Thursday, 29 November 2007

draft post redux 3: bloggable offense

I wasn't sure if I should post this one. I won't tell you who, where or when.

This is the story of three people, X, Y and Z (their names have been changed to protect the guilty) who one night, after going out but coming home relatively early, went out for some food because Z was hungry. It was getting late and they knew that - in Holland - it’s difficult to find anything decent after 10 PM.

However, walking through a fairly deserted part of town (not that it was run down, but at that time of night all the stores were closed – I told you this took place in Holland, didn’t I?), they ran into a man who got off his old(fashioned) looking black bike and found a quiet corner with an empty beer can. I’m loath to describe him as “of North-African descent” because there are so many negative connotations and stereotypes connected to that over here, but Nort-African is what he seemed to be... I shall call him M, not to protect, but because it’s easier to call him something.

X was interested and took a closer look. It turned out M was fashioning the can into something that could be used as a hash pipe, using some cigarette ash as a bed before heating small flakes he pried loose from a slightly larger piece with a fingernail. I’m not an expert in these things, but apparently he was using the ash as protection against direct contact with the hot metal. Z suggested it might also work as a carbon filter…

Both X and Y tried a drag, Z isn't interested in smoking any substance. Despite Y’s declaration that although it had a good taste there was no buzz, X decided to ask M if he could sell them some anyway. M didn't carry anything else with him, but he knew where he could get it, just across the street. At this, X told Y and Z to go on ahead and they waited in a bar near their destination.

And waited. It seemed like hours. When X finally met up with them, it turned out they had been ripped off.

M had led X to a nearby apartment, taking the money and leaving X to wait while he went upstairs to get the hash. Since M had left his bike, X figured he could be trusted to come back. But then after quite some time, M came back down empty-handed, jumped on his bike and tried to persuade another guy - apparently hanging around there, I don't know - to stay with X as a sign as good faith. This guy, quite rightly, it seems, was having none of it, and M left anyway.

X waited, but M didn't show up again and X eventually gave up to rejoin his friends. Later they would get some hash from a regular coffee shop and vowed never to buy from a street dealer again. And if you're wondering if Z got something to eat, they went home and made pasta.

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

draft post redux 2: the saga continues

Continuing the roundup of things I somehow forgot to post before.

This was originally written in August:

I don't know how to talk to men. Not the gay ones, I'm fine with them, it's straight men I just don't get. And I'm pretty sure they don't get me either. Not in the general sense of not understanding women, but in the sense of not behaving the way they expect of me.

And a couple of tests:
LogoThere are
people with my name
in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?

Not surprising, of course, although I know there are some out there.

Not bad, considering the blog is in my second language. (Other bloggers, I admit, I have probably checked your blog's level too...)

draft post redux 1

Here's a roundup of things I somehow forgot to post before.

This was originally written in July 2007:

Remember when I posted about the McGarrigles' song Wise Men? Kate McGarrigle obviously wasn't the only one to be inspired in some way or another by the September 9th, 2001 terrorist attacks and their aftermath. Her son Rufus said the following:

There was a period in my life where every time I looked at the clock, it was 11:11. It was weird. And then there was September 11 and Flight 11 - it was time to buy a lottery ticket or write a song or something. So that one is very much centered around September 11. It’s about how precious time is while you still have it.


Woke up this morning at 11:11
Wasn’t in Portland and I wasn’t in Heaven
Could have been either by the way I was feeling
But I was alive, I was alive

Woke up this morning at 11:11
John was half naked and Lulu was crying
Over a baby that will never go crazy
But I was alive
And kicking through this cruel world
Holding a notion of you at 11:11
Tell me what else can I do
What else can I do?

Woke up this morning and something was burning
Realized that everything really does happen in Manhattan
Thoughts were of characters and afternoons lying
And you, you were alive

Oh the hours we are separate
11:11 is just precious time we’ve wasted
So patch up your bleeding hearts
And put away your posies
I’m gonna have a drink
Before we ring around the rosies with you

I'll continue the draft redux in a new post.

Saturday, 24 November 2007

turkey day

This Thursday I celebrated my first ever Thanksgiving and it was great. I think it jumped straight to the top of my favourite holidays. Sinterklaas is too child-oriented, Christmas is either too religious or too commercial depending on which tradition you follow and you have to spend too much time locked inside the house with family with no escape because of the cold and because everything's closed (it is here).

I had such a great time with my "Addams" type family, K and Sunshine, and with a group of others, mostly K's friends, almost all of whom I knew already. It was at the house of a diplomat friend of K's who recently moved to Amsterdam and he served us the whole turkey dinner, starting with K's clam chowder, haricots verts, carrots, mashed potatoes, a 20-pound turkey (there were supposed to be twenty guests), stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie made by Marian and brownies.

Patrick, who is over from Chicago and who I met for the first time earlier this week, did a lot of work on the preparation of all the food, so I shall refrain from calling him Uncle Fester... (Sorry darling!)

We completely forgot the time and by the time we left there were no more trams back to the train station. I called for a cab and tried to tell them we were of the corner of somwhere and somewhere else, but they had to have the exact address. I think I gave them the wrong one under pressure (and 'the influence') and we ended up hailing a cab to the station.

Since there would be no more trains back to K's unless they left very early on, we had agreed to go back to my place, K, Sunshine, Patrick and I. But as it turned out, we had timed it very badly and there was a strange 90-minute gap between the last of the regular trains and the first of the night trains. To kill time we headed over to the Engel, where for the first time in my life (such good girl!) I experienced a bar closing. (It was surprisingly quiet.)

Fortunately we just made it back on time to catch our train (I believe K's watch is slow or something) or we would have had to wait another hour! We only got back home at 3AM, but it was thoroughly worth it.

Saying Thanks.

We followed the tradition and went 'round the table saying what we were grateful for. Mine are: the wonderful friends I made and regaining my health and my sanity.

Tuesday, 20 November 2007


I almost forgot about this... I uploaded the picture from my phone on the way back from the concert, but it was huge and, if you click the picture you'll see, awful. So I hid it, but I finally fixed the size (but not the quality), so I'm posting it with the original time-stamp.

I had a great time, but was slightly disappointed (as, it seemed, was Rufus) that the, sit-down, crowd was rather subdued. Before the interval, Rufus talked about how the previous he time he was at the Heineken Music Hall he was opening for Keane and there were guys with beer in backpack-like contraptions on their backs, forcing people to drink the stuff from their hoses... He thought it was a shame he didn't see any there that night and encouraged everyone to go out and buy three beers during the break.

Myself and K didn't need anything, of course, having had cocktails at Prik before the concert and because Rufus always makes me happy anyway. I was glad the guy next to me (K and I were seated separately) was a lot like me. Together we were bopping along in our seats and singing the songs - silently, of course - along with Rufus. Everyone else I could see around us was sitting there as if they were in church. In fact, my church is more animated than that. I just had to give the guy a thank-you hug afterwards.

During the interval I also ran into quite a few familiar faces. The girl that got to go on stage during Between My Legs is someone I've seen a few times at concerts and the ladies we met in Groningen this summer, and went dancing with in a gay bar until 4AM, were there too.

Damn, Rufus has great legs!

Monday, 19 November 2007

third world health care

The problem, says RAM's founder, Stan Brock, is always in the numbers, with the patients' needs far outstripping what his team can supply. In Wise County, when the sun rose and the fairground gates opened at 5:30 on Friday morning, more than 800 people already were waiting in line. Over the next three days, some 2,500 patients would receive care, but at least several hundred, Brock estimates, would be turned away. He adds: "There comes a point where the doctors say: 'Hey, I gotta go. It's Sunday evening, and I have to go to work tomorrow.' "

If this New York Times article hadn't told me it was a story about rural Virginia, I would have assumed it was somewhere in Africa, for these sound like third world scenes. For us Europeans it might be hard to understand what a dismal state health care in the USA is in, so perhaps it's good to read this story which tells of a volunteer medical relief corps called Remote Area Medical treating people during an "expedition" to a fairground in Virgina.

The group, most often referred to as RAM, has sent health expeditions to countries like Guyana, India, Tanzania and Haiti, but increasingly its work is in the United States, where 47 million people — more than 15 percent of the population — live without health insurance.

This is the accompanying slideshow to the article.

a better class of telethon

Those lucky British simply get the best telethons. Despite having to endure Terry Wogan (fortunately sans those moleskin trousers he wore on Points of View - if you don't get it, watch this remix, the first few seconds after the intro should suffice), they just get a better quality of performances, at least compared to the Dutch ones, which I have stoped watching altogether. It did have a bit too much of a boy-band content and I didn't watch it continuously for, what? seven hours, but I still enjoyed what I saw.

Here is my highlight of the evening, a short movie called Time Crash featuring Neil Tennant as the Doctor and Peter Davison as the Doctor:

For Yummy, but also because I liked it, here is his darling Kylie Minogue performing her new single 2 Hearts:

And as a bonus, here is the delicious John Barrowman, also of Doctor Who and its spin-off Torchwood fame, singing Your Song:

change of tune

Dear readers,

I apologise. Most sincerely. If I were catholic I might throw in a couple of mea culpa's, but then I'm not.

Having realised that this blog has become cluttered with either my
in(s)ane ramblings about my life, so boring that they could not possibly interest you, or gay propaganda and subsequently, and most fortuitously, having seen the error of my ways, I shall now turn my attention to the heterosexuals for a change.

You see, I found this very interesting piece on the Box Turtle Bulletin* regarding the Heterosexual Agenda. Because if you think those homo's have their strategies for world domination all laid out, just wait 'til you see what us redblooded hets can do!

The "The Heterosexual Agenda: Exposing The Myths"-post, together with the one instructing us How To Write An Anti-Gay Tract In Fifteen Easy Steps, were combined to make an amazing report that you can download in pdf format by clicking this link.

I urge you to read it, take note of the number of footnotes and thus take it very seriously indeed. This is a clear and present danger we are facing, people. Something needs to be done, these perverts need to be stopped!

Because I couldn't resist:

cartoon by: Ben Sargent

cartoon by: Mike Lane, Cagle Cartoons

* The explanation of the name of this blog is quite simple, it is taken from the following quote in opposition of so-called 'gay marriage': "Now you must raise your children up in a world where that union of man and box turtle is on the same legal footing as man and wife..." Which of course is ridiculous and therefore so is the union of a man and a man. Right?

Sunday, 18 November 2007

my toof

Part of my tooth broke off yesterday, but since it's not giving me any trouble I almost forgot about it. I have to remember to call my dentist in the morning.

This tooth has had more work done than any of the others and what broke off wasn't actually my own material, but the white fake stuff they use. In a way I'm quite happy because I always felt they made it too big and it was quite discoloured. I kept forgetting to mention it and my dentist never said anything about it.

I'm afraid the repairs may get quite painful, but that's what painkillers are for. Although I have a very high threshhold - the making this tooth was the first and so far only time I've had them, and I've had quite a few fillings. (Yeah, I know, should've brushed more. I was depressed, it wasn't very high on my list.)

Thanks to a bread crust I'm getting another chance. So don't knock homebaked bread.

EDIT: I forgot to call, or rather I left it too late, they don't answer their phone after 1 PM.


I'm sitting here with my 'morning' (it is to me!) cup of coffee and I'm thinking about what I'm going to do today. Despite what the nice picture I stole from the internetz says, I've cut down on my coffee consumption, especially at work. It was getting ridiculous, going into double figures for espresso.

The last couple of days (since I got back home from work Friday night) my internet service has been, I'm in a mellow mood today, intermittent and I must say I didn't really miss it all that much. Perhaps it's because my main source of information Joe blogs a lot less during the weekends anyway.

O yes, I won a box full of groceries, the least of the prizes, really, they handed out 29 of them on the night (although I walked there, so I couldn't possibly take it with me and I picked it up Friday after work, putting it on the back of my bike and walking home).

There's washing powder, dishwasher cleaner (I don't own a dishwasher), cookies, two kinds of froth (to add to your coffee), rice Pringles, a bag of chashew nuts (garlic & rosemary, they should've left them alone), a 1,5 liter bottle of ice tea, a small bottle of Coca-Cola Zero, shampoo and lots more stuff.

Now I'm going to relax, drink my froth-free coffee and crochet.

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

I am already a winner

And it actually looks like it's for real this time.

It's a lottery type thing at the local supermarket and apparently I won one of the weekly draws, which means on Thursday night I'll find out which prize I've won. It could be an mp3-player, tickets to the Winter Efteling or a bike.

Unfortunately I'm not in the seperate draw for a Chevrolet Matiz, though.

It's probably going to be incredibly corny, but the ennui may be softened by alcohol, after all Plus prides itself on its great wine selection... ;-)

EDIT: it's not a Daewoo, of course, but I still hold it looks like it should be...

Saturday, 10 November 2007

Friday, 9 November 2007

I found Jeebus

Well... actually he was right here on my keyboard all along. All I had to do was erase the name behind it and fill in the blank.

These posters are all over the train stations with five more or less common Dutch names on them. It's the Union against Cursing's latest attempt to stop us using the name Jesus as an expletive.

At the bottom it promises "This poster with your name?" so I was hoping for an opportunity to fill in my own name, but alas, they only offer the same five for download. So I had to get creative. And this way not just I, but my friend Jesus can have his own poster...

paperless office


Wednesday, 7 November 2007

grand day in

So... it's 11:11 AM and I'm still at home. When I got to the train station this morning, I found there were no trains between my hometown Delft and The Hague.

Apparently somebody killed themselves by jumping in front of one of the trains. So very sad. I know what it's like to feel that it would probably be the best solution for everyone, although I have never managed to rationalise the trauma I would be causing the train driver and the questions my family would ask themselves. But I've been close enough to that edge to know that it is possible to convince yourself that they would get over it and then everyone would be happier than before. I'm not saying that's how it works, I'm saying that's how people who are in such a state think it works.

It's a busy stretch although there is only one track in either direction and thus a lot of people were stranded. There were no extra busses and travellers were advised to take the tram. So the platform for the tram was overflowing with people. Not three or four empty trams could take them all in. And when one did come, it was already filled to capacity...

When I called in to work to say I would be later, I was told another colleague from Delft had already given up. So upon some reflection, I called them again to let them know I'd be taking the day off and left, but not before taking a few pictures.

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

what's next? triangles?

By the time I finally got a good enough connection, I completely forgot what it was I just had to share...

I'm at the bus stop, waiting. It's dark and it's very windy.

Maybe I had some kind of premonition last night when I decided to hang out the laundry inside rather than out. A couple of hours later the winds started.

Okay, okay, I've got it now:

How appropriate is it, that my mobile phone operator (Orange) should be taken over by T-Mobile? The latter using pink as its predominant colour. How am I ever going to get rid of this hag image...?

I know, is that my earth-shattering news?

Monday, 5 November 2007

a fishy tale

I noticed a picture with this red letter in a column on Uroskin's blog and wondered what it was. So I clicked the link to find out because it looked like a Scarlet Letter type of thing to me. However, "Adultery" was not what the A stands for, it's "Atheism".

The Out Campaign was thought up by Richard Dawkins, to make atheists more visible. He argues that there are many more atheists than people realise.

As far as subjective impressions allow and in the admitted absence of rigorous data, I am persuaded that the religiosity of America is greatly exaggerated. Our choir is a lot larger than many people realise. Religious people still outnumber atheists, but not by the margin they hoped and we feared.

The website encourages us to

of the closet! You'll feel liberated, and your example will encourage others to COME OUT too. (Don't "out" anybody else, wait for them to OUT themselves when they are ready to do so).

Now I'm an atheist too, and I don't hide it, not very well anyway. I also couldn't hide my involvement with UU if I wanted to. In a relatively short time I have become very impressed by this "religion". You may have noticed on this blog, but I try not to talk about either one too often in real life.

But then I came across another funny picture on Pam's House Blend. The site, called EvolveFISH, sells lots of funny fish fariations (sorry!) including a Gefilte Fish car emblem, an Evolve one, one with Freud, a completely non-offensive Jeebus version and of course my favourite: Sushi! I am very, very tempted to buy this for Rio.

People use symbols to communicate. We at F.I.S.H. sell symbols to wear and display. Our symbols promote enlightened human values and interaction. We began over 14 years ago, with the famous Darwin Fish, or darwin emblem; and two civil rights stickers. One said "Celebrate Diversity" in reference to a sexual orientation attack that was taking place in our city ( Colorado Springs ) at the time.
We quicky added the Evolve emblem/ car plaque and Political stickers ,. Anti war (Iraq war II--) , pro-peace, peace buttons, darwin fish lapel pins, fabric patches, Iron-on transfers, t-shirts, caps, greeting cards, stickers, church-state, church/state, church state, civil rights, gay rights, lesbian rights, womens rights, animal rights, education, science, pro-science, environmental, science toys, puzzles, posters, environment, wall posters.

all spelling mistakes: sic

more car emblems

Sunday, 4 November 2007

Stanley Fish: Suffering, Evil and the Existence of God (NYT)

Stanley Fish - Think Again
blogging for the New York Times
November 4, 2007, 10:25 pm

In Book 10 of Milton’s “Paradise Lost,” Adam asks the question so many of his descendants have asked: why should the lives of billions be blighted because of a sin he, not they, committed? (“Ah, why should all mankind / For one man’s fault… be condemned?”) He answers himself immediately: “But from me what can proceed, / But all corrupt, both Mind and Will depraved?” Adam’s Original Sin is like an inherited virus. Although those who are born with it are technically innocent of the crime – they did not eat of the forbidden tree – its effects rage in their blood and disorder their actions.

God, of course, could have restored them to spiritual health, but instead, Paul tells us in Romans, he “gave them over” to their “reprobate minds” and to the urging of their depraved wills. Because they are naturally “filled with all unrighteousness,” unrighteous deeds are what they will perform: “fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness . . . envy, murder . . . deceit, malignity.” “There is none righteous,” Paul declares, “no, not one.”

It follows, then (at least from these assumptions), that the presence of evil in the world cannot be traced back to God, who opened up the possibility of its emergence by granting his creatures free will but is not responsible for what they, in the person of their progenitor Adam, freely chose to do.

What Milton and Paul offer (not as collaborators of course, but as participants in the same tradition) is a solution to the central problem of theodicy – the existence of suffering and evil in a world presided over by an all powerful and benevolent deity. The occurrence of catastrophes natural (hurricanes, droughts, disease) and unnatural (the Holocaust) always revives the problem and provokes anguished discussion of it. The conviction, held by some, that the problem is intractable leads to the conclusion that there is no God, a conclusion reached gleefully by the authors of books like “The God Delusion,” “God Is Not Great” and “The End of Faith.” (See discussion here, here and here.)

Now two new books (to be published in the coming months) renew the debate. Their authors come from opposite directions – one from theism to agnosticism, the other from atheism to theism – but they meet, or rather cross paths, on the subject of suffering and evil.

Bart D. Ehrman is a professor of religious studies and his book is titled “God’s Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question – Why We Suffer.” A graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary, Ehrman trained to be a scholar of New Testament Studies and a minister. Born-again as a teenager, devoted to the scriptures (he memorized entire books of the New Testament), strenuously devout, he nevertheless lost his faith because, he reports, “I could no longer reconcile the claims of faith with the fact of life . . . I came to the point where I simply could not believe that there is a good and kindly disposed Ruler who is in charge.” “The problem of suffering,” he recalls, “became for me the problem of faith.”

Much of the book is taken up with Ehrman’s examination of biblical passages that once gave him solace, but that now deliver only unanswerable questions: “Given [the] theology of selection – that God had chosen the people of Israel to be in a special relationship with him – what were Ancient Israelite thinkers to suppose when things did not go as planned or expected? . . . . How were they to explain the fact that the people of God suffered from famine, drought, and pestilence?”

Ehrman knows and surveys the standard answers to these questions – God is angry at a sinful, disobedient people; suffering is redemptive, as Christ demonstrated on the cross; evil and suffering exist so that God can make good out of them; suffering induces humility and is an antidote to pride; suffering is a test of faith – but he finds them unpersuasive and as horrible in their way as the events they fail to explain: “If God tortures, maims and murders people just to see how they will react – to see if they will not blame him, when in fact he is to blame – then this does not seem to me to be a God worthy of worship.”

And as for the argument (derived from God’s speech out of the whirlwind in the Book of Job) that God exists on a level far beyond the comprehension of those who complain about his ways, “Doesn’t this view mean that God can maim, torment, and murder at will and not be held accountable? . . . . Does might make right?”

These questions are as old as Epicurus, who gave them canonical form: “Is God willing to prevent evil but not able? Then he is impotent. Is he able but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Whence, then, evil.”

Many books of theology and philosophy have been written in response to Epicurus’s conundrums, but Ehrman’s isn’t one of them. What impels him is not the fascination of intellectual puzzles, but the anguish produced by what he sees when he opens his eyes. “If he could do miracles for his people throughout the Bible, where is he today when your son is killed in a car accident, or your husband gets multiple sclerosis? . . . I just don’t see anything redemptive when Ethiopian babies die of malnutrition.”

The horror of the pain and suffering he instances leads Ehrman to be scornful of those who respond to it with cool abstract analyses: “What I find morally repugnant about such books is that they are so far removed from the actual pain and suffering that takes place in our world.”

He might have been talking about Antony Flew’s “There Is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind.” Flew, a noted professor of philosophy, announced in 2004 that after decades of writing essays and books from the vantage point of atheism, he now believes in God. “Changed his mind” is not a casual formulation. Flew wouldn’t call what has happened to him a conversion, for that would suggest something unavailable to analysis. His journey, he tells us, is best viewed as “a pilgrimage of reason,” an extension of his life-long habit of “following the argument no matter where it leads.”

Where it led when he was a schoolboy was to the same place Ehrman arrived at after many years of devout Christian practice: “I was regularly arguing with fellow sixth formers that the idea of a God who is both omnipotent and perfectly good is incompatible with the manifest evils and imperfections of the world.” For much of his philosophical career, Flew continued the argument in debates with a distinguished list of philosophers, scientists, theologians and historians. And then, gradually and to his own great surprise, he found that his decades-long “exploration of the Divine ha[d] after all these years turned from denial to discovery.”

What exactly did he discover? That by interrogating atheism with the same rigor he had directed at theism, he could begin to shake the foundations of that dogmatism. He poses to his former fellow atheists the following question: “What would have to occur or have occurred to constitute for you a reason to at least consider the existence of a superior Mind.” He knows that a cornerstone of the atheist creed is an argument that he himself made many times – the sufficiency of the materialist natural world as an explanation of how things work. “I pointed out,” he recalls, that “even the most complex entities in the universe – human beings – are the products of unconscious physical and mechanical forces.”

But it is precisely the word “unconscious” that, in the end, sends Flew in another direction. How, he asks, do merely physical and mechanical forces – forces without mind, without consciousness – give rise to the world of purposes, thoughts and moral projects? “How can a universe of mindless matter produce beings with intrinsic ends [and] self-replication capabilities?” In short (this is the title of a chapter), “How Did Life Go Live?”

Flew does not deny the explanatory power of materialist thought when the question is how are we to understand the physical causes of this or that event or effect. He is just contending that what is explained by materialist thought – the intricate workings of nature – itself demands an explanation, and materialist thought cannot supply it. Scientists, he says, “are dealing with the interaction of chemicals, whereas our questions have to do with how something can be intrinsically purpose-driven and how matter can be managed by symbol processing?” These queries, Flew insists, exist on entirely different levels and the knowledge gained from the first can not be used to illuminate the second.

In an appendix to the book, Abraham Varghese makes Flew’s point with the aid of an everyday example: “To suggest that the computer ‘understands’ what it is doing is like saying that a power line can meditate on the question of free will and determinism or that the chemicals in a test tube can apply the principle of non-contradiction in solving a problem, or that a DVD player understands and enjoys the music it plays.”

How did purposive behavior of the kind we engage in all the time – understanding, meditating, enjoying – ever emerge from electrons and chemical elements?

The usual origin-of-life theories, Flew observes, are caught in an infinite regress that can only be stopped by an arbitrary statement of the kind he himself used to make: “ . . . our knowledge of the universe must stop with the big bang, which is to be seen as the ultimate fact.” Or, “The laws of physics are ‘lawless laws’ that arise from the void – end of discussion.” He is now persuaded that such pronouncements beg the crucial question – why is there something rather than nothing? – a question to which he replies with the very proposition he argued against for most of his life: “The only satisfactory explanation for the origin of such ‘end-directed, self-replicating’ life as we see on earth is an infinitely intelligent Mind.”

Will Ehrman be moved to reconsider his present position and reconvert if he reads Flew’s book? Not likely, because Flew remains throughout in the intellectual posture Ehrman finds so arid. Flew assures his readers that he “has had no connection with any of the revealed religions,” and no “personal experience of God or any experience that may be called supernatural or religious.” Nor does he tells us in this book of any experience of the pain and suffering that haunts Ehrman’s every sentence.

Where Ehrman begins and ends with the problem of evil, Flew only says that it is a question that “must be faced,” but he is not going to face it in this book because he has been concerned with the prior “question of God’s existence.” Answering that question affirmatively leaves the other still open (one could always sever the Godly attributes of power and benevolence, and argue that the absence of the second does not tell against the reality of the first).

Flew is for the moment satisfied with the intellectual progress he has been able to make. Ehrman is satisfied with nothing, and the passion and indignation he feels at the manifest inequities of the world are not diminished in the slightest when he writes his last word.

Is there a conclusion to be drawn from these two books, at once so similar in their concerns and so different in their ways of addressing them? Does one or the other persuade?

Perhaps an individual reader of either will have his or her mind changed, but their chief value is that together they testify to the continuing vitality and significance of their shared subject. Both are serious inquiries into matters that have been discussed and debated by sincere and learned persons for many centuries. The project is an old one, but these authors pursue it with an energy and goodwill that invite further conversation with sympathetic and unsympathetic readers alike.

In short, these books neither trivialize their subject nor demonize those who have a different view of it, which is more than can be said for the efforts of those fashionable atheist writers whose major form of argument would seem to be ridicule.

(In an article published Sunday — November 4 — in the New York Times Magazine, Mark Oppenheimer more than suggests that Flew, now in his 80’s, did not write the book that bears his name, but allowed Roy Varghese (listed as co-author) to compile it from the philosopher’s previous writings and some extended conversations. Whatever the truth is about the authorship of the book, the relation of its argument and trajectory to the argument and trajectory of Ehrman’s book stands.)

Saturday, 3 November 2007

five stages

The Kübler-Ross model of dealing with grief and tragedy describes five stages:

  • Denial "I can't deal with this right now." (Monday)

  • Anger "How dare he do this to me!" (Tuesday)

  • Bargaining "Maybe I can help him fix it." (Wednesday)

  • Depression "It's no use. I'll never find someone." (Thursday)

  • Acceptance "It could've been good, but now it's over. I'll live." (Friday)
I'm still sad, but that's where I am at the moment. Partly I'm concerned that it went so fast, partly I'm relieved. Now all I have to do is tell him...

EDIT: Now I'm very ashamed of myself for posting this without thinking he might read it. I already called him to apologise, but I'll say it again. I'm sorry, darling.

(But the next prospect doesn't get the link to this site, that's for sure.)

Arabian night(mare)s

This is quite disturbing, so please brace yourself.

The New York Times reports on what French 15-year-old Alexandre Robert went through in Dubai this summer. On Bastille Day

he bumped into an acquaintance, a 17-year-old native-born student at the American school, who said he and his cousin could drop Alex off at home.

There were, in fact, three Emirati men in the car, including a pair of former convicts ages 35 and 18, according to Alex. He says they drove him past his house and into a dark patch of desert, between a row of new villas and a power plant, took away his cellphone, threatened him with a knife and a club, and told him they would kill his family if he ever reported them.

Then they stripped off his pants and one by one sodomized him in the back seat of the car. They dumped Alex across from one of Dubai’s luxury hotel towers.

As if that wasn't horrible enough the doctor who examined Alex after the attack cleared the room and told Alex: "I know you’re a homosexual. You can admit it to me. I can tell." The Egyptian doctor also reported no signs of forced penetration.

According to Alexandre and his family, the local authorities tried to dissuade them from pressing charges. They also told them that all three assailants were disease free on August 15, but at the end of the same month, the family learned that the oldest attacker is in fact HIV-positive. "They lied to us," said Alexandre's mother. "Now the Damocles sword of AIDS hangs over Alex." (So far he's clear, but he'll have to wait until January for the final verdict.)

Only after that, with pressure from the French government on the United Arab Emirates authorities, was a new prosecutor assigned to the case and were the necessary tests conducted to confirm the sperm samples found were from the three suspects.

Alex bravely stayed in Dubai so that he could testify and went back to school, but in early October the family were warned by their lawyer that he might be in danger of facing charges of homosexuality, risking a year in prison and so he fled to Switzerland.

Sometimes you feel crazy, you know? It’s hard, but we have to be strong. I’m doing this for all the other poor kids who got raped and couldn’t do anything about it.

Alexandre's mother, Véronique, has set up this website of support,, not just for him, but for all others who suffered a similar fate:

Pour Alexandre

Je dédie ce site à tous les enfants dont les blessures n'ont jamais été reconnues, les propos jamais entendus et les souffrances jamais partagées.

For Alexandre

I dedicate this website to all the children of the world whose wounds were never recognized, their words never heard and their suffering never known.

I hope the trial will give him and his family some kind of closure, but the New York Times says: "United Arab Emirates law does not recognize rape of males, only a crime called "forced homosexuality." The two adult men charged with sexually assaulting Alex have pleaded not guilty, although sperm from all three were found in Alex. The two adults appeared in court on Wednesday and were appointed a lawyer. They face trial before a three-judge panel on Nov. 7. The third, a minor, will be tried in juvenile court. Legal experts here say that men convicted of sexually assaulting other men usually serve sentences ranging from a few months to two years." [italics by SubtleKnife]

On the other hand, a UAE sheikh is being prosecuted in Switzerland, for beating up a man he thought to be gay. "Sheikh Falah bin Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan, 37, is accused of attacking Silvano Orsi, 39, with a belt in the posh La Reserve hotel four years ago." reports.

Now you might think there was some crazy religious motivation behind it, but the truth is even stranger than that. Orsi refused an alcholic drink from the sheikh and rebuffed his advances, which made the brother of the ruler of Abu Dhabi and federal president of the United Arab Emirates, Khalifa bin Zayed al Nahyan, mad enough to beat up a man in public.

Orsi said he was sipping fruit juice while chatting in English and Italian with a Saudi friend in the bar at the hotel when a passer-by dressed in casual shirt and jeans asked where he was from.

The stranger offered him something to drink and Orsi declined, saying he didn't drink alcohol, yet the man soon sent over a bottle of Dom Perignon. Orsi said he politely waved his thanks but left the champagne unopened on the table because he was worried the offer was a ploy to force a confrontation.

A quarter-hour later, Orsi alleged, the man suddenly came up behind him, jostled his glasses, sat in his lap and tried to kiss and fondle him. When Orsi protested, he maintained the man became violently angry, threw him to the floor, punched and stomped him, smashed his glasses underfoot, then removed his belt and whipped him with the metal buckle.

All the time, Orsi said his attacker was yelling abuse, saying at one point that "no stupid American or Italian is going to tell me what to do!"

After hotel staff and others intervened, taking him into a side room, Orsi said he was getting first aid for a deep cut over his left eye and welts on his arms and back when the man appeared again and flailed at him with his belt, then did the same a third time after Orsi retreated to the reception desk.

If convicted, the sheikh faces up to two years in jail.

I found both these stories through Queerty

commercial break

Although I didn't even see this commercial before buying my bottle of "Gucci by Gucci" - I picked it on scent alone - I do like that they used Blondie's Heart of Glass" for the video. The look of the video and the packaging (lots of gold and browns and bronzes) go well with the scent, somehow the choice of song seems off, but then it still works for me. Not that they have to sell me on it anymore, I wear it when I'm all alone and not planning to go out.

There's also a behind the scenes video of the David Lynch-directed commercial on the Gucci website.


I've been trolling (EDIT: oops! I meant TRAWLING!) the NY Times this morning, since I don't feel like much else... O yeah, I'm simultaneously reading and watching American TV-series - yes, I download, I can't help it if they're not being shown here, right? I mean, Weeds is well into it's third series and not a sign of it on Dutch TV. Heroes did start a couple of months ago, but I like to talk to my friends when it's still fresh in their minds. Anyway...

The "What's Online" section of the New York Times tells us that according to this survey wealthy countries are less likely to be religious. According to the report there is "a strong relationship between a country's religiosity and its economic status. In poorer nations, religion remains central to the lives of individuals, while secular perspectives are more common in richer nations."

It also adds: "In much of Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, there is a strong consensus that belief in God is necessary for morality and good values. Throughout much of Europe, however, majorities think morality is achievable without faith." The United States, however, is a notable exception, it "is a much more religious country than its level of prosperity would indicate."

Oil-rich, muslim, Kuwait also falls out of the pattern. Otherwise these results are remarkably consisten.

Here is how they measured religiousity: "using a three-item index ranging from 0-3, with "3" representing the most religious position. Respondents were given a "1" if they believe faith in God is necessary for morality; a "1" if they say religion is very important in their lives; and a "1" if they pray at least once a day."

I wouldn't score very highly in that test, despite going on a Unitarian Universalist retreat last weekend and looking forward to going to tomorrow's meeting. It's horrible, it's almost (?) embarrassing, I even made cake! It wasn't even my turn. I'm just hoping all this niceness is affecting me too much, so far I've still been able to be bitchy when I felt like it. As long as K tells me how mean a remark was once in a while I know I'm still okay.

I'd definitely score 0 on the first and last questions, and, despite my growing involvement with UU, probably on the middle one too. Okay, the Dexter episode I missed before has just finished, now I can watch the one I've had sitting around for almost a week.

Pew Global
(There's a pdf of the full report as well.)

Friday, 2 November 2007

she dances on the sand

Her name is Rio and she dances on the sand
Just like that river twisting through a dusty land
And when she shines she really shows you all she can
Oh Rio, Rio dance across the Rio Grande

Please allow me to introduce Rio.

Rio is my darling 2003 Kia Rio sedan and Rio is not a type name given to her by the manufacturer, it's her name. Honesty requires me to admit she was only named this summer, not by me but by K, on our roadtrip to see Rufus Wainwright in Groningen.

(That's not actually my Rio in the picture, she is willow green and a bit less shiny.)

Since then I have named my cell phone (Precious), the cell phone's memory card (Babycakes) and the toy snake I bought last week at the Omniversum (Leo). Leo keeps Rio company, and hopefully keeps her safe as well.

EDIT: Actually, come to think of it... I have a teddy bear who's been living with me for over ten, probably going on fifteen, years now, called "The Golden Bearn". His name is a play on words with Stephen Hendry's nickname "The Golden Bairn" (bairn means child in Scots).