Friday, May 04, 2012

Film Critique: Circumstance

So it seems I've become a movie critic! I recently (after several sittings) finished watching Maryam Keshavarz's 2011 film, Circumstance, and here is what I have to say:

(Note, this is an extension of my review on, where I gave the film 4 stars out of 10. I also gave it 2 out of 5 on Netflix. Unlike the imdb review, this one contains spoilers).

James Greenberg of "The Hollywood Reporter" characterizes Maryam Keshavarz as "[a] filmmaker with something to say and the talent to say it". Please, I'll give her the first, but not the second. This film tries to say too many things at once and fails to get anything substantial across. It points (far too briefly) at many issues, including:

-Homosexuality in Iran, being forced to live closeted and/or succumb to social norms (this seems to be the main point of the film, embodied by Shireen and Atefeh's doomed love).
-Sexual repression, leading either to rebellion or to a diseased expression of sexuality (Mehran's fantasies, his spying, the man with the foot fetish with whom Shireen hitches a ride).
-Women's rights and (lack of) equality in a patriarchal society (the idea that parents--especially fathers--should  should "control" their daughters and husbands, their wives; spousal abuse and marital rape).
-The enforcement of religious law and shaming of youth (especially women) who fail to comply (the arrest of Shireen and Atefeh)
-Political corruption and religious hypocrisy (Acceptance of bribes by officials, the characters of the mullah and of Mehran)
-Freedom of speech and political dissent (or the lack thereof): (The mention that Shireen's parents were political)
-The invasion of personal freedom by police and the government's rigid control of people's lives. (The medical examination--or rape??--of Atefeh without her consent or that of her parents, the party-crashing conducted by police).

Each of which could be a film on its own, but altogether in this laughably muddled film, form a confusing mess. The film is also riddled by plot inconsistencies and holes, and does not seem to have much logical flow:

-There are false starts or seemingly random, unfinished scenes, as if the director could not decide what she wanted to explore in the film: partying scenes, especially the second one in which Shireen appears delirious, start and end abruptly. Why do the girls steal a purse? What is going on with Shireen at school? At the beginning it appears that the film takes place during the school year, but afterwards there are no school scenes and much partying and vacationing, so when does the story take place? Why are the girls arrested? Why is there no follow-up after Shireen leaves the movie store alone?

-Mehran claims he no longer wishes to pursue music, but later helps Shireen when she attempts to play moonlight sonata.
-Mehran is disgusted by his sister, but falls in love with her best friend, who engages in the same "dirty" activities as Shireen. Granted, she seems rather shy and has apparently been "initiated" by Atefeh, but it is very odd that he is still interested, especially given his newfound faith.
-At the end of the film, Mehran states that he will not allow his wife to sing, presumably due to his new-found faith. However, she is at a celebration where unrelated men are present, and is not wearing hijab, which Mehran says nothing about.
Note: Mehran appears to be a confused and contradictory character himself, and possibly represents a similar confusion throughout Iranian society, but his inconsistencies are very strange.

Another criticism is that the film is incredibly shallow in that its major focus (especially in the first half) and the apparent goal of the lead characters, is a life of reckless clubbing and partying. Sadly, it is true that some youth in Iran are deceived by the seeming glamour of the "Hollywood" lifestyle, but I feel that takes away a lot from what this film could have been. Not until the second half do many of the social and political criticisms begin to come through.

The film also presents some issues in a way that does not represent the true situation in Iran. For instance, the "foot fetish" man acts in a very strange manner towards Shireen. The verbal abuse of the morality police is also unnecessarily harsh and appears random. The film also has neither the look nor feel of Iran. Granted, the director, like the cast, did not grow up in Iran and spent most of her life abroad, but that does not abate my disappointment. Shireen has an incredibly thick accent and speaks throughout the film as if she is on some kind of sedative.

I'll give the director points for bravery and some touching scenes toward the end, but the film has little focus. To her credit, the film ends on a quite realistic note, which is the acceptance of "Circumstance" and living a lie, something many Iranians are forced to do. But, I recommend that if you want to learn something about Iran's society today, watch a good documentary (Divorce, Iranian Style, is one I have seen a bit of and appears to be an excellent example of good, poignant journalism), or better yet, if you can, live there for a while!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


Spring is here! And the first day of spring (March 20th this year) is Nowruz, the Iranian New Year. An iconic part of the Nowruz celebration is the "Sofreh haft-sin" and here are the pictures of mine. I submitted the above three photos to a haft-sin competition, and was ranked among the top three submissions. Unfortunately the judges were not able to choose among those three, and the choice was left to the crowd present at the ceremony, with the sofreh with the loudest supporters winning. The only people having seen my sofreh being my immediate family members, my crowd just wasn't loud enough. Well, at least I won the baking contest... :)

In designing my haft-sin sofreh, I wanted to make sure to include all traditional elements. So I did some research and learned that the original sofreh was called "haft-chin", whose items are still present in the haft-sin of today, but more or less so depending on the item. I have made sure to include all of these, as well as the haft-seen items, which I have placed in the center.

The original haft-chin:

Mirror - symbolizing Sky
Apple - symbolizing Earth
Candles - symbolizing Fire
Golab - rose water symbolizing Water
Sabzeh - wheat, or barley sprouts symbolizing Plants
Goldfish - symbolizing Animals
Painted Eggs - symbolizing Humans and Fertility.

The Haft Seen items are:
Sabzeh - (Persian: سبزه‎)
Samanu - (Persian: سمنو‎)
Senjed - (Persian: سنجد‎)
Sir - (Persian: سیر‎)- garlic
Sib - (Persian: سیب‎)- apples
Somāq - (Persian: سماق‎)sumac
Serkeh - (Persian: سرکه‎) - vinegar

I have also included the following popular items:

Sonbol - the fragrant hyacinth flower
Sekkeh - coins
Nān-Noxodchi - a traditional Persian sweet
Ājil -mixed nuts and dried fruit, traditionally served during many Persian celebrations
sekanjabin -an ancient Persian sweet and sour drink, known to the greeks as Oxymel

It was interesting to me to find that these items are considered "less traditional", as I had always thought sonbol and sekkeh were two other options for the haft-seen.

In setting the haft-seen I payed attention to the symmetry and harmony of the items. As you can see from the pictures my sofreh is highly symmetrical. I also merged traditional elements with more modern ones: the main sofreh is a traditional Iranian cloth, which peeks out from the center (and also hangs from the sides of the table), while gold-coloured tulle marks the perimeter. Its colour is the primary one present in the sofreh: yellow flowers and chicks echo its happy tune. The bright yellow is softened by the pale and delicate colours of spring: the blues, greens, and pinks of the ribbons and eggs. Deep reds and browns are also present, in the wooden frame of the mirror, the border of the Qur'an, and the motifs of the tablecloth, but also in the central items. I chose a red vinegar for that same rich colour. The central elements (clockwise from center: serkeh (vinegar), sib (apple), sir (garlic), sumaq, senjed, and samanu, with sabzeh to the side) are placed in a circle over gold-trimmed mesh circles arranged in a floral pattern, along with Daryush the great, symbolizing the vast and rich culture of Iran. The Qur'an, symbolizing our faith, is front and center. To the left and right are the traditional goldfish and painted eggs, the latter of which I have placed in a bowl with moss and small birds for a natural look. In front of those are ajil and nan-noxodchi, both traditionally served during Noruz. Sekkeh (coins) are also present, along with some traditional Iranian boxes to impart the traditional feel. Candles, some of them shaped like apples, add a warm light to the sofreh. Golab (rosewater), decorated with dry rose petals, is in the back to the left, with Sekanjabin, decorated with grated cucumber and a mint sprig, to the right. Sonbol (hyacinth flowers) as well as taller (artificial :P) yellow orchids that create a beautiful spray over the top (unfortunately not present in the pictures), complete the sofreh.

Below are additional photos showing elements less present in the top three photos:

Monday, February 27, 2012

Thoughts on "Rape Culture" in Iran

I recently saw this article and video discussing "slut-shaming" and it got me thinking a little bit. More recently, today, I read this article about the legally enforced "Islamic" dress code in Iran. (The third paragraph is the one relevant to my discussion here). (I realize it's a bit old: I followed a link to get there from a more recent article about Tehran coffee shops, which is interesting enough that I am sharing the link here).

I'll begin with the thoughts that Margo Fortier, the 14-year-old wiser than her years inspired. I had never heard the term slut-shaming before, and it's good that I finally did, not only because it made me realize that this was an activity I myself (at least mentally) engaged in in some contexts, but also because it got me thinking more about the consequences and its role in Iranian culture, which I have oft criticized primarily because of the strict restrictions it places on women. When I refer to "Iranian culture" here, I am referring to the conservative Islamist culture that is embodied by much of the older generation, supported by the Islamic regime, and forced onto the youth. 

Before discussing how slut-shaming occurs among Iranians, I will briefly explain and attempt to excuse my own participation in it: it has happened that I describe (aloud or silently) a girl or woman (whether a celebrity or a stranger on the street) as "slutty" or "whorish" because she dresses or acts provocatively. When I make such a categorization I, like anyone else, don't mean that she is a prostitute, but that her actions or manner of dress suggest that she is sexually available and willing. This verbal categorization is usually accompanied by a feeling of disgust or resentment and a moral judgement of wrongdoing. Before hearing Margo's words I made the judgement without much thought, but now I seem to catch myself in the thought, or feel vaguely disturbed when I hear someone else express it. The reason I feel disturbed is that I can no longer reconcile the belief that I am an open-minded, liberal person who believes in human rights (and particularly women's rights, if only because women as a group have been and are more often stripped of their rights than men have), with this action. That is, in accord with the liberal worldview, I can not allow myself to pass judgement on another human being's actions, particularly when they concern that person only.

That being said, the aforementioned "provocative" actions do affect other people, and this is the core of the fundamentalist's moral argument. Provocative actions do just that--provoke--and while we may not know an individual's motives for doing so, we can certainly say that the women who display this behaviour draw attention, and, according to the fundamentalist, lead to moral corruption. While words like "moral corruption" are vague, we can assume that what the fundamentalist means includes the following: sexual feelings and desires incited in others (for the purposes of this blog post we will assume these other people are men, since allowance of homosexuality will unnecessarily complicate things, and of course, to paraphrase one president, homosexuality does not exist in Iran), possibly leading to "illicit" sex (i.e. sex out of wedlock), both of which are acceptable in a liberal society, but not in a fundamentalist one. And yet, even within liberal society we allow the judgement to pass. Perhaps the reason for this stems from a fear that the "culprit" will provoke (our own) married men, who have vowed to remain sexually faithful to one person. If this is the reason, the judgement is still uncalled-for, as faithfulness of the married man is his responsibility, not the "provocative" woman's.

Let me be a little more clear. There exists, quite unfortunately, an argument among fundamentalists (I assume all over the world, but I am particularly familiar with this among Iranians, and internalized even by women), which suggests that a woman's behaviour and degree of covering are responsible for the feelings and actions of men towards her. This is not usually directly stated, but the suggestion that "faulty" covering leads to "moral corruption" means just that. The danger of the argument: it is a thin cloak for the justification of rape. I have seen a number of disturbing documentary or news videos and articles regarding rape by officials in Iran, and while I can not verify the truth of any of them with complete certainty, and know that most fundamentalists will deny their veracity, I strongly suspect that many are true.

The fundamentalists, of course, when faced with this kind of story, will cite Western influence as the problem, which has led to censorship of movies, a ban on satellite T.V., and blocking of many internet sites. This kind of action not only infringes on further rights, but is fundamentally misguided. It has only led to a very active black market for uncensored versions of Western movies and creative use of VPN and various other strategies to access the internet. Not only that, but the very idea that these images (often very innocent ones, by our liberal Western standards) are the source of sexual desire is laughable. A young population is sexually driven by nature, and in a society that enforces sexual starvation, rape will occur. No external influence necessary.

And that is just the problem. The fundamentalist nature of the current Iranian regime breeds men who, because they can not satisfy their sexual desires naturally, resort to rape (not only of "provocative" women, but also of younger boys). This is true both of the "rebellious" youth, but also of older men and officials, who, because of the very prevalent misogyny embedded in the culture, think nothing of blaming the woman (who perhaps very innocently wished to express a sense of style and differentiate herself from the swarm of black chadors and got stopped by the morality-police, or perhaps with youthful naivete bred by sexual segregation sought friendship with a young man she thought attractive).

Misogyny in Iran is very real, and the rape culture it breeds is inexcusable. It takes a very long time to change a culture, but perhaps expressing the need is the first step.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Women Without Men

I recently watched the movie Women Without Men, by Shirin Neshat. There was no Wikipedia article, so I decided to start one. The following is my summary of the movie. Because it is sure to be mercilessly edited there, I am keeping a copy here. 

Disclaimer: Spoiler Alert!

The film begins with the sound of Adhaan. A woman is standing on the rooftop in some distress, contemplating jumping. Finally, she does so in slow motion, with the narration "now there was only silence, and nothing else". The scene shifts to a rivulet, and the narration continues "and I think the only way to be freed from pain is to be freed from the world." The camera pans over the rivulet and over a garden, a returning motif throughout the film.
In the next scene, the same woman, whose name we find out is Munes, is listening to political news on the radio. Her brother enters and tells her to turn it off, and that a suitor is coming for her that night. She tells him she does not want a husband. Her brother gets angry, and tells her he is going to work and she must prepare dinner. If she leaves the house he will break her legs.
The scene shifts to the protests in the street. People are chanting "Durood bar Mosaddegh, Marg bar Engelis" (Long live Mosaddegh, Death to Britain). A young woman is riding a taxi through the crowd.
The girl, Faezeh, arrives at Munes's house. They discuss the events outside, with Faezeh calling the protestors "a bunch with nothing to do", and Munes stating that they themselves should be outside protesting. But Faezeh only seems interested in Munes's brother, and asks if it is true that he is getting married. Munes nods.
The scene shifts to a very thin woman, sitting on a bed. An older woman calls "Zarrin" from downstairs. The older woman, whom we learn is running a brothel, calls Zarrin again, saying that a customer has arrived. We now see Zarrin, the prostitute, putting on makeup. The scene changes to Zarrin lying on the bed, which is moving (due to a man, off-camera, having sex with her). Zarrin does not appear to be wearing the lipstick she applied earlier. She appears completely detached, as if she wishes she were elsewhere. The man gets up and dresses. As Zarrin gets up and washes her face, the Madame is calling her again. Zarrin curls into a corner and seems to be sobbing as the woman tells her there is another customer.
Another man appears in Zarrin's room. She is lying, detached, on the bed. He strokes her. Suddenly, she sees the man. He appears to her to be faceless. Zarrin runs out of the brothel with the Madame calling after her.
The scene shifts to another woman, riding in a car. She arrives at a military event, where an officer is being honoured. We learn that this is her husband. In the meantime, the woman is speaking to a young man, who has returned from abroad. Later, they are still talking and her husband arrives and she introduces them. At home, the husband berates his wife's friend. She is upset and tells him to leave her alone. He tells her she is becoming old and that if she is unable to satisfy him sexually he can get another wife. Crying, she says she is tired of him and leaves the room.
The scene shifts to Faezeh and Munes in the garden of Munes' home. Faezeh is gossiping about the woman that Munes' brother is planning to marry. She says she thinks that she may not even be a virgin. Munes says she is not even sure if she is a virgin, because when she was a child she was told to "stop climbing trees or your virginity will be torn". Her brother arrives and Munes says she and Faezeh are leaving. The brother shouts at her and she runs into the house. He offers Faezeh a ride home.
The scene changes to a women's bath. Zarrin is there, wearing a long (a traditional Iranian piece of cloth used to cover the body in a public bath). A woman dallak (a person whose job is to help people wash themselves in a public bath) offers to help her but she refuses. She is extremely skinny, and when she opens the long to bathe we see her protuding ribs. She proceeds to scrub her body vigorously, so hard that her skin becomes raw and red, and appears to be bleeding. When everyone has left she is still scrubbing.
The scene shifts to Faezeh and Amir Khaan exiting the house. They find Munes, apparently dead, in the street (she seems to have jumped from the roof while they were getting ready). Amir buries her in the garden as Faezeh looks on. The scene changes to a group of mourning women in black chadors. Zarrin, in a white flowered chador, walks by. She has a scowl on her face. She continues walking and gets to a group of men in prostration during prayer. She stands in front of them for a while, and when they get up she scampers away, through an archway and into the night. She walks until daybreak onto a dirt road, and the rivulet from the beginning of the film appears again. She walks into it and through a hole in a dirt wall, leaving her chador behind. She is now in the garden, which has tall trees and singing birds.
The scene changes to the military wife, who arrives at a restaurant where her friend is having a sociopolitical discussion with a group of artists. Later, when they are alone, the young man recites some poetry to her, and asks whether she still writes poetry and sings. He tells her she seems sad, and she says she is going to Karaj to see a garden. She has decided to leave her husband, Sadr. In the next scene she is being driven along the dirt road. She steps out of the luxury car and arrives at the gate. A man, apparently the same one we saw earlier stroking Zarrin, opens the door. He says that he has been waiting for her. He takes her to a beautiful, quaint villa house. The interior, while luxurious, is filled with dust. She asks the man how long he has been there, and he says that he has been there for as long as he can remember. The woman examines the house. There are books and instruments, but the place is covered in cobwebs.
Later, she walks into the garden. She looks into a river, where Zarrin is lying in her short reddish dress. Peaceful music plays. The woman gets the man, who carries Zarrin into the house.
The scene shifts to Faezeh, who is with an old magician woman, who gives her a spell to bury in Amir Khan's garden to curse his new bride and have him fall in love with her. Later, as she is doing so, she hears Munes' voice from the ground. Munes tells Faezeh that she can no longer breathe, and Faezeh digs her out of the ground. Munes then walks into the howz and immerses herself in the water.
Later, Munes and Faezeh go out to a cafe. Munes enters to listen to the radio, but Faezeh stays behind, saying that this is no place for a woman. Noticing two men looking at her she quickly walks away. The men follow her. Munes continues to listen to the radio. At night, she walks out to find Faezeh curled up into a ball and crying. Munes finds out that Faezeh has been raped. The next scene shows them walking along the dirt road. Munes tells Faezeh to knock on the door and enter, but that she herself must return to Tehran. Faezeh begs Munes not to leave her there alone, but enters nonetheless. Walking through the trees, she prays to God to forgive her "sin". Hearing singing, she walks and finally arrives at the house, where she finds the military wife. She tells her that she has lost her way and asks for water. She then sees Zarrin lying on a bed.
The scene now shifts to a street in Tehran. We see Munes, who becomes absorbed by a young man who is telling people to band together and fight the injustice. He shouts "long live freedom" as he scampers away (probably to avoid authorities). Later, he is in a cafe listening to the radio. Munes arrives and asks if he is a member of the Tudeh Party. He asks if she is too. She shakes her head and he gives her a pamphlet, saying he hopes to see her again, as he leaves.
We see a crowd in the street shouting the same slogans as before. The crowd is wearing white, and Munes, standing among them, is wearing a black chador. She says that this time, she is here, "Not only to look, but to see. Not only to be, but to do"
The scene shifts to Faezeh, who is praying. Noticing the man from the garden outside her window, she interrupts her prayer and rushes to close it, darkening the room.
We enter a dark dreamscape where Munes is calling Faezeh's name. Confused voices. Quiet. Faezeh looks around. Foreboding music. She watches herself, lying on the ground, as the two men rape her. The Faezeh on the ground appears to be smiling.
Now the real Faezeh is sitting on the ground in the garden, and the colors (bright green as in most of the film) have returned to normal. A much healthier-looking Zarrin arrives and they walk away together. Faezeh awakes in bed next to a bed occupied by Zarrin, who does indeed appear to be gaining weight and health. She strokes Zarrin's face, then walks out of the house without her chador, her long tresses covering her shoulders. She arrives in a field of red flowers. Zarrin is sitting there, folding and planting paper flowers.
Zarrin now sits at a table for tea with the woman and Faezeh.
The scene shifts to a meeting among members of the Tudeh Party, including the young man Munes met earlier. An announcement is made that the British government has declared Mosaddegh's government illegal and plans to stage a coup d'etat. During the night, they distribute flyers under doors.
During the day, people continue to protest. A man is speaking on a megaphone, claiming the Shah has run away, but the danger of a coup-d'etat is still imminent.
The scene shifts back to the house in the garden. Faezeh is in her room, in front of a mirror. She unbuttons her dress and looks at herself in the nude.
The older woman is sitting with Zarrin at a table outside, and tells her she looks much better. Faezeh arrives and the woman announces she wants to "open the garden doors" and have a party. Faezeh likes the idea, but Zarrin frowns.
Later that night, a tree mysteriously falls through one of the windows.
We later see Zarrin lying in some green outside, scowling. Munes' narration: "The garden is turning. Under this great weight, it seems sick. Now, there is no way back, and no peace"
Now we see a different group of protesters, saying "Javid Shah" (long live the Shah). The collide with Mossadegh's supporters. Gunshots. Munes is seen among Mossadegh's supporters. She is no longer wearing a chador.
The gardener walks into the house, carrying Zarrin, who seems to have fallen ill again. The woman tells him to put her in her room (she is preparing the living room for the party).
The guests begin to arrive. Music plays. A woman gossips about the hostess having left her husband and come here. A man recites poetry (Saadi). Amir Khaan (Karimi) arrives to see Faezeh. She is tending to Zarrin. The woman tells her that Amir Khaan has arrived. People drink "to the health of the Shah's rule". When Amir sees Faezeh, he asks her what has happened to her hijab, who are these corrupt people she has gathered around herself, and whether she still prays. He says he has come to take her hand and not to worry about his other wife, who will act as a servant to her. Faezeh replies "and perhaps when you get tired of me you I will serve your third wife" and exits in anger.
The guests have gathered and are listening to a man singing a melancholy song. The young male friend of the hostess arrives, and introduces his English-speaking fiancee.
Police arrive, asking about the garden's owner. The search the place, and sit down to a luxurious dinner. The guests ask who they are looking for (the Tudehs, or Mossadegh's supporters). Another guest states that "It doesn't matter. Opposition is opposition. We are all Shah-supporters here". The singing man begins to sing and play again.
The scene switches to a marriage gathering, where the Tudehs are present. It appears that the celebration may simply be a front for their publishing activities. Munes is in a room at the back where some political discussion is taking place. One of their members has been taken by the police and they are discussing whether he will talk under torture.
At the garden party, a soldier is praising his country to the foreign guest. Her fiance thanks Fakhri and asks her to sing. Faezeh sits with Zarrin, who is sweating. A police raid begins. At the same time, the Tudeh publishing room and wedding party are raided. The captured boy, who appears beaten, arrives with the police. Munes's young friend gets in a scuffle with a young soldier, whom he kills with a knife. Munes cries over the soldier's body.
Back at the garden party, Faezeh walks into the room where Fakhri is singing, crying. As the guests applaud, Fakhri realizes that Zarrin has died. She quietly makes her way to her, touches her forehead, and weeps over her body. Birds begin to sing as the morning light enter through the window. Faezeh exits into the courtyard, followed by Fakhri. The camera pans over the forest and then to the sky. As Munes narrates "Death is not difficult. It is imagining it that is difficult. It seems that what we were all looking for, was finding a new shape, a new way towards freedom", she is seen falling from the rooftop in slow motion once again.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Back to Blogging

Here I am, once again apologizing for a long overdue post.

The apology is more to myself than anyone else, really, seeing as this blog probably has, by an optimistic estimate, a handful of readers.

It's been several years since I started this blog, and, young as I was, I've changed a great deal since then. What I said then will be very different from anything I'll say from here on. If I were to rewrite this blog now, the opinions I'd express would be very different, and in some cases, perhaps antithetical to what I've said before. This is all very fine, and now brings to mind a quotation whose author I have forgotten, about how a thinking man's opinions swing like a pendulum throughout his lifetime, rather than being adopted without considerations from those of his forefathers. So, as I add to this online collection of my own thoughts, bear in mind, dear reader, that these thoughts are subject to change, and that I may once again oppose them. However, I can not say that if I ever do, I will be back where I had started four or five or six years ago. Experience will have ripened my opinions, and they will be richer, more colourful, and more informed.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Conscious Consumer

Hello again!

Today I had an idea. I'm going to start a new blog. Although it is not totally out of the scope of this blog, the topic is more specific, and I figure it will get more attention for what it is if the title is more apt.

My parents taught me thrift, and as a young teen, when I began to make my own purchases, I took a couple factors (and maybe a third) into consideration. These were: price, quality, and pleasure. That is, when choosing a product to purchase, I would opt for the cheapest item that worked, but being the sensual being that I am, I would be willing to spend a little extra for, say, a fruity-scented soap bar over a plain one. But within the past couple of years, my measures have changed. And this makes decision-making a little more difficult.

With all the (recent) hype about "going green", stores are now stocking their shelves with more environmentally friendly products alongside the "regular" ones. In addition, alternatives are appearing to products containing potentially harmful chemicals. Given the alarming study results (which I unfortunately can't cite at the moment, but remember reading about at some point) that cancer rates are increasing, human hormones are being affected, and that fertility is on the decline, it is difficult not to feel troubled. We blame chemicals in our food and the products we use daily, but how can we avoid them? I personally was aware of certain of the "bad" ingredients in toiletries and make-up several years ago, but given that practically all the products I found contained them, I didn't make an effort to avoid them. But recently I have decided to put in that extra effort, and in order to help out others with the same ideals in mind, I am going to put the information I gain in the public view.

I now make my purchases with the following in mind:

-Quality--Is the product effective?
-Health hazards/benefits -I try to avoid known toxic chemicals and look for beneficial (usually natural) ones.
-Environmental impact - I try to go with biodegradable, nontoxic products as much as possible.
-Pleasure- yummy to taste, touch and smell!
-Price-I don't want my wallet getting too thin!
-Country/company of origin-purchasing local products reduces CO2 emissions. But I also want to support smaller, grassroots companies (and those dealing in fair trade) and avoid companies known to be either unfair to their workers or not concerned with some of the other factors above (such as environmental impact).

So my new blog will work as follows. Every week will have a theme (the type of product). Every day there will be a featured product. I will probably change this scheme to month/week once I have a decent number of posts, because I can't really test a product every day (unless I get rich or someone decides to sponsor me or send me samples ^_^). Anyway, every post will review and rate a particular product according to the factors above, and I will give information as to where it can be purchased (since I need that information myself). (Note: I'm not trying to promote any company, simply providing information ^_^.)

I will post the link to the new blog once I've created it.


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

All these thoughts!

Well, I think I'd better share instead of keeping them to myself...

Today, as I was walking to the university campus from the metro station, I was thinking...

It's funny how when people want to recruit others towards their own beliefs, they often set about attacking the beliefs of others. In particular, I was thinking about certain videos I had recently seen on YouTube, published by (if I remember the name correctly) "atheistmediablog" or somesuch. The videos contained some laughable content attacking Islam. The interesting thing is, the beliefs being portrayed are neither scientific nor representative of the teachings of Islam or the beliefs of most reasonable Muslims. I believe they call this type of portrayal the "straw man fallacy": attacking a weak form of an argument (which is often an inaccurate representation) in an attempt to bring down the argument as a whole. I personally did not feel threatened by these videos, nor, do I believe, should any reasonable person. The problem I have is that these videos are a misrepresentation of what the people posting them are attacking (Islam), and this does no good for them. That is, any rational person would be able to distinguish that even if the said videos show that Islam, as a worldview, is wrong (something that they fail to do), they do nothing to promote atheism as a system of belief. I'm just surprised at the number of such things that spring up across the Internet.

I welcome your thoughts.