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Monthly Archives: December 2014

People who are sensitive to other people’s feeling and try to not hurt them often don’t need to consciously try to be “p.c.” Occasionally, because I can’t always anticipate how other people feel, I make mistakes, but generally I don’t like to make people feel bad about themselves. (Admittedly, I think Joachim Phoenix does not read my blog. If he did I would be much more tactful.) Not only do I not make fun of people who are members of groups that I’ve been taught are politically marginalized, I don’t make fun of overweight people, short men, ugly people, people who are missing teeth, or any of the variety of traits that often make people feel bad about themselves.

I am hairy.

I’m half tempted to turn off the comments because the last time I brought this up I had several people say insensitive things. Yesterday, in a comment thread elsewhere, I read a comment in which a man made fun of hairy women.

I was born with very dark hair and very light skin. Worse yet, my skin is very delicate, having bad reactions to a wide variety of things. I have to be careful about what soaps I buy and what laundry detergents I use. I stay out of the sun. There’s really not much I can do about that. I’ve tried. I’ve tried different lotions and other things. The best solution is simply to avoid things that irritate my skin.

My hair, on the other hand, can take a real beating. I can bleach it, dye it, perm it, blow it dry, set it in curlers and it still looks soft and healthy. I have no idea how long it could grow. I’ve had it long enough to be able to sit on it. It grows quickly, too. This is great on my head, but on the rest of my body it’s undesirable.

Because it’s dark, it’s highly visible. I’ve seen blondes who appear to have body hair that’s denser than mine, but it’s harder to see. Because my skin is sensitive, I am limited in ways of removing it. Because it grows quickly, I have to do it often. On top of all that, I’m prone to ingrown hairs. This is not a small thing. I once wound up in the hospital because an ingrown hair had gotten infected. I had to have intravenous antibiotics. This is one of the very few health problems I’ve had in my life. I stopped shaving my legs after that. I tried waxing. That caused even more ingrown hairs. Chemical depilatories burn my skin before it affects the hair.

When I talk to other women, I get the feeling that I am slightly less inclined than average to be interested in my appearance. I am not entirely uninterested, but I don’t enjoy spending lots of time worrying about my hair or painting my nails. It bores me quickly. I’d much rather do something else with my time. However, I don’t want to be alone. I like sex. I would like to have much more sex than I am currently having. Currently, I’m a little bit lonely and very sexually frustrated. Men, however, will not be interested in me unless I spend a lot more time and money on my appearance than I would if I followed my own inclinations.

In the interests of making myself desirable to men, I have spent a hell of a lot of time, and way to much money, trying to get rid of body hair. Finally, I got the laser hair removal, a very expensive and time-consuming process, done on my legs. I still have to shave under my arms and I haven’t yet come up with a solution for the pubic area.

Women are no better than men in this regard. They make fun of me, too.

I am alone and I don’t want to be alone. Men don’t have to remind me that I’m too unattractive to be loved. I know that every night of my life.

Sometimes going on the internet feels like I’m opening myself up to emotional abuse that I don’t otherwise get in my daily life. Men on the internet seem to think that comments making fun of traits they find unappealing is normal behavior. Sometimes, I take breaks from the internet for no other reason than this.

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Inherent Vice inherently sucks. It is painfully boring, with the emphasis on painful. The lights came up and I thought to myself, “What? That was only two and a half hours? Christ, it seemed so much longer than that.” Since I already wasted far too much of my life watching this piece of crap and the last thing the internet needs is another self-regarding movie critic, I don’t know how much time I want to waste writing about this. However, as a public service announcement, I am telling you to steer clear.

First of all, let me get a couple of things out of the way. There are a lot of critics out there who have given good reviews and have implied or stated outright that people who don’t love this movie are insufficiently intellectual or sophisticated. Really? Go to hell, you pretentious twits!

I went to go see this movie because I like Thomas Pynchon, I’ve enjoyed other movies by Anderson, the tone of the trailer looked like it was going to be a lot of manic fun, the cast looked impressive, I’m a big fan of film noir and hard-boiled detective novels and I’m secretly in love with Benicio Del Toro.

  • Joachim Phoenix is the least sexy man in Hollywood.
  • None of the characters have enough of an inner life to give a shit about them.
  • The plot is difficult to follow, which wouldn’t itself be so bad, but since you don’t give a shit about the characters you don’t know why you’re bothering.
  • There’s an Asian prostitute named Jade. Okay, I get it. He’s playing on a cliche and I’m not enough of a killjoy to start yelling racism. But, damn, if you’re going to put that shit up on screen, you had better make it work.
  • The couple of attempts at subversive sexual humor were so lame that my seventy-something former English teacher mother yawned. If you think the “Pussy Eater Special” is naughty, you’re really lame.
  • Your respect for The Big Lebowski will be markedly increased.
  • You’ll feel really bad for the actors, except for the Asian prostitute who should have known better.
  • Did I mention that Joachim Phoenix is not sexy? No, I mean I can’t imagine any woman actually wanting to fuck him. I guess that’s why it’s called fiction.
  • Benicio Del Toro’s role is not big enough.
  • In fact, no one’s role is big enough except Joachim Phoenix’s, and he’s really boring.
  • There are large blocks of narration by a minor character which make you wish you were listening to the book on tape. Or maybe just reading the book.
  • I’m afraid to mention that Josh Brolin does a good job because you might think that means that this movie has redeeming qualities. It cannot be redeemed.
  • The highlight of the movie is the female character, if character is an appropriate word for an empty body with no inner life, pinches her nipple. Despite her fabulous body, the scene is oddly unsexy.
  • Most of the male actors seem strangely old for their roles.

Instead of seeing this movie, get yourself a bag of pot and a porn magazine and spend the evening masturbating. It will a hell of a lot more fun, and emotionally deeper as well.

 

A few days ago, Bill O’Reilly declared himself the winner in the “War on Christmas” that he made up.

“I won the ‘War on Christmas!'” he said. “I’ve been doing this for about 10 years and this is the only year we have not had a store that commanded its employees not to say ‘Merry Christmas.'”

Since I would be very happy for O’Reilly to stop this silliness, please don’t tell him, but since I’ve read that I’ve had people in just about every store I’ve entered wish me Happy Holidays. I was buying a wreath and they guy who sold it to me wished me a “Happy Holiday” as I was walking away.

My sister’s boss, was teasing her and said to her before leaving work the other day, “Merry Christmas, or should I say, ‘”Have a nice day.'”

My mother will now go and enact our annual ritual that we call the “watching of the movie.” Have a nice day, every one!

cheese, chocolate, biscotti, liquor, and eggnog arranged on a table.

I haven’t drawn in a long time and I really don’t know why. So, I just tried mucking around a bit. I didn’t set out to draw anything in particular. Unsurprisingly, considering what I tend to draw, it developed into something that resembled a figure. It’s not really finished, but since I probably won’t finish it, I thought I’d put it up.reclining figure

A few weeks ago, I was putzing about on the internet when I came across an article that upended my mental image of Saudis. I suppose I had never given it much thought, but my image of Saudi Arabia includes men in long white gowns and women in flowing black abayas. It never occurred to me to wonder about the origin of these clothes or whether or not Saudis had always dressed in this fashion. Then I read,

Until the seventies, women here were free to wear almost whatever they wanted. Bedouin women wore bright clothes and burqas, the parting of their hair and their kohl-lined eyes left exposed. The women of the city donned their abayas, the fabric drawn in around their waists. The Arab women wore their colored hejabs, and the non-Muslim women dressed modestly and without a veil.

The women in my father’s village, Tarfa, to the north-west of Mecca, wore bright clothes with pink and white scarves wrapped around their heads and necks. Like the Bedouins, they left their faces and the parting of their hair exposed.

This description, written by Manal al Sharif, a women’s rights activist in Saudi Arabia, led me to some more poking around online, and I highly recommend that you take a look at The Museum of Saudi Arabian Costume Online by the Mansoojat Foundation. It shows some of the varied, and often colorful, clothes al Sharif described.

Al Sharif continues:

This all changed when the state-supported wave of religious fanaticism struck our society. The black abaya and facial covering was imposed on all female government employees, and on schools and universities. And the black hejab was imposed on all non-Saudi women, regardless of their religion or creed.

I had some vague sense that Muslim women were not so heavily veiled when I was a child, but the Muslim population here in the United States was so small at that time, I really couldn’t be sure how representative the handful of people I had met might be. However, the sense that this is a phenomenon that has occurred within my lifetime has received confirmation from people who are more familiar with the subject.

I don’t have the book on hand, so I must report from memory, but in Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s memoir, Infidel, she describes the colorful clothes Somali women wore in her early childhood. Older photographs of Somalia indeed include many images of women whose arms and necks are frequently uncovered. Islam arrived in Somalia in the seventh century and over ninety-nine percent of the country is Muslim, so it can be presumed that these bare armed, and sometimes bare headed, women from the past considered themselves Muslims.

Orhan Pamuk’s novel Snow takes place in Turkey, a country which is officially secular and whose population is mostly Muslim. In the novel, the main character has returned to Turkey to write about a spate of suicides by young women who choose to wear headscarves, which were, until recently, banned in Turkish schools. Obviously from the description of the plot, some women wear headscarves and some don’t. Although the women wearing the headscarves seem to be more religious, beyond simply being devout, they support a political version of Islam. In reality, outside of the novel, conflicts between the officially secular government of Turkey and religiously conservative women who choose to wear headscarves has been increasing since the seventies.

In a description of yet another group of Muslims and their manner of dress in the past, Kenan Malik, in Multiculturalism and Its Discontents, describes how his parents’ generation, first generation Muslim immigrants living in the UK, most of whom came from the Indian subcontinent, “were pious in their faith, but wore it lightly.” “No woman wore a hijab, let alone a niqab or a burqa.” His own generation, he describes as being secular.

So, it seems to me, that the association between the hijab, the scarf that covers the neck and ears and reveals nothing but the face, is not quite as “traditional” as those of us who are not Muslims are liable to see it and that the increase in its visibility is related to the rise Islamic fundamentalism that began in the seventies known as the Islamic Revival or Islamic Awakening and is associated with the political movmement Islamism and parallel social movements known as Islamization or re-Islamization.
It is ironic that the headscarf has become a symbol of Islam for many people because there is a good indication that it arose, not from Islam or Arabic cultures, but from Jewish and Christian cultures. According to Wikipedia:

Veiling, however, did not originate with the advent of Islam. Statuettes depicting veiled priestesses precede all three Abrahamic religions (Christianity, Judaism, and Islam), dating back as far as 2500 BCE. Some scholars postulate that the customs of veiling and seclusion of women in early Islam were assimilated from the conquered Persian and Byzantine societies and then later on they were viewed as appropriate expressions of Quranic norms and values. Elite women in ancient Mesopotamia and in the Byzantine, Greek, and Persian empires wore the veil as a sign of respectability and high status…. Veiling was thus a marker of rank and exclusive lifestyle, subtly illustrating upper-class women’s privilege over women in lower classes in the Assyrian community. …

Strict seclusion and the veiling of matrons were in place in Roman and Byzantine society as well. Between 550 and 323 B.C.E, prior to Christianity, respectable women in classical Greek society were expected to seclude themselves and wear clothing that concealed them from the eyes of strange men…. Like in Assyrian law, respectable women were expected to veil and low-class women were forbidden from partaking in the practice. By the 5th and 6th centuries, societies of the Mediterranean Middle East were dominated by Christian and some Jewish populations. At the inception of Christianity, Jewish women were veiling the head and face. …. The Christian church’s attitude towards sex as shameful was focused most intensely on the shamefulness of the female body, which had to be totally concealed. As the prominent scholar, Leila Ahmed states, “Whatever the cultural source or sources, a fierce misogyny was a distinct ingredient of Mediterranean and eventually Christian thought in the centuries immediately preceding the rise of Islam.”

…Veiling gradually spread to upper-class Arab women, and eventually it became widespread among Muslim women in cities throughout the Middle East. It gradually spread among urban populations, becoming more pervasive under Ottoman rule as a mark of rank and exclusive lifestyle. Women in rural areas were much slower to adopt veiling because the garments interfered with their work in the fields.

As someone from the United States, and whose knowledge of history reflects that, it is sorely tempting to make generalizations to try to make sense of this diverse array of cultures and traditions without having to read several history books on each of the many countries with significant Muslim populations. While there are some recurring themes, there are also significant differences which should not be overlooked. Whereas young women in Turkey have been fighting, successfully, to wear a headscarf while at school or in public employment, and many Muslim women in countries where Muslims are not a majority emphasize that no one forces them to wear it, Norhayati Kaprawi, a filmmaker from Malaysia, made a documentary on the subject. In Malaysia, the headscarf is called a “tudung.”

The pressure to wear one is a dominant theme: “I think this conformity is the most dominating factor on why women in Malaysia wear a tudung,” Shamsul Amri Bahruddin, director of the Institute of Ethnic Studies at the National University of Malaysia, tells Ms. Norhhayati, adding that those who don’t can expect to hear from the lady next door every day, saying “you will go to hell or your hair will be burnt in hell.” Often, he adds, the women don’t understand the Quranic verses surrounding the reason for the hijab.

Indeed, at times it seems wearing it has little to do with religion. Nik Aziz Nik Hassan, former head of the Dakwa (missionary) department at National University of Malaysia, tells Ms. Norhayati, “In the late 1960s, Nik Mohamad Salleh, the son of a Kelantanese mufti (Islamic scholar)… was really against the imposition of tudung on Malay women. However he was not against the wearing of tudung. It is up to women’s own taste and style…. He opposed the claim that women who do not wear tudung are not faithful Muslims and are un-Islamic.”

It is so tempting to try to ease our way out of this large mound of facts by imposing on reality a meta-narrative we already know, East vs. West, Men vs. Women, or which ever one makes us the most comfortable, the end of the Cold War, the dissolution of the European Empires, class conflict, religion vs. modernity, and so on. All of those elements are in there, but to become too reliant on any one narrative requires ignoring inconvenient facts.

This was the train of thought I followed when I read about the hashtag illridewithyou. In a post that was critical of hashtag activism, Michael Luciano wrote:

The origin of the hashtag campaign — #illridewithyou — was born of a humblebrag on social media in which “Sydney resident Rachael Jacobs wrote on Facebook that she had seen a woman on the train remove her headscarf and offered to walk with her.” Subsequently, users of the hashtag “offered to travel on public transit with those in Islamic dress who felt insecure.”

Rachel Jacobs told the story herself in The Brisbane Times.

She was on a train in Brisbane looking at her phone to find out information about the hostage situation which was happening in Sydney.

At this point I saw a woman on the train start to fiddle with her headscarf.

Confession time. In my Facebook status, I editorialised.

We’ll skip for the time being that Jacobs doesn’t understand the meaning of the word editorialise.

What she wrote on her Facebook page was:

….and the (presumably) Muslim woman sitting next to me on the train silently removes her hijab (ellipsis hers)

As she makes it clear in her newspaper story, she heightened the effect the interaction in her Facebook update. That the woman was sitting at the other end of the carriage rather than next to her doesn’t change the interaction significantly.

By sheer fluke, we got off at the same station, and some part of me decided saying something would be a good thing. Rather than quiz her about her choice of clothing, I thought if I simply offered to walk her to her destination, it might help.

It’s hard to describe the moment when humans, and complete strangers, have a conversation with no words. I wanted to tell her I was sorry for so many things – for overstepping the mark, for making assumptions about a complete stranger and for belonging to a culture where racism was part of her everyday experience.
But none of those words came out, and our near silent encounter was over in a moment.

Her second Facebook status reported that the woman hugged her for about a minute. If that was her response, then it would seem that her assumptions were probably correct. I confess that I don’t understand how a person can be aware that they are making assumptions, be aware that those assumptions can be wrong and still have the confidence to run after that person shouting at her what she should do. She’s very fortunate she did not make the woman feel mortified.

Strangely, this story put me in mind of a friend of mine who was a theist, not Muslim, but Christian, an Episcopalian of the ecumenical sort. Once upon a time he believed in God but thought that many forms of worship were equally valid. He had the misfortune to witness the collapse of the World Trade Center towers first hand. He felt that if that was what worshiping God could make a person do, he didn’t want to belong to that group of people. During the course of the following year, he would become a flat-out atheist, but it started with feeling uncomfortable being a theist.

Who knows, maybe sitting on the train she had a crisis of faith.

In any case, the story led me to all sorts of thoughts about the assumptions we make.

Manal al Sharif, who wrote the article about the clothes of Saudi women, says that the state supported religious fanaticism “was exported out of Saudi Arabia by the power of the petrodollar. I remember the days of the Bosnian war (1992—1995), when Saudi Arabia sent convoys of aid to those besieged in Sarajevo. The people in charge of the convoys distributed the hejab to the besieged women along with the cartons of food.”

Well, I just had a thought and I’d like to run it by everyone. This isn’t a well-developed idea, just something that was running through my mind as I was making that second cup of coffee.

Now, if anyone is actually happy with the Sunday Assemblies and similar concepts, keep on going to them. I know I’ve mocked them, but at some level I just have to admit they are simply not to my taste. Enough people have made similar gripes, so I’m pretty sure I’m not alone. It occurred to me that maybe we should take a page out of the practices of a different religious group.

Christian Scientists make skeptics more than a bit irate due to their position on medicine, and I’m sure that the fact that I’ve borrowed the idea from Christian Scientists will not thrill anyone. First, I would like to mention that I have a few close personal friends who are Christian Scientists and, except for their position on medicine, they’re not any crazier than any other believers. It might also be worth adding here that they don’t actually believe in faith healing. Christian Science was related to the Transcendental Movement. For those of you who are not from the U.S., Transcendentalism was a religious movement that arose in the United States in the nineteenth century. You can see its very American nature in its emphasis on individualism and self-reliance. Originally it grew out of Unitarianism and incorporated elements of Idealism, Romanticism, Swedenborgianism and Hinduism. A variety of American religious and philosophical movements grew out of Transcendentalism.

The aspect of Christian Science that I think could be very useful for atheists, agnostics, skeptics and related groups is the Christian Science Reading Room. If you live in the U.S., you’ve almost certainly walked by one. It is seen as a public service and is both a library and a bookstore.

They were created to provide both a quiet place for reading, study and prayer and a means for the public to come into contact with Christian Science.

I think this idea would be especially amenable for atheism. Were it ever created, I would hope that we could follow our own principles about “free-thought” and not be too terribly narrow in what we included.

Any thoughts on this?

I’ve got a big day ahead, so I’m just going to write a quick post to announce that my little media box seems to be working. Yesterday, I was up to my eyeballs in computer parts. I woke up this morning to realize that I’m now up to my eyeballs in empty boxes. Sissy and Mum are coming tonight and taking me out to a play for my birthday this weekend, so I’ve got to wrangle the boxes and get them to the garbage/recycling, give the apartment a quick, lazy-ass cleaning, do a grocery store run for coffee and maybe a nice Chablis for Sis (No promises!) and then clean myself up so I can greet them looking as relaxed and cool as Ginger Rodgers in high heels going backwards.

The good news, is that the hardware of my HTPC appears to be working. I’ve installed XMBCbuntu, which is the Kodi media playing software, which was formerly called XMBC, which comes already set up on the Lubuntu operating system, which is a lightweight version of Ubuntu, which is an easy to use distribution of Linux, which is an open source operating system. Got it? Actually, it’s pretty easy to get since it’s free. Link: Kodi.

After the weekend is over, I’ll explain in more detail what I did in case it’s helpful for anyone else.

My new apartment in New York is about half the size of the last apartment. If you know anything about New York City, especially Manhattan, space is always at a premium unless you’re a multimillionaire. Nothing is as unrealistic in movies as the size of an apartment in New York. Besides the fact that everything is more glamorous in the movies, it’s probably next to impossible to actually shoot any footage in a typical New York apartment. We’d have movies where we saw nothing but the actor’s nose for two hours!

My current apartment is smaller than my last New York apartment as well. In fact, it’s probably smaller than anyplace I’ve lived since I had that basement apartment when I was nineteen. Don’t get me wrong. I like the apartment, and there are a few fortunate things, like an elevator in the building – and a bagel shop that opens at six in the morning on both Saturday and Sunday. Still, I’m doing my best to make efficient use of space. To that end, I’ve designed a bookshelf to fit inside a closet in the living room. The closet has sliding doors and I intend to take the doors off and stash them on either side of the bookshelf.A bookshelf drawn using SketchUp.The shelf was designed using pipe fittings. It was partly inspired by a desk I saw on the Simplified Building website. Here’s another inspiring desk project. If my bookshelf project goes well, I might follow it up by making a custom desk for myself.

The second shelf, which has a relatively small height about it, was sized to hold an HTPC for which I plan on choosing the components today. One gripe I’ve had since the advent of MP3s is that I haven’t had a convenient way to listen to music. For older things, I’ve been using my old audio system, but it seems that the stereo receiver I bought when I had my first apartment at nineteen has finally decided to give up the ghost. I’ll use the HTPC mainly for playing music. If anyone has built one and has any suggestions or tips I’d love to hear them. I probably won’t sign up for a streaming service right away, but I’d at least like it to be a possibility. At this juncture in time, I don’t know where the technology for music is going to go.

I’ll let everyone know how this projects go. I hope to have the bookshelf and computer completed so I can play so music when my family comes over during the holidays.

Okay, I’m an adult woman, a serious, intellectual type person. I don’t want to admit that I play games. It’s even more embarrassing to admit that I’ve paid money to play games. You know, I’m supposed to be spending my money on having my vulva waxed, or something like that. You know, paying a hundred bucks to lie back with my legs spread and screaming while a stranger who doesn’t speak English rips several hundred hairs out by their roots at a go, and does that for about twenty minutes. All that so I will be qualified to allow some stinky guy in t-shirt with a day old beard come in my mouth while he looks at pictures at younger, prettier, thinner women.

Yes, I’m getting a little obsessed with getting laid again. I know, you’re all bracing yourselves. It’s okay. I’m not depressed. I just refuse to lie about it. I want to get laid. I don’t want to spend lots of money or time worrying about my appearance. I know some guys will say, then what do you expect? True enough, but then don’t give me any of that Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus crap about how men want sex and women don’t. Don’t give me any of that crap about how nice guys can’t get laid. If you’re willing to put your cock inside a hairy pussy and will be minimally polite about a woman’s appearance while doing it, you can get laid. If you want a twenty year old starlet to dance all around you while you do nothing to even get her aroused, yeah, you can’t get laid.

Anywhooo… I thought I might distract myself from my lousy sex life by playing a game.

I had some technical problems and the game wouldn’t launch, so I went online to look for a solution. Now, I never got past this screen, but it stopped this grumpy old bitch in her tracks.

ten cartoonish images of men.Maybe I’ll go amuse myself by masturbating.

 

One interesting thing about writing down my memories slowly and online, is that I am confronted by the assumptions people make based on their own experiences and some of the assumptions I make based on mine. For instance, I didn’t realize how “white bread” many people assume the United States to be. Meanwhile, I assume it is a “nation of immigrants” and that, if I say that I grew up in an ordinary suburban town in New Jersey, everyone will assume that there was an ethnic and religious mix. To me, that is ordinary.

However, the towns around New York are occasionally associated with one group or another. This doesn’t negate what I said about pluralism. For instance, Bergenfield, New Jersey, is sometimes known as “Little Manila” due to the concentration of Filipinos. According to Wikipedia, about seventeen percent of the population is of Filipino descent. So, in this area, a concentration doesn’t mean any sort of exclusivity. The town where I lived when I was in grammar school and junior high school was known for having a concentration of Jews. This means that many of my childhood friends were Jewish, including my best friend, the first boy I kissed, and so on. It’s hard to describe without making it sound more interesting to me than it was. When you’re a child, you just accept things as a matter of course. This, to me, is just the way the world is. There are people of different backgrounds in it, and they’re your neighbors. So, when I was in seventh grade and the local synagogue was vandalized, it wasn’t just an attack on Jews, but an attack on my friends and an attack on our town. It drove home the point, in a profound, emotional way, that antisemitism exists and is real.

When you grow up in a pluralistic town, accommodating other people becomes second nature. My mother would get two sets of cards, one that said “Merry Christmas” and another that said “Happy Holidays.” Our school would have a “seasonal” music recital around mid-December. Typically, we’d have one obviously Christian song, one obviously Jewish song, and the rest would be songs about winter or “holidays.” Going easy on the obviously Christian iconography in public places like the school was not meant to accommodate atheists, but to be inclusive to Jews. This also helped relations among Protestants, Catholics, other Christian sects, as well as the small number of Buddhists and Taoists. I’m tempted to say that we had no Muslims or Hindus in our town, but part of the point of having a secular society that downplays religion in the public sphere is that I can’t even tell you for certain. Again, it’s hard to communicate how uninteresting this was to me. There was no sense of making an effort to do this. You had friends who were different religions and you wouldn’t want them to feel uncomfortable, just like you wouldn’t say rude things on other topics that might make them uncomfortable. I wouldn’t think it was even worth mentioning, except it seems that other people didn’t grow up this way.

When I first heard about Bill O’Reilly’s “War on Christmas,” I actually was shocked that someone on television would be promoting something so obviously antisemitic. You see, I didn’t hear this as an attack on “secularists,” and I still think it’s mainly antisemitic. Greedy merchants who want to take your money but won’t say “Merry Christmas,” what is that if it’s not a nasty stereotype of Jews?

Many atheists who come from Christian families still celebrate some version of Christmas. After all, my mother was a non-believer sending cards that said “Merry Christmas” to her friends. She wouldn’t send any of the deeply religious one with bible verses, but a Christmas tree, Santa Claus, even an angel were all fine with her. We put up a tree. We exchange presents. We used to eat a big ham until my sister and mother became vegetarians. (Yes, yes, Sis. I know. You’re not really a vegetarian; you just don’t eat meat.) We don’t have a problem with Christmas; it’s people from ethnic groups that were never Christian to begin with that have a problem with Christmas.

A while back, Hemant Mehta put up a post about a woman getting an anonymous note telling her that her Christmas display was tacky. Mehta wrote:

We don’t know if the letter-writer (and I’m assuming there really was a letter-writer here) was an atheist, but it looks that way.

However, the incident reminded me of something that happened to my sister. Shortly after she moved into her current home, one of her neighbors stopped by. Now, my sister is frequently taken for Jewish. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s the New Jersey accent. Her neighbor said to her, “Whenever someone new moves in and they put up Christmas lights, we say, ‘There goes the neighborhood.'” Although it was unspoken, in the context it was obvious that she was referring to the Jewish character of the neighborhood and has mistaken my sister for Jewish.*

I guess I’m a goy who’s a bit too steeped in Jewish subculture, because when I read Mehta’s post, some things stuck out to me that Mehta seemed to miss. First of all, the tenor of the criticism, “cheap”, “tacky”, “bad taste,” said to me that there was a cultural aspect beyond religion to this. The other thing that leaped out at me was the location, Newton, Massachusetts. Upper West Side, Lower East Side, Williamsburg, Englewood, the aforementioned Bergenfield, Short Hills, Pikesville, Brookline, and, you guessed it, Newton, Massachusetts. According to Wikipedia:

Newton, along with neighboring Brookline, is known for its considerable Jewish and Asian populations. The Jewish population is estimated at roughly 28,000, about one-third of the total population.

We need to stop giving into the framing of the Christianists. We all know that there’s no “War on Christmas.” There’s a war on pluralism that was started by the Christianists. Let’s call it what it is.

This long rant was originally meant to be a short introduction to the following video. Since many of my internet friends acquaintances are non-believers, I thought you’d all get a kick out of this. If you like it, stop by the original post and give Michael Luciano some love. (Warning: The Daily Banter is now metered, so if you go to that page you won’t be able to look at anything else on that site until tomorrow.)

Another code for “Jewish”: Hollywood.

* I’m always a bit hesitant to repeat this incident. As I said before, I’m very aware of real antisemitism and I’d hate to write anything that feeds into it, even unintentionally. Therefore, I’d like to add that this incident, like that anonymous letter in Newton, is rare.