Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Iraqdoc 2007- some additional thoughts

afp photo joseph eid
AFP-Joseph Eid

First of all, thanks to Micah Holmquist and Rob Payne and Fatina Salaheddine on your support and words of encouragement. Sorry I haven't mentioned these fine folks sooner but I've been under the weather for about a week now. I'm grateful also to journalist Nir Rosen, author of In the Belly of the Green Bird, who wrote back to me this past week regarding my plans. From his e-mail:
dear jonathan, thanks for contacting me. unfortunately your plan is impossible and suicidal. I don't even think the iraqis would let you across the border, since they would assume any westerner attempting to cross into iraq by land is crazy. you would be kidnapped and beheaded shortly after entering iraq. likewise in iraq, assuming you flew in to baghdad, you could not travel around any more. even iraqis cannot, they are restricted to their own neighborhoods where their militias protect them. a white person or an obvious foreigner would be kidnapped and killed very quickly, and even the wrong kind of iraqi would not survive the checkpoints.

Now, I am not particularly white nor am I necessarily an obvious foreigner, but naturally his words give me pause. (Rosen did suggest that just visiting Kurdistan might be less problematic.)As you may already know, Rosen spent the better portion of 2003-2006 in Iraq, tracking the disintegration that occurred and is still occurring to Iraqi society, often under exceptionally dangerous conditions. (Undoubtedly I would have been better off if I'd gone in 2005, or even earlier.) I noted in the comment exchange in the previous post that if I didn't raise enough money to go to Iraq this fall I would contribute the funds I'd raised to an outfit propagating "citizen documentaries" in Iraq. Said outfit is "Alive in Baghdad" which I heard about from the BBC:

"Alive in Baghdad:
Personal films about life in the war-torn capital - made by Iraqis themselves
" The founder of Alive in Baghdad is Brian Conley, a 26-year-old American journalist and film-maker. He went to Baghdad and gave equipment and training to the small team of Iraqis who now produce a new short film every week. [Conley said] he wanted to escape what he calls "live from" journalism. "Essentially, there's something lost when you send someone from another part of the world, or with a specific audience in mind, to tell another individual's story. "We are striving to build journalism in the voice of locals, so that people in different parts of the world can communicate almost directly to their audience around the world." The footage is shot by Iraqis and edited in the United States. The website has survived until now on donations from foundations and individuals. Staff in Iraq receive a small salary. US staff are not paid.

There's no doubt his fledgling organization deserves a chance to succeed and to be heard.

I'm still going, in some fashion; even if I can't get in the country, many options exist: I could go to Jordan, and/or Syria, to try to talk to displaced Iraqis there, and document their experiences. From what I've seen of US television news, the 50,000 people a month who are being forced out of Iraq are pretty much invisible on MSNBC and CNN, etc. Or I could go to Kurdistan. At this point my intention is to try to raise funds until mid-September, at which point I'd donate them to if I fall substantially short of where I need to be. (Interestingly, round trip tickets to Amman or Beirut or Van in southeastern Turkey are all about the same, around 1400-1450 bucks.) I still don't have a passport($97.00), but since that is an item of intrinsic use to me apart from the project, I don't think it's reasonable for me to devote Iraqdoc funds to that as opposed to paying for it myself.

A note on distribution: one of the admirable things about Conley's project is that all the films (over 50 at this point) are freely available to download at his site. Last week Arvin told me he was concerned about my raising funds for a commercial venture, and how sticky that could get. When he said this to me I realized that I'd been expecting people to magically read my mind all this time and automatically infer that I meant to make the finished product of Iraqdoc 2007 freely available under a creative commons license, which is my intention. This is in part because I was also concerned about potential legal(and tax-related) difficulties, and because I don't have much use (or any reasonable hope) for the arty film festival scene, partly because going that route may reinforce in many peoples' minds the stereotype about how being against the war is a "limosine liberal" preoccupation, as opposed to something we should all care about and hope to realize.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

An update: regarding Iraqdoc 2007


I'm going to keep this post up as the most recent for a few days.

First: my thanks to all who've directly and indirectly supported my proposed documentary project, Iraqdoc 2007 thus far: Arvin Hill, Avedon Carol of The Sideshow, Jonathan Schwarz of Tiny Revolution, Dunneiv, Bill Apocalypse(as I like to call him), Harry McDougal, Bubba (and the rest in the Belly of the Beast-- as they like to call Houston!) and the mysterious Skimble . Who else? Jeanne of Body n' Soul(please come back!), Julie back at the ranch, Oyster, and cosmopolitician Frans Groenendijk.

Secondly: yes, I still mean to go to Iraq, and yes, I'm still in need of funding. Originally I said that I meant to go this summer and stay for approximately three months. I've revised my plans a bit, and now I am targeting Monday, October 1st as my departure date and will only stay 6 to 8 weeks, coming back in late November or early December. Part of this is because it's pretty clear to me that I won't exactly be flush with cash on my trip, hence the abbreviated schedule, and part of it is practical, because of how unbearably hot it can be in the summer in many parts of Iraq.(ok, most parts.)

More soon. I may also be starting a secondary, group blog, one designed for a finite run, from February 1st through the end of September.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

this n' that

My Peculiar Aristocratic Title is:
Reverend Earl Hugo the Elephantine of Old Throcking in the Hole
Get your Peculiar Aristocratic Title

via Lady Avedon.

the sign above appeared for several hours in NYC on November 11, 2004. I don't know if they ever found out who keyed in the prank-- whether it was done by an employee or a hack; I imagine it is not accurate at any rate.

Ted Nugent decided to show up at Rick Perry's inauguration looking like this(AP). Karena has a nice discussion of the shin-dig, here.

...while in Tennessee, Kevin Barbieux discusses attending a church service with his governor, in "being humiliated at church."

apropo of nothing in particular:
I realize that

there is only one core truth about the Bushies:

1.they think they're smarter than everybody else, and

2.we deserve to be lied to because we're a bunch of weak pansies,

2b.which makes lying to us all right, not that they care whether or not it's all right, because

2c.caring about stuff like that is something that only weak pansies would do.

Yes, I said one core truth. Not two, and certainly not three or four. (The way they count their core truth(s) is also classified. Excess curiosity about the counting of the one core truth is probably treasonous.)

Also, in an emergency, John Bolton's mustache can frighten all our enemies into submission.

Ok, two core truths.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

disassociation nation

one of the best posts I've seen in quite some time(in 2 parts) is by Ian Welsh at The Agonist:

America is damn near the most opaque nation in the world. I can predict what will happen in Africa, in Canada, in most Asian countries, far better than I can in the US, despite having grown up immersed in American culture.

Something is really off about the way Americans react to stimulus. It's like the rest of the world doesn't really exist for Americans; heck, it's like other Americans don't even exist for most Americans. The entire society verges on sociopathy at a communal level. Sure Americans can be sweet and kind to people they know and they donate to charity... blah, blah, blah, but the public policies they tolerate - no healthcare for tens of millions; awful healthcare for half the remaining people; getting rid of welfare; lousy education for the entire underclass; locking up the largest number of people in the world; bombing and starving other nations into submission; invading nations based on lies and propaganda; are simply pathological...
the rest is here- "American Schizo" and

here: "American Schizo II: Hard Medicine"

I don't know Ian Welsh, and barely know Jay Taber, and I suspect they don't know of each other's work. For this reason I think it's interesting that a couple of Jay's recent posts run along a sort of parallel course with the above items, although I'm guessing that in Jay's case my pairing them is simply a gestalt on my part. Nevertheless, these kinds of synchronicities are sometimes tantalizing, because it just so happens that when I first saw the earlier of the two Taber posts, "Mindbender", I decided that I'd appropriate the title and make it one of three for a new venture-- which I'll discuss in the following HZ post.

from "Mindbender", 4 January:

I’m always amazed at how difficult it is for Americans to get their minds around the fact the US Government has always been a criminal enterprise.
The task before us is to dismantle the system of concentrated power in the central authorities that continue to corrode our societies. Autonomy of the people–not the government or aristocracy–is what we’re ideally about; plus it’s the only way we’re ever going to get what we need.

And showing our fellow citizens how to go about it is the only effective antidote to widespread cynicism and despair.

"Fatal Attraction", 6 January:

[regarding] the role of media in public mental health associated with collective trauma, my colleague Paul de Armond noted that repeated exposure to disturbing incidents or news has severe psychological consequences. Applying this phenomenon to weblog communication, I think that the accumulated frustrations and sense of helplessness generated in part through the belaboring of our horrible state of affairs and absence of social leadership, has induced a collective state of disabling depression.
The only answer I have for people is to become involved in their communities where they can talk with and work with others. They don't have to take on criminal networks like Paul and I, but they do need to experience success in meeting some social need.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Little mosque on the prairie

I don't watch nearly as much tv as I did when I was younger, but this actually sounds like it could be interesting. from the BBC:

Braving Toronto's cold and drizzle, the show's writer and creator Zarqa Nawaz explains that the inspiration for the show came from her own experiences as a Muslim woman who made a life-changing move to the provincial prairie city of Regina to work in a mosque.
The plot follows a Canadian-born imam as he makes a similar move from a big city to the Saskatchewan town of Mercy (pop. 10,000), where he encounters a colourful array of characters, both in the town's Muslim and non-Muslim communities. "It's very unusual, because usually the Imam is imported from overseas and there's often a cultural disconnect," says Ms Nawaz. "I thought it would be interesting to have an imam with Canadian cultural sensibilities having to deal with the immigrant men for a change."

The new modern-thinking Imam comes up against more conservative individuals in his community, including his predecessor, whose sermons had been largely preoccupied with corroding western influences such as TV shows like Desperate Housewives. In the first episode, other stock characters are introduced, such as a local right-wing radio shock jock (whose first question to the imam is "Are you a terrorist?"), a local priest who rents the parish hall for the new mosque, and a rural bumpkin who is absolutely convinced of a terrorist plot on every corner.
First heard about it from Xymphora, of all people:
The latest Canadian Broadcasting Corporation comedy, no doubt inspired by a combination of CBC liberalism and the overwhelming success of its main competitor’s show ‘Corner Gas’, is called ‘Little Mosque on the Prairie’, produced by filmmaker Zarqa Nawaz. It’s a comedy about Muslims living in a small town in Saskatchewan.

I wonder: would social conservative talking heads throw a stink if PBS picked it up in the US? I'm guessing yes. And if it actually is any good, some American producer will buy the US rights, redo it, and make it so nonthreateningly winsome you'll want to puke.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

another recent poll of no importance...

(You can click on the image to enlarge.
I took the screenshot at around 6am central time on Jan 2nd. Note the sheer number of people participating.)

Myself, I'd like to see the results of the poll on the question of whether or not it was ironic that the press was falling on top of each other praising Ford for pardoning Nixon the same week that Saddam was hanged, and how it helped a "wounded" country heal.

rudimentary photo-editing: lesson 1

photo: Mac Acton

add lettering in an unexpected location.

addendum, 18 January: another lesson.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Goodbye, noodle king

CNN: TOKYO, Japan (Reuters) -- The Japanese inventor of instant noodles, a snack that has sold billions of servings worldwide since its launch, died on Friday at the age of 96, according to an official at Nissin Food Products, the company he founded.

Born in Taiwan in 1910 while it was under Japanese occupation, Momofuku Ando ran clothing and other companies in Taipei and Osaka early in his career.
Often seen devouring servings of the dish he invented, Ando opened a museum devoted to instant noodles in Osaka in 1999. Ando is survived by his wife, Masako.

caption(afp):Momofuku Ando at the opening ceremony of the refurbished Instant Ramen Museum in Osaka, Japan, on 25 November 2004.

Friday, January 05, 2007

The midterms, part 2: surgin'

reuters photo: Yuri Gripas
McC: I thought Connecticut's voters were supposed to be more educated than any others in the whole country. How come they voted your sorry warmongering ass back in?

Joe: Maybe they're not that smart.

Both: Ha ha ha ha.

McC: I'm going to vote for more unnecessary death 'cause it'll prove I'm resolute and macho.

Joe: Sounds like a plan to me!