Saturday, December 31, 2005

money for wikipedia

Given how frequently I use their links, I suppose the least I could do is note that the Wipedia organization is having a pledge drive. (link here.)

I will discuss my plans for IraqDoc 2007 next week, er, next year.

Anyway, happy new year.

Brass crescent awards

speaking of the City of Brass, Aziz has his Brass Crescent awards nominations thread up. A brief explanation below(the image above will take you there):

"BEST MIDDLE-EAST/ASIAN BLOGGER - The Islamsphere is truly a global phennomenon. In Iraq, despite the chaos and uncertainty, there is a sea change of free speech and expression, the vanguard of which are blogs. There are also bloggers in India, in Pakistan, in Jordan, and most other countries that host muslims, all of whom have their own perspectives on faith, culture, and politics.

BEST GROUP BLOG - which multiple group blog in the Islamsphere has the best diversity of writers and the most interesting debate on Muslim issues?

MOST DESERVING OF WIDER RECOGNITION - Which blog is a true diamond in the rough, one that everyone should be reading but who most just haven't heard of (yet) ?

BEST THINKER - Who is the most stimulating, insightful, and philosophically wise among us? This category is intended to highlight a blogger who may not post daily, but when they do post, they really make an impact.

BEST FEMALE BLOG - The woman's voice in Islam is equal to the man's, and in the Islamsphere we seek to make sure the female perspective is highlighted and given its rightful due. Which muslim woman's blog has done the most to explore the role that women play within Islam and society?

BEST POST OR SERIES - Which single post or group of posts in the Islamsphere was the most original and important, above all the others?

BEST NON-MUSLIM BLOG - Which blog writen by a non-muslim is most respectful of Islam and seeks genuine dialog with muslims?

BEST BLOG - the most indispensable, muslim-authored blog there is. Period.

Note that except for the last two categories, any blog is eligible for any category, including blogs authored by non-muslims. In defining the Islamsphere, we are not relying solely on adherence to the faith, but an affinity for parts of the diverse cultural fabric that Islam embraces and is embraced by worldwide. Please also note that neither nor City of Brass may be nominated for any category.

Please leave some descriptive text about why you nominate a blog, rather than just leave the URL. Also, please note that we can't really accept a nomination for a blog unless you specify a category."

Friday, December 30, 2005

"Look at that mosque. It's glowing!"

blue-mosque at shah alam

Courtesy Aziz at City of Brass:

according to US News and World Report,the federal government since 9/11 has run a far-reaching, top secret program to monitor radiation levels at over a hundred Muslim sites in the Washington, D.C., area, including mosques, homes, businesses, and warehouses, plus similar sites in at least five other cities, U.S. News has learned. In numerous cases, the monitoring required investigators to go on to the property under surveillance, although no search warrants or court orders were ever obtained, according to those with knowledge of the program. Some participants were threatened with loss of their jobs when they questioned the legality of the operation, according to these accounts.
Somehow I doubt this is, But sadly we know this appears to be no great impediment to the current administration. There are still people out there who care about these things, right?

If they're so pre-occupied with radiation around mosques, it would be nice if they tested for depleted-uranium related radiation around mosques in Iraq. And hospitals. And storehouses of food.

For that matter, I imagine the US soldiers there would like to know what they've been exposed to as well. You'd think you could get the US press to be interested in that, at least.

photo of the Blue Mosque at Shah Alam, courtesy Ian and Amanda.

Friday middle eastern...blogging: the struggle of ordinary women

a mother and a son-cnn
courtesy CNN

So-called honor killings have been in the news lately. (see also here.) They are a sort of cultural flash-point, insofar as the muslim hating contingent seem to love to capitalize on them, in order to advance their thesis that muslims, and muslim society in general, are irredeemably depraved and primitive. One of the ironies of the cold war was that most of the Pan-Arabist leaders from the middle of the 20th century, most of whom sided with Soviets, were also trying to modernize their societies and put the tribalism of their societies behind them, including honor killings.

The picture above is of Rudayena Jemael and her son Salim, taken in 1995. She was only 37, although to me she looks older. Perhaps her life was hard. Her son doesn't look like a killer, per se. He just looks like a kid. But apparently he shot her in her head in her sleep, so that he could have his supposed honor. She had been divorced for nineteen years, and wanted him to give her his blessing, for her to remarry. The story, which is from occupied Palestine, is old, and I admit I haven't been able to find out any information about what happened afterwards, as far as criminal prosecution goes.

CNN's Walter Rogers notes:

The roots of honor killing are ancient and pre-Islamic. At Rudayena Jemael's memorial service, women listened to chants from the Koran saying, "In the day of judgment, Allah will ask, why do you kill innocent women?"

some additional links:

School of Oriental and African Studies

and Wikipedia's entry on honor killings, here.

(speaking of Wikipedia, they're having a pledge drive, through the 6th.)

Thursday, December 29, 2005

a local killer

For better or worse I've ignored the immediate area in my posting of late, but obviously things are happening in the Dallas-Fort Worth-Denton area. One unfortunate development is the apparent serial killer of gay men in our midst. Reporter Rebecca Lopez of WFAA, the local ABC affiliate, did a story recently about this, here:

"Police probe if D-FW gay men's murders linked"

Five unsolved murders of gay men over the last few years have had the Dallas Police Department investigating the possibility of their connected.

On June 5, 2004, Dallas Planning and Zoning Commissioner Lawrence Wheat, 42, was found by his friends unconscious in his home on South Harvard Street. He later died at the Baylor University Medical Center. Wheat had been beaten to death.

"A person shouldn't be able to get by with this type of crime and go free," said Frances Wheat, Lawrence's mother.

A witness saw a man leave his home and police were able to create a composite drawing of the suspect.
1214suspect-suspect composite-lawrence wheat-s murder
Detectives have also contacted the Arlington police about a possible sixth connection in Arlington. The body of 28-year-old Samuel Lea, a University of Texas in Arlington student who was strangled to death, was found on Halloween.

"Based on the investigation we had so far, the similarities have been the lifestyles of the...the victims," Sgt. Lecesne said.

The City Manager's Office and at least one city council member have asked police to provide them with details of the investigation and to look into the possibility there is a serial killer targeting gay men who frequent gay bars.

"They were killed differently," Sgt. Lecesne said. "There is nothing that we can find to link those cases to any one particular individual."

1214victims-samuel lea and lawrence wheat
Samuel Lea, left and Lawrence Wheat, courtesy WFAA.

another anniversary: Wounded Knee

bigfoot at wounded knee-lg
Chief Big Foot, dead in the snow

from Wikipedia:

The Wounded Knee Massacre was the last major armed conflict between the Great Sioux Nation and the United States of America, and was later described as a "massacre" in a letter to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs. On December 29, 1890, the cavalry troops of the U.S. 7th Cavalry opened fire...against a surrounded encampment of Minneconjou Lakota Sioux, while cavalry troops were disarming them. Since the very thorough disarmament had almost been completed, the Sioux fought back using their hands, weapons from cavalry casualties, or weapons recovered from the stacks of seized weapons. 153 largely disarmed Sioux were killed during the chaotic conflict, as well as 25 cavalrymen deaths largely from friendly fire. An unknown number of the approximately 150 unaccounted for Sioux died from exposure after fleeing the chaos...

Reaction to the battle among the American public was generally favorable. Twenty Congressional Medals of Honor were awarded to federal soldiers. Currently, Native Americans are urgently seeking the recall of what they refer to as "Medals of Dis-Honor."
wounded knee-mass grave
digging a mass grave

...Many non-natives living near the reservations interpreted the battle as a defeat of a murderous cult, though some confused Ghost Dancers with Native Americans in general. In an editorial in response to the event, a young newspaper editor, L. Frank Baum, later famous as the author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz ,wrote in the Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer on January 3 ,1891:

The Pioneer has before declared that our only safety depends upon the total extermination of the Indians. Having wronged them for centuries, we had better, in order to protect our civilization, follow it up by one more wrong and wipe these untamed and untamable creatures from the face of the earth. In this lies future safety for our settlers and the soldiers who are under incompetent commands. Otherwise, we may expect future years to be as full of trouble with the redskins as those have been in the past.
Baum was being bitterly ironic of course, but the first thing I wondered as I read it was how many Americans possess that same attitude that Baum criticized, about the Arab world today?

wounded knee monument today aoa-dot-gov

The black and white photos are from a Native American site, Last of the Independents,
which has additional info on Wounded Knee and the Ghost Dance.

The color photo is of the Wounded Knee memorial today,
courtesy The US Health and Human Services Department.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

the birth of cinema

lumiere pic
courtesy Visual Alchemy.

110 years ago today, 28th December 1895, the Lumière brothers had their first paying showing of their 1st short film, "Workers Leaving the Lumière factory", which showed just that.

"The cinema is an invention without a future."
-- Louis Lumière

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

check and mate...

via some Austrian guy(site isn't fully functional in Mozilla/Firefox).

Monday, December 26, 2005

2005 Koufax nominations

If you are familiar with "Wampum", you probably know about the Koufax awards they administer every December, for the liberal blog community. I just drove back from San Antonio today(while driving through Austin I heard a promo for KLBJ describing it as a "Clear-Channel free zone"), and here are my nominations:

1.Best Blog:
The Sideshow- Avedon Carol

2.Best Blog -- Pro Division:
Eric Alterman- Altercation

3.Best blog community:

the American Street

4.Best Writing:
“Simbaud” at King of Zembla:

5.Best Post:
How you became Crazy” (Avedon, March 2005)

Today Is The Fourth Anniversary Of An Enormous Opportunity
(Jonathan Schwarz, September 11th, 2005)

and, yes, me:
Inauguration Notes, or the Other
(originally this was simply entitled "Inauguration Notes", but I changed it as per Simbaud's suggestion, so the URL has changed. January 2005.

6.Best Series: .........

7.Best Single Issue Blog: ............

8.Best Group Blog:
Seeing the forest

and Wampum.

9.Most Humorous Blog:
A Tiny Revolution-Jonathan Schwarz

10.Most Humorous Post
(ok, so I nominate me again. I suppose I'm being shameless. February 2005.)

11.Most Deserving of Wider Recognition:

and Jonathan Schwarz of A Tiny Revolution.

12.Best Expert Blog:
Haroon Moghul

13.Best New Blog:
Arvin Hill

My friend Arvin is worthy of note, and no, not just because he's my friend. But I have a feeling
Empire Burlesque will walk away with this one, and not undeservingly.

14.Best Coverage of State or Local Issues:
BOR: Burnt Orange Report(covering Texas politics)

15.Best Commenter: ............

I didn't nominate anyone in categories 6, 7 and 15 because I really don't read enough of other blogs to have an informed opinion here, but I figured I'd list them for anyone curious about the contest who might be otherwise unfamiliar with
Wampum and the Koufaxes.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Portuguese santa goes shopping

Reuters - Thu Dec 15, 8:38 PM ET
A giant Santa Claus stays seated on a shopping center parking area in Batalha, central Portugal December 15, 2005. (Jose Manuel Ribeiro/Reuters)

from my friend Glenda, who sometimes goes to Portugal. Happy Christmas, and have a merry holiday.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Friday middle eastern pop star blogging: Katia Harb


Our never-absent friend, the Law of Unintended Consequences, being the fellow he is, leads me to notice something about the lovely Ms. Harb: while this was the first photo I found of her out there on th' net and I do think it's a nice picture, there are some others, presumably older, in which I noticed that her nose is more, er, thigeel. (So I guess this is an "after" photo.)

I did not intend posting pictures of middle eastern pop stars to be an advocacy of plastic surgery, but I suppose it's naive of me to expect otherwise. I haven't surveyed pictures of male middle eastern pop stars*, but I suspect, just as in the west, the men are under less pressure to lose those last 3 or 4 kilos or get a daintier nose. What do you think?

*I deliberately entitled this venture "Friday middle eastern pop star blogging", which is gender-neutral after all, partly wondering if I'd get at least one female reader objecting that I hadn't ever posted a picture of a male middle eastern pop star, but so far it hasn't happened. Maybe women are afraid of leaving comments, or afraid that their friends will think they have a thing for middle eastern guys. Not that there would be anything wrong with that, right?

**When I went to I saw a banner ad for the US Army, suggesting(in English) that if you knew Arabic they might have a job for you. I wonder how many click-throughs they get.
(Myself, I didn't click.)

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

"It's heartwarming! It's romantic!"

Bruce Willis-1

Gina Fattore, who is a bigshot screenwriter, observes that the new film of Pride and Prejudice is soppy, sentimental crap, when in fact Jane Austen was an unsentimental chronicler of the absurdity of her society, especially relating to mating behavior. Fattore doesn’t actually say, “soppy, sentimental crap”, but you get the idea. I already got that sense from the ads on TV, although I imagine if a bitingly satirical film was made of P&P, the trailer editors would probably do their damndest to make it seem soppy and Hallmark theaterish as well. Anyway. This is the comment I left at Salon. I think they own it, so I don’t have the right to leave it at my blog. So, there’s the chance they’ll sue me and win a judgement of millions of dollars. I’m counting on my penury to protect me from such a contingency, and their goodwill. Did I tell you how they’re all smart and handsome?

Versen’s comment about Jane Austen in Hollywood:

I think the next Jane Austen novel to be filmed should have Bruce Willis in it. And lots of explosions. And Jane Austen should be in it, bugging him about how he should do this or do that, and it should really get on his nerves.

Jane: Cut the blue wire.

Bruce: Lady, will you leave me alone!

and whenever he nonchalantly walked away from something as it exploded, she’d scold him for his lack of haste:

Jane: What the hell’s wrong with you?

Bruce: Don’t start that again.
And, at the very end, he'll notice that only he could see her, and wonder what it means. Yes, I know, I’ve essentially given away the plot of Northanger Abbey. But it’s public domain, so how is it my problem if you haven’t read it? If it really bothers you, go start your own blog criticizing me. Or go read a book.

image of Bruce Willis courtesy wikipedia, and wherever they got it from. Image of Jane Austen courtesy her sister's etch-a-sketch.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

"With the rich and mighty, always a little patience"*

the Houston Chronicle headline of this story reads:

"Airline incident delays Osteens' Vail vacation"

the Vail Daily says:

"Wife of Houston minister delays flight to Vail"

Yes, it's the same story. Apparently Vickie Osteen, wife of megachurch minister and author Joel Osteen,wouldn't take her seat when the stewardess told her to. She insisting her seat was wet, and that, after the stewardess had dried it, it still wasn't dry enough. The flight was consequently delayed at least an hour, after Mrs Osteen was kicked off, and the FBI was called.

I'm guessing the FBI has to be called when a flight is delayed due to a complaining passenger, but none of the stories about this incident say one way or the other, which might suggest to the casual reader that Continental airlines was being unreasonable. But can you imagine what would have happened to her if she wasn't important?

the various big papers that put up the standard AP version don't even tell you about the cause of the incident, and even though the Houston and Vail papers differ wildly in their spin, they both mention the seat. The Daily adds:
"We sat on the ground for two hours," said [Elizabeth]Vail, who was headed to the family condo in Snowmass. "They kept telling us to stay seated with our seatbelts on, that the flight would be leaving in a few minutes. They wouldn't tell us what happened. They didn't tell us until almost the end of the flight."

A couple of first-class passengers saw at least part of what happened.

"As I understand it, she had some drink spill. That started a series of issues with the crew," passenger Herbert Towning said.

"Mr. Osteen was very calm, very professional," passenger Barbara Griffith said. "It's sad."

Another passenger, who didn't want to give her name, agreed with Griffith's account.

"She just had attitude," the unnamed passenger said of Victoria Osteen. "They took her off, and she never came back. Her husband went out, then he came back and got their stuff. An hour-and-a-half later, we were leaving."

*Jimmy Stewart says this to Katherine Hepburn in the Philadelphia Story, I think. The words were written by playwright Phillip Barry. I don't know if he was a Christian, but I seriously doubt he ever attended a megachurch service with a thousand-plus parishioners. I wonder what he would've thought of them.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Friday middle eastern pop star blogging- an addendum

in his December 9th post "The Saudis and Fox"(i.e. Rupert Murdoch), Abu Aardvark discusses the middle eastern cheesecake phenomenon, attributing it to globalization, albeit of an indirect sort. I don't know. Most middle eastern countries' upper classes are usually more westernized, at least in terms of the expression of their tastes, than the rest of their societies, which is one of the reasons Islamic fundamentalism is a fire so easily stoked in some quarters, the westernization being associated with the haves, as opposed to the dirt floor and no electricity have-nots. Maybe the only hope for a sane and pluralistic 21st century Islamic world is the law of unintended consequences, wherein the evils of Western exploitation become tagged as a George W. Bush thing, rather than due to westernization, per se.

(Abu also beats me to the punch with a Nancy Ajram picture.)


Thursday, December 15, 2005

Thomas Herrion

Thomas Herrion(1981-2005) would have been 24 today, December 15th. You might remember him from this past summer, when he made news in the NFL pre-season after collapsing and dying at an exhibition game in Denver, playing for the 49ers, on August 20th. Herrion was originally from this part of the country, having been born and raised in Fort Worth, which is some 35 miles south of here. He was cut by the Cowboys in the pre-season in 2004, and was very excited to make the 49ers in '05. And yes, he wanted to work with kids someday.

courtesy San Francisco 49ers

Herrion was 6-2 or 6-3, and somewhere between 315-330 lbs. I immediately thought of Korey Stringer, the equally young Minnesota Viking who collapsed in the heat of a pre-season game a few years ago(2001, I think), and of course my own obesity.

This past June I weighed 393 lbs, the most I'd ever weighed in my life. In late November I weighed 366 lbs, and haven't weighed myself since. (Growing up, I was always angry at the brow-beating and the pressure I felt to lose weight, and I lost a substantial amount of weight during a time that I chose to isolate myself from my family in my mid-twenties. I wonder how many people have had similar experiences.)

Unlike Herrion and Stringer, I'm a mere 5-8, and I imagine my obesity is even more of a health hazard. All my life I've been keenly aware of the massive social impediment posed by my excess weight, but often had difficulty losing the pounds because I felt like it was surrendering my will to family members who wanted to break my spirit. I write these words knowing fully well how irrational the connection must sound.

In surveying the blogosphere, I note that there are several weight-loss bloggers.(!?)
for example:

The "Scale Whore", food is worse than crack,(?!)

Fat Fighters and Less Lisa .

Now, I'm not going to abruptly shift focus and make HZ simply about weight loss, although it occured to me that I'd like to try to get down to under 200 lbs by this time next year, by what would have been Thomas Herrion's 25th birthday, and may mention my progress occasionally here. I'm a bit reluctant to do so, because it seems self-absorbed, and I don't buy that "if I could inspire just one fat guy, to lose just 1 pound..." line of BS.

But I haven't been under 200 pounds since 1989, and I'd like to be there again in 2006. And I'd like to live. So here's to life.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

December 7th

I almost always think of my grandfather, Kurt Versen(1901-1997), on December 7th. He was a fierce backer of FDR and much later, of Ronald Reagan.

Bill at
Thoughts on the Eve of the Apocalypse notes that December 7th is also the anniversary of the Night and Fog decree. Who knows, maybe Hitler issued it when he did because people's attention was drawn elsewhere.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

two mighty redwoods

redwoods XXL

I left the following as a letter to a few days ago, apropo of this article:

"Republicans' wild Western land grab"
A historic makeover of mining laws could sell out tens of millions of public acres for drilling, casinos and condos.

Enviros and fiscal conservatives in both major parties have been calling for mining reform for years, but Pombo's proposal isn't quite what they had in mind.

the letter:

Perhaps it's a con game, as both parties may benefit. One of the 2 great French thinkers who studied early 19th century America, Frederic Bastiat, said that government cannot take the people's property from them, as that was plunder. From where I'm sitting, it seems that both parties plunder with impunity, as things are today.

I see the American system, and perhaps the two-party system, as two mighty redwoods, literally thousands of years old, as our system of government was specifically modeled on the Roman Republic...

(as opposed to the Empire).

The problem, with the two mighty redwoods, reaching far, far up into the sky, is that the two parties that presently are the caretakers of the two redwoods, the redwoods of liberalism and conservatism, have built a treehouse in the sky, a treehouse so far on high the ordinary people can't see without craning their necks and squinting mightily,

and it's awfully difficult to see...

And it's just one treehouse!

So how do we shake the trees, so that they pay attention to the ordinary people below, without harming the two trees?

A rich man once told me he didn't believe in private property. He was either a liar, a jokester, or a fool.

If we still had honest conservatism and honest liberalism, the liberals would say

"we need to do this!"

and the conservatives would reply,

"hold on a moment- let's see if we can afford it, let's not go so fast!"

And neither would plunder.

We need a private sector, always.

We also need a public sector, always.

They are there to keep each other honest.


...When I wrote those words, I entitled them "Our friend Mister Pombo", after republican Richard Pombo of California, who introduced the legislation in question. But I was too kind in my sarcasm. He is not my friend. And, as I thought about it some more, I thought back to the Kelo decision from the summer, when the supposed liberals(plus Kennedy) voted to allow government to take public lands for private projects. And now this. Bill Clinton federalized millions of acres of land at the last minute in his time in office, once he had no longer any concern hope that Al Gore might become president. Will HRC be as lucky an investor in the development of the west as she was in her brief foray into options trading?