Plain of feature, and certainly overweight

Colleen McCullough was a best-selling novelist, and more.

Before becoming a full-time author, McCullough was a researcher at Yale medical school. And in between her time in New Haven and her global literary pursuits, she established the neurophysiology department at Syndey’s Royal North Shore hospital. She published her first novel, Tim, in 1974; her last, Bittersweet, in 2013. She was still working on a sequel when she died yesterday, at age 77, in a hospital on Norfolk Island.

But who cares about all that, amirite? Was she hot?? Was she gorgeous, was she thin, did she wear clothes well, did she decorate the place? Or did she fall down on all that? [Read more…]

Guest post: Syntax and form

Originally a comment by Dave Ricks on What does Silicon Valley think of women?

The Newsweek cover works for me as satire, and I’ll explain in terms of syntax or form. By syntax, I mean a claim is equally valid in the active or passive voice. By form, I mean (for example) that jazz musicians call the chord changes to I Got Rhythm “rhythm changes” and (for example) most of the Charlie Parker tunes I know off the top of my head are launching pads to improvise over “rhythm changes” being a 32-bar AABA form.

All of us can instantly parse a single-frame editorial cartoon that shows a bad person behaving badly. My analogy here is to the active voice, to show (for example) a greedy narcissistic Wall Street person gaming the system for personal gain but a net loss to society. That syntax or form says, “This person is behaving badly.” [Read more…]

Islamists do not want to debate

Chris Moos draws up a catalogue of the more wrongheaded responses to the Charlie Hebdo massacre. He counts five of them:

the reflexive smearer, the moral relativist, the condescending bonhomme, the politician-cum-theologian and the winner of the competition, the Islamist abuser.

The reflexive smearer says the CH cartoonists and CH were and are racist.

As David Paxton points out, this usually came with an attempt at “root-causism“, a contextualisation of the murders in “wars against the Muslim world”, and an in-depth investigation of the alleged views, sensitivities and ‘culture’ of the murderers. [Read more…]

It could provoke “uncontrollable, irresponsible incidents”

Another win for the bullies. The Telegraph has the story.

An artwork depicting high-heeled shoes on Islamic prayer mats has been removed from an exhibition after a Muslim group warned of possible violence in the wake of the Paris attacks.

Via Facebook

The French-Algerian artist, Zoulikha Bouabdellah, withdrew the work from an exhibition in a northern Paris suburb with a large Muslim population after an Islamic group told local authorities it could provoke “uncontrollable, irresponsible incidents”. [Read more…]

What if you were arrested and publicly flogged for wondering why

Haroon Riaz, to quote his blurb at the Nation, is a Rawalpindi-based independent blogger and believes in promoting free speech and secularism. Comrade!

He points out that what’s happening to Raif could so easily have happened to him or you or me. I know. Boy do I know.

He says hardly anyone is talking about Raif in Pakistan.

[W]hat does this tell the world about us? Or about our leaders who took the trouble of protesting against the Charlie Hebdo cartoons, but would dare not even think about the flogging of the Saudi blogger.

[Read more…]

The bomb contained steel pellets, ball bearings and shrapnel

Fridays are prime time for Islamist violence – sometimes after prayers, as with the flogging of Raif Badawi, and sometimes during prayers, as yesterday at a mosque in Sindh province.

Funerals have taken place in southern Pakistan for the victims of a suicide attack on a Shia mosque during Friday prayers which police say killed at least 60 people.

Dozens were also wounded in the attack in Sindh province’s Shikarpur district, making it one of the worst sectarian attacks in Pakistan in recent years.

Sunni militants linked to the Taliban said they carried out the attack.

[Read more…]

Suad al-Shammary was released today


The Beeb reports:

The new Saudi King Salman has issued a decree pardoning what are described as “public right” prisoners, which could include Mr Badawi.

Suad al-Shammary, a rights activist and lawyer who worked with Mr Badawi on his blog, was released on Friday.

She had been held for three months without charge over comments she made on Twitter, which her opponents portrayed as anti-Islamic.

Wo. If she can, Raif can.

Mr Badawi’s wife, Ensaf Haidar – who lives in Canada – told the BBC she was buoyed by Friday’s developments.

“I ask the world to remain by my side until Raif is released.”

Damn right.

She said she now hated Fridays – the day of lashings. “I turn into a mess, until I know his [Raif’s] fate.”

I bet Thursdays aren’t so hot either. Saturday through Wednesday? Well they suck too.

Until Raif is released.

This debate is not just French

Zineb El-Rhazoui was in Montreal the other day to talk about and fundraise for Charlie Hebdo.

According to El-Rhazoui, the most elementary defence against the rise of fundamentalism is to hammer home the point that religion holds no sway with the state .

“Secularism as far as I know, is the only way to permit everyone to live in the same society, even if people are different,” said El-Rhazoui. [Read more…]

It should have been this

Charlie Klendjian of the Lawyers’ Secular Society gave a talk yesterday at UCL ASH. He pointed out that “offence” is, in some contexts, code for blasphemy.

So, somehow we have accepted that we are allowed to cause offence generally, and we’re even allowed to offend virtually all religious sensibilities, for example with films such as the Life of Brian, artwork showing a crucifix in urine, or plays about Mormonism.

So it appears there is one exception to this rule that we’re generally allowed to cause offence. That exception, as we have seen, is Islam. Islam is refusing to play by the rules. We are not allowed to offend Islam.

I think we need a different word to “offence” for the purposes of this discussion. Don’t you? How about, I don’t know, the word “blasphemy”? Shall we just call it what it is? It’s blasphemy. [Read more…]