May 27, 2005

Twisted by the Dark Side

The saga is over:) I have been waiting for this moment for 20 years. The story is complete, the jigsaw pieces have fallen in their places, nothing to do but contemplate the beauty of the picture.
I laughed at the absurdities in Episode 3, I was amused by the democracy talk, admired the jab at relativism in the words of Anakin (something like 'From my point of view, this is good').
I just loved the references to the old episodes - there was even a Red Leader in the space fight! Spent hours afterwards listening to John Williams' New Hope OST, some of the greatest contemporary music ever written. I even watched the abominable Attack of the Clones once again:) Lucas has created an awesome universe, and I am content with the final product. Good enough, as one of my friends has taught me to say.

I cannot write more now because I'm twisted in a totally different direction. I'm not going to argue that from my point of view this is good;) I am a Warrior at last, it is a dream come true:) It is dangerous for dreams to come true, I have always said. I sleep even less than usual, have HUGE dark circles around the eyes, and a crazy look of addiction IN them. Not that I succumb to temptation all the time, I make conscious efforts to distract myself with other stuff to do. Like work. Going to a pub with friend. Reading Barry Hughart. Mmm, my sentences have grown shorter. I don't smoke as much as before, and eat even less:D I love every minute of it, though I'm not too good. But improving. OMG:)

May 17, 2005

Kingdom of Heaven

I made a point of seeing 'Gladiator', one of the movies everybody except me has seen, several weeks before 'Kingdom of Heaven' appeared on the wide screen. While the music was incredible (see Audioscrobbler), the movie was so so. I don't care much for Russel Crow, although he is a good actor. Joaquin Phoenix, however, was a joy, especially after seeing him in 'Signs' and 'The Village'. He somehow makes me want to look at him, long and hard. An incredible face. Poor cinematic depiction of Rome, however...

I am much more familiar with the Roman Empire than with the Crusades, and concerning the latter, I think ignorance is bliss. For example, I am rather unhappy to know that during the Fourth Crusade, the Orthodox Christian city of Constantinople was sacked in 1204. Catholicism holds a deep fascination for me. From this historical fact one can safely say that Crusaders, in most cases, were not interested in religious issues, and were in it just for the phat loot, as gamer's lingo puts it, and as Jeremy Iron's character explicitly pointed out.

Objection: Judging people's motivation is always difficult. It it is hardly possible to claim that the mercantile motivation of Crusaders is a historical fact.

The role of a movie is to show some of the motivation of characters, and "Kingdom of Heaven" does a very poor job of this. Balian is motivated by the desire to save his wife from hell. Wtf? The movie's idea is that God is silent, even on Golgotha, that you alone make the choice to be a good person or a bad person, and the outcome of a battle depends not on God's will but on preparation. So why then saving someone from hell is such a big issue?

(It reminded me of 'Constantine' where the hero did not have a very good opinion of God (a kid playing with an anthill?) but still preferred to spend eternity with Him, instead of with Lucifer, who was soooo coool. Which in turn reminded me of something C.S.Lewis wrote, that if God was proud, he would not accept us if we choose him only as an alternative to hell. But he isn't...)

Ridley Scott has done his best to emphasize time and again that religion is twisted and useless, leading to bloodshed and pain. Individuals who are noble and good in themselves need no God to guide them. He isn't there anyway. Only the stones of Jerusalem hear the cries of the wounded. And stones are not holy, the battle is not for places, it's for people, as Balian says in his oh-so-manly knight speech. The representation of priests and bishops was biased to the core. They are a bunch of bastards whose job is to cut beautiful womens' heads and say things like 'Killing infidels is not a sin'. Not to mention the cult line 'Convert to Islam, repent later!'. The understanding of the role of Christianity in 12th century is flawed, precisely because it is filtered through 21st century worldviews. This is inevitable, of course, but it doesn't have to be overdone like this. In a nutshell, the movie's humanistic outlook has gone to extremes. The rejection of fanaticism is almost fanatic in itself.

About the Muslims: My interest in Islam and Arabian Nights dates even further back than that in Catholicism:) At nineteen I wanted to be an Arabic Studies student. I am translating parts of a Dictionary of Islam as a side-project almost for free;) Let me quote the definition of jihad:

From the Arabic word meaning 'to strive', 'to exert', 'to fight'; exact meaning depends on context (ahaha). May express a struggle against one's evil inclinations, and exertion to convert unbelievers, or a stuggle for moral betterment of the Islamic community. Today often used without any religous connotation, with a meaning more or less equivalent to the English word 'crusade' (ahaha) (as in 'crusade against drugs'). If used in a religious context, the adjective holy or Islamic is added. Jihad is the only legal warfare in Islam, and is carefully controlled by Islamic law. It must be called by a duly constituted state authority, it must be preceded by a call to Islam or treaty, noncombatants must not be attacked, and so on. To justify the struggle against their coreligionists, extremists branded them unbelievers for their neglect in adhering to and enforcing a particular interpretation of Islam. Contemporary thinking about jihad offers a wide spectrum of views (surprise surprise?) including conservatives who look to classical Islamic law on the subject, and radicals who promote a violent jihad againsts Muslims and non-Muslim rulers.

The movie carefully avoids mentioning the word 'jihad':) It opted for Saalam Aleikum... Peace be with you. Islam does have this deeply humble characterestic. I was disappointed in the representation of Islam, though. We only saw prostrate devotees with asses pointing to the sky, and heard the incredibly original 'Reap what you sow' moral maxim from a Muslim. (Saladin, however, looked so gorgeous, that I tried to find a picture of the actor on the net and couldn't. Even doesn't have it.) Otherwise, the motivation of Muslim army to capture Jerusalem did not have much to do with religion, either. It was depicted as the justifiable wrath of a grieving brother and indignant ruler. Justice seems to be a universal principle, and even our diversified, tolerant, watery culture cannot deny this. However, it denies the rationale behind justice and morality, and claims that we alone are capable of deciding. Political correctness IS the prevailing mode of modernity, and there is no way to say that somebody's wrong without offending them.

I'm not pointing a finger, mind you. I'm the same, I'm a product of the 21st century. I have no sentiments about holy places, shrink from ultimate statements, and generally behave like a postmodernist most of the time. When I listen to someone, I'm tempted to find ideological and manipulative patterns even in the most sincere and positive words. A cynic? Hope not in long-term.

And a few words about art for art's sake;) Visually, "Kingdom of Heaven" is perfect. The music is fantastic:) Orlando Bloom is acting better than before. Who can ask for more?

May 3, 2005

Easter Thoughts

Christ has Risen!

I saw The Passion of the Christ on Good Friday, I had to discipline myself to do so. Last year I refused to see it, for a variety of reasons. Mainly, I was afraid I wouldn't be able to identify with the suffering Christ, and I would feel guilty for it. I knew the movie provoked religious feelings in many, and encouraged them to renew their faith, to confess their sins etc. This year, I was afraid it would touch me, and I didn't want to be touched. I wasn't. I saw 'the whip, the crown of thorns, the nails' (a reference to an old poem by my ex) and was not moved. Emotional coldness on one plane entails emotional coldness on any other plane, in my opinion. I am making a rational decision to be a believer and, for the time being, this is sufficient to find meaning and purpose in life.

Background - I sent the kids to Granny's for a week, but this time I'm not making any experiments in isolation. On the contrary, I'm planning to be with people as much as possible. Places and things include the following:
- climbing gym
- hairdresser's
- Social Security Instutite (FOUND the document when I took the car to the car wash! Cleanliness IS next to godliness;)
- cousin's birthday party
- science fiction conference
- real climbing
- cinema and/or gaming.
- Hannah Arendt's Human Conditon (written in the 1950s, looks very promising).

Last but not least: yesterday I went for a short hike in Vitosha with a friend. We spent 6 hours talking about a variety of things - books, childhoods, movies, philosophy, politics, religion, etc.
I am not good at summarizing ideas and opinions, though, which is a pity. In addition to this RL conversation, I would like to retell an online conversation about nature vs nurture, the role of having children, ways to make your life less than boring, etc. I wanted to paste the log here, but I was refused permission so I won't.

Lazying around is a fantastic pastime:)
And to finish with one of my top ten quotations:

'Information is not knowledge. Knowledge is not wisdom. Wisdom is not truth. Truth is not beauty. Beauty is not love. Love is not music. MUSIC IS BEST.'

Frank Zappa

There you go:)