Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder

13 May 2004, 9:55 a.m.

Media Revue

Hi, reader. I wrote this in 2004 and it's now more than five years old. So it may be very out of date; the world, and I, have changed a lot since I wrote it! I'm keeping this up for historical archive purposes, but the me of today may 100% disagree with what I said then. I rarely edit posts after publishing them, but if I do, I usually leave a note in italics to mark the edit and the reason. If this post is particularly offensive or breaches someone's privacy, please contact me.

All three of these bits of media experience have something to do with the Middle East! And I didn't even intend it.

Last night's Enterprise provoked even more US/Middle East Allegory babble in me. The sphere-builders are... Ahmad Chalabi! No, the neocons! Ahmad Chalabi is the leader of the Reptilians. No, the reptilian is Prince Bandar! Tucker is Ted Olson! And the Council is... OPEC? a "Mirror, Mirror" UN?

The Council seems really legitimate as a government to everyone in it except the Reptilians, which I guess makes the Reptilians like the US. Are the Insectoids Britain?

Also, Enterprise pulled off a surprisingly assertive mix of heavy exposition, lighthearted banter, trippy sci-fi sets, and suspenseful plot. Good stuff.

West Wing broke my heart in "Gaza." The West Wing thesis on Israel/Palestine resembles Everything Is Ruined's:

"Forget it Jake, it's Jerusalem." Jerusalem is Chinatown. There's nothing you can do. It's a place where there is no right answer. You ask Jake what he did in Chinatown, and he says, "As little as possible." (That's also what he murmurs to himself at the very end of the movie.) "Chinatown" means basically what Heart of Darkness means for Conrad: it's the dark place where every action is a mistake.

The new NSC character, I like. Will Bailey's impatience with nuance discussions, not so much. The huge expository dialogue chunks, a crazed hive-mind talking to itself, I liked. How else to think about the Middle Eastern ourobouros?

Reading Conversion and the Poll Tax in Early Islam by Daniel Dennett, Jr. From the Introduction:

...Nevertheless, all the contributions to the literature of Muslim taxation within the last forty years have been monographic in character and limited in area to particular provinces of the Arab Empire, with the result that there is no single work to which a student who might be interested in the general problem to turn; and if he attempts to master the secondary literature, he will discover so many conflicting data and opinions that his confusion will be increased rather than resolved. This book, therefore, attempts to present a broad view of the system of taxation as it existed in East and West throughout the lands once subject to the Persians and the Greeks, and it is based on all the evidence the writer has been able to discover. It is not, however, a synthesis of the latest opinion, for, as the reader will presently discover, I have views of my own and an axe to grind....

The Introduction's breezy style belies the density of the main text, well, to me. I don't know much about the Ottoman Empire or really a systematic world history at all. Perhaps Charles Adams's For Good And Evil: The Impact of Taxes on the Course of Civilization will provide me with a proper framework.