Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Qur'anathon Day 4: In A Gadda Da Vida

"We said: "O Adam! dwell thou and thy wife in the Garden; and eat of the bountiful things therein as (where and when) ye will; but approach not this tree, or ye run into harm and transgression/but come not nigh this tree lest ye become wrong-doers/and do not approach this tree, for then you will be of the unjust."

- Al-Baqara 2:35 (varying translations)

"But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." - Genesis 2:17

There are some striking narrative similarities between Torah, Bible and Koran. All three holy books contain references to Adam, Adam's primacy in God's creation, the naming of things, a blessed Garden, and the Tree of Knowledge. Missing from the Qur'anic account of this story: the name of Adam's wife. I'd be curious to understand why Eve's name is omitted from the Qur'an. Is it because "Eve" was a name given to Adam's wife at a later date in time? Are Eve's actions responsible for "the fall," as they appear to be in the traditional interpretations of Bible and Torah? That does not seem to be the case here, according to my reading of the text. The "blame" for their temptation is ascribed to Satan/Shaitan/Iblis, but it would seem from the text that both Adam and "his wife" were equally guilty in breaking God's rule.

Also of interest to me: The result of eating from the Tree of Knowledge (known only as "this tree" in the Qur'anic text) seems to differ greatly when one compares the Torah/Bible scripture with its Qur'anic equivalent. Eating of the Tree of Knowledge in the Bible/Torah leads to death. This is stated (as far as I can tell) unambiguously across multiple English translations. In the Qur'an, however, the punishment is not death - it is, variously, "harm and transgression," becoming "wrongdoers," and becoming one of the "unjust."

"And seek assistance through patience and prayer, and most surely it is a hard thing except for the humble ones," - 2:45

I've been reading "The Case for God," by Karen Armstrong, and upon reading this portion of scripture I was reminded of Armstrong's assertion that achieving a feeling of transcendence - learning to practice true religiosity - is hard work, in the same way that learning to sculpt or paint with some acumen is hard work. I like that the Qur'an advises us of this. I like that it reminds us of the difficulty inherent in transcending Self and achieving communion with Divinity. One of my personal quibbles with religion as practiced by some of my fellow Americans lies in the total lack of difficulty, committment and devotion required of its practitioners. There's a real sense that God has been transformed into an all-knowing Slot Machine; people are told that God will give them whatever they want if they just keep tugging the lever/praying away.

That view of religion seems like "cheap grace" to me, in the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer ("Grace is represented as the Church's inexhaustible treasury, from which she showers blessings with generous hands, without asking questions or fixing limits. Grace without price; grace without cost! And the essence of grace, we suppose, is that the account has been paid in advance; and, because it has been paid, everything can be had for nothing. Since the cost was infinite, the possibilities of using and spending it are infinite."). It demands little-to-nothing of practitioners, and it creates (to my mind) a sense of undeserved entitlement.

Enough high-horsing from me. Back to the text:

"And remember, We delivered you from the people of Pharaoh: They set you hard tasks and punishments, slaughtered your sons and let your women-folk live; therein was a tremendous trial from your Lord." - 2:49

It's not just Adam and the Garden that get mentioned in the Qur'an, much to my surprise. Al-Baqara also takes pains to link the God of the Qur'an directly to the God of the Torah/Old Testament. Unlike the Bible/Torah, the Qur'an does not have any apparent desire to educate its readers as to what Adam or Moses' story was in any detail. Instead, as noted by Talif Khalidi in his introduction, the Qur'an assumes familiarity with these stories and uses them to underline its points. We'll talk more about Moses in the next post. In the meantime, what are your thoughts? Have you anything to share with me and with the readers that might shed light on what we're reading? Are you finding these posts interesting/worth continuing? I welcome your thoughts, your observations, and your questions.

Back To The Theater

I love me some Godfather, some Star Wars, some Indiana Jones, but the film trilogy that has always delighted me most consistently is probably Back to the Future. I adore everything about the first film and consider it to be a near-perfect piece of entertainment. Relentlessly smart, overwhelmingly charming, Oedipally-icky and rib-ticklingly funny, Back to the Future is a Classic Film. And on October 23rd and 25th, Back to the Future is returning to American movie theaters.

That's heavy, Doc.

I've already bought my tickets - why don't you join me? Let's celebrate a classic film together.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Welcome, U.S. Department of Justice


In the words of Mel Brooks, I'd like to extend a Laurel, and Hardy handshake to the good folks at the U.S. Department of Justice, who seem to have stumbled across this humble blog in their search for the meaning of "alif lam mim."

You may recall that I blogged about these undefined letters on Day 2 of the current Qur'anathon.

If the individual who chose to enter Verbosity based on the presence of that search term decides to stick around, I'd like to encourage them to comment as they see fit. I'm always happy to have more intelligent, inquisitive and compassionate people here. The next Qur'anathon posting will happen once I've submitted this week's Lost & Found column and attended the eagerly-awaited Deftones/Alice in Chains show scheduled for Friday evening.

Be good to one another,


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Qur'anathon Day 3: Al-Baqara (The Cow) Continued

"And remember when God said to the angels: 'Kneel before Adam'; they knelt, all except Satan, who disdained, grew proud and became an unbeliever."

That's an interesting passage, because it lines up nicely with the commonly-held Christian belief in Satan as a fallen, prideful angel who refused to bow before the primacy of mankind.

More interesting, to me, is that this commonly-held belief has developed extra-biblically - meaning that the Bible itself does not explicitly support the notion of Satan in Miltonian, Paradise Lost terms. Christian belief in this conception of the devil is founded in passages like 2 Enoch 29:4 ("And I threw him out from the height with his angels, and he was flying in the air continuously above the bottomless."), and Isaiah 14:12-15 ("How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations! You said in your heart, 'I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.' But you are brought down to the grave, to the depths of the pit.").

Compelling and poetic as these passages are, they don't serve to establish the familiar Satan-as-Bigot-Against-Mankind meme that's now (somewhat inexplicably) so much a part of modern Christian theology (for more on the historical context of these Biblical passages, check out this relatively-informative posting from Pastor Doug Roman). But it seems as though the Islamic faith has a firm textual basis in just such a belief - and it comes from Al-Baqara. I wonder how many zealous, anti-Muslim Christians realize that there's more textual support for Satan as prideful fallen angel in the Qur'an than there is in the Bible?

A Brief Conversation on Surveillance

Co-worker 1: "You know they put in a bunch of new security cameras all through Penn and Grand Central Station? I feel so much safer."

MMorse: "We're turning into London. They've got cameras all over the place these days."

1: "They should put up more. These cameras are so good they can zoom in on you and see, you know, what you're wearing and what color your clothes are..."

Co-worker 2: "Doesnt that bother you though, in terms of your privacy?"

1: "No, not really as long as the cameras are in public and not in my house."

M: "What if there's a camera in public that can look into your house?"

1: "What do you mean?"

M: "Well, what if there's a camera in the street in front of your house? You just said they can zoom in, so what if they zoom in on your house?"

1: "Oh, that's okay. I keep my curtains drawn all the time."

That's verbatim.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Qur'anathon Day 2: Alif Lam Mim & Al-Baqara (The Cow)

Welcome back to Verbosity's Qur'anathon!

Twice a week I'll be posting on my thoughts as I read the Qur'an. It's already been an enriching and educational experience. For instance, I now know that "Qur'an" is preferred over "Koran," and future posts will reflect that fact out of respect.

On Tuesday we examined a tiny portion of the history surrounding the Qur'an, and I wrote briefly about The Opening - a poetic invocation which begins the text.

Today's posting concerns two topics:

1) Alif Lam Mim, and
2) The first several ayat of the first Sura, known as Al-Baqara, or "The Cow."

Alif Lam Mim, the "words" (actually letters) that appear at the beginning of The Cow, are known as Muqatta`āt - literally translated as "abbreviated," or "shortened." If my understanding is correct, the meaning of these Muqatta`āt is unclear, but some Muslim opinion has it that their inscrutability may hide secrets of the Divine (a notion that I like very much, and which reminds me in a way of YHWH, a Hebrew abbreviation for the "true" name of God whose pronunciation was lost to time). Other sources contend that the meaning of these letters is not knowable, and that assigning "Mystical" meaning to them is pointless. You can read more about this intriguing and fittingly-obtuse phenomena by clicking HERE or HERE.

The "Chapter" title Al-Baqara (The Cow) may refer to the golden calf worshipped by the people of Moses, or it may refer to another cow which was somehow used to reanimate the dead (Reason 1 for enjoying the Qur'an: cows are used to reanimate the dead). Wikipedia seems confused on this point. No less confusing are some of the opening verses of this Sura:

"Allah has set a seal upon their hearts and upon their hearing and there is a covering over their eyes, and there is a great punishment for them." 2:07

"if Allah had pleased He would certainly have taken away their hearing and their sight; surely Allah has power over all things." 2:20

"And if you are in doubt as to that which We have revealed to Our servant, then produce a chapter like it and call on your witnesses besides Allah if you are truthful. But if you do (it) not and never shall you do (it), then be on your guard against the fire of which men and stones are the fuel; it is prepared for the unbelievers." 2:23-24

And now, going back to The Opening for a moment...

"Merciful to all,
Compassionate to each!"

Really? How does this (admirable, beautiful) invocation square itself with what comes after it, in Al-Baqara? If God has set a seal upon their hearts and upon their hearing and there is a covering over their eyes.." then does that not imply that it is God who is responsible for a person's unwillingness/inability to hear the "Good News" offered by The Qur'an? And if this is so, then how may we assume that God is "Merciful to all, Compassionate to each"?

We're dealing in antitheticals here - something that Verbosity reader Katie (author of the excellent blog "All Shall Be Well," linked below in the sidebar) pointed out on Day 1. How is God merciful to all and simultaneously proactively sealing people's hearts and blinding them and making them deaf to the revelation He offered to Muhammad? If Allah is compassionate to each then what's with this whole "fire made of stones and men" (a great, grisly image) thing?

This dichotomy - between boundless mercy and endless suffering - is one that has fascinated me since I first picked up a Bible and began exploring its pages. How can a Divine being be both fully-benevolent and yet also potentially malevolent to such extremes? Philosophers and Theologians have spent millenia wrestling with these questions and have spun out countless theories to accomodate for this weird discrepency, either by explaining it or by criticizing it. This split between a God who seems to want nothing but the best for his children, but who is also creepily-eager to blind his people personally so as to prevent them from recieving his grace, is bizarre and compelling and Mystical in the capital-M sense of the word.

One way to explain this discrepency is to assign both "positive" and "negative" aspects to the Divine. Another is to claim that God is ineffable, incapable of being fully understood in aspect or in motivation. Still another is to suggest that God is "merciful to all, compassionate to each" person who accepts his Divinity and lives by "the straight path," but this explanation fails to account for the actions of a God who seems comfortable stacking the deck by making some of his children fundamentally incapable of finding said-path.

What do you think? Is this seemingly-irreconcilable split explicable? Are we dealing, ultimately, with what amounts to a description of Nature itself - both its bounty and its wrath? How do you reconcile this?

They Eat Their Own

Here’s some interesting news. Karl Rove and GOP favorite Mike Castle (R-Del) are now apparently “Republicans In Name Only,” or “RINOs.” If you’re not familiar with the term “RINO,” good for you. It means that you don’t spend much time reading the invective of crazed, double-thinking internet columnists and commentators. Basically, it’s the nastiest thing you can say about a Republican other than to claim that he’s “a liberal” (Oooooh).

After Christine O’Donnell’s “surprise” victory in the Primaries this week, Rove had this to say:

“It does conservatives little good to support candidates who at the end of the day while they may be conservative in their public statements do not event the characteristics of rectitude, truthfulness and sincerity and character that the voters are looking for… I mean, there were a lot of nutty things she has been saying that just simply don't add up... I'm for the Republican, but I got to tell you, we were looking at eight to nine seats in the Senate. We are now looking at seven to eight in my opinion. This is not a race we're going to be able to win.”

Pragmatic, strategic, analytical. These were all strengths for Karl Rove. Now, thanks to Tea Party fever, they’ve become severe liabilities. If you need any indication of just how divided the Republican party is at this point in time you need only to read the following comments from some of the Right Wing's craziest, most craven commentators:

Sean Hannity: “He sounds like a liberal, blaming other people!”

Sarah Palin: “"Well, bless his heart…We love our friends, they're in the machine, the expert politicos.”

(Note: “Bless his heart” is, as everyone knows, the Southern equivalent of “F*ck him.”)

Michelle Malkin: “Rove came across as an effete sore loser instead of the supposedly brilliant and grounded GOP strategists that he’s supposed to be. Expect more Washington Republicans to start sounding like Tea Party-bashing libs as their entrenched incumbent friends go down.”

Machelle Malkin Part Deux: “The conservative base is in full-scale revolt. This is a good and healthy thing. Close political observers of and on the Right know that the revolt against Big Government/Open-Borders Rove/Bush-ism has been brewing a long time…”

Really? A long time? You mean since they left the White House? Rove was practically the patron saint of Conservatism only two years ago. Now that he no longer serves the Corporate interests of folks like the Koch family (the ostensible creators of the Tea Party movement, and about the least "Populist" clan you can possibly imagine) and Rupert Murdoch he's apparently meat for the the beast.

Some of the comments from my Fellow Americans are as revealing as they are disturbing:

“This was stunning! I could hardly believe what I was seeing. Rove cranked up a one man smear campaign on live TV…”

“He’s went so dirty and combative .. I’m still reeling.”

Hey Karl, wake up and smell the Patriots! We're having a Revolution on November 2nd! And if the Voting Booth doesn't work, we'll go the old fashioned way.”

See what I mean? Revealing and disturbing. I empathize with the anger that many people in the “Tea Party” are feeling toward “the Establishment.” That anger is, frankly, well-founded. We’re in the midst of an economic recession that’s cost many, many people their jobs, their homes, and their feeling of overall safety. Our government is largely geared toward serving Corporatist interests over and above the interests of The People. Our elected representatives have consistently sold out their constituents for a piece of the Wall St. pie.

All of these are reasons to be legitimately furious.

And yet, the cognitive dissonance on display here is staggering. The notion that Republicans could be stunned by Rove playing perceived “dirty tricks” tells me that the people making these comments willfully ignored the countless instances during Bush’s administration in which Rove did just that. The fact that the economic difficulties we’re now facing as a country can be laid in large, undeniable part at the feet of a Republican administration who spent trillions of dollars on a war that was obviously, blatantly, desired and so poorly justified as to have been laughable – not simply in “hindsight,” as many of our spineless Media spokesheads are so fond of claiming in an effort to extricate themselves from deserved culpability, but at the time of its inception – seems not to occur to these people at all.

Where were they when billions of dollars in US currency was being lifted on pallets into Iraq, and then “stolen”? Or when the American military was being ignored in favor of private Military subcontractors with no obligation to follow long-standing and honorable codes of combat and conduct? Where were they when Rove and his slimy compatriots were working overtime to baselessly smear John Kerry in the 2004 election? Where were they when New Orleans was left to fend for itself, post-Katrina? Where were they when the crackdown on Civil Liberties – a crackdown that included the denial of entry into public Presidential speeches and the unconstitutional monitoring of communications, to name just two – that they now (in theory) decry was in full swing, was in the implementation phase, was in a “possible to be stopped” phase? Where were they when the financial bailouts they now rail against were being railroaded through Congress by the President they elected and the strategist that served him?

Why, they were cheering for Karl Rove of course. They were a-wavin’ their flags and shouting down all dissent as “un-American.” Remember that? Remember when criticism of Presidential policy was tantamount to treason for these folks? Because they sure don’t.

These days it’s all “we have the right – nay the duty – to fight against injustice!” When their Fellow Americans were suffering, were confused and angry by their own government’s willful, mocking refusal to listen, they were content to tell those people to shut up. But now that they’re suffering the ill-effects of their own misguided “Patriotism,” and now that a black man has entered the White House, it’s apparently time to burn everything down.

Then there's the fact that this "Populist uprising" is funded by anti-Government billionaires (the Kochs, the very "elites" these Tea Party folks claim to hate) and promoted with vicious regularity by Fox News - a multinational corporation whose business interests align nicely with all of this craziness.

Neither of these groups has the interests of "the little guy" at heart. They are gleefully, openly exploiting the base fears and anger of a population that has reason for their anger.

Well, isn't that just...despicable? Deplorable? Depressing?

Pick a D-Word.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Pale King Crowned

Mark your calendars with me - April 15, 2011 brings the release of David Foster Wallace's final novel, "The Pale King." The jacket art, designed by Wallace's widow Karen Green, is pictured above.

If I were to name the authors that have most influenced my thinking, my writing, and my very being David Foster Wallace would probably top that list. His unflinching humanism, his unceasing curiousity, and his erudite sense of humor are inspirations to me in my life and in my work. I felt palpable loss when I heard the news - something that hasn't happened since the death of Jim Henson.

If you're unfamiliar with Wallace's work may I suggest reading one of his more accessible pieces? Fans of Twin Peaks will likely enjoy his in-depth examination of David Lynch, which you can read right here (in truncated form), free of charge. And if you enjoy that I highly recommend picking up "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again."

You're missed, Mr. Wallace.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Qur'anathon Day 1: An Introduction and The Opening

Twice a week I'll be offering my thoughts and opinions on the Koran. If you'd like to follow along with me, or just want to refer to the Chapters (or "Suras") I'm discussing you can read along using this online resource. The translation I'm reading is by Tarif Khalidi, and while I've only read a fraction of it I can already recommend it.

Today's post is meant to hopefully give all of us a little background information on the Koran itself, before touching on The Opening - a short, poetic invocation that precedes the first Sura of the text. Thursday's post will focus on the first several ayat (or "verses") of the first Sura.

The word "Koran" (alternatively: Qur'an, Kuran, Quran, Coran...) means "recitation." Muslim believers (if Wikipedia and other online sources are to be trusted) believe that the Koran serves as the "verbal book of divine guidance and direction for mankind." It is named "The Recitation" due to the belief that the Koran was revealed to the prophet Muhammad through the oral recitation of the angel Gabriel over "a period of approximately twenty-three years." Muhammad then dictated these revelations to his "companions," who memorized them and eventually committed them to the written word - supposedly "shortly after [his] death."

Interestingly, and unlike the Christian tradition, there seems to be little disagreement among scholars over which "version" of the Koran is the "correct" version, since Caliph Uthman ibn Affan's order to preserve an official, standardized text appears to have resulted in an admirable degree of continuity and sameness between whatever competing versions exist.

One of the most striking features of the Koran - immediately evident even to my untrained eyes - lies in its nonlinear structure. Unlike the Torah or the Bible, the Koran makes no attempt to present an accounting of events in a linear, "historical" manner. We do not begin at "The Beginning." In this way the text presents itself as being without beginning or ending - a choice that pleases me immensely and that makes manifest in the structure of the text the sort of all-encompassing divine power that the body of the text purports to convey.

The Koran begins with "Basmala," an Arabic phrase meaning, depending on the translation "In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful," or (in my translation) "In the name of God, Merciful to all, Compassionate to each!" and each of the Suras (except the ninth, apparently) follows this pattern - an invocation to the God who gifted this book to mankind. I find the Arabic phrase beautiful to the ear and the eye - a poetic word that encompasses an impassioned statement.

Today's posting focuses solely on The Opening - a short prayer that's quite lovely:

"Praise be to God, Lord of the Worlds:
Merciful to all,
Compassionate to each!
Lord of the Day of Judgement.
It is You we worship, and upon you we call for help.
Guide us to the straight path,
The path of those upon whom Your grace abounds,
Not those upon whom anger falls,
Nor those who are lost."

Lovely, right?

I'm especially fond of the phrase "Lord of the Worlds." I assume this refers to the "worlds" of the heavens, the earth, the "underworld" and perhaps the various planets known to Islamic society at the time of the Koran's writing (this is pure conjecture on my part). I'm also fond of the way in which the The Opening immediately and unambiguously asks to be kept from the path of "those upon whom anger falls." The Opening gives the sense of a man's longing for a peaceful heart and peaceful path to walk upon.

Islam has a reputation among certain peoples as being a "violent religion," but this Opening would seem to refute such an easy labeling. Such a designation strikes me personally as ignorant/disingenuous - not because some practitioners of Islam are not violent, and not because (I assume) there are passages in the Koran that I will discover to preach violence, or seemingly condone it, but because EVERY religion shares these qualities, and yet we lend to religions such as Christianity or Judaism an implicit understanding that the actions of radicals and the radicalism of some portions of these texts do not reflect on the entirety of a religion or its adherents.

Opening the Koran

Did you pick up a copy of the Koran/Qur'an this weekend?

If you're like me you don't know very much about this book. You're maybe aware of some of its more famous and/or infamous passages, you're probably aware of the millions of peaceful practitioners of Islam, and you're almost certainly aware of its fringiest, most militant elements.

But how well do you know the actual book and its contents?

"And there are among them illiterates, who know not the Book, but (see therein their own) desires, and they do nothing but conjecture." - The Koran, Surat Al-Baqarah 2:78

Fair enough. No more assumptions from this illiterate. I intend to attempt a rudimentary understanding of this revered book. Care to join me?

Starting tomorrow I'm going to begin reading the Koran and briefly commenting on it here - an exercise that I think will be interesting and conversation-provoking; illuminating for myself and, I hope, for some of you. Twice a week I'll read and comment on one or two Surahs (also spelt as "Sura," and the equivalent of the English word "Chapter") from the above-pictured translation of the Qur'an, and I'll invite you to read and comment with me. I expect that when I'm done I'll turn my attention to both the Bible and the Torah - books that I'm much more familiar with overall.

This is in no sense an attempt to convert any of you into "believers." I will not be endorsing religion or excoriating the non-religious, except to the extent that I will gladly celebrate those passages I find inspirational/beautiful/moving, and will likewise be critical of those passages which I find troubling/confusing/contradictory. I welcome my atheist and agnostic brothers and sisters to join in this little experiment with me. A lack of belief in the divinity of the Koran does not negate the text's importance to human history (past, present and future) and as always your thoughts and opinions are encouraged and desired. What do the words of these books make you feel? Are you able to separate out your feelings (both positive and negative) regarding the institutions that surround these books in order to approach them solely as texts? These are just some of the questions I'd like to ask of you as we go. I'd love to hear your thoughts and recieve your own questions.

In short, I'd like to have a discussion. I'm hoping you'll want to join in it with me, whether you're a Christian, a Jew, a Muslim, a Deist, a Buddhist, a Wiccan, an Atheist, an Agnostic, a Rand-ian Objectivist, or whathaveyou. Remember that Verbosity is a place of respect, treat your fellow human beings as you would like to be treated, and know that all are welcome.

Pass The Sentence

You know the drill by now.

This week's sentence:

"He'd never seen a house on fire."

Friday, September 10, 2010

International Buy A Koran Day


Aaaaaand the burning is off once again.

Terry Jones is officially the new Axl Rose. Ten years from now he'll finally get around to it, and overall no one will really care. I can only hope there'll be a future collaboration with Buckethead.

Original Post:

So, "Pastor" Jones is a big ol' waffler.

First he was going to burn the Koran, then he wasn't, now he will, if people don't accede to his demands.

Hmmm....Threatening a malign act unless your demands are met? That's pretty much the definition of extortion. Or terrorism, if you're feeling cheeky.

At this point, I don't care what he does. What I'LL be doing tomorrow is buying a Koran. If you'd like to join with me in refuting religious intolerance then go out, buy a Koran, tell the cashier that you're purchasing it to replace any copies that terry "The Waffler" Jones will or won't burn, and take a picture of yourself with it. Send that picture to me at WhatIsWater@gmail.com. Let's show this namby-pamby nutjob what conviction and tolerance mean.

Lame Is My Name

No column today, folks. The wife and I didn't make it back from our trip until Wednesday, leaving precious little time for watching and writing up the episodes for the week. Rest assured that next week's column will make up for these little speed bumps.

Thanks, as always, for your understanding and for your peepers.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

International Buy A Koran Day

"Where they have burned books, they will end in burning human beings." - Heinrich Heine

For those of you who aren't already aware, a fanatic named Terry Jones is planning an "International Burn a Koran Day" on September 11th. While I support Mr. Jones' Constitutional right to engage in a symbolic act of protest - the same way I'd support someone who wanted to burn an American Flag to make a point - I think he's a loon, and I think that this whole circus is far less about "protesting a religion of the devil," and far more about making Terry Jones momentarily (in)famous.

Inspired by Jones and by the misguided souls who plan to use the anniversary of a national tragedy to indulge in good ol' fashioned, baseless hatred, I'd planned on taking a trip down to the Ground Zero area and standing up for religious freedom there. But here's the problem with that: I'm just adding another body to a mass of people who'll be there with their own agendas and their own lunacies. What would I actually do once I was there? I'd be making a statement with my presence, but I'm increasingly unsure whether that statement would count for as much as it might if I took another approach.

So, instead of delving, probably ineffectively, into the madness sure to be all too prevalent down there - instead of legitimizing, in any way, the protest against the Cordoba House that is scheduled for that afternoon - I'm going to do something that will have a concrete (albeit small), immediate impact: I'm going to BUY a Koran on Saturday.

And I'd like you to buy one as well.

I'd like you to walk into a bookstore and purchase a Koran, and as you do so, I'd like you to say that you're buying it because you're a fan of religious freedom - that you're buying it to replace the copies burned by Terry Jones.

But that's not all. I'd also like you to spread the word. I'd like the people that you know, the people that you write for, The People in general, to know what you're doing and why. I want you to mobilize your friends, and get them to buy a Koran as well. It doesn't need to be nice, or expensive, or new. What matters - what always matters and will always matter - is finding a way to express, to ourselves and to those around us, an affirmation of basic humanity and decency. There will always be those for whom it is a pleasure to burn, as Ray Bradbury once taught us. Let there also always be those for whom it is a pleasure to preserve.

This isn't just about Islam, this is about every persecuted religious group: Quakers, Jews, Catholics, and on and on anon. For every religion there has been a group eager to burn them - symbolically or otherwise. And in every age there have always been those willing to oppose them in word and in deed.

Be one of those people. Join the Buy A Koran Facebook page. Send out a Tweet/email to those you know. Reach out by phone or in person and say to one another "there is power in small, individual acts." Be able to look your future grandchildren in the eye and tell them that you have always supported religious liberty when they ask you about the bigotry of these events.

This Saturday, let's buy more than they burn.

Spread the word.

"Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love." - 1 John 4:8

"We believe in Allah, and in what has been revealed to us and what was revealed to Abraham, Ismail, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and in (the Books) given to Moses, Jesus, and the Prophets, from their Lord: We make no distinction between one and another among them." - The Koran (3:84 AYA)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Vacation All I Ever Wanted

You'll have noticed that it's quiet around these parts. The Lovely Wife and I have been enjoying a much needed (too short) vacation in the great, swelteringly-hot, state of Arizona. Horses have been ridden. Deserts have been explored. Pools have been utilized. Sunburns have been acquired.

Life es muy bueno, in other words. Vebosity will resume it's regularly-irregular posting schedule soon (probably Thursday, if not tomorrow). Until then: Be excellent to each other.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

A Supernatural Sandman?

It's comic book news/James Hibberd day here at Verbosity, as The Live Feed also reports that Warner Brothers is in the process of acquiring the television rights for Neil Gaiman's Sandman - maybe the single greatest self-contained comic saga ever created (Watchmen fans, commence hating!). Hibberd also reports that Eric Kripke, creator of Supernatural, is in the running to adapt the series for TV.

I love Supernatural for what it is - a pulpy, blue collar, self-aware monsterfest - but there's little of the poetry and lyricism that Sandman contains on nearly every page. That said, deciding to develop this property as a television show (as opposed to a feature film) is an enormously smart idea (in a rather obvious way). Sandman's story is sprawling, epic, and totally unsuited for compression into a two hour running time. Developing it for TV means letting its various-and-sundry subplots, side stories, digressions and quirks breathe in a way that's impossible to imagine on film.

There's a large part of me that would prefer never to see an adaptation of Gaiman's greatest work - who could possibly play Morpheus without inevitably making him less than the sum of his on-the-page complications? How to create the fantastic vistas presented without resorting to fake, ultimately-underwhelming CGI? How to negotiate the sometimes-stunning violence with an eye toward network broadcast (if network is the goal at all)?

And yet, it's Sandman - the one comic book I'd recommend to English majors, aspiring goths, geeks...heck, anyone. It's without a doubt my single favorite work of graphic storytelling, and it could very well be headed into our homes.

I'll watch it, that's for sure.

Fox & Key

James Hibberd's The Live Feed is now reporting that Fox has picked up Locke & Key, the series I "reported" on earlier this week as being in development with Steven Spielberg godfathering, and Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman acting as Executive Producers.

Again, this is pretty excellent news. If you haven't tried Locke & Key may I recommend picking up the first volume of the series, "Welcome to Lovecraft"? You can click through my lil' Amazon advertising link and find it there waiting, impatiently, for your peepers.