The trailer of Jon Stewart’s Rosewater was released. I ought to be very excited. No event was more defining of my life than the 2009′s Green Movement. Jon Stewart is a witty comedian with honorable sensibilities, whose coverage of 2009 events, sending Jason Jones to Iran to cover the election and then how he handled the protests, made him famous and popular in Iran. I have watched all Daily Show episodes since that time, and no other American has been as influential in my understanding of contemporary United States. Plus, the Green Movement deserves to have books and movies. So what’s wrong? Why I’m not excited? Why do I feel the movie is going to be a failure in my eyes?
Story of the week: Robin Williams passed away. David Wong of Cracked has a moving article on the link between comedy and depression. Salon has an interesting compilation of his best moments and Vulture has more moments. Jerry Coyne has the best overview of the reactions of the atheist community to his death. Ashley Miller discusses the role of depression in the light of his death. This is some teachers inspired by his role in Dead Poets Society, a sentiment I expressed in my own obituary as well.
Lauren Bacall was another great actor we lost. Here is a review of her great career. Richard Brody explains how being a strong woman shaped her career. This NPR article includes some of her interview highlights. But my favorite article after her death was Amy Davidson’s. And you can see her life narrated in pictures.
When one has touched as many hearts and has brought joy to as many lives as Robin Williams did, whom we lost yesterday, your life, although a unified whole, will mean something specific to each different person who mourns your passing. In that sense every great man or a woman is like a poem, as it will be read across the world and throughout the history, and each reader will remember a different line, and it becomes a different poem for every reader. In the end, mourning a man as great as Robin Williams will reveal as much about the mourner as the one we’ve lost, and it is there that their true greatness lies.
To many, Robin Williams was a comedic genius who graced the stage with his courageous wit. To them, he was rebellious and uncompromising, and a tortured soul. To many he was the kind and gentle actor who played light comedic roles in movies like Good Morning Vietnam, Hook, Mrs. Doubtfire, and Jumanji. To many he was the great and skilled serious actor of movies like Awakenings, Insomnia, Good Will Hunting, and One Hour Photo. To many he was the genie of Aladdin. And all of them are right – the man was complex, a true artistic genius, with fascinating range, who could easily portray the darkest and the brightest, as they all possibly defined his lived experience as well. He contained multitudes.
To me, he always, and always will be, John Keating of Dead Poets Society.
The Story of the Week: Our friends over at Skptic Ink publish a joint book. Read about it here. Skeptic Ink writers visit Skeptic Canary Show to discuss their new book. I personally don’t have access to the book, but you might want to check it out.
Story of the Week: Eduard Shevardnadze (1928-2014), the former Georgian president and the foreign minister of USSR during Gorbachev passed away last week. Read New Yorker obituary written by a Georgian, BBC obituary, and New York Times obituary, all give great views of this man’s life. History may judge his impact positive or negative, but it will never judge it small.
Story of the Week: Alex Gabriel is writing his memoir in a serialized form, Dickens-style. It is very moving and very well-written, I definitely recommend it. I have shared every chapter on Twitter, but here I link to the Foreword which includes the table of contents. Nine chapters published so far.
The Other Story of the Week: Dan Fincke is setting some nuanced, and flexible, and comprehensive guidelines on how to criticize religion. There are four installments so far, hopefully there’s more coming. I link to the fourth part which links to the previous parts.
I don’t know how many of you already know her – she’s not famous at all in Iran because a very small percentage of people listen to Italian music. Of course, she’s globally famous, and if you’re interested in Pavarotti and Friends series (I love them) you have already seen her. Anyway, she’s a singer I really adore, because I think she does magic by her voice. I usually don’t like listening to music without understanding lyrics, but Italian music in general is so beautiful that I make an exception. Among Italian singers Giorgia is my favorite.
Story of the Week: The great American writer, poet, activist, and icon Maya Angelou has passed away. Heina Dadabhoy writes a very touching article about her feelings towards her. This is a great New York Times obituary. New Yorker has a great collection of photos of her throughout her life. HuffingonPost provides a good collection of links to her poems, also a listicle of some great quotes. Toni Morrison, another literary giant, talks about her. Here is a great article protesting why her sex work career is erased from the records.
Other story of the week: Elliot Rodger. Miri explains the role of misogyny and violence and with a follow-up. It is about Elliot Roger case, but I think her points are true in general, they are not about this case only. Eliot’s Rodger’s friends are scary misogynists. Of course I think (I hope?) such extreme people are really rare, but it’s still scary to read about them. Thankfully some of them change and here is a brave man with an enlightening account of his misogyny and growing out of it. And of course like always turn to Dan Fincke for a great authentic and complete account. Alex Gabriel comes up with the best analogy, he calls Rodgers a jihadist. Now these are the articles I agree with, but for the sake of clarity I link to two people I disagree with on this issue. JT Eberhard writes an article arguing mental illness is more important than ideology in his case, and Jaclyn Glenn video is embedded in the same link.
My own opinion: I am not a psychologist and I don’t know if Rodger was mentally ill or not, and I don’t care. Rodger was one killer and one case, but he could be an excuse to talk about much bigger things. What matters is that misogyny is an authoritarian ideology which has the potential to lead to violence, and we need to discuss it as such. What Miri, Dan, and Alex argue is true, even if there was no Elliot Rodger. They say important things that need to be said.
So I recommend we move beyond this one incident, and try to look at the bigger picture. If mental health is a factor, so is misogyny, and people who believe it’s illness cannot forbid others to talk about misogyny. I agree that sometimes the reactions on our side of the debate was too harsh and excessive, I don’t agree with dismissing people like Glenn completely because she was wrong on only one single issue, which is something I’ve seen some people do on Facebook and Twitter. But this is clearly a hot-button issue for most people on both sides of the debate, and the other side shares the same sin. Hank Fox blocked me for arguing with him on this. I suggest everyone to read the articles I linked to without anger and reach a general conclusion.
Click for more links.
Maya Angelou, a poet, a writer, an activist, an icon of world literature and one of the greatest voices of equality and liberty, has passed away.
She was a great poet. She was instrumental in my own life when I read her memoir I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.
I found her book to be first and foremost honest and uncensored, brutally so. I cannot begin to imagine the courage needed to write such a book – an absolute open view of a great mind. This book is not a slice of life but all of it, in all its beauty and ugliness. As a Persian, who is a member of the oppressive majority in my own culture, I learned a lot about racism and what it does to its victims, as man I learned a lot about femininity and the female condition, biologically and psychologically, I learned about rape and its destructive effect on the victims, I learned about poverty and a the culture of the south and east. I learned more in the three days I spent reading this book than my entire life. I can say in confidence that this book made me a better person.
But there were familiar things in the book too, her love of literature and art, and finding salvation there. Maya Angelou was a brave woman – she was my hero. She not only opened up to the whole world and bared her soul, she overcame hatred and malice, racism, sexism, poverty, and the horrors of her life to become a towering monument of American culture. Like her with Shakespeare, “I met and fell in love with Maya Angelou”.
Among her poems my favorite is “Still I Rise”. Read it here.