Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof

Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

The Protest

In Superintelligent sea cucumbers, Writing on July 5, 2006 at 1:23 am

I love finding old notes. Here are my notes for a play called “The Protest.”

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I’m the Grand Marshall of the Hot Meat Parade and I’m sporting an Estrada-style melonhead variant.

Aucoin
Mulvaney
Montcrieff Montesinos
Cardinal Almagordo
Hebo Rickreall

Don’t tell anyone I’m the head of the Curia, I told everyone back home I play piano in a whorehouse.

I dream of sleeping with the smallest blanket ever made, a rectangle of flannel three feet wide and six inches long.

Frightened by objects, menaced by their being.

The Curia, or, The Committee for the Preservation of Doctrinal Relativism

Committee for the Prevention of Virtue and the Promotion of Vice. A ‘religious’ police who dress like 18th century Greek soldiers in short white capes, pleated skirts, hose, black velvet shoes, white blouse and patterned vest, with three-foot-tall red conical hats. On the shoulder of each cape is an embroidered patch with the design of a compass.

I believe in being as evil as possible.

Government campaign to interest children in heroin.

I’m a hard man not to love.

A marble plaza in Venice, with a rostrum on a circular dias, with five steps up center. Stage left, steps and columns and façade of the temple. Stage right, fountain. Upstage, wall of palace with two arched doors.

Men surround a woman and beat her with wooden shoes. When someone in the crowd calls out, “They’re barbarians!” they are arrested for being a Truthist, a loathed heresy that believes things are “true” or “not true”.

The High Executive Committee on the Transfer Project of the Foreign Ministry of Embassies to Venice met here Sunday under Cardinal Almagordo, the chair of the committee. It adopted a number of decisions.

What impressed the audience even more than his frankness, his eloquence, his knowledgeable comments and his spontaneity and his wit was his humbleness despite his exalted position.

Scene-for-scene based on Julius Caesar.

Two parties, Doctrinal Relativism (in charge) and Revolutionary Absolutism (opposition) both of whom seek an end of doubt.

Furbox, a mystic (like the soothsayer in C), the third way, “crazy” as he uses his judgment. Allied to the “Truthist” heretics.

The Chief Defender of Doctrinal Relativism, the Leader and Principal Deputy of the Curia, Cardinal Almagordo.

The Acting Commissioner of Revolutionary Absolutism, the Architect and Supreme Commander of the Archonate, Comrade Hebo Rickreall.

Quickly, go and fill my spare uniform pants full of dipping sauce.

Man holds a centerfold of a ghutra up with one hands and furiously tugs the bacon strands of Pol Pot with the other.

You, go change into another middle-aged woman’s sweater from the 80s.

She’s got all the most popular neuroses.

What if water were made out of glass bottles?

The loneliness of power, the power of loneliness.

Linda chose to build her house in the bowels of a magnificent monkeypod tree.

Smokeables (instead of “Lunchables”)

These women are bald, flaccid and white as maggots.

I am more pretty and more handsome, blacker and more white.

Everyone is superior to everyone else.

The more ideas, the more confusion. I propose even more ideas and even less meaning.

I didn’t eat a thing all day and then I gorged myself on half-cooked chicken.

Kissyface protocol

Are the skinny morally inferior?

People! he spat. I prefer the dead.

Pornocracy

Double-crane fist arms, engorged with Siberian fish roe, bears chew my testicles.

Have you got your land arms on? Put your land arms on. You just sit their talking to me with your land arms on like that?

Aquatic briefcase.

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A collective conscience for the wired world

In Blogging, Committee to Protect Bloggers, Free speech, Human rights, Jailed bloggers, Threatened bloggers, Writing on May 27, 2006 at 6:09 pm

Since the op-ed I was invited to write by Canada’s National Post is no longer accessible, I am republishing it here. This draft is not as tight as the published version, but it will have to do.

A Collective Conscience for the Wired World

On February 22, in a closed “revolutionary court” in Iran, Arash Sigarchi was sentenced to fourteen years in prison. In addition to being a journalist, Sigarchi is a blogger. A blog, for those who have not heard, short for “web log,” is nothing more than an online journal. On his blog, Mr. Sigarchi protested the months-long crackdown by the Iranian government on bloggers, online and print journalists.

The cover charges of which this secret tribunal found Sigarchi guilty included, untenably, espionage and, weirdly, insulting Iran’s leaders. His real crime was speaking his mind, not just to other Iranians, but to the world at large via his blog and by agreeing to interviews with BBC’s Persian service and Radio Farda. Sigarchi is not alone. Fellow blogger Mojtaba Saminejad was recently rearrested after failing to pay his doubled bail. And today, blogger Mohamad Reza Nasab Abdolahi was sentenced to six months in prison under the same charges.

The Iranian government is currently the most zealous persecutor of bloggers in the world. One reason for this, aside from the obvious distaste of all despotic governments for unfettered speech, is that Farsi, or Persian, the language of Iran, is the fourth most popular language in the blogosphere. Iranians, with their long history of intellectual achievement and worldliness, have taken to blogging like few other nations. After Iranian-Canadian Hossein Derakhshan authored the first Persian-language blogging software in November of 2001, blogging was a fait accompli in Iran.

But blogging is growing like mad around the world, matching and perhaps even surpassing the steep adoption rate of other influential online communications technologies. When I first researched the number of blogs, in late December, the blog search engine Technorati counted 5.4 million. Today they count 7.3 million. And the more bloggers there are, the more conflicts will arise.

Blogging is antithetical to government control of speech. Blogging is easy to do, with free or cheap software and hosting services providing the bulk of what’s needed. It provides the thrill of speaking your mind without censure. The culture of the blogosphere, as the world of blogs has come to be known, is one of radical re-contextualization. Quoting, linking, footnoting, commenting all help to rapidly pass on information. As blogging grows, more countries will begin to clamp down on them, just as they already clamp down on journalists, contributors to online bulletin boards and editors of non-blog websites.

Because Iran is currently the most egregious oppressors of bloggers, the Committee to Protect Bloggers mounted a campaign to free Mojtaba and Arash. Free Mojtaba and Arash Day took place on February 22. We encouraged bloggers around the world to dedicate their blogs to their two imprisoned brothers in Iran. Thousands of bloggers downloaded banners, or made their own; splashed only the words “Free Mojtaba and Arash” across their blogs or blogged on the detentions at length. Hundreds left comments on our site and on others’. Iranian bloggers showed up by the hundreds, at one point making up 12% of our visitors. From February 21 to February 23, our site received over 20,000 unique visitors. Google now lists 11,000 sites that mention us and Technorati counts 1,300 links to our site. Bellwether blogs like InstaPundit and the Daily Kos promoted the day, and it was covered by American public radio, the BBC, CNET and other mainstream media.

In the middle of the day on February 22, we received notice that Arash had been convicted and sentenced to 14 years in prison. It was disheartening news, to say the least. The timing of the announcement by the Iranian government could hardly have been accidental. I believe the intention was to rob a worldwide, grassroots, cross-cultural groundswell of its momentum. Needless to say, it did not work. Nor did the charge that we are an “American” group. (American in this case meaning government-run.) Bloggers are not like other groups. They cannot be hierarchized. The blogosphere is a constantly changing, self-correcting system. Trying to cow bloggers is like trying to herd cats or squash water.

Bloggers are now a force in civil society, much as they have become a force in the world of journalism. Now that bloggers have awakened to both their power and their responsibility, they will clamp down like pit bulls and replicate like Cerebrus.

Nothing can be done now without this linked network, this worldwide organic supercomputer-with-a-soul, from spotting it, spelling it and passing it on. I hardly mean to say, as the Constable so unfortunately did, “A very little little let us do. And all is done.” Eliminating the ability of repressive governments to silence its people is a perpetual process, not a goal to be quickly achieved, not even in the accelerated world of the 21st century. Bloggers are just one more force against which governments living in perpetual fear of their own people will have to struggle. But we’re an unconquerable force: We’re legion, we’re everywhere, and we’re spoiling for a fight.

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Curt Hopkins Shares Wisdom of Ages with Foreign Policy Readers

In Journalism, Press, Writing on May 2, 2006 at 4:17 pm

Today my “Expert Sitings” bit came out in Foreign Policy magazine. I wrote it in…I think it was 1982. But I stick by my sage opinions.

I recommended Zimbabwean Pundit, although Zim has since then transfered over to the editorial seat of our Enough is Enough site. Well, it’s not ours anymore, it’s his and theirs.

I recommended Back Seat Drivers, an Ireland-based European site, as an alternative to the wonked out Fistful of Euros.

I recommended Ammar’s Amarji site. I don’t think American thinkers are nearly dramatic enough. Ammar is.

Finally, I called Awful Plastic Surgery the apotheosis of blogging. Since then I’ve come to believe that Baghdad Girl‘s kitty blog is more perfect. But anything that spends all its energy making vomiting noises at celebrities is still pretty beautiful.

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Sunday Driver at the Friday Mosque, The Road to Oxiana Revisited: A Book Proposal

In Afghanistan, Book proposal, Writers, Writing on January 29, 2005 at 9:39 pm

“Five men left a West-end hotel last night on a secret expedition. It may prove to be the most romantic expedition ever undertaken.” — Daily Express, London, 1934

Sunday Driver at the Friday Mosque is an article that will document my travels from Jerusalem to Mazar-i-Sherif, Afghanistan, passing through Syria, Iraq and Iran. This journey is the re-tracing of a journey originally undertaken in 1934 by Robert Byron and Christopher Sykes. That journey resulted in the travel classic, “The Road To Oxiana.”

This trip will providing an exciting travel narrative through countries that have become extraordinarily important in the last years, including information on how the Iran-Iraq war, Iran’s religious revolution, Iraq’s invasion by the U.S., Afghanistan’s fight to expel the Soviets and its subsequent internecine struggles and invasion by the U.S. have effected the people involved, the United States, and some of the most important historical remains in the Middle East.

The original journey was supposed to have been taken in an experimental charcoal-burning motor car. Unfortunately, the car did not show up in time due to mechanical problems. The present-day travelers will attempt to approximate the spirit of the intended journey by traveling in the 21st century equivalent of the charcoal-burner, a DaimlerChrysler Necar 5 hydrogen fuel cell car.

Although the account of the new journey will comment on the historical and literary ground covered in “The Road To Oxiana”, it will, in fact, be a totally different journey, in a different time, undertaken by different people. Current issues and concerns will be the core of the article. It will provide an opportunity for a big picture of the Middle East. What precisely is happening in each of the areas? How do the people involved deal with their circumstances? What is the human story? The military and strategic story? The cultural one?

This is a journey in which the hardships and potential for discovery equal, perhaps surpass, the original. The current journey will pass through still-uneasy Lebanon, with its Syrian, Druze, native Christian and Muslim combatants still in occasional conflict, into Iraq, where the war and occupation are keeping the citizens of this ancient place on edge, into a newly reawakening and newly threatened Iran and into the still active theatre of Afghanistan. Each place ancient and modern, fascinating in its ruins and its ruination, its history and its history-in-the-making.

In addition to a modern geopolitical survey, the scientific and cultural value of the mission will be a painstaking cataloguing — both written and photographic — of the ruins originally commented on by Byron. What is still standing? What condition are they in? Where, exactly, are they located? The last question will be answered more exactly than previously possible using a global positioning system (GPS).

Enclosed is a detailed itinerary that indicates the scope and vision of Sunday Driver at the Friday Mosque.

Itinerary

This itinerary describes the intended journey. It may not be possible or desirable to stop at each location. The conditions of conflict and the political situation may occasion changes of route. At other times circumstances my require us to stop at places not on the itinerary for food, supplies or rest. However, this document is as faithful a guide as possible to our intended route.

ISRAEL

Jerusalem

LEBANON

Beirut (Beyrouth)

Baalbek – Six Columns, etc. [Heliopolis]

SYRIA

Damascus (Dimashq) – Ummayad Mosque

IRAQ

Baghdad – Ur, Arch of Ctesiphon

Khanikin (Hanaqin)

IRAN

Kasr-I-Shirin (Qasr-e Sirin)

Karind (Karend)

Kirmanshah (Bakhtaran)

Tak-I-Bostan (Taq-e Bostan) – grottoes

Bisitun (Bisotun) – cuneiform inscription

Kangovar (Kangavar) – Gumbad-I-Alaviyan Seljuk mausoleum [tombs of Esther and Avicenna]

Hamadan

Tehran — Gulistan

Ray (Reyy) – grave tower

Veramin (Varamin) – grave tower, mosque

Gulhek (Galanduk?)

[Karag]

[Calus]

[Bandar-e Anzali]

[Rasht]

Kazvin (Qazvin)

Sultaniya (Soltaniye) – mosque

Zinjan (Zanjan)

Miana (Miyane)

Tabriz – bazaars, Blue Mosque, the Ark / the Citadel

Maragha (Marage) – grave of the Mother of Hulagu

Tasr Kand (?, a few miles from Maragha) – Rasatkhana, 12th century tower

Saoma (?, on towards Miana)

Kala Julk (?, further on)

Saraskand (?, further)

Dash Bulagh (?, further)

Ak Bulagh or (?, near Miana)

Miana (Miyane)

Zinjan (Zanjan)

Tehran

Ayn Varzan (Sarbandan?)

Firuzkuh / Amiriya

Samnan (Semnan)

Damghan (Damgan) – grave towers, Tarikgh Khana mosque

Shahrud (Sahrud)

Gumbad-I-Kabus (Gondbad-e Qabus) – tower of Kabus, “Alexander’s Wall”

Abbasabad

Sabzevar – minaret of Khosrugird

Nishapur (Nesapur) – [home of Omar Khayam]

Kadam Gah (Qadamgah) – shrine of the Imam Riza

Meshed (Mashad) – tombs of Harun Al Rashid and Imam Riza

Sengbest (Sangbast) – mausoleum and minaret

Tus – mausoleum

Turbat-I-Sheikh Jam (Turbat-e Gam)

Yusufabad

Kariz

Tayabad (Tayebad)

AFGHANISTAN

Islamkillah (Eslam Qale)

Herat – Musalla minarets and mausoleum, Citadel of Ikhtiar-ad-Din, Gazar Gah resort, Takht-I-Safar gardens, Friday mosque

Karokh (Karuh)

Pala Piri – tomb of Seikh-al-Islam

Laman (?, A76 north between Karohk and “Morgab”)

Kala Nao (Morgab?)

Moghor

Bala Murghab (Morgab)

Maimena (Maimana)

Faizabad (?, on the road to Andkhoi)

Andkhoi (Andhoy)

Khoja Duka (?, on road to Akcha) – Shibargan castle

Akcha (Aqce)

Balkh (Balh) – ruins

Mazar-I-Sherif (Mazar-e Sarif)- shrine of Ali

Tashkurgan (Hulm / Tasqorgan)

Khanabad (?, on road to Kunduz, Hanabad?)

Kunduz

[Sir Han – Oxus River / Amu Darya / Jihun – Hazrat Imam, hot springs at Chayab, Chitral road through the Durah pass]

Baglan

Bamian (Bamyan) – Buddhas in cliff gallery

Shibar (Sibar)

Charikar (Carikar)

Kabul – Dar-al-Aman & Paghman

Ghazni (Gazni) – Towers of Victory, tomb of Sultan Mahmud

Kabul [from here Byron & Sykes are out via the Khyber and Peshwar]

[Qandahar]

[Herat]

IRAN

[Meshed to Tehran on highway #6]

Kum (Qom) – shrine

Delijan (Deligan)

Isfahan (Esfahan) – Chihil Sutun, Maidan, Friday mosque

Julfa (across river from Isfahan) – Armenian cathedral

Abadeh (Abade)

Yezd (Yazd) – Friday mosque

{Kirman (Kerman), Jabal-I-Sang, Friday mosque, College of Ganj-I-Ali Khan, Kuba-I-Sabz}

{Mahun (Mahan) – Shrine of Niamatullah}

Abadeh (Abade)

Pasargadae (Pasargad) – Cyrus’ palace

Tahr-e Garnsid – Persepolis

Shiraz (Siraaz) -Friday mosque, College, Khatum, Hafiz & Saadi gardens with poets tomb

Kavar

Firuzabad – Kala-I-Dukhtar & Kala-I-Pisa, Ardeshir’s palace, Sassanian tower

Ismailabad

Ibrahimabad

Shiraz (Siraaz)

Kazerun – Shapur

Bahramabad (?, on road)

[Return route through – Cenar-e Sahigan; Masiri; Ahvaz; Dezful; Pol-e Dahtar; Eslamabad-e Garb; Sar-e Pol-e Zahab; Qasr-e Sirin]

IRAQ

[Return route through Baquba; Bagdad; Ramadi / Dulaim; Rutba]

SYRIA

[Return route through Dumayr; Damascus (Dimashq); Dimas]

LEBANON

[Return route through Chtaura; Beirut (Beyrouth)]

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Five in the Afternoon: In Spain, the Bullfight is More than a Relic

In Granada, Journalism, Spain, Writing on December 22, 2004 at 4:12 am

(This article was subsequently published in LocalsGuide.)

In sports, every game represents a battle. But only one sport is a battle. Only one sport has as its end-goal the death of one of its participants. That sport is bullfighting. And it’s more popular than it’s ever been.

The first time I ever saw a bullfight was on the television. I was sitting in a bar on the Plaza Nueva in Granada, Spain. Just a workaday bar full of construction workers and waiters from other cafes, Spanish men moving aimlessly around the ugly bar drinking anis and cognac. I sat at the end of the bar eating olives and pistachios and drinking Aguila listening to the bells from San Miguel Bajo, trying to shake the heat, the yellow light shining in from outside like parchment withering in fire.

On the old television bolted to an arm above the bathroom door on the other side of the bar a bullfight broadcast out of Málaga was playing. The ideal of bullfighting is, above all, composure and grace, especially regarding the blood (as little as possible) and the killing (as clean as possible). It became evident quickly however, that this bullfight had gone wrong. The bullfighter had been bloodied. He and the picadores were in full flight like pigeons. They had wounded the bull in the worst possible way, enraging him without weaking him, leaving the bull strong, angry and slick with black blood and the matador, unseated, unmanned, gave up all thoughts of killing.

Gradually, the disappointment and empathy of the men in the bar turned to anger and then disgust, a real viable, Hedda Gabbler-type moral nausea. They screamed for the bartender to turn it, turn it, turn it! And he did, to a rerun of “Miami Vice.” All the men turned back to their drinks and tried to shake the evil of it out of their heads.

In the sport of bullfighting there is the same drama, hero worship, star power and the rest that you get in any more familiar sport. But you also get history. Baseball was created in the mid-19th century? Bullfighting was created in the mid 10th century – BC. Football is played in $50 million dollar stadiums? Bullfights are staged in 2000 year old amphitheatres. And bullfighting, which has always been an international sport, spreading from Spain and Portugal to Mexico and Brazil, has further spread to the US, where especially in California’s Central Valley, the sons of Iberia stage bloodless bullfights in between ranch and farm chores.

Death is in the air all over the world these days. This is one of the few living customs designed specifically as a moving memento mori.