And Then So Clear

first business card for MIVC since 060315. that can’t be true, but i can find no business records for anything before that… although i had backups of a file called 070312-MIVC-BC.qxp, so i must have done a business card for them since 2006… but i can find no business records for them. bizarre.

being a professional computer geek for eddie, who is almost completely blind, and completely (utterly, hopelessly) computer-illiterate. i went over there today to get the “lay of the land” so to speak, in terms of where he was with computer hardware. he’s got Win98 2nd edition, and he was trying to run a HP all-in-one printer/fax/scanner (which gives me a non-standard warning message about not being compatible with something on the system, joy) and a HP flat-screen monitor that defaults to 640×480 and 16 colours in W98, and gives me a strange message when i try to boot gutsy from a live CD – something about re-setting the resolution to 1024×768, which i would have done if i could have remembered the arcane command that you type into the text-based interface – which is, in fact, dpkg-reconfigure xserver-xorg – which i knew was written in my linux grimoire, but not currently accessible to my memory. however, during my download and burning of the hardy CD i read the system requirements and figured that a 500mhz pentium III might not run something that modern anyway, so i dug around and located CDs of kubuntu 7.x and 6.x as well, so if i can’t get hardy working, i’ll have a couple of back ups. i figure i’ll go back tomorrow with a USB hub and a 4g flash stick and back up all the data, and then install whichever kubuntu will run. his internet is on a dial-up connection, and i’ve never had to deal with a modem and linux, but it shouldn’t be too difficult.

i downloaded 2g of YMO tracks, which is all of their studio albums and a whole pile of live stuff including a couple of rehearsals. i also downloaded a gig or so of sanskrit chants, which i’m going to burn to CD and take to FSM with me, so that i can have appropriate music in my booth.

Federal judge rules students can’t be barred from expressing support for gay people – a principal at a south florida high school testified that he “believed rainbows were “sexually suggestive” and would make students unable to study because they’d be picturing gay sex acts in their mind” – but, apparently wearing “other symbols many find controversial, such as the Confederate flag” was okay. the fact that the students had to get the ACLU and a federal court involved before their first amendment rights were restored says something about both the students and the society in which we live currently.

Will you marry me – temporarily? – this is coming from iran… why don’t we have such things in this country?

Childish superstition: Einstein’s letter makes view of religion relatively clear

Polar bear listed as threatened species – and just last night i was sitting next to an elderly lady who was ranting about the fact that there is no global warming, because we’ve been having unseasonably cool weather locally recently. hello? wake up and smell the coffee… kthxbye…

Musical SpongeBob™ Digital Thermometer – good for oral, underarm or rectal use, plays “SpongeBob SquarePants Theme” at the end of temperature taking… what every home shouldn’t be without.

Childish superstition: Einstein’s letter makes view of religion relatively clear
May 13 2008
By James Randerson

“Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.” So said Albert Einstein, and his famous aphorism has been the source of endless debate between believers and non-believers wanting to claim the greatest scientist of the 20th century as their own.

A little known letter written by him, however, may help to settle the argument – or at least provoke further controversy about his views.

Due to be auctioned this week in London after being in a private collection for more than 50 years, the document leaves no doubt that the theoretical physicist was no supporter of religious beliefs, which he regarded as “childish superstitions”.

Einstein penned the letter on January 3 1954 to the philosopher Eric Gutkind who had sent him a copy of his book Choose Life: The Biblical Call to Revolt. The letter went on public sale a year later and has remained in private hands ever since.

In the letter, he states: “The word god is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this.”

Einstein, who was Jewish and who declined an offer to be the state of Israel’s second president, also rejected the idea that the Jews are God’s favoured people.

“For me the Jewish religion like all others is an incarnation of the most childish superstitions. And the Jewish people to whom I gladly belong and with whose mentality I have a deep affinity have no different quality for me than all other people. As far as my experience goes, they are no better than other human groups, although they are protected from the worst cancers by a lack of power. Otherwise I cannot see anything ‘chosen’ about them.”

The letter will go on sale at Bloomsbury Auctions in Mayfair on Thursday and is expected to fetch up to £8,000. The handwritten piece, in German, is not listed in the source material of the most authoritative academic text on the subject, Max Jammer’s book Einstein and Religion.

One of the country’s leading experts on the scientist, John Brooke of Oxford University, admitted he had not heard of it.

Einstein is best known for his theories of relativity and for the famous E=mc2 equation that describes the equivalence of mass and energy, but his thoughts on religion have long attracted conjecture.

His parents were not religious but he attended a Catholic primary school and at the same time received private tuition in Judaism. This prompted what he later called, his “religious paradise of youth”, during which he observed religious rules such as not eating pork. This did not last long though and by 12 he was questioning the truth of many biblical stories.

“The consequence was a positively fanatic [orgy of] freethinking coupled with the impression that youth is being deceived by the state through lies; it was a crushing impression,” he later wrote.

In his later years he referred to a “cosmic religious feeling” that permeated and sustained his scientific work. In 1954, a year before his death, he spoke of wishing to “experience the universe as a single cosmic whole”. He was also fond of using religious flourishes, in 1926 declaring that “He [God] does not throw dice” when referring to randomness thrown up by quantum theory.

His position on God has been widely misrepresented by people on both sides of the atheism/religion divide but he always resisted easy stereotyping on the subject.

“Like other great scientists he does not fit the boxes in which popular polemicists like to pigeonhole him,” said Brooke. “It is clear for example that he had respect for the religious values enshrined within Judaic and Christian traditions … but what he understood by religion was something far more subtle than what is usually meant by the word in popular discussion.”

Despite his categorical rejection of conventional religion, Brooke said that Einstein became angry when his views were appropriated by evangelists for atheism. He was offended by their lack of humility and once wrote. “The eternal mystery of the world is its comprehensibility.”

Will you marry me – temporarily?
07 February 2008
By Ziauddin Sardar

This year, the Iranian interior ministry has launched a huge campaign to encourage the country’s frustrated youth to seek sexual fulfilment in muta marriages.

If the US Greeting Card Association is to be believed, more than a billion valentines will be flying across the globe this year. Mine – yes, I do get them – usually end up in our recycling bin. I take them seriously only if they come from Iran. A valentine card from the “Islamic Republic” is much more than a shot from Cupid’s bow. It’s the real thing: an invitation to a temporary marriage.

A temporary marriage, known generally as muta, is a specifically Shia tradition. It involves a contract between a man, who may or may not be married, and an unmarried woman – a contract in which the duration of marriage and the dowry are specified in advance. Both sides agree by mutual consent to the length of the marriage, which can range from an hour to 99 years.

There is no divorce; the muta contract simply expires with the lapse of its duration. Although witnesses are not required, the marriage has to be registered in court. Unlike in an ordinary, permanent marriage (how many really are permanent?), a temporary wife cannot claim maintenance. But a temporary husband cannot disown the children born from a muta marriage. Children of temporary marriages are considered legitimate, and are entitled to equal status in inheritance and other rights with their half- siblings born of permanent marriages.

This type of marriage existed in the time of the Prophet Muhammad, but it was banned by Umar, the second caliph, and later abandoned by most schools of Islamic law. However, “Twel ver” Shias, who predominate in Iran and Iraq, disagree with the rest of the Muslim world. They argue that it is not only a legitimate institution sanctioned by Islamic law, but essential for a society’s sexual health. Since the “Islamic Revolution” of 1979, the Iranian regime has promoted muta vigorously, extolling its virtues in mosques and schools, at religious gatherings, in news papers and on radio and television.

On the whole, critics look down on the idea of temporary marriage. Sunni Muslims of my ilk see it as “impulsive sex”, not too far removed from adultery and “fornication”. And western critics, particularly feminists, equate muta with prostitution. I disagree. Indeed, I think these attitudes reflect our hypocrisy about sexual issues.

Muta, which means pleasure, is Iran’s way of catching up with western sexual mores. The average person in the west goes through scores of temporary boyfriends and girlfriends before settling down with a single, permanent partner. That, I would argue, is little more than temporary marriage. Indeed, if it was a proper muta marriage it would save oceans of tears and heartache.

Our celebs could make everyone’s lives that much easier if they took muta marriage seriously. If they marched their newest acquisition to the nearest mullah court, we would know exactly how long the latest affair would last. Moreover, we would be assured that any fruit of this tem porary union would be looked after by the man responsible and would not be a burden on the woman when she was ditched in favour of another, usually even younger, model – thus sparing us any acrimonious future lawsuits and embarrassing DNA tests.

There is, of course, always a chance that a temporary marriage turns into a permanent one. As Shahla Haeri revealed in her 1989 book, Law of Desire (published in the UK by I B Tauris), many muta contracts in Iran are transformed into permanent, loving relationships. Contrary to popular myth, it is usually not men but women, particularly divorcees and widows, who seek muta marriage. Haeri’s extensive survey showed that many older women approached “young men, particularly handsome ones, directly and frequently”. I think that where Iranian women lead, western women should follow.

As far as Iranian men are concerned, temporary marriage has been largely the preserve of the mullahs. This is why those seeking muta marriages have tended to go straight to Qom and Mashad, two popular and important religious centres in Iran, where eager religious scholars can be seen wandering the streets, muta contracts in hand, enticing visiting women to sign them. However, this mullah monopoly, I am glad to report, is about to be shattered.

This year, the Iranian interior ministry has launched a huge campaign to encourage the country’s frustrated youth to seek sexual fulfilment in muta marriages. Roughly half of Iran’s 70 million folk are under the age of 30. An increasing number are delaying marriage because of financial pressures and house prices, thereby missing out on sex. Soon, these young people will become serially monogamous, hopping from temporary partner to temporary partner. Iran will have caught up with the west; and we will all be happy.

Meanwhile, if you get a valentine card from Iran this year, don’t bin it. Take it seriously. And if you are not fortunate enough to get one, get a muta partner anyway.

One thought on “And Then So Clear”

  1. This reminds me of an imagined future for the USA seen in Marge Pearcy’s : Woman on the Edge of Time.

    Marriage with a set time might actually be a sensible idea really. It can help deal with the growing collapse of marriages of people who don’t understand the institution (thinks of own divorce!)

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