Qandeel Baloch, a fiercely independent woman who dared to defy the stringent modesty rules of her culture, is dead, murdered by her own family.
The kind of violence she suffered is called an honor killing, and we here in the West too often don’t realize what’s meant by that. We’re given to trite, pithy comments about how there’s nothing honorable about killing your sister or your daughter or your wife. If we understood what honor meant in those cultures, we wouldn’t say such things.
It’s a funny thing to think about, this question of honor.
And what kind of person do you have to be, for your honor to depend on your family members conforming to a restrictive standard of behavior?
This question of honor. And individuals. And anger and and shame and fear. What kind of human do you have to be?
Perhaps, the kind of human who lives in a society where the standing and reputation of your family– its honor– dictates just about every measure of accessibility and livelihood.
Justice Antonin Scalia, 79, died in his sleep after a nice day’s hunting. I’m glad that his last day on earth was pleasant, and he didn’t suffer, and my condolences go out to the family and friends who mourn his passing. My congratulations go out to the people he will be unable to fuck over in this and future Supreme Court terms.
January 2016 continued its wholesale slaughter of famous musicians and actors by claiming the Eagles’ Glen Frey. January 2016, what are you doing? January 2016, stahp.
Anyway. One of my friends posted this absolutely incredible video of a group called Cubanos Acapella singing Hotel California. And if you haven’t heard this, you need to set aside some time and a quiet space and listen. I was impressed when Jimmy and the Wazoo Peach Pitters managed to do Helter Skelter acapella,* but damn.
Took me a while to collect my jaw from the floor after that.
I have a particular fondness for this song. I have memories of my dad trying to explain it to me. I was probably about 9 or 10, and he was introducing me to his generation’s music, and we were discovering we had a mutual fondness for much of it. But of course, I was super-young, and had no idea what the 70s even were, much less what young adults had done with them, so most of this song went wooshing right over my head despite his patient explanations. And I never asked him to clear up some of the lingering mysteries for me: I had no idea why ghosts had anything to do with wine, or why a spirit might have left the hotel in 1969, never to return. Dad did a reasonable job trying to explain what “of our own device” meant, but it was still a pretty vague concept. I am only just now finding out he fibbed when he said colitas was a type of flower (buds, Dad, very funny). But we both had fun singing it together, and ultimately that was the only thing that mattered. Continue reading “A Magnificent Acapella Version of Hotel California”→
On top of everything else going down, B and I ended our two year relationship yesterday, so expect me to be scarce for a little while. I’m sorry, I just can’t even right now. I’ll be back eventually, and hopefully there will be future adventures with B – just this time, we’ll be out as friends rather than mates.
It’s going to take some time before I’m all right with this. He is the person I would’ve liked to have spent an appreciable portion of the rest of my life with, but we couldn’t work through some of the more serious issues. It happens. Sucks, but happens. Continue reading “Taking Some Time Away”→
Sometimes, the news from my old home state is horrible.
Yarnell, Arizona is a tiny little community along the Highway 89 corridor. It’s got less than a thousand people. It’s in dry country, just a little north of Phoenix, near Prescott. There’s been a drought, and record heat, and it’s the dry-lightning season, when everything’s ready to go up at a spark, and the clouds give bolts with no rain. This is the time of year when Arizona residents bite their lips and look worriedly at the wilderness, hoping against hope they won’t see the thin column of smoke that speaks of a conflagration to come.
I have to admit I sniggered upon hearing the news that Pope Ratzinger was on his way out the door. I won’t miss him. And I can hardly wait to see what the Catholic Church will inflict upon us next.
In the meantime, I figured we’d do a few quotes from Robert Ingersoll for the blessed occasion of the first retirement of a pope in 600 years. Two in two thousand years retiring rather than dying or being forced out means that Robert’s observation on ecclesiastical power remains pretty much spot-on:
You can hardly expect a bishop to leave his palace, or the pope to vacate the Vatican. As long as people want popes, plenty of hypocrites will be found to take the place. And as long as labor fatigues, there will be found a good many men willing to preach once a week, if other folks will work and give them bread. In other words, while the demand lasts, the supply will never fail.
If the people were a little more ignorant, astrology would flourish—if a little more enlightened, religion would perish!
Ah, for that great day….
As for the crimes of Pope Ratzinger, namely the crime of shuffling pedophiliac priests off to new pastures, where people weren’t aware that their spiritual head was all about raping children: if you’re surprised a man o’ god could be so evil, have a dose of reality.
Let it be remembered that the popes have committed every crime of which human nature is capable, and that not one of them was the friend of intellectual liberty—that not one of them ever shed one ray of light.
But this, of all, I believe is my favorite quote. I laugh every time I come across it, and it remains funny because it’s so damned true. Keeping in mind that “capable of” doesn’t mean “is in favor of” when it comes to the intellectual advancement stuff.
The Catholics have a pope. Protestants laugh at them, and yet the pope is capable of intellectual advancement. In addition to this, the pope is mortal, and the church cannot be afflicted with the same idiot forever.
Here’s looking forward to a new idiot as we wave goodbye to the old. Adios, Benny.
This will end in tears, mark my words. The tears will begin as soon as I make this sad announcement: Daniel Fincke is leaving us. I blame the Reason Rally for this tragic loss, and I’ll tell you why.
Dan emailed me afterward. He was walking on clouds. “Dana,” he gushed, “they talked about the Enlightenment! In public!!”
Well, I’m a fan of the Enlightenment. I think it’s one of the most interesting periods in human history, and I’m constantly amazed by the leap of understanding humanity made during that short period. But while Enlightenment values are under attack, I didn’t think speaking out about it in public warranted italics. I mean, it’s still a free country with free speech and we can talk about the Enlightenment if we want to. I began to worry about Dan’s emotional state.
I got that message today that you know, in the back of your mind, is liable to come at any time. The tall, thin man with the funny hair and the thick-rimmed glasses was nearly ninety, if not past it, and he’d been ailing recently. So I wasn’t surprised to find a succession of messages on my phone from aunt and mother advising that he had passed, peacefully.
Still, expected and unsurprising as it is, it still seems sudden. These things always do.
We weren’t close. We hadn’t actually spoken in years. Over the last few years, he’s been slipping into dementia, but long before that, we’d run out of things to talk about. My family isn’t a close-knit one. It might have been different, if we’d stayed in Indiana, but we left there when I was three, and we were never good at the long-distance relationships, and the grandparents had stopped traveling a long time ago. So there’s a grandfather-shaped hole, but it’s not a gaping one. I’ve skipped the shedding tears routine in favor of the flickering smile, as memories pop up unbidden. I see him holding a sparkler, that last time we were all a family and whole, back when I was sixteen and I’d insisted on a summer visit. Great provider of the fireworks, he was. He’d always been a provider. The house he lived in to the end of his life was built with his own hands, and he’d never stopped wanting to do for his kids. I remember a photo of him, on a picnic bench outside that house, feeding a squirrel he’d befriended. He was so damned pleased with that squirrel.
The strongest memory, though, is one seared into the little gray cells by sheer terror. You see, I was thirteen or thereabouts, and the grandfolk had come to visit us when we lived in Sedona. They’d roust me out of bed at five in the ay-em for long healthy walks round the neighborhood. And then they wanted to take a drive up to Flagstaff, do the whole Oak Creek Canyon thing, which I was down with. I love driving the canyon. And, what with it being late spring or summerish, there’d be a lot of RVs holding up proceedings and so plenty of time to gawk at the scenery, whilst having a goodish chat with the elder folk. The only thing that worried me was the tape deck, because elder folk are notorious for playing things the youngsters cannot abide.
They put in the Statler Brothers. And we howled the lyrics, once I’d got them. We nearly wore the mylar off that tape, up the canyon and around. This was certainly not the hip music. I’d been listening to stuff like Aerosmith and Pet Shop Boys and (shudder) Icehouse, along with a bit of the old Maxi Priest kind of slightly reggae version of “Wild World” I was absolutely nuts for. No way, you’d say, such a youth would appreciate the Statler Bros. But I did, very much so, and I appreciated the old grandparents for having such discerning musical taste.
We had the time of our lives on that trip. And it was all going along swimmingly until ye olde granddad decided he wanted to take Schnebly Hill Road back home.
The road is about two inches wide, unpaved, with turns that aren’t so much hairpin as a corkscrew dosed with strychnine (which, if a corkscrew were a member of the animal kingdom, would cause it to seize up in a sort of frenzy of right-angle kinks). You may be headed due north on Schnebly Hill Road, and a nanosecond later discover you are, if you were very fortunate and didn’t hurtle into the abyss in attempting to execute the bend, now headed due south. It’s a washboard, with bits often washed out, and there are what the uninitiated call “vistas.” Some even call it “breathtaking,” without mentioning that it’s not so much the spectacular views into the red rock canyon that steal the breath as the ongoing suspense as to your chances of survival. There are no guard rails. There is no shoulder. If you misjudge the thing, you are sailing a few thousand feet straight down into a vista. At least you will die scenically, but that’s small consolation when you are young and wish to live to a ripe old age, like 18.
I dimly remembered all of this from a trip we’d taken along it with a group of intrepid young parents. The parents had enjoyed themselves immensely. The assorted kids had huddled on the floor in the back, teeth chattering from the ridges in the road combined with pants-pissing terror, and tried not to look out the windows. I remember looking out the window once, and coming eye-to-eye with an agave plant that was in full, spectacular bloom. The problem was that it was growing straight up the side of a cliff, and I could have rolled the window down and plucked a blossom, if by that time all traces of bravery hadn’t drained from me and soaked into the potholed road.
“Um,” I said to my grandfather, who at that time was already getting a little shaky in the hands with age, developed some few issues with sight and hearing, had suffered a fairly serious heart attack not too many years back, and had a reputation for not always paying as much attention to the road as he should, “are you sure?”
I attempted to warn him away, listing a few of the many perils of such a journey. I gave it up as a bad job when his eyes gleamed brighter with each warning.
At that point, I would’ve gotten out and walked, if I hadn’t been sandwiched between him and my grandmother on a bench seat. Ah, well, I said to myself as he turned off the perfectly-good pavement onto the gap in the pine forest that marked the beginning of the end, at least he’s old. And he’s from Indiana. He’ll probably take it at a top speed of 5mph. No problem.
I don’t think the speedometer dipped below 35 the whole way down. Most of the time, he seemed to be going a strong 50. Red rocks went by in a blur. Red dust billowed up from the tires. And the man had the audacity to comment on how lovely the scenery was, with enthusiastic assent from my grandmother, whom I’d always considered a sensible sort in the past. How they could even see the scenery at that speed was beyond my ken, and he certainly had no business eyeballing it, in my considered opinion. Not that I could tell him this. It’s impossible to force words past a throat clamped shut like an imperiled oyster.
I had just enough time at the beginning to think that a man who hailed from anywhere as flat as Indiana had no business driving such a steep, windy road to begin with, much less at speeds that even drunk teenagers bent on suicide wouldn’t dare attempt. Then I spent a mile or two contemplating my impeding death several times per second, and bewailing the fact that I was going to die before I’d even finished puberty. The rest of the road finished in one sustained mental scream. I think my grandmother was humming contentedly in between exclamations of delight. I have no idea what my grandfather was doing, aside from slewing the wheel this way and that whilst exploring how far the gas pedal could be mashed. I was too afraid to look or listen.
And then, somehow, as if by miracle, we made it to the bottom of the canyon. I don’t remember where Schnebly Hill Road comes out, because I have never visited it since. I just recall staring at the pavement of good old US 89A with mute astonishment. And when we pulled up at the house, I wobbled out of the truck and refused to ever get back in it as long as Grandpa was at the wheel. Not in Arizona, at least. Not anywhere near a road with so much as a gentle curve or risk of a slight incline.
My mother, damn her, thought it was screamingly funny.
Years later, the immediate shock had faded well enough that I didn’t have too many flashbacks when he drove us to Nashville, Indiana, which is about the only part of the state with topographic relief. And, although the Statler Bros. had played all the way down Schnebly Hill Road, soundtrack for what I believed were the last moments of my existence, I retained a fondness for them. Because it had been one hell of a ride, and in the end, with survival a known fact, sort of fun. You can keep your expensive super-duper-mega-rollercoasters-of-instant-death. My old granddad could do you one magnitude better for the price of a half a tank of gas.
There are moments, when you find out someone momentous has died, in which you find the world a little emptier than before. A person has died who filled up the world, poured so much of himself into it that he made it a larger and more interesting place. Someone whose words thundered and reverberated and will echo long after he has fallen silent.