Friday, December 29, 2006


The imam began to talk about religious doctrine, explaining which local jobs were haram. “If you’re a drinks waiter, you’re poisoning people—that’s haram. But if you’re just clearing dishes it’s O.K.” He went on, “People in Somalia like plays and concerts. But every concert is no good, especially when they talk about love and sex. You are waking up the population. Big band is not allowed in Islam. The big drum, saxophone, trombone, xylophone—Satan created those things.”

Other Somalis in Lewiston take a less puritanical view. The young social worker told me that when Somalis asked him whether it was haram, for example, to deliver a pizza with a bacon topping, he told them to worry about keeping their jobs...


For some, religiosity is a reaction to cultural dislocation. One Somali college
student I met who wears the hijab—in her case, an ankle-length black tunic, worn over pants, and a scarf, covering everything but her face and hands—told me that she had begun to do so only six years ago. She spoke immaculate Gen Y English and could knowledgeably discuss hip-hop videos one moment and, in the next, citing the Prophet Muhammad, argue that music is haram. (“It deadens the heart,” she said.) For her, living in a non-Muslim country, she said, “My ethnicity is my anchor.”

Fatuma Hussein cast a kind of sidelong light on this issue when she described the shock that she felt on arriving in America. Having escaped the horrors of the civil war and spent years in a refugee camp in Kenya, she was resettled, first, in suburban Atlanta, where she was sent to an all-white high school. “And I tell you,” she said, “American high school is the cruellest place I’ve been.

- From New In Town: The Somalis of Lewiston, an article from the 11 Dec 2006 New Yorker about the adjustments of Somalis and residents of Lewiston, Maine, to a steady immigration of Somali families.

Definitions of haram on the Web:

forbidden, prohibited.

something that is forbidden to a Muslim, such as eating pork. (More serious than makruh).

anything that is unlawful or forbidden according to the Qur'an.

Definition from a define: haram Google search.

Thursday, December 28, 2006


Joanna Newsom is definitely an acquired taste. But once you settle into her world, you become addicted. She may caterwaul and screech her schwas, but for my money she has the most emotive voice going in music... a voice you can fall into like a well worn chair. Ys makes me feel as if I’m being physically lifted into the air -- the first album in a long while to evoke 'real world' sensations.

- From NPR Listeners Pick The Best CDs Of 2006. Joanna Newsom's Ys finished 6th, above Cat Power and below TV On The Radio.


Pronunciation: 'shwä
Function: noun
Etymology: German, from Hebrew schewA'
1 : an unstressed mid-central vowel (as the usual sound of the first and last vowels of the English word America)
2 : the symbol & used for the schwa sound and less widely for a similarly articulated stressed vowel (as in cut)

Definition from

More on schwa in Wiki and Random House's Maven's Word Of The Day.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006


I'm also struck by the almost extraterrestrial quality of otherness incarnated in this human being. James Brown is, by his own count, seventy-two years old. Biographers have suggested that three or four years ought to be added to that total. It's also possible that given the circumstances of his birth, in a shack in the woods outside Barnwell, South Carolina, in an environment of poverty and exile so profound as to be almost unimaginable, James Brown has no idea how old he is. No matter: He's in his midseventies, yet, encountering him now in person, it occurs to me that James Brown is kept under wraps for so long at the outset of his own show, and is viewed primarily at a distance, or mediated through recordings or films, in order to buffer the unprepared spectator from the awesome strangeness and intensity of his person. He simply has more energy, is vibrating at a different rate, than anyone I've ever met, young or old. With every preparation I've made, he's still terrifying.

James Brown sits, gesturing with his hand: It's time for playback. Mr. Brown and Mr. Bobbit sit in the two comfortable leather chairs, while the band members are bunched around the room, either seated in folding metal chairs or on their feet.

We listen, twice, to the take of "Hold On, I'm A-Comin'." James Brown lowers his head and closes his eyes. We're all completely silent. At last he mumbles faint praise: "Pretty good. Pretty good." Then, into the recording room. James Brown takes his place behind the mike, facing the band. We dwell now in an atmosphere of immanence, of ceremony, so tangible it's almost oppressive. James Brown is still contained within himself, muttering inaudibly, scratching his chin, barely coming out of himself. Abruptly, he turns to me.

"You're very lucky, Mr. ROLLING STONE. I don't ordinarily let anyone sit in on a session."

"I feel lucky," I say.

- From Being James Brown, a Rolling Stone interview by Jonathan Lethem.

–adjective 1. remaining within; indwelling; inherent.
2. Philosophy. (of a mental act) taking place within the mind of the subject and having no effect outside of it. Compare transeunt.
3. Theology. (of the Deity) indwelling the universe, time, etc. Compare transcendent (def. 3).

[Origin: 1525–35; < LL immanent- (s. of immanéns), prp. of immanére to stay in, equiv. to im- im-1 + man(ére) to stay + -ent- -ent; see remain]

—Related forms
im·ma·nence, im·ma·nen·cy, noun
im·ma·nent·ly, adverb

- Definition from

Friday, December 22, 2006


Later, it took Christians seven hundred years to decide what they meant when they said that Jesus was the Son of God. By this time, Christianity was no longer a Jewish faith and Greek speakers did not understand these Jewish terms correctly, so many people were confused.

Eventually the East and West evolved two entirely different notions of Jesus. In the West, Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury evolved one notion of Jesus during the eleventh century. The sin of Adam had been so great that only a God could atone for it; but because God was just, he knew that a man, who was responsible, had to atone. Hence God decided to become human and died to save the world. The Greek Orthodox did not like this idea, because they felt that it made God weigh things up like a human being; it was too anthropomorphic: God transcends this type of limited human thinking. And there is also something abhorrent about God sending his son to die a horrible death as a human sacrifice ~ I think.

So the Greek Orthodox, who don’t really believe in the Original Sin theory, evolved a more Buddhist notion of Jesus. The idea was first stated by Maximus the Confessor (c. 580-662). He did not believe that Jesus came to earth to save us from our sins. This would have happened even if Adam had not sinned. Jesus was the first fully deified human being; he surrendered to God so completely that the divine infused his entire being, through and through, in the process of theosis (“deification”). And we can all be like him; we can all be deified too if we give up our egotism and greed ~ even in this life.

It is similar to the Buddhist notion of Siddhatta Gotama, the Buddha. He was the first fully enlightened human being in our historical era; he is so closely identified with Nirvana that when we look at him ~ composed, peaceful, in control, compassionate ~ we see what the inexpressible Nirvana can be in human terms. And we all have the capacity to achieve Nirvana ourselves -- even in this life.

- Karen Armstrong, in her contribution to the Washington Post's discussion On Faith.

Theosis, meaning deification or divinization, is the process of man becoming holy and being united with God, beginning in this life and later consummated in the resurrection. Theosis is the understanding that humans from the beginning are made to share in the life of the Trinity. Therefore, we are saved from sin for participation in the life of the Trinity, which is life-giving and therefore eternal

Definition from OrthodoxWiki.


Under "Miller, Henry" Laughlin aptly notes that the author of Tropic of Cancer"resembled the clerk in our rural general store and was equally loquacious." Nabokov's princely hauteur is captured perfectly in three sentences: "He had [his wife] Vera write his terse little letters to me. He would force a smile for me sometimes but it was a long-ways-away smile. The real smile was still on the flatcar that was transporting his grandfather's carriage and horses across Europe for the summer vacation at Biarritz." The young Tennessee Williams claimed never to travel anywhere without the poems of Hart Crane in his knapsack. In his workroom in Rapallo, Italy, Pound hung his pencils and scissors on strings from the ceiling so they would not get lost among his papers. The stately and aristocratic Edith Sitwell loved the work of rumbustious, multitude-embracing Walt Whitman.

- from Dirda's review of The Way It Wasnt: From the Files of James Laughlin.

SYLLABICATION: rum·bus·tious
ADJECTIVE: Uncontrollably exuberant; unruly: “Common to both his illustrations and his independent paintings . . . and lurking below their rumbustious surface, is a sympathy for the vulnerability of the ordinary human being” (Christopher Andreae).
ETYMOLOGY: Probably alteration of robustious (influenced by rambunctious).
OTHER FORMS: rum·bustious·ly —ADVERB
rum·bustious·ness —NOUN

- definition from The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4 ed.

Thursday, December 21, 2006


A rising mass movement attracts and holds a following not by its doctrine and promises but by the refuge it offers from the anxieties, barrenness and meaninglessness of an individual existence.


Where new creeds vie with each other for the allegiance of the populace, the one which comes with the most perfected collective framework wins. Of all the cults and philosophies which competed in the Graeco-Roman world, Christianity alone developed from its inception a compact organization. "No one of its rivals possessed so powerful and coherent a structure as did the church. No other gave its adherents quite the same feeling of coming into a closely knit community."...The National Socialist Movement, too, won out over all the other folkish movements which pullulated in the 1920's because of Hitler's early recognition that a rising mass movement can never go too far in advocating and promoting collective cohesion. He knew that the chief passion of the frustrated is "to belong," and that there cannot be too much cementing and binding to satisfy this passion.

- Eric Hoffer, The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements.

pul·lu·late [puhl-yuh-leyt]
–verb (used without object), -lat·ed, -lat·ing. 1. to send forth sprouts, buds, etc.; germinate; sprout.
2. to breed, produce, or create rapidly.
3. to increase rapidly; multiply.
4. to exist abundantly; swarm; teem.
5. to be produced as offspring.


[Origin: 1610–20; < L pullulātus (ptp. of pullulāre to sprout), deriv. of pullulus a sprout, young animal, dim. of pullus; see pullet]

—Related forms
pul·lu·la·tion, noun Unabridged (v 1.1)
Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2006.

- definition from