Friday, January 06, 2006

Interesting article about an Egyptian independent movie... I wonder if this movie would ever see the light! (not only is there a couple making out on a bus, which from what I hear is not that rare these days, but in addition to that the woman is veiled)

Egypt film tackles thorny issues of sex, hypocrisy
By Amil Khan Wed Jan 4, 8:12 AM ET

CAIRO (Reuters) - A young man on the back of a Cairo bus kisses and gropes the woman next to him as he peels off her Islamic headscarf.

The scene from an independent film about sex and double standards in Egypt shows little nudity but provokes gasps of surprise from an audience in this largely conservative country.
Director Ahmed Khaled's 14-minute film, the Fifth Pound, follows the weekly bus journey of a young man and woman who dodge the suspicious glances of other passengers and exploit the unused back seats to indulge in physical intimacy.

Cairo has a long-established film industry and is traditionally regarded as the center of Arab artistic production but themes linking sex and religion remain largely untouched by film makers in the Islamic nation.

In Khaled's film, verses from the Koran, the Islamic holy book, play in the bus as the driver smokes and steals glances in his rear-view mirror of the young man and the woman, who wears an Islamic headscarf.

Khaled says most venues in Egypt, the Arab world's most populous nation, have refused to show his film because its subject matter could draw criticism in a country where the veil is seen by many as the height of female respectability.

But many young Egyptians say the setting is entirely realistic. They say use of public buses as a setting for romantic encounters is so common the air-conditioned vehicles favored by couples have earned the nickname "mobile beds."

"The film is about double standards in our society, about how people try to portray themselves in one way and then behave in a different conflicting way," said Khaled, who financed much of the film with his own money.

"There are a lot of things that happen in Egyptian society that Egyptians don't like to talk about," he added.


Independent film makers in Egypt seeking to tackle controversial issues often struggle finding funds to make the films, and, once done, they cannot always raise the cash to show them at festivals at home or abroad, he said.

"The people who make the decisions, those people in the government cultural centers, they like safe films that don't break any boundaries," he said.

Among the boundaries that young Egyptian women want to challenge is the preferential treatment reserved for men.

"What will shock people about this film is the fact that it's a woman, and a woman in a veil at that, who is doing these things ... but no one says anything about what men are doing," said Rania al-Far, who attended a rare screening of the film.

The film shows the young couple board the bus and pay the driver 4 Egyptian pounds ($0.70) for two tickets before shuffling past other suspicious passengers on their way to the back seats.

"The scariest thing is the mirror which looks over the bus and which is used by the driver to see what happens in the back," the young man says in the film, addressing the audience.
The bus driver keeps looking at the couple through the mirror as if waiting to catch them indulging in illicit activity.

As the bus continues its journey through the streets of Cairo, the film cuts to a dream sequence where the driver walks to the back of the bus, takes the young man's seat and begins to kiss and disrobe the woman.

"That's double standards ... The driver is playing the Koran in the bus and watching the couple as if he is a moral guardian but inside his head he fantasizes about being the one who is with the girl," said Khaled.

As the couple leave the bus, the young man hands the driver an extra, fifth, pound.
"He knows nothing, and you did nothing," the young man adds in the narration.

Khaled said he was trying to show that some people give the impression of religiosity and ascetic piety but secretly covet worldly attractions such as money and sex.
"We have a lot of problems and issues in Egypt but we are not going to deal with them if we pretend they are not there," he added.

Article Link

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

This poem was written by a 4th year doctoral student at my school. She incorporates biblical teachings into a therapeutic situation. I loved this poem, so here it is!

Therapist’s Love Creed
(Based on 1 Corinthians 13:4-8)
1. Love suffers long – I will keep working with you even when it seems you are making no progress.
2. Love is kind – I will treat you with respect and continually appreciate the fact that you have chosen me to help you.
3. Love does not envy – I will not act jealous when you compare me to your old therapist.
4. Love does not parade itself – I will not boast at your improvements and say look what I did.
5. Love is not puffed up – I will not tell you that I am the only person that can help you or make you think that without me you are nothing.
6. Love does not behave rudely – I will not pressure you for not opening up fast enough.
7. Love does not seek its own – I will not use you and your circumstances to make myself feel better or make you feel like you are a paycheck to me.
8. Love is not provoked – I will not answer you in anger even when you want me to.
9. Love thinks no evil – I will think the best of you no matter what you do or how you think of yourself.
10. Love does not rejoice in iniquity – I will not encourage you to do the things I know will hurt you.
11. Love rejoices in the truth – I will get excited when you share with me the things that have haunted you that you have been too afraid to tell someone else about.
12. Love bears all things – I will believe that no matter what bothers you we can handle it together or I can find someone that can help you better than I can.
13. Love believes all things –I will believe you are telling me the truth as long as you believe it is the truth no matter how strange things sound.
14. Love hopes all things – I will always have your betterment in mind. I will believe that you can reach your goals.
15. Love endures all things – I will strive no matter how hard it gets to get you to a better place.
16. Love never fails – I will not give up on you even if you give up on yourself.

R. C. V.

Friday, December 16, 2005

guess who?

Is hatred a mental illness?

I just read an article in abut recent proposals from some mental health professionals to include hate (in iforms of racism, prejudice, etc.), naming it "pathological bias" as a mental disorder. I think that the idea is rediculous, our society is medicalized enough as it is. We do not need to medicalize hate as a pathology because medicalizing it, excuses it on some level. I believe prejudicial bias can result or be manifested in symptoms of several mental disorders but in itself, I doubt it can be basis for a seperate diagnosis. The article also raises a good point about the possibility of abusing such a diagnoses in our courts and the criminal justice system to excuse bigotry and hate crimes.

An alternative to Marijuana?

A new study suggests that a new antidepressant drug being developed in Canada, has a lot of the same effects that Marijuana has on relieving pain and symptoms of depression ( Could this be the beginning of the end for the fight to legalize or medicalize marijuana, I sure hope so! According to the research, this new drug is supposed to be non-addictive and safer than marijuana and even more effective than some of the antidepressants out there today!

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Pride and Prejudice

This is not a book or a movie review, just some thoughts I had as I watched the latest pride and prejudice movie.

Jane Austen does paint a beautiful picture of an imperfect world. The beauty of her work lies in her ability to makes us wonder about ourselves and our realities. I believe the magic in her work is in the portrayal of her heroines as strong women and men that make up their own minds and decide their own destinies. Despite their time and the suppressive and sexist nature dominating it, women of character still somehow managed to emerge and overcome all the idiosyncrasies of a patriarchal society. A woman with a character and a brain seemed to be portrayed as a burden to herself and her family but Jane Austen managed to make that woman a winner despite all odds.

I wonder if and how much different women today are. I wonder if in this day and age women are still socialized as incomplete, inferior, and subordinate to men. I wonder if independent women are still viewed as somehow a burden to themselves and those close to them. I also wonder if the independent, strong, and powerful women are happy in the end, like they are in Austen’s wonderful and hopeful stories.

Sometimes, others say it better...

I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious
-Albert Einstein

Clarity of mind means clarity of passion, too; this is why a great and clear mind loves ardently and sees distinctly what it loves.
Blaise Pascal (1623 - 1662)

I believe love is primarily a choice and only sometimes a feeling. If you want to feel love, choose to love and be patient.
Real Live Preacher

To repeat what others have said, requires education; to challenge it, requires brains.
Mary Pettibone Poole, A Glass Eye at a Keyhole, 1938

Every man is guilty of all the good he didn't do.

Judge of a man by his questions rather than by his answers.

I may disagree with what you have to say, but I shall defend to the death your right to say it.

Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.
Mahatma Gandhi

One needs to be slow to form convictions, but once formed they must be defended against the heaviest odds.
Mahatma Gandhi

An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.
Mahatma Gandhi

Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes.
Mahatma Gandhi

The statistics on sanity are that one out of every four Americans is suffering from some form of mental illness. Think of your three best friends. If they're okay, then it's you.
Rita Mae Brown

One of My Favorite Movies

This was a movie review that I wrote for one of my undergraduate criminology classes. I wrote this a few years ago but I still love the movie. I had a lot of fun watching it and writing about it, mostly because of its psychological underlying themes :)


Memento is a brilliant psychological thriller about vengeance, corruption, rage and the human brain. The movie has great plot and impressive directing. It makes the viewer think all the way through it and even after the ending. Memory is the element of the human psyche that this movie revolves around. Memory is the power or process of reproducing or recalling what has been learned and retained from an organism's activity or experience, especially through associative mechanisms. Memory shapes our personalities and attitudes, one would never learn, fear, love, or be capable of any human emotion if the experiences that lead to these emotions can not be remembered. Memory deficits are extremely difficult to deal with.

In Memento, the lead character Leonard Shelby during his wife’s assault and rape incident sustains damage to his hippocampus (part of the brain that is responsible for memory functions). This damage resulted in a memory dysfunction called anterograde amnesia, characterized by the inability to form new long term memories. Leonard employs the use of Polaroid pictures, tattoos, and notes to compensate for his inability to form new lasting memories. The interesting notion here is that whether memories are stored in our heads or in pictures and tattoos, they are still faulty and unreliable. We see and remember things the way we want to remember them based on experiences and personal attitudes and labels we attribute to certain things. This and personal biases is probably why eyewitness testimony is not especially reliable. Leonard’s snap shots, personal notes and tattoos were his memory log. His memory log just like ours was corrupted by false labels. Whether the false labels were a result of his own manipulation or that of others (Teddy and Natalie) is not the issue, the issue is that those false memories become real to that person, they become life’s points of reference. They become the truth.

This movie’s themes of vengeance and truth will be discussed in this essay. Criminal aspects will also be addressed. Is Leonard Shelby a serial killer? Is he accountable for his crimes?

Vengeance seems to be the core of this movie. Leonard and Natalie’s characters are seeking revenge. Natalie is seeking vengeance for her murdered fiancé jimmy (the drug dealer) from Teddy. Leonard’s purpose and goal in life is to seek vengeance for his wife’s rape and murder. He conditions himself to think that she was raped and murdered by a John G., when in fact she survived the rape and assault and only died testing his memory by repeatedly asking for insulin shots, that he indeed administered. He blocked that part of his past out by dissociating himself from it through the story of Sammy Jankis and his wife. This brings about a question, how is it that Leonard remembered the insulin incident and incorporated it in Sammy’s story, if it took place after the rape and therefore after his head injury and his memory condition? Could it be that he was faking the disorder and he was the one who indeed murdered his wife knowingly and purposefully? Or perhaps his condition was temporary or just psychological and selective in nature where he could remember some things. Regardless of the answer to that question, it is evident that Leonard did not care what the truth is. Leonard needed to continue on his vengeance quest for John Gs (probably indefinitely) to give meaning to his life and existence. The truth would deprive Leonard of a sense of purpose and substitute it with a sense of helplessness and perhaps guilt.

Teddy, the crooked cop, knew the truth. He was the only omniscient character in this film. He knew Leonard’s condition, he knew what happened to his wife, and he knew that Leonard’s existence is based on vengeance and lies. According to Teddy, Leonard already found and killed his John G. but since he didn’t remember, Teddy took advantage of his condition and kept him killing under the impression that he was killing the John G. that raped and murdered his wife. Teddy in this movie exemplifies greed and corruption. He took advantage of Leonard’s handicap for his own good. He took part in transforming Leonard into a serial killer. When Teddy confronted Leonard with the truth, Leonard’s reality and purpose was threatened. He had to protect his fantasy world, where he is the victim and the hero. Leonard’s dilemma in his own words “Can I just make myself forget what you told me, can I make myself forget what you made me do”, he decides to forget indeed, he burns the picture of dead jimmy and makes a note on Teddy’s picture that says “DO NOT BELIEVE HIS LIES” . Leonard then makes Teddy his next John G. by tattooing his car license plate number as one of his facts that will inevitably lead him to Teddy as the John G. that raped and murdered his wife. The truth then will die with Teddy and the cycle will continue. Leonard will never remember he has avenged his wife’s supposed murder and will continue to murder John Gs until stopped. Leonard has become a serial killer.

Although it is unclear how many John Gs Leonard has murdered, it has to be at least three (real John G, Jimmy, and Teddy). According to the FBI homicide typology, a serial killer is one who kills 3 or more people in separate events and locations with an emotional cooling-off period between incidents. Emotional cooling-off, meaning the killer is not in a continuous state of rage between killing incidents. Fantasy plays a major role in a serial killer’s motivation and usually serial murders are premeditated. Leonard killed at least 3 people in 3 different events and locations; he wasn’t in a continuous raging emotional state; and fantasy definitely played a part in his motives. Leonard’s fantasy world left him guilt free. He led himself to believe he is a victim and a hero with an honorable quest for vengeance. His anterogade amnesia condition helped him or rather he used and took advantage of his own condition to help him. He manipulated his memories by conditioning new memories to replace the old unfavorable ones (Sammy Jankis story) and by destroying any mementos that would threaten his fantasy world. Finally, Leonard’s murders were premeditated. Therefore, Leonard by definition is a serial killer but can he be held accountable?

To be held accountable and responsible for one’s actions one has to be aware of the consequences and acting on free will. Leonard is accountable for at least two of the murders he committed during the span of the movie. He is accountable for murdering the first John G. because that was his plan all along to find him and kill him for vengeance. He had made the decision to take the law into his hand and avenge his wife’s rape and assault. He is also accountable for Teddy’s murder because he knew his actions (the license plate number tattoo and the note on the Polaroid) would lead him to kill him. At that point he was also aware that he had already killed his John G. Accountability is questionable in Jimmy’s murder because he was supposedly unaware that he had already killed his John G. but again, he purposefully chose not to somehow remind himself that he did kill John g. Leonard could have tattooed that he got his revenge on the spot on his chest that he was saving just for that. He chose not to, he chose to keep on going in circles and searches for more John Gs. What else would Leonard do with his life if he is not on his honorable quest for vengeance?

Memento was an overall great movie with several important messages. It explored the human mind and weaknesses. Leonard’s character was the protagonist and the antagonist in this movie. Of course, that is only apparent towards the end of the movie when the viewer realizes that the only one taking advantage of Leonard’s condition is Leonard himself.