Saturday, 11 June 2011


The three year long chapter of my life which constituted my university years has officially come to an end.  I can quite confidently and with some snobbish pride say that I have grown in many ways throughout the course of my degree.  

I think I've emerged a more idealistic, stupidly stubborn and overwhelmingly liberal member of society.  I'm definitely enthusiastic and roaring with energy.  

Onwards and upwards.

Oh, and yes, this is my official 'Hi-blog-world-I'm-back-again-and-will-be-updating-with-new-posts-frequently-please-excuse-my-absence-I-had-very-important-things-to-do-a-whole-degree-and-all-and-whatnot.'  

In the words of Jesus: 'Anticipate my return.'  Or another favourite fictional character of mine; the Terminator: 'I'll be back.'  I promise.

Friday, 19 November 2010

It's all in the blood...

I was tempted to dub this piece the title of "Coagulate, you bastard, coagulate!" in reference to my experiences with blood disorders but decided on a less aggressive name.  Nonetheless, I want to emphasise that blood disorders, especially the kind where your blood behaves like a stubborn child and refuses to clot appropriately can make life very difficult... to say the least.  The only way one can manage is to be just as much of a stubborn-son-of-a-bitch and refuse to let the various traumatising experiences of losing large quantities of blood deter you from living how you want to live. 

Given my preoccupation with blood (not exactly something I chose to have preoccupy me, I might add); a Christmas present I recieved last year wasn't as odd-seeming to me as it might have appeared to be had it been presented to a normal member of the population (ha...ha...)

I recieved an Eldoncard Typing Test which is a 'do-it-yourself' kit for determining your blood type along with a book outlining a 'healthy nutrition plan for your blood type.'  I never carried out the DIY blood-test because I already know my blood-type and I also didn't want to piss off the doctor I had to see a week later by showing up with plastered fingers and then explain the injuries were self-inflicted.  The book on the other hand was something I did read through before determining it served a better function as a door-stop.  The book was later demoted to the position of 'spider-squisher' and after it's first day on the job, I decided it was... too gross to keep the book around.  It has now been recycled and lives a much nobler life as a medical dictionary or something. 
The book in question is something that should have agreed with the optimistic naturopathic in me but what it outlined was more 'pop science' than legitimate science and believe me when I say there is a vast difference.  The book is entitled 'Eat Right 4 Your Type' and is by Peter D'Adamo and basically claims that the best diet to be on is one that matches your blood type.  In theory, this sounds rather logical.  What better to put into your body than what it is made up of; you are what you eat after all, no?  How this all works in practise however is a whole other question that D'Adamo should not even claim to know an answer to.  Instead, that's exactly what he does.  He outlines different dietary requirements for different blood groups.   

D'Adamo's bold 'fact-based' dietary suggestions are rather fraudulent when you look at how he made his determinations.  He uses the 'lectin hypothesis' as the basis for his whole book.  This basically asserts that lectins (sugar-binding proteins found in food) can cause other molecules within humans to mesh together and create health problems for the individual unless one is getting the right kind of lectins.  The key fallacy here is the assumption D'Adamo makes about there being changes in blood cell morphology.  For example, you may see changes in intestinal villus morphology after a period of fasting but this is not mirrored by the blood.  Also, there is scientific evidence (from peer-reviewed journals, not published books which any monkey with a typewriter can get involved with these days) that reveals enzymes which work as protection systems against certain lectins and repair the damage they do (e.g. intestinal transglutaminase).  As well as this, it is impossible to microscopically observe any morphology changes the secretion of such protection enzymes may induce.  So, where on earth this whole idea of 'coagulating molecules caused by harmful lectins leads to unhealthiness' is coming from, I have no idea.  Did I mention there was also a lack of clinical trials for any of what he was saying? Yet, this book sold millions and I'm sure plenty of people are unquestioningly following the diet plans within it.  Do I have to remind you people: any. monkey. with. a. typewriter. Any. Monkey.  You wouldn't trust everything you read on the Internet, right?  You should treat books as the same.  They carry an air of legitimacy about them but they were written by humans. Flawed humans. 

 I should also add that D'Adamo has released a new book outlining a 'GenoType Diet.' I kid you not.  It's sitting on my desk just waiting for me to maul my way through it.

As a closing point, I'd like to say I love the individual who did give me those very thoughtful presents a great deal.  If we can re-visit the opening statements of this piece, I seem to recall I called myself a stubborn-son-of-a-bitch... I meant to also include a horribly arrogant, highly critical son-of-a-bitch. I guess it's a lump of coal this year then?

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Give me a bacha posh, I'll give you the man....

 At the risk of sending everyone into a 'feminist-rant-on-a-rainy-Sunday-afternoon-induced-coma' I am going to start off with the following statement; yesterday was very much a man's world and today is no different.  If you disagree: blow me (and derive whatever insinuations of penis-envy you think I'm projecting with that command).

I don't personally think one gender is better than the other and it wouldn't be possible for me or any schmuck out there to objectively claim one was.  Nonetheless, there have been countless schmucks on both sides of the gender divide claiming superiority to one over the other and I'm sure it's not escaped anyone's attention that in history, one side of the schmuckage have been better at pushing their agenda than the other.  Today it's progressed so women are seemingly equal to or catching up to men but let's face it; that's not the case.  I'm not going to go into the sociological, political and all other variations of '-cal' here because that's besides the point and focus but I do just want to emphasize: the playing field is being levelled  but it is far from level.  This is an obvious observation but sometimes the obvious needs to be stated.... for obvious reasons.  If the obviousness is not obvious to you then you clearly needed the last paragraph worth of common-sense iterated... so good job there on the reading. Congratulations on making it this far.

Thoughts on gender and equality swirled into the little macadamia nut that is my head whilst I was browsing through a book by historian Nancy Dupree.  If you don't know who Dupree is then... well, actually, I can't blame you for not knowing who she is.  Her research focus for the last forty-plus years has kept her rooted in Afghanistan where she and her (late) husband conduct historical and archeological work as well as running the Afghanistan Center at Kabul University (well worth checking out the project over at the Dupree Foundation).  One of the  cultural phenomenons popping up in Dupree's written observations is that of the trend of the bacha posh child. 

'Bacha posh' is the Afghan term for 'girl masquerading as boy' and the trend is exactly that.  In the very male-driven culture of Aghanistan which precedes even the Taliban's regime, men are more valued and have greater freedoms then women.  This means having a girl born into the family is a literal burden not only for the parents but for the girl herself. Unlike females the men can be educated, can work and can wander relatively freely depending on their socioeconomic circumstances. For a woman, the family's relative wealth and attitudes towards equality for females is meaningless because it is overridden by the predominant cultural values of the society.

In much of Afghan culture and particularly in the rural areas, a household that has no sons is a shamed household.  A household where the man of the family is absent and there are no sons to support the mother or her daughters is even further down the social ladder.  The lower you are in terms of social hierarchy, the more vulnerable you are in terms of finances and security and this is especially heightened when a country is enduring the carnage and unrest that Afghanistan has been.   Bearing these issues in mind, one can see why a family with no sons or a woman without a husband or son may choose to pass a daughter off as a son for as long as is possible: sons can be educated, sons can go out and work, sons can just by their presence present a shield of safety for the family and so forth.  However, as this is understandably such a 'hush-hush' practice it is next to impossible to find any interviews or in-depth looks at families resorting to such measures. I did manage to find one interview with the mother of a six-year old girl who is living life as a bacha posh which those of you with peaked interests can read here.

Despite how underground the whole process is, there are known facts:
1) The bacha posh lives her life as a boy until the age of puberty and then adopts the female gender identity.  As births are rarely recorded in the more remote areas of Afghanistan and recent wars and political troubles have eradicted a lot of public order (and decreased the value of women with it I should add); it is not difficult for families to engage in this gender-swapping.
2) This practise has not been triggered by the Taliban's oppressive regime which is, well, particularly brutal when it comes to women.  The Taliban's rule may have seen a spike in the amount of bacha posh's but the activity was around long before.  In Dupree's book, there is a photograph from the early 1900s in which there are women dressed as male guards protecting the then reigning King Habibullah Khan's harem.  I'm sure many of us have heard the tales of the eunuch guards of Indian harems in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century but few have heard of this.
3) The shift from male to female has a psychological and emotional effect on the girl in question.  Unfortunately, there are all of zero studies or mentions of this in anthropological and social journals.  When I say zero, I mean zero.  This could change however if the wonderful Nancy Dupree by some brilliant stroke of chance sees my thirty or so badgering emails on the matter but I somehow doubt it.  I can appreciate that this is because of the difficult nature of conducting research or even establishing contact in that area of the world in today's political climate.  If any of you can prove me wrong and send me a link then.... well, proving an arrogant blogger wrong is reward enough in the twenty-first century.

I've just found the concept of bacha posh and the trials and tribulations of Aghani women fascinating (I don't fail to notice the vulgar scent of douche cascading off my person as I type that last sentence: my pompous self sitting quite comfortably behind a computer screen talking about the horrors against humanity fellow womankind are witnessing as being 'fascinating'... Yum).  My initial and somewhat misguided sense of fascination arises from my experience with marginalised hermaphrodites, eunuchs and gays in India and Pakistan.  They are known as the hijra community in South Asia and have no legal or civil rights and despite this; they're a flamboyant, boisterous and vocal bunch.  They live on the edge of society, they tend to be travellers and are often seen singing and dancing at local weddings or at the homes where a woman has returned with a newborn. Basically, despite the shit they're in... they're a joyful bunch and their joy is infectious.  However, despite people accepting them spreading good cheer at happy occasions, they are far from taken seriously.

The similarity between the hijras and the bacha posh is that they're both two incredible groups living in tough circumstances and yet there is something undoubtedly hopeful about them.  I would recommend you guys to check out the Channel 4 documentary 'Jihad for Love' and the Dupree Foundation for more on these two  groups of people dealing with difficult gender issues in difficult parts of the world.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Chi-chi-chi! Le-le-le!

Starting on October 12th, the 33 miners trapped in the Copiapo mine in Chile were rescued.  There are some astounding videos and images from the operation that make me highly envious of journalists... until I remember the state of modern day journalism and its role in current affairs - then I'm not so envious.

Nonetheless, the below video celebrates some amazing photography and an even more amazing rescue operation that should melt even the iciest of hearts.

Friday, 8 October 2010

The woman who made masturbation a partisan issue...

If you are not aware of who Christine O'Donnell is then I suggest you backspace out of this page right now.  Introduction to the puzzle that is O'Donnell is also introduction of mass stupidity into one's life - simply put, it's an introduction you could do without.

O'Donnell is the product of Tea Party campaigning and 'Birther movement' propaganda.  There is no other reason a sane-minded population would allow this woman a majority in the primary US Senate special elections in Delaware this year.  The fact that the Tea Party Express financed most of her campaign from February 2009 onwards pretty much removes any doubt that from the very inception of her candidacy; O'Donnell is nothing but a physical manifestation of the far right's propaganda.

Interestingly enough, George W. Bush's former advisor Mark McKinnon recently alleged that "Middle America is being ignored by Washington and the media. Centrists are desperate for a voice today; they feel entirely unrepresented."  I appreciate McKinnon's words on the matter as it is important for the general public and media to not forget the fact that the minority do not represent the majority.  However, this begs the question of why then are the minority succeeding politically and not the majority?  The answer may lie in the fact that the more extreme political views garner more media coverage.  Publicity is publicity.

 O'Donnell, who lists her political inspiration as Sarah Palin won the primary in September 2010 which meant the GOP-backed candidated was ousted.  What this means for those who don't speak 'American Acronyms' is that instead of a mainstream Republican being voted in; Delaware instead gets an extreme candidate extracted from the radical fringes of the Republican party.  O'Donnell is the eighth Tea Party-backed candidate to oust the GOP establishment candidate in such elections.  This means the radical wing of the Republican party is slowly but surely swallowing the more mainstream conservatives of the GOP.  As I've iterated, the reasons for this pattern a mixture of media propaganda (fuck you very much, Fox News) and ignorance.... oh and the fact that there's a black man in the White house? Now there's a oxymoron that's lighting the firecracker in the South's backside...

Christine O'Donnell isn't a very difficult woman to profile.  Actually, she can pretty much be summed up by the following videos and quotes:

On religion:
"Separation of church and state is in spirit supported by our Constitution, but it is not in our Constitution. I also want to clarify that it's separation of church and state, not separate from church and state."  A proud graduate of the Bush school of speech-making, no?

"We took the Bible and prayer out of public schools. Now we're having weekly shootings. We had the 60s sexual revolution, and now people are dying of AIDS."

On women:
"By integrating women into particularly military institutes, it cripples the readiness of our defense.  When you have women in that situation it just creates a whole new set of dynamics which are distracting to training these men to kill or be killed."  This coming from someone who calls herself a 'feminist' - last I checked feminism wasn't about making distinctions between the sexes and drawing a ruled line between what they can or can't do: it was about equality.

On abortion and women's rights:
In the above video, O'Donnell discusses her views on being 'pro-life' or as I prefer to call it 'anti-choice' and states that if the mother's life is at risk due to the pregnancy it should be a 'family decision to choose one life or the other'...

On evolution:

Apparently it's a myth?

On Hitler and Jews:

So apparently, she wouldn't lie to Hitler about having those of a Jewish faith in her house because as we all know, 'thou shalt not lie' and Christine would very much like to get into Heaven, thank you very much.  So, how badly do we all think she's going to burn for making fradulent claims against her former employer ISI?

Her claim is that whilst she was studying at university, she was also working for the ISI and that they 'violated' their promise to give her the time to focus on the Masters course she was taking at the time. She ended up with no Masters.  This then means she is academically disadvantaged when applying for job positions in the future and could have been earning (according to her) $50k per year had she had a degree.  Logically (and I use that word liberally here) she decided to sue the ISI.

Just one problem with her legal claim against her former employers: the fact that she was only enrolled for ONE undergraduate unit at that time - not a whole Masters course. O'Donnell couldn't possibly tell a lie to save a life but if it means more money in her pocket; she'll talk 'til her nose is longer than Pinnochio's.  She sounds like a seasoned veteran of the politics game already; I'll give her that.

 On masturbation:

Why are you in the picture at all, Christine?

Really now America, knock this crazy shit off. The people you choose to represent you are getting loonier by the minute (Don't you dare whine about Obama counteracting these crazies; we all know he's being drowned out by the mass stupidity that's being integrated into the Senate at the federal level).  You're starting to make Glenn Beck look sane here.  It's one thing to have a intolerant Bible-basher rally the amount of support O'Donnell has but it is a whole other level of gullibility and stupidity to raise a hypocritical intolerant Bible-basher onto the pedestal of state politics - especially when you know she'll drop the kind sentiments of religion the minute enough money is dangled in front of her face.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

The absurdity of existence

The college campus of Harvard has been buzzing this September because of Mitchell Heisman.

Heisman was a man who worked at various bookstores in the Harvard area, he was in his mid-thirties and he was writing a book.  On September 18th, Heisman walked out onto the steps of Harvard Memorial Church and shot himself.  He left behind a suicide note, a thought-provoking 1,905 pages long note published online at the domain name of  This was the book he had been working on; this was his pièce de rèsistance and this was what left his family, the students, professors, media and public guessing.

Although I haven't fully engaged with all of the material in the note, a cursory reading reveals how well-researched and well-read Heisman was.  His note is really a book that makes a statement about contemporary society through the philosophical perspectives of nihilism and through the Christian faith.  Simply put, it's jaw-dropping stuff and a fascinating insight into an incredibly intellectually-gifted mind.

The reason I bestow the compliment (and perhaps also the curse) of intellectual-giftedness on Heisman is because reading his note reveals that he was obsessed with life and the questions surrounding it. Questions are important... hell, they're vital. Without questions and questioning, the heuristic possibilities of everything and anything are slim.  He never stopped questioning life and existence and, ironically, much like his inspiration Nietzsche; he suffered a mental breakdown.

Ultimately though, Heisman's own suicide is put forward by him to be an act of 'experimental elimination of self-preservation.'  The ambiguity of this is remarkable given the context it is presented in.  From my own sparse reading of his note (which I will read with the attention and focus it deserves very soon) I think Heisman simply realised there is no answer to life - a realisation the intellectual, scientifically-trained mind refuses to accept.  This refusal to accept the seemingly inevitable is what seemingly tormented him to the extent that he could only save himself through elimination.  There is the archaic belief that still persists today in non-Western cultures that the smarter man is the more tormented man and that with greater knowledge comes greater burden.  This seems to be very true for the philosophically-versed Heisman.

Really, Heisman's suicide note and his suicide have a lot to gift psychologists with but at the same time they are excellent examples for the philosophical school of absurdism to peruse - after all, the tragic ending to Heisman's academic endeavours is a testament of the absurdity of existence: you exist but you do not understand why, trying to understand will be an effort, never an accomplishment. I personally do not think human knowledge has limits.  Instead, I know that knowledge takes place in transitory processes and in due time.  The questions Heisman wanted answers to were unfortunately not ones that were solved in his time.  The logic in me tells me this.  However, I know that the philosophical community much prefer the viewpoint I mentioned earlier: after all, the tragic ending to Heisman's academic endeavours is a testament of the absurdity of existence: you exist but you do not understand why, trying to understand will be an effort, never an accomplishment.

Take what you want from this.  In fact, have a read through of Heisman's note, pass it on around your blogs and let me know what you make of it.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Rape is porn when you don't know the difference?

I don't know how many people who read this blog are located around Missouri but I know that a lot of you are born and bred in 'red States' such as Texas which means the issue of religious censorship in the education system should not be a complete mystery to you.

The latest issue to emerge is regarding the English Lit reading list for eight-graders in Springfield, Missouri.  According to the speaker for the Reclaiming Missouri for Christ organisation's latest opinion piece the books kids are being exposed to feature "concepts such as homosexuality, oral sex, anal sex and specific instructions on how to use a condom and have sex."  The fact that a reluctance to educate oneself about heated issues such as homosexuality exists is no revelation; you can see the dangerous effects of this in the pro-Prop 8 movement and of course, the latest scandal around the army's 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy.  The flaw in logic here exists with the idea that continued ignorance and non-exposure to these issues is a positive thing.  Oh, did I mention said speaker is Professor Wesley Scroggins of Missouri State University?  Am I the only one who finds an academically-powerful man promoting ignorance uncomfortable?

The other slap of stupidity his piece delivers comes when he begins to give his amateur Literary 101 analysis of the books up for debate.  The three offending books in the docks are: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler and Slaughter-house Five by Kurt Vonnegut.  

Vonnegut's book is a personal favourite of mine and I am sad to report that after being 'reviewed' by the Republic school board; the book has been banned.  Equally disturbing as this news is Scroggins reaction to readings of these books.  He dismisses Speak to be soft porn because it depicts two rape scenes.  I kid you not.  As the author of Speak herself retaliated by saying: "the fact that he sees rape as sexually exiciting (pornographic) is disturbing, if not horrifying."  I however won't do Scroggins the disservice of mischaracterisation that he does to good, reputable books by mischaracterising him as someone who blurs the boundaries between consensual sex and rape.  Instead, I will make it clear that Scroggins is a product of the flawed education system he himself wants to keep in its impaired state.

My personal verdict is that perhaps Scroggins should go back to school and back to his English Lit classes and learn to read with insight and depth because he has dangerously mispercieved the powerful yet important moral messages of these books.  Messages that perhaps even his religion could get on board with.  

As a final note, I just want to give Missouri some credit for taking some of the press heat from Delaware this week.  It's tough to compete with Delaware-level crazy what with the Tea Party victories and Sarah Palin 2.0 but I think Missouri is stepping up to the plate nicely.  Somewhere, possibly some place cold and isolated, Glenn Beck is weeping joyfully....