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Finally snow…and the battle of algiers

Tonight I first saw snow visit our neighborhood. It’s nothing to write home about (only an inch), but as snow has decided to elude these parts, I must commemorate it. Where hast thou been, fine crystal playground? My unprepared feet stumbled and slipped on an icy sewer door on my route home. No match for gravity, I could only laugh at myself, elated at the prospect of a true winter week.

I was returning from my guerrilla warfare class, where we watched the film The Battle of Algiers.

This film narrates the uprising of the National Liberation Front (FLN) in Algeria in the 50’s and early 60’s. The most interesting part of the story, besides the balanced portrayal of French paratrooper and terrorist perspectives, is the way women were used to carry out terrorist activities for the FLN. From hiding guns underneath burqas, to disguising themselves as French women (haircuts, hair and face coloring, modern dress), to carrying bombs in large handbags and conveniently leaving them in popular French civilian hangouts – it’s clear women were indispensible to the Algerian revolution, even if it meant compromising strict religious practices. I don’t condone these women’s actions, of course, but it’s hard not to admire their cunning techniques. Children, too, were “heroes,” acting as secret messengers, ganging up on incompetent or disloyal members of the FLN, and encouraging the Arabs via loudspeaker about the fortune of the rebellion.

If you haven’t seen the film, do. Philip Jenkins wrote an article about it (unfortunately I can’t find the url), arguing that The Battle of Algiers is a must-see for anyone who wants to understand or even…ahem…form policy within the Muslim world. It also elucidates the workings of a terrorist-led revolution and the measures taken to suppress it, measures that ultimately failed. Lessons from one of the bloodiest conflicts of the 20th century bear timely relevance to the issues we’re dealing with now. Pay heed, says Jenkins; I concur.

Youtube gems

Preface: Does anyone remember the name of the show with the adults dressed up as zoo animals? I’m pretty sure the name contained the word “zoo.” That’s all I can recall, honestly. I’m just hoping a light will turn on in one of your heads when I give you these vague clues.

Not at all uninspired by Josiah, I’ve decided to post some of my favorite cartoons’ intros from the 80’s and 90’s. Before I watched the Gummi Bears on Josiah’s blog, I had all but forgotten about that show. It’s amazing what details one remembers from childhood – the bears jumping onto their wooden bobsled; Bobby’s tricycle wheels extending to balance on the railings as he sails down the stairs; and Garfield polishing off a plate of spaghetti in one gulp. The timing of each sound, too, is etched in my memory, even if such sounds would now be indistinct to my adult mind.

Apparently a lot of these come from Retrojunk. Enjoy!

Bobby’s World:

Garfield and Friends:

Fraggle Rock:

Muppet Babies (also look for the Star Wars parody – classic!):

And of course, Square One:

Last but not least, I had to post another Colbert favorite in honor of my possibly going to the show in February (fingers crossed!):

I do realize, by the way, that the last one I posted (with Eleanor Holmes-Norton) was one of the most popular on the Internet; the posting was more for my sake than anyone else’s.

News ironies

In recents days, a couple of odd news items crossed my path and fell subject to my cutting scrutiny. More specifically, each story revealed the humourous heedlessness of its subjects and/or storytellers. See for yourself.

Virginia Congressman Virgil Goode, as you may well know, wrote a letter in December to John Cruikshank, detailing his opposition to the swearing in of Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison. Goode’s beef with Ellison is that he made his oath on a copy of the Koran rather than the Bible. I’ve selected some of the most significant quotations from the letter to make my point:

“The Muslim Representative from Minnesota was elected by the voters of that district and if American citizens don’t wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran.

“I fear that in the next century we will have many more Muslims in the United States if we do not adopt the strict immigration policies that I believe are necessary to preserve the values and beliefs traditional to the United States of America and to prevent our resources from being swamped.”

Other than the glaring dismissal of Ellison’s American citizenship, Goode’s rhetoric mirrors the U.S. government’s approach to fledgling democracies in other parts of the world – namely, Algeria in the 90’s (the Feis party vs. military) and Egypt in the early 2000’s (Muslim Brotherhood vs. Mubarrak). Unfair comparison, you say, but Goode’s message is clear, even if he disguises it in an argument about immigration. Basically, we don’t want Muslims, radical or not, to gain too much power in these governments, even if they’re democratically elected – and now Virgil Goode is afraid of it happening in our own country? I don’t want to argue about whether it’s beneficial for Muslims to be elected to Congress or for Muslims to immigrate to this country – personally, I think both are fine – but the humor of the story is that American foreign policy has morphed into American domestic policy, albeit unofficially and only through Goode’s words. Given the negative reaction to Mr. Goode, I don’t think we’re in danger of his underlying argument becoming policy.

The other news irony, a little less serious and more intentional, is an AP story from Friday’sMetro about a University of Calgary study on procrastination in America. Apparently we consider ourselves chronic procrastinators more than we used to. TV and the Internet are to blame (heck, I’m not gonna argue with that). What is university professor Piers Steel’s answer, according to the AP? “Something has to be done about it, sooner rather than later….” Well, I’llsay. We mustn’t procrastinate trying to fix our procrastination problem! I’ll give the Metro credit, though, because even though it’s not a bastion of fine, admirable journalism, it can manage some humorous self-awareness in its more serious sections (the ones not labeled Entertainment, Weekend, or Opinion).

Finally, I want to add my own phrases to Lake Superior State University’s list of banned words for 2006:

“We are social creatures.”
“I’m a people person.”
“I’m a visual learner.”
“Grey’s Anatomy.”
“Grey’s Anatomy in hi-def.”
“We’re gonna watch Grey’s Anatomy in hi-def!”

Too late for 2006…I’m pushin’ for ’07.

The iTunes game, because I want to copy Funke, and I want to put off work as long as I can

1. How are you feeling today?
“Black Cab” – Jens Lenkman

2. How do your friends see you?
“Time to Cry” – Lizzie West (highly ironic for anyone who knows me well)

3. Will you get married?
“Guilty Cubicles” – Broken Social Scene (no idea how to interpret this)

4. What is your best friend’s theme song?
“True Love Waits” – Radiohead (Keri? heh heh)

5. What is the story of your life?
“Walking on Wire” – Get Up Kids

6. What was high school like?
“Smoke and Mirrors” – RJD2

7. How can you get ahead in life?
“Having seen the Resurrection of our Lord” – Rachmaninoff Vespers Op. 37. Amen!

8. What is the best thing about your friends?
“To be Alone with You” – Sufjan Stevens

9. What is tonight going to be like?
“Green, Green Grass of Home” – Johnny Cash

10. What is in store for the remainder of this weekend?
“Over Your Shoulder” – Calexico

Nearly done

My new blog description comes from the wonderful wikiquote page, where you can find, among other gems, pirate proverbs and TV comedy one-liners.

In the past couple weeks, I have completed a paper on blogs and social identity, another paper comparing Christian missionaries in the Middle East (19th century) to Christian Zionists (20th century) and their influence on American foreign policy, and several charts and analyses for a group project on Vitaminwater. That final project is due at the end of this week, and then I have three finals, two on Friday, one on Monday. Finals are the bane of my existence, for one simple reason: why should several high-stress exams in a row, at a stressful time of year, have such bearing on your final grade? For example, in my sophomore year of college, I worked like a dog to make A’s in two of my more difficult classes, and I succeeded – until finals week. One final landed at 3:30 on a Monday afternoon, and the other at 7:30 the next morning (finals should NEVER happen at 7:30 in the morning!). Preparing for the 3:30 final proved to be more difficult, and I studied for hours and hours, and when all was said and done, I found it nearly impossible to regroup enough for the next crack-of-dawn test. Sure enough, I got an A on the first final and a C+ on the second, reducing my grade in that class from an A to a B+. I rested assured that injustice still prevails in America. Not that a B+ is bad, but you can see for yourself the unnecessary dramatic change.

Hopefully I will not meet the same fate this year. My hardest final consists of 10 fill-in-the-blank questions and 4 essays, 2 pages each. Though writing that many essays tires the hand, it’s more my style. One of the essays will address the recent Baker-Hamilton report.

Anna is arriving from Brussels next week to drive home (in a rental – not the Scion!) with us to Chattanooga for Christmas. The night she comes, we’re going caroling with our Bible study group to “advertise” (with lovely voices and candy canes) our new church. So far, a few visitors have come, some even responding to Heidi’s and my marketing schemes. We’ll see how it goes.

Finally, next semester I will probably work an internship at a music production company and a part-time job with a literacy program on campus, in addition to taking classes on Islam, guerrilla warfare, and non-profit organizations. I love what I study. I hadn’t realized it until now.

P.S. I’ve added my Amazon wishlist to the links down on the right. Check it out.

“I’m so anti-anti.”

My cousin Adam Belz summed up his frustrations with cynicism at Covenant in this little phrase. Ever since then, I’ve applied it liberally, but no time was as appropriate as last night during the Christmas Celtic Sojourn at Emerson College’s Cutler Majestic Theatre. Since when is text messaging during a performance okay? The young college couple in front of us didn’t seem to think they were distracting anyone by doing it. Not only that, but the constant fidgeting and obvious distaste for Celtic harmony, Irish dancing and poetry, and traditional Christmas music was so irritating that I wanted to kick them in the back of their little heads. But I didn’t. If you don’t want to be here, just get up and leave already!

Otherwise, I enjoyed the show, though the half-egg shape of the theatre, combined with sitting in the farthest corner in the last row, made us feel like we were suspended 50 stories above the stage. I learned that all those songs the Chieftains sing about “the wren” are really talking about the old Irish St. Stephen’s Day tradition of dressing up in costumes, capturing a wren in a cage, and singing songs for the neighbors to solicit money with which to bury the wren. Now apparently they gather money for charities instead.

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