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Amused Muse

Inspiring dissent and debate and the love of dissonance

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Location: Surreality, Have Fun Will Travel, Past Midnight before a Workday

Master's Degree holder, telecommuting from the hot tub, proud Darwinian Dawkobot, and pirate librarian belly-dancer bohemian secret agent scribe on a mission to rescue bloggers from the wholesome clutches of the pious backstabbing girl fridays of the world.

Thursday, August 30, 2007


I'm car-free, right? Well, guess which 80s band is my all-time favorite. That's right: The Cars.

And what was my favorite song of theirs? "Drive."

Ironic, huh?

A little over a month ago, when I was riding home with two friends from dinner after a MN Atheists meeting, I was trying to join in the conversation and joking as usual, but inside I was really miserable. At the same time that I was headed west toward northeast Minneapolis I knew that someone else was headed east, far away from me again, and maybe this time for good, and I kept thinking, I wish things were different, I wish things were different... The radio was on, and this song came on, and as I rode and listened I remembered when the song first came out and how much I always loved this song, and how lonely and sad I was back then because I did not think I would ever find love. And now it is especially poignant because Ben Orr, who sings it, died in 2000.

Aside from their emissions, I don't hate cars, really - I hate their ability to divide people and to harm people. But I would never pass up any opportunity to let a car bring people together. I would never say, "Well, I hate cars, so I can't ride with you." There has to be some give-and-take, because if you fight something too hard, you become your enemy.

UPDATED: Here's my favorite video from The Cars, really their sweetest.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Who's Going to the AAI Conference?

Rev. Barky and I are. (Well, I'm going to the conference; he's just coming along to feed me breakfast burritos.) ;-)

Who else out there is going? PiGuy? Rev. Chimpy? Shalini? Raise your blog hand if you're going!

I got into deep political discussions in the jacuzzi along with Pina Coladas while on my Galapagos trip, and wish to continue them this September! (The Crowne has a jacuzzi, right? Please tell me that it does.)

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Friday, August 24, 2007

The Real Stuff, Part 2

My teacher, the incomparable Cassandra Shore.

Cassandra's choreography for Jawaahir Dance Company: Ghawazee.

Tunisian Women’s dance (with vases on the heads).

I'm breaking you in so that you can finally see me dance - plus I have to figure a lot of things out. Thank you for your (im)patience, dance fans. ;-)

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Real Stuff

Fifi Abdo dancing. Surprised? She's not wearing sequins or a dress split up the thigh! You know what, she doesn't have to. This is the real thing, people - a folk song and dance, shared with friends, not that Hollywood bullshit.

Some food for thought:

While die-hard fans wax lyrical about the great Egyptian stars of the past, the better foreign dancers are bringing respectability to a profession most Egyptians view as one veil short of prostitution. "Ninety percent of Egyptians see belly dancing as shameful," says Essam Mounir, a 37-year-old agent who has taken on Russian dancers for lack of local talent. "Foreign women are educated, they are not maids or poor girls looking for rich husbands and they show up on time and love to dance," he says. "But as for feeling our music, not one of them really gets it [emphasis mine]."

Man, does that statement haunt me. I hope that I get it. I hope I do. I want to.

The eroticism of the dance itself didn't disturb Egyptians. What scandalized them instead was the shame of Muslim women performing unveiled (and often naked) before infidels. Inspired by Napoleon's 1798-1801 expedition, a flood of Western travelers arrived in Egypt in the early 19th century. So many dancers crossed the line into prostitution that in 1834 Mohammed Ali, Egypt's Ottoman ruler, exiled them from the capital to towns in Upper Egypt, where they became as much a tourist attraction as Pharoanic temples.

Didn't know that? Most people don't. I didn't. What a pity it still distorts the dance today. I want to change that.

"Ninety-five percent of my customers are foreign," says Ahmed Dia el Dine, the John Galliano of costume designers, waving a sheet of faxed orders from Australia in his atelier on Cairo's Mohammed Ali Street.

"It's true the style is no longer truly Oriental," he sighs, showing me an antique Turkish costume made from strings of rose-cut diamonds and an old piece of embroidery with the word "Allah" sewn in silver sequins. "Thirty years ago it took 35 meters [38.5 yards] of fabric just to cut the skirt for a dancer; it wasn't about naked thighs but the swirling of the cloth around the female body. The overseas customer just wants to show her flesh. I can design a costume that uses just two meters of fabric, but I struggle to avoid pornography."

I've thought about that, too. My costumes are quite modest compared to what's out there - people are oftentimes surprised.

They are also surprised at how wholesome it is. I love to dance for children especially because they make the best audience - they are not ashamed, they just gawk right at me and sometimes move with the beat. It's about enchantment. When we were children, we all got it.

UPDATED: Okay, this is for Dogscratcher, who needs to get those Ken Russel stereotypes out of his system! A very nice performance by a Colorado dance named Sadie.

As you can see, the dance is mostly about keeping the rest of the body still, not just what she is moving. It's difficult!

SECOND UPDATE: Okay, I think the men kissing Fifi's legs were play-acting but this struck some people as still pretty risque so here's Nagwa Fouad in a 50's film dancing at a wedding. I mean, it's all going to strike westerners as risque - we're not taught to move these parts of our bodies. But think about it - a ballerina lifting her leg and showing the underside of her thigh is pretty risque, yet it doesn't bother us, because we're used to it.

All dance is sensual, ultimately. Even when a woman is covered from head to toe, as in this Middle Eastern-Flamenco fusion:

My whole point here is, if anyone out there watching me dance ever yells, "Quit with the goochie! Take it off!" (as has happened to a few women I know), that person is dead meat!

Yeah, I'll take it off, all right! ;-)

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Open Letter to Uncommon Descent


Shimmies to After the Bar Closes.

P.S. Hawt, passionate, long-denied love has blossomed in athy-ville. More later.

UPDATED: JanieBell sent me a link to this:
I'll stuff it full of glitter and a kazoo.
And I want to say something to all the fun folks at Uncommon Descent (oh, JHC, here she goes again): we fight about evolution, global warming 'n such, but I know what life's really about and I wish this happiness on everyone...sincerely. So there it is, my purpose, my meaning - the answer to those questions you launched at me about what an atheist believes in.
Okay, group-hug is over.

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Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Right Stuff

If you had the honor of meeting one of the Apollo astronauts, what would you do?

Shake his hand?

Ask for an autograph?

Give him a kiss on the cheek? *Shimmy!*

Tell him, "This is an incredible honor, sir - you are one of my great heroes!"

Well, that's what I'd do - probably all four. I certainly would not say, "Tell me about the orbiter being faked," or call any of them a "coward, and a liar, and a thief"!

It's kiss-an-astronaut day. Despite NASA's current (and huge) problems, these guys still have the right stuff. Holy crap, do they!

Shimmies to Rev. BigDumbChimp.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

No Ghosts in the Brain

Here is a podcast of PZ Myers' lecture to Minnesota Atheists.

Also available via Google Video: Part 1, and Part 2.

Yes, that's me doing the introduction.

Shimmies to Pharyngula.


Tuesday, August 14, 2007

I Can Has Dirty Secret!

Okay, I'm 'fessing up - I love LOLcats!
Does that make me some kind of freak?


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Monday, August 13, 2007

Teh Internet Hookup, Part Two

Photos. (They began at the bottom of the page with "coffee1.")

A write-up is on its way!

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Sunday, August 12, 2007

Perseid Meteor Shower Tonight

The perfect end to a beautiful weekend.

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Saturday, August 11, 2007

Amused Muse Belly Dancing at the Northeast Farmer's Market

Saturday (today) between 10:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. (Sorry, that's as much as I can pin it down.)

In the parking lot of St. Boniface's Church.

Wearing cotton (but black) and metal. ;-) I have decided.

Shimmying my little heart out to songs by Warda, Amr Diab, and Hakim.


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Friday, August 10, 2007

Of Pandas and People...

Professor Steve Steve and me at the Darwin exhibition in the Field Museum!

(Listen...strange women lazing around in museums distributing photo-ops is no basis for a system of government!)

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Thursday, August 09, 2007

"God Hates Minnesota"

Fred Phelps. The collapsed bridge. Another protest.

No comment.

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In Memoriam: Raul Hilberg

Raul Hilberg, author of The Destruction of the European Jews, has died.

He was a controversial figure, but a heroic and provocative one to me. I have yet to finish reading this book - it's a painful thesis and an emotionally draining book, in the manner that The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, or The Gulag Archipelago, by Solzhenitsyn, are. I never finished those two, either, although I intend to - reading those books taught me that there is a step beyond desensitization, that being, traumatization. For my own emotional well being I had to put the books down for a while.

(I have not yet attempted to read the book Psychiatric Terror, by Sidney Bloch and Peter Reddaway, but someday I'll have the guts. This book has the distinction of catching the eye of people on the bus when I carried it home, people who begged me for the title and author, and wrote them down. Anyone who knows me knows that I was never an apologist for the Soviet Union.)

If you are interested in Holocaust studies, then I highly recomment Lawrence Langer's Admitting the Holocaust. This book is not about Holocaust denial in the classic sense, but pricks the conscience of the average person who knows that the Holocaust happened but seeks out comforting stories, tales of individual heroism, accounts of people dying with dignity, etc., instead of confronting the fact that millions of frightened people were tortured to death and they should not serve as the backdrop for heartwarming dramas about the few who survived.

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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

The Mod Squad

Comment moderation is back on.

Do you know how fucking sick I am of this?

Legion was banned long ago. I let Legion in for laughs. Mistake.

Corrected now. Good-bye, Legion.

UPDATED: It's off. Jump on me, kill each other, what do I care - I'm having a bad week, okay?

SECOND UPDATE: Everything is better. If you want a laugh, check out my eviceration of Legion here. Sorry, Chimpy, but war is war.

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Friday, August 03, 2007

Teh Internet Hookup!

So I'm flying down to Chicago early tomorrow to meet Ed Brayton, Rich Hughes, J-Dog, and others for lunch (Ed and Rich) and to visit (with Rich, J-Dog, and the merry gang at AtBC) the Darwin Exhibition at the Field Museum.

The irony is, I was never really banned at Uncommon Descent. But nevertheless, I feel proud.

I thought of it!

UPDATED: It's 11:45 p.m. on Monday and I'm finally home. No lunch with Ed, though we chatted over the phone, but I did meet Rich, J-Dog and his wife and daughter, and Nomad for the museum visit and a good Irish meal (solid and liquid) afterward. For the first time in years (can't seem to get it in Minneapolis, not that!) I had a black-n-tan, my way - a glass of Bass Ale, followed by a glass of Guinness. Grace O'Malley's pours a Guinness properly, mind you! (In Minneapolis I think they shoot it from a soda nozzle.)

On Saturday, I spent time at the Oriental Institute Museum, the Joseph Regenstein Library, and walked around the grounds of the Museum of Science and Industry, then went to John's brother-in-law's aunt and uncle's home for ribs. *Yum* And today, we went to the Lincoln Park Zoo. All around a fabulous trip! I love Chicago!

I don't have all the photos yet but here's Professor Steve Steve and a relative that he met.

And here we are posing next to the "No Photography" sign - that's a hell of an inconvenience, huh? Sorry that I broke the camera.

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We're a Happy Bunch

Photo: Grant Hermanson

;-) But don't worry, my ebullient spirit reasserted itself on Atheist Talk when I started yakking about Dawkins' books.

Kristine: Blah blah, blahblahblah! Blah! Blahblahblahblahblah...

Host: Thank you, Kristine, now I only have 20 seconds to report on my book. Blah! Thank you, everyone!

Just kidding. We have a fun time at Atheist Talk. (This particular podcast is not up yet.)

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