Sunday, August 31, 2008

OUTRAGEOUS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I'm still shaking with anger and spluttering in outrage after reading a story in today's Washington Post. It was all of about 4 column inches and might have been overlooked except for its headline: Honor Killings Defended. Five women, three of them teenagers, were shot and buried alive with rocks and mud because they wanted to choose their own husbands. Splutter, Splutter, AAAGH!!!!!!!! The act is shocking and despicable enough in itself. But then, defending the act carried out by southwestern tribesMEN, a member of Pakistan's parliament, Israr Ullah Zehri stated:
"These are centuries-old traditions and I will continue to defend them.
Only those who indulge in immoral acts should be afraid."
Is it any wonder that Pakistan can't get it's shit together? How can this country engage in international trade, communication or anything else when so many of it's leaders are still thinking in 4th century terms?! Social evolution must become a priority for Pakistan's leadership if they want to overcome brutal, ancient, tribal ways that do not belong in the 21st century. They are so out of sync with the rest of humanity! If people like Mr. Zehri are being elected to parliament perhaps a benevolent dictator would be better than an elected government. . . Democracy cannot and will not work just anywhere unless those living in it have attained a basic level of education and understanding of their role in a democracy. Too many cultures have been force-fed the benefits of democracy without understanding that it is a participatory form of goverment. Representatives can no longer wear the blinders their cultural history provides to keep them from seeing that society has evolved past and beyond them and will not be going backwards!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Comfort Food for a Rainy Day

As much as we need the rain, I don't enjoy rainy days. Now rainy nights are another thing, but during the day I want to see sunshine or at least have some lightning and thunder with the rain.
To comfort myself, I sometimes heat up a bowl of tomato soup and bake some cheese biscuits to go with it. It's a simple, satisfying meal and seems to perk up my spirits.
This is what the biscuits look like -- after they've been baked, split in half horizontally and put under the broiler for a few minutes. The cheese melts and browns a bit and the biscuit crisps-up. It would just be too cruel to show you them spread with melting butter.
My biscuit cutter is an heirloom from an old friend. It's probably 80 years old, but still cuts a good biscuit. Years ago, no woman's kitchen would be without a biscuit cutter!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

the twenty-third day of august 2008

This August feels like a non-month. Every previous August I spent trying to find just the right birthday gift for my Dad. For a few years, my sibs and I got lucky and were able to chip-in on a group gift such as an engine for his dinghy or some other, quirky boat gadget. Most years, however, we all struggled trying to decide what to give to a man who had everything. Today marks another first since Dad's death last November. Spouse and I will not be: -- driving 110 miles round-trip to spend three hours with him. -- enjoying his favorite dinner and choking down his favorite cake; yellow with peanut butter icing. -- desperately hoping he'll like what we gave him. -- leaving with big hugs all around, hoping he enjoys another good year. Joni Mitchell said it so well -- "You don't know what you've lost til it's gone".

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A Story About a Book

I have made it a daily habit to click on a breast cancer fund-raising site (breast cancer site) partly because I'm a survivor and partly because it runs in my family. The site hosts several others including one for a literacy campaign. Today, it asked which book first turned me on to reading. I was soon transported back to my first school-sponsored book fair. I think I was eleven at the time and it made a huge impression on me. In the lobby one morning, there were several, large tables stacked with new books from which each of us were allowed to select two. All of them had colorful covers and each seemed to hold great promise. Learning was most likely one of the goals of the fair, but imagination played a huge role in my selections. When I finally settled on my choices, I reverently carried them back to my classroom, then home. Danny Kaye was a huge star in those days. He was also famous for story-telling. One of my books was a collection of folktales he had collected during his travels. It was beautifully illustrated -- always a selling point with a kid. Danny Kaye had portrayed Hans Christian Andersen in a movie, so I could imagine him reciting these stories to me. I have no memory of the other book I selected -- it was probably something practical like a dictionary. Years later, I gave the book to my younger sister who had small children by then. Much to my surprise, she confessed that one illustration in the book had always creeped her out since she was little. It was a picture of a devil-like character. It had never made much of an impression on me, but it sure had on her! I think she put the book way in the back of a closet. I'm now reading Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses. It is possibly the most bizarre book I've ever read. I bought it out of curiosity to see what all the uproar had been about. I have found it very hard to follow yet am determined to finish it. It seems to require a somewhat more worldly sophistication and knowledge than I possess, but it's still compelling. I'm only up to page 355 of this 561 page novel, so perhaps it will come together at the end. . . .? I'd love to know what other regular people, like me, thought of it.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Happy Monday! Something pretty for a change. . .

Our balcony window boxes continue to provide colorful, fragrant respite from the summer heat. The first photo appears to show a white petunia providing shade for some little red flowers. The second I like for the dappled sunlight. Hope you enjoy them, too.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

He's a guy like every other guy!

John Edwards has been probed and pilloried to the point of exhaustion -- mine, that is. I don't think there's a man out there who doesn't sympathize with or at least understand his "moral mistake." It's what guys do, for pete's sake!! Some question why his wife hasn't dumped him. Hillary Clinton faced the same questioning after Bill's imprudence. A wise woman understands the "guy thing" and that male genetics dictate their behavior. It doesn't, however, make the humiliation, anger and hurt any easier to take. A marriage certificate may say your man belongs to you, but his brains are still in his pants. The whole idea of marriage came long after men and women were "genetically wired." I believe it was an attempt, for whatever reason, to put the brakes on natural, human behavior. We were puritanized and made to believe sex is dirty and reserved only for procreation. The male of our species still has a genetic make-up that requires him to procreate as much as possible. Maybe it's an evolutionary thing, but smart women recognize it and deal with it. So to John Edwards and all the other philandering guys out there: shame on you for hurting your wife's feelings and breaking her trusting heart. If you were lucky enough to have married the right woman, you'll accept her punishment gladly and do your best to resist the impulse to jump any woman but her from here on out.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Shoot first -- ask questions later. . . .

That seems to continue to be the M.O. for the Prince Georges County (MD) Police. Even in the home of a current mayor! On top of that, they didn't even bother to notify the town police about their operation. Despicable as it was, P.G. police commanders continue to justify shooting two family pets because the officers who forcefully broke-into the mayor's home "were afraid of them." Anyone who knows anything about black labs knows they are sweet-natured and gentle. The two family dogs were in the house when the S.W.A.T. broke in looking for a box of marijuana they had placed on the mayor's front porch. It had been addressed to the mayor's wife and sent from Arizona. Apparently, a drug-sniffing dog out there alerted to the scent and started a horrifying chain of events. Can't blame the dog, however. When the mayor arrived home he saw the box addressed to his wife and, naturally, carried it into the house and went about his business. When the police crashed in moments later it was still unopened on the front hall table. Neither the mayor nor his wife have any connection to drugs and, obviously, were not expecting the delivery. There was no reason to suspect them of dealing, either. As dogs are apt to do, both came to the door to see what was going on. The 7-year old dog was immediately shot and the younger dog was shot three times in the back as he tried to escape to another part of the house. Two little girls, their parents and grandmother were subjected to violence and a bloody scene -- equal to or worse than a horror movie -- in their own home! Their community is outraged as is everyone else who has heard the news. Apparently, drug smugglers have developed a new trick to distribute their contraband. Someone scopes out houses that are empty during the day. A drop is made and the dealer picks it up before the home owners return. It has happened to less prominent P.G. County residents and law enforcement handled it without drawn guns. NICE GOING P.G. POLICE!!! Are you all incapable of learning ANYTHING from your mistakes??!!!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

HURRAY!!. . . . . . . . . .Oh No!!!!

Many cheered upon hearing the news of a covert operation in Colombia to free hostages who had been held for years. I was among those cheering until I read that the undercover operation made use of the Red Cross emblem. This is a dangerous thing to do. The Geneva Conventions protect and proscribe the use of the Red Cross, Red Crescent, Magen David Adom and the Red Lion and Sun (don't ask, it's a long story). None of these emblems is ever to be used to disguise activities such as this operation. There must have been other ways to conduct the rescue without sullying a respected organization's reputation. These emblems have been recognized and respected for more than 100 years as identifying safe haven and humanitarian aid. Once the integrity of the emblem is weakened, distrust and ambivalence set in and its protective identity is damaged. I'm thrilled for those who were freed - AND - I'm horrified by the subterfuge and misrepresentation. It's a dangerous precedent. FYI: The Geneva Conventions, of which there are four, are agreements passed during international conferences. The first was in 1864 and the latest was in 1949 which adopted protections for P.O.W.s and civilians. The United States is a signatory to the Conventions, a fact blithely ignored by the current administration.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Could this mean the end of bullfighting?

I'll get to the bullfighting question in a moment, but first. . . Have you ever felt uncomfortable or embarrassed while visiting the Great Ape House at the National Zoo? I don't go there anymore or spend time around their outside cages, either. Making eye-contact with a Beluga Whale at the Chicago Aquarium a few years ago reinforced a gut feeling. Standing on a platform over the water, I made and locked eye-contact with a sleek, beautiful, ghostly white mammal. She seemed to be looking into my very soul and I felt an overwhelming desire to set her free in the open ocean. I'll never forget her. Even before that, I avoided making eye-contact with primates at zoos. Just the thought of them having to live out their lives behind bars or Plexiglas made me feel ashamed. Worse, children and some adults would mimic their movements, sounds and expressions, thinking it was fun for everyone. I don't think so. Humiliation is not just a human response. Anthropomorphism has nothing to do with my feelings. It is well-proven that sentient beings -- mammals in particular -- have emotions and suffer pain as humans do. If more of us got beyond the novelty of the appearance of an elephant, chimpanzee or dolphin, perhaps we would treat them more humanely. Spain seems to be the first and, I hope, not the last to officially recognize the rights of sentient beings beyond humans. This is not a frivolous stand. Jokes are made about non-humans now being allowed the same rights as humans. It is not funny when primates are subjected to experiments, albeit in the name of science, that inflict preventable pain and suffering. Bullfighting in Spain is an honored, longstanding ritual with religious content. Now that science has shown the existence of pain and emotion in other mammals, I sincerely hope that Spaniards will rethink this sport. I don't know how anyone can justify breeding these magnificent animals to be tortured and killed.