It's a good thing.

I now live with both of my guys. The apartment is still rather chaotic, but we make steady improvement nearly every day. Before too long, I'll have a kitchen I can cook and do laundry in, actual light fixtures in all the ceilings (instead of weird bare-bulb holders), stuff more or less unpacked and organized, and excess paraphernalia given away on ToyTown. That means soon it'll be time to start planning a housewarming party!
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    content content

News of the new!

For those of you who aren't on Facebook or didn't see my post there, I've started blogging about my business-in-infancy over at Blogspot. Please share widely, especially with friends who are big ladies who have found shopping for clothing to be an immensely frustrating experience.

For those of you who aren't on Facebook because you're avoiding it like the plague, or are on Facebook but wish you weren't except you don't have anywhere better to go, it just so happens I have 150 invitations to that other new social networking site associated with that search engine that perial works for. Let me know if you want one; I'm all for seeing it grow and succeed!
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21st Century Anti-Muslim Ideology vs. 20th Century Anti-Jewish Ideology

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” -- George Santayana

I’m writing this the day after right-wing nationalist and anti-Muslim extremist Anders Behring Breivik (hereafter ABB) killed 7 of his fellow Norwegians with a fertilizer bomb parked in front of a government building, and then topped that atrocity by slaughtering 85 innocent youths at a left-wing summer camp. The Washington Times ran an exclusive article based on Facebook messages their source recently exchanged with ABB. His rhetoric reminded me uncomfortably in places of anti-Semitic rhetoric from the pre-WWII era, as did many historical parallels of the two situations.

“I’m from Oslo btw which [has] about 20% Muslims now. The Muslim ‘ghettofication process’ on the east side of my city is pretty radical. Most of these Muslims are religiously conservative non-educated individuals from NW Pakistan and Somalia which makes it even more challenging. The only positive aspect I guess is that they live in their own enclave (parallel society) with little to no interaction with Norwegian society.”

From the Wikipedia article “Ghetto”:

History: The term became more widely used for ghettos in occupied Europe in 1939-1944, when the Germans reused historic ghettos to confine Jews prior to their transportation to concentration and death camps during the holocaust.
The definition of "ghetto" still has a similar meaning, but the broader range of social situations, such as any poverty-stricken urban area.
A ghetto is formed in four distinct ways:

* As ports of illegal entry for racial minorities, and immigrant racial minorities.
* When the majority uses compulsion (typically violence, hostility, or legal barriers) to force minorities into particular areas.
* When economic conditions make it too difficult for minority members to live in non-minority areas.
* When the minority actively chooses to segregate itself physically and socially from the majority.

In the case of the historical Jewish ghettos in the second millenium A.D., Jews were forced to live in these areas because “Jews were viewed as foreigners due to their non-Christian beliefs in a Renaissance Christian environment. As a result, Jews were placed under strict regulations throughout many European cities.” (From Wikipedia “Jewish ghettos in Europe”.)

In the case of early 21st century Western Europe, most Muslims are either descendants of guest workers who arrived in the 1960s-70s (from countries such as Turkey and Pakistan), refugees and asylum seekers from countries fraught with oppression and violence (e.g. Iraq, Iran, Palestinian Israel, Somalia, the former Yugoslavia, etc.), or people who come via family reunion to those in the other two groups. Many are poor and/or unemployed, and as a result live in state-sponsored housing, which creates a ghetto-like atmosphere in these particular locations.

Alarmists fear an “Islamicization” of Europe: Don Melvin writes that, excluding Russia, Europe's Muslim population will double by 2020. He also says that almost 85% of Europe's total population growth in 2005 was due to immigration in general. Omer Taspinar predicts that the Muslim population of Europe will nearly double by 2015, while the non-Muslim will shrink by 3.5%, due to the higher Muslim birth rate. Esther Pan predicts that, by 2050, one in five Europeans are likely to be Muslim. Professor Philip Jenkins of Penn State University estimates that by 2100, Muslims will compose about 25% of Europe's population. But Jenkins admits this figure does not take account of the large birthrates amongst Europe's immigrant Christians. Other analysts are skeptical about the given forecast and the accuracy of the claimed Muslim population growth, since there has been a sharp decrease in Muslim fertility rates. A Pew Forum study, published in January 2011, forecast an increase of Muslims in European population from 6% in 2010 to 8% in 2030. (From Wikipedia “Islam in Europe”.)

However, a religious belief need not be a hindrance to participation in a secular, democratic society; those who claim Muslims are incapable of doing so simply continue to disenfranchise the Muslims in their midst and promote Muslim extremism. In the underlined passage above, which is my emphasis, I make a second point: women who are educated, equal participants in a society with free access to birth control overwhelmingly choose to limit their fertility. The best way to insure the future of a secular Europe is to insure that Muslim women in Europe have access to education, to healthcare, and above all, to the job market. Have you employed a Muslimah lately? No? Why not? Are you freaked out by the niqab? The veil is a red herring. If you’re discussing the subjugation of women perpetrated in the name of Islam and bring up the niqab, I reserve the right not to take you seriously. Bring up honor killing, forced marriage, or female genital mutilation, and then I’ll believe you’re not just engaging in a knee-jerk, bigoted reaction to Otherness. Aid in integrating, support, and listen to Muslimahs in Europe, and then you’ll actually be doing some good.

On the second page of the Wikipedia article “Jewish ghettos in Europe”, there is a colored map showing the percentages of Jews by country in 1881; only in Poland and one part of Russia did it top 20%. In Germany and Austria, it was well under 10%. I wonder what the modern percentages might look like if six million Jews hadn’t been slaughtered in the 1930s and 40s; if so many of the survivors hadn’t gotten the “not welcome here!” message loud and clear and emigrated to Israel and the US? Would anti-Jewish activists be decrying the Semitification of Europe? Would Jewish extremists be lobbying for the right to apply the death penalty to a severe violator of Shabbat law? Would the raging media debate in France be over whether Orthodox boys should be allowed to bear payot and wear tefillin and tzitzit in French public schools? I truly wish we’d had the chance to find out.

Every time I hear these anti-Muslim bigots getting their hate on (and until I laid down the law with my brother-in-law, I used to hear it at every damn family dinner), I hear echoes of Germany in the 1930s. I wait in horrid anticipation for the day when some particularly clumsy or historically-ignorant bigot starts discussing “solutions” to the “Muslim problem”. I fear for the day I read about firebombings by right-wing radicals in Gellerup Park, Ishøj, or Romsås. I foresee terrible futures in which Muslims are rounded up “for their own protection”, never to be seen again. I think about my uncle Freddy, who was on the second Jeep who rolled through the gates when they liberated Dachau, whose sergeant shot the last standing tower guard, and how it took him forty years to talk about the horrors he’d seen. I wonder what young relative of mine would have to have nightmares about seeing skeletally-thin Muslim women and children, or have to live with himself for having been that tower guard. The modern right-wingers swear such things would never happen again in a post-Holocaust Europe, but they already happened at Srebrenica, and yesterday was, I’m certain, nothing more than ABB’s personal version of taking out the “communists” (see “Non-Jewish Victims” on Wikipedia “The Holocaust”; scroll past Slavs, Serbs, Poles, Soviet POWs, Romani, Persons of Color, Disabled and Mentally Ill, and Homosexuals until you get to “The Political Left”).

While Islamic fundamentalists have certainly made bigger headlines with their violent acts, violent fundamentalist Jews are by no means unknown either; the key difference is that no one seems to conflate everyday, ordinary, law-abiding Jews with the acts of their radical counterparts, at least not and be taken seriously by Western society at large. As an American, the only reason I can come up with off the top of my head is this: most urban Americans KNOW at least two or three Jews personally, and like them (and if we know some we don’t like, we don’t paint all other Jews with the same brush). We have favorite Jewish actors and comedians. We have, as it were, a humanized, personal definition in answer to the question “Who is a Jew?” Jewish society has existed side-by-side with Western society, unfortunately much to their detriment sometimes, for centuries. It’s no longer societally acceptable to be anti-Jewish, although it can make it difficult to have rational discussions about the injustices in Palestine without people accusing you of anti-Semitism (to which I usually reply, “I’m not anti-Jewish, I’m anti-Zionist, and wish we had resettled the displaced Jews to Florida after WWII”). With the exception of the Ottoman incursions in southeastern Europe and the Moorish occupation of Spain, whose historical descendants are largely few and far between in Western Europe, Muslims are relative newcomers. We can’t all point to a Muslim we know and like (I can point to at least three or four, but I have had the benefit of taking first Danish- and then German-for-foreigners classes). We can’t all point to a Muslim actor or comedian we admire (although I personally think Aasif Mandvi is a hoot). We don’t all have a humanized, personal definition to the question “Who is a Muslim?” The right-wing nationalist would reply “I don’t want to know any; they’re all terrorists”, the apathetic person “it’s not my fault I don’t know any”; to which I would answer, “they’re NOT all terrorists, and it IS your fault you don’t know any, because you haven’t bothered to go out an meet them halfway”.

That ABB refers to Muslim immigrants’ living in a parallel society as a “positive” simply highlights the fact that he is a bigot: he personally wants nothing to do with these Other People in his society. In my time living in Denmark in the midst of the raging “integration” debate, I have reached one overwhelming conclusion: Integration is a two-way street. True integration of societal minorities will never occur so long as the societal majority continues to fear them, takes no personal action to befriend them, or refuses to employ them. Every Norwegian like my friend KJ (a schoolteacher who is employed at an elementary school where ethnic Norwegians are a minority) who gets to know the Other as individuals, who values them as people, who educates and helps them, brings Norway one step closer to peaceful co-existence with a new kind of Norwegian: one who, despite coming from a different background than ethnic Norwegians, values the cultural and societal values of Norway. Every Norwegian who thinks like ABB, even if they would not go so far as violence, perpetuates a Norway in which the minority will feel unwelcome, persecuted, and hated, and therefore will never participate in Norwegian society as a valued equal, turning instead to extremists who will make them feel valued and empowered. Were I a Norwegian, I know exactly which kind I’d want to be.

As an American, I know exactly which kind I am: the one who sees as sacred the words carved on the base of the Statue of Liberty -- “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” I will never be anti-immigrant, for I am an immigrant who is the daughter of a grandchild and great-grandchild of immigrants. “But it’s different with the Muslims!” No, it’s not. “But it’s different with the Mexicans!” No, it’s not. Europeans had no right to conquer North America in the first place; as the descendants of those Europeans, it is our sacred duty to make place for the next wave of Other, to teach them English, and to show them what it truly means to be an American, so that they, in turn, will teach their children.

If Norwegians do not open their arms to the Other among them, teach them Norwegian -- and not just by sending them to language school, but by actually talking to them, and listening to them despite their heavy accents and their imperfect grasp of the language -- and teach them what it means to be Norwegian, so that they in turn will teach it to their children, then they perpetuate the ghettoization and radicalization of the Other, and create exactly what they fear. Substitute Danish in that sentence, or German, or French. Substitute your nationality, and ask yourself: Am I doing my part to meet the challenge of my time, or am I succumbing to fear of the Other, wallowing in hate-filled rhetoric, and paving the way to the “burning” that ABB foretold in his manifesto? If you can’t answer yes to the first question, then take up this challenge: Go out into the parts of your city you don’t usually frequent, and meet the Other head on. Buy him or her a cup of coffee. Listen. Ask questions, but mostly just listen. See the Other as a Person, not just a nameless, faceless Other. Try to put yourself in their shoes, understand where they came from, and why they’re in your country. Try to imagine how their presence in your country could be a positive, rather than something to be feared.

Let me make one thing clear in summary: I am not an apologist for Islam, nor for any religion. As a woman, I abhor the persecution of women that is carried out in the name of Islam, just as I abhor the historical and ongoing persecution of women that is carried out in the name of fundamentalist Christianity. However, I’ve also done enough reading to realize that, in terms of sheer doctrinal points, Islam is no better or worse in its treatment of women than Judaism or Christianity, and its evils are largely a function of the cultures in which it arose. Every societal evil that has been justified using a religion has also had arguments made against it from within the frameworks of the same religion: slavery, subjugation of women, war. Progress to creating a better society, in which all persons are guaranteed their basic human rights, and in which all have access to a decent standard of living, is in turn helped and hindered by religions of all stripes. Ultimately, it is a secular struggle, one which must find partnerships not only across all religions, but also with non-religious people like me. Time wasted on struggles between religions and cultures is time wasted in which differences could be set aside, common ground could be found, and wrongs could be righted.
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    determined determined

Tales from Munich

I started another Germany class today. Instead of the usual line of questions (which I actually kind of missed for wanting to know who my classmates were and where they came from and why they're in Munich), we had somewhat more esoteric questions, one of which was "Who is your favorite novel hero?" I couldn't think of anyone at the time, and figured most of mine are so deeply embedded in genre literature* that my international classmates wouldn't know who they were, so I said "Harry Potter". A girl from Spain laughed at me. Guess I should have said Frodo Baggins (even though he's not my favorite character in LotR), so I'd've sounded like I have more gravitas. Oh well.

*Since in retrospect I'd probably have said Miles Vorkosigan, or Caz from the Curse of Chalion, or Turtle from The Westing Game.

My teacher is kind of a hottie, though, and looks young enough that he might've just rolled off the university wagon. He's very charismatic, and has absolutely stunning blue eyes...
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    happy happy

I am a bad, bad LJ friend...

By my reckoning, it's been over three months since the last time I updated my LJ. Wow.

So, in that time, I have:

* more or less moved to Munich. Most of my stuff is still in storage in DK, in the old apartment being used by our renter, at my mother-in-law's, or at the summer cottage, but my butt is here the overwhelming majority of the time, so that's where I'm calling home now. Still no luck selling the apartment; we're about to knock 50k kroner off the price (about USD $7,000) for the second time and hope that more people will be likely to want to buy apartments and move in the spring/summer rather than the worst winter Denmark's had in ages. :P

* finished my thesis. It was a hard haul there at the end, and finances have not allowed me to reward myself with shoes as much as I'd like (paying both rent and mortgage sucks), but it's deposited, and I should have my grade and my degree in another month.

* started figuring out the whole "what to do next" question. I'm signed up for intensive German lessons in March, I'm putting together my CV and figuring out where to apply for part-time jobs teaching English to adults, and have made many mind-map posters for my various creative efforts. First priority is working on my Master Plan(TM) to revolutionize the world of plus-size clothing design. Wish me luck... I also plan to do some writing, both non-fiction and (for the first time ever!) a bit of fiction. Ever since I switched to Cymbalta as my anti-depressant, I've had increasingly vivid dreams with narrative-logic to their structure instead of dream-logic, and some of them just beat at the inside of my head afterwards demanding to be turned into stories. I'll see if I can do 'em justice...

* gotten sick a couple times. Dunno if it was the cold perial caught on his last trip to Mountain View, or something icky from his students that glad_laks so kindly vectored to me when he visited last week, but I have a serious case of the Creeping Crud right now. Hence my having the time to update my LJ!

* started finding a social life here in Munich. Fantastically enough, there's a huge online community for Germany's English-speaking population, so I have lots of opportunities to make friends without language issues being a problem. I also go to the Wednesday-night game night at Google, and have been going to a roughly-monthly Polyamory Stammtisch, so I'm even making some friends who speak German. Also, I responded to an ad on Toytown, and am now one of the three members of an all-female vocal jazz ensemble; the other two (who are a delightful lesbian couple a bit older than me) even liked my suggestion for a name, so we are "The Little Black Dresses". I have the most formal music background/training out of all of us, so I'm functioning as rehearsal leader and even planning to do some arranging. Very exciting! I still want to join a challenging, more classically-focused, larger choir once my German is up to snuff, but I feel really good about this group.

So, yeah, not dead, not despondent, just a really bad correspondent (which unfortunately now my Danish friends are learning as well as my American friends, yay... :P). Give me a shout-out if you miss(ed) me. ;)
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kind of sad that... first foray through my friends list, and first post, in months should just be a re-linking, but as a person who makes something of a living doing language-y things, I just had to say:

This. So this.

Summed up perfectly by one quote if you don't want to make with the clicky:

Not only is grammar correcting just plain rude, it’s soaked in classism, regional chauvinism, and privilege.
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    sick sick

And in other news...

...I'm totally sucking at Ravelry as well. I was looking at my project page, and a whole slew of my latest WIPs and FOs (that's works-in-progress and finished objects, for the non-fibery) have no pictures attached to them. Bad Mickey!

ZOMG things are happening! Our apartment is soooooo empty right now! The photographer from the realtor comes tomorrow, and by then it needs to be EVEN MORE EMPTY! EEK! Lars moves to Munich on Thursday, our friend Dan moves in to function as a combination housesitter/tenant/housecleaner/contact-person-for-the-realtors, and I pretty much become functionally homeless. I haven't even decided where I'm going to have my post sent to! Let alone where I change my official-for-governmental-purposes address to, only that it can't/won't be at DSD. I'm pondering c/o my middle brother-in-law, as he totally owes me after what he pulled this weekend, so that I can just for a lark say that I live on Funen. Or with the friend who's offered me a place to stay when I'm not at school, so I can finally live in Copenhagen! (vvbrillsuchi, kiwiria, I see you guys liking this idea, as would my soul-twin/bookpusher Ditte at Fantask and my Ravelry buddy Lykkefanten, not least of which because then I'd be there on weekends from time to time...)
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    accomplished accomplished

Ok, I am officially the worst LJ friend EVAR.

Dearest friends and readers, you haven't been missing my posts or been excluded from some S00per-seekrit FL filter. I just seriously haven't posted in almost two months.

This is due to a number of factors, foremost among which is the fact that, since the first of August, I've been a full-time residential student at Den Skandinaviske Designhøjskole (or The Scandinavian Design College, not quite as impressive as it sounds, for the Scandihoovian-impaired). I'm the oldest student out of our flock of 60, but I'm nevertheless having a blast. If you haven't already friended me on Facebook, then you probably haven't seen the photo album with my strange creations. I'll see if I can't rig up some links soon.

For those who don't read his LJ account, there's awesome news on Lars' side of things: he has gotten the ultimate geek dream-job, a position as a programmer at Google! Secondly as awesome, it's their branch in Munich, a city I've been in love with since 1997. My residential program runs until the end of June 2011, so we'll be doing the commuter marriage thing again for a while; part of his salary offer, however, was 2000 euros per year in travel allowances, so we figure that works out to one round trip per month for each of us. It won't be easy, but we'll both have awesome things to keep us distracted.

More later, I promise... the LJ program for iPod kinda sucks, and I haven't moved my computer up to the school yet, so I'm keeping my online activities fairly minimal (not least of which because of being crazy busy).
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    The Cafe Radio

30 Days of Music Meme, Day 30: Your favorite song at this time last year

Between the airing of the pilot in May to the launch of the series in September, my music in the summer of '09 was all about one thing: GLEE! I re-watched the pilot some crazy amount of times, not least of which to show it to my Danish friends and say, "See? This is what I (kinda) did in high school!" I listened to the two singles from the pilot like crazy as well, and this song was my favorite:

Amazing how, at the time, we didn't realize the foreshadowing in seeing Santana, Quinn, and Puck looking on from the back of the house... by a few episodes into the season, they too, would be singing and dancing with the so-called losers.

Cooler yet? Realizing that I wasn't even remotely alone in catching Glee fever... check out how stoked the audience is when the original 6-person ensemble performs live on Oprah, joined halfway through the number by the other 6:

(I just wish they hadn't overbalanced Lea Michele's mike so badly... plenty of the other ladies have fantastic voices too!)

And the awesomest thing about the season 1 finale? The recap of this number, with the fully expanded New Directions show choir, as part of a Journey medley for Regionals (Don't Stop Believin' starts at 4:20):

I love how the medley perfectly touched back and summed up to the major musical themes of the season: emotionally-charged duets between Finn and Rachel (Faithfully), awesome mashups (Anyway You Want It / Lovin' Touchin' Squeezin'), plus this song and everything it meant in the context of the series: never stop believing in yourself, and you can achieve things you'd never dreamed were possible.

This wraps up my version of the 30 Days of Music Meme. I've had a lot of fun doing it, and hope you guys have had fun listening, viewing, and reading along. I hope to see more of you do this meme, as it's a fantastic insight into my friends' musical tastes.
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