-ops fancy themselves offering some sort of a non-mainstream alternative to dorm life, which means that they are anarchist wanna-be uber-lefty playgrounds for upper middle class mostly white kids known for drug dealing.  Similarly, Wonkette contributors fancy themselves fresh and provocative, but they are upper middle class mostly white middle age writers who formerly attended prestigious universities like Berkeley, and perhaps even lived in co-ops.  This whole affair reminds me of the environmentalist No Pressure video release last Fall which offered an opportunity for celebrity filmmakers to assert their street cred.

Jack Stuef probably thought that his disgusting column was iconoclastic because he broke a taboo.  Well, he did break a taboo.  Thankfully our society still considers it beyond the pale to go after the weak and vulnerable.  A disturbed street person, a Down Syndrome kids, unarmed people blown up to smithereens — those are all the vulnerable.  It’s immoral to laugh at them, but people like Stuef are not so concerned about morality; what they worry about is style, and their style is punk.  Which is to say they wallow in the ugly.

It might work for an underdog, but a major lefty website is no underdog.  Stuef chose to attack a traditional lefty target, and because the Palin family is a traditional target, he had to try really hard to outdo his peers.  So he went for the ugly.  Stuef is a bully whose bullying backfired, as bullying often does.

P.S. DH reminds me about Wesley Willis, an obese paranoid schizophrenic, who delighted punk rock audiences across the country.  Willis was signed to Alternative Tentacles, one of the choicest underground labels in the nation.  In music terms there wasn’t much to Willis.  It was all about Willis making a spectacle of himself.

April 21, 2011

Death and Taxes, a Round Up

Filed under: environmentalism, politics, relationships, society — Tags: , , , — edge of the sandbox @ 3:32 pm

As the saying goes, two things are certain in life: Death and taxes.  Since we are between Tax Day (a time to reflect more generally on the current fiscal mess) and the Earth Day (which is really about Death), here are some of my current reads:

King ShaMus asks, Was George the “smart Beatle”?

Mark Steyn seems to say, Yes!  (H/t DH).

Via Nice Deb: Krauthammer: S&P Negative Outlook is a Review of Obama’s Budget Speech.

Wisconsin envy, Dpt. of:  Governor Walker Is Just Getting Started.  Walker plans to expand voucher program, angers unions.

From Country Thinker: President’s Budget Speech and His Breach of the Social Compact.

A disturbed teenager stabs himself to death as piece of performance art at Oregon’s venue called Strictly Organic Coffee Company.  According to a friend:

It was almost like he wanted to prove a point, like there’s no point in being scared of death because it’s going to happen to us anyway[.]

Lovely subculture.  In a related news, Charles Manson speaks out against global warming.

Political Junkie Mom is not loving $5 gasoline.

Nothing to do with environmentalism, but in keeping with the death theme: A Useful Idiot Murdered.

Since Gaia is a baby-eating goddess, a bizarre choice abortion practice at the Babble:

I’d been bothered by my doctor’s statement and confronted him three weeks later when I was more coherent: “Why did you say, ‘We can’t let you have this baby’? It wasn’t your decision to make.”

“You’re absolutely right,” he answered. “I was trying to make it easier on you. Some women don’t want to feel responsible for making that choice, and it seems to be easier on them if I say that.”

In Death [of the West] category, Applebee accidentally serves child alcohol, overreacts.

Completely unrelated to everything above, Kay Hymowitz asks, Will Women Marry Down?  Hmmm… I have more degrees than DH, and from fancier schools, but he outdid me in everything that matters in the real world.

Also unrelated, this week I discovered the proper way to do captions on WordPress.  Now I feel like going back and redoing them on every post.

April 20, 2011

Gaia Is a Baby-Eating Goddess

Filed under: environmentalism, society — Tags: , , , — edge of the sandbox @ 10:23 pm

Bay Area moms of Caucasian extraction are usually at least to some degree invested in “green” parenting.  For instance, the other day I overheard some random mom chiding her toddler for not turning off the light: “It hurts the Earth!”  For the record, I’m for turning off the lights because I’m thrifty.  But I’m not going to make an issue out of it because we can afford this particular expense, and there are more urgent toddler behavioral matters.

I wrote before that environmentalist Bay Area mothers will probably find it difficult to give up their beliefs.  What about their kids?  This generation is brought up in the Church of  Global Warming (I’m borrowing somebody else’s phrase here), and so I’m curious to see what is going to happen when most of the predictions will fail to materialize by the time they start high school.  Today’s toddlers might end up feeling that they were lied to, and that their parents are chumps.  Will the current green chic become one day a subject of aughts/naughts/tens revival, or are we going to trash our national parks because it was, like, all b.s. and stuff?  Young people may come to the conclusion that all science is bogus and plunge into the New Age, which, of course, is alive and kicking in Northern California.  You never know how those things will work out.

Oh, the sweet little memories of growing up the only child!

I bought a few children’s books off the overstock rack that mention global warming.  In a few years I will read these books with my kids and discuss how science can be politicized.  I will teach them to be skeptical and to seek information from a variety of sources.  I will explain that power-hungry greedy people will try to take advantage of them, and it’s up to them to use their brains to shield themselves from users.  While it’s important to love nature and care for the environment, this doesn’t entail buying into all the trendy enviro hype.

Many conservative observers pointed out, that at its core environmentalism is worship of Gaia, a pagan religious phenomenon.  Environmentalists would take it as a compliment.  We are certainly trying really hard to be neo-pagan here: think Burning Man.

Wiccan interviewed on TV. Its in South California, but you get the idea.

If Gaia is a fertility goddess, why is each one of us is told to castrate oneself on her altar?  Our Gaia can’t possibly look like a fertility goddess.  This is your traditional fertility goddess:

Venus of Willendorf

And this are contemporary celebrities:

I have no idea who most of these women are, but, I trust, they are celebrities.

While farmers worship the fertile earth and want helping hands, city dwellers, including environmentalists, view children as an inconvenience, particularly when the welfare state is in place, and we see people drawing on Social Security in their old age.

Here in the Bay Area we are sheltered from nature.  The weather is mostly mild, and when it rains we stay indoors.  I can’t tell you how many times I took my children to the playground when it was barely sprinkling, and no one was there.  Wimps!  There are earthquakes, of course, but we build to code, like a developed country.  If a hurricane strikes New Orleans, we blame the Bush Administration.  We don’t fear mother nature, Republicans are the enemy.  We don’t hunt, and we sensor folk tales we read to our children, the only source they have that gives them a glimpse into pagan antiquity.

We, overprotected city-dwellers, worship a very different Gaia.  Somehow between neurosis and politicking we stumbled upon a death goddess.  Instead of having many children and teaching them what we know, in the name of carbon footprint reduction we have very few. It  is doubtful Western civilization can survive.

Neil Gaimans Death

And what will the children say when they find out that they couldn’t have siblings because of global warming?

April 18, 2011

When Peaceful Coexistence Is in Vogue

Filed under: politics, society — Tags: , , , , , , , — edge of the sandbox @ 1:02 am

Anna Wintour is so five minutes ago.  You think she has her hands full pouring over pictures of mentally ill young women, but the Vogue editor still finds time to promote “first ladies” of tyrannies.  The Manolo comments on Vogue’s February snow job of Syrian dictatoress Asma (does her name sound like a disease or what?) Al-Assad (via Instapundit):

Here is the small, bitterly ironic taste:

Asma al-Assad is glamorous, young, and very chic — the freshest and most magnetic of first ladies. Her style is not the couture-and-bling dazzle of Middle Eastern power but a deliberate lack of adornment. She’s a rare combination: a thin, long-limbed beauty with a trained analytic mind who dresses with cunning understatement. Paris Match calls her “the element of light in a country full of shadow zones.” She is the first lady of Syria.

“The element of light in the country full of shadow zones.” the Manolo is sure that this must bring great comfort to the thousands of political prisoners languishing in Syrian jails.

But Asma al-Assad likes to help where she can:

The 35-year-old first lady’s central mission is to change the mind-set of six million Syrians under eighteen, encourage them to engage in what she calls “active citizenship.” “It’s about everyone taking shared responsibility in moving this country forward, about empowerment in a civil society. We all have a stake in this country; it will be what we make it.”

And now the Manolo includes this recent news video of ordinary Syrians participating in “active citizenship”:

You will notice that all across Syria the security forces of the first lady’s husband are engaging these young, active citizens in the spirited debate about the proper role of empowerment in Syria. As of this writing, perhaps as many as 300 active citizens have had their mindset permanently changed by violent death.

I went and checked out the whole feature to find this tidbit:

In the Saint Paul orphanage, maintained by the Melkite–Greek Catholic patriarchate and run by the Basilian sisters of Aleppo, Asma sits at a long table with the children. [...]

Back in the car, I ask what religion the orphans are. “It’s not relevant,” says Asma al-Assad. “Let me try to explain it to you. That church is a part of my heritage because it’s a Syrian church. The Umayyad Mosque is the third-most-important holy Muslim site, but within the mosque is the tomb of Saint John the Baptist. We all kneel in the mosque in front of the tomb of Saint John the Baptist. That’s how religions live together in Syria—a way that I have never seen anywhere else in the world. We live side by side, and have historically. All the religions and cultures that have passed through these lands—the Armenians, Islam, Christianity, the Umayyads, the Ottomans—make up who I am.”

“Does that include the Jews?” I ask.

“And the Jews,” she answers. “There is a very big Jewish quarter in old Damascus.”

That quarter must be little Tel-Aviv, beaming with life and all.  Right?  Don’t worry Asma, Vogue will cover for you.

The Jewish quarter of Damascus spans a few abandoned blocks in the old city that emptied out in 1992, when most of the Syrian Jews left. Their houses are sealed up and have not been touched, because, as people like to tell you, Syrians don’t touch the property of others. The broken glass and sagging upper floors tell a story you don’t understand—are the owners coming back to claim them one day?

First, what’s up with the Umayyad Mosque?  It was built right on top of the John the Baptist church after the Muslim conquest of 634, so I’m not sure this qualifies as peaceful coexistence from a Christian perspective.  If Vogue were to sit down with the nuns in that orphanage, the fashion rag might have a different Syrian story.  But are they glamorous enough for Vogue?

This is the first time I’ve  seem anything other than the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem listed as the #3 Muslim holiest.  Asma can be a great Zionist source!  Speaking of Zionism, contrary to Vogue’s airbrushing of history, most Syrian Jews did not leave in 1992.  According to Jimena, in 1948, at the time of creation of the state of Israel, 30,000 Jews lived in Syria, 4,500 remained in 1976, and only 100 in 2001.

Jewish wedding in ALeppo, Syria, 1914.

Jewish wedding in Aleppo, Syria, 1914.

Following the Islamic conquest, Jews and Christians became subject to Dhimmi laws that allowed them to stay, but made them into second class citizens, subject to special taxation and humiliating regulations.  Nonetheless, the Jewish community was once wealthy and thriving.  By 1948, it was already decimated by declining economic opportunity (after the opening of Suez canal, traditional land routs through Syria declined in significance).  In addition, anti-Semitic pogroms already drove many out of the country.  This is the story of Syrian Jewry post-WW2:

In 1944, after Syria gained independence from France, the new government prohibited Jewish immigration to Palestine, and severely restricted the teaching of Hebrew in Jewish schools. Attacks against Jews escalated, and boycotts were called against their businesses.

When partition was declared in 1947, Arab mobs in Aleppo devastated the 2,500-year-old Jewish community. Scores of Jews were killed and more than 200 homes, shops and synagogues were destroyed. Thousands of Jews illegally fled Syria to go to Israel.1

Shortly after, the Syrian government intensified its persecution of the Jewish population. Freedom of movement was severely restricted. Jews who attempted to flee faced either the death penalty or imprisonment at hard labor. Jews were not allowed to work for the government or banks, could not acquire telephones or driver’s licenses, and were barred from buying property. Jewish bank accounts were frozen. An airport road was paved over the Jewish cemetery in Damascus; Jewish schools were closed and handed over to Muslims.

Syria’s attitude toward Jews was reflected in its sheltering of Alois Brunner, one of the most notorious Nazi war criminals. Brunner, a chief aide to Adolf Eichmann, served as an adviser to the Assad regime [the regime whose "first lady" Anna Wintour is promoting, --ed.].2

In 1987-88, the Syrian secret police seized 10 Jews on suspicion of violating travel and emigration laws, planning to escape and having taken unauthorized trips abroad. Several who were released reported being tortured while in custody.3

In November 1989, the Syrian government promised to facilitate the emigration of more than 500 single Jewish women, who greatly outnumbered eligible men in the Jewish community and could not find suitable husbands. Twenty-four were allowed to emigrate in the fall of 1989 and another 20 in 1991.4

For years, the Jews in Syria lived in extreme fear. The Jewish Quarter in Damascus was under the constant surveillance of the secret police, who were present at synagogue services, weddings, bar-mitzvahs and other Jewish gatherings. Contact with foreigners was closely monitored. Travel abroad was permitted in exceptional cases, but only if a bond of $300-$1,000 was left behind, along with family members who served as hostages. U.S. pressure applied during peace negotiations helped convince President Hafez Assad to lift these restrictions, and those prohibiting Jews from buying and selling property, in the early 1990’s.

In an undercover operation in late 1994, 1,262 Syrian Jews were brought to Israel. The spiritual leader of the Syrian Jewish community for 25 years, Rabbi Avraham Hamra, was among those who left Syria and went to New York (he now lives in Israel). Syria had granted exit visas on condition that the Jews not go to Israel.5 The decision to finally free the Jews came about largely as a result of pressure from the United States following the 1991 Madrid peace conference.

By the end of 1994, the Joab Ben Zeruiah Synagogue in Aleppo, in continuous use for more than 1,600 years, was deserted. A year later, approximately 250 Jews remained in Damascus, all apparently staying by choice.6 By the middle of 2001, Rabbi Huder Shahada Kabariti estimated that 150 Jews were living in Damascus, 30 in Haleb and 20 in Kamashili. Every two or three months, a rabbi visits from Istanbul, Turkey, to oversee preparation of kosher meat, which residents freeze and use until his next visit. Two synagogues remain open in Damascus.7

Although Jews are occasionally subjected to violence by Palestinian protesters in Syria, the government has taken strict protective measures, including arresting assailants and guarding the remaining synagogues.8

The last Syrian exodus makes fascinating Passover reading.  Come to think of it, Point of no Return is a good Passover blog.

Moses and Burning Bush icon, Sinai, c.12th century.

Anyhow, Asma’s little story about “the Armenians, Islam, Christianity, the Umayyads, the Ottomans—make up who I am” is ridiculous.  She’s a British-born and raised daughter of a (Syrian?) diplomat who’d vacation in Syria once a year until she married the dictator.  I want to know if this was an arranged marriage, and how many wives her husband has.  She sounds like an upper-crust London Arab in charge of putting a smiley on a fascist regime.

UPDATE 3/21/2012: Vogue has “disappeared” its profile of Asma Al Assad after this entry was posted.  The feature can be found here.  (Via Maggie’s Notebook.)

April 16, 2011

Apology not Accepted

Filed under: society — Tags: , , , — edge of the sandbox @ 10:26 pm

A belated response to the Dear Woman video first spotted on King Shamus, I suppose.  But hey, if I can get a post out — why not.  So it’s a long video of creepy white men (just one of them happened to be black) apologizing for all men to all women.  Of course, ladies obliged.

The thing is,those creatures can not possibly apologize on behalf of all men because they are themselves not men.  Girls becoming women is a matter of biology, but since men don’t go through comparable dramatic physiological transformations, a coming of age ritual had to be invented in every society.  That’s why boys go to boot camps, subject themselves to hazing or drive a stinky van from San Francisco to New York and back.

Sambia boy in Papua New Guinea has his nose poked until it bleeds hard as a part of Sambia initiation rite.

During these rites initiates bond with each other.  It’s very important for men to be able to run in packs, and men are much better teammates than we women.  When real men show loyalty to their buddies, Dear Woman “men” don’t have a team.  It would be very different if they pledged to not treat their female companions like the mullahs, or even came out and said directly, that they, the Gaia-worshiping masochists, are a higher order of male specimens.  Instead, they cattily suggest their superiority.  We women intuit that they never learned to bond with other men in a rite of passage, and don’t think of them as men.  If they are not men, who are they to apologize for men?

Real men are straight forward and not hard to please.  Dear Woman “men” come across as creepy and manipulative.  As many pointed out, they are angling to get laid, but they won’t.  True, but they will settle to use a woman to fill their crippled emotional needs.  It’s a good idea to stay away from those types.

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