Monday, October 5, 2009

The United Nations Separates the Good From the Bad

I never thought I'd say this, but: I think the U.N. may have gotten something right for a change. Albeit, no doing of their own. But right, nonetheless.

What I'm referring to when I make such a, normally, unfounded and irresponsible statement is their recent list of the 21 most desirable places to live in the world (yes, The United States is, surprisingly, on the number 13. To be honest, I wasn't even expecting it to be on there at all). What the list tells us, what is so obvious to any right-thinking, freedom-loving, comfort-seeking human being is that the U.N. cannot, at least, deny facts all the time. Even the U.N. eventually has to succumb to the harsh realities of a world divided into two very separate distinctions: where would one want to live on Earth, and where would one not want to live? It's almost as simple as a game you would play out of boredom and over a few cocktails. If you were to ask a large group of people (drunk or not), you would get something close to the list of 21 countries the genius machine over at the U.N. came up with.

So, no, they don't get any credit for being necessarily original, or interesting, for that matter. All I said when I opened this diatribe was that they got something right. It's shocking, for sure, that they came up with a relatively normal and non-aggravating compendium. You would expect a list out of the shifty lot that named 21 out of the 47 countries in Africa as the most desirable places to live. But this particular list, to their chagrin, wasn't compiled based on opinion or deceptive propaganda. The list was based on data (something the U.N. typically uses to line their exotic bird cages). Figures regarding gross domestic product, education, and life expectancy. These are things that can't be ignored, they just are.

Of course, their report has to explain the hell out of their findings, just to make sure they don't lose any of the audience that typically cares what they say. The report says of countries on the bottom of the list, like Niger and Afghanistan, that, 'despite significant improvements over time, progress has been uneven.' That's one way of putting it. I mean Niger has it's problems, but Afghanistan? Come on, that's not even their fault. Afghanistan was completely 'even' before Bush started throwing his weight around. I'm surprised the list didn't have footnotes for the bottom countries. Something like:

#180-Sierra Leone* *-Bush took jobs away from child soldiers.
#181-Afghanistan* *-Bush's unnecessary and destructive war (obviously).
#182-Niger* *-Bush lied about yellow cake uranium (people died).

But I digress. What is telling about the list, and what I say the U.N. got right, but not by any motivation of their own, is that all 21 of the countries listed as the 'most desirable to live' are Western countries and/or Democracies (or some form of a constitutional monarchy). Of course this is an obvious result of the numbers, which, try as some might to get them to, don't lie.

The thing about the U.N. in the first place (and why the publication of this list is so ironic, and humorous to me) is that it functions as a unity of all nations despite the factors (or lack thereof) that came together to create this list. 'Gross domestic product, education, and life expectancy,' are usually things that get overlooked when the U.N. decides a country's worth. Even Obama said, in his speech to the U.N. in September:

"In an era when our destiny is shared, power is no longer a zero-sum game. No one nation can or should try to dominate another nation. No world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will succeed. No balance of power among nations will hold. The traditional divisions between nations of the South and the North make no sense in an interconnected world."

Well, Mr. President, according to the data, countries 22 through 182 have some catching up to do. It's no big secret that the countries who don't exhibit a form of modernized civility are the countries in which one wouldn't want to relocate. Or at least it shouldn't be a big secret. But these days we're not supposed to judge another country despite their evident flaws. Whether they're neglecting their own people, harboring terrorists, proliferating nuclear weapons, denying the Holocaust, or abusing power and bleeding their own country until is dries out and dies. C'mon, man, we're all one big village. According to Obama, and many of the leaders he was speaking to, it makes no sense to espouse some "world order" for bottom-of-the-barrel and "developing" countries to live by. No, that would surely seem absolutist, and absolutism among nations is unspeakably politically incorrect. If it's obvious to you that the lower countries need to take some pointers from the top 21, then you need some hard lessons in multiculturalism, buddy. You think just because you have running water, you can go around saying you're right all the time.

However, the U.N. has inadvertently done just that for us with their analysis. It all goes back to a hypothesis: Where would a human being be the most happy? And, after all that data was gathered, the conclusion could have ended with the prediction: In a Democracy, stupid.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Roman Polanski and Death and The Maiden

I love movies, I have my dad to thank for that. I still remember my uncle (his brother) saying that Chinatown was the finest movie ever made. The first time I saw it, I knew it was good, but had no idea why.

Every Halloween my mother would show my sister and me a horror film. The Sentinel, The Haunting of Julia, The Exorcist. I didn't know why at the time, but even in my adolescent brain I could recognize that Rosemary's Baby was the best of the bunch.

All of this movie watching eventually led me to film school, where I would get my answers. I would study the art of film, what makes a good film a good film. In my screenwriting class we would dissect Robert Towne's script for Chinatown. I would watch it again with a trained eye and realize the powerful acting, the timeless cinematography, the masterful direction, blah, blah, blah. All of those things you learn in Film Analysis and then have to unlearn in order to enjoy a movie again. Good is good, I knew this already. What I learned in school was to figure out how "great" was made. Roman Polanski was a great filmmaker. I saw it in films like Repulsion, The Tenant, and Knife in the Water (of which I bought the Criterion Collection edition, just to prove what a way-out-there film admirer I was). One thing I knew (and still know) was that, as far as directors working in the late '60's and throughout the 1970's go, Roman Polanski was one of the best.

That all being said: put the great director behind bars, and throw away the key.

During my years as a film student, I was aware of the tumultuous life of Roman Polanski. A survivor of the Holocaust, witness to his mother's murder at the hands of the Nazis, and widower to actress Sharon Tate who was murdered by the Manson gang (along with her and Roman's unborn child). Polanski had lived Shakespearean tragedy all before his 40th birthday. Perhaps it is fitting that the next film after his wife's slaughter was The Tragedy of Macbeth (1971). The cold, calculated bloodletting enacted by the character of Macbeth on his enemies would have been the perfect vessel for Polanski's pain.

And then came 1977.

By now, everyone knows the full story of what befell the 13-year-old girl at the hands of a pedophile in Jack Nicholson's house at the top of Mulholland Drive. And when you take the artist out of it, it is simply that: the rape of an underage girl by a 44-year-old man. Where some would say that all the years of personal turmoil motivated such a devastating ravaging of another human's life, I say that the devastation was visited in spite of what could have been a heroic life. Tragedy is meant to beget redemption and self-knowledge. And a life of suffering does not excuse one to enact suffering on another.

I can't help but think about Polanski's film Death and The Maiden (1994), starring Ben Kingsley and Sigourney Weaver. In it, Paulina, a housewife, is unexpectedly confronted with her tormentor and rapist (a South American fascist) years later, in her own home. The film is based on a play of the same name, and much of the film's action takes place in the home of the woman and her husband. It is there that she attempts to force a confession out of her attacker so that she'll feel justified in killing him. I can't help but think that the director thought of his own situation when making the film. This scenario is hard to imagine, being that the character he most represents would, to even the less astute viewer, be the fascist rapist. It is more likely he was pointing the finger at the character of Paulina and at us, the audience. With heavy themes of vengeance as a means to justice, and action before consideration (or action founded in emotion), the film plays as a message from the director to those of us who would judge him. A director delusional of his innocence.

I illustrate the point (film imitating life, or art as autobiography) to conjoin both the life of a man to his work. Either Polanski consciously incorporates his experiences in his life into his films and chooses projects that will facilitate his worldview, or view of himself (twisted as it is). Or, he makes films that subconsciously absolve himself of any guilt he may have. Whichever the two, his opinion in the matter is revealing.

I keep going back to the films my parents showed me. My mother must have known of Polanski's arrest (she was my age now when it happened). Yet she showed me Rosemary's Baby without a mention of the man behind the camera. I remember, around this same time, not being allowed to see the film Powder because the director, Victor Salva, was convicted of videotaping sexual acts with himself and a 12-year-old boy. Clearly the immediacy of the latter case was the motive behind the censorship of one film and not the other. Knowing my mom, she innocently respected the film-making versus the filmmaker, as her son learned to do. Salva made the mistake of standing trial and serving his time, dooming himself to a life of making a string of Jeepers Creepers movies (a fate, some directors might say, far worse than death). Whereas, Polanski fled before his trial and became that mysterious Polish-Frenchman who did something awful that one time, then scurried off into the sunset.

Time confuses the details. And Roman Polanski has had the advantage of time on his side, making sure that only his films remain as the written history of Roman Polanski. Of course, with his recent arrest in Switzerland, time has caught up with him and Justice has been given yet another chance to balance the scales, and assure that no one forgets the 13-year-old girl in the story this time around.

In less than one week, Roman Polanski has become a household name. His morally bankrupt, hedonistic friends in Hollywood and Paris would have us believe, "for all the wrong reasons". They must recoil at the thought of Nom de Polanski being dragged around the States, in and out of every household, accompanied by names the likes of "child rapist", "pedophile", "sodomist". The irony being, in uncapping their pens and signing the petition to "Free Roman Polanski", they have drawn a crystal clear line in the sand between that which is Good, and that which is Evil.

Hollywood is overflowing with self-righteous, moral relativism and brimming with men and women who believe that, because they are "artists", they are right. It is this attitude that has men like Harvey Weinstein (Polanski's biggest supporter) calling on "every film-maker we can to help fix this terrible situation." And worse, claiming, "Hollywood has the best moral compass, because it has compassion."

These filmmakers, these artists, mistake artistic talent for humanity. They truly believe that the ability to make great art diminishes moral retardation, and the need to adhere to the laws of man and nature.

I, however, have learned to discern the two. I can separate the art from the artist and admire one and admonish the other. So what does it all mean? What do I make of the fact that I really enjoy the films of a rapist?

Using the simple deduction of logic, it can all be summed up in a statement: Powder is a terrible film made by a terrible man, and Chinatown is a masterpiece of a film made by a terrible man.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Just Your Everyday Liberal Violence and Aggression

Rog Coverley, a Republican headquarters manager, will think twice about putting McCain/Palin signs in his yard the next time after his home was shot up for doing just that. Maybe his attackers were trying to send a message about their candidate's stance on gun control.

A Maryland hotel, having the misfortune of being located in a community know as "Obama Country", and drunk with first amendment liberties, posted a McCain/Palin sign under their own. After being savagely called out by community members, threatened with the NAACP hounds, and suddenly finding themselves short on business, they decided to succumb to the protester's fascist behavior.

On a California level: here (in the land of racial, sexual, and religious tolerance), a man in Modesto, Jose Nunez, was broad-sided by an attacker while waiting to distribute YES on Prop 8 yard signs. Before receiving a well-placed black eye, the beacon of equality and understanding yelled, "what do you have against gays?" Supposing the question was rhetorical or, otherwise, the questioner was too impatient to await an answer, he decided to follow it up with a hay-maker. Nunez was mid-answer (albeit it short) explaining that he had nothing against "gays" when he was told what-for and his signs were stolen from him. Liberal "dialogue" can be a funny thing sometimes. Maybe if given the chance to answer, Nunez would have clarified that it wasn't "gays" he had a problem with, it was four rogue judges disregarding the will of sixty-one percent of California voters and redefining the state's popular consensus on traditional marriage. But with a swollen eye and blood coming out of your nose, this is all an after thought.

And finally, on a personal level, my dear girlfriend was driving to her job in West Hollywood on a typical weekday, ill-prepared for the holiday sight that would befall her. We all expect to see Halloween decorations on a crisp fall morning, we do every year: pumpkins, skeletons, and spider-webs. Cute. Zombies, blood, and severed hands. A little more disturbing, but still holding with the spirit of the season. John McCain burning to death in a chimney, and Sarah Palin hanging from a tree. What's that you say? Are you sure? Positive. Halloween can be funny sometimes too, here in Hollywood anyway.

You hear this all the time: but suppose you took these very true, very sad stories and reversed the roles. Reverse the political affiliation of the attackers and victims. Suppose a man in Modesto attacked a homosexual planting NO on Prop 8 signs. Picture a hotel sporting Obama signs being boycotted by a largely white community. And finally, imagine a house decorated with a Biden dummy, burning in a chimney; and Obama hanging from a tree. The implications of these Twilight Zone scenarios are obvious and we would, for sure, have heard about them by now and for years to come. But these actual events you most likely haven't heard of, and much of the country won't. Ever.

Saying there is a vast media blackout when it comes to reporting the wrong-doings of Obama supporters, and supporters of initiatives with a Left-leaning base is like saying the sky is up. If one were to deny such a thing, one would have to be either a very distorted, delusional liar; someone who never reads the news; or someone who is very, very stupid. Media blackouts, Liberal smoke-and-mirror tactics, political diversions: these things are very clear to anyone who considers themselves studious or decent. Yet there is a far more aggravating fact of the matter at hand. It's the devastatingly glaring hypocrisy that always attaches itself to the Liberal star, and somehow never manages to be as devastating as it is. All we can hope for is that the star will burn out, taking the hypocrisy with it when it finally expires in the darkness.

On Facebook, a colleague of mine pondered the woeful "hatred" of the YES on Prop 8 crowd. Hell, even the yard signs that oppose the proposition read, "Stop the Hate, No on 8". To Liberals, an opposition to something they feel strongly about is defined as "hate". I admit, it is much easier to simply call someone that disagrees with me a "poo-poo head", who just "hates me" because they can't see things my way. It's quite another thing to actually talk to the person who "hates" you. More personally difficult, yes, but since becoming an adult, I've learned that the world is full of people who think and feel differently than myself and there are better ways to coexist with them. To be honest, I get a kind of liberating feeling walking around my overwhelmingly Liberal neighborhood on a sunny day, seeing all the NO on Prop 8 signs and Obama/Biden bumper stickers. Though I don't understand them, and almost never agree with them, my first instinct is never to vandalize the sign, or rip off the sticker. I would consider the action a symbolic dissent from the values I cherish as an American. Opposition, debate, election via vote, checks and balances. All the ingredients that were combined 230 years ago to create a democratic union.

I'll leave the fascistic arson and vandalism of the opposition and, thereafter, media coverup to the Liberals. They're much better at demonstrating that the other side is wrong by employing the same tactics they're supposed to be against. Fighting racism with reverse racism, war with violent demonstration, free speech with doublespeak, gun control with guns (to name a few). Most importantly, preferring denial to accountability. I guess I have too much simplistic good will.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

An Islamic London: Part II, Present

One needs only to read the outcry over the idea of an Islamic London to realize that the evident harm of such a notion is not just crazed, right-wing radicalism. Authors such as Mark Steyn, Christopher Hitchens, Melanie Phillips, and Bobby Pathak (to name a few) have pointed out the already devouring nature of Islamic fundamentalist ideals on their city. Hitchens himself recently revisited the town of his ubringing, Finsbury Park, in Northern London and saw, first hand, the overwhelming consumption of a culture he was raised with by a culture, once, so far across the channel. Steyn (in his popular book America Alone: The End of the World As We Know It) fortells a fate similar to that of Finsbury Park's for the entirety of the Western World. Phillips seconds that emotion for London. And Pathak, in a super-secret journalistic move, shows how an Islamic London would be a very, very bad thing.

Pathak went undercover for a recent documentary entitled Undercover Mosque ( in an attempt to reveal the radical preachings of London's major mosques. The results were predictably unnerving. Ideas such as the deficiency of women, the evils of homosexuality, and subhuman nature of Jews and Indians seem to be commonplace teachings around London. However, people like Michael Hodges of Timeout London insist on passing these ideas off as twisted delusions of the "hysterical" right. The inspiration for visions such as the one accurately rendered by Hodges at the beginning of his article to illustrate a fanatical Western nightmare of an Islamic London (or West for that matter) are hardly concoctions of paranoid, conservative racists. The inspiration for such visions are planted there by the men of Islam who preach diligently about getting the ball rolling on said visions. We're not afraid of our own weird misunderstanding of an Islamic state; we're afraid of what the authors of an idyllic Islamic state tell us and their followers this will entail.

Mr. Hodges goes on, in detail, to theorize what exactly we could expect in an Islamic London. Point by point, he lays out all of the tenents of a properly functioning society and how, under Islam, these aspects of Western civilization would function far more advantageously. However, Hodges fails to realize how terribly wrong he is based on two counts that become pathetically clear when reading his proposal. First, that none of these ideals would actually occur for anyone wanting to adhere to democratic principals in the first place, that one would have to convert (or "revert" as it's known in the Muslim world) to Islam in order to survive comfortably in London. And second, that none of these would subsequently be good things in place of the currently standing free society of London. Hodges begins his outline of Islamified London with the following:

"But rather than fear the inevitable changes this will bring to London, or buy in to a racist representation of all Muslims as terrorists, we should recognise both what Islam has given this city already, and the advantages it would bring across a wide range of areas in the future."

True, not all Muslims are terrorists. But as Ann Coulter points out, "then why are all terrorists Muslims?" And I'm talking about the terrorists that matter. The ones that attempt to force their oppresive religious views on London with violence, destruction, and intimidation. The ones that wouldn't mind turning London into Londonistan. As Hitchens points out in his article 'Londonistan Calling', a Muslim activist named Anjem Choudary was asked if he might prefer to move to a country which practices Shari'a. His frightening response: "Who says you own Britain anyway?" Hitchens concludes, "A question that will have to be answered one way or another." The following is an attempt at answering each of Hodges step-by-step proposals for his dream of an Islamic state, and how such a dreams is, in actuality, a nightmare even for sympathetic apologists such as Hodges himself (though he may not realize it). He begins with:

Public Health: Hodges gives us a grim statistic that disturbs even him. That, based on a 2001 census, 24 per cent of Muslim women and 21 per cent of Muslim men suffered long-term illness and disability. Of course he points out that these are epidemics of society rather than religion. But isn't Hodges arguing that Islam would be better for Londoners as a whole? If the population that practices Islam is suffering more serious illness and disability than the population that doesn't recognize a central religion, shouldn't we avoid adopting the clearly less fortunate religion as our own? I'm not suggesting that everyone who worships Allah is automatically vulnerable to disease, but the statistics are difficult to escape. It goes along with what Hodges brought up earlier about the "racist" notion that all Muslims are terrorists. All I'm asking, in regards to public health, is why is an overwhelming demographic of disease prone Londoners Muslim? Hodges ponders this for a mere moment, shrugs off the stastic, and offers a very strange reason as to how being Muslim would benefit London. He, very matter-of-factly, reminds us that the physical act of Muslim prayer techniques couldn't hurt out of shape non-Muslims. So why not convert? (The five-a-day ab rolls are just what your beer gut needs). He makes the questionable assumption that the Muslim act of prayer is designed to keep worshippers fit. And whether or not this is what Muhammad had in mind, Hodges is still saying we should all convert to Islam because we're just not doing enough daily situps. Ignoring the fact that converting to a entirely foreign religion is a lot to ask of a person anyway, no matter how fat they are. He also brings up the Muslim act of hand and feet washing, and points out that obviously this sacred ritual "promotes public hygiene." Well, I take a shower every day and am rather diligent about washing my hands as well and I get it all done without having to praise Allah first.

His second point is that alcohol is haram (forbidden) to Muslims. And what with all the horrible things that go down as a result of alcohol, why not do what the Americans did that one time and just prohibit the name of Allah. Hodges throws those statistics we've all heard a million times at us, in order to prove that we'd all be better off without the stuff (22,000 deaths a year, etc.). But his sentiment is inevitably that of a panderer, someone who isn't happy with the fact that the religion (he, himself, doesn't practice) forbids alcohol, but since he's on the subject of selling Islam to London, he might as well dig up some unavoidably nasty statistics in order to sell it. Interestingly enough, Hodges wrote an article for Time Out London a month prior to the article in question title 'The East End Art Scene', wherein he applauds art gallery expos for their abundance of free booze. Something tells me that in an Islamic London, Hodges won't be doing much else at East London art shows aside from looking at the art. And I've been to modern art expositions without the luxury of being adequetly intoxicated, and I can tell you that it's a dreadful fate.

Ecology: 'The world is green and beautiful.' So says the prophet Muhammad. Okay, who doesn't think so? I'm not sure I'm aware of a religion that thinks the world is 'off-color and ugly', or whatever the adverse may be. 'And Allah has appointed you his guardian over it.' Oh, there's the rest of it. And what if I don't believe in Allah? In Muhammad's farewell address (632AD), he states, "I was ordered to fight all men until they say `There is no God but Allah'". So, the world is green and beautiful, sure, only if you also happen to be Muslim (or maybe this just makes it more green and beautiful). What's curious is the fact that Hodges even brings up the issue of ecology to prove his point. As if Muslims have more license over the environment than any other group in London, therefore London should be Islamic. Muslim leaders and prophets are teaching their followers to respect and care for the environment, fine. So are a lot of other religious groups, political groups, nature groups, animal rights groups, etc. Weak point Hodges, what else have you got?

Education: Here, Hodges loses sight of even his own political doctrines. He both champions Muslim-based schools, and suggests that these religious schools should be state funded (tsk tsk, liberal). We begin with a grim portrait of the education situation relating to Muslims, by way of a few facts:

-Muslim students perform less well than non-Muslim students.
-37 per cent of 16 to 24-year-old Muslims have no qualifications.
-16 to 24-year-old Muslims are half as likely to have degree level or above qualification than other inner London young people.

Aside from none of this boading very well for an argument encouraging extending these statistics to the whole of London's education system, they simply don't come as very shocking to the discerning reader. Most Muslim sectors of any large Western city are impoverished and, as a rule of thumb, impoverished areas of any major city anywhere on Earth tend to have underprivelaged, poorly financed schools. Again, does this mean we do something about the education of London's Muslim school children? Or do we broaden this poor education to include all of London? The answer seems obvious; Hodges sees it, and his solution is where I question his left wing credibility. "While controversy rages over faith schools, there are 37 Muslim schools in London. As of 2004, only five were state schools." So we just want to be clear, that you (Mr. Hodges) support state funding for ALL faith schools. Be they Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Protestant, or Catholic. However, if we adhere to your thesis, that London should be Islamic, how well do you think the Muslim state would take it if they were required to fund Christianity? Be honest. This could be my insane, right wing nightmare taking hold but based on the relationship Muslims have with any other religion around the globe (we'll touch on inter-faith relations in a bit), I'm willing to bet the answer to that question is 'they wouldn't take it very well.' All Hodges' solution would produce would be underprivelaged, poorly funded Jewish, Hindu, and Christian schools. So the only group this solution benefits is (do I even have to say it) Muslims. On an anti-Semetic note, you'll recall this last Spring schools in London began dropping touchy subjects such as the Holocaust and the Crusades so as to avoid offending Muslim students who might be taught, at home, that the former never happened and the latter was a holocaust of 16th Century Muslims. "But Tahir Alam, education spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain, claims Muslim children do better in their own faith schools than in the mainstream state sector," Hodges complains. I'll bet they do. The history classes must be a breeze.

Food: This one relates to Hodges' argument about alcohol being haram. The argument being: if we're doing something that is harmful to our bodies (like drinking Heineken and eating donuts), why not just solve this by converting to Islam? The whole argument is so beyond stupid that I'll spare you Hodges' slip-shod notion of Islamic religious practices and move on to the next, much more interesting, point.

Inter-faith relations: I almost don't even have to say anything. What with the Jihadist killings of Jews and Christians in the Middle East, Hindus in India and Pakistan, and Buddhists in Southeast Asia: this category should essentially speak for itself. I'm not, of course, suggesting that all Muslims, everywhere, are violently murdering members of other faiths. But it is Hodges' complete lack of understanding on this subject that leads me to bring up the evidently enormous rift of violence between Islam and all other religions. Hodges states, "Hindus and Sikhs manage to live alongside a large Muslim population in India, so why not here?" Because Hindus and Sikhs manage to live alongside a large Muslim population in India, but not very comfortably. And they're somehow managing it a lot more naturally than the Muslims are alongside the Hindus and Sikhs. The math is simple: if the Hindus and Sikhs are coexisting with each other just fine, but the Hindus and Muslims aren't with each other, the Sikhs and Muslims aren't with each other, and the Hindus and Sikhs aren't with the Muslims, then there exists an obvious negative variable. In other words, "why not here" is less a realistic question than, "why not there?" When the British left India in 1947, the continent was violently split into present day Muslim Pakistan, and Hindu-majority India that cost the lives of around one million. Since then, three wars have taken place between the two countries leading to a current feeling of uneasiness not consistent with the idea of the peaceful inter-relationship Hodges describes. To use the India/Pakistan model as an example of how inter-faith relations in future Islamic London would be is not only blatantly ignorant, it's simply a bad example.

Arts: "Some of the finest art in London is already Islamic," Hodges proclaims. But most of the finest art is not. And the art that Hodges mentions (ceramics, textiles, carpets, metalwork, glass and woodwork) is artistic craftsmanship, not 'art' in the Western sense of the word. A Renoir painting and a beautifully crafted tile are two very different things. "Islamic influences have also flourished in other areas of the arts," Hodges states, "with novelists, comedians, and music." Well, good for them; but what's the point? No one ever implied that Muslims couldn't evolve with the times and both practice their religion and create art as well; and no one ever implied that they shouldn't either. Although, the artists he uses as examples are questionable if he's trying to convince us that their Islamic-inspired motives are more advantageous to London's art community than the current Western ones, and that those motives are pure. Hodges mentions Shazia Mirza, to make us aware that Muslim comics do exist. Shazia Mirza, however, is a little known London-based female comic, whose act is based around her faith. Who knows why she isn't as popular as her peers, but maybe it has to do with certain Islamic inspired jokes that are liable to make any comic controversial (particularly Muslim ones). Around the 9/11 attacks, Mirza incorporated a bit into her act where she came out in traditional hijab dress and began her set with the remark, "My name is Shazia Mirza. At least, that's what it says on my pilot's licence." What better way to isolate your religion from the rest of the world at a very crucial historical moment. Despite giving Islam a bad name, outright, one thing is evidently clear about her comedy: aesthetically, it just isn't funny. So if Shazia Mirza is what we have to go on as a representation of Islamic comedy on our future stages, then I suppose what we get is ambiguosly terrorist humor. The kind that incites nervous white people, not wanting to appear racist, to chuckle out the sides of their mouths and yank on their collars. Maybe I'm getting too political. If so, here's another Mirza joke: "I can't understand women who wear necklaces with 'Mum' written on them. I don't wear a necklace saying 'frigid'." I don't get it. By way of music, we have rappers Mecca2Medina (who?) and Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens).

“From among my followers there will be some people who will consider illegal sexual intercourse, the wearing of silk, the drinking of alcoholic drinks and the use of musical instruments, as lawful. And there will be some people who will stay near the side of a mountain and in the evening their shepherd will come to them with their sheep and ask them for something, but they will say to him, ‘Return to us tomorrow.’ Allah will destroy them during the night and will let the mountain fall on them, and He will transform the rest of them into monkeys and pigs and they will remain so till the Day of Resurrection.” -The words of the Prophet Muhammad

Wait, so music isn't even allowed in Islam? Technically: yes. That's precisely why Yusuf turned in the guitar for a prayer mat. And as far as novelists go, I suppose it will be okay to write books in Islamic London, just as long as you're an Islamic writer. Yusuf Islam himself agreed with the violent fatwa placed on writer Salman Rushdie's head after writing The Satanic Verses. And we can forget about knighting the achievments of free-thinking writers expressing their art in Islamic London, because even in modern British London Rushdie's life was threatened when it was announced recently that he would be knighted for his literary career. It is unknown if Cat signed on to these proposed mob hits as well. On a humorous note, Hodges refers to Yusuf Islam as "less in-your-face", in his relation to Mecca2Medina. If calling for beheadings isn't "in-your-face", I shudder to think what is. Maybe he meant Yusuf is "less in-the-general-area-where-your-face-used-to-be."

Social Justice: The first term Hodges thinks up himself to sugar coat another term. What he means by "social justice" is just welfare, but with a catchy new liberal ring to it. As if the government forcing hard working individuals to give part of their earnings to the unemployed is "justice". That's like calling a food stamp a hard-earned dollar. In Islam, this is called zakat. It is a welfare tax of 2.5 per cent of annual income. With the current situation in London being that the most impoverished bracket of individuals, as a whole, are in the Muslim communities, who does Hodges propose we tax in order to help them? How about this, Hodges: tax the privelaged, well-to-do Londoners and give to the poor, needy Muslims so they can rise up in income and status to become the predominant religious and political force in London. I think Hodges would like that idea very much. Zakat! But only for non-Muslims.

Race Relations: For this, I'll let Hodges' creepy final statement prove my own point on this entire matter,

"Under Islam all ethnicities are equal. Once you have submitted to Allah you are a Muslim – it doesn’t matter what colour you are. End of story."

Submission to Allah. Amen, brother. I mean, Allahu

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

An Islamic London: Part 1, History

Here, Time Out London argues that "an Islamic London would be a better place." And it, or I should say he as in columnist Michael Hodges, begins by imagining a London of the year 2021. We are witness to a public execution in fictional Mohammad Sidique Khan Square of some poor fellow for some undisclosed crime. A noose is fixed around his neck, as the eager crowd shouts, "Allahu akbar", and just as the executioner is about to press the button...Hodges relieves us of the drama and eases our terror, proclaiming the scene to be merely a "hysterical, right-wing nightmare of a future Muslim London."

But until I (or Hodges) mentioned that, you were probably on board with the realism of this 2021 nightmare, weren't you? I know I was. A public execution in the name of Allah sometime in the future still doesn't seem all that far from the truth in a city ruled by Islamic fundamentals. Hodges goes on to favor strict Islamic law over liberal, democratic freedom, and systematically debases almost all of the liberties enjoyed by the West as if they're annoyances that hinder our humanities. He begins his argument for a guaranteed Utopic society under Islam with the notion that the only reason we (as Londoners, Westerners alike) are so adverse to this apparent life in Eden's Gardens is that Islam is just too "alien" to us. Foolishly we are unaware of Islam's equation of women to men on the same first class level, their tolerance of same sex relationships, and their humanly just punishment of wrong-doers. So the burqa must be some whacky fashion statement by Islamic women that their men just don't understand. And countries such as Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Iran, Mauritania, Sudan, Somalia, and Yemen are still old-fashioned when they punish homosexuality with death; but who knows, maybe by 2021, they'll come around.

Then Hodges makes an embarrasingly failed attempt at justifying Islam's supposed familiar nature with London by citing historical events post World War I. His completely shoddy history not only refutes all arguments for a successful London under Islam, it insults any of his countrymen that don't happen to have their head completely lodged up their own ass. He cites that Islam couldn't possibly be alien to Londoners when "at the end of World War I the city sat at the heart of an Empire that had 160 million Muslim subjects, 80 million in India alone. London was the largest Islamic capital in the world." But not by choice. This isn't even a historical issue to start out with, it's demographics. Saying London was the heart of an overwhelming majority of Muslims is simply stating a fact, ignoring the figures and ramifications. Like saying Los Angeles is at the heart of Mexico. Again, not by choice. But let history speak for itself, because even it can say something for 2021.

During World War I, the Ottoman Empire made the poor military decision of aligning itself with the Central Powers in that war (the Central Powers were to WWI what the Axis Powers were to WWII), thus clinching their position with the ultimate losing side and eventually ending their 625 year existence. To say London should be familiar with Islam at this time (as Hodges pleads) is like saying France should, at least, be familiar with Nazi Germany during and after WWII. Basically, during WWI the Ottoman Empire, by way of the Islamic Turks, made things very difficult for the allied forces of Britain, France, Australia, and Russia (to name a few). Headed by strategically minded German generals, and passionate (but inept) Turkish ones, the Ottoman-German Alliance swept Europe and Asia in an attempt to cut off ties between Britain and India, and wage an affront to Russia. Some battles, such as the Siege of Kut, were nominally successful; but as history tells, none were an absolute victory for the Central Powers. As a result, the Ottoman Empire was completely blown apart, and scattered across Europe and Asia, never to recover. It wouldn't be fully dissolved until 1922, but the period before then is when Mr. Hodges names London as the "heart of the empire". Sure, said empire listed 160 million Muslim subjects to it's name, but what's an "empire" when it's on its death bed? 80 million of those subjects resided in India alone, an allied stronghold during the war. I agree with Hodges' statement that places like London and India were epicenters for an Islamic Empire. But what he doesn't point out is that, given the subject's involvement in the war, things post were likely to be pretty awkward.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Welcome, Baby Scheer

If The Nation is, as they themselves put it, "The Left's Flagship", Robert Scheer sounded off recently like a drunken sailor from it's crow's nest. His latest article, 'Welcome, Baby Cheney', is irresponsible, borderline moronic, and very much delighted with itself despite being both of these first things. If this is what the left has in mind as journalism, at publications such as The Nation, to push their "progressive" causes, then it looks as though the flagship has sprung a leak and won't be back to shore. Or maybe it's just Scheer who has sprung a leak. From the sound of it, he most definitely has.

The article in question is sort of a 'hip hip hurray, in your face Republicans' piece in regards to the recent birth of Mary Cheney's first child. That's right, Mary Cheney, lesbian daughter of Vice President Dick Cheney. Samuel David Cheney was born on May 23rd of this year even, apparently, to the delight of his new grandfather. A spokesman for the family has said, "The vice president and Mrs. Cheney are looking forward with eager anticipation to the arrival of their sixth grandchild." And more importantly, Mary Cheney is quoted as saying "This is a baby," and "This is a blessing from God. It is not a political statement. It is not a prop to be used in a debate by people on either side of an issue. It is my child." My apologies to Ms. Cheney for the blog; however, I'd rather see it as a response to Robert Scheer, who neither had respect for your wishes nor any intention of keeping your pregnancy out of the political arena for anything other than left wing posturing and back-slapping from his colleagues at The Nation (and probably Salon).

Scheer begins the article by thanking "The Almighty, whatever that might mean, for planting the seed of life in the lesbian body of Mary Cheney..." Vulgar? Yes. Respectful of Cheney's request that her baby not be used as a political prop by either side? In no way. You can almost hear Scheer rubbing his hands together with delight in having brought the irony of this particular story forward. He goes on to say, "The message, carried prominently in news reports throughout the world, is that America has come of age in recognizing, as do most truly modern countries, that homosexuality is indeed normal." Now the whole country must wake up and acknowledge that homosexuality is "normal" because Dick Cheney smiles when he holds his daughter's baby? According to Scheer: absolutely. The sight of VP Cheney embracing the newborn apparently "Was a milestone in the nation's struggle for human rights for all. Never again will it be possible for conservative Republicans to shun homosexuals in any facet of American life without appearing outrageously hypocritical." Won't be possible? Or won't be allowed by Scheer and his fellows at The Nation? What was Cheney supposed to do, throw the baby down on the steps of the Capitol and shout to the Heavens that he will never accept the homosexual lifestyle? Grandiose as that would have been, none more grandiose than Scheer's pompous declaration based off of what actually did happen (in reality, he most likely expected something more like a Mayan sacrifice of the child at the hands of ruler Cheney).

If anything, Mr. Cheney's reception of his own daughter's child is a laugh in the face of all the liberals that just assumed people like the President and Vice President were nothing more than a pack of rabid dogs, milling around waiting to tear apart the nearest homosexual and their offspring. Here's an interesting quote from George Bush when asked about his VP's new grandson, "I think Mary is going to be a loving soul to her child. And I'm happy for her." What? Not, "Me no like lesbians. Me like war. Arrgggh." I know what Scheer's response would be to my rhetoric, he'd say "of course they aren't going to say what they REALLY believe in public." Why not? They haven't yet made a statement for the opposite. Kids do a lot of things their parents don't approve of, but at the end of the day they're still their kids. And like I said, their positive reception only proves that, at the very least, they're caring human beings who can smile in the presence of a baby.

What it comes down to is, any one of us can love and admire the introduction of a child into the world (yes, even us Conservatives), but at the end of the day it doesn't mean we forget our beliefs. Just because Dick Cheney coddled his newborn grandson doesn't mean I'm going to change my stance on gay marriage and homosexual parents. And I don't believe it will change his stance either; he just happens to be a decent, caring human being who doesn't accept homosexuality as "normal" (much to the dismay of Scheer). Scheer asks,

"Does not the life of Mary Cheney, born to God-fearing parents in a home of presumably high moral tone, and herself an activist in the Republican Party that has exploited homophobia for temporal political advantage, definitively answer the argument that homosexuality is not a fickle choice but a facet of the natural order of things?"

He slipped the bit about the Republican Party "exploiting homophobia for temporal political advantage" in there quite nicely, didn't he? But I think that tag on the Republican Party requires more analysis. First of all, isn't the entirety of the article, 'Welcome, Baby Cheney', an exploitation of, what Ms. Cheney would request not to be, the birth of a child? Isnt' Scheer's article a champion of the homosexual agenda for "temporal political advantage?" And if the left can continue to use the outdated, nonsense term "homophobia" in just about everything they do, then I can point out that if a Republican such as Dick Cheney is "homophobic", then I'd like to think his condition is cured. Holding a child born to homosexual women, while standing next to them, is no small task for someone afflicted with such a disease. My assertion of that last part of Scheer's quote is where I might lose some of the mystics, but coming at this thing from a strictly scientific standpoint, a statment, such, that would refer to homosexuality as "a facet of the natural order of things" would have someone like Charles Darwin spinning in his grave. Ms. Cheney did, in fact, deliver little Samuel, but the seed was most definitely not that of her partner's. I wouldn't go so far as to call homosexuality a "fickle" choice (I understand it takes a great deal of dedication), but I'd be blind to equate it to the evident goings on of the natural world. In my experience, the "natural order of things" has no time or business for things that can't get together and reproduce.

But I'm getting off on a political diatribe here, and I'd like to avoid, as much as possible, going where Scheer went with little Samuel Cheney. If you happen upon the article (don't bother), he uses the remainder of it to bring up what liberals of his ilk tend to bring up under any circumstance and equates the entire thing to the War in Iraq. How he does it, and why, is the opposite of masterful but he eventually comes back around to a lofty conclusion and in it says,

"Yes, baby Samuel, even in the care of far less famous gay couples, would be more likely exposed to the best family values, not to mention a higher level of art, music and croissants, than he would had he been born to a heterosexual family."

As a heterosexual man who hopes to one day have children and expose them to the "best family values": I'd like to go on record as saying that I enjoy art, music and croissants very much, and have no intention of depriving them from my children. If the term "heterophobic" existed, I'd utilize it now for Mr. Scheer. But he miscalculated Cheney and Bush's response to a homosexual family, so why should we take what he has to say about family values seriously anyway?

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

I Miss America

As you may or may not know, the Miss Universe Competition has already come and gone. For anyone who didn't care to notice the spectacle flutter by (or if you're like me, didn't even know there was a Miss Universe Competition), I'll share with you now some of the highlights:

*Miss Japan won the coveted Miss Universe crown.

*Miss Sweden was removed from the competition by her own country for its supposedly collective view that the competition is degrading to women (I hope this doesn't mean an end to their massage therapists as well).

*Miss Mexico was forced to change her gown to a fruit & vegetable design after public outcry from the Mexican people that her former outfit consisting of a design depicting the Cristero war (a Roman Catholic rebellion in the 1920s), and a bullet studded holster were more disagreeable than, say, produce.

*Oh and, speaking of Mexico, Miss USA was booed mercilessly by the primarily Mexican crowd in Mexico City's National Auditorium. She also tripped and fell during the evening gown segment of the show; however, this wasn't when the crowd decided to chant "Mexico! Mexico!" over and over. It was during her question and answer session. Needless to say, the answers were never heard (for good or ill).

Apparently the crowd was "protesting" the United State's treatment of Mexican immigrants (and taking it out on poor Rachel Smith). Confused? Or does the civil unrest at the competition inspire you to take up arms against our country's ill treatment of our neighbors to the south as well? If you live anywhere near said neighbors as I, at times uneasily, do you'd scratch your head at such a display. Unless of course the protest was fired up by a group of strict, patriotic Mexican nationals whose anger was directed at the United States for its positive (or hands-off, rather) approach to their traitorous breathern, fleeing Mexico for greener pastures. How dare they. This, however, is not at all the case.

Is it the fact that there is now somewhere between 10 and 15 million illegal Mexican immigrants (who's counting? No really, who is?) living within our borders at this very moment? Or is it the new amnesty bill being championed by seemingly every politician, from the President on down, that would virtually make all of these "illegal" immigrants "legal" (no more illegal immigration problem, just take out the "ill" before the word "legal")? What could it possibly be? Why wasn't Miss Japan booed? Japan's border enforcement is akin to a maximum security prison during lockdown. It's nearly impossible to be illegal in that country, and their workforce is almost entirely Japanese. Virtually all of the countries included in the massive Miss Universe list are similarily tight when it comes to immigration. But why would a Mexican want to get work in Egypt anyway? So I guess, by default of proximity and opportunity (and despite these luxuries), the United States became Mexico City's whipping boy...of the entire Universe.

Talk about biting the hand that feeds you. Does that mean we can count all of the hecklers at the competition out as potential candidates for a green card? I hope so, 'cause it's getting mighty crowded up here.