Sunday, January 30, 2005

Where's the Voice of the Mediterranean?

This posting is both a story I found amusing involving Maltese-Libyan relations and a missing radio station (VOM) as well as an introduction to a new Mediterranean blogger who has graced our presence. Welcome to Wired Temples from Malta, a lovely island between Sicily and Tunisia that has been a stopping point for many Libyans traveling to or from Libya.

I was reminded to make the introduction by Highlander's last post on her own blog. Bad timing? Eh...isn't imitation the highest form of flattery? ;)


WIRED TEMPLES - Malta on the Web: Government inefficiency Part 1

Saturday, January 29, 2005

In Loving Memory...

Throughout a person's life, there are but few moments that we can pin point exactly that live with us every day after. Likewise, it is rare to encounter, in person or writing, a fellow human being whose words resonate so powerfully, so beautifully, that we can identify the sincerity even in the pauses between the words on paper or in speech. For me, Edward Said was such a person.

I stumbled upon his book "The Question of Palestine" when I was a sophmore in a hellish Sacramento high school. I'd never heard of him, and knew roughly of the history of the Palestinian cause, so I'm still not quite sure what drew me to it. I read that book like my life depended on it, searching every line, paragraph, and page for something I might have missed. I sat down and hand wrote a 20 page extra credit paper for my history class that I still keep in my stacks of paper hidden in various corners of my apartment. Edward Said was like my street lamp installed in a dark ally.

He lit many dark allies, drawing attention to the academy's Orientalist tradition and forcing the public and intelligencia to see, really see, the truth of the rights of Palestinians. He demanded the recognition of the human being and the universality of rights and dignity. He spoke of literature and poetry, war and peace, thought and transcendence, and, in the end, always spoke to the heart and mind of the human and the notion of universality. I haven't heard or read the word 'universality' since.

I was studying in Italy when my in-box was flooded with emails notifying me of his death. It must have been late afternoon or early evening when I sat down at the internet cafe, signed into my email account, and instantly broke down into tears. No one around me knew of him. I wore my kafiya that day, and was glad I took it with me. I should have hung a huge Palestinian flag out on top of the tower in the Piazza Del Campo.

Anyways, below is an homage to Edward Said (allah yar7ma)*, originally written in French in Le Monde. Overall, it's a lovely portrayal, but the last line is a little cheezy as first and last lines can be.

If there was a Said for every one of our countries, would the world be any different?


*God have mercy on him; Muslims say this when we state the name of someone who has passed away.

January 2005



by Mahmoud Darwish


Shards of light in a leaden sky.

In the shadows, I asked my foreign soul: is this city Babylon
or Sodom?

There, at the edge of an electric chasm sky high, I met
Edward thirty years ago.

The times were less impetuous.

Each said to the other:

If your past is your experience, make the future sense and

Let us move forward, towards our future, confident in
imagination's sincerity and the miracle of the grass.

I no longer remember whether we went to the cinema that
evening, but I heard old Indian braves call out to me: trust
neither the horse nor modernity.

No. No victim asks his executioner: if I were you and my
sword greater than my rose . . . would I have acted as you
have done?

That kind of question arouses the curiosity of the novelist
who sits behind the glass walls of his study overlooking the
lily garden . . . Here the hypothesis is lily-white, clear as
the author's conscience if he closes his accounts with human
nature . . . No future behind us, so let us move forward!

Progress could be the bridge back to barbarity . . .

New York. Edward awakes while dawn slumbers on. He plays an
air by Mozart. Tennis on the university court. He reflects on
thought's ability to transcend borders and barriers. Thumbs
through the New York Times. Writes his spirited column.
Curses an orientalist who guides a general to the weak spot
in an eastern woman's heart. Showers. Drinks his white
coffee. Picks out a suit with a dandy's elegance and calls on
the dawn to stop dawdling!

He walks on the wind. And, in the wind, he knows himself. No
four walls hem in the wind. And the wind is a compass for the
north in a foreign land.

He says: I come from that place. I come from here, and I am
neither here nor there. I have two names that come together
but pull apart. I have two languages, but I have forgotten
which is the language of my dreams. I have the English
language with its accommodating vocabulary to write in. And
another tongue drawn from celestial conversations with
Jerusalem. It has a silvery resonance, but rebels against my

And your identity? Said I.

His response: Self-defence . . . Conferred on us at birth, in
the end it is we who fashion our identity, it is not
hereditary. I am manifold . . . Within me, my outer self
renewed. But I belong to the victim's interrogation.

Were I not from that place, I would have trained my heart to
raise metonymy's gazelle there . . .

So take your birthplace along wherever you go and be a
narcissist if need be.

- Exile, the outside world. Exile, the hidden world. Who
then are you between them?

- I do not introduce myself lest I lose myself. I am what I

I am my other in harmonious duality between word and geste.

Were I a poet, I should have written:

I am two in one, like the swallow's wings.

And if spring is late coming, I am content to be its

He loves countries and leaves them. (Is the impossible
remote?) He loves to migrate towards everything. Travelling
freely between cultures, there is room for all who seek the
essence of man.

A margin moves forward and a centre retreats. The East is not
completely the East, nor the West, the West. Identity is

It is neither a citadel nor is it absolute.

The metaphor slumbered on one bank of the river. Had it not
been for the pollution,

It would have embraced the other.

- Have you written your novel?

- I have tried . . . sought to find my image reflected in
distant women. But they have retreated into their fortified
night. And they have said: our universe does not depend on
words. No man will capture in words the woman, an enigma and
a dream. No woman will capture the man, symbol and star. No
love is like another; no night like another. Let us list
men's virtues and laugh!

- And what did you do?

- I laughed at my own absurdity and threw my novel away.

The thinker restrains the novelist's tale, while the
philosopher deconstructs the singer's roses.

He loves countries and leaves them: I am who I shall be and
become. I shall construct myself and choose my exile. My
exile is the background of the epic landscape. I defend the
need for poets of glory and reminiscence; I defend trees that
clothe the birds of home and exile, a moon still fit for a
love song, an idea shattered by its proponents' fragility and
a country borne off by legends.

- Is there anything you could return to?

- What awaits me draws me on and urges me . . . I have no
time to draw lines in the sand. But I can revisit the past
like strangers listening to the pastoral poem in the gloom of
the evening:

At the fountain, a young girl fills her jar with clouds'
tears. And she weeps and laughs at a bee that stung her heart
when it was time to leave.

Is love pain in the water or malady in the mist . . .'

(And so on, till the song draws to a close.)

- So you could suffer from nostalgia?

- Nostalgia for times to come. More distant, more elevated,
more distant still. My dream guides my steps and my vision
cradles my dream, curled like a cat, on my lap. It is reality
imagined, born of the will: we can change the chasm's

- And nostalgia for the past?

- That is only for the thinker who is anxious to understand
the fascination a foreigner feels for the medium of absence.
My own nostalgia is a struggle for a present that clings to
the future.

- Did you penetrate the past the day you visited the house,
your house, in Jerusalem's Talibiya district?

- Like a child afraid of his father, I was ready to hide in
my mother's bed. I tried to relive my birth, to follow the
trail of childhood across the roof of my old home, to run my
fingers over the skin of absence, to smell the perfume of
summer in the jasmine of the garden. But truth's hyena drove
me from a nostalgia that lurked, behind me, like a thief in
the shadows.

- Were you afraid, and of what?

- I cannot meet loss head on. Like the beggar, I stayed at
the door. Am I going to ask strangers who sleep in my bed for
permission to spend five minutes in my own home? Will I bow
respectfully to the people that occupy my dream of childhood?
Will they ask: who is this stranger who lacks discretion?
Will I be able just to speak of peace and war among victims
and the victims of victims, avoiding superfluous words and
asides? Will they tell me that two dreams cannot share a bed?

Neither he nor I could have done that.

But he is a reader who reflects on what poetry has to tell us
in times of disaster.


and blood

and blood

in your homeland

In my name and in yours, in the almond blossom, in the banana
skin, in the baby's milk, in the light and in the shade, in
the grain of wheat, in the salt jar. Consummate snipers reach
their targets.




This land is smaller than the blood of its children,
offerings placed on resurrection's doorstep. Is this land
blessed or baptised

In blood,


the blood

That neither prayers nor the sand can assuage? There is not
enough justice in the pages of the Holy Book to give the
martyrs the joy of walking freely across the clouds. Blood,
by day. Blood, by night. Blood in the words!

He says: the poem could embrace loss, a shaft of light
glinting from a guitar or a Christ mounted on a mare and
blood- spattered with elegant metaphors. What is beauty if
not the presence of truth in the form?

In a skyless world, the earth becomes a chasm. And the poem
is one of consolation's gifts, a quality of the winds, from
both south and north. Do not describe your wounds as the
camera sees them.

Cry out to make yourself heard and to know that you are still
alive and living, that life on this earth is still possible.
Invent hope for words. Create a cardinal point or a mirage
that prolongs hope and sing, for beauty is freedom.

I say: life defined by its antithesis, death . . . is no life
at all!

He replies: we shall live, even if life abandons us to our
fate. Let us be the wordsmiths whose words make their readers
eternal, as your extraordinary friend Ritsos might have said
. . .

He says: If I die before you, I shall leave you the
impossible task!

I ask: Is it a long way off?

He replies: A generation away.

I say: And if I die before you?

He replies: I shall console the mounts of Galilee and I shall
write: Beauty is merely the attainment of adequacy.' All
right! But don't forget that if I die before you, I shall
leave you the impossible task!

When I visited the new Sodom in the year 2002, he was
opposing the war of Sodom against the people of Babylon and
fighting cancer. The last epic hero, he defended Troy's right
to its share in the story.

Eagle on high,


Taking leave of the mountain tops,

For residing above Olympus

And the summits,

Brings ennui,


Farewell, poetry of pain!

Translated from the French version of the original by Julie

Monday, January 24, 2005

Where is the US going, legally?

Actually, this post was actually written two weeks ago. As it is, the story remains the same. I was going to revise it to make it more comprehensive analysis of the US legal system and how it relates to military practices and what-not. I might still do that in the future, but I'm going to go ahead and post this now.

=========== =============== ===============
They used to teach that the American judicial system is the means of protecting our civil rights and liberties; that due process was a right, and that its violation is a violation against justice; and, that because you are judged by your peers, judgement will be fair.

Well...not so much anymore, I guess. Yeah, I know. We're in a state of war (where, exactly?). Civil liberties (of certain groups) are not more important than national security, yadda, yadda, yadda.

I'm not buying it. The legal system is an institution that embodies the fundamental principles of the constitution and the system of governance. The precedents set in the past affect how decisions are made today; the precedents we set today will influence how law is approached tomorrow.

Yes, a time of war is a time of trial, but let's be real about this. If at the most critical times we cannot stick to what we claim to value, then what/who are we? The principle of liberty and justice, embodied by the legal system and symbolized by the Statue of Liberty and her legacy, are under threat, from the inside. People who respect military power and martial law over civil liberties are using the notion of national security to undermine constitutionally protected rights.

'National security' has throughout history been used to justify some of the most agregious crimes against human rights and demonized individuals and groups. Years later, when we study the affects of such decisions and actions, we are left wondering how a nation wide hysteria was unleashed.

Now, I'm not saying that the US is going to follow in the footsteps of psychopathic leaders in a lot of other countries, but there is reason to be alarmed. A policy of keeping your hands clean while transfering prisoners of war to other countries known to use torture is not a good sign.

Terrorism suspects may be detained forever - Global Terrorism -


I found myself at another airport today and wondered why it is that I've never gotten used to them. On the road from Columbia, Missouri to Kansas City, I wondered why the eye will never tire from the beauty of nature, too. And I wondered why it is that the journey to the airport is always so full of ambiguity and irrational remorse. No matter where I am, or where I'm going, I always want to turn back. Why? Perhaps some sense of uncertaintly about the next place is at play.

I think there's some sense of peace to be found in the in-between. The second hand on the clock slows down and the car moves in slow motion, even at 80 miles per hour, when you're in the in-between. Beauty becomes daunting...almost painful to the body and soul. A state of suspension in which beauty and meaning recreate themselves--it's what I call the third space.

The other of the other of the other. Labels lose meaning here, in the margins of the margin. When you lose your shape and worldly exterior, what are you? Where are you? One foot here, one there, one hand in this corner, and the other somewhere else--and still they ask you, "Where are you?"

When you find yourself in the place where all you are taught to believe and all you thought and hoped existed fall apart, you are in the third space. When you begin seeing the threads that hold together the small pieces of fabric that compose the quilt of reality, and when you begin questioning whether you can undo the pieces, one by one, and what that would look like, you are in the third space. Something different is created here--something both beautiful and grotesque.

The third space is where the rational and irrational make friends; where making sense is independent of common sensibility; where apparent enemies learn to make eye-contact. The third space is where beauty molds and shapes itself as it wishes, without regard to the observer. It is as unconsciously aware of its power of persuasion as a rose garden in spring: it is as it knows itself to be, and no other way will do.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Old One...

Just as I was checking out my index, I found this drafted posted that I'd forgotten to publish.
It's a link to an old(ish) article from the New Yorker. No, the subject is not pleasant, but this is the most thorough research into the Abu Ghraib scandal that is still alive and kicking in my mind. I don't care if they're no longer reporting about it. I feel it.

The New Yorker: Fact
The New Yorker: Fact

Out for the night.

Still alive

Yes, I's been hard for us to be apart like this. But it's not in our hands. The demons that have taken over my computer just aren't letting go quite yet.

And, really, that's not a good thing. If I can just hint at the strange drama of my life right now...In the last week, I have met (in person) four Turks, 2 Israelis, 2 Iraqis, 1 Libyan, and 2 Moroccans. Among them, there are maybe two romantic opportunities...not that I'm looking, but I can't help but notice.

Not far from my home, a little Mediterranean community seems to be in the making.

I also finished reading Persepolis II (Satrapi) and Children of the Alley (Mahfouz). Fantastic publications that everyone should check out. Persepolis is like candy; Children of the Alley is for the philosopher in you.

If my connection is still on in the morning, I'll really post something then.

Ciao and Salamat.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Missing Blogger?

No, missing internet connection at home. Sorry guys, after a brief stint of super posting, my home system is undermining me. I'll be back online soon. Thanks to the kind words.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Aljazeera.Net - Abbas wins election

Democracy in action... I guess we're supposed to thank Israel for letting people get to the elections. Bush is 'heartened'; Sharon wants a date ASAP; Anon is thrilled; even Vladimir Putin is chiming in with words of hope.

Sarcasm aside, I'm linking to two articles relating to this because I noticed a discrepency in aljazeera's reporting of the total figures and most of the others I'd seen. Aljazeera's site says he won 95% of the votes, while other sites place the percentage in the range of 61 to about 63.

Aljazeera.Net - Abbas wins election

vs wins Palestinian election: Official results ...because, well, why not use Indian media?

Iraqi Witness

New blog discovery, but you have to have a strong heart for this site. Purgator is apparently an Iraqi blogger living in the Netherlands. And a fabulous one at that. Check out both blogs.

Iraqi Witness

Iraqi Comments

I do have a couple of unpublished posts, but I still need to edit my analysis of the current legal state of affairs in the US--i.e., the fabulous Bush admin is looking into transfering prisoners of war to countries known to use torture; and how that relates to human rights and civil liberties.

2005 isn't looking so great just yet. But if we've hit rock bottom, maybe just by fact of pure physics, the only direction we can move is up. Is this rock bottom? Are we there yet?

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Rustling in the ivory tower...

For those who don't know him, Daniel Pipes has been a pretty influential talking head as an expert on the Middle East and Islam (another thing I blame on the al-Qaeda crew) since 9/11. His main schbeel is that individual Muslims in the US should be seen as a potential threat, and Muslim circles and mosques should be the focus of Homeland Security's intelligence gathering (as if they're not); and that Muslim groups, associations, and mosques should be infiltrated and bugged or whatever his James Bond instincts deem appropriate. In fact, if you noticed my post about the Cornell study, I can add that Pipes is happy that 44% of Americans agree with him, but UNhappy that the percentage is so low. His last project was arguing that the internment of the Japanese in the US in WWII was actually a national security necessity, given the intelligence of the time and the supposed actions of 2 Japanese Americans in Hawaii who aided the Japanese military. Currently, he's working on a 'study' for the Bush administration about that...or at least I think he is.

Whether you know Pipes or not, the links will take you to an interesting academic debate between Daniel Pipes and Irfan Khawaja, a Professor of Philosophy at the College of New Jersey. It's notable for two reasons:

1. Rarely have I seen such an objective and thorough analysis of Pipes' claims and rhetoric. Usually it's more of a shouting match between the far right American-Israeli coalition kids who back him against the 'leftist' civil rights groups and Arabs (and Americans and Jewish people, and anyone with a brain).

2. Pipes is actually compelled to respond to the criticisms, which he never does (as he even states in his response to Khawaja). Who would have thought?

The beginning...Daniel Pipes: Both Right and Wrong

Khawaja's rebuttal & the end...Irfan Khawaja - Response to Daniel Pipes.