May 30, 2007

Response to "A Rosie By Any Other Name"

The following is most of a comment I left at Izzy Mo's post, A Rosie By Any Other Name.

At first I was going to write a smarmy “we don’t have this sort of problem here” comment, but then I thought about this a little more. It is true, we don’t have these types of programs on here - no Rosie, no Glenn. (You can get Faux News on cable here, but I doubt that many people subscribe to that channel. We certainly don’t.) But why aren’t these programs on here?

Your politics is not our politics. What concerns American voters doesn’t concern Asian voters. Asian politics is often about pragmatic issues. During the last S’pore general election, even I was surprised to hear that a major campaign issue here was infrastructure: “We want better lifts (elevators) that will stop on every floor instead of those that stop on just three.” The US, by and large, doesn’t have infrastructure concerns except on a limited, local level, and those are treated in a more-or-less bipartisan manner. Instead, US politics have mostly degenerated into vague issues, like “values.” US politics have degenerated into contests that are shaped through religious and ideological litmus tests, which have increasingly polarized society. “You’re either with us or against us.” Values aren’t as important in politics here, not only because pragmatic issues like economic development are the higher priority, but because Asians don’t lack for values. With so many diverse religions here, it’s far easier to work together by not holding one group’s values above the others.

Smaller countries make for better media. Much of the media here, magazines and TV in particular, are spread over a wide geographic area that include many different countries. When I watch, say, "Law & Order" on the Hallmark Channel, they’ll show the program’s air times for Seoul, Hong Kong and Bangkok. Some programs will even show air times for as far east as India and the Middle East. That’s a lot of countries between Japan and the KSA. With so many countries, cultures, religions and governments to contend with, it’s easier not to make waves by being controversial. On the other hand, we want our news straight here. There isn’t the celebrity overkill here that there is in the US. JonBenet Ramsay? So what? Anna Nicole Smith? Who cares? The media here is also less likely to dodge difficult issues. Check out the covers for Time and Newsweek magazines here and here. These are the covers for the US and three international editions. Given the choice between a cover story about the resurgence of the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan vs. a story in favor of teaching the Bible in schools, which one really is more important? What’s the more important story, “Losing Afghanistan” or Annie Liebovitz’s “My Life in Pictures?” Yeah, Americans have got their priorities straight.

The situation in America isn’t going to improve until you change the culture and the way people think. Many people go to college, but few develop critical thinking skills. It’s far easier for people to be sheep, to be told what to think, to follow “Dear Leader” (regardless of who “Dear Leader” is, the President, the local pastor, whomever). The government and media gives the people what it wants; right now, yes, the US is in its panem et circenses stage, and I doubt that it will leave that stage any time soon. Perhaps never, insha’allah.

May 29, 2007

Corps Drums Up Funds for Summer Tour

A rare article in the paper about drum corps; this one from the May 27th Arizona Republic on The Academy having a fund raiser for their 2007 tour.

One small part of the article that appears incorrect: "Arizona's only drum corps..." Looking at Jester's website, I don't see any sign that they're not marching this summer.

TEMPE - Arizona's only drum corps will debut their 2007 show at the fifth annual Memorial Day Concert in Tempe.

The Academy Drum and Bugle Corps consists of 135 young people ages 14 to 22. It is part of the Tempe-based Arizona Academy of the Performing arts, which was founded in 2001 to seek out more education and performance opportunities for young musicians.

Monday's concert will take place at 4 p.m. at Tempe's PERA Club, located at 1 East Continental Drive near McDowell and Scottsdale roads. Tickets are $5 in advance or $8 at the gate. The event includes food and a silent auction.

Proceeds from the event will help the corps pay for a summer tour. They will spend the summer traveling around the country performing their newest show, an 11-minute choreographed production.

Corps members must audition and pay $1,800 a year to participate. During the school year they spent their weekend days practicing at outdoor sports fields in Tempe, and during the summer they will practice 12-14 hours nearly every day.

The undefeated corps was the 2006 Division II World Champion at the Drum Corps International World Championships in Madison, Wis..

For more information, visit

Kermit is a Muslim

Betcha didn't know that. ;)

Allahu akbar!

May 27, 2007

Yum! Food!

The following photographs were taken by myself over the past two years or so, using two different cameras.

Spicy Beef Lung
The above photo was taken at a "halal food exposition" at Singapore Expo some time back. Spicy beef lungs aren't exactly my type of food, but they are popular with Malays here.

Seaweed Shaker
As you can see, the "Seaweed Shaker" packet here came from McDonald's. These were for orders of french fries. Customers received their fries with one packet of seaweed and a small paper bag to shake the fries and seaweed in. I collected a bunch of these packets for family back home (who've yet to receive them; bad JD). I have eaten seaweed before, primarily up in Korea. It tastes somewhat like paper.

The final photo is the most recent. The previous two photos were taken with a digital Panasonic point-and-shoot; this last photo was taken with a digital Nikon SLR, which Milady and I bought two-three weeks ago. After buying the camera, Milady, her brother and I walked over to a nearby Burger King while we waited for a computer to be built. This is the second photo I took with the camera, where I just pointed it at the wall in front of me, which had this huge photo wallpaper of a Whopper. I looked at the photo on the back of the camera body and said, "Wow!" I showed the picture to my bro-in-law and he said, "Wow!" :) It's a nice camera.

May 26, 2007

Easy Come, Easy Go

This story is amusing in its own perverse way. I find it somewhat ironic that the purpose of the mandala was to promote compassion.

A child destroyed a one-of-a-kind piece of artwork at Kansas City's Union Station, and it was caught on tape.

Tibetan monks had been creating the sand art, which looks like a colorful tapestry on the floor, for two days.

A surveillance camera recorded a young boy, possibly a toddler, who walked into the sand and started dancing, while his mother mailed a package at the post office. After a few minutes, the video showed a woman pull the child away.

"Never happened before, never happened before like that," monk Jampa Tenzin said.

The monks said they were not angry at the child or his mother. Instead, they've been hard at work to finish the piece.

Tibetan monks are creating sand art on the floor of Union Station.

The monks are on a yearlong tour of the United States and Canada to raise money for their monastery. The original monastery in Tibet was destroyed. They were about halfway finished when they left for the day Tuesday, roping off the artwork before they left.

The lead monk said it was "no problem," adding, "we will have to work harder" to get it finished before Saturday. It will then be swept up and offered to onlookers for their gardens. The rest will be placed in the Missouri River.

Other videos can be viewed here and here.

Singapore's Waterspout of 25 May 2007

This photo was taken by Riza, an employee of the Swissotel, The Stamford, on the hotel's rooftop. Swissotel, The Stamford, is the tallest hotel in SE Asia, at 226 meters. (Source)

There was a waterspout sighted very close to Singapore yesterday (which, unfortunately, I missed). Apparently, the waterspout was located somewhere along the SE coast of Singapore (near the Marine Parade neighborhood according to the NEA), although some videos taken from the island of Sentosa had some good views.

Reading through the NEA's response to "STOMP" (a feature of the Straits Times newspaper), waterspouts are somewhat common here, which is news to me: this is the first waterspout in Singapore I had heard of since moving here almost five years ago. This one seems to have generated a lot of attention due to its size and the fact it was widely sighted.

NEA's response to STOMP reads:

"A waterspout was observed in the waters off Marine Parade today.

In waters off Singapore, one or two sightings of waterspout are usually made in an average year. The last waterspout was observed last August.

Waterspout is a small weather phenomenon usually observed under cumuliform clouds during intense weather conditions associated with thunderstorms. Due to the lower pressure conditions under the clouds in such conditions, one or maybe two columns of water can be sucked towards the base of the clouds giving the traditional picture of a funnel(s), and as such waterspouts are sometimes also called funnel clouds.

In waters off Singapore, waterspouts have short life cycle of few to tens of minutes. Speed of movement of the waterspout over water ranges from a few to up to 15 knots.Waterspouts are known to dissipate rapidly near the coast and are not expected to cause other danger to lives and property on land besides the usual dangers associated with thunderstorms.

Waterspouts usually occur in water in the tropics."

I've looked at a number of Youtube videos, and this one is one of the better ones:

May 24, 2007

Time Fountain

This is pretty cool.

This device creates the illusion that a simple stream of water droplets can defy the known laws of physics. By controlling a set of flickering LEDs, the dripping water can appear to slow down, freeze in mid-air, and even reverse in direction.

This illusion exists because the brain attempts to fill in the gaps between flashes with its anticipated motion. It is the same reason that your brain interprets the 24 frames/second of a movie to be in-motion, rather than recognizing the individual still frames.

May 22, 2007

Antonio Rappa on Asia's Discomfort with America

This is another passage by Dr. Rappa, from his book, Globalization: An Asian Perspective on Modernity and Politics in America (published 2004). Dr. Rappa's passage is specifically about the irritation many Asians feel about America's influence and interference in their own countries and cultures; however, I suspect that the passage is relevant for virtually every other country and region around the world, even countries as close to the United States (geographically, culturally and politically) as Canada and the United Kingdom.

Americans by and large don't have the slightest clue as to what people from other countries think about America and Americans. The two extremes seem to be either "They love us; look at how many of them are trying to live in our country" or "They hate us for our freedoms," a phrase that has as much value, pardon my French, as a piece of shit. Americans put their noses into the business of just about every other country in the world, expect the other country to "reform" to fit the American model, and then get upset when the other country either rejects the "reform" out of hand or decides to follow a different model. Dr. Rappa suggests that Americans consider a world in which the shoe goes on their foot.

"Asia's discomfort with America" can be summed up in terms of what is perceived as the politics of interference by a global hegemonic power. If you don't understand what this means, imagine if any Asian country were to send its soldiers, statesmen, economists, social scientists, teachers, educationists, and diplomats into your cities and told you all what to do in public. Imagine a world in which Asians from Asia, not Asian-Americans, were making decisions about the way your country ought to work. Imagine a world in which your human rights records, your labor laws, and your social security system were continuously being analyzed and questioned by non-citizen, non-domiciled foreigners. A world where you had to depend on Asian investments in order to achieve a certain standard of living, to feed your children, to educate them, and to try and create a better world for them. If you can imagine all this and accept it as good and well-meaning advice that may go against your own cultural practices, then you might be able to understand what it feels like to be told what to do by foreigners. Perhaps some Americans wouldn't mind being told what to do as long as the system works.


But what if you thought that the system was, by and large, working and you had these Asian leaders in your face anyway? Or Asian military hardware on the tarmac at SFO, Honolulu International, Dulles, JFK, LAX, and Chicago-O'Hare? How would you feel if Asian soldiers raped young American girls like the ones that were raped by American GIs in Okinawa? How would you like it if your teenage daughters and sons were dancing in droves to Asian music you could not understand or if your sons and daughters were wearing Asian clothes (whatever that might be) and mimicking Asian mannerisms (or whatever might be the equivalent in US cultural currency)? If you can imagine this kind of world - whether you accept it or reject it - then you are beginning to understand the politics of American globalization.
-- pp. 102-3

May 20, 2007

Damning With Faint Praise

A couple weeks ago, I picked up a cheap DVD copy of the 1962 film Mutiny on the Bounty, the version with Marlon Brando as 1st Lt. Fletcher Christian and Trevor Howard as Capt. Bligh. What struck me as odd, though, was the English-language blurb on the back side of the case. The company that released this disk, Bo Ying, is a Chinese company, and much of the text on the cover is in Chinese. However, it appears that Bo Ying has no native English speakers on their staff, which probably explains why they used the following quotation from some review of the movie instead of another blurb that actually describes, praises and/or sells the movie to the potential customer.

Moral equivocation was a common trait among several of Marlon Brando's characters in the early part of his career, and so it makes good theoretical sense that he would play the role of Fletcher Christian, the tormented first mate aboard the British naval vessel Bounty. But in fact the part is an ill fit for the actor, whose British accent is poor and who never looked quite right in period costume, anyway. Director Lewis Milestone (All Quiet on the Western Front) makes a good-looking and at times (especially during scenes of shipboard cruelties and conflict) compelling movie out of the material, but overall the film just isn't there?

(Wikipedia's entry for the movie)

The Singapore Flyer

Over the past few months, a huge ferris wheel has been built near the Marina Bay section of Singapore. This behemoth, when finished, will be the largest ferris wheel in the world at 165 meters tall (the London Eye is 135m, and the Star of Nanchang is 162m), with a diameter of 150 meters. The Flyer had principal construction of the wheel finished a few weeks ago; however, since then, three of the internal spokes have been removed (I don't know why), although the outer rim remains whole and intact.

The Flyer, which is scheduled to begin operations on 1 March 2008, is expected to cost a total of S$240 million; the basic ticket price will be S$29.50 per adult for a 37-minute ride. (More information on the Singapore Flyer can be found here.)

All of the below pictures were taken by me with my hand phone camera while I was riding to work on various speeding taxis. :) Each of the photos were taken about one week apart. Unfortunately, as I was cropping these photos, they lost a lot of detail and so the sky in particular has become rather smudgy. However, they still give a decent idea as to how progress on the Flyer has progressed over time.

Antonio Rappa on Oil

I've been reading off and on a book by Antonio L. Rappa entitled Globalization: An Asian Perspective on Modernity and Politics in America (published 2004). Rappa is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the National University of Singapore (NUS). Much of what Rappa writes on oil in this passage ties in with what Kevin Phillips wrote in his book, American Theocracy.

I really can't understand why some people earnestly believe that the US is interested in the Middle East for altruistic reasons such as human rights, non-oil trade, or Mediterranean tourism. American troops were not trying to keep the peace in the Sudan, the Republic of Congo, East Timor, or Kashmir. The reason is because these places do not produce sufficient quantities of oil for export to make them sufficiently attractive and worth the trouble of establishing diplomatic relations, economic, social and cultural exchanges, and military assistance. Inasmuch as the US is interested in preventing war from breaking out between China and Taiwan because of the gross amount of investments that it has in both countries, there is a similar reason why the Middle East peace process appears to be a never-ending story. American foreign policy is always dictated by its national interest. And the national interest of the MNCs and Military Industrial Complex that control much of American life is "oil." ... [T]he only reason why the US is so interested in the Middle East is oil. Oil sustains American neoliberal globalization. Let's not pretend it is because of democracy, to protect Israel, to ensure the safety of Americans, or to promote free-trade or world peace. These are only secondary objectives. The US State Department knows full well that without oil, the entire US economy will collapse, and the American Dream will implode. This is a fact. The two Gulf Wars were ostensibly about removing dictators like Saddam Hussein. The Shah of Iran and his troops committed similar atrocities when they were in power (similar to the Russians before glasnost and perestroika; and now that the "Russian mafia" seems to be in charge of many areas, rather than state or the KGB). The real reasons are the oil fields beneath Basra in Southern Iraq. There are three types of crude oil [Basra Regular, Basra Medium, and Basra Heavy] that Saddam and his henchmen hid under the desert. Some analysts say it is between 5-7 per cent of total world production per day. Others say the figures are much higher, perhaps high enough to solve American oil problems for the next quarter of a century. There are also sufficient oil and natural gas reserves in that region to make anyone want to invest in a stable and democratic-loving Iraq.


An American national interest in the Middle East or in the Straits of Malacca or in China and Taiwan is really about protecting America and Americans. These and many other places serve as important and strategic locations for ensuring the smooth flow of American goods and services. Let's call a spade a spade. The main reason why America seems to be here, there and everywhere is because it is safeguarding the American way of life, perhaps the American Dream, and certainly not merely for human rights assistance or aid for natural disasters.
- pp. 109-10

May 15, 2007

Mr. Sulu

I know, I know... I really don't put this sort of thing on my blog, but I am and always have been a Trekker. The result did come back as a surprise, though. I've never really identified with Mr. Sulu so much as some of the other characters. In middle school, I identified with Mr. Spock in a major way... I guess this shows just how much I've changed since then.

Your results:
You are Mr. Sulu.
You are able to master many skills such as swords, plants and martial arts.

Mr. Sulu - 65%
Uhura - 65%
James T. Kirk (Captain) - 60%
Chekov - 55%
Worf - 55%
Deanna Troi - 55%
Will Riker - 55%
An Expendable Character (Redshirt) - 55%
Geordi LaForge - 55%
Jean-Luc Picard - 50%
Data - 44%
Beverly Crusher - 40%
Mr. Scott - 35%
Spock - 32%
Leonard McCoy (Bones) - 30%

Click here to take the "Which Star Trek character am I?" quiz...

I am Awash in Memory

This weekend was a hectic one for Milady and I. She had decided that she needed her own computer at home, in part because our original computer (now "my" computer) was getting old and slow. In fact, the problem with the old computer was merely that it needed more RAM. Originally, it had a 256 meg RAM chip in it; also, a number of non-vital programs running in the background were filling up the cache to about 80% of its capacity. So we bought Milady her computer, got a nice 1 gig RAM chip for my computer, deleted a bunch of the background programs (the cache is now running at about 20% of capacity), and bought a wireless network for the home. (We also bought a 10 megapixel 35mm SLR camera, but that's another story.)

While we were running around getting computer stuff, I bought another thumb drive for myself and Milady. These were 4 gig SanDisks; price: S$55. I bring this up because I am continually amazed at how the price of memory keeps falling (and, of course, as it falls, I keep buying). My very first thumb drive was a 128 meg Sony, bought in 2003. (The memory chip itself was OK, but the casing ultimately broke open - piece of crap.) The price of that particular thumb drive seems to have etched on to my mind for some reason. It cost me S$88. Now, do a little math and we calculate that in today's market, a chip for a mere 128 meg should now cost S$1.72. Isn't that amazing? $1.72 is only 2% of $88. Two years ago, I saw a 4 gig "mini hard drive" available for sale. It cost about S$300 (I didn't buy it). Since last October, I've bought three thumb drives. (I tend to buy the largest amount of memory I can reasonably afford, not necessarily the largest amount of memory available on the market.) The first thumb drive was 1 gig; the next was 2 gig; now I've got a 4 gig thumb drive. (I suppose we'll start seeing 8 gig thumb drives in the not too distant future, insha'allah.) Those three thumb drives are in addition to all the other thumb drives I have at home; I saw three of those old thumb drives this morning in my bedroom and I think I've got two more... somewhere.

I am awash in memory.

May 14, 2007

The Economist: Muslims and the Veil

The Economist has come out with an article on reactions around the world to the hijab and niqab. The article initially focuses on the wife of Turkish foreign minister Abdullah Gul, Hayrunisa Gul, who has provoked pro-secularist Turks by having the unmitigated gall to wear a hijab. < /snark > The article then turns into a quasi-review of which Muslim countries wear what (no covering, hijab, burqa, etc.), and mentions a few incidents in various countries relating to high emotions over hijab. As usual, The Economist tries to be balanced (which is more than one can say for many American periodicals).

Is this all because of me? At once bemused and indignant, the potential first lady of Turkey demands that her compatriots stop judging her, and her spouse, on the basis of her appearance. “My scarf covers my head, not my brain,” insists Hayrunisa Gul, whose husband Abdullah is foreign minister and aspires to be president.

Yet if there is one big reason why the candidacy of Mr Gul—whose elevation by parliament has been vetoed by a court, triggering a political crisis and an early election—sparks strong emotions, it is the silk fabric that frames Mrs Gul's expressive features. “I am a modern woman, I can hold my own with foreign leaders and their spouses,” Mrs Gul (pictured above with Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands) told your correspondent this week. Nor does the tall, loquacious mother of three—a more lively figure than any of Turkey's recent presidential spouses—favor a draconian regime of the Taliban kind. “I used to drive Abdullah to work and the children to school,” she says. “So I couldn't imagine living in a country where women cannot drive.”

But the challenge which Mrs Gul's apparel poses for Turkey's strict secularism is more than imaginary. Until now, neither she nor the wife of any other top politician in the ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party has been welcome in the chamber of parliament, the presidential palace or any military premises—because as devout Muslim ladies, they cover their heads. The idea of a scarved mistress of the presidential residence, guarded by soldiers trained to uphold secularism, delights some Turks and enrages others.

In almost every other part of the Muslim world, controversy over female headgear is growing. Turkey and Tunisia are at one end of the Muslim spectrum; both ban female civil servants, as well as students in state schools, from covering their hair. One Turkish judge was nearly assassinated after decreeing that teachers could not wear scarves even on their way to work. But in Saudi Arabia and Iran, the rules go the other way. No woman may appear in public with more than face and hands exposed.

Not even that was allowed in Afghanistan under the Taliban regime, which mandated the burqa, the most extreme form of female covering. In today's Iraq, meanwhile, a big fissure in the Sunni resistance movement pits al-Qaeda-minded thugs who want women to wear gloves and the niqab (which differs from the burqa only in having slits for the eyes) and milder sorts who allow the simpler hijab, which covers hair and neck.

A clash over female attire is intensifying in neighboring countries too. Just now, police in Iran are busy with their annual spring campaign against “bad hijab”, prowling parks and stopping traffic to enforce dress codes. This year's drive is the strictest for a decade. Thousands of women have received warnings; police cars have been parked outside shopping malls, scrutinizing every customer; vehicles with improperly clad ladies at the wheel have been impounded. The crackdown, which also targets men in short sleeves or with extravagantly gelled hair, marks a reversal in a relative relaxation of dress codes which had occurred under President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's regime. The manteau, or coat, which women are supposed to wear to hide the shape of their bodies has been getting shorter, as have the trousers underneath; and some women have sported jeans and lipstick under chadors covering their upper body.

Whether the current campaign will have any enduring effect on the determination of Iranian women (and fashion designers) to interpret the rules creatively remains to be seen. But there are many Muslim countries where rows over headgear have already taken a toll in blood.

In Pakistan last year, an assassin shot dead a provincial government minister, judging her gauzy head covering not Islamic enough. In January a clash between Tunisian police and Islamist rebels left 12 dead. The rebels said they were “defending their veiled sisters against oppression”, a reference to the fact that Tunisia's president dismisses the hijab as an alien form of “sectarian dress” and has sent police to toy shops to seize dolls with scarves.

Among most Muslims, who live between such extremes, two broad trends have emerged. One is a general movement towards more overt signs of piety, including “Islamic” attire. Within the past two decades, modern forms of head covering have become standard fashion in countries such as Egypt, Jordan, Malaysia, Morocco, Sudan and Yemen, replacing both traditional country scarves and the exposed coifs that were inoffensive to an earlier generation of city dwellers.

On the streets of Cairo, the Egyptian capital, headscarved women form a very visible majority. In the Egyptian countryside, where women used to work the fields uncovered, veils are now universal. Even gloves are not uncommon. Wearing the hijab is now so popular that it has ceased to be a statement, says Hania Sholkamy, an Egyptian anthropologist. “In fact, it is getting hard to shop for what used to be ordinary clothes,” she says. “Islamic dress is cheaper and more available.”

The other trend is an undercurrent of rebellion against sartorial rules of any kind. Trendy women in Saudi Arabia have taken to sporting slimmer-fitting abayas, while embellishing the traditionally black over-garment with bold strips of color. The fact that Iranian authorities must still, 27 years after the Islamic revolution, forcibly impose dress codes suggests a persistent urge to challenge them. In cities as far apart as Damascus, the Syrian capital, and Casablanca, Morocco's commercial capital, some women accompany perfunctory head-coverings with heavy make-up, while others compete with the skimpy attire that is often seen in Arabic pop videos.

Yet the stern secularism of Turkey and Tunisia also meets resistance. Veiling, which a decade ago was confined largely to the tradition-bound poor, has made a middle-class comeback in both countries. In subtle defiance of a ban on scarves for official identity photos, some Turkish women erase their hair digitally and replace it with a wig-like substitute.

In less rigid Egypt, pious women have filed lawsuits against anti-veil rules imposed, for example, by state-run television networks. One judge overruled the ban applied by a private university against the face-concealing niqab, on the grounds that personal freedom counts more than the university's right to ascertain the identity of its students. When Egypt's culture minister casually told an interviewer that he personally considered veiling a backward practice, the ensuing public outcry forced him to recant. When its minister for religious affairs, who pays the wages of mosque preachers, stripped niqab-wearing employees of the right to preach, provincial bureaucrats declined to obey.

Different views on female apparel reflect differing readings of Islam's holy texts. One passage in the Koran, cited in support of the hijab, reads as follows: “Enjoin believing women to turn their eyes away from temptation and to preserve their chastity; not to display their adornments (except such as are normally revealed); to draw their veils over their bosoms and not to display their finery...”

A minority of Muslims would argue that female modesty does not necessarily imply covering one's head. Another school cites oral traditions from the early Muslim community to insist that an ordinary hijab is not sufficient covering.

Egypt's grand mufti, under pressure to clarify the issue, obliged recently with two rulings. One stated that modest dress, including hair covering, is an Islamic duty. The other fatwa declared full-face veiling to be permitted—but not obligatory. That may satisfy some people, but it will not please either those zealots who think establishment clerics are too soft—or those devout believers who think God does not mind very much about their hairstyle.

"I Spent Yesterday at a Muslim School Where Kids are Taught to Dominate"

There's a very nice diary written by an American Buddhist teacher who took his primary school's chess team to a tournament at the Granada Muslim School in Santa Clara, California. Check it out!

Some quotes:

As I walked through the school it was clear that it was just like any other school in the area, the walls covered with student paintings illustrating one theme or another. There were absolutely no in your face religious themes, just mentions of things like Muslim politeness or Muslim behavior on posters with the list of the same sort of rules you see in any other school. First impressions were that it was exactly the sort of school where any kid could get a great education, and the facilities were generally superior to those in the elementary schools where I teach.

I must say, however, that I have never seen a school cafeteria quite like the one at Granada. The food was fresh cooked, healthy, and had plenty of stuff that kids like, including pizza and a wide assortment of ice cream. Beverages included the usual assortment plus a wide range of coffees and energy drinks. The kids and their parents both seemed happy, though some of the prices reminded me more of a mall than a village school.


With all the American paranoia about the madrassas out there creating a bunch of future terrorists, people should all visit the Granada Muslim school to see some of the reality at least here in America. The kids at the school are being taught to become fine citizens with good educations and solid academic skills. It is at exactly what a school all to be.

Though I am no fan of organized religion, to put it mildly, I was very comfortable at this religious school and got no sense at all that these kids were somehow being brainwashed with values are foreign to my American ideals. And seeing all these kids of various religions and ethnicities enjoying a day of playing chess together makes me wish there were more schools like this.

May 10, 2007

Life's Short. Get a Divorce. Be a Pathetic Loser.

Update: Click here for more information on Corri's sexual harassment lawsuit.

This made the news last night, on CNN International. It's one of the more moronic print ads I've ever seen. "Life's short. Be shallow. Divorce your current spouse so you can marry a trophy wife (or husband) only for her (or his) looks, which will fade away in time." And why am I not surprised that the divorce attorney who thought up the ad, Corri Fetman, is herself a divorcee?

Update: After reading the comment below (which is very interesting), I've made a couple of minor changes to this post, changing the picture of the billboard to the new one above, and adding several pictures of Corri Fetman (the more formal of which was taken from the law firm's website).

From ABC News:

EDITOR'S NOTE: The billboard that is that subject of this story was taken down on Tuesday evening by the owners of a parking garage it was attached to, according to Corri Fetman, a lawyer whose firm paid for the advertisement, and witnesses who contacted ABC News when they saw the billboard being taken down. (Last Updated Tuesday, 7:57 p.m EST)

An all-female law firm is turning heads in Chicago with a new billboard and a blunt message:

"Life's Short. Get a Divorce.''

The billboard, sponsored by Fetman, Garland & Associates, Ltd., a firm that specializes in divorce cases, features the six-pack abs of a headless male torso and tanned female cleavage heaving forth from a black lace bra.

The ad is the brainchild of Corri Fetman, who told ABC News' Law & Justice Unit, "Law firm advertising is boring... Everything's always the same. It's lawyers in libraries with a suit on and the law books behind them. They don't say anything. What, I should hire you because you have a law degree? C'mon. So we wanted to try something different."

Reaction from those who work in and around Chicago's divorce courts has been less than enthusiastic.

"It's grotesque," said John Ducanto, past president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. "It's totally undignified and offensive."

"It trivializes divorce and I think it's absolutely disgusting," Rick Tivers, a clinical social worker at the Center for Divorce Recovery in Chicago, told ABC News. "Divorce is traumatic enough without this kind of [advertising]. We try and help people go through the divorce process with as much integrity as possible. A lot of my work is helping people grieve the loss of a divorce, and their own sense of betrayal. This makes divorce seem like it's not a big deal, and it's a huge deal for many people."

Ducanto called on the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Committee of Supreme Court of Illinois to sanction Fetman. "I don't think they'll just let this pass," said Ducanto, who seemed genuinely hurt by the ad. "I have been in practice for 52 years, and I've worked my ass off to change the image of this particular area of the legal practice, and to see some punk try and pervert the whole image in the interest of lucre. ... Sure, she's got a lot of attention, but it's like a guy who spits on a table — you got the attention, sure, but what kind of attention is it?"


One of the genuine lions of the American divorce courts -- New York's Raoul Felder -- said the ad was a new low for the profession.

"This has to be the Academy Award of bad taste," Felder told ABC News. Fetman is "not your run-of-the-mill Perry Mason lawyer," he opined. "Hell, that's not even 'L.A. Law.' It's bizarre," he said. "I don't think anybody walks away from that ad thinking more of the legal profession that they did before they saw it."

Karen Enright, president-elect of the Women's Bar of Illinois, shared similar feelings. "It's actually a disappointment to the profession and to the institution of marriage, which is something our community holds as sacred," she said. "Our profession, and lawyers in general, have been under attack for advertisements similar to this and I think," she said, pausing. "I think that it's not in good taste."

But Fetman defends the billboard, almost gleefully. Recycling popular catch phrases seems to come naturally to her. "Lawyers don't cause divorces. People cause divorces," she said. "If you think somebody's going to look at a billboard and go out and get a divorce as a result, you're insulting the intelligence of people. If that's the case, our next billboard is going to read, 'Gimme Your Money.'"

The placement of the billboard -- first reported by the Chicago Sun-Times -- is interesting. It peers down into an area of Rush Street known as the "Viagra Triangle" for its three, trendy singles bars in an affluent section of Chicago known as the "Gold Coast."

"Everybody's got a pretty good sense of humor in this neighborhood," said Greg Horan, director of operations for Gibson's Steakhouse, one of the three restaurant/bars in the triangle. The billboard is perched on a parking garage behind the restaurant. "We don't endorse it or anything, but sure, people will look up and get a chuckle out of it."

As far as Fetman is concerned, it's a lighthearted splash of color in an otherwise dreary area of legal advertisement. "It promotes happiness," she said. "It promotes happiness and personal integrity."

And happiness may be something that Fetman, a divorcee, is seeking herself. "By the way, the male body on the billboard? That's my personal trainer, Chuck Sanow," Fetman told ABC News, her girlish voice rising just so. "He's a Chicago firefighter and he owns a gym."

Update: Corri's got a new billboard roaming the streets of Chicago. The story can be read here, and a press release with a better photo of the new ad can be found here.

May 9, 2007

Smoke Ring Generator

File this one under "Too much time on his hands." :) Amusing, but...

For a website that has lots of photos of the "vortex ring generator," as they call it, check out

Christian Domestic Discipline

The next time someone gets on our case regarding Ayah 4:34, be sure to refer them to this page, Christian Domestic Discipline, and ask them to explain the double standard. :) From the CDD home page:

A domestic discipline marriage is one in which one partner in the marriage is given authority over the other and has the means to back the authority, usually by spanking.

A Christian Domestic Discipline marriage is one that is set up according to Biblical standards; that is, the husband is the authority in the household. The wife is submissive to her husband as is fit in the Lord and her husband loves her as himself. He has the ultimate authority in his household, but it is tempered with the knowledge that he must answer to God for his actions and decisions. He has the authority to spank his wife for punishment, but in real CDD marriages this is taken very seriously and usually happens only rarely. CDD is so much more than just spanking. It is the husband loving the wife enough to guide and teach her, and the wife loving the husband enough to follow his leadership. A Christian marriage embodies true romance and a Christian man a true hero.

Though this seems unusual in today's United States, this kind of marriage has been practiced throughout history and is still practiced in many parts of the world today.

May 7, 2007

Amy Gets It

Waaah, the Muslims are serving me food again. Where are the babes in the bikinis? < /snark >

Glad to see that Amy gets it.

Dear Amy: I live in a retirement community where all residents are provided one served meal each day. This meal is served by high school students in a dining area accommodating about 200 residents. These servers are both male and female, and wear white shirts/blouses and black pants/skirts. It is a uniform of sorts.

Two of the female servers wear black scarves over their heads and around their necks, consistent with, I presume, their Muslim tradition.

It offends my sense of propriety and decorum to have these two servers display their religious symbols in a private dining area, such that they cannot be ignored. I would like to complain to management, but I don't want to stir up a hornet's nest. Am I wrong?

-- Kilroy

Dear Kilroy: I'm not sure what you find offensive. Are you offended by evidence of any religion in the dining room? Or do you mind the fact that these girls are Muslim and it is impossible for you to ignore that fact? The ideal function of the hijab is to project an air of modesty to avoid attention -- not draw it to themselves. And it seems that a black head scarf fits in with the black-and-white uniform for servers.

I wonder if you would be similarly offended if these girls wore Amish caps or if some of the young male waiters wore yarmulkes? Perhaps you would be. If so, and if any evidence of religion in your dining room offends you, then complain to management. But you will be stirring up a hornet's nest if you do.

Unless these scarves somehow impair these young people's ability to serve you dinner, I don't think you have a leg to stand on. We live in a pluralistic society, and while it might be changing a bit fast for your taste, the freedom to practice and express one's religion is a pretty important aspect of what it means to be an American, right?

May 3, 2007

You've Never Looked Smarter

One wonders exactly what this ad really means. This comes from a company called Allergan, which makes silicone breast implants. So, which definition of "smarter" should we use? Let's consider the various meanings to the word. I see only three that can possibly apply:

a: NEAT, TRIM (soldiers in smart uniforms) b: stylish or elegant in dress or appearance c (1): appealing to sophisticated tastes (2): characteristic of or patronized by fashionable society

If the woman had been dressed up in this photo, in a nice gown or woman's business suit, the ad's slogan might make sense for this particular meaning. But she's dressed too casually for this to be the case.

a: WITTY, CLEVER (a smart sitcom) b: PERT, SAUCY (don't get smart with me)

Variations on the ability to make certain types of comments. If this had been a TV ad, this meaning might have worked (we could see and hear the woman speaking).

a: mentally alert : BRIGHT b: KNOWLEDGEABLE c: SHREWD (a smart investment)

Getting breast implants will make a woman more intelligent? Uh, yeah, right. I really do think that this is the meaning the ad company wants you to get (bigger tits = bigger brains; "Gee, look at my breasts, I'm so smart now!"), but the third definition, "shrewd," is, I think, closest to the mark. Allergan's trying to suggest, IMO, that only smart girls will get breast implants because they know how much they stand to benefit (materially, sexually, etc.) from our breast-obsessed culture.

Dance: ten; Looks; three.
And I'm still on unemployment,
Dancing for my own enjoyment.
That ain't it, kid. That ain't it, kid.

"Dance: ten; Looks; three,"
I'd like to die!
Left the theater and
Called the doctor for
My appointment to buy...

Tits and ass.
Bought myself a fancy pair.
Tightened up the derrière.
Did the nose with it.
All that goes with it.

Tits and ass!
Had the bingo-bongos done.
Suddenly I'm getting nash'nal tours!
Tits and ass won't get you jobs
Unless they're yours.

Didn't cost a fortune neither.
Didn't hurt my sex life either.

Flat and sassy,
I would get the strays and losers.
Beggars really can't be choosers.
That ain't it, kid. That ain't it, kid.

Fixed the chassis.
"How do you do!"
Life turned into and
Endless medley of
"Gee it had to be you!"

Tits and ass!
Where the cupboard once was bare
Now you knock and someone's there.
You have got 'em, hey.
Top to bottom, hey.

It's a gas!
Just a dash of silicone.
Shake your new maracas and you're fine!
Tits and ass can change your life.
They sure changed mine.

Have it all done.
Honey, take my word.
Grab a cab, c'mon.
See the wizard on
Park and Seventy-Third

Tits and ass.
Orchestra or balcony.
What they want is whatcha see.
Keep the best of you.
Do the rest of you.

Pits or class.
I have never seen it fail.
Debutante or chorus girl or wife.

Tits and ass,
Yes, tits and ass
Have changed...

-- A Chorus Line: Dance: Ten; Looks: Three

May 2, 2007

And the winner is...

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about the five designs that were put to a vote for the Arizona state quarter. The results of that vote have been tabulated and the winning design is the Grand Canyon / Saguaro combination (see right). This was my second choice of the five. From the Arizona Republic:

The design for the Arizona quarter, chosen by Gov. Janet Napolitano from among five finalists, includes a "Grand Canyon State" banner across the middle of the quarter, separating the canyon view with multi-rayed sun above and a stately saguaro in a desert landscape below.


The Arizona quarter, 48th in the state-by-state series, will be released in 2008, followed by Alaska and Hawaii.

Saguaros are an iconic image of southern Arizona deserts in particular and the Southwest in general, while the Grand Canyon, a chasm carved thousands of feet into the Colorado Plateau by the Colorado River, is an international tourist attraction that first obtained federal protection in 1893 before becoming a national park in 1919.

The banner's placement across the middle of the combination design reflects the state quarter commission's request that the U.S. Mint, which produced the design, make it clear that saguaros do not grow at the Grand Canyon.

The canyon is located in northern Arizona at elevations where evergreen trees line the canyon's rim at some points.

"The (Mint) artist did a pretty good job by using that banner," said Tom Trompeter, a coin collector who served on the state's quarter commission. "It looks like two separate ideas."

Matthew Rounis, a fifth-grader who also served on the commission, said the combo design "represents the entire state, not just one section, and it also serves as a map of Arizona, since in the northern part you have the Grand Canyon and in the southern part you have the saguaro which is indigenous to those areas."

One of the other four finalist designs showed a version of the Grand Canyon scene by itself while a second consisted of the Saguaro desert landscape. The third showed 19th Century explorer John Wesley Powell in a boat on the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon, and the fourth was of Navajo codetalkers - U.S. Marines who used their native language to thwart Japanese eavesdroppers during World War II.

The combination design was the overwhelming favorite on 112,830 entries submitted to an online poll conducted by Napolitano's office. The combo received twice as many first-place rankings than did either the Grand Canyon or saguaro designs, with the other two designs trailing.