the lesson of comic books: The 99

I got interested in reading and in mythology by reading comic books. Particularly Wonder Woman. And that was back in the 1940s, before the whole superhero thing really took off. My two kids grew up with comics. In the 1970s, my son had the expected monumental comic book collection, which I made him sell off when he went off to college. (Argh. Not very smart of me, since he had some first printing editions which became very valuable to collectors.)

Comic book heroes like Superman touted good ol’ American values: “Truth, Justice, and the American Way.” Other cultures have similar values, however, and the time has come to create heroes that can demonstrate values that are common to all humane cultures.

And someone just did.

The 99 is the brainchild of Naif al-Mutawa, and he recently gave a talk at TED about the origin of the idea. The gist of it is that he was inspired by the positive values imparted by the heroes of Marvel and DC comics. He wanted to create a more multicultural team of heroes who would extend those positive messages to people outside of the U.S., and expose American audiences to a more culturally diverse team of heroes. So here is a New Yorker—inspired by an American art form, who sees no difference between his Muslim and his American values—being vilified by the conservative noise machine for wanting to export those values around the world.

President Obama made a special mention about THE 99 superheroes and its creator, Dr. Naif Al-Mutawa, in his speech given recently at the Presidential Summit on Entrepreneurship held in Washington. The President commended THE 99 for capturing the imaginations of young people through the message of tolerance. Entrepreneurs from all over the globe are attending the summit, including Dr. Naif Al-Mutawa, creator of THE 99 superheroes.

Go to the The 99 website to see an animated preview of the series and learn about the diverse group of 99 heroes whose combined adventures just might do more for multicultural tolerance and understanding among young people than any textbook on the subject.

You can also download a comic book that tells of their origins. How cool is that!

the Pakistanis laughed

The Pakistanis laughed. So did “The Bangladeshis. The women with head scarves. The blondes. The Indians. The Palestinians. The Jews.”

It was that kind of night, actually, when for a moment you can believe that all the world’s problems could be solved if everyone would just lighten up a little bit (or a lot) and laugh together, at themselves and at each other. The lineup was packed. It was like there’d been an uprising at The Daily Show and Jon Stewart was stashed in a closet somewhere backstage bound in duct tape.

Go to Meera Subramanian‘s piece at Killing the Buddha and read about the night

Comedian Aasif Mandvi, correspondent for Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, began ….. “Stand Up for Religious Freedom” at Comix on W. 14th Street in New York …… reflecting on things he missed as a kid growing up Muslim. “Santa Claus. Bacon Bits.” (Pause, the critical tool of the comic.) “Seeing my mother’s face.”

Laughter. The best medicine.

I’m with Michael on this

On September 11, in memory of a co-worker he lost on that day, he wrote:

I believe in an America that protects those who are the victims of hate and prejudice. I believe in an America that says you have the right to worship whatever God you have, wherever you want to worship. And I believe in an America that says to the world that we are a loving and generous people and if a bunch of murderers steal your religion from you and use it as their excuse to kill 3,000 souls, then I want to help you get your religion back. And I want to put it at the spot where it was stolen from you.

I’m quoting Michael Moore, of course, that guy who has (and shows) the courage of his convictions.

He makes a great suggestion at the end of his piece quoted above, in which he argues that the mosque community center intended to be built near Ground Zero should be built AT Ground Zero:

I say right now. Let’s each of us make a statement by donating to the building of this community center! It’s a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization and you can donate a dollar or ten dollars (or more) right now through a secure pay pal account by clicking here. I will personally match the first $10,000 raised (forward your PayPal receipt to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ). If each one of you reading this blog/email donated just a couple of dollars, that would give the center over $6 million, more than what Donald Trump has offered to buy the Imam out. C’mon everyone, let’s pitch in and help those who are being debased for simply wanting to do something good. We could all make a huge statement of love on this solemn day.

I never contribute money to any cause. This time I made an exception.

the last of Lot’s wife

The following is a piece I wrote in response to this Magpie Tales #17 visual prompt of a female head. Go here to find other writers’ responses.

Lot's wife

She was my sister before she was Lot’s wife – Irit, my older sister, who was special to the goddess, although that was a fact only known to the women of Soddom. For it was the men who ruled our town, our lives, our destiny, burrowing into the soils along the edges of the town, along the shores of the salty Dead Sea, bringing up the dark thick substance that held together our walls and our dead. “Mumiya” it was called. You call it “asphalt.” Sometimes a man would fall into a firey pit and drown in it. He would become mummified – forever preserved in a column of stone.

Irit was a good wife, and Lot was one of the better husbands, although that is not saying much, given the place that the new god of men designated for women. That is why many of us kept to the old ways in secret, gathering over our shared cauldrons of stew, rich with the yieldings of the fertile lands we also shared beyond the smokey shoreline. We would give our thanks to the Mother of All, ask for her blessings and prophecies, look to her priestess for guidance.

And that is how Irit came to be caught in the fires finally sparked by the greed of some of our men. She had a vision, Irit did – a vision of the earth quaking and burning, a vision of a darkness billowing out from the underworld. And she told her husband, who was one of the better husbands, who respected the wisdom of women and their ways, and often took his wife’s counsel. But when Lot tried to warn his fellow townsmen to watch for signs, they would not listen, for it was not their god who spoke, and they coveted their riches.

And so when the earth began to tremble and red fires erupted along the shoreline, when the land began to melt and fold in on itself and stony shards shot up into the air, Lot and and his wife, Irit, gathered their family and began to flee north to the olive groves — until Irit heard the screams of a townswoman whose husband held her down on the ground so that she could not run. And so Lot’s wife turned to help her friend.

“No!” I cried to my sister. “No!” cried Lot to his wife.

“No!” cried Lot’s wife as a great dark wave erupted from the earth, engulfing her and leaving her hardened form to withstand the next rain of sulphur-spewn stones.

And that’s when her head broke off and rolled toward me down the slope, landing with her face looking into mine and still calling “No!”

I carried her hardened image with me through all of our long journeys north to the land of Hatti, where I finally settled with a band of women who called themselves “ha-mazan.”

We kept the mummified head of Lot’s wife, Irit, on the altar where we sought the guidance of the Great Mother, whom we all knew by different names – Ishtar, Astarte, Innana, Lilitu — to remind us of Irit’s last word.

I don’t know what happened to Lot and his children. But I do know that what everyone thinks happened in Soddom is not the story I know about Lot’s wife.

[writer’s note: details about Bronze Age towns along the Dead Sea gotten from here.]

America is not a Christian country


From here, where you should go and read the whole post:

That’s why I like very much what the Freedom From Religion Foundation is doing: they’ve created wonderful ads with quotes from the Founding Fathers showing precisely how they felt on this issue. The one above of JFK is cool, because his candidacy was attacked for him being a Catholic, of all things. The thing is, he was a religious man, and still understood that religion must be kept away from politics.


so, I won this book


The book, which contains free verse and reprints of prayers and bits of prose, features lots of Corita’s collage art, which contains lots of cut-up words from ads and headlines, sometimes reconfigured, sometimes not.

The description above is from a post on the site from which I won the book — Killing the Buddha. It’s a site that I find always stimulating.

I never win anything. I mean it. I think that this is the first thing I every won. Well, I came in second in a Swing Dance contest once. Even got a trophy. Usually I don’t even make an effort to enter any kind of contest. Never play the lottery. Because I never win anything.

But this time I did. And I did because I remember the 60s. I didn’t remember Sister Corita, who created the book, published in 1967. But I did remember the Berrigan Brothers, and I remembered that Daniel Berrigan was a Jesuit.

I recently read online somewhere (can’t find it again) that the story was that Daniel Berrigan kept a photo of Sister Corita in his shower with a note that said “no one should shower alone.”

Thinking of Berrigan, I am remembering another activist ex-priest who was a good friend at one point in my life. He has grown immensely as an artist in those past 25 years, although he was good even back then. His paintings, as he is, are larger than life. I just love his new stuff.

I have been fortunate in my life to have had some closeness with some truly unique men, who have inspired me and moved on and left me with the kinds of memories that will keep me smiling someday as I retire to a rocking chair in the sun.

(And I’ve been just as fortunate to continue to have a group of close women friends whose constancy and candor, humor and heart, help to keep me smiling — well, most of the time.)

So, now I wait for my prize, a book by a creative woman, to arrive.

It’s a good day.

almost as immorally nuts as GOPers

I gave up raging over the mess that the GOP so-called “leaders” have been making of my country. It seems like too many of the people on this planet are hell-bent on helping with the demise of sense and sanity.

All of the following are excerpts from this week’s Harper’s Weekly Review, where you can find documentation and a citation for each of these discomfitting reports.

A Walmart in New Jersey asked all black people to leave.

An Ohio man told police that since January he’s been sucker-punching little children at his local Walmart for thrills.

A Kentucky man was charged with wanton endangerment after he got drunk and put his five-week-old son to bed in an oven.

Wachovia Bank was fined $50 million, and required to remit a further $110 million, for laundering funds for Mexican cocaine cartels.

A Swedish report found that the United Arab Emirates is now the fourth-largest importer of weapons in the world.

Dutch officials repudiated a claim by U.S. general and former NATO commander John Sheehan that the gayness of the Dutch army had rendered it unable to defend Srebrenica against the Serbs.

Pope Benedict XVI wrote a letter to Ireland to apologize for the sexual abuse of children by Church leaders.

A lawyer in Oregon was planning to release the Boy Scouts’ “perversion files,” a secret archive of 1,000 documents identifying Scout molesters.

A cable network in North Carolina played two hours of porn on the Kids On Demand channel.

Then there’s the “a little nuts but not immoral” category:

Members of the Winnemem Wintu Indian tribe traveled from California to New Zealand to beg forgiveness of the salmon.

Mexican police were praying to spirits and sacrificing chickens to protect themselves from drug lords.

The Vatican was investigating the daily appearances in Medjugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovina, of the Virgin Mary, who is crowned with stars and floats upon a cloud.

Indian politicians wanted to ban both black magic and Lindsay Lohan.

Finally, neither nuts nor immoral, and maybe a good idea — especially since I haven’t been able to wear my removable bridge because my gums are swollen:

A Bavarian baby-food company said it was planning to market its product to adults who dislike chewing.

Makes you just want to break out in song, doesn’t it?

Stop the World I Want to Get Off


Stop the World I Want to Get Off


Stop the World I Want to Get Off

Killing the Buddha at Christmas

I am watching the evolution of the third generation of our family’s non-believers. He’s 7 years old now, asking questions like “if everyone has a mother, than shouldn’t the first mother have had a mother.” And so he learns about evolution.

He doesn’t ask about god or the first Christmas. He knows the stories. The various creation stories. The various winter celebration stories. He knows that different people believe different things when it comes to all things “god.”

He’s never been to an actual church service, although he might when my 94 year old Catholic mother finally passes away. He understands death as the final human event, and he participated in our ritual when we sent his grandfather’s ashes into the sea. He understands the power of ritual, apart from its religious associations.

What causes him to wonder, to experience awe, are the questions of science. What makes him feel secure are the roots of family. What sparks his creativity is the vitality of this planet’s various mythologies.

I brought up two compassionate, ethical, moral children (now adults) without a belief in in god. If they feel the awesomeness of the divine around them, it is through the natural world and their connection to it. And through their example and teaching, my grandson is sensing that divine as well.

Some people find comfort in faith. That’s OK. It’s just not us.

But we do find comfort in some cultural traditions. Christmas, for example.

It’s Christmas Eve.

For dinner tonight, we will have beet barszcz and three different kinds of pierogi. My daughter has kept part of the family’s Polish food tradition.

We will open family presents tonight in front of the lit Christmas tree, and Santa will come when we are all asleep and fill our stockings. For us it’s a cultural thing, not a religious. After all, stories of virgin births are a part of almost every cultural mythology.

We will set a place for the absent member of our family, way out in Portland, Oregon, who, we hope, will enjoy the box of gifts we sent out to him.

On Christmas Day, we will go to my son-in-law’s family to continue the feast.

Christmas, Xmas, Yule, Saturnalia, Solstice. We celebrate our family and hope for a future in which we all will thrive.

Merry Christmas.

little altars everywhere

Yes, I know that’s the name of a book by the Ya-Ya writer, Rebecca Wells.

But in this case, I’m referring to this slide show of “altars” that people submitted to a request for “What’s on Your Shelf” from the blog on Killing the Buddha.

I’m not sure how I found that site — probably just surfing around, looking for something to think about, care about. Not that there isn’t plenty out there: homeless, bankruptcy, greed, war, fraud, despair. Oh, yes, plenty to think about and care about. Too much, as a matter of fact. Too much for my tired brain, tired heart.

If You Meet the Buddha on the Road, Kill Him
is one of my favorite non-fiction books. Maybe by only favorite non-fiction book. So, it’s not surprising that when I ran across the Killing the Buddha website, I was intrigued.

I used to have an altar of sorts — that’s when I had room for a surface to put it on. Now I have a wall

that includes a witch’s broom, my old power stick, a quilted shield especially designed and constructed for me by my good quilter friend, my new walking stick, Acuaba, and a photoshopped picture of “witches at tea” using the faces of my women friends. As powerful and meaningful as any shelved altar, I would think.

My shelves themselves are stacked with books, craft patterns, and assorted other things of significance. For example:


You might notice the Tarot deck, the icons, the empty box from my 3G iphone, a mini cast iron cauldron. What you don’t see in the shelves below are my collections of beads and jewelry findings that I’m trying to find time to play with/work on.

As I hurry along to get ready for Christmas (yes, I do still call it Christmas; why not?), I think about the cocoon in which I have wrapped myself during this time of world wide insanity to escape from the fundamentalists, the radical atheists, the war mongers and warring sufferers, indeed, the sufferers of all kinds.

I surround myself with resident family and Bully Hill Seasons wine and Chocolate Mint kisses, with quilting dreams and knitting crafts, with escapist suspense novels on ipod and paper, with the snores of my old and much loved cat.

I wish there were, indeed, little altars everywhere like mine — eclectic and inclusive and affirming.

I wish there were an altar somewhere on which if could feel prayers for my suffering mother would be