The Surge is working [tm] -- but for gay Iraqis who face a murderous new spate of violence by theocrats and militiamen, notsomuch. "More than 430 gay men have been murdered in Iraq since 2003... [but] many officials say they feel that in a country at war, there are more pressing concerns than gay rights."
From organically-farming Zen centers to celebrity-cultivating Scientology centresTM, California is a seedbed of the most earnest (and most frivolous or worse) branches of spiritual inquiry. What's in the water in the Golden State that has made it The Visionary State? In an interview with editor Geoff Manaugh of the excellent BLDGBLOG, author Erik Davis -- whose published passions have ranged from an analysis of Philip K. Dick's "divine invasions" to erudite musings on Led Zeppelin's fourth album to an ode to the joys of being a teenage bongeur -- talks about the formerly chic devil-worshipper Anton LaVey, Beat Zen, Aldous Huxley, the Watts Towers, and beyond, with great photos by Michael Rauner, who collaborated with Davis on the new book.
Bush comes out in favor of teaching "intelligent design" alongside evolution in American schools. Is this the latest evidence of the White House willing to champion worthy but controversial ideas that have been sidelined by liberal bias, or strictly from Paul Krugman's theoretical headline, "Shape of Earth: Views Differ"? [Meanwhile, elsewhere in the Lone Star State, Texas educators ignite brouhaha by adding Bible study to the public-school curriculum].
Death is not news to Buddhist monks. The minute observation and contemplation of corpses is a standard Buddhist practice to increase awareness of the transitory nature of all things (including you, gentle reader.) This friendly attitude toward what is hidden away in most of the "civilized" world has prepared monks in the tsunami-stricken nations to deal with the task of cremating thousands of dead bodies. Preparing for the inevitable turns out to be a useful tool for facing the unthinkable. [via a fine new site called The Buddhist Channel].
"Question with boldness even the existence of a God... In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own... History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government." These heretical words, spoken by a government official now, would surely result in him being targeted for removal by the GOP in the next red-state "mandate." But they were written by Thomas Jefferson, one of the founders of the increasingly pious, "faith-based" United States of America. A timely reminder from Robin Morgan in Ms. Magazine [via the sublime wood s lot.]
Birds do it, bees do it... homosexual attachment and lovemaking are widespread in the animal kingdom, say biologists like Bruce Bagemihl, author of "Biological Exuberance." [For a longer, better-edited version of the same article, go here, but NYT reg. required.] Not everyone agrees, particularly those apt to quote the Bible to justify claims of a "natural revulsion to perverse sex."