Archive for November, 2007

Female Circumcision Ban A Sign of Cultural Imperialism

Friday, November 30th, 2007

Or female circumcision (a euphemism if there ever was one) could just be a barbaric butchery designed to forever rob a woman of sexual enjoyment. And yet, there are those who will defend it:

Dr. Ahmadu, a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Chicago, was raised in America and then went back to Sierra Leone as an adult to undergo the procedure along with fellow members of the Kono ethnic group. She has argued that the critics of the procedure exaggerate the medical dangers, misunderstand the effect on sexual pleasure, and mistakenly view the removal of parts of the clitoris as a practice that oppresses women. She has lamented that her Westernized “feminist sisters insist on denying us this critical aspect of becoming a woman in accordance with our unique and powerful cultural heritage.”

You know, Dr. Ahmadu is welcome to go to Sierra Leone, that bastion of culture and progressive thought, to get the procedure. Heck, I don’t care if she goes to the local cosmetic surgeon and turns her body in Michael Jackson. That’s her right.

But this procedure is forced on girls. Children, who have no consent in the matter. And don’t bring up male circumcision, please! At least there are medical benefits to that procedure and it doesn’t interfere with a man’s pleasure.

I’m glad the woman enjoyed the procedure. Great, for her. But making this legal is a way to degrade women as children and society should stand against that.

Music Downloads for 2007

Friday, November 30th, 2007

Like books, my taste in music is rather eclectic. My recent downloads from iTunes have included everything from Justin Timberlake to Rostropovich. It was cheaper to buy all of Rostropovich’s Bach cello solos, so I did that. He’s better than Yo Yo Ma in my opinion, or at least equally as good. He’s also a composer himself.

Justin Timberlake got the pick and choose treatment. He writes the best revenge songs–he has a knack for capturing the feeling of longing and anger simultaneously with a dash of schadenfreude thrown in. I like What Goes Around Comes Around.

There’s some Johnny Cash. The kid’s favorite is A Boy Named Sue.

The best version of Silent Night is actually covered by Five for Fighting. You absolutely MUST listen to it. Like unto it, is Somewhere Over the Rainbow by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole. It’s backed by a ukulele which is quite possibly the most under appreciated instrument ever. Well, that and the accordion. Oh, and I like Josh Groban’s treatment of O Holy Night (although he bugs me generally).

Alicia Key’s new album is great. Her voice sounds somewhat strained this time around. I hope she’s protecting her voice. I like No One and Lesson Learned.

It was interesting to note that Journey is still in the top 100 on iTunes. I have their greatest hits. For all the complaining by musicians, I have to believe that they’re making money they wouldn’t have before. I am the perfect example of a consumer unwilling to buy a whole CD for one song, but have regularly used iTunes. I don’t want to steal. I want choice. So there are some older artists I listen to now like Queen, Bon Jovi, Van Halen and some other big hair bands. Why not? They’re fun and get the blood pumping. Oh, and pretty much anything by Prince. My brother and I argued about I Would Die For You. To me, it’s the story of salvation and sacrificial love for our fellow man wrapped up in R&B. To him, it’s Prince’ narcissistic tendencies writ large. It’s probably both and reminds me that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Poor Amy Winehouse, such a talent is so rare and she’s killing herself with heroin. It’s sad. She addresses her pathology best in Back to Black which is better than the more popular Rehab.

Michael Bublé is great for a dinner party playing behind witty and incisive conversations. I like his version of Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow and of course, Home. My favorite version of Little Drummer Boy is by Bob Seger. The contrast of his gravelly voice with the sweetness of the topic is just well, light-hearted. When he belts out, “I was a poor boy, too”, I’m reminded of Jesus’ precarious beginning and outsider status.

Speaking of 80’s music…. We weren’t, but I’m going back to it for a minute. The best bedroom song ever is Sign Your Name Across My Heart by Terrence Trent D’Arby. Enjoy!

For your listening pleasure:

Best Books 2007 & Other Books, Too

Friday, November 30th, 2007

For those who are interested, here’s the New York Time’s List of Best Books for 2007. Haven’t read a one of them. I just don’t have much time for fiction. I’m rereading Lord of the Rings right now, just because it’s enjoyable after a long day.

A book I recently read was The Year of Living Biblically. It’s excellent and I highly recommend it for anyone across the faith spectrum.

I’m still slogging through the works of G.K. Chesterton. His books cause profound bouts of reflection which slows things down.

I also read the book How to Read Literature Like a Professor. My lit prof in college was not the best, and I didn’t pay much attention to the material anyway (he made terrific stuff bland) and I thought I’d go back to the basics. This book is excellent. You know, intuitively most of it anyway, but it’s just a nice, quick tutorial in the art of reading and enjoying a book.

Of course, I read Mark Steyn’s book America Alone. He’s an engaging writer, funny as heck, and his insights inspire contemplation. It’s a great book for a political junkie.

I finally finished The 48 Laws of Power which should be on every leader’s desk. Business people will enjoy it. It’s a good bathroom book, in that the lessons are broken down. A business person could get a daily dose of Machiavellian wisdom.

Again, for understanding how Islamism is changing London, I read Londonistan. Short take: London has changed and the change isn’t good.

Because women’s issues as it relates to child bearing interests me, and because I think the way the medical system approaches pregnant women and their partners is completely whacked, I read Naomi Wolf’s book Misconceptions. Meh. It was okay. She lays out well the experience of typical birth and why it can be so traumatizing for a self-aware, intelligent person. Birth is something that gets done to you at a hospital. But, drugs are good.

Going through this makes me realize that I haven’t done much neurology reading and that’s different. Usually, I read something in the field. Ah well, I’ve read all of Oliver Sack’s books except his new one Musicophilia. I did see a PBS documentary (PBS, I think) about what he’s been up to lately and it involved piano players. I keep up with him because he is friends with Temple Grandin a woman with Autism who has revolutionized, single-handedly, slaughter houses and for the better. Because of her needs for calming, she translated a similar system for cows. She’s a fascinating woman. Her books, too, are worthy reading. I met her and talked briefly with her at an Autism conference. Anyway, Oliver Sacks has written beautifully about neurological disorders. And I recommend any of his books. Oh! I notice that Temple also has a new book out. It’s got great reviews. Hmmmm….. Perhaps a gift for myself.

A relative told me that The Secret is “the best book ever”. Well, I read it and that may be a bit of an over statement since I can tell you in one sentence what the book is about: We tend to attract what we think about. Many people think that notion is crap otherwise they’d be married to a Marilyn Monroe look-alike. But there is a grain of truth in there–we reap what we sow. Do we know what we’re sowing? Becoming more mindful of what we’re creating for our life makes for a better life. There! Now you don’t need to read it.

My least favorite book was Augusteen Burrow’s book Running With Scissors. And the movie was worse. Maybe that was longer than a year ago. Anyway, I didn’t find his traumas and abuse either endearing or funny. It was more disturbing and sad. Too much of that in the world. Don’t need to read it.

I think I’d be remiss if I didn’t include some of the reading I do online. My reading habits have changed somewhat. Instead of magazine articles, I often read online. Two of my favorites are Scientific American and New Scientist. Keep in mind, I have as much skepticism about the scientific realm as I do about the religious realm. One particularly egregious set of conclusions from research prompted me to write the authors of the study. I actually hope it helped their research, because they were missing the obvious. My point being, that conclusions change in science but it’s nice to see what’s going on.

For on-line reading I like Popular Mechanics, too, but don’t get as much time over there as I’d like. It’s fun watching them blend stuff, though. And you should read this article men AND WOMEN.

Otherwise, regular readers know my favorite Bloggers. The Socratic corner gets a peek every day. The Experts get visited weekly, usually. I’m busier now and that’s made my blogging a distracted experience.

Please share any book recommendations in the comments. And I know I’ve read more than this, this year, I just can’t remember them all.

French Style Justice

Friday, November 30th, 2007

A friend is raped and murdered by a recidivist Turkish immigrant in France where self-defense is frowned upon even by Sarkozy. Paul Belian relays this story:

Shocked by the savage murder of our dear Anne-Lorraine [Schmitt, a journalism student who worked as an intern at the Valeurs Actuelles magazine], aged 23, a friend rang me: “We should demonstrate, burn down Turkish mosques…”

Maybe Paul should get that rocking and rolling. Burning things seems to be a language the French government understands.

Governments embrace anarchy and invite vigilantism when justice is deferred or never comes. I fear this backlash in Europe. The populace, weary at the effects of multiculturalism may solve their problems in their own way. Mark Steyn obliquely refers to this possibility but Claire Berlinski actually lays out the risk.

Restricting speech and denying justice (like sefl-defense) won’t stop a swing of the pendulum. It will accelerate it.

Multiplying My Troubles

Thursday, November 29th, 2007

I’ve been relatively silent about home schooling mainly because we’ve been humming along, thinking deep thoughts and generally grooving on the togetherness, man. This week has brought more irritation than most and I’m not sure if it’s hormonal or ants-in-pants or some combination of the above.

I’m feeling pressure to plow through the curriculum, to keep us on time, with the holidays quickly approaching. Most other home schoolers don’t seem as compulsive as I am and their serene Zen quality kinda freaks me out. Don’t you people realize that the future of your child is built one day at a time! Well, of course they do, they’re just further along the road than I am and more experienced.

Today’s placidity is being rippled by learning a new and difficult concept. Both kids are in tears which hardens my stance. This is math, not the Sudan. Why don’t they have some perspective? I suppose I was frought over multiple multipliers when I was eight but I don’t remember it and really don’t care. This idea must be burned into the hard drive, or else. Or else math, for the rest of this year will be hell. Today the hard work of laying the challenging foundation must be laid and it’s being bought with a price. My nerves are shot and their emotions are frazzled.

Zealous home schoolers and public schoolers and private schoolers rarely honestly assess the negatives of their choice. Home schooling while lovely (three months and were still relatively happy!) has it’s drawbacks. In fact, it was the main one I was concerned with: time for me to think and do something for myself. Children are greedy little beings and would prefer non-stop, 24-hour interaction from their parents.

So, I’m happy overall but I need to figure out the rest of this balance thing. My answer today will be National Geographic TV watching in the afternoon. Educational and peace for me. Hopefully.

Golden Compass Blues

Thursday, November 29th, 2007

Few movies or books have generated more desperate emails from concerned conservative friends than the Golden Compass. The last time I saw this intensity was when the Da Vinci Code came out as a movie. I had already read the book. It was clearly fiction to me–fantastical and hardly grounded in sound doctrine or history. The premise was intriguing and the book was a fun read. My faith wasn’t shattered. I doubted few others would be either.

Now comes the Golden Compass. In this case, I haven’t read the books, but plan to. Some put books with questionable content in the same category as porn–detritus that will pollute and confuse the mind. And while I grant the idea that the “dark arts” can poison the mind, it seems that to be able to have an intelligent conversation, understanding the arguments from all sides is necessary.

Adhering to my policy of waiting to read the books so that the movie isn’t ruined (movies are invariably a disappointment) will no doubt color my interpretation somewhat as I understand that the movie has been watered down to appeal to the masses. In fact, even the atheists are up in arms:

Among the points of contention:

The movie refers to the ominous “Magisterium.” But is this simply a totalitarian “authority,” as the filmmakers say, or does it refer to the Roman Catholic Magisterium — meaning the pope in communion with the bishops?

Are mystical particles called “Dust” a euphemism for sin?

That’s the implication in Random House’s teacher’s guide, which suggests students “use the Bible, a storybook, or an encyclopedia to read about the Garden of Eden and the fall of Adam and Eve.”

In the publisher’s interview with Pullman, he says his books depict “the Temptation and Fall not as the source of all woe and misery, as in traditional Christian teaching, but as the beginning of true human freedom, something to be celebrated, not lamented.”

So the film isn’t doctrinaire enough–a point I find amusing in this post-modern world.

Catholics are equally dismayed at the movie and have moved to educate their members:

The Catholic League will have none of that. “We’re just taking Pullman at his word,” says Donohue. The League produced a pamphlet, The Golden Compass: Agenda Unmasked, debunking Pullman on 95 different points; copies have been distributed to every Catholic bishop in the USA.

“The movie is just bait for the books, which are worse,” and the chance to make more movies, Donohue says. “We don’t want unsuspecting Christian parents to … take the kids to the film, buy the trilogy, and unknowingly introduce their children to the wonders of atheism and the damnation of Catholicism.”

I won’t take my kids to the movie, though they enjoy fantasy adventures. They didn’t see Happy Feet and Sesame Street isn’t played in this house, either. Once they have a good, solid foundation and learn some critical thinking skills, then we can work our way through a movie like The Golden Compass.

The world brims over with objectionable ideology. The notion that there are no moral absolutes and that we can each define the world our own way makes it seem like all ideas are equally valid. But that’s certainly not what these Atheists believe. They believe religion to be poison to the mind. They believe that freedom is only possible apart from God. In short, they believe and have faith in something, it’s just not God.

It’s important for Christians to understand the arguments if only because it demonstrates free will. For all the moral relativism on the Left, they hardly seem interested in understanding why people might disagree with them. Narrow minded, churlish, and resistant to nuance, it causes one to wonder who the zealots are these days.

Does CNN Even Have Fact Checkers?–UPDATE

Thursday, November 29th, 2007

Turns out that the CNN/YouTube Republican debate questioners already chose their candidates. And, big surprise! They weren’t Republicans. Michelle Malkin details the sordid mess.

UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds says:

JUST HEARD A LENGTHY NPR STORY ON THE YOUTUBE DEBATE, with a live followup from Mara Liasson — and it omitted any mention of the planted question issue. Hmm. If Fox hosted a Democratic debate and many of the most pointed questions turned out to come from Republican activists, but Fox didn’t disclose that, do you think it would pass unremarked?

I’m assuming that question is rhetorical, Glenn.

UPDATE AGAIN: James Lileks gives the debate the respect it deserves:

I heard some of the YouTube presidential debate. It’s a brave new medium that empowers the citizens, you know. The first video-question was some guy singing a song, chosen no doubt for its keen piercing insight. I expect CNN will next use the June Taylor dancers to spell out complex foreign-policy questions that can only be seen from an overhead perspective. It’s a shame we didn’t have this level of citizen participation in the Carter years; people could have asked the candidates questions over CB radio. Analysts say there’s a 60 percent chance we will have, in the near future, a convoy. How would you keep the economy from driftin’ into the granny lane, and stay in the hammer lane without makin’ inflation do a 10-200 on us all? Come back.

Bloggers and Everyone Else: If You’re Fat, Stand Up!

Wednesday, November 28th, 2007

Research reveals that it’s not just exercise, it’s how much you’re on your feet. Bloggers beware! Sitting on your arse all day long can lead to the spread:

In most cases, exercise alone, according to a team of scientists at the University of Missouri, isn’t enough to take off those added pounds. The problem, they say, is that all the stuff we’ve heard the last few years about weight control left one key factor out of the equation. When we sit, the researchers found, the enzymes that are responsible for burning fat just shut down.

For myself, I’m going to move my laptop, during the day, to the bar in the kitchen. It’s at the right level for standing.

This research jives with some other research I can’t lay my hands on now, that correlates people who have “ants in their pants”, they’re in constant motion, burn enough calories to keep them skinny. The kids who sit still and pay attention, are more likely to be fat.

So, lets get everyone up and busy. Bloggers! Take note.

Best Terrorist Recruiting Picture

Wednesday, November 28th, 2007

This should help Al Qaeda.

Using Leopard

Wednesday, November 28th, 2007

So far, so good. I’ve just started to fool around in it and wonder of wonders! I’m using Safari as my browser to blog.

My brother and I bought the license for five computers together and it got lost in the mail for a month. Finally got it.
I’ll let you know more, when I know more. By the way, have you seen the new Apple ads? As usual, they’re devastating. (And smug.)
Update: Weird day to day. Another power outage. I swear, my electronics are going to be toasted. Anyone have recommendations on the latest battery back ups and also good power strips? Ours our dropping like flies. We need more and better ones.