A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘religion

[BLOG] Some Tuesday links

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  • blogTO notes the plans to build a large park under the western Gardiner.
  • Centauri Dreams looks at Pluto.
  • The Dragon’s Tales goes to Syria.
  • Far Outliers reports from a despairing Siberian village.
  • Geocurrents notes that most Moravians live in Tanzania.
  • Joe. My. God. notes Ireland’s marriage laws have gone into effect.
  • Language Log looks at the spread of the shawm, a musical instrument, across Asia.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes David Frum’s proposal to ethnically cleanse Muslims from Europe.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer considers the prospects for a widened French war in Syria, noting that despite the popularity of intervention France cannot do much more.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy is critical of the European Union’s policy requiring the labeling of goods made in the West Bank.
  • Window on Eurasia notes the growth of barriers hindering the departure of Russians and looks at Stalin’s rivalry with Hitler in the Balkans and elsewhere.

[LINK] “Angry neighbours, other faith groups reach out to help after Ontario mosque torched”

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The National Post‘s Richard Warnica writes about the heartwarming response from Peterborough following the mosque arson there.

Members of other church groups have already reached out to offer what help they can.

Larry Gillman, president of the local Beth Israel Synagogue, heard about the attack Sunday night while attending an interfaith dinner to raise money for Syrian refugees.

“I’m angry. I’m absolutely angry,” he said. “This is a hate crime.”

Gillman, who knows Abdella, offered him space Sunday in the synagogue for next Friday’s prayers. As it turned out, he was too late.

The Muslim congregation had already accepted an offer from the Mark Street United Church downtown to use its friendship room for the Friday gathering.

More, including more about the community reaction, there.

Written by Randy McDonald

November 17, 2015 at 11:05 am

[LINK] “The Inanity of the Starbucks Christmas Cup ‘Controversy’”

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The Atlantic‘s Emma Green is entirely accurate about the ridiculous nature of this supposed controversy.

“Maybe we should boycott Starbucks. I don’t know,” Donald Trump said on Monday night at a speech in Springfield, Illinois. “Seriously, I don’t care.”

It was a rare moment of trollish apathy for the Donald, considering that he was referring to the kind of peevish campaign that’s right up his alley: a video going around the Internet by a guy named Joshua Feuerstein—he calls himself “an American evangelist, Internet, and social media personality”—raging against “the age of political correctness” and the new seasonal coffee cups at Starbucks.

“Do you realize that Starbucks wanted to take Christ, and Christmas, off of their brand-new cups? That’s why they’re just plain red,” he says.

First off, just to be clear, the long-haired, chill-looking person on Starbucks’s cups isn’t Jesus—she’s “a 16th century Norse woodcut of a twin-tailed mermaid, or Siren.” And though Starbucks says it “has told a story of the holidays by featuring symbols of the season from vintage ornaments and hand-drawn reindeer to modern vector-illustrated characters” since 1997, there was never a time when someone could sip a latte out of a nativity-scene-decorated cup.

[. . .]

In an email, a Starbucks spokesperson said that the company’s baristas “are not provided a script or a policy around greeting customers. They are simply encouraged to create a welcoming environment to delight each person who walks through our doors.” So, no, Feuerstein isn’t right—there’s no ban on Christmas greetings at Starbucks. That being said, Starbucks is a global company that serves millions of customers per day at over 23,000 stores in 68 countries, including the United States, which is home to people who celebrate Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanzaa, other holidays, or nothing at all in December. They can’t, as a matter of protocol, wish everyone a Merry Christmas. For those who really, really need their barista to wish them a Merry Christmas to find their delight, Feuerstein has a solution: Tell her your name is “Merry Christmas,” and then she’ll have to say it when she’s fixed your hot beverage of choice.

Written by Randy McDonald

November 10, 2015 at 10:37 pm

[BLOG] Some Monday links

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  • blogTO shares photos of Yonge and Dundas in the grimy 1970s.
  • The Big Picture shares photos from a Tibetan Buddhist assembly.
  • Crooked Timber shares a photo of Bristol’s floating bridge.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze reports on an estimate of the number of extraterrestrial technological civilizations.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes an atlas of drought in Europe.
  • Geocurrents examines the fallacy of environmental determinism.
  • Joe. My. God. notes how open travel between the European Union and Ukraine has been endangered by the failure to protect gay employment.
  • Language Hat links to an essay by a feminist talking about what it is like to live in a language environment, that of Hebrew, where everything is gendered.
  • Language Log engages with fax usage in Japan and notes rare characters in Taiwan.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes the plight of the dying steel town, all the worse because it was evitable.
  • Marginal Revolution has a bizarre defense of Ben Carson.
  • The Russian Demographics Blog and Window on Eurasia report on a rectification of the Russian-Chinese frontier.
  • Window on Eurasia is critical of village values in Russia, and notes the return of ISIS fighters to Azerbaijan.

[LINK] “Tripping On Good Vibrations: Cultural Commodification and Tibetan Singing Bowls”

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Anthropologist Ben Joffe has an interesting post at Savage Minds about Tibetan singing bowls. Positioned to a largely Western audience as meditation aids, Joffe argues that these are not traditional Tibetan cultural elements. It may well be that enterprising merchants repurposed traditional eating bowls. (That this works nonetheless is a minor joy for the bowls’ users.)

[T]he claim that metallic bowls have been used by Tibetan Buddhist monastics for centuries as musical instruments and ritual tools would seem to be widely accepted and generally known. To be sure, metal bowls and strikers of all shapes and sizes grace Tibetan refugee stalls, curio shops and New Age boutiques the world over. Here in McLeod Ganj, India, the Tibetan capital-in-exile, you can’t swing a prayer wheel without hitting a singing bowl for sale. A significant industry exists around the power of the bowls, and singing bowl sound healing masters today provide treatments, offer workshops, record CDs, and conduct live performances in countries all over the world. The association of resonant bowls with spirituality, and with Tibetan and/or Buddhist spirituality in particular, would seem to be firmly established.

As it turns out though, singing bowls’ supposed antiquity and Tibetan-ness is rather contentious. Academic consensus is that the ‘Tibetan’ singing bowl is a thoroughly modern and Western invention, and that singing bowls are really not Tibetan at all. Perhaps the easiest way to appreciate this (to return to my earlier Dad joke) is by noting that while there is indeed a Tibetan term for both standing and hand-held prayer wheels (maNi ‘khor lo/lag ‘khor) no specific term for ‘singing bowl’ exists in Tibetan. Standing or ‘resting’ bells – unsuspended bells that face upwards and which lack an interior clapper – exist throughout Buddhist Asia and have often served as temple gongs and as devices for marking the break between sessions in ritual or meditative activities (the Tibetan ritual bell or dril bu, a fixture of tantric Buddhist rites, often serves a similiar function). Tibetans have made various kinds of bowls (phor pa) for centuries, which they have used for storage, eating and drinking, and as containers for offerings on altars. Tibetans also make use of a number of traditional musical instruments for both religious and recreational purposes, and in both monastic and non-monastic ritual contexts the chanting of prayers and mantras is accompanied by the chiming, clashing, blasting, and beating of a vast array of specially-designed ritual instruments. Yet, as historian of Tibet Tsering Shakya has confirmed in no uncertain terms, there remains no credible historical evidence for Tibetans ever having used ‘resonating’ metallic bowls in any way that resembles how they are employed by self-avowed sound and ‘vibrational’ healers today.

So where does the idea of singing bowls’ Tibetan-ness come from then? Singing bowls don’t even get a mention in either Donald Lopez or Peter Bishop’s classic treatments of Tibet in the Western imagination. The bowls do however appear in Martin Brauen’s comprehensive survey of Western fantasies about Tibet, ‘Dreamworld Tibet/Western Illusions’ (2004). In contrast to the meticulous detail with which Brauen traces the origins of a host of other fantastical things connected to Tibet though, his comments on singing bowls are surprisingly brief and vague[.]

Written by Randy McDonald

November 4, 2015 at 5:57 pm

[BLOG] Some Tuesday links

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  • blogTO notes an upcoming Instagram meetup here in Toronto.
  • Centauri Dreams notes the latest Voyager 1 findings on interstellar space.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze notes exoplanets orbiting red dwarfs are more likely to exhibit high abiotic levels of atmospheric oxygen.
  • The Dragon’s Tales reports on the news Chinese C919 jet plane, meant to compete with Airbus and Boeing.
  • Geocurrents maps religion in insular Southeast Asia.
  • Joe. My. God. and Towleroad both look at how Yusuf Mack, an American boxer who claimed he was drugged into participating in a gay porn film, has actually come out via a convincing apology.
  • Marginal Revolution wonders why short-term interest rates are negative.
  • The Planetary Society Blog’s Emily Lakdawalla shares her updated chart showing the round worlds of the solar system.
  • Spacing argues for the importance of urban forestry.
  • Towleroad notes same-sex couples in the United States who, having made use of adoption to create a legal relationship, are now unable to marry.
  • Transit Toronto notes ongoing streetcar diversions on Queen Street East.
  • Window on Eurasia notes the harm done to Ukrainians so far by Russia and the dim prospects of this being stopped any time soon.

[BLOG] Some Friday links

  • blogTO notes that graffiti artists around the world, including in Toronto, are promoting Justin Bieber’s new album.
  • The Broadside Blog’s Caitlin Kelly likes pilot Mark Vanhoenacker’s book about flight.
  • Centauri Dreams notes one possibility for a Europa sample mission.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze notes simulations which suggest spiral arms in circumstellar disks point towards new planets.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes the critical endangerment of mangrove forests, looks at the irregularly shaped core of Enceladus, and wonders about Russia’s military shipyards.
  • Geocurrents maps the exceptionally complicated religious mixture of northeastern South Asia.
  • Language Hat notes the complex use of language by Julien Green and his writing.
  • Marginal Revolution looks at China’s one-child policy.
  • Supernova Condensate shares most photos of Pluto.
  • Why I Love Toronto shares a list of haunted places in Toronto.
  • Window on Eurasia worries about the West stopping its support of Ukraine, and notes the ISIS war against Russia.
  • The Financial Times‘ The World blog notes the importance of turmoil in Moldova.

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