Ask the imam.

A Free Press columnist makes reference today to one of Islam’s most puzzling details — the 70 dark-eyed virgins who await the jihad martyr in paradise. Never mind the essential weirdness of the idea (heaven is an orgy in a high-end brothel, something I believe other Muslims dispute), let’s address the practical end of the question: As the virgins are used up, are they replaced by other virgins? Or are the virgins magically re-virginized? What if you get attached to one of them, and the sex gets better on subsequent go-rounds (which usually happens; ask any recently de-virginized woman how it was for her), and you want to keep her around — does she get a pass? And what about woman martyrs? I can scarcely think of a worse deal for her than 70 male virgins.

It’s times like this I wish George Carlin were here. I still think his stump-the-nun “Easter duty on the international date line” question was one that could keep religious sages at work for decades.

I see Pastor Jeff just left a comment below indicating he’s tied up today on a panel discussion of “intelligent design and the media.” So I guess he can’t take this on. Or maybe he’s just … in hell.

A fine Easter weekend. Alan fixed the bathroom sink, which I broke by trying to clean out a clogged drain. The drain gets seriously clogged about twice a year, because drains were not meant to carry the main sink detritus of half the population — hair. I tried to be a strong housewife and handle it myself, and ended up screwing it up but good, and due to lack of plumbing supplies, it was out of commission for a week. This bathroom is an after-market addition to the house, and was done on the cheap, I believe. It’s the size of the head on a 737, and I’m the only one who uses it. The size also makes working on the pipes a job for either a dwarf or a very skinny person, neither of which Alan is. So last week the air rung with peevish calls of goddamnit until the job was given up for a while.

(A five-goddamnit job — is that a southern expression? I first read it in a Florence King column.)

But now it’s all fixed, and I’m happy once again that I have a husband who can do stuff like this, swearing or no. And the drain runs again. (For now.) When Alan went to Lowe’s to find the right size pipe, he asked the clerk, “Don’t you have anything sturdier? I could crush this in my hand.”

The clerk looked at him, looked at the pipe in his hand. “You bad,” he said.

When the Fellowship was winding up, and I had my job tryout in Minnesota, a small part of me was secretly pleased when I didn’t get it. That was the part that didn’t want to take on an even more horrible winter, along with the part that knew the Minnesota-nice thing would drive me up a wall in about a minute. I’m sure plumbing clerks would never say such a thing there. Temperamentally, I’m far better suited to Detroit.

The week awaits. My taxes are done. I recommend that, whatever you do, you should never, ever move, especially if you have to liquidate securities to buy your house. I’m filing three returns this year, and the Schedule D could cripple a Sherpa.

NN.C Byline Watch: Ten Things Your Local TV News Won’t Tell You, from

Posted at 7:24 am in Same ol' same ol' |

17 responses to “Ask the imam.”

  1. Carmella said on April 17, 2006 at 8:24 am

    Glad your plumbing is fixed! Off subject…but I know you are SO wise and your readers are SO wise… I’m getting an iPod for my birthday. All I want it for is running, I don’t need photos, video, no bells or whistles. I have downloaded all my music onto iTunes, and its about 1,000 songs I’d say. Which model should I get? What should I avoid? Thanks for any help, peeps!

    379 chars

  2. Dorothy said on April 17, 2006 at 9:40 am

    It’s been ten minutes since I read Nancy’s entry and I’m still laughing about “I can scarcely think of a worse deal for her than 70 male virgins.” Agreed!

    To Carmella: My daughter, who was 23 in Febraury, suggests you get the iPod Shuffle. (She bought it for herself with birthday money we sent her.) It holds a max of 140 songs, and if you only want to use it for running, she said when you plug it in, it will download a different set of songs (hence the word shuffle). She said the tunes she downloaded at iTunes are set up in different combined files. So when she plugs it in, she grabs a different set of songs each time. A Nano will hold more songs, though. She suggested you go to and explore a little to be sure you get the one you want.

    766 chars

  3. nancy said on April 17, 2006 at 9:44 am

    I’d suggest the Shuffle or the Nano. The Shuffle couldn’t be easier, smaller or lighter, plus it’s cheap. Some people don’t like being surprised by the next song, and the lack of a screen, but that’s your call.

    The Nano holds more songs, but I’ve heard bad things about the frailty of the screen — it scratches easily. If you go with the Nano, some sort of protective case is a must. Fortunately, there are gazillions to choose from.

    You might also like the Mini — the one that comes in colors. Get a pink one. Every girl needs more pink things in her life.

    565 chars

  4. Carmella said on April 17, 2006 at 10:03 am

    Thanks so much for all of the valuable info! I’ll let you know what I get. Now my only obstacle for running this spring and summer will be waiting for the sun to come up….!! DST…!

    186 chars

  5. Mindy said on April 17, 2006 at 12:21 pm

    The next time Alan is in Lowe’s or some other hardware store, have him pick up a gizmo called a Zip It for you. It’s usually in the plumbing department or else with the cleaners. It’s a long thin piece of white plastic that has lots of nasty sharp pointy teeth running along the sides. One uses it to fish sink snakes out of bathroom drains before they become problematic. Take it from a longhair, it will save you much time and frustration.

    If your drains are prone to this, your vaccuum might have similar issues as well. Pull the hair out of the beater brush occassionally.

    584 chars

  6. mary said on April 17, 2006 at 12:27 pm

    Mindy, that is the best piece of advice I’ve received in weeks. My bathtub took forever to drain this morning, so on my way home I’m stopping at Home Depot or OSH or someplace.

    177 chars

  7. alex said on April 17, 2006 at 12:32 pm

    So that’s what that shit is in my vacuum’s beater bar! Thanks Mindy! I always thought it was either (a) a spool of fishing line that inadvertently got sucked up or (b) part of the vacuum’s belt drive, somehow unraveling. Now that I know, I plan to take a utility razor to it.

    275 chars

  8. nancy said on April 17, 2006 at 12:35 pm

    Thanks, Mindy. As soon as I get this tax business sorted out AND a free afternoon, I’m headed to Windsor for your miracle cold remedies. I know you think I’ve forgotten, but I haven’t.

    184 chars

  9. Andrea said on April 17, 2006 at 1:59 pm

    Nice to see David Folkenflik as a source in your article. I miss his TV & Radio column in the Baltimore Sun.

    112 chars

  10. Mindy said on April 17, 2006 at 2:33 pm

    Mary — A bit of Googling finds the Zip It available at Sears and Ace Hardware, just in case one of these places is along your beaten path. Pick up a plastic drain cover while you’re at it. There are several styles of them and one will fit over your tub’s drain. My husband needed a lot more than five goddammits to clean out our tub’s drain the last time he had to do it, and the hair catcher thingy spares me from ever having to hear him do it again.

    Alex, I cut the hair out of my vaccuum’s beater brush with a pair of ancient scissors kept around solely for this purpose. Have a wet paper towel at the ready to hold the fallout during surgery so you won’t have to chase it down.

    690 chars

  11. brian stouder said on April 17, 2006 at 3:04 pm

    Before we get hopelessly lost in the hairball in the j-neck –

    I thought the ’10 Things’ piece was marvelous!

    The ‘Be Nice to the Local Sponsors’ thing is all-too-apparent. It is not too much to say that the local press is in somewhat of a ‘protection’ market (protection as in Tony Soprano wants to offer your business some ‘protection’).

    And have you noticed the incessant marketing within the so-called ‘reality’ shows? I suppose it’s just the evolution of the Game Show, where afterall, the raison d’etre is marketing.

    Still, it is bizarre to watch a show where contestants compete to effectively market a new line of (overpriced) Arby’s sandwich’s, or the ‘services’ of a pay-radio satellite service, and then see commercials on the same show, for the same product!

    781 chars

  12. nancy said on April 17, 2006 at 4:01 pm

    Thanks, Brian. Reading that piece back I get the feeling I always get with my Smart Money “Ten Things” pieces — each one could be a story on its own. (“Ten Things” is a standing feature; this is my third.)

    I’m far less bothered by product placement in reality shows than I am by the same practice in news shows — the “prime-time tie-in” where the network’s entertainment shows are made part of the local “news” programming. Oh, and the reality-show thing isn’t an extension of game shows; it’s a reaction to TiVo and other commercial tune-out technology.

    560 chars

  13. brian stouder said on April 17, 2006 at 4:27 pm

    “it’s a reaction to TiVo and other commercial tune-out technology.”

    Ahhhhhh- hadn’t thought of that angle! But I HAVE noticed the proliferation of ‘fuzzy blocks’, wherein you’re watching a show and tee shirt ‘art’ and products on tables look a bit blurry (as in – you didn’t pay us, and therefore you get no advertising!)

    I have read that companies pay to have things placed in shows RETROACTIVELY – so that maybe someday you’ll be tuning past Gilligan’s Island, and their radio will be a Sony or the case of goodies that washes ashore will contain PowerAde.

    Off this subject, but on the i-Pod thing – have you seen where Apple (the computer folks) are being sued again by Apple (the Beatle’s old label)? It seems they reached an accomodation years ago – but Apple (the recording company) feels that the Apple iPod infringes upon their sovereignty in the ‘anything to do with music’ realm.

    Imagine if Apple (the Computer folks) used the ‘Imagine’ in their ad campaigns…

    985 chars

  14. ashley said on April 17, 2006 at 5:48 pm

    What, you mean not everybody has until August 28 to submit their taxes? Oh right…that’s what we get instead of levees that work.

    131 chars

  15. brian stouder said on April 17, 2006 at 9:21 pm

    Hey – I watched the New Orleans mayoral debate; I’d vote for that woman who wants to move the university downtown (Boullet?)

    124 chars

  16. ashley said on April 17, 2006 at 10:13 pm


    I like her a lot, but with this open primary stuff, the tiers are 1) Forman, Landrieu, Nagin; 2) everybody else you saw tonight; 3) the other 16 you didn’t see tonight.

    I can’t vote for Virginia Boulet, because of the risk of Nadering Mitch Landrieu.

    266 chars

  17. Jeff said on April 17, 2006 at 10:24 pm

    News Flash — I’m not in Hell (media division) until tomorrow . . .

    Nancy, you can’t make me accountable for Islamic theology too, especially when i barely manage Christian theology in a way that makes anyone to the right of Unitarians happy.

    Having said that, there is a school of cautious thought on interpreting the archaic Arabic of original Koranic texts that hints the word for “virgins” could be a homonym (keep those jokes to yourselves, folks) for “white raisins,” so that the whole Paradisical imagery is about fruitfulness and a lush garden, not an improbable sexual situation.

    I await my fatwa with great anticipation, and promise to report on the Capital University forum on Wednesday. Hooray for Charles Darwin, one of the few seminary students to really make a mark in the world, and for taking a long sabbatical to the Galapagos . . .

    Pax et gratia,
    jeff (aka Pastor Jeff)

    902 chars