Albanian mother 1930

29 Sep

The great Pyotr Nalich, with his maybe all-time classic, “Guitar”

26 Sep

The Guardian: Immigration and the two sides of Angela Merkel

22 Sep

Money quote:

“Yet while Merkel did not radically alter the European course of the [immigration] crisis, she shifted the tone of debate at a crucial moment. Fleeting as it was, this mattered. Its effects can be seen in the way German society accommodated the 1.7 million people who claimed asylum there between 2015 and 2019. Despite the dire predictions from the right, this has been an undoubted success: as the Guardian’s own reporting has shown, more than half of those who arrived are in work and pay taxes, while more than 80% of refugee children say they feel as if they belong in Germany and are welcome. The xenophobic backlash, playing on fears of crime or terrorism, is real, but it is something that can be – and is being – challenged.”

See whole article.


Erdoğan: As they say in Spanish: ¡Qué oso!

20 Sep

“So, what does ‘qué oso’ mean in Spanish? In most Latin American countries, this phrase is slang for ‘How embarrassing’. is also used in awkward situations where you have made a fool of yourself.” [My emphases]

It literally means: “What a bear!” Some sources say it originally comes from Madrileño drug slang for a “bad trip”. Other sources say it’s a reference to the chained dancing bears of the past. Either way…



Steve Salaita: “Palestine and the Anxiety of Existence” – “The reality of Israel disrupts the succor of modernity, putting the vileness of colonization into deep conflict with the comfort of redemption.”

18 Sep

See whole article. And follow Steven Salaita’s blog at No Flags, No Slogans and his Twitter account at @stevesalaita. Always lots of great stuff.



“I’m Turkish…”

17 Sep


I declare 40 days of mourning

14 Sep


The Greco-Serbian bromance takes many forms: even obscurantist dumbness — from the Guardian

23 Aug

Stereotypical Covid sceptics are a kind of fringe lunatic but elite sportspeople are reared to keep total control of their bodies

Stefanos Tsitsipas and Novak Djokovic are two of tennis’s high profile anti-vaxxers

Stefanos Tsitsipas and Novak Djokovic are two of tennis’s high profile anti-vaxxers. Photograph: Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters

See whole article.


New Header Image: Federico García Lorca teaching his sister Isabel how to read music

18 Aug


First Ashura under the Taliban

18 Aug

The Taliban have forbidden Ashura because they consider it an idolatrous Shia practice. Processions and gatherings have been broken up with beatings and violence. All I can say, I feel, is to repost an old post on the holiday, with a poem from Agha Shahid Ali. Look up Ali, who came from the small Shia minority of Kashmir, and who wrote in English, even, rather diconcertingly, but strange — uncanny — in a way that made his work even more beautiful. Most wonderfully odd were his poems that followed the metric and structural rules of the traditional Arab ghazal, but in English. Check him out if you want. It’s worth it.

Here’s that old post:

A poem for Ashura, Agha Shahid Ali

4 Sep

Iraq Transitions As U.S. Forces Withdraw After 8-Year Presence

Karbala: A History of the “House of Sorrow”

In a distant age and climate, the tragic scene of the death of Husayn will awaken the sympathy of the coldest reader.
—Edward Gibbon

Jesus and his disciples, passing through the plain of Karbala, saw “a herd of gazelles, crowding together and weeping.” Astonished, the disciples looked at their Lord. He spoke: “At this site the grandson of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) will one day be killed.” And Jesus wept. Oh, that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain … And Jesus wept. And as if the news has just reached them—fourteen hundred years after the Battle of Karbala (near ancient Babylon, not far from the Euphrates) in the year A.H. 61/A.D. 680—mourners weep for “the prince among martyrs,” Hussain, grandson of the Prophet and son of Ali (“Father of Clay”) and Fatima (the Prophet’s only surviving child). Memorializing Hussain on the tenth of Muharram (Ashura) is the rite of Shi’a Islam—so central that at funerals those events are woven into elegies, every death framed by that “Calvary.” For just “as Jesus went to Jerusalem to die on the cross,” Hussain “went to Karbala to accept the passion that had been meant for him from the beginning of time.”

Zainab’s Lament in Damascus

Over Hussain’s mansion what night has fallen?

Look at me, O people of Shaam, the Prophet’s only daughter’s daughter, his only child’s child.

Over my brother’s bleeding mansion dawn rose—at such forever cost?

So weep now, you who of passion never made a holocaust, for I saw his children slain in the desert, crying for water.

Hear me. Remember Hussain, what he gave in Karbala, he the severed heart, the very heart of Muhammad, left there bleeding, unburied.

Deaf Damascus, here in your Caliph’s dungeons where they mock the blood of your Prophet, I’m an orphan, Hussain’s sister, a tyrant’s prisoner.

Father of Clay, he cried, forgive me. Syria triumphs, orphans all your children. Farewell.

And then he wore his shroud of words and left us alone forever.

Paradise, hear me— On my brother’s body what night has fallen?

Let the rooms of Heaven be deafened, Angels, with my unheard cry in the Caliph’s palace:

Syria hear me

    Over Hussain’s mansion what night has fallen

    I alone am left to tell my brother’s story

    On my brother’s body what dawn has risen

      Weep for my brother World, weep for Hussain

Reprinted from The Veiled Suite: The Collected Poems by Agha Shahid Ali. English translation copyright © 2009 by Daniel Hall. With the permission of the publisher, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.


Tags: Agha Shahid Ali, Ali, Ashura, Damascus, Huseein, Shi’ism, Syria, Zeynep

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