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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Great review in The Asian Review of Books

The Geometry of God has gotten a killer review by the always-astute Nirinjana Iyer in the latest issue of The Asian Review of Books. To wit:

"Given that most books with the slightest connection to Islam feature covers with veiled women baring their kohl-lined eyes for the curious outsider's gaze, THE GEOMETRY OF GOD's black-and-white American edition's jacket depicting an animal skeleton is probably fair warning that Uzma Aslam Khan's Pakistan is going to get in the way of the sensationalized portrayals of the country so beloved by mainstream (Western) media. In her third book, Aslam gives us a female paleontologist, charged writing about the erotic, and a profound inquiry into the often-vexing relationship between faith and reason. Add to these riches the voice of a blind child "taste-testing" words, and THE GEOMETRY OF GOD becomes that rare creature, a novel where the urgency of the message is matched by the verve of the narrative."

That's just the first paragraph. Read the whole essay here:

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Pink Floyd to Israel: Tear Down the Wall

Ah, the epic power of rock and roll...

"Washington – For the first time in half a decade, rock legends Pink Floyd reunited for a benefit concert in England to raise money for young Palestinian refugees, MSNBC reported Tuesday.

Roger Waters and David Gilmour, joined by a full stage of keyboardists and drummers, both picked up the guitar to play for the more than 200 fans gathered to see the Oxfordshire concert. The reunion was unpublicized prior to the curtain's rise.

The proceeds from the benefit concert went to the Hoping Foundation, an organization that focuses on the “next generation” of young Palestinians, mostly refugees. Their projects include a film workshop, a scouting group in the Balata refugee camp near Nablus, and a UN Relief and Works Agency yearbook. The event raised over half a million dollars to benefit the group.

The Pink Floyd duo played a number of classic and fan favorites, including “Wish You Were Here” and “Another Brick in the Wall (Part Two).”

Waters has been involved in pro-Palestinian activism for years. In 2006 he spray painted "tear down the wall" on Israel's West Bank separation wall in the city of Bethlehem. He also worked with the United Nations to produce a short film about the wall's impact on life in the West Bank.

A slew of musicians, including Elvis Costello and The Pixes recently cancelled concerts in Israel in protest of Israel's Israel's policies toward the Palestinians and the deadly attack on a Gaza-bound aid
flotilla on May 31st. "

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Osama Bin Laden comedy movie is banned in Pakistan. Surprised?

So, an Indian film called Tere Bin Laden (Without You Laden) is making waves in India for being the first terrorist-inspired comedy, and in Pakistan for being (*sigh*) banned. The more things change...

According to newspaper reports, "the movie is is about a Pakistani journalist desperate to get a visa to the US who pretends to score an interview with the elusive al-Qaeda chief after finding a look-alike."

Sound innocuous enough, no?

Well, apparently--NO.

Faiza Khan, a journalist based in Karachi, has an interesting article about the government's response in The Times of India. It's well worth a read as she touches on a number of important points. An extract:

"The censor board, to be fair, is known to be a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma, merrily releasing graphically violent local films whose vulgar depictions of sexuality would shame the Marquis of Sade, while banning 'The Da Vinci Code' (due to Pakistan's profound respect for its Christian minority, often expressed by denuding them of all their rights and massacring them in their homes). As such, TBL's falling foul of Pakistan's censors is imminently un-newsworthy in itself; it is the unprecedented reasoning for the ban, however, which sets alarm bells ringing.

"TBL isn't being banned for the usual reasons — that it's injurious to the national image or because it might encourage young people to have sex or an independent thought, nor because it's an Indian film and the rallying cry of the post-Partition subcontinent has long been 'loathe thy neighbour'; it's being banned for fear of reprisal from those whose sentiments will be wounded by a frivolous film referencing bin Laden. 'Tere Bin Laden' will be kept off Pakistani screens for fear of encouraging attacks on cinemas and inviting more bombs and bloodshed. While this is a very real thr-eat, throwing up your hands in anticipation of defeat is not a fitting response. Immaculate security at cinemas that goes beyond a frail old man with a gun sitting next to a decrepit metal detector would be a suitable response. Having a Pakistani red carpet launch, a fitting honour for one of the country's most popular young singers, would be a suitable response. Having the gumption to poke fun at bin Laden and at the world's perceptions of Pakistan would be a suitable response.

"The nanny state has yet again proved itself as the type of nanny that shakes your baby when you're not looking. The driving logic appears to be that kowtowing to the demands of terrorists, in this case anticipating them even before they've been aired, will somehow discourage them. What then might we do if these terrorists start objecting to women in the workplace, or on the street, to the existence of religious minorities, or the government, the army and the institution of democracy? Oh, wait. The ardent hope is that if one stays under the radar, and changes the way one lives in order to not ruffle their feathers, perhaps they will leave us be. On the plus side, perhaps this will render the Taliban redundant; after all, who needs them when the government is willing to do their job for them?"

Here's the link to the whole article:

And another article in Pakistan daily newspaper Dawn:

Saturday, July 17, 2010

So... who do YOU write like?

The web site I Write Like offers to analyze a sample of your writing, then tell you which famous writer you most resemble. Go ahead, try it... You know you want to.

I submitted a paragraph from my latest novel-in-progress and was told that I write like, well, see for yourself:

Could be worse I suppose. Could be better, too.

Come on, try it! Right here:

Monday, July 12, 2010

Great New Band

Reviewed these guys for PopMatters--it will be forthcoming sometime, don't know when. The band is The Tamborines, the album is Camera and Tremor, due August 2. They rock, in a fuzzed-out, poppy-melodied, slabs-o'-distortion kind of way. Been listening compulsively for a week or two. Check out the song while reading the entry below. More please!

So, what's on your iPod? And more important, how do you listen to it?

Here's an interesting article on discussing the way the iPod and similar devices may be changing the way we listen to music, especially new albums. With downloads so easy and accessible now, there is a tendency for new records to get sort of lost in the sea of freshly-downloaded songs. An extract:

"... The act of listening to an album front-to-back repeatedly seems to be a harder task to do in the age of the iPod. And it’s only getting worse as some people are now seeing the process of storing music on a portable device like an iPod as a bit archaic as opposed to storing your library online “in the clouds”. It’s also more of a challenge to listen to an album front-to-back if your music is on a phone or iPad where other applications vie for your attention.

"I count myself among those who probably shouldn’t have a 120GB iPod. Whenever a new release comes out, there’s too much of a temptation to rip it to your iPod as quickly as possible so the album can be absorbed in your library. And there it stays, along with 50 or possibly 500-plus other albums. At work, surrounded by distractions, I find it best to put the iPod on shuffle. Part of the reason is to break songs out of their album settings so I can listen to them individually, while another reason is an insatiable curiosity about how the iPod shuffle can make a mix that includes Modest Mouse, Thelonious Monk, Baroness, and Lucinda Williams sound utterly logical.

"Unfortunately, this results in sort of a backlog of releases. Be it a bargain $3.99 find at a record shop, or a $7.99 “week of release” sale, albums keep getting added to your library. In the past, depending on how many cassettes you could hold in your backpack or how many disc you could fit in a CD wallet, you had to make sacrifices. If you wanted to give an album a few listens, the best way to do it was to just bring that album. Nowadays, if an album doesn’t get your attention, you have another hundred or so just waiting to be accessed with the touch of a finger."

There's more, and there are some interesting comments too. Here's the link:

Saturday, July 3, 2010

New Geometry of God review

What do you know--Ploughshares, the Boston-based literary magazine where I once spent a summer reading through the slush pile for editor DeWitt Henry, has reviewed Uzee's book The Geometry of God. The writer is mostly positive, with a couple judicious criticisms that I personally (ahem) disagree with, but I think he gets it right much more often than not:

Needless to say, anyone who has not checked out the book is encouraged to do so, as it thoroughly rocks. Amazon page below (US):

and Amazon UK: