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28 February 2006

Bittersweet, like the coffee

And like Blanche Dubois, depending on the kindness of strangers. It's New Orleans first post-Katrina Mardi Gras.

Flying kills

George Monbiot is never one to mince words, and todays column in the Guardian is a classic example. The uncompromising headline above, Flying Kills, is prelude to an uncompromising look at the massive impact that air travel has on the planet. It looks unflinchingly (well, maybe a little flinchingly, in fact) at the disparity in income levels between those who use the air the most, those who can barely ever afford to, and those who suffer most from the consequences and the article is especially unsparing of those who know perfectly well how harmful it is but have no intention at all of changing their own behaviour. Then of course, from the personal to the political, there is the institutionalised support for the continued growth (a new Heathrow every five years) and the almost total lack of viable alternatives, whether in modes of travel or fuel for aircraft.

27 February 2006

I need a holiday!

I am sure my few remaining faithful readers are weary of my apologies for not blogging as often as I used to. Is it age, work, stress, or a combination of the three? I was using my new fitness regimen as an excuse for awhile, but as often happens, I have already slacked off a bit on that. I haven't totally dropped it, and my intentions are to keep it up. I missed yoga for three weeks in a row, while my yoga teacher, Mitch, was in India on a training holiday-cum-retreat. I am going back tonight to yoga. I joined the workout-all-you-want plan at Sketchley Hall, my saviour of fitness place, but so far have only attended one class and blown off three, so not a very good start. But I have been fighting off some kind of exhaustion/illness thing. Saturday night it peaked, whatever it was (probably hormonal) and I went to bed at 5:30 pm, slept till 10 pm, got up and ate a bowl of cereal, back to bed at midnight and slept till 7:30 Sunday morning. I have felt much better ever since.
And it's a good thing, too, because I am finally taking an actual holiday! The last one was 11 months ago, when I went to Atlanta. On Saturday, DH and I set off for a week in Penzance. I am taking my laptop, and there are rumoured to be wi-fi hotspots in a couple of cafes and pubs in the town, so I can possibly blog from there. I am taking my camera, too, so there will be pictures.

And here is where it will be . . .


22 February 2006

Saudi girls just wanna have fun

In Veil Power (The Guardian) Brian Whitaker deconstructs the myths and truths about the place of women in society in Saudi Arabia. Many of the practices that the West assumes are Muslim "law" and oppressive and hateful to women are, in fact, customs backed up by an often tortured interpretation of the Koran and the choice of women more than of men. The underlying assumption in cultures throughout the Middle East is that sex is an overpowering force, that women cannot help but be temptresses, and that men cannot possibly control their lustful natures in a sexually unsegregated society. This not only leads to women having a completely separate existence, but it leads Arab men into serious trouble when they travel or migrate to or work in the West, where there is an assumption that men are responsible for their own behaviour towards women. So, what's in it for the women of regimes like Saudi Arabia where the "Muslim" way of life is so entrenched that it hardly matters that it's not actually enshrined in law. Well, for one thing, they get better parties.

14 February 2006

Who do you think I am?

Go to http://kevan.org/johari?name=Deborama and tell me what I'm like. By the way, I didn't pick the adjectives, they are part of the model.

Saving Private Henrietta

Behind the seemingly benign world in which we live there are several unimaginable holocausts going on. This is a truth many of us live with daily, and the medical men call it, inaccurately, depression. I have seen depression up close and it is various and at time elusive, but what this is, is existential angst. You cannot possibly survive if you are prone to existential angst and are also an idealist-perfectionist, that is, if you think that for naught the struggle aught availeth if the problem cannot be totally solved. Schindler could have done nothing if he had required of himself saving every victim, or even every victim he saw. Fortunately for me, I am not an idealist-perfectionist. As a "Hindu trapped in the body of a Methodist," I combine serene fatalism with robust pragmatism.
Today I am referring to the holocaust of the chickens. Please don't think I am joking here, for the suffering of chickens is appalling, is wide and deep; and it is cruel anthrocentricism to think that chickens don't matter just because they look a little foolish to us. I was gladdened beyond description to learn that the UK has an active and practical battery hen rescue operation in place. I urge everyone who can to get involved to the best extent they can. Please don't be immobilised (nor delude yourself) just because we cannot save all the chickens.

I heard the birds

This is all about me, my body, my ears and eyes. Specifically about my ears. At the age of merely 49, I had cataract operations on both eyes. As a result, my vision went from cloudy and problematic to excitingly clear and the best visual acuity without glasses I have had since my teenage years. A few weeks ago, at the still relatively young age of 53, I had hearing aids fitted for both ears. This too has been subtly life-changing. But, whereas I was extremely excited the first time I went out with my eye-patch 24 hours after the first cataract operation to see the dramatic differences in colour, light and texture, and I still, four years later, love to gaze at the night sky where I can more or less make out, I would guess, 30 to 40 percent of the stars, I did not immediately get that sense of wonder and awe from the improvement to my hearing. I could tell the difference; I could hear a lot of creaks and rustles, the Muzak at the dreary little shopping centre in Hinckley, cars overtaking me and the nearby conversation of boring strangers, all of which had been silent to me before. But last evening, temporarily back on the trains while my ride-share guy has a brief holiday, I heard the dusk chorus (if that's even a term) of birds in the little strip of wilderness alongside Leicester train station. The birds had always been there, but I had never heard them over the buzz of the busy train station. At last, I have the wonder of near-perfect hearing.

01 February 2006

Coretta Scott King

The widow of Martin Luther King, Jr. passed away in Mexico yesterday. She was a giant in the world of civil rights, human rights and the peace movement. Her body arrived in Atlanta today. NPR has a musical tribute, which is appropriate, since before becoming Mrs. Martin Luther King, she was set for a career as a concert artist.
Here is the official schedule for memorial events in Atlanta. A bit of controversy arose over funeral arrangements. Mrs. King's body will lie in state in the Georgia Capitol Rotunda, then a public viewing at Ebenezer Baptist, followed by a musical tribute / memorial service across the street. But the official funeral will be at suburban megachurch in Lithonia GA, some miles outside Atlanta, an establishment where Mrs. King's daughter Bernice is an elder. Eventually, CSK will be interred beside her husband at the King Center for Non-violence but she will be temporarily buried at a large cemetery until a new crypt can be prepared.

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