Last spring I was cynical when my students and I received pandemic kits from the Illinois Faith-Based Emergency Preparedness Initiative. Illinois received $20 million from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and used it to fund grants to African-American and Latino churches for “preparedness information and resources”. At the time it looked to me like a sneaky way to get around the constitutional separation of church and state and give money to particular religions, but I took the chocolate energy bar out of the kit, ate it, and kept my mouth shut.

Now my Mexican students tell me that Mexico City is shut down.  School has been canceled and nobody went to mass Sunday. Where there used to be crowds, the streets are deserted, and those who do go out are wearing masks. Sitting in a Mexican restaurant last night, I watched non-stop news coverage of “Gripe Mortal” on Univision. So far there are 149 dead, some 1900 hospitalized, and masks being passed out everywhere. Today the Mexican government closed all restaurants, except for take-out. Take-out?

Hmm. Maybe it’s time to check my pandemic kit and see what’s in it. Here’s the inventory:

img_3743green safety glow light stick

whistle made in China on a green rope

Coast Guard approved packet of drinking water (recommended: 4 packets per day)

packet of tissues

small box with band aides, gauze pad, towelette, alcohol preps, and ibuprofen (with an expiration date of 3-2009–oopsie!)

plastic bag with  hand sanitizer, hand wipes, more alcohol wipes, disposable thermometers, a pair of gloves, and 2 masks

Yay. I’ve got masks.  And I’ve got the government pandemic website.

But I’ve still got one question.  If you got President Ford’s swine flu vaccine back in 1976, and did not die suddenly or become paralyzed from Guillain-Barre Syndrome at the time, are you still protected?

Posted in Curiosities. Comments Off on Pandemic

Jordan’s King Abdullah: “Israel is at a critical juncture…”

Jordan’s King Abdullah was optimistic as usual about the possibilities of peace in the Middle East when he talked to NPR’s Michele Kelemen yesterday.  The transcript and a link to the audio are here.  Some notable sound bites:

The core problem in the Middle East is the Israeli- Palestinian one. From that resonates all the other problems that we have and most people in the Middle East understand that this is the core issue. And so we’ve got to be very careful that if economic outreach is going to be a substitute for a two-state solution, then it’s not going to work.

On the Palestinian side, more than 85 percent want their Palestinian leaders to have a negotiation of peace with the Israelis. Even in Israel the overwhelming majority of the population still wants a negotiated settlement. And so it’s really empowering the people to convince their politicians that peace is the only way out as opposed to the other way around at this stage.

…Israel, I think, is at a critical juncture: whether it wants to be …integrated into the neighborhood or whether it wants to continue to be Fortress Israel. And what Fortress Israel means is no two-state solution; therefore, tension and violence between Israelis and Arabs/Israelis and Muslims, which nobody can afford. This is a small world and we’re all affected by it

Posted in King Abdullah II, Middle East, Palestine. Comments Off on Jordan’s King Abdullah: “Israel is at a critical juncture…”

Pullman: World’s Most Perfect Town 1896

The historic Pullman neighborhood at dusk after a freak hailstorm. (Images are clickable.)


pullman2 pullman3

Sometimes the view from the back is more interesting.


pullman7 pullman5 img_3683
(Pullman town architect Solon Spencer) Beman rarely discussed his work, and when he did, he did it laconically. At the opening of one of his buildings in Terre Haute, Indiana, he quoted an architect in Charles Dickens’s Martin Chuzzlewit:

My friends… my duty is to build, not speak; to act, not to talk; to deal with marble, stone and brick, not language.

(Source: Pullman museum website)

According to one of the residents:

We are born in a Pullman house, fed from the Pullman shop, taught in the Pullman school, catechized in the Pullman church, and when we die we shall be buried in the Pullman cemetery and go to the Pullman hell.

(source: about company towns and about the labor movement)

A Martian Painter

Minuit sur le lagon [Midnight on the lagoon]

Midi sur le lagon [Noon at the lagoon]

Siganus Sutor: “From a Martian painter I know.The paintings were done before the picture was taken and I don’t think the photographer saw the paintings before taking his photo. Or maybe he saw them?”

Bleu du fond [Blue background]

Lever du jour, tombé de la nuit [Sunrise, nightfall]

Siganus Sutor: “And there are also these ones. The first one has an extraodinary blue. The two others paintings, “Dawn” and “Dusk”, are much darker but they are interesting, especially when placed next to each other as on this photo (actually they shouldn’t be touching one another).”

I have separated the two paintings with a white line.  The French I managed with Google Translate.  Click on a picture to see it larger.

Posted in Curiosities. Comments Off on A Martian Painter

Rothko Seascapes

Okay, that one wasn’t really by Mark Rothko, it was by Siganus Sutor, a Martian in the Indian Ocean. Here is some real Rothko.

rothko rothko-blu-and-rose rothko-blue rothko-mark-blue-and-grey rothko_blue seascape-sig2 rothko-chapel-houston-texas rothko-dark-greens-on-blue-with-blue-band seascape-sig3 seascape-sig4
Yes, I snuck in another one or two of Sig’s just to see if you could spot them.

Happy Spring Break

Happy Spring Break.. and Happy Easter. There’s nothing like a Chocolate Holiday.

Posted in Goats. Comments Off on Happy Spring Break

Viking Horned Helmets

viking-reproduction-helmet1Viking have horns on their helmets? Nope. Only in Hollywood.

At least that’s what everyone thought until an April 1st news article in the Council for British Archaeology revealed Vikings may have worn horned helmets after all.

Millinery specialist Professor Paul Norn of the University of Reinstädt explains all:

It is clear that the helmet was worn with one horn up and one down. Equally important is the fact that it was worn fore and aft not side-to-side, as the front horn was worn down to provide a nose guard. These guards in metal are clearly portrayed on the Bayeux tapestry on the Normans (who were themselves descended from the ‘Norse Men’). In the past people were shorter, so the rear horn pointed upwards so that the Vikings could find one another in long grass. By 1066 the rear horn was unnecessary as the Normans rode horses (again evidenced in the Bayeux tapestry) and so were now visible in all situations.

“…the rear horn pointed upwards so that the Vikings could find one another in long grass.” hee hee.

Yes, it was an April Fool’s Day joke.

The helmet in the photo is a museum reproduction I was borrowing for a little, uh, light pillaging shopping.

Fake Koran Video

This makes me sick.

Today I ran across this link to a video of some children. It’s being billed as a video about children singing the praises of Obama, but it’s pretty obvious to me it’s not. It looks to me more like Koran memorization. The children are supposed to be from Kenya but they look vaguely Indian. The language is Arabic. You can hear the phrase bismallah al-rahman al-raheem, (In the name of God the merciful the compassionate) the phrase that begins most chapters of the Koran, at the beginning of both recitations. It’s also pretty obvious that neither the word “Obama” or “America” (Arabic pronunciation ahm-ree-ka) is used at any time. For comparison here is a video of boys memorizing the Koran in Bangladesh.

koran-children-poppinfreshtvImbedding is disabled, so I can’t put it on this page. The comments are disabled too, or maybe someone would have left a message saying which Koran verse this is (I’m sure that’s the last thing the person who posted it wants), but here is the URL :

The explanation of the video by “PloppinFreshTV ” is “I leaned everything I know about film editing from Michael Moore. Thanks Mike! Alpha Omega. ”
The text of the “translation” subtitles is:

The Kenyan Muslim
Will soon destroy the great Satan from within
He will speak of hope and change.
but the greedy Americans will be defeated!
Yes we can.
Destroy the Satan of America!
yes we can.
Praise the Kenyan!
Praise Allah!
Soon we change America.
With the help of the fellow Muslim!
He will open the door for us to enter with ease
Bring me, bring my allies to your shores,
Oh brother.
We strap on a bomb to teach American pigs a lesson!
when our mission is complete
martyrs we will be!
Praise Attah, the brave martyr!
Praise our Kenyan brother
who will bring down the great Satan from inside!
All praise Allah!

There are some thousand google hits altogether for the video.  The ones I see were all in the October 2008 timeframe, just before the election.  None recent, until now.  The fact that it seems to be reemerging now, and with no good explanation, is interesting.  If anyone knows what it is please do comment so people googling it can have an answer.

The saddest thing is that although it’s obvious to me that it’s a fake, some are taking it at face value.  Even Snopes initially speculates that it’s a “generic anti-American recitation”.  It gets posted here in a comment thread at Huffington post, and at a seminary of the Apostolic Church. But this forum defines it as the salat magreb evening prayer.

Here is the Evening Supplication (Du’a).  I really don’t think this is it.

koran-magrib-dua-1In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful. I beg You, O Allah, the causes of Your mercy and intents of pardon and salvation from Hell and from all trials, Heavenly success and Your esteemed attention in the land of peace and from all trials and the proximity of Your Prophet Hazrat Mohammed (S.A.W.) peace be on him and peace on his progeny. O Allah, whatever talents I have got, it is but from You. There is no god but You. I beg Your pardon and seek atonement.

Honor killings

Rana Husseini is tall, unusually tall for a Jordanian. Several years ago I met her when she was collecting signatures on a petition to do away with honor killing in Jordan. “If you are Jordanian, please sign the petition”, she asked the mixed Arab and western crowd. I got the point. I am a westerner and will never be able to understand this culture completely. Anything said by a westerner would be interpreted as unwelcome foreign meddling and would hinder the cause.

rana-husseini1Rana Husseini covered crime stories for the Jordan times. Every time I was in the capital I picked up a copy of the paper and looked for her byline. Over and over again she wrote the stories of women killed by their families. A thirteen year old boy saw his sister talking on the telephone, thought she was talking to a man, and strangled her with the phone cord. Another woman confessed to her brother that she was pregnant by an Egyptian who had left the country. The brother promised to get her an abortion and an operation to restore her virginity, then returned with a gun and shot her. Sometimes Husseini would go to a village and no one would talk to her about the killing. Other times she received death threats herself.

During the time I lived there about 30 women were killed by their families every year. The upper house of Jordan’s parliament, appointed by the King, had passed a bill against honor killings, but the bill could not pass the lower house, whose members are elected, largely through tribal politics. Since I left the law has changed. Honor killing is now illegal in Jordan.

Is honor killing Islamic? In an article for PBS, Husseini says no:

I want to emphasize two things. One is that all women are not threatened in this way in my country. Any woman who speaks to any man will not be killed. These crimes are isolated and limited, although they do cross class and education boundaries. The other thing is a lot of people assume incorrectly that these crimes are mandated by Islam, but they are not. Islam is very strict about killing, and in the rare instances where killing is counseled, it is when adultery is committed within a married couple. In these cases, there must be four eyewitnesses and the punishment must be carried out by the community, not by the family members involved.

Honor killings are part of a culture, not a religion, and occur in Arab communities in the United States and many countries. One-third of the reported homicides in Jordan are honor killings. The killers are treated with leniency, and families assign the task of honor killing to a minor, because under Jordanian juvenile law, minors who commit crimes are sentenced to a juvenile center where they can learn a profession and continue their education, and then, at eighteen, be released without a criminal record. The average term served for an honor killing is only seven and a half months.

Rana Husseini has written a book on the subject, Murder in the Name of Honor. When it is released, it should be well worth reading.

Cross-posted at Chilling Out.

Gauguin’s good stuff

The best Gauguin stuff wasn’t the colorful and well-known Tahiti paintings of topless third-world women, it was the stuff he did earlier in France. Like this one:


You feel like you could just step right into the painting. The postures of the people are only sketched with a few lines, yet they look like they might move at any moment.  Their body language tells you  exactly how they are feeling.
True, they don’t have the philosophical cues the later works have, like titles about dreams and being watched by the dead, but these earlier works are easy to live with. The rhythms of their geometrical patterns and their colors wear well. You could look at these every morning while drinking your coffee and never get tired of them.

Several years ago I was lucky enough to see a Gauguin exhibition in town that was borrowed from works in various other institutions.  I remember enjoying Gauguin’s woodcuts as well, but I don’t remember what they were like.  The most interesting object was the huge block of wood they were made from.

Here are some more. (Click picture for link to museum page where you can click again to enlarge.)

gauguin1-breton-village-in-the-snow1 gauguin1-four-breton-women1 gauguin1-garten-in-der-rue-carcel1 gauguin1-landscape-farmhouse-in-arles1 gauguin1-lane-at-alchamps-arles1 gauguin1-the-seine-pont-dlena-snowing1

“Isn’t it a mistake to sacrifice everything for the children, and doesn’t It lead the nation to sacrifice those achievements which its most gifted and energetic members could attain? A man sacrifices himself for his children, who when they grow up sacrifice themselves for their children. And so on As a result everybody sacrifices himself. And the lunacy knows no end.”

Gauguin outlived two of his children. He died at the age of 54.

Posted in Curiosities. Comments Off on Gauguin’s good stuff