Thursday, October 23, 2014

Frederick Forsyth: The Afghan, 2006 (Part II)

The Afghan, Frederick Forsyth's 2006 novel, delivers a wild ride, filtered through the very evident scrim of the author's patriarchal, Anglocentric, conservative outlook.

It's very much a man's world that Forsyth focuses on. There are no major female characters in the book. In general terms, it's sexist, but there's no sex. It's James Bond or Clint Eastwood without their "social interests" -- certainly, there are no Bond girls on either side of this rather austere novel.

While reading, I had a strong impression that, via the near-totally omniscient narrator, Forsyth wants nothing more than a quiet return to the height of the British Empire, say between 1860 and 1900. Women seem of little importance in his grand scheme of manly things. Protesters, the general public, news outlets and international organizations are considered annoying nuisances bent on fools' errands. The most important thing to the narrator is security of country -- the United Kingdom above all -- as represented by security agencies and military and police forces.    

Back in 1997, Forsyth admitted: "These days I care only about six things. They are: belief in the Almighty, my country’s sovereignty, parliamentary democracy, the monarchy, preservation of the countryside, and protection of my family." (SagaDecember 1997).

Islamic "Sword Verse" extremists, the villains of The Afghan, dream of a return to the imagined heights of Islamic empire and culture. Turn the clock back a thousand years or more. 

So in The Afghan there are two preferences pitted against each other: go back 100 years (good) or go back 1000 years (bad). In both cases, this is the nature of deep conservatism -- a nostalgia for a past that never was quite as delightful as imagined.*

Finally, the idea of universal entropy or friction: 

"Anyone who has ever been involved in what Kipling called 'the Great Game,' and what James Jesus Angleton of the CIA referred to as the 'wilderness of mirrors,' will surely agree the greatest enemy is the UCU. . . The Unforeseen Cock-Up has probably wrecked more covert missions than treachery or brilliant counterintelligence by the other side. . ." (page 223).

Today's Rune: Possessions. 

*In reverse, the nature of progressive liberalism seems more like nostalgia for an enlightened future that may never come to full fruition. How It Never Was vs. How It Never Will Be, perhaps. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Frederick Forsyth: The Afghan, 2006 (Part I)

Given the similarly-themed events unfolding in Canada these past few days, the happenings depicted in Frederick Forsyth's The Afghan (2006) carry a very contemporary and ongoing feel. The novel is filled with details about hunters and hunted, ships and jets, couriers and satellite surveillance, infiltrators and fanatics, terrorism and counter-terrorism, attack and counterattack, interception and evasion. It ranges around the world, so there's a lot of geographical detail, and historical: things such as the destruction of Halifax, Nova Scotia, during the Great War of 1914-1918, due to the explosion of an ammo ship (in 1917), to counterinsurgency in Northern Ireland, the Falklands/Malvinas War (1982), Afghanistan (1980s-present), the "West Side Boys" in Sierra Leone (2000), pirates of the Pacific, a CIA prison nestled in the Rockies of the USA, and commandeered fuel ships in the Atlantic.

Observations along the way are fully relevant in 2014 and will continue to be so. Of the Taliban, Forsyth reminds us that under their rule, women could not [and cannot] move in public without being fully veiled and having a male relative as escort, "[a]ll singing, dancing, the playing of music, sports and kite flying . . . was forbidden . . . Beards on men were compulsory. The enforcers were often teenage fanatics in their black turbans, taught only the Sword Verses, cruelty and war" (page 105). (Just what everyone wants -- violent, aggressive and narrow-minded young males in charge of one's day to day life).

This is the modern world: "For terrorism, the Internet and cyberspace have become must-have propaganda weapons. Every atrocity that can be broadcast . . . is good; every atrocity that can be seen by millions of Muslim youths in seventy countries is gold dust. This is where the recruits come from -- actually seeing it happen and lusting to imitate" (page 305). 

Note: several of Forsyth's novels have been made into movies. Consider his first three novels, for instance: The Day of the Jackal (1971), The Odessa File (1972) and The Dogs of War (1974). 

Today's Rune: Partnership.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Addito Salis Grano, or: Who Do You Love, Who Do You Hate?

Recent comments by Frank Freeman, one of my UNC-Chapel Hill classmates, led me to some thinking, resulting in this little flow chart of sorts. Active reference to this may help clarify how you or anyone feels about anybody, ranging from the president of the United States of America to a next door neighbor.

Frank pointed out that a person in general support of President Obama would support a certain specific action by him, but if President G. W. Bush had done more or less the same action, they'd have stood in opposition; likewise, political enemies of President Obama would not and will not support his actions no matter what they were or are or could be, precisely because they are opposed to him. Seeing this, Frank said he was more or less "on the fence," and took a more neutral position in many matters.
To play the game, imagine various different names as Person A.  What if Person A was Abraham Lincoln? Frederick Douglass? Angela Davis? Try Ted Cruz. Dick Cheney. Sarah Palin. Hillary Clinton. Bill Clinton. And so on.

Figuring out your attitude by using one of the columns may help clarify where you stand on just about anybody and anything.  

Some attitudes shift with the passage of time. A person may hate a certain boss only while said boss holds any direct power over said person. All power is temporary, if only though mortality or external change in circumstance. 

Another person may unconditionally love a spouse for a while, and later unconditionally hate that same spouse, perhaps as s/he changes status to become an ex-spouse. And so on. 

What do you think?

In conclusion, people on either end of the spectrum will probably never be able to get through to each other. To a person in love, the object of love can do no wrong. To a person in hate, the object of hate can do no right. Neither side will ever convince the other of anything, at least for the time being.

Today's Rune: Fertility. 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Journey to Sevilla / Seville: Part V (2014)

Some parting images from Sevilla / Seville, Spain, right now (at the time of this posting) being used as a working film set for HBO's Game of Thrones -- for the next season, to be aired in 2015. Here, snakes slither around columns, or pillars if you prefer.
Lush green pergola on the grounds of the Alcázar at what looks like a Dutch angle.
Yes, Virginia -- palm trees. From the Alcázar. 
A touch of blue and red for transition -- ceramic tiles.   
Parque de María Luisa (Palacio de San Telmo) by horse-drawn carriage.
Gustavo Bacarisas' poster for the Exposición Iberoamericana de Sevilla of 1929-1930. 
Plaza de España, built for the Exposición Iberoamericana de Sevilla of 1929-1930.  

Today's Rune: The Mystery Rune.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Journey to Sevilla / Seville: Part IV (2014)

Sevilla / Seville: An interior courtyard in broad daylight, El Real Alcázar de Sevilla -- the Alcázar. 
Within the intricate architectural ecosystem of the Alcázar.
Another angle from within the Alcázar complex.
Within the Alcázar: more living green flourishes.
Alcázar: interior archway looking on a sunlit courtyard.

Today's Rune: Fertility. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Journey to Sevilla / Seville: Part III (2014)

In Sevilla / Seville: a tradition of upkeep that goes back many centuries.
Sevilla: another doorway. Or as William Blake put it in The MARRIAGE of HEAVEN and HELL (1790/93):
"If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.
For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro' narrow chinks of his cavern."
Sevilla: Dig the Moorish style. Knock and be received. 

Blake: "In the fifth chamber were Unnam'd forms, which cast the metals into the expanse."
Sevilla: Upper right quarter of another entrance. 

Blake: "There they were receiv'd by Men who occupied the sixth chamber, and took the forms of books & were arranged in libraries".

Sevilla: streetscape.

Blake: "Golden Spain burst the barriers of old Rome."

Today's Rune: Fertility. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Journey to Sevilla / Seville: Part II (2014)

Orange trees and Gothic - La Catedral de Santa María de la Sede de Sevilla. Click on an orange for a larger image -- if you wish. 
La Giralda, la Catedral and little people plus horse at base for scale.
Weird reflections -- Cristo del Perdón (The Forgiving Christ), Catedral Sevilla. 
You tell me: what do you see here? David Lynch country -- Catholicised and Almodóvar-esque.
Another angle: La Catedral de Santa María de la Sede de Sevilla. If you click on this image, you may see a living person to the right. Right?

Today's Rune: The Mystery Rune.