August 26, 2014

History Cheat Sheet: Iraq

Recently, I was asked to answer a question along the lines of "WTF Iraq?"  The question was prompted by the surprising military takeover of a large amount of the country, including important cities like Mosul.  While to some of us it might seem like Iraq came into being when the US invaded it in 2003, the terrible conflict going on there right now is, like pretty much everything else in the world, bound up in centuries of religious, ethnic, and cultural factors, which means that even the minutiae of this situation is the most important thing in the world to someone.  This post is my (long) answer to this question.  Hopefully it will help one or two of us feel like we can wrap our heads around this region the tiniest bit better than we could yesterday.

Ruins of the ancient city of Hatra Source

First off, let’s address something incredibly important. The difference between Sunnis and Shiites in the region is one of the major causes of its seemingly endless unrest. Most of us, if we’re being honest, couldn’t explain the difference between Shia and Sunni Islam if we tried, so let’s pause here at the beginning to make some sense of it. The split happened in 632, right after the Prophet Muhammad’s death, and was essentially a disagreement over who should replace him. The majority of his followers believed that they should choose the next Caliph – the spiritual leader of Islam as well as the head of the Islamic Empire. A few, however, believed that the line of succession should follow Muhammad’s family line, and go to his son-in-law, Ali. This group which, not surprisingly, included Ali, called themselves the Shia, and a schism was born. The Sunnis won out, and a new caliph was chosen, but with decades of violence, and the murder of two caliphs, as the result. Ali was eventually chosen as the fourth caliph, but this led to a war in which Ali himself was killed. His son, Hussein, became a martyr for the Shiite cause when he and 72 family members went into battle against the caliph’s much larger army and, again not surprisingly, were all killed. Since then, Hussein’s spiritual significance has been transferred to the Shiite leaders, or Imams. This is one of the biggest sticking points between Sunnis and Shiites, as no leader in Sunni Islam has the same kind of spiritual importance as Shiite Imams. Some Sunnis make the argument that Shiites attribute to their Imams the kind of divine qualities which should be reserved exclusively for God. This is important when we get to the Twelfth Imam, also known as the Hidden Imam, who is for most Shiites a kind of messiah. The Twelfth Imam disappeared in an event now called The Occultation, and so-called Twelver Shiites believe that God took him so that he can return at the end of the world. Although Shiites are a minority – they only make up about 15% of Muslims worldwide – they are the majority in Iraq.

Now that I’ve just jammed 2000 years of history into a paragraph, let’s get back to Iraq.  Click through to go with me.

August 25, 2014

Soundtrack: Passenger

Today, I'm just going to leave this song by Passenger right here.  At the moment I'm doing a lot of what feels like looking for a needle in a haystack, and this song has featured heavily on my playlists because, a) I think he's saying something I'd like to, but can't quite yet; and b) it feels really good to sing it really loud when everything feels a bit overwhelming.  Sorry, neighbours. 

August 21, 2014

Understanding the Boko Haram Kidnappings

My latest piece for the Everygirl has been up for a little while now.  It's about Boko Haram, the Nigerian government, and the tragic kidnapping of 218 girls from their dorm rooms.  After the celebrity tweets die down, it's easy to move on and forget about terrible things going on elsewhere in the world, but that makes this the most important time to maintain our attention to these girls.  It's not too late to #BringBackOurGirls.

May 08, 2014

Understanding Ukraine with The Everygirl

I'm excited to announce that I'm writing a new series for The Everygirl, and my first post is up right now!  We're aiming to help you understand what's happening in our world one topic at a time with a clear report that's (hopefully!) easy to read.  First up is the current crisis in Ukraine.

Understanding the Crisis in Ukraine:  The Everygirl

To give it a read, just click on the image above. 

Something in the world you'd like explained?  Email in to info the everygirl com, with subject line "UNDERSTANDING (TOPIC)" or leave a comment on the post and we'll pick the most popular request for our next piece.

Where I've been

So, I've been the worst blogger ever, I know.  I'm sorry.  Sometimes you just have so many things on your plate that something has to give, and this month it was this blog.  But I can explain myself!

Last Friday, I submitted my graded, printed, and bound M.A. thesis (!!)  

The finished product!!  I'm considering blowing this photo up and framing it.  I've never been so happy to hold a finished piece of work in my hands.  But before this happy moment, there was a lot of this:

 Reminding myself that Spring is happening outside by keeping tulips amongst all that paper.  (Not pictured: me in pajamas and a lumberjack vest, pens stuck in my hair, swearing under my breath.)

Lots of Starbucks work excursions, because working at home alone on the same paper for days on end isn't the healthiest thing in the world.  (Not pictured:  a huge stack of books on Nazism and a guy giving me and those books some pretty nervous side eye.)

But then I was handsomely rewarded!

 My reward was a ten-day trip to California.  My boyfriend had to go out to Los Angeles for a wedding, so we decided to make a big holiday out of it!  We rented a car and drove all around the state.  If you're looking for a fun California holiday and you're able to spend time in the car with your partner without killing him or her, then DO THIS!  This photo is one of about 100 that I took along Route 1, on the drive from Santa Barbara to San Francisco. 

One thing:  if you have vertigo, do not do this.  You are on a very narrow road essentially on the side of a cliff for HOURS.  But if you can deal with those heights, this is one of the most amazing sights I've ever seen.

 Extra bonus: elephant seals!  So many elephant seals!  There were hundreds of these guys just chilling out on the beach.  I could keep one of these as an apartment pet, right?

 We did so many fabulous things on this trip, but I think my favourite day of the trip was at the V. Sattui winery in Napa.  I had this whole big day of exploring San Francisco planned, so when the friend we were staying with suggested we go to Napa instead I was a little hesitant.  Man, am I glad I shut up and went with the flow, because this place was heaven.  New if-I-win-the-lottery plan: start a vineyard in a place like this and never leave.

Alright, that's enough from me for now.  Now that I've explained myself, we can get things back to normal.  Be on the lookout for one of my favourite NYC fables over the weekend!  

March 04, 2014

Paint it black

I've been really hung up on black walls lately. Of course, a dozen reasons why a black wall isn't an option in my life right now spring to mind, chief among them being that I'm not allowed to paint anything in my rented apartment. But I just can't get these black walls out of my head.

It all started with Jordan at Oh Happy Day's bedroom makeover. 

Just look at that!  Don't you want to curl up and snuggle into that image?  Let's take a look at a few others.

Alaina of Live Creating Yourself//The Everygirl's former office. Source: Live Creating Yourself

This chalkboard wall is enticing too! Source: designsponge

Black brick!  Purrrrrrrrrr.  From Apartment Therapy.

What about you?  Do you think you could pull off a black wall?  

P.S. Today is March 4th -- so march forth today!

February 26, 2014

It's a sign

It's snowing again right now.  I don't want to talk about it.

I think winter is getting to us.  I'm not a doctor, so I don't know the precise psychological effects of a prolonged stay on the inside of a snowglobe, but I've noticed that the city has gotten pretty snarky lately.  Specifically, the signs.  Is it just me, or have they taken on an attitude?  They have things to say, damn it, and they won't be ignored any longer!  Click through for a roundup of some of the sass I've gotten lately.

4th Avenue Pub, Booklyn.  At least their dead-end jobs involve liquor?