Nnedi Okorafor Interview

From the very beginning I was writing what was considered literary fiction. But because of my own world view, I see the world as a magical, mythical place. My professors called it magical realism. At some point, I turned that up more and the fantastical elements became more pronounced. And when I was published, people started classifying my work as fantasy. In 2000, the science fiction stuff kicked in, too. When I traveled to Nigeria, I would see Nigerians interacting with technology in a way that I was not seeing reflected in literature. I was not seeing Africa as a whole reflected in writing about the future.

Nnedi Okorafor Is Putting Africans at the Center of Science Fiction and Fantasy – The Root

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Shooting Fish in a Barrel: Analyzing Temple of Doom

Temple-of-Doom-Screencap-indiana-jones-18905049-1024-440

The main Indiana Jones trilogy is essentially a conversion narrative in which the hero never converts… which is a little strange. Why bother with that narrative if you’re not going to fulfill it? Indy also exists in a universe where all the religions are seemingly true, based on the very real powers each movie’s main artifact displays.

Leah Schnelbach takes apart the religious references of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, which in addition to being a bad movie, manages to get everything wrong about the religion at the heart of it.

The earlier installment of the series explores the superficial treatment of the Lost Arc.

There is no discussion of the Ark as a religious artifact, no thought of the impact this find would have on Biblical studies, anti-Semitism, the rise of Nazism in Europe, people’s individual faith… nothing. Indy doesn’t call in a cavalcade of rabbis to help. It’s never considered that maybe a Judaic Studies program should be funding this mission. Frankly, I find this really weird.

EDIT: The final installment discussing Last Crusade.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade was originally meant to be a wacky horror/action/comedy that sent Indy to a haunted Scottish castle, which is, in my opinion, one of the great lost films of the 80s, because that would have been AMAZING. But since Steven Spielberg had just worked onPoltergeist, he and Lucas decided to try a new direction. How about an opening story about a more Arthurian version of the Grail, still set in Scotland, followed by a hunt for the Fountain of Youth in Africa? This could be fun…. except that it gradually morphed into Indy battling the Monkey King and finding the Peaches of Immortality….while still in Africa, even though the Monkey King is really blatantly Chinese, and his great epic, The Journey to the West, only takes him as far as India, and he’s not really a villain in the story per se, and how exactly were you planning to incorporate the Buddha, and oh, yeah, why is Indy battling a cannibalistic African tribe, at which point I have to set my love of this series aside and ask, did you guys literally look at all the racist elements of Temple of Doom and say, “Surely we can top this” because that’s how it’s starting to seem.

The Not-a-Christmas Letter: Or Where I Am Now

‘Tis the season for family update letters, a tradition I’ve not really been a part of because family is myself, my partner, and two cats. Can’t really talk about the work stuff, and the non-work stuff is a mixed bag.

I’ve not been blogging much about religion. First of all because things changed and I’m still a novice. The second reason is that the second half of 2014 was something of a crisis, so my last attempt at doing devotion online ground to a halt due to physical injury. Possibly a third reason is that Sad/Rabid Puppies proved to be a validation of a bunch of stuff my graduate mentor warned about, and I’m becoming more convinced that the mode of online “discussion” without limits tends to produce superficial and polarized, “party-driven” shouting matches.

So, books that have largely shaped my development from an animist to a reluctant theist over the last year.

Thich Nhat Hanh, The Heart of Understanding, Commentaries on the Prajnaparamita Heart Sutra

It’s a nice thin volume discussing a very short text. I found it important because it shifts the focus of ontology from individuality to a concept of interbeing (relationally defined being.)

Miranda Eberle Shaw, Buddhist Goddesses of India

I work in a library. To destress, I often walk the stacks and pick up random volumes that catch my eye. This work became a repeat visit. I’ve been very comfortable with Buddhism largely because samsara and dukkha strike me as obvious observations of the world. Buddhism as popularized in America has been very much a build-your-own enlightenment method, so I’ve never took refuge because my brain as a high-functioning crazy person just bounces right off insight meditation. While I’d been previously introduced to the concept of a deity or Bodhisattva dedicated to the liberation of all beings, that one could actually take refuge in them bent my mind.

Eknath Easwaran, The Bhagavad Gita

Somewhere in this I decided I needed more perspectives on the cosmology underlying Buddhism. So I finally tackled a translation of the Bhagavad Gita. Some concepts such as pantheism and the divinity of all living things were familiar and a part of my religious views. What stuck out for me was the explicit statement that the kind of insight claimed by Buddhism is only one of multiple ways to enlightenment.

Devadatta Kali, In Praise of the Goddess: The Devimahatmya and Its Meaning

with mother finally ******, and the last fantastic book flung out of the tenement window, and the last door closed at 4 A.M. and the last telephone slammed at the wall in reply and the last furnished room emptied down to the last piece of mental furniture, a yellow paper rose twisted on a wire hanger in the closet, and even that imaginary, nothing but a hopeful little bit of hallucination—
ah, Carl, while you are not safe I am not safe, and now you’re really in the total animal soup of time—

— Alan Ginsburg

Something that religion (at least as I’ve encountered it) has been punting on is the phenomenology of mental illness. How can something be in us but not of us? How do we reconcile the sense of being plagued by forces arbitrary and capricious in their attacks, with the modern view that it’s all in our heads? Why is it that all of the treatments currently in play require work with a good possibility of relapse? If we can acknowledge, (if not necessarily believe) in the personal gnosis of god-phones and god-spouses, what does this say about millions of people in support groups?

The Devimahatmya starts with a frame story of two men seeking some measure of peace. A king has been overthrown by enemies of his own court, and wonders about the safety of his loved ones. A merchant has been cast out by his own wayward children. They meet at a hermitage and ask the wise man for answers.

The wise man tells them this. Demons of delusion, pride, and wrath exist, sometimes in spite of our best action. But the demons are never invulnerable. When it appears so, the Gods (the Devi in the Mahatmayam) step in to restore order.

There are other things there that, for now, seem to fit with my other questions regarding cosmology.

What Next?

More reading, more thinking, hopefully more fun reading. More listening. More engagement in offline communities.

Commonplace Book

On a lighter note,

How And Why To Keep A “Commonplace Book” @ Thought Catalog was recently linked off Metafilter with a lot more links and is getting me into the action. Currently also a bit in love with Sakura Pigma Micron pens which have the soft touch of a fountain but are a bit cheaper on my budget.

Along those lines, New Johanna Basford colouring book: Lost Ocean — plus how she sold over 1.7 million copies of her books @ Digital Arts

Cool Stuff

5 mètres 80

Animated giraffes high-dive.

The Fallen of World War II

Infographic of civilian and military deaths in WWII compared to post-WWII wartime casualties.

Sister Rosetta Tharpe – Didn’t It Rain

Under-acknowledged blues and rock pioneer Sister Rosetta Tharpe, a later performance in the 1960s.

Jessica Jones

I just finished it, and I think this article on tor.com sums up a fair bit of how I feel about it. The show goes out of its way to deconstruct Killgrave’s self-serving rationalizations. My chief complaint is that the show possibly spends a bit too much work foreshadowing the next season.

Michael Moorcock

Turned 75 last week.

“I think of myself as a bad writer with big ideas, but I’d rather be that than a big writer with bad ideas”