Or… Tripping over the Pedestal
Here in sunny beautiful vanilla Western PA, it’s easy to become attenuated to the connections one has to the motherland, notably to its people. Oh sure, I’ve got my Bengalis here and a few Indian friends left over from college but apas and bhaiyas, unkels and aunties don’t count, per se. Mostly, these days, I’m hanging with the two extremes of skin pigmentation. And that suits a Maher just fine.
But a few days ago, as I was walking to my bus stop downtown, I passed by a clutch of desi chicks coming out of the Fairmont hotel, all decked out in saris and shininess. And I thought to myself, oh now I remember why I’ve let myself get treated like sheeit by brown chicks in the past. Oi gevalt.
Back in the 2000′s, during the ignominious reign of President George W. Bush, I remember liberals going berserk trying to figure out how to get the populace to see their side of the argument. If only the masses would just read this article, study that chart, and use rational thought, they would rise up in anger over these injustices!
Four years since President Bush’s departure, it appears as though Republicans are now caught in the same craze of rationality fever. If only the proletariat would listen to this tv news expose or that radio broadcast or this podcast, they would see the truth of President Obama’s iniquity.
Online article and Facebook post comments exhort the red intelligentsia on to educate the teeming masses, who are surely just yearning to break free of blue oppression. If only they knew!
Or… Waiting for Noah to grow those d*mn trees
I’ve recently come to use the phrase “sleep when you die” when referring to going out on weeknights or to force myself to go out when I’m feeling lazy or tired. It’s hyperbole of course but you probably get the idea behind it. Go out and have fun while you’re alive and kicking, while you’re not too old to be irresponsible, while you don’t have spawn sucking the very life-force out of you, etc…
Most of the major decisions I’ve taken in my college and adult life, except for building my house, have been with the thought, “what stories will you tell your kids and grandchildren when you’re old.” It’s led me to some pretty fantastic and ridiculous experiences. And it’s probably shortened my lifespan.
When I was little, a part of me wanted to live to be 120 years old, just so that I could say I had lived in the 1900′s, 2000′s and 2100′s. Unless medical science improves drastically or the singularity occurs relatively soon, I now hope I never live to be 120 years old. I’m sure I’ll fight to live as long as I can but I don’t want to live long because I was afraid to die, to take risks. Life isn’t always 24/7 exciting but nor should it be dull and safe.
I don’t want the last years of my life to be spent in, “a cage. To stay behind bars until use and old age accept them and all chance of valor [or adventure] has gone beyond recall or desire.”
I’ve read stories about individuals living to the age of 100, 105, 110 years. How do they do it? They’re vice-free and, I would wager, largely experience-free. They’ve lived through some of the greatest times of human history and that’s a journey worth taking in and of itself. But what stories are they telling their grandchildren and great-grandchildren. What stories will be told of them?
Sleep when you die, indeed.
Yesterday, while I was eating my lunch outside in Market Square, I overheard a conversation between a group of women. One of the ladies was remarking that the gentleman she’d been seeing had made “the move” on her. They’d been on “5 dates including one nice dinner” but this was apparently not enough to seal the deal. She was somewhat flabbergasted that he thought this was enough of a time investment.
Now I don’t really give a damn whether her standards should be considered appropriate or whether she’s leading this guy on or whether he’s a tool for waiting five dates. It’s her right to set her parameters. Heck, if she’s waiting for a ring, so be it.
What interested me more is that she then launched into a discussion of whether it’s better that he was aggressive rather than passive. On the one hand, the guy comes off looking like an asshole if he’s too assertive. But on the other hand, “being a gentleman” and waiting for her to signal her readiness or make her own move was also unacceptable.
I”m sorry – say what? I can’t see what exactly is the happy medium here. I don’t think there is one. I’m pretty sure that being a jerk is almost always going to be better than being a gentleman.
Or… I’ll take French Fries, Sesame Chicken, Pizza, Enchiladas and Fettucine Alfredo With That!
This morning I tried making porotas for the first time. Whole wheat flour, ghee, salt and water. Make the dough. Roll it out, fold over, roll out again, repeat a few more times. Then cook it up. One could probably avoid the ghee and use a light oil instead but ghee adds a certain desi-ness to food. Anyway, I forgot the salt which turned this flat-bread into a Tuscano-ishtyle porota instead. Still, it worked well enough. My mother, in her infinite culinary wisdom, reminded me that porota is not conducive to losing weight. She’s right, of course, but by how much.
We have an obesity epidemic in these United States. People point to pre-packaged foods laden with salt, chemicals, preservatives, & high-fructose corn syrup, fast food, microwave dinners, portion sizes run amok, not enough fruits and vegetables, too many carbs, too much protein, not enough protein, good fats, bad fats, good cholesterol, bad cholesterol and the latest whipping boy, Pink Slime. Remedies include Atkins, The Zone, Southbeach, Paleo, Nutrient-Dense/Calorie-Light and the oft-repeated Balanced approach. Liposuction and gastric bypass aren’t uncommon. There are still too many other fads to count. And we’re too sedentary.
However, the French eat a high carb/high fat/high calorie diet and as a people, they’re not overweight. Rice is consumed in huge quantities in Asia. Argentines are among the top red-meat eating populaces in the world. The Germans can’t be too far behind in love of red-meat and they drink huge quantities of beer (a calorie-dense/nutrient light beverage if ever there was one). Italians eat a lot of pasta.
The common thread among these countries is that they have a national cuisine; a food culture native to their shores that has been worked on for generation upon generation. Everything interlocks.
A while ago, Time Magazine did a photo essay showing what families in different countries ate in a typical week and how much was that expenditure. Below you’ll see what the American family displayed.
The Revis family of NC. Favorite foods: spaghetti, potatoes, sesame chicken
While I have friends that eat much more healthfully than the Revis’, I think they’re not atypical of most American households. Heck, they don’t even look unhealthy. It’s easy to say Americans have too much fatty foods or fast food and not enough of this or that or that or this. But look at all the slides and you’ll notice the inconsistency of Americans’ food choices as compared to the other lands.
In Amrika, we mix and match a lot because we don’t have one dominant cuisine. After leaving my parents’ house, I don’t stick to the same cuisine either. Bangladeshi, Chinese, Malay, pizza, pasta, Mexican, soups, salads, burgers, steak… and the list goes on. So yes, Italians eat large quantities of pasta but there are other elements of their cuisine that help them along. When Americans make pasta, we make pasta. Do we really have a true Italian dinner? Maybe if you come from an Italian family but what happens when you have Mexican or Chinese food.
And furthermore, we mix and match cuisines between meals. Cereal for breakfast, a burger & fries for lunch, Thai for dinner. There’s no easy fix to that. Yes, we would benefit from less processed/chemically-manipulated foods. But if we don’t understand cuisine from a holistic standpoint, I don’t think we’ll solve our problems.
Which brings me back to those porotas. My parents don’t consume a holistic Bengali cuisine, breakfast through dinner. We’ve all cut back on quantities of rice and carbs but to what avail. My mother sometimes doesn’t even eat rice with dinner, something I consider Bengali sacrilege. Most of my relatives back in the motherland are pretty healthy; a few have diabetes but that’s more down to genetics or over-indulging in mishti (sweets), not the main cuisine itself. They consume a lot more rice and carbs than we do. Even if I did eat a holistic Bengali diet, there’s not guarantee it would do the trick in this land, which is decidedly unlike the the motherland (except maybe the New Orleans delta in terms of geography/climate). But I think it would be better than mix ‘n match. Now all I have to do is just stop these cravings for Thai or Malay or Chinese or Mexican or burgers or steak or fried fish…
When I moved out of my house into my apartment, I brought with me some of the trappings of having lived 5+ years in a single-family home, namely two beds. (A third I left at my parents’ house). My apartment is technically a two bedroom construct but the small bedroom can barely fit a queen-sized bed. So I did the practical thing – I stacked my beds on top of each other. Two box springs, two mattresses – a double-decker bed. Yes, yes it is awesome. I actually have to jump (up) into bed!
But this left me the problem of having to lean down out of bed to access my end-table. After debating at length with the wise and furry Oreo (who mostly just sighed at me), I decided to take a small chest-of-drawers and stack my end table on top of it. Voilà!
While a double-decker end-table most assuredly serves my purpose, I have a suspicion that were I to acquire a wife or live-in girlfriend (or even a not live-in girlfriend?), this solution would become unacceptable. I daresay my double-decker bed would also be rendered surplus to requirements. And not because she might have trouble getting into bed. (That’s what a step-stool or mini-trampoline is for). Rather, such arrangements would be surplus to modern domesticity… feng shui, GQ, Queer Eye, Martha Stewart or whatever the hell trend to which the gilded masses and the proletariat have fallen prey. I ain’t tryin’ to be different for the sake of being different. I’ll concede this isn’t the most elegant solution but… well.. c’mon, it’s double-decker!
Muslims are taught to say our prayers in Arabic in order to facilitate a level of camaraderie between people of different linguistic backgrounds and to minimize the errors that inevitably occur with translating a form of Arabic that is over 1,800 years old1. Most non-Arabic speaking people probably memorize the meanings at the time of learning but I wonder how many remember those meanings. Only 20% of the world’s Muslim population is Arab. And Qur’anic Arabic is sufficiently different from Modern Standard Arabic that probably less than 20% even understand it in the first place.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been going to functions which involve some amount of prayer. Of course in Arabic. The commandment to worship 5x/day as well as various other religious events such as funeral services, weddings, house-warmings, holidays, etc. all call for prayer. It’s not uncommon for an imam or a few of those well-schooled in Qur’anic recitation to recite from the good Book. With little or no attempt unless pressed to translate. For all we know and for all that the reciters may know, they could be expounding on the importance of boogers. And they go on and on and on. It’s like a piety pissing contest to see who can recite the most.
Sheep. I have a huge problem with people who think that reciting passage after passage after passage of the Qur’an is a pious action without knowing or explaning what the hillel they’re talking about. The genius of Islam, one of the reasons it spread like wildfire through the Middle East, is an intensely personal, simple relationship with God. When we turn our faces towards Mecca, we have a one-on-one conversation with the Almighty. What use is our prayer, what good is our intention if we cannot understand the meaning, the purpose, the wisdom of such prose.2
I’m not proposing that every non-Arabic-speaking Muslim learn the language nor am I even saying that we should abandon Arabic altogether. Heck, I sometimes forget the meaning of prayers. But there are good translations available in almost every language. I can’t imagine ignoring the Prophet’s command to seek knowledge, esp. of our very own religion, our deen, our way of life.. This isn’t about faith, an elusive mistress to be sure. It’s about getting down in the grime and the grit and trying to grasp the Mantle of Heaven even if we recognize that we’ll never quite get there.
Arabic is a beautiful language but it is not divine. Even in Arabic, the Qur’an is translated from the mind of God into the languages of man. Everyone deserves to hear the word of God in the language they speak in their heart.3
Update: Though I may have my doubts, it’s not really my intent to question the veracity of another’s faith. After considering the matter some more, I would say that given the way that some Muslims are raised, simply the chanting of the Qur’an can be of comfort in times of distress. To those anguished souls, I especially render no judgment whatsoever.
1 …though I’m not sure Prophet Muhammad, a man of practicality we are taught, would have insisted on the primacy of Arabic had he realized Islam would spread so deeply to non-Arabic speaking lands.
2 …here I part ways with those who recognize the existence and thus codify the power of a formal clergy. We are no different from the Christian laity if we allow this to happen. And any group, such as a clergy, can be corrupted.
3 …credit to Orson Scott Card for those last two sentences.
Loose items from a tight-leaf notebook:
- How convenient for the War on Drugs industry that the Secret Service prostitution foul-up occurred just as President Obama was visiting Colombia to talk about alternatives to the current drug war. Yes, it’s important to find out if possible information leaks could have put the President in danger but in the main, I don’t care if they decided to buy a couple hookers. It’s important for the US to own up to the colossal failure of the War on Drugs and find alternatives to criminalizing something that is no more harmless than smoking tobacco. But good luck getting the media (left or right) to talk about changing the terms of the drug war when there’s a salty sex story to report. [/peeing into the wind]
- The Big Bang Theory is one of my favorite sitcoms on television but I find it disappointing that the back-stories of 3 of the 4 male characters are devoid of any positive fatherly influences. Wolowitz’s father abandoned the family when he was little. Sheldon’s father died from Crisco-heavy fried chicken and is usually described as having been dumb as a sack. Leonard’s father is never mentioned except when his mother announces she’s divorcing him. The fact that their marriage was largely sex-less and probably devoid of affection and warmth is not surprising. Only Raj’s father features positively.
- Let’s take a look at another sitcom – Scrubs. JD’s father is a bumbling, unsuccessful, traveling salesman-boy. In contrast, he describes his mother as perfect. Turk’s father is never mentioned; perhaps he died early, we never know. Did he ever exist? And Dr. Cox’s father was a physically-abusive alcoholic.
- Speaking of culture wars, when will the liberal intelligentsia learn that criticizing traditional families is a failed political strategy? This happens every frickin’ election cycle. Most non-elite liberals hate this sentiment anyway. Many of our mothers were stay-at-home moms; heck, many of us have friends who are stay-at-home mothers. Let them be.
- While the job of stay-at-home mom is most certainly difficult, the contention that Anne Romney hasn’t necessarily had to do much budgeting or saving and scrimping is not without merit. How that experience affects their marriage and how it informs his worldview and approach to social policy is worth considering.
- It’s certainly not a bad thing to learn about the positives that stay-at-home-making can have on the character of a family nor does it mean making a negative judgment on those families where both parents work. Take a little lesson from each family structure.
… or Why “Old” People Need to STFU
Some people need to banish the phrase, “when I was your age…” or “when I was growing up…” or “when I was little…” from their lexicon.
“When I was your age, children respected their elders,” says the former anti-establishment hippy baby boomer parents to their children… or some of my friends that have become parents. No, old hippies, no, old friends, they didn’t. Children have never respected their elders. Disrespect has been their job since time immemorial. And perhaps the newest crop of so-called disrespectful kids is only waking up to the realization that the world your generation is leaving behind is falling apart.
“When I was your age, journalism and TV were in their golden age,” reminisces the baby boomer. No, journalists covered up major stories for the sake of staying chummy with politicians and shows like Leave It to Beaver or Different Strokes were ridiculously corny, sophomoric and/or crude.
“When I was your age, there wasn’t so much damn political correctness around,” laments the good ole boy. It’s not a shame that the majority are made to consider the impact of their words. Political Correctness doesn’t necessarily force us to abandon talking about difficult issues such as race or religion. It recognizes that perhaps the (former) help don’t have the same appreciation for having the terms of the debate dictated to them anymore.
“When I was your age, athletes were role models and respected the game,” says the old sports fan. Since when has that ever been the case?! Babe Ruth was a noted womanizer and drinker. Ty Cobb was probably a murderer. Michael Jordan gambled a ton and was generally a jackass to his teammates.
“When I was your age, music was so much better,” says the musical hipster. No jagoff, hip hop isn’t worse than it used to be. Pop isn’t worse than it used to be. Metal isn’t worse than it used to be. You know what the classics were before a previous generation’s young people got old and started calling them classics? POP music!
(Incidentally I don’t know anything about Florence and the Machine but I can do the same comparison with Hip Hop now vs Hip Hop “then”).
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