Narcissus' Echo

Thoughts, tears, rants, ruminations, hopes, fears, love(s), and prayers of just another being passing through this wracked sphere...

My Photo

A round peg in a world of square holes...

Friday, February 10, 2006

Animal rescue

A photo essay of animals rescued from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina:

Hurricane Family

A little joy in an otherwise joyless day...

The story begins with the rescuers finding this poor little guy that someone had already taken under their wing but wasn't equipped to adopt.

So Ralphie, scared and nearly starved, joins the rescuers.

I wouldn't think anything could live through this,

but this sweet little beagle lady did.

Scared but safe.

And no longer alone.

Instant pals.

Add two more Beagles.

Life is really good again!

A new traveler is added to the mix. Is this going to work?

It's working fine. Thank you!

One big happy family.

Other pictures:

Self-propelled scratching post.

MONKEY: This is one heavy baby monkey puppy!

BIRD (to mouse): It's OK, I still love you even though you can't fly."

Hungry baby hamster.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Rushdie speaking

A discussion today brought up the novelist, Salman Rushdie, and it is chilling that some of his sentiments, articulated years ago, have not only persisted in relevance but actually bear augmented pertinence in these troubled times.

On the Nov 27, 2002 issue of The New York Times, in what is now a popular quote, Salman Rushdie spoke of the "Silent Muslims" who said nothing in response to the rape and pillage antics of their religious brethren: "As their ancient, deeply civilized culture of love, art and philosophical reflection is hijacked by paranoiacs, racists, liars, male supremacists, tyrants, fanatics and violence junkies, why are they not screaming?" (Source (subscription required))

The complete article is appended near the end of this post. It makes for good reading and dispels the notion that the violence over the Mohammed cartoons is an isolated event. Violence, within and without the culture, it seems, is the modi operandi of the jihadists.

From a forum:

Maybe the Islamic culture internationally is so radicalized that the silent Muslim majority secretly agrees with the jihadists but is unwilling to say so publicly. Or is the majority afraid of reprisals?

As one writer put it:

"Dead children. Dead tourists. Dead teachers. Dead doctors and nurses. Death, destruction and mayhem around the world at the hands of Muslims--no Muslim outrage. But publish a cartoon depicting Mohammed with a bomb in his turban and all hell breaks loose.

Come on, is this really about cartoons? They're rampaging and burning flags. They're looking for Europeans to kidnap. They're threatening innkeepers and generally raising holy Muslim hell not because of any outrage over a cartoon. They're outraged because it is a basic part of the Islamic jihadist culture to be outraged. If you are Muslim you don't really need a reason. You just need an excuse."

Now, before you dismiss this as hate-speech, read on (including Rushdie's entire article at the end of this post).

An excerpt of an interview with Salman Rushdie by the BBC World Service (20 Sept 2005):

The novelist Salman Rushdie has given a warning about the danger of the 'silent majority' among British Muslims remaining silent in the wake of the London bombings.
"If it goes on being silent, then its culture and religion will be hijacked by the extremists and it will be very difficult to go on saying 'That's not us'... you've got to speak up," he told BBC World Service.
Asked on The Ticket arts programme by presenter Mark Coles why people did not speak up, he said: "I think they will - maybe it takes something as horrifying as the bombings in London to make people break ranks.
"But I think there's a lot of evidence that there's a great deal of soul-searching and re-thinking going on."
He added: "We seem to live in a time when people do seem to define themselves by their anger. People, communities and groups are very quick to be offended.
"It's as if what offends you defines you. The culture of 'offendedness' in which we live is extremely problematic and very disturbing.
"The kind of rhetoric coming out of places like radical Islamic groups is not judicious or analytical - it is purely a kind of bilious rage.
"There's something seductive - especially for young men - to get involved in a world where you can just be angry for a living and your anger is its own justification." (Source)

An excerpt from another interview (2 October 2005) with Rushdie:

Ramona Koval: You’ve written recently in the newspaper about the need for Islam to reform. So you are still very much engaged with those kinds of ideas.

Salman Rushdie: Aren’t we all? It’s become a very big part of the world subject right now and, yes, I have a point of view about it, and one of the reasons I have the point of view is that I remember in my lifetime when it used to be different. I mean, Kashmir in the 1950s and 1960s, there was no radical Islam there. The Islam that existed in Kashmir was very, very mild, it was very tolerant, it was kind of mystical Sufistic Islam and had nothing to do with the international Islamic jihad, which didn’t really exist then, by the way, not until the president of United States created it. Actually Bush has done what bin Laden failed to do. Bin Laden called for a jihad and nobody replied. Now it seems as if people are replying. That’s another subject.

But it is true that inside the Muslim world there has been a terrible backsliding into bigotry. If you look at the great cities of the Muslim world in the 50s and 60s—Beirut, Baghdad, Tehran—these were amazing cosmopolitan cities. They were very cultured, sophisticated, outward-looking, modern, tolerant 50 years ago, and in that half century this terrible thing has come and seized hold of all these places. Kashmiri women, for example, almost never wore the veil. It was never a thing that Kashmiri women felt the need to do. Then the jihadi groups started coming into Kashmir and going to these villages and threatening these people, saying we’ll come and kill you if you don’t stop your women walking around looking naked. So now you go to Kashmir and you find veiled women, which is actually alien to Kashmiri culture and yet has been imposed on them essentially by fear.

So of course there’s a need for a reform movement inside Islam because at the moment Islam is going backwards very fast. It’s no good to say Islam is a religion of peace. I’m sure it is, but at the moment what we see is war. It needs that silent majority, which I believe to exist, which has absolutely no interest in the radicals or even in most of the people posing as Muslim leaders in this country. That silent majority does need to stop being silent. Muslim leaders at the moment are a kind of joke because very few people follow them. There was a very good joke in the paper the other day, it was about Bush actually, but it applies to Iqbal Sacranie and so on—the leader without followers is just a man going for a walk. I think there is a great problem inside the community in this country in that there seems to be no genuine leadership, no genuine organisations which actually do represent the community, rather then simply claiming to do so. But, yes, it needs a reform movement, it needs an openness of intellectual discourse, it needs to remember that it’s all right to disagree with people and be disagreed with yourself, and it needs to get on board with the basic tenets of a democratic society. As I say, I believe that inside the Muslim community in this country there is a very large majority that already thinks like that, and it needs to make its voice heard.

That’s what I was saying, and what was interesting was that after I wrote that article that was in The Times there was an enormous discussion on The Times website about it. It was very encouraging to see that a very large majority of the people who wrote had Muslim names, one can’t tell is they were believers or not, but they did support the idea, broadly speaking. (Source)


Complete article by Salman Rushdie:

No more fanaticism as usual

By Salman Rushdie, author, most recently, of "Step AcrossThis Line."
New York Times, November 27, 2002

It's been quite a week in the wonderful world of Islam.

Nigerian Islam's encounter with that powerhouse of subversion, the Miss World contest, has been unedifying, to put it mildly. First some of the contestants had the nerve to object to a Shariah court's sentence that a Nigerian woman convicted of adultery be stoned to death and threatened to boycott the contest - which forced the Nigerian authorities to promise that the woman in question would not be subjected to the lethal hail of rocks. And then Isioma Daniel, a Christian Nigerian journalist, had the effrontery to suggest that if the prophet Muhammad were around today, he might have wanted to marry one of these swimsuit hussies himself.

Well, obviously, that was going too far. True-believing Nigerian Muslims then set about the holy task of killing, looting and burning while calling for Ms. Daniel to be beheaded, and who could blame them?

Not the president of Nigeria, who put the blame squarely on the shoulders of the hapless journalist. (Germaine Greer and other British-based feminists, unhappy about Miss World's decision to move the event to London, preferred to grouse about the beauty contest. The notion that the killers, looters and burners should be held accountable seems to have escaped notice.)

Meanwhile, in the Islamic Republic of Iran, Hashem Aghajari, a person with impeccable Islamist credentials - a leg lost in battle and a resume that includes being part of the occupying force that seized the Great Satan's Tehran embassy back in the revolution's salad days - languishes under a sentence of death imposed because he criticized the mullahs who run the country.

In Iran, you don't even have to have cheeky thoughts about the prophet to be worthy of being killed. The hearts of true believers are maddened a lot more easily than that. Thousands of young people across the country were immature enough to protest against Mr. Aghajari's sentence, for which the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, duly rebuked them. (More than 10,000 true believers marched through Tehran in support of hard-line Islam.)

Meanwhile, in Egypt, a hit television series, "Horseman without a horse," has been offering up antisemitic programming to a huge, eager audience. That old forgery, "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion" - a document purporting to prove that there really is a secret Jewish plot to take over the world, and which was proved long ago to have been faked by Czar Nicholas II's secret police - is treated in this drama series as historical fact.

Yes, this is the same Egypt in which the media are rigorously censored to prevent anything that offends the authorities from seeing the light of day. But hold on just a moment. Here's the series' star and co-writer, Mohammed Sobhi, telling us that what is at stake is nothing less than free speech itself, and if his lying show "terrified Zionists," well, tough. He'll make more programs in the same vein. Now there's a gutsy guy.

Finally, let's not forget the horrifying story of the Dutch Muslim woman, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who has had to flee the Netherlands because she said that Muslim men oppressed Muslim women, a vile idea that so outraged Muslim men that they issued death threats against her.

Is it unfair to bunch all these different uglinesses together? Perhaps. But they do have something in common. Ayaan Hirsi Ali was accused of being "the Dutch Salman Rushdie," Mr. Aghajari of being the Iranian version, Isioma Daniel of being the Nigerian incarnation of the same demon.

A couple of months ago I said that I detested the sloganization of my name by Islamists around the world. I'm beginning to rethink that position. Maybe it's not so bad to be a Rushdie among other "Rushdies." For the most part I'm comfortable with, and often even proud of, the company I'm in.

Where, after all, is the Muslim outrage at these events? As their ancient, deeply civilized culture of love, art and philosophical reflection is hijacked by paranoiacs, racists, liars, male supremacists, tyrants, fanatics and violence junkies, why are they not screaming?

At least in Iran the students are demonstrating. But where else in the Muslim world can one hear the voices of the fair-minded, tolerant Muslim majority deploring what Nigerian, Egyptian, Arab and Dutch Muslims are doing? Muslims in the West, too, seem unnaturally silent on these topics. If you're yelling, we can't hear you.

If the moderate voices of Islam cannot or will not insist on the modernization of their culture - and of their faith as well - then it may be these so-called "Rushdies" who have to do it for them. For every such individual who is vilified and oppressed, two more, ten more, a thousand more will spring up. They will spring up because you can't keep people's minds, feelings and needs in jail forever, no matter how brutal your inquisitions.

The Islamic world today is being held prisoner, not by Western but by Islamic captors, who are fighting to keep closed a world that a badly outnumbered few are trying to open. As long as the majority remains silent, this will be a tough war to win. But in the end, or so we must hope, someone will kick down that prison door. (Mirror site of source, for those of you who do not have a subscription to The New York Times).

Does the fact that there has been no angry mobs in USA, Israel or Europe burning down Iranian embassies for Iran's printing of anti-semitic cartoons in retaliation, say something about the inherent differences between the jihadists and the rest of the world?

60-year-old Father Andrea Santoro was murdered at his church in Turkey, over the Mohammed cartoons.

Has Pope Benedict XVI issued a bull calling for retaliation and murder of every jihadist?

No, instead, the Vatican responded:

Pope Benedict XVI said Monday that he hoped the blood shed by a Roman Catholic priest slain in Turkey over the weekend would become the “seeds of hope” to build a lasting fraternity between peoples.

Benedict sent telegrams of condolences to church authorities in Italy and Turkey following the killing Sunday of the Rev. Andrea Santoro, 60, who was shot as he prayed in his church in the Black Sea port city of Trabzon, where he was the parish priest for a small Christian community.

...Benedict said he hoped “that the blood that he shed will become the seeds of hope for building an authentic fraternity among peoples.”

(Props to Michelle Malkin)

And then, there is the book and upcoming movie, The Da Vinci Code, that portrays an assembly within the Catholic community, Opus Dei, as an evil, secret and murderous group. A 61-year-old nun, Sister Mary Michael knelt for 12 hours outside the building where the Sony Pictures film crew and Tom Hanks worked. But there were no calls from the Pope, cardinals, archbishops, or bishops to burn, bomb, Sony offices or declarations that it is the duty of every Catholic to kill a Sony employee. Hmm...

No Christian leader ever espoused violence to retaliate against "Piss Christ," the controversial 1989 artwork - a photograph of a crucifix submerged in urine - by Andres Serrano, even though that riled many Christians, noted Gary Bauer, president of American Values and a longtime leader among religious conservatives. (Source)

Today, Michelle Malkin wrote on how a Polish magazine, Machina, superimposed the face of the pop star, Madonna, on to a traditional portrait of the Virgin Mary this week.

The Roman Catholics in Poland are outraged, but there has been no bombings, arson, riots, or even threats against Madonna's life so far. Neither has Pope Benedict XVI called for the bombing of Poland. Hmm, I wonder why.

The apologist sentiment of, "if you don't want to get stung, don't poke a stick into a hornet's nest," holds no water. One could reply, "if you behave like an uncontrollable, wild animal, instead of a human, then perhaps you need to be put down." After all, people call in exterminators for hornets.

Why should the intolerant be tolerated?

Australian journalist and blogger, Tim Blair, possesses an even harsher view, commenting on a passage from The Sydney Morning Herald,

As more European newspapers reprinted the cartoons, what started off as a row between Denmark’s press and its Muslim population has grown into a full-blown “clash of civilisations."

he quipped, "No; that would require two civilisations."

Salman Rushdie's proposition remains tenable: the religion of Islam is not violent, but rather, its stewardship has been hijacked by radicals, and what violence committed in the name of the religion is--and continue to be--enabled by the silence of the original moderates. Criticism functions as a regulating mechanism. Self-critique serves as a check against corruption or radicalism. The question then is, for how much longer will the moderate majority continue to tolerate the tyranny of their rabid brethren? To steal a line from the teachings of Buddha (and a popular joke), "Change comes from within."

For the literary-minded, more information on Salman Rushdie available here.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Good Book Report

Students were assigned to read 2 books, Titanic, by David M. Lubin, and My Life, by Bill Clinton.

One smart-ass student turned in the following book report, with the proposition that they were nearly identical stories.

His cool professor gave him an A+ for this report:

Titanic..... $29.99
Clinton..... $29.99

Titanic..... Over 3 hours to read.
Clinton..... Over 3 hours to read.

Titanic..... The story of Jack and Rose, their forbidden love, and subsequent catastrophe.
Clinton..... The story of Bill and Monica, their forbidden love, and subsequent catastrophe.

Titanic..... Jack is a starving artist.
Clinton..... Bill is a bullshit artist.

Titanic..... In one scene, Jack enjoys a good cigar.
Clinton..... Ditto for Bill.

Titanic..... During ordeal, Rose's dress gets ruined.
Clinton..... Ditto for Monica.

Titanic..... Jack teaches Rose to spit.
Clinton..... Let's not go there.

Titanic..... Rose gets to keep her jewellery.
Clinton..... Monica's forced to return her gifts.

Titanic..... Rose remembers Jack for the rest of her life.
Clinton..... Clinton doesn't remember Jack.

Titanic..... Rose goes down on a vessel full of seamen.
Clinton..... Monica...ooh, let's not go there either.

Titanic..... Jack surrenders to an icy death.
Clinton..... Bill goes home to Hilary--basically the same thing.

Props to BASH.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Back into the fold

Its been half a year since I sung in the church choir, I was surprised at how much endurance and control I've lost in my vocal cords. Tonight, it took me 3 hours before I could utilize the majority of my range with power again. Before that, whenever the conductor emphasized crescendo, the veins in my temples would bulge as I tried to deliver.

Anyways, something funny happened tonight: halfway through practice, a big, fat, white cat wandered into the church and sauntered right up to the apse. Greg, the choir master picked up the cat and it instantly snuggled up. So he began to rock the cat like a baby. The instrument section took their cue and launched into a lullaby melody, with the piano in the lead. Greg then waltzed and rocked the cat out of the church doors to the music as we looked on, howling in laughter.

Apparently, the cat enjoyed it so much, it spent most of the night outside the church doors trying to get in for a sequel.

Lucky feline. It chose the correct religion. It could have just as easily turned out to be "Look, my brothers and sisters! A sacrifice!"


In other news, the 40 footer waves are back at Mavericks (near Half Moon Bay). The contest starts on February 7. There is a rocky reef where the waves crest, which means there is little room for error. And, oh, yes, the 40 feet is measured on the back side of the wave.

I am tempted to undertake the 2 hour drive just to watch these waves and the Darwin Award Candidates surfers.

Slideshow here
(or click on image below).