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 the black people of the United States. 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.

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.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Review: Bad Faith: When Religious Belief Undermines Modern Medicine by Paul Offit

Bad Faith: When Religious Belief Undermines Modern Medicine by Paul A. Offit (Twitter)

Dr. Offit reviews a series of incidents in which children died of treatable illnesses due to the pursuit of their guardians or parents of spiritual healing through supplication in lieu of standard medical practice. He then gives an interpretation of Christianity which rejects spiritual healing as a substitute for medicine. Then he provides an overview of the historically recent development of state protection of children from abuse by their parents and guardians. Finally, he discusses efforts to proscribe and punish parents and guardians who fail to provide standard medical care to the children in their care and resistance by some religious groups which led to religious exemptions to these anti-neglect laws.

The organization of the book makes for a logical progression to Dr. Offit's call for an end to all religious exemptions to laws designed to protect minors.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Review: "Curiosity: How Science Became Interested in Everything" by Philip Ball

Curiosity: How Science Became Interested in Everything by Philip Ball
University of Chicago Press, Paperback, 9780226211695, 465pp. Publication Date: September 17, 2014

Today, citizens of the industrialized world almost universally consider curiosity to be a praiseworthy trait, and we consider it to be a fundamental attribute of the Scientist, the Jedi of Science, through which our place in the universe can be understood and our welfare enhanced. But humanity did not always consider curiosity to be praiseworthy.

It is certainly not evolutionary advantageous. How many curious hominids had their genetic lines snuffed out by eating unknown plants or entering dark caves or traveling to the next valley?

Monday, March 21, 2016

Review: "This Orient Isle: Elizabethan England and the Islamic World" by Jerry Brotton

This Orient Isle: Elizabethan England and the Islamic World by Jerry Brotton
I have not read the book.

Documentary - Kareem: Minority of One

In November 2015, HBO released a documentary, Kareem: A Minority of One, about the National Basketball Association star Kareem Abdul Jabbar. If you are a sports fan or interested in the biography of a prominent Muslim-American, you really should check this out. It even has footage of Bruce Lee, with whom Kareem had formed a friendship!

Many of Kareem's problems in his personal life, including estrangement from his parents, stemmed from his commitment to following a religious path set out for him by Hamaas Abdul Khaalis, leader of the self-described Hanafi Muslims. Only as he began to make decisions for himself did his spiritual life and relationships become as rich as his professional life.

You can follow Kareem on Twitter. He also has a website.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

SAFFIYYA MOHAMMED: ABC's "Quantico" Suffers from Fake Diversity

I have not watched the show.

Favorite Quotes - Sinclair Lewis, "It Can't Happen Here"

Harold Finch from CBS's "Person of Interest"
reading It Can't Happen Here
The first Sinclair Lewis novel I read (heard on CDs, actually) was Dodsworth. Some satirical passages were entertaining, but I never felt like I learned/felt/thought anything profound. Frederic Rich's Christian Nation quoted from Lewis's book It Can't Happen Here, so I decided to read it. Overall, it's a vigorous defense of Liberalism from Fascism and Communism, yet it does allow room for criticism of Liberalism. I'm excerpting some lengthy passages from the book, the text of which is available for free online. I've prefaced each passage with a header. So just like al-Imam al-Bukhari, my thoughts are in the headings and the passages I've chosen to excerpt.

The University of California system produced a reading guide which looks really interesting. Also, Donald Trump's campaign has sparked new interest in the novel.

For more thoughts on fascism, read Umberto Eco's essay on Ur-Fascism. Also, check out my other blog entries tagged fascism.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Friday, January 15, 2016

Feminism in Caleb Carr's "The Angel of Darkness"

I read Caleb Carr's The Alienist for a book club, and I'm almost done with its sequel, The Angel of Darkness. It has some great material to help people understand some aspects of feminism. One of the characters, Sara Howard, explains to Stevie, the novel's narrator and a street kid in the care of her colleague, why society's attitude towards women (misogyny) may explain the behavior of the murder suspect, Elspeth Hunter, they are investigating and people's attitudes towards her. The passage begins on page 437 and continues for a few pages.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Dancing is a Sin: Two One-Woman Plays from Egypt - Jan 14, Boston Performance, Streamed Live & Archived

h/t M. Lynx Qualey at Arab Lit.