Archive for October, 2010

…And Justice For Allah

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

Islam is the most misunderstood religion in the modern world. Especially in the post-9/11 world, the most popular images of Muslims are ones displaying them as warmongers hell bent on converting everyone to their faith. Of course, this is just a widespread stereotype that political opponents of Iraq and the Middle East hold. It is true that Iraq started the Islamic Revolution, as illustrated in Persepolis, but it has less to do with the religion’s beliefs than it does with individual revolutionaries and extremist factions. Indeed, Christianity would not look so pure if society kept the memory of the violence of the crusades and the Ku Klux Klan, or even the Nazis’ revisionist attempts at making Jesus into an Aryan superhero sent by God to kill the Jews. Seriously.

Islam gets a bad rap not because it is an inherantly evil religion, but because the most vocal and violent minority happen to hold the strictest and most literal interpretation of the Qu’ran. As seen in the graphic novel, this faction managed to seize control and political influence in the Middle East resulting in a theocracy governed by a radical interpretation of their holy text and fear by the unstable faction who hold those words as literal. Any high school student who’s read The Crucible can tell you that extremist religion added to totalitarian power over fear leads to true terrorism.

America is no stranger to this type of terrorism. 9/11 was a tragedy, but the true terrors committed on American soil are things the government had comitted against its people: the Salem Witch Trials, the internment of Asians during World War II, and the blind racism and fear spread by people in positions of power such as McCarthy and Bush. I don’t believe an entire faith or race can be based on hate, but basing a government’s reign on fear and antiquated literature designed as morality stories never leads to good things. Not in America, not in Iraq, not anywhere. No matter how peaceful a religion is, a minority holds staunch views to keep tradition and not read deeper into the text. Guaranteed, if America was overtaken by Amish tomorrow morning we’d still be oppressed. The Islamic Revolution was a bad idea because of a marriage of extremist beliefs of religion and government.

An Earnest Dissection of Hemingway

Monday, October 25th, 2010

When I was a lad, I used to love writing lists, poetry, and stories on my family’s computer. Within the depths of the confusing toolbar of Corel WordPerfect I discovered many fascinating features that have long since been integrated into the main program, such as spell check, the thesaurus, and the word count. The word count feature allowed me to get in-depth statistics about the contents of my writing and compare it against famous documents such as the Declaration of Independence. One option for comparison that I would consistently see as a match to my pre-adolescent skill was “Hemingway Short”. Not knowing what that meant, I did the only sensible thing anybody in my position would do when faced with life’s obstacles: consult my mommy! She explained to me that he was a writer who was famous for his short stories. In my five year-old mind all I could think was what a clever bastard this Hemingway must be, to write stories that are so short and yet be renowned enough to be a touchstone for other writers!

Had I actually picked up The Sun Also Rises when I was a child, I probably would have had my mind blown wide open at the fact that Hemingway’s “short story” was 251 goddamn pages long! I mean, that was a number that I could only measure in Pokèmon! I probably would have thrown an age appropriate shit-fit, branded my mother a liar, and questioned if anything else I held as true by her word was really a lie.

Thankfully a lot has changed since those days, and I have since expanded my mind. 251 pages is short for a novel. Hell, my favorite books are The Great Gatsby, The Wasp Factory, The Catcher In The Rye, and On The Road, so 251 is par for the course whereas a book that long with no pictures would be tedious for a five year-old. Hemingway’s also to the point with his writing, forgoing elaborate sentences and more or less making observations separated by periods. Some people say that this characteristic of his work is a bit childish and difficult to read. I think the easy-to-read nature of his novels would have made them more accessible to me as a kid, but even as an adult I can appreciate the observations he makes in this style. Hemingway’s style may put some people off, but it’s intriguing how he can describe scenes in a vivid fashion with such simple and even primitive sentences. It is that youthful naïvity of his pen that makes Hemingway’s style unique, seeing everything in his work as plainly and clearly as a child would.

Was it worth any of that?

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

My main complaint with Eliot is how he manages to turn a simple thought into an insufferable wall of text.  After condensing my thoughts on “The Waste Land” into a glorified blog entry that could have saved your time, and my reputation and grade if I just wrote “tl;dr”, I decided to give him another shot with “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” and see if he sucks less here.  I mean the title reminds me of J. Edgar Hoover, how bad can it be? I mean we’re talking about a guy like this:

No, devoted(?) readers, truth is that Eliot has gone back and done it again! Another wall of text with a b.s. epigraph.  It’s cool, though, since the assignment this time wasn’t to read and analyze the poem, but rather what a motif in it was.  And that motif is the repeated line “And would it have been worth it, after all…” which begins two seperate stanzas.  In the context of the poem, it’s about the speaker being afraid of a woman he admires.

This line begins a list of questions, wherein he grapples with the value of his attempts at courtship.  These are feelings that every man has, whether they admit it or not.  Some people care more for the chase than the kill.  Perhaps the narrator is one of those people, but instead of setting himself up for disappointment, wasted time, or being a lady killer he stops himself.  After all, courtship is a serious game that nobody should engage in without an intent to follow up on the promises they make.  Maybe he is a liar? Maybe just a coward? Is there a difference, in love? Perhaps not, but T. S. Eliot’s wordiness works for the poem here, making the narrator an unlikeable worry wart, overanalyzing everything before and after his insecurities happen.  I can’t help but wonder if Eliot had this trouble, too? Being so dramatic and critical of everything in his own life that he’d lose interest in women he thought he fancied, or drove them away by being a long winded drama queen (or perhaps the women may have even thought him a queen, with his sensitivity and choice of words (read: paragraphs)).  The narrator may perhaps be the most self-hating character I’ve encountered in literature since Holden Caulfield or Judas Iscariot!

I suppose this needs a good conclusion, and so my dear Prufrock I can offer you this: if you have to ask, you’ll never know.

A Gonzo Exploration of “The Waste Land”

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

Well, “The Waste Land” was so complicated it caused me to waste valuable time getting a blog up.  As such, I’ve deemed it fit to combat T. S. Eliot’s nonsensical stylings with a style based on a big influence on my writing and thought, Hunter S. Thompson! If you have a sensitive stomach, extreme constervative ideals or affiliations, or are under the age of ten, I suggest you just listen to Eliot’s droll reading of his poem and skip my wit:

Now that I’m done with the riff-raff, I found the poem scouring on Google and taking a look through it.  Holy crap, that’s long! Is these T. S. Eliot or the Dead Sea Scroll?! Well, let’s get to it then.  And we’re starting off with an epigraph here.  Dear God, what is this jibberish? Greek? Is this crap in Klingon?!  I’m holding it up to a mirror and it’s still not making sense!!! Maybe it’ll make more sense listening to that audio link? After all, I provided it for you and it is the author’s work in his own words.  I may as well utilise my own resources.

And now I’m listening to the link.  Eliot’s voice sounds like a British Morgan Freeman.  Kinda soothing, really.  I could just tune out the words.  Though he sounds just as bored as I am trying to read it.  What does that say about his own writing?! Aaand now he’s sounding like a pretentious douchebag.  What a surprise! So deadpan… DEAR GOD MAKE IT STOP!!!! MAKE IT STOP, JESUS CHRIST!!!!!!!!!

I suppose that’s a punishment for attempting to take the easy way out, then? Truthfully, I can’t get past that epigraph any more than I can write like Thompson.  But if I could write like Thompson, this blog would be a lot more entertaining.  Similarly, if Eliot didn’t write like a pretentious twit then this poem would be less painful to read.  Unprofessional? You’d better believe it, but I can see why people lose hope in their declaration as an English major after even the first few lines.  Looking at the poem, it doesn’t get much better.  I’ve not lost faith in my major, just Eliot for now.  I’m sure I’ll appreciate it at some point later in life, but as a man whose roots lie in the beat and gonzo movemements, I can’t tolerate this cut and dry, art school schtick.  Many people believe that if God were alive today, he’s be a homeless person or a hippie.  I can’t tell you about Satan, but T. S. Eliot is the next best thing and he would be a hipster! I believe that the recent internet video “Interior Semiotics” (WARNING! EXTREME EXPLICIT CONTENT “FOR ART’S SAKE”.  LOOK IT UP YOURSELF, I’M NOT POSTING THE LINK HERE) comes closest to matching Eliot’s pretentious massacre of literature.  Guess who made that video? Hipsters.  If anyone says they understand “The Waste Land” or “Interior Semiotics” then they’re full of shit.

Heart Of Darkness as a Minstrel Show

Monday, October 4th, 2010

Achebe presents an interpretation of Heart Of Darkness as a racist book, with its portraying Africa as a dangerous place and having the inhabitants referred to as “savages”.  Unfortunately Achebe is a prime example of someone who ignores social and historical context, crying “fowl” every time they are presented with something that doesn’t fit with the homogenized and politically correct revisionist image of the world that the modern age would like to lay out for us.  Art is open to interpretation and while my opinion on the story holds no more water than Achebe’s, I would like to remind my readers that the book is a work of fiction set in bona fide historical times! Europe has tried to expand its boundaries and influence much like the way it is described in this book, decrying people of other cultures as inferior and primitive.  Conrad did not write his story in order to encourage such behavior, but to show the folly of western expansion and the duality of European treatment of the African natives.

The behavior of Europeans in this story range from neutral (Marlow), bloodthirsty and insane (most everybody else), and downright kooky (Kurtz).  Marlow doesn’t buy into the colonization b.s. that his crew has been fed, wanting only to see the world and meet the enigmatic Mr. Kurtz that he has heard them speak about with such godly regard.  The other Europeans mostly mindlessly wish to overtake Africa and rape the continent of its goods.  They represent an ignorant mob mentality, making each utterance of Africans as “savage” ironic.  Finally, Kurtz is the man who has achieved a dominance over the Africans but at the cost of his sanity.  It’s not that Africa has driven him insane, but only himself which makes him a danger to everybody around him.  He has attained the stature above the Africans that the Europeans so badly want, in such unorthodox methods that he is seen as a threat to Europe and a god to the Africans.

As bad as that may sound, Conrad was not trying to create a tale of racism but rather a warning of imperialism.  I cannot say what Conrad’s personal feelings were towards Africans or black people as a whole (not African-Americans, I mean are there not blacks in Europe and Asia?), but to me the story has such a minor focus on the African natives as opposed to the Europeans that it would be like someone calling the sitcom All In The Family racist.  Is it politically incorrect? Yes.  Were words like “spade” and “gook” used by main character Archie Bunker? Countless times.  The point of the show was not to spread ignorance and racism, though; it was to put into a realistically absurd fashion the ridiculousness of such mindsets.  Conrad does the same thing with Heart Of Darkness showing how the European mob mentality affects everyone involved and what it ultimately can lead to.

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