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Stitched Together and Torn Apart: “Frankenstein in Baghdad: A Novel,” by Ahmed Saadawi

“Thus strangely are our souls constructed, and by slight ligaments are we bound to prosperity and ruin.”
― Mary Shelley, Frankenstein

Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus was published in 1818, although the novel’s author’s name – Mary Shelley – would not appear on an edition until 1821 due to sexism in the publishing industry. Almost two hundred years and three thousand miles removed, Ahmed Saadawi penned Frankenstein in Baghdad, a reconfiguration of the well-known horror story as radical and unsettling as the famous scientist’s reconfiguration of the human form. Saadawi’s tale – published in 2013 – takes place in the years directly after the US invasion of Iraq, a time of chaos, bloodshed, and desperation. Those were bad years for Baghdad. The toll inflicted by the US invasion and occupation is difficult for Westerners to comprehend, let alone contemplate: estimates vary widely and wildly based on politics and methodology, ranging from over 100,000 to 400,000 to (by one heavily-criticized count) possibly a million. When your numbers vary by a factor of ten, it’s worth wondering if your statistical model has any value at all.

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Avalanche Sharks: Sleaze and Skookum

Let me just start off with a warning. If you suffer from a crippling fear of blondes this movie is not for you. Damn near every woman in this movie is a blonde. Also no man does anything at all unless it leads to the promise of sex. I am a devout feminist and yet the misogyny was so rampant that it almost became breathtaking to behold.

Besides the boobalicious flaws in this movie, the shark attacks are quite fun and gory. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough of them. For some attacks, we are warned of impending doom with the haunting sound of a slide whistle. Seriously, I cannot make this shit up. They swim through snow and ground alike. I don’t even need to mention that they growl, right? Of course they growl. They always growl. 

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People in the Neighborhood: ‘1BR’ and the Cultic Milieu

“So many people in the neighborhood… I don’t know if they’re very good people.”

–Ween, “So Many People in the Neighborhood

Starting in 1927, the specter which had allegedly been haunting Europe made its way to China. What followed from 1927 to 1949 (interrupted by the united effort against Japan during World War 2) is known as the Chinese Civil War, a conflict between the nationalist forces of the Kuomintang and the Chinese Communist Party; the last phase of this conflict, from 1945 – 1949, is generally known as the Chinese Communist Revolution. Big changes were afoot for China, many of them long overdue (in particular, reform of the nation’s agricultural and property ownership systems) but all of which were executed, at best, imperfectly. One function that the newly empowered Communist Party took upon itself was the wholesale reeducation of “troublesome” elements of the population, a plan which would eventually evolve into the bloody totalitarian nightmare known as the Cultural Revolution. Before the “struggle sessions” of the Cultural Revolution, however, the Party experimented with and perfected a technique known as “thought reform,” although it would come to be known by a more common, less euphemistic term: brainwashing.

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Frenzy: The Opposite of “Frenzy”

The movie opens with a recording of the main character, Lindsey, reporting everyone is dead. So right away, there is no ambiguity as to the fate of most of the characters. Also, from this brief introductory glimpse of Lindsey, we can tell she is a vapid idiot with a stupid face. The opening credits feature a roving gang of three Great Whites. Listen, folks. This movie might be really really flawed but damned if they ain’t up front about it. Respect. 

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