Friday, October 29, 2004

david choe's slow jams.

two days ago ariel sharon won the vote to withdraw israeli settlements out of the gaza strip. tonight yasser arafat is in critical condition in a hospital somewhere in paris.

i don't know what to make of either headline. there's so much to unpack under each word. if arafat dies what happens to the palestinian people? what will the israeli conservative backlash bring?


a girl and i sat in the dark of a car wondering about the situation in palestine, how it's mysteriously absent from our everyday lives, how it seems like we're all afraid to talk or even think about it, like what's going on in the middle east unfolds a thousand and one years away.

i can't decide whether the sky's made out of barbed wire, blind folds, or just too many satellite signals. i don't know if i'm the bomb's son or the bomb's father. i'm not sure if i'm missing imagination or just some guts when i can't even dream of a free palestine anymore. there's a blackout in my chest, in my lungs heavy with charcoal.

this is just a message in passing as i try to empty myself out.


some thought provoking numbers about the conflict between israel and palestine on if americans knew.

and here's a video of edward said's final lecture on campus, early last year. it's a beauty.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

tuesday nights and the world is a defiant cloud of laundry, an ever-stretching sky of boxers, argyle socks, and inside-out tees (yellow rat bastards and educated students of color.) if i look at the pile long enough, i start to make out faces and things: che’s beard on the wrinkles of that black sock, snufflelaphocus gliding down that brown sweater. i’m down to my last pair of underwear, and if i wait any longer i’ll be harvesting leaves off these october sidewalks as pants padding.

moe said something somewhat poetic on the simpsons today: the stars are lazy, they do nothing good for nobody. i thought for a second, aren’t my socks lazier, one day of work in a snug pair of vans and then they get to lie around for the rest for the week.

my dad called me and told me i should adopt a new style, “you’re wearing the same things you wore in high school, you’re not 16 anymore….”

i think, yeah, you’re right. wednesday night, maybe i should take my cloud of dirty laundry, take em to the roof, lie em out like a fatty cushion, and lay in it, whistling with nothing on but an underwear made out of stars.

on another note: hey, who wants to have a bbq in costume this weekend.

Monday, October 25, 2004

(designed by bernard khoury)

B 018 resembles a slit carved into the earth, as if the ground’s throat had been cut and shoved open.

100 years ago, this site was the city harbor's former quarantine station, a prison for the sick and the weak, 60 years ago, it was a caged refugee camp for armenians fleeing turkish persecution, 25 years ago, it was a deathbed, a massacre of palestinians at the hands of lebanese militias.

and now, it is the trendiest bar in beirut.

the bar is designed to look like a military bunker. you enter through tight stairs at the south end of the structure and are pulled through a thick and dense underground “airlock” space manned by scowling bouncers. a gunner’s slit gives an eye-level glimpse of what lies beyond: a 60-by-40-foot room adorned with scarlet velvet drapes. inside are locked-in-place tables and benches that feature portraits of dead musicians and singers. the roof of the bar opens up to the world above, so the sky can be seen by all those dancing below.

at B 018, you gotta dance on tables, decadence is a necessity.

""The danger in architecture here (in Lebanon) is that everyone acts as if nothing happened. History is simplified." - bernard khoury

Sunday, October 24, 2004

theatre rice skits i like best
(no rankings)

- better luck tomorrow: the musical
- bizarre love pentagon (i CRAPPED my pants!)
- the mr. chong show
- aim
- berkeley royale

most delightful skit characters

- henry as the watcher (azn gangster)
- reggie as a vagina (the vagina dialogues)
- jamie as the virgin aunt (pilipino american wedding)
- dominique as pregnant teen (pregnancy skit)
- sheng and joyce as themselves (people watching on sproul)

you were

epic like the e to the x power, you’re ineffable like imaginary numbers, halo 2 got nothing on you, dopeness defined, i can’t take my eyes off you like you the new york times, you’re royalty, battle royale-ty, you're in my mind like machetes... PI~!

Friday, October 22, 2004

it's like a bbq in your earlobes. no, it's like sugar canes banging on your ear drums. no, no, it's a sound so fertile it'll make your hair grow knotty knottier than baobabs. this is an album that'll propel you to drop their weekends, fly out to chi-town, and breakdance all through Illinois.

one of the dopest asian am hip hop (well, one asian am mc) albums dropped this week, and it wasn't the jin ruff riders joint (which i do wanna get.) it's the typicaaaaaaaaaaaaaal cats' civil service, their follow up to their jaaaaazzy 2000 self-titled joint, a gift from the galapagos 4, holding it down in ol' chicago. growing roses from concrete, this album is blooming... dj natural, denizen kane and the double qs (qwel and qwazaar), and the kid knish.

if my thesis has any lyrical muscle it's only because i've been listening to this all week.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

tonight the moon is using my body like a punching bag. heartbeats halved and quartered, backbone nose-broken but still smirking like a buffoon, and my brain, on all fours, chasing its tail, yapping and yapping "wheezaagaaagaaae!" i'm on the concrete, and somehow the moon is leaning over me, lips almost touching my ears, whispering: "didn’t you tell me once that you decided never to die?" and i think, waitaminute. this is my life: i'm lying down, i'm getting enough sleep, i'm eating healthy, and i'm feeling older than i've ever felt in my life. but maybe i can peel off this dead skin and roll it into gum, chew it, and blow out a yellow brown bubble that'll lift me a few feet off this ground.

in short: FLY OR DIE.

Monday, October 18, 2004

(courteezee, nay, stolen, from poeticdreaaam)

all you sf heads: jane kim for school board. you can't touch a woman who can get matt gonzalez's band to come out and jam and fundraise for her (this saturday, folks!) jane kim's on fiyah - no metaphors here, her hair caught on fire next to a candle light after a denizen kane, sheng wang, and beau sia set last week.

which reminds me: thank you lakshmi and annalyn for holding it down on the senate floor.

and havjoo seen jon stewart on crossfire yet?!

so again, baobab boy b endorses jane kim, he also pushes YESSSSSSSS on PROP 66 (limitations on three strikes law), he believes in BARBARA LEE for SENATE, he likes PROP 72 (health care), he will relunctantly vote for the johns, he would like a FUCK NAW for PROP 64 (a yes vote means we can no longer sue businesses for polluting the environment, gentrifying communities, misleading consumers...), and he doesn't know what yall are talking about, mos def's new danger is tighter than brian nguyen's underwear.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

nous ne retournerons jamais

the sky tonight is a lunging concrete dome, an ever stretching, never ending arc of grey. my soul is a fluorescent pink tin spray can, and i think "fuggit" and tip it up towards the blank sky. but lately, i've been at a loss for words. call it disillusionment, call it heartsickness, call it a manhole in my skull through which all my linguistic skills escaped from (they swung down my neck on a rope made out of knotted dendrites.)

my father sits in the dark, his only light a television - a fuzzy television program showcasing a news broadcast from china via satellite. he makes a face, as if his eyelids are crumpled paper tossed down onto the dusty carpet. nothing is said, just the words he tries to say.

i am now sitting at my desk, staring at a blue scissor.

my asian am professor leans on his leather chair and somehow our conversation goes from the politics of culture to his daughter in middle school enrolling in a French class. He sighs, and then hesitates. he pauses his story and casually asks, "don’t you speak French?"

and I look at him and say, "I do... and it hurts very much."

my tongue is a blemish, an evolving scar that marked in my mouth. each word i speak is a reminder of what i can't say, the way my parents used to talk about water, earth, love. i speak english and french, not vietnamese and chinese.

after "discovering" the angkor wat, many frenchmen believed that france should be the legitimate heir of the khmer civilization. "indochina for the Indochinese means the slaughter or enslavement of all Cambodians, Laotians, Mois, Hmongs, and others… we, the French from Asia, we, the Western peacemakers of the Far-East, are the legitimate heirs of the ancient Khmer civilization, we are better than anything that succeeded it until our arrival on those distant and sacred shores" piped many french in the 1960s.

my mouth opens and closes, opens and closes, on and on, on and on, and for a second, I look back at the blue scissors.

je veux decouper ma langue et la transformer en oiseau. L'oiseau volerait dans le ciel et picoterait tous les yeux des ├ętoiles qui n'ont rien fait pendant la meutre de notre language. je veux que son coeur se transforme en fruit mur qui, une fois que mange, donnera tous les muets une voix.

(i want to cut off my tongue and turn it into a bird that would fly into the sky and peck out the eyes of the stars that did nothing but watch as our language die. and when the bird dies, i want its heart to turn into a sweet fruit that, once eaten, will give all us mutes a voice.)

but, of course, there are no stars, no birds, no fruits. there is only a tongue, a muscle, a boat that knows no shores.

(il y a seulement cette langue, ce muscle, ce bateau qui connait aucun abri.)

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

"This nation of ours has got a solemn duty to defeat this ideology of hate. And that's what they are. This is a group of killers who will not only kill here, but kill children in Russia, that'll attack unmercifully in Iraq, hoping to shake our will. We have a duty to defeat this enemy.

We have a duty to protect our children and grandchildren."
- george w. bush, presidential debate, 9/30/2004

"I believe in being strong and resolute and determined. And I will hunt down and kill the terrorists, wherever they are."
- john f. kerry, presidential debate, 9/30/2004


these are just numbers, i think. imaginary things that i'll forget like receipts for groceries or dvd rentals. 1.7 million iraqi dead thanks to US sanctions. over 14,000 iraqi dead in our war. no split open faces, no organ trails, no faded pictures of children tucked in jacket pockets, no goodbye songs of baghdad, no smell of maggots. just numbers, digits half-blurred on a thin slip of paper with a space for our signature at the bottom.

casualty is too casual a word, it's a polished little bowtie that should be ripped out of the dictionary and tossed into a furnace. and while we're at it: get rid of the word "revolution" too. it's a carcass out of word now that should cut open with a blade, chewed on it ferociously, and buried it in the pit of our gut.

jean baudrillard told us that the gulf war never happened... he has a point: how can we know the war is true if the means that inform us are filtered and spun. all we have are little televisions with face-lifts, blips and bloops that claim to be live, transmissions scripted and rehearsed, satellites that let us imagine ourselves there at the spot, the world as our bedrooms.

i feast on salt and fat, shiny thick chunks of white, while the rest of the world nibbles on hair and bone, and i didn't bother to wonder why, i skipped on the check and walked on home.

a beirut ghazal
haas h. mroue

a night. a man. a city.
they slashed the eggplant vendor's throat.

a little city by the sea dragged to insanity.
a mutilated arm lies on the beach.

her streets are eyes, her sea a grave.
her moon guides the dead to their destiny.

in the land of black smoke there is no room for self pity.
no one will rise from the ashes of your dead children.

in the sweltering heat what do they drink?
a cool pitcher of blood and sweat and honey.

and in the end what is left? the woman with no
arm running down deserted streets.

preparing for occupation
by elmaz abi-nader

buy only short books, ones that read quickly with plots
you can keep track of when the pounding starts on the door.
drive no nails into the wall, no pictures, no pencil sharpener
or mirror. your face doesn't matter any way. you are no one.

teach your children at home. or leave them idle to wander
the streets to find a funeral parade; a crowd to join.
use only votive candles so they can burn out before morning.
stash your cigarettes in your pocket. leave nothing
in the cupboards to remind them but a child's toy.

adopt no pets. hook up no phones. print no cards, address
labels or stationery. test your batteries daily.

all your clothes must be light, in similar colors and never need
ironing. your only family heirlooms are habit, memory, name and song. believe that placing your daughter upon your shoulders will be home enough for her as she feels
for something familiar.

avoid meeting the neighbors unless you've known them
since birth. be careful of the bird flirting with you in the yard;
one of you may soon fly away.
one of you has migratory patterns.

you've been here thousands of years. but aren't your people
nomadic anyway? can't you pitch your tent in a grove
on the outskirts? move in with relatives? cross into another
country, clogging the border with shanty towns, waiting
to return? i've seen you together; you prefer to be together.

because this house bears the prints of your children
upon the wall, because the kitchen is furrowed
from your journeys made to the table from the stove,
the stove to the table, because the floor is pocked
from the weight of your davenport, doesn't mean
you can't move on.

the walls have echoed your voices, your sighs floated
up to the ceiling and gathered like clouds in a refugee sky. remember the time your son opened the door so quickly
the bulghur flew off the table and around the room?
grains are in the corners still.

you will miss nothing: the window that refuses to open,
the sputtering light of the refrigerator, the leaking pipe
in the girls' room; the cat that crosses the fence in the morning.
he is not your family although your recognize him.
this is not your town, although you walked its streets
on your wedding day. local water mixes with your blood.
this is not your country despite its dust covering
your shoes, the songs you have memorized; the poets
you claim as your own. don't look down.
look up. when the geese are passing in their vee formation, join them, tuck your treasures under your wings.
from the refugee sky, you can count the bodies below you,
examine the shipwreck of your home while others pick
through the remains.

a lesson in drawing
by nizar qabbani

My son places his paint box in front of me
and asks me to draw a bird for him.
Into the color gray I dip the brush
and draw a square with locks and bars.
Astonishment fills his eyes:
"... But this is a prison, Father,
Don't you know, how to draw a bird?"
And I tell him: "Son, forgive me.
I've forgotten the shapes of birds."

My son puts the drawing book in front of me
and asks me to draw a wheatstalk.
I hold the pen
and draw a gun.
My son mocks my ignorance,
"Don't you know, Father, the difference between a
wheatstalk and a gun?"
I tell him, "Son,
once I used to know the shapes of wheatstalks
the shape of the loaf
the shape of the rose
But in this hardened time
the trees of the forest have joined
the militia men
and the rose wears dull fatigues
In this time of armed wheatstalks
armed birds
armed culture
and armed religion
you can't buy a loaf
without finding a gun inside
you can't pluck a rose in the field
without its raising its thorns in your face
you can't buy a book
that doesn't explode between your fingers."

My son sits at the edge of my bed
and asks me to recite a poem,
A tear falls from my eyes onto the pillow.
My son licks it up, astonished, saying:
"But this is a tear, father, not a poem!"
And I tell him:
"When you grow up, my son,
and read the diwan of Arabic poetry
you'll discover that the word and the tear are twins
and the Arabic poem
is no more than a tear wept by writing fingers."

My son lays down his pens, his crayon box in
front of me
and asks me to draw a homeland for him.
The brush trembles in my hands
and I sink, weeping.