The Reluctant Fundamentalist (review by Brian d'Eon)

At a key point in this political thriller a young woman, reflecting on the very recent terrorist attack on New York’s twin towers, asks her Pakistani boyfriend, “What could make them do such a thing?”  Her Pakistani boyfriend replies in irritation,  “How should know?”

Essentially this movie is an exploration of this question, which I’m sure has rattled around in the heads of many North Americans for the last decade.  The story is old largely from the P.O.V. of the Pakistani boyfriend Changez (hard ‘g’) played brilliantly by Riz Ahmed.                        .

Changez grows up  in Pakistan in an educated family. His father is a well known, published poet.  Like many young Pakistanis of his generation, the dream of going to America, where one can make anything of one’s life, looms large in Changez’s imagination.  He wins a scholarship. He graduates from Princeton.  Soon after, he is hired by one of Wall Street’s finest, played by Kiefer Sutherland who—to his credit—plays an uncharacteristically unsympathetic role in this movie

On Wall St. Changez’s sharp analytical skills are used to help companies “increase their value” which is largely code for firing large numbers of employees.

Changez is very good at his job; he is well on his way to being a poster child for the American dream.  Then 9/11 happens.  Suddenly it no longer matters that Changez is brilliant,  or that he works on Wall St.,  or that he is married to the idea of unbridled capitalism as much as anyone.  Returning from a business meeting, security guards at the airport pull him aside and strip-search him.  Clients at work become hesitant to use his services.  He is judged by his skin colour and facial features, not by his beliefs or actions.

Changez’s moral crisis comes to a head when he sent to Istanbul with the task of dismembering a centuries-old publishing company which has been losing money. Changez confesses to the publisher that his own father is a poet.  The publisher, with sad, dark eyes, looks up and says to Changez,  “You should be ashamed…”

Within twenty-four hours Changez quits his job and quits America.  Back in Lahore, he begins teaching at a university and quickly (and quite unfairly) is painted as a dangerous radical, in some way implicated in a recent kidnapping of an American academic (who we finally learn is actually and intelligence agent.)

Besides the extraordinary acting of the movie’s principal,  Liev Schreiber turns in a very convincing performance as Bobby, the man drafted by American intelligence to confront Changez.  The close-ups of Schreiber and Ahmed discussing life-and-death issues in a Lahore tea shop are riveting.

Kudos to the movie’s director, Mira Nair.  This is a very thoughtful script, dealing with big issues and told in a most engaging way.  In part it is a plea for dialogue, civility, even love.  “I am a lover of America,” our protagonist states; there is more than irony in this statement.  And later when talking earnestly to the Schreiber character, he says, “Remember, looks can be deceiving.  I ask only one thing of you, Bobby.  First listen to my whole story.”

This movie is an American-Pakistan co-production.  Bravo.  Despite Rotten Tomatoes inexplicably low rating for this movie, I believe it is a must-see flick for anyone seeking a deeper understanding of the Muslim world, fundamentalism, and the West’s sometimes unwitting aggravation of international tensions.  I hear the book is pretty good too!

movie trailer

review by Brain d'Eon, Lunatic Writer

she's a magneto

i just ate at carraba's because they sent me a buy one get one entree coupon. they haven't been on my go to list since last xmas when they took my last favorite item off the ensalata menu. but they still had the crab cakes. or so i thought. i looked even though i had  the bogo to navigate. attention:THERE ARE NO CRAB CAKES.. travesty

we both got pasta. alla vodka for him, i dunno how they managed to take the flavor out of everything leaving shrimp and scallops mere advertisement for seafood.

i got lobster mac n cheese and while the lobster was canned, it wasn't as wrong as the curly noodle or the watery cheese sauce. they said there was some sort of bacon but i saw no sign. i ate and paid for it, brought the leftovers home. mine was the better of the two.

there are two things they do pretty good: drinks , bread, deserts. ok that's three. and i'm sure i could think of others if i were forced to but honestly i don't think i'll do that online survey for a free ap-etizer or a quartino of house wine. i don't like house wine and THERE ARE NO CRAB CAKES.

because the drinks and bread were good, i rate them one designer doggy bag. o that's right. they got rid of that too.

The Li'l Raskolnikov

"Don't follow me, I beseech you, I have somewhere else to go.... But you go at once and sit with mother. I entreat you to! It's my last request of you. Don't leave her at all; I left her in a state of anxiety, that she is not fit to bear;"

the guilt of carnivores with overdeveloped cerebral cortex signals is currently too much for the wet network to handle but there's new relays in development, a good thing for the maintenance of congealed consciousness, self-reflective flex-spasms, spittle-flecked self-defense, and the need to deflect facts like some kinds of protein taste better than others, just margin enough to deform markets into permanent scar tissue - the sum of carnivore guilt doubles thrice a decade, at pace with processor speed, but it's been there since ego fungaled over id - as quaint as guilt seems in the setting of dostoevsky's russia, it's real enough, contains the universe, god and the devil, and i commiserate

here napoleon is the go-to caricature for cutting edge assholery, but there's a certain base innocence implied when everyone pre-dates the coming desensitization - most of us in the age of information exist under armored leisure suits but folks got character in the K. bridge neighborhood, not just cause they're characters, but accurately drawn, i'll bet - the most outrageous proclamations of the utopian socialists still have the benefit of being untested, they couldn't know any better, cynicism hadn't been earned like an anti-merit badge and even the pale imperialists are downtrodden in historical context - even back then, there was root sickness, but how much the worse now? how much greater the necessity for removal from the real? acceleration, useless information, lumpen proletariat collective guilt, whitewash mandate from an elite reflexively elected, i guess, sort of, if you can call it an electoral system, if you call money free speech and corporations people

it's interesting to delve into some of the more psychologically astute fiction of the time, and feel like it's not so removed from my time, even if i am hopelessly a dude of my time, but not enough of a dude to be content with said time, safely meshed into the winning culture but a loser all the same - still amazes me to think that most adults bring in over thirty Gs a year in this geographically blessed culture, that's well below normal, but i can't imagine making that amount - and it amazes me so many of them can describe their wages and salaries in matter-of-fact figures without embarrassment, as if the numbers don't divide, can't cut - well, if you're cut out of the deal and subsist on charity, you're not supposed to know or care what thirty thousand dollars feels like, or that it's cheap, but that's gauche

maybe i'll get crucified for no good reason in my jesus year, rather than creep into the middle class - i never took that community college course in selling out for a stipend cause it seemed so boring and i was immersed in inertia - if i don't get crucified, i'll contrive a crucifixion to a coma theme in a compound primed to burn as the olympic torch of nihilism

not alone and afraid in a world you never made

Ever notice how things fall into patterns, stay in rote sequence, become routine, numb the mind, eventually strip the sheen off all the pre-existence magic? That's often my observation, anyway. Existence gets to feeling desolate. Sure, I'll take it anyway, what, I'm gonna opt out of the whole shebang cause I feel bored with it sometimes, even, well, most of the time? Cause it's easy to get wrapped up in little dramas that are culture-bound and seem to meaning nothing beyond a rarefied context. But how can this guy ever feel anything as mundane, given the amount of poetic prose that's so apropos in describing the fraction of what he knows about the fraction of what's known about the reality that gave rise to a universe that allowed his little moment of looking back at it? Maybe the ability to feel ennui is the greatest miracle there ever was.

So what is there outside the cultural cul-de-sac? Ultimately, the cosmos. It's a maddening puzzle how human inventions and conventions like numbers and their use in measurement and models allowed our understanding of so much of it. Still more amazing, the profound pointlessness of the Higgs boson, or stars, other than, of course, to have allowed for the processes that warmed this solar rock so I could reflect on it at some vantage sandwiched between a blog post and a cup of coffee. Overall, there's a feeling of isolation. My home, an accident of birth, can be a compelling distraction a lot of the time. I can become lost in many types of games, video games, money games, but with so many layers of synthetic structure, "home" is more a hostel in downtown crazy, lights-years from anything basic or primary, under the burden of human nature, itself bound to the cruel mechanics of the biosphere.

But it's true that some of those who are the most isolated in a personal sense are also the most connected to a kind of kinship with the universe that transcends the scope of social relationships, for instance, great scientific observers who spend large chunks of their lives in remote and lonely locations, underground tunnels built for accelerating sub-atomic particles, astronomical observatories on mountaintops, to study the extremes of nature - likewise, shamans and psychologists who explore dreams and inner-space. In this novella, Brian d'Eon tells a story of people at opposite ends of a cultural spectrum, against a backdrop of interstellar extremes. It's a compelling story, well worth an e-read.

Patrick Mahoney, a parks and aboriginal affairs minister in the Australian Government, is faced with the horrifying scenario of having all that sweet sweet Ayer's Rock tourism revenue dry up in the event of a shut-down by locals. He sends James Cook, the department's token native-Australian, to find out what's going on while lending them PC-cred. On the bus to Alice Springs, James meets Pam, a journalist. She's also an anthropologist, it turns out, with the extraordinary distinction, for a white person, of being fluent in Pitjantajara.

Meanwhile, Frank Peterson and some fellow astronomers at the Mt. Stromlo observatory, have noticed that a nearby star, Eta Carinae, seems to have unexpectedly gone supernova. These events and worlds converge as James and Pam make contact with Billy, an aboriginal elder who claims to have dreamed of James before their meeting. He also has some independent insight into the exploding star that so surprised the scientific community. Here the story begins to take on apocalyptic suggestions as the implications of heavy particles arriving from such a relatively nearby celestial object are mulled over by the characters. The shut-down of the airport and entire park around Ayer's Rock that kicked off events at the political level is explained by the elder merely as preparation for "a coming change".

In the latter half of the story, opposing culture-rooted ways of thought collide with interesting results, and we see how shamans as well as scientists arrive at knowledge in different ways. Some indigenous traditions have survived despite the dominance of western culture. The story is immersive in its imagistic detail and sensitivity to local flavour. It ends with the sort of transcendent feel I get from my favourite science fiction writers, like Arthur C. Clarke, and Carl Sagan. It's a quick read, less verbose than my review, and highly recommended.