Mrs Morrison's Hotel

The 100% personal official blog for Patricia Kennealy Morrison, author, Celtic priestess, retired rock critic, wife of Jim

My Photo
Location: New York, New York, United States

I was, wait, sorry, that's "David Copperfield". Anyway, I was born in Brooklyn, grew up on Long Island, went to school in upstate NY and came straight back to Manhattan to live. Never lived anywhere else. Never wanted to. Got a job as a rock journalist, in the course of which I met and married a rock star (yeah, yeah, conflict of interest, who cares). Became a priestess in a Celtic Pagan tradition, and (based on sheer longevity) one of the most senior Witches around. Began writing my Keltiad series. Wrote a memoir of my time with my beloved consort (Strange Days: My Life With and Without Jim Morrison). See Favorite Books below for a big announcement...The Rennie Stride Mysteries. "There is no trick or cunning, no art or recipe, by which you can have in your writing that which you do not possess in yourself." ---Walt Whitman (Also @ and

Saturday, September 22, 2007

And Then There's This...

How 'bout we just cut off these guys' dicks? If rampant sexuality is the problem as these dirtbags see it? I'd volunteer at THAT clinic...

September 20, 2007

Voices Rise in Egypt to Shield Girls From an Old Tradition

KAFR AL MANSHI ABOU HAMAR, Egypt — The men in this poor farming community were seething. A 13-year-old girl was brought to a doctor’s office to have her clitoris removed, a surgery considered necessary here to preserve chastity and honor.

The girl died, but that was not the source of the outrage. After her death, the government shut down the clinic, and that got everyone stirred up.

“They will not stop us,” shouted Saad Yehia, a tea shop owner along the main street. “We support circumcision!” he shouted over and over.

“Even if the state doesn’t like it, we will circumcise the girls,” shouted Fahmy Ezzeddin Shaweesh, an elder in the village.

Circumcision, as supporters call it, or female genital mutilation, as opponents refer to it, was suddenly a ferocious focus of debate in Egypt this summer. A nationwide campaign to stop the practice has become one of the most powerful social movements in Egypt in decades, uniting an unlikely alliance of government forces, official religious leaders and street-level activists.

Though Egypt’s Health Ministry ordered an end to the practice in 1996, it allowed exceptions in cases of emergency, a loophole critics describe as so wide that it effectively rendered the ban meaningless. But now the government is trying to force a comprehensive ban.

Not only was it unusual for the government to shut down the clinic, but the health minister has also issued a decree banning health care workers— or anyone — from conducting the procedure for any reason. Beyond that, the Ministry of Religious Affairs also issued a booklet explaining why the practice was not called for in Islam; Egypt’s grand mufti, Ali Gomaa, declared it haram, or prohibited by Islam; Egypt’s highest religious official, Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi, called it harmful; television advertisements have been shown on state channels to discourage it; and a national hot line was set up to answer the public’s questions about genital cutting.

But as the men in this village demonstrated, widespread social change in Egypt comes slowly, very slowly. This country is conservative, religious and, for many, guided largely by traditions, even when those traditions do not adhere to the tenets of their faith, be it Christianity or Islam.

For centuries Egyptian girls, usually between the ages of 7 and 13, have been taken to have the procedure done, sometimes by a doctor, sometimes by a barber or whoever else in the village would do it. As recently as 2005, a government health survey showed that 96 percent of the thousands of married, divorced or widowed women interviewed said they had undergone the procedure — a figure that astounds even many Egyptians. In the language of the survey, “The practice of female circumcision is virtually universal among women of reproductive age in Egypt.”

Though the practice is common and increasingly contentious throughout sub-Saharan Africa, among Arab states the only other place where this practice is customary is in southern Yemen, experts here said. In Saudi Arabia, where women cannot drive, cannot vote, cannot hold most jobs, the practice is viewed as abhorrent, a reflection of pre-Islamic traditions.

But now, quite suddenly, forces opposing genital cutting in Egypt are pressing back as never before. More than a century after the first efforts to curb this custom, the movement has broken through one of the main barriers to change: It is no longer considered taboo to discuss it in public. That shift seems to have coincided with a small but growing acceptance of talking about human sexuality on television and radio.

For the first time, opponents said, television news shows and newspapers have aggressively reported details of botched operations. This summer two young girls died, and it was front-page news in Al Masry al Yom, an independent and popular daily. Activists highlighted the deaths with public demonstrations, which generated even more coverage.

The force behind this unlikely collaboration between government, nongovernment organizations, religious leaders and the news media is a no-nonsense 84-year-old anthropologist named Marie Assaad, who has been fighting against genital cutting since the 1950s.

“I never thought I would live to see this day,” she said, reading about the subject in a widely circulated daily newspaper.

Dr. Nasr el-Sayyid, assistant to the minister of health, said there had already been a drop in urban areas, along with an aggressive effort in more than 100 villages, mostly in the south, to curb the practice. “Our plan and program over the next two years is aiming to take it down 20 percent nationwide,” he said.

The challenge, however, rests in persuading people that their grandparents, parents and they themselves have harmed their daughters. Moreover, advocates must convince a skeptical public that men will marry a woman who has not undergone the procedure and that circumcision is not necessary to preserve family honor. It is a challenge to get men to give up some of their control over women.

And it will be a challenge to convince influential people like Osama Mohamed el-Moaseri, imam of a mosque in Basyoun, the city near where the 13-year-old girl lived, and died. “This practice has been passed down generation after generation, so it is natural that every person circumcises his daughter,” he said. “When Ali Gomaa says it is haram, he is criticizing the practice of our fathers and forefathers.”

But the movement against genital cutting has matured and is increasingly prepared for these arguments. At first, Ms. Assaad and a group of intellectuals who together created a task force simply lectured their neighbors, essentially calling the practice barbaric.

“At the beginning we preached and said this is wrong,” she recalled. “It didn’t work. They said, ‘It was done to our mothers and grandmothers, and they are fine.’ ”

She and her colleagues sounded like out-of-touch urban intellectuals, she said. But over time, they enlisted the aid of Islamic scholars and health care workers, hoping to disperse misconceptions — like the idea that cutting off the clitoris prevents homosexuality — and relate to people’s lives.

“Circumcision is a very old custom and has absolutely no benefits,” Vivian Fouad, who helps staff the national hot line, said to a caller wondering what to do with her own daughter. She continued: “If you want to protect your daughter, then you have to raise her well. How you raise your child is the main factor in everything, not mutilating your daughter.”

Egypt is a patriarchal society, but women can be a powerful force. So Ms. Assaad helped persuade two important women, elite and privileged, who like herself could not believe the practice was as widespread as it was, to join her battle.

The first was Suzanne Mubarak, the wife of President Hosni Mubarak and a political force in her own right. The second was an ally of Mrs. Mubarak, Mosheira Khattab, head of the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood, a government agency that helps set national health and social policies.

Mrs. Khattab has become a force in pressing the agenda. Her council now has a full-time staff working on the issue and runs the hot line. She toured the Nile Delta region, three cities in one day, promoting the message, blunt and outraged that genital cutting had not stopped.

“The Koran is a newcomer to tradition in this manner,” she said. “As a male society, the men took parts of religion that satisfied men and inflated it. The parts of the Koran that helped women, they ignored.”

It is an unusual swipe at the Islamists who have promoted the practice as in keeping with religion, especially since the government generally tries to avoid taking on conservative religious leaders. It tries to position itself as the guardian of Islamic values, aiming to enhance its own wilted legitimacy and undercut support for the Muslim Brotherhood, the banned but popular opposition movement.

But the religious discourse concerning genital cutting has changed, and that is credited to Ms. Assaad’s strategy of reaching up to people like Mrs. Mubarak and out to young women like Fatma Ibrahim, 24. When Ms. Ibrahim was 11 years old, she said, her parents told her she was going for a blood test. The doctor, a relative, put her to sleep and when she woke, she said she could not walk.

The memory haunts her now, and though she says that her parents “will kill” her if they find out, she has become a volunteer in the movement against genital cutting, hoping to spare other women what she endured.

“I am looking to talk to the young, the ones who will be parents in 10 years,” she said. “This is my target group. I talk to the young. When I get married, inshallah, I will never, ever circumcise my daughter.”

Mona el-Naggar contributed reporting from Cairo.

Beware of Maya

From the L.A. Time...and India so plumes itself on its civilized ways! They're just as primitive and pig-ignorant as the Islamic genital mutilators...take THAT, George Harrison!

Wedded to greed in India
Despite official efforts, grooms and in-laws still harass, torture and even kill brides over dowries. Rising affluence has only worsened the avarice.
By Henry Chu
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

September 22, 2007

PATNA, INDIA — The beatings stopped only after she fled the house. For four years after she married a local shopkeeper, Rubi Devi's in-laws constantly bullied her for not bringing a bigger dowry, then tortured her when she failed to pony up more gold, more cash, more goods.

"My mother-in-law and sister-in-law would beat me up. They would grab me by the hair and drag me around. They used to hit me with whatever they could lay their hands on" while her father-in-law pinned back her arms, Devi said, her henna-patterned hands trembling and her cheeks hot with tears.

This year she decided she could endure no more, and bolted for her parents' home here in eastern India, another victim of dowry harassment and violence in this country.

Yet Devi, 27, is one of the lucky ones: Her name was not added to the list of thousands of wives who are beaten to death, burned alive, electrocuted, poisoned, pushed out windows or otherwise killed horrifically every year because their husbands' families are dissatisfied with the dowries they bring to the marriage and continue to demand more.

In 2005, the most recent year for which figures are available, a woman was killed over dowry every 77 minutes in India, according to the National Crime Records Bureau. The total of such homicides was 6,787, but experts suspect that the true figure is much higher, because many dowry killings are not reported. Even when they are, most of the killers go unpunished.

The practice of dowry in India goes back thousands of years. Its original intent, scholars say, was to protect women, who by bringing property and belongings to the marriage could enjoy some creature comforts and not have to depend entirely on their husbands.

But somewhere along the line, what was supposed to be security for the bride came to be seen as a boon to the groom and his family, a way for them to augment their wealth.

India's vaunted economic boom since the mid-1990s, which has seen incomes grow and living standards rise for many, has not stemmed the tide of dowry-related violence.

If anything, some say, it has exacerbated it, as a new acquisitiveness permeates society, with more consumer and luxury goods showing up on store shelves and in TV commercials. From 1995 to 2005, the number of recorded dowry deaths jumped by 46%.

" 'India rising' has added to 'dowry rising,' " said Ranjana Kumari, director of the Center for Social Research, a New Delhi-based think tank devoted to women's issues. "It's getting worse."

Demanding dowry has been illegal in India since 1961, but the prohibition has rarely been enforced. The problem cuts across all social and class lines, affecting rich and poor, educated and illiterate, urban and rural.

In July, a senior government minister, Arjun Singh, was caught up in a scandal when his grandson was accused of demanding a Mercedes and an apartment from his in-laws, who said they already had shelled out $150,000 for the wedding. Last year, former cricket star Manoj Prabhakar was forced to appear in court after his wife accused him of repeatedly battering her because he considered her dowry of cash, jewelry and a car to be insufficient.

"The trend is set by the rich and famous," Kumari said. "They're the ones who start with, 'Nothing less than a Mercedes or an apartment or [money] in the bank,' and it percolates down."

The increasingly high cost of weddings and demand for large dowries is a contributing factor in the high incidence of abortion of female fetuses, experts say. The government has banned sex determination tests, but the practice continues, leading to an alarming shortage of young girls in parts of the country.

Dowry killings, too, are so common that there is even a commonly-used term for the phenomenon, "bride burning," because many newlywed women die from being doused with kerosene and set on fire. The husband's family then reports the death as a "kitchen accident" -- since many households use kerosene stoves.

A generous dowry, critics say, has become the price a girl's parents must pay to land her a "good" husband in India, where most marriages are still arranged. Kumari said the search for a suitable boy nowadays often resembles a bidding process in which the young man's parents weigh competing offers and play interested families off each other.

A few years ago, the Times of India listed the expected price tag on grooms from different professions; the more prestigious or lucrative the job, the bigger the dowry a man's family could demand. A businessman with an MBA could fetch 1.5 million rupees (about $37,500 at today's exchange rate), and a member of India's storied civil service could ask for 2 million rupees ($50,000).

And what used to be simple dowries of livestock and everyday household furnishings have given way to packages of cash, jewelry and big-ticket items, often just to help the groom and his relatives keep up with the neighbors. In many cases, the bride is hounded for more well past the wedding day.

"Whatever the latest consumer goods are in the market is what gets demanded," said Neelu, a women's rights advocate here in Patna, the capital of Bihar state, who goes by only one name.

"Cars, refrigerators -- now there's a demand for computers, too."

Rita Kumari's lower-middle-class parents scraped together 75,000 rupees ($1,875) for her bridal send-off three years ago -- a fortune in a country where annual per capita income hovers around $500 and even more so in Bihar, one of India's poorest states. They threw in jewelry and furniture as well, and celebrated her betrothal to a Patna salesman.

But after only a month or two of marriage, said Kumari (no relation to Ranjana Kumari), her in-laws began harassing her for an additional 100,000 rupees, nearly $2,500, saying they needed it to fix up the family home and set up their son in business. When she told them that her parents could not afford such an amount, Kumari's husband, his parents and two brothers, who all live under the same roof, began pummeling her with their bare hands, she said.

"It was greed, not need," Kumari said of the escalating dowry demands. "I was the vehicle."

Desperate, Kumari's parents tried to appease her in-laws by buying them a color television, a gold chain, a cellphone. It was not enough, and the beatings continued. Kumari, 28, fled her husband's house in April.

She was afraid to go to the authorities. India's police are notoriously corrupt, and critics say that many officers are men who dismiss complaints of dowry violence, if only because they probably were beneficiaries of dowries once themselves.

When complaints do get filed, whole families often are named as abusers. In fact, the central Tihar Jail in New Delhi is home to a "mothers-in-law wing" full of women accused of murdering or torturing their daughters-in-law over dowry.

But convictions are sporadic. In 2003, Delhi courts registered a conviction rate of just 28% in dowry-related deaths; by contrast, the rate in sexual harassment cases was triple that figure.

"There are now prosecutions, but [dowry] is so rampant that only some people complain," said Kiran Walia of the Delhi Commission for Women.

Many victimized wives see no alternative but to stay in their husbands' households, the only option they believe is available to them in a society that stigmatizes divorce.

"The culture is such that whenever a girl gets married to a man, however bad he may be, her inclination is to stay with him till the end," activist Neelu said.

Devi, who fled her in-laws' home in January, said she would be willing to be reunited with her husband, as long as they lived separately from his family.

Kumari feels the same. Although her husband joined in beating her, she blames his parents, especially his mother, for instigating the violence and egging him on.

But Kumari is also firmly aware of the real issue at the root of her troubles.

"This is all because of dowry," she said. "And the only solution is for the dowry system and practice to be abolished once and for all."

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Twelve Angry Men, One Much, MUCH Angrier Woman

Well, two angrier women, really.

My Dear Friend Lisa has been summoned to jury duty, out there in LA, and she's very funny about the things she'd like to tell the hapless court officers whose lot it is to voir dire her.

Here's some of her relevant blog entry:

A) Does necromancy, if I do it myself, count as discussing the case outside of court?
(If they say yes, then we learn that the court actually believes that spirits in the afterlife are real. And if they say no, then I wonder if there's a chance for an appeal. Either way, I think I'd be dismissed)

B) I'm psychic, so I know you think I'm crazy AND that I'm using this as an excuse to get off jury duty... And no, I won't show you my other tattoos. Use your imagination.

C) If the accused were innocent s/he wouldn't be sitting here.

D) My ex-father-in-law works in law enforcement, one of my best friends is an attorney, I'm dating a scientist, my roommate has a show on Court TV next season, and I am taking psychology classes. Basically, I'm a pain in the ass. Plus I would cry if things got into a heated discussion in the jury room.

E) Uh, do you really think your client wants to count me as a peer?

F) I hold the police to a higher standard than I would a "normal" person because they are trained to be better witnesses, and they have a career stake in convictions. Go team!

G) Do you reimburse for a dog sitter? And can I discuss the case with my dogs during commercial breaks while we watch America's Next Top Model?

H) Ignorance of the law is no excuse, unless you don't speak the language, but then again, many crimes don't need a shared language for there to be knowledge of wrongdoing.

I) All illegal drugs except cocaine, meth and PCP should be legalized, regulated and taxed.

J) Child molestation should be a mandatory minimum 10 yr no parole offense for first time offenders. After that it's life, no parole.

K) DNA is a brilliant forensic tool.

L) Willing sex-for-money exchanges by adults should not be a crime. But if someone's gonna get busted, bust the johns.

M) For the most part celebrities do get lighter sentences--or at least we hear about their light sentences, so there is that perception.

N) Friends were killed by drunk drivers. If you drive after even one drink, screw what the "legal limit" is--you should do time.

O) How often do we get pee breaks?

My first time for jury duty fell the week of Halloween, so I got to offer the following as a rescheduling excuse: "The holiest day of my religion falls during this jury duty; I need to reschedule." Oh, the jury lady didn't like that one little bit. Her bouffant quivered as she filled out the forms. But, federal law prohibited her from saying diddly.

My ex had an awesome excuse when he was working: "I am under contract to Walt Disney Studios and Buena Vista Films on a multimillion-dollar film. If you would care to discuss my doing jury duty with Jerry Bruckheimer..." Actually, that was my idea. He got off.

Me again. (But isn't she funny!!) When called for jury duty I go, kicking and screaming, after as many postponements as I can get, but if/when I get to voir dire I call up the writer card, which is generally trumps: "What do you do, Ms. Morrison?" "I'm a writer." "I see. What are you working on now?" "A POLICE PROCEDURAL." "Ah, thanks, you're free to go."

Failing that, I play the Jim card. Sometimes in public, sometimes in a sidebar with the judge and lawyers: "Yes, I'm afraid I have an abiding contempt for the American criminal justice system, ever since my late husband was railroaded by the corrupt preposterous Miami legal structure during a totally unjustified politically motivated trial for alleged indecent exposure and lewdness, which in my opinion materially contributed to his death and forced us to terminate a pregnancy. A trial presided over by a judge who was later had up on bribery and child molestation charges and run by a DA who couldn't produce a single witness not in his own employ and possessed not a single photograph of my husband performing the alleged offense. I fear I couldn't possibly be impartial."

After THAT rap, they can't get me out of there fast enough. Hey, I'm under oath, right? The truth is the boss of me, Your Honor.

Also: I can tell if someone's guilty or innocent just by looking at them. Yes! I can! Because I'm A WITCH!!

Also: I believe in capital punishment for litterers and people whose car alarms won't turn off.

But mostly they don't want me: I'm college-educated, well spoken, long-haired…I dress like a rich hippie when I show up in court, and if you don't think the judge and lawyers don't notice how you look and carry yourself, guess again--they're checking you out like a cat at a mousehole. So generally they'd rather not have someone who sweeps into the courtroom in thigh-high black leather boots, a floor-length mink coat, a big fringed bag and a leather and feather Cavalier hat…an outfit that doesn't exactly reek of convention. The mink could connote Republican, but the rest just screams liberal-Democrat troublemaker.

It's sexist, racist and surprising, really, the people who DO get approved: on one case I was in the pool for, they cut loose all the college grad, professional and medical or law background potential jurors, and were left with elderly black women. Who, when I eavesdropped on some of these ladies talking in the corridor outside the courtroom, already had the (black, young) defendant not only convicted but hanged, drawn and quartered. And they had as little respect for the defense as they did for the prosecution. Yowch. You'd think the lawyers would see this, but they're apparently blinded by smugness and classist attitudes.

So I've never been juried on an actual case: the closest I ever got was being questioned in a voir dire for a case where some stupid rich kid rode a neighbor's horse into barbed wire, fell off, lost some teeth and was suing the neighbor. My first question: "What happened to the horse?" You. Out. And I got the heave.

Actually, I did serve on a Manhattan grand jury in 2000, which means I'll be eligible for service again soon—you get eight years' grace from serving on any kind of jury. Grand juries aren't like civil or criminal ones. When you're called for the grand jury, they don't care how you feel about things: you're there only to rule on is there enough evidence for this case to go to trial, and you MUST serve, no ifs ands buts or postponements. So I served for a month on the afternoon homicide grand jury, and it was absolutely fascinating. Also horrible, as we had to look at gory crime scene pics and listen to weeping witnesses whose friends had been shot right in front of them.

I refused to vote on any drug cases, in protest of the draconian Rockefeller drug laws still on the books in NY State, and had to recuse myself on a case that had taken place in my home precinct and I recognized the detective (from when he came to our building to deal with a drug-dealing bordello in the basement apartment).

But we still had a 100% indictment rate, including a bias murder case that received media attention whilst we deliberated. "Hey, look, we made the papers!" We were very proud. Only we didn't get JFK Jr. as our ADA… so disappointing.

The big perk is that when you're on jury duty in Manhattan, you're right next to Chinatown. Nonstop Chinese food! I ate like a pig: dim sum, chow fun, congee, roast duck. AND took stuff home. And also it's only a few blocks from Little Italy: pasta, meatball sandwiches, fantastic pastries and gelati from Ferrara's on Mulberry Street. Made up for a lot.

I had this rant on file for a while, and since the newest Orenthal Simpson gobsmacker put me in a judicial frame of mind, I thought I'd post it, just so y'all have something to amuse you until I get out from under the book and geared up to blogging again…

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Dark Towers

I was thinking, as I woke up to the TV switching itself on as usual, that I just didn't want to see any more of 9/11. And there it was, a nightmare alarm clock this day.

I didn't lose anyone I loved in it, or anyone I even knew. And though I am the last person on earth to deny anyone their grief for as long and as deeply as they want to grieve it, I had only the grief of the average New Yorker, the grief of someone who watched it all from a rooftop a mile and a half away, holding on to a neighbor as she held on to me, the grief of someone who for months thereafter breathed in not only the dust of the fallen towers but the dust of her fellow New Yorkers.

So I didn't watch this morning, except for the moments of silence, in which I too bowed my head, but I kept the TV on, mute, and went about my morning routine. It seemed disrespectful to turn it off. And then at the end I turned the sound on again to hear perhaps the most beautiful "Taps" I have heard, three buglers in counterpoint, and that made me cry.

Then I started reading the NYTimes online. They have first-person reports of the day from their writers and photographers (you should absolutely check these out yourself), and I started to cry some more.

Then there came a thunderstorm, and I thought that that felt right. Tears and fury together.

I don't need to be reminded. I am reminded every time I'm outside and I happen to glance downtown. There is not one single time that I look and don't think of them, my own personal Stonehenge, that I don't wonder to myself Was that where they stood, behind that building, or did they rise up from behind the next one, how high up the sky did they come, do I remember correctly, could they possibly have been that high?

The towers have entered legend, and the people who died in them are at peace. But the hurt hasn't gone. And I don't think it ever should.

Friday, September 07, 2007

May She Shine Among the Cherubim

Author Madeleine L'Engle dies at 88.

From the Associated Press
2:57 PM PDT, September 7, 2007

HARTFORD, Conn. -- Author Madeleine L'Engle, whose novel "A Wrinkle in Time" has been enjoyed by generations of schoolchildren and adults since the 1960s, has died, her publicist said Friday. She was 88.

L'Engle died Thursday at a nursing home in Litchfield of natural causes, according to Jennifer Doerr, publicity manager for publisher Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

The Newbery Medal winner wrote more than 60 books, including fantasies, poetry and memoirs, often highlighting spiritual themes and her Christian faith.

Although L'Engle was often labeled a children's author, she disliked that classification. In a 1993 Associated Press interview, she said she did not write down to children.

"In my dreams, I never have an age," she said. "I never write for any age group in mind. When people do, they tend to be tolerant and condescending and they don't write as well as they can write.

"When you underestimate your audience, you're cutting yourself off from your best work."

"A Wrinkle in Time" -- which L'Engle said was rejected repeatedly before it found a publisher in 1962 -- won the American Library Association's 1963 Newbery Medal for best American children's book. Her "A Ring of Endless Light" was a Newbery Honor Book, or medal runner-up, in 1981.

In 2004, President Bush awarded her a National Humanities Medal.

"Wrinkle" tells the story of adolescent Meg Murry, her genius little brother Charles Wallace, and their battle against evil as they search across the universe for their missing father, a scientist.

L'Engle followed it up with further adventures of the Murry children, including "A Wind in the Door," 1973; "A Swiftly Tilting Planet," 1978, which won an American Book Award; and "Many Waters," 1986.