ANNAM&M's

Liberty. Justice. Islam.

Category: Social Commentary

Review: Harry Potter and The Cursed Child

It goes without saying that there will be spoilers in this article.

cursed-child-nest

In short, I was both thrilled and disappointed with Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Parts of the play, and maybe because it was written as a play, it read like a really long fan fiction as opposed to a Rowling masterpiece. Some of our favorite people make a cameo in a very cliche manner, so much so that the characters seem like caricatures of their former selves from the original books. The story itself had really good potential, but then the plot weakens after the middle. I felt like the story should have lingered a little longer in the darker timeline.

It is clear that JK doesn’t want to write anymore books for us, because there is no time for character development as we speed off into year 4 for Albus and Scorpius at Hogwarts. For an author of 7 memorable books, I think the playwritten form is a cop out from writing a fleshed out novel (or three). Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy reading play writing, so it is not as though I am speaking as someone who had trouble with the format. I just think that the story could have easily made for a fantastic trilogy.

Some specific aspects of the story had major plot holes. I mean Bellatrix had a kid with Voldermort? Come on. Voldermort having intimate relations is beyond unthinkable–its uncharacteristic. Voldermort is not capable of love, so how can he have a child? Of course there are horrifying ways to force someone to sew their seed inside you that don’t require mutual love, and there are also possibly some magical spells that could help you have a kid (more on why that might not actually be possible later). Even if Bellatrix might have been the only woman worthy of carrying his progeny due to her loyalty and power as a witch, I doubt he felt he needed a successor since he had so many horcruxes as a life insurance policy. The whole Voldermort-had-a-kid plot twist just made me wanna gag to be honest. Yet it humanizes him, and in a way, that is necessary to understand how weak he really was even tho he wanted to be all powerful and immortal, and seemed as much in our heads.

The time traveling in Cursed Child would have made for an okay plot element had I not binge-watched so many episodes of Family guy where Stewie did this multiple times. It just became clear that when the writers on the show ran out of ideas, they had Stewie build a time machine. Not sure if this is the reason that Rowling and Co. also do this. Been watching the new season of The Flash as well and the whole Flashpoint/alternate timeline craziness (it makes sense to use this as a plot element here because of his powers) generally has me thinking I’m over time travel. Except in Dr. Strange. I think Dr. Strange uses a cooler, more inventive use of time than merely time travel and the butterfly effect–off topic! In all honesty, the whole time-turner plot in Prisoner of Azkaban did blow my 12 yr old mind, but I feel like this plot element in Cursed Child is another a caricature of its former badass self in its over use, which lends to the whole fan-fic feel I mentioned earlier.

Despite all the bashing I’ve done, I actually really enjoyed every minute of the book! Surprised? I know. Just missed reading those stories every summer so much. The nostalgia was more than I could handle. I devoured that book as soon as I had time to sit down and read it. Took a bit longer than most readers, finished it in about 8 hours.Through the story, I kept wondering who the cursed child from the title was: Albus, Scorpius, or Delphi. In the beginning I kept thinking it was Albus because he’s practically a Squib. Then with the time-turner reveal, I thought maybe the rumors about Scorpius are true after all and he is the cursed one. Towards the end it is clear that it must be Delphi. I like that the reader is left wondering until pretty much the very end.

My favorite character was definitely Draco’s son, reminded me of Ron and Hermoine in that he was both full of humor AND nerdy–its no wonder that his character is love with their daughter, Rose. I think the most gut wrenching part of the story was when they altered the timeline so that Rose was never born. Hating Albus’s attitude throughout the majority of the story also reminded me of how much I hated Harry in Order of the Phoenix. That rebel-without-a-cause-angst-because-my-life-is-worse-than-you-can-ever-imagine-and-you-can-never-know-what-its-like-to-be-me Harry. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. ❤

Did you read Harry Potter and the Cursed Child? Have you always been a fan of the books? Tell me what you thought!

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Stranger Things: Analysis, Reaction, and Theories

The short of it: Two huge thumbs up. So many questions and possible theories, but in a good way, definitely not like LOST where there were too many loose ends that were never tied.

Now, for the in-depth discussion:

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I could hardly fall asleep after binge-watching these episodes. The 80’s theme is very attractive and nostalgic, which goes without saying, and I think too many people have commented on that for me to mention it again, but whatever. It wasn’t the 80’s theme, though, that kept me itching to get to the next episode as soon as one ended. Netflix just happened to hit a sweet spot in their formula for an addictive show.

Unlike another show I had been watching routinely with my husband just before this came along (Person of Interest), this show actually has a complex story to tell. And maybe they did the smart thing by keeping the season short, at just 8 episodes. The pre-title portion of the show is sometimes fairly long so that by the time the title does show up, you’re surprised at how much there is still left to tell in that episode, and consequently cannot wait for the title to pass so you can find out what happens after every pre-title cliffhanger.

The show definitely has that itch to find out what’s next because, by episode two, you are totally invested in the lives of these people. Haven’t had that feeling in a while–not since I binge-watched Breaking Bad. Most shows use a very basic technique of creating conflict in order to entice the viewer to pay attention and want more. A really good story is not necessarily a per-requisite for this basic technique, however, so writers end up using cliche tropes and cliche lines to fill in the spaces. Stranger Things actually has a story to tell. That story is a horrifying paranormal mystery.

By the end of the season, all the guesswork of how 11’s flashbacks are connected come to an end as the show gives us a better picture of the events that took place before 11 came into town. We find out where Will is, and all the main characters are finally, to our relief, on the same page as well. But as one mystery after another comes to a close, several new questions are born. In the same way that perhaps new “demagorgons” will be born?!?!

Speaking of which, wassup with that egg huh? The egg that Joyce and Hopper found in “the upside down” looks hatched already, and maybe like in the original Godzilla from ’97, there are more eggs, and the demagorgon was a female monster capable of self-fertilization. There is a theory that the egg isn’t even the same species as the demagorgon because in many scenes we see the creature hunched over something similar looking, trying to pick at it/break it/eat it. What does the demagorgon eat anyway? Humans? Animals? Other creatures in the upside-down? What does the demagorgon do with the humans it captures?

Also, where did this demagorgon creature come from. Was it a by-product of Brenner’s experiments, an earlier test subject-turned-monster locked in some portal, or just an alien creature in its own world until El unlocked it, as it seems from El’s flashbacks? In the first flashbacks to Brenner’s experiments, it seems like they detected some alien presence (how did they know about it in the first place?) found the goo, brought it back to the lab and let it grow until they could send someone inside. But El says she opened the gate, according to her flashback when she made contact w the creature. We dont know if they find the goo before or after El’s contact. Is the goo itself the portal? I don’t know the answers to these questions, but they are there. Unanswerable until season 2.

There are some things we may never know until the Duffer brothers let us know, but we can definitely theorize some things using context clues. Like what did the demagorgon do with Barb? I dont think she was eaten by the demagorgon. But she was definitely dead. It seemed as if the creature planted something inside both Barb and Will. Will still coughed up parts of that thing that was plugged inside him. I think it was a prototype of the same thing that crawled out of Barb, after it hatched maybe? The demagorgon may have used human bodies as a cocoon or placenta for its babies and sucked all the energy from the bodies in order to incubate its babies after they are born. Hopper and Joyce got the slithering umbilical cord-like thing out of Will in time so it didn’t drain him enough to kill him. The thing that came out of Barb’s mouth was probably a newborn demagorgon after it completely used up Barb’s organic energy, killing her.

Another interesting thing to note is when Hopper and Joyce are about to go get Will, they are told to wear suits because the environment is toxic, to which Joyce replies “but Will is in there..” like oh my God, my baby has been living in a toxic environment for days?! Nancy, Will, and Hopper, all get to the upside down at one point without any protection and come back from it alive. All of them are changed. Hopper has some weird connection with El after her disappearance (did she fuse with the demagorgon or kill it?). Will is coughing up inter dimensional slugs. And Nancy is clearly hiding something.

Is Hopper still a good guy? It seems like he’s working for the secret government agency now. As I read these theories and questions outloud, my husband says, WE JUST. DON’T. KNOW!

SO MANY QUESTIONS, such few answers. But hey, that’s what a second season is for. AHH I cannot wait!

Tech v Islam: Part I

A person who goes in search of knowledge, he is in the path of Allah, and he remains so until he returns – Tirmidhi

Islam gave early Muslims the motivation to seek knowledge, and not just in the Islamic sciences, but in all areas of the world. Because of this motivation, Muslims made strides in science and technology that signaled the dawn of the modern era. Now, more than 14 centuries later, we’ve entered a new age of innovation, and whether you feel it or not, technology is changing at a furiously rapid pace.

vrtestA fraction of that change happens right in front of our eyes: PC users get mandatory updates on shut down; the apps on your phone keep getting updates that require the latest software, making your phone obsolete after a year or two; gaming looks and feels more and more like social media, and big name video games are practically unplayable without downloading regular updates. Microsoft is even giving away its latest operating system for free, encouraging everyone to move on to this ‘brave new world’ of technology. This continuous stream of live updating–on gadgets and software that I like to call the “indefinite betas”–is a sign of how fast innovations in tech are making a turnaround in our time.

The laws around regulating this technology is always trying to catch up and changes at a snail-like pace in comparison. Take a look at drones, for instance. The modern drone has been around since at least the Cold War era. The US Government created new military and police/surveillance drones and increased its stock of drones by forty-fold in the wake of 9/11, using them in ways that have resulted in the death of hundreds of innocent victims who were not the targets of these international amazon-bezos_2751884bdrone strikes. But Amazon also uses drones to make deliveries, law enforcement uses them for surveillance, while kids of all ages play with drones in their neighborhoods–albeit, sometimes using them to take pictures or make videos of others without permission. That being said, the discussion around the regulation of drones has only really started to gain momentum in the past five years or so. The DISCUSSION. As of Christmas of 2015, only a few months ago, did it become mandatory to register all recreational drones. We’re all still waiting for international human rights lawmakers to enact some sort of legislation defining when it is and isn’t okay to use lethal force via drone.

Part of the reason regulation is so slow is the lack of vision. The potential uses for any technology, good or bad, cannot be foretold, and once seen, it cannot be known if and how they will catch on with other users. Another reason is the dilemma of getting groups of people to agree on what the laws around regulating any technology would look like.

AstrolabeIt is no different for scholars of Islam.
After taking a live weekend course with Mishkah University on Contemporary Fiqh two years ago, I was first struck by how oddly non-contemporary the topics were. Life insurance, health insurance, and warranties. Zakaat on a salaried income. DNA and paternity testing. All of them were important issues, yes, relevant even. Especially to the average Muslim. I gained an appreciation for differences of opinion in fiqh, especially when it comes to issues that were never heard of in the time of the prophet Muhammad (SAW). However, the class didn’t cover what I or others would consider contemporary for the current decade. This is not by any means a criticism on the part of the instructors, the institution, or Islamic scholarship, but a testament to the pace at which the law moves, even (and especially) in the Islamic tradition.

When I used to be on Twitter and The Walking Dead came on, a group of two or three people I followed–including a popular Imam–would live tweet a comical, yet intriguing, thought experiment on Shariah compliancy in a post-Zombie Apocalyptic world. They posed questions along the lines of, would your wudu still be intact after a zombie bite or would you have to make ghusl? Can you combine prayers if you’re running from a zombie horde? As silly as these questions are, when you think about it, thought exercises like these might be a great solution to figuring out how to handle fiqh dilemmas in an era of increased technological growth.

There are Muslims out there wondering if you should respond to the adhaan on an app or alarm. Does cash-back on your credit card count as interest. If you can read Quran on your tablet even if you don’t have wudoo or even if you are menstruating. Is Facebook haram. Can you use an AI love doll for pleasure if you have a hard time finding a bride. If you commit a sin in a video game like stealing, fornication, drinking alcohol, eating pork, are you really sinning, etc. A lot of the questions mentioned above are answered on websites run by respected traditional institutions, websites like askimam.org. Some of the answers to these questions are pretty clear, but others have the Ulema divided, even among those with the most traditional background in scholarship. For example, most scholar will tell you that Facebook should be avoided at all costs due to the haram relationships that are forged and the use of images of faces, even if the intention to have one is as innocent as giving dawah or keeping family ties. Some from the newer generation of Ulema have said Facebook is as benign as being part of an online village, themselves having an account for various purposes, but especially to act as an extension of their community leadership, making themselves (and their knowledge) more accessible.

So while Islam has the tools to answer questions about the pressing issues that come with the growing pace of post-modern technology, it will be interesting to see what the responses to these questions will look like as we become more plugged in and interconnected.

#TBT

I know its not Thursday, but I was deleting unread emails (went down from 1000+ to 140) to clear my inbox and I found a comment I wrote on Facebook two years ago (and thought it was so great I should save it in case I ever lose my tenacity) in response to a young woman (born into Islam) who claimed she could no longer find solace in Islam because she felt it was more important to defend the human rights of other human beings (specifically referring to homosexual people) which Islam supposedly didn’t do. I think this was my final response in a back and forth.


 

Bismillah

Nadia, I don’t think any of the people you are sharing this discourse with could possibly accept the implied claims you are making about their faith, that its tenents go against human rights. Imam Abu Hanifa was among many “medieval scholars” who wrote lengthily and fought against the system, and died in prison in order to stand by basic principles of human rights. None of us debating you believe in a God that is less Compassionate than you could be to another human being. Allah is the Most Compassionate and we cannot even begin to fathom His Mercy and Compassion.

That being said, though I could never claim to understand your particular struggle, I totally respect and understand your need to reconcile faith with the acceptance of all people. But I’m curious as to what informs your perception of the call for human dignity, acceptance, and human rights? In no way am I patronizing you when I ask that.

I am sincerely curious.

I ask because have heard almost the exact rhetoric come from many human rights “activists”–white men and women as well as men and women of color, here and abroad–who promote the international human rights and gender rights agenda, but have little room or tolerance for Islam particularly, religion in general, or the sanctity and preservation of culture in their perspective. The way I see it, this is not only a form of violence, but blatant hypocrisy. Not all aspects of culturally accepted forms of religious understanding or practice of social norms are harmful to people, so when the human rights agenda is perpetuated in a way that is divorced from those social norms and religious beliefs, the process gradually coerces people of any particular region to become distant in their relationship with God–native populations themselves ignorantly blaming religion wholesale (the way this article has) for the conditions they were in before international human rights saved the day.

The violence of uprooting native religion and cultural norms aside, the same machinery that is perpetuating the man-made/”universally-acknowledged” so-called human rights agenda full speed and strength is the very same one that becomes weak int he knees when superpowers (and those supported by superpowers) commit egregious human rights violations domestically and abroad, violating treaties. For crying out loud, the US has basically been committing genocide against Muslims for the past 12 years. Malala couldn’t go to school because of the big bad Taliban and we all had crocodile tears for her, but US drones are killing so many girls like her and they just become another unreported piece of collateral damage.

Point being, our understanding of human rights comes from the One Who Created all of human kind, who gave us clear instructions on how to live. The brothers have discussed a lot. All I am going to do is leave you with these two ayaat of the Quraan.

“And when it is said unto them: Make not mischief in the earth, they say: We are peacemakers (reformers) only. Unquestionably, it is they who are the corrupters, but they perceive [it] not.” – Quran 2:11-12

“It is He who has sent down to you, [O Muhammad], the Book; in it are verses [that are] precise – they are the foundation of the Book – and others ambiguous. As for those in whose hearts is deviation [from truth], they will follow that of it which is ambiguous, seeking discord and seeking an interpretation [suitable to them]…” – Quran 3:7

I pray Allah gives you contentment and peace in your heart and mind….

Lifting the Veil {or Plato’s cave}

That is what thesis writing is about. Lifting just a couple of layers off your eyes so you can see the world a little clearer, explain in foreign academic jargon to other scientists in your field trained at lifting just some of their own veils what it was that you glimpsed, and then compare to their renditions and theories which will differ depending on the number of layers they removed and their intentions for wanting to explain the world.

On a normal basis, as lay people, we are submerged in the darkness that is the illusion that is this world. Layers upon layers. “Or [they are] like darknesses within an unfathomable sea which is covered by waves, upon which are waves, over which are clouds – darknesses, some of them upon others. When one puts out his hand [therein], he can hardly see it.” – Surah an Nur, Ayah 40

Descartes had a point when he questioned his senses. So what if you lift ALL the veils and are left with the raw image of a bare and brutal reality–what then?

dark veilTime to create a new language.

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Liberty. Justice. Islam.