Monthly Archives: July 2011

A.B. Breivik and Religious Terrorism

Reasons for the recent attack and murder of dozens of people in Norway by Anders Behring Breivik are slowly but surely coming to light. If you’re really assiduous and interested, and indeed wise enough to bypass commentary from the media’s talking heads about what happened, you’ll go straight to the source, Breivik’s 1500+ page manifesto, 2083: A European Declaration of Independence (read it here). No doubt some enterprising sociology or religious studies grad student somewhere has already digested most of it and is preparing a dissertation prospectus based on it.

The academic don of all things religious and terrorist, Mark Juergensmeyer, has already scripted a piece on the striking parallels between Norway’s Breivik and the U.S.’s McVeigh over at Religion Dispatches. Check it out and report back, dear reader(s).

What I’d like to point out in this blogamarole is some news I recently came across about Breivik that really drew me in. Namely, the following two articles present some very interesting material for anyone interested in the long and winding historical relationship between religion and politics across the Indo-European world, Indo-Aryan invasion theories and, more generally, religious terrorism:

“Norway massacre: Breivik manifesto attempts to woo India’s Hindu nationalists,” Christian Science Monitor (25 july 2011) 

“Varanasi, Hindutva link in Norway mass murderer’s manifesto,” Star News Bureau (26 July 2011)

 

The India connection revealed in these articles comes as no surprise. Breivik clearly had been closely following the history of Hindutva (Hindu Nationalist) rhetoric and violence against Muslims in India, and he has no doubt bought wholesale the long ago debunked Indo-Aryan socioracial theories championed by (mainly, but not exclusively) northern Europeans in the 18-20th centuries that could lead any unwitting blond-haired, blue-eyed übermensch from Scandinavia to the Himalayas. Having taught some of this history to college students over the last few years, it’s always a challenge to get young folks new to South Asian Studies to understand how the linguistic and religious histories of places like Iceland and India can be related. Breivik presents us with a case in point, a tragic one, to be sure, and one unlike I’ve seen in recent history. I do not want to give this guy a virtual podium from which to spout his hate speech and fascist rhetoric, and I’m highly dismayed by the massive growth of religious extremism in northern Europe over the past two-three decades, some of which has become institutionalized in the political machines of that land’s “progressive” countries.  And yet, I also recognize that from a strictly academic perspective this event is so historically significant. It will be be brought up in classrooms and in publications on religion and politics and cultural studies for a long, long time.  

Nothing to drink / We just lost our shirts

LIFE, By Keith Richards with James Fox, Illustrated. 564 pages. Little, Brown & Company. $29.99.

I’ve just finished the first piece of non-work-related reading I’ve been able to read in months — the autobiography of rock-n-roll titan, Keith Richards, Life. What can I say about this work? What. To. Say. Well, for me it was a very quick read. Because it’s well-written, surprisingly solid, articulate and engaging, I found myself blazing through the book, even picking it up with just a few minutes here and there to spare because I was genuinely interested to learn what “Keef” had to say about his exploits, the Stones, his pals, music and technology, and countless other things. But it’s also too long. By around page 400 or so, I was ready for it to end. I reckon everyone will have certain things they’re waiting to learn about in Keef’s sixty-odd unbelievably unbelievable years. For me, I wanted to read about Ron Wood’s entry into the band and see how Richards would finesse the awkward and at times awful, music-wise, decades of the 80s and 90s for the Stones. There’s a good amount of narrative on Ronnie Wood. Not really what I expected, but interesting all the same. Richards portrays the 80s and 90s as far more sparkling than I would, and he glosses over albums from that period that I would have liked to read about, and which to my mind deserve more time, e.g., Tattoo You and Emotional Rescue.

Overall I liked Life, but by the end Richards’s bravado and self-descriptions as an outlaw were a bit aggravating and a bit unlikely, if not dubious. I admit, I enjoyed reading his tales of drug use (and abuse). But his obvious lack of humility and lack of generosity for folks in his past and present whom he thinks can’t “hang” with him — partying-wise, musically, loyalty-wise — throughout this book both grew old and made me wonder why, ultimately, he wrote all of this. He’s particularly hard on Mick. No surprise there. Greil Marcus’s review in the Times Literary Supplement captures Richards’s invective against Jagger nicely:

Yes, there is the publicized disdain for Mick Jagger. It comes to nothing. Often it seems forced, a hook of scandal or gossip to sell the book. When it feels true, it also curdles. One can get the sense that if Richards truly holds his lifetime partner in contempt, it’s because unlike Richards, or Brian Jones, Anita Pallenberg, Gram Parsons, Ronnie Wood, Charlie Watts, or so many more, Jagger never became a drug addict. He stepped back from the abyss; he never went all the way; he was always in control. He never reached for the absolute – as Marianne Faithfull recalls Richards saying, when she told him that she had finally quit heroin, “Ah, Marianne! But what about the Holy Grail?”

Marcus’s review of Life is generally pretty fair. He writes nicely about Richards’s musical discoveries that effectively made the sound of the Stones and created timeless numbers like “Jumping Jack Flash,” “Satisfaction,” “Before They Make Me Run,” and the rest. And I think he’s onto something in his review as far as the verbal abuse of Jagger is concerned. By the end of the book I was eager to read Mick’s take on Keef’s antics over the past half century. This morning I found this on Slate.com: “Please Allow Me To Correct a Few Things: Imagine if Mick Jagger responded to Keith Richards about his new autobiography.” Who knows if Jagger actually wrote this or not — it’s purportedly something Jagger wrote to former Stones’ bassist, Bill Wyman, who’s been the official archivist of the Stones for some time, but was “mistakenly” sent to the famous music critic of the same name, Bill Wyman.

Even if this was penned by music critic Wyman, and not Jagger, it is a spectacular read, especially after having read Richards’s book. But one needn’t read Life first to appreciate the sentiment that Jagger (if he in fact wrote it) relates in this rejoinder. Jagger comes off as so much more mature, generous, and self-aware than Richards’s portrayal of him in Life. I’m interested to hear what EMP’s readers think (whether you’ve read Life or not).

Having said all this, I would recommend Life to anyone who likes the Stones, Keith Richards, tales of sex and drugs (i.e., rock-n-roll), and autobiography. I’m not a bigger Rolling Stones fan now than I was before reading the book. But I do have a bigger appreciation for Keith Richards. He’s far more thoughtful and funny than I ever knew.

Odds & Ends

I’ve been on a roll lately with posts failing to inspire deep-thinking and lacking any social, intellectual or artistic value.  Seeing as my brain is a pile of mush (still) I’m going to keep mining my vapid sense of self-amusement which, apparently, is a wholly renewable resource.  Here is a sampling of the completely worthless stuff occupying my time and thoughts recently.

Tora! Tora! Tora!

If you did not watch the Japan/USA Women’s World Cup Championship yesterday, you missed a great game.  The US seemed to put it away late in the game with a goal to break a scoreless tie.  With very little time left, the Japanese women tied it.  In overtime the scenario repeated itself with a game-tying goal and precious little time remaining.  The Japanese won the game in a shootout.

After the game, one of the commentators dubbed it Japan’s “Lake Placid” – a reference to the 1980 US hockey team’s upset of the Soviets.  The US team was the overwhelming favorite and their net-keeper won the award for most outstanding goalie in the tournament.  In spite of being completely out-sized and out-matched, the Japanese found a way to win it.  I’ll admit, I was rooting for Japan: a nice moment for a country with precious little to preen about lately.  

ESPN kept showing a bar in Pittsford, NY where fans were rooting the US team on to victory.  I never heard the full explanation, but I believe one of the players hailed from the Rochester area.  It was the best sporting event I’ve watched in some time.  A beer on yours truly for anyone who can tell me why I titled this “Tora! Tora! Tora!”  We are on the honor system here, so no cheating.

Joe DiMaggio would not approve (but JFK would, so it all works out)

One of Chicago’s summertime traditions I greatly enjoy involves the commissioning of sculptures to dot our urban landscape.  Last year I wrote a couple posts about the enormous “Eye” sculpture erected in the south Loop which, I must say, was very sorry to see leave.  Recently, our fair town erected an enormous Marilyn Monroe statue immortalizing her famous blowing-dress scene from some movie I never saw and won’t take the time to go on Google to correctly cite the title (hey – I’m not doing research for a mediocre post!).

Well, the city intelligentsia finds itself in full self-flagellation mode over this:

The Tribune’s Mary Schmich called it “tawdry” and scolded the men taking crotch-shots with their cell phones, some of whom “mime[d] a lick”.  The Sun Times’ Richard Roeper objects because the movie scene in question took place in New York, not Chicago.  Meh, those arguments fail to persuade me.  I don’t hate it, but it seems we could have had something much more creative – like the EYE!

Fifteen Minutes and Counting

I didn’t see the interview, but apparently Godfather’s Pizza CEO and would-be GOP Presidential nominee Herman Cain went on Fox News Sunday and told Chris Wallace that communities have the right to pass laws preventing the construction of Mosques.  Uhh… I’m kinda at a loss here.  But let’s just say, “Thanks for playing and, oh, here’s a copy of the First Amendment for ya…why don’t you read that while you have a slice of pepperoni and shut the F up…dillweed.”

Baseball

This has not been a very good season for yours truly.  This Cubs team is possibly the worst I’ve ever seen and utterly unlikeable.  They have the highest payroll in the National League (!) and they lose games in hair-pulling fashion: the time three runs scored against them on a ball that failed to leave the infield is my personal favorite thus far.  But, they did manage to be the only MLB team to post an earned run on Phillies phenom Cliff Lee in June.  It’s true; you can look it up.

He’s Come a Long Way Since Ridgemont High

One of my self-assigned tasks for the summer is to catch up on all the “must read/must see” books and films I’ve been putting off for years.  To wit, last weekend I watched “The Last King of Scotland”.   Forrest Whitaker was amazing as Idi Amin, ruthless dictator of Uganda.  Something I never knew, and which I now ask for background from our resident expert, is Amin expelled thousands of South Asians from the country, thereby ruining the economy.  In the film, the expatriates are all depicted as Indians.  Any thoughts on this?  I’d love to hear what you know about this episode.

Already Working on My Acceptance Speech

I’m fairly confident this post will win the award for “Most Hyphenated Post” of the year.  If not that, then certainly “Post Clearly Authored Under the Influence of a Jeffrey.”   Where are the annual “Peashooters” awards being held this year anyway?

Tonight’s Post Brought To You By Ali Farka Toure

One of the best concerts I’ve ever seen: Ali Farka Toure at the Park West.  I think he’s possibly the greatest guitarist ever; I spent that entire show utterly shocked at his skill.  Anyway, I’m celebrating a hard fought trial victory, drinking beer and listening to some greatness that I thought I’d share. 

UPDATE:  Sigh. I apologize.  I guess this video won’t embed.  But it does direct you back to You Tube so if you click on the underlined portion it will play.  I apologize for my technological weakness.

 

Happy Fourth of July

As someone who works in an environment filled with all of those phony motivational posters, I take great delight in the hilarious de-motivational posters of countless email forwarding fame.  A buddy sent me this one in today’s honor:

For those of you who slept through that day of junior high history, remember Washington spent all of November/December 1776 retreating through New Jersey after surrendering New York to the British.  After re-grouping in Pennsylvania, Washington crossed the icy Delaware to attack the Hessians in New Jersey on Christmas.  It was a daring (some might say fool-hardy) offensive that gave the Americans a much-needed morale boost following the loss of New York.  My buddy Mike says if you have to explain the joke, it probably is not funny.  Well, I found this funny.  So there.

Didn’t Anyone Notice These Were Missing?

Holy Cow (pun very intended)!  In southern Kerala, India, investigators have found over twenty billion dollars of jewels and precious metals hidden in a vault at a Hindu shrine.  I’m sure our resident expert will provide background and posit theories on why this treasure remained hidden for so long, but I cannot even fathom what they recovered in the search.  Story here: http://www.chicagotribune.com/sns-rt-india-templetreasul3e7i40ic-20110704,0,3633258.story?page=1  The article makes it clear that an altruistic, well-meaning a lawyer sought a court order to search the vault.  I wonder if he/she charges the standard thirty-three percent contingency fee?  I want to know the final outcome of this story; I know how it would end here in America: protracted litigation.