Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown

I very recently read this book.

If you are among the one or two that haven't yet read the book, the story revolves around Robert Langdon, a symbologist from Harvard and Sophie Neveu, a French Cryptographer. Robert Langdon is woken up in the middle of the night while on a trip to Paris to be told that the curator of the Louvre museum has been killed and the police need his help to solve the crime.
There, he meets with a beautiful French cryptographer, Sophie Neveu. I wonder if there will ever be a female heroine in a novel who is not beautiful. You know, why couldn't have Sophie Neveu been a plain looking French cryptographer? Makes no difference to the story. But, I digress..

Anyway, the dying curator has left enough clues that Sophie and Robert alone can crack because a. Robert Langdon knows a lot of historic symbology b. Sophie knows a lot of cryptography. The novel then develops into a rollicking adventure involving a lot of history about The Holy Grail, early Christianity, shadowy secret societies like the Priory of Sion, extreme religious groups like The Opus Dei and a mysterious villain known only as The Teacher.

The author, through his characters, takes a lot of shots at the catholic church and present-day Christian religious dogma. He feels that the history of Jesus of Nazareth has been thoroughly distorted by the church to further its own patriarchical agenda.

This book caused a flurry of reactions in the popular press, at least in the US. Refutations, refutations of the refutations etc. Lots of dust :-)

Without going into the facts behind the book, I felt that it was a good book, with taut storytelling, remniscent of Ludlum at his best. I really liked the way that history was woven into the story through the means of the symbologist and the historian. Quite cool and interesting history too!


A bit predictable, I could figure out who The Teacher was and that Sophie was of the Merovingian line.

I also felt that the book copped out in a big way. So he knows where the grail is, but he wont do anything about it. YEAH RIGHT!. If the author (and Langdon) feel so strongly about the Church putting down the feminine side, why not release the docs and make the church pay for its transgressions? This whole bit about 'The Grail is attractive only because it is hidden' was, in my opinion, a major cop-out.

Also,that bit about 'But the feminine is being slowly given prominence as we realised what damage has been wrought by the masculine so why bother releasing the grail documents' is also wishy washy crap.

If a religion is subverting the teachings of its founder, and you have the means to expose it, you certainly should. To me, that's a no-brainer.Let us say that Moses, Jesus and Mohammed followers of ahimsa and the whole of the bible and quran had been written by their followers who were grinding their own axes and you could prove this incontrovertibly, wouldn't you do it?Just think how much it will change life.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Twilight Samurai

This movie tells the story of Iguchi Seibei, a low ranking samurai through the remniscences of his daughter.

The movie is set in 19th century Japan, in the declining years of the Tokugawa Shogunate. Once the Tokugawas became the Shoguns in the 17th century, they froze the status of all the people (so, a farmer couldnt become a warrior, the warrior couldnt go back to becoming a farmer etc) with the Samurai (the warrior class) on the top. They also managed to do what no one else had been able to do in Japanese history up to that point, which was to impose a peace that held for nearly 250 years. The clans were no longer permitted to war upon each other, and indeed, even private duels were frowned upon. So, the samurai we see in this movie are not the warriors of the Sengoku Jidai period (like in Kagemusha, Ran or Seven Samurai), but admininstrators, managers, clerks and politicians.

This is not a 'standard' samurai movie. If you come in looking for guys dressed in period armour swinging swords and spears at each other, you will be disappointed. Twilight Samurai moves at a more deliberate pace. The grand events of the time(the rebellion by the Choshu Clan, the loosening grip of the Shogunate, food shortages causing starvation deaths) serve more as a background rather than being the main story.

I was really impressed with the tone of the movie and the marvelously restrained acting of the leads. Apparently this movie was a mega-hit in japan and the Japanese really identified with Seibei. I do not blame them. Hiroyuki Sanada has played this role to perfection. He's the same actor who played the tough-guy samurai Ujio who beats up Tom Cruise in The Last Samurai.

Iguchi Seibei is a poor samurai whose wife has just died after a long illness. Her illness and funeral have left him deep in debt. He has to support his two daughters and his senile mother on a meager income. He hurries back home after work every day to do the daily chores and works in the night to make little insect cages to supplement his income.

Despite all these stresses, he goes about his life doing what needs to be done without complaint. He is a conscientious and caring father. In all, he leads a contented life, and asks for no more than to be able to continue living that way.

Then, one day, he meets his childhood friend Tomoe... I will let you, gentle reader, to discover what happens next.