Wednesday, August 31, 2005


aerial view of New Orleans courtesy AP and US Coast Guard, via Salon.
photo of woman in front of shrouded body courtesy CBS News.

some links: Catholic Relief Services, Red Cross, Salvation Army USA.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Happy birthday LBJ

image courtesy the LBJ library.

Today is LBJ's 97th birthday. He was responsible for the Great Society programs, the war on poverty, and the escalation of the Vietnam war. Of course Kennedy started it ... but you already know that. LBJ was born in Stonewall, Texas in 1908.

(I have a cousin who lives in Stonewall, and has a small business with an internet presence. I haven't linked to him just yet because I didn't know whether he's willing to be associated, however tenuously, with my %#!@in' hippie-liberal ways, etc. I guess I need to ask him.)

see wikipedia's LBJ entry, here.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Friday Middle Eastern pop star blogging, cont'd...

Yesterday was Gulben Ergen's birthday, so it struck me as appropriate to picture her here today. Yes, she's also a Turkish pop singer, like Yildiz Tilbe and Ziynet Sali. ( I'm beginning to think that a. all Turkish women are gorgeous, and b. several million of them, at the very least, are working on their demo tapes.)

Of course it would probably be nice if the uniformly positive, media-pop-culture image a society likes to present to itself and the rest of the world were accurate. But needless to say, large numbers of women in many middle eastern countries don't have the breadth of opportunities and freedoms that wealthy ones do, and this is true in the more secular ones too. But I imagine it is more strarkly true in the countries run by the religious nuts.

But it's Gulben's birthday, and we shouldn't dwell on these things. Who knows, the real Gulben, behind the pop facade, may herself dwell on them too.

Gulben in wicker chair photo courtesy

Gulben album cover courtesy

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

more Dick 4 U

this post is humbly dedicated to:

1.the groundswell of people who have complained that I don't have enough images of Nixon on this blog, and

2. the groundswell of people who have apparently complained to blogger about how they don't do enough to regulate speech protect people who read blogs from material that might offend persons of exquisite mind and singular goodness from having their tender sensibilities assaulted, and gently insisted that blogger add that "flag" button which you see in the blue bar at the topmost right of your screen, which I only saw for the first time yesterday.

Don't get me wrong-- I happen to really like blogger, and recognize they have to protect themselves from litigation, protect their reputation, etc. And it must have been a groundswell of people complaining, right? Or maybe a demi-groundswell of some really noisy people, as the case may be.

Given how strongly I believe in education, I'm thinking it's time to learn to curse in a variety of foreign languages. Or, Soit il est vraiment con ou alors c'est un sacré hypocrite ou carrément les deux!(As Nixon might've said.)

cigar box image courtesy
bowling Nixon image courtesy George Mason University, via

Monday, August 22, 2005

a brief note-- verizon e-mail, etc.

hello out there--

regarding this HZ blog, and my Verizon e-mail:

1st, They're Afraid of the French: a couple of my European correspondents have told me they've been having difficulties emailing me, and C____ in France even told me that her last verizon mailing to me got bounced back with the message that she was "not authorized to send a message to this user," which doesn't sound particularly friendly. That message might suggest to somebody that I was deliberately blocking them, so it's especially exasperating to hear that verizon is doing things this way. (And no, I'm not blocking anyone in particular at this point, FYI.)

My old dial-up ISP* was slow naturally, but gave me the option of collecting suspected spam in a web-mail only spam folder which I could check when I wanted, keeping the questionable missives for 7 or 14 days. (I forget which.) It'd be nice if verizon did that too.

2nd: regarding Blogger comments-- I will probably remove blogger-based comments from HZ and switch to Haloscan on 9.1.2005, so unfortunately all previous comments will disappear, even archived stuff, because that seems to be the only way Haloscan interfaces with blogger. If you want to save comments you've left, you have roughly 10 days to do so, although I may repost some of them.

Anyway, if you've been trying to reach me and been having trouble with verizon-mail, I'm sorry about that.

* "", which is 9.95/mo for 200/hrs a month max. I never had a bad experience with them in 2 1/2 years, although your mileage may vary, etc. If you want a plain-jane econo-dial-up ISP I'd definitely recommend them, even though I think it's a little too late for me to benefit from their "recommend 3 and get one month free" promo, if they're even still doing that. But dial-up's dial-up, and I felt I needed DSL.

[Verizon may have corrected the problem since then. I will admit I haven't inquired as of this date-Nov 2005. JV]

Sunday, August 21, 2005

the 2 Maria Celestes-- don't confuse them!*

courtesy Telemundo and Rice University.

*Or,"don't get them confused!", that's not right either..."don't confuse one with the other!"
(see, that's just not very catchy...)

In the tradition of Plutarch(well,sort of):

Maria Celeste 1: "yes, I know, you see me as just a bubbly talking head on Telemundo. But I'm also a very strong PETA supporter, so if I hear about how you mistreated an animal, I'll fuck your shit up. So just watch it."

Maria Celeste 2, by contrast, was "a woman of exquisite mind [and] singular goodness" according to her father Galileo,who put her and her sister in a convent as he deemed them unmarriagable because G and the housekeeper had them out of wedlock. You already know about how the Catholic church made Galileo recant his nutty assertion that the earth was not the center of the universe. That came later. When MC2 was 13, G and the local Catholic powers-that-be still got along, and they pulled strings for him regarding that pesky still-too-young-to-"choose"-the-life-of-a-nun thing, and off they went.
Anyway: MC2(1600-1634) spent the last 21 years of her brief life locked up inside the cloistered walls of the San Mateo convent.

Incidentally, MC2 was originally named Virginia, but took the name Maria Celeste after the the Virgin, Maria, and Celeste, after her father's telescopic pursuits. It seems some 120 of her letters to her father have survived to the present, and scholars haven't been able to detect a trace of rancor towards dad in any of them. Talk about sublimation. But did she ever have the occasional troubling dream of fucking his shit up?

Of course that was a long time ago, and today we don't have to worry about religious nuts silencing the work of scientists, nor of a secular, moderate society turning its back on social progress and going all medieval on their constitution and their women.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Friday Middle Eastern pop star blogging(pt 2)

Yildiz Tilbe, photo courtesy Derki.Com

Ok, so I started with "Z" and continued with "Y"-- I think I'll be hard pressed to find an "X" lady(as it were) for next week, so don't expect it. See also; if you're curious what she sounds like, there are sample tracks from her "Gulum" album at Amazon. Apparently she wrote all her own songs for said album, if you care about knowing that sort of thing. I think her eyes are incredibly soulful and mesmerizing in this photo.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

I-10 in Los Angeles, December 15th, 2003

via the Freeway Blogger, thanks to the inestimable Don Bintz.

(you can see the image a little better here. Needless to say some of the numbers have changed.)

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Manuel Alvarez Bravo

"parabola optica", 1931[1], and "Striking Worker Assassinated", 1934[2]

from the Getty Museum's bio:
A self-taught photographer, Manuel Alvarez Bravo(1902-2002) purchased his first camera at age twenty while working at a government job. His earliest success at photography came around 1925, when he won first prize in a local photographic competition in Oaxaca. He returned to Mexico City, where he had been born, and in 1927 met Tina Modotti, who introduced him to a lively intellectual and cultural environment of other artists from various disciplines. Among them was Edward Weston, who encouraged Alvarez Bravo to continue photographing; Weston wrote to him in 1929: "Photography is fortunate in having someone with your viewpoint. It is not often I am stimulated to enthusiasm over a group of photographs."

Alvarez Bravo taught photography at the San Carlos Academy in the late 1930s, documented the work of Mexican mural painters including Diego Rivera, and contributed images to the journal Mexican Folkways . His primary subject interests have ranged from the nude form to folk art, particularly burial rituals and decorations.

[1] "parabola" means both parabola and parable in Spanish. Look closely to see the trick of the photo, a sort of visual pun. Courtesy the Getty Museum.

[2] Courtesy Masters of Photography.

both images © Estate of Manuel Alvarez Bravo.

Monday, August 15, 2005

The History of Saying Whatever

Stupid, Vapid, Utterly Mindless Thing You Might Be Thinking: a selection

"let them eat cake"*- Marie Antoinette

"Win or lose, we go shopping after the election."- Imelda Marcos

"I catnap now and then, but I think while I nap, so it's not a waste of time."
-Martha Stewart

"it's also important for me to go on with my life"- George W.Bush, 2005, when asked why he was unwilling to meet with Cindy Sheehan, whose 24 year old son was killed in Iraq.

*probably apocryphal, but too much fun to leave out.

photos courtesy CNN

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Truman n' Nixon, just hangin' out

photo credit:
Truman Presidential Library

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned watching footage of Nixon playing the piano, when I was a kid in Lebanon...

You know about rose-colored glasses, oui? Of course you do. I'll admit it-- I'd like to look at this photo of Nixon playing the piano at the Truman library in Missouri and say, "oh, yes, those were the days, when the democrats and republicans got along, went bowling together, attended each other's kids' barmitzvahs, went to church together(the next day),and things were just peachy..." But then there's what RMN did to Helen Gahagan Douglas, the enemies list, and, um, ... that Watergate thing. And yes, on our side, LBJ's rise to power wasn't exactly all sweetness and light.
Of course, I didn't know about any of that stuff when I was 10 years old, watching Nixon on tv, but learned about them later. Many people seem to so treasure that state of lost innocence that they try to perpetuate it as their adult world-view. But I think they secretly know better.

Saturday, August 13, 2005


image courtesy

1. I work this weekend, as I do most weekends-- but I also have a couple of pretty important non-blog projects to attend to, so I probably won't post again until Tuesday, apart from a couple of images of interest. (my work is far less intellectually challenging than Prof. Einstein's.) My friend Arvin went down to Crawford today, and I believe Mike Sutton is going down there tomorrow, as part of a small Denton contingent. Needless to say, the local authorities haven't arrested Cindy Sheehan on Thursday like they said they were going to. Guess it would look bad.

2. I will set up a donate button(or buttons), a P.O. box for people leery of internet transactions, and announce the name of the project I've provisionally dubbed "Iraqdoc 2007" on September 1st. I still haven't decided if the project will take the form of a non-profit or an LLC, but I will do so, soon. That, and filing the paperwork, etc. has to come first. The main advantages of an LLC over a non-profit, as far as I can see, (1) are a far simpler tax situation, and (2) more robust protection against litigation, which is of no small concern to me.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Friday Middle Eastern pop star blogging(part 1)

courtesy Ziynet

It took me a while, but I think I have finally found the perfect antidote to Friday cat blogging. Pictured here is Ziynet Sali, a pop singer who is really big in Turkey, or so I hear. If she was your girl and some guy named Paris ran off with her, wouldn't you feel compelled to pester your big brother into launching a thousand ships to get her back? Ok, so we don't do that sort of thing nowadays, but you know you'd think about it.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Cindy Sheehan

"Calm down honey*" photo courtesy the
Waco Tribune Herald.

actual caption: Cindy Sheehan of Vacaville Calf. confronts McLennan County chief Deputy Randy Plemons while attempting to see President Bush on his ranch outside Crawford.

*No, I somehow doubt that's what the deputy is saying, but it would've made a nice snarky headline for this post, with this photo. Unless you live under the proverbial rock I imagine you know about Cindy Sheehan. Her son died in Iraq in the spring of 2004 at age 24.

Sheehan decided to go to Crawford after Bush said that fallen U.S. troops had died for a noble cause and that the mission must be completed.

"I don't want him to use my son's name or my family name to justify any more killing," she said.

So she's camped out near the presidential ranch in Crawford, hoping to meet with him. My friend Arvin actually went down there, and of course there's quite a contingent of activists and Cindy supporters waiting for GWB to arrive for his summer vacation. Sheehan et al have been warned that she'll be arrested if she's still there on Thursday, today, and I suppose that may have already happened by the time you read this.

I debated whether or not to write about Sheehan. When you essentially duplicate what others with a more prominent voice say, what are you actually offering? Shouldn't I just encourage you to read what a more prominent lefty blogger has to say and direct you to her? For example: "Bitch PhD, here.

There are only two things I wish to add:

1.It would be nice if all the Cindy supporters left the scene before the cops arrived. Why? Because it would force the media to document the image of one meek (if lion-hearted) middle-aged lady being carted off, surrounded by nothing other than reporters and law enforcement. I think they'd take care not to hurt her because the world was watching.(It would be nice if it were sufficient to say "because the US press was watching". )

Otherwise, Fox News and the rest of that lot will do there best to present images suggesting that the cops had no choice but to break it up, all those &*%#in' no-good hippies, etc. I mean, they're going to try to spin it like that anyway, why help them?

2. Doesn't Bush realize that if he calmly went out before all those &*%#in' no-good hippies and cameras, and actually approached her, invited her into his home, just her, no activists and no cameras, forcing the 24 hour news channels to sit around twiddling their thumbs for an hour or two while nothing interesting happened, it would probably do wonders for his poll numbers?

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Iraqdoc 2007-- an update

As I told a couple of the bloggers with whom I've been corresponding about Iraqdoc 2007, I've been trying to get all my legal ducks in a row before I set up a donation link for the documentary project. (And no, it won't be called Iraqdoc 2007. I've purchased a couple of domain names, but that's only one step of many needed.)

Monday I spoke with Curtis Clinesmith, a Denton attorney who is active with the Denton County Democrats* and who ran for congress in 2000. Clinesmith recommended another fellow, who wasn't in the phonebook. I managed to find lawyer no. 2 via, which I just found the other day and looks like a pretty useful resource. I spoke to lawyer no. 2's assistant, and she told me that incorporating would probably cost between 1,500 and 3,000 bucks, which is a mite prohibitive in my income bracket. So maybe I'll need a paypal button to raise funds for paying for that 1st! A "pre-paypal", as it were.

She asked me about the nature of my project and I told her of my intent to go to Iraq and shoot a documentary and my blog, and said that although I thought that I needed to raise about 15-20,000 dollars, I really wasn't sure if that would be enough. She asked me for my name and phone number and she said she would look into what might be available. Earlier I told her that the 1 hr consult with lawyer No. 2 for 250.00 that she recommended was itself prohibitive, and thanked her for being upfront with me about the expenses involved, and it was at this point that she asked for my name and number and suggested she might be able to help. Every kindness helps, even if it just bucks up your spirit.

At this point I'm thinking that what I need to do is set up either a nonprofit or an LLC(limited liability company) before setting up any donation links. So far setting up a nonprofit actually looks more complicated. The filing fee for setting up an LLC in Texas is 225.00, which isn't too bad, and Nolo Press has a downloadable LLC kit for 60 bucks. I may do all this myself, but I still think I need to talk to an attorney about some of the specifics.

(*yes, there actually are some.)

Monday, August 08, 2005

My mother

Nezhat Rashid Versen, 1934-2004.

My mother's life started with much promise. Even though you might think that a girl growing up in Iraq in the 1940s probably only has marriage at a young age and childbearing in her future, my grandfather insisted that she go to college here, and she did. My aunt Nabila tells me about how she remembers seeing her off at the airport with their parents in 1951, and my grandfather saying, "you probably wont see me again", and my grandmother scolding him, telling him not to frighten and upset his youngest daughter, as she's frightened enough by leaving home for the first time, and going all the way to America. I imagine she was frightened, and excited.

I knew my grandmother Gohar, as she lived until the early 70s, until I was 8 or so, but not my grandfather. He died in 1954, the year before my mother finished her studies, so he was right.
I don't know very much about this picture, other than it was taken in 1955, which means it was taken in Beirut or Baghdad, or Indiana.(My mother's degree: a BA in English, from Hanover College.)

After my parents divorced in 1965 my mother's life was hard, for a variety of reasons, some of which I don't feel comfortable discussing in cyberspace. In the late 50s when she was still single she hosted a children's TV show on Iraqi television, which she often told me about. I have 2 photos associated with this, which I only saw for the first time in 1998. For the longest time I thought my mother was making this up. When I was growing up she forbade most comic books as she saw them as vulgar, but I was permitted Asterix and Obelix, and Tintin. She liked the Tintin books, and saw them as positive.

My mother liked to reminisce about her days on tv, and about when my father courted her. She tried to get me to like the poetry of Whitman and Pasternak, and bought me a copy of The Sun Also Rises when I was 13, which is probably a bit too soon for Hemingway. When I called her on Easter Sunday in 2004 she wanted to sing to me, as she often sang "Over the Rainbow" over the phone to me when I called her on Sundays. That day I told her not to, because her voice sounded rough, as if she was sick, and I didn't want her to strain herself. I asked her if she was sick, and she insisted she wasn't. When I woke up that Tuesday morning there was a message on the machine from my aunt that my mom was dead. She didn't really accomplish much, besides raising me. I was her life's work.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

some recent posts

My good friend Arvin gives me a nice write up, here, and so do DunneIV ,Jonathan Schwarz, and Harry. Thanks, guys.


my friend Don of the Fiat Blog! has a really nice piece, "Connecting the dots...leads back to Clinton?" (I guess Don and I would both be thrown out if we tried to crash one of those shindigs in the Hamptons or Martha's Vineyard. C'est la vie.)

"The unsuccessful privatization of Social Security was preceded by the highly successful privatization of the Iraq invasion."
from "Jesus doesn't save, he invests," by Skimble.

somewhat along the same lines, but with more detail, Naomi Klein's
"the rise of disaster capitalism" from the Nation.

George Monbiot: "Spin, Lies and Corruption"
"Is That Loud Enough For You" from Zeynep Toufe.

which reminds me of yet another similarly-themed piece that was also posted at Ms. Toufe's Under the Same Sun, when Jonathan Schwarz was subbing for her last December: "Nice Liberals: AAAAAAAAAAUUUUUUUUUUUUUGGGGGGGGHHH!"
(I may be a bit off on the vowel count.)

an excerpt:

I once was a certain type of nice American liberal. Perhaps you yourself have encountered this type. It is the type that reads the New York Times, often listens to NPR, and enthusiastically voted for Bill Clinton. The type has good intentions. The type wants the best for all. But the type has the unmatched ability to miss the WHOLE FUCKING POINT OF EVERYTHING.

If this type had a giraffe living in its kitchen, it would not see it. Instead, the type would sit there, carefully reading the day's New York Times story about awful people in third world countries with giraffes living in their kitchens. What's wrong with these people? the type would think. How can they allow giraffes to live in their kitchens? From time to time the type would wonder why their house smells so musky lately, and why all the food on high shelves mysteriously disappears.

Maybe I shouldn't write this, but I think Jonathan is the funniest lefty I've encountered in the blogosphere. By contrast, I've always been a little irritated by the popularity of "Jesus' General"; I see his schtick as tiresome. As you may know, pretty much all his humor revolves around suggesting that social conservatives are repressed homophobes who are secretly gay. I happen to believe there's a degree of truth in this supposition, not universally, but surprisingly often. But so what? The sky's blue too. And I hear that most Norwegians are fair-complected. Frankly, if you are so preoccupied with making fun of someone else's sexual hangups, you probably have your own sexual identity issues, but want to congratulate yourself for being slightly less messed up than that other person. Shooting fish in a barrel, and whistling past the graveyard. Great.

J. G. is like a pianist who only knows one key. He can't even play chopsticks, and apparently neither can most of his commenters. If you read him and like him and can actually point to a post where he demonstrates some growth as a humorist beyond his usual juvenalia, feel free to link to it in the comments.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Another killing

This time it's south of the Sunni triangle, in Basra.

from the BBC:
US freelance reporter, Steven Vincent, has been shot dead by unknown gunmen in Basra, southern Iraq, police have said. Mr Vincent was abducted with his female Iraqi translator at gun point by men in a police car on Tuesday. He had been writing a book about the city, where insurgents have recently stepped up their attacks. Vincent reported that Shia militants had infiltrated the Basra police. via Avedon.


earlier this week, Digby wrote:

A week into Mowhoush's detainment, according to classified investigative documents, interrogators were getting fed up with the prisoner. In a "current situation summary" PowerPoint presentation dated Nov. 18, Army officials wrote about his intransigence, using his first name (spelled "Abid" in Army documents):

"Previous interrogations were non-threatening; Abid was being treated very well. Not anymore," the document reads. "The interrogation session lasted several hours and I took the gloves off because Abid refused to play ball."...

from "Effective Interrogation"

(referencing this Wash. Post article.)

here's the message I sent to Digby regarding this post:

Digby, my Arabic is not super fluent, but I can tell you this: the prisoner was most emphatically NOT named "abid".

In Arabic the proper term for someone of African decent is, phonetically, either "eswed" (meaning simply black) or "Afriqi"(which is probably self-explanatory.)

abid("abeed") is a derogatory term for someone dark-complected or of African extraction. It means "slave."

They're torturing people, except we can't call it torture. And there's a purpose to all this not-torture, except apparently they get a little sidetracked, and maybe the details and the supposed intelligence-gathering isn't really that important after all.

Abed Hamed Mowhoush, with his grandson, courtesy

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Joe Rivas

"I've been meaning to write about Joe for some time, and since he just emailed me with some recent pictures, I guess there's no time like the present. From Joe's main site:

"Climbing the Wall to find Employment or to go to School

My name is Joe A. Rivas. I am an alumnus from the University of North Texas with a Master’s Degree in Rehabilitation Counseling and a certified Rehabilitation Counselor. I also have a neurological condition known as cerebral palsy. The condition has limited my job opportunities and financial resources.

I, Joe Rivas, will attempt to climb the wall at the Recreational Sports Center at the University of North Texas on Tuesday, September 6, 2005 at 3:00pm. I am currently training myself with a weight lifting that will give me strength to accomplish the activity. This goal (challenge) will demonstrate my ability to engage in normal every day activities. This activity will serve as a reminder that persons with severe disability are able to function in a community with proper supports. My personal goal will be to dismiss common perceptions about my ability to engage in employment, social, and recreational activities. My second goal is to raise funds for the following employment opportunity.

I have secured a teaching job with the Dallas Count Community College District (DCCCD) if I can complete the additional 18 hours of Psychology graduate courses required to teach online classes for DCCCD. I only lack 12 hours (4 classes) to meet the teaching requirements. These employment opportunities will increase my financial resources, so that I do not have to rely on other sources to meet my personal needs. My current project is to raise $586.00 to help me pay for last Fall’s semester and about $2.500.00 for my last spring semester at the University of North Texas"

Joe has made some headway regarding his UNT tuition, but he hasn't paid it off yet. He also has a blog, here. Occasionally he writes posts from his dog Aspen's point of view, such as "barking and snapping for a living" and "and "the sweet taste of toilet water."
You can contact him through the info at the main site and the blog homepage.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Current TV, and Susan Polgar

There were two bits of cheery news yesterday-- One: Al Gore's Current TV took wing. Heather Havrilesky of Salon says that there's a dearth of programming at present. The hosannas about democraticizing television and empowerment notwithstanding, I'll admit that the descriptions I've heard of what they're trying to do make it sound like local-access tv on a larger scale, repackaged to seem hip and "edgy". Having said that, I still would like to see them succeed, and may even try to contribute content to them. Current is on 366 on DirecTV and available in various bigger cities via Time Warner and Comcast. Not including Denton, as you might imagine.


via Josh Wolf

Two: I've mentioned chess grand master Susan Polgar before, here. Seems that on Monday she was in Floridatrying to set a world's record-- playing 350 games simultaneously(!) From the Palm Beach Post:

"Grandmaster Susan Polgar's Chess Challenge starts at 10 a.m. today[8/1] at The Gardens mall, 3101 PGA Blvd., Palm Beach Gardens. For details, go to"

She did it. From XINHUA online:

Susan Polgar, former women's world chess champion, broke four international records this week after playing more than 1,100 games over 17 hours at Palm Beach Gardens in Florida.
The Hungarian set a world record for the largest number of simultaneous games played when she had 326 games going at once on Monday afternoon. Of those matches, she won 309, tied 14 draws and lost three.
Her chess marathon continued until 3 a.m. (0700 GMT) Tuesday, when she broke another record of 1,131 consecutive games played, said Barbara DeMaro, managing director of U.S. Chess Trust, an event sponsor.
Polgar, who has won the world title four times, also beat records for the highest number of games won and the highest percentage of wins, which was 96.93 percent. The Guinness Book of World Records still has to confirm the records.

Polgar's opponents, who ranged from 4- to 95-years-old sat before identical chess boards at long rows of tables, while Polgarremained standing, walking from board to board to move her moves.
By 3 a.m., she had walked more than 14.5 kilometers.

Polgar, 36, started playing at age four in her native Hungary and was ranked No. 1 in the world by the time she was 15. In 1986,she became the first woman to qualify for the "Men's World Championship", and she earned the men's grandmaster title five years later.

Addendum: It seems Susan Polgar has a blog, and discusses the Palm Beach event, here.

Monday, August 01, 2005

The Road Ahead

the road to Rachel, Nevada, courtesy

I've avoided overt discussions of politics in this blog for some time, even though I started blogging way back when rather explicitly because of my political preoccupations. In my case the avoidance has not been so much about political fatigue as a sense of failure. People talk about "making a difference" in our culture, because, well, it's what we do. Not make a difference necessarily, but talk about it. Talk, talk, talk. I look at the accelerating deterioration of quality of mass media news outlets, as they obsess over things like the Michael Jackson trial and missing photogenic teens, and the rise of opinion television as a supposed form of journalism and I feel like I must be a prematurely old man in the dourness of my outlook. And, as a disenchanted paleo-liberal, I haven't even mentioned the disgust I feel for the mandarins who are running the tattered remnants of the Democratic party. Running it into the ground that is.

Now I know I'm hardly the first or even 500th lefty blogger to voice this frustration. I note that Patrick, the underappreciated "Samuel Taylor Coleridge Foundation" blogger recently closed up shop, presumably in part because of this concern. My friend Arvin has expressed this same thought, pretty eloquently, here and has since gone on a hiatus.

Arvin writes that progressive politics are over. I hope he's wrong, but I'll admit I'm not feeling especially pollyanish about the short term or even intermediate term future. Harry and company at "Scratchings" frequently refer to the democrats as feckless, although I think they fully well know they're being too kind. Would you call the leadership of the dems feckless? Would you call them craven sons-of-bitches, or maybe Dubya's whores? I know, that's crazy talk, and it won't get me invited to any soirees at Montauk or even an autographed copy of It Takes a Village, so I really should cool it.

I want to be hopeful, and start over, trying to do something useful. One of the nice things about America is our iconic myth of renewal. If we live in an age when everything is political and everything is personal, then the political is personal. With that in mind, I've decided to stop blogging under a pseudonym and discuss some of my future plans, and how I want to utilize this blog for those plans. As some of you may already know, my mother's family is from Iraq, and although I was born here, I lived abroad, primarily in the middle east, from the time I was one until I was 10 and a half. (I remember watching reports about Nixon resigning on Lebanese TV, although I was unclear on why he had to. I was 10. For some reason the image of him playing the piano during a clip from the report has stuck with me.)

Anyway, my name is Jonathan Versen and I'm going back to Iraq. I attended the equivelant of kindergarden there, having left in 1969 at the age of 5, so it'll be quite different from what I remember. Not to live there-- I am an American, and this is my home. I'm not one of those liberals who is willing to cede America to the jingoistic troglodytes who want non-jingoistic, non-troglodyte Americans to feel unwelcome in their own, our own, country.

Rather, my intention is to go in the summer of 2007, to stay for about 3 months, and make a documentary. I will try to be unbiased, my intense disapproval of George W. Bush and the rest of the neocon horde notwithstanding. You can judge for yourselves, irrespective of your political predispositions, how successful I will be. And I mean to use Hugo Zoom(I'm keeping the name of the blog, as I'm fond of it) to raise money for the trip. I haven't posted a Paypal or other donate button just yet, but I will, soon. I'm going to try posting 6 days a week from now on, about politics, my plans, and other things on occasion.

from Patrick's blog:

"You are not here merely to make a living. You are here to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, and with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world. You impoverish yourself if you forget this errand." -- Woodrow Wilson