Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Is it annoying/boring to go to someone's blog and see that they have posted one big long poem? If you say yes then i apologize in advance.

but now that we have entered the new year in the Iranian calendar, i'd like to imagine the upcoming year the way it is in this poem called Imagine the Angels of Bread by Martin Espada. (my favorite part is at the end, the section that begins with "if the abolition...")

This is the year that squatters evict landlords,
gazing like admirals from the rail
of the roofdeck
or levitating hands in praise
of steam in the shower;
this is the year
that shawled refugees deport judges
who stare at the floor
and their swollen feet
as files are stamped
with their destination;
this is the year that police revolvers,
stove-hot, blister the fingers
of raging cops,
and nightsticks splinter
in their palms;
this is the year
that darkskinned men
lynched a century ago
return to sip coffee quietly
with the apologizing descendents
of their executioners.

This is the year that those
who swim the border's undertow
and shiver in boxcars
are greeted with trumpets and drums
at the first railroad crossing
on the other side;
this is the year that the hands
pulling tomatoes from the vine
uproot the deed to the earth that sprouts the vine,
the hands canning tomatoes
are named in the will
that owns the bedlam of the cannery;
this is the year that the eyes
stinging from the poison that purifies toilets
awaken at last to the sight
of a rooster-loud hillside,
pilgrimage of immigrant birth;
this is the year that cockroaches
become extinct, that no doctor
finds a roach embedded
in the ear of an infant;
this is the year that the food stamps
of adolescent mothers
are auctioned like gold doubloons,
and no coin is given to buy machetes
for the next bouquet of severed heads
in coffee plantation country.

If the abolition of slave-manacles
began as a vision of hands without manacles,
then this is the year;
if the shutdown of extermination camps
began as imagination of a land
without barbed wire or the crematorium,
then this is the year;
if every rebellion begins with the idea
that conquerors on horseback
are not many-legged gods, that they too drown
if plunged in the river,
then this is the year.

So may every humiliated mouth,
teeth like desecrated headstones,
fill with the angels of bread.

My brother is graduating from college in less than three months and will be taking a year off to work before going back to school. he's thinking of a State or Federal job for the year and is a bit paranoid about being around or involved in anything that may be construed as illicit activity. so when a friend left behind some drugs as a gift, he didn't want anything to do with it. instead, he brought it to me. "hey N, you want these?"

funny thing when your baby brother asks you a question like this, all non-chalant. i told him i don't have any particular need or desire for what he was waving at me, but i took it from him anyway, and stuffed it in a drawer somewhere.

i don't throw things away easily, particularly if they are ingestible. for example,
an apartment i moved into in chicago had a big fat bag of hallucinogenic mushrooms in the freezer. i confirmed the contents of the bag with a friend who was helping me move. "yep", he said, "it looks like the previous tenants left you a house-warming present".

i never did anything with those mushrooms other than ask the above mentioned friend if he wanted me to make him a "special" pizza every time he came over, and that was the extent of it.

Monday, March 29, 2004

All day long i've been singing the lines from that song by The Exploited that goes: "Ayatollah, Let the hostages go!". I have to find the song and play it for myself before i go nuts.

but what is the song actually called? certainly not, "Ayatollah, let the hostages go"?. who knows. i couldn't even remember "The Exploited", much less the name of the song. I just kept picturing a T-shirt for their "Punk's Not Dead" LP but no band name came to mind. Finally, i had to break down and ask my ex. but now i just have to figure out the name of the song and download it. yay.


how do i know the tea concoctions i've been brewing may be getting out of hand? well, this morning my brother asked if i had Pho in my coffee mug! if you want to know what i've been brewing and what a world of good it may do you, drop me a line.


Tony Benn, the octogenarian former MP who served in the British parliament for decades had some great things to say this morning on
Democracy Now!. Here are a few choice quotations:

"Mrs. Thatcher was asked the other day what her greatest achievement was and she said New labour*, I think that tells you all you need to know about New labour".

* New Labour, as you probably know, is what tony blair takes his party to be.

ok, here is the other quotation, by far the more ballsy of the two:

"I do not myself see much difference between a stealth bomber and a suicide bomber in that both are killing innocent people for political purposes".

Sunday, March 28, 2004

The guy who used to manage this building was an older gay man who grew marijuana in his garden, had reptiles, cats, and fish for pets, and was a very laid back, approachable kind of person.

not so with the new manager. he prints up all kinds of signs and posts them everywhere. the essentially outline how we should behave--notes about how and when to open and shut the main doors, what can and cannot be placed in the hallways and for how long, you know, that sort of thing. plus the stickers he has on his car scare me.

yep, you guessed it, i'm back in town and filled with a certain amount of (inexplicable?) doom and gloom. maybe i'll write more later...

Saturday, March 27, 2004

The Iranian Student News Agency (ISNA) has published sets of photos of Iranians protesting the murder of Ahmad Yassin. You can see some of them here , here, and here.

thanks to the Islamic Republic's idiotic rhetoric, which Tariq Ali has described as the "the Anti-imperialism of fools", the only people in Iran who show up to rally in support of the Palestinians are the hardliner khomeini freaks you see in these pictures.

this is not to say that these fanatic types are the only ones who are pro-palestinian. i'm just saying that the symbols of the Palestinian struggle have been co-opted by the Islamic Republic in such a way that to wear a Keffiya in Iran, for example, means that you are aligning yourself with a very specific ideology. so while i wear the Keffiyas
i bought in iran at anti-war marches in San Francisco, i would never walk around Tehran with a Keffiya wrapped around my neck.

on second thought, it might not be a bad idea to do that some time. imagine a bad-hejab like me ( a bad-hejab is a woman whose "Islamic" garb leaves much to be desired from a fundamentalist point of view) walking in tehran wearing a Keffiya basiji style! (i can't seem to find a good picture of a quintessential basiji to show you the exact style, but i'll look more later. or send me a link if you have a good one)

update: thanks to my friend S.M., who sent me this photo of some typical basiji types. Thanks also to S.M. for introducing me to the beautiful photography of Mohesen Rastani, from whose photo collection the above linked picture is taken.

Friday, March 26, 2004

Thanks to The Persian Blogger Chronicles, I found out that Noam Chomsky has started a blog . I'm so happy. Chomsky is so dry and precise even in his blog that i can't do a skim-job of what he has written. this is good news for my brain.

Some years ago, I saw Chomsky speak about East Timor in a super small room on the Berkeley campus. He was giving two talks then, one big huge one on linguistics which was widely advertised and the little talk on East Timor which was kept on the down low.

I can't quite remember how i'd found out about the smaller talk because i was a stupid self-involved undergraduate who wasn't into political activism at all. maybe i heard about it from a Colombian guy i was briefly dating and whose name i can't even remember. i can picture myself in a long green dress, sitting next to the very unobtrusive and sweet Colombian dude (oh, maybe that's where i met him?), listening very intently to Noam Chomsky and having no idea what he was talking about.

Up to that point, the only thing I knew about Chomsky was his linguistics, and that was filtered through John Searle, who always had some story about how some great thinker or another, in this case Chomksy, had admitted to him in private that he (meaning Searle) was really right about whatever philosophical dispute they were hashing out in academic conferences and essays.

so there i was, in a small room in Kroeber Hall, expecting to hear a philosophy of language talk and more or less convinced that Searle's theories on Intentionality really did explain pretty much all there was to figure about meaning and consciousness, and Chomsky was going on and on about Indonesian dictatorship and U.S. foreign policy.

out of it as i was, i think that listening to Chomsky on that day made a small dent in the right direction in my psyche. i'm hoping reading his blog will do for me now what his talk on East Timor did for me then....

Thursday, March 25, 2004

I don't know how people can tolerate having the same conversations over and over. i have a fear of it, though it is subsiding (a bad sign!). i used to preface almost everything i said with "let me know if i already told you this..." because i wanted to give my interlocutors the chance to spare themselves the repetition. now i don't use so many disclaimers, but maybe i should take it back up.

this is the longest time i've spent in this town in many years, and i'm even starting to revert to some of my teenage habits like thinking about sex constantly and just generally daydreaming all day long.

in itself that is not so bad, i suppose, but there is something about suburban spaces that just sucks the soul right out of you. a kind of perverse curiosity about other people's lives seeps into you in a way that doesn't happen in big cities or somewhat progressive towns.

like yesterday i took my grandmother for blood tests and a moderately disgusting rocker couple were checking in as we were leaving. the woman was the one who was having bloodwork done and i found myself eyeing her lab sheets which seemed to be marked for Hepatitis B antigen, Hepatitis B antibody, or HIV antibody test. well, i thought to myself, at least the moderately disgusting rocker couple are also moderately responsible.

but the whole thing made me feel pretty bad about my own nosiness and also about their's. they were eyeing my paperwork too, which doesn't excuse my behavior any, but just goes to show the ethos of this place.

I bored you with this post, didn't I? Sorry, don't blame me, blame suburbia.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

I'm still away, being a dutiful daughter/grand-daughter, and i don't know how long my extremely unreliable laptop will allow me to stay on-line.

the last two weeks have certainly been outside of my routine. a wedding, a funeral, the new year, wrangling with a trapped opossum, and a number of other encounters, too strange and personal to include even in a semi-anonymous blog such as this.

the iranian satellite television stations are driving me nuts for the most part, but as usual i find myself drawn to them. at night when everyone else is asleep, i sometimes watch Al-Alam (the IR's Arabic language channel) and Al-Manar (the Lebanese Hizbollah station). I don't speak Arabic, but they get some great footage, and i can catch a few words here and there and sort of get the gist of what they are saying. for example on sunday night i was watching one of these stations and they kept on saying Shaheed and Sheikh Ahmad Yaseen in the same sentence over and over while showing blood stained streets in Gaza, so i quickly figured out that he'd been murdered by Israel. Al-Alam has english subtitles which don't necessarily correspond with whatever is being broadcast but nonetheless provide a way for me to confirm some of my interpretations of what I think they are saying. i'd like to learn arabic and quit these guessing games, but for now it will have to do.

well, iranian satellite stations are beckoning me again. we have the tv blaring so my grandfather can hear, and i am half listening from down the hall. there is a program about some protest in Holland (or is it Belgium? or both?) against racism and in support of the Iranian refugees there. i'll check it out and tell you about it if you want to know.

ok, i just caught three minutes of the report, and boy these satellite stations really can't get their act together. some guy is giving a telephone report from belgium about what happened at the protests and they keep showing ashura pictures from Karbala. you should see the host's face every time the camera pans over to him, i think he either knows what is going on or the people behind the camera are trying to tell him of their technical difficulties. his eyes keep darting about while he tries to maintain a conversation and a semblance of control over what is going on during his program. between the host squirming and my grandparents asking me to explain the relationship between the report and the pictures from Karbala, I didn't manage to figure out what all happened at these protests.

I swear man, i have no idea what these people are doing with all the money they get from the CIA and other self-less donors, but they certainly aren't spending any of it on mastering even the basics......

Monday, March 15, 2004

Happy Nowrooz!

Most likely I wont be posting for at least a week which is why i want to send early Nowrooz greetings to Iranians, Afghans, Tajiks, Kurds, and anyone else for whom the spring equinox marks the new year.

sadly, Nowrooz will from here on out always roughly coincide with the anniversary of the illegal invasion of Iraq. So like last year, this new year (which is 1383 according to the Persian calendar) i will wish for an end to all foreign intervention and occupation in our part of the world.

Here is to that hope against hope. (am i even using that saying correctly? I don't know, but you catch my drift).

Saturday, March 13, 2004

I've been in a mood over the obvious, namely the catapulting destruction and ensuing balkanization that is in the near future of West Asia, and i'm not just talking about Iraq either. i'm talking the whole region. Seeing this young man singing a lamenting song about Afghanistan has exacerbated my mood.

The person who produced the clip (who is presumably Irani) has called it "The simple pleasures of iran" or some such thing, which i think is a rather unfortunate choice for this piece.

Anyway, the young man is playing the daf as he sings, and he only has the slightest Afghan accent (probably because he has been a refugee in iran for so long) so i understood his Persian. I'm posting a quick translation of his lyrics below. the ........ indicate parts that i didn't quite catch but i don't have time to re-listen now, so i'm posting what i have thusfar. it should give the gist of what he is singing in case you don't understand Persian. please let me know if i've made mistakes or if you can make out the lyrics of the parts i've left out. i'm trying to do this in a big hurry so i can't be exact.

oh, and another fact of note, this was recorded in June of 2002, after the so-called liberation of Afghanistan. So here is a rough and partial translation:

they broke your heart
each in turn

my homeland is weary from oppression
my homeland is without song and without sound
my homeland is suffering from a pain with no cure
my homeland my homeland

I wandered without a nest
without you i wandered from branch to branch

my homeland is weary from oppression
my homeland is without song and without sound
my homeland is suffering from a pain with no cure
my homeland my homeland

My one and only love
.....(my sunset and my sign?).....................
without you my poetry and song have no charm

my homeland is weary from oppression
my homeland is without song and without sound
my homeland is suffering from a pain with no cure
my homeland my homeland

.......(something about martyrs in Kabul)...................
the people of our afghanistan have tearful eyes
the people of our kabul have tearful eyes

(the last two verses i can't make out at all and it cuts off, but he says something about rain and/or bombs and some other thing having been brought to "our afghanistan" and "our Kabul".

well, i have to go shake this mood off since i am going to celebrate a friend's wedding pretty soon.

I have no idea what to make of these pictures from Fereyedoon-kenar. Fereydoon-kenar, as many of you know, is a very small coastal town along the Caspian sea. An idiotic and unreliable "news site" run from somewhere in central Europe is reporting that the people of Fereydoon-kenar have managed to "free" (whatever that means) parts of the town and that there have been many many casualties. Like i said, however, these people have very little credibility, which is why i am not linking to them, but the pictures from Peyke Iran show that something or another is going down. I'll post updates if i have any in the next day or two.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

When i was six or seven i badgered my parents for days on end that my brain was moving inside my head. i told them that when i did jumping jacks in the schoolyard, my brain would bounce and hit the top of my skull and that it would bump against my forehead when i bent over.

my dad finally took me to a dr. where they ran some blood and urine tests, none of which provided any insight on why my brain seemed to be tumbling around. the dr. assured me that my brain was in the right place after all, at least strictly speaking it was. (he didn't say the last part, of course, but i imagine he thought it).

come to think of it, we had all kinds of doctors as friends and family and my own pediatrician was just super, but my dad took me to some random place, probably so that nobody we knew would think that they have a strange kid or that they themselves are weird for taking the case of the loose-brain seriously.

Another time not so long after the above incident, i convinced my parents i had worms. they apparently took this complaint more seriously, because they took me to my own pediatrician. the worm theory was not so farfetched to them, i heard them murmur that it may explain why i was so skinny and small. but still they couldn't own up to it at the dr.'s office. they told the dr. that a playmate of mine had gotten some intestinal parasite and they were afraid that I might catch it too.

it was very clever of them, really, they got me the meds without going through any embarrassment that may have incurred had i been tested and came up positive. the medicine was disgusting, i remember it distinctly, and lo and behold, i neither grew taller nor fatter after the regimen was over.

there's a lot to deconstruct in this story, i think, about iranian social and cultural pressures around notions of physical and mental health. but also it just shows that i was a bizarre little kid, and i'll leave it at that.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

As a rule, i don't answer morning phone calls before 9:30 a.m. No one who knows me well would call that early, so it is usually somebody i don't know calling to harass me or tell me something i don't want to know.

sure enough, the phone call i ignored at 8:25 this morning was the gas company, calling to give me an ominous warning about my bill. i was surprised, frankly, because i was sure that i just paid the bill. i looked at my check book and "just" having paid the bill was more than two months ago.

it was well enough, i suppose, because going to pay the bill in person gave me a chance to stroll in this lovely lovely weather, enjoying the sun and checking out the signs and bumper stickers people in this town plaster all over their property.

speaking of bumper stickers, my brother had an idea for one that i really liked. he saw a car with a sticker that had the german flag along with text that read "you say tomato, i say tomate". he thinks we should do the same with an iranian flag that says "you say tomato, i say gojefarangi".

i'm not doing justice to his delivery, which was half of what made his suggestion so funny, and granted, my brother and i share a peculiar brand of humor that is generally lost on everyone else, but i hope you find it at least a little amusing.

Monday, March 08, 2004

I'm working on inoculating myself against this, but sometimes I find myself moved by histrionics in Iranian politics. Listening to Mousavi Khoeini's address to the Iranian Parliament and hearing hardliners wrestling with the microphones and trying to shout him down, for example, made me break out into a sweat. i can get sensitive, i know. (I can't find a picture of Mousavi Khoeini giving the address, but here is a picture of members of Parliament hovering to yell at each other after the speech)

and no, i'm not deluded about the so-called Reformists, but i do admire the fact that Mousavi had the guts to criticize the bogus elections, directly singling out the "supreme leader" Khameini for abusing the constitution, reminding the parliament that Sadam's last election drew a 98% approval vote and thereby drawing a not so subtle comparison between Sadam's dictatorship and the current one in Iran.

If there are any of you die-hard Mossadegh fans out there, you may be interested in seeing this clip. The narration and text is all in Persian, by the way. Oh, and I saw the clip via a link on Shabah's page who had in turn linked to it from some other dude.

Sunday, March 07, 2004

It's summer hot. Tons of people were at the beach, some swimming without wet suits and the tide is the lowest i've ever seen. perfect for going to a spot i know where you can find loads of starfish, sea anemones, and purple sea urchins. but we didn't go, it was too far to walk and besides, i'm still feeling a little groggy.

meanwhile, outside my window, a very young mom (probably a teen) and what appears to her baby's daddy are arguing about hitting the kid. the mom is yelling that she didn't slap her child: "He isn't crying, is he? well, then stop saying I hit him".

Their exchange is depressing. I wish I wasn't hearing it.

As for the sudden shift in the temperature, pleasant though it may be, it makes me think of one thing: earthquake weather.

Saturday, March 06, 2004

An addendum to the post below and an unrelated declaration.

First, the declaration:

I no longer romanticize the Kurds! Romanticizing other peoples, of course, is inherently problematic because it implies that culture is static and that generalizations can be made about large groups of people. Despite knowing this, I always secretly had these romantic ideas about "the Kurds". well, i'm owning up to it and dealing with it.

now, the addendum to my post from earlier today:

I'm providing a sampling of quotations from Huntington's latest book. I found the quotations in David Brook's February 24th New York Times review of said book. Instead of just telling you about how Huntington's vileness has now focused on Latinos (specifically Mexicans and Mexican-Americans), I will just let him speak for himself:

"the single most immediate and most serious challenge to America's traditional identity comes from the immense and continuing immigration from Latin America, especially Mexico."

"As their numbers increase, Mexican-Americans feel increasingly
comfortable with their own culture and often contemptuous
of American culture"

And, finally, here is the quotation that takes the cake:

"There is no Americano dream..There is only the American dream created by an Anglo-Protestant society. Mexican-Americans will share in that dream and in that society only if they dream in English." (emphasis mine)

There you have it. one of these days i'll have to see if i can find a way to show you Huntington's laughable diagram of various civilizations and their connections.

This morning my brother greeted me with "wow, it looks like you've got your quills up, porcupine". i didn't, as a matter of fact, i was rather subdued, trying to save all of my energy to fight off this vague but annoying cold. i think he mistook my mopey silence for hostility, so i'm trying to be a bit more upbeat.

what i do feel hostile about, however, is that idiot Samuel Huntington. It looks like he has taken a break from his inane, yet frighteningly dangerous thesis about the "Clash of Civilizations" to focus his hatred on Mexicans in his new book called Who We Are , a title that foretells the kinds of essentialist rhetoric he'll be using even to those who are not familiar with his reductive descriptions what constitutes "us" and "them".

Friday, March 05, 2004

Man, this happens to me almost every thursday night. i drink a big cup of coffee in the late afternoon so that i am energetic when i teach my class, and then i pay the price at night because i can't sleep. tonight i'm a little sick and i have to use my brain in a public setting tomorrow, so the insomnia is really going to cost me pretty bad this time.

i also internalize whatever bad or stressful thing happens to people i care about, and maybe that is what has put me more on edge. usually the internalization comes through when i sleep. ocassionally, like tonight, it prevents me from escaping my consciousness.

last week a friend of mine called me in a panic to confide a pretty risky sexual indiscretion. I helped to calm her down. The whole thing wasn't all that bad, all things considered, but i think i worried for her anyway. so that night i dream that i am about to engage in some sexual indiscretion myself, when suddenly i notice a bunch of my family members (many of whom have inexplicably turned into midgets) looking over at me in silent horror from a balcony overhead. somehow i am fully dressed in the dream but the man i am with is naked. i crawl to the floor but he remains on the bed, on his stomach, and we both stare back at my family from below. i wake up disturbed, and to distract myself from the lingering feeling of my family's eyes on me, i try to remember what the guy in the dream looked like. but all i can recall is his bare back and a long pink tongue, flicking out at me.

ok, anyway, i know hearing about people's dreams is one of the most boring things ever, so sorry, blame it on my insomnia or better yet, blame it on tony, the little boy who lives in my throat.