Friendly Squirrels

A chain email forward from my father.
The source for these images (and dozens of others like it, not shown) is a chain email forward from my father titled 'Friendly Squirrels.' He has given me explicit permission to share them. I couldn't keep a thick batch of rodent file images like this all to myself, so here they are, for the world to view. Read More...

Jul, One Year Later

Juliano Mer-Khamis was killed one year ago today when a masked gunman shot him as he sat in his red Citroën.
Juliano Mer-Khamis (29 May 1958 – 4 April 2011)                             Juliano Mer-Khamis was killed one year ago today when a masked gunman shot him five times—some accounts say seven—as he sat in his red Citroën. He died in view of his one-year old son and babysitter (his wife, pregnant with twins, was out of range). At this writing his killer has not been apprehended, and likely never will be. Even if it were so, the mighty sting of losing Jul has not worn off. I interviewed Juliano about his directing, acting, and political organizing when he toured with his film Arna's Children. I had bought a cheap tape recorder from a nearby pharmacy with two triple A batteries and some fresh tapes. (After transcribing the interview the tape… Read More...

From Empty Signifiers to A Hoodie is Like a Sign

To paraphrase Achebe, Things (Just) Fall Apart.
People Out of Place is a widely practiced operating principle, though it is seldom spoken about that way. The antithesis to People Out of Place is The Watchmen. People Out of Place and The Watchmen form resolutely opposing social forces, the ultimate dialectical phenomenon in the so-called post-racial, post-empire age. ?          ?          ? There are the facts and then there are superimpositions on the facts, and the latter should concern us no less than the former. The facts are the collusion of events in which two men—George Zimmerman in Sanford, Florida and Robert Bales in Kandahar, Afghanistan—are alleged to have hunted down and killed (respectively) Trayvon Martin and Mohamed Dawood, Khudaydad, Nazar Mohamed, Payendo, Robeena, Shatarina, Zahra, Nazia, Masooma, Farida, Palwasha, Nabia, Esmatullah, Faizullah (the last six all the children of Mohamed Wazir),… Read More...

Five Questions with Michael Kelleher

I once spent two weeks at a New York publisher’s office transcribing a ghost writer’s recorded interviews with comedienne Jenny McCarthy. He was writing her 'autobiography.'
Five Questions with __________ is an experiment with flash interviews. The series on poets continues with poet and editor Michael Kelleher. He also writes at Pearlblossom Highway, one of the most stirring and consistent blogs about writing and poetry around (and where he literally unpacks his library letter by letter in the 'Aimless Reading' project, a single-stop destination to discovering new/old work). I was first introduced to his work through this piece, which I considered one of the 20 best things I read in 2011. In 'publish or perish,' which word would you choose to replace the word ‘publish’? This has almost no application outside university tenure decisions. That said, I think that reducing a qualifying process to a single activity, one that is sometimes in tension with what I see as the other main purpose of being a professor, that is, to teach, is… Read More...

The Headless Gentleman

The face, a limb, or a particular sense functions analogically to impede another’s cognition or premonition of interiority or humanity.
There is a story about an English colonial administrator, who, during the first world war and for some time after it, lived in a backward community. He regularly received newspapers and periodicals from home, thus knew of films, and had seen pictures of the stars and had read film reviews and film stories; but he had never seen a motion picture. As soon as he reached a place where there was a cinema, he went to see a film. A number of children around him seemed to enjoy it very much, but he was completely baffled by what he saw and was quite exhausted when at last the film came to an end. 'Well, how did you like it?' asked a friend. 'It was very interesting,' he said, 'but what was it all about?' He had not understood what was… Read More...

Five Questions with Ammiel Alcalay

I remain deeply involved in cartoons.
Five Questions with __________ is an experiment with flash interviews. The series on poets begins with the multi-hyphenated poet, translator, scholar, editor, and essayist Ammiel Alcalay. His incredible translation of Semezdin Mehmedinovi?'s Nine Alexandrias first introduced me to his work. What kind of cartoons did you watch in childhood? Keep in mind, born in 1956—'childhood' (watching age?) maybe from around 1960 (not sure if we even had a TV then, remember early ballgames (think I saw Stan Musial & he retired in 1963 so i somehow remember TV coming in around then, previously my brother & i had snuck in to watch TV, at a place during the summer adjacent to where we were staying in Gloucester, & saw a very dramatic show with Rip Torn playing a guy in a phone booth who had been stabbed, seemed to be raining). So, cartoons: classics—Disney,… Read More...

Where the Fire’s Still Burning

Witness testimony and videotape evidence in Sivas showed that police ‘merely gazed at the scene with empty looks‘ as the building was set on fire.
Dostun bahçesine bir hoyrat girmi?  Korudur hey benli dilber korudur  Gülünü dererken dal?n? k?rm??  Kurudur hey benli dilber kurudur To the garden of my love there came an evil louder The shrubs now lie there, my beautiful one, shrubs lie While gathering the roses, he broke their stems to moulder They are all dry, my fair one, they are all dry. —Pir Sultan Abdal, 'To the Garden of My Love There Came an Evil Louder'   Since the worst prison fire in a century in which up to 375 Honduran inmates suffocated and burned alive in their cells, some have brought news of another fire-induced slaying to my attention. Its consequences are reverberating in Turkish civic life this week. On 13 March 2012, an Ankara court is expected to close the case of the 1993 Sivas mass burning, in which plaintiffs… Read More...

Where is the Line Between Us?

Leila Hatami said A Separation is a very good film and a very honest film. Is that going to be OK, or at least good enough, for now?
Lenin said there are decades where nothing happens and weeks where decades happen. He could have said there are years where everything happens, and 1977 was a year like that. It was defining for both the United States and Soviet Russia: the former USSR was relatively prosperous, and adopted what would become its last major law of the land, the Brezhnev Constitution. In the U.S. the first Apple Computer went on sale and Jimmy Carter was elected President. Elvis died. Over the course of the year before their 1977 exhibit, American artist Douglas Davis and the Russian duo Alexander Melamid and Vitaly Komar¹ collaborated on a set of photographic montages. They photographed themselves simultaneously on four dates marking significant events in both the U.S. and the Soviet Union: 1 January, 1 May, 4 July, and 7 November. Standing in front of a white wall, a thick… Read More...

Semeiotic Dubai: Peirce and Pop Architecture

'Gold adorned buildings, souks laden with gold jewellery that looks too heavy to wear, gold ATM machines and shopping malls so big you can feel the curvature of the earth...'
'He left behind many brilliant insights on his road to unsuccess. His failure was of a singular and spectacular kind.'—Louis Menand on Charles Sanders Peirce, The Metaphysical Club, 152 'The client wanted a building that would become an iconic or symbolic statement for Dubai; this is very similar to Sydney with its Opera House, London with Big Ben, or Paris with the Eiffel Tower. It needed to be a building that would become synonymous with the name of the country. We had many sleepless nights worrying that the building we’d designed wouldn’t turn out to be iconic.' —Tom Wright, architect, WS Atkins PLC C. S. Peirce (pron. 'purse') was a nineteenth century American philosopher, logician, mathematician, scientist, and bumptious know-it-all best known as the founder of pragmatism and semiotics. He is notable for his schematic practice of grouping inquiries and inferences in groups of threes, an architectonic model that this little… Read More...

The Fire Next Time

If severe overcrowding and the structural violence of the penal system were to blame for the Carandiru massacre, which has become an indelible pockmark on Brazilian history, we can expect a similar outcome in Honduras.
  'This innocent country set you down in a ghetto in which, in fact, it intended that you should perish.' —James Baldwin, 'My Dungeon Shook—Letter to my Nephew on the One Hundredth Anniversary of Emancipation' 'A favela um inferno, Oh Jerusalém.' —Asian Dub Foundation, '19 Rebellions,' a track about the Carandiru massacre In 2009 Honduras was the site of the first military coup in Latin America since 1993.  In 2012 it has become locus of the worst penal fire ever registered in the Americas. A blaze that started in the prison in Comayagua on 14 February killed upwards of 360 people at last count, including one woman , the fire department chief, and the brother of a police officer. In a prison overcrowded with 800 inmates it is extraordinary that almost half of them perished in a single night (it… Read More...

Simulacra Descending a Staircase

In these dark and brooding times it is Kafkaesque tragicomedy that strikes the right note of collective mirth. The Iranian government recently staged an anniversary celebration of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's momentous return from exile in France. The cardboard reenactment of his arrival has been the subject of effusive internet mockery since photos from the state-affiliated
In these dark and brooding times it is Kafkaesque tragicomedy that strikes the right note of collective mirth. The Iranian government recently staged an anniversary celebration of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's momentous return from exile in France. The cardboard reenactment of his arrival has been the subject of effusive internet mockery since photos from the state-affiliated Mehr News Agency (taken by photographer Ruhollah Yazdani) proved it was not, alas, an insurgent Photoshop hack operation but an official ceremony. On February 1, 1979 Khomeini, who would become the steward of the revolution, descended the stairs of a chartered Air France Boeing 747 as three million Iranians turned out on the streets of Tehran to salute him. To understand the mass fervor of the moment that prognosticated Khomeini's role in the nation (and region's) fate it might be useful to remember that between… Read More...

Objets Trouvés or I like Looking in New York

A mystic lost his head on the Lower East Side.
At least one crucified at every corner. The eyes of a mystic, madman, murderer. —Charles Simic, ‘The City’  A mystic lost his head on the Lower East Side. Then a madman, then a murderer. An imploded television on Smith Street. In 1966 the Sony Trinitron was held to ‘wide acclaim for its bright images.’ If you see nothing say nothing, displayed at the window of Icy Images in Brooklyn. Another version on the same theme on the Lower East Side. I found some toys still wrapped in their original plastic with a factory tag on the ground on Jay Street. Giving looks on Rivington Street. The stencil gun seen in the last image was probably used to make this one. Charles Simic at bookbook on Bleeker Street. Charles Simic at McNally Jackson on Prince Street. (‘In no other century, in… Read More...

The Invented Persians

The Palestine/Israel and U.S. narratives on Palestinians coincided in a haphazard way this month. While the popular resistance committee in the village of Nabi Saleh mourned the killing of Mustafa Tamimi, which it named its first martyr, an American presidential candidate resurrected the British Mandate-era mythos about the ‘invented’ Palestinian people.
  [credit]‘Persian cavalrymen turn their steeds in flight in a battle against Alexander’ by Antonio Tempesta, Florence, 1608. From Alexander’s Tomb.[credit] The Palestine/Israel and U.S. narratives on Palestinians coincided in a haphazard way this month. While the popular resistance committee in the village of Nabi Saleh mourned the killing of Mustafa Tamimi, which it named its first martyr, an American presidential candidate resurrected the British Mandate-era mythos about the ‘invented’ Palestinian people. Joe Sacco in Mondoweiss: The Israelis are still blockading Gaza. They control things that are going in, they control to a large extent, the goings and comings of people, and they’re blockading Gaza. So people have a doubly miserable life. It’s miserable from the inside, I would say, and it’s miserable because of the external pressure. And then you hear someone like Newt Gingrich say something like ‘the Palestinians are an invented… Read More...

Multitudes, Horizontal Spontaneities, Whatever

It is difficult to come by a news item about South America and the economy that doesn’t include the phrase ‘Brazil rising’ in it.
  THE RISING BRICS. It is difficult to come by a news item about South America and the economy that doesn’t include the phrase ‘Brazil rising’ in it. When I did a Google search for the term a few months ago I yielded 46,100,000 results. Arguably ‘Brazil rising’ has become as much a packaged, catch-all term as ‘China rising’ in the 1980s, with significant socio-political differences. (The news items rarely get that far.) Brazil is a rising food power in a hungry world as the number one exporter of beef, chicken, soy, sugar, orange juice, and coffee (it is also ‘rising’ in pork). When Christine Lagarde was anticipated to lead the IMF, her first and immediate stop along a several BRICS-nation tour was Brazil. Not to be cast into obsolescence 60 Minutes filmed a highly circulated segment called ‘Brazil’s Rising Star‘ in which the ‘country… Read More...