Saturday, August 26, 2006


Twas only this week that I got around to seeing a whole episode of HBO's Mormon polygamy drama Big Love with Bill Paxton. Really enjoyed it. Harry Dean Stanton and Bruce Dern are particularly unsavoury in the Fathers and Sons flavoured episode. Was pleasantly surprised with the simple and subtle choreography for the title sequence which uses the Beach Boys' God Only Knows from that holiest of pop texts, Pet Sounds, as each of Bill's three wives hold his hand in turn and then form a closed circle. Like the girls in The Crucible (Arthur Miller) as much as good country folk. Only a day late I spot this 1967 Rehearsal album of 8 tracks on An Aquarium Drunkard, with some amazing lo-fi less ornamented interpretations of the Beach Boys' finest. God Only Knows and Surfer Girl are breathtakingly drop dead gorgeous. Absolutely sublime. Download from here before they disappear. Just beautiful. I could bathe in these songs forever, even drown.

Thursday, August 24, 2006


'I did not try to eat the ball, Mister Daryl'

'But I can see the teethmarks, fellah'

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Monday, August 21, 2006


Academic writing is terribly fun. You move swiftly through a few paragraphs like an Israeli tank division in Southern Lebanon, with your air force intellect scattering cluster bombs of snappy phrases across a couple of pages. But then you become stuck in a river of referential anxiety and can't go any further. Where's my voice gone? Instead of name that tune, it's name that scholar? Is there any of me here at all? But don't I need these guys to make me sound learned. And you've got to give props to those who came before... And before you know it you are bogged down in the syntax of a sentence. What are you doing here? Sit there looking at it for a few minutes, adjust the posture at the keyboard. Go to the bathroom. Nada. So you backtrack through the sludge to finesse earlier adequate passages in the hopes that will unstick you. Ah these read well, but this one needs to be changed. Click click click type type type. And suddenly you lose your footing as you go over what you thought was familiar and safe ground. You shouldn't have tinkered with that clause. You're in quicksand and you're drowning in the word count and can't see the outline of the argument you'd mapped on so many bits of paper with your favourite rollerball pens. Hasn't it all been said before, you wonder. Am I just rewriting something I did years ago? Have I moved on so little in my thinking? Are my obsessions, guffaw scholarship, so narrow? Shouldn't I be doing something useful like working at the UN instead? Suspend the mission and withdraw for a little while to take stock. Shall I surf the web for related content, check email, fine tune the iTunes? Maybe that way, the path I am seeking will suddenly come into my peripheral vision and I can adjust my direction. Have another coffee or sugary drink to avoid that tempting nap. New resolve. Then you remember the worst part--the soldiers of the academic citation regime (MLA this time) are waiting with their orders to dot and cross and number correctly. But they're still in the distance, like snipers on rooftops ready for an ambush.


Buy This War?

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Sunday, August 13, 2006


Journalist: How will the deaths of Israeli soldiers today affect your plans?

Israeli Army Spokesman: You saw that massacre of 12 Israelis .. it will ...

Journalist: Massacre you said? But those were soldiers and this is war.

Spokesman: No, it was a massacre because the people who fired the missiles weren't targeting soldiers. They were targeting Israeli civilians but killed the soldiers by accident.

Journalist: But you also committed massacres in Qana and elsewhere.

Spokesman: No, there was no massacre in Qana. Hizbullah fighters were the targets of the bombardment but civilians were hit by accident.

It is symptomatic of Western racism that Israel and its sympathisers are blind to what it is ordinary Arabs find admirable in Hizbullah, writes Azmi Bishara


planes took you away, but every time I see them I pray. And if my prayers can cross the sea. The trains and boats and planes will bring you back, back home to me.


Funny, but only couple of days after my All is War entry which ended on the cricket match and Sajid Mahmood's role in England's victory, Sarfraz Manzoor comments on the variation in British Pakistani identifications. He doesn't buy the 'alienation' argument completely either. He points out that many of the fundies are converts and reverts. They tend to be more zealous than those of us who have grown up with ambient Islam.

Friday, August 11, 2006


Slavoj Zizek on Israel

Thursday, August 10, 2006

ALL IS WAR the intriguing new album from Fun-Da-Mental which has caused a bit of a furore in the UK. Tabloids have called for group leader and Bradford/Bradistan celebrity Aki Nawaz to be jailed for violation of anti-terror laws because of some of the tracks. 'Cookbook DIY' is a rap about the preparation of dirty bombs. And there's a song juxtaposing Che Guevara with Osama Bin Laden. I wrote about the group in Sounds English: Transnational popular music (2001). John Hutnyk, Sanjay Sharma, Ted Swedenburg, Dave Hesmondhalgh and Rehan Hyder have also analysed Fun^Da^Mental's work from an academic perspective. Islamopop rather than Islamofascism, methinks. Pressing plants have refused to handle the music as if it's explosive, so the group has resorted to the download option and will have the albums pressed up in a distant country and released by the end of August. Maybe the Syrians or Iranians will oblige. I'm joking, aiiight. I've just downloaded the album from the group's website (for eight quid). I'll be playing some of these tunes out on The Basement. Here are a couple of the more sober reports about the album from The Observer and The Times.

There are many more creative possibilities to be had in imagining 'angry young Muslims' in Inglistan. Muslimgauze must be turning in his grave, since he is unable to seize the time to disturb. Fun^da^Mental give voice to these positions. We may or may not like the music, but stifling its exposure is unhelpful and exposes some of the current hypocrisies about freedom and democracy.

It was timely that I spotted a rather naive piece in The Guardian from quintessential liberal Timothy Garton Ash about the 'alienation of British Muslims'. They don't give a monkey's about being British, according to a Pew survey that we're all meant to believe 'just like that', to quote the late great comedian Tommy Cooper. Surveys have to be taken with a pinch of salt or garam masala. The Pew report suggests that British Muslims are the most alienated from nationhood in Europe, the most conservative in relation to women's rights and the most worried about the influence of secular popular culture.

However, nothing in the survey and Garton Ash's editorial tells you anything about the regional aspect of this so-called alienation. The July 7 bombers came from the north of England which has had the most success with fascist parties and a deep deep racism amongst ordinary white folks that refuses to change despite decades of Desi settlement. Desis up north have also been more prone to hick Mullahs who have dominated the community leadership. That's one reasons that young lads have been attracted to the extra-Masjid activities of activists, including Islamists with their CDs and DVDs of Muslim suffering in Palestine, Bosnia, Chechnya, Iraq and now Lebanon. Global yet local: Bradford, Blackburn, Oldham, Dewsbury have gone through a long period of economic decline, high unemployment, riots, a growing segregation of neighbourhoods and tensions around scarce resources that are given a racial/ethnic slant.

This is no excuse for violent Euro-Islamism. As Rafia Zakaria notes, many European Muslims live in denial about the pernicious currents within the ummah and fail to criticize their fellow believers. They want to brush the negatives under the carpet and avoid vigorous criticism of Muslim beliefs and practices that need to change. Going on about Islamophobia, the plight of the Palestinians, and the decline of the Muslim world at the hands of the west are essential, but they can also function as mechanisms that avoid a robust debate about Jihadi terrorism, violence against women, homophobia and other 'problematic' issues. I find that kneejerk defensive reaction among many believers in the UK. For example, it's always the Americans' fault, or there's a conspiracy against Muslims, or the Muslims doing the bad stuff are a few who have misinterpreted the Quran and the other holy teachings. Apparently, they are not 'true Muslims' or do not practise the 'true Islam'. Of course, many believers think they carry the real true Islam with themselves. What about hermeneutics? There's a belief in a reified Quranic text with the delusion that its living reality exists independently of interpretation, even when believers say someone else has a wrong interpretation and they have the right one! People quote whatever suits them from this patchwork document--and I say that acknowledging that all documents are patchwork--without considering the really unpleasant and frankly stupid things written in the holy book alongside the poetically rendered statements of worldly understanding.

I yearn for something akin to a secular current, akin to the secularisation undergone by Judaism. Many are Jewish without believing in any tenets of the religion or its ethno-nationalist manifestations like Zionism. Is there a way to rearticulate 'being Muslim' in terms that dump the doctrinal nonsense and, at least for Sunnis, the appeal to some 7th century ideal that didn't exist in the first place? That PBOH (peace be upon him) respectfully cited after every mention of the Prophet Muhammad's name might be evidence of the failure of Muslims to historicize. Let's have a political analysis of what happened in the Arabian Peninsula back in the day? If there's a broadly variegated ummah, isn't there also room for Muslim atheism that isn't simply dismissed as apostasy? Surely Islam in many locations and across so many populations for centuries has developed myriad trajectories that have given us a million ways of thinking, feeling and doing that cannot be contained by the statement of faith that There is Only One God and His Messenger is Muhammad.

Having said all of that, the war on terror has made Muslims angry. Say I was a youth questioned by some smarmy pollster with a ringbinder in the 'hood or even more remotely through the internet. I would respond with answers that essentially conveyed my sentiment that Tony Blair was a wanker and for extra wind up I might say that we should have shariah law in the UK. So answering certain questions in a poll in a particular way does not mean that is what people really think. It can simply be a gesture of resentment or a contingent and momentary statement of solidarity or sympathy with 'my peeps'. Vote Hezbollah! It might just be a sudden ejaculation of affect that may or may not reflect a realpolitical perspective.

I thought we'd moved beyond simple positivism, but social scientists and media types like to see neat qualititative categories translated into even tidier quantitative information. Muslims in The West are now getting so used to being categorized, surveyed and surveilled by the state and the media for 'representative opinions' or simply to satisfy the preconceptions of non-Muslims. Many are tempted to play language games and give the run-around to those who want to define and regulate their identities and subjectivities. Even I, as a born-again atheist, feel this urge to be a trickster and play with the discourses that attempt to reify Muslim identity. The imagined audience is sometimes Muslims themselves, other times non-Muslims. Maybe that's one of the ways we step through and ultimately beyond the categories we inherit from all sides, and one method to modify or modulate Islam and Muslimness (whatever that is) in our own ways.

British Muslims feel British and/or Muslim in a number of different ways. When the UK is conducting at least one illegal war and supporting the US on a number of military fronts, UK Muslims are going to be 'unpatriotic', just like many of their white native fellow citizens. A whole range of 'unpatriotic' responses, both legitimate and illegitimate, ensue from private frustration to public protest to terrorist violence.

On the other hand, to take a mundane and banal example, British Muslims like Sajid Mahmood can also play cricket for England against Pakistan, and help win the match. I have to admit that I always supported the other team when I went to Headingley. We always wanted England to lose whether it was the West Indies, India, Pakistan or Australia. That's part of our postcolonial birthright. It's a small gesture of defiance rather than 'the Empire strikes back'. Let's not take it all too seriously like Norman Tebbit's cricket test for Englishness. Some of us feel loyal, others don't, but it all depends on the activity and the context. For example, I looked askance at my religiously Muslim brother and my other non-practising brother who both supported England in the World Cup football this June. I hated the St George's cross fluttering everywhere when I was in England in June. It didn't bother them.

But I'm also English and British in innumerable gestures and conversations. I'm shaped by growing up in dear old Blighty and cannot get over it. Just like Morrissey, I suppose. And why should I. You can't shed identities just like that, though you might take the coat off for a while. Sajid Mahmood, himself a UK northerner, has a sense of humour about these 'divided loyalties' or 'multiple loyalties', when confronted just the other day by the insults of British Pakistani supporters (of Pakistan) in the crowd:

Mahmood also had the strength of character to deal with some barracking from the stands that, at times, was less than friendly, making play of his Pakistan roots as the English-born son of immigrants, albeit a family that has been in Britain for 40 years. "The banter with the crowd was light-hearted at first but then it started to get a bit personal," he said. "I heard the word traitor in a couple of chants but I did not let it affect me. To be honest I tried to ignore it and concentrate on bowling. It helped fire me up." His success clearly made it easier to bear, even to the extent of joking about who might be behind it when his family's mixed allegiances were brought up. "My father and brother were here watching," he said. "I don't know, maybe it was my dad who instigated it!"
Who is 'alienated' here? Sajjid or his father? I just find the term a little glib in its subsumption of so many positions on being Muslim and being British. It's become a media cliché. All is not alienation and war.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006


I guess this is what Deleuze and Guattari meant by the nomadic war machine: pro-Hezbollah television station.

Could it be that Blair is an extremist?

Yep, the end times is a comin', Lordy Lordy Lordy.

India bans Arab satellite television.

George Galloway vs. Stupid Sky propaganda

Monday, August 07, 2006


No not the Spanish Inquisition: cue red dressed Pythons bursting into the room. But Tony Benn on the broadcast news & current affairs interviewers and their aggressive styles. One for Kim Hill and John Campbell to ponder, since they slavishly follow the lead of Paxman, Humphrys et al.

Saturday, August 05, 2006


David Bowie--London Bye Ta Ta
The Kinks--Do You Remember Walter
The Zombies--Care of Cell 44
The Sandpipers--Guantanamera
Caetano Veloso--London London
Slowdive--When The Sun Hits
Boards of Canada--Under The Coke Sign
Joy Division--From Safety To Where...?
Scott Walker--Jesse
Burial--You Hurt Me
Muslimgauze--Pale Elegant Egyptian
The Mitchell Brothers featuring Kano & The Streets--Routine Check
Loefah--Goat Stare
Unknown--I'm Never Gonna Dance Again [Careless Whisper mashed & cored]
Linton Kwesi Johnson--Independent Intavenshan
Israel Vibration--Terrorist
The Slits--Man Next Door
Burial--South London Boroughs
Kode9 & The Spaceape--Fukkaz (vocal)
Jarvis Cocker--Cunts Are Still Running The World

Friday, August 04, 2006


Geez, and that's Jesus, it's hard to keep up. What is the value of information, when there's so much of it AND it's so dispersed that giving it unity is impossible? Maybe that's the point. And then again we may be informed but we're powerless. The wars go on. The NZ government remains equivocal. Better to just dig our hands in our pockets and send money to the damaged. I feel like screaming.

But here goes anyway:

Thanks to all those at the Department of Film, Television and Media Studies, University of Auckland who responded to my call for media resources on the War on Lebanon and the 'New Middle East' to quote Dr Condoleezza Rice. Special big ups to Roger for most of these links, and thanks to Nick, Nick, Rebecca, Kevin, David, Virginia, Bruce, Damien, for other citations.

I'm not experienced at this sort of archival thing so this is what I've done so far in considering the last couple of days e-mails and links.

I figured I would just put those sites that feature regular commentary on politics and the war(s) on/of terror from a 'left-democratic-progressive' perspective in the links section. So I/you can just look left. The list will get longer quite quickly, I imagine.

I'm not sure how best to archive other resources but I'll leave it to the limits of this particular software for the moment and rethink things at a later date.

Otherwise, I'll just comment or simply add links to stories that seem significant, useful or just interesting for other reasons. I will include stuff that I don't agree with, since this is part of the mediascape of conflict. Inevitably there will be a media focus in here so it might be helpful for potential researchers.

I probably won't have the time to comment at length or even cursorily on many of these links since my wife is ill, I'm teaching two courses this semester, and have several deadlines for academic writing. More screaming.


I see that there has been some commentary in the Arab media (also picked up by the New York Times and other 'western' publications) about Jordanian cartoonist Emad Hajjaj's cartoon of a building under an Israeli tank with the broken walls taking the shape of the Arab world. You can see this cartoon along with others at the Al-Jazeera site. Some amazing stuff here. I love another one on the same page that compares and contrasts Condi's visits to Tel Aviv and Beirut. The site gives a good idea of the graphic intensity of these cartoons and while it's almost all critical of Israel, its a useful reminder that anti-Zionism is not the same as anti-semitism. Many media reports a few months ago conflated the two (yet again) after anti-semitic cartoons were juxtaposed against the Danish cartoons.

Trust me to choose cartoons before the 'more serious' matters of war. To poetry...

Remi Kanazi is a Palestinian-American writer and poet who is the main writer at Poetic Injustice. This site is enlightening about the shifts in Arab-American political opinion. The vast majority supported Bush and the Republican Party before 9/11. The detentions and surveillance of Arab-Americans, and the war on Iraq and now Lebanon have alienated many of them.

Sidney Blumenthal on the US neo-cons' longterm 'Domino Diplomacy'.

A piece from a pro-Israel American publication, American Thinker, looks at the military strategy of the Israeli Defence Force. It's more Monty than Patton, apparently. The confidence about 'winning the day' over a well-organized guerilla force seems rather optimistic, given the details of Hezbollah's infrastructure.

Another perspective on Hezbollah's military preparation and Iran's hand comes from the Jamestown Foundation. Its Terrorism Monitor, which on a quick glance and scan of a few pages, began after September 11, 2001, looks like your usual Washington-based think-tank on the right, with a focus on Al Qaeda and the rise of Islamism in 'Eurasia', West and Central Asia. It also keeps an eye on China. The JF looks like it's also got a few 'house Arabs'. Man, there must be a ton of Arab and Iranian academics and journalists getting gigs in Washington right now. 'You speak Arabic or Farsee? Yes! You're in, bud.' Of course, the white Americans are the ones from this organization who are called in as experts on CNN and the other US networks.

If they came downunder these guys would also be approached by the Sunday Herald Sun, an Australian rag I know nothing about. But its prose style is familiarly nauseating. A story with photos of Hezbollah taken by a Melbourne resident that 'damn' the organization, since they show it waging war from suburbia. They are in the 'hood with missiles, so they're bringing death and destruction to the communities. What more could you expect from the Israelis than to bomb the houses around there. Haven't these Australians heard of guerrilla warfare?

In contrast, features a story on the 'Hiding amongst civilians myth'.

The media war or, should I say, wars. There have been a number of stories about how coverage has varied from country to country, network to network.

The Guardian's Washington correspondent, Julian Borger says It's like watching two different wars in the US and Europe.

Jamal Dajani, a US-based Arab television and documentary producer also remarks on the US and Arab network reportage.

In today's Media Guardian, John Plunkett surveys the coverage of US and UK networks.

Jonathan Cook, a writer in Nazareth, focuses on the militarization of the media in Israel, with critical voices absent from the television.

Had a quick scan of Abu Aardvark, a blog by Marc Lynch which is thorough and scholarly and focuses on the new Arab public and the role of the media in its formation. Much about the variation in Arab networks here and the 'revolutionary' impact of media in the region since the late 90s. Also gets to the Sunni-Shia mythologies currently being propogated as part of the imperial project.

I haven't watched that much of the coverage on the NZ media, turning instead to BBC World since I'm a Sky subscriber. But tonight Prime News seemed to be more fair in its coverage of both sides as compared with TV3's evening bulletin which concentrated on the shelling of Israelis and described the demonstration of a few hundred in Wellington as 'peaceful but rowdy'. The last shot was of a pile of placards on the ground. TV3 also failed to mention, unlike Prime, that Nasrallah said that Hezbollah would stop shelling if Israel withdrew its troops and stopped bombing.

Lara Deeb, a cultural anthropologist, and assistant professor of women’s studies at the University of California-Irvine, is author of An Enchanted Modern: Gender and Public Piety in Shi‘i Lebanon. She has a primer on Hezbollah which appears on many sites.

Quoted at Mike Toppa's blog, Chas Freeman, former US Ambassador to Saudi Arabia and former Asst. Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, gives a realpolitikal description of what he sees is the relationship of Hezbollah to Iran and Syria. You can judge for yourself though I think as a former US diplomat he underplays the Bush Administration's green light to the Israelis and their agenda to remap the region:

The assumption in Israel and here is that Iran and Syria put Hezbollah up to its provocative gesture of solidarity with the beleaguered Palestians in Gaza. The assumption in the Arab world is that the U.S. put Israel up to what it is doing in Gaza and Lebanon. Both assertions remain politically convenient assertions that are almost certainly wrong. There is no evidence for either.

The relationship between Hezbollah, Syria, and Iran is analogous to that between Israel and the United States. Syria is the quartermaster and Iran the external financier and munitions supplier to Hezbollah; we play all three roles in support of Israel.

There is no reason to believe that Hezbollah, which is an authentic expression of Lebanese Sh'ia nationalism birthed by the Israeli occupation of south Lebanon in 1982, is any less unilateralist or prone to consult its patrons before it does things it sees as in its interest than Israel, which is an authentic expression of Jewish nationalism birthed by European racism, is in relation to us.

Remember the assertions that Vietnamese expansionism was controlled and directed by the Chinese? similar stuff. Chinese backing for the Viet Minh and the Hanoi regime did not equate to Chinese control or direction of North Vietnam, its armed forces, or its agents in South Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. Consider the 1979 Sino-Vietnamese war.

The irony now is that the most likely candidate to back Hezbollah in the long term is no longer Iran but the Arab Shiite tyranny of the majority we have installed in Baghdad. But that will not mean that the successors of Nouri Al-Maliki control Sheikh Nasrullah. Sometimes clients direct the policies of their patrons, not the other way around. This is a point exemplified by the dynamic of Israeli-American relations but far from unique to them.


I don't read the New Zealand Herald very often because it isn't a good newspaper. Someone told me that the publication omitted the photograph above from the sequence of photos below (at least one of which was printed). This was a few days before the bombing of Qana/Cana. I don't buy the excuse that images of death will upset readers and viewers. Why have the western media been so careful to avoid images of dead people in Iraq and Lebanon and Palestine? They tend to opt for hospital bed scenes of the maimed instead, so we can still feel sorry for the living. In contrast, Al-Jazeera and Arab networks show death in all its ugliness. Some might say this is the Arab ease with death. They would be mistaken. Why would you want to sanitize war? Which is the more ugly picture here?

Thursday, August 03, 2006


The long view backwards and forwards from Aijaz Ahmad.