Wednesday, October 15, 2008

it's been a month...

...And I haven't updated, but I actually have a good excuse. I've been working diligently on finishing my paper, "The Iran War Will Not Take Place: the Intersection of Humanitarianism and Imperialism." I finished it today and submitted it to a conference at Rutgers University titled The Iranian Revolution: Thirty Years. I hope it gets accepted! At about 35 pages, it's certainly the longest paper I've written, and I'm really proud of it. I may post it online in the future.

Enough bragging, let's get down to business. Unfortunately I lost a bunch of good links when my computer crashed, but I still have been keeping busy with nerding out on the Internet, as you can see. Most of these are from a grip of links that Hoda sent me, so props to her. Expect more in the near future.

Iranian Typography Now - pretty bad article full of factual errors, but containing some stunning examples of modern Iranian calligraphy and art. (PingMag)

Hamid Dabashi at the Palestine Center - video of an engaging and interesting lecture from Hamid Dabashi on US-Iranian relations. Also on Youtube in three parts. (KABOBfest)

Iranian strike halts sales tax - that's right, my motherland is home to some of the most militant labor movements in the world. For more on the topic, I highly recommend Iran on the Brink: Rising Workers and Threats of War by Andreas Malm and Shora Esmailian. There's a great interview about the book (also in three parts) online. (Al Jazeera; interview via Middle East Panorama on Resonance)

Iran opens health care clinics in Bolivia - make sure to check out all the links on this short article about an exciting development in Iran's growing ties with Latin America. The Monthly Review's article is especially worth reading. As the U.S. tries to exclude Iran from the American-dominated economic sphere, Iran continues to nurture strong links throughout the world, from Eastern Europe to East Asia, the Middle East to Latin America. (Imperialism and Resistance)

Turning ordinary people into punchlines - excellent critique of Bill Maher's stupid movie "Religulous." Bill Maher is unfunny and a gigantic douchebag. Thanks to my boy Jeff for sending me this one. (Socialist Worker)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

catching up

Though I've been reading a lot as always, I've been too busy/lazy to post stuff on here, so I'll try to get caught up. Like half of these links came my way thanks to Hoda - mad props comrade!

Maurice Sendak's Concerns, Beyond Where the Wild Things Are - if you're not down with Maurice Sendak you are a piece of shit 2k8. Plus it turns out the dude is interesting as hell. (NY Times)

Ali Eteraz: The making of the Muslim left - God, Eteraz is such a tremendous douchebag! I can't believe I used to like his blog. His vision for a Muslim "left" sounds exactly what Bush (or at least Friedman) would envision. I don't have the energy to tear this article apart, so I'll leave it as an exercise for the reader; anyone smart enough to realize that the almighty "free market" is not the solution to all of life's problems should be able to handle it. In the words of Ramallah Underground, "amputate that invisible hand!" And a note to Ali Eteraz, if he ever sees this: polytheism is forbidden in Islam, so you have to choose between Allah SWT, the Lord of the Worlds, or your other god, Capital, the Lord of Profit, whom you seem to worship more.

'The Kite Runner' Critiqued: New Orientalism Goes to the Big Screen - a critical analysis of The Kite Runner as an example of native informancy that aids Islamophobic discourses in the U.S. (applying the theories of Dabashi, Keshavarz, et al, to The Kite Runner). I found the argument less compelling when applied to a book that I so greatly enjoyed (the movie was good too) rather than more blatant offenders like Reading Lolita in Tehran, but it did change the way I see Khaled Hosseini's work nonetheless. Oh well...A Thousand Splendid Suns kind of sucked anyway! For more on this theme, be sure to read Hamid Dabashi's important article Native informers and the making of the American empire, A Genre in the Service of Empire: an Iranian Feminist Critique of Diasporic Memoirs (several authors), and Fatemeh Keshavarz's book Jasmine and Stars: Reading More than Lolita in Tehran. The last, Jasmine and Stars, is not just an academic critique of the new Orientalism but a lively and engaging narrative, too. Highly recommended. (Kite Runner review from ZMag; I found it on a post at the blog "Progressive Muslims: Friends of Imperialism and Neocolonialism").

They know best - Golbarg Bashi (who contributed to the article "A Genre in the Service of Empire" mentioned above) criticizes the elitist atmosphere at Iranian Women's Studies Foundation conferences (

A modern Ottoman - on Fethullah Gülen, named the top intellectual in the world by an online poll (Prospect Magazine)

How Gülen triumphed - on the interesting Internet dynamics that led to the above result (Prospect Magazine)

Oil, Islam, and women - an argument that oil, not Islam, is responsible for the plight of women in the Middle East. It's an interesting perspective, but the article is far too short to make a serious argument. Food for thought, anyway. (Salon)

Inside Iran - a series of articles about Iran. They're well-written, but a rehash of the same tired subjects that have been covered over and over: the disparity between public and private life, the nuclear program, blogs, Ahmadinejad. Iran's such an incredible diverse and fascinating country, but why is so little written about, say, the bus drivers' unionization campaign, or the growing popularity of Korean soap operas in Iran, or Afghan poetry in Mashhad? I guess I should be thankful people are writing about Iran at all - when was the last time you read a decent article about Kyrgyzstan? (New Statesman)

Script change for neoliberalism - I've been trying to follow news and analysis of the proposed $700 billion bailout, but there's a lot to cover. This is just a short piece that makes the case for nationalizing healthcare, education, and other basic necessities, rather than failed businesses. I'll be digging deeper into SW's Economy department for some more in-depth articles. (Socialist Worker)

ali eteraz misses the point

I think Ali Eteraz gained such a popular following based almost entirely on his looks. Let's not kid ourselves here, he is goddamn handsome. Actually, he looks kind of like me...except older, Pakistani, and maybe a little hotter. Anyway, while I appreciate that he takes an 'alternative' or 'progressive' approach to issues of Islam, the Desi community, etc., oftentimes the end result with Eteraz is that he becomes similar to other so-called "progressive Muslims"-- which is to say, defenders of the Islamophobic, racist power structure in the West. Case in point is Eteraz's love for Obama. No self-respecting Muslim should support an Uncle Tom just because he supports some kind of withdrawal of troops from Iraq (but only so that he can keep bombing the everloving shit out of Afghanistan and maybe blow up Pakistan and Iran too). But I'll let my audience (do I have an audience yet?) decide for themselves. Here is Eteraz's Suicide Intellect, his profoundly status-quo, reactionary take on Ali Shari`ati. Read it, then compare with Ali Shari`ati's classic essay, Red Shi`ism (the religion of martyrdom) vs. Black Shi`ism (the religion of mourning).

Most amazing of all to me is that Eteraz could interpret Shari`ati's bold call for Shi`a to "rebel against history" and "choose justice" as nihilism. Wouldn't it be much more nihilistic to lay down and accept injustice? Or maybe justify unjust government in the name of stability, as certain autocratic Sunni states have done? At the core of nihilism lies a rejection of morality, values, and universal truth; how could that be any more different from Shari`ati's cry for a revolutionary movement steeped in Islamic morality, Qur`anic values, and struggle for al Haqq, the Truth with a capital T?

Rather than blame Shari`ati for popularizing suicide in the Middle East, we need to blame the oppressors and colonialists who push people to such desperation that suicide becomes an option. Have Palestinians who blow themselves up been more influenced by the writings of a deceased Iranian intellectual, or by the brutally unlivable conditions imposed upon them by Israel? Ultimately, I think Eteraz's beef with Shari`ati is that the latter committed the sin of daring to rebel. For as much as "progressive Muslims" like Ali Eteraz (to be fair, I'm not sure if he uses that term to describe himself or not) want to rebel against traditional, orthodox Islam, they are much more timid when it comes to rebelling against Western imperialism, colonialism and racism.

a couple good reads

From Contributions to Diaspora: Assyrians in the History of Urmia, Iran - excellent scholarly article on Assyrians in Urmia (Orumiyeh), a city in northwest Iran (

Pakistani protest music: alive and well in times of turmoil - good piece on rock and punk as protest music in Pakistan (The Guardian)

And, of course, New York Magazine's recap of the new Gossip Girl episode. Duh.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

gossip girl

I can't be an academic nerd/political militant/whatever all the time. Sometimes I just have to watch the season premiere of Gossip Girl, which New York Magazine so aptly dubbed "The Greatest Show of Our Time." No, I don't read NY Mag, except for their Daily Intel's Gossip Girl blog, which is so good. Here's their take on the season premiere.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

a few unrelated articles i read today

The End of an Odyssey - about a successful boat trip that broke the Israeli siege on Gaza (The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions UK, via a post on hawgblawg).

Mansur Al-Hallaj - well-written, albeit brief, Wikipedia article on the famous and controversial Sufi figure (Wikipedia)

واژه‌ها و تركيبات و عبارات مأخوذ از عربى - page detailing some orthographical issues in Persian; took me friggin' forever to read and I'm still confused about the use of ی vs. هٔ to mark ezaafe after a word ending in ه (Persian Academy)

Sunday, August 31, 2008

weekend roundup

Haven't had much time for reading or blogging, as I've been trying to put as much of my free time as possible into studying for the GRE. This weekend I've been getting caught up with some recent posts on, one of my favorite blogs on language. Here are a couple good ones.

Peter K Austin's top 10 endangered languages (The Guardian, via LH)

Here's Anggarrgoon's take on the same subject.

Ha Eli - on a particularly elusive particle in Armenian (Eudæmonist, via LH). I noted over at LH that the Armenian էլի (eli) bears striking resemblance in use to the Persian دیگر (digar), most especially in its colloquial form دیگه (digeh).

Barriers That Are Steep and Linguistic - decent piece on linguistic diversity in the Caucasus (NY Times, again via LH). Though it's a decently-informed article, there is one loathsomely ignorant, racist remark quoted in the article that really gets me. This dynamic continued after the breakup of the Soviet Union, and she recalled her horror at hearing Dzhokhar Dudayev, the Chechen leader, cite work from her institute in support of Chechen independence, during the build up to a bloody war with Russia. “At those moments, you feel like the inventor of the atom bomb,” Dr. Dybo said. The racism dripping from that quote is just disgusting. I wonder if Dybo would feel like "the inventor of the atom bomb" if her institute's work was used to justify the Civil Rights movement in the United States, or the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa. God forbid those uppity negroes Chechens should demand basic human rights!

And lastly, here's a fascinating piece posted in Far Outliers. Armenian Merchant Information Networks, 1600s-1800s - containing a juicy excerpt from “The Salt in a Merchant’s Letter”: The Culture of Julfan Correspondence in the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean. If an article on 200-400 year old Armenian trade routes doesn't interest you, then get off my blog. Your life is meaningless.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Chronicling the Story of Greater Palestine's rappers - on the film 'Slingshot Hip Hop,' about Palestinian hip hop (The Daily Star)
(via hawgblawg)

Oil discovery transformed Iran (BBC)

Also, I recently got a couple of books; as you can see I'm still on a fiction/poetry kick. After reading non-fiction almost exclusively for the past few years (university will do that to you), it's been really refreshing to get lost in a story or take in a good poem. Here are my most recent acquisitions:
  • Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
  • Seven Valleys of Love: a Bilingual Anthology of Woman Poets from Middle Ages Persia to Present Day Iran (translated by Sheema Kalbasi)

Saturday, August 16, 2008

lakes drying up

I didn't have a lot of free time, so today I read about some lakes drying up.

Central Africa's Lake Chad is disappearing (

Extinction of another Iranian pond (Payvand/ISNA)

This weekend I want to finish up "Jazz" by Toni Morrison and maybe begin another novel. I have my eye on Naguib Mahfouz's "Palace Walk," Albert Memmi's "The Pillar of Salt," or the Iraqi novel I bought the other day, "The Last of the Angels" by Fadhil al-Azzawi. Meanwhile, on the non-fiction front, I'm currently making my way through "Muqtada." When I'm finished, I might give Islam a rest for a minute and pick up one of the books on my shelf about Hinduism or Zoroastrianism. This summer I've been reading everything I can about religion, especially Islamic history and politics; "No god but God" by Reza Aslan and "The Shia Revival" by Vali Nasr have been my favorites so far.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

recent acquisitions

P.S. I've been hitting the bookstores pretty hard, and here's what I've acquired in the past week, from Barnes & Noble, the Saddleback College library bookstore, and Laguna Niguel Friends of the Library.
  • Elementary Azerbaijani by Kurtulus Öztopçu
  • Muqtada: Muqtada al-Sadr, the Shia Revival, and the Struggle for Iraq by Patrick Cockburn (just started reading this)
  • A Sense of Siege: the Geopolitics of Islam and the West by Graham E. Fuller & Ian O. Lesser
  • The Last of the Angels: a Modern Iraqi Novel by Fadhil al-Azzawi
  • The Nationalities Question in the Soviet Union - ed. Graham Smith
  • The Former Soviet States: Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan (kids' library book with big, bright pictures; I am stoked on this!)

the latest

How imperial rivalries stoked war in Georgia - South Ossetia caught between competing empires: US (via Georgia/NATO) and Russia (Socialist Worker)

Huge Stakes behind War in Caucasus - Another socialist take on the war, less critical of Russia (Monthly Review)

Anti-Muslim racism leveled at Sami Al-Arian - Islamophobia in the trial of US vs. Dr. Sami Al-Arian (Socialist Worker)

The Chameleon: The many lives of Frédéric Bourdin - Insane, gripping article about a professional imposter (The New Yorker)

Props to Fu and Hoda (earlier) for hooking me up some good reads. If you have an article, book, or something else you think I'd like to read, leave a comment and I'll check it out. In the future I'll maybe start posting links to the many blogs that I read and the books I've been reading, but right now I think I'm gonna take a nap and think about dinner.

Monday, August 11, 2008

more articles

Georgian exit leaves vacuum near Iranian border - news piece about Georgian troops pulling out of Iraq to redeploy to Georgia (AP)

It looks as though it’s back to the bad old days for Arab Americans - on anti-Arab/Islamophobic sentiment and the Obama campaign (The National)

Also, check out the a-Rab magazine.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

stuff i read today

China's All-Seeing Eye - about Chinese 'authoritarian capitalism' (Naomi Klein in Rolling Stone)

The League of Revolutionary Black Workers, Arab Americans and Palestine Solidarity - fantastic article about Black and Arab solidarity in Detroit (Palestine Solidarity Review)

OCPC (Orange County Persian Community) magazine - embarrassingly terrible free "Persian-American Lifestyle Magazine," but check out the interview starting on page 26, it's not bad.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

first entry

Haven't quite figured out how I want to do this blog yet, so for now I think I'll use it as a dumping ground for articles that I read.

Saved and Depoliticised at One Stroke - about Kosovo as a failed state (London Review of Books)
Neo-Stalinists Oppose the Kosovo Albanians’ Right of Self-Determination - sort of goofy socialist agitprop that goes with the above article (Socialist Action)
Bolivia's Surprising Anti-Drug Success - about nationalizing the 'War on Drugs' in Bolivia (TIME)