Spring Cleaning

The sun is shining, the breeze is blowing, the birds are singing, and the whole world calls me outside…into the pollen.

And while I’m at it, why not just open the windows and let the pollen in too? There’s a loblolly pine in almost every view, each with its clusters of pollen sending wafts into the beautiful breeze. But I love Houston’s spring weather, and this week I started to itch for some spring cleaning. While itching all over. I’ll just keep popping my allergy pills and reveling in it.

This also means that I’m not prepared for a post today. I’ll be prepared next week for Surah 22, and in the meantime I hope you treat your eyes to some long distance vistas of the coming green. Cheers.

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Photo by Roberta Guillen on Unsplash

Citation Needed

One of my most shameless abuses of this blog’s category of “opinion blog” is that I link to Wikipedia quite frequently, and there’s a very good reason for this.

It’s free!

In my post-college life, nothing has been more difficult than finding information. Wikipedia is easy to access, easy to explore, and easy to share. Yet still my academic background does twinge with a little guilt at how often I rely on Wikipedia to fill out background for some of the concepts I mention in my blogs posts.

Today I’d like to explain Wikipedia: why I use it, how to read it, and how to make it better.

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Lost in Transliteration

Arabic-letters-pronunciation-drawingIf you want to learn Arabic through written materials, you should learn the alphabet. You just should. There are some books out there that will string you along with English phonetic spellings, but that has problems. And since in writing this blog I’ve had to attempt some kind of WordPress compatible transliteration, I want to spend just a little time revealing my problems to you. If you haven’t caught on yet, I hope you’ve noticed that I try and write transliterated words in italics. Sure sometimes I emphasize English words in italics too, but I’ve decided to use an old Arabic trick and let context tell you when I’m doing what.

So be ye warned, trivia ahead.

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“For women,” eh?

I don’t feel the need to have a woman in a movie to watch it. If a film has an entirely male cast, it doesn’t bother me unless the men make a point of bashing and excluding women. What is hard to swallow is that there aren’t many movies centered around the interactions of women. They exist, but they seem to have a hard time spreading into other genres–particularly adventure type stories. Movies with primarily female casts seem to also often be movies about being women, instead of just human beings who happen to be women. A movie like “Up” could be just as good with a cantankerous old woman and ambitious girl-scout. “Mean Girls” done with boys doesn’t translate too well.

And yet, whenever a movie comes out claiming to be “female centric” my eye gets very critical. I rather wish that it could just come out without having to push for a gender-representation angle on publicity, but I understand why it happens. They’re making an effort to even out the representation, and that’s very nice of them and good for our culture. Yet when they bank the hype of a movie on the fact that it’s aimed to feature my half of the gender pool, it makes it all the worse when they do a bad job. It’s not enough to get a sloppy present and hear them say “But I made this for you.” What movie am I leading to?

Well, well, well…

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Christian Movies

Ugh.  Christian movies…

Cinema is the most upheld art of our current age, I would contend.  It shapes our culture, draws together all the arts –visual, dramatic, aural– into the modern gesamtkunstwerk.  The movie “Inception” is an ode to the power of movies to plant little ideas deep into our conscious to create big ideas.

The thing is, Christians are very bad at this cinema business.  Recent movies that I have seen have been insufferable, and not merely due to lackluster acting and directing as some have claimed.  It’s the cloying emotions, lampshaded platitudes, lack of diverse thought (or well-represented diverse thought) that limit these films only to people who actively want them to be good.  Christians are such a diverse group, and life is such a complicated affair, but these movies are so simplistic in their portrayal.

Jesus used the sinful steward as an example to the pious in one parable, Lk.16:1-13, to commend how the non-religious are sometimes brilliant and perceptive, and how the pious should learn to adapt such thinking to their own lives.  Surely this is a lesson for movie-makers too!  Even as the model Jesus puts up is unscrupulous, so are some of our models in the film industry. So often though, they know how to get a message across. The mainstream film industry is full of lessons to be learned about tact, subtlety, and how to carry a message without writing it in ALL CAPS.

And funny enough, some of those “mammon” films are better at portraying Christian perspective and meaning than some of our overt efforts.  Here’s my list of Christian, or pseudo-Christian, movies that capture a good message that can speak to any audience across denominations and worldviews. (SPOILER WARNING: I’m discussing the good storytelling in these films and will be giving away plot too.  But it’s not like these movies are fresh in the theaters, so why complain…) Continue reading

Privilege

“Privilege” is a word that I’ve heard much of lately.  It’s a significant concept that helps people discuss broad social situations.  In the mouth of the articulate, privilege merely is used to point out inequalities across demographics.  It is not applied specifically because it isn’t meant to tease apart an individual’s psyche, but instead discuss broad social situations.  Conversations about privilege are good things because they help increase awareness of inequality, and also pull on people to use their imaginations and empathy to dig into another person’s perspective.  Sounds good, right?

So why are people getting uncomfortable with it? Continue reading

Coins in the Coffer

This is an awkward start. As I am writing this, I am very aware of my status as a Nobody. I will post this blog, no one will notice, and one more cent of opinion will join the inflated currency of the Internet. So! What a perfect time to experiment with the new medium. Except for a few forced forays in college, I have never sat on this side of the blogoshpere. It might take me a while to figure out. I love writing out in text, but some of my favourite blogs are done in video/audio. This is going to be an adventure.

So what’s this blog to be about? I’m not quite sure yet. Not about cats, though they might occasionally crop up in reference.

I mean, look at them.

After all, look at ’em.

Not about my life happenings, that’s what my Facebook is for. It’ll be an opinion blog. I do a lot of reading and that turns into a lot of thinking, so this is my opportunity to formalize my thoughts and pass them on to the next reader-thinker. The beauty of a blog is that I can edit things as I get new information…….or at least I think I can. If I figure out how to, there will be an excellent right here —>Yay! Because my opinions are based on my education, they are likely to change. Opinions must be adjusted in life to either amend a position or address a counter, otherwise we might leave ourselves in danger of being stubbornly wrong. The benefit of writing down my opinions is that it means I have to actually look at them, and to think about what other people see when they look at them, and thus to constantly be driven to educate myself.

What range of opinions do I feel like expressing? Oh, culture, media, feminism, religion. I am not a studied expert in any of these, understand, which is why this is a mere opinion blog–my two cents worth, as my family would say. I hope this is the beginning of a good experience.

Tuppence