Monday, March 14

Book: White Sand Trilogy, Brandon Sanderson, Rik Hoskin, Julius Gopez, Fritz Casas Click for more info

Even though I was somewhat satisfied by the rough draft prose version of this story, I made it a point to revisit/continue the graphic novel both for completionist and canonical reasons. The barrier for entry wasn't too bad[1] - it turns out that a graphic novel reads much faster than prose.

The good news is that, yes, having read the prose made these three volumes far easier to digest. The bad news is that White Sand still wasn't that enjoyable for me - but since it's the first comic I've been reading electronically I don't know if that's due to the device, the medium or the novel itself. I do plan to read another graphic novel in the same way so I hope to have an answer eventually, but as it stands White Sand remains one of the weakest links in the Cosmere.

[1] Although this statement doesn't consider the time spent in setting up a suitable reading device. But hey, at least I now have a Linux tablet in my toolbox.

Tuesday, March 8

Film: The Batman Click for more info

Another year, another Batman. But what's this? One that actually looks to improve on the many iterations (some of which were already top notch)? Well. Let's see.

First of all: Patterson is awful. He tries his best (bless) but really isn't able to pull off much more than a mediocre Bruce Wayne. What he can do, however, is Batman, and thankfully he keeps his mask on in this film.

The movie itself is very well put together. It flows and weaves, and everything is clear and accessible, which is quite the achievement for what needed to be a dark film. That said, there did seem to be a recurring feeling of laboured and abstract drama, as if they were about to sell the audience some designer perfume. It was jarring at first but I got used to it.

Which brings us to the plot. It wasn't great. In fact, most of the movie was just window dressing. Although it wasn't bad enough to wreck the film, it did knock off a fair few points. It could have been a classic with a bit more finesse.

So no, for me Dark Knight remains unsurpassed, but the ingredients are there for a true classic to be borne out of the Patterson era. And hopefully they'll pull it off.

Tuesday, March 1

Twenty Years of Jummah

I can't exactly remember when, but there came a point in sixth form (so aged around 16-17) where I fell into an almost obsessive pattern to attend Jummah, the weekly Friday congregational prayer that Muslims are strongly encouraged to attend. Now, I'd be the first to say that however strong the recommendation is, it's not a matter of life or death, and no one will go to hell for missing a week. It was just one of those streaks which, as it got longer, became harder to break.

I managed to keep it up all through my academic studies, and past my graduation in the autumn of 2001. That five year (or so) streak was already pretty decent, so it was upsetting when it finally broke - ironically because my flight to Saudi for Hajj was leaving just after noon on a Friday. If there was ever a reason, that was probably it, although in hindsight I think it would have been more than possible to arrange an ad-hoc congregation at the gate or whatever. The following week's Jummah was also missed, as we were in transit to Arafat. That wasn't too bad as my streak was technically zero anyway.

Despite having to start again, my zeal to attend Jummah hadn't diminished - if anything it had gotten stronger. And so it started again, the first Friday after Arafat, which by my calculations fell on the 1st of March. Praise be to God and with his help, I have been able to attend Jummah every week since.

That's not to say it hasn't been precarious. Multi-night hospitalisations came and went, mercifully falling between Fridays. Most recently, COVID lockdowns had been a massive scare, mitigated only by kind neighbours humouring me with socially distanced prayers and blessedly dry weather. Its probably the closest I've come to having this streak broken.

The most consistent inconsistency however has been during travel. Two which spring to mind are during a skiing trip to Courchevel and a week away in Santorini. The former was simply done DIY, as there were enough on the trip to make a congregation. The latter was a little more tricky as there were only two interested parties on the trip - however after making friends with a dodgy DVD street selling Afghani, we managed to whip up a posse, proving once again how doors will be opened for you if you search them out.

It's not just academic stubbornness that drives me to seek out Jummah. Meeting fellow Muslims itself is a culturally valuable exercise - particularly abroad. Seoul, Ambodifototra (on the island of Nosy Boraha, off the coast of Madagascar main), Bali, Phnom Penh and Arequipa are all congregations that I have very fond and exciting memories of - some have been practical too when I had been lucky enough to have been fed on multiple occasions, usually in the places where Muslims made a tiny minority. Isfahan gave me the opportunity to join a state congregation in majority Shia Iran. The mosque in Rio was found at the end of a massive mystery. Warsaw and Split were both tiny self-conscious affairs, Las Vegas hilarious just for the contrast.

There's plenty more, from China, to the obvious picks in the Middle East and even those more vanilla ones in Pakistan (both Karachi and further afield) and here in the UK. An awareness of Jummah and it's facilitation is now an embedded part of any planning process I have, regardless of the scope - amusingly I will only visit the Galapogas and other far flung islands in a troupe of other Muslims, only to ensure I have a congregation on tap. If anyone is interested, let me know.

So yes, twenty years and over 400 Jummahs later I'm left wondering what the future holds. A part of me was aiming to relax a bit and stop counting after hitting such an arbitrary landmark, but I already know that's not going to happen.

Of course ultimately every opportunity to offer Jummah is a blessing, and those are for which I give thanks rather than take credit. I can only pray that those blessings continue till the end.