Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Heroes are spawned
In the rapids
By the leaping salmon
I was stunned by the poety that tumbled forth. His words forced me to relax. I requested that he recite it once more. He was gracious enough to honor my request. I didn't have to twist his arm and he began telling me a bit about his life. Most important, at some point in his life he decided he wanted to be a poet and since then that's what he's done, surviving by busking. I wanted to kiss his feet but I couldn't bring myself to do it. He reminded me of the wandering bhagats and sufi poets of South Asia, like Kabir and Shah Husain and countless others. I wanted to give him some money but realized I had not a penny on me. I told him so. He was calm and said that's fine. I asked him his name and he said Danny McFarland. Goodluck, Danny!
Monday, August 18, 2008
It was a shocking revelation to me to hear an Israeli peacenik many years ago speaking into the tiny loudspeaker held in his hand to a small crowd on a windy day at the Civic Center's UN Plaza, by the Main Library and Bart Station, the revelation that Israel's invasion of Lebanon in 1982 was designed to crush PLO precisely because PLO had been reaching out, through diplomatic channels, for a peace deal. Many years later, then, Norman Finkelstein would take on Ben-Ami, Israeli ex-Foreign Minister, on Amy Goodman's Democracy Now and had this to say: Come 1981, as pressure builds on Israel to reach a diplomatic settlement in the Israel-Palestine conflict, they decide to invade Lebanon in order to crush the P.L.O., because the P.L.O. was on record supporting a two-state settlement. As Dr. Ben-Ami's colleague, Avner Yaniv, put it in a very excellent book, Dilemmas of Security, he said, “The main problem for Israel was,” and now I'm quoting him, "the P.L.O.'s peace offensive. They wanted a two-state settlement. Israel did not.” And so Israel decides to crush the P.L.O. in Lebanon. It successfully did so.
The P.L.O. goes into exile.
Norman Finkelstein's name now suddenly reminded me (due to University of California Press, Berkeley, connetion) of a wonderful book they had published in 1995, a translation of Mahmoud Darwish's Memory For Forgetfulness. My fingers grew restless, eyes agitated, flipping through pages, trying to find where the poet of exile mentions another poet of exile. Here: Patience, intellectuals! For the question of life and death which is now supreme, the question of a will committing all its weapons to the battlefield, the question of an existence taking its divine and material shape - these are more important than ethical questions about the role of poetry and the poet. And it is fitting that we should honor the awe which these hours unfold, the hours of the transfer of human existence from one shore to another and from one state of being to another. It is fitting also that traditional poetry should know how to hold its humble silence in the presence of this newborn. And if it becomes necessary for intellectuals to turn into snipers, then let them snipe at their old concepts, their old questions, and their old ethics. We are not now to describe, as much as we are to be described. We're being born totally, or else dying totally. <>Yet our great friend from Pakistan, Fayiz Ahmad Fayiz, is busy with another question: "Where are the artists?"
"Which artists, Fayiz?" I ask. "The artists of Beirut." "What do you want from them?" "To draw this war on the walls of the city." "What's come over you?" I exclaim. "Don't you see the walls crumbling?"
Simone Bitton's 1997 documentary film Mahmoud Darwich: As the Land Is the Language traces some of the paths of Darwish's exile.
Rachel Donadio writes in New York Times Book Review (pg 27) about a reprint - by Ibis - of a controversial novel Khirbet Khizeh (1949) by S. Yizhar about displacement of Palestinians. The author was born in 1916 and served as an intelligence officer in 1948 war. Ms Donado writes, "[T]he book tells of the violent evacuation of a Palestinian village by a Jewish unit in the 1948 war of independence. " No one knows how to wait like soldiers, Yizhar writer, There is the ruthlessly long waiting, the nervous anxious waiting . . . the tedious waiting, that consumes and burns everything." Ms Donado adds: When the order comes, the unit begins shelling. The villagers flee. The narrator speaks, "This is what exile looked like . . . I have never been in diaspora. I had never known what it was like, but people had spoken to me, told me, taught me, and repeatedly recited to me, from every direction . . . exile . . . What, in fact, had we perpatrated her today?"
Noted Israeli writer A. B. Yehoshua called the novel, "a little bit naive, simple . . ." and, according to Ms. Donaldo, Mr. Yehoshua thinks "Other Israeli writers have treated 'the Palestinian problem' with far more sophistication."
That reminds me of what Toni Morrison once wrote: Silences from and about the subject was the order of the day. Some of the silences were broken, and some were maintained by authors who lived with and within the policing strategies. What I am interested in are the strategies for breaking it.
(from Playing in the Dark)
Author Yehoshua add, "From 1948 onward, Israel hasn't been 'taking innocent citizens' and trying to do harm to them . . . It's a war between two peoples about the land . . . [Palestinians] don't want us for their own reasons, and we have to be there because we don't have another place. This is the tragedy." He elaborates, "Even if the Israeli settlements in the occupied territories are 'evil,' we cannot say that the other side doesn't want to push us to the sea."
This level of intellectual dishonesty from a major author is appalling. Mr. Yehoshua not only justifies occupation, colonialism and apartheid but also obfuscates criticism of such practices. What took place in Palestine was not out of the ordinary during colonialism emanating out of racist Europe, it was normal practice to displace colonized people. The displacement of Masaai people of Kenya, 1904, by the British, forcing them off their rich land to make way for British settlements is a similar story of dispossession. The displacement was not always physical, it involved knowledge of literature and history as well. Finally, TLS in its August 15, 2008, issue exhibits a racist way of honoring Mahmoud Darwish by quoting from an old review of poems (1974): Poets cannot live by sympatyhy alone, and it well that Darwish has the technical expertise to achieve effects that do not depend on biographical information . . ." If he is a major poet, extremely popular, worthy of translation, then, why wouldn't he have technical expertise? Would TLS employ such snobish language about a poet expressing similar feelings about Holocaust? Shame on TLS!
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Saturday, July 12, 2008
A question pops up in mind: Why does the backward journey start with Greece? Is it because Greece (victim of European snobbery) always has to prop up its claim to "the cradle of western civilization"? Cineaste, the film periodical, carried several excellent articles in various issues. Dina Iordanova, in Summer2007, Vol. 32, Issue 3, points out: " . . . all important films from the region ultimately deal with historical memory." More importantly, the new Balkan cinema is also deconstructing the grand narrative of national purity that gripped these states as they acquired their new political indentities. Should the viewer question the choice of a male voyeur in Ulysses' Gaze? a nagging question lingers.
I accidently discovered that Ulysses' Gaze is connected to Angelopoulos' previous film, Weeping Meadows, in that the character Harvey Keitel plays as someone who has returned even if as a tourist, and it is this return that links the story to Alexis' character who in Weeping Meadows departs for America leaving Eleni behind "to bear the brunt of Greek war, political repression and civil war." But Ulysses' Gaze was made in 1995 and Weeping Meadows in 2004.
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
article on the declining numbers of people able to retire ("Comfortable retirement a
fading dream for many," June 16) is consistent with other indicators such as war,
famine and plague that we are entering into a New Middle Ages.
As the American empire crumbles, the barbarians hordes establish their fiefdoms.
The common man becomes a lifetime serf to the corporate aristocracy that uses its
wealth to fund misguided crusades.
Media, in the role of the Church, offer solace through illusion, while heretics are
burned in the headlines.
Most fascinating of all is what form will the coming Renaissance take? Steve Abney -
The other piece of news that continues to disturb me since I first read this bit on the day of the issue was published. The heading read: Inaction in boy's beating called justified: Experts say witnesses are understandably scared and confused (June 18, 2008)
Something is weirdly wrong with our society. I will share my reflection as I find time to sit down in front of my computer.
Came home and saw this on CommonDreams via The Toronto Star: Haunted by Iraq War. (Read the full story here http://www.thestar.com/News/World/article/456877 )
It is a story of one Private Dwyer celebrated as a hero for saving an enemy's child. At home a father kills his two years old by kicking and punching him over hundred time by a roadside and people driving by stop and watch in horror. No one intervenes for the fear he might hurt them. Wonderful! They say they had nothing to stop him with. How about getting in your car and crushing him? I wonder what role media has played in creating such a society that we have come to embrace? For one thing, they justified and continue to sanction a cruel, inhuman war and turned it into a video game as opposed feeling horrified. The sensitized the war by showing images of (not carnage our soldier committed on a foreign people) but by displaying images of humanitarian gestures by the US soldiers, some of whom are now dying by sniffing aerosol spray cleaner. The media has truly turned us into a passive spectator of murders. Media, instead of going after the Neocons who devised the war and exposing their criminal side, turned us into weightless dumbells. Steve is right on when he calls them the new Church.
Saturday, July 5, 2008
There is an excellent review by Yvette Biro on Tsai Ming-liang and Jia Zhang-Ke's films in the Summer 2008 issue of Film Quarterly. What really impressed me in Biro's Tender is the Regard: I Don't Want to Sleep Alone and Still Life is the following:
'Tsai rightly states that he is not simply an observer. He touches the depth of sensation, fleeting desires, and instincts but he never does so from a position that is too close to his subjects. Instead he stands back in order, with his exquisite precision, to pay attention to specific details. The lightless, sombre images are nevertheless rich, saturated, despite their repetitive, minimalist components. Although the camera always remain distant, it is clear that man adn environment are indivisible, identical living vegetation. We have time not only to see, but also to live through the micro-life revealed thanks to the patience of the penetrating, immobile camera composition. The bleak, dreary, and narrow walls, the miserably small windows, or the blatantly barren concrete jungle of the city are the unhomely home of people, where human action is restricted to the most trivial, physical activity.
Tsai understands the language of the body, the naked mother tongue of daily existence best. The normal, simple life functions of our being, the everyday rituals: eating and urinating and washing, teeth-brushing and masturbating - devouring and relieving oneself, the "cries and whispers" of hurried sexual intercourse. This is the common, natural timetable of daily life: waiting silently, then feeding, "downloading" . . . and starting again; doing what has to be done, whatever the body requires, for as long as it is possible, before it is necessary to move again. The solitude of heavy dreams cannot be soothed even with a pillow . . . '
Folks, this is sheer poetry! We must salute such sensitive readings of pieces of art.
Saturday, June 28, 2008
Serious films - even when they're made to entertain as well - have to be viewed differently. Slow, unusual pacing of shots allows viewers to engage with what may be happening underneath the skin of the characters who seem depressed, lonely, angry, rejected, inept, unloved, confused. The filmmaker, by his/her choice of lens, camerawork, dialogues, lighting, long shots, forces viewers to examine the worlds the loneliness inside each one of us may have come to resemble. A serious filmmaker tries to bridge the gape between the highly philosophical and banal, attempts to bring into a clash/contrast the exterior and the interior of his characters.
Robert Koehler writing in Variety is more on the mark when he points out, "In this wide-ranging and despairing portrait of a society in crisis, Nematollah's camera frequently seems as loose and unhinged as his characters, some of whom while away the day addicted to opium or watching the tube. Golzar, departing from his usual mode as a bland matinee idol, uses Hamid's subdued nature as a front; when he explodes with anger at the end, it's the rage the movie has been building slowly to all along." Yet the fact is that we don't see Golzar explode in voice, only in action, even that only off camera. The entire scene puts the likes of Scorcese, Spielberg, Tarantino and many other icons of Hollywood to the dustbin of mediocrity. A lesser film would have the half-conscience of the film, the male hero, explode, a lesser filmmaker would have allowed the lead actor to unleash his talent, his range, from subdued to meteoric. However, one of the memorable scenes, acting-wise, takes place at a bridge over street traffic: the lead actress, Golshifte Farahani, who completely succeeds in keeping the audience ambivalent, even irritated, about her childlike behavior, in fact, explodes, revealing an anti-heroine, an angry young woman suffocating inside her. The range of acting the two display should give the viewers some hint into the rich and complex Iranian school of acting.
Friday, June 20, 2008
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Saturday, June 14, 2008