mlbright's shared items

M-L's occasional ramblings.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Boo hoo

Poor Saddam Hussein. He's being "mistreated". Solution: let him starve himself. He'll do us all a favor and the funds for the trial can be used towards rebuilding the country that he, in fact, starved.

Monday, February 13, 2006

The News: now you can laugh AND cry

Is it me or is the "normal" news getting just a tad edgier and ever so slightly more irreverent?

For example, a recent article from msn entertainment suggests Christina Aguilera might be getting "less dirty". That's hilarious. Who do they think they are, the Onion? "Big changes are afoot in the media." You read it here first.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Hitchens does it again

I can't agree more with this article.

Just in case you missed them, the cartoons.

How you gonna act now? Gonna put a fatwa on my ass?

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Another slam dunk

Yet another reason google keeps rockin'. Google understood why I don't like instant messaging.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

hot chocolate

I think they put crack in Tim Horton's hot chocolate. I've been having cravings for it for the last week or so. There's a Tim Horton's just about everywhere you turn, including across from my building. Strangely, every time I go to the store in front of my building the music playing is always Peter Gabriel's "Shaking The Tree".

energy and exercise

I had this idea in 1995. I didn't act on it... I could have been an artist.

Monday, February 06, 2006

You knew this was coming

This kind of headline was inevitable.

UPDATE: They've since changed the headline from "Resentment over Shiite justice in Sunni areas" to "Sunnis feel heavy hand of Shiites".

I wonder why.

Friday, February 03, 2006

airport lounge

Since Lemon went on her anti-fundamentalist tour de force, I thought I'd recall a certain situation, because I, too, have been thinking about some of the issues addressed in her post for quite some time. The fires were rekindled around the time of the renewed French secularity laws which forbade any obvious religious symbols from being worn in French public classrooms. This caused all sorts of controversy because the people most inconvenienced by this law were young Muslim women. In practice, I think at least some may have welcomed it. At the time, France was labeled as intolerant, heavy-handed and regressive. The debate is still open about that particular verdict. One thing to note, before you read further, is that in France and other non-theocratic states, there is public debate about religion and belief systems. I've already insulted at least a good number of fundamentalists by suggesting that at least one Muslim woman was genuinely happy to take her Hijab off (no, it isn't the Muslim Barbie doll), so fundamentalists are welcome to stop reading here.

I was forced to think about religion, belief and intolerance, on December 23rd 2005, when I was at the Toronto International Airport on my way to France with my parents. Hence, France and Islam are à propos, though on a microcosmic scale, and circumstantially. I've mentioned many times to a few different people that I would write about the trip, so consider this a start.

We were sitting in the departure lounge. I had the latest issue of Rolling Stone, having picked it up because it contained an article by Chris Rock critiquing his top 25 favorite rap albums. Strangely, my mom didn't want to read it. There was also an interesting article on Jay-Z, confirming his talent as the pre-eminent rap businessman, but not convincing me that I should listen to his music. I distinctly remember reading an piece on the insurgency in Iraq (also in Rolling Stone), the author's interactions with an anonymous insurgent seeming implausible.

At that instant, I looked up to see my parents staring past me with a puzzled look I've seldom, if ever, seen on their faces. I turned to see, behind me, two dozen people, bowing, their heads to the ground and asses in the air, in front of the window, outside of which was parked the Airbus 340 that would take us all to Paris. Consternated, my father noted, not without sarcasm, that it looked like everyone was praying to Air France. (The praying position is called Ruk'u and Airbuses aren't required.) Apparently, my family was sitting in what had effectively become the Muslim area of the airport lounge. Prior to that moment, I had noticed lots of people wearing head scarves, skullcaps, and tunics, but there was nothing really odd about it: after all, we were in multi-cultural Toronto, in an airport, en route to a hub for passengers going the middle east. I hadn't felt awkward in the slightest until I had witnessed the intense praying, the complete concentration. I'm accustomed to the bizarre and I welcome the exotic. But this was different. I remember thinking that this was a kind of self-segregation. That it was incredibly ostentatious, boastful even, as if they were attempting to show off the depth of their faith. Cynically, my mother wondered whether the prayers were for Allah to grant us a safe trip across the Atlantic, or whether we were witnessing the last prayers of suicide bombers. This obviously wasn't reassuring even if I really didn't believe the people in question were Al-Qaeda.

The scene was so impressive that I wanted to take a picture. My mom strongly disapproved: I suspect she, like me, believed that it would somehow be taking advantage of people in a state of submission and would thus be disrespectful. But my voyeuristic tendencies were in full tilt. I argued that I could be very discreet about it due to my spy size digital camera. But I chickened out. This was a shot that I regret not making. I felt I'd been unwillingly thrust into ethnography and hit the ground running. But I couldn't make my mother upset on the eve of a trip to France. And I genuinely felt a tinge of guilt. Taking a picture would have been tantamount to running up along behind them and slapping their ass cheeks in quick linear succession, like a scale progression on a human vibraphone. I've heard some North American natives feel that taking pictures of people takes a bit of their souls away... That isn't what I thought at the time. I didn't feel anything was sacred: I just felt weird.

In France, we explained what had happened to Sausage. He thought that it was too precious a scene to go unremembered and, humorist that he is, made up for my inaction by cooking up this:

If you think this is an anti-muslim post, think again. This is simply a demonstration of how religious ritual is often absurd to those who don't take part in it. The current post happens to be about Muslims at an airport, but I could have talked about Christians, Jews and Bhuddists. If anything, I hope you appreciate the profoundly secular (perhaps even ecumenical?) nature of my point of view.

Please feel free to add comments. Unlike some governments, I won't censor them, or behead people for posting them.