June 29th, 2007


Inside the Red Mosque

The UK's INDEPENDENT provides an upbeat look at Islamabad's Red Mosque, which I've mentioned before:

When The Independent visited the mosque, there was no sign of any masseuses, though there were plenty of young men, some thickly bearded and some with just the softest buzz of wispy facial hair. Plenty were carrying semi-automatic rifles. Most were very friendly.

I bet they were. The masseuse thing refers to the fact that they'd just kidnapped a bunch of Chinese masseuses they accused of being prostitutes. The Chinese government protested. When the women were released, they were forced to wear burkas.

Yet while the mosque usually makes headlines for its apparent extremism - its defence of suicide-bombing, its alleged link to one of the 7/7 bombers or else the exploits of its baton-wielding morality brigades - the mosque also campaigns vociferously for rights of individuals who have been locked up in Pakistani jails or else simply "disappeared".

You bet they do. Because *they* want to decide who gets locked up or disappeared. Revolution 101. The INDEPENDENT's treatment veers between astonishingly credulous and occasionally snarky:

The code of the Red Mosque - whose seminaries contain upwards of 8,000 students - is strict. Officials readily admit they do not permit music or games and they denounce activities such as kite-flying. They explain that by saying they believe an individual's time on earth is limited and should therefore not be wasted on such pursuits. A poster showing paint colour samples attached to the wall of Mr Ghazi's office did, however, suggest that while music and play was banned, interior design was not considered ungodly.

Everybody's talking about Iran in the presidential debates of both parties. And they should be. But nobody's talking about Pakistan. And they *really* should be. Because the Pakistani government is going to fall, and then we're looking at Taliban II. With nukes.

Have a nice day.

The TRANSFORMERS movie is worth it just for this

On one hand, I grew up with the Transformers. On the other, I hate Michael Bay. So, I should be torn over the forthcoming movie, right? Is it a good thing or a bad thing? Does it matter?

And the answer is: no, it does not. Because it means we get what is officially the best product tie-in for any movie ever: the Optimus Prime Voice-Changer Helmet. It is *seriously* awesome. I got one for my friend Ash for his birthday, and promptly wound up playing with it quite a lot as soon as he unwrapped it. For starters: it is a plastic helmet shaped like the head of Optimus Prime. That you can wear. This ALONE would get it points. It's a gorgeous sculpt, very impressively made, and it's well worth the money just for that. But it also has a switch/button combo that, when you hit it, makes your voice into a simulacrum of Optimus Prime's. OK, you do not, in fact, sound exactly like Peter Cullen, but you can get sorta kinda close to a robotified version of yourself doing your best impression of Peter Cullen. AND THAT AIN'T BAD. Especially if you decide to start experimenting with things that Optimus Prime would never, ever say:

ASH. "I love you, Rodimus."
HINES. "No, really, say something Optimus would never say."

(He is going to wear the Prime Helmet to the film premiere. Oh, yes, he is. For the record: our favorite thing Optimus would never say was, "Fuck you, Bumblebee.")