Tag: Culture

Makeup is the new girdle.

May 16, 2011 | By | 6 Replies More
Makeup is the new girdle.

I stopped wearing cosmetics a few months ago, after about half a year of using the stuff only sparingly. I started weaning myself off makeup because I had come to hate the hassle of applying it, and because I hated fretting about my appearance. I was also beginning to think of makeup as old-fashioned, an antiquated ‘modesty’ that inspires shame in one’s true appearance. The longer I go without a cosmetic product on my face, the more I believe that makeup needs to go the way of the girdle. The restrictive, uncomfortable, needless, obsolete girdle.

How many undergarments are you wearing right now? I’m guessing two at most. Likewise, I only wear two small undergarments below my clothes, even on the most formal occasions. Interview? Presentation? Class? Wedding? A bra and underwear are always adequate.

Since I’ve never had to wear more than two undergarments, I find it staggering that women used to wear massive bras, high-waisted underwear, girdles, pantyhose or stockings, garter belts, slips, and camisoles.

I often wear less than that as a full outfit. Anyone who knows me in real life can confirm that I regularly step out in leggings and a t-shirt (plus two small undergarments beneath). I don’t say this to titilate, just to illustrate, because I suspect my bare-bones attire is quickly becoming the norm. I’ve spent a lot of time on college campuses- big and small, public and private, Jesuit and blessedly godless. Everywhere I’ve seen legions of women and girls decked out in equal or greater states of undress than my own. Gone are the girdles.

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Things I don’t have to think about…

October 18, 2010 | By | 1 Reply More
Things I don’t have to think about…

From Whatever.

“Today I don’t have to think about those who hear “terrorist” when I speak my faith.
Today I don’t have to think about men who don’t believe no means no.
Today I don’t have to think about how the world is made for people who move differently than I do.
Today I don’t have to think about whether I’m married, depending on what state I’m in.
Today I don’t have to think about how I’m going to hail a cab past midnight.”

“Today I don’t have to think about whether store security is tailing me.
Today I don’t have to think about the look on the face of the person about to sit next to me on a plane.
Today I don’t have to think about eyes going to my chest first.
Today I don’t have to think about what people might think if they knew the medicines I took.
Today I don’t have to think about getting kicked out of a mall when I kiss my beloved hello.”

“Today I don’t have to think about if it’s safe to hold my beloved’s hand.
Today I don’t have to think about whether I’m being pulled over for anything other than speeding.
Today I don’t have to think about being classified as one of “those people.”
Today I don’t have to think about making less than someone else for the same job at the same place.
Today I don’t have to think about the people who stare, or the people who pretend I don’t exist.”

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Mending Fences – Part V – the Final Installment

July 15, 2010 | By | 12 Replies More
Mending Fences – Part V – the Final Installment

This post contains the final section (Part V) of Mending Fences, my attempt to grapple with how to handle religious differences (here is Part I of this series).

Where do we go from here?

It doesn’t take a genius to see that religion is deeply important to believers. You can see it in their eyes when a skeptic questions their tenets of “faith.” To me, that “look” is as though the skeptic is trying to tempt them to abandon the safety of a pre-modern community, which would cause them to get eaten by wolves in the forest. That’s the look I often get (or perhaps I’m projecting).

Even if the crazy things believers say aren’t true, they seem important to believers. When skeptics start to circle believers and display their skeptical questions, it seems to believers that we are tying to destroy something that is vitally important to them. Most good-hearted believers change the topic or run away. Other believers become aggressive or even violent. This puzzle some atheists, but wouldn’t you become violent if someone tried to destroy something you believed to be critically important? How, for example, would you feel if someone defaced your mother’s grave? Would you stay calm? Or would become angry? Maybe we don’t understand why believers believe their far-fetched religious stories, but certainly should be able to understand their emotional reactions when skeptics seem to take delight defacing and destroying aspects of religion that (somehow) have value for a believer.

Still, where does this bizarre stand-off leave us?

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Mending Fences, Part II – My Concern with Anti-Religious Atheism

July 12, 2010 | By | 28 Replies More
Mending Fences, Part II – My Concern with Anti-Religious Atheism

[Note: This is Part II of a series of posts being the title “Mending Fences”]

When Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins and the other “new atheists” first launched their attacks on religion a few years ago, I was delighted. After decades of relative silence, the mass media was finally giving some atheists a chance to present my view that virgins don’t have babies and that dead people don’t regain consciousness. Harris, Dawkins and other new atheists dared to argue in public that there is no sentient version of God; they reminded believers that all believers were atheists regarding Zeus, as well as all of the purported gods other than their own God. The writings of the new atheists energized considerable discussion, much of it thoughtful. Even a cursory review of the many websites and YouTube videos considering religion makes it clear that many teenagers and young adults have actively joined discussions triggered by the new atheists.

In the wake of this energized discussion, many of us became proficient at pointing out the hundreds of contradictions and absurdities in the Bible. We repeatedly called foul whenever we spotted theists cherry-picking the Bible (none of you are wearing clothes made of linen and wool, I hope!). We repeatedly reminded believers of Carl Sagan’s caveat that extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. Many of us dug even deeper, studying the philosophy of science, so that we could clearly explain to believers that to be meaningful, claims had to be falsifiable. Not that these arguments actually convinced believers (at least, not in my personal experience), but they did serve to announce our view that religious claims must no longer be privileged—they shouldn’t be assumed to be true and that they must be put under the microscope (as Daniel Dennett urged in Breaking the Spell) like every other natural phenomenon. We made it clear that we weren’t convinced when believers attempted to explain their beliefs by reference to ancient apocryphal supposedly-sacred writings strewn with ambiguity and self-contradictions. Thanks to the arrival of the new atheists, all of these important issues started receiving unflinching media attention.

These past few years have been emotionally and intellectually exhilarating for skeptics of all stripes. Those of us who have maintained skeptical websites have become further energized and intellectually sharpened by reading each others’ posts and by carefully re-reading the Bible and the Koran armed with scalpels rather than intellectual queasiness. The books and media appearances of the new atheists, as well as the many websites by hundreds of newly awakened atheists, have created a community where there had previously been only isolated individuals. The work of the new atheists thus revealed to each of us that none of us was alone in scrutinizing and criticizing the supernatural claims of religions. Many energized atheists have boldly stepped out of their closets and started becoming vocal as a group, especially when believers callously asserted that all atheists are ipso facto immoral and hell-bound.

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Pics or it didn’t happen!

January 23, 2010 | By | 5 Replies More
Pics or it didn’t happen!

Image by Rohan Kar, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

I was mulling around the Lincoln Park Zoo today with a friend when a man stepped on me. He was filming a Siberian tiger with a high-end digital video camera, which he held on an expensive mounting. He was fidgeting with all of the camera’s features, backing up to get the perfect shot, and he stepped all over my feet. The foot-stomping didn’t bother me so much as the man’s intent focus on something other than his present surroundings. A beautiful creature stood before him, but his attention was directed at the camera and the filming of the tiger more than it was the tiger itself.

Not much later, something similar occurred in the Tropical Birds House. As I was watching the bleeding-heart pigeons, a man, family in tow, came around the corner with a massive video camera. He also had it placed on an expensive mount. Obliviously, he nudged forward until his lens nearly leaned on the display’s glass. He fiddled and fidgeted. He zoomed on the critters for a moment, and left.

“Do you think he’ll ever watch that footage?” my friend asked.

“No,” I guessed. Without much thought I noted, “It isn’t about the footage. He probably just bought that camera, and is filming because he wants to play with it.”

“So the actual footage is useless,” he observed in return.

I intuited that the man’s camera was a new purchase because I’ve done the exact same thing with a fresh ‘toy’.

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Tortured logic, tortured justice

September 1, 2009 | By | 4 Replies More
Tortured logic, tortured justice

Sometimes, I cannot comprehend how the United States of America has come to occupy the landscape that it has in the year 2009. Growing up, I learned in school about all of the wonderful things that the United States had done for the world. Out of the tyranny that the British Empire had become, our forefathers had the temerity and the moral fortitude to announce to the world that we would be building a new kind of nation– one in which the rights of the individual would trump government power. People were inherently vested with natural rights, inalienable rights. Our First Amendment- the right to speak freely, to worship (or not) as one pleases, free press, who could ask for a better check on governmental power? Can the government force the citizenry to quarter soldiers?

Not here, we’ve got the Constitution! Governments stopping people for no reason, or on trumped-up charges? No way, we’ve got the 4th Amendment! To be sure, there were some stark contradictions, but I didn’t realize those until I was a little older. I mean, it’s a little hard to take seriously those that would lecture on the topic of liberty while being slave-owners, but the overall idea was pretty great.

We were the force for truth and justice and all that is right. We proved it, too. We fought tyranny in World War II, the most recent (winning) war. We saw the evil that was done in the name of National Socialism, Fascism, or whatever label you want to use. We saw the evil in those Nazi bastards and we would have none of it– and rightly so. The indescribable acts of torture and dehumanization were enough to turn anyone’s stomach. I read Night, as well as some other works by holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, and was moved to tears. I looked at the photographs of the concentration camps and saw the shivering, starving groups of people blankly staring at the camera lens. I saw the piles of bodies- massive piles of them! What kind of people could order (or commit?) these horrible, despicable acts? What kind of person could so callously cause the suffering of their fellow human beings? The Nazi experiment was a singular example of the brutality that one group could inflict on another. There is no crime so heinous that it could compare to the atrocities committed by the Nazis. The scale of the suffering defies understanding– we named it The Holocaust. [More . . . ]

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A wedding observation

May 19, 2009 | By | 12 Replies More
A wedding observation

I attended a wedding over the weekend. My family is Italian and I’m sure it’s no surprise that we are overwhelmingly Catholic. However, because the ceremony wasn’t being held in a church but rather in the reception hall I had thought that I would be spared having to sit through another Catholic mass. I was wrong. *sigh*

As it turns out, it was a thankfully shortened version of the ceremony. I noticed that, even in abbreviated form, the priest managed to mention FIVE TIMES (we counted) that,”…God made us MALE and FEMALE so that we may join together in His love”. It would have been just another day in a big Italian Catholic family except this time, seated right up front were two good friends of the bride and groom who also happened to be a lesbian couple.

I’ve seen “the lesbian couple”, as they are called in the family, a few times at family gatherings that were large enough to encompass all of us. They have been together for many years, at least as long as many of the other couples in the room. Longer than some. I couldn’t help but cringe each time the phrase rolled around.

“Marriage was created by God for MALE and FEMALE…”, “We join in holy matrimony this MAN and WOMAN…”, etc.

With each repetition of the phrase it seemed that the priest was emphasizing it more and more and from our vantage point several rows back it almost seemed like he was glaring at the lesbian couple when he said it. (Probably my imagination.)

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Culture and Copyright in the 21st Century

April 30, 2009 | By | 5 Replies More
Culture and Copyright in the 21st Century

On 24 March, 2009 Lawrence Lessig delivered the keynote speech, Getting the Network the World Needs, at the OFC Conference in San Diego, CA. This is a revision of a REMIX talk, distinguishing between parts of the 20th Century that were Read-Only and parts that were Read-Write.

His brilliantly delivered thesis discusses how culture prior to the 20th century was essentially read-write, everyone consumed and created the culture interactively. During the 20th century centralization and control of media and distribution transformed our culture to a read only – where creation was almost exclusively the province of professionals and professional distribution channels (tv, movies, music).

He then suggests that the 21st century brings the promise and the demand for building a read-write culture once more, and for moving far beyond the mash-up of the past decade. He also discusses the necessary legal and infrastructural changes needed to accommodate this changed reality.

Warner Music has tried to serve a DCMA takedown, based on his inclusion of some music and media clips – despite the obvious and clear “fair use”.

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What if there were animals that were genetically close to modern humans, but startlingly different?

January 27, 2009 | By | 4 Replies More
What if there were animals that were genetically close to modern humans, but startlingly different?

What if there were animals that looked very much like modern human animals and almost identical genetically, yet they differed from us in notable ways? Would their discovery shock and horrify people? Quite likely. Wouldn’t it also make many people start thinking deeply about the fact that modern humans themselves are animals? You’d hope so. Wouldn’t this discovery make us intensely curious about our own origins? Remains to be seen. What follows is a true story.

The evidence is overwhelming that large numbers of Neanderthals roamed Eurasia for 200,000 years. The evidence is also clear that Neanderthals differed from the modern humans in genetically small but socially and physiologically significant ways. This incredible story can be found in the October 2008 edition of National Geographic, in an article entitled “Last of the Neanderthals.” This article is a must read article for anybody who wants to peer into the not-so-distant past in order to learn about his or her bipedal cousins. The article is filled with incredibly lifelike modeling of the Neanderthals. It is also filled with detailed information about Neanderthal physiology, as well as clues to Neanderthal lifestyle.

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