Monday, May 15, 2006

An Islamic America and Thin-Slicing

While I was away on this last trip I finished a couple of books I have been wanting to read.

The first one is called Blink. It’s written by Malcolm Gladwell, the same guy who wrote The Tipping Point. Blink is a book about the decisions we seem to make in the blink of an eye. The decisions that we don’t really seem to even think about, but just happen. I find this book difficult to describe quickly here so I'll just descibe one concept from it called thin-slicing.

“Thin-slicing refers to the ability of our unconscious to find patterns in situations and behavior based on very narrow slices of experience.”

An example of thin-slicing would be . . . let’s say you are walking through the mall and you pass a women’s clothing store. While you are walking past you notice near the front of the store a man shaking his head looking exasperated and a woman close by rolling her eyes as she puts a piece of clothing back on the shelf. In that brief moment you may be able to put together a pretty good idea of what their relationship is like.

Or, let’s say you are a quarterback in a football game. The ball is snapped to you and you have maybe a second or two to decide if the play you called is going to work or if you need to decide something else based on everyone’s position.

These are all decisions that happen very quickly and we all make variations of them daily. Anyway, a good read if you are into understanding how you think.

The second book I read is called Prayers for the Assassin by Robert Forigno. Imagine America is now an Islamic nation. Seattle is the new capitol. DC, NYC, Chicago and Detroit have all been destroyed. Nevada is its own thing called the “Morman Territories” and the old “South” is now the hard fought for “Bible Belt” with its own president. Well that was enough to interest me. I wanted to see if the author could pull of a convincing story given those parameters. Oh yeah, Coca-Cola has been outlawed and replaced with Jihad-Cola too.

The basic story here is about a renegade ex-Fedayeen fighter named Rakkim and his woman, Sarah. They are after the truth of why the Islamic Republic became the Islamic Republic. The widely held belief is that the Jews nuked parts of America which is why everyone rallied against them and all Christians.

Did the author pull it off? Mostly he did. I think he made up for what he missed with the energy of the story. If you are looking for a page-turner adventure you may enjoy this one. However, be warned, the language isn’t always great and there are a couple of sections that should be rated R.



Friday, May 05, 2006

a short update

I'm sitting in an internet cafe in Marrakech Morocco. In the interest of time I'll post a few excerpts from my last two emails home along with a couple of pictures.

"After we ate Marc, Jay, me and Dave all went for a beauty walk. We checked out a couple of shops, found an internet connection,(that was when we talked) and found some bank machines. We eventually found this cool market area set up with tents. That's the picture of Marc with his camera.

There was some pretty cool stuff in there. I have no idea what kind of thing you might like. I'm thinking jewellery but I'm not sure what colours or anything. I'll find something you love. Jason visited the guy with all the musical instruments. I got caught talking to another guy who invited me into his tent-shop to talk and have tea. So of course I said yes. He was interested in Canada and practising his English. He kept showing me all of the things in his shop he had made and what the significance of each item was. He came from a Berber/Nomad background and almost every piece he showed me had some sort of mystic meaning to it. I think he considered them selling features! He was real nice. Eventually the other guys joined us and we all had this awfully sweet tea together. It was almost unbearably sweet in fact. The with the turban is him with Dave behind and a big ugly flash. Marc got some great pictures of us in there talking that I'll have to get from him.

After lunch is was back to the van for an almost 2 hour trip south into the Atlas mountains to visit a Berber village. It was a beautiful drive. It scared the crap out of most people. We heard that the other van was singing hymns as they were driving up. On the way back, after the scariest sections the driver of the other van had to stop and have a smoke break!! It was pretty funny, and sort of dangerous. So we climbed up about 4500 feet to get to where we eventually ended up. There's no way I can really describe where we were too well. It felt like a dream or a movie set. It didn't feel like a place people actually lived. Anyway, we stopped driving and got out and walked uphill for the next 15-20min. We walked up this windy path through this "settlement" to reach the top where our hosts were. The pictures will explain the best.

When we reached the top we heard music. We walked into a hallway where we were greeted by two people. The first a girl with a tray of face clothes to wipe our faces with and the second was a man with perfume for us to put on our faces. They also had a tray of dates and figs and olives that we were supposed to eat as we entered. The perfume is apparently from the flower of orange trees. I need to ask about that again to be sure. We eventually all reached the top and there they had a very cool looking spread of pita-like bread with olive oil, butter, fig and apricot spread, nuts and of course the mint tea which I'm having trouble choking down. Mainly because of the sweetness. We sat and ate then they pulled out their drums again and began to sing and encouraged us to join. We played together for a while. I had my cornet out too. It was difficult to find any sort of tonal center to their songs but we would eventually land on something."



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