The friend with whom I saw Ziad Doueiri's compelling film,
The Attack, said when we left that it was remarkable how little violence was
actually portrayed. That may sound like a strange comment to make about a movie
centered on a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv that kills seventeen people, not
counting the bomber, and leaves others maimed for life. Nor is that event
entirely off-screen: some of its torn, bloodied victims are rushed directly to
the hospital where Dr. Amin Jaafari, the film's main character, practices
Still, the observation about the lack of violence is
correct. I was tempted to remark in reply that The Attack lacked the sort of
big budget muscle that would have enabled it to show Tel Aviv blown to — digital
— bits. But that, I know, is pure cynicism, bred by watching too many Hollywood
movies that have nothing going for them but immensely expensive variations on
the theme of blow-up.
Remember Neill Blomkamp's District 9, how original, how full
of surprises it was — the Prawns, as they were derisively known, from outer
space, and their shanty town? The movie seemed a clanky, improvised, by the
seat of your pants kind of thing, low-to-no budget, and full of weird,
politically incorrect reflections about racism, privilege, and power.
My point is that whatever distinguished District 9 and made
it so special is entirely absent from Neill Blomkamp's blockbuster, Elysium.
I'd rate Elysium a DON'T SEE, or a MUST MISS, unless you just can't get enough
of guys in robotic exoskeletons whaling on each other, even if one happens to
be Matt Damon. Me, I got bored pretty quick when I realized that kind of
violence was really all that I was supposed to take home with me.
The responses, to date, to Reza Aslan's concise, suggestive study
— "Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth" — have been
of two kinds. There is, to start with, the Fox News kind of response, which,
inflammatory and uninformed as it is, can still generate enough faux
controversy to blunt attention to what might be deemed genuinely controversial
about Aslan's book.
The Fox interchange, which immediately went viral on line, begins
with Lauren Green, Fox's religion correspondent, challenging Aslan: "I
want to be clear, you are a Muslim. So why did you write a book about the
founder of Christianity?”
I am in the process of archiving interviews and other
journalistic work I've done in this blog, in the course of which I sometimes
actually take a little time to revisit what I'm posting into the blogosphere.
Ezra Pound once said: "You have an obligation to visit
the great men of your time." I am no acolyte of Pound, far from, and not
particularly keen to be reminded of him, but his dictum comes to mind because
in the course of my interviewing I have had nothing less than the privilege of
conversing with, in my view, some of the finest and most challenging writers
and thinkers of our time.
Edgar Snowden has left his transit zone at a Moscow airport.
In that zone which was for him a no-transit zone he had been, according to Anatoly
Kucherena, his lawyer, hunkering down with Russian classics. Kucherena had
given him "Crime And Punishment" because Snowden "should know
who Raskolnikov was"; selected volumes by Anton Chekhov “for dessert”; and
tomes by early nineteenth century historian Nikolay Karamzin, author of a
twelve-volume history of Russia, so that Snowden could get a grip on the
country to which he has now made some sort of transit.
For reasons that perhaps have less to do with her copious writings
than with sexism, she is not, so far as media is concerned, on the A-list of
New Atheists, but is nevertheless a learned and passionate advocate ofsecularism, and, more than her male
peers — Hitchens, Dawkins et al — a chronicler of its authentic but embattled
position in American history, from Thomas Paine on.