Featured Blog, I: Veil, Unveiled
Sunni Sister/March 26, 2006
BOSTON— Salaam ‘Alaikum
Hijab. Hijab hijab hijab hijab hijab.
I might end up deleting this, so if you come back for it and it’s gone that’s why. Maybe I just need to get it out of my system. Hijab. I’m not planning this as some comprehensive (or comprehensible) post on hijab. Just random hijab thoughts, stream of consciousness, and not completely sensical. Are you still with me? Or I might turn this back into a password protected post. We’ll see. Until then, hijab hijab hijab hijab.
Some Stupid Experiences I’ve Had
1. You know how we all love to say that it’s the followers of Dawatus Salafeeyah and Wahabees who are so mean to the rest of us? I’ve had those experiences, but I’ve also had the mean thing from “progressive Muslims” and spoofees. One time, I went to a certain bookstore owned by progressive “sufi” Muslims. I wore hijab and a jilbab that day. This is back when I was still in love with the Muslims (vs. just loving my family), even though I was starting to have those feelings eroded. But I thought these people will be so friendly. The store clerk (owner?) didn’t like me. His distaste for me was obvious on his face. He looked at me like I was garbage. He looked at me and talked to me like I was a moron. He had the look on his face that you get when you eat something and the realize it has a bad aftertaste. He was talking to this young confused woman who was talking — very loudly — about Imam Ghazali and her own bisexual love affairs. That was okay. My checkered pink hijab was not. I forget what the young lady’s connection between the esteemed imam and her misbehavior was, but even then I was floored by the gall. I had prayed next to this young lady once. She couldn’t be bothered to keep her hair covered in prayer (partly, perhaps, b/c she didn’t *know* how to put the scarf on correctly — b/c she had made a lame attempt at it before letting it fall to the floor), yet she was holding forth on the imam like the expert her professors at NYU told her she was.
A woman came in the store. She had these beautiful long dreadlocks flowing down her back, and a peach colored duster vest with matching palazzos. She had a scarf wrapped around the crown of her head like a headband. “Salaam ‘Alaikum!” she declared to the room at large. “Wa laikum salaam,” I said. She looked at me, scanned me from head to toe. Her nose wrinkled up, her eyes narrowed. “Wa laikum” she spat at me. The shmutz on her shoes. “Wa laikum.” You are not a real Muslim. I give you the greeting reserved for people who aren’t Muslims.
Later, at the masjid next door, the women ignored me and looked at me like trash. Even a tunic with jeans and a scarf was too radical for them. Some were angry that I wouldn’t hug or shake hands of men — men that I didn’t know, but even if I’d met them before, I wouldn’t have hugged them. Only the brothers bothered to have any respect. I always got along better with men than women. Getting along with women has always been a struggle for me. A sheikh visited from Kuwait. He hadn’t known what he was getting into. The loneliness and bewilderment in his eyes was plain. When he saw me, he started to cry and utter prayers. “He’s so happy to see you,” someone told me. “He wasn’t expecting this.” Read the rest...
[Note: the post would normally be libned back to its original site; fearing its possible disappearance, which would be a real loss, it is reproduced here in full.]
Featured Blog, II: Duh
The Simpsons, Resurrected
Scott Aaronson, Shtetl Optimized/March 21, 2006
WATERLOO, Ontario— So it seems The Simpsons -- the show that FOX executives will cite as they plead with Satan to be spared from hellfire -- has been renewed for two more seasons. One more renewal, and The Simpsons will become the longest-running primetime TV series in history.
The Simpsons is one of the few examples of something that's known to everyone, even though it profoundly deserves to be. (The other examples that spring to mind are Shakespeare, Einstein, and the Internet.) To call it the best TV show of all time is like calling Huck Finn the best adventure novel set on the Mississippi. The Simpsons is what justifies the existence of television as a medium.
(I read a wonderful story about this in William Poundstone's biography of Carl Sagan. Apparently Sagan disapproved of his teenage daughter watching The Simpsons, seeing the show as a symptom of the educational decline that he'd been fighting in his books and speeches. His daughter challenged him: "You say reason and empiricism are so important, so how can you condemn The Simpsons without ever having watched it?" Shamed, Sagan agreed to watch an episode. He quickly became a fan, and watched it regularly in his last years of life.)
Of course, like Einstein in his Princeton period, The Simpsons has lost much of its power with age. In my opinion, both South Park and the much-mourned Futurama surpassed The Simpsons years ago in terms of vrc/s (viewer ribcage convulsions per second). But that's hardly a discredit to the mighty trunk of which South Park and Futurama are the branches.
Popular perception of The Simpsons underwent an interesting evolution. For the first few seasons, everyone seemed to think the show was "about" Bart: the proud underachiever, scandalizing parents by telling them to eat his shorts. (Man, I feel like a fogey.) By the mid-90's that was already history, the focus having shifted to Homer: the fat, beer-swilling symbol of America itself.
But the longer I watched, the clearer it became to me that the central character is Lisa. Dan Castallaneta, who does Homer's voice, also does Grandpa, Groundskeeper Willy, Barney, Krusty, and several others. Nancy Cartwright, who does Bart, also does Nelson, Ralph Wiggum, and Todd Flanders. But Yeardley Smith, who does Lisa, only does Lisa. Born into a world of cartoon yellow doofuses, Lisa is the solitary champion of reason and principle -- even if she is tempted to abandon her principles for a pony. In a cacophony of hundreds of voices, hers is the only soliloquy.
But the simplest proof of The Simpsons' Shakesperian greatness is the number of secondary characters who are richer, more vivid, than the lead characters of all but the very best novels. Mr. Burns. Smithers. Apu. Skinner. Mrs. Krabappel. Flanders. Uncle Herb. Abe. Patty and Selma. Moe. Barney. Artie Ziff. Nelson. Krusty. Sideshow Bob. Every one of them has a story, what literary types might call "interiority." Every one, for better or worse, will be seared in my memory for as long as I live.
Come to think of it, that's probably even true of the ones who don't have much interiority: Comic Book Guy, Frink, Duff Man, the Sea Captain, Disco Stu, Cletus, Kang and Kodos...
But enough of this. It's time for the hard (but necessary) part of the post: my personal selection of Simpsons moments. If you have work to do, I advise you to stop reading right now. If not, read the rest at Shtetl Optimized...