Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Monday, May 23, 2005

Another New (Testament) Diet

It was only a matter of time.

Five loaves, two fish and a goblet of red wine could be on the menu for Americans if a new diet takes off.

Don Colbert, a Florida doctor, believes asking yourself "What would Jesus eat?" is the best way to stay fit, slim and trim.

In his book, which gets its title from this question, he explores some of the Old Testament dietary laws and looks at foods mentioned in the Bible.
Click here for the full story.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Mr Lings & Mr Picot

  1. The Independent remembers the late Martin Lings.

  2. Robert Fisk, in the same paper, manages to make Fran├žois Georges Picot (of the Sykes-Picot Agreement infamy) an even less likable character.
Now to return to my espresso-fuelled Sudoku...

Friday, May 13, 2005

Masjid-e-Imam, Isfahan


Masjid-e-Imam, Isfahan. ©Tauseef Mehrali 2001 Posted by Hello

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Kingdom of Hell

Fate conspired to make me see 'Kingdom of Heaven' yesterday. I went to the cinema with the intention of catching 'The hitchhikers guide to the galaxy' so my conscience can breathe with an uneasy guiltlessness.

If you've seen Kingdom of Heaven and enjoyed it you're either a) a pitiful decerebrate Hollywood junky or b) the lady sitting next to me in the cinema who was compelled to cry during the CGI-driven siege of Jerusalem. Very rarely have I ignored Peter Bradshaw's advice and will think long and hard before doing so again. In fact, he must have been in a most generous of moods to confer two stars upon this Old Testament-like plague of a film.

My reservations may arise chiefly from the shocking 'cultural reference' mismanagement but I think these merely served to emphasise the vacuousness of the whole affair. For instance, in one scene as the Crusaders prepare to depart some innominate European shores to head for the Levant, we catch glimpse of some 'Saracens' praying on a beach. But this is no ordinary prayer. They are scattered along the shore, perhaps 20 yards from each other. Peppered like sandcastles at Blackpool along the expanse, bowing and prostrating, out of synch, with the adhan (call to prayer) blaring in the background. Now I'm no religious scholar but it doesn't take one to point out the ludicrity of the situation. As my friend pointedly remarked, 'perhaps there was a special dispensation at the time of war for people to finish praying before the call to prayer had even ended!' The ensuing merriment amongst us was a source of great consternation to the cinemaphile sitting alongside us who promptly turned around and shouted 'If you're going to laugh and talk you might as well leave. It's so frustrating.' You're not wrong there.

Later on as the comically Oriental looking Salahaddin overlooks the burial of his soldiers lost during the attempt to regain Jerusalem, he holds his hands in the air and in a sombre tone begins to recite the Fatiha (opening chapter of the Qur'an). Midway through the recitation though, for reasons best known to Ridley Scott (and probably Salahaddin's bladder), the surah is curtailed (it's only 7 lines long anyway) and the statement of conclusion (sadaqAllahul adheem - Allah the Great has spoken the truth) is rapidly uttered by Salahaddin. Now that's a warrior in a hurry. He incidentally is shown going to war surrounded by the most ridiculous banners and standards I have ever seen. They seem to be without any historical precedent and wouldn't be out of place in an anti-war rally in Trafalgar square.

The hiring of the improbably wooden Orlando Bloom must have placed severe restrictions on the coffers and meant employing a half-baked (but post 9/11 approved) islamic scholar. That's the only reason I can think of for these amazing oversights.

In kneading the script into an unpalatable mish mash of humanistic drivel, Ridley Scott avoids stepping on Christian and Muslim toes but with the awful lack of attention to detail it's as if he came into my house with muddy shoes, asked for a beer and regaled everyone about how he voted for Roger Godsiff.

Hari Kunzru on 'Do the Arts matter?'

A response to the soon-to-be-released work entitled 'What Good Are the Arts?' by John Carey, emeritus professor of English Literature at Oxford university.

After the performances of Bach in Birkenau it's hard to argue that the arts are automatically humanising. We know it's simultaneously possible to be a sadistic murderer and art-lover. The point is that the arts 'can' make us better people, not that they manage it every time. Art offers tools for living - to console or delight or enrage or challenge or revitalise dulled perception. Art, above all, is a collaboration between artist and audience. It demands work to create meaning, or even to extract pleasure. To me the Nazi commandant crying at the Cello Suites while sending other human beings to the gas chamber is both terrifying and intriguing. Is he just a snob, a more extreme version of the kind of person who buys opera tickets to confirm his sense of himself as a superior person? Or does he have a genuine sense of beauty? Or both? It seems to me that the answer lies in the idea of 'high art', which I hate. To me 'high art' is just art + power: art that is for whatever reason associated with social privilege, or which is valued by a dominant class or group. Your appreciation of Bach confirms you as a member of the master race. The others are lesser, in part because they don't appreciate Bach. So you can kill them.

There is only good and bad art, and I agree with Carey that the difference lies in the response of the receiver. If I just hear a sawing noise, to me the Cello Suites are not art. If I cry and kill Jews, they are 'high art'. If I cry and feel some kind of connection with the rest of humanity, perhaps based on my wonder that it is possible to order sound in such a way as to produce this profound response in me, then I have experienced art - and am capable, maybe, of being an artist. Listen to Yo-Yo Ma playing the Six Unaccompanied Cello Suites and consider these things. I don't have a 'favourite work of art' in the 'My Funny Valentine' sense, but that will do very well as a starting point.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

'Windows is shutting down' by Clive James

Windows is shutting down, and grammar are
On their last leg. So what am we to do?
A letter of complaint go just so far,
Proving the only one in step are you.

Better, perhaps, to simply let it goes.
A sentence have to be screwed pretty bad
Before they gets to where you doesnt knows
The meaning what it must of meant to had.

The meteor have hit. Extinction spread,
But evolution do not stop for that.
A mutant languages rise from the dead
And all them rules is suddenly old hat.

Too bad for we, us what has had so long
The best seat from the only game in town.
But there it am, and whom can say its wrong?
Those are the break. Windows is shutting down.

The Guardian Review, 30 April 2005, 36

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Liberation Theology

No, not the showdown between the South American Communistas and the Papacy, but my very own bid for freedom. Two more nights to go and I finish my week of nights and emerge from the abyss.