Monthly Archives: January 2007

the horror, pt. 1

I was traveling in Canada. I went to Canada on retreat, to get away from my life and meditate on my coming months of war. I had already gone on pilgrimage, and it had prepared my heart for death, in … Continue reading

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osama/obama/yo mama

Many new Arabic words have come into the lexicon of American English, and in particular the language of the media, over the past two decades, as the West has slowly awakened to the fact that its destiny is tied to the Arab world and, more recently, to the whole Muslim community. (God’s sense of humor, one supposes — give the technology to the Christians but the fuel to run it to the Muslims.) The original misunderstood Arabic word, of course, was “Allah,” which Europeans for centuries misrepresented as “the god of the Musselmans.” This is accurate but misleading — “Allah” is a broad term, like “God” in English: Christians and Jews whose native language is Arabic use the word in precisely the way we use its equivalent. (This apart from the fact that Muhammad explicitly claimed that His message was from the “God of Abraham” — i.e., the God of Judaism and Christianity.) Nearly every responsible text on Islam or Arabic makes this clear, and yet it is still common for Americans to set up an opposition between “God” and “Allah” — as in this article, which attempts to show, not surprisingly, that “God” is good, kind, etc., while “Allah” is intolerable and monstrous.

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9/11 and other entertainments

I’d also like to give a brief recognition to CuarĂ³n’s absolute mastery of sound editing; not only is his use of pop music (including a recurring cover of “Ruby Tuesday”) brilliant and occasionally devastating, but by isolating or de-emphasizing sounds, he frequently challenges us to decide for ourselves what elements of the scene are most important. Is it the cry of the child in the foreground, or the man being shot in the background? When they are given equal weight in framing but unequal volume on the soundtrack, he seems to be asking us, “Are you going to accept my interpretation? Or will you decide for yourself which lives are important?” It’s nice to be given that option.

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