Tag Archives: culture

Gay Marriage Issues: Response to Laine

This post is a response to Laine’s thoughtful post/essay on some of the issues involved in the “gay marriage” debate(s). She was interested in a religious person’s POV, and I figured I fit the bill. It’s a monstrous response, and didn’t fit in LiveJournal’s character limit. So, after the cut, the whole way-large response.
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Christianity = Feminized Mating Strategies?

I been thinkin’ (a dangerous pastime, I know). There’s a preponderance of male-centered form and content in traditional Judaism and Christianity\, something that can be demonstrated by simply counting words in religious texts. However, in a crucial area — mating — the doctrine seems to clearly emphasize something much more tuned to women’s evolutionary best interests. Continue reading

Sovereign Wrath vs. Hank of the Destruction Moose

So I was at this metal bar last weekend. It is so much fun to say things like that. Especially at church. A former student, Sergio, is in a metal band called Sovereign Wrath, and they had a gig last Saturday. After a year or two of promising (and failing) to go see his band, I finally did it. Sadly, there are no pictures of SW, because my camera battery died during the opening act, named (you know it) Hank of the Destruction Moose. Yes, the extra “of” is actually part of the name. Also, I bought a t-shirt. SW was more interesting, musically, however. Of course, they were both… metal. I’m not a huge fan of the modern hardcore metal genre (if that’s even what it’s called), but once again I have found that listening, in person, to commited, passionate, talented people making music is enjoyable no matter the genre.

The bar was a dual-purpose club in Harlingen, TX, named “Rock Stars.” One half was the metal bar, and the other was filled with equally merciless and frightening peppy dance tunes. Strangely, there seemed to be no noticeable music bleed-over between the two halves. And if you could have felt the impact in your chest from the dual kick bass drums, amplified with equipment usually reserved for large stadiums, you would understand why that’s surprising. And that brings me to an important point: Metal types likes their tunes somewhat loud. I wore earplugs, and my head was still buzzing by the end of the night. When the first band (HOTDM) started playing, the beats were seriously making my eyeballs unfocus, slightly. I got used to it. It was a fun sensation. It was also fun to watch, with much lower noise saturation, how the people who were enveloped in the brick outhouse of sound were behaving.

Which brings me to the people, which were the whole reason this was an awesome outing (adventure, adventure… metal bar, adventure…). The people were pretty cool. They look scary, of course (I was a little afraid to photograph any of the seriously scary not-on-stage people), but they all seemed to be either friends, acquaintances, or strangers and nice to each other. Maybe I only saw a small cross-section, but that’s the experience I had. Of course, I also knew Sergio, and he introduced me to a few people. I am left wondering: was the friendliness a metal thing, or a Valley thing? People down here are pretty friendly, and often very tight-knit, socially.

HOTDM was impressive. Their synchronization was tight, the lyrics (unintelligible in all cases) were matched rhythmically, and they really put on a good show. Like SW, their set was sort of a full-frontal, all-out sensory assault on the audience, who ate it up like puppies with their chow. It was a lot of fun to watch the stage performance, which was clearly heavily influenced by themes of aggression and (or so it seemed) laypersons’ views of mental illness. Then, the band would break for a few seconds, and the singer would (often in his scary singing voice, but not always) make the standard chitchat: hello Harlingen. Your town rocks. Man, the mosquitoes are bad down here. HOTDM was from El Paso, btw.

Visually, SW was not as impressive as HOTDM, but that would have been hard. Hank seemed to have some serious work put into their floor show (as it were). SW, however, was every bit as musically tight. Plus, they had a more variegated sound. This was due partly to their occasional forays into non-metallic genres (only briefly, though), partly the Great Wall of Drum Kit (seriously; you just had to see this thing packed onto that stage), and partly to the fact that they had a keyboard player. Yes, keyboards. A skinny kid who looked like he belonged in a Depeche Mode tribute band was playing a double-rack, with riffs that alternated between bouncy power chords that would have been at home on Van Halen’s 1984, and creepy riffs that were much more Trent Reznor. But more the former, interestingly.

Metal seems to have its forms, like any other genre. The singer must sing with a psycho, throat-rending growl/snarl. The guitarists must Get Down into a Stance, and from time to time everyone must seriously bang their heads. Sometimes in unison, which produces a more powerful effect. Fans must mosh (though there was a good deal of checking to see if the guy you just slammed was OK if you hit him too hard… cute). And the F-word is very, very important. If the F-bomb frequency drops below about 8.5 per minute, I suspect your metal cred begins to suffer, no matter how righteously you can dish out the pain.

All in all, it was a most enjoyable evening. The drive over was pleasant, the drive back was lovely, and cruising around the streets of Harlingen looking for the club reminded me of previous weekend-evening excursions to that town, and the way the teens and young adults seem to have evolved loitering into a fine art. Seriously. Almost every block seems to have a group of people, with their cars, parked in a lot of some kind, standing around and talking, drinking, and/or seriously inspecting each other’s subwoofers and cylinder bores (both literally and figuratively, from what I could tell). It was eerie, like a scene from The Outsiders, but also interesting. This Valley is not such a bad place.

Karma is up? Sell!

This picture makes me inordinately happy, for some reason. I don’t laugh at it, and it doesn’t make me sad; I just smile, and wish I could hang out with that guy.

It is, however, begging for an awesome caption. All suggestions will be indulged.

(note: I found this in an aggregated site, and I don’t think even they knew where it came from. If anyone knows, I’d like to give due credit)

Sometimes you wake up in Marioland

Hi. This is what I saw when I looked out my window, Saturday morning. But that’s not the point. The point is that I read the sweetest Instructables ever. No, not the one about the lady who made a molded silicon replica of her right breast as a squishy stress reliever toy for her boyfriend. No, this one was much cooler. It’s supposed to be just about harvesting bananas, but I felt seriously touched when I read it. To me, it was a story of a girl and her mother. I’m serious. [how to harvest bananas]

Our Lady of Subterranean Sarcasm

Click the following links and then press play on the page that pops up. You won’t be sorry :)

1. Rucksack
2. Smile
3. American Tourist Friends
4. Red Shirt
5. Voiceover Artists

Emma Clarke, the lady who has (recently) been the voice of the public announcements on the London Tube apparently recorded a few of her own messages and put them on a blog (now offline). There’s a discussion about whether she should have done this, and whether the London Transit folks should have killed her freelancing contract with them, but I don’t care. I think the messages are Extremely Delicious :)

….aaaaaand maybe this is (one of) the reason(s) she got canned: Pinstripe Suit

(link to boingboing story where I found this)

I totally lied. But this is really the last one.

steely eyes of porcelain death in a shop window… or something
I know I nearly promised no more pics from the curandera‘s shop. But I like it. It’s highly interesting to me. Maybe this is how I satisfy my itchings for the macabre, because ridiculous crap like the Saw and Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchises just really don’t do it for me.

Know what? Christmas is coming! I’ve hit on a project to make a present or two. This makes me happy, and makes me look forward to the holiday. I find that when all I do is buy presents, I really don’t look forward to it as much.

In other news, OSU continues to stomp heads. Yay! And the weather here is perfect and gorgeous. Just cool enough not to need the A/C all night, but not so cold that I need more than a light blanket. Sigh. “Fall” and “Winter” here are pretty sweet. And for summers… there’s always Ontario.

okay probably almost the last curandera photo almost for sure

If god = good, then god+n must be super-good!

Can you tell I am fascinated by this whole curandero/a concept? I think it’s a combination of the rich symbolism and iconography, plus the clear element of human need, plus the logical insanity of putting a representation of pagan Death in front of three crucifixes.

Anyway, here’s a folk cure a couple of my students described in class the other day. It’s for mal del ojo (evil eye).

First, you get an egg. The brown ones apparently work best. Then you rub the egg all over the person who has mal del ojo. Seriously. All over them. Then you crack the egg into a bowl (in water? I think just in a bowl… man, I can’t remember) and place it under the bed of the person who has the problem. In the morning, you look at it. If it looks like an eye, then the person did indeed have mal del ojo and is now cured. If not, then I don’t know… you’re screwed.

Interestingly, you can both get and give the evil eye without intending to. The way it was explained, if you just look at someone too long, or with a strange expression, or something, you can become an unwitting vector for mal del ojo. One way to deactivate its effects before they set in is to touch the person you may have inadvertently cursed. This is why, apparently, some Hispanic women (and men? I dunno), after staring in adoration at a child or a baby, will want to touch said child/baby. Which creeps the White Folks out. See? Cultural misunderstanding!

¡Feliz Día de los Muertos!

heeeeeeeeere souly souly souly souly…

So, it’s Day of the Dead. Did I have a lame Halloween night? The answer to that is a resounding YES. But it was nice, anyhow. Did some time on my cycle trainer while I watched some high-quality X-Files. What more could a fella want?Also, I think I have (at least temporarily) fixed the rear brake on Señor Pulga. It’s not terribly satisfactory, however. It’s really really hard to drill a hole through a stainless steel bolt. :(

In other other news, there’s an excellent editorial on Wired’s “Security Matters” Blog today. It’s about how the “War on Terror” is becoming “… an attack on the unique, the unorthodox, the unexpected. It’s a war on different.”

Cutting & Pasting:

The problem is that ordinary citizens don’t know what a real terrorist threat looks like. They can’t tell the difference between a bomb and a tape dispenser, electronic name badge, CD player, bat detector or a trash sculpture. Nor can they tell the difference between terrorist plotters and imams, musicians or architects. All they know is that something makes them uneasy — usually based on fear, media hype or just something being different…

The police cordon off the area, make arrests and/or evacuate airplanes, and in the end the cause of the alarm is revealed as a pot of Thai chili sauce, or flour, or a utility bill, or an English professor recycling or a cell phone in an airplane seat. Of course, by then it’s too late for the authorities to admit that they made a mistake and overreacted…

…these incidents only reinforce the need to realistically assess, not automatically escalate, citizen tips…

Equally important, politicians need to stop praising and promoting the officers who get it wrong. And everyone needs to stop castigating, and prosecuting, the victims just because they embarrassed the police by their innocence.

Causing a city-wide panic over blinking signs, a guy with a pellet gun or stray backpacks is not evidence of doing a good job: It’s evidence of squandering police resources. Even worse, it causes its own form of terror, and encourages people to be even more alarmist in the future.

Happy Pagan-Christian Mashup Holiday!

 Smile! You’ll be dead someday!

More from the Curandera‘s shop in Alamo. Cute, idnee? Happy Halloween. Pathetically, I have no party plans, and did not even make a minor attempt at getting a costume. Sad, sad, sad. Oh, and to get my grad students in the mood for the evening, I’m giving them an exam from 4:30 – 7:00 :)

Death Hooks a Brothah Up


Dear Death: Thanks for helping me ace the forklift exam. You’re awesome!

 This photo is in a display window for a curandera’s shop in Alamo, TX. I guess it’s a grateful-customer endorsement.

Curanderos are folk healers who, from my limited knowledge, practice a heady mix of Mexican folk spirituality (some claim kinship with Native American/Aztec/Mayan/etc. traditions), folk physical healing, Catholicism, astrology, voodoo, general paganism and general spiritualism. Sort of a “kitchen sink” type of thing, although I’m sure there’s more to it than just an “anything goes” mindset. I think outsiders are the only people who are surprised that this kind of thing is so prominent in an area where most people would also call themselves faithful Catholics.

If you click for the full image, you can see this man’s poignant (but to me somewhat disturbing) text, next to his Strong-Bad-esque drawing of Death. Translated (ignoring spelling errors), it reads:

From today onward
your most faithful believer
I give thanks

for hearing me
Most Holy Death. 

(pump up the volume)x3 … dance! dance!


 Mr. Irrigation Canal, direct light is not your friend.

Friday night, I saw the UTPA Dance Ensemble Fall Concert. Three pieces.

The first was just phenomenally awesome. The soundtrack was composed of old, misogynistic radio and TV ads, a Bing Crosby piece (maybe?), and something jazzy and awesome that sounded like Django Rinehart on guitar. The dancers (all female), using spinning stools as props and dressed in identical polka-dot short dresses, created a highly kinetic melange of war-era pinup poses, glamor-girl smiles, burlesque moves and what I thought were more abstracted references to female gender roles. As the piece progressed, there were increasingly visible indications of the shallowness of the facades, such as the dancers lifting and posing each other like dolls or mannequins. Oh, and there was lots and lots of sultry cigarette smoking, with some serious coughing at the end. Also they sometimes flew around, airplane style, on their stools :)

The second piece was set to the Titanic theme, and involved some fairly predictable and derivative–but sweet and romantic–choreography. There seems to be a gender-change operation in there somewhere, as well as a lesbian love affair, but I suspect (given the nature of the rest of the piece) that these are not what the choreographer was going for.

The third piece (the one of resistance, you know) was my friend Melinda Blomquist’s MFA choreography work. I saw it in an earlier form last Spring, and now it’s even more awesome. Traditional hymns with a lot of vocals, an a capella Lila Downs piece, and some other touching music with gorgeous allegorical dance involving women with a white sash. The white sash begins around their waists, and they all struggle (sometimes violently) to get it off. Lots of repeated themes: jerky struggling-type motions, progressions of one hand up the other arm (sort of reminiscent of David Byrne in his “Once in a Lifetime” period),  women lifting each other up and falling back down, and too many more to remember or mention. One by one, the dancers remove the sash, and the tone of the dancing shifts from tortured to jubilant. The themes of trials, mutual support, faith, and overcoming are powerful. I get all verklemt just thinking about it. Continue reading

Keep on rockin’ in the freee worrrrrrrld

That’s right, baby. Mikhail Freakin’ Gorbachev
here at UTPA last night. In the ridiculously long line to get in, two sort of ditzy students (well, they were) were behind us, and I ascertained that they were only there because their prof had required it. I asked if they even knew who Gorbachev was, and they both said no. I then explained (a bit hyperkinetically, to two students who really weren’t interested) why Gorbachev is one of the most important figures in the world. One of the girls then replied, “Then why is he here?”

Good question. But whatever the answer, he spoke for over an hour to a packed, standing-room-only audience in our largest auditorium. He recalled his agrarian and political beginnings, his rise to power within the CCCP, his brief tenure as president, and his activities since. He (indirectly) criticized Mr. Bush, applauded George W’s dad and Ronald Reagan, quoted JFK, and generally polarized the audience. Most of us were just a bit enthralled. Some got up and left early.

Interesting points: he suggested that it’s futile to fight globalization, so we need to make it work for the underprivileged nations. He said the U.S. has to stop trying to be a cold-war-style superpower in a post-cold-war era. He said the sometime perception that the U.S. has a divine mandate to establish a military/economic empire is misguided and must change. He said India, China, and the EU are the big gorillas to watch for a while. He also volleyed questions from the audience in an extremely smooth manner.

I didn’t agree with everything he said, but I did–surprisingly–with most of it.  Gee whiz; how often does one get to see Gorbachev in person?

In other news, Alex is now gone. This is extremely sad. Very very sad. I am not a happy camper. My teeny apartment, sometimes a bit cramped when she’s there among all my junk, is a depressingly empty place, right now. It was a good week.

How to be a Poser… I mean Cyclist.

But first, some comic joy from Basic Instructions, a web comic that consistently makes me chuckle:

 [click for the full comic]

Note: this is not a commentary on my feelings for my wife, which are still quite positive, thank you. Now, on to…

How to be one kind of super-cool 21st-century cyclist

  1. You’re going to ride a fixed-gear bike. You just are. Shut up.
  2. Buy that $1,500 frame you’ve had your eye on. No, not the titanium frame. Not the aluminum frame. The steel frame. Steel is real, with its reality varying in direct proportion to its cost.
  3. Drop a few hundred on track-approved cogs, hubs, pedals, bars, and wheels. But build it all up yourself (or pretend you did). It would be a violation of the cycling ethos to pay someone else to do it.
  4. Avoid brakes. They add weight and ruin the graceful minimalism of your bicycle. Also, a demonstrated fear of death is the antithesis of cool.
  5. Avoid derailleurs. You don’t need them. You may think you do, but you don’t. No questions.
  6. No bike racks. See previous item.
  7. Get a really good bike messenger bag (about $200). Better yet, make one out of $75 worth of materials you find at the fabric store, so you can keep in the do-it-yourself mindset. Better make it a huge bag; after all, you don’t have a bike rack. TIP: Make sure to wear your cool cycling clothes to the store, so nobody thinks you’re a sissy craft-type person. But don’t bike there; what would you carry your fabric home in…. a backpack? It’s important to think ahead.
  8. Now that your bike is super-light, buy a Brooks saddle ($60 – $600) and add a couple of pounds. Get a pre-broken-in one for a few extra clams. Also get the leather protectant and a seat cover. And don’t ride in the rain. It will ruin your saddle.
  9. No padded bike shorts. Sure, a Brooks will very possibly not make you impotent, but that’s not your concern. Bike culture is more important than your sex life, your wife’s sex life, or your potential progeny.
  10. You’re going to need a new wardrobe. It will include a lot of hipster, punk-esque clothing that looks old but is expensive. Think like a BMXer: shop where the people who ride your kind of bike shop. After a while, you’ll recognize your in-crowd even if they are nowhere near their bikes (not that you’ll ever see them more than a few feet away from their bikes, but, you know, hypothetically).
  11. Toss out your helmet, lights, reflectors, and pantleg clips. If you absolutely must commute on the thing of beauty you have created, you’ll just have to quit your current job and get one that allows you to wear those capri pants that all the cool fixie riders wear.
  12. Fixed-gear bikes are very low-maintenance. You will come to appreciate the lack of extra parts as you clean and polish your fixie three times a week, in fear that another cool fixie rider might see the grimy state of your steed. Especially mortifying is if they recognize the bike from its photo on fixedgeargallery.com and note how the mighty have fallen.
  13. Now, get out there and disobey some traffic laws and the dictates of your better judgment!

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UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: Devils in the details

What have I been doing instead of working? The list is long, ending with reading the UN’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which was signed by 144 nations and pointedly NOT signed by 4. The U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand. What? We didn’t sign something that says “rights of indigenous peoples?!?”
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Why I Am Not an Icehole (at least not this time around)

Redline fixie on campus

So, cool bike on campus, eh? I just happened to be out with my new camera, shooting all kinds of terrible pictures, when I saw it. First fixed-gear bike I’ve seen here. Kinda neat. I especially like the strapless MTB clips (I’ve seen those for sale, and they looked interesting) and the clearly homemade aluminum-from-Home-Depot rack (I should have taken close-ups of the welds; they look neat).

So, I went to a couple of Rio Grande Valley Icehole games this week. Interesting experience. I don’t think I’ll be joining up, after all. [warning: rationalization and excuses ahead]. It wasn’t just the deafeningly loud music blasting for the entire 60-minute game. It wasn’t just the hecklers in the crowd (after all, they didn’t heckle *me*). It wasn’t the increased pushing and shoving on the ice (I can get used to that, and shove back). It wasn’t the run-down arena with dripping ceilings and mounds and pits on the ice (actually, the arena is pretty endearing and cool in that way).

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