Monday, April 30, 2007

Media Issues

I reckon the media do certain issues on a annual schedule

currently its dog attacks

as we contintue to head into the colder months it must be the hydro lake levels any week now


hold tight


Sunday, April 29, 2007

How would you feel?


On a personal note, we've finally decided to leave. I guess I've known we would be leaving for a while now. We discussed it as a family dozens of times. At first, someone would suggest it tentatively because, it was just a preposterous idea- leaving ones home and extended family- leaving ones country- and to what? To where?

Since last summer, we had been discussing it more and more. It was only a matter of time before what began as a suggestion- a last case scenario- soon took on solidity and developed into a plan. For the last couple of months, it has only been a matter of logistics. Plane or car? Jordan or Syria? Will we all leave together as a family? Or will it be only my brother and I at first?

After Jordan or Syria- where then? Obviously, either of those countries is going to be a transit to something else. They are both overflowing with Iraqi refugees, and every single Iraqi living in either country is complaining of the fact that work is difficult to come by, and getting a residency is even more difficult. There is also the little problem of being turned back at the border. Thousands of Iraqis aren't being let into Syria or Jordan- and there are no definite criteria for entry, the decision is based on the whim of the border patrol guard checking your passport.

An airplane isn't necessarily safer, as the trip to Baghdad International Airport is in itself risky and travelers are just as likely to be refused permission to enter the country (Syria and Jordan) if they arrive by airplane. And if you're wondering why Syria or Jordan, because they are the only two countries that will let Iraqis in without a visa. Following up visa issues with the few functioning embassies or consulates in Baghdad is next to impossible.

So we've been busy. Busy trying to decide what part of our lives to leave behind. Which memories are dispensable? We, like many Iraqis, are not the classic refugees- the ones with only the clothes on their backs and no choice. We are choosing to leave because the other option is simply a continuation of what has been one long nightmare- stay and wait and try to survive.

On the one hand, I know that leaving the country and starting a new life somewhere else- as yet unknown- is such a huge thing that it should dwarf every trivial concern. The funny thing is that it’s the trivial that seems to occupy our lives. We discuss whether to take photo albums or leave them behind. Can I bring along a stuffed animal I've had since the age of four? Is there room for E.'s guitar? What clothes do we take? Summer clothes? The winter clothes too? What about my books? What about the CDs, the baby pictures?

The problem is that we don't even know if we'll ever see this stuff again. We don't know if whatever we leave, including the house, will be available when and if we come back. There are moments when the injustice of having to leave your country, simply because an imbecile got it into his head to invade it, is overwhelming. It is unfair that in order to survive and live normally, we have to leave our home and what remains of family and friends… And to what?

It's difficult to decide which is more frightening- car bombs and militias, or having to leave everything you know and love, to some unspecified place for a future where nothing is certain.


http://riverbendblog.blogspot.com/


Good luck River


Saturday, April 28, 2007

Friday, April 27, 2007

Iran and Beyond: Shi'ite vs. Sunni?

by Conn Hallinan

In 1609, a terrible thing happened: not terrible in the manner that great wars are terrible but in the way that opening Pandora's Box was terrible. King James I of England discovered that dividing people on the basis of religion worked like a charm, thus sentencing the Irish to almost four centuries of blood and pain.

If the Bush administration is successful in its current efforts to divide Islam by pitting Shi'ites against Sunnis it will revitalize the old colonial tactic of divide and conquer, and maintain the domination of the Middle East by authoritarian elites allied with the U.S. and the international energy industry.

Its vehicle, according to The New York Times, is an 'American backed alliance' of several Sunni-dominated regimes, including Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Lebanon, and Egypt, 'along with a Fatah-led Palestine and Israel.' The anti-Shiite front will also likely include Turkey and Pakistan.

Full Article Here

Thursday, April 26, 2007

The horror... the horror

Yesterday I saw the future of clothing

I shall never be the same again


awesome

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Whoop whoop









Two of my bestest buddies got younger this week....
Happy Birthday mister

ANZAC Day

And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda - The Pogues, (Stiff Records) 1985

When I was a young man I carried my pack
And I lived the free life of a rover
From the Murrays green basin to the dusty outback
I waltzed my Matilda all over
Then in nineteen fifteen my country said Son
It's time to stop rambling 'cause there's work to be done
So they gave me a tin hat and they gave me a gun
And they sent me away to the war
And the band played Waltzing Matilda
As we sailed away from the quay
And amidst all the tears and the shouts and the cheers
We sailed off to Gallipoli

How well I remember that terrible day
How the blood stained the sand and the water
And how in that hell that they called Suvla Bay
We were butchered like lambs at the slaughter
Johnny Turk he was ready, he primed himself well
He chased us with bullets, he rained us with shells
And in five minutes flat he'd blown us all to hell
Nearly blew us right back to Australia
But the band played Waltzing Matilda
As we stopped to bury our slain
We buried ours and the Turks buried theirs
Then we started all over again

Now those that were left, well we tried to survive
In a mad world of blood, death and fire
And for ten weary weeks I kept myself alive
But around me the corpses piled higher
Then a big Turkish shell knocked me arse over tit
And when I woke up in my hospital bed
And saw what it had done, I wished I was dead
Never knew there were worse things than dying
For no more I'll go waltzing Matilda
All around the green bush far and near
For to hump tent and pegs, a man needs two legs
No more waltzing Matilda for me

So they collected the cripples, the wounded, the maimed
And they shipped us back home to Australia
The armless, the legless, the blind, the insane
Those proud wounded heroes of Suvla
And as our ship pulled into Circular Quay
I looked at the place where my legs used to be
And thank Christ there was nobody waiting for me
To grieve and to mourn and to pity
And the band played Waltzing Matilda
As they carried us down the gangway
But nobody cheered, they just stood and stared
Then turned all their faces away

And now every April I sit on my porch
And I watch the parade pass before me
And I watch my old comrades, how proudly they march
Reliving old dreams of past glory
And the old men march slowly, all bent, stiff and sore
The forgotten heroes from a forgotten war
And the young people ask, "What are they marching for?"
And I ask myself the same question
And the band plays Waltzing Matilda
And the old men answer to the call
But year after year their numbers get fewer
Some day no one will march there at all

Waltzing Matilda, Waltzing Matilda
Who'll come a waltzing Matilda with me
And their ghosts may be heard as you pass the Billabong
Who'll come-a-waltzing Matilda with me?












There is something profounding odd about having one the most significant national day here commemorate a military defeat. Odd but also in keeping with this strange land in which I live.

ANZAC Day wasn't such a big deal to most when as a child I attended dawn parades, now it is and its wonderful the way each and every year I manage to learn quite a bit more about not only my own countries history - and not the white centric version I was taught as a child - but also New Zealand's psyche.

I really love how we try so hard to understand what it is we are and why.

My ANZAC day starts with the coverage on Maori TV, or perhaps as I am up at the right time anyway I should wander over to the Domain and do another dawn parade. Perhaps some foul rum based drink later on

Whatever I do I can tell ya now, several lumps will be cleared from my throat as I try to imagine what my fellow countrypeople went through in times of conflict and no doubt my mind will think about those poor souls surrounded by conflict in todays world.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning we shall remember them.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The Iraqi Crisis That Has No Name

Since the shock-and-awe invasion of Iraq began in March 2003, that country's explosive unraveling has never left the news or long been off the front page. Yet the fallout beyond its borders from the destruction, disintegration, and ethnic mayhem in Iraq has almost avoided notice. And yet with -- according to United Nations estimates -- approximately 50,000 Iraqis fleeing their country each month (and untold numbers of others being displaced internally), Iraq is producing one of the -- if not the -- most severe refugee crisis on the planet, a crisis without a name and without significant attention.

For the last two weeks, I've been in Syria, visiting refugee centers and camps, the offices and employees of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and poor neighborhoods in Damascus that are filling up with desperate, almost penniless Iraqi refugees, sometimes living 15 to a room. In statistical and human terms, these few days offered a small window into the magnitude of a catastrophe that is still unfolding and shows no sign of abating in any immediately imaginable future.

Let's start with the numbers, inadequate as they are. The latest UN figures concerning the refugee crisis in Iraq indicate that between 1-1.2 million Iraqis have fled across the border into Syria; about 750,000 have crossed into Jordan (increasing its modest population of 5.5 million by 14%); at least another 150,000 have made it to Lebanon; over 150,000 have emigrated to Egypt; and -- these figures are the trickiest of all -- over 1.9 million are now estimated to have been internally displaced by civil war and sectarian cleansing within Iraq.

These numbers are staggering in a population estimated in the pre-invasion years at only 26 million. At a bare minimum, in other words, at least one out of every seven Iraqis has had to flee his or her home due to the violence and chaos set off by the Bush administration's invasion and occupation of Iraq.

'I Am Now a Refugee' by Dahr Jamail article from Tom Dispatch














How long can we in the west simply stand by and allow the carnage and destruction of Iraq to continue... it is quite obviouse that the US and her allies have no idea what to do except spend billions of dollars getting some seriously wealthy people richer.

And then what can be done to undo the damage already done - do the Iraqi's have to suffer even more before things get better for them and their country? It seems so....

River hasn't posted on her blog since Feb 20th, again I find myself worrying about her and wondering what sort of life she leads.... I also wonder if I or those I know would cope nearly as well as those trapped in the turmoil that is Iraq and I know the answer is no.

It all makes me so angry and sad

Monday, April 23, 2007

Doh!









Have a good one bud!

Kings of the cosmos

Some had beards. Many were German. But they all had synthesisers. Simon Reynolds tracks the history of electronica's Seventies pioneers whose influence stretches to infinity and beyond

Simon Reynolds
Sunday April 22, 2007

Observer Music Monthly

Everything you know about electronic pop is wrong. Years before Gary Numan and his electric friends, before the chart-popping porno-disco of 'I Feel Love by sexbot diva Donna Summer and pulsating producer Giorgio Moroder, before even Kraftwerk's serene electra-glide down the Autobahn, the trailblazers of synthesisers in pop were a bunch of long-haired hippies and slumming classical composers. Pioneered by Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulze and Walter Carlos, then popularised by Tomita, Jean Michel Jarre, and Vangelis, this genre - space music, some call it, or analog-synth epics - has been almost completely written out of the history of electronica.
This neglect partly stems from the nature of the music, which doesn't fit either of the subsequently established images of electropop (catchy ditties in the early Eighties Depeche mould or beat-driven dance music in the techno/trance continuum). From its epic scale (compositions that often took up the whole side of an album) to its cosmic atmosphere (albums were typically inspired by outer space or natural grandeur, astrophysics or science fiction), the genre wasn't exactly poppy. But it was hugely popular all across the world during the Seventies: Tangerine Dream's albums regularly visited the UK top 10, Tomita's Debussy-goes-synth Snowflakes Are Dancing received Grammy nominations in four different categories, and Jarre's 'Oxygene (Part IV)' was a UK top five hit. The debonair Frenchman went on to stage massive outdoor spectaculars of music and lasers in cities across the world, performing to audiences that ran into millions. Jarre's music was as close as space music got to conventional pop, its brisk programmed drums and melodious synth-lines making it accessible and catchy. Mostly the genre was closer to ambient mood-music, designed to conjure eyelid-movies for the supine, sofa-bound and, more often than not, stoned. At its most abstract - solo albums by Klaus Schulze and by Tangerine Dream's leader Edgar Froese - these were clouds of sounds to lose yourself in, a Rorschach mindscreen for projecting fantasies onto. Yet unlike the hipster-credible Krautrock of Can, Faust and Neu!, or more esoteric (ie unsuccessful) Sixties electronic outfits like Silver Apples, the cosmic synth voyagers have never been named by contemporary bands as a cool reference point.

Until now, that is. In the past few years, bands have emerged who unabashedly cite Tangerine Dream as an influence. France's M83 take their name from the spiral galaxy Messier 83 and make 11-minute long tracks such as 'Lower Your Eyelids To Die With the Sun' that resemble the missing link between My Bloody Valentine's woozy shoegaze and Tangerine Dream's 1974 breakthrough album Phaedra. In New York, the ultra-hip DFA label released Delia Gonzalez and Gavin Russom's Days of Mars, an album whose four long instrumentals flashed listeners back to Klaus Schulze epics. Jim Jupp of Belbury Poly, whose second album The Owl's Map recently came out on supercool London label Ghost Box, names Walter Carlos, Schulze and Tangerine Dream as a major inspiration: 'I think it's the fact that they were exploring what must have been mind-blowing technology, and giving free rein to musical ideas that had no pre-existing language. There's also something supernatural in the sound of modular synths and mellotrons; they always seemed the natural soundtrack for a golden age of science fiction and that Erich von Daniken-era pop culture of ancient astronauts and earth mysteries.'

Even dance culture has taken a turn towards the kosmische, with the fad for 'space disco', a genre pioneered by Norwegian producers Hans-Peter Lindstrom and Prins Thomas who are obsessed with an obscure late Seventies scene in northern Italy where disco and space rock collided and Italian youth trance-danced all night long in an LSD-spiked daze.

The Seventies cosmic synth genre was very much an extension of psychedelia and that whole late Sixties mindset of 'taking drugs to make music to take drugs to' (the catchphrase of a much later band, Spacemen 3). The first deployments of electronic sound in rock came from acid-rock bands like United States of America, White Noise, and Gong who were looking for ever more otherworldly textures. 'It was a major new weapon in the psychedelic arsenal,' says Steve Hillage, who spent the early Seventies playing guitar in Gong alongside British synth pioneer Tim Blake, then embarked on a solo career dedicated to 'the mixture of guitar and electronics' in partnership with his synth-twiddling lover Miquette Giraudy. Hillage cites the pioneering all-electronic album Zero Time by American outfit Tonto's Expanding Headband as the record that 'blew my mind' and woke him up to the synth's potential. He eventually tracked down Malcolm Cecil, the designer of the Tonto synthesiser, to produce his recently re-released 1977 album Motivation Radio

For the most part, in the early Seventies synths were an expensive plaything for rock superstars and were typically used as an exotic embellishment to established styles. Keith Emerson of ELP and Yes-man Rick Wakeman played their synths like glorified organs, all bombast and folderol. Apart from Tonto's Expanding Head Band, the first group to go all the way into a radically all-electronic and un-rock sound was Tangerine Dream. The group originally spawned out of Berlin's Zodiak Free Arts Lab. 'It was an avant-garde club during the late Sixties, a large white-and-black room where various concerts and happenings took place,' says Edgar Froese. It was at the Zodiak that Froese met Klaus Schulze, who had been drumming in a freak-rock band called Psy Free, and Conrad Schnitzler, later to make a series of experimental electronic albums now highly prized by hipsters. The trio formed Tangerine Dream and, initially, their sound was guitar-dominated, bearing the heavy imprint of Pink Floyd's A Saucerful of Secrets. But with the arrival of Chris Franke, who had worked with synths in his previous band Agitation Free, Tangerine Dream's sound gradually became keyboards-dominated.

Soon they were a cult band in the UK. Atem, their third album, was hailed by John Peel as his favourite record of 1973. Virgin Records, in those days a mail-order company specialising in import albums from Europe, shifted more than 15,000 Tangerine Dream albums through the post. Richard Branson realised the band were perfect candidates to launch his record label and shape a distinct identity for it. Froese recalls Simon Draper, Virgin's A&R chief and aesthetic helmsman, 'ringing me in Berlin to say this BBC radio guy Peel was playing Atem to death. Two days later I sat with Branson on the stairs of his Notting Hill Gate record store and signed a contract which was in power from 1973 to 1983. Ten years of rollercoaster experiences began!' Phaedra, Tangerine Dream's debut for Virgin and their first fully electronic album, crashed into the top 10 and by the time the group made their debut tour of Britain in the autumn of 1974 the record's hypnotic pulsations had sold 100,000 copies. 'We did tours all over the world and received gold status in seven countries. Not bad for some "strange knob switchers from Germany", as the UK music papers called us!' Phaedra was followed by the equally successful Rubycon and Ricochet, the latter a live document of a tour of European cathedrals.

In those days, touring with synthesisers was a major headache. The machines were bulky and heavy, but also fragile and temperamental. 'Transportation was horrifying - we spent 30 per cent of our income for insurances and repair of instruments,' recalls Froese. 'Voltage controlled oscillators and other devices were completely unstable,' he adds, because their extreme sensitivity to room temperature meant that 'any given tuning of the oscillator stayed 'in tune' for maybe 10 minutes.' One reason Steve Hillage had three synth-players in his live band during the mid-Seventies was to 'guarantee we could deliver the goods sonically!' Klaus Schulze - who, like Hillage, signed to Virgin as a solo artist in the wake of Tangerine Dream - recalls how the settings on his synthesisers would constantly drift. 'Nobody could make the same sound two days in a row. With my big Moog, when the spotlights went on, the heat affected the tuning. At the same time, the Moog needed two hours just to warm up; you had to plug it in as soon as you lugged it into the hall.'

Schulze's version of electronic space music was darker and even more abstract than Tangerine Dream's. And where Tangerine Dream averaged four long tracks per album, a Schulze LP typically featured just two side-long compositions that stretched the sound-fidelity limitations of the vinyl album by running to 25 or even 30 minutes. These long tracks were typically recorded in a single take. 'I would play until the tape ran out,' Schulze recalls. 'I was recording in my living room, or perhaps it would be better to say, living in my studio!'

According to Schulze, the impulse to do extended compositions originally came out of Sixties drug culture. 'We were all smoking and drifting into long-term moods. Four-minute songs were over too quick, it wasn't relaxing music, not like a dream. We wanted to do music that was like a classical piece, with leitmotifs, codas.' The title of his 1973 album Picture Music pinpoints the genre's aspirations to be an inner space version of programme music. 'It's for short movie clips in your head,' says Schulze. 'The music doesn't entertain you so much as it's forcing you to use your imagination to make it complete. It's not really 'entertainment', because the listener has to complete the music and, if you're not willing to add some of your own fantasy, it's quite boring!'

'Boring' and 'soporific' were epithets frequently hurled by hostile rock critics at the cosmic synth artists, especially in the live context, where Tangerine Dream's shows were so lacking in showiness (the group motionless behind their banks of synths) that audiences (the reviewers claimed, anyway) were in danger of falling asleep. In a 1974 interview, the group's Peter Baumann retorted: 'Exactly - we play as a group but the distinction between us and a rock band is that they put on a show - we put on a mind show.'

The sort of rock critic who spent the entire early Seventies waiting for punk to happen - like Lester Bangs, whose hilarious slagging off of a Tangerine Dream concert is reprinted below - hated the electronic mindscape groups, but even 1976-77, supposedly the years of punk, were actually the peak of space music's popularity. In 1977, Schulze played at the Planetarium in London, showcasing Mirage, probably his masterpiece). 'That was the first time a concert was given in a planetarium,' Schulze says, audibly beaming with pride down the phone line. 'But I don't know if a planetarium is really the ideal place for music, because its hemisphere shapes creates echoes and sound reflections from all sides.' That same year Tangerine Dream embarked on their debut traipse across America, performing to sold-out crowds with a surprisingly multi-racial aspect - black youth being as wowed by the group's alien synth sound as they were by the similarly futuristic noises made by Kraftwerk on 1977's Trans Europe Express. The year also saw Tangerine Dream recording a high-profile soundtrack for the movie Sorcerer, made by Exorcist-director William Friedkin, while Tomita had a hit with The Planets, his electronic rendition of Holst's symphony.

The commercial high profile of synthesiser music and its associations with long-haired 'progressives' were why most punk rockers regarded keyboards as a no-no. 'Technoflash' was NME's sneering designation for the genre, the flash referring both to the ostentatious display of nimble-fingered virtuosity and to the over-the-top stage costumes and expensive lighting. When Wire's second album Chairs Missing appeared in 1978, the presence of synths led one reviewer to complain that they'd gone from Pink Flag to Pink Floyd in less than a year. Around that time, a spate of synthesiser based singles emerged from the post-punk do-it-yourself underground - the Human League's 'Being Boiled', the Normal's 'Warm Leatherette', Throbbing Gristle's 'United' - but these artists were at pains to differentiate themselves from the cosmic synth bands. The Normal - aka Daniel Miller, founder of Mute Records - complained that the trouble with most synth-players was that they were musicians who played the synth pianistically rather than treating it as a noise-generating machine. Yet only a few years earlier Miller had been a huge Klaus Schulze fan. Even the Human League had been recording 97-minute electronic soundscapes like 'Last Man of Earth' only a few months before shifting in a pop direction with 'Being Boiled'. In 1978, though, it was crucial to avoid any taint of hippie. So Trans Europe Express and 'I Feel Love' were cited as revelations, but no one gave the nod to Jean Michel Jarre's 'Oxygene (Part IV)', a UK chart smash only a few weeks after 'I Feel Love' hit number one in late 1977.

Jarre's homeland France was the European country that most ardently embraced the new electronic rock. Kraftwerk were bigger there than in Germany, while Klaus Schulze's Moondawn sold a quarter of million copies in 1976 and planted itself in the Top 5 just behind Pink Floyd. Although Jarre came from an avant-garde background, having studied under the direction of musique concrete pioneer Pierre Schaeffer, his work aimed straight for the middlebrow jugular, fusing 19th-century classical melodiousness and scale with electronic textures.

Perhaps inflated by his worldwide success (and marriage to Charlotte Rampling), the hallmark of Jarre's career became a gigantism verging on shlocky overkill. Starting with a 1979 Paris concert that drew one million fans to the Place de la Concorde, he threw a series of increasingly spectacular high-tech extravaganzas. He became the first Western pop musician to perform in the People's Republic of China, played at Nasa's 25th anniversary celebration in Houston, threw a huge 1988 event in London called Destination Docklands, and drew 2.5 million to Paris's La Defense district in 1990. This run of Guinness record-breaking mega-concerts peaked with his performance in front of 3.5 million Russians at Moscow's 850th anniversary celebrations. Jarre also received an honour to make the other spacetronica pioneers green with envy - having an actual heavenly body named after him, the asteroid 4422 Jarre.

Apart from Tangerine Dream, the major figures in the analog synth epic genre were solo artists. Something about the tableau of the solitary composer flanked, on stage or in the studio, by banks of electronic gear seems to go to the core of the genre, conjuring an aura of 'Great Man, Alone' grandiosity. Vangelis is a supreme example. He started out in the Greek prog-rock band Aphrodite's Child and was later offered the chance to become Yes's keyboard player. But Vangelis turned it down, feeling that it would constrain his vision. Instead he built a recording studio in the centre of London, near Marble Arch, filling it with statues, figurines and exotica to create an inspirational atmosphere, and calling it Nemo because, he says, 'it was sort of cut off from the conventional studios in London and quite different. It looked a little bit like Captain Nemo's submarine in Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea.' Here Vangelis composed his music on the spot, surrounded by a huge array of keyboards, improvising straight to tape.

Vangelis released a stream of solo albums showcasing his gift for melody, along with a series of collaborations with Yes vocalist Jon Anderson. His label RCA's hope for a Tubular Bells-scale smash from Vangelis didn't materialise but his work began to appear in movies and TV themes, where the music's aura of majesty and scale lent itself to things like Carl Sagan's TV series Cosmos. Then the breakthrough came with his 1981 Oscar-winning score for Chariots of Fire, followed by his masterpiece, the score for Blade Runner, where his synth-tones possess the quality of glistening gas settling on the horizon's rim. Amazingly, the full score wasn't released until the Nineties.

Movie soundtracks are where most of the cosmic synth artists really came into their own. Here was a field in which their lack of onstage showiness or pop charisma was not a drawback. Composing scores allowed them to give up the unprofitable and wearisome routine of touring in support of albums. After doing the Sorcerer, Tangerine Dream went on to compose over 30 more movie scores. 'It gave us the freedom to do what we wanted to do without being suppressed by a record company,' says Froese. 'Plus, there was the chance to work in one of the most bizarre art forms one could think of.' Alternating between movie soundtracks and his own solo albums, Vangelis abandoned Nemo for a new studio, the Epsilon Laboratory, built almost entirely from glass and situated on the top of a tall building in Paris. But soon he left it for a peripatetic existence, enabled by the increasingly portable nature of synthesiser technology.

The soundtrack direction was something of a saviour, for the Eighties were wilderness years for many of the synth epic pioneers. The increasing ubiquity of electronic sounds and rhythms in pop music diminished the future-shock aura of their own work. A hardcore of fans kept the faith during the Eighties, many of them becoming cult artists in their own right, such as Steve Roach. The classic-era Seventies music was kept alive by Ultima Thule, a record store and mail order company based in Leicester and founded by two brothers, Steven and Alan Freeman, who also put out Audion, a magazine dedicated to all things kosmik and European.

In 1989, however, the legacy of the Seventies synth gods surfaced in a most unlikely place: London's dance scene. A DJ called Dr Alex Paterson was operating the pioneering chill out zone Land of Oz, a sanctuary to which acid (house) fried ravers from Paul Oakenfold's famous Spectrum club could retreat and get their synapses soothed by ambient music - things like Steve Hillage's Rainbow Dome Musick, which was recorded for a 1979 new age festival. 'The first time I went down to Oz, Alex was playing Rainbow but he was mixing it over beats,' recalls Hillage. Another Paterson favourite was E2-E4, an album recorded in 1981 by Ash Ra Tempel's Manuel Gottsching just after he'd come off a tour with Klaus Schulze. One long 60-minute track of softly pittering electronic beats and fluttering synths, E2-E4's gentle euphoria fitted the ecstasy mood perfectly, and in 1989 a house-ified version of the track entitled 'Sueno Latino' became an anthem on the rave scene.

Rainbow Dome Musick and E2-E4 bridged the gap between the Seventies synth gods and the post-acid house culture of chill out zones and 'electronic listening music' that flourished in the early Nineties. A new breed of artists emerged - Mixmaster Morris, Sven Vath, Biosphere, the Future Sound of London, Pete Namlook, and above all Alex Paterson's own group the Orb - who were audibly indebted to Schulze, Tangerine Dream and the rest, inheriting not only their textures but their love of concept albums and long tracks, their grandiose ambition and tendency towards mystic kitsch. After hearing his electronic tapestries layered over kicking beats at Land of Oz, a light bulb went off above Hillage's head, and with partner Giraudy he plunged into the techno fray with a new outfit called System 7. Schulze worked with Namlook, recording a Pink Floyd homaging collaboration for the latter's label Fax with the title Dark Side of the Moog. 'Suddenly I was the godfather of trance and ambient, or the Pope,' recalls Schulze. 'I was honoured.' Although the chill out boom faded, the influence of the Seventies synth gods continued in trance, especially the sub-genre known as psychedelic trance - the ruling sound on the currently resurgent underground rave scene.

Being embraced and validated by a young generation of drug-addled technophiles has galvanised the Seventies survivors. Most of them remain active in music. Hillage and Giraudy still record as System 7 and Mirror System. Tangerine Dream continue to release records, while Edgar Froese recently put out a solo record in homage to Salvador Dali (with whom he spent some time in 1967) and has just completed the final instalment of a three-part project inspired by Dante's The Divine Comedy. Vangelis sporadically records movie scores and his entire oeuvre is also being reissued at the moment. Jean Michel Jarre regularly stages his mega-concerts, albeit on a reduced scale (relative to his own exploits, anyway), most recently playing to 100,000 Poles for the 25th anniversary celebration of Solidarity, an event staged at the Gdansk shipyard where the movement first started. As for Klaus Schulze, he recently released Moonlake - his 101st album.

· Tangerine Dream's new album Madcap's Flaming Duty is out now on Voiceprint

Five synth classics

Tonto's Expanding Head Band - Zero Time
(Atlantic, 1971)
Quaint now, mind-blowingly alien at the time.

Wendy Carlos - Sonic Seasonings
(Columbia, 1972)
Four movements celebrating the seasons.

Klaus Schulze - Cyborg
(Ohr, 1973)
Electronics and a 'cosmic orchestra': dissonant, Gothic, and poignant.

Tangerine Dream - Phaedra
(Virgin, 1974)
The bridge between Pink Floyd and acid house.

David Vorhaus - White Noise 2
(Virgin, 1975)
'Concerto for synth' on the Kaleidophon.

'Urps, hissing and pings' - Lester Bangs on The Dream

I decided it would be a real fun idea to get fucked up on drugs and go see Tangerine Dream with Laserium. So I drank two bottles of cough syrup and subwayed up to Avery Fisher Hall.

This place is sold out. Everyone is stoned. The music begins. Three technological monoliths emitting urps, hissings, pings and swooshings in the dark. The men at the keyboards send out sonar blips through the congealing air. I close my eyes and settle into the ooze of my seat, feeling the power of the cough syrup building inside me.

I open my eyes again. The Laserium, which I had forgotten all about in my druggy meanderings, has begun to do its shtick on the screen above the synthesisers. Two pristine circles appear gyrating and rubber banding with a curiously restful freneticism. The synthesisers whisper to them as they bounce.

The Laserium begins to flash more violently, exploding in dots and points and lines that needle your retinae as the synthesisers suck you off and down. I close my eyes to check into home control, to see if any visions might be coagulating. Nothing. I open them. Flash, flash, flash - the intensity grows. I become bored and restless. I have seen God, and the advantage of having seen God is that you can look away. God don't care.

· Village Voice, 17 April 1977. Reprinted in 'Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung' (Serpent's Tail)

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Saturday, April 21, 2007

An open letter to Oprah 4/18/7: From Saul Williams

Dear Ms. Winfrey,

It is with the greatest respect and adoration of your loving spirit that I write you. As a young child, I would sit beside my mother everyday and watch your program. As a young adult, with children of my own, I spend much less time in front of the television, but I am ever thankful for the positive effect that you continue to have on our nation, history and culture. The example that you have set as someone unafraid to answer their calling, even when the reality of that calling insists that one self-actualize beyond the point of any given example, is humbling, and serves as the cornerstone of the greatest faith. You, love, are a pioneer.

I am a poet.

Growing up in Newburgh, NY, with a father as a minister and a mother as a school teacher, at a time when we fought for our heroes to be nationally recognized, I certainly was exposed to the great names and voices of our past. I took great pride in competing in my churches Black History Quiz Bowl and the countless events my mother organized in hopes of fostering a generation of youth well versed in the greatness as well as the horrors of our history. Yet, even in a household where I had the privilege of personally interacting with some of the most outspoken and courageous luminaries of our times, I must admit that the voices that resonated the most within me and made me want to speak up were those of my peers, and these peers were emcees. Rappers.

Yes, Ms. Winfrey, I am what my generation would call “a Hip Hop head.” Hip Hop has served as one of the greatest aspects of my self-definition. Lucky for me, I grew up in the 80’s when groups like Public Enemy, Rakim, The jungle Brothers, Queen Latifah, and many more realized the power of their voices within the artform and chose to create music aimed at the upliftment of our generation.

As a student at Morehouse College where I studied Philosophy and Drama I was forced to venture across the street to Spelman College for all of my Drama classes, since Morehouse had no theater department of its own. I had few complaints. The performing arts scholarship awarded me by Michael Jackson had promised me a practically free ride to my dream school, which now had opened the doors to another campus that could make even the most focused of young boys dreamy, Spelman. One of my first theater professors, Pearle Cleage, shook me from my adolescent dream state. It was the year that Dr. Dre’s “The Chronic” was released and our introduction to Snoop Dogg as he sang catchy hooks like “Bitches ain’t shit but hoes and tricks…” Although, it was a playwriting class, what seemed to take precedence was Ms. Cleages political ideology, which had recently been pressed and bound in her 1st book, Mad at Miles. As, you know, in this book she spoke of how she could not listen to the music of Miles Davis and his muted trumpet without hearing the muted screams of the women that he was outspoken about “man-handling”. It was my first exposure to the idea of an artist being held accountable for their actions outside of their art. It was the first time I had ever heard the word, “misogyny”. And as Ms. Cleage would walk into the classroom fuming over the women she would pass on campus, blasting those Snoop lyrics from their cars and jeeps, we, her students, would be privy to many freestyle rants and raves on the dangers of nodding our heads to a music that could serve as our own demise.

Her words, coupled with the words of the young women I found myself interacting with forever changed how I listened to Hip Hop and quite frankly ruined what would have been a number of good songs for me. I had now been burdened with a level of awareness that made it impossible for me to enjoy what the growing masses were ushering into the mainstream. I was now becoming what many Hip Hop heads would call “a Backpacker”, a person who chooses to associate themselves with the more “conscious” or politically astute artists of the Hip Hop community. What we termed as “conscious” Hip Hop became our preference for dance and booming systems. Groups like X-Clan, A Tribe Called Quest, Brand Nubian, Arrested Development, Gangstarr and others became the prevailing music of our circle. We also enjoyed the more playful Hip Hop of De La Soul, Heiroglyphics, Das FX, Organized Konfusion. Digable Planets, The Fugees, and more. We had more than enough positivity to fixate on. Hip Hop was diverse.

I had not yet begun writing poetry. Most of my friends hardly knew that I had been an emcee in high school. I no longer cared to identify myself as an emcee and my love of oratory seemed misplaced at Morehouse where most orators were actually preachers in training, speaking with the Southern drawl of Dr. King although they were 19 and from the North. I spent my time doing countless plays and school performances. I was in line to become what I thought would be the next Robeson, Sidney, Ossie, Denzel, Snipes… It wasn’t until I was in graduate school for acting at NYU that I was invited to a poetry reading in Manhattan where I heard Asha Bandele, Sapphire, Carl Hancock Rux, Reggie Gaines, Jessica Care Moore, and many others read poems that sometimes felt like monologues that my newly acquired journal started taking the form of a young poets’. Yet, I still noticed that I was a bit different from these poets who listed names like: Audrey Lourde, June Jordan, Sekou Sundiata etc, when asked why they began to write poetry. I knew that I had been inspired to write because of emcees like Rakim, Chuck D, LL, Run DMC… Hip Hop had informed my love of poetry as much or even more than my theater background which had exposed me to Shakespeare, Baraka, Fugard, Genet, Hansberry and countless others. In those days, just a mere decade ago, I started writing to fill the void between what I was hearing and what I wished I was hearing. It was not enough for me to critique the voices I heard blasting through the walls of my Brooklyn brownstone. I needed to create examples of where Hip Hop, particularly its lyricism, could go. I ventured to poetry readings with my friends and neighbors, Dante Smith (now Mos Def), Talib Kwele, Erycka Badu, Jessica Care Moore, Mums the Schemer, Beau Sia, Suheir Hammad…all poets that frequented the open mics and poetry slams that we commonly saw as “the other direction” when Hip hop reached that fork in the road as you discussed on your show this past week. On your show you asked the question, “Are all rappers poets?” Nice. I wanted to take the opportunity to answer this question for you.

The genius, as far as the marketability, of Hip Hop is in its competitiveness. Its roots are as much in the dignified aspects of our oral tradition as it is in the tradition of ”the dozens” or “signifying”. In Hip Hop, every emcee is automatically pitted against every other emcee, sort of like characters with super powers in comic books. No one wants to listen to a rapper unless they claim to be the best or the greatest. This sort of braggadocio leads to all sorts of tirades, showdowns, battles, and sometimes even deaths. In all cases, confidence is the ruling card. Because of the competitive stance that all emcees are prone to take, they, like soldiers begin to believe that they can show no sign of vulnerability. Thus, the most popular emcees of our age are often those that claim to be heartless or show no feelings or signs of emotion. The poet, on the other hand, is the one who realizes that their vulnerability is their power. Like you, unafraid to shed tears on countless shows, the poet finds strength in exposing their humanity, their vulnerability, thus making it possible for us to find connection and strength through their work. Many emcees have been poets. But, no, Ms. Winfrey, not all emcees are poets. Many choose gangsterism and business over the emotional terrain through which true artistry will lead. But they are not to blame. I would now like to address your question of leadership.

You may recall that in immediate response to the attacks of September 11th, our president took the national stage to say to the American public and the world that we would “…show no sign of vulnerability”. Here is the same word that distinguishes poets from rappers, but in its history, more accurately, women from men. To make such a statement is to align oneself with the ideology that instills in us a sense of vulnerability meaning “weakness”. And these meanings all take their place under the heading of what we consciously or subconsciously characterize as traits of the feminine. The weapon of mass destruction is the one that asserts that a holy trinity would be a father, a male child, and a ghost when common sense tells us that the holiest of trinities would be a mother, a father, and a child: Family. The vulnerability that we see as weakness is the saving grace of the drunken driver who because of their drunken/vulnerable state survives the fatal accident that kills the passengers in the approaching vehicle who tighten their grip and show no physical vulnerability in the face of their fear. Vulnerability is also the saving grace of the skate boarder who attempts a trick and remembers to stay loose and not tense during their fall. Likewise, vulnerability has been the saving grace of the African American struggle as we have been whipped, jailed, spat upon, called names, and killed, yet continue to strive forward mostly non-violently towards our highest goals. But today we are at a crossroads, because the institutions that have sold us the crosses we wear around our necks are the most overt in the denigration of women and thus humanity. That is why I write you today, Ms. Winfrey. We cannot address the root of what plagues Hip Hop without addressing the root of what plagues today’s society and the world.

You see, Ms. Winfrey, at it’s worse; Hip Hop is simply a reflection of the society that birthed it. Our love affair with gangsterism and the denigration of women is not rooted in Hip Hop; rather it is rooted in the very core of our personal faith and religions. The gangsters that rule Hip Hop are the same gangsters that rule our nation. 50 Cent and George Bush have the same birthday (July 6th). For a Hip Hop artist to say “I do what I wanna do/Don’t care if I get caught/The DA could play this mothaf@kin tape in court/I’ll kill you/ I ain’t playin’” epitomizes the confidence and braggadocio we expect an admire from a rapper who claims to represent the lowest denominator. When a world leader with the spirit of a cowboy (the true original gangster of the West: raping, stealing land, and pillaging, as we clapped and cheered.) takes the position of doing what he wants to do, regardless of whether the UN or American public would take him to court, then we have witnessed true gangsterism and violent negligence. Yet, there is nothing more negligent than attempting to address a problem one finds on a branch by censoring the leaves.

Name calling, racist generalizations, sexist perceptions, are all rooted in something much deeper than an uncensored music. Like the rest of the world, I watched footage on AOL of you dancing mindlessly to 50 Cent on your fiftieth birthday as he proclaimed, “I got the ex/if you’re into taking drugs/ I’m into having sex/ I ain’t into making love” and you looked like you were having a great time. No judgment. I like that song too. Just as I do, James Brown’s Sex Machine or Grand Master Flashes “White Lines”. Sex, drugs, and rock and roll is how the story goes. Censorship will never solve our problems. It will only foster the sub-cultures of the underground, which inevitably inhabit the mainstream. There is nothing more mainstream than the denigration of women as projected through religious doctrine. Please understand, I am by no means opposing the teachings of Jesus, by example (he wasn’t Christian), but rather the men that have used his teachings to control and manipulate the masses. Hip Hop, like Rock and Roll, like the media, and the government, all reflect an idea of power that labels vulnerability as weakness. I can only imagine the non-emotive hardness that you have had to show in order to secure your empire from the grips of those that once stood in your way: the old guard. You reflect our changing times. As time progresses we sometimes outgrow what may have served us along the way. This time, what we have outgrown, is not hip hop, rather it is the festering remnants of a God depicted as an angry and jealous male, by men who were angry and jealous over the minute role that they played in the everyday story of creation. I am sure that you have covered ideas such as these on your show, but we must make a connection before our disconnect proves fatal.

We are a nation at war. What we fail to see is that we are fighting ourselves. There is no true hatred of women in Hip Hop. At the root of our nature we inherently worship the feminine. Our overall attention to the nurturing guidance of our mothers and grandmothers as well as our ideas of what is sexy and beautiful all support this. But when the idea of the feminine is taken out of the idea of what is divine or sacred then that worship becomes objectification. When our governed morality asserts that a woman is either a virgin or a whore, then our understanding of sexuality becomes warped. Note the dangling platinum crosses over the bare asses being smacked in the videos. The emcees of my generation are the ministers of my father’s generation. They too had a warped perspective of the feminine. Censoring songs, sermons, or the tirades of radio personalities will change nothing except the format of our discussion. If we are to sincerely address the change we are praying for then we must first address to whom we are praying.

Thank you, Ms. Winfrey, for your forum, your heart, and your vision. May you find the strength and support to bring about the changes you wish to see in ways that do more than perpetuate the myth of enmity.

In loving kindness,
Saul Williams

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Are you a Hip-Hop Apologist?

Since the Imus controversy recently erupted there has been a lot of finger-pointing and blame-placing as to what the root of the problem really is. Of course, we all know that racism and sexism existed before hip-hop -- that's a given. But it's completely beside the point when our (black) culture is dictated to us by white corporations. Follow me...

For the record, most folks in our communities didn't even know Don Imus before he made headlines with his slurs (and many still don't). For the most part, we remain oblivious to the tirades of him, Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity and others who constantly malign us and foster a climate of intolerance simply because these talking heads don't speak to US. For Imus to blame black culture as being the reason for his ignorance is both sad and backwards. He's a racist and a sexist, pure and simple, and he can't blame an art form or a culture that I'm certain he has little knowledge of for his actions. The fact that he named hip-hop "culture" as a culprit is telling, however.

If you haven't noticed by now, life imitates art -- it's not the other way around. There is no stronger cultural influence on people now than popular media, and hip-hop is at the forefront. Ask almost any child about the lyrics to a popular song or a scene from a video or movie and more often then not they will know the details better than they know their school lessons. Entertainers and the culture of celebrity that we find ourselves living in often hold more weight with kids then parents, educators, preachers politicians or even sports heroes. Can we blame some rappers for selling completely out? Of course. Be we have to look at the entire picture.

The argument is often made by Russell Simmons and others that rappers are poets who simply report on what we feel and our surroundings, and that we shouldn't be censored. On that point we partially agree -- we shouldn't be censored. But balance between the negative and positive needs to be provided, and it currently isn't. Most artistic integrity is questionable at best. My understanding is that artists are supposed to express what they believe in at all costs (if not, there's work at the post office). But most don't, and they mold their approaches to making music based on what they perceive major labels wanting. If Def Jam or Interscope or any of these other large culture-defining companies issued a blanket decree that they would only support material and artists with positive messages then 99% of those making music now would switch up to accommodate. That's real talk. I'm not saying these labels should (or would), but if they did, gangstas would stop being ga! ngstas and misogynists would stop being misogynists at the drop of a DIME. Many artists are like children, and most will say and do what is expected of them in order to benefit financially. And although there is definite self-examination that needs to take place within the artist community, the lion's share of the blame falls on the enablers who only empower voices of negativity. Record labels and commercial radio often use the excuse that they are "responding to the streets" and that they are "giving the people what they want." BULLSHIT. They dictate the taste of the streets, and people can't miss what they never knew. The fact is that there are conscious decisions made by the big business and entertainment elite daily about what to present to the masses -- and it is from those choices that we are allowed to decide what we do and do not like. Who presents the music that callers are invited to "make or break" on the radio? That callers are invited to "! vote on" on T.V.? Who decides on what makes it to the store s! helves o r the airwaves at all? Like I said, life imitates art, and pseudo-black culture is determined by those other than us every day. Walk into any rap label or urban radio station and you can count the number of black employees on one hand.

The argument in response could be made in defense of labels that if they don't respond to the streets then the music will just go underground. Huh? WHAT underground? Do you know how much good material is marginalized because it doesn't fit white cooperate America's ideals of acceptability? Independents can't get radio or video play anymore, at least not through commercial outlets, and most listeners don't acknowledge material that they don't see or hear regularly on the radio or on T.V. Very few of us are willing to actually seek out material and messages to identify with. As with anything in our fast food culture, we want our entertainment choices fast and in our collective face. For most listeners, all the rest need not apply.

What I want to know is, when did the worst in us become normal and accepted? When did it become par for the corporate course that "black man as thug" and "black woman as slut" be business as usual? Major companies now line up to profit from the buffoonery of a few...at the expense of us all. MTV, Viacom, Clear Channel, Boost Mobile, Amp mobile, Chevy, all major record labels and most video games come readily to mind, but there are many others.

I'm not a hater...although I do hate the imbalance in the industry right now and the negativity it fosters. I'm not calling for censorship. You can't lump me in with the Jesse Lee Petersons and the Armstrong Williamses of the world...bourgeois self-hating black men who demean other black people and profit at our expense. And nobody can say that I'm unqualified to speak on it, since I've contributed to the sale of just under 4 million albums independently, still run my own successful counter-establishment label (www.guerrillafunk.com) and have been embracing messages of self-esteem and self-sufficiency for years.

Like I said, I'm not calling for censorship, but I am calling for balance. I'm calling for more representation of points of view other than gangsta rap and escapism. More revolutionary voices. More voices of women. Where is the diversity? Music can only be kept artificially young and artificially dumb for so long before an inevitable backlash ensues, and that's what we're seeing take place now. Overall album sales for the January 1-April 2 period are down 16.6% -- with a 20.5% decline in CD album sales since last year -- and an even greater decline in hip-hop. Since LAST YEAR (and it was already raggedy last year, believe me). We're seeing the industry implode before our eyes. I heard somebody say recently that in this current era of style over substance Stevie Wonder, Parliament/Funkadelic, Earth, Wind & Fire, Curtis Mayfield and others would never have been signed. Let tha! t sink in for a second. They would never have been signed. Some of the very architects of black music as we know it would have been sidelined too, just as countless others are now, because they wouldn't have fit into white corporate America's cookie-cutter feel-good box of acceptable black behavior and appearance. Same goes for me, Public Enemy (they'll take the Flav, but not the Chuck), Kam, X-Clan, BDP, Wise Intelligent, dead prez, Zion-I, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, The Roots, Blackalicious, Immortal Technique, The Coup, T-K.A.S.H., Michael Franti and a host of others.

So how many half-naked women sipping Cris draped in blood diamonds poolside will it take before we collectively agree that shit is tired now? How many backward-ass coons with tats and plated grills and pimp cups etc. in the strip club before we all agree that enough is enough and that we need balance? When did the bar get set so low? When will we demand more? And as for Simmons' argument that "rappers are reporting what they see" etc, how are cocaine-kingpin rhymes or poolside pimp-nigga fantasies anyone's reality? Miss me with that bullshit argument. Yes, there should be room for all voices to be heard, but we have to be treated and presented equally. Now we have bitches and hos, players and pimps, gangstas and dealers -- but no kings and queens, no revolutionaries, no dissent, no political commentary and no anger -- how is that? In an era where EVERYTHING is political and people are more disgusted with the way things are more than ever? It's no mistake. Yes! I can say that we have failed, that we have allowed black culture to once again be co-opted, diluted and prostituted. Commercial rap culture is now to hip-hop is what disco was to funk. No wonder Nas is saying it's dead.

And who's to blame? Definitely not artists like the ones mentioned above. Not most artists at all, actually, because we don't control whether or not we're seen and heard by the masses. No, the blame needs to squarely sit on the shoulders of those who run the labels, the commercial radio stations, the television studios and the large corporate sponsors who reward only the worst in us and seem hell-bent on pursuing (with little success) the most fleeting, fickle demographic of all -- 12-16 year old adolescent females. You know, the demo that's the most impressionable, with the least amount of loyalty or disposable income. Brilliant.

Know that it's okay to call shit like it is and quit being cowards worrying about who we'll offend. It's okay to blame Simmons, Lyor Cohen, Jimmy Iovine, Kevin Liles, Bob Johnson, Debra Lee, Michael Martin and others of their ilk because the blood is on their hands. They are the gatekeepers of popular culture and they are the ones who determine what you see and hear. They can't say that their decisions are based on economics when they exclude voices of reason because there are literally hundreds of millions of people globally who feel the same way. What about that consumer base? I guess that money is no good, huh? Fuck outta here... Remember, part of the strategy of mind control is to fool the public into thinking that they have choice. We do, but the playing field is so skewed in the favor of mega-corps that the contributions of the alternatives are often viewed by most as insignificant.

So yes, there is a problem, but the fake "Kumbaya" moment on Oprah recently won't solve it. Are we really going to look to those individuals who have made a killing off of pushing poison to us to fix the problem? We shouldn't. Instead, we should vote with our dollars and continue the campaign of public shame until we see some concrete change. The music industry as we know it is on its death bed. People are now more tired than ever of 'music business as usual' and style over substance.

Imus was an insignificant part of a much greater problem. Sure, his incident open up national discourse regarding issues of race and sex. And yes, it is now more apparent than ever that whites have a hard time acknowledging racist and sexist behavior in other whites as being solely their fault. Most black artists are not to blame, as we often can't been seen or heard without white help. But it's important to note that many of us can and should know better when saying and doing the things we say and do. It's easy to despise the indefensible, and media outlets like Fox News have made good money demonizing those with little real power.
But will we champion the good among us?

Paris is a successful independent hip-hop artist and founder of Guerrilla Funk Recordings, a musical organization that counters the corporate stranglehold of censorship currently plaguing the entertainment industry.

Visit Guerrilla Funk.

After Two Short Weeks

This normal one is a killer... two days to go and I am so over this week.

Tried making a mix CD last night... ended in a disaster, as per usual....

I am mister fingers and thumbs and can't decide on exactly what I want the thing to sound like

Have to try again tonight, for its for a friend who needs/wants it for a party - a 80's party.

Arghhhhhhhhhhhh

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

and now for something completely different

Hell on earth

Aid and Comfort for Torturers:
Psychology and Coercive Interrogations in Historical Perspective
By Stephen Soldz

On January 24, 2003, National Guardsman Sean Baker, stationed as a military policeman at Guantánamo detention center, volunteered to be a mock prisoner, donning an orange suit and refusing to leave his cell as part of a training exercise. As planned, an Immediate Reaction Force team of MPs attempted to extract him from the cell. When he uttered the code word, "Red," indicating that this was a drill and that he'd had enough, one of the MPs "forced my head down against the steel floor and was sort of just grinding it into the floor. The individual then, when I picked up my head and said, 'Red,' slammed my head down against the floor," says Baker. "I was so afraid, I groaned out, 'I'm a U.S. soldier.' And when I said that, he slammed my head again, one more time against the floor. And I groaned out one more time, I said, 'I'm a U.S. soldier.' And I heard them say, 'Whoa, whoa, whoa.'" Even though, unlike if Baker had been a real prisoner, the "extraction" was called off part-way
through, he was diagnosed with traumatic brain injury and was left with
permanent injuries, including frequent epileptic-style seizures.

When asked what would have happened if he had been a real detainee, Baker told CBS's 60 Minutes: "I think they would have busted him up. I've seen detainees come outta there with blood on 'em. ...If there wasn't someone to say, 'I'm a U.S. soldier,' if you were speaking Arabic or Pashto or Urdu or some other language in the camp, we may never know what would have happened to that individual."

This detention facility is one of the environments in which psychologists serve as consultants to interrogations. The American Psychological Association sees no ethical problems with psychologists serving there.

-snip-

Guantanamo and other US detention facilities are illegal and immoral institutions. They appear to be designed to break people down, to destroy them, whether they are innocent or guilty, whether they have any intelligence value or not. It is possible that they are intentional experimental facilities designed to develop and test new behavior manipulation techniques. In any case, they clearly constitute a hell on earth, the "gulag of out time" as Amnesty International described Guantanamo. It is well past time that the United States start respecting those lofty human rights sentiments spouted by our leaders and enshrined in our laws and binding international treaties.

It is also long past time that psychology as a profession, along with the other health professions, starts contributing to the building of respect for humanity rather than aiding the creation of hell. As Harry Stack Sullivan clearly stated long ago: " We are all much more simply human than otherwise." Surely we, as psychologists and psychoanalysts, should be leaders in recognizing the humanity of all, even those identified as alleged "terrorists." Surely, carrying out our duties as psychologists, as citizens, and as human beings is of far greater importance than is maintaining our professional access to the levers of power. If not, then humanity has no need of our profession.


Full text here

What the fuck is up USA..... only the deaf, dumb and blind are buying your pathetic justifications and inane excuses for your war on freedom.

depressing this modern world of ours....

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Who am I












Your dominant tribes are Grey Lynn and Raglan

You cherish the notion of living simply, in harmony with nature. You're motivated to put principles into practice rather than just talking the talk.


The Grey Lynn Tribe - Intellectual

The highly educated intelligentsia who value ideas above material things and intellectualise every element of their lives. Their most prized possession is a painting by the artist of the moment, they frequent film festivals, secretly wish they had more gay and Maori friends, feel guilty about discussing property values and deep down are uneasy about their passion for rugby.


The Raglan Tribe Free spirited

The independent spirits who value the ability to live a life according to their own priorities, not the consumerist pressures for material aggrandizement. They tend to be highly sensate and internally focussed hedonists, or spiritual journeyers, fitness fanatics or adrenaline junkies. Many Kiwis join the Raglan tribe for three weeks at Christmas.

For more information about your dominant tribes please follow these links:-

The Grey Lynn Tribe - Intellectual
The Raglan Tribe Free spirited

All Tribes

Friday, April 13, 2007

Celebrate


Bonded at Birth

How a CIA Coup d'État in Iran and My Life Became One
by Behzad Yaghmaian

I am a child of the coup d'état, born in Iran a few days after the CIA helped overthrow the popular, democratic government of Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh in 1953.

Not long before my birth, facing nationwide protests, the Shah of Iran was forced to abdicate his power and flee the country. My mother used to tell me how men and women celebrated in the streets, how strangers gave flowers and sweets to each other. "The Shah left," they cried with joy. However, the celebration did not last long. In just a few more days, the political landscape changed again. Men paid by the U.S. government began to roam the streets of Tehran, armed with truncheons and chains, assaulting Mossadegh's supporters. Soon the Shah returned and Mossadegh was put under house arrest. That was when I was born.

A witch-hunt for the followers of Mossadegh, communists, anyone who opposed the Shah and the coup d'état now began. Many were jailed -- and tortured. Some opposition figures went underground or left the country; the rest lived in fear of the Shah and, within a few years, the SAVAK, his brutal secret police (also set up with CIA help).

Even as a child, I knew about the SAVAK. I remember adults whispering about it at family gatherings. The fear was palpable. I drew the obvious conclusion: The SAVAK was more powerful and far more horrible than Zahhak, a legendary Iranian monster with snakes growing out of his shoulders that I feared as a child.

My family did not respect the Shah or America; they feared them. My father forbade us to mention them at family gatherings. "Politics is not any of our business," he would say. It was his mantra. He feared being spied on by the SAVAK, our neighbors, or strangers. Later, I learned how the Americans helped create the SAVAK, trained the Shah's torturers, advised the Shah, and closed their eyes to everything that happened in his political prisons. I was told how young men and women were tortured in these jails and I came to agree with my father; politics was not any of my business.

When I was in the fifth grade, I first saw tanks, soldiers, and angry protesters -- at the intersection by my home. Sticks in their hands, and throwing stones, these men broke the windows of our local phone booth and of the stores around the intersection. They were shouting, "Death to the Shah," "Death to America." I heard the gunshots -- many of them. Scared, yet curious, I went to the rooftop of my house to watch the chanting men. "Come downstairs," my father shouted. "This isn't any of our business."

My home was near the main army barracks in Tehran, the elementary school I attended only a short walk away from the scene of serious street riots. The school was somehow an extension of my family: my uncle was the principal, my mother and aunt teachers. I understood the seriousness of what was happening on the streets only when, in the middle of taking an arithmetic exam, I noticed the vice principal and my aunt in our classroom, whispering to my teacher and glancing at me. I was only half-done when the teacher walked over, examined my test papers, and whispered the remaining answers to me.

Joining my aunt, I raced home through the tense, half-deserted streets of my neighborhood, leaving the other students struggling with the exam. "Too dangerous to be out. Everyone was worried for you," my aunt said. I did not leave home again that day or the next.

In the streets in those days -- it was 1963 -- people talked about a man they called Ayatollah Khomeini. Some liked him; others did not. I was too young to understand any of the adult discussions around me, but I could grasp the meaning of the tanks on our streets. Later, I learned that they were in my neighborhood to quell a rebellion by Khomeini's supporters. As a result, he was exiled to Iraq.

In high school, I would see police officers in helmets, swinging their truncheons outside the campus of Tehran University; sometimes I even saw them beating protesting students. But I would walk away, staying out of trouble just as my elders had advised me.

Onto the Streets

Then, one day in February 1970, I didn't walk away.

At six in the morning, my mother woke me and sent off on the chore I hated most, buying fresh bread for breakfast. In the neighborhood bakery, I was dawdling, enjoying the heat of the fire from the glowing oven, the intoxicating aroma of fresh bread, when a young man in black trousers, a suit jacket that didn't match, and a brown, hand-knitted V-neck sweater pulled over a shirt of a different color approached me. Short and unassuming, he had an instantly forgettable face that I remember vividly to this day.

"Sorry for intruding," he said politely, introducing himself as a student from Tehran University. I can't claim to recall the details of our conversation, only his question, the one that intrigued me, but left me uncomfortable and scared.

"Do you know about the student strike over the bus-fare hike?" he asked. I did not, I told him, but I certainly knew about the Shah's recently announced plan to increase fares by 150%. Everyone did. This threatened to make my life far more difficult. I was born to a lower middle-class family and the fare hike would have meant taking the bus to school, but walking forty-five minutes to get home. Like many in my school, I was, until that moment, prepared to do exactly that. End of story.

Quietly but passionately, the young man told me of the student decision to force the government to retract its new policy. "Will you come out and join us?" he asked, encouraging me to boycott my high-school classes that day and do just what I had always feared: protest. Although there were no other customers in the bakery, the pervasive fear of being watched by the SAVAK left me feeling uncomfortable. As soon as my bread had been slipped out of the oven, I paid the baker, shook the young man's hand, and rushed home -- not, of course, mentioning a word about my unexpected encounter.

I took the bus to school that morning and was attending a lecture in physics when a sudden uproar in the hallway disrupted my peace. Stamping feet, banging on doors, hundreds of students were marching through the corridors, shouting, inviting everyone to join them in the school courtyard. The teacher, hoping to maintain order, continued his lecture, but his students simply packed up their books and stormed from the classroom. Following them without hesitation, I joined the protest. For a brief moment, my fears, it seemed, had vanished.

From that courtyard, we poured into the streets -- against the Shah, against America, against everything that had once terrified me -- disrupting traffic, joining others from nearby schools. Rumors circulated in the crowd. Arrests had been made at Tehran University. Students had attacked the Iran-America Society Cultural Center, breaking windows and chanting anti-American slogans. Later that day, we rode the bus home -- free. The next day, the government announced a policy reversal: The bus fares would be left unchanged.

A World of Silences

In college in the early 1970s, some of my classmates would disappear for weeks or months at a time. No one asked why. Everyone knew they had been taken away by the SAVAK. When they returned, we still did not ask questions.

This happened to a classmate I respected. Like the young university student I met at that bakery, he was provincial. Most of the other students in the school wore jeans or more stylish Western outfits; he wore trousers and suit jackets, the typical outfit of provincial folks. Different as we were, he often engaged me in conversations about life and our studies.

One day, he stopped coming to school. A week passed, then another and another; still, his seat remained empty. There were whispers about his whereabouts, but no one discussed his absence openly. Soon, other students began disappearing: a petite woman, a tall bearded fellow, and a youth from a far-away province.

Three months passed... and then, one morning, I saw him sitting alone on a bench in the main lobby of our school, thin and frail. I embraced him, said a few words, and departed. I wanted to ask questions; I did not. He wanted to tell me stories; he did not. And life went on in that silence.

"No Gas for Iranians"

I left Iran for graduate studies in the United States in 1976. On February 9, 1979, an Islamic government replaced the Shah's regime. I watched the mass protests and shootings in Tehran from New York on television. Once again, there were those tanks in the streets and people chanting "Death to the Shah," "Death to America." Once again, they were joyously shouting "Long Live Khomeini." The Shah fled the country. I was happy to see him go, happy Iran was free of America.

I read how students and ordinary citizens stormed the Shah's prisons, unlocking every cell, freeing all political prisoners. Some had been in jail since the 1953 coup d'état. Those opening the prisons fancied turning them into museums, which would educate future generations in the wrongdoings of the Shah and his American supporters. No longer, they dreamed, would Iranians be tortured for opposing them.

Such hopes, unfortunately, did not last. By the time I returned to Iran in the summer of 1979, the country was already facing life under a repressive theocratic state, albeit an anti-American one. Iranians who took part in the mass movement in the streets which, miraculously, overthrew the Shah were now dealing with a government that wished to control every aspect of their lives. It promptly banned all music, foreign movies, and theater; subjected women to what it considered an Islamic hijab, forcing them to cover their hair and wear baggy robes in dark colors; it had no hesitation about shutting down newspapers and magazines that questioned its policies. Government militias and paid thugs raided the headquarters of oppositional political organizations, attacked bookstores, and burnt books.

By that fall, the Shah's political prisons were once again being used to jail and torture Iranians. Many of the freed political prisoners had been returned to their cells. Ironically, this time around, they were charged with being friends of America, aka "the Great Satan." Anyone who challenged the government was accused of helping the United States to undermine the Islamic Republic, the cold war with the Great Satan was now a convenient pretext for imprisoning journalists, writers, and student activists -- anyone, in fact, who dared to disagree with the reining theocrats. They were labeled "enemies of the state," "agents of America." It was the beginning of a new era.

And yet much remained eerily the same. With many still being jailed and tortured, this time for liking America or being considered its voice in Iran, we Iranians remained hostages to the strange, entangled, never-ending relationship between the two countries.

In the U.S., Iran now underwent a similar transformation from ally to enemy after a group of student backers of Khomeini seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, holding 50 of its residents hostage for 444 days. I was back in the Bronx, attending Fordham University, when, during that crisis, Ronald Reagan termed Iranians "barbarians." If I was hurt by the label, the Iranian government welcomed it as the best proof of America's "animosity towards the Islamic Revolution."

The hostage crisis opened a new chapter in the Iranian-American relationship, evoking anger among some of my fellow students at Fordham. A long banner, for instance, hanging from a wall of one of the dormitories read: "Save Oil, Burn Iranians." Hoping to offer a sense of the Iranian grievances against the U.S. that lay behind these events, I agreed to be interviewed by the student paper. I explained the way the effects of the CIA's covert action in the 1953 coup had rippled down to our moment, how Iranian democracy had been a victim of American support for the Shah.

A few days after the interview was published, in a letter to the paper's editor, a group of students wrote, "The Iranian student must watch his back when he walks home alone late at night." Similar threats continued, along with occasional physical harassment. Meanwhile, Iranian students in southern states were reportedly denied service at restaurants and gas stations -- "No Gas for Iranians," was a gas-station sign of the times; some were even beaten up.

The Reagan administration only increased its rhetoric against Iran in this period, matched phrase for phrase by the Iranians, as the war of words between the two countries became ever more intense. Action replaced words after Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein invaded Iran in 1980, starting an eight-year bloodletting between the two countries that would leave hundreds of thousands dead and wounded.

Hoping to weaken, or perhaps topple, the Islamic Republic, the U.S. and its regional allies -- Saudi Arabia and the Arab Emirates -- aided the Iraqi war effort, providing Saddam with large grants and credit. Later in the conflict, the Pentagon provided Iraq with invaluable operational and planning intelligence as well as satellite information about the movements of Iranian forces, even when it knew that Saddam would use nerve gas against them. Meanwhile, the besieged Iranian government continued to persecute its domestic critics, accusing them of being the agents of the "Great Satan."

Loving the Great Satan

Like many Iranians studying in universities in the West, I stayed away from Iran, later applying for U.S. citizenship and making this country my new home. In May 1995, after sixteen years, I returned as a visiting university lecturer, part of a special United Nations program. The Iran of my childhood was all but gone. Large murals of the "fallen martyrs" of the Iran-Iraq War, and anti-American posters were everywhere. The security forces and the bassij -- the "moral police" -- patrolled the streets in their jeeps and station wagons. The war with Iraq had long ended, but Tehran remained visibly under its shadow -- a city of martyrs and anti-American warriors, the authorities proclaimed.

Even the street names had changed; many were now named after the martyrs of that brutal war. There was nothing left of my old neighborhood. My home, the bakery, my elementary school, everything had been razed. In their place were a freeway and new residential projects. I recognized only four homes at the far end of the alley where I grew up. On a discolored and bent plaque nailed to a wall was the name of one of my childhood playmates: "Martyr Ali Sharbatoghli."

Inside Tehran homes, behind closed doors, lay another Iran, startlingly unlike the façade so carefully constructed by the government. In the streets, women covered their hair and wore long, baggy robes to disguise their curves; inside they wore Western clothes -- jeans and revealing dresses. They lived two lives.

A version of America, as filtered through Hollywood (and Iranian exiles in Southern California), was in every home. Through bootlegged music from LA, or the songs of Pink Floyd, Metallica, Guns N' Roses, and other Western rock icons of the time, Tehranis embraced what the government called "the infidel." They danced to his music and imitated the lifestyle they absorbed from satellite TV and pirated Hollywood films. Tapes of American movies sometimes made it to the Iranian capital before they were commercially released in the U.S. Even those who opposed the U.S. politically and could not forgive or forget its role in the 1953 coup and the Shah's prison state found joy in American pop culture. In private conversations, relatives, friends, even absolute strangers inquired about my life in the States or the possibility of somehow escaping to America.

It appeared that Iranians could not live without America. Even the government needed the Great Satan to repress its opponents, while Tehranis took refuge in American pop culture to escape the life created for them by that very government.

In 1997, two years after my visit, a smiling reformist cleric, Mohammad Khatami, became president. Iranians were energized. Hope returned. And when I visited in July 1998, it seemed that a new Iran was truly emerging. Khatami was but one of many original architects of the Islamic Republic who were now calling for a change in direction: a reversal of foreign policy, a freer press, and the expansion of civil liberties.

Khatami himself championed a radical change in Iran's foreign policy, advocating what was called a "dialogue of civilizations." He set a new tone, calling, in fact, for a rapprochement between Iran and the West, especially the United States. Khatami's presidency helped bring into the open deep divisions inside the country: between the government and the people as well as within that government itself. It also highlighted the touchstone role the U.S. continued to play in Iranian politics and society.

Now, however, for the first time in a quarter-century, many believed an opportunity existed to end the hostility that had only hurt the Iranian people. Young and old, Iranians seemed to welcome this chance. Even some among the former Embassy hostage-takers expressed regrets and became a part of the growing reform movement, while advocating rapprochement with America. Four years after Khatami was elected president, a poll administered by Abbas Abdi, one of the student leaders of the hostage-taking, revealed that 75% of Iranians favored dialogue with the American people. Abdi was subsequently jailed.

Despite resistance from conservatives, an independent press was emerging; old taboos were being questioned. There were political rallies that not long before would have led directly to jail; there were informal meetings, debates, protests, art exhibits, theater openings, and a burst of other forms of political and artistic expression. The fear and anxiety I had sensed everywhere two years earlier seemed to have abated. Young men and women openly defied the government through their body politics, their recurring protests, their fearless confrontations with the police. They broke taboos, expressed their feelings openly, and risked beatings and arrest. I encountered a small group of such young Iranians during my overnight detention in Tehran -- a vision of what a new Iranian society might have felt like and a painful reminder that the forces of the old order were still alive and all too well.

My Night in Jail

It was a mild evening in February 1999. I was sitting on a park bench with a female friend when two members of the security forces walked towards me. By the time the thought of escaping crossed my mind, it was already too late. I imagined the worst. There I was in the park in the dark with a woman not related to me by blood or marriage. In those days, that was still a crime in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

"Get up, get up, let's go," one guard demanded.

I asked for an explanation.

"Shut up. Let's go," he insisted, demanding my identification card. All I had was my faculty ID from Ramapo College in New Jersey. Uneducated, the guards could not read the card.

"What is this?"

I responded that I was a professor from America visiting my ailing father in Tehran.

"America..." the guard repeated the word, still holding my card, but now staring at me. Had I thought about it, I would have realized that an American ID card would be used against me, and my appearance -- I was wearing a fashionable winter coat and a long scarf -- a cause of envy and anger.

My friend and I now had no choice but to follow the guards to a building on the north end of the park. We were ushered into a room where there were other arrested young men and women, a few uniformed officers, and a middle-aged man in plainclothes behind a desk.

"Against the wall! Stay right there!" shouted the arresting guard.

The man in plainclothes asked about us and the guard showed him our identification cards. "A professor from the United States," said the guard.

"Get over here!" the man shouted.

Approaching his desk, I began, "Why am I ...?" but his heavy hand crashing into my face cut my question short. I hit the wall behind me.

"What's that fuzz under your lips?" the interrogator asked, pointing to the small patch of hair. "Did your mommy tell you to grow this?" Laughter erupted.

"I'll break you into pieces before I let you go," said the man. "Do you think this is Los Angeles? We'll show you where you are. This is Iran not America. We'll show you!" And he struck my face again with that heavy hand. Having nearly lost my balance, I leaned against the wall.

"I'll show you where you are," he kept repeating, staring at my faculty ID card, then turning and hitting me. By now he was smiling triumphantly, while armed, uniformed men kept wandering into the room to stare at me, inspect me from head to toe. "American," they would say, with a mixture of wonderment and contempt, looking at each other, laughing. My face was throbbing, my ears literally ringing from the repeated strikes. I remained silent, wishing this were a bad dream.

Two hours of insults and beatings followed before the interrogation ended. I was then handcuffed and two soldiers took me to a nearby temporary jail for those committing "moral deviance." A metal door opened. I entered. "Take off your belt and shoelaces," said the prison guard. I handed him my keys and other sharp objects. The metal door closed behind me. I was officially jailed.

"This is your home for the night," the guard said, opening the door to a small, stuffy, windowless cell. It was packed with young men, sitting on the dirty carpet, leaning against the wall. "Welcome," a number of them said.

"Please, here..." a thin man in his early twenties squeezed aside to open a space for me.

"What are you doing here? You don't seem to belong," said another man. Without hesitation, I told my story. Intrigued and excited by the presence of a visitor from America, they seized the moment. In no time, I was flooded with questions about life, music, girls, about all that was officially forbidden in Iran.

"Have you been to Los Angeles?" a talkative young man inquired. "I would do anything to go there!" Others floated the names of Iranian singers living in Los Angeles -- the exiled singers of the Shah's time and new pop stars. "Have you ever seen Sandy in person?" a very young inmate asked about a singer I had never heard of. "How many times have you gone to Dariush's concerts?" he asked about the most popular singer among the young before the Islamic revolution. "How does he look in person? Give him my regards."

Another young inmate quietly inquired about Pink Floyd and Santana. "Have you ever gone to a Pink Floyd concert?" he asked in an awed whispered. I remembered my own youth, those long hours listening to Pink Floyd and Dariush, that same longing for a chance to see them in person. A generation later, in an Islamic republic, what had changed?

"How can I emigrate to America?" a man, who hadn't said a word, asked from across the room.

Suddenly, an older inmate began singing a popular song associated with Hayedeh, an icon from the Shah's time. She had died in exile in Los Angeles five years earlier. The cell fell into silence.

My night in prison ended and I was taken to court the next morning. As I left the cell, the inmates embraced me one by one, promising to remain in touch. "Say hello to Los Angeles," an inmate said jauntily. "Write about us in the newspapers. Tell people about our conditions. Don't forget us."

I was handcuffed, put in a van, and driven away to court. Later that day, I was released on bail; many of the men in my cell undoubtedly didn't have the same luck, remaining behind closed doors, dreaming of their favorite singers in America. My moment among them was a reminder of the gulf that separated our worlds. Soon enough -- far sooner than I wanted -- I would return to the U.S.; they would remain in embattled Iran, only dreaming about America.

How I left

My departure was unexpected. It came after a week of nationwide protests against the government. On July 8, 1999 -- just as in my youth -- a small contingent of students left the housing compound of Tehran University, marching in protest this time against the closure of the reformist newspaper Salam. It was a peaceful demonstration which ended without a confrontation with the authorities as the protesting students returned to their rooms that evening. In the early morning hours of July 9, however, the anti-riot police and plainclothes thugs burst into the housing compound, assaulting sleeping students with chains and batons, even setting rooms on fire. One student was killed; many were injured and taken away to jail.

By midday, news of the attack had reached university campuses all across the city; hundreds now joined the embattled students of Tehran University, setting up barricades, occupying the housing compound. By the time I arrived, ordinary citizens had already joined in, while the student protest had moved out of the university and been transformed into a full-blown street riot.

On July 10, thousands of students and youths gathered at the entrance of Tehran University, chanting slogans against the Supreme Religious Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, shouting "Death to the Dictator" and "Freedom Now." In the streets around the university's historic entrance, scenes reminiscent of the 1979 revolution were taking place. Stores were shut down for fear of violence.

On July 12, Ayatollah Khamenei responded by calling the protesters "agents of America" and ordering a clampdown. "Our main enemies in spying networks are the designers of these plots," he declared. "Where do you think the money that is allocated by the U.S. Congress to campaign against the Islamic Republic of Iran is being spent? No doubt that that budget and a sum several times larger are spent on such schemes against Iran."

Two days later, swinging their truncheons and thick chains, anti-riot police and bearded men in slippers attacked the demonstrators. More than two thousand of them were jailed. The student uprising was put down. Soon after, I received a call from a journalist friend.

"Do you have an exit visa on your passport? Leave Iran quietly and soon," he said.

A cell within the Ministry of Intelligence, he informed me, had compiled a "thick file" about my activities in Iran. The government was now looking for scapegoats, people they could blame for the student protests. My profile fit the bill perfectly for the Islamic Republic. After all, I was an American citizen, gave lectures on political economy, wrote weekly columns for reformist papers, traveled in and out of Iran, and had close ties with the students. "Spying for America" was a common charge for people like me in those days. I was to be framed and displayed to the public as an enemy of the state.

Fearing for my life, I went into hiding and, on July 19, flew to Dubai. A week later, I was back in New York. My short rendezvous with even a limited democracy in Iran had ended.

Dreams of War, Dreams of Peace

Many things have changed in Iran since 1999. The reformists have largely been pushed out of the government. The new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and the people around him have been working hard to reverse whatever progress was made in the areas of foreign policy and civil liberties during Khatami's presidency.

Changes no less important occurred in the United States, which, of course, got its own fundamentalist government in 2000. In 2002, President George W. Bush declared Iran an official member of his "Axis of Evil," and, in the past few years, the anti-Iranian rhetoric has only escalated. Iran is now viewed by the current administration as the main threat to American interests in the Middle East, the premier rogue state in the region, a supporter of international terrorism, and enough of a menace to warrant war planning on a major scale. Officials in Iran have been using similar rhetoric about America. The war of words has reached dangerous levels. A real war seems conceivable.

For two years now, respected investigative journalists like the New Yorker's Seymour Hersh have been reporting on the existence of elaborate Bush administration preparations for a full-scale air campaign on Iran, possibly including the "nuclear option." The administration's obsession with Iran's nuclear ambitions, its rhetoric about the danger of a nuclear Iran to Israel and to world security, and its orchestrated efforts (and relative success) in referring Iran's case to the Security Council all seem like the prelude to a war against Iran. Adding to this impression are the administration's drumbeat of claims about Iranian "interference" in Iraq, its contribution to American casualties by supposedly supplying advanced elements for the making of roadside bombs to the Iraqi insurgency, as well as its support for terrorist movements in Lebanon and Palestine (as Mr. Bush repeated in his 2006 State of the Union Address). In addition, the dispatching of more aircraft carrier task forces to the Persian Gulf and the arrest of Iranian diplomats in Iraq only increase my fears of war. Is it truly possible that this administration could launch such a war against my childhood home, creating a new, more horrific version of 1953, another half-century-plus of bitterness, another half-century-plus of an Iranian obsession with America?

The specter of war is haunting me now. Recurring nightmares interrupt my sleep. I see those last houses in my old neighborhood reduced to rubble and dust, bridges destroyed, homes burned to the ground. In my solitude, I wonder how my neighbors in New York will treat me if a war breaks out. Will they display American flag decals on their windows? Will they tie yellow ribbons to trees? I think of my students, and wonder whether they will see me as an enemy the day the United States begins bombing Iran or will they think to consol me, to ask how my family is coping with the war? Will they sooner or later be dispatched to Iran to aim their guns at my loved ones?

I wish to tell my students and neighbors of the dream I have been carrying with me for years. I dream, someday, of returning to the place I've kept so close to my heart, of breathing the fresh air in the mountains surrounding Tehran, of drinking tea in the humble teahouses on the bank of the narrow stream that gives life to those barren hills. I dream of buying fresh parsley and tomatoes from the old man on the street corner next to my mother's home, greeting the baker with a smile.

Will American bombs kill my dream?

Article taken from here

Give peas a chance....