Friday, March 4th, 2005

Well, fundies at UNC can chalk one up:

A judge has ruled that the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
must recognize a Christian fraternity that refuses to admit gays.

Alpha Iota Omega’s status as an official campus group was revoked after
it refused to sign the university’s nondiscrimination policy.
The policy specifies that groups cannot deny membership to students
based on personal characteristics such as age, race, color, national
origin, religion, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation and

The fraternity argued in court that it shouldn’t be
forced to admit nonbelievers or gay students. It claimed the university
has infringed on its members’ rights to free speech, free association
and free exercise of religion.

U.S. District Court Judge
Frank W. Bullock Jr. issued an injunction ordering the university to
recognize the fraternity, which has only three members. The case may
still go to trial, and Bullock’s injunction will remain in place until
a decision is made.

Much as it disheartens me to hear that the University is being forced to recognize a student group that, in turn, doesn’t in fact recognize many students, I have to say this:  I’m more glad to know my fraternity can opt not
to allow in haters like these kids than I would be to know these kids
had to let in any sad-sack g/l/b/t students who wanted to join them in
a hit from the Holy Beer Bong.  As someone in a tiny minority
religion myself, I’m down with people being left alone to believe what
they want to believe.  It’s just sad that these people who
otherwise would seem to be devoted to a life of education and new ideas
– what with going to college and all – choose to believe they’re better than anybody else.

Oh yes – I was a fratboy (Carolina Class of ’99).  Well, I’m in a frat and I’m a boy.  Let’s say I fit the technical description. 

Fortunately for everyone, my fraternity was and is
blessed by a broad spectrum of beliefs about many things, including
religion.  We had everything from Christians to practicing Druids
to people of the faith of no faith at all (he said, with a nod to James Watt).  I won’t claim it never left anyone feeling uncomfortable or underrepresented or otherwise exposed to (gasp!)
diversity, but neither did it ruin anyone’s life to be around another
with a differing opinion of what happened when they died and what to do
before they got there.  That’s kind of the point of a lot of social
institutions in college life, to expose one’s self to different ideas
and edge a little outside one’s own comfort zone and see what happens. 

Still, the part of me that wears these camo pants and calls for the
uprising of the Lavender Left in a glorious gay guerrilla war thinks it
would be mighty fun if, say, a dozen students of various flavors of
queer were to get together, throw on their best beige and rush that
fraternity.  If they got in, they could come out of the closet en masse
about five seconds after their initiation.  Sure, the frat would
just throw them right out again, but that whole season of rush &
pledge would be wasted.  What a pity that would be.

(Updated Later)

By the by, what’s up with three whole members?  Sounds like
absolutely nothing so much as a token membership designed to spawn a
test case.  UNC seems plagued by this of late.  Three
students sue over the summer reading.  Now three students sue to
be let out of the University’s policies on student groups – policies they had to read and sign before
applying to be recognized in the first place.  Jeez, kids, didn’t
mama teach you to read?  While I agree with the principle of their
religious freedom, were I a University administrator I would absolutely
have fought back on this, and would keep fighting.  These kids
signed the same paperwork every student group has to sign.  They
knew what they were doing when they did it.  If they didn’t, they
are morons, and no lawyer can ever change that.

OK, now I’m done.

(Originally seen & commented on at Pam’s House Blend.) (more…)

Lately I’ve been on another tear of crazy-ass books.  First up has been Mystery of the Crystal Skulls
Gods, but this book is long.  Two documentarians find themselves
running around North & South & Central America looking into the
history of a collection of crystal skulls of hotly debated origin –
some see them as artifacts of the Mayans, some as pre-Mayan, some as
Renaissance forgeries and some as 19th century forgeries.  For the
first 200 pages they present a very balanced and objective story
detailing the various scientists, archeologists, historians,
folklorists and private enthusiasts they interview, including
everything from the solid documentation that the skulls may be
forgeries to the “channeled insights” some self-described psychics
claim to get from the skulls.  They don’t put particular stock in
what the crackpots have to say, and they make certain to balance the
crackpots with repeatable science and rational, honest discussions of
their own doubts and desires regarding the skulls.  I’m very close
to the end but I’m finding it one long row to hoe.  They’ve now
officially waded in above their heads and are strictly in crackpot
territory.  I’m going to finish, but I’m sorely disappointed.

Second in my stack is The Archaic Revival by Terence McKenna.  I should note that the subtitle is Speculations
on Psychedelic Mushrooms, the Amazon, Virtual Reality, UFOs, Evolution,
Shamanism, the Rebirth of the Goddess and the End of History

You want Crackpots 101?  This is a prereq.  I actually don’t
think McKenna was crazy.  Rather, I think he was extremely
brave.  I also think he took a LOT of psychedelics that may have,
I dunno, altered his chemistry.  It’s his firm believe that there
are alternate universes and hyperspatial dimensions (whatever those
are) right next door, just across a quantum mechanical veil, where
alien intelligences are ready to greet anybody who does enough of a
variety of tryptamines.  He’s not in favor of widespread
experimentation with “heroic doses” (his term) of psychedelics, but he
does consider the generality of certain experiences on such substances
to warrant further clinical study to see if this is something that can
be objectively demonstrated to be a shared experience and, perhaps, a
factual environment. 

Given some recent observations of common experience in certain
physiological circumstances (I’ll never find a citation here but I’m
thinking specifically of a study in the last year or so that found the
tunnel-of-light near-death experience can be induced by artificially
restricting oxygen flow to the brain – Jason mentioned it on the SPAM
list, so if you’re a SPAMster you can search the archives there), I’m
wondering whether further, serious clinical study would show that the
common experience is due to a predictable alteration in brain chemistry
on large doses or demonstrate that there is some alien dimension of
“self-replicating machine-elves” (his term, again), or whether any
results at all would ever settle into something other than heated

After all, I think there are plenty of people (perhaps myself, as well)
who would argue that oxygen deprivation is nothing to sneeze at and
that an ability to arbitrarily induce an experience which, regardless
of its explanation, occurs outside the observable realm doesn’t
invalidate the experience itself.  If the brain thinks it’s dying,
who says it doesn’t act like it’s dying and eject the spirit, if that’s
what you believe in?  On the other hand, who says it isn’t a
completely artificial experience designed to calm someone in their
final moments, a mercy of biological chance?  I don’t know the
answer, and neither does anyone else – and no matter how often studied
or in what doses, I think psychedelic experiences are going to remain
similarly unsettled and similarly debatable regardless of how many
times they’re experienced or how outside the self they seem in

That said, it’s some fascinating reading.  He’s all over the map,
and it ends up repetitive (given it’s a collection of transcripts from
speeches and interviews done over a period of years), but it’s
fascinating stuff.  Even if it’s crazy, he seems so sincere in his
belief that it seems rude to dismiss him out-of-hand.  Still, for
something documenting psychedelic experience and modern shamanism
that’s largely devoid of dogma and more journalistic in its approach, I
would have to recommend Breaking Open The Head by Daniel Pinchbeck before The Archaic Revival.  It’s a better book and it just seems – and I hate to say this, but it’s how I feel – less kooky.

Third, thanks to Mr. Pink Eyes and Katastrophes, is the TPB collection of Bone comics.  Must start it soon.  MUST. (more…)

You know how I ordered four Hoover apple trees for the yard? 
Yesterday I slapped my forehead and realized I would need
cross-pollinators.  So now I’ve ordered four more of different
varieties, all southern heirloom varieties, all from Big Horse Creek Farm here in NC.

Gods but I am gonna be digging some holes. (more…)