November 8, 2008

The Da Vinci Code

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The Da Vinci Code is a mystery-detective novel written by American author Dan Brown and published in 2003 by Doubleday. It follows symbologist Robert Langdon as he investigates a murder in Paris's Louvre Museum and discovers a battle between the Priory of Sion and Opus Dei over the possibility of Jesus Christ of Nazareth having been married to and fathering a child with Mary Magdalene.

This novel has provoked a popular interest in speculation concerning the Holy Grail legend and the role of Mary Magdalene in the history of Christianity. The novel has been extensively criticized by Catholics and other Christians as a dishonest attack on the Church. It has also been criticized for historical inaccuracy.

Brown's novel was a major success in 2004 and at times was outsold only by the highly popular Harry Potter series It was the winner of the 2004 Book Sense Book of the Year Awards in the Adult Fiction category. It spawned a number of offspring books and drew glowing reviews from The New York Times, People, and The Washington Post. It also re-ignited interest in the history of the Roman Catholic Church. Additionally, The Da Vinci Code, itself preceded by other Grail books such as The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln; and Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum, has inspired a number of novels very similar to it, including Raymond Khoury's The Last Templar, and The Templar Legacy by Steve Berry.

It is a worldwide bestseller that had 60.5 million copies in print by May 2006 and that has been translated into 44 languages. It is thought to be the 19th best-selling book of all time. Combining the detective, thriller and conspiracy fiction genres, the book is the second book by Brown to include the character Robert Langdon, the first being his 2000 novel Angels & Demons. In November 2004 Random House published a "Special Illustrated Edition" with 160 illustrations.

In 2006, an eponymous film adaptation was released by Columbia Pictures.

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Plot summary

The book describes the attempts of Robert Langdon, Professor of Religious Symbology at Harvard University, to solve the murder of renowned curator Jacques Saunière (see Bérenger Saunière) of the Louvre Museum in Paris. The title of the novel refers to, among other things, the fact that Saunière's body is found in the Denon Wing of the Louvre, naked and posed like Leonardo da Vinci's famous drawing, the Vitruvian Man, with a cryptic message written beside his body and a pentacle drawn on his stomach in his own blood.
Vitruvian Man by Leonardo da Vinci.

The interpretation of hidden messages in Leonardo's famous works, (which relate to the concept of the sacred feminine) including the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper, figure prominently in the solution to the mystery.

The novel has several concurrent subplots interweaving the lives of different characters; eventually all the characters are brought together and the subplots resolved in the dénouement. The unraveling of the mystery requires solutions to a series of brain-teasers, including anagrams and number puzzles. The ultimate solution is found to be intimately connected with the possible location of the Holy Grail and to a mysterious society called the Priory of Sion, as well as to the Knights Templar. The story also involves the Roman Catholic organization Opus Dei.

The novel is the second book by Brown in which Robert Langdon is the main character. The previous book, Angels & Demons, took place in Rome and concerned the Illuminati. Although Angels & Demons is centred on the same character, the plots are not dependent upon each other. The next book is tentatively scheduled for release in 2008. Its title is The Solomon Key and it is reported to concern Freemasonry.

Characters and their involvement in The Da Vinci Code

These are the principal characters that drive the plot. Some have names that are puns, anagrams or hidden clues:

* Robert Langdon
* Jacques Saunière
* Sophie Neveu
* Bezu Fache
* Silas
* Manuel Aringarosa
* André Vernet
* Elliott Paffey
* Leigh Teabing
* Rémy Legaludec
* Jérôme Collet
* Marie Chauvel Saint-Clair

* Jacques Saunière was the Grand Master of the Priory of Sion and therefore knew the hidden location of the "keystone", which leads to the Holy Grail and documents which would shake the foundation of Christianity and the Church. He was killed in an attempt to extract this information from him as well as eliminating the top members of the Priory of Sion.
* The reason that Sophie Neveu disassociated herself from her grandfather is that she discovered him participating in a pagan sex ritual (Hieros Gamos) at his home in Normandy, when she made a surprise visit there during a break from boarding school. (That she had observed something is mentioned and hinted at several times throughout the complicated story, but what it is that she saw is revealed to no one, including the reader, until near the end when she reveals it to Robert.)
* The other three lines of Saunière's blood message are anagrams. The first line are the digits of the Fibonacci sequence out of order. The second and third lines ("O, Draconian devil!" and "Oh, lame saint!") are anagrams respectively for "Leonardo da Vinci" and "The Mona Lisa" (inexplicably written in English). These clues were meant to lead to a second set of clues. On the glass over the Mona Lisa, Saunière wrote the message "So dark the con of Man" with a curator's pen that can only be read in ultra-violet light. This clue is an anagram for Madonna of the Rocks, another Da Vinci painting hanging nearby. Behind this painting, Saunière hid a key. On the key, written with the curator's pen, is an address.
* The key opens a safe deposit box at the Paris branch of the Depository Bank of Zurich. Saunière's account number at the bank is a 10-digit number listing the digits of the first eight Fibonacci numbers: 1 1 2 3 5 8 13 21.
* The instructions that Saunière revealed to Silas at gunpoint are actually a well-rehearsed lie, namely that the keystone is buried in the Church of Saint-Sulpice beneath an obelisk that lies exactly along the ancient "Rose Line" (the former Prime Meridian which passed through Paris before it was redesignated to pass through Greenwich). The message beneath the obelisk simply contains a reference to a passage in the Book of Job (38:11a, KJV) which reads in part "Hitherto shalt thou go and no further". When Silas reads this, he realizes he has been duped.
* The keystone is actually a cryptex, a cylindrical device supposedly invented by Leonardo Da Vinci for transporting secure messages. In order to open it the combination of rotating components must be arranged in the correct order. If the cryptex is forced open an enclosed vial of vinegar ruptures and dissolves the message, which was written on papyrus. The rosewood box containing the cryptex contains clues to the combination of the cryptex, written in backwards script in the same manner as Leonardo's journals.
Newton's grave in Westminster Abbey
* The keystone cryptex actually contains a second smaller cryptex with a second riddle that reveals its combination. The riddle, which says to seek the orb that should be on the tomb of "a knight a pope interred", refers not to a medieval knight, but rather to the tomb of Sir Isaac Newton, who was buried in Westminster Abbey, and was eulogized by Alexander Pope (A. Pope). The missing orb refers to the apple which, in popular legend, fell on Newton and inspired the development of his theory of gravity, therefore the combination to the second cryptex is "A-P-P-L-E".
* The Teacher is Sir Leigh Teabing. He learns of the identities of the leaders of the Priory of Sion, bugs their offices and has Silas assassinate them. Rémy is his collaborator. It is Teabing who contacted Bishop Aringarosa, hiding his identity, and duped him into financing the plan to find the Grail. He never intended to hand the Grail over to Aringarosa but is taking advantage of Opus Dei's resolve to find it. Teabing believes that the Priory of Sion has broken its vow to reveal the secret of the Grail to the world at the appointed time and plans to steal the Grail documents and reveal them to the world himself. It was he who informed Silas that Langdon and Sophie Neveu were at his chateau. He did not seize the keystone from them himself because he did not want to reveal his identity. He summoned Silas to seize the keystone in his house, but himself thwarted Silas, in order to gain Langdon and Sophie's further help with decoding the cryptex. Subsequently, the police raided the house, having followed the tracking device in the truck Langdon had stolen. Teabing led Neveu and Langdon to the Temple Church in London, knowing full well that it was a dead end, in order to stage the hostage scene with Rémy and thereby obtain the keystone without revealing his real plot to Langdon and Neveu. The call Silas received while riding in the limousine with Rémy is in fact Teabing, surreptitiously calling from the back of the limousine.
* In order to erase all knowledge of his work, Teabing kills Rémy by giving him cognac laced with peanut powder, knowing Rémy has a deadly allergy to peanuts. Thus, Rémy dies of an anaphylactic shock. Teabing also anonymously tells the police that Silas is hiding in the London headquarters of Opus Dei.
* In a showdown with Teabing in Westminster Abbey, Langdon secretly opens the second cryptex and removes its contents before destroying it in front of Teabing. Teabing is arrested and led away while fruitlessly begging Langdon to tell him the contents of the second cryptex and the secret location of the Grail.
* Bishop Aringarosa and Silas believe they are saving the Church, not destroying it.
* Bezu Fache finds out that Neveu and Langdon are innocent after Bishop Aringarosa contacts him privately to confess.
* Silas accidentally shoots Aringarosa outside the London headquarters of Opus Dei while fleeing from the police. Realizing his terrible error and that he has been duped, Aringarosa tells Bezu Fache to give the bearer bonds in his briefcase to the families of the murdered leaders of the Priory of Sion. Silas dies of fatal wounds.
* The final message inside the second keystone actually does not refer to Rosslyn Chapel, although the Grail was indeed once buried there, below the Star of David on the floor (the two interlocking triangles are the "blade" and "chalice", i.e., male and female symbols).
* The docent in Rosslyn Chapel is Sophie's long-lost brother.
* The guardian of Rosslyn Chapel, Marie Chauvel, is Sophie's long-lost grandmother, and the wife of Jacques Saunière. She is the woman who participated in the sex ritual with Jacques Saunière.
* Even though all four of the leaders of the Priory of Sion are killed, the secret is not lost, since there is still a contingency plan (never revealed) which will keep the organization and its secret alive.
* The real meaning of the last message is that the Grail is buried beneath the small pyramid (i.e., the "blade", a male symbol) directly below the inverted glass pyramid of the Louvre (i.e., the "chalice", a female symbol, which Langdon and Sophie ironically almost crashed into while making their original escape from Bezu Fache). It also lies beneath the "Rose Line," which is similar to "Rosslyn." Langdon figures out this final piece to the puzzle in the last pages of the book, but he does not appear inclined to tell anyone about this. See La Pyramide Inversée for further discussion.

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Secret of the Holy Grail

As explained by Leigh Teabing to Sophie Neveu, the figure at the right hand of Jesus is supposedly not the apostle John, but Mary Magdalene. According to the book, Mary Magdalene was the wife of Jesus Christ and was in fact pregnant with his child when Jesus was crucified. The absence of a chalice in the painting supposedly indicates that Leonardo knew that Mary Magdalene was actually the Holy Grail (the bearer of Jesus' blood). This is said to be reinforced by the letter "V" that is created with the bodily positions of Jesus and Mary, as "V" is the symbol for the sacred feminine. The apparent absence of the "Apostle John", under this interpretation, is explained by identifying John as "the Disciple Jesus loved", allegedly code for Mary Magdalene (see also Second Apocalypse of James). The book also notes that the color scheme of their garments are inverted: Jesus wears a red blouse with royal blue cape; John/Mary wears a royal blue blouse with red cape — perhaps symbolizing two bonded halves of marriage. Also, if you move John/Mary to left of Jesus, you will see his/her head fits perfectly onto Jesus' shoulder, as if to affectionately lay that head on his shoulder.

According to the novel, the secrets of the Holy Grail, as kept by the Priory of Sion, are as follows:

* Jesus is not the divine son of God, but a human prophet of God.
* The Holy Grail is not a physical chalice, but a woman, namely Mary Magdalene, who carried the bloodline of Christ.
* The Old French expression for the Holy Grail, San gréal, actually is a play on Sang réal, which literally means "royal blood" in Old French.
* The Grail relics consist of the documents that testify to the bloodline, as well as the actual bones of Mary Magdalene.
* The Grail relics of Mary Magdalene were hidden by the Priory of Sion in a secret crypt, perhaps beneath Rosslyn Chapel.
* The Church has suppressed the truth about Mary Magdalene and the Jesus bloodline for 2000 years. This is principally because they fear the power of the sacred feminine in and of itself and because this would challenge the primacy of Saint Peter as an apostle.
* Mary Magdalene was of royal descent (through the Jewish House of Benjamin) and was the wife of Jesus, of the House of David. That she was a prostitute was slander invented by the Church to obscure their true relationship. At the time of the Crucifixion, she was pregnant. After the Crucifixion, she fled to Gaul, where she was sheltered by the Jews of Marseille. She gave birth to a daughter, named Sarah. The bloodline of Jesus and Mary Magdalene became the Merovingian dynasty of France.
* The existence of the bloodline was the secret that was contained in the documents discovered by the Crusaders after they conquered Jerusalem in 1099 (see Kingdom of Jerusalem). The Priory of Sion and the Knights Templar were organized to keep the secret.

The secrets of the Grail are connected, according to the novel, to Leonardo Da Vinci's work as follows:

* Leonardo was a member of the Priory of Sion and knew the secret of the Grail. The secret is in fact revealed in The Last Supper, in which no actual chalice is present at the table. The figure seated next to Christ is not a man, but a woman, his wife Mary Magdalene. Most reproductions of the work are from a later alteration that obscured her obvious female characteristics.
* The androgyny of the Mona Lisa reflects the sacred union of male and female which is implied in the holy union of Jesus and Mary Magdalene. Such parity between the cosmic forces of masculine and feminine has long been a deep threat to the established power of the Church. The name Mona Lisa is actually an anagram for "Amon L'Isa", referring to the father and mother gods of Ancient Egyptian religion (namely Amun and Isis).

A number of different authors also speculate about the possibility of Jesus becoming a father. There are at least three children attributed to him, a daughter Tamar, born before the Crucifixion, and two sons Jesus (the Jesus Justus from the New Testament) and Josephes, both born after the Resurrection. Although their names are now part of the common culture of conspiracy writers, only two decades ago, when The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail was written, the names were not mentioned. The royal descents that lie at the heart of The Da Vinci Code mystery centre on the family of Josephes, who is supposed to be the grandfather of Aminadab del Graal, first of the "Fisher Kings". However the genealogies that are quoted in Grail lore appear to record too few generations, with children regularly being born to fathers in their 40s.

The mystery within the mystery

Part of the advertising campaign for the novel was that the artwork in the American version of the bookjacket held various codes, and that the reader who solved them via the author's website would be given a prize. Several thousand people actually solved the codes, and one name was randomly chosen to be the winner, with the name announced on live television, Good Morning America, in early 2004. The prize was a trip to Paris.

The five hidden puzzles reveal

* That the back of the book jacket conceals latitude and longitude coordinates, written in reverse, light red on dark red. Adding one degree to the latitude gives the coordinates of the headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency in Northern Virginia, which is the location of a mysterious sculpture called Kryptos. The coordinates were taken from part of the decrypted text of part 2 of the sculpture (part 4 has never been solved). When Brown has been asked why the coordinates are one degree off, his reply has been, "The discrepancy is intentional".
* Bold letters are present on the book jacket. There is a secret message hidden in the text of the book flaps. The message: Is there no help for the widow's son (a reference to Freemasonry).
* The words "only WW knows" can be seen on the back cover. It is a phrase printed invertedly, in the torn part of the book cover. This too is a reference to part 2 of the Kryptos sculpture.
* A circle with numbers, between the Doubleday logo and the barcode, reveals a secret message. These are the chapter numbers where the initial letters are arranged in Caesar box format.
* There is reverse writing on the cover of the book, which is the riddle for the first cryptex.

Brown, both via his website and in person, has stated that the puzzles in the bookjacket give hints about the subject of his next novel, The Solomon Key. This repeats a theme from his earlier novels. For example, Deception Point had an encrypted message which, when solved, said, "The Da Vinci Code will surface".

In the simplified Chinese version of The Da Vinci Code, the cover has a secret text; however, this text can be easily seen. It reads: "13-3-2-1-1-8-5 O, Draconian devil! Oh, Lame Saint! P.S. Find Robert Langdon." This is the multiply encrypted clue written in invisible ink next to the dead body in the museum which kicks off the plot of the entire novel.

Inspiration and influences

Direct inspiration

The novel is part of the exploration of alternative religious history. Its principal source book is listed as per the court case, Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince's The Templar Revelation, as well as the books by Margaret Starbird. The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail (which is explicitly named, among several others, at the beginning of chapter 60), was stated by Dan Brown not to be amongst his primary research material for the book. Having paid acknowledgement to the above books as sources of inspiration, Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code contains the overriding salient point in its plot: that the Merovingian kings of France were descendants from the bloodline of Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene. In reference to Richard Leigh and Michael Baigent (two of the authors of The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail), Brown named the principal Grail expert of his story "Leigh Teabing" (an anagram of "Baigent Leigh"). Brown confirmed this during the court case. In reply to the suggestion that Lincoln was also referenced, as he has medical problems resulting in a severe limp, like the character of Leigh Teabing, Brown stated he was unaware of Lincoln's illness and the correspondence was a coincidence. After losing before the High Court in July 12, 2006, Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh appealed, unsuccessfully, to the Court of Appeal Following the trial, it was found that the publicity had actually significantly boosted UK sales of The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail.

Brown has reworked themes and characters from his own earlier novel Angels and Demons, specifically the main character, Robert Langdon.

European readers and critics noted some striking similarities between the "Da Vinci Code" and a Norwegian novel, "Sirkelens ende" ("Circle's End") by Tom Egeland, published in 2001 (two years before the Da Vinci code). Like the "Da Vinci Code", "Circle's End" involves an ancient mystery and a worldwide conspiracy, the discovery that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene, and an albino as one of the central characters. In both novels, the main female character turns out to be a living descendant of Christ and Mary Magdalene, and the daughter/granddaughter of the last grand master of a secret order. Many European readers have speculated that Dan Brown had plagiarized Tom Egeland's book. Since the Norwegian novel has not been translated into English, it is generally assumed today that the similarities between the two books, although striking, are coincidental. The author himself, Tom Egeland, has in numerous interviews in European media dismissed the claim of Brown's novel plagiarizing his own novel, stating that the similarities just show that he and Brown more or less have done the same research and found the same sources.

Indirect inspiration

Umberto Eco's earlier Foucault's Pendulum similarly concerns itself with the Knights Templar, complex conspiracies, secret codes, the Holy Blood conundrum (if mentioned only in passing) and even includes a chase around the monuments of Paris. It does so, however, from a much more critical perspective: it's more a satire on the futility of conspiracy theories and those who believe them, rather than an attempt to proliferate such beliefs. Foucault's Pendulum has been dubbed "the thinking person's Da Vinci Code". The former is itself, in turn, highly reminiscent in plot, theme and structure, of the Illuminatus! trilogy by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson, which had appeared 13 years earlier.

Opus Dei was cast in the role of the "evil opposition", used to destroy the bloodline -- although by the end of the book this portrayal is greatly softened. Since the bloodline has never been confirmed as real but merely a theory proposed in The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, there is no direct inspiration for this. Opus Dei's controversial reputation permitted Brown to feature the organisation prominently. On a symbolic level, the Priory of Sion (male and female membership and leadership, "good") and the Opus Dei (male-only leaders, "bad") are at opposite sides of the scale. The latter is thus depicted as the attack dog of the Catholic Church, seeking to destroy the former and maintain the status quo. According to the novel, man needs woman for wholeness and, in fact, for experiencing the divine by means of sex (see the Hieros Gamos ritual)--for example, in one's orgasm, there is a short period of time when a person's mind is completely empty, when one makes contact with God.

Literary and historical criticism

The book generated criticism when it was first published, due to speculations and misrepresentations of core aspects of Christianity, the history of the Catholic Church, and descriptions of European art, history, and architecture. The book has received mostly negative reviews from Catholic and other Christian communities, as well as historians.

On February 22, 2004, an article titled "The Last Word: The Da Vinci Con" appeared in the New York Times by writer Laura Miller. Miller attacks the Da Vinci Code on multiple levels, referring to it as "based on a notorious hoax", "rank nonsense", and "bogus", as she points out how heavily the book rests on the fabrications of Pierre Plantard (including the Priory of Sion which did not exist until Plantard created it) who in 1953 was arrested and convicted for just such frauds.

Critics accuse Brown of distorting and fabricating history. For example, Marcia Ford wrote:
“ Regardless of whether you agree with Brown's conclusions, it's clear that his history is largely fanciful, which means he and his publisher have violated a long-held if unspoken agreement with the reader: Fiction that purports to present historical facts should be researched as carefully as a nonfiction book would be. ”

Richard Abanes wrote:
“ The most flagrant aspect … is not that Dan Brown disagrees with Christianity but that he utterly warps it in order to disagree with it … to the point of completely rewriting a vast number of historical events. And making the matter worse has been Brown's willingness to pass off his distortions as ‘facts' with which innumerable scholars and historians agree. ”

The book opens with the claim by Dan Brown that "The Priory of Sion — a European secret society founded in 1099 — is a real organization" and that "all descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents ... and secret rituals in this novel are accurate"; but this claim is disputed by almost all academic scholars in the fields the book discusses. The Priory of Sion itself was not a real secret society established in 1099 but actually a hoax created in 1956 by a Mr. Pierre Plantard.

Numerous works have been published that explain in detail why any claim to accuracy is difficult to substantiate, while two lawsuits have been brought alleging plagiarism in The Da Vinci Code. The first suit for copyright infringement was filed in February 2006 in a British court by the authors of The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, a purportedly nonfiction account of Mary Magdalene's role as the wife of Jesus of Nazareth and the mother of his child, was found in Dan Brown's favor. No verdict has yet been rendered on a second suit, filed in August of the same year, in the United States by Jack Dunn, the author of The Vatican Boys.

A third author, Lewis Perdue, continues to allege that Brown plagiarized from two of his novels, The Da Vinci Legacy, originally published in 1983, and Daughter of God, originally published in the year 2000. In an unusual twist, Perdue has not yet filed suit against Random House and Brown. Instead, Random House filed suit against Perdue in an attempt to shut down a web site on which Perdue documents his case against Brown. After numerous appeals and countersuits, the Perdue web site is still available online, but there are no signs that Perdue has ever filed an action against Random House.

Dan Brown himself dilutes the suggestion of some of the more controversial aspects being fact on his web site: "The "FACT" page makes no statement whatsoever about any of the ancient theories discussed by fictional characters. Interpreting those ideas is left to the reader". However, it also says that "these real elements are interpreted and debated by fictional characters", "it is my belief that some of the theories discussed by these characters may have merit." and "the secret behind The Da Vinci Code was too well documented and significant for me to dismiss." It is therefore entirely understandable why there would continue to be confusion as to what is the factual content of the book.

Brown's earlier statements about the accuracy of the historical information in his book, however, were far more strident. In 2003, while promoting his novel, he was asked in interviews what parts of the history in his novel actually happened. He replied "Absolutely all of it." In a 2003 interview with CNN's Martin Savidge he was again asked how much of the historical background was true. He replied, "99% is true ... the background is all true". Asked by Elizabeth Vargas in an ABC News special if the book would have been different if he had written it as non-fiction he replied, "I don't think it would have." More recently Brown has avoided interviews and has been rather more circumspect about the accuracy of his claims in his few public statements. He has also, however, never retracted any of his earlier assertions that the history in the novel is accurate, despite substantial academic criticism of his claims.

In 2005, UK TV personality Tony Robinson edited and narrated a detailed rebuttal of the main arguments of Dan Brown and those of Baigent, Leigh and Lincoln, "The Real Da Vinci Code", shown on British TV Channel 4. The program featured lengthy interviews with many of the main protagonists cited by Brown as "absolute fact" in The Da Vinci Code. Arnaud de Sède, son of Gérard de Sède, stated categorically that his father and Plantard had made up the existence of the Prieuré de Sion, the cornerstone of the Jesus bloodline theory - to quote Arnaud de Sede in the program, "frankly, it was piffle". The program also cast severe doubt on the Rosslyn Chapel association with the Grail and on other related stories like the alleged landing of Mary Magdalene in France.

US Catholic bishops launched a website rebutting the key claims in the novel. The bishops are concerned about what they perceive as serious mis-statements in The Da Vinci Code.

Portrayal of Gnosticism

According to The Da Vinci Code, the Roman Emperor Constantine I suppressed Gnosticism because it portrayed Jesus as purely human. The novel's argument is as follows. Constantine wanted Christianity to act as a unifying religion for the Roman Empire. He thought Christianity would appeal to pagans only if it featured a demigod similar to pagan heroes. According to the Gnostic Gospels, Jesus was merely a human prophet, not a demigod. Therefore, to change Jesus' image, Constantine destroyed the Gnostic Gospels and promoted the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, which portray Jesus as divine or semidivine.

Gnosticism did not portray Jesus as merely human. Some Gnostic writings do depict Jesus interacting with his disciples in a wholly human way, one example being the Gospel of Mary, but the general Gnostic depiction of Jesus is not clear-cut. Other Gnostic writings depict Christ as purely divine, his human body being a mere illusion (see Docetism). (Some Gnostic sects saw Christ this way because they regarded matter as evil, and therefore believed that a divine spirit would never have taken on a material body.)

Parodies

2005

The book was parodied by Adam Roberts with The Va Dinci Cod, and by Toby Clements with the Asti Spumante Code.

2006

The BBC program Dead Ringers parodied the Da Vinci Code, calling it the Da Rolf Harris Code.

Popular South African political cartoonist Zapiro published a book collection of his strips entitled Da Zuma Code which parodies the former deputy president Jacob Zuma.

2007

The book was parodied in the South Park episode "Fantastic Easter Special".

A parody of the book was included in the film Epic Movie.

It was parodied by the show American Dad in the episode "Black Mystery Month" were Steve finds a conspiracy in the creation of peanut butter.

2008

In 2008 it was parodied in the second series of That Mitchell and Webb Look as "The Numberwang Code", a trailer for a fictional film based on a recurring sketch on the show.

Also in March 2008 , the Irish blogger Twenty Major, parodied elements in his first book The Order of the Phoenix Park.

Release details

The book has been translated into over 40 languages, primarily in hardcover. Alternate formats include audio cassette, CD, and e-book. Most recently, a Trade Paperback edition was released March 2006 in conjunction with the film.

Major English-language (hardcover) editions include:

* (US) The Da Vinci Code, April 2003 (First edition), Doubleday, ISBN 0-385-50420-9.
* The Da Vinci Code, Special Illustrated Edition, November 2, 2004, Doubleday, ISBN 0-385-51375-5 (as of January 2006, has sold 576,000 copies).
* (UK) The Da Vinci Code, April 2004, Corgi Adult. ISBN 0-552-14951-9.
* (UK) The Da Vinci Code: The Illustrated Edition, October 2, 2004, Bantam Press. ISBN 0-593-05425-3.
* (US/Canada) The Da Vinci Code (Trade Paperback edition), March 2006, Anchor Books.
* On March 28, 2006, Anchor Books released 5 million paperback copies of the book, and Broadway Books released 200,000 paperback copies of The Da Vinci Code Special Illustrated Edition.
* On May 19, the day of the film's release, Doubleday and Broadway Books released The Da Vinci Code Illustrated Screenplay: Behind the Scenes of the Major Motion Picture, by screenwriter Akiva Goldsman, with the introductions by Ron Howard and Dan Brown. It included film stills, behind-the-scenes photos and the full script. There were 25,000 copies of the hardcover, and 200,000 of the paperback version.

Sophie's access code for her voice mail is 454, the number of pages of the novel in many of its formats. In the Mass Market US Paperback, the page 155 has "SOS" as a page number.

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Film

Sony's Columbia Pictures has adapted the novel to film, with a screenplay written by Akiva Goldsman, and Academy Award winner Ron Howard directing. The film was released on May 19, 2006, and stars Tom Hanks as Robert Langdon, Audrey Tautou as Sophie Neveu, and Sir Ian McKellen as Leigh Teabing. The film had an opening weekend gross of $77,073,388. By the end of 2006, it had grossed about $244 million in the U.S. alone and has done very well in other markets, grossing over $700,000,000 worldwide, making it the second highest grossing movie of 2006. On November 14, 2006 the movie was released on DVD.

Source: Wikipedia

'Saturday Night Live' Political Skits Make Real Impact on Voters

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Election Day Survey Finds 10 Percent of Voters Were Influenced by "Saturday Night Live" Skits
As voters went to the polls on Tuesday, many had the recent political comedy of "Saturday Night Live" (SNL) on their minds. According to FirstView, a national public opinion survey released today by Roll Call, Strat@comm and Fleishman-Hillard Public Affairs, two-thirds of voters saw SNL's political parodies this election season.

FirstView's results indicate that non-traditional influencers helped shape voter opinions. "The 'SNL effect' absolutely impacted the election," said Mike Dabadie, FirstView researcher. "We saw that 10 percent of voters said they were influenced by the skits. At the same time, the data shows that 59 percent of those who saw the skits voted for Obama and 39 percent voted for McCain."

The survey also found that 6 percent of respondents indicated the skits made them more likely to vote for Obama/Biden and 4 percent said the SNL skits made them more likely to vote for McCain/Palin.

FirstView was conducted by former White House pollsters Dr. Dee Allsop and Mr. Mike Dabadie. It goes beyond exit polls by delving into a wide scope of attitudinal and behavioral questions that motivated the voters to elect Barack Obama and the 111th Congress.

FirstView also found that while voters were primarily concerned about the economy, they did not vote their pocket books. Instead they were motivated to change the world for future generations and to restore trust in government.

FirstView surveyed 1,000 voters through a phone and online survey. Respondents were triple screened for age, voter registration and participation in the 2008 election. The data is stratified by census region to represent the U.S. population's actual ratios for gender, education and ethnicity. These measures assure a valid national probability sample. The scientific survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percent at the 95 percent confidence level.



Source: Marketwatch.com

Guy Fawkes Day

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This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.
T.S. Eliot
The English, among other talents, are adept at nurturing their grudges. How else does one explain the enduring enmity toward Guy Fawkes, a conspirator in a plot to blow up Parliament in 1605? Some four centuries after Fawkes was caught, tortured and executed for his role in a scheme that never came to fruition, Britons still celebrate his demise each Nov. 5 by burning his likeness in effigy and setting fireworks ablaze.

One of the ironies of Fawkes' legacy is that he was a late addition to the infamous "Gunpowder Plot." Born a Protestant in 1570, Fawkes enlisted in the Spanish army in the Netherlands around 1593, shortly after converting to Catholicism. Co-conspirators Robert Catesby, Thomas Winter, Thomas Percy and John Wright enlisted Fawkes as a ringer, reasoning that his military skills — he had participated in the 1595 capture of Calais, France — and his anonymity as a foreign soldier made him an ideal candidate to help execute their plan.

Fawkes' henchmen were zealous Catholics who believed that by beheading the government, they might usher in a new era of Catholicism in Protestant England. Led by Catesby, they hatched a plan to explode gunpowder under Parliament during a state opening, when King James I, his queen, and other family members and government leaders were inside. The plot was set for Nov. 5, 1605, and in the preceding days, the conspirators rented a cellar underneath the building, where Fawkes stashed at least 20 barrels of gunpowder.

Things didn't go according to plan. The plotters sought wider support, and, as the story goes, one of the individuals to whom they reached out alerted his brother-in-law, a lord, not to attend Parliament on Nov. 5. The building was searched, and Fawkes was apprehended along with his stockpile of gunpowder. Tortured on the rack, he revealed the names of his co-conspirators. Some of them were killed while resisting arrest; others, including Fawkes, pled not guilty and went to trial, where they were convicted of high treason. In January, 1606, the remaining conspirators were hanged, drawn and quartered. Parliament immediately established Nov. 5 as a day of celebration.

Today, Guy Fawkes Day — also known as Bonfire Night — is marked across the United Kingdom by celebrations. To foot the bill for the traditional fireworks, children roam the streets in the days leading up to the event, brandishing their effigies — known as "Guys" — and ask passers-by for a "penny for the guy." (The phrase famously serves as the second epigraph to T.S. Eliot's 1927 meditation on despair, "The Hollow Men.") Families gather for food and festivities that might seem incongruous with the event's bloody origins — although perhaps not as incongruous as lighting fireworks and bonfires to celebrate an abortive attempt at arson.

In recent years, Fawkes' legacy has broadened. He provided the inspiration for the tile character in the Wachowski brothers' V for Vendetta, in which a masked crusader embarks on a terrorist campaign against a totalitarian British dystopia. Fawkes also proved an effective fundraising rally cry for onetime U.S. presidential candidate Ron Paul, who garnered more than $4 million on the holiday in 2007 from a website commemorating Fawkes. This year, revelers will gather across Britain — most notably in Lewes, a town once known as a hotbed of anti-Catholicism sentiment that throws one of the British Isles' biggest conflagrations — and in nations ranging from South Africa and Canada to New Zealand and Australia. Guards will also perform the annual search —more pageantry than precaution—of the Houses of Parliament to ensure no would-be Fawkes is lurking. Though the animosity and rituals may merely be symbolic at this point, the celebrations still burn brightly.



Source: Time.com

Michael Crichton

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Michael Crichton, whose technological thrillers like "The Andromeda Strain" and "Jurassic Park" had dominated best-seller lists for decades and had been translated into Hollywood mega-hits, died Tuesday in Los Angeles. He was 66 and lived in Santa Monica, California.


A statement released by his family gave the cause as cancer.

A doctor by training - he also created the hit television series "ER" - Crichton used fiction to explore the moral and political problems posed by modern technology and scientific breakthroughs, which in his books defied human control or ended up as tools used for evil ends. In his fictional worlds, human greed, hubris and the urge to dominate were just as powerful as the most advanced computers.

Crichton's fast-paced narratives often involved the arcana of medical technology, computer science, chaos theory or genetic engineering. But by combining old-fashioned storytelling with up-to-date, gee-whiz science, the books made for a compelling formula that was adapted easily by Hollywood. His books sold in the tens of millions and almost routinely became movies, many of them blockbusters like "Jurassic Park" and the sequel, "The Lost World," as well as "Rising Sun."

Reviewers often complained that Crichton's characters were wooden, that his ear for dialogue was tin and that his science was suspect.

Environmentalists raged against his skeptical views on climate change, first expressed in the 2004 novel "State of Fear" and subsequently in various public forums. Even his severest critics, however, confessed to having been seduced by his plots and unable to resist turning the pages, rapidly.

"He had a ferocious, brilliant intellect and the ability to write entertaining narratives," said Lynn Nesbitt, his agent since "The Andromeda Strain." "I can't think of many writers who can match that."

John Michael Crichton was born in Chicago, the oldest of four children, and grew up in Roslyn, New York, on Long Island. His father was the editor of Advertising Age and later president of the American Association of Advertising Agencies.

At Harvard, after a professor had criticized his writing style, the younger Crichton changed his major from English to anthropology and graduated summa cum laude in 1964. He then spent a year teaching anthropology on a fellowship at Cambridge University. In 1966, he entered Harvard's medical school and began writing on the side to help pay tuition.

Under the pseudonym John Lange, he wrote eight thrillers. Under the name Jeffery Hudson, he wrote "A Case of Need" (1968), a medical detective novel that revolved around the moral issues posed by abortion. It won an Edgar Award for best novel.

In 1969, after having earned his medical degree, Crichton moved to La Jolla, California, and spent a year as a postdoctoral fellow at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. Already inclining toward a writing career, he tilted decisively with "The Andromeda Strain," a medical thriller about a group of scientists racing against time to stop the spread of a lethal organism from outer space code-named Andromeda.

With a breakneck, suspenseful plot that played out against a carefully researched scientific setting, the novel - he was now writing under his own name - became an enormous best-seller and a successful 1971 Hollywood film, a pattern that was to be repeated many times in the years to come. More than a dozen of Crichton's novels were made into movies, and he turned his hand to directing, screenwriting and producing for film and television along the way.

After having published the nonfiction book "Five Patients: The Hospital Explained" (1970), Crichton returned to the best-seller list with "The Terminal Man" (1972), an updated "Frankenstein" in which an accident victim goes on a killing spree after a tiny computer implant, intended to control his brain, malfunctions. Technology, for Crichton, never worked quite the way it was intended.

Having directed "Pursuit," an adaptation of one of his early novels, for television, Crichton turned to film, directing the low-budget "Westworld" (1973), for which he had written the screenplay, about a virtual-reality theme park that made it possible to enter ancient Rome or the old West.

Crichton followed up that quirky project with a series of departures. In the novel "The Great Train Robbery" (1975), he turned back the clock to Victorian England to tell the story of a genteel archcriminal (played by Sean Connery in the film) who relieves a speeding train of its cargo of gold bullion. That was followed by the novel "Eaters of the Dead" (1975), in which he plunged into the mist-shrouded world of the Vikings. "Jasper Johns" (1977), a straightforward biography of the painter, completed that set of projects.

After directing his adaptation of the Robin Cook novel "Coma," with Genevieve Bujold in the starring role, Crichton returned to familiar territory in the novel "Congo" (1980), about a team of hunters on a jungle expedition in search of a rare variety of diamond capable of being transformed into a power source more efficient than nuclear energy.

A remarkably facile writer, with a restless imagination, Crichton continued to juggle roles as a novelist, screenwriter and director. His marital schedule was also crowded; Crichton married five times.

He is survived by his wife, the former Sherri Alexander, and by a daughter, Taylor.

The veteran Indian filmmaker B.R. Chopra, whose Bollywood career spanned five decades, died at his home in Mumbai on Wednesday, The Associated Press reported. He was 94.

Ailments relating to old age caused Chopra's death, said Monika Bhattacharya, a spokeswoman for Yash Raj Films, the movie studio run by his younger brother.

Chopra was known for tackling socially relevant themes in Hindi-language films.

One of his evergreen classics, 1957's "Naya Daur" ("New Path"), focused on life in a sleepy village whose residents resist replacement of a two-wheeled horse-drawn carriage by a bus as a means of public transport.

The movie was rereleased in India last year in color with digital sound.

Chopra's movies were peppered with regular Bollywood plots involving mistaken identity or families driven apart by natural disasters.

He also took on issues considered taboo in conservative India, such as a woman's rape or extramarital affairs, in movies such as "Insaf Ka Tarazoo" ("The Scales of Justice") and "Gumrah" ("Misled").

Chopra turned to television in 1988 and directed one of the most popular Indian mythological serials, "Mahabharat," based on a Hindu epic about the battle between good and evil.

He won several awards for his work.

Chopra is survived by a son and a daughter. He was cremated Wednesday in Mumbai, the financial and entertainment capital of India, Bhattacharya said.



Source: Iht.com

Election results: Obama wins!


Barack Obama was elected the US’ first African-American president, defeating John McCain decisively on Tuesday as citizens surged to the polls in a presidential race that climaxed amid the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

“Change has come,” senator Obama told a huge throng of cheering supporters in Chicago at a midnight rally.

In his first speech as victor, Obama catalogued the challenges ahead. “The greatest of a lifetime,” he said, “two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century.”

Also See US Election Results (Graphic)

He added, “There are many who won’t agree with every decision or policy I make as president, and we know that government can’t solve every problem. But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face.”

The culmination of the epic two-year campaign marks a historic moment in a nation that since its founding has struggled with racial divisions. It also ushers in a period of dominance for Democrats in Washington for the first time since the early years of president Bill Clinton’s first term. With Tuesday’s elections, Obama’s party will control both houses of Congress as well as the White House, setting the scene for Democrats to push an ambitious agenda from health care to financial regulation to ending the war in Iraq.

In becoming the US’ 44th president, Illinois senator Obama, 47 years old, defeated Arizona senator McCain, 72, a veteran lawmaker and Vietnam War hero. Despite a reputation for bucking his own party, McCain could not overcome a Democratic tide, which spurred voters to take a risk on a candidate with less than four years of national political experience. Obama is the first northern Democrat elected president since John F. Kennedy in 1960.

Also See Possibly in Barack Obama’s Cabinet (PDF)

McCain conceded the election to Obama, congratulating him and pledging to help bring unity to the country.

McCain was defeated in Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Mexico and New Hampshire, swing states he was hoping to secure for the Republican column.

According to a preliminary tally, Obama led the race with 349 electoral votes versus 173 for McCain; 270 were needed to win.

Also elected, as vice-president: Joe Biden, the veteran senator from Delaware who has promised to help Obama steer his agenda through Congress.

Obama’s victory was built on record fund-raising and a vast national campaign network. It remade the electoral map that had held fast for eight years. He overwhelmed reliable Democratic strongholds in the Northeast and West Coast. He won big in the industrial Midwest and contested fiercely in areas of traditional Republican strength. He won Virginia, the first time a Democratic candidate had taken the state since Lyndon Johnson in 1964. And he finally wrested Florida and Ohio from the GOP, two states that had bedevilled his party in the last two elections.




Source: Livemint.com