28 May 2006

I don't think this is what Leonardo had in mind

The Da Vinci Code gratuitously insults Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church," said Vincent Nichols, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Birmingham, England. "It deliberately presents fiction as fact." Washington Post Foreign Service Saturday, May 20, 2006

No word of a lie. This is what people fear from that over-hyped book and movie (not that either of them were terrible, per se).

In a point I just made to Andrew: Lord of the Rings presents fiction as fact. The Chornicles of Narina presents fiction as fact. That's sort of the point of fiction. To create a world in which the characters live factually. I think it would suck an awful lot to go to a movie and not be able to believe for a single second that the things the characters are saying and doing are facutal to those characters. It would be like someone whispering, "Hey! I don't mean this. It's all fiction," at the end of every sentence and action.

I'm not saying that people (i.e., Christians) don't have a right to be upset with what they consider a blasphemous interpretation of Jesus. I just think they should stop acting like wounded animals.

Some said they saw parallels with Muslims' reaction to the publication of cartoons of the prophet Muhammad in European newspapers. But in that case, the anger led to weeks of violent demonstrations that left scores of people dead; reaction to the worldwide opening of The Da Vinci Code, which stars Tom Hanks, has consisted largely of calls for boycotts and denunciations by church leaders and commentators. Washington Post Foreign Service Saturday, May 20, 2006

I find this particular paragraph insulting, but blame the journalist. I feel he's drawing conclusions about the reactions of these two religious groups that is unfair, unjust and inflammatory. Draw your own conclusions. I don't like the tone.

"My question to Dan Brown is this: Would he dare to write such a book about Islam?" said Peter Jennings, a spokesman for Nichols. "No, they wouldn't dare. But they view the Catholic Church as a soft touch."

That is a lie. A bald-faced lie.

Well, not entirely.

Fine. Maybe Dan Brown wouldn't write a book about Islam and how Muhammad didn't actually prophecy, rather he was writing the worlds first fiction novel. But it's not like no one's ever written a book that didn't piss off Muslims before.

Remember Salman Rushdie? His novel, The Satanic Verses, created more than a few demonstrations (peacueful or otherwise). No, this was no minor uproar. They issued a fatwa -- a religious legal order. Sometimes fat?wa (plural) are issued to settle land disputes or who owns what livestock... you know, trivial stuff. In this case however, it was a bit more incendiary:

"In the name of God Almighty. There is only one God, to whom we shall all return. I would like to inform all intrepid Muslims in the world that the author of the book entitled The Satanic Verses, which has been compiled, printed, and published in opposition to Islam, the Prophet, and the Qur’an, as well as those publishers who were aware of its contents, have been sentenced to death. I call on all zealous Muslims to execute them quickly, wherever they find them, so that no one will dare insult the Islamic sanctities. Whoever is killed on this path will be regarded as a martyr, God willing. In addition, anyone who has access to the author of the book, but does not possess the power to execute him, should refer him to the people so that he may be punished for his actions. May God’s blessing be on you all." Ruhollah Musavi Khomeini. The Satanic Verses controversy, Wikipedia

Khomeini offered a $3 million US bounty. The Japanese translator was killed; the Italian translator was stabbed; the Norwegian publisher survived an assassination attempt; Rushdie had to live under the protection of British Security forces for a while; earlier this year, the Iranian state news agency reported that the fatwa has no expiry date. All in all, this seems far more serious than some picketing and talking points on 24-hour cable news networks.

Now, I'm not trying to do the same thing as the jounalist who drew allusions between Christian and Muslim reactions. I'm pointing out that, in the past, an author has indeed published a novel that mixed both the text and dogma of a religion with a controversial plotline that was focused on Islam. So, just because Dan Brown didn't do it, doesn't mean that Christianity is an easy target.

Look, I don't begrudge people being upset with these subjectively bad portrayals of their religion.

"Representatives from different religions have for the first time united to fight against expressions of modern culture that they find unacceptable," the newspaper Kommersant said in an editorial, expressing "solidarity" with both Christians and Muslims. Washington Post Foreign Service Saturday, May 20, 2006

I'm even glad that people are standing up for their religious beliefs.

But I think differences are important. I think dialogue is important. Even subversion plays an important role in society. I think people definitely need to be respectful when portraying others' religious beliefs, but I don't think it should be off-limits altogether.

I'm not really sure where I'm going with this. I lost track.

Maybe I'm ignorant because I don't hold Christian beliefs in the same way that these upset people do. But I both read the book and saw the movie, and while the arguments contained therein were compelling and entertaining (yes, even the "tedious" movie), it was entertaiment. Just like The Little Mermaid doesn't mean Disney (or Hans Christian Andersen) are trying to tell us that Mermaids really exist and that we should watch out for evil sea witches who will turn us into sea foam. Okay, I was being flippant. I apologize. But my point remains the same (I remember now).

These are works of fiction. They are not meant to represent reality. Some may use realistic situations, or build on current stories, but that does not mean that the authors or publishers are trying to pass their works off as fact.

Some people make a living preaching the facts, others make a living playing with them. I think when something shows up on the Fiction shelf at the book store. We should all take a deep breath and remember that it's there for a reason.


n.b., If any regulars or lurkers want to (respectfully) shed some light for this ignorant blogger and explain some of the reasons why works like The da Vinci Code or The Satanic Verses cause quite as much kafuffle as they do, I'd love to read some other people's interpretations. Also, if you can't elaborate, comments are always welcome. Just remember the rules (posted at right).

19 May 2006

Time out

In the course of enjoying my vacation, I decided to wile away the hours by reading some blogs.

Many of you already know my fascination with Bitch Ph.D., and about my involvement in Amnesty International, so when I came across her latest post, I had to post (partially because it's what Dr. Bitch suggests) for myself.

So, if you don't want to click the links, here's the upsetting deal:

A woman in Iran has been sentenced to death for stabbing a man to death. Besides being stidently opposed to the death penalty, the reason for her guilt is dubious to the point of madness.

The man she stabbed was -- along with two other men -- trying to rape her and her niece. Here's a fun catch-22: if they had succeeded, she could have been tried for extra-marital sex. So, it's a lovely example of damned if you do, damned if you don't.

I'm relatively certain that, in most Western countries, self-defense would have applied and she would have been release without prejudice. I'm being restrained because I'm ANGRY about it.

Read more here.

And do something about it. Please. It's so easy to be safe and secure when you live in a country where, if something similar (though, generally (hopefully) unlikely) were to happen to you, the law would ostensibly step in and hand out some justice.

Here's how you can do something.

Save Nazanin

If you're pissed off enough, contact the Canadian branch of the Iranian Embassy:

Mr. Seyed Mouhammad Ali Moosavi (Ambassador)
Address: 245 Metcalfe St., Ottawa, ON K2P 2K2
Tel: 613-235-4726
Fax : 613-233-5712

And, of course, there's an online petition.

Please.

12 May 2006

Death Wish

Can someone please explain this to me?

Last night, I went to my parents' for supper. Unfortunately, there were no leftovers, but it was a pleasant and delicious meal. I also stepped on the scale to discover that, not only did I gain back the weight I previously lost, but I also gained two more pounds. I am simultaneously upset and blasé about this.

That's not what needs explaining.

On my way home, I became lazy-driver because I was tired. At the turn-off to get on the highway home, I did a half-assed shoulder check, looked in my side mirror and moved over. Then the horn blared.

I cut off (possibly almost killed) a motorcyclist. I felt bad when I heard the horn and in my rearview mirror I saw said cyclyst swerve back into the lane behind me. I really did feel bad and stupid, but as I was driving, there wasn't much I could do to make amends.

Apparently, he had ideas. He drove up along the driver's side of my car (between myself and the car in the next lane) close enough that, had my window been down, I could have easily touched his sleeve. He was gesturing and shouting something, but since I was driving, I didn't look. Then he sped up and cut me off. Then he turned around on his bike and started shaking his fist. There was more yelling before he finally gave me the finger and tore off. Considering the speed he was moving along the highway, I'd say he was doing 120-140 klicks, easily.

So tell me: how was that supposed to indicate to me that what I did was dangerous and stupid? At this point, would you have felt bad for what you had done?

I'm pretty sure him flying off his motorcycle at 140 km/hr would be far more unhealthy than me bumping him at 45 while I merge into traffic.

11 May 2006

Something

Here I am, writing. I've been asked by numerous people to write a blog, so here you go.

I don't really have much to say lately.

I'm teaching later this month. Substituting, actually. I'm taking vacation days to do it. My boss is annoyed that I'm taking time off. Fuck him, I say.

I spend a lot of time playing Age of Empires II: Age of Kings. I suck at it. It's too hard. Andrew said he'll download The Sims for me. I hope he gets The Sims 2. I've never played that. It sounds fun and addictive.

I'm at work and there's been lots of yelling. It's just the guys being silly.

My friend Courtney is getting married in July. I need a pretty dress for the wedding. Actually, what I'd really like is to discover that the dress I wore to my cousin Scott's wedding still fits. Then I can save money and be bright and stylish. It's a flowy dress. I like flowy.

I'm going to have supper with Mom tonight. Dad is a away. She likes company. I like not having to cook, plus potential leftovers.

That is all.