Kill All The Muslims

My sympathy goes to all the victims of yesterday’s Boston Marathon bombing and to all the people who died cross the world in various other bombings in Iraq, Syria, etc… yesterday as well.

I could go on and on about how such acts are those of cowardice but what good would my words do to a country struck by tragedy and to the grieving parents of the people that died yesterday?

However, is it acceptable for the mantra “innocent until proven guilty” to become “an Arab Muslim until proven otherwise” when it comes to any terrorist act taking place anywhere in the world?

Case in point: the following tweets from an American pundit. Do you want to kill all the Muslims too?

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Is this even allowed in the case when the bomber turns out to be, in fact, an Arab Muslim?

He later on said that this was “sarcasm.” Though I think his “sarcasm” got lost with bashing the “Islam apologetics.”

The Phoenicians Discovered America?

Move over Mr. Columbus, our ancestors are in the house.

According to this article by CNN (link), our good old Phoenicians may have beat Christopher Columbus to discover good old (or new) America by about 2000 years.

Our Cedar trees have wood that is strong enough to build a boat that could withstand the 10,000 km journey. The Phoenicians, being cunning sailors, have the expertise required for the voyage – and a British man is set to prove this is, indeed, the case.

The theory has its detractors of course.

Either way, it seems like the alphabet may not be the only important thing the original inhabitants of Lebanon discovered and offered the world.

This should definitely prove to be some valuable information for all our Phoeniciaphilic Lebanese.

Islamophobia and Racism in an American Movie Theatre

Fresh off the news of a New Yorker throwing a brown-skinned man in front of a train for thinking he was Muslim (click here), the following tweets were brought to my attention of Americans who decided to go and watch Kathryn Bigelow’s new craptastic movie “Zero Dark Thirty.”

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Not only is that excuse of movie Zero Dark Thirty grossly inaccurate, nauseatingly stereotypical and a disgustingly shameful propaganda (click here), but it seems to be resonating with its intended audience by rousing up their Islamophobia and racism.

This is not an isolated incidence in the United States. The growing sense in American culture that Islam is all a bunch of jihadists who can’t wait to blow themselves up is unacceptable. And American media not only propagates that feeling, it helps fuel it.

How is it legal to have a whole ethnicity and religion categorized as such in these times and age?

You know something about those filthy Arabs and Muslims? They are sure taking all this crap in strides when they’re the most hated group on the planet.

Some people need to be ashamed of themselves.

Thank you @IsmailSakalaki for sending the tweets my way.

Zero Dark Thirty [2012] – Movie Review

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Here it is. Arguably the most challenged American movie of the year (a recipe for those little golden statuettes): Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty. U.S. Senators of both parties came out against the movie because it portrayed the use of torture in many of its scenes in order to extract information about the whereabouts of Bin Laden. You know, because the CIA surely did not use torture. Ever.

Zero Dark Thirty is the story of CIA agent Maya (Jessica Chastain) on her pursuit of Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden over the course of a decade. The torture methods her agency employs, which include but are not exclusive to food and sleep deprivation and waterboarding, lead her to a man called Abou Ahmad Al-Kuwaiti who, for every single non-idiot person out there, obviously comes from Kuwait. Except it’s not as obvious for the movie’s CIA agents who spend more than an hour of the movie’s 157 minutes running time on a manhunt before realizing that – GASP – Al Kuwaiti means he is from Kuwait. As they search for Osama Bin Laden’s main means of communication with the outside world, these CIA agents are faced with people who don’t want them to succeed leading to terrorist bombings in CIA headquarters, of fancy hotels, of different capitals around the world and a lot of exasperated agents who can’t fathom how they would be targeted as such.

It seems the dreadful The Hurt Locker did not satisfy Kathryn Bigelow’s appetite for American neo-political-military-award-magnet-dramas. I mean, why wouldn’t she tackle the same theme in one way or another all over again to become the first female director to win best director at the Oscars twice? Therefore, Bigelow is at it again. And Zero Dark Thirty includes not only every single thing I hated about The Hurt Locker but much, much more as well.

Jessica Chastain’s character Maya is definitely unlikeable. I hated her character to the extent that I couldn’t even appreciate her acting performance. She came off as grating, whining, overly melodramatic at times especially in a shouting scene with a CIA chief in Pakistan when she asks for extra man power in a man hunt that had been proving futile at that point. However, this type of performance is definitely the type to draw in award-voters: a charismatic female character at the heart of a male-dominated institute in the midst of the hunt for the world’s most wanted man? I can hear those voters orgasming already, which is a damn shame because if she ends up winning, she most certainly does not deserve it. Her strongest scene is right at the movie’s end as she silently reflects on the end of this decade-long era of her life. But even that scene’s potency isn’t enough.

One thing to say about Zero Dark Thirty, however, before I start grilling it is that Bigelow does well directing the movie from an “artistic” point of view. Some sequences are very well filmed, especially the raid on Bin Laden’s compound, and the movie is very technically proficient. However, a political movie like Zero Dark Thirty necessitates a politically oriented review. So here it goes.

Zero Dark Thirty is an insult on your intelligence. If there’s any movie which will get you outraged at its inaccuracy, it’s this. As a movie which wants to give itself authenticity by going the whole mile and asking you to “witness the whole truth,” it only comes off as mass propaganda about how the CIA is making the world a better place just by them being there and it portrays all those filthy Arabs living in these parts of the world as the scum of society: Muslim terrorists who can’t wait to blow up some Americans.

As they hunt for Abou Ahmad Al-Kuwaiti in some Pakistani city, the CIA van is stopped by Pakistani men. One of the Pakistanis driving gets out of the van in order to reason with the armed youth. “Shou ya chabeb?” he asks them in arabic – levantine Arabic no less – for: what’s up guys? A simple wikipedia search would have told Mrs. Bigelow that Arabic is, in fact, not spoken in Pakistan or any -stan ending country. But why would she care? Arabic-language, terrorist, Pakistan… it’s all the same for her intended audience. In fact, the movie’s scenes in Pakistan feature less Pakistani than Arabic, which is odd and definitely not “witnessing the truth” or as American critics are saying: “a movie reveling in keen detail.” Since when do Pakistanis speak Levantine Arabic?

The use of Arabic in the movie doesn’t only stop at Pakistan, it extends to various interrogation scenes where someone has to translate to Chastain’s character what the man is saying. Fair enough.

As one of the CIA agents sets up a meeting with a supposed worm within Al-Qaeda around Christmas time, she is found talking to Chastain’s character about baking a cake for the man to which Chastain replies: “Muslims don’t eat Cake.” Really? In fact, the entirety of Zero Dark Thirty doesn’t even bother to draw the line  between a religious extremist and a Muslim: it gets the boundary between the two to be so blurred that it’s so easy to confuse one with the other, making the entire movie not only highly stereotypical but highly nauseating and shallow as well.

For an American viewer, Zero Dark Thirty is definitely fascinating and I was even taken by its earlier scenes before the rhetoric started. American movie critics who don’t understand the other languages spoken in the movie and don’t have the ability to tear the movie apart from a non-cinematic perspective won’t care about the aforementioned points. Arabic, French, Pakistani – who cares? American movie critics believe that the way the hunt for Bin Laden was dramatized is chilling. They believe that the movie is politically non-biased. For those of us who can actually read into Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty, it only comes off as severely culturally-inaccurate and offensive.

Bin Laden was a bad man. He killed a lot of innocent people and I’m glad he’s dead. The CIA and whichever other intelligence agencies that helped the Americans to catch that filth of a man need to be commanded for their job. But this movie is not the way. Zero Dark Thirty wants to be the definite movie about the Bin Laden manhunt. Bigelow wants the honor of being the first and last director to tackle this issue. But that is far from the case. Again, while technically proficient, the movie is not perfect. It is too slow at times and at other times, when it moves, it is only like an arthritic ninety year old man. The first twenty minutes of torturing a Saudi are chilling to watch. They are followed by almost 90 minutes of scenes that might as well be considered as an antidote to insomnia before delivering again with the Bin Laden killing scene.

By aiming to be technically proficient, Zero Dark Thirty undercuts itself by becoming emotionally detached from the material it’s trying to portray. By showing torture scenes that more often than not lead to no-tactical results, the movie is amoral. By turning the entire struggle of all of 9/11’s victims, as it starts with real-life audio from the twin towers on that horrible day, into a vehicle for Chastain and Bigelow to cash in on some rewards, the movie is also despicable. By portraying every single non-American aspect of the movie in such gross inaccurate ways, Zero Dark Thirty is horrendous. Zero Dark Thirty is, eventually, over two and a half hours of pure propaganda that is not only offensive to the memory of the Americans who died on 9/11 but to a lot of viewer’s mental capacities.

You know what’s common between Bin Laden and Zero Dark Thirty? They are both horrifyingly bad and an abomination to existence.

1/5

 

 

Lincoln [2012] – Movie Review

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Steven Spielberg’s new movie, Lincoln, is the American Civil War-era story of the United States’ 16th president on his quest to get Congress to pass the 13th amendment to the constitution, effectively ending slavery, something he wants done before his inauguration ceremony for the second term which he had just won. In order to do this, he must gather a 2/3 majority in the House of Representatives – one that goes beyond the 56% majority that his Republican party held and into Democrat territory, a party that is staunchly against such a thing.

Lincoln is Spielberg’s best movie in a long time, something that is definitely helped by the fact that the director has been fascinated by Abraham Lincoln since he was a little boy. In this highly dignified portrait of the late American president, you are invited to delve into a world of charged polarizing politics on a story with an undertone of liberty and humanity. The movie can be divided into two halves: A strong first half sets the tone – the era, the characters, the entire situation and its framework.  The even stronger second half shows how the wheels set forth in the first half play out.

The true gem of Lincoln and what helps elevate this movie into a masterpiece is Daniel Day Lewis who incarnates the character he’s portraying to the letter – from the mannerism, to the tone. Lewis’ subtle, engaging, deep and highly emotional performance is one for the ages. His portrayal of the late American president is spot on in every sense. It never wavers, never falters, never drops from the standard that is set with the movie’s opening scene down to the last frame. He adds a sense of humanity to the commander in chief: a man who tells stories, laughs at his own jokes, cares deeply for his family. This sense of humanity gives the character an entirely new dimension.

Daniel Day Lewis is helped as well by chilling performances by Sally Fields and Tommy Lee Jones. Fields plays Mary Todd Lincoln. As a mother, she’s afraid for the life of the sons she still has and as wife, she’s growing more distant by her husband’s coldness towards her after the death of a child that she blames on him.

Tommy Lee Jones plays Thaddeus Stevens, a “Radical Republican” congressman whose goal in life is to establish equality between America’s black and white populations.  Jones is the only character in this movie that knows, deep down, that blacks are equal to whites in every way. The hurt that his character has to go through as he’s forced to tone down his convictions is passed on convincingly in a multi-layered and highly engaging performance.

However, not all acting performances in Lincoln are as great. Joseph Gordon Levitt, for instance, as Lincoln’s oldest son who wants to enroll in the army but is forbidden by his protective parents never quite finds his footing, causing the father/president-son story arc to falter and be less compelling than it could actually be. The father-son story that is interesting, however, is Lincoln’s relationship with his younger son Tad, played by Gulliver McGrath, as a young boy who wants his father to curl up next to him besides the fireplace and look at portraits of slaves who should be freed.

Tony Kushner, who wrote the screenplay for Lincoln, did a great job at turning a mostly dialogue-driven movie into something that doesn’t drag on and, despite the extensive running time, doesn’t feel overstuffed. His take on the story is very focused and specific which in itself is a very good thing if you’re familiar with the history behind the movie, which I believe every American viewer is and should be. In a way, it is the screenplay that sets Spielberg in a certain framework that helps him not turn the movie into an overly melodramatic mess but to give it a documentary grit. However, many non-American cinema enthusiasts, who will end up watching Lincoln because of the attention it’s garnering, might end up being overwhelmed by the details causing them to care less about the story which should be front and center and seek entertainment in the acting performances that I’ve previously mentioned or other attributes that I will mention subsequently.

What helps Daniel Day Lewis in his Lincoln incarnation is a stunning make-up work that transforms the actor’s face into that of the late president’s identical twin. In fact, Lincoln is bolstered by a technical team that spans from the aforementioned makeup to the cinematography to the sound mixing to the art direction. Almost every aspect of this movie is taken care of in a way to ensure authenticity.

Lincoln is a highly engaging and entertaining film, one that stops being a historical portrayal and becomes a character study of what many Americans believe is one of their best presidents. By becoming a character study, Lincoln also becomes a movie about politics which are the wheels that get the movie rolling: how these characters interact to make legislation, how these characters use each other’s flaws in order to advance their agendas, how this presidential character so deeply believes in the sanctity of freedom, how this presidential character wants peace for his nation and for himself.

If I were an American, I’d be proud to have a movie such as Lincoln portray one of my presidents.

9/10

 

Thoughts on the Newtown, Connecticut Shooting

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Children are dying everywhere around this world. Be it in Syria where they die daily (NSFL pictures) or in any war zone. Those deaths though, however tragic and cruel, are a byproduct of a civil strife taking place in their country. 20 children of Newtown, CT had no idea that their school-day on Friday would be their last day of life. The parents who dropped off their children at school didn’t know that would be the last time they would see their son or daughter breathing.

This is the third shooting to take place in the United States in 2012. After each of those massacres, the same debate among Americans erupted before it died down when the mania subsided: gun control and mental health.

Some people believe that their guns should be off limits. Their right to bear arms in the face of a possible tyrant government, as protected by the 2nd amendment, is sacred. I wonder though: how many more innocent children need to die until some Americans realize that the current state of their gun legislation is unacceptable?

Those who can fathom the current gun laws in the United States are jumping on the mental health bandwagon: the mental health sector in the United States is horrendous. Stigma regarding mental health issues is so enrooted in American society that few seek help – and when people crack, they do what Adam Lanza did to the children of Newtown.

On the other hand, you have many Americans who want tighter gun regulations, if not banning of civilians getting access to firearms altogether.

But I am not American. I don’t believe I should get a substantial say about internal regulations of a country I’ve never visited. Personally, I believe it should be a combination of both: Everyone being able to buy guns as easily as chewing gum should not be allowed. Why not require a psychiatric evaluation of the person wanting to buy a weapon before they’re able to purchase one? 

Eventually, those who want to commit crimes and massacres will find a way. But at least don’t make it a walk in the park for them.

The question to be asked about Newtown’s shooting, however, is the following: wasn’t this shooting very similar to the Aurora shooting which took place in July? And wasn’t that Aurora shooting very similar to the one that took place at Virginia Tech? The list goes on.

And herein lies the real problem: the media – American and international.

News of a shooting at an American school or movie theatre immediately gets turned into a sensational story as news anchors are instructed to amp up their look of concern while their producers scramble on the phone to bring in advertisers who want to make profit off the ratings that networks will be making by hosting people from around the area of the shooting.

When the media craze subsides and the shooting becomes second degree news, what’s the only thing immortalized out of the entire event? The shooter.

Does anyone remember any of the names of those who died in Aurora? In Virgina Tech? In Newton?

Now ask yourself this: do you know the names of the three men who committed those separate massacres?

When it comes to these shooting massacres, there’s a need for a lockdown. The media should refrain from going on news frenzies about the shooting because minute-to-minute, second-to-second coverage is effectively telling those with biochemically imbalanced, mentally ill people that they can become instantly famous, instantly known, instantly feared by bringing a gun to a school and gunning down enough people to become the country’s “it” news. The idea of playing God, of controlling the fates of the people they’re about to kill, of controlling their own life that they’re about to take, is implanted in these people’s heads. And the idea is so irresistible that it brings them to the tipping point.

I honestly don’t know what’s the one and true reason that the United States has this many shootings taking place but I don’t think there’s one reason to explain it all. The situation is strange to say the least. I only need to look at my country, Lebanon, where guns are more numerous than people and people with mental health issues would total the entirety of the Lebanese population and where security is as fragile as breadcrumbs – and yet we’ve never had such mass shootings.

My thoughts go to the families who lost their children, to the heroic teachers Dawn Hochsprung, Victoria Soto and Mary Sherlash who died to save their students. I would say hopefully this doesn’t get repeated. But we all know better.

The Heroes of Sandy Hook Elementary

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Dawn Hochsprung (up), Victoria Soto (left) and Mary Sherlash (right)

Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut was the location of a massacre that took the lives of 26 people, 20 of which were children. Amid the tragedy is an untold story of heroism that gives hope despite the darkness from which it sprung.

Victoria Soto, a 27 year old first grade teacher, hid her students in closets and cabinets. When the shooter reached her classroom and asked her where her students were, she lied and told him she took them to the gym. He shot her on the spot and left. Her entire classroom survived.

Dawn Hochsprung, the school principal, and March Sherlach, the school’s psychologist, did not hide like everyone else did when they heard gunshots resonate among their school’s hallways. Instead of ducking under tables and hiding in offices, they ran towards the gunshots. They were both murdered execution-style as they confronted the murderer Adam Lanza.

These three women, who put their lives second in order to protect the children that they’ve come to love, are a true embodiment of heroism.

These three women, who lost their lives yesterday, give hope to millions today that there are people out there who are so selfless they would rather die than see innocent children fall to an act of terror.

In a few days’ time, as the media frenzy surrounding the Connecticut shooting subsides, the media will sadly forget these women’s names. They will forget what they did. They will forget all the students who are still alive because of these women’s sacrifices. They will forget that the students these women saved have families that will remain eternally grateful their children returned to them unharmed.

It’s unjustifiable and heart-breaking for children and people anywhere in the world to be ruthlessly killed like this. It’s even worse when those children’s lives are lost due to the lack of simple policies. How many more children need to die and how many more teachers need to lose their lives so American legislators see that the current gun and mental health policies of their country are unacceptable?