Kambiz Shabankare

Free Thoughts

Film of the Week

Friday, December 25, 2015

The Joy of a Fight for Life

Joy is a wonderful movie. It is easy not to hesitate to say this aloud. The film does not make you sit and watch an exhausting melodrama; instead, it brings you all the way to the middle of a life span. A messy, crazy frustrating life that each viewer may have experienced or, at least, he/she knows someone who does. Joy is the narration of the path of a success, which arises from a disturbed spirit. A young woman, Jennifer Lawrence, after her parents' divorce, she has to grow so fast. She is responsible for taking care of everyone, including her ex-husband, two children, her divorced mom and dad and her grandmother.
Joy's character has been designed carefully, believable and develops through the story. David O. Russell has devoted a life to a character, which is nothing contrived about her. In fact, there is nothing artificial about any of the characters. In that respect is nothing shocking about any of the cases that may drive an audience to think: "Oh! Come on, another fairy tale story." On the other hand, the story surprises the viewer plenty of times during the film. In that respect are several moments that the audience will believe "this is a dead-end," but Russell knows how to compose a character who can exist even in a very impossible moment.

Joy is alone, in all her journeys. No one is believing in her, not even herself. The grandmother is only one who has faith on Joy. She has always been a great support, but she is not enough to fight the whole world of disappointment.   
The movie does not provide any violence or sex scene. Russell, as the writer and director, relays only on the organic potential of the story to keep his audience. He does not manipulate or trick you. He simply tells a story. This can be seen in the technical aspect of the movie as well, regardless of a few scenes, which Russell distances himself from the absolute realism, for instance, the silhouette scene between grandmother and the young Joy, or the scene in the white décor with Bradley Cooper (Neil Walker).
Overall, Joy is the movie that you do not want to miss. It adds another success to the records of Russell, who has already shown his talent by directing American Hustle and The Fighter.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Where the Religion has Left Off

There is no doubt that an author can be influenced by his/her society or even a temporary location, which he or she stays there even for a few months. The effect includes social attributes, customs, beliefs and, of course, politics. He/she reads the news, watches TV and makes conversation with other members of the intellectual community, which may include journalists, political scientists or even a concern citizen. A work of fiction, at least partially, is the product of the writer’s personal experience, and there is excellent chance that it will have a political perspective. The issue starts when the writer centralizes the politics in the book. The essential duty of an author is to tell a good story, but being involved too deeply in some manners, like politics, will possibly result in the loss of focus on some important details. Green on Blue, as a product of realism school, has lost many of those facts, like religion, which specifies the characters and the rationality behind their natural process.
Green on Blue by Eliot Ackerman tells a story of a teenage orphan Afghan boy whom a collection of events pushes him to shoot an American soldier. 
Any time someone turns on the TV, there is heart-breaking clips of some innocent people who have lost their lives in conflicts or irritant events. Ackerman takes the audience inside the event, but this time, it is not just a few minutes of video in some unknown land. He leads the American Audience inside the state of pain and fright. 
The script pushes the American audience to search the words that they are not familiar with them, and looking for places that they may not have known anything about them. The book creates a great opportunity, especially for some ignorant readers, by pushing them to see, to feel the real agony, which seems did not concern the major media outlets in the United States. The writer opens a case that has been a taboo in the United States. According to most American media, Afghans are dangerous terrorists, who have caused the saddest event in the American history, 9/11. Ackerman opens the door to the audience, for the first time, to make them see the facts from the eyes of an Afghan youth. 
Although, the idea is tempting, Ackerman, unable to achieve and understand the deep roots of the Afghan people, remains on the surface. He forgets the fact that his book is supposed to tell a story about a real event, and to talk about some real people. Realism requires some details, at least, the most important ones, on the culture and customs of the country, or the society, to make it easy for the reader to understand the characters. Ackerman claims that the book is to pay tribute by a "last act of friendship" to the Afghani soldiers he trained,” (Whelan), but he does not pay the tribute, at least in an unbiased way. 
Ackerman missed the most important part of Afghan life that is religion. He has used the word, Islam, only two times in the entire book, which even in those two times he was not referring to the religion, but explaining a jihadi party; “his group operated under the Haqqani and later joined Hezb-e-Islami,” (Ackerman 4). 
In Afghanistan customs, especially in the Pashtun population of Afghanistan, are more important than family in some situations; Afghani customs directly come from the religious belief, which describes people’s relationships, their personal and social lives and the decision they make through their daily lives. This is why Pashtunwali has become a principal portion of the Pashtun life in Afghanistan. 
Eliot Ackerman
Ackerman mentions Pashtunwali 7 times in the book, but he never gets close to explaining it. He says that Afghans” fight against Taliban to uphold Pashtunwali,” (Ackerman 25), but he does not explain why. He suffices to some short reference to that, although, it does not stop him from using the word Badal more than 50 times and the word Nang 16 times. The comparison between these two words proves that despite his dedication to telling a true story about the war in Afghanistan, he is biased. He would rather focus more on revenge instead of describing the roots of it. 
Pashtunwali is, basically, a law to encourage aggression, fundamentalism, and radicalism. The law has caused many damages in Afghanistan, and following its orders has taken millions of lives in that country. It is impossible to talk about the Pashtuns and their culture without talking about Pashtunwali, and it is absurd talking about Pashtunwali and not talking about Hanbali School, which it shapes the fundamental of Pashtunwali and effects, every day of Pashtuns lives. The fundamental of religious belief, among Pashtuns, has divided them into the Salafi Movement believers and Hanbalis. Salafi movement is the fundamental belief among Wahhabis, is a popular belief among radical Islamists who believe cannot achieve “Enjoining good and forbidding wrong ” without aggression. On the other hand, Hanbali School denies education, rationalism, and thoughtfulness. That is why does not exist many modern schools in the Pashtun States, and children, mostly, go to Madrassa, which is an equivalent to a religious school. The Hanbali School relies only on the Quran, Sunnah and Hadiths, and it is fundamental of Pashtunwali.  These two false branches of Islam have been fighting against each other for many years because each of them demands the total control over Afghanistan.
Ackerman does not talk about any of these important realities. He has a couple of short snapshots to religion; “I Still had a mother and father, where a day like Ashura would remind me of visits home from school instead of a destroyed home,” (Ackerman 140). Ashura is not just a word. Ashura for Muslims is the symbol of resistance and jihad. Ashura is a courage of some Muslims to grab their weapons and go to war. The Name Hussain means to fight to the death for your religion. 
Green on Blue is a well-organized nice written book but, unfortunately, does not climb to pass the surface and achieve to deeper levels of engaging the audience. Apparently the author's hope that “the book proves a worthy acknowledgement of the world the lived in and the war they fought,” (Ackerman 243) does not satisfy. He has done an excellent job to familiarize the American readers with some Pashtun phrases but remains unsuccessful to educate and to show the audience, the real world that Pashtuns are living in. the author does explain some difficulties, which Afghans face in their own land. It does bring up the discrimination and racism, which American troops are responsible for it, but still cannot describe the reason behind the complications in Afghanistan. It opens a case for some audience to do some research about Afghans, but in the matter of storytelling and creating strong characters; by not including the religion in the story, he cannot dig deep.  

Work Cited
"ظرفيت شناسي ؛ قوميت و مذهب، پيچيدگي هاي جامعه ي افغانستان." ظرفيت شناسي ؛ قوميت و مذهب، پيچيدگي هاي جامعه ي افغانستان. Web. 15 Oct. 2015. <http://www.dmsonnat.ir/Article-813.aspx>.
"Analysis Wahhabism". PBS Frontline. Retrieved 13 October 2015.
Benson, Bruce L., and Zafar R. Siddiqui. "Pashtunwali—Law for the Lawless, Defense for the Stateless." International Review of Law and Economics: 108-20. Print.
Blakey, Robert. The History of Political Literature, from the Earliest times. London: R. Bentley, 1855. Print.
Commins, David Dean. The Wahhabi Mission and Saudi Arabia. London: I.B. Tauris, 2006. Print.
Ackerman, Elliot. Green on Blue: A Novel. New York: Scribner, 2015. Print. 
Poulton, Hugh. Muslim Identity and the Balkan State. Washington Square, N.Y.: New York UP in Association with the Islamic Council, 1997. Print. 
Scheingold, Stuart A. The Political Novel: Re-Imagining the Twentieth Century / Stuart A. Scheingold. n.p.: New York, N.Y. : Continuum, 2010., 2010. Texas State - Alkek Library's Catalog. Web. 14 Oct. 2015.
Tariq, Rahman. Pashto Language & Identity Formation in Pakistan. Vol. 4. Khyber, 1995. Print.
Whelan, Catherine. "Elliot Ackerman On War, Friendship, And 'Green On Blue'" BOSTON PUBLIC RADIO. 25 Feb. 2015. Web. 15 Oct. 2015. 
Yahya, Harun; Oktar, Adnan. The Muslim Way Of Speaking. Turkey: Global Publishing, 2004. Print. 

On a Journey to the Heart of a Reader

Despite the fact that the story of The Yellow Birds is the work of fiction, there exist personal life experience of the author, Kevin Power, all over the story. For instance, the story, for the most part, happens in Richmond, Virginia, where Power was born and raised; on the other hand, all the Iraq scenes are happening in Tal Afar, where he spent one year “as a machine-gunner assigned to an engineer unit” (Front Row).  Although it is easy to identify some of the Power’s real-life locations, it will neither prove the legitimacy of the story nor otherwise. A work of fiction needs more than the real-life experience of its author to become a legitimate work.
There are many examples of the books written by authors, who [somehow] have had a direct connection to the story or to the location or some of the events. Michael Bassey Johnson, a Nigerian author and philosopher, believes that “There are certain truths that occur to us, which we cannot convey in words, but requires a personal experience to grasp more vividly” (Bassey).
From one aspect, what Bassey Johnson says carries a weight of truth; some portions of The Yellow Birds could not exist if Power had not experienced them himself. For example, when power describes the bleeding boy and the beggar in Chapter 10, “When they last saw him, the bleeding boy approached the beggar, who in his sackcloth still crouched down warily, gathering his pastiche of discarded melon rinds and bread crusts” (Power 134). There are certain details about the story’s atmosphere, which power has drawn [here], and they cannot be achieved by research, at least not in a traditional way, or be found in any book about Iraq, unless the author has seen how is a beggar’s custom in Iraq, or what he may carry. Although this kind of detail orientation helps a story to move forward, or in Powers case shapes the atmosphere of the story, but still does not prove that a direct experience makes a story sufficient or lack of it will turn the story to an insufficient and unreliable one.
The best example, of the two different categories, are the current book, the Yellow Birds, and Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain. The first book has the name of an experienced (war zone experience) writer on it while the second one carries the lack of personal [war] experience, and particularly in the matter of the war and its impacts on human lives, which is what Fountain discusses in his book. Nothing can prove that which one of the two books is more reliable than the other one but the authors’ effort on the content management, dedication and personification of the war, which its ominous shadow flies all over the lives of the two main characters of the two works of fiction. The audience feels the miserableness of the life of Billy Lynn and guilt, confusion and ridiculousness of John Bartle’s life. Both writers do not leave any doubt for their readers about the accuracy and legitimacy of their work by two very different approaches. Power transmutes himself to his character/characters, develops the feelings that he has experienced while in the war and creates a new world that has the combination of the real experience and an imagination with a slight flavor of [carefully designed] real emotion. He grabs his audiences’ heart takes them on a journey, which is painful and gainful at the same time. The contrast of a poetic romanticized atmosphere with the brutality and aggressiveness of the war makes the experience for readers unique; and the audience can assume that it might be the same experience that 17-year-old Kevin Power has had, during his presence in Iraq and even after that. “Mere outlines took shape, and the city vague and national at night, become contoured and substantial thing before us” (Power 16).
On the other side, Fountain spent a long time doing researches, to find every [single] possible detail about the war and its effects on young soldiers. He has read and seen many cases to establish characters that are easy to believe. Although his method seems more logical and scientific than Power’s, but both outcomes seat in the same row to attract almost the same range of the audiences.
Personal experience, for an author, can play a significant role on a work of fiction or can turn to a dangerous bomb on his hand that destroys the entire work. It is not a necessary tool, but it can turn to a useful one if combined with creativity freshness and intelligence. The success in The Yellow Birds comes from Power’s creativity and his perspective on designing details, which have colored the story. Of course, he has used his personal experience, but it has worked and it has melted to the rest of the imaginary creative slice, and it is too hard to divide the two portions while reading the book.
Work Cited
Bassey Johnson. "Michael Bassey Johnson." Goodreads. Google. Web. 14 Nov. 2015.
Front Row. BBC Radio 4. London, 7 Sept. 2012. Radio.
Fountain, Ben. Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk. New York: Ecco, 2012. Print.
Powers, Kevin. The Yellow Birds: A Novel. New York: Little, Brown, 2012. Print

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Hemingway Vs. Chekhov

Anton Chekhov
Ernest Heminway

An American man is traveling with his girlfriend. She is going to have an abortion to make everything right for her boyfriend. This is the plot of “Hills like White Elephants” by Ernest Hemingway. The plot, despite some differences in the action of the characters, has some similarities with “TheLady with the Dog” by Anton Chekhov. One of the most important aspects of the Chekhovian style is the setting, especially in the matter of location. For instance, in the “The Lady with the Dog,” the plot could not happen in any city other than Yalta. Dimitri, the main character, in his 40s, is a Russian man unsatisfied with his marriage and goes to Yalta, the town that has been known as the city of affairs. The reputation of the city also justifies the presence of Anna, a young married woman who is on vacation in Yalta and is interested in talking to a stranger. It was not strange, in the late 19th century, for a young woman from a middle-class family, whose husband is a government employee, to use Yalta as a getaway city and try to experience something that would bring a little bit of color to her boring routine life. Chekhov’s stories are shaped by the location. Does this mean that the location is not important for the other writer? The answer is no, it is important. In most stories by Hemingway, changing the location does not change the plot. This means that location and setting are important. However, in many stories, they are not the foundation of the story in that any small change in the setting can destroy the entire story, which is true inChekhov’s case.
“A Lady with the Dog,” can not happen anywhere else because the city (cities) is also characters of the story. The specific appearance, culture, and atmosphere of Yalta and Moscow plus the face that summer and winter give to the cities, shapes the foundation of the plot. Hemingway takes this road in “Hills like White Elephants” as well, although he does not make it a required foundation of the story like Chekhov.
He needs his American characters in another part of the world, in a country that has some signs of romanticism in its culture and its atmosphere can contradict with the purpose of the story. Somewhere that his characters even have some difficulty with the language, and a language that is poetic enough to draw a contrast to the story. This separates the characters from the environment around them. Then he gives life to the rail station by shaping it as another character. The junction, a spot where no one stays for a long time. The junction is alone, separated and sad. Hemingway tries to make a clear scene in his story, for his audience, which gives the story more visual power to increase the mood; giving life to the location and the symbolic use of the characteristic of the location is one of the most important aspects of writing that, possibly, Hemingway has borrowed from Chekov.
The center of the setting (location) in both stories is the same. Both stories are about the detachable connection in a junction. Yalta in “ALady with the Dog” and the rail station in “Hills like White Elephants” play the role of a point where things are joined. However, the fact is that nothing, in either location, lasts forever. Yalta was the city for a summer vacation in the 19th century and it was a dead town by the end of the summer. On the other hand, the railroad spot, where the American and his girlfriend are waiting, is just a place where trains from Barcelona and Madrid would meet for only two minutes, “It was very hot and the express from Barcelona would come in forty minutes. It stopped at this junction for two minutes and went on to Madrid” (Hemingway 228). The writer has chosen the location carefully. Yalta and the train station describe the main characters of the story and their detachable situation. The love between Dimitri and Anna are taboo. They are both married. Their one-night-stand suddenly turns into something more serious. However, will they divorce their spouses? Is their love real or is it just a glancing lust? Chekov leaves his audience with no clear answer. The Same situation applies to “Hills like White Elephants.” The girl has to choose between killing her unborn baby and losing her boyfriend. The story does not make it clear that the man is a hundred percent sure that after the abortion will continue his relationship with his girlfriend, although he says everything will be OKafter that, “We’ll be fine afterward. Just like we were before” (Hemingway 230). At the end of the story, Hemingway leaves the audience with same uncertainty that Chekhov does -he same uncertainty and temporality that the locations are based on.
Chekov has been a play writer for decades. His experience in theater brought a great power of visualization in his short stories as well. Chekhov immediately, from the beginning of the story, attracts the audience’s participation, “It was said that a new person had appeared on the sea-front: a lady with a little dog” (Chekhov 69). The phrase “it was said” brings ambiguity to the story. Who said? Why has he/she said it? In addition, whom he/she have said it to?
The ambiguity appears after a few sentences in Hemingway’s story as well, “TheAmerican and the girl with him sat at a table in the shade, outside the building” (Hemingway 228). The assumption in both stories is that the audience knows the background of what is happening, or if the audience does not know, it does not matter. This is a theatrical approach to a story. Chekhov, according to his background as an actor and later a playwright, has a long history of using this kind of technics in his short stories, but it can be considered as a different approach in Hemingway’s style of writing. Hemingway does not stop there. He continues his story, “Hills like White Elephants,” exactly like a play. He uses short descriptions, structured by short sentences. The list of, mostly unclear, dialogues make the story much closer to the absurdist plays rather than Chekhov’s realistic approach with long and detailed descriptions. This makes a huge difference between the two writers, although both stories are full of performances and actions.

Work Cited
Chekhov, Anton. “A Lady with the Dog.” 2013. 40 Short Stories: A Portable Anthology. Ed. Beverly Lawn. 4th ed. Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2004. 69-84. Print.
Hemingway, Ernest. “Hills like White Elephants.” 2013. 40 Short Stories: A Portable Anthology. Ed. Beverly Lawn. 4th ed. Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2004. 228-232. Print.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Banana, Banana!

Minions is a fantastic film. There are millions of people to back me up on this. It is a smart movie and gives a new window into the cinema that is neither overly sentimental, like Frozen, nor overly violent, like Kill Bill.

The key to success for the story is combining violence with the sentiment, softening the violence and pulling up the sentiment to something more believable. Yes, more believable, like the characters of the movie—the people of New York andLondon—who accept the minions as they are, without even questioning why they are small or yellow.
Everyone accepts the minions. People communicate with them easily despite the great language difference. The minions speak some kind of Italian language that everyone in the world, including the cave dwellers, French soldiers, Napoleon Bonaparte etc., have no problem understanding it.
We accept the small yellow creatures. We accept their lifestyle, their desire and their lack of situational awareness; because they are one of the most attractively created characters in the recent years. We accept them simply because they are the minions.
The movie tells the story of the minions’ evolution, beginning from a single cell to their full development as weird yellow creatures. The minions’ purpose in life is to serve the most despicable master, varying from Tyrannosaurus rex to Napoleon Bonaparte. The only problem is that the minions have a tough time keeping their masters alive. Their journey brings them to the North Pole where they live without a master for the first time. In the beginning, everything looks fine. They are happy, dancing and having a great time—but that does not last forever. Soon they realize that something is wrong, they are missing the only reason to be alive, a master. Kevin, One of the minions, devises a plan to journey along with Stuart and lovable little Bob to find an evil boss.
The minions’ story sometimes lines up with real historical events, but as soon as they arrive in New York, the downfall of the plot begins. The reason for its diminution is the lack of proper characterization of Scarlet Overkill, the vigilante. The character is a badcliché. It is exactly like every single antagonist in Hollywood B movies. In addition, the story of stealing the queen’s crown is not an exciting one for the average minions’ fanatic.
Luckily, the movie’s jokes and funny moments are still strong enough to grab the audiences’ attention. However, the lack of integration between the jokes and structure of the story becomes a great disadvantage for the movie. The minions are a lifeboat for the entire film, and without them, the movie will drown.
Minions without the minions would be a confused and disorganized story that cannot compete with good animations like Inside Out, but when you add the yellow creatures, with their Italian accents, to the movie it thrives.
Minions is not a bad experience and overall, the movie is not awful. It is a balanced combination of cliché and creativity. I hope the minions’ story will stop here if the directors do not want to ruin the experience for the entire audience.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Narrative of life: A review of ‘The Place Beyond the Pines

Despite all differences between this movie and the director’s previous films, it’s still a movie by Derek Cianfrance, who seems to have an invisible signature that puts his mark on every single movie he makes. The signature is nothing but a desert between relationships. His characters are all alone, maybe not literally, but deep down inside their soul and in their definition of love and life.
The film is about relationships, human connection, and a child who is involved in the middle of a relationship conflict. However, unlike “Blue Valentine,” which had hidden violence, here the audience is faced with justified violence that Cianfrance completely prepares his audience for from the beginning of the movie. The tattoos on Ryan Gosling’s arm, his job as an entertainer on a motorcycle, and the way he smokes at the beginning of the film, which remind viewers of the western Clint Eastwood movies, all tell us that we will see a movie that shows violence.
In “Blue Valentine,” the violence has been hidden under the acts of characters and has become a cold violence that still hurts but is not obvious. For example, the sex scene between Bobby and Cindy, which provides a disillusioned violence, leads to silence, a silence (suppressed violence) that covers the whole sky of the narrative with a giant dark cloud.
The scene at home between the mother, the father and Cindy confronts the same picture but in a different way. The father starts to complain about food and there is the silence that Cianfrance wants us to pay attention to when the camera moves toward Cindy. The violence finally opens like an old wound and Dean breaks and crashes everything, and after that again silence the silence that, as the audience, we cannot be sure of when it will start to be a storm again. In that scene, Dean seems to be vomiting the explosion of his anger. He is throwing up all the silence and anger that covered the whole atmosphere of the film. He yells instead of all the characters.
This role, in “The Place Beyond the Pines,” was assigned to the young Jason. When he points the gun, which was his fathers’, he does not yell or scream. He is looking at Avery with an anger that comes from all the characters of the movie, comes from all their loneliness and pain.
Guns are everywhere in “The Place Beyond the Pines.” They are playing an important role in the narrative of the film. Weapons in this movie are not just a symbol of violence, even though much of the violence in the film arises from them, but they also have characters. Each gun changes the personality of each character to turn him into an aggressive person, something that without a doubt can be called a living weapon. The guns bring regret, and lack of control for whoever the person became and an unknown future for each of them.
This is the reason that, unlike “Blue Valentine,” here we are not dealing with flashbacks. Characters are moving forward without looking back. Cianfrance, in an interview with Alex Belington, says that the movie is like a gun. When you fire the gun, there is no looking back on it and there is no chance to pause. The bullet goes forward as fast as it can.
The characters’ choice of life affects others’ lives, but not in a good way. Having many options, they have picked an aggressive one because they had to, even if we would say, as the audience that there could have been a cleverer choice. In those circumstances, there was barely another choice as the story has been set up.
“The Place Beyond the Pines” begins with violence, continues with violence but ends with silence. Cianfrance knows how to play with these two and take the audience wherever he wants. Like the previous movie, “Blue Valentine,” in the final scene, the character, like a lonely cowboy, leaves everything behind and turns his back to the camera and goes to an unknown future.

Monday, September 14, 2015

If We Really Knew the Issue

If You Really Knew Me opens a case study that is not new at all but the fact that how much society has paid attention to the problem is another story. Discrimination, racism, bullying and vice versa seems to have some high effects in schools, even more than the adult society. The video has almost some good proofs about high school attitudes, how currently it is, and how must become in the future.
The show is about how far high school students are from the person who is sitting next to each of them, a collection of strangers who remain strangers almost forever. In the story, a group of people is trying to bring a change in the high school. They select some students and then take them to an experience that is going to open the students’ eyes to the truth behind of each face.
The students begin to talk and each of them tells a story about him/herself or his/her family. These stories bring up all difficult times they had or have in their life. Each person provides a new personality that is very different of what others think about that individual. This changes many things between them and as the football boy say they will try to make some change in future about their attitude toward others, but I do not think how these children think about each other is the entire problem.
Change never gonna happen if the roots of the problem haven’t been taking care of. I think any change made in that meeting at the video will be temporary because the main issue still exists. The first question, about this kind of behavior, is not what those children do; Or how they do it? The question is why, and where is coming from the idea about judging people without trying to get to know them.
In this case, we should not forget about the role of society and family. This role has a high effect on children’s behavior. They learn, believe and then act. Initially, their brain is a blank page and ready to accept anything that the world is providing. Parents are first writers who will begin to write on theses blank pages. Children copy their parents’ behavior, beliefs, and judgments, and that will structure the basic characteristics of the children. During the time, which children are growing up, this role extends to friends and society (neighborhood at first) etc.
Therefore, after all, we have some teenagers that their behaviors and beliefs have already been shaped during the childhood. Although this is not a formula, but we need to consider this process when we are talking about teenagers behavior. By considering this, there will be a concern that if these high school students go back to their family and neighborhood are they going to still believe what they experienced at that moment at school? Aren’t they under the effect of a sad moment that has shaken their heart for a moment? Is there any deep thought behind the enthusiasm for a change?
These questions and many other questions were my concern when I was watching the video repeatedly and again. I strongly believe any change, in this case, has to begin with children in kindergarten and at the same time working on families, society and other sources that provide behavioral models.
What I mean by whole this, is only with a TV program and some selected teenagers not only world not gonna change, but also, this provides a model that only examines the surface of the problem, and doesn’t try to have a deeper look.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Bad Feminism

“I do not believe that women are inferior to men by nature, nor do I believe that they are their natural superiors either.”
Simone de Beauvoir, in 1976
According to Deadline.com Fox 2000 wins Ashly’s War to be adopted as a movie. In the following post, I have tried to review the book.
The first feminist movements began in 1872, in France and Netherlands. By definition, feminism is to describe any action that protects (or demands) women’s rights in a male dominated society. It has been a contentious issue since it originated. Feminism suffered from four groups through its account. From one side, it agonized by the mannish society that could not consent any changes to the ordinances that were protecting the male privileges. From the other side, extremism, opportunism, and misconceptions caused “Bad Feminism”; a 20th century’s perception, which has made the situation more complicated for ordinary low-class  women. The ones who carry, for the most part, the soreness of a society, and are only concerned about equality and respectful life without any controversy. There is no doubt that feminism after it began to remain, mostly, a debate for the higher-class fragment of most societies because lower ones were too busy to make everyone else rich and could not afford some fancy ideas like the twisted feminism, not the real one.
In the modern society, the media has played a significant role to define women as the disqualified gender of the humankind by objectifying them. Lamentably, some women joined the oppositions, by throwing a curve into the path of the real feminism, for their personal profits. Ashley’s War by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon is an obvious example, which objectifies the women, based on their appearances, to attract the audience. The book is a nonfiction story about the first female group of the Cultural Support Teams. In 2010, the U.S. Army Special Ops created a squad of female volunteer soldiers. The purpose behind the shaping the group was “to engage the female populations in an objective area when such contact may be deemed culturally inappropriate if performed by a male service member” (CULTURAL SUPPORT TEAMS).  The book follows the team of female soldiers through their training and their duties in Afghanistan.
Using women as some sex objects, instead of portraying them, as the valuable human being members of the society, has become a prevailing culture in media, literature, and the U.S. society. According to the research by United Nations Women, United Nations Entity for Gender Equality, in popular films across 11 countries, including U.S.  “Women are often stereotyped and sexualized when they are depicted in popular content” (L. Smith 2). This picture has become traditional, almost forever, in the American literature and cinema. There are many examples, like Fifty Shades of Gray, Daniel Steele’s huge bestselling collections and, of course, Ashley’s War. Each one of them carries a cheap and outdated sentimentalism to target the wide number of unintellectual members of the society, mostly middle class, by touching their emotions and feeding them with nothing but touchy-sentimental pictures. Lemmon follows all the requirements of the old sentimentalism school of literature. She creates scenes of sorrow and soreness, and relays on too many preventable details, like details about every aspect of the characters’ personal lives and she writes plenty of pages about pushups. She chooses to advance emotions rather than actions in the plot. All readers can see is the female character’s emotion of being members of the CST, while men, mostly, remain rational. It is a classic stereotype of a divided society where the men are intelligent, even if they are wrong, they have a reason to, and women are sensitive and sentimental even when they are trying to copy some manly attitude.  The book is entirely the flood of many emotions, which contrasts rationalization, and questions the fundamental of the reasoning behind the writing. As the author says this book is “a review of primary research and documents,” (Lemmon Author’s note). It is not clear that how the overflow of emotions can lead the readers to the research and the documents, in the other word, it is impossible to comprehend the relationship between sentimentalism and a book that claims to be an academic/journalistic work.
Sentimentalism in the United States is the product of late 18th and early 19th centuries, which aimed to attract middle-class women who had more time to read. The writers were mostly females who their works, through the 19th century, caused the rise of Separate Spheres Ideology; “This ideology was always a middle-class and often a white phenomenon that encouraged the gendered identification of work with men and home with women” (Samuels). In another word, according to this ideology, women are just some objects to serve first-class citizens, privileged white males.
This is the exact style, which Lemmon uses in her book. She spends many pages on talking about the appearance of the female soldiers: “Tall with ice-blue eyes, walnut brown hair, and tattooed arms, she looked like a Harley-Davidson model” (Lemmon 19). Her characters are like Barbies on a battlefield, which obviously does not help those who have fought years and years to achieve gender equality in the army. Lemmon is successful to draw images of the American Dream Barbies, “tall, fit, and blond, she looked more like a television anchor than a soldier.” (Lemmon 39), but her achievement does not help the situation of women in the army. By contrast, her Barbie images make a good case for chauvinists of the society to say:
“We told you! Women like these are poison for a battle zone; they can’t do it.”
A reader does not need to go too far to understand that she/he is knocking a wrong door. Almost two pages (43-44) of explaining how Leda meets Ashley, and then they go to a gym together, while the story is supposed to be a nonfiction about Cultural Support Teams. Lemmon has used the word gym 25 times in the book (five times only in Page 43), While the word Afghan women, has been used only 15 times through the book. Also, the most important Afghan character in the book is Nadia, an Afghan girl who has grown up in the United States and has almost no attachment to her country of origin. This is why by the end of the book the readers are confused, lost and they have not gained anything valuable, even the sentiment of the Ashley’s funeral takes away the real pride that must have come from the work that she had done.
Women were engaged in battles, in the front line, since 1991 after “Congress authorizes women to fly combat missions” (History.org). This is the real story behind Ashley’s War. The story that the writer forgot to focus on while she was busy to create her own American Dream.  The female team’s duty, as the Cultural Support Teams, was to engage the female population of Afghanistan. The duty that we do not hear much about that in the book. We do not receive much information about their cerebral skills, problem-solving, Afghan language proficiency, weapons skills, leadership and stress under fire abilities. These soldiers are supposed to learn these skills and develop them to be able to approach and support the army, and if it is necessary to provide humanitarian aids to Afghan women. Instead, we read pages about the fancy life of some of these soldiers or the feeling they have of living inside a Hollywoodish war movie.
At last, a male dominated judgmental culture produces a misbelief about feminism, which is the direct result of the traditional conservative perspective. It gets worse when comes to some radical individuals or groups who believe the relationship between male and female must sink to an animalistic common. The male has to be strong, powerful and demanding and female’s duty is to provide and to make the man feel good. In another word, women exist in this kind of society to be an object of joy for males. The bad feminism, which is the product to comfort the chauvinism, replaces real feminism. Unfortunately, some writers like, Daniel Steele, E. L. James, and Gayle Tzemach Lemmon fall into the first one. Maybe is appropriate to say the camel was going to seek horns lost his ears. The writers above and many others like them tried to kill two birds with one stone. They wanted, or they pretended, to be known as dedicated feminist while they were giving up of the quality of work to reach a broader number of an audience by emotionally manipulating them. The problem is real feminism never fits into this kind of suits, which resulted in the books that are not valid, from the intellectual perspective.
Work Cited
“Cultural Support Team (CST) in Afghanistan.”Afghan War News. Web. 25 Sept. 2015. <http://www.afghanwarnews.info/women/cst.htm&gt;.
“CULTURAL SUPPORT TEAMS.” Army SpecOps Recruiting. Web. 25 Sept. 2015. <http://www.sorbrecruiting.com/SORB_CST.html&gt;.
“Time Line: Women in the U.S. Military.”History.org. The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. Web. 25 Sept. 2015. <http://www.history.org/history/teaching/enewsletter/volume7/images/nov/women_military_timeline.pdf&gt;.
Beauvoir, Simone De. The Second Sex;. New York: Knopf, 1953. Print.
Heldman, Caroline. “The Sexy Lie.” Everyday Feminism. 8 Feb. 2014. Web. 25 Sept. 2015. <http://everydayfeminism.com/2014/02/the-sexy-lie/&gt;.
HAMILTON, KATHY. “Objectification of Women.”TodaysZaman. Feza Gazetecilik A.Ş., 3 Mar. 2015. Web. 27 Sept. 2015.
  1. Smith, Dr. Stacy, Marc Choueiti, and Dr. Katherine Pieper. “An Invest I G at I on of F E M a Le Ch a R Ac Ters I N P O P U L a R Fi Lms A C Ross 11 Countr I E S.” GENDER BIAS WITHOUT BORDERS (2015). Print.
McCullough, Sgt. Christopher McCullough. “ArmyFemale Engagement Teams: Who They Are and Why They Do It.” ARMY.MIL, The Official Homepage of theUnited States. 2 Oct. 2012. Web. 25 Sept. 2015. <http://www.army.mil/article/88366/&gt;.
Samuels, Shirley. “Sentimentalism and Domestic Fiction – American Literature – – Obo.” Oxford Bibliographies. Oxford University Press, 29 Aug. 2012. Web. 26 Sept. 2015. <http://www.oxfordbibliographies.com/view/document/obo-9780199827251/obo-9780199827251-0015.xml&gt;.
Szymanski, D. M., L. B. Moffitt, and E. R. Carr. “Sexual Objectification of Women: Advances to Theory and Research 1 7.” The Counseling Psychologist (2010). Print.
Tanney, Alexa. “How Hollywood Is Misunderstanding And Misusing The Term Feminism.” Elite Daily. Elite Daily, 8 May 2015. Web. 27 Sept. 2015. <http://elitedaily.com/women/hollywood-objectifies-women/1019215/&gt;.
Tzemach Lemmon, Gayle. Ashley’s War: The Untold Story of a Team of Women Soldiers on the Special Ops Battlefield. 1st ed. Harper, 2015. Print.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

From Ice to Bullet: A Challenge for Humanity

A movement started a couple of months ago which calls #IceBucketChallenge. The whole idea was to give 24 hours notice to someone to poured an ice bucket over the  participant's head and then help $10 (or not doing the ice bucket and donate $100) to help those people who are suffering from ALS.
The Idea doesn't seem a bad idea but there are some other issues the idea- or if we say society and people are casing.
The first criticism started from the purpose of the donation. some argued that ALS affects 2-3 people per 100,000 in the worth case and is it ethical to focus on such a disease while more than hundred of thousands die from hunger and thirst?

I want to say let us don't compare.