David Levine 1926-2009

When I was in college, I subscribed to the New York Review of Books, as it seemed like the intellectual think to do. I enjoyed it, for the most part, although I followed about 40% of what the critics were saying. I liked how it made me think, and the fact that a lot the reviewers built their critiques on theories I had yet to explore encouraged me to investigate more. The NYRB was often the carrot dangling in front of my intellect. Yet the NYRB had the reek of dusty curtains and Lionel Trilling, and I preferred to skip through flowery fields of my classes, like Dorothy off to see the wizard, or wizards, as it were, and didn't let myself get too intimidated by its content

The things that balanced out all the high-falutin' verbiage of the NYRB were the illustrations of David Levine. His illustrations provided a level of satire to the articles that added a levity to the density, and gave the publication a vehicle with which to wink at its readers as if to say, "We don't take ourselves that seriously."  And that message is the valuble take away.


France and the burqa

1/08/10: French draft bill to fine burqa-wearing women

I have been following the French politicking around headscarves and the wearing of religious symbols in schools, and the proposal to extend that ban into all government agencies. I find it interesting to think about where do the legislations of a secular state infringe on freedom of expression. How can a state rule what one chooses to wear or not wear on their body, especially in a country that ensures religious freedom in its constitution? Who defines the boundaries of decency? And how to define that within the separation of church and state? How can decency be defined outside of religious dictates on the body, modesty and sexuality? There is nothing inherently shameful about the body. Does the wearing of these items upset the balance of society or infringe on the free exercise other citizens' rights? Do they threaten the secular state or pose a security risk?

Sarkozy says that the burqa represent the enslavement of women: “The issue of the burqa is not a religious issue. It is a question of freedom and of women’s dignity,” Mr. Sarkozy said. “The burqa is not a religious sign. It is a sign of the subjugation, of the submission, of women.”  But what about the women who choose to wear it and wear it with strength and pride? How can one determine which women chose to wear it and which women feel enslaved, as well as the many women who reside somewhere in between? If three women wearing headscarves walked into a government building in France, and one woman was Muslim, another undergoing chemotherapy, and other decided to wear a headscarf because she likes the look of it, would only the Muslim woman have to take hers off?

In any event, the NYT’s article, Burqa Furor Scrambles French Politics  (8/31/09)  is an interesting article in the France/burqa issue, especially when viewed along with these great articles from the BBC, which give the history of the niqab (which the French mean when they speak of “burqas”—the often blue full coverings often seen in Afganistan.) and hijabs.


Big Bill Broonzy Live 1956

Wouldn't have been wonderful to be here?  man.


Hanuman and Ganesha

This is one of my favorite pictures. I took it while wandering the east village. I love iconography and how it grounds spiritual ideas in a form that helps us to remember those ideas throughout the day. Hanuman is worshiped as a symbol of physical strength, perseverance and devotion.

My favorite Hindu deity is Ganesha, the god of new beginnings. Isn't that a great thing to have a deity for? To know that someone has your back as you try something new? I also like that Ganesha is the destroyer of vanity, selfishness and pride. We could use a little bit that, no?


BB is the KING