June 26th, 2024
“We women don’t wait for their permission to remove our hijab; right now already, many don’t wear hijab.”

The brave women of Iran keep at it, subverting the vile clerics and the even viler morality police through sheer force of numbers. Even some presidential candidates there are condemning the vicious, degrading treatment of women who hate the hijab and don’t want it anywhere near them or their daughters.

I mean, they really hate it. They are willing to be beaten and go to jail in order not to wear modesty caps and blankets. (‘On a recent afternoon in northern Tehran, women sat in cafes and other public places, as a police officer in his 50s told those passing by: “Please cover yourselves, ladies,” and then muttered audibly: “My God, I am fed up repeating this without getting any attention.”‘) A whole nasty regime with police and an army calls them whores and hunts them down and in response they say fuck you. All glory to these badasses.


And why do they hate them, UD? It’s just a tight bit of head cloth – plus a loose evil/sexy body blanket cover. What’s the big deal? You’re willing to go to jail for refusing it? To get humiliated and beaten in public? To be fined huge sums? To lose your car? Your job? REALLY?

Well, ok. Let’s start at the very beginning. A very good place to start. Historically, the women of Iran have had serious exposure to you’ll forgive the term freedom. They actually know – they have muscle memory of – what a non-theocratic, non-authoritarian world looks like, and that world is so attractive that nothing a bunch of withered old dicks wrapped in turbans throws at them is going to stick. In respectable countries, you can be a Muslim, an atheist, a Christian, or a warlock; your government doesn’t threaten you with incarceration if you don’t take mandated Intro Islamic Chastity and Virtue courses.

In respectable countries, you might prefer energetic erotic activity to C+V; in Iran, your frisky clit might find itself subject to FGM. Frisky Islamic Republic dicks have no trouble releasing themselves from thin jeans and going at it, and here you’ve been introduced to the concept of equality and all and you know it just seems pretty graphically unfair.

To go a bit deeper: Your self-image has nothing at all to do with hiding your beauty, your character, your individuality. You want to greet the world with as much self-assertion as men are able to, because that is who you are, not the hidden nothing the withered dicks dream about. They, to be sure, are dead. You are not.

The number of times I have heard Saudi women here, who are conditioned to believe that covering is an unquestionable issue, sigh as they watch uncovered women on TV and say لهم الدنبا ولنا الأخرة (they get the world and we get the afterlife).

April 6th, 2024
‘People who wanted a secular, liberal and modern Turkey felt trapped in a cycle of lethargy, as though in a variation of Beckett’s Waiting for Godot – stuck in sameness, repetition, waiting for democracy.’

As opposed to an inward-looking, navel-gazing, ultra-nationalist, ultra-religious, increasingly authoritarian and illiberal Turkey, the dream of a secular, democratic, pluralistic, inclusive and modern Turkey is still very much alive. [The incoming mayor of Istanbul posted:] “As we celebrate our victory, we send a resounding message to the world: the decline of democracy ends now. Istanbul stands as a beacon of hope, a testament to the resilience of democratic values in the face of rising authoritarianism.” … [In] these elections the proportion of locally elected women has almost tripled… [One new female mayor] was applauded enthusiastically by crowds chanting, “Women, life, freedom”, in an emotional reference to the plight of women in Iran… “The essential doesn’t change,” says one of the characters in Samuel Beckett’s play. But sometimes it might. 

Background here.

April 3rd, 2024
This is the face of the fight against fascism in America.

[Photo Michael Noble, Jr. NBC News]

Kristi Balden chairs Enid OK’s Social Justice Committee. It’s prob got like seven members, prob all of them women. (Enid’s only got around 50,000 people.) Not sure where the men of Enid are on the fight against fascism front.

When Balden discovered that a City Council member was as close to a card-carrying Nazi as you can get, she mobilized bigtime and put up with a lot of shit from a lot of townspeople, AND threw the fucker off the Council. Little Hitler (“I JUST CANT FEEL SAFE IF IM NOT PACKING AN AR WITH A 100 ROUND DRUM AND SPORTING MY SWASTIKA ARMBAND.”) just got voted out.

While UD sits on her ass and reads Timothy Snyder on the fight against fascism, Kristi Balden gets up and fights and wins against it. I salute her.

December 10th, 2023
“The mandatory hijab imposed by the government is neither a religious obligation nor a cultural tradition, but rather a means of maintaining authority and submission throughout society.”

Narges Mohammadi’s Nobel Peace Prize address.

November 19th, 2023
“Haley Says She Disagrees with Trump’s ‘Vermin’ Remark”

What political courage.

She even had the guts to clarify:

“I think he means well.”

Or, in the original German: “Ich denke, er meint es gut.”

September 19th, 2023
‘She had planned to retire this year before she was asked to serve as acting president.’

Temple’s acting president died of what sounds like a sudden heart attack during a university event today.

May 30th, 2023
Outrage, Enthusiasm: It doesn’t matter which one she provokes.

Her noose dress has done its job. Tons more people are talking about the increasingly bloody theocrats running Iran. Good on ya, Mahlagha Jaberi.

Here’s hoping images of your unfettered beauty reach the coerced hijabis of your home country.

May 29th, 2023
Update, Alternative Graduation Ceremony, New College Florida.

The event went off rather better than the hilarious DeSantis campaign launch. 90 of the school’s 119 graduates attended.


May 17th, 2023
“Islam forbids female circumcision.” 

This year’s Templeton Prize winner is an African woman who has made it her life’s work to destroy this scourge. Her against-all-odds life story is every bit as inspirational as you’d imagine. At age 85, she’s busy training hundreds of midwives at the hospital she founded.

March 30th, 2023
‘Ms. Bluestein hopes that the Vermont residency requirement will soon be lifted. She said she was glad she would not be “at cancer’s mercy” and could instead make her “own decisions about when I have had just about all I intend to take from this latest cancer.”’

Vermont is close to waiving in-state requirements for end of life medication.

March 10th, 2023
Georgia on My Mind.

Photo: Valeria Mongelli/AFP via Getty Images

[T]housands of Georgians took to the streets of the country’s capital Tbilisi for two days of protests, waving EU flags and facing down riot police armed with water cannons and tear gas. The contentious [now withdrawn] legislation would have required all organizations that receive more than 20 percent of their funding from abroad to register as foreign agents. The Georgian law was widely viewed as inspired by Vladimir Putin…



Georgia, Georgia
The whole day through
As you march toward
Your place in the EU

I said Georgia
Georgia, what joy I find
Freedom’s old sweet song
Keeps Georgia on my mind

Other arms reach out to you
Other eyes lie viciously
Still in peaceful crowds I see
The road leads back to you

February 26th, 2023
My friend Tanja wins the Order of Merit, Bukowina/Chernivtsi, for her work on behalf of Ukraine.

Her husband Chad stands with her.


February 26th, 2023
“Whether the [Iranian] government likes to admit it or not, … the era of the forced hijab is over.”

This NYT article from the streets of Tehran features photos of Iranian women routinely going about the city without the hijab which – thanks to the vicious mullahs running the joint – millions of citizens now actively hate. Nothing like jailing and killing women because of their headgear to make yourself real popular.

And don’t forget – it’s not just the hijab.

Iran’s hijab law mandates that women and girls over 9 cover their hair, and that they hide the curves of their bodies under long, loose robes.

So the regime seems to have caged the young males they used to let loose among the population to attack unswaddled women. Maybe the government will bring back the morality police and maybe they won’t; the nuts are now talking about “warning women by text message, denying them civic services or blocking their bank accounts.”

Well, the war against women will always rage in theocracies; whether it’s waged crudely by killing them, or suavely by stalking them and making it impossible for them to live a normal life, the predilection to torture women into one or another form of invisibility will always be the most noteworthy and enduring feature of fundamentalist religious states/organized groupings of any kind. Given the Iranian state’s vileness and its power (authorities are already going after this incredibly brave woman — get a load of the way she HURLS the hijab to the floor! Note the lusty cheers.), it’s astoundingly impressive the way millions of Iranian women are just saying fuck you come and get me.

February 3rd, 2023
Wang, Rachmaninoff

Virtuosity on this level, in material this ravishing, is elevating to witness — which is why, even after so many hours, I was left at the end feeling an exhilarated lightness. Like many others I saw, I drifted up the aisle and onto the street unable to stop smiling.

Does UD wish she’d been there? Sure. (She tried for a ticket long after it sold out.) Is she sure she would have stayed in her seat (well, there were intermissions) for all four and a half hours? Hm.


The ravished NYT reviewer offers some nice writing:

[H]er prevailing style is sprightly, which is why the concert didn’t feel like eating five slices of chocolate cake in a row…

Her pillowy chords at the close of the Second Concerto’s middle movement floated quietly into place…

This handful of measures painted a whole situation and personality: vulnerable, strong, searching but not lost...

A shivering hush in the first movement of the Third Concerto was like a snow in which Wang made soft footsteps with the palest chords.


Gevalt. Financial Times:

[T]icketless crowds … congregated on 7th Avenue, many bearing placards — “I need just one! I’ll pay anything!”

The audience staggered out into the Manhattan dusk, as one, all changed; all humbled; all grateful for that ticket.


Update: Further thoughts on the Wang phenomenon. For what it’s worth. And I’m only a reasonably informed amateur pianist. And more self-deprecating stuff like that.

I want to suggest that, counterintuitively, it’s Yuja Wang’s LACK of sensibility that lifts her above other pianists, who don’t typically produce crowds of people begging for tickets outside their venues.

When I watched my first Wang YouTube, I relaxed immediately into the knowledge that she simply would never hit a wrong key. Never. Not that I could hear.

I also relaxed in the face of her TOTAL absence of neurotic ego, as in Glenn Gould or V. Horowitz… With Horowitz, for instance, his immense sadness –his ashen features as he played even the most exuberant music — for me, it’s a one-note emotional experience, hearing him. He’s in it too much. Muddies the music.

And it’s not even fair, mentioning Gould.

But consider another, contemporary performer, a great pianist, and one with whom Wang has played duets: Khatia Buniatishvili. Close to the same technical virtuosity, to my ear. And I listen to her a lot. Howsomever…

There’s still the sense she conveys of what a heavy-weight experience it is, playing this stuff. Her features are usually squinched in a private angst as she plays. Which is okay… I mean, of course it’s authentic, and it conveys the poignancy of the sound and the challenge of generating it, etc. But it disallows the thing that allows the NYT critic to note not only Wang’s effortless production of many hours of difficult playing (plus encores); just as importantly, it allows him to say this:

[H]er prevailing style is sprightly, which is why the concert didn’t feel like eating five slices of chocolate cake in a row… Virtuosity on this level, in material this ravishing, is elevating to witness — which is why, even after so many hours, I was left at the end feeling an exhilarated lightness. Like many others I saw, I drifted up the aisle and onto the street unable to stop smiling.

Ungluttonous, elevating, light, drifting… Here is a pianist who generates in her audience, and I don’t want to get too-too about it, transcendence. She literally made an enormous roomful of people transcend the weight of being human (“It’s hard to be human,” as Tommy Raskin put it.), and they naturally craved that and stayed for that and drifted into the streets retaining that for as long as one can in the middle of Manhattan.

And just how does Yuja Wang take them there? She herself transcends the dull stupid particularity of being the human being she is while she plays. She is in the transcendent realm of beautiful complete expressivity and she’s simply really happy and grateful to be there. No complex sensibility at all; just delight. Michael Tilson Thomas

 liken[s] her to a racehorse.

“She wants to run; she wants to show everything she can do.”

People wept when Secretariat pulled away; and yes of course great artists aren’t in competition yadda yadda … But the reality is that the relaxation I felt in the first seconds of encountering Wang is about this insanely rare capacity she has to stand aside and let me inside too.

January 22nd, 2023
‘She said … in 2016: “If Hillary had won, I could have left. But I was not going to let Donald Trump have his way with the government.”’

I like the way she puts that. Have his way with the government.

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