Friday, July 31, 2009

Go Fly a Kite (in Gaza)

Go fly a kite. Somewhere in the same zone as: Take a hike. Go jump in the lake.

In themselves, pretty good things to do. Somehow they became epithets (from cynical urbanites?).

I remember, in high school, during "0 Period Gym" (for the Dumbach Scholars), being required to fly a kite. I skipped it, and watched from a bathroom as my fellow prep school honors nerds embarrassed themselves by flying kites when the cool kids arrived in their hot rods for the regular beginning of the day.

Of course it's a stunt, having Palestinian children try for the Guinness World Record by flying more kites at the same time than anyone else. Where Palestinians have no right over their own air space, their own port space, their own borders.

How hard to take a picture of a child flying a kite, once the kite is high. Everything seems distant, distant as childhood.

"Flying a kite," as an idea, always feels cliched. It's too instantly transcendent. It's so unlike actual kite flying, which can be quite a bit of work.

That feeling, after the run and hustle to get that false bird in the air, of stretching out the string. As if it were always there, in the sky.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Thucydides on the Language of War, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

"To fit in with the change of events, words, too, had to change. What used to be thought of as a thoughtless act of aggression was now regarded as the courage one would expect to find in a party member; to think of the future and wait was merely another way of saying one was a coward, any idea of moderation was just an attempt to disguise one's unmanly character; ability to understand a question from all sides meant one was totally unfitted for action; frenzied violence came to be considered an attribute of a real man."--Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War, Book 3

Thucydides reminds us that this sort of language bullying has been part of the war-making process, in which the "ability to understand a question from all sides meant one was totally unfitted for action."

In Israel, under the new Netanyahu regime, language--how it frames, how it syncs into narrative--is again the site of conflict, as the word "nakba" (the catastrophe, the name for Palestinian dispossession in 1948) is removed from all textbooks. A BBC News article, "Israeli Textbooks to Drop 'Nakba'" (July 22, 2009), reports:

Israel's education ministry is to drop from an Arabic language textbook a term describing the creation of the state of Israel as "the catastrophe".

The Arabic word "nakba" has been used with Israeli-Arab pupils since 2007. It does not appear in Hebrew textbooks.

Education Minister Gideon Saar said no state could be expected to portray its own foundation as a catastrophe.

Israeli Arab MP Hana Sweid called the move an attack on Palestinian identity and collective memory.

The passage in question, which occurs in one textbook aimed at Arab children aged eight or nine, describes the 1948 war, which resulted in Israel's creation, in the following terms: "The Arabs call the war the Nakba - a war of catastrophe, loss and humiliation - and the Jews call it the Independence War."

The sentence was introduced when Yuli Tamir of the centre-left Labour party was education minister.

Ms Tamir's successor in Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing administration, Mr Saar, said: "There is no reason that the official curriculum of the state of Israel should present the establishment of the state as a 'holocaust' or 'catastrophe'."

Mr Saar added that state education for children was not supposed entail the de-legitimising of that state.

"Including the term in the official curriculum of the Arab sector was a mistake, a mistake that will not repeat itself in the new curriculum, which is currently being revised," he concluded.

Correspondents say most Hebrew-language history books, especially when written for schoolchildren, focus on the heroism of Israeli forces in 1948 and gloss over the mass exile of Palestinians.

If it is mentioned at all it is attributed to a voluntary flight, rather than the deliberate expulsion which later revisionist historians claim to have uncovered from archive sources.

The term Nakba is usually applied to the loss suffered by millions of Palestinian refugees displaced by the 1948 war and subsequent conflicts; their fate remains a key factor in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.

Jafar Farrah, director of Israeli-Arab advocacy group Moussawa, told the BBC that removing the word Nakba from textbooks would not stop Arabs from using it, but it would complicate relations.

Far-right members of the Israeli government are pursuing legislation to make it illegal in Israel to commemorate the Nakba, as Palestinians and their supporters do every 15 May.

One of the strengths of Israeli democracy has been its relative liberality, its ability to discuss even the most painful aspects of Israeli politics and life. Such a recent setback demonstrates the rightward turn of the state under Netanyahu, but we should remember that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has always been waged on the level of language, of naming.

Any reader of Sahar Khalifeh's brilliant novel Wild Thorns (1978)--now thirty years old, but as classically contemporary as Thucydides--will recall the brilliant depiction of the checkpoint dialogue between Usama, returning home after five years abroad, and an Israeli security interrogator, in which each vies for naming the place from which Usama comes:
“I left home to work abroad five years ago, three months after the occupation started. We were living in Tulkarm; then my father died and my mother moved to Nablus.”
“Why did your mother move to Shekem?”
“She likes Nablus.”
“Why does she like Shekem?”
“She’s got lots of relatives in Nablus.”
“And why have you left the oil countries to return to Shekem?”
“I’m returning to Nablus because my father died.”
“Who died?”
“My father.”
“When did he die? Speak up!”
“Two years ago.”
“Why are you coming back now and not two years ago?
“I was waiting for permission from the family reunion programme.”

While the soldier insists on referring to Nablus as Shekem, Usama holds fast to his name, in a situation of humiliation and at great risk to his ability to pass through the checkpoint.

On the heels of another story on npr about the removal of names--of "Al-Quds" from road signs leading to Jerusalem/Al-Quds:
Israel's conservative new minister of transportation wants to remove the English and Arabic place names from new traffic signs. The Arabic and English lettering would remain, but would spell out Hebrew names.

The proposal has angered Arabs who say it's another attempt to erase the Arab connection to the land.

When motorists head up the hill to Jerusalem, for example, the large green traffic signs say "Yerushalayim" in Hebrew, "Jerusalem" in English and "Ursalim al-Quds" in Arabic.

But if transportation minister Israel Katz has his way, all three languages will spell out the word "Yerushalayim."

On its Web site, the ministry says the changes are intended to simplify things for drivers by minimizing the number of words that must be read. But Katz, a Likud Party hawk, also made clear in an interview with Israel's largest newspaper that he has a political motive.

"If someone wants, by means of a road sign, to make Jerusalem into Palestinian al-Quds," Katz said, "that won't happen in this government, certainly not with this minister."

This is not to say that Jewish suffering, the Jews' own profound history of dispossession and exile upon exile, is to be minimized, derided, or forgotten; on the contrary, the question becomes--how can we hold together an adequate narrative that acknowledges the terrible losses of all peoples, without merely using such a history as justification for vengeance or further brutality? Must we, as Thucydides saw, be swept up in the history of blood--as if it were as natural as the tide, and not something that comes from somewhere inside us?

Monday, July 27, 2009

Josh Stieber, Conscientious Objector, Coming to Cleveland August 3rd, 7pm

Josh Stieber - CO speaks before PAND concert in Cleveland
08/03/09 7:00PM - 8:00PM
Evangelical GI born again as CO
Former GI Josh Stieber, now a Conscientious Objector, will speak at 7pm in the Brooks Room of St. Paul's Church before the August 3, 8pm PAND concert.

Conscientious Objector Josh Stieber doesn't think he's ever shot anyone. Not long ago, Stieber was sitting atop a Humvee, manning a machine gun turret near Baghdad, fruitlessly firing rounds into an empty countryside in the confusing aftermath of a roadside explosion or sniper fire. But he doesn't remember hitting anybody. Usually the insurgents wreaking the havoc were long gone.

Now, the 21-year-old spends the majority of his days literally taking one step at a time, a long way from Iraq and his Maryland home. Stieber has been walking across America since the end of May, spreading his personal message of peace. Typically his 6-foot-4 frame is loaded with a 45-pound pack as he plods and bikes to his next speaking engagement, and the chance to crash on a local peace activist's couch for the night.

Cleveland area Veterans For Peace activists Steve and Tess Parry will host Josh on August 2 and 3 in their Euclid, Ohio, home.

Josh has traveled to various philanthropic organizations, visiting a prison reintegration program in Maryland and a cancer research program in Philadelphia. He's dividing his Iraq combat pay, just shy of $30,000, among different causes and charities. He wants his journey to inspire and promote peace. Stieber says his message transcends any particular Middle East development. "It's a lot more than just that. I want people to be more aware and evaluate the mindset that drove them to support the war in the first place," he said.

He didn't always run in liberal circles. Growing up the oldest of three children in a family "that listened to Rush Limbaugh," in Gaithersburg, Md., a half-hour north of Washington D.C., Stieber attended an evangelical megachurch. His schooling fell under the auspices of his church.

He remembers Bible class justifying the war in Iraq as a battle of good vs. evil. He spent Friday nights during his teen years approaching strangers and asking them if they thought they were going to heaven or hell. He loved politics. He volunteered for George W. Bush's 2004 re-election and saw military service as a good launching point for a possible career in the GOP. At his high school, he thought the military was all about "saving lives and passing out soccer balls."

On graduation he joined the Army, and was stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas. He did one 14-month tour of Iraq, from February 2007 to April 2008 as an infantryman, and became more uncomfortable with his military role as his stint in Iraq lengthened.

He had a hard time justifying the religious morality of his childhood and adolescence with the harsh reality of warfare. He started to see the political rhetoric and moral justification of the war as "talking without action behind it." "The gap kept getting bigger and bigger," he said.

He read Gandhi and Tolstoy and started to change his mind about the American presence in the Middle East. He recalls raiding homes in search of weapons caches and the Army's capture and subsequent turning of a local politician who had previously worked for the insurgency. The defunct ice cream factory where he stayed for more than a year in Baghdad was blown up the day after his contingent left.

He left the military, filing a request for consideration as a conscientious objector. It was granted, a relative rarity the military has granted about 30 such discharges per year since the Iraq war began. He was vetted by an investigative officer, chaplain, and psychiatrist per military procedure before he departed.

Monday, August 3, Stieber will speak at 7pm in the Brooks Room of St. Paul's Church before the 8pm PAND concert in main congregational hall.

Stieber says he still believes in the message of Jesus but has left institutional religion and is working on the decision for the rest of his life's work. For now he says, "I'm trying to turn a negative into positive. Fear and paranoia aren't the only way to live." ##

(edited from article by Dan McDonald/Daily News staff, MetroWest Daily News. Posted Jul 03, 2009 @ 01:02 AM)

Friday, July 24, 2009

"When I say 'post-/Apocalyptic,' I mean "contemporary"/Nick Demske's provocations in Half Glass

Nick Demske is a dangerous man. His principal offense is poetic, mostly in the form of blasts of sonnets with shrapneled linebreaks and toxic content. The work plugs into the formal obsessiveness of John Berryman, the outrageousness of Frederick Seidel, and the clownish political prophecy of Allen Ginsberg, as he challenges our (bourgeois) taste and what it hides.

Here are a few sonnets from Half Glass (2009), a chapbook of "self-portraits" which are evidently exploded subjects themselves.

In "Hot Dog," he skewers our Dorian Gray-like obsessive concern with our appearance (and the global inequities and devastation we ignore, and how it comes back to us as violence).


Does this fanny pack make me look fat?
No, but it makes you look like a big fucking idiot.
And, also, slightly fat, yes. I have no idea what a hot
Dog is made of. If you're going to act like a brat,

I'm going to eat you like one. Why feign this as coincidence? Why don
Ate your body to science when it could feed
An entire village? I want to lick you in places that would leave
My tongue bacterial. Does this hard won

Prosperity make me look fat? This humor so dark you mistake
It for chocolate.
Nick Demske, you are everything wrong with the world. Which is to say: the wor
Ld. Share with me your most secret ingredients. This megamart once was a for

Est. These teeth marks, once a kiss. Does these priorit
Ies make me look fat, these scars, these explosives beneath my sweatshirt?


In the hard-minded, "As Far Away," (published in Moria), Demske challenges our beliefs--for example, on the necessity to fight every denial of the Holocaust. Demske's poem is not a "holocaust denial," but rather a reflection of the odd power of denial itself (which is to say, that the more one attempts to suppress certain ideas, however insane, the more those ideas accrue a perverse power). Further, the poem pushes our thinking about what it means to know the Holocaust at all, or what it might mean to "believe in" the Holocaust. There is no argument here, but the staging of a kind of comic nihilism against the backdrop of historical trauma. What, indeed, can we ever know events distant geographically, temporally, psychically?

“mortals were careful [then] and never forsook the shores of their homelands.”

The Holocaust never existed. What are you going to do
About it? The Holocaust never happened, but your mother’s autopsy reveals
It can if you just believe. To
Page this person, press five now. All sales fatal. All sales

Symbolically representative of mortality. I know a woman so redolent
Of pulchritude you’d contract second
Hand erectile dysfunction from the mere hint of her figment.
The Holocaust never happened. Better luck next time. A woman

So pulchritudinous you want to turn away, as far away
As humanly possible. I meant to do that. For old time’s sake. When
You’re finished recording, please hang up and try
Again. God is of not much use here, like a lesbian

So beautiful she turns gay men
Straight. I don’t believe in the Holocaust. Amen.

Monday, July 20, 2009

You are Not Wall-E: Thinking about Space Flight, Water Resources, and Jamey Hecht's "Z-179"

I've been hearing about the 40th anniversary of the moon walk today, and also thinking about the water crisis again (courtesy of Jon Stewart's interview of Robert Glennon), and my mind cast back to a talk I gave at the Racine Library a few weeks ago. One of my extended rants was about "Wall-E," a film which begins as apocalypse and ends as comedy.

Incredibly, frighteningly, the film sets us into a lifeless landscape composed of piles of human trash; this, we learn, is Earth (thus, the movie begins where "Planet of the Apes" ends). The robot "Wall-E" is designed to clean things up, and does so in an efficient way every day, shutting himself down after watching a musical on TV. As is the genre, all robots, of course, are (emblematic of) humans--"robot" actually comes from the Russian word, rabotat', meaning to work, and is suggestive of the modernist fantasy that Taylorist mass production would emerge from ideal (robotic?) workers.

We empathize with Wall-E, as he does his job and falls in love with a sexy drone Eva, who descends one day from the sky (don't they all?). Later, we learn that, actually, all (?) the humans left the planet and are on board a spaceship until it becomes suitable for habitation, and are in a state of complete infantilization, on motorized scooters and locked into entertainment screens in front of their faces.

We are, sadly, not Wall-E, but those amorphous schmoos locked into the entertainment screeens. Wall-E is a kid in India tearing up our last year's I-Phone, Mac, or DVD player, scrounging for the precious metals inside, as his body is slowly poisoned.

What does this have to do with space flight? Everything.

Our excessive urge for escaping the planet is part of our problem (and here I am, typing away my life); we need less space, and more earth.

Which leads me to a stunning poem from Jamey Hecht's Limousine: Midnight Blue (Fifty Frames from the Zapruder Film),a sequence of poems meditating the assassination of JFK, and all the losses that this murder would come to emblematize. More on this book later.

Suppose you’re in a spaceship and you go outside
in your amazing space suit to make repairs.
Somehow the tether breaks and you’re floating
several feet from the hull and the handle,

standing on nothing, perfectly still. You’re free,
but you can’t stay. There’s no air or water to shove
against and swim through back to life and work.
If you could only throw some garbage out behind,

that would propel you forward with the same momentum;
even an eyelash, a fingernail, nickels and dimes
would have you slowly sailing toward sweet solid
panes and rivets, terra firma, at the stainless breast

of mankind’s genius. But everything expendable
is sealed inside what you can’t live without.

"Arroz Poetica" by Aracelis Girmay

ARROZ POETICA by Aracelis Girmay

I got news yesterday
from a friend of mine
that all people against the war should
send a bag of rice to George Bush,
& on the bag we should write,
"If your enemies are hungry, feed them."

But to be perfectly clear,
my enemies are not hungry.
They are not standing in lines
for food, or stretching rations,
or waiting at the airports
to claim the pieces
of the bodies of their dead.
My enemies ride jets to parties.
They are not tied up in pens
in Guantanamo Bay. They are not
young children throwing rocks. My enemies eat
meats & vegetables at tables
in white houses where candles blaze, cast
shadows of crosses, & flowers.
They wear ball gowns & suits & rings
to talk of war in neat & folded languages
that will not stain their formal dinner clothes
or tousle their hair. They use words like "casualties"
to speak of murder. They are not stripped down to skin
& made to stand barefoot in the cold or hot.
They do not lose their children to this war.
They do not lose their houses & their streets. They do not
come home to find their lamps broken.
They do not ever come home to find their families murdered
or disappeared or guns put at their faces.
Their children are not made to walk
a field of mines, exploding.

This is no wedding.
This is no feast.
I will not send George Bush rice, worked for rice
from my own kitchen
where it sits in a glass jar & I am transfixed
by the thousands of beautiful pieces
like a watcher at some homemade & dry
aquarium of grains, while the radio calls out
the local names of 2,000
US soldiers counted dead since March.
&, we all know it, there will always be more than
what's been counted. They will not say the names
of an Iraqi family trying to pass a checkpoint
in an old white van. A teenager caught out on some road
after curfew. The radio will go on, shouting
the names &, I promise you,
they will not call your name, Hassna
Ali Sabah, age 30, killed by a missile in Al-Bassra, or you,
Ibrahim Al-Yussuf, or the sons of Sa'id Shahish
on a farm outside of Baghdad, or Ibrahim, age 12,
as if your blood were any less red, as if the skins
that melted were any less skin, & the bones
that broke were any less bone,
as if your eradication were any less absolute, any less
eradication from this earth where you were
not a president or a military soldier.
& you will not ever walk home
again, or smell your mother's hair again,
or shake the date palm tree
or smell the sea
or hear the people singing at your wedding
or become old
or dream or breathe, or even pray or whistle,
& your tongue will be all gone or useless
& it will not ever say again or ask a question,
you, who were birthed once, & given milk,
& given names that mean: she is born at night,
happy, favorite daughter,
morning, heart, father of
a multitude.

Your name, I will have noticed
on a list collected by an Iraqi census of the dead,
because your name is the name of my own brother,
because your name is the Tigrinya word for "tomorrow,"
because all my life I have wanted a farm,
because my students are 12, because I remember
when my sisters were 12. & I will not
have ever seen your eyes, & you will not
have ever seen my eyes
or the eyes of the ones who dropped the missiles,
or the eyes of the ones who ordered the missiles,
& the missiles have no eyes. You had no chance,
the way they fell on avenues & farms
& clocks & schoolchildren. There was no place for you
& so you burned. A bag of rice will not bring you back.
A poem cannot bring you. & although it is my promise here
to try to open every one of my windows, I cannot
imagine the intimacy with which
a life leaves its body, even then,
in detonation, when the skull is burst,
& the body's country of indivisible organs
flames into the everything. & even in
that quick departure as the life rushes on,
headlong or backwards, there must, must
be some singing as the hand waves "be well"
to its other hand, goodbye;
& the ear belongs to the field now.
& we cannot separate the roof from the heart
from the trees that were there, standing.
& so it is, when I say "night,"
it is your name I am calling,
when I say "field,"
your thousand, thousand names,
your million names.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Susan Schultz's Dementia Blog: A Portrait of Grieving

Just recently, I returned home to the Chicago-area, where I spent my youth, and marked all of the changes to Lincolnshire's suburban landscape--the farms of my youth now only lingering palimpsests beneath the McMansions and new identikit developments, the restaurants once lively with voices now shuttered and silent, whole apple orchards like Quig's now flown off to wherever Heraclitus went with his river. I can't help but feel a little pain at the loss of such landmarks, inner maps now confused by outer definitions of progress. I was reminded again how one of the great struggles of poetry has been against Time.

Susan Schultz's moving Dementia Blog, a book of poetic prose chronicling the personal crisis of her mother's rapid descent into dementia and increasing need for full-time care, is a remarkable and exemplary chapter in that struggle. But simultaneously, it is a reminder of why we still need an avant-garde practice, and how avant-garde procedures can be as homely and unheimlich as the process of grieving a mother's decline, set against the backdrop of a nation's decline.

The book, whose gorgeous and haunting image of a photograph of a married couple disappearing into the background, began as a blog, which itself began as a travelogue, then rapidly became a meditation on the crisis of care for the author's mother. That the blog itself disappeared prior to the book's publication is suggestive of the many erasures that Dementia Blog marks and grieves.

Beginning backward, as blogs do, we find ourselves in the hectic present, in medias res, and push our way forward in order to go back in time. But counter to the novelistic mode of narrative, Dementia Blog only moves backward, it cannot progress into some future. It enacts a kind of mourning that moves into melancholia, as Freud describes it, descending deeper underwater and unable to break the surface of the present.

The book, then, never becomes a memoir of loss, insofar as the position of the memoirist must always be somehow removed from the scene temporally. We are treated to the open wound of grief, without its suture.

In this way, the book, a raw transcription of a Zukofskyan "thinking with things as they exist," marks not only the boundary between the living and the dead, but also the split in poetry since the modernists. In contrast to the notion of a viable American Hybrid (pace Ron Silliman and the recent anthology by that name), which purports to harmonize the impulses of cooked and raw, mainstream and avant, the Dementia Blog's direct transcription reminds us of a fundamental difference in poetic practice and possibility between the poets of monument and the poets of process. Schultz's practice hews toward pure process, where every particular, however mundane, however wasteful, stubbornly remains.

Schultz herself broaches this question--if one wants to remember, why not reshape it as memory and writing always already reshape it? By choosing process over some memoir'd poetics, Schultz holds fast and painfully to a present which will never change, and therefore always be past. This is the poetry of grief without end. In her words,

And if writing is an aid to forgetting, then why take this down as dictation, rather than reshape it in some other form? Form that marked it as poem, as line, as refrain (since dementia is the refrain of her life, as least?) Form that demarcated the difference between this life (demented as it is) and this poem (moments of forgetting tethered into some shape)? Because dementia is where the form and the life collide, where hallucination consumes form. Dementia is absence of form, absence of form/content rift or incorporation. Dementia is (though it is not) the poem in the process (or lack thereof) of forgetting poem.

Schultz, like the bereaved subject, imitates her own mother's decline into a past which is no longer on any map. In this way, it predicts our own individual and collective disappearance.

Mos Def's "Dollar Day (Katrina Clap)"

If you haven't seen "When the Levees Broke," the Spike Lee documentary about Hurrican Katrina and New Orleans, please do. In the meantime, Mos Def brings it all back home, linking the U.S. response to New Orleans with the wars abroad.

So there's a story about the lady in Louisiana
She's a flood survivor and the rescue teams
They come through, and they, I guess tryna recover people
And they see this women she's wadin through the streets
I guess it'd been some time after the storm
And I guess they were shocked that you know she was alive
And rescue worker said, "So, oh my God h-how did you survive
How did you do it? Where've you been?"
And she said, "Where I been? Where you been?"
Hah, Where you been? You understand?
That's about the size of it

This for the streets, the streets everywhere
The streets affected by the storm called... America
I'm doin this for y'all, and for me, for the Creator

God save, these streets
One dollar per every human being
Feel that Katrina clap
See that Katrina clap

Listen, homie, it's Dollar Day in New Orleans
It's water water everywhere and people dead in the streets
And Mr. President he bout that cash
He got a policy for handlin the niggaz and trash
And if you poor you black
I laugh a laugh they won't give when you ask
You better off on crack
Dead or in jail, or with a gun in Iraq
And it's as simple as that
No opinion my man it's mathematical fact
Listen, a million poor since 2004
And they got -illions and killions to waste on the war
And make you question what the taxes is for
Or the cost to reinforce, the broke levee wall
Tell the boss, he shouldn't be the boss anymore
Y'all pray amin

God save, these streets
One dollar per every human being
Feel that Katrina clap
See that Katrina clap
God save, these streets
Quit bein' cheap nigga freedom ain't free
Feel that Katrina clap
See that Katrina clap

Lord have mercy
Lord God God save our soul
A God save our soul, a God
A God save our souls
Lord God God save our soul
A God save our soul soul soul
Soul survivor

It's Dollar Day in New Orleans
It's water water everywhere and babies dead in the streets
It's enough to make you holler out
Like where the fuck is Sir Bono and his famous friends now
Don't get it twisted man I dig U2
But if you ain't about the ghetto then fuck you too
Who care bout rock 'n roll when babies can't eat food
Listen homie man that shit ain't cool

It's like Dollar Day for New Orleans
It's water water everywhere and homies dead in the streets
And Mr. President's a natural ass
He out treatin niggaz worse than they treat the trash

God save, these streets
One dollar per every human being
Feel that Katrina Clap
See that Katrina Clap
God save, these streets
Quit bein cheap nigga freedom ain't free!
Feel that Katrina Clap
See that Katrina Clap
Soul survivor

God God God save our soul
A God save our soul
A God, a God save our soul
Lord God God save our soul
A God save our soul a God a God save

Lord did not intend for the wicked to rule the world
Say God did not intend for the wicked to rule the world
God did not intend for the wicked to rule the world
And even when they knew it's a matter of truth
Before they wick-ed ruling is through

God save, these streets
A Dollar Day for New Orleans
God save, these streets
Quit bein cheap homie freedom ain't free

God save these streets
One dollar per every human being
Feel that Katrina Clap
See that Katrina Clap
God save these streets
Quit bein cheap nigga freedom ain't free!
Feel that Katrina Clap! Ha
Ghetto Katrina Clap! Ha

Soul survivor
Lord God God save our soul
A God save God save our soul

Feel that Katrina Clap
Let's make them dollars stack
And rebuild these streets
God save these streets
God save these streets
God save the soul!
Feel that Katrina Clap
See that Katrina Clap
Soul survivor

Don't talk about it, be about it

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

"Barbarians Boxing" by Paul Merchant

"Barbarians Boxing" by Paul Merchant

Every page of the atlas has been half erased
in a swirling cloud of dust, iron filings, blood.
A barbarian boxing, say the Greeks, when you
hit his face, he covers his face, when you hit
his belly, he covers his belly. If both sides
want a fight, does it matter who landed the first
blow, and on what day? In the lit corner
of our ravaged world a tree waits for spring.

from Some Business of Affinity by Paul Merchant

Saturday, July 11, 2009

My Main Man, What is the Problem with Michael Jackson?

This is a clip from the film, "Three Kings" (1999), the best movie about the Gulf War (1991), with the possible exceptions of "Courage Under Fire" and "Jarhead." Obviously, this is pretty harsh stuff.

Ibtisam Barakat's "Palestine"

To all of the Palestinians who have never seen Palestine...


At the check out register
At an office-supplies store
I am getting ready to
Buy the world --
The globe that is
Fifty dollars, the man says
195 countries all
For 50 dollars.
I am thinking –
That means 25 cents
A country..
Can I give you a dollar
And you throw in
Where do you want it?
He says.
Wherever there are

-- Ibtisam Barakat

Saddam's Fingerprints

I'm haunted by Saddam.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Has Anyone Seen "Standard Operating Procedure"?

Has Anyone Seen "Standard Operating Procedure"? I just read THE BALLAD OF ABU GHRAIB, by Errol Morris and Philip Gourevitch, based on the interviews that comprise the film. It's exhaustively researched, compellingly told, and historically important. Still, I am stunned that the Iraqis themselves have almost no voice in the story at all, with the exception of Shit Boy and a couple other cartoon characters; they, the objects of our torture, become a great silent mirror against which we play ourselves to death.

This reminds me of the move in the recent film, "Waltz with Bashir," when the narrator/director Ari Folman is set to talk to someone "who was there" at the massacre of Sabra and Shatila decides to talk to an Israeli journalist, and not a single Palestinian or Lebanese. It's as if only "we" can confirm the truth. And while I understand and admire the existence of such figures as investigative journalists and dissenting intellectuals "from within," I find it beyond depressing that only "we" can confirm the truth.

I Like to Swim; Therefore, Waterboarding Ain't That Bad

Nothing like a investigative journalism to confirm that torture is torture.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

"Order of the Day" by Yitzhak Laor

Reading With an Iron Pen: Twenty Years of Hebrew Protest Poetry, a volume of particular courage of Israeli poets against the occupation, I discovered this little gem, "Order of the Day," which excoriates the vengeance-ridden ideologies fueling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; in particular, Laor's critique is for those right-wing fundamentalists who see the current conflict as a possibility of wreaking vengeance for Biblical wrongs--what the Amalekites did to the Israelites.

In Deuteronomy 25:
17 “Remember what Amalek did to you on the way as you came out of Egypt,
18 how he attacked you on the way when you were faint and weary, and cut off your tail, those who were lagging behind you, and he did not fear God.
19 Therefore when the Lord your God has given you rest from all your enemies around you, in the land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance to possess, you shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven; you shall not forget."

Today, right-wing Israeli settlers often conflate Palestinians with Amalekites, those archetypal enemies. The story in the Bible does not end with the victimization of the Israelites, nor with the Lord's extortation of the Israelites to kill them, but with the actual extermination of the Amalekites.

"Order of the Day" by Yitzhak Laor

That which
Amalek did,
to you
of course,
Do unto Amalek
what Amalek
did, to you
of course,

If you can’t
find yourself
an Amalek, call
Amalek whomever
you want to do
to him what
Amalek did,
to you of course,

Don’t compare
to what Amalek
did, to you
of course, Over.
Not when
you want to do
that which
Amalek did,
to you of course,
Over and out,

trans. Gabriel Levin


Saturday, July 4, 2009

X's "See How We Are"

I was too young to love X before they were gone, but youtube has been a worthy recreator of nostalgia. I miss John Doe and Exene Cervenka, and I never even knew them. I wanted to post "Fourth of July", but I can't find any functional video online to celebrate the holiday.