Saturday, September 30, 2006
  21st Amendment
As we all know, the Senate and the House of Representatives this week have betrayed the American constitution and basic American values. They legalized what most of us would consider torture, stripped away habeas corpus rights in which a prisoner could challenge his or her detainment, authorized the President to declare anyone, American citizen or not, an enemy combatant and imprison them for as long as he likes, without them having the right to challenge that detainment, without need to provide charge, allow legal representation or bring the detainee to trial, and even if they go to trial perhaps without even the right to see the evidence against them.

Although most of this will be applied to foreigners, any American at any time could be hauled in with no way to challenge that arrest and detainment. Congress may trust that the President will not abuse those powers, but without oversight or the detainee's ability to challenge his/her imprisonment, there are no guarantees that it won't be used against politically inconvenient individuals, peace activists, what have you. There is an excellent column in today's New York Times talking about the downfall of Rome, and tracing it to a similar authorization of absolute authority by the Roman Senate after a terrorist attack. Let us hope that this law does not become the undoing of the American democracy!

It still amazes me that Congress could pass such a law. My only hope is that it will, like the 21st Amendement repealed prohibition, soon be repealed by a new law. I hope that in the meantime it is applied only infrequently, though I fear all too many innocent people will be caught up in its snares.
 
Friday, September 29, 2006
  Hot Root Soup
My twins have been totally absorbed by Brian Jacques Redwall series. They do the typical things kids do... pretend they are characters from the books, act out scenes, write stories from the books, shout slogans from the book while diving off the diving board, and (much to their mother's astonishment and pride) set the songs in the books to music. (I am unable to compose even a simple tune without slipping into familiar melodies, so their ability to write tunes for these songs truly astounds and thrills me.)

I've even joined in the fun, making recipes from the books...

Strawberry Fizz (one can frozen strawberry daquiri base, and one bottle of non-alcoholic strawberry champagne. It's delightful!)

Recently I've made hot root soup (a selection from the onion family -- a yellow onion, several cloves of garlic, scallions, leek, shallots, what have you -- chopped coarsely. Carrots, celery, parsnips, cabbage, and other such vegetables, chopped in bite-size or smaller pieces. shrimp -- I use raw with the shells on, peel them and save the shells to make stock. Paprika (hot root) and cajun spice blend. Fry the onion family in butter till the pieces are translucent. Add strained stock made by boiling the shrimp shells in a quart or two of water (depends on how much soup you want to make). Add carrots, celery and other hard vegetables, and the spices. (Spice to your taste; we like spicy and hot food, so I put in a lot!). Let boil til the veggies are soft. Add cabage and shrimp. Cook till shrimp is pink and curled. (Note you can use pre-cooked shrimp, in which case you want to hold off adding the shrimp until the cabage is limp, then you add the shrimp and cook just enough to heat the shrimp through.)

It's yummy and the leftovers save quite well.

Most of all, it's fun to encourage the kids in their fun. And it brings up memories of when, as a young girl, I acted out stories I had read or movies I had watched. I remember quite distinctly a whole Lassie phase that I went through. (Of course, I wasn't the boy, I was Lassie!)

I wonder how many authors go through phases of fandom as youngsters, and when they make the leap into their own stories. My pretend games were very much fanfic in life. I never wrote the stories down, creating my own (heavily inspired by a variety of sf tv shows) worlds when I started writing. I suppose it makes sense that writers/artists/creative people would have an active imagination as kids and that the things that engaged their minds -- books, movies, tv shows, pictures -- might serve as fodder for those imaginations. But you don't often hear it mentioned. Might make for an interesting panel in a conference some day...
 
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
  There is nothing to fear, but fear itself...
I read an excellent column not so long ago by Eric Margolis about how the US is slipping into some of the same tactics that the KGB used against its prisoners. Sleep deprivation, near drowning, freezing, terrorizing them with dogs... some of the very tactics that the US wants to use, were favorites of the KGB.

Now the House has approved these tactics, along with trials in which defendants may be refused the right to see materials being used against them. Rather hard to mount a defense when you don't even know what the evidence is.

It's well known that torture results in unreliable data... people subject to or afraid of torture will say anything to escape the torment. Yet, the American public seems all too willing to allow the CIA to do pretty much whatever they want to suspected terrorists who might (or might not) be able to give testimony regarding planned activities. So much for humane treatment of prisoners and the Geneva conventions, so much for innocent until proven guilty... these tactics are to be used on detainees who have not been tried, have never seen a jury, nor received a conviction. And they will used to procure confessions as well as supposed evidence.

Then when they are tried, they will not be allowed to see any "sensitive" evidence against them. Kangaroo courts is what we used to call them when the KGB tried people without them being able to defend themselves.

This legislation is coupled with new definitions of who is considered a terrorist or a material supporter of terrorism. Under the new definitions, the lawyers who defend these prisoners could be tried for material support of terrorists, even if they are court appointed! This has, in fact, already happened to the lawyer who defended the suspects in the first World Trade Center bombing.

And why are we willing to tolerate torture, kangaroo courts, cases targeting court appointed lawyers? Because we afraid. Irrationally afraid one might add. Count the number of people killed in car accidents, or by enraged spouses last year, and it will far exceed the number of people killed by terrorists. It will far exceed the number killed even in 2001. But we don't go around saying it's ok to torture husbands we suspect might want to hit their wives so as to understand their real intentions. Nor would we approve interogating anyone who is applying for a driver's license, to make sure they aren't planning to drink and drive, or run a red light, or speed. That would, naturally, be considered ludicrous as well as a complete violation of civil and human rights.

So too, the proposed legislation is a travesty against all human rights. Human rights, by the way, are not limited to the citizens of one country or the other, they pertain to all human beings. Safety from torture is a human right.

It is the fear of the other, and hyped up fear of violence affecting loved ones, coupled with the sure knowledge that the legislation won't affect ourselves or our families, that lets Americans turn a blind eye to the creeping Stalinization of America. One wonders, how far will we let it creep. Today, it's enemy combatants, and terror detainees, most of whom are foreigners. What will the American public say if large numbers of American Muslims, American citizens who happen to be Muslim are labeled enemy combatants or detained on terrorism charges they cannot refute because they can't see the evidence against them?

I wonder sometimes if it were to happen to me would my neighbors and acquaintances say, "I know that woman, there's no way those charges are true," Or would they say, "Oh my God! We never suspected." It's certainly a sad day when you have to ponder those kinds of questions.
 
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
  Sick Ramadan
Well, we're nearing the end of the first week of Ramadan, and so far things are not feeling very Ramadanish. We know very few people here, so we've not been to any iftars with friends. I missed juma right before Ramadan because of my sprained ankle, and don't know when there might be community dinners. Plus I've had sick kids every day. Noora's been down with a fever over a hundred for three days running (although otherwise she seems perfectly fine... way more energetic than I am!). Before that it was Saara. In the middle was Ameera.

I'm hoping it starts to feel more like Ramadan as things progress.

I supppose it is a good sign in some ways. I've always been a bit antisocial. The way this Ramadan feels is showing me how important community is, even to someone as comfortable hanging with just her own family as I am. I never would have guessed that I was as tied into the community as my loneliness this Ramadan suggests.
 
Sunday, September 24, 2006
  Royalties
The first contract I've been offerred which includes royalties arrived in my inbox today. Needless to say, that's a fairly exciting development! Of course, I expect the royalties to amount to very little, as it's an anthology and we're sharing between 20 or so writers. But it doesn't matter, it's still a heady feeling to be able to say, I'm going to get royalities on this story! Woo-hoo!
 
Saturday, September 23, 2006
  Historical relevatism
This topic touches a bit on my post about Exceptional Girls (8/15/06), although in a different dimension.

I'm writing a fantasy story set back in the 1850s. Most Europeans and Americans back then held very racist views. A significant portion had no problem with slavery, or if they did, they still managed to justify it. Even those who were against slavery, were often against it not on moral grounds but on economic ones. And even those who opposed it due to morality did not necessarily hold non-racist views. Racism permeated our societies for the most part, with a few exceptional pockets.

So, in writing about these characters... how much racism should I write in? If I want to be realistic, the characters ought to be holding views and saying things we'd find totally appalling in modern society. But, do I really want to have characters who are so reprehensible by modern standards? Will my readers be able to like and/or relate to any of them? Do I have a moral duty to say in some manner that these views are reprehensible if accurate, or can I rely on the course of history to have proven that for us all? If I do make one or more of the characters a bleeding heart abolitionist, will it be very believable? Or true?

They aren't easy questions, and I suppose the answers lie in balancing things out. But deciding where exactly to draw the line, is indeed a challenge.
 
Friday, September 22, 2006
  Ramadan Mubarak!
Once again we have come to that time of the year... Ramadan!

I am probably in a minority of one in that I really wish the beginning of Ramadan was determined by people in each town going out in their back yards, or a local playing field, or other wide open space, looking for the crescent moon.

Most Muslims want national unity or even global unity for the start and end of Ramadan. Some want to start via calculations of when the moon should be visible, as it allows for pre-planning.

To me, calculations reduce the delicious anticipation about the start of Ramadan. Uncertainty about when the fasting is to begin gives an edge of excitement to us all, that was just somewhat lacking this year, as we've known for weeks that American Muslims (at least those following the Fiqh Councils recommendations) are going to start fasting tomorrow.

Having a national moonsighting system (aside from meaning that people on the East Coast may not find out if they are fasting or not until the wee hours of the night) reduces the immediacy of it. Only a handful of people actually go out to see if they can see the moon.

I like the notion that most of us would be out looking for the moon, that we would be aware of the night cycles, the organic flux of the universe, participating in the flow of time, reminded of our place in the circle of life.

Tonight was gloomy with a steady rain. If I implement my ideas, there will be no fasting for us tomorrow. But then we'd be out of synch with the rest of our masjid. And that's not so great either.

Looks like I'll be getting up early tomorrow...
 
Thursday, September 21, 2006
  Everyone's Hero
Here's a review of Everyone's Hero, a cartoon movie that's currently in the theaters. I wrote it as part of a job "interview" so maybe I'll be lucky and land the assignment.

Either way, the movie was ok. A bit heavy handed on the "never quit swinging" messages, but not bad.

I did find the inclusive aspects of it refreshing. The story is a 'boy's boy" story, about baseball and hero worship. But two of the lead characters are girls. One the smart, snappy athletic daughter of a Negro League ball player who rescues the main character and teaches him how to watch the ball. The other is Babe Ruth's bat, who, being a bat, is a bit limited in what she can do; she mainly acts as a foil to the talking ball, and as the damsel in distress our hero has to rescue. Somehow, between the two, and a couple of mothers, the inclusion of girls/women in the story, even smart, self-reliant women/girls didn't feel like tokenism or idealized, pc versions of what society was supposed to look like. It made sense that a girl whose father is a professional ball player would know a lot about baseball.

On the racial front, I thought it was similarly refreshing. No pc one character from each race multiculturalism, but a selection of white and black characters all of whom were positive, appealing, intelligent and fun. Particularly nice was the fact that the black characters were neither over the top, nor did they speak pidgin English. They were just people.

I would be interested to see how people of color react to the movie. After all, it did not whitewash the fact that the black players were in one league and the whites in another, though it wasn't in your face about it either. I prefer this kind of historical realism, (and contemporary realism, as so many people in our country associate mainly with people of the same race) but can see the drawbacks... the white folks are going to the World Series -- the best baseball players in the world, while the black folks go to some obscure game of their own.

At the same time, the young hero of the movie, had no problem getting on a bus and driving across state with them, which in 1932 he surely would have... so there is a certain amount of whitewashing going on. He also could quote statistics about the black players as well as he could quote the statistics of the white players. I doubt that was very real.

But in the balance of things, I'd rather see a movie handling race in this manner than the over the top, gangsta talking, hyper sexed version of black characters that we all too often get.

Anyway, here's the review:

Everyone’s Hero Delivers a Home Run
By Pamela K. Taylor
Disney gave us talking mice, talking cats, and talking pigs. Pixar gave us talking ants and talking fish. Now from Christopher Reeve comes talking bats. Not the little animals that fly at night, but a baseball bat. Babe Ruth’s favorite baseball bat, to be exact.

Everyone’s Hero tells the story of diehard Yankees fan, 10 year-old Yankee Irving, the proverbial loser – always last chosen, always striking out, always made fun of. After a particularly disastrous game, Yankee finds, Screwie, a bitter National League washout who advises him to find a new hobby.

To make matters worse, Yankee’s father is unfairly fired from his position as janitor at Yankee Stadium after Lefty MaGinnis, pitcher for the Chicago Cubs, steals Babe Ruth’s bat, Darlin’, sinking the Yankees hopes of defeating the Cubs in the upcoming 1932 World Series.

Yankee, with the help of Screwie, Darlin’, a trio of friendly hobos, and the athletic daughter of a Negro League player, tracks down Lefty, rescues Darlin’, and treks from NY to Chicago to return the bat to his all-time hero. Along the way, he and his friends learn some important lessons about baseball, and life, and become heroes, each in his or her own right.
Everyone’s Hero, though at times a bit pedantic, gets an awful lot right. It’s a boy’s story through and through, all about baseball and childhood heroes, but Yankee is rescued from bullies and taught how to watch the ball by a smart, strong, snappy girl who’s sure to please female viewers.

Though most of the characters are white, Yankee encounters a black baseball team whose players are funny and clever without speaking Ebonics. The film also avoids the saccharine sweet dial-a-race multiculturalism that is so prevalent in children’s programming these days, while at the same time offering positive characters from a variety of backgrounds.

The humor is decidedly juvenile, ranging from farts and boogers, to a hilarious train-top chase scene where the villain performs Matrix-like moves to avoid signs, tree limbs, and other obstacles. It’s a relief to see a film where violence is not considered a laughing matter, and even less so sexual innuendo.


Best of all, it’s a story with many heroes. Babe Ruth is an awesome slugger, and a warm, caring, generous man. Yankee saves the day, but not without a lot of help from a variety of friends.

Diehard baseball fans may quibble with the stretching of facts – the Yankees actually swept the World Series in 1932, and the last second substitution of a ten-year-old during a World Series games is not only against the rules, but the sheerest of fantasies. But then again, it is a cartoon about a talking bat and ball.

 
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
  The saga of the missing sci-fi group
Of course, Tuesday night arrived, both dark and stormy. Nonetheless I boldly set forth in my small, but valiant, Corolla with the broken door handle in search of the Cinci science fiction writing group.

Little did I know, what I thought would be a simple ten minute drive would turn into a Hurculean task.

I was running late when I left, but arrived in the area with several minutes to spare. Alas, the store was nowhere to be seen, though I had mapquested its address before leaving home. I drove up and down the street, peering into giant strip malls, trying to find which nook or cranny hid the Barnes and Noble, as I watched the minutes ticking by.

As long last, I stopped at a Panera cafe, not with the intent of procuring nourishment for the travails ahead, but to -- gasp -- ask directions.

My choice was ill-advised.

"Barnes and Noble?" asked the girl behind the counter, as though I were seeking some fanged beast, rather than a humble bookstore. "There's no Barnes and Noble around here."

Her compatriot directed me to a Borders, and I hastened to find it, hoping I had in my eagerness, jotted down the wrong bookseller.

I pulled into the parking lot, and rolled down my window so I might reach outside and open the door. Chills rains besmattered my arm and my side. Raising the window, I grabbed my papers and stepped out, into the night.

With galumphing gait, I entered the store. The clerk behind the counter was busy, and I thought to find another employee. Oddly, none were to be found, and in this peculiar sign, I might have taken an omen.

But oblivious was I, and so I queried the clerk, "Is there a writers group meeting here tonight?"

"Writer?" he questioned, as though he had no notion of the providence of the very items he was purveying.

"Science fiction writers," I answered, and he shook his head. A quick call to an unseen co-worker, and the verdict was confirmed.

No writers had been seen, or were likely to be seen, in this den of literacy.

Though I fear it might be a breach of common decency, I asked if this location had once housed a Barnes and Noble.

Nay, it had not.

Or did he know of a Barnes and Noble nearby?

Again, nay.

And so I sallied forth, into the deepening gloom.

But ne'er let it be said that Pamela Taylor lies down before the wheels of fate.

Through the dark, damp streets I drove, to the store I had lately visited. A Barnes and Noble, not close to my intended target, but not, either.

They too knew nothing of the sci-fi group.

Perhaps that group has moved to a different plane of existence, or a different location. Tis a mystery that may never be solved. But until it is, I shall seek them out, wherever they might be.
------

See, that's why it's fun to be a sf/fantasy writer. You can make a really frustrating, mundane wild good chase sound like a dashing adventure. (well, sort of...)
 
Monday, September 18, 2006
  You know you're obsessed with writing when...
Your seven year old calls you by your pen name to get your attention.
 
  Comments fixed, computer dependency, and critique groups
Ah, illiteration!

Anyway, I figured out what was going on with the comments. Commentary should now come through! Hooray! I thought you all had decided I was really boring. Or just so brilliant there was nothing to add... (yeah, right.)

Don't ask me how the moderate comments option got turned on, since I have always had open comments, and don't remember changing it. One of those mysterious "the computer did it" situations. (At least no one ended up dead, and no inheritance is missing!)

Computers have definately replaced husbands in the can't live with em, can't live without them category. (Though my hubby contends that chocolate replaced husbands long ago...)

Either way, I demonstrated to myself my total dependence on the keyboard last night at a meeting for a local writer's group I was checking out. I didn't have a pencil or pen on me, not even in the bottom of my purse. I don't know whether to laugh or to cry...

Tonight I'm checking out a science fiction writers critique group. I'd love to sit face to face with writers and share comments. And it'd be a great way to make some new friends with common interests.

I've always thought writer's groups are a mixed bag. After all, the notion that you would write a novel by committee seems a bit odd (and obviously that's not what writers groups are supposed to do, but so often the critiques seem to boil down to not much more than "rewrite this in my style, or with my plot ideas.) Even more than that, often the writers involved in critique groups are not very far along in their writing careers; it's sort of like the blind leading the deaf, and if no one in the group has any publishing success, you may be getting not very useful commentary.

Of course, you may be getting incredible commentary. It's just a bit hard to judge. Feedback is, obviously, extremely valuable and necessary. Most of all, I'm looking forward to the opportunity to make friends who have shared interests.
 
Sunday, September 17, 2006
  Latest on the Pope Controversy
I am sick to my stomach. News out of Somalia is that a nun has been shot and killed.

I don't know how you can shoot an elderly woman, a pious woman who left her home to help the sick and poor people of your country, a woman who has devoted her life to godliness and goodliness. Not only that, but the cowardly murderers who took her life shot her in the back as she left the hospital where she worked. Can you imagine shooting and elderly woman in the back?!?

I can think of few more depraved, more reprehensible acts. It reminds me of the nuns who were killed in Guatemala.

How can anyone think this is a reasonable or justifiable reaction to one unpleasant sentence of a long lecture? Obviously, they are reacting to far more than the Pope's comments -- to Western intervention in Somalia (remember the disastrous mission under Clinton), to feelings that the West is out to get Muslims and/or Islam, to the pressures of living under warlords, in economic no man's land, etc . But even so, the specific provocation was a few words. How can a life be equated to a few words?
 
Saturday, September 16, 2006
  Column on Pope's remarks
My column, Pope's Remarks Reveal Need for Dialogue, a slightly more coherent response to the Pope's comments, was published in MuslimWakeUp.

Disturbing reports of churches being burned in Palestine and effigies of the Pope being burned elsewhere are already cropping up.

Sometimes I wonder if I'm practicing the same religion as these people...
 
Friday, September 15, 2006
  Another offense?
The Pope has succeeded in offending large numbers of Muslims by quoting a rather nasty description of the Prophet and Islam written by a Byzantine emperor centuries ago.

I have to admit, I haven't read the whole speech -- it's quite long, very academic, and 99% of it has nothing to do with the offensive quote, being a discussion of force within a religious context -- but in the section that I read (which included all the material before the quote and a good deal after it), it was pretty clear that the Pope was not necessarily agreeing with the Emperor; in fact, he says the Emperor's characterization of the Prophet was "somewhat brusque" and quickly moved to the meat of what he was talking about -- why violence in the name of God and trying to force people to follow your own religion are nonsensical and unacceptable.

Ironically, the vast majority of Muslims would agree the Pope's poing of view -- you cannot force people to become Muslim (or Catholic, or whatever), and the notion that Islam should be spread by the sword is unacceptable (as well as, for the most part, historically inaccurate).

At the same time, one can't help but think that the Pope could have made his point, without referring to a quote that depicts the Prophet's contributions to religion as "evil and inhuman." Indeed, the quote seems completely gratuitous; it adds nothing substantive to the speech, and some might find it actually distracts the listener/reader from the argument that follows, as they ponder why the Pope bothered to include it and whether the Prophet actually brought anything positive to religion or whether his contribution truly was only negative.

As usual, there have been polite "apologies" in which Vatican spokespeople express that the Pope is sorry if people were offended (note: not "that people were offended" but "if people were offended," denying even the validity of the notion that people were indeed offended). He also affirms that the Catholic church esteems Muslims, who cherish the one God. If so, quoting insulting comments about their Prophet without clearly repudiating them is a very odd way to esteem a group of people.

The Vatican also have said that he did not intend to offend anyone. I ask, how can you make a speech with a line saying the Prophet of another person's religion brought only evil and expect that not to offend, unless you follow the quote by a strong condemnation of it? You might not have been actively trying to go out of your way to offend (although in this case one certainly wonders), but any sane person should be able to ajudge that the comment would be offensive to anyone who followed said Prophet. It's just common sense, and presumably one doesn't get to be Pope without at least a modicum of common sense and people skills. One certainly expects better judgement from the Pope.

Of course, we now have to brace ourselves for a horrific reaction from certain groups of Muslims around the world. Burning of effigies of the Pope, idiotic signs comparing the Pope to Hitler and predicting the letting of Catholic blood, etc, etc, etc. The images of these protests will circle the globe, tarring the Muslim community far more effectively and thoroughly than the Pope's speech (which was delivered in German to a relatively small group of academics at a university he taught at decades ago. Expert witnesses will bless the airwaves with their speculations about militant Islam and the Qur'anic roots of violence, irrational behavior, etc.

The voices of conservative, moderate, liberal, and progressive Muslims, all of whom condemn this sort of hysterical reaction to slight provocations, will be drowned out. We will be left pulling our hair out, trying to figure out how we can possibly make a difference in media portrayal, and even more important, in Muslims societies and cultures we've never even set foot in, among people who don't speak the same language we do.

This hysterical reaction is also something the Pope must have known to expect. That or he wasn't paying attention to what happened after a few obscure cartoonists drew some not so nice cartoons. Of course, the blame for whatever Muslims do does not lay with the Pope, it lays with the individuals who carry out those acts, with societies who tolerate them, and with governments who have made conditions in many Muslim countries so unbearable that young people take any opportunity to express their pent up frustrations. None the less one could hope that the Pope wouldn't poke a sleeping rattler. Why make things worse? That's not what the leader of a world religion is supposed to do!

Sometimes, dejavu is not a good thing at all.
 
Thursday, September 14, 2006
  Making kids light up with joy
I was reading an article in a local paper here in West Chester, Ohio. The story told about a high school senior who spent her summer dancing in shows at nearby King's Island. Last year she danced next to SpongeBob in a parade; this year she reprieved that role and also danced in a School of Rock show. At one point in the article, she mentioned how good it made her feel when she saw how excited the little kids got.

Not to take away from her generous, caring spirit, but it made me sad to think that little kids are getting excited about Sponge Bob. Or Elmo. Or Mickey Mouse. Or Dora. Or any other TV character.

When I was a kid, I got excited over swallowtail butterflies, foxes, deer, especially deer with fawns, the view from the top of a mountain, the sounds and sights of a rushing creek. I was thrilled when I held a tiny tree frog in my palm, caught fireflies in the bluing dusk, or leaped into a rustling pile of crisp fall leaves. I loved to go apple picking and make fresh applesauce. I love kneading bread and watching it rise in a slow oven. I like sitting in our living room, listening to classical music while my mother, father and I read, or played Scrabble.

Almost all my best, fondest memories, my most excited moments center around nature, family and friends.

None of them feature commercial products/personalities like Sponge Bob or Mickey Mouse.

I'm pretty sure my kids memories are going to be similar to mine. I only hope the same can be said for the majority of their peers. I worry instead, that their lives have been commericialized from infancy, to the point that they won't be able to discriminate between things of value, and things that are designed simply to make money for someone else.
 
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
  First Muslim Congressman?
Keith Ellison won Tuesday's Democratic primary in his district in Minneapolis, MN.

With his district being overwhelmingly Democratic, it's pretty much a given that he will be the first Muslim Congressman.

To make things even better -- he's progressive, as a politician and as a Muslim. He got endorsements from the envioronmental, feminist, labor, latino and jewish groups. He even opposed a ban against gay marriage. And he's not afraid to say that his Muslim faith inspires his values.

Wow!

I think I may have found a new hero.
 
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
  Going Bald
First my brother, then my father, now my mother!




No, I will not be a conformist. My hair is staying. Always did have to be the odd one in my family...
 
Monday, September 11, 2006
  Five years
Five years later and the thought of the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon still brings tears to my eyes. The imagery of that morning -- especially of the second plane diving into the tower -- is seared into my brain. Some people compare the attack to a nightmare, but, for me, it is far more vivid than any nightmare. Nightmares fade quickly after you wake; this memory is indelible.

At times, I'm enraged with fury at the men who flew those planes and the people behind them -- the radicals who attacked my country without warning, and on the slimmest of provocations. American foreign policy has at times been horrific -- another 9-11 comes to mind, when we helped Pinochet take over Chile in a military coup, as does America's unconditional support for Israel, no matter what atrocities they might commit -- but nothing justifies killing civilians in the way they did. Nothing justifies appropriating religion for political purposes. Nor can Islam legitimately be used to justify the murder of civilians; doing so is a complete perversion of the faith.

At other times, I'm angry precisely because those men perverted my faith, and are responsible for all Muslims being viewed with suspicion and hatred. They are responsible, in part, for our brothers and sisters being killed in Afghanistan and Iraq, and in Lebanon. I'm furious because others have followed in their footsteps, believing their claims that it's Islamically ok to bomb civilians, and that it somehow serves whatever ends they have. I'm angry that anyone can think killing people, especially killing in the name of Islam, will get them what they want -- a more Islamic order on earth. What kind of backwards logic is that? Killing doesn't make things better, it only results in death of innocent people and a hardening of the heart against the killer.

Sometimes I am mad at my country. Our foreign policy since WWII has been disastrous. The Congo, Vietnam, Cambodia, Central America, Chile, the Phillipines, the Middle East. Everywhere we have gone we have supported dictators and tyrants, evil, violent men, who have no heart and no concern for their peoples. I am furious that we always come down on the wrong side, creating the feelings that lead to the kind of extremism that allows people to behave as bararously as those men and their backers did on 9-11.

Sometimes I'm angry that our response has been to wage two wars. Wars which have provided fertile recruiting grounds for Al-Qaida and their ilk. Wars which have had little justification, especially the war on Iraq, and terrible consequences for the civilians of those countries.

I'm angry that our government has exploited the attacks to erode civil liberties and civil rights; that they have grabbed for surveillance authorization that impacts on everyone's privacy. It makes me mad that people think you can spot a terrorist by what he or she takes out of the library -- and thus all of us are afraid of reading something controversial, or even doing research for a book we are writing.

I'm angry that my government has decided that it is better to spend billions of dollars on a war than on our own educational system, our social security system, on programs that would actually help to some of the millions of starving people in other countries feed themselves.

I'm angry that people think Muslims haven't spoken up against terrorism, when every American Muslim group I know of has spoken against terrorism; American Muslim groups have even been formed to counter terrorism -- Muslims for a Safe America, Muslims against Terror. But with the overwhelming barrage of violent images being fed to the American public day in and day out on CNN, Fox, etc, with "expert" analyist who peg Islam as the cause of this violence rather than invasion, or occupation, or desperate social, economic and political conditions, there is no hope to be heard over the roar of those saying we are silent. We are not silent; we are shouting but our voices are drowned out.

All this anger is exhausting. There are days I can't face it, when I feel hopeless to make any positive change in the world at all. The forces at work seem so beyond my ability to impact, whether it be within my religion, or within my country, or within the media.

In all this, where is the room for sadness? For the grief for lost lives? For the grieving that we all need to heal? I don't think this country has let itself have the quiet, the space it needs to heal. Instead, we have jumped into vengeance. And while vengeance serves a certain, indignant need, it does not heal. At the end of the day, those men and women who lost their lives on 9-11 are still dead, joined now by people from another country, the vast majority of whom were equally innocent. More dead. More grief. More mourning.

Those people, too, were my brothers and sisters. We are all brothers and sisters. Killing one another doesn't solve the problems, it creates more.

Some days, I feel very cynical, sure that the Bush regime has manipulated the situation to get and do things that they wanted, and could never have attained without 9-11. Sometimes, this cynicism is strong enough that I wonder if they even had a hand in it, given some of the oddities of that day. There are days when I think it is awful not to trust your own government. Then there are days when I think about the hundreds of thousands of Americans who marched before the Iraq war, trying to prevent it, and how those people were ignored by the government, and I think, who do they really serve? The people? Or their own interests? The interests of their rich friends?

I wish I had good answers to these questions. I wish I could convince the vast majority of America that, indeed, the vast majority of Muslim abhor violence the same way Americans do. I wish I could convince my government that a policy of love would be far more effective than one of exploitation and war. On this day, all those wishes just come into focus at little more sharply.
 
Sunday, September 10, 2006
  Sprained Ankle
Yes, I managed to sprain my ankle today. The doctor said it was a severe sprain and that I was to stay off my foot, completely, for an entire week. So much for unpacking...
 
Friday, September 08, 2006
  The Look of a Terrorist?
I saw a bit on CNN today which describes Homeland Security's plans to train airport security screeners in observing micro face movements, so as to be able to tell who is likely to commit a terrorist attack. Given the number of people who have actually tried to commit a terrorist attack on an airplane since 9-11, it seems like a collossal waste of money and effort.

Not only that, but how accurrate are these observations anyway? According to the report, screeners are supposed to be able to tell when the person they are talking to has mixed feelings -- fear, or malice, accompanying honesty, friendliness, peacefulness, etc. The report didnt' say what might happen to a person displaying mixed feelings... presumably they'd be in for extra screening, or perhaps told they couldn't fly.

Honestly, most Arab or Indian males, and hijabed women, are going to display a certain level of anxiety. There have been too many reports of innocent people kicked off planes for no reason other than their brown skin or choice of clothing made people nervous. Even famous peace activists like Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens) have been denied entry into the country. Given that scenario, of course they are going to be nervous, even fearful of an unpleasant encounter, missing a cousin's wedding or an important business meeting, because they were denied access to the plane.

Sounds like a fiasco in the making!
 
Thursday, September 07, 2006
  Military Trials? No access to Evidence?
Bush is now proposing to try alleged terrorists before military tribunals. That means the defendants won't have access to the evidence against them, making difficult, if not impossible, to mount a defense.

What does the military think of this?

According to Rueters, Pentagon lawyers balked at Bush's proposal to limit the terrorism suspects' access to evidence.

"I'm not aware of any situation in the world where there is a system of jurisprudence that is recognized by civilized people where an individual can be tried and convicted without seeing the evidence against him," Brig. Gen. James Walker, U.S. Marine Corps staff judge advocate told a Congressional hearing.

Civil rights groups had even harsher words for the proposal

"It's an attempt to justify an unjust and even a kangaroo court system," said ACLU attorney Ben Wizner.

Given the current system, where anyone, American citizen or not, can be declared an enemy combatant and tried at these courts, this is something that should alarm all Americans. First they came for the terrorists, then the peace activists, who next?
 
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
  boxes, boxes and more boxes...
One wonders how many forests are sacrificed to the moving industry every year? I think half a dozen trees went into moving my house alone. Surely there has to be a better way than to move than to use hundreds of cardboard boxes. Even though I plan to recycle them, it still represents an awful lot of trees cut down.

In atonement, I'm already planning to plant at least five new trees on my lot. If I'm lucky it'll be seven. Just depends on how fast I can get all these boxes unpacked...
 
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
  Connie Willis, tit-grabbing, and hijab
The current buzz in the world of science fiction is that well-known writer Harlan Ellison grabbed the breast of also well-known author Connie Willis during the Hugos award ceremony, apparently in anger at her poking fun at one of his short stories.

I agree with Patrick Nielsen Hayden who writes, "Just as with George W. Bush's now-famous uninvited shoulder-rub of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the basic message of Ellison's tit-grab is this: "Remember, you may think you have standing, status, and normal, everyday adult dignity, but we can take it back at any time. If you are female, you'll never be safe. You can be the political leader of the most powerful country in Europe. You can be the most honored female writer in modern science fiction. We can still demean you, if we feel like it, and at random intervals, just to keep you in line, we will."

Unfortunately, a lot of science fiction writers and fans seem to be shrugging the incident off as not a big deal, making a mountain out of a molehill, Harlan will be Harlan (he has a reputation for being absolutely insufferrable), boys will be boys, even a publicity stunt on the part of Willis. (!!?!)

This is precisely the kind of thing that reaffirms my decision to wear hijab. The scarf and long, loose clothing puts up a clear barrier between me and the jerks that would think that tit-grabbing is ok, either as a public humiliation or as a bit of "harmless" fun for a guy. It says in no unclear terms, my body is off limits -- keep your hands, and eyes, off. It is an aggressive, in your face way of saying, you will not do to me what Harlan Ellison did to Connie Willis.

It doesn't solve the problem of women being viewed as biology -- as essentially vessels for ushering babies into the world and fulfilling men's sexual desires -- but it does put men at large on notice that I am not to be included in the equation as a sexual object.

It doesn't solve women being denied basic human and civil rights, and in certain instances even contributes toward eroding those rights, but it does give me a certain amount of control over how the men I interact with here in the West treat me.

It empowers me the same way my karate skills empower me. Pity the guy who tries to grab my breast!

What a sad commentary on the state of some (and one fears, most) men.
 
Monday, September 04, 2006
  back to school article
My latest contribution to the Indianapolis Star:

http://www.indystar.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060903/OPINION03/609030360/1032

It's the second of three sections. Cut quite a bit, but still the kernel of what I had written.
 
Friday, September 01, 2006
  The saga of the missing sci-fi group
Of course, Tuesday night arrived, both dark and stormy. Nonetheless I boldly set forth in my small, but valiant, Corolla with the broken door handle in search of the Cinci science fiction writing group.

Little did I know, what I thought would be a simple ten minute drive would turn into a Hurculean task.

I was running late when I left, but arrived in the area with several minutes to spare. Alas, the store was nowhere to be seen, though I had mapquested its address before leaving home. I drove up and down the street, peering into giant strip malls, trying to find which nook or cranny hid the Barnes and Noble, as I watched the minutes ticking by.

As long last, I stopped at a Panera cafe, not with the intent of procuring nourishment for the travails ahead, but to -- gasp -- ask directions.

My choice was ill-advised.

"Barnes and Noble?" asked the girl behind the counter, as though I were seeking some fanged beast, rather than a humble bookstore. "There's no Barnes and Noble around here."

Her compatriot directed me to a Borders, and I hastened to find it, hoping I had in my eagerness, jotted down the wrong bookseller.

I pulled into the parking lot, and rolled down my window so I might reach outside and open the door. Chills rains besmattered my arm and my side. Raising the window, I grabbed my papers and stepped out, into the night.

With galumphing gait, I entered the store. The clerk behind the counter was busy, and I thought to find another employee. Oddly, none were to be found, and in this peculiar sign, I might have taken an omen.

But oblivious was I, and so I queried the clerk, "Is there a writers group meeting here tonight?"

"Writer?" he questioned, as though he had no notion of the providence of the very items he was purveying.

"Science fiction writers," I answered, and he shook his head. A quick call to an unseen co-worker, and the verdict was confirmed.

No writers had been seen, or were likely to be seen, in this den of literacy.

Though I fear it might be a breach of common decency, I asked if this location had once housed a Barnes and Noble.

Nay, it had not.

Or did he know of a Barnes and Noble nearby?

Again, nay.

And so I sallied forth, into the deepening gloom.

But ne'er let it be said that Pamela Taylor lies down before the wheels of fate.

Through the dark, damp streets I drove, to the store I had lately visited. A Barnes and Noble, not close to my intended target, but not, either.

They too knew nothing of the sci-fi group.

Perhaps that group has moved to a different plane of existence, or a different location. Tis a mystery that may never be solved. But until it is, I shall seek them out, wherever they might be.
------

See, that's why it's fun to be a sf/fantasy writer. You can make a really frustrating, mundane wild good chase sound like a dashing adventure. (well, sort of...)
 

My Photo
Name: Pamela Taylor
Location: Indianapolis, Indiana, United States

I'm a stay-at-home mom/freelance writer/author. While I make a living at journalism and op-ed, my first love is fiction, particularly science fiction. I also write poetry, mostly of a religious bent.


What I'm reading now



SuperMom Saves the World
By Melanie Lynne Houser. The sequel to Confessions of Supermom. I've just started reading it, but before the end of the first page I was laughing out loud. A fun, fast-paced, light read that is perfect for the plane or that lazy day on the beach.

To see an archive of all the books I've read (well the ones I've read and review since I started the blog) with comments, please click here

Causes Worth Supporting

This is just a short list -- a few of my favorites.

English Language Islamic Fiction. We need more of it. Lots more.
Pay a Teacher's Salary in Afghanistan. The Hunger site actually has a lot of worthwhile programs. You can find them all here .
Muslims for Progressive Values. My organization. We can always use donations, of time or money!
Human Rights Campaign for the glbt community
National Religious Campaign Against Torture
The ACLU I'm a card carrying member. Hope you'll become one too.
MoveOn.org. The organization that has done the most, as far as I can tell, to pull the countries progressive side together.
Network of Spiritual Progressives. Working to reclaim religion and morality for the religious left.

Blogs Worth Reading

Wanda Campbell also known as Nochipa A very gifted poet and a gentle, compassionate soul. Nochipa and I are on the same page on sooooo many things
Writeous Sister Aminah Hernandez, she's got some excellent latino pieces and always has good writing info on her blog.
Sister Scorpion aka Leila Montour - Leila is a fount of energy, quirky humor, and bad attitude. She's also a talented poet.
Muhajabah Very interesting commentary here. I don't always agree with her, but her pieces are always thought-provoking.
Georgie Dowdell Georgie is a great writer and a good friend.
Louise Marley Another great writer. I think Louise is one of the best sf writers exploring faith themes.
Ink in My Coffee Devon Ellington (who has numerous aliases) who is also the editor of Circadian Poems. A truly inspiring woman with a seemingly endless supply of energy.
Ethnically Incorrect With a name like that, isn't a given I'm going to enjoy this writer?
Freedom from the Mundane Colin Galbraith, another excellent writer, from Scotland.
The Scruffy Dog Review This is a new e-zine with an ecclectic mix of fiction, poetry, and non-fic, some really enjoyable pieces here.
Ramblings of a Suburban Soccer Mom Lara, another gentle soul, very thoughtful.
Circadian Poems A journal of poetry, new stuff up all the time.
Ye Olde Inkwell Michelle writes romance and is one of my writing buddies.
Muhammad Michael Knight The original punk Muslim writer. Like him or love him, Mike is always coming up with the unexpected.

Recent Posts
Archives

October 2005
November 2005
December 2005
January 2006
February 2006
March 2006
April 2006
May 2006
June 2006
July 2006
August 2006
September 2006
October 2006
November 2006
December 2006
January 2007
February 2007
March 2007
April 2007
May 2007
June 2007
July 2007
August 2007
September 2007
October 2007
November 2007
December 2007
January 2008
February 2008
July 2008
December 2008
January 2009
February 2009
March 2009
April 2009
May 2009
June 2009
July 2009


Categories