Friday, March 31, 2006

Rain raining rainy day

poetry: well it seems my most dedicated, and perhaps only, reader is in need of a blog post. so misseur metalhead, what can i say? how about a nice boring post. i just got done eating lunch. my company brings in lunch for us on the last friday of each month. so, i had a little focacia sandwhich, and now am gazing out the window observing a truly lovely, though abnormal, midday sun shining brightly over the boats on lake union. in fact, its so sunny, that i couldn't possibly write a poem about rain. but it seems i don't need to, since mr. metalhead has written a lovely one that i'd like to share here:

metalhead said...

Rain raining rainy day
in Seattle
surfing on the,
internet I click on,
my favourites- chalo
bolo. CB.
Let's talk: nous
parlons , we talk
talking talked
about the
plight of Palestinian
goat herders or painting
Painting paint
painted, I paint.
no new articles today,
my life is empty.
Periods of void stitched
together by articles
from C.B.
a squirrel runs by,
whither I wonder?
i paint
it rains
i paint rain
when we dont talk
we make war. let's
talk nous parlons
chalo bolo
Rain raining rainy day
in Seattle
chalo bolo

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

avoiding civil war

politics, life: i read an interesting article in slate titled four strategies for averting civil war by gary bass. in it, bass writes:

In the wake of Bosnia and Rwanda, the assumption is that ethnically divided countries can never function. But countless countries at risk of civil war have been able to avoid going over the cliff. The most famous example is South Africa. Under apartheid, the country was widely seen as a likely candidate for a massive and devastating all-out civil war, yet despite some substantial violence, it managed to transform into today's multiethnic democracy.

i think there's a lot of truth to this. i recall during the yugoslavian break up, the same type of analysis permeating the news. essentially it boiled down to: these people hate each other, have for hundreds of years, there's nothing that can be done to stop it. its often academics interviewed and quoted by the news that re-enforce this perhaps by their tendency to discuss a modern issue in the context of hundreds or thousands of years of sectarian/tribal/whatever strife. the impression is that this is unnavoidable. one of bass's most interesting points to me, is what he calls "no bowling alone." bass writes:

When ordinary people come together across ethnic lines to form unions, political parties, soccer leagues, or movie clubs, their social connections can help prevent civil strife.

The scariest rift in India is between Hindus and Muslims. That division ripped the country apart in 1947 and at worst could do so again. But Ashutosh Varshney, a University of Michigan expert on Indian politics, points out that Hindu-Muslim riots usually happen only in certain of India's cities and very rarely in the countryside. Why are some places, like Bombay and Ahmedabad, so much more volatile than others?

Varshney's answer, updating Tocqueville, is that intercommunal civic life in India has been a powerful force in preventing Hindu-Muslim violence. In Hyderabad, Varshney argues, Hindus and Muslims don't come together in social and economic life. In places like Calicut and Lucknow, by contrast, members of the two groups mix in groups like trade unions, business associations, and professional organizations of teachers and doctors.

this is a great point. would be wonderful if indian, and other sectarian challenged societies, went on sustained campaigns to create more opportunities for cross sections of their populace to interract.

i lived in chicago for a number of years during college. i recall a friend of mine who was of croatian descent. he'd talk about how much hatred there was between his community and the serbians (clearly he had absorbed some of it) - this was all during the croatian independence conflict. peers of his, born and raised in america, were hauling off to go fight in the conflict. he felt tremendous guilt for studying while his friends were defending their ancestral land.

here in the states, in one of the most segregated cities in the world, the serbian immigrant community neighborhood happens to live essentially across the street from the croatian. on the weekends the youth would take turns throwing garbage and things at the others' churches. anyway, we had a serbian in a bunch of our classes who was totally brilliant; my friend was an average engineering student - confronting this fact was a source of constant annoyance for him. the serbian was utterly disinterested in the conflict, another source of annoyance for him. my friend was forced to interact with this fellow, and other students of many nationalities. it was interesting seeing his views widen over our four years there. i am convinced, after this collegiate experience, he served as a voice of moderation and reason amongst his community.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

two lives by vikram seth

book review: i just finished vikram seth's new book called two lives. he's such a lovely author. the book's about vikram seth, and his view of his uncle and aunt and their lives. the author was sent to live with his mamaji and his jewish german wife in england. he spends his college days with them, and grows quite attached. seth tracks their lives througout the rise of hitler during their years in berlin, and then through the war and post war years. much of hennie's family gets murdered by the nazi's, but she makes it to england. what i especially enjoyed was being welcomed into seth's challenge of how to recreate his aunt and uncles lives after his aunt had already passed on, and his uncle was very old. you could feel him struggling to write the book with whatever materials he had. all in all a nice read. i give it 3 stars out of 4.

Friday, March 24, 2006

religious insanity in afghanistan

politics: i find this case of the muslim converting to christianity situation to be totally abhorrent. from the Asia Times Online article titled Losing Faith in Afghanistan, Syed Shahzad writes:

Even as the Bush administration steps up pressure on Afghanistan over the plight of a Christian convert, thousands of youths are descending on Kabul to demand that he be hanged for renouncing Islam.

and goes on to write:

"Regardless of the court decision [whether or not he is hanged], there is unanimous agreement by all religious scholars from the north to the south, the east to the west of Afghanistan, that Abdul Rahman should be executed," Engineer Ahmad Shah Ahmad Zai told Asia Times Online on telephone from Kabul.

i find this so utterly ridiculous, that in the 21 century, humanity has not evolved much at all. as someone who's religion arose to defend the rights of those being forceably converted under threat of death, i would love to know why these types of laws are not denounced by sane minded clerics? or are they, and its just not news worthy? is this death for conversion really written into sharia law? and if so, why did the u.s., and its NATO allies, ever allow afghanistan to base its laws on such savage precedent? also, what disturbs me the most is the claim that the masses support this execution. why? why does it matter at all that people choose another faith? it seems to me, quite simple: the path to eternal bliss is the one that gets you there - the rest are details.

oddly, i think for the first time in quite a while, if ever, i'm in agreement w/ bush. for once i am comforted by the fact that he is a christian, and hence, intrinsically offended by this. nonetheless, i find it bothersome that all the world is asking for is that this one man be spared -- the law should be abolished, and the people educated on its utter insanity.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

homeland security growing up

politics: an interesting study published in the NYT called Graduate School Applications from Foreigners Rise. Alan Finder writes:

The number of foreign students who applied to graduate programs in American universities during the current academic year increased by 11 percent from the year before, according to a survey to be released today. That growth reverses two years of decline that occurred in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks.

The survey, by the Council of Graduate Schools, which represents more than 450 universities, found that despite the increase, the number of applications remained lower than in the years before 2003. The number of foreign students applying declined by 28 percent in 2003-4, a previous survey by the group showed, and by an additional 5 percent in the following academic year.

i'm encouraged by this. could the department of homeland security be getting a bit of a clue? after 9/11, some students found it difficult to return to the states after returning home from the holidays. i have friends who were so scared they wouldn't be allowed back in, that they forewent their annual holiday trips home. i know of others who chose to study in australia or europe due to the bad reputation the u.s. had developed.

foreign graduate students are a key part of the high tech backbone of the american economy. relatively few americans will get an MS or PhD in technical disciplines and hence, are a minority in advanced techology industries which ultimately form main stream tech industries. i tend to work in advanced r&d, and can testify that native born americans are a minority. in fact, i am one of 2 on a team of ten, and neither of us have native born parents. anyway, finder continues:

The council suggested that there were several reasons for the turnaround. After the attacks of 2001, foreign students, particularly those in scientific and technical fields, experienced trouble obtaining visas. But recent changes in government policy, though continuing to emphasize security, have made it considerably easier.

"There's no question that both Homeland Security and the Department of State do play a role in this turnaround," Debra W. Stewart, the council's president, said in a telephone interview yesterday.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

desert reflection

here's a poem i wrote about four years ago recently after the birth of my first child. i remember i had just gotten an old manual typewriter and was working on a painting based on a photo from a trip i took a few years before to visit some friends in jordan. i was clanking away on the typewriter, something i do when i can't concentrate on painting.

painting in my studio,
rachid taha takes me
back, to
another day,
no rain, just a slow
dry heat.

earth tones fill my
pallette. yellow ochre
paints petra in june.

sitting at a table well
recessed from the black
tar street, bowls
of zatar and oil.

a town built by the
king -- waiting for the
tourists of tomorrow.

it's just some locals from
amman, and their
american friend posing
as a long lost cousin
from yemen to
save some dinars.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

moving in

life: well we finally wrapped up the studio enough to move in. the last few days were stressful. our sheet rock/paint person butchered the job, and kept making it worse when he tried to fix it. we finally got fed up and did the work ourselves. i spent all day saturday moving in things. we set up the loft w/ a cozy futon and fuzzy wool rug, the kind that look like it was just lifted right off the sheep's back. i moved in all the easels and paint supplies, some furniture, etc. ameen and the baby were up in vancouver over the weekend, so nayan and i were "camping out." nayan has been obssessed with robin hood these days. he has a retro-ly done australian dvd that he loves to watch; he even, on occassion, speaks in his version of old english. nayan was adamant we camp for 5 days and 5 nights; he grabbed his "tents" and hauled them into the studio, along with a never ending supply of toys, and of course, swords. i fired up the woodstove, and we barely left all weekend. it was so magical to feel as if we'd spent a weekend up in the mountains when we were only in our familiar back yard. the loft is so cozy to sleep in. the lexan panels let in a lovely northern light, and at night, with the lights off, feel like you're staring at stars. i woke up to a seagull and crow snarling session. was a bit odd. i had no idea our back yard was frequented by sea gulls every morning. can't wait to start painting in there. this project has been going on so long and immersed in so much stress i almost forgot, that at the end, we'd get to enjoy it.

Sunday, March 05, 2006


poetry: ananya, our 1 year old, is obssessed with yanking books from shelves. she is particularly fond of an old journal book of mine, which has a long thread wound around a button. i picked it up, and while putting it away, stumbled across some journal scribbling i had written a day after my first child was born. here it is:

"I've been watching you. First
the house, then a beautiful
wife, a chocolate pup,
some art on the walls."

The urban hipster, divorce
progeny, coffee drinkers
individualized. We, they --
don't see the simplicity of
family life -- the wonder
outside the club. Obsessed
with the freedom of wandering,
city to city, scene to scene, style
to style.

The roaming bores me, and
the union of family
liberates me.

I look at my new baby and see
eternity, simplicity, fragility,
and my bones.

Last night the sun came out,
blessed me with life, returned
my mother to me.

another breath

poetry: part of the same journal i mentioned in my last post. another little snippet that captured yesterday.

little poems,
for little pieces
of paper.

no anguish fills my
heart today, just
the bliss
of domesticity.

a wet day,
a visiting friend,
a trip to the dog park.
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