Saturday, December 17, 2016

Film: The Stanford Prison Experiment (Kyle Patrick Alvarez, Director)

The Stanford Prison Experiment is a 2015 movie directed by Kyle Patrick Alvarez. It is based on Philip Zimbardo's 1971 experiment where 20 college-aged subjects were divided into guards and inmates and simulated a prison in an unused campus building. The experiment is famous for exposing how easy it is for healthy individuals to become abusive and violent. While the movie promotes this as Zimbardo's conclusions, the movie also confirms points his critics made about the experiment, namely that Zimbardo's design and execution of the experiment had as much to do with its results as "human nature."

I particularly remember two scenes. The first is Zimbardo's orientation meeting with the guards, where he told them they were better than other people. In the interview process, all prospective subjects had expressed a preference to be an inmate.

Review: Armageddon in Retrospect by Kurt Vonnegut

This collection of short stories by the American writer Kurt Vonnegut reflect his visceral disgust at war, which developed during his World War II experience as a prisoner of war disposing of the corpses left after the British and United States air forces destroyed Dresden in February of 1945. I'd read two of his novels, Slaughterhouse Five and Cat's Cradle, a long time ago. Slaughterhouse Five has been made into a movie.

In any short story collection, each reader will like some and dislike some. My favorites were "Great Day" and "The Commandant's Desk." The style, in its satirical humor, reminded me of Mark Twain, who opposed United States imperialism.

Documentary: African-American Pioneer Muslimahs in Washington, DC by Zarinah Shakir

This documentary film uses oral history to examine the lives of African-American Muslim women in Washington, DC primarily during the 1940s and 50s.

Zarinah Shakir is the producer.

I'm still looking for Part 1.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Review: Strange Gods: A Secular History of Conversion by Susan Jacoby

Strange Gods: A Secular History of Conversion by Susan Jacoby

If you, like me, grew up receiving religious education, you likely encountered conversion stories. For Muslims, an important topic of our weekend school education in the United States is the siirah (biography, "gospel") of the Messenger Muhammad . It is replete with stories of how courageous and noble individuals, beginning with his wife Khadija and cousin `Ali, recognized him as God's Messenger. Implicitly and explicitly, those who rejected him were cruel and venal.

Susan Jacoby examines how European Christians told stories about conversion, which, under the scrutiny of modern historical method, turn out to have concealed varying degrees of coercion, and how the post-fascist Catholic Church has attempted to shift blame away from itself for the most grievous period of coercion, the enslavement and murder of six million Jews by Nazi Germany.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Shamsia Hassani Art Exhibitions in Los Angeles in December & in NYC in January

Shamsia Hassani is an Afghani artist.

Her exhibit in Los Angeles opens December 17 and ends January 1. Its location is the Seyhoun Gallery, 9007 Melrose Ave, West Hollywood, CA 90069.

Opening night for her exhibition in New York City is January 10, 2017, and the exhibit continues through January 16. The location is the Elga Wimmer PCC Gallery at 526 West 26th #310, New York, NY 10001.
A photo posted by Shamsia Hassani (@shamsiahassani) on

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Review: The Meursault Investigation by Kamel Daoud

Kamel Daoud's novel was originally published in French under the tile Meurault, contre-enquête in 2013 in Algeria. John Cullen's English translation is entitled The Meursault Investigation, and it was published in 2015. There is also an Arabic translation under the title معارضة الغريب.

By no means should this blog entry be considered a genuine review. Nevertheless, I hope some of my thoughts after reading Albert Camus's L'etranger (English title The Stranger), excerpts of Edward Said's Culture and Imperialism and Kamel Daoud's recent novel will be useful.

This does contain a few spoilers.

1. I don't think it's useful to read The Meursault Investigation without having first read The Stranger. Kamel Daoud denies that his novel is a response to Albert Camus, and I actually buy that. It's just that there's too much meta going on in Kamel Daoud's novel which a reader who hadn't read The Stranger would miss.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Review: "The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder" by Vincent Bugliosi

I had started listening to the audio narration of The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder by Vincent Bugliosi several years ago and never finished it. My new car has a working CD player, and I remembered I had 3 more discs from this book, so I finished them driving around town over the last week.

Even though I lived through the events of George the Small's years in the White House, this book reminded me how bad he was and how much he deserves punishment for the criminal wars he pursued. If you are like me and you've forgotten or you are too young to know, it's worth a read.

But more importantly, he ends the book discussing the cultural changes he saw in the United States which allowed for the election of George the Small and the popularity he enjoyed for most of his rule. Now some of this is simply an aged curmudgeon (he hates rap music), but there are some points congruent with a book I reviewed earlier about the erosion of literacy.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Review: "The Holy Vote: The Politics of Faith in America" by Ray Suarez

The Holy Vote: The Politics of Faith in America by Ray Suarez is a good introduction to policy discussions with religious claims in the United States in 2006, the time of the book's publication. Some of those issues have waned and new ones have arisen, and, if you've read other books I've reviewed on this blog under the tag Establishment Clause, you may not find these chapters exciting.

Mr. Suarez's style, in this age of bombastic partisanship, is frustratingly documentarian. He includes lengthy quotes from people whose positions he opposes. He avoids snarky rejoinders. Maybe his long years at the United States Public Broadcasting System, which depends on funding from the government and thus must garner support from many diverse sectors of our nation, have increased his ability to listen respectfully to others beyond that of those who publish in ideological Internet news sites, corporate media and crazy, egotistical bloggers like myself!

Thursday, September 01, 2016

Quotes from Ralph Ellison's "The Invisible Man"

Ralph Ellison's The Invisible Man is the best English language novel I've read, IMO. How I've considered myself well-read this long without having read it is to my shame. I consider it a decolonization novel for black people of the United States (and hence for all other marginalized groups here). The unnamed narrator goes through a Ulysses-like odyssey in search of personal power and individual and collective liberation, growing and learning through each betrayal and cul-de-sac.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Review: "Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business" by Neil Postman

This review is based on the 1st edition of Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. There is a 20th Anniversary Edition with an introduction by Professor Postman's son.

Professor Postman's book claims that electronic media, characterized by immediacy, compels our discourse to be decontextualized and trivial, i.e. entertaining. Even worse, their dominance has shaped consumers' expectations of all other media so that they must also become decontextualized and trivial to gain acceptance.

Man, this guy is a buzzkill!

Monday, August 08, 2016

Zurayk’s “War Diary: Lebanon 2006”: Get your free download!

Sunday, August 07, 2016

Film "Wilmington on Fire" by Christopher Everett Reveals Important Chapter in U.S. History

Next time you hear somebody say, "Lincoln freed the slaves in 1865. If black people have problems today, it's their own fault," please get them a copy of Wilmington on Fire by Christopher Everett. This 89 minute documentary describes events in 1898 in Wilmington, North Carolina. There, whites, through the vehicle of the Democratic Party, militias and a sympathetic judiciary, removed from office blacks and whites uncommitted to white supremacy. Black business owners and professionals were ordered to leave with the property they could carry, and the rest of Wilmington's blacks fled into nearby swamps to avoid murderous crowds. Subsequent to these events, the North Carolina legislature passed Jim Crow legislation,which continued to restrict opportunities for its black residents. White supremacist leaders, whose statues adorn Wilmington's public spaces and for whom its main streets are named, acquired the properties of the blacks who fled and even used them to defraud shareholders of the banks they managed through fraudulent mortgages. See the movie.

The DVD and digital download of "Wilmington on Fire" are scheduled to be available for purchase on November 10, 2016 the 118th anniversary of the massacre.

Find more information on the film's website, Facebook page, Twitter account, Soundcloud and Instagram. Dennis Leroy Kangalee has a more extensive review.

Listen to music and poetry inspired by the movie.

Director and producer Christopher Everett gave an interview on North Carolina Public TV's Black Issues Forum.
Wilmington on Fire (trailer) from Wilmington on Fire on Vimeo.

The In the Past Lane podcast of September 29, 2018 features an interview the Margaret Mulrooney, who wrote a book on the history of Wilmington, NC in which these events play a significant role.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Film: Continuous Journey by Ali Kazimi

I first heard about Continuous Journey by Ali Kazimi on Democracy Now!.

The movie is a wonderful introduction to immigration and white supremacy in the settler-colonialist societies of the Americas. You can stream it from Vimeo.

Of particular interest for us today is the amicable relations between Sikhs, Muslims and Hindus in Vancouver. The majority of Indians in Vancouver and on the Komagata Maru were Sikhs, but there were Muslims and Hindus as well. The solidarity was heartening.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Film: "The Ghosts of Jeju" by Regis Tremblay

Regis Tremblay's "The Ghosts of Jeju" is an 81 minute documentary film describing the resistance of the people of Jeju Island in South Korea to the establishment of a United States naval base.

Film: Rosevelt's America by Roger Weisberg & Tod Lending

Rosevelt's America is a 25-minute documentary film about Liberian refugee Roosevelt Henderson's struggles in Chicago earning enough to support his family. During this period, his wife was attempting to leave Liberia with their newborn child to join her husband and elder children.

At a time when the United States turns away hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers from other parts of the Americas and politicians are competing with each other to make entrance of Syrian, Iraqi and Afghani refugees more difficult, this film is an important resource to educate the public.

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Review: "14: Dred Scott, Wong Kim Ark & Vanessa Lopez" Directed by Anne Galisky

Updated February 26, 2017: The film is now available for streaming.

Section 1 of the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution reads as follows:

My layman's summary of this Section is that it established birthright citizenship and forbade states from depriving persons in the United States of their Federally established rights without due process.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Review: Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo

Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo

Reporter Katherine Boo travels to Annawadi, a slum in Mumbai, and chronicles the lives of some of its residents. Is it more poverty porn? Would you not be better off reading Aravind Adiga's collection of stores entitled Between the Assassinations? I mean, poverty is poverty is poverty. And let's face it: We don't like seeing, hearing or talking about it. We want our soap operas to feature corporate intrigue and disputes over vast properties, like Dallas or Dynasty, not schmucks needing payday loans to keep the water on and pay rent. We want our superheroes to be self-funded billionaires like Bruce Wayne (Batman) and Charles Frances Xavier (Professor X). We don't even hear about poverty from our news outlets.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Radio Islam Show Features Steve Downs, Coleen Rowley & Marcy Wheeler to Discuss War on Terror & Orlando Shooting

Here are the show notes:

In this Radio Islam segment we'll explore what FBI entrapment cases entail and loop it back to the Orlando shooting. See more at: Host: Gerald Hankerson Guest: Steve Downs, Founding Member of Project SALAM Guest: Coleen Rowley, Former FBI Agent Guest: Marcy Wheeler, Blogger/Journalist on the Empty Wheel

Friday, June 10, 2016

Mohammad Fadel "The Challenge of ISIS to Sunni Islam"

University of Toronto Law Professor Mohammad Fadel gave the Third Annual Sharjah Chair in Global Islam Lecture on September 29, 2015. You can follow him on Twitter and read some of his papers.

Parts of his talk focusing on the dismal political conditions in predominantly-Arab countries leading to the heresies of ISIS reminded me of Umberto Eco's novel In the Name of the Rose.

Saturday, May 07, 2016

Review: Ep 1 & 2 of "Containment" on The CW Network

CW's Containment Will Make You Scared of ... Brown People!
Updated 2019-May-25. I did watch the first season, and the show never had a second season. It turns out the Syrians weren't responsible for the outbreak. We learn several episodes later that corporate shenanigans were responsible. I don't believe the plot "twist" absolves the show from the criticisms I and others made. #1, the images of panic & disease and flatness of the "Syrian" characters won't leave viewers' subconscious minds, regardless of the story. #2, many viewers won't ever watch the later episodes. #3, many viewers will come away with the conclusion that, "We had a close brush with civilizational-ending bioterrorism because of these migrants. We really ought to just stop them coming to avoid the risk." #4, even when the characters learn that their suspicions about the Syrians was unfounded, they never actually discuss them at all.

CW's Containment Will Make You Scared of ... Brown People!

These comments are based on watching the first two episodes of The CW Network series "Containment."
  1. You can follow Containment on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
  2. Within the first several minutes of the first episode, we learn that an undocumented Syrian had left the hospital with symptoms. I stopped watching and Googled "cw containment syrian illegal alien" to see if anybody besides me found this troubling. That's when I found the xenophobic article below.
  3. Islamophobes use @CWContainment, where infected Syrian illegal immigrant=Patient 0, 2 spread fear of brown ppl 
  4. I should preface the remainder of this by emphasizing that I'm not attacking any of the actors who appear in this series. If I was offered a 10 second non-speaking role in a basic cable drama series as a suicide-vest wearing terrorist Arab playboy with a sombrero riding a donkey made up in blackface with a stack of TVs behind me while eating watermelon, I'd jump at the opportunity. I know it's that bad for non-white actors in Hollywood.
  5. I then searched in Twitter to see if anybody else noticed this. Thankfully, several others found the association of a deadly outbreak with an undocumented immigrant troubling.
  6. In @CWContainment, a black kid knocks up a white teen; a #Syrian refugee brings a #WalkingDead virus to USA; a #wall protects.. Wow...
  7. And now illegal Syrian Muslim immigrant brought vial of bio-engineered virus into US. We're not sufficiently xenophobic? Ugh #Containment
  8. First 3 mins of Containment.. It takes place in Atlanta and an illegal Syrian immigrant started it. Cancel this shit.
  9. It's unfortunate they went with the illegal immigrant vector. He could has been anything. #Containment
  10. #Containment wow what a shocker, they made the arab the terrorist. cool.
  11. i hope @CWContainment doesn't go the hella racist route and blame everything on the "illegal middle eastern kid" 🙃
  12. I watched the remainder of episode 1, and I thought other aspects of the show promoted anti-Arab sentiments.
  13. When police go to Sayid's house in @CWContainment, the Arabs hoot & howl, just like the irrational savages racists portray. Thanks, @TheCW
  14. .@CWContainment had option of showing @AtleastLevesque or @Ronny_Mathew in aggressive phase of disease. Brown guy provokes fear much better
  15. Khadijah Ennazer reviewed episode 1 of the show, mentioning her fear that the show would promote hostility towards Arabs and immigrants. One of the show's writers, Julie Plec, promises that the series will not go that route.
  16. really disappointed with @julieplec at the writing in #Containment ... you had the chance to change perceptions and you did not
  17. @deejapples If you keep watching you will see that we make a point of exactly that. I promise.
  18. I do some ranting against Hollywood, this time for how it employs actors to play "ethnic" roles.
  19. I started to watch episode 2.
  20. Ep1, @CWContainment uses @Ronny_Mathew 2 demo zombie phase of disease. Ep2, it uses his autopsy 4 gross special effects. Brown ppl scary
  21. Ep2 @CWContainment White girl @TheElleRoberts too friendly with Syrian boy, gets sick outside of cordon sanitaire. Dangers of miscegenation
  22. Here's an attempt to evaluate the show from a public health perspective. Sadly, it leaves out the ethnic, xenophobic bias at the center of the plot.
  23. I hope you're not going to react to this by thinking, "It's a TV show. Nobody takes this seriously. Chill."
  24. Syrian Refugee With Valid Medical Visa Denied Entry Into U.S., #CAIR Says Local Muslim leaders are demanding the... 
  25. #CAIR-LA: Family Members Make Plea for Amputee Refugee (VIDEO) A double-amputee Syrian refugee was denied entry... 
  26. Anti-refugee bill S.997 comes up for a second subcommittee hearing this Thursday. Voice your opposition.... 
  27. I've written about ethnic, racial and religious stereotyping in numerous TV shows and movies.
  28. Finish this by listening to the Public Enemy classic, "Burn, Hollywood, Burn!".