Archive for Rant

Library books

Hey dumbass, guess what: Other people need to take out books from the library, too.

No, it’s true. They’ve proven this empirically. I saw it in a book I took out from the library. I noticed that fact because you happened to underline it. Along with everything else on that page. Which, apparently, was important to you. Thank you, also, for writing down in the margins several key words that you noticed in the paragraphs. That they were of no significance to the argument or the book in general explains something. You also happened to underline and highlight most of Chapters 3 and 4. I wonder why you ignored the rest of the book.

Maybe because you’re an idiot?

Remember, signing out a book from the library is a privilege. The act does not confer ownership of the book to you. So don’t write in it. This isn’t socialism you punk ass bitch.

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On Marxism and Eurocentrism

Well. I’m not going to apologize for being a Marxist.

But it seems that there are some people for whom I have become a caricature of myself, a caricature of a Marxist. No, I’ve never tried to sell papers to you, and though I may have suggested reading a piece or two by Marx, I certainly don’t think I’ve hit you over the head with anything. Oh, I return to Marxist perspectives and ideas in our conversations, sometimes explicitly referring to them as Marxist and other times not, but you can tell — right? — you can tell that that’s Marxist.

And for you, of course, that’s a problem. Because, I guess, Marx is white? Or Marx is European? Marx was Eurocentric? Okay.

And of course, I’ve lost my way. We — those of us who aren’t white — must, by all and every means reject everything that is Western. And, I suppose you imagine that I’ve never had to wrestle with this sense of being detached from my own reality, of being detached and disgusted and even insulted because when I go into a library and stare at a shelf of books on a topic the only thing I can find from the general direction from where I came is some Orientalist’s rendering of an 11th century scholar anyway. So we must reject all of the Western shit because it is Western. No, we must. We must have a visceral distaste for the West and Eurocentrism and look for “alternative epistemologies” and ways of looking at things. Just because.

Which is fine. I don’t envy you your alternative epistemologies. And perhaps you’ve read a couple of Marx’s works yourselves, though I doubt it, and more likely you’ve read a critique of Marx written by some scholar who is far out of his field of expertise. Maybe not even that.

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Writing & The Pursuit of Happyness

I have a bit of a propensity to avoid writing. It’s not that I dislike writing, I don’t; it’s more like I can’t be bothered to write out something once I’ve figured it out in my head. This explains how I approach essays and papers — once it’s in my head, that is to say, once I’ve assembled and arranged my research and my arguments, writing the actual essay is akin to moving a mountain. It also explains why I don’t blog much. If I really need to get something out, I might spill it out to an unsuspecting (and nonplussed) acquaintance — who perhaps writes off my momentary lapse of restraint to my eccentricity (or, weirdness), and as this occurrence replicates itself he may simply consider it to be the cost of engaging in otherwise mundane conversations with me (few, and happily, far between). When I can’t do that, I may end up typing whatever it is out, in a blog post. Other times — and this is perhaps most of the times I do write — I’m motivated by anger, frustration, or a pensive (or nostalgic) mood. Sometimes I may rant to a person and then refine that into a blog post.

I also don’t seem to find the time to indulge in fiction — that is to say, reading novels or watching many films (I do follow certain television shows regularly, though). The last novel I read was To Kill a Mockingbird out of some sense of obligation to my general schooling — though it was never on the curriculum. Until yesterday, the last film I can remember having actually sat down to watch was Spider-Man 3 — in the cinema — that is, not including documentaries. I’m no film critic or theorist — and to the extent that I’m interested in film criticism and theory, it’s for general aesthetic principles and not because of my love of the medium — there is no list of films sitting on my desktop waiting to be consummated. I read and watch far more non-fiction than I do fiction. Indeed, when recently asked if I read fiction, I responded, “Yes, I read the news.” This dearth of fiction doesn’t include comics, of course. I have almost an obsession with the medium, which means I read just about everything I can get my hands on, when I get the time to do so.

In the past few days I’ve been reading plays written by Bertolt Brecht (his plays are much easier to find than his poetry or his works on aesthetic theory) and have started on his novelization of his play, Threepenny Opera — the novel, aptly enough, is titled Threepenny Novel. Additionally, in the past two days I downloaded and watched several films, some of which I’ve been meaning to watch for a long time: Hitch, Hero, Thank You For Smoking, Art School Confidential, Stranger Than Fiction, and The Pursuit of Happyness.

Although all of these films, in their own ways, have something to say about love, life, politics and happiness, the last in particular — The Pursuit of Happyness — raised my ire most.

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Brian K. Vaughan on Arabs and Muslims

Here is an analysis of Y: The Last Man and Ex Machina, both ongoing comics series by writer Brian K. Vaughan. My criticisms deal with his portrayal of Arabs and Muslims. I am focusing specifically on Y: The Last Man #48 (hereon referred to as “Y”) and Ex Machina #19 and #20. If you haven’t read those, you will have no idea what’s going on. And I’m too lazy to cut and paste images. I might tighten this up into a proper essay sometime in the future.

The problem in Y #48 — and Y in general is that the Israelis speak for the Arabs. Literally no Arabs speak in the entire series, except at one point early on where two assassins communicate with each other in Arabic (“qaf” — i.e., stop) — and I don’t even know if they were actually Arabs. While I agree that Vaughan’s presentation is more sophisticated than a lot of other portrayals and media sources, it’s still lacking, sorely. Can the Palestinians speak? Not for Vaughan, they don’t. Palestine is a place for Alter to prove her tenacity, intelligence, bravery and just fury — and to explain her subsequent obsessions. It’s not a place for the Palestinians to speak, not a place for Palestinians to live and to be Palestinian (maybe this is a reproduction of the occupation itself?).

I believe Vaughan reflects the widely distributed view, “Yes, Israelis engage in some oppression of Palestinians, but if only the Palestinians would stop their terrorism, then the Israelis wouldn’t have to do this.” Here, we’ve got Alter blaming the Palestinians for the death of her sister, Rachel (definitely an allusion to Rachel Corrie) who dies standing in front of an IDF bulldozer. When Sadie questions her about this, Alter responds, and ends at how the IDF is forced to take such action because Egyptians and Palestinians build arms-smuggling tunnels beneath houses.

Again, two things, first Rachel is the peaceful defender of Palestinians — Palestinians, whenever shown as resisting, are violent (whether they shoot, bomb or throw stones). Second, none of them engage in any kind of rational explanation for why they do what they do, Rachel explains it, and then takes the “rational” ( i.e., nonviolent) step in their defense.

We can see this view (“if only the Palestinians would stop with their mindless terrorism”), again, in Ex Machina #19. Mayor Hundred calls for a meeting of religious leaders to inform them about something. We have a relatively belligerent (and African-American) imam talking about racial and ethnic profiling. Rabbi Levy interrupts to say “I’m sorry to interrupt the obligatory reminder about Islam being synonymous with peace, but I find it difficult to listen to speeches on morality from a man whose organization provides material support to Hamas.”

Hundred pulls Levy out of the meeting, and Levy then says, “Forgive me, Mr. Mayor, but my nephew was killed in a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv, and I have very little patience for–” before Hundred interrupts him and tells him that that’s not why he pulled him out of the meeting.

But let’s see what’s happening here. Neither in Y nor Ex Machina do any Israelis kill any Palestinians — we don’t see or hear it (even when we first see Alter in Y #1, she’s shooting rubber bullets above the heads of the Palestinians) — but Palestinians do kill (or engage in violence) against Israelis. And then we’ve got this allegation left floating in the air, that this imam, who ostensibly represents all the Muslims in New York City and by extension all Muslims in America (and I’m assuming that’s a lot of Muslims), materially funds Hamas. (Who materially funds the IDF?)

Let’s move on, Hundred asks Levy for some kind of favour. Levy asks if he’ll boost security around synagogues the way it is around mosques, Hundred says that there are actual bomb threats to mosques, and besides, the Jewish community will do it because it’s the right thing to do. The negative here is what concerns me, Jews do things because it’s the right thing to do. Muslims … ? They materially fund Hamas. (Who materially funds the IDF?)

addendum: Moreover, Vaughan’s summary dismissal (via Rabbi Levy) of the imam’s statement that he will condemn terrorist Muslims, if so proven, reflects another widely distributed view, “Muslims talk a good game about how their religion means peace, but why can’t they control/act against all these terrorists?” This view, of course, is quite racist and ignores historical and social realities, as if a Muslim in North America is responsible for the actions or politics of Muslims in some other part of the world. But that’s precisely what Vaughan thinks — because apparently this imam’s organizaton materially funds Hamas. (Who materially funds the IDF?) /addendum

In Ex Machina #20, Hundred and the police commissioner find and arrest the culprit (of the recent terrorist attack at an anti-war rally). Yes, it is an Arab (his name is Samir Hallouda), complete with mole and unibrow. However, he’s an atheist. While he identifies himself as an “American citizen … like you”, he also points out that “Believing that this is about religion is why you people are going to lose your ‘War on Terror.’”

Vaughan is trying to have his cake and eat it, too. Not only is this man a rational, scientist, atheist Arab, he’s also an American citizen. Yet, he’s just as easily one of “them” (whoever “they” are), who define themselves in opposition to “you people” (whoever “you people” are – ostensibly Americans, with whom he identified earlier). Are you confused? Yeah, so am I.

We never do find out why the man did what he did. Here, at least, the man refuses to speak (as opposed to being spoken for). But he still doesn’t speak. He refuses to explain why he supports the attacks of 9/11 or why he attacked and killed several people at the anti-war rally. Something to do with the “War on Terror” – about which, we can tell, Vaughan feels very ambiguously.

Aside from these depictions, Vaughan’s works (in Y and Ex Machina) are virtually devoid of Muslims or Arabs. Certainly devoid of any positive representations of them (that is, when they’re not being feisty black men, or violent Arabs). I haven’t included his use of the burqa as a disguise both for Yorick and for assassins, nor his shallow recap of Saudi Arabian society in my analysis. Nor am I referring to his latest work, Pride of Baghdad, which is a whole other ballgame (the lions are Africans, and there’s a lot to read into that).

My point is not that Vaughan is blatantly anti-Arab or anti-Muslim, or that he deliberately engages in that kind of imagery. However, curious aspects, as noted above, abound in his work.

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I hate this goddamned university and can’t wait until I’m far, far away from most of the dipshits who run this place. Unfortunately, their dipshittery is also impeding my getting far, far away. Assholes.

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1, 2, 3, 4 … !

The irony is that not only am I the fucking king of Spain but I also eat humble pie at the same time.

Someone out there has one (or more) video(s) of me dancing to that song. Working for the City has its moments, as well as shitty wages and treatment — “you don’t get me, I’m part of the union,”* my ass.

* “Part of the Union” by the Strawbs, inspiring union song, if you actually believe that unions are worth their salt in your country.

I don’t want to work away
Doing just what they all say
“Work hard, boy, you’ll find
“One day you’ll have a job like mine”

‘Cause I know, for sure
Nobody should be that poor
Say yes, sink low
Because you happen to say so, say so, you say so

I don’t want to work away
Doing just what they all say
“Work hard, boy, you’ll find
“One day you’ll have a job like mine, job like mine, a job like mine”

“Be wise, look ahead
“Use your eyes,” he said
“Be straight, think right”

But I might die tonight

- Cat Stevens, “But I Might Die Tonight”

Some days it’s like some bastard nailed a ticket for the bus tour down to fucking Hell to the front of my brain. For every wild everything-depends-on-it first-week-of-being-madly-in-love kiss on a streetcorner, for every beautiful woman stopping to feel the sun on her face and every child dancing in clean rain, there’s a kid living in its own shit in a dumpster somewhere while Daddy sells his ass for milk money, tanks breaking down unwanted houses just to stop homeless people squatting there….

- Warren Ellis, as Spider Jerusalem in Transmetropolitan #26

And the very fear that makes you wanna die
Is just the same as what keeps you alive
It’s way more trouble than some suicide is worth.

Won’t it be dull when we rid ourselves of all these demons haunting us
To keep us company?
Won’t it be odd to be happy like we always thought we’re supposed to feel
But never seem to be?

- Barenaked Ladies, “War on Drugs”

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Fill in the blanks!

Do you ever get the feeling that you’re someone’s experiment? A lab rat — or mouse (is that more dignified?). You might have an elaborate thing set up for you, and you think the whole world’s yours to explore but one day you realize you’re just going in circles — or something. You’re still trapped. You’re just a blank for someone else to fill. And everyone, I mean everyone, has got an opinion. And amid the clutter and the noise, you can’t notice if you ever had one yourself.

“The world needs/ought to have more <blank> like you.”

  • people
  • guys/men
  • doctors
  • teachers
  • politicians
  • Muslims
  • professors
  • students
  • activisits
  • lawyers
  • artists

And that goes on, and on, till the break of dawn.

Not to say, of course, that the flip side doesn’t exist.

“The world needs/ought to have less <blank> like you.”

  • jerks
  • pricks
  • self-righteous pricks
  • arrogant pricks
  • assholes

Pick one, or pick a few (so long as they don’t contradict — ah heck, even if they do, lab rat after all). Feel free to add your own.

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Roses

Why doesn’t every critic of Hizbullah, Hamas, Palestinian Authority, Palestinians, etc. automatically become an anti-Arab, or a racist, or pro-evil? Why is it that when someone criticizes Israel, they automatically become anti-Semites, racists, or unbalanced and unfair? Why don’t the former have to “equally condemn” the hundreds, thousands of Palestinian and Lebanese civilians who have been killed? Why is the onus on critics of Israel to also pause and “equally condemn” the Israeli civilians who have been killed? Why is it okay for Israel to act any which way it desires out of “self-defense” (or even when it isn’t defending itself), but not okay for Hamas to act against occupation?

I know you’d like to think your shit don’t stink
But lean a little bit closer
See that roses really smell like poo-poo
Yeah, roses really smell like poo-poo

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Fuck you, you careless fuckers…

If you’re fucking competent enough to type my fucking name properly in the “TO” line of the fucking e-mail, why the fuck can’t you get my name right in the fucking documentation. What the fuck is wrong with you, fucking pieces of shit, when you type “Naoman Ali (noaman.ali[at]utoronto.ca)” or better yet, “Nouman Ali (noaman.ali[at]utoronto.ca)” — how the fuck does that enter your numbnut mind, fuckheads. It’s right there! I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a Nouman Ali wondering why the fuck people are sending him messages for the President of ASSU — only, you never get my fucking e-mail address wrong. Can’t you fucking cross reference, or are you trying to teach me how to spell my fucking name just because you came across some dickwad who spells it differently. You don’t type “Pakka Sinarvo (pekka.sinervo[at]utoronto.ca)” so why can’t you have the fucking decency to take the fucking time out to spell my name right, AT LEAST ONCE, especially since my fucking name is right there in the fucking e-mail address that you had to type out to send me the fucking message in the first place, you fuckwad pieces of shit. It’s bad enough that you can’t pronounce it and try to say it as quickly as you can — at least spell it right, you fucktards. You’re supposed to be the fucking “great minds” that are part of this fucking university, fucking fuckers — get this right. It’s not like you did it once, you keep doing it again and again, fuckers. Fuck.

(Not accepting comments in case some asswipe wants to make a witty comment involving the misspelling of my name.)

Edit: accepting comments now. If you make a joke about my name I’m going to break your fucking legs and ban you, not necessarily in that order.

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Homegrown terrorism.

Police and thieves in the streets
(Oh yeah!)
Scaring the nation with their guns and ammunition

Sometimes it’s not easy to know who to be scared of — and I guess that’s the point.

Paranoia strikes deep
Into your life it will creep
It starts when you’re always afraid
You step out of line, the man come and take you away

On the one hand, if it’s all true, then we (us, them, the other, those of Muslim extraction) can easily be the victims of terrorism when, say, we ride on the TTC, or go to visit the CN Tower, or do whatever it is we do. Just like you (us, them).

We can also be the victims of misguided zeal in showing the world (Bush?) that terrorists (them, the other) do exist here — when they really don’t. We might be the ones who get arrested and charged as terrorists for walking down beaches, or playing paintball with friends, or discussing Islam. For the glory of the alphabet soup agencies and their projects — Project Thread(bare?) and the like.

And then we (us, them, the other) might also be the ones who blow you up. For no good reason, of course. Because everything we do is entirely irrational and backward. Because evil exists. In this world, in our (your?) country. Hide your (our?) children, lock our (your?) doors, buy everyone a cellphone to keep in touch at all times — the newest, the latest, the greatest: family plan, weekends free and weekdays at a great price, text messaging, mp3s, on your cell phone! — protect our (your?) freedoms by restricting yours (ours?) here and abroad! Thank you for civilizing me, again and again and again.

Blow up, blown up, blown out of proportion.

And I hope to the gods, the god damned and everything in between that it’s the latter, in whole or at least in part.

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