Tag Archives: sex

World Religions: Islam – Lecture 10: Women and Change in Islam

The following bits represent my notes and thoughts as I watch The Great Courses, “Great World Religions: Islam” by John L. Esposito.  A few things are worth noting:

  1. I encourage those with an interest to seek out the original source material.  You can do that on The Great Courses website.  My notes are just a pale shadow of the whole course but they might whet your proverbial whistle.
  2. These are just my notes and not an attempt to encapsulate the whole course.  As such, it should be painfully obvious that I’m no expert and at times prone to oversimplification and outright error.
  3. There is no third thing.  I just can’t stand having only two things in a list.

Lecture 10: Women and Change in Islam

The West judges Islam’s treatment of women in terms of the extremes we see in the news.  In reality, the conditions are widely varied from country to country (Note that this lecture is somewhat dated and some of these may no longer be strictly true):

  • Egypt – Women can serve in parliament, but can’t be judges
  • Morocco – 20% of the judges in the country are women
  • Saudi Arabia – Can own land, but are restricted to feminine professions and cannot drive
  • Kuwait – Could not vote until 2005 (after this lecture was recorded)
  • Iran – Wear chadore or hijab, but are professionals and serve in parliament
  • Pakistan – A woman served as prime minister
  • Afghanistan – Cannot attend school; must be accompanied by a male outside the home at all times

The veil or hijab, burqa or chadore is seen as a sign of repression by the west.  The practice varies widely from a simple head scarf to full body covering.  When the tradition started in early Islam it was seen as a sign of high rank within the community.

While the west sees it as a sign of submission, Muslim women for the most part view it as an act that allows them to be free from exploitation as sex objects.  Western women in short skirts and makeup are seen as the ones who are victims of a male society.  In fact, some modern Muslim women have taken up the burqa again despite the fact that their mother’s eschewed them just a generation before.  To the modern Muslim woman, wearing of the veil means that they are valued for who they are and what they have to contribute, not there mere physical characteristics.

Early in its history, Islam gave women rights they’d not had under previous systems.  The Quran is emphatic that men and women are equal in the eyes of Allah and both are equally responsible for upholding the five pillars of Islam.  It gave women the right to own property and restricted divorce and polygamy.  Even more importantly it ended the practice of child marriage.

If this is so, then why the inequality we see today?  It must be understood that even with the Quranic edicts in place to establish equality, the larger Muslim society was still largely patriarchal.  In the very earliest days of Islam many women leaders arose and were held up as examples to be emulated.  In fact, it was typical for women to be the first within a household to convert to Islam.  Over centuries, however, the older and more traditional patriarchal tendencies eroded this foundation to the more erratic one we have today.

Much disagreement about this continues even today as old rules are brought under scrutiny.  The law, for example, that in a trial the testimony of two women counts the same as one man still holds sway in over a dozen countries including Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Yemen.  The reasoning for this being that women, it is judged, are not of the proper “temperament” to make these judgments.


Series Guide

IslamView back-to-back on the YouTube Playlist
Lecture 1– Islam Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow
Lecture 2 – The Five Pillars of Islam
Lecture 3 – Muhammad-Prophet and Statesman
Lecture 4 – God’s Word-The Quranic Worldview
Lecture 5 – The Muslim Community-Faith and Politics
Lecture 6 – Paths to God-Islamic Law and Mysticism
Lecture 7 – Islamic Revivalism-Renewal and Reform
Lecture 8 – The Contemporary Resurgence of Islam
Lecture 9 – Islam at the Crossroads
Lecture 10 – Women and Change in Islam
Lecture 11 – Islam in the West
Lecture 12 – The Future of Islam

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Book Reviews for the week ending 6/7….

Rather a light week this week, it seems. Do you have a book you’d like reviewed? Email me at slavenrm@gmail.com and let me know what you’ve got.


MORE DROPPINGS FROM THE DRAGON: A Hitchhiker's Guide To SalesMORE DROPPINGS FROM THE DRAGON: A Hitchhiker’s Guide To Sales by Richard Plinke

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The nutshell view on this book is that essentially, it is a disconnected series of random conceptual tidbits about the process of being a salesman. No, scratch that, more generally it is about being a human who interacts with other humans and how to do that in such a way that people both respect you and know that they’re being respected in return. It should be noted that your reviewer this evening is a software developer by trade so if there’s one thing we know how to do it’s look down on puny humans. This book completely contradicts all of my time-worn strategies for putting humans in their places and making sure they know exactly how worthless they are to me!

To the positive, this book really does have a great sense of “person.” What do I mean by that? Well, as the reader one can really sense the author’s personality lurking behind the printed page. Mr. Plinke is just the sort of person who #1: would hate being called Mr. Plinke and #2: would be a delight to sit down and have a conversation with. He’s witty, easy-going and filled with lots of introspective insights that would make an evening fly by like a flatulent dragon on a updraft. The book isn’t really all that much about sales; it’s not about ‘closing strategies’ and all that specific rot but really strikes me more as a simple guide to being a professional in human society.

To the negative, I’m not terribly sure that every reader will necessarily fall in line behind my opinion on this topic. The author appealed to me at least somewhat because he unceasingly decided to quote my favorite songs and movies over and over and over again until I was dizzy with the ambrosia of nostalgia. Those who have less of a visceral relationship with Douglas Adams and every Beatles song ever might be left rather wondering who in the heck he’s talking about.

In summary, Plinke has endeavored successfully to both amuse and teach something at the same time. While he’s not going to have any crowd rolling uncontrollably with rather a different color of underwear than they came in with, he does manage quite nicely to give one something to think about as well as keeping things light and entertaining. If the world lived by Plinke’s guidance we’d all be quite a bit happier. And get along a whole lot better as well.


Fortune SmilesFortune Smiles by Adam Johnson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is comprised of six very dark but very different stories. The protagonists range from child pornographer to North Korean defector to cancer patients. In each case, the characters are facing some key turning point in their lives, for better or worse.

Years ago Johnson’s previous novel, “The Orphan Master’s Son” son, showed up on my doorstep as an ARC for review
and after reading it I kept the book around when I usually give away my ARCs to other readers. Similarly with “Fortune Smiles” I felt like this book was one to keep on the shelf forever. Johnson’s first three stories are breathtaking and kept me up late to finish them. His characters are so bold and candidly portrayed that you can’t peel your eyes off of them wondering what they’re going to do next. The stories are solid, gripping and original as well as potent and unforgiving in their honesty to the darkness they portray.

To the negative, the last half of the book, while still entertaining, does tend to flag a bit. The stories of North Korean defectors and an ex-warden in an East German political prison camp were certainly timely but failed to hold my attention as keenly. Perhaps I had become accustomed to Johnson’s style again but I didn’t feel quite as pulled along as I did with the first three stories.

In summary, at least in part this series of stories is a masterpiece. It is brutal and deals with people at their absolute basest level. It unapologetically paints portraits that make the reader cringe and yet also nod with some element of recognition.


Small and TallSmall and Tall by Uri Newman

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book strikes me as a simple melding of two books I read to my kids when they were younger. It’s the old Muppets big/tall story plus Green Eggs and Ham. I’ll quote one page as illustration:

“I do not need
to be here and there.
I can be
anywhere.
I do not need
to jump on the wall.
I do not need
to do it at all.”

So I suppose that’s potentially interesting to kids but it’s nothing terribly new or original.

Moving on, the illustrations are simple line art and reasonably entertaining but don’t be thinking there’s anything more complex than the cover hiding on the pages in between. Also worth noting, perhaps, that the villain’s face is a dead ringer for Snidely Whiplash

The story illustrates the differences between adults and children. The two characters banter back and forth for 30 pages about which one is best. The man says he’s best because he’s bigger and gets to do things. The child argues that he’s best because he gets to just sit around and play all day. Again, nothing terribly original about that and the characters don’t come to any agreement so much as they agree to disagree.

So all in all, I’m not sure my kids would have been terribly interested but maybe yours would be. The book is free of misspellings and grammar problems so that alone puts it head and shoulders above a lot of free children’s books out there.


Turning BlueTurning Blue by Stuart Canterbury

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The nutshell on this book is, essentially, exactly what you’d expect from the blurb. It’s the day to day grind (no pun intended) of shooting X-rated films. It dives into depths (no pun intended) that you wouldn’t expect and isn’t afraid to expose (ok, pun intended) all the behind the scenes rigmarole that goes into them. It is at times mundane but that’s one thing that makes it so obviously realistic. It’s not all about the Money Shot.

So to the positive, as I’ve noted, it does feel exceptionally real. I’m no fan of this particular genre so I’m not terribly well qualified to say it, but no author would include so much detail that can’t be construed as particularly interesting unless it added quite a bit to the realism of the story. One wonders at times if Canterbury wrote a book or if he just transcribed a series of recordings. Also, the book styles itself as ‘hilarious’ but I’d put it more in the category of ‘quirky.’ At no point did I laugh during the reading of this book but it was filled with quite unusual characters that represented their archetypes very well. It’s quite a varied cast of characters from the oleaginous producer to the high-maintenance stars themselves.

To the negative, for all the realism it’s almost too real. Sure, events transpire in the book but they’re all fairly low-key. Even when the cops bust in or people die it’s somehow a non-event and things just move on rather unaffected. There’s a very non-emotional vibe to the whole thing. It’s as if characters are doing things which should be very charged emotionally and should be important but they’re somehow carried off as irrelevant and no big deal. Come to think of it, that sort of sums up the entire x-rated industry, doesn’t it?

So to summarize, this is a solidly written book with some potential to entertain those who have an interest in this particular segment of the movie industry. Personally I found it a tad flat but if you’re into this sort of thing I can see how you’d really love the behind-the-scenes view on this genre.


Fraternity HouseFraternity House by Arthur Jay

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received this book free for review from the author in exchange for an honest review. Despite the privilege of receiving a free book, I’m absolutely candid about it below because I believe authors and readers will benefit most from honest reviews rather than vacuous 5-star reviews.

The nutshell view on this book is that it’s entirely what it claims to be. It covers, in three highly amusing parts, the life of a college Frat brother in the late 70s/early 80s (I’m not sure we’re ever told specifically but this is based on the choice of music in the book). The general structure and organization of the house is laid bare for all to see along with life as a fully-formed brother and as a pledge (or poop).

To the positive side, this book really is entertaining, if you have any interest in such debauchery. It puts forth the good and the bad in somewhat equal measure and doesn’t hold back. It’s candid about alcohol and drug use and hazing and all the sordid details of life in the fraternity. We also get a cringe worthy view of house discipline and initiation rites. The book is broken up into numerous sections of less than 10 pages so you can easily read a bit and come back to it without difficulty. It’s a well-organized book even for someone who’s not an avid reader. It’s very easily digested.

The only real negatives are fairly trivial. Firstly the writing does wobble at times. The text suffers from a few typographical errors and misused words. It’s nothing a fairly gentle editing couldn’t rectify. Secondly, the book ends rather abruptly. I won’t make any attempt to spoil the ending but I did find myself expecting a final reflection on life in a Frat house. Perhaps something with a philosophical bent or some words of advice to future poops. After turning the last page I felt that I’d been pushed off a cliff about 10 pages too early.

In summary, this is a vastly entertaining book and an honest one. There’s no huge crescendo of action but it just very consistently lays down the events as they transpired for all to see. It probably helps that the statute of limitations is long expired on all these shenanigans. A recommended read but you’ll want to ignore some of the textual issues and take it for what it is.

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Of Ink, Wit, and Intrigue – Samuel Pepys meets Dorian Gray (4/5)

As usual I paid nothing for this book but instead received it for free in exchange for a review. This time it was from NetGalley. Despite that repeated and wonderful kindness, I give my scrupulously honest opinions below.

This book is, to put it loosely, a bit of an outlier in the modern literary world. It’s set in mid-1600 England and is the fictionalized life of John Wilmot, Second Earl of Rochester. It’s written in a diary format so the whole thing reminds me very strongly of a cross between The Diary of Samuel Pepys (who makes a brief cameo appearance) and The Picture of Dorian Gray.

To the positive, this is a unique and richly rendered exhibit of life during these times. The reader is treated to all the usual plagues and illnesses and their accompanying treatments as well as all the common entertainments of the day. As a work of crystallized history it is a wonder. The main character is also delightfully scandalous and easily and promptly disliked by the reader. This is a rich and very detailed verbal tapestry.

Unfortunately, to the negative, it comes across at times as almost impenetrably dense and shares many of the negative attributes one can ascribe to Pepy’s diary. It’s an abundantly curious historical artifact but it hardly makes for popular reading.

To summarize, this is a book that for some will be a miracle. It is that detailed historical period novel that you’ve always wanted that grinds all the way down to the daily choice of ‘vittles’ as the protagonist puts it. If, however, you are not prepared for what is at times a laborious grind of a read, then there are better choices. Only you can judge whether you prefer your history entertaining or overflowing with detail. Unfortunately it does not seem possible that both can occur simultaneously.


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69 things I do with my Wang – Funniest thing about this book is probably the title (2/5)

As usual I received this book free for the purposes of review. This time it was directly from the author via email. Despite that kindness I give my candid opinions below.

This is a pretty simple book; it’s just a series of pictures featuring the author’s old WANG computer posed in various situations that lend themselves to puerile puns about penises. Enough said.

On the good side, this is intended to be a wacky madcap book with its mind in the gutter and, as the kids say, the book “owns” that about itself. It is exactly what it intends to be which is to be respected. So I give the author credit for staying true to the theme.

The downside, however, is that most of the content just isn’t funny. There are a few that make you nod in vague appreciation but nothing in this made me crack a smile. I can be a somber sort at times but I’m not THAT somber; this just quite cut it. Moving on from the words, much of the photography was also found wanting. Picture sizes varied wildly and each page is only about half filled. It felt like the author might have been stretching a bit to get to 69.

In summary, I can see the potential for this book but it needs more … something. There are only so many penis puns after all and maybe 69 is just too many.


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Movie Reviews: Girlfriend 19 – Not really any plot to speak of but instead detailed emotional forensics on what it’s like to break up with someone

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I watched this movie because it looked lonely and unreviewed on Amazon Instant Watch and I’m reasonably glad I did but it’s important to know what you’re getting into.

First and foremost, this movie is not broken. It starts out with about 60 seconds of complete blackness and almost no audio and very slowly brightens to reveal a woman’s hand. We scrambled around a bit wondering why the movie wasn’t starting only to realize that the movie was starting but very slowly. So be aware of that oddity.

So, the plot is really not much of a plot so it’s impossible to “spoiler” much of anything. The slowly-appearing opening scene features a couple in bed yet also in the process of breaking up. About 5 minutes into it he’s finally out the door and the rest of the movie covers the next 2-3 days as she deals with the emotional aftermath of the situation. It’s a deep and (I’m told) accurate view of breaking up from the woman’s perspective but it’s not a movie driven by events. She talks to her friends, she flashes back to before the relationship, she talks to her ex, she flashes back to events with her ex, around and around for 90 minutes.

In summary, it wasn’t a movie that took our breath away but it was reasonably thought provoking. Guys will have a bit more trouble with this movie since it’s not really their perspective on things but it’s a pretty accurate and it will spur some potential conversation if you’re open-minded about the whole topic. Most definitely not a first-date movie though.

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Books: Golden Boy: A Novel by Abigail Tarttelin

Firstly and as usual, I should note that I received this book via a GoodReads giveaway. Despite the kindness of receiving a book for nothing, my candid opinions follow below.

I won’t bother to summarize as the book’s description does quite a nice job of that on its own. It may be worth noting that I just picked up the book without the benefit of the summary so I was fairly surprised at the opening few chapters. In almost all ways I have come increasingly to believe that the less you know about a book going in the better off you are. As general note, however, one should know that this is a circumspect style narrative in which we hear from five different narrators. Our protagonist is the eldest son in a family of four and each of the family members (plus a love interest) take it in turns to give their side of the story. This can make for a sometimes fractured but very illuminating style of reading once you figure out who all the names are attached to.

It is usually somewhere around this point that I tend to go into a positives/negatives section but for once I’m rather at a loss for anything negative to say. This book deals with a very serious and intimate issue (again, no spoilers) but does so in such a candid and informative way that I found myself rather taken aback. I received this book almost a year ago but didn’t really pay it much attention. I left it moldering on the shelf for a long time and now find myself disappointed that I didn’t bump it to the front of the reading queue long ago. The whole thing just drips with realism and sincerity while asking serious questions about what exactly it means to be male or female in modern society. It is uniquely informative and entertaining while bringing to the forefront a very real problem that faces a not insignificant portion of the population.

In summary, this is a book to be treasured not only for its narrative flair but also what it has to say about us as a species and is sure to cause endless conversation in groups that read it. Golden Boy is one of those rare books that makes me wish I had more than five stars to give out.

** Click the book cover image to view the full review on Amazon and as always we appreciate any ‘helpful’ votes!

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Sweet Holy Motherfucking Everloving Delusional Bastard by Jerome Segundo

Sweet Holy Motherfucking Everloving Delusional BastardSweet Holy Motherfucking Everloving Delusional Bastard by Jerome Segundo

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As usual, I won this book from the author in what I would categorize as a quasi-GoodReads giveaway. Despite that kind consideration my candid opinions follow.

The story masquerades as a not-so-typical twenty-something memoir; our three protagonists, who could not be any more dissimilar, find themselves in a series of amusing and illuminating situations that reveal much about the mental state of men at this particular time of life.

On the positive side, once the reader is properly engaged with the novel (it did take a while for me to get into the flow of it) the story really is quite difficult to pull away from. While the specific hijinks engaged in are difficult for me to relate to personally, the story really does capture one’s attention. The author’s use of language and wordplay, along with the illustration of the relationship between the three male leads is both amusing and intellectually insightful. The group of three guys makes you rather pine for a trio of strong friends to hang out with (though one could do without the felony convictions). Lastly, the author includes some rather vivid descriptions of sexual encounters which are sprinkled throughout the novel at reasonably appropriate intervals. While I’m not typically one who seeks out such things, Segundo executes these descriptions with a wonderful and evocative realism that is rare in the genre.

The only real negative I would point out in any of this is that the book is so thoroughly provocative that it will be difficult for it to find any market whatsoever. Its title alone assures that it cannot make any uncensored appearance on the New York Times Best Seller List. The book has a lot to say and crystallizes well some key differences between the way genders view the world but sadly the whole thing is stuck behind a title that creates such a visceral reaction in many that the message is lost to the universe as a whole.

In summary, you can’t judge a book by its title. Segundo has delivered entertainment and also a strong sociological point that may sadly never make its way to any sort of popular consumption. The author’s use of language is playful, entertaining and well-executed. Another good book doomed to obscurity by insufficient marketing.

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