Friday, 15 July 2011

7 Quick Takes (79)

(Quick note: Leah could yet again use your help in discerning atheist from Christian responses; since I think most of my readers are likely Christian, I'd highly encourage you to go over since for this round she'll be most interested in Christian responses.)

1. On the Saturday after you last heard from me, I went shopping at Metrotown Mall for clothing with two (female) friends. I do this sometimes; having a little money ear-marked for clothes but not enough fashion sense (or inclination, honestly) to actually make fashionable choices, I enlist the help of fashionable people who like clothes shopping but don't have the funds to do it as often as they'd like. Somehow they thank me for doing this, which seems backwards to me. The upshot is that I now have three new pairs of shorts, a new button-down shirt, and a new polo shirt.

2. Thanks to Netflix, I have watched numerous movies recently. (Some of these likely precede the last 7 Quick Takes, but I thought I'd lump them all here.)

Harry Brown stars Michael Caine as a pensioner and ex-Marine who tries to mount a one-man war against the street gang that murdered his friend and terrorizes the project he lives in. It's an OK movie, but quite bleak. Don't expect a thrills-a-minute ride.

The Life of David Gale is about David Gale, a death-row inmate (Kevin Spacey) who was formerly an anti-capital punishment activist. He has recruited a reporter to tell his story in the three days before his execution, and she comes to believe that he is innocent and tries to exonerate him before it's too late. (This film is fairly obviously anti-capital punishment.)

Traitor concerns the acts of a former US Forces operative (Cheadle) who now appears to be tied to Islamist terrorist groups, and the FBI agents who are tracking him. It's far easier to follow than most political thrillers but at the same time doesn't oversimplify. (Or, at least, it oversimplifies no more than other such movies do, which is probably to say it oversimplifies quite a lot.)

Agora follows the atheist philosopher Hypatia (Rachel Weisz) and her students and slaves during the conversion of Alexandria to Christianity. Three religious traditions--polytheism, Christianity, Judaism--clash during the time of transition. The film glows when Hypatia attempts to refine a heliocentric model over the clumsy Ptolemaic epicycles; the film is rather dark when it depicts human arrogance and religious exclusivism.

Kill Bill, which I'm sure most of you have heard of, is Tarentino's two-part take on martial arts and samurai movies. Since I was expecting it to be pretty bad, it was better than I expected, though I found I enjoyed the first part more than the second. The best moments in the second concerned the protagonist as a mother. However, the second part does not free itself from the orientalist baggage of the movies it references; it walks a fine line between parody and homage, and unfortunately is not explicit enough in its parody to escape from the label "racist."

(500) Days of Summer is sort of like a rom com, but isn't. I like the novelty of boy-meets-girl, boy-gets-girl, girl-leaves-boy-for-good, and I like narratives that wander across chronology, but that didn't save this movie for me. See, I could not stand the female lead--Summer--and as a result had difficulty getting into it. As far as I could tell, Summer displayed everything that is unlikeable about the "indie lifestyle" (affected voice, flouting social conventions, pretentiousness) and nothing that is likeable about it.

Centurion was better than I thought it would be; its protagonist is (surprise!) a centurion stationed in Britain. After the slaughter of the 9th Legion at the hands of the Picts, a small band of Roman soldiers is deep in hostile territory, fleeing back into Roman-occupied lands while being pursued by an expert tracker named Etiane. It is not an especially optimistic movie, a mood reflected in the bleak but beautiful landscape they run through.

Saving Face is not a movie that I would ordinarily watch, but recently I've been trying Asian-Canadian and Asian-American films. Wilhelmina Pang is a brilliant young surgeon and a kind-of-closet lesbian whose mother keeps setting her up with local Asian men. Suddenly her mother, Hwei-Lan, a widow, arrives on her doorstep needing a place to stay. Hwei-Lan is pregnant and was kicked out her parents' house because she won't tell who the father is. I'm afraid I'm not describing this very well. Watch the trailer. Anyway, as I said, it's not what I'd usually watch; it was funny, but rom coms are not really my cup of tea.

3. I am no longer catsitting as of last weekend. I've been enjoying the ability to sleep in and without interruption. The cat was wont to climb on me at about 4:00 in the morning. However, she was quite soft and I'm sure I'll periodically wish I had a cat to play with again.

4. This week (Tuesday) I began volunteering as a narrator for audio recordings of library books for the print-impaired. I've only done it once so far, but it will be a weekly thing. One's voice is usually sore afterwards. I'm pleased to be doing this, though; I feel like I'm not really doing enough positive work right now and appreciate the opportunity to get involved in this. Ability is such an underrepresented issue at the moment--compared, at least, to sexism, racism, heterosexism, etc, but not compared to neurotypicality and atypical anatomy, of course--and I'm happy to have even a small part in this endeavour.

5. Tuesday afternoon I attended a lecture on civic Islam and secularism. Dr. Amyn Sajoo gave the talk, entitled "Public Islam: Citizenship, Identity, Anxiety," hosted by the Iona Pacific Inter-Religious Centre at the Vancouver School of Theology. I can't hope to encapsulate his talk in a single take, but he addressed the Sam Harris version of secularism, which posits secularism as modern and rational, opposed to the traditional and sentimental religion. Dr. Sajoo suggested what I've written about before, that it is not possible to separate the religious and the "non-religious", and tied this in with an activist and publically engaged ethic in Islam. I should also mention that he brought up the idea of alternative modernities, ones that do not have an Enlightenment history, and how this seems to threaten some proponents of a non-religious secular ethic. I was very heartened by the talk not only because of what was said but also because the audience was largely Christian and I was so pleased to see such fairly conservative-looking parishioners interested in inter-faith topics.

6. I've been apartment hunting. Yesterday I was trying to respond to a craigslist advert and the e-mail address did not work. Since the location was close to where I currently live, I decided to walk over and see if a phone number was given at the location itself. After all, the rent was very low and the details in the posting looked good. It was a great deal and was close to where I wanted to live, so I wasn't about the let the failed e-mail deter me. I got to the apartment and saw a "vacancy" sign out front, so I took a photo of the sign, which had contact information on it. As I did so, a woman came out and interrogated me about what I wanted. I explained, and she seemed rather displeased. It turned out that the craigslist ad was a hoax. She did not know who posted it, but she was furious. There was a vacancy, but the rent was actually about double that listed. All told, that was disappointing. Fortunately, I do have some other leads.

7. I've started listening to The Wailin' Jennys. Leah at Unequally Yoked mentioned them last week. I particularly like "The Parting Glass", which I think I'd like played at my funeral (whenever that happens), and "Storm Comin' ."

Please proceed to Conversion Diary, host of this blog carnival.

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