Thursday, December 27, 2007

why i detest glenn beck

December 19, 2007
Lost in the Funhouse
The Mad Corporate World of Glenn Beck


When I picked up a ringing phone Monday morning, the next thing I knew a producer was inviting me to appear on Glenn Beck's TV show.

Beck has become a national phenom with his nightly hour of polemics on CNN Headline News -- urging war on Iran, denouncing "political correctness" at home, trashing immigrants who don't speak English, mocking environmentalists as repressive zealots, and generally trying to denigrate progressive outlooks.

Our segment, the producer said, would focus on a recent NBC news report praising the virtues of energy-efficient LED light bulbs without acknowledging that the network's parent company, General Electric, sells them. I figured it was a safe bet that Beck's enthusiasm for full disclosure from media would be selective.

A few hours later, I was staring into a camera lens at the CNN bureau in San Francisco while Beck launched into his opening. What had occurred on the "NBC Nightly News," he explained, "was at best a major breach of journalistic integrity." And he pointed out: "The problem isn't what NBC is promoting. It's what they're not disclosing."

A minute later, Beck asked his first question: "Norman, you agree with me that they should have disclosed this?" The unedited transcript tells what happened next.

* * *

SOLOMON: "It's a big problem when there's not disclosure. I'm glad you opened this up. And I wouldn't want any viewers of this program to be left with the impression that somehow General Electric is an environmentally conscious company.

"On the contrary, they have a 30-year history of refusing and actually fighting against efforts to make them clean up the Hudson River, which GE fouled with terrible quantities of horrific PCBs, other rivers as well. People told they can't fish in the Hudson River. General Electric still lobbying to not have to clean up.

"General Electric, even today -- and this report is very timely -- General Electric is lobbying to get Congress to pass $18 billion in taxpayer-backed loan guarantees for a huge GE product which is General Electric components for nuclear power plants. So we should not be fooled in any way by efforts to greenwash General Electric or any other company."

BECK: "You know what's amazing to me? GE has a bigger budget for -- special interest budget than all of the oil companies combined, and yet nobody says anything. Let me reverse this.

"Norman, do you think if I got on as somebody who says I don't know what we can do about global warming, I'm not sure man causes it, and I certainly don't want to have laws and regulations on this, if I got on and said that but I was being -- my corporate -- my corporate parent was Exxon Mobil, do you think I'd get away with that for a second without that being on the front page of the New York Times?"

SOLOMON: "Well, other networks, including General Electric's NBC, have been very slow on global warming. And in fact, General Electric has major interest in components and products used by the oil and gas industry.

"I think if you look across the board, all the major networks, even so-called public broadcasting, which has Chevron underwriting its 'Washington Week' program every Friday, there is a problem, as you say. I think your words are very apt, 'promoting' but 'not disclosing.'

"But let's be clear about this, Glenn. I have a list here, for instance, that I jotted down.

"ABC, owned by Disney. ABC doesn't disclose in their relevant news reports about Disney's stake in sweatshops.

"Fox News -- and now as of the last couple of days now, Wall Street Journal owned by the same entity, Rupert Murdoch's News Corp -- they don't disclose that the ownership is entangled with the Chinese government to the detriment of human rights but to the advancement of the profit margin of the parent company."

BECK: "See --"

SOLOMON: "We would be remiss, Glenn, if we left out CNN, because CNN has a huge multi, multibillion-dollar stake in Internet deregulation and the failure of the Congress to safeguard so far what would be called net neutrality. So every time CNN does a news report on the Internet, on efforts to regulate or deregulate or create a two- or three-tier system of the Internet, CNN News should disclose that Time Warner, the parent company, stands to gain or lose billions of dollars in those terms.

"And one more thing."

BECK: "Real quick."

SOLOMON: "A major -- a major advertiser for CNN is the largest military contractor in the United States, Lockheed Martin. So when you and others --"

BECK: "I got news for you, Norman. Norman --"

SOLOMON: "-- promote war -- when you and others promote war on this network --"

BECK: "Norman -- Norman --"

SOLOMON: "-- we have Lockheed Martin paying millions of dollars undisclosed. So I would quote you --"

BECK: "Norman -- Norman --"

SOLOMON: "Promoting but not disclosing is a bad way to go."

BECK: "Norman, let me just tell you this. First of all, Lockheed Martin is not a -- not a corporate overlord of this program."

SOLOMON: "It's a major advertiser on CNN."

BECK: "That's fine. That's fine. Advertisers are different. But let --"

SOLOMON: "Well, it is fine, but it should be disclosed."

BECK: "Norman, let me just tell you something. If you think that it's warmonger central downstairs at CNN, you're out of your mind. But that's a different story."

SOLOMON: "Well, upstairs, when I watch Glenn Beck, in terms of attacking Iran, it certainly is. It's lucrative for the oil companies, as well as for the major advertiser on CNN, Lockheed Martin."

BECK: "But we're not talking about advertisers. We are talking about --"

SOLOMON: "Well, you don't want to talk about it. So let's talk about the Internet stake."

BECK: "No, no, no. Norman --"

SOLOMON: "Let's talk about the Internet stake that the owners of CNN have. Huge profits to be made or lost by the parent company of CNN depending on what happens in Washington in terms of Internet regulation."

BECK: "Norman, let me tell you something."

SOLOMON: "That should be acknowledged, don't you think?"

BECK: "Absolutely. And if it was on this program, it would be acknowledged.

"I thank you very much for your time.

"That just goes to show you, you've got to beware of everybody who you're getting your news from. Wouldn't it be nice if once in a while somebody came on and said, you know, I don't really have an agenda except the truth? It's my truth. If you don't like it, you should go someplace else."

* * *

During the back-and-forth, I'd understated the present-day role of Chevron as a funder of key news programming on PBS. Actually the Chevron Corporation, which signed on as an underwriter of "Washington Week" last year, no longer helps pay the piper there -- but the massive energy firm does currently funnel big bucks to the most influential show on PBS, the nightly "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer."

The corporate funders of the "NewsHour" now include not only Chevron but also AT&T and Pacific Life. There must be dozens of journalistic reports on the program every week -- whether relevant to the business worlds of energy, communications or insurance -- that warrant, and lack, real-time disclosures while the news accounts are on the air. Meanwhile, over at "Washington Week," the corporate cash now flows in from the huge military contractor Boeing and the National Mining Association.

And that's just "public broadcasting." On avowedly commercial networks, awash in corporate ownership interests and advertising revenues, a thorough policy of disclosure in the course of news coverage would require that most of the airtime be devoted to shedding light on the media outlet conflicts-of-interest of the reporting in progress.

And what about Glenn Beck? The guy is another in a long line of demagogues riding a bull market for pseudo-populism. Brought to you by too many corporate interests to name.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The Lost Jihad: Love in Islam

The Lost Jihad: Love in Islam
The many words and meanings for love in Arabic are reflective of Islam's comprehensiveness and depth


"At the heart of all things is the germ of their overthrow," wrote Egyptian author Adhaf Soueif in her Booker-nominated novel, The Map of Love. She was indulging in a very beautifully written digression about Arabic grammar, comparing words derived from the same root: in this case, qalb, "heart"; and enqilab, "overthrow". At this level, where the interplay of meaning and construction is visible, Arabic becomes an extraordinary language, forcing into cooperation concepts and ideas that are entirely unrelated in English.

Despite the tremendous conceptual range and utility provided by the root-and-pattern system of the language, there is a common assumption among non-speakers that Arabic-and thus, Islam-lacks an equivalent of agapé, a Greek term used by Christians to mean the boundary-less, self-sacrificing love between believers, or between a believer and God. More passionate than filia, less explicit than eros, agapé is love stripped of expectation, in which the lover is humbled and disciplined before the beloved. Running a Google search for 'agapé' and 'Islam' yields literally hundreds of Christian sites claiming there is no such term in Arabic, and painting Islam as a cold, dispassionate religion in its absence.

Over the years, Sufi Muslims have co-opted many of the romantic Arabic words for love and made them serve an ideal very much like agapé: Rumi feels hayam for the absent Shams; al Ghazali explores 'aishq as the union between a worthy believer and a higher Beloved, Allah. The poetry of 10th and 11th-century Sufis helped inspire the troubadour culture and ideals of courtly love that flourished in the medieval kingdoms of southern France, Navarre and Aragonne; one of the positive artistic developments to arise from contact between Christian Europe and the Muslim Near East during the Crusades. But many of the greatest Sufi thinkers, including al Ghazali, were themselves influenced by Platonic, Neoplatonic and Gnostic Christian ideals of love, kept alive in the medieval Middle East by the translation of Greek, Roman and Byzantine texts into Arabic and Persian. The question remains: we know the Prophet Muhammad meant Muslims to love and serve God, but did he mean them to be in love with God-and to reflect this love and service among each other?

The answer is, simply, yes. Though it has classically been overlooked by Islam's detractors, there is a word for agapé in Arabic. It carries the same non-specific 'boundary-less' connotation as the Greek word, and is used contextually in the same way. Better yet, it is entirely original; not borrowed, adapted, or modeled on a word from another language. The Arabic word for agapé is mahubba, and it is fascinating for two reasons: one, because it comes from hub-in its feminine form. Two, because of the prefix ma. Adding the letter mim to the beginning of a word in Arabic means "one who is/does", "that which is/does", or "in a state of" the word that follows it. Junun is mad, and majnun is "one who is mad" or "in a state of madness"; baraka is a blessing, and mubarak is "one who is blessed" or "in a state of blessedness"; Islam is submission, and Muslim is "one who submits" or "in a state of submission". Thus, mahubba is quite literally 'in love', but it is rarely used in an erotic sense. It can describe either love among people or love for the divine, and is used most commonly in a spiritual context in both cases. Implicit in mahubba is service; the lover puts the beloved at the center of the discourse, and submits to his/her demands. Author Fethullah Gulen describes mahubba as "obedience, devotion and unconditional submission" to the beloved, quoting Sufi saint Rabi'a al-Adawiya's couplet, "If you were truthful in your love, you would obey Him/for a lover obeys whom he loves."

While it is, again, primarily Sufis who have propagated the ideal of mahubba over the centuries, the word and the concept have roots in mainstream Islamic tradition: verse 3:31 of the Qur'an is sometimes called 'ayat ul'mahubba', and reads "Say: if you do love Allah, follow me, and Allah will love you." Even ibn Taymiyya, one of the founders of the Wahhabi movement, said of this verse, "There can be no clearer recognition of mahubba than this, and this recognition in itself increases love for Allah. And people have discussed (at length) about mahubba: its causes, its signs, its fruits, its supports and rulings." A hadith qudsi included in the Muwatta of Imam Malik is even more explicit: "God said, 'My love [mahubbati] necessarily belongs to those who love one another [mutahubinna] for My sake, sit together for My sake, visit one another for My sake, and give generously to one another for My sake'."

Mahubba differs from agapé in one crucial respect: because serving and approaching the beloved is a form of ongoing personal struggle, mahubba is a form of jihad. A far cry from the violent and indiscriminate "small jihad" preached by militants, mahubba is a form of al-jihad al-kabir, the greater jihad, or jihad against one's own ego. It is perhaps unsurprising, then, that in an age of lesser jihad mahubba has fallen out of practice and almost out of memory; it is so universally neglected that when Islam is accused of lacking a concept of divine brotherhood, few Muslims have the intellectual wherewithal to protest. But Adhaf Soueif is right: at the heart of all things is the germ of their overthrow. The struggle to serve God out of love, and one another out of love, is the jihad of human potential against the jihad of violent ideology; if resurrected, it has the power to change the world.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Reminds me of the film Children of Men

The blithe trust in the benign power of the state is astonishing - and in Fortress Britain, it is plainly undeserved

Jenni Russell
Wednesday November 21, 2007
The Guardian

It is the cheerful acquiescence of the vast majority that shocks me. A government that so admires liberty now proposes to restrict it still further. In future, we won't be able to leave the country without answering 53 questions on everything from our travel plans and companions' itineraries to our frequent-flyer information and history of no-shows. One item on the government's list is headed: "Anything else the travel agent finds of interest". Another has the catch-all category: "Any other biographical information". Anyone seen as potentially suspicious could be refused permission to board trains or planes, without right of appeal.

This is only one element of the plans that have been dubbed "Fortress Britain": 250 principal railway stations are to introduce airline-style security; cinemas, shopping centres and other public places are to be protected by concrete bollards and fortified barriers; no new underground car parks are to be built; and dropping passengers off outside shopping centres is to be banned. Meanwhile the government is attempting to double the maximum period of detention without charge to 56 days.

Whether this prospect fills you with quiet relief or utter horror is a reflection of your deepest assumptions about the trustworthiness of the state and its agents, your faith in the smooth workings of systems, and your level of anxiety about terrorist attacks. Ultimately it is about what you fear most - the random destructiveness of terrorism, or the accumulation of unprecedented power and information in the hands of an increasingly controlling state.

In the country at large, the response to these questions does not divide along party lines. In conversations over the last few days, velvet-jacketed Conservatives, radical retired teachers and sleek-suited New Labour bosses have all been indifferent to the possible pitfalls. They all, independently, voiced the new mantra: "I've got nothing to hide, so I've nothing to fear." This is so far from my own instinctive repulsion that it has made me think about what might possibly change their minds.

The people who support these changes are on the whole indifferent to the argument that these plans are an insane overreaction, a waste of public money, and the equivalent of building a dam with porous bricks. It is in vain to point out that you can scan passengers at King's Cross all you like, but that a bomber will still be free to blow himself up in a Cambridge market, on a Highlands bus, or at Fortnum's while having tea. These people are not susceptible to the argument that, with a million possible targets in Britain, the ostentatious protection of a few does nothing to make us generally safer. Nor do they mind that the immediate consequence of travel questionnaires is likely to be the disruption of thousands of innocent plans, caught out by human or systemic error, while terrorists have the foresight to plan around them.

What unites this group is a real faith in the power of the state to protect them from evil. They do not mind handing over power and information in return for greater safety. They believe strongly that the state will always deal fairly with them, that they themselves will not be objects of suspicion, and that official errors will be speedily addressed. It is this blithe trust in the state's judgments that worries me most. Three recent events have been small pointers of just how the state can behave when it finds individuals a threat.

Last week it emerged that, days before the De Menezes shooting in 2005, a diabetic man who had gone into a coma on a bus in Leeds was Tasered by armed police, as a suspected terrorist, when he didn't respond to their challenges. He woke to find himself manacled in a police van. Yet Tasers were intended to subdue violent offenders, not stun sick men. In our new state of terror, the rules are apparently changing.

Last April, six peaceful protesters (including a GP) against the widening of the M1 were arrested before they arrived at the motorway. They had never done anything more remarkable than hang banners from motorway bridges. They were held for 14 hours; their houses were broken into although the police had their keys; and they had computers, diaries, bicycles and notebooks seized. They were bailed on condition they had no contact with one another, although two are partners, and two share a house. Seven months on they have neither been charged nor had their possessions returned. Yet peaceful civil protest is supposed to be permissible in Britain.

Perhaps most alarming is the evidence of the Independent Police Complaints Commission into the De Menezes shooting. Leave aside the fact that an innocent man was shot. Look at what the eight police officers did when they realised a mistake had been made. After advice from lawyers, the eight composed their statements together. All eight claimed that before shooting, there had been several warning shouts of "Armed police". Remarkably, not one of the 17 witnesses in the tube carriage heard any such thing. Does this fact give you confidence in the veracity of the police, or other agents of the state, should your evidence ever be in conflict with theirs?

It is incidents like these that should make us worry about the complacent transfer of greater power to state authority. If the British state seems benign to most of us, this is because it has been surrounded by legal and cultural constraints. What is changing now is the legitimisation of suspicion as the basis for official action against us. It will increasingly be seen as our responsibility not to arouse the state's suspicions, rather than its business to prove our guilt. Do we really want to live our lives this way?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

should i go back?

"A particular fragrance on a hillside, a stolen glance in a restaurant, a body brush in a crowded street, a particular posture by a passenger in an elevator, a flash of memory during daily conversations, the sound of familiar words in one's native tongue heard from an adjoining car at a red traffic light - each of these sensory reports activates private memories and intensifies the feeling of displacement, a feeling that one may have suppressed in order to get on with life. However, just as frequently and powerfully, these very reports may serve the opposite function of restoration and emplacement - by reestablishing connections."

An Accented Cinema : Exilic and Diasporic Filmmaking by Hamid Naficy, pg 28.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


claire stop looking at me like that

From The Times
January 30, 2006
How to be nang *
* If you have to ask, you aren't
Michele Kirsch
They scare the other passengers — meek, tired and irritated — and use a secret language punctuated with words such as “sket” and “nang” and “buff” and “bredren”, which mean whore, cool, good-looking and mate, in that order. I look at them longingly, because I know they are cool, they are the real “It” girls and I want to be 15 again, and beautiful and shouty and mixed-race, like the prettiest ones are, except I can’t because I am a middle-aged white Hausfrau, well past it and, more importantly, past “It” — the art of being effortlessly cool. I can’t get it or be it, but I can still hunt for it.

At Islington Green School, a mixed comprehensive in North London, I am in a room of 15 and 16-year-olds who are going to tell me what cool is and what cool is not. I am subscribing to the trickle-up theory of cool, which is that cool starts from the street and works its way up to the focus groups and marketing men and big brands.

I have brought along a copy of the NME, an enormously inappropriate and past-it ice-breaker, as it turns out. Nobody in this room knows who any of the people on the cover are, because they are not hip-hop and R&B stars, who are the cool ones, but “rock freaks” who are not cool at all. Somebody immediately zooms in on Billy Joe from Green Day. “He’s wearing make-up, that’s not cool — it’s gay.” Pete Doherty is dismissed as a “waste man” and the rest are dismissed as “Don’t know ’im. If I don’t know him, he can’t be cool.”

The first thing they tell me is that cool is not a cool word any more, that they all say “nang”, but even that is kind of old, and it is better to say “shabby”, “gunny”, “grimy”. And when things are not cool they say “That’s cold” or “I’m in despair”, and when people are not cool they call them waste girls or waste boys. If they feel they have been disrespected they don’t say “dissed” any more but say that they have been “boyed”, as in looked down upon and called “boy”. But not the girls. To slag them off you call them, as one girl reels off with great relish, “Oh, a sket, a waste girl, an apple, a what-up girl, a tramp, a ho.”

Nahid, 16, says: “I am cool and I am a grade A student. I am a shepherd, not the sheep. Big up Bengalis . . .” Smoking is “sooo not cool”. They all say this, but Nahid the most poetically: “If you want to be cool you have to live, and if you smoke you will be dead, and that is not cool, to be dead.”

Mobile phones are cool, says one boy, only if you have lots of girls’ numbers on them.

Surprisingly, the consensus is that the right gear, the right trainers, clothes, etc, is not as important as grown-ups think. “People don’t care about that no more,” says Rahel. “Cool is something that is unique, being different.” She thinks the coolest job would be to be a lawyer, not for the big money but “because you get to defend people who need help”. Other cool jobs are being a footballer, being your own boss and, this from the coolest-looking dude in the shop, “selling medicine”.

Nobody thinks black is cooler than white (“That’s racism, man, innit.”) but they do say it sounds dumb when black people use white slang or white people use black slang. The latter I know. But what is white slang? “Oh, all that EastEnders stuff like safe, sweet and mate. It sounds stupid.”

In the playground afterwards, they talk sweetly about their husbands and wives. “Where has my husband got to?” They explain it is just messing around, they pretend to be married to each other. “Like boyfriend and girlfriend?” I ask, reasonably. They look horrified. “Eww. No! No!” It is blazingly clear to all, and to me, that I just don’t get it.

A few weeks later I am in a coffee shop with 13-year-old Hazel Lee, a girl I have known since she was a toddler, who has effortlessly morphed into a walking emblem of street cool.

“Mayfair are the best cigarettes because they are like the best property on the Monopoly board,” she says through a mouthful of croissant. “But they are also £2.07 compared to B&H which are £2.35.” She adds hastily that she does not smoke herself, but “most cool people do”.

Clothes are important, she says, with her crowd. “You can’t wear trainers that aren’t Nike or adidas or Academic. If you wear trainers with no name they are called space forces. And if you have like an old cheap mobile phone, it’s called a brick.” But all that stuff takes money. How do you get the money? “You just do, or if you don’t, it’s OK if you make a joke about it, that you can’t afford something.”

The best music is called Bashment, “which is like house and ragga. Rock’n’roll is not good, it’s for the posh kids. Rock people are like the goofy people in your class who you can ask for help to do your work,” she asserts.

Can you do well in school without looking like a geek? “If you are going to do well or do the work you have to have an excuse, like to say, ‘If they (the school) call my mum, she’ll beat me.’ It’s OK if you say that.”

Most drugs are not cool, crack is for waste boys, but weed is OK. Cool parents are ones who let you stay out till 3am and go to raves, so in that respect her own mum is not cool, and people who try to be cool but just aren’t are called beggars. The coolest job would be, “to be an It Girl. Like Paris Hilton. Paris Hilton is cool because she’s got one of those little dogs to carry and when the dog got too big she got rid of it to get a smaller one.” Not Kate Moss? “Most people I know don’t know about Kate Moss. She is, like, a Paris Hilton wannabe.”

Twelve-year-old Jackson Caines is old-fashioned cool; he is completely different from just about every other kid I know, but affable, as opposed to arrogant, with it. He goes to a fee-paying school, is off-the-scale clever, and musically gifted. He went on Junior Mastermind as a Beatles expert. He goes to White Stripes gigs with his dad. He is easy and unguarded around adults.

He says that defending what he thinks is cool, which is not what lots of other people his age think is cool, “is the story of my life! In my primary school, everyone said the Beatles were crap, and I said why do they hold six world records? They were the biggest band ever. Their music is amazing and they have inspired millions of people. Music has got to have some intelligence. It can’t just be a beat and a bassline and someone rapping over it. I like people who take the time to write proper songs.”

You could see how that sort of thing wouldn’t go down too well in the playground, but Jackson toughed it out. He likes the White Stripes because “they are taking old blues, which is a bit forgotten, and bringing it to life in a more modern way that people can relate to. It’s a cool idea and a good way to go about music.”

He thinks it is important to distinguish between cool people and cool stuff. “A cool person has a nice personality. The cool people are always popular, but cool things are original and new and interesting. But the cooler kids are more into what the majority of people think is cool at the time.”

Smoking is not only not cool but “everybody knows that now, even the cool kids know it is stupid. Some kids joke about taking drugs but deep inside I think they joke because they would never do it really.” Drinking is different. “Many kids look forward to turning 18 so they can drink.” It gladdens my heart that they even pretend they are going to wait that long.

Do you need lots of money to be cool, to buy cool stuff? “You are teased if you are considered poor, but nobody is really poor in my school. The popular kids are usually rich and their families have new cars and they have the latest mobile phones, but I don’t think that is so important. It is really more about attitude and personality.”

But Jackson admits that looks are important too. “The popular boys in my school, they all have girlfriends. I think if an ugly kid tried to join the cool kids, the girlfriends would say, ‘Who is this loser ugly kid and why is he trying to hang out with us?’ ” He thinks his parents have cool taste in music and films. He says he likes what they like and knows this is unusual. “I like film noir, Double Indemnity, The Third Man, Hitchcock. I am not into too fast and too furious. I really like Casablanca, special edition.”

Can you have a posh accent and be cool? Here, a big sigh and then a vehement “It’s impossible.”

Nang, from those in the know . . .

1. Not Pete Doherty, who is a wasteman and can’t sing, but 50 Cent, who is the king of bling.

2. Not Australian soap operas, but EastEnders.

3. Not Harry Potter, because books aren’t cool, but you can read anything by Malorie Blackman in private and you might be told off (which is good) for reading Benjamin Zephaniah’s Gangsta Rap in school.

4. Not those rocker skater boy big black bags with diagonal straps but bags that say “Just Do It”, and, among certain sets, bags with Winnie the Pooh logos.

5. No Crazy Frog ring tone, but Grind With Me by Pretty Ricky.

6. Not clapping, when clapping is called for, but making gunny fingers and going “Braap, braap” which is the new “Pow Pow”.

7. Not Kate Moss, but Paris Hilton and her tiny dog.

8. Not rich, but not too poor to buy Academic sportswear, 50 Cent type bling, and Mayfair cigarettes.

9. Not McDonald’s, but Nando’s.

10. Not actually hating your mother, but pretending she beats you up.

Ning? Nang? Nong? As long as it makes Dad despair, that's cool

Ah, bless them. Our children, unlike policemen, are getting older every day. Only 15 or 16 and already they exhibit the traits that will serve them so well as adults: an obsession with how they are perceived, an already fully developed homophobia, a desperation to conform to the mores of their peers while simultaneously being somehow “different”.

Any adult who tries to get to the bottom of kids’ culture (or, worse, be a part of it) is missing the point: which is that we’re not supposed to. There are few more ridiculous sights than that of a 50-year-old grooving on the dancefloor to 50 Cent, Nelly or Wyclef Jean when he’d be happier with Barry Manilow.

Still etched on my brain after four decades is the 1960s Christmas afternoon when my father, slumped in his post-prandial armchair but determined to defy his age and indulge the young people, ordered: “Put Ross’s new LP on the record player.” I tried to talk him out of it but he was unmovable. Bob Dylan. The Times They Are A’Changin’. Side 1, Track 1. The Ballad of Hollis Brown — in which the protagonist, a starving South Dakota farmer in the Depression, shoots dead his five children, his wife and himself (early Bob at his finest, I always think).

My dad looked at my mother in despair, pointed to me and declared: “There’s something wrong with that boy.”

Result. Then, as now, to be despaired of by one’s parents was to leap instantly several rungs up the ladder of cool. Professor Sally Haslanger, of the department of linguistics and philosophy at MIT, says young people “want their coolness to shine through in their behaviour, dress etc, so that they will win approval by the in-group”. She adds: “There is no such property as ‘coolness’ . . . in fact, the application of the term ‘cool’ is determined wholly by the interests and concerns of the in-group.”

So in their craving for peer approval, teenagers in Cambridge, Massachusetts, are not markedly different from those at Islington Green School in North London — except that cool, apparently, is no longer cool. So Nineties. The current term of approbation is nang. In the Eighties it was bad. In the Seventies, groovy. In the Sixties, swingin’. In the Fifties, hip — and, curiously, cool.

Plus ça change, innit?


Tuesday, November 13, 2007


Left behind by the FAFSA
By Jennifer Sussex on 11/13/07

"What are parents good for besides tuition?" a classmate of mine once asked rhetorically. Overcome with irony, I sat there trying not to think of the amount of tuition I now owe after several semesters at the University - without having my parents pay for everything - which is $28,202. That number hangs like a price over my head, as if on a wanted poster.

My classmate's comment, however, was hardly surprising considering that 75 percent of all University students come from the five wealthiest sectors of the state, according to a report released in September in conjunction with the unveiling of Descriptor Plus, a program the University began using to counteract declines in minority enrollment after the enactment of Proposal 2. Descriptor Plus works by separating areas of the state into separate clusters based on the average annual income and socioeconomic factors that make up these places.

Descriptor Plus revealed a startling lack of representation of all low-income students. For example, there is one cluster that yields an annual family income of $42,000, but this cluster is only representative of 3 percent of the student body. Although this cluster is vastly underrepresented on campus, those that do make it to the University are more likely to receive adequate financial aid packages because of their parents' low incomes.

But there is a lesser-known group of students who are marginalized on campus. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, used by most universities to determine a student's eligibility for loans and grants, fails students whose parents' incomes fall slightly over the arbitrary levels it sets. Essentially, if a student's parents make a certain amount of money, then the parents are supposed to contribute a set level of funding as the "Expected Family Contribution," and the amount of aid the student receives is reduced accordingly.

The FAFSA scale creates problems when families that only make slightly more than a particular benchmark and are expected to come up with considerably more money. The arbitrary nature of the FAFSA designations could make a huge distinction between a household income of $49,000 and $51,000, but the ability of one family to contribute more for tuition than the other is marginal at best. The FAFSA must include various income-based distinctions, but these distinctions must become broader in order to minimize this problem.

Another problem is that the FAFSA does not adequately take into account individual circumstances that may contribute to making a student's parents unable to pay their expected family contribution. Because the FAFSA only takes into account parents' annual income for one year, it cannot see financial issues that may have come up just prior to that period.

For example, my father was a single parent and then remarried shortly before I started college, changing the annual income of my household on the FAFSA. My financial situation was then evaluated on the basis of the present, not taking into account the complexities of the immediate past - that a single parent of many years may not have been able to save up enough money to pay meet FAFSA's EFC requirement for a two-parent income.

The FAFSA also completely fails to address students who are not supported by their parents and are forced to account for their EFC single-handedly through private loans that accumulate interest even while they are still in school. The FAFSA application must allow students to explain their individual financial circumstances so that those can be taken into account during the evaluation.

The point of the FAFSA is to gauge the financial need of students to make a college education more accessible, but instead the application can sometimes subtly hinder students' ability to attend college without accumulating massive amounts of debt. The problem may begin at the federal level, but it can be dealt with by the University itself. The University has a tradition of providing adequate financial aid to ensure that lower-income students don't find this institution out of their reach. It must now take the shortcomings of the FAFSA into account and make similar contributions to students who the FAFSA leaves at a disadvantage.

Monday, November 12, 2007

blind to their own privilege

Invisibility of Privilege:
when upper castes don't recognize caste or lower caste folks
but lower caste folks know right away what their caste is

this is the same as when middle/upper-class folks can't tell who the working class are
but the working class know who they are

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Kill your ego

A fairly recent incident made me think of this, and I am also writing a paper that talks about Gandhi and his use of non-violence - he was also a man of humility. Not to mention that, our great Prophet, peace be upon him, was the most humble person ever. Pride? Arrogance? It is extremely hard to not feel these things, but they really are harmful and detrimental to our character. And so I have a motto - kill your ego. Because really, anything good that we do, doesn't come from us but comes from God. To Him we owe everything. So kill your damn ego.

Funnily enough, here's the first thing that came up when I googled 'kill your ego':
"Hypocrisy, pride, self-conceit, wrath, arrogance and ignorance belong, O Partha, to him who is born to the heritage of the demons.” ~ The Gita, XVI. 4

Here's a book I read this past summer that's written by a cool Muslim in New York, Haroon Moghul - very nice and smart guy to talk to, mA. His book, "The Order of Light", is also about killing your ego - although it addresses the theme very dramatically and literally:
"The problem with the modern age, the Order proclaims, is that Man has made himself an idol, and to repent this sin, Man must commit suicide in order to free his soul."

The book is really interesting, I recommend it.

Khudai Khidmatgar

From wikipedia:

Khudai Khidmatgar (Pashto: خدای خدمتگار) literally translates as the servants of God. It represented a non-violent freedom struggle against the British Empire by the Pashtuns (also known as Pathans, Pakhtuns or Afghans) of the North West Frontier Province. The movement was led by Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, known locally as Bacha Khan or Badshah Khan.

Formed out of the society for reformation of Pashtuns (Anjuman-e-Islah-e-Afghan), it initially targeted social reformation and launched campaigns against prostitution. Bacha Khan as its founder seemed to be influenced by the realisation that whenever British troops were faced with an armed uprising they eventually always overcame the rebellion. The same could not be said when using non violence against the troops.

The movement started prior to the Qissa Khwani bazaar massacre, when a demonstration of hundreds of non violent supporters were fired upon by British soldiers in Peshawar. Its low point and eventual dissipation was after Pakistan's independence in 1947 when the Muslim League Chief Minister Abdul Qayyum Khan banned the movement and launched a brutal crackdown on its members which culminated in the Babra Sharif massacre. At its peak the KK movement consisted of almost 100,000 members.

"The Khidmatgar movement was one of self-reform and introspection," says Mukulika Banerjee, author of The Pathan Unarmed: Opposition and Memory in the North West Frontier (School of American Research Press, 2000). "It involved two crucial elements: Islam and Pashtunwali (the Pashtun tribal code). Here nonviolence becomes an ideological system very compatible with Islam and Pakhtunwali, since these are reinterpreted."

Initially the movement focussed on social reform as a means of improving the status of Pashtuns against the British. Ghaffar Khan founded several reform movements prior to the formation of the Khudai Khidmatgar, the Anjumen-e Islah ul-Afghan in 1921, the farmers' organisation Anjuman-e Zamidaran in 1927 and the youth movement Pashtun Jirga in 1927. Trying to further spread awareness on Pashtun issues Abdul Ghaffar Khan founded the magazine Pakhtun in May 1928. Finally in November 1929, almost on the eve of the Qissa Khwani bazaar massacre the Khudai Khidmatgar were formed.

Under the influence of Abdul Ghaffar Khan the movement advocated non-violent protests and justified their actions through an Islamic context. Khan did not find Islam and non-violence as incompatible. Despite that the movement was intrinsically non-sectarian. In more than one occasion when Hindus and Sikhs were attacked in Peshawar, Khidmatgar members helped protect their lives and property.

“The Holy Prophet Mohammed came into this world and taught us ‘That man is a Muslim who never hurts anyone by word or deed, but who works for the benefit and happiness of God's creatures.’ Belief in God is to love one's fellow men.” – Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan

“There is nothing surprising in a Muslim or a Pathan like me subscribing to the creed of nonviolence. It is not a new creed. It was followed fourteen hundred years ago by the Prophet all the time he was in Mecca.” – Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan
Khan always considered trials and tribulations, which he underwent ceaselessly, as the means by which Almighty Allah meant to fashion his life for better things. Being a great humanist, he ardently believed that human nature was not so depraved as to hinder it from respecting goodness in others. It is easy to look down on others but to make an estimate of our failing is difficult. Allah's blessings according to Bacha khan are marked for those, who submit to Allah's will and serve Almighty Allah through selfless activities for the overall good of humanity at large irrespective of caste, colour, race or religions.The Oath of the Khudai Khidmatgar

Oath of the Khudai Khidmatgar:
I am a Servant of God, and as God needs no service, serving His creation is serving Him,
I promise to serve humanity in the name of God.
I promise to refrain from violence and from taking revenge.
I promise to forgive those who oppress me or treat me with cruelty.
I promise to refrain from taking part in feuds and quarrels and from creating enmity.
I promise to treat every Pasthun as my brother and friend.
I promise to refrain from antisocial customs and practices.
I promise to live a simple life, to practice virtue, and to refrain from evil.
I promise to practice good manners and good behavior and not to lead a life of idleness.
I promise to devote at least two hours a day to social work.
I put forth my name in honesty and truthfulness to become a true Servant of God.
I will sacrifice my wealth, life, and comfort for the liberty of my nation and people.
I will never be a party to factions, hatred, or jealousies with my people; and will side with the oppressed against the oppressor.
I will not become a member of any other rival organization, nor will I stand in an army.
I will faithfully obey all legitimate orders of all my officers all the time.
I will live in accordance with the principles of nonviolence.
I will serve all God's creatures alike; and my object shall be the attainment of the freedom of my country and my religion.
I will always see to it that I do what is right and good.
I will never desire any reward whatever for my service.
All my efforts shall be to please God, and not for any show or gain.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Television Rules the Nation

mad heavy stuff, straight from the soundboard apparently:

Monday, October 29, 2007

Wot is up

I haven't had time to blog nor have I really wanted to. But now I think, I might as well use this. Expect some proper brain-emptying soon. This is possible because for once I'm actually engaged in my classes, most of them at least.

I have deleted a lot of posts in the past. I didn't delete any now, but I skimmed through them all. Its interesting to see how things have changed/evolved, in terms of situations and in how I think.

This is just hilarious because of the whole Disco Dancer thing, which MIA did a cover of:


Friday, August 31, 2007


why did timbaland have to rap

Careerwise, the recent album M.I.A.'s Kala recalls is Kanye West's Late Registration -- an unexpectedly sure-footed follow-up to a brainy beat-adept's can-you-top-this debut. And though West is the more universal musician, especially as Americans conceive the universe, there are also musical similarities: Both albums challenge sophomore slump by risking pretension. But where West hired classically trained Jon Brion, the Sri Lankan-British rapper spread out and bent down low. Originally she'd hoped to trade the grimy beats of 2005's Arular for the more radio-friendly dirt of Timbaland. That plan fizzled, for two reasons -- not just the feds' refusal to let M.I.A. re-enter the U.S., but her instinctive reluctance to turn into Nelly Furtado once the chance was in her lap.

Plus, though she's polite about it, a sneaking suspicion that maybe Timbo wasn't all that -- that there were edgier beat-makers all over the place. With visa madness blockading her new Brooklyn apartment, she turned world traveler, pulling in multiple Indian musics and encompassing Jamaican dance-hall moves,Indian-Trinidadian multicontinental mash-up, Liberian vibes, a British-Nigerian rapper, Australian aboriginal hip-hop, Baltimore hip-hop, Jonathan Richman, the Clash and a bonus afterthought from Timbaland's solo album. Though she claims this record is more personal and less political than Arular, that's misleading. The political was all too personal on an album obsessed with her long-lost father, a player in Sri Lanka's terrorist-revolutionary Tamil Tigers. Here, that conflict-ridden relationship is behind her. Star access enables a woman who grew up an impoverished refugee to observe the outcomes of similar histories in immigrant and minority communities worldwide. If you don't think that's political, ask your mama -- or hers, who's named Kala.

Arular was about M.I.A. -- her ambition, her education, her contradictions, her history of violence. Kala is about the brown-skinned Other now obsessing Euro-America -- described from the outside by a brown-skinned sympathizer who's an insider for as long as her visa holds up. It opens with the uninvitingly spare "Bamboo Banga," which samples Indian Tamil filmi composer Ilayaraja and bends the lyric of Richman's "Roadrunner" so it celebrates a kid running alongside a Third World tourist's Hummer and banging on its door. "BirdFlu" disses dogging males everywhere -- "selfish little roamers" -- over another filmi sample and a barely synchronized four-four on some thirty deep-toned urmi drums. Also on "BirdFlu," high kiddie/girlie interjections add a cuteness that's sustained pitchwise on "Boyz," with its video of synchronized Kingston rudies shaking their moneymakers for the Interscope dollar. Only with "Jimmy," a Bollywood disco number a kiddie M.I.A. used to dance to for money at Sri Lankan parties, does a conventional song surface.

You've probably gathered that unlike Late Registration, Kala is less pop-friendly than its predecessor. It's heavier, noisier, more jagged. Timbaland might conceivably have found a hit for M.I.A.; London-based "dirty house" producer Switch, credited on eight of twelve tracks, will not. The eclectic world-underclass dance amalgam M.I.A. has constructed is an art music whose concept recalls the Clash as much as anything else -- the aggression of the early Clash and the reach of the late (who she samples). But soon enough, the music does soften and, occasionally, give up a tune. There's melancholy melodica, Sri Lankan temple horn, the eighteen-year-old rapper Afrikanboy describing his hustles, and several child choruses, notably on "Mango Pickle Down River," where preteens rap about bridges and fridges to rhyme with the didge -- didgeridoo -- that provides their groaning bass.

But none of these pleasures comes as easy as the high spirits of M.I.A.'s debut album seemed to promise. And in the end, that's why Kala strikes deep. There's a resolute sarcasm, a weariness and defiant determination, a sense of pleasure carved out of work -- articulated by the lyrics, embodied by the music. A riot of human, musical and mechanical sounds bubbles underneath these tracks. Not a white riot, that's for sure, and not a dangerous one either -- unless you believe every Other wants what you got and has nothing to offer in return. Kala proves what bullshit that is. The danger is all the evil fools who aren't convinced.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

funny sh*t

i jus wanna document this:

"On 14th February 2007, at 8:52 pm, romance was officially declared deceased by the on-call surgeon at the Royal London Hospital, Dr Cupid.
After being kept alive on life-support for so long, it was said to be a relief, especially to those who had feigned effort at pretending anyone still knew who romance was"

from qmul student mag (i think)
that quote - one of the funniest things i've ever read

documenting this too:
'I hate rubbish. From people. So don't give me any. And if you start dealing in rubbish, realize that you smell bad to everyone around you. So don't deal in it, ya get me'

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Monday, August 06, 2007

Watch and learn

More than popcorn.

"The Bourne Ultimatum"
In this exhilarating action threequel, Jason Bourne emerges as the sort of troubled but resolute hero the world needs most.
By Stephanie Zacharek

Aug. 3, 2007 | Jason Bourne, in theory, could be George W. Bush's dream historian, a loyal foot soldier who has been conditioned to obey and serve but whose mind has been broken and reconfigured to conveniently forget certain details and fixate on others. You couldn't find a better candidate to sit down and write a glowing record of the W. presidency. It would be a masterpiece of selective memory -- except for the fact that Jason Bourne insists on trying to use even the parts of his brain that don't work.

When Robert Ludlum wrote the Bourne novels in the '80s, he probably didn't conceive of his character -- an amnesiac killer who hunts his targets with machinelike efficiency, even as the remaining shreds of his human decency cloud his brain like tattered ghosts -- as a freethinking leftist American patriot. But in "The Bourne Ultimatum" -- the third picture in the Bourne franchise, and the second to be directed by extraordinary English filmmaker Paul Greengrass -- Jason Bourne emerges as the kind of troubled but resolute hero we most need these days, a figure who insists on peering through the murk rather than letting it block the truth. Jason Bourne, clawing his way out of madness, still has a conscience even though he has lost most of his mind.

"The Bourne Ultimatum" is a great action movie, exhilarating and neatly crafted, the kind of picture that will still look good 20 or 30 years from now. And while it isn't a cheerful picture, I found it to be an oddly comforting one, perhaps more so than its two predecessors, 2002's "The Bourne Identity" (directed by Doug Liman) and Greengrass' 2004 "The Bourne Supremacy." In "The Bourne Ultimatum," Jason Bourne's isolation feels weightier and more oppressive than ever. But then again, sometimes -- particularly if you're killing people and you don't know why -- isolation is the only appropriate feeling. There's a way in which Greengrass and the movie's writers, Tony Gilroy and Scott Z. Burns, make Jason's separateness so palpable that it's practically a communal state, something that draws us closer to him rather than distances us.

In all three of these movies, Jason Bourne -- played by Matt Damon, an actor so old-fashioned all-American that he looks as if he'd be most at home in one of those 1940s football costumes with the leather helmet -- knows he's a killer; he simply has no idea what his motives are, or who or what may have instilled these murderous impulses. At the beginning of the second film, "The Bourne Supremacy," Bourne's girlfriend, Marie (played by marvelous, openhearted actress Franka Potente), is killed suddenly. She has been trying to help him remember who he is, and to find out who's instigating these ruthless missions. "The Bourne Ultimatum" simply drops us into the middle of Jason's story and assumes we're hip to it. But even at this point in Jason's nightmare adventure, as he sprints to keep at least two (and often 20) paces ahead of the top-secret CIA forces that are trying to kill him, Marie is still a not-so-spectral presence. In "The Bourne Ultimatum" he explains to Nicky (wonderfully stern and serene Julia Stiles), the young CIA agent who keeps looping into his story, "I can see their faces -- everyone I ever killed. I just don't know their names." And then he adds, as if struggling to retrieve stray scraps of memory from the corners of his brain, "Marie would try to help me remember their names."

In this moment -- and in many other moments in the Bourne movies -- Damon, who seems to be a perfectly fine actor locked behind that nominally uninteresting yearbook-picture face, is a figure of solitude straight out of an Edward Hopper painting, although this guy isn't just alone with his memories, he's alone, period. Bourne isn't the prototypical American loner hero, the upright stoic type who knows what's right in his slow-moving bones. (For one thing, his bones move too fast: The chase sequences in all the Bourne movies are marvelous, but in "The Bourne Ultimatum," Greengrass brings them to a level of artistry, and of mounting horror, that tops even what has come before.) Bourne is a U.S. citizen, but more essentially, he's a citizen of the world: "The Bourne Ultimatum" jumps from city to city -- London, Moscow, Paris, Tangier, New York -- as if national boundaries were just bothersome fences begging to be hopped. Bourne travels light (although even his single knapsack is laden with meaning), and he seems to speak every imaginable language, presumably because of all the evil CIA training he has received, but that doesn't discount the reality of his need for connection and communication: For Bourne, all soil is foreign soil, which means that home could be anywhere or nowhere.

I think fans of the previous two Bourne movies may fear that reading too much about "The Bourne Ultimatum" could spoil their pleasure of it. But there's barely a plot to spoil -- there's only movement, and sensation. Joan Allen reappears as Pamela Landy, the CIA honcho who's entrusted with trapping the elusive Bourne, even as her sympathy for him (and her distrust of the organization she works for) increases. Paddy Considine plays an earnest Guardian journalist whose title is "security correspondent," and if any actor has the face of an earnest Guardian journalist, it's Considine: Even his eyes ask unanswerable questions. Scott Glenn appears as the lizardlike director of the CIA, who wants his orders followed without having to dirty his own mitts. David Strathairn is a Company bigwig, an arrogant mirror image of the Edward R. Murrow he gave us in "Good Night, and Good Luck." And Albert Finney, an actor whose face I don't believe I could ever tire of, appears as -- well, that you really don't want to know.

Greengrass doesn't pace "The Bourne Ultimatum" in the usual way, building tension and then allowing it to release before starting up the whole process again. Instead, he uses the movie's first few minutes to establish a pulse. After that, all of the movie's beats -- its anxious moments and its calmer ones -- hit in response to that pulse. Greengrass' methods as a filmmaker have always felt more organic than mechanical, especially in his greatest picture, the 2002 "Bloody Sunday," an account of the Jan. 30, 1972, massacre on the streets of Derry, Northern Ireland, in which 13 unarmed civil rights protesters were killed by British soldiers. Greengrass doesn't shy away from making the horrors of history feel immediate and disturbingly alive.

Maybe guys like Greengrass should be reserved only for serious pictures about serious subjects, movies like "Bloody Sunday" and "United 93" (the latter a picture whose mere existence I have problems with, as much as I respect Greengrass' technique and approach). Then again, action movies desperately need more guys like Greengrass. The violence in "The Bourne Ultimatum" is exciting, all right. But very few contemporary directors know how to film action and violence with the kind of chaotic clarity Greengrass does. That may seem like a contradiction, but Greengrass knows how to use a movie frame so we know where to look every instant -- and still, we can't ever be certain that we're catching it all, because violence by its nature is unmanageable. In a street chase sequence set in Tangier, Morocco, Bourne runs for his life through courtyards and across rooftops, leaping from building to building through windows that aren't always open. Part of the sequence involves a motorbike chase, but Greengrass presents it as an example of boyish shenanigans with real-life consequences. And in the fight sequences, Greengrass never lets us forget that every landed punch causes real pain: One, in particular, is so beautifully choreographed that it left me feeling a little heartsick, as if I'd just watched a perfectly executed tragic love scene. In that sequence, a book is used as a weapon, a bitter rejoinder to the generally comforting idea that books are our friends.

"The Bourne Ultimatum" is a movie packed with exploding fragments of information. As Bourne repeatedly rattles the padlocked chain wrapped around his memory, we see and hear shards of the past he can't remember: Bourne hooded and bound, being roughed up by men whose faces we can't see; voices speaking in broken-up phrases (" ... tank treatment ..." "... hasn't slept for 52 hours ...").

At one point a character states flatly, "We are the sharp end of the stick," meaning that this not-so-royal "we" answers to no one. If someone, anyone, needs to be disposed of, there's no paperwork to fill out, no clearance needed from the higher-ups. A murder can be ordered up like a pizza; a previous, sensible decision can be overturned with a single phone call. Against all of that, a guy like Jason Bourne, with his mangled brain and whirring conscience, shouldn't stand a chance -- and yet he's the last man standing. They've given him a number and taken away his name, but what he stands for can't be so easily erased.

I hope it doesn't have singing.

Gandhi My Father
Philip French
Sunday August 5, 2007
The Guardian

Most families have skeletons in the cupboard and black sheep in their midst and when people become famous, these closeted secrets are discovered or reveal themselves. One thinks of the troublesome children shaped by the coldness and parental neglect of Winston Churchill and Ronald Reagan, the embarrassing brothers of Jimmy Carter, Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton or, on a more endearing note, that likable clown Terry Major-Ball, who helped humanise his brother John's term at Number 10.

One of the most revealing and courageous movies ever to come out of India, Feroz Abbas Khan's Gandhi My Father tells the extraordinary story of the relationship between Mahatma Gandhi (Darshan Jariwala) and his eldest son, Harilal (Akshaye Khanna). It will be an eye-opener to those whose knowledge of the Mahatma is limited to Richard Attenborough's epic biopic.
The movie begins in June 1948, a few weeks after Gandhi's assassination. A terminally ill, drunken, dirty, heavily bearded man is picked up in the streets of Bombay and gives his father's name as Gandhi. The officials at the paupers' hospital think he's referring to the nation's father, but he is in fact Harilal Gandhi.

The film is told in flashback, starting in 1906. The handsome Harilal (played by a Bollywood matinee idol) was left in India when his father went off to establish a law practice in South Africa and become a political leader and advocate of passive resistance and civil disobedience. Hari marries Gulab (Bhumika Chawla, Bollywood's answer to Scarlett Johansson), but is separated from her when summoned to join his family in Durban.

He hopes to emulate his father and read for the Bar in London, but the Mahatma, who sees family ties as inimical to his mission, denies him both his love and the formal education that would set him free. Sacrificing the boy to his principles, Gandhi sends him into battle against the oppressive South African authorities.

Hari's confidence and self-respect are permanently undermined, despite the attention and intervention of his devoted mother (a great performance from Shefali Shah). Nothing improves when the family return to India. While Gandhi's reputation and influence steadily grow, Hari's morale sinks as he tries to impress his father. His business schemes fail, he takes to drink, is convicted of fraud and his wife leaves him with their children. Forever stumbling, trying to pick himself up and seeking forgiveness, Hari is lured into becoming a Muslim, reverts to Hinduism and is finally disowned by his parents.

This heartbreaking story unfolds against a backdrop of great historical events, some conveyed through monochrome newsreel material. The film's general effect is not to diminish the Mahatma's reputation or to stick ugly warts on a familiar hagiographic portrait. It's to make him more human and vulnerable and to explain the high price paid by him and his wife when he decided to sacrifice himself to the political, social and spiritual liberation of his people. The movie has some rough edges, but it affected me as powerfully as anything I've seen this past couple of years.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Midnight Request Line

I dunno what it is about bass but I love it. In all sorts of music, bass is what I tune into the most for some reason. I don't know how this developed. I love beats too but bass is just amazing man. That's why dubstep is so wicked coz its all about bass. I've heard dubstep for a while but was never actually sure what it exactly was. I've got some amazing dubstep mixes on my comp. I remember hearing 'Midnight Request Line' about a year and a half ago and just wondering where the hell it came from. I played it to a friend a few months later, in May, who just thought it was rubbish and said 'Hena stop being so British!' Well I don't label myself as any nationality, because I don't believe in civic nationalities, I just appreciate new exciting music - its so fascinating to see how music evolves. Wish more felt the same instead of listening to the same rubbish again and again - oh yeah mainstream music has changed as well but people just end up listening to the same 5 songs, know what I mean?

Play this track, and turn the bass up.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


This is damn scary.

Robert Fisk: Divide and rule - America's plan for Baghdad
Revealed: a new counter-insurgency strategy to carve up the city into sealed areas. The tactic failed in Vietnam. So what chance does it have in Iraq?

Published: 11 April 2007
Faced with an ever-more ruthless insurgency in Baghdad - despite President George Bush's "surge" in troops - US forces in the city are now planning a massive and highly controversial counter-insurgency operation that will seal off vast areas of the city, enclosing whole neighbourhoods with barricades and allowing only Iraqis with newly issued ID cards to enter.

The campaign of "gated communities" - whose genesis was in the Vietnam War - will involve up to 30 of the city's 89 official districts and will be the most ambitious counter-insurgency programme yet mounted by the US in Iraq.

The system has been used - and has spectacularly failed - in the past, and its inauguration in Iraq is as much a sign of American desperation at the country's continued descent into civil conflict as it is of US determination to "win" the war against an Iraqi insurgency that has cost the lives of more than 3,200 American troops. The system of "gating" areas under foreign occupation failed during the French war against FLN insurgents in Algeria and again during the American war in Vietnam. Israel has employed similar practices during its occupation of Palestinian territory - again, with little success.

But the campaign has far wider military ambitions than the pacification of Baghdad. It now appears that the US military intends to place as many as five mechanised brigades - comprising about 40,000 men - south and east of Baghdad, at least three of them positioned between the capital and the Iranian border. This would present Iran with a powerful - and potentially aggressive - American military force close to its border in the event of a US or Israeli military strike against its nuclear facilities later this year.

The latest "security" plan, of which The Independent has learnt the details, was concocted by General David Petraeus, the current US commander in Baghdad, during a six-month command and staff course at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas. Those attending the course - American army generals serving in Iraq and top officers from the US Marine Corps, along with, according to some reports, at least four senior Israeli officers - participated in a series of debates to determine how best to "turn round" the disastrous war in Iraq.

The initial emphasis of the new American plan will be placed on securing Baghdad market places and predominantly Shia Muslim areas. Arrests of men of military age will be substantial. The ID card project is based upon a system adopted in the city of Tal Afar by General Petraeus's men - and specifically by Colonel H R McMaster, of the 3rd Armoured Cavalry Regiment - in early 2005, when an eight-foot "berm" was built around the town to prevent the movement of gunmen and weapons. General Petraeus regarded the campaign as a success although Tal Afar, close to the Syrian border, has since fallen back into insurgent control.

So far, the Baghdad campaign has involved only the creation of a few US positions within several civilian areas of the city but the new project will involve joint American and Iraqi "support bases" in nine of the 30 districts to be "gated" off. From these bases - in fortified buildings - US-Iraqi forces will supposedly clear militias from civilian streets which will then be walled off and the occupants issued with ID cards. Only the occupants will be allowed into these "gated communities" and there will be continuous patrolling by US-Iraqi forces. There are likely to be pass systems, "visitor" registration and restrictions on movement outside the "gated communities". Civilians may find themselves inside a "controlled population" prison.

In theory, US forces can then concentrate on providing physical reconstruction in what the military like to call a "secure environment". But insurgents are not foreigners, despite the presence of al-Qa'ida in Iraq. They come from the same population centres that will be "gated" and will, if undiscovered, hold ID cards themselves; they will be "enclosed" with everyone else.

A former US officer in Vietnam who has a deep knowledge of General Petraeus's plans is sceptical of the possible results. "The first loyalty of any Sunni who is in the Iraqi army is to the insurgency," he said. "Any Shia's first loyalty is to the head of his political party and its militia. Any Kurd in the Iraqi army, his first loyalty is to either Barzani or Talabani. There is no independent Iraqi army. These people really have no choice. They are trying to save their families from starvation and reprisal. At one time they may have believed in a unified Iraq. At one time they may have been secular. But the violence and brutality that started with the American invasion has burnt those liberal ideas out of people ... Every American who is embedded in an Iraqi unit is in constant mortal danger."

The senior generals who constructed the new "security" plan for Baghdad were largely responsible for the seminal - but officially "restricted" - field manual on counter-insurgency produced by the Department of the Army in December of last year, code-numbered FM 3-24. While not specifically advocating the "gated communities" campaign, one of its principles is the unification of civilian and military activities, citing "civil operations and revolutionary development support teams" in South Vietnam, assistance to Kurdish refugees in northern Iraq in 1991 and the "provincial reconstruction teams" in Afghanistan - a project widely condemned for linking military co-operation and humanitarian aid.

FM 3-24 is harsh in its analysis of what counter-insurgency forces must do to eliminate violence in Iraq. "With good intelligence," it says, "counter-insurgents are like surgeons cutting out cancerous tissue while keeping other vital organs intact." But another former senior US officer has produced his own pessimistic conclusions about the "gated" neighbourhood project.

"Once the additional troops are in place the insurrectionists will cut the lines of communication from Kuwait to the greatest extent they are able," he told The Independent. "They will do the same inside Baghdad, forcing more use of helicopters. The helicopters will be vulnerable coming into the patrol bases, and the enemy will destroy as many as they can. The second part of their plan will be to attempt to destroy one of the patrol bases. They will begin that process by utilising their people inside the 'gated communities' to help them enter. They will choose bases where the Iraqi troops either will not fight or will actually support them.

"The American reaction will be to use massive firepower, which will destroy the neighbourhood that is being 'protected'."

The ex-officer's fears for American helicopter crews were re-emphasised yesterday when a military Apache was shot down over central Baghdad.

The American's son is an officer currently serving in Baghdad. "The only chance the American military has to withdraw with any kind of tactical authority in the future is to take substantial casualties as a token of their respect for the situation created by the invasion," he said.

"The effort to create some order out of the chaos and the willingness to take casualties to do so will leave some residual respect for the Americans as they leave."

FM 3-24: America's new masterplan for Iraq

FM 3-24 comprises 220 pages of counter-insurgency planning, combat training techniques and historical analysis. The document was drawn up by Lt-Gen David Petraeus, the US commander in Baghdad, and Lt-Gen James Amos of the US Marine Corps, and was the nucleus for the new US campaign against the Iraqi insurgency. These are some of its recommendations and conclusions:

* In the eyes of some, a government that cannot protect its people forfeits the right to rule. In [parts] of Iraq and Afghanistan... militias established themselves as extragovernmental arbiters of the populace's physical security - in some cases, after first undermining that security...

* In the al-Qa'ida narrative... Osama bin Laden depicts himself as a man purified in the mountains of Afghanistan who is inspiring followers and punishing infidels. In the collective imagination of Bin Laden and his followers, they are agents of Islamic history who will reverse the decline of the umma (Muslim community) and bring about its triumph over Western imperialism.

* As the Host Nation government increases its legitimacy, the populace begins to assist it more actively. Eventually, the people marginalise insurgents to the point that [their] claim to legitimacy is destroyed. However, victory is gained not when this is achieved, but when the victory is permanently maintained by and with the people's active support...

* Any human rights abuses committed by US forces quickly become known throughout the local populace. Illegitimate actions undermine counterinsurgency efforts... Abuse of detained persons is immoral, illegal and unprofessional.

* If military forces remain in their compounds, they lose touch with the people, appear to be running scared, and cede the initiative to the insurgents. Aggressive saturation patrolling, ambushes, and listening post operations must be conducted, risk shared with the populace and contact maintained.

* FM 3-24 quotes Lawrence of Arabia as saying: "Do not try to do too much with your own hands. Better the Arabs do it tolerably than that you do it perfectly. It is their war, and you are to help them, not to win it for them."

* FM 3-24 points to Napoleon's failure to control occupied Spain as the result of not providing a "stable environment" for the population. His struggle, the document says, lasted nearly six years and required four times the force of 80,000 Napoleon originally designated.

* Do not try to crack the hardest nut first. Do not go straight for the main insurgent stronghold. Instead, start from secure areas and work gradually outwards... Go with, not against, the grain of the local populace.

* Be cautious about allowing soldiers and marines to fraternise with local children. Homesick troops want to drop their guard with kids. But insurgents are watching. They notice any friendships between troops and children. They may either harm the children as punishment or use them as agents.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Welcome to the Best Years of Your Life

Ben Westbeech.
Buying it next week inshallah.
Another Jason Kay (singer from Jamiroquai) - white boy with an amazing voice.
Wicked music.
Welcome to the best years of your life.
'Nuff said. Just listen. Get his LP - it will make your year.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

I think I can handle (small) rollercoasters

My oldest brother bungee-jumped off of the Victoria Waterfalls in Zimbabwe, which according to Wikipedia are the largest waterfalls in the world.
I was scared to just go down the level 3 slide in the Tate Museum, even though all these little girls that I was chaperoning went after me.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

This blog, and a Steinbeck piano

I HATE looking at old entries in this blog - it makes me just want to delete the whole thing, but I tell myself no, and just let them be. That's not easy, because they really make me cringe.
Also a certain someone said that I should write in 'proper English' in this thing because he thought my writing was really crap. That ended up in my entries sounding extremely posh, and I when I look at them now them seem really annoying, and they don't reflect me. So now - I'm gonna write the way I want! I don't care if its correct or not. At least I will be able to cringe less when I look at my posts, kna wot I mean?


On Edgware Road there's this piano shop that me and my friend just happened to walk by, and then we walked up to the window. There was this Steinbeck piano, and it was 25 GRAND (in £), in USD that's 50 GRAND. Why the hell is this piano so expensive? It looked extremely nice and slick and made wish I could actually play the piano, or anything at all, but....huh?? £25,000? For a piano? Pianos (ones like those) have got to be some of the most expensive instruments. I mean at that price its not even an instrument, just a showpiece of wealth. I'll take a photo of it next time.

Piano music is quite cool though, though I don't really listen to any. It's amazing for films, its like they were made for each other. The Amelie soundtrack just does my head in, pianos and all the other stuff that's there.

Here's the best part of the film The Pianist:

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Why Jarvis?

I have been having lots of freaky and interesting dreams lately. I can only remember a couple though. For some reason I have been having a lot of dreams about Michigan and people I know in Michigan. Then I had this last night, or in the morning:

I had a dream that Jarvis Cocker threaded my eyebrows, in some odd joint in the Lower East Side.
I'm gonna write that down in my idea book.

I have been to the LES, but never went to some odd and freaky/funky joint like the one I imagined. And I've never met Jarvis Cocker. Or even listened to a lot of his music.

But he's a cool bloke, for some reason. Here's something I read by him a while ago:

'Jarvis Cocker's review of the year'

Some excerpts:
'The only thing that spoils James Blunt for me is that I can’t abide his music or voice.'

'I can’t believe how many festivals are here in the UK now. Nobody wants to be outdoors that amount of the time. I just couldn’t understand why there were so many. Because the idea of a festival is that it’s something special, isn’t it? At one point, you just had Glastonbury, and it was around the time of the summer solstice, so it was a festival in the true sense – it was a big gathering and it was at least loosely tied to some kind of pagan ritual. Whereas with them happening every weekend, it’s kind of like they’re the new garden fête, which to me doesn’t go with rock music all that well.'

'That was the game where Zidane was really good, and the thing was he smiled. You just thought: God, he’s actually enjoying playing. That was the thing that did my head in about watching England – they all looked so miserable about it. Football is supposed to be about entertainment, so it was good to see somebody just relaxed and enjoying taking the piss out of the other team.'

Smash the system.

Global Warming

In early December (or something) London had a freak tornado.

Around Christmas time London had its foggiest weather in 15 years.

Just a couple weeks ago London had its windiest weather in 16 years.

How about a War on Global Warming?