Saturday, July 30, 2005

Dinner party aftermath

I just got back from my parents' house where I went last night for an overnight stay with a couple of classmates. I held a proper dinner party with plates, a table, and even a tablecloth. This was very exciting - to have my food served in a proper setting. I haven't had a table in years. The menu - ceviche, crawfish etouffee, mushroom tart, cucumber salad, and a Hungarian cake.

The food, if I may be immodest, was fabulous. The booze was also excellent and consumed in large quantities.

Now, if I may excuse myself, I'm going to watch some TV, maybe read some torts, and take it easy - in preparation for the dinner party, I was up cooking until 1 am Thursday night, and cooked all the next day after class until we left Ann Arbor. Additionally, the drive home today involved some juicy traffic jams, the closure of the highway I was on, and large amounts of aimless driving trying to find the detour or any alternate route that would get us to Ann Arbor - took us over 2 hours to drive a 50 minute drive. In short - I'm pooped.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

When you turn into your parents...

Tomorrow afternoon I'm going to my parents' house with a few of my classmates, since my parents on vacation and have given me leave to invade their residence. In previous years, such excursions invariably resulted in buying huge amounts of fast food (fried chicken, pizza and the like), undiscerning drinking (good champagne along with bad hard liquor) and general infantile debauchery.

Now, don't get me wrong. I like infantile debauchery. But it occurred to me that what I really want to do tomorrow night is to have a dinner party. A good ol' fashioned parental dinner party. So I've mentally planned a menu which I will pair with champagne (cheap stuff - not good stuff - I've learned my lesson) and wine, where we will sit at the dining room table eating off real plates with a real tablecloth underneath them, and with multiple real courses. Of course afterwards I figure we'll clean up, crank up the music and act like idiots. You can't act like your parents all the time...

Oh, and for my concerned parents who will inevitably read this - I'm cooking at home and bringing it with us, so there won't be any massive messes - I promise.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Red-tinted nostalgia

I'm watching Good Bye, Lenin! for the second time - I didn't much like it the first time I saw it, but it's one of those movies that actually gets better on a second watching.

And of course, like everything else, this made me think of me (if you hadn't noticed - I'm an egomaniac).

I've been nostalgic for Communism since 1991. I grew up in Europe, so I remember the changes better than Americans my age, and because I didn't live in a Communist country and only visited on vacation, I remember the changes better than those my age who live in the former Communist countries. My nostalgia happened so quickly. It happened when the shelves in Hungary stopped stocking my favorite products, which was a few months after the fall. First, it was the insidious branding of everyday goods like sour cream and yogurt with German and Dutch company names, then the disappearance of the few notable brands - Traubisoda, Turo Rudi.

Of course within a couple of years, most of those products were back, side-by-side on the shelves with the new products. La Vache Qui Rit just wasn't the same as Maci (Teddy Bear) cheese. Danon Rudi may be creamier and tastier than the somewhat chunky Turo Rudi, but it wasn't the same. And Traubisoda - well, there's nothing at all like Traubisoda - the delicately fizzy, not too sweet white grape soda. Some things changed. The packaging, even on these old-skool products, took on a western capitalist sheen. Traubisoda suddenly came in plastic rather than glass bottles. Turo Rudis had modern lettering and advertising campaigns. Maci cheese...well, still looked a hell of a lot like the old Maci cheese.

I used to think that only someone who hadn't lived through it could be nostalgic for it. The emotion in my mother's voice when we were driving up north on the 4th of July listening to the Best of Communism, a collection of Hungarian Communist songs showed that this isn't true any more - even the anti-Communists can feel nostalgia. The only difference is that I could be nostalgic a month after it ended. It took her years to feel any kind of nostalgia - and the nostalgia she feels is certainly not for the regime, but rather for the idealism that some people held - the true believers who weren't corrupted by power - the little people who actually benefited from it. Because some did. At least in Hungary.

You go to Hungary today and looking at the young people you could be in a B-grade version of the A-grade Hollywood movie that is America. Petofi, Adi and Jokai have been replaced with Danielle Steele, Stephen King, and John Grisham. Bartok, Kodaly and Liszt have been overshadowed by Britney Spears, Creed and Linkin Park. Instead of bread and lard parties with poetry readings, anti-government jokes and lots of palinka, you find generic bars and over-sexed dance clubs with bad music, a lack of humor and over-priced cocktails. No wonder my mother can be nostalgic.

Monday, July 25, 2005

The shaping of my imagination - the world of science fiction

A classmate of mine loaned me a fabulous collection of science fiction short stories today - The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume One, 1929 - 1964. I started reading about an hour ago. I'm a 113 pages in and I can't stop. Except that I did stop because it made me think about my childhood and how my thoughts have been shaped.

My dad is the world's biggest sci-fi nut. I grew up surrounded by stacks of science fiction books of all sorts, segregated into his office or outside of our mainstream library by my mother who still fails to understand the appeal of science fiction. To her, it isn't literature - it's escape. And she cannot comprehend why I have always chosen to read science fiction rather than the great works of literature she so loves. Sure, I've given the great ones a chance, but they don't hold a candle to the power the science fiction has over me.

I still remember one of my favorite books when I was younger - it was an anthology of short stories collected by Isaac Asimov entitled "Before the Golden Age" and was comprised of really old-school sci-fi stories. I began with War of the Worlds and I worked my way chronologically forward, a strange progression for a science fiction fan.

To me, there has always been something about sci-fi that nothing else can match - it has sparked my imagination, carried me away to other worlds, but at the same time has had quite the opposite effect of escapist literature. The best of science fiction is not escapism - it is allegory of the problems we face today - and more importantly, of the problems we will face years from now.

Even now, as I read this book, my heart rate accelerates, my fingers turn the pages feverishly, and my mind reaches beyond the stories to envision my own futuristic worlds. I suppose part of that comes from being an only child - I always had an overactive imagination - but part of it is because I have learned so much about morality, values, human nature, civilization, revolution, and countless other relevant topics from science fiction.

Take one well-known example - Robert Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. No other book I have read has so well described the process and nature of revolution. Or take the more fantastical Thomas Covenant series by Stephen Donaldson - what better expression of human nature and particularly human failings exists?

Sure, the greats are great, and they write about important contemporary social, religious and moral issues. But isn't that in some way limited? Isn't the greatness of a great science fiction writer even greater because he/she can look beyond today's issues and see the universal tendencies in a futuristic setting?

Science fiction gets a bad reputation because there are so many bad science fiction books out there. But there are also so many bad general literature works and no one criticizes literature for being a bunk form of art.

My future children will be nurtured on a steady diet of science fiction. Sure, some stuff will have to wait - I don't think a 12 year old can properly comprehend the late works of Robert Heinlein. But there have been so many books written in that genre that speak directly to the problems that we face. Take growing up. Ender's Game was a bible to me. It was a book about me. It was a book about every alienated nerdy kid. And I can't think of a damned piece of world literature that can stand up to the lesson it teaches to the prepubescent child.

The faces of war

I'm watching a documentary called Good Husband, Dear Son that I just taped off the Sundance channel about the small village of Ahatovici, 7 km from Sarajevo, where 80% of the male population was killed in 1992.

It's so strange to watch a documentary about Bosnia. The landscape looks so familiar. The houses look just as they did when I was there last summer. And most hauntingly, the faces of the people have a sadness that I failed to fully grasp when I was there last summer, but that may explain part of why that vacation remains the most memorable one of my life.

I'm used to seeing that look on old people's faces - half of my relatives were Eastern European. They'd all suffered more than I could possibly imagine, living through wars and the Communist regime and I sort of assumed growing up that this is what people look like when they get old. But that's not true. In Bosnia I saw young people, people my age, with a look in their eyes that reminded me of the look in my elderly relatives' eyes. Even when they smiled, when you saw them chatting away in coffee shops - the sadness remained. It's also sad to realize that many of the half-built houses we passed driving around the countryside were half-built not because people ran out of money or building materials, but because the builder was killed in the war.

I suppose I realized the sadness even last summer. It's just so heartwrenching to look at people not much older than myself and be able to say based on the look in their eyes alone - that person lived through horrors I cannot even imagine. I can only imagine what the eyes of the people in Afghanistan and Iraq must look like, not to mention the eyes of those in Darfur, Rwanda, the Congo, and every other region or country that has faced the devastation of war.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Dreaming the right answer (hopefully)

I have a draft memo assignment due tomorrow in class. This noon I sat down and spent a half an hour or so desperately trying to figure out what the main issues to be discussed in the memo were. I re-read the cases, took notes on their relevant points, and still couldn't come up with a reasonable answer.

So I did the next best thing, not feeling like stressing myself out unnecessarily and staring blankly at my laptop screen for hours. I went back to bed, consciously willing my subconscious to come up with the answer.

Several hours later I woke up feeling refreshed and knowing how to approach the writing of the memo. Hopefully I'm right and have my issues properly pinpointed.

Back to work. Wish me luck. Getting inspiration from dreams is always a dubious proposition at best.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

The evils of Dell desktops

I've had a Dell laptop for a couple of years now - it's magical, wonderful, largely problem free, and as a result of my positive experience, I bought a barebones Dell desktop, thinking I could easily add and/or swap parts.

Well, today I finally got around to installing my new 300 gb hard drive that I bought to augment the 40 gb that came with the desktop. First of all, let me tell you about the inside of my computer. The soundcard is integrated. Which means that in order to install my own soundcard, I have to disable the integrated soundcard through the BIOS (or so I am told). Moreover, there's an integrated video card, all sorts of weird plastic built-in coverings, etc. - in short, it's a dummy-proofed computer, which is resultingly harder to modify in any way.

So anyway - the hard drive. In order to take out the existing hard drive in order to set the drive as master, I had to disassemble this cage-like contraption that took me a fair amount of time, skin and frustration. Then there were all sorts of problems with IDE cables (luckily I had spare ones), and the lack of space for a second hard drive (it's just standing on end of its own volition right now), and just multiple annoyances that were magnified by the fact that Dell's dummied-down desktop is actually more difficult to work with - since they try to prevent people from doing anything to their own computers.

I think I would have had a nervous breakdown if it hadn't been for my buddy Jason. I was working on my desktop with my laptop next to me, carrying on a chat conversation with him whereby he guided me through the process step by step.

Next up - hooking up my old hard drives, one by one, to the existing set-up so I can transfer my old files to my new drive. (Due to the fact that my old video card is fried, I can't just use my external drive to transfer files).

In short - Dell sucks. Jason rocks.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Farewell, Scotty!

James Doohan, better known as Scotty on Star Trek, has passed away at the age of 85 after battling Alzheimers for several years.

He was always one of my favorite characters on Star Trek - with his rolicking Scottish brogue (an accent he chose for the character he was to play - he was apparently a very gifted with dialects), his soft and gentle personality, and his ability to drink.

Apparently, according to IMDB's bio of him, James Doohan lost the middle finger of his right hand on D-Day as a member of the Royal Canadian Artillery, so not only was he a legend in the Star Trek universe, but he was also a hero in real life.

After class I'm going home and starting a Star Trek marathon. Lucky for me, I have all of TOS on DVD. Farewell, Scotty!

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

What to do after law school?

Yes, I realize I'm about 2.5+ years premature. I have yet to take my first law school exams. But assuming that all goes well, and I managed to graduate in December of 2007 (since I'm a summer starter, this is my scheduled graduation date), and I manage to take (and pass) the bar in February of 2008, then I will have a blissful opportunity to do whatever I want to do, for once in my life, until I become a slave to my future job.

So I've been thinking long and hard about what I'd want to do. I know that I definitely don't want to start working until October or November (ideally). I know that I want to take my time and enjoy life. And so it occurred to me that given my culinary obsession, what better plan than to get a diploma from the Cordon Bleu culinary school in Paris.

I always fancied living the Bohemian lifestyle in Paris (not to be confused with the La Boheme lifestyle in Paris - not keen on a slow coughing death by TB). Unfortunately I'm not artistically inclined, so I couldn't sit on the Left Bank and paint the Right Bank. But I could definitely hack cooking school. I think I have enough basics under my belt that I'd be able to handle it, and ever since I saw the original Sabrina as a very young child, I've wanted to go to culinary school in Paris.

Right now the plan is to take the bar, get a loan, and move to Paris for 6 months or so and finish as much coursework as I can in that time. I'd like to learn both pastry and regular cooking skills. And then maybe I'll finally be ready to catch myself a man - using my lethal combination of brains, sloppiness, and fabulous cooking skills.

America - a nation of winos

I ran across this article on Totalfark earlier this morning. Supposedly, according to a Gallup poll, wine is now the most popular alcoholic beverage in the U.S.

First of all - I can't imagine that this is true - did Gallup poll only suburban housewives? Because in many places in this country, Boone's Farm and Arbor Mist are still what is understood to be wine. And the real Americans, red-blooded specimens that they are, drink beer. And by beer, they don't mean heffeweizens and microbrews, but Miller, Coors, Bud and PBR. So where are all these winos?

I see a lot of hefty wine drinkers in my milieu. But I don't exactly consider my milieu to be the average American setting. I hang out with the spawn of yuppies, and yuppy wannabes who swill down wine like there's no tomorrow, either because they saw their parents doing it, or because they think that's what's the in thing. Most of them couldn't tell you the difference between a Cabernet and a Merlot, let alone between an Amarone and a Chianti.

The side effect of the rise in the number of nascent wine snobs is that the prices of certain wines have skyrocketed as they become more trendy. Take South African wines. When I was a youngster in undergrad, you could still get excellent South African wines at ridiculously low prices. Seemingly overnight, they went from being affordable on a student budget to being overpriced. Or let's take the lofty West Coast pinot noir - once almost unobtainable since it was unknown outside of the region, today you're lucky to find one under $30. Which is not to say that there aren't plenty of cheaper good pinot noirs and South African wines - but why sell them when the people buying the wine think that price is the ultimate indicator of quality.

I remember reading a few years back that certain vineyards in California were making such tiny quantities of wine that they were selling for over $500 - for no reason other than their scarcity. Of course, this was during the dot com bubble, and I think the bottom probably fell out on most of those bizarrely overpriced estate wines.

So (in short - after that little ranting tangent) maybe wine is really popular among a certain subset of people. But I'll take this poll result with a heaping tablespoon of salt. I believe that there are heaps of people in this country who wouldn't touch wine with a ten-foot pole. Wine with BBQ? Sacrilege! Burgers and wine? Might as well call yourself a traitor and head on down to Gitmo.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Words of wisdom...

I ran across this quote today, and it goes on my list of favorite quotes:

"Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it."

-Mark Twain

My dad always says he's a patriot - I think this is exactly what he means by it - he just doesn't say it quite so well. I think we should all keep this quote in mind.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Riding in cars with cats

Today I brought home my parents' kitty - Nixie (Nixon for those of you new to this blog) to take care of her while my parents vacation in Hungary. Now, I've frequently driven with my cat, Kissy (Kissinger) and flown with her, and she's the world's calmest traveler - she curls up into a ball in her carrier and goes straight to sleep. We didn't hear a peep out of her on the whole drive to DC a couple of years ago (10 hrs by car), and I frequently get asked if she's been tranquilized when I take her through security or place her under my seat on planes. Nope, she's just really calm and lazy.

Nixie on the other hand howls. She meows, she whines, she utters guttural cries, and all without cease. About 15 minutes into the 50 minute trip, I'd cranked up the music, specifically choosing things that blended well with cat-song. Country music, oddly enough, goes really well with a cat's caterwauling (is that redundant?).

Anyway, by the time we hit Ann Arbor, she was shaking and panting frantically in between meows. She was not a happy kitty. Of course, as soon as I let her out of her carrier, she immediately began her usual greeting ritual with Kissy - repeatedly hissing at her.

This should be fun. Two kitties, one bedroom apartment. Oy vey! For now, I'm ignoring them - so now I'll return to the documentary I'm watching about Bactrian gold in Afghanistan. Mrrrrt!

Harry Potter and the half-baked plot

I finished reading Harry Potter last night, after coming back from a lovely wine-tasting dinner.

I have to say, I'm disappointed.

Reading the book, I got a horrible feeling that J.K. Rowling was reading fan-fic to determine where the plot should go - the end of the book contains an explosion of pairings so gratuitous that it would make any romance fan-fic author happy.

It had long been known that someone was going to die. Near the start of the book it seemed that there was a logical choice, but it was so obvious that there was no way she was going that route. Unfortunately, she did go that route. You could tell it was coming a mile off.

In an effort to make her 16 year old characters seem 16 and preoccupied with members of the opposite sex, J.K. Rowling suddenly made them all seem somewhat insouciant about the goings-on in the big wide world around them. Given their previous preoccupation with Lord Voldemort, this seems sort of strange.

Moreover, some of the characters continue to technically be main characters but barely appear in the majority of the book. There needed to be more Draco development.

Plot-wise, it was one of the most half-baked plots I've ever seen - the end of the book ties up a million loose ends while leaving a million more untied and giving a significantly rushed feeling to the book.

Ron and Hermione became almost comic characters, as the book prefered to focus on the sexual tension between the two. What happened to helping out Harry?

Oh, and the half-blood prince - dumbest resolution on that issue ever. I'm not entirely sure what the point was other than to create an "OMG!" effect. Meanwhile - the last few pages are some of the most forced, singularly uninspiring last few pages I've ever read.

On the Snape issue - well, let's hope she's a really really devious author, because otherwise she's just massively copped out.

I really hate to be writing all this bad stuff - I've been salivating over the prospect of this book for months - years even. I read it from start to finish in a couple of hours. I really really wanted it to be good. As it stands, I'm not entirely sure how everything is going to be resolved in the 7th book. It's going to have to be really really long, since this book doesn't bring anything closer to any resolution, and opens up even more cans of worms.

So all in all...I'll read it again - maybe it'll get better a second time. But it's very skimpy on the plot, lacks character development on all levels, glosses over major issues, and changes the direction some of the characters are moving in. Which is why, in short, I think that J.K. Rowling may have run out of inspiration and trolled the fan-fic sites to find ideas and pick out what people liked (no, there's no Harry/Draco slash - despite the myriads of such stories on the various sites). I trolled the fan-fic sites myself for a brief while last summer when I was suffering from Harry Potter book deprivation, and a lot of this book rang hollowly familiar, and not in a good way.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Torts v. Harry Potter

I'm going home tonight to go to a wine-tasting dinner for my dad's birthday, which is tomorrow. He just called to let me know that one of the many copies of Harry Potter that our family ordered has just arrived. So now I'm faced with a dilemma. Should I even bother to bring my textbooks with me or should I just succumb to the seductiveness of the new Harry Potter?

Proximate cause is interesting, but is it anything like a half-blood prince? Meanwhile, in my readings for today - on proximate cause - in the notes following one of the cases it cites a case, Hines v. Garrett, where the railroad conductor accidentally took the plaintiff a mile past her stop at night, forcing her to walk back through an unsettled area. During this walk, she was raped once by a soldier and then once by a hobo. This happened in Virginia in 1921. Makes you wonder about the supposedly 'violent' society we live in today. Kinda glad I'm not living in the 1920s in Virginia.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Shout out

Just a shout out to who linked me today - lots and lots of hits coming from there. No idea why I got linked, really, but thanks. I'm getting a lot of new readership. Sort of inspires me to write more about law school.

Speaking of which - I was out at the local dance club, Necto's, tonight with a few of my buddies. We ended up in a very heated discussion on the merits of the unconscionability doctrine in contracts. Slightly disturbing how much time we spent discussing this. Arguments over whether welfare moms should be allowed to buy ridiculously expensive stereos and in general, discussion over the concept of freedom to contract. Nothing like being at a dance club, not dancing, and discussing contracts. We're definitely a highly devoted bunch o' people.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Horton Hears a Who! or why law school is brilliant

Today was a fine day in class. Besides watching our contracts professor turn beet red after saying 'shit' in front of the class and his very adorable young daughter (he's said 'shit' before - rarely, but a couple of times - and clearly forgot his kid was there) - which led to the class breaking down into howls of laughter, we witnessed a unique performance by our torts professor of Horton Hears a Who.

He made a reference to the kangaroo in the pouch saying 'me too!' (which I got, but I'm not sure how many other people in the class were raised on Dr. Seuss quite as much as I was). Realizing that there were a lot of blank stares, he started retelling the story - including climbing onto a chair and acting out the best bits of it. It was the first time I'd thought of the story in years, but he accentuated points of the story that I'd forgotten - i.e. that it's a story about people getting together and power in unity - and about the little guys standing up for themselves. The story had nothing to do with what we were studying (cause in fact), but it was an extremely good rendition that garnered a round of applause once he was through.

Law school is brilliant. That's all I have to say.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Harry Potter and the metaphor of puberty

I am a huge dork. I'm also at the midway point of my first law school semester and am getting somewhat tired of school. I'm still interested in the course material - I'm just tired of waking up early and going to class every morning. I'm also tired of feeling like all of my time is spent studying.

As a result, I cling to the simple pleasures in life to keep me motivated and excited about school. And one of these simple pleasures is the anticipation of the arrival of the new Harry Potter - only 3 days from now. This is something that I really have been waiting for for ages. I read and reread the first five books over and over again. It's really about time a new one came out. And after this one - only one more and the whole series will be resolved. I'm counting on this one to have a lot of adult behavior - the kids are supposed to be 16 in this one, so I assume that they're in the devilish grasp of puberty.

In fact (hmm...I just thought of this), maybe the whole series is a giant metaphor for puberty - Lord Voldemort is in fact a representation of puberty - he's weak and only slightly present in the first book when they're only 11 years old - they also don't really understand his power - but as the books progress, he becomes stronger and stronger, his grasp increases so that he even reaches into the walls of the mighty Hogwarts (despite the best efforts of the teachers to keep puberty from changing the behavior of the students and interrupting their studies, they fail, over and over again, increasingly frequently and with greater and greater magnitude). Moreover, the people at the Ministry of Magic represent the conservative religious folk who preach abstinence - refusing to believe in the unavoidable nature of puberty (their refusal to believe that Voldemort has returned represents that closemindedness). Meanwhile, everything will get resolved in the last book, when they will finally be past puberty and thus defeat Lord Voldemort.

Or maybe I'm reading way too much into Harry Potter. I'll stop now, and just sit back and wait the few days until the new book materializes in my hands.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Documentaries and musings on the imagination

I'm a documentary fiend. I absolutely can't get enough of documentaries, particularly those that air on the IFC and Sundance channels. I recently watched a documentary about the mikveh (ritual bath for women), about a couch that belonged to a rebbe (yes, seems that there's a theme here) and right now I'm watching a documentary about the claymation animator Bruce Bickford called Monster Road.

I'd never heard of Bruce Bickford before, but apparently he worked a fair amount with Frank Zappa, including doing the animation for Zappa's movie, Baby Snakes. Bickford's animations are amazing - Daliesque, surreal, twisted - and some how very organic in the constantly morphing and mutating characters that he creates. The stories are brutal, violent, sexual - but yet seem to have a message - in a way, reminiscent of Roald Dahl.

In the documentary, Bickford talks about how as a child he had so many violent ideas and no one really knew where they came from - he attributed it to his brothers and their tormenting. I'd disagree. A lot of what he said - the imaginary world he inhabited in his head as a kid and still continues to inhabit today as an animator - reminded me of myself as a child. He talks about the fascination with evil that we have - but I don't think it's everyone.

I think some of us are just born with twisted imaginations. I think some of us act upon those imaginations in a way that is hurtful to others. Others maximize their imaginations and create works of great genius - whether it was Dali's painting, Dahl's stories, or Grunewald's depiction of Christ on the cross. I know that I've always had a dark imagination that sometimes disturbed and frightened my mother who couldn't for the life of her comprehend where it came from. I was born with it. As far back as I can remember, I'd make up strange stories in my head, stories that involved all sorts of nasty things. I read a lot - and I'm sure that played a large part in my imaginations, but not all of it could be attributed to books.

The important thing is to learn to channel the dark creativity into a positive direction - a fascination with evil can help a person learn about goodness of humanity, because often the flipside of the coin is more apparent than the middle of the road. I've learned to see good and beauty in a lot of places that most people couldn't. At the same time, the fascination remains - but again, I've learned to channel it somewhat. What I'm left with is a desire to visit the Earth's most dangerous places and to see the sparks of hope and the goodness of people trying to survive in these places. And of course, I still think up horribly twisted things in my head - thank goodness no one can read my mind.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

London bombing

I should be studying contracts, but I am so upset by some of the statements that I've read on Fark and elsewhere, that my blood is boiling.

First of all - the bombings in London were heinous, reprehensible, inhuman attacks and Al Qaeda and other such terrorists should be wiped out. My sympathy goes out to those who suffered in the attacks, and to the residents of London in general, because a terrorist attack of that nature does much to disrupt the mental peace of a community.

Nevertheless, the abundance of statements from members of the internet community unilaterally condemning "Muslims" and the religion of Islam for terrorism is completely out of hand.

Anti-Muslim folks like to quote bits of the Q'uran that refer to infidels, jihad, and destroying those of other faiths. What they don't like to quote is all of the passages (often right next to the passages in question) that refer to respecting other religions, to leaving them in peace. No doubt, the Q'uran emphasizes the superiority of Islam, but doesn't every religion? Christianity has the same thing in the Bible. Take various passages of the Bible out of context and you can condemn pretty much anyone for anything. Sure, the Q'uran may sound more militant, but we also have to remember that translating it from Arabic has also led to about as many misconceptions of Islam as have come from the incredibly unliteral King James translation of the Old and New Testaments.

Muslims should not be condemned. Terrorists acting in the name of Islam - religious extremists - fanatics who violate the basic tenets of Islam while cloaking themselves in the words of the Q'uran should be condemned. Much like those who cloak themselves in the words of the Bible and profess a Christian faith while committing atrocities.

If we begin to label Muslims as terrorists where will we stop? Can we rightly say that every Muslim is prone to such actions? Can we condemn an entire multicultural and diverse religion for the acts of a few maniacs?

I have known many Muslims in my life - from all different parts of the world - Pakistanis, Iranians, Jordanians, Palestinians, Egyptians - and they have all been kind, caring people whose only fault was their faith. How can faith be a fault when they have done nothing to hurt people?

Islam is a beautiful, rich and diverse religion, and we are shutting ourselves off from any comprehension of its true nature because we are blinded by fear, hate and the frustration of having a largely intangible enemy who hides and disguises himself, often among those who are innocent.

Many Muslims are angry - particularly in the Arab world - and many are angry with the West. This does not make them all terrorists. They are a people whose way of life was disrupted by colonialism, whose borders were arbitrarily set as part of a chess game between the Western powers during and after WWI. They are a people who have struggled with civil conflict, religious tensions, and poverty. They are a people who want to be understood but whose culture the West has consistently either over-romanticized, over-barbaricized, or over-simplified. If I were them, I'd probably be pretty mad at the West myself.

Think, people, before you condemn. Limit your condemnation to terrorists - to the animals who would blow themselves up or set bombs on trains filled with innocent people. Mourn for those who have lost their lives as a result of these attacks - but also mourn for mankind's quickness to lose common sense and jump to ridiculous conclusions.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Sunburns and Backpacks

My Fourth of July weekend was lovely, and involved some lovely swimming in Lake Huron and some lovely sunburn. My week so far has involved some very unlovely sore shoulders.

See, law school requires you to carry huge amounts of textbooks around with you. I've suggested to some of my classmates that we should all get pack mules and have hitching posts in front of the building. Anyway, my shoulders being burnt and sore, they have been singularly unappreciative of weight they've been carrying to and from school.

It was bad enough today that I've even contemplated loading my cat down with books (like a tiny tiny pack mule), and having her walk uphill for me. I really don't think she'd appreciate it much, but neither do my shoulders appreciate the weight of the textbooks.