Sunday, July 31, 2005

For Those About to Rock...

AC/DC last night- louder, faster, bigger and ballsier than the Zeppelin show, for two reasons:

1) Chris who did the Zep show was a wuss compared to Patrick [up with the irish!] who did the lights for last night's AC/DC.

2) You can't beat Australian rockers who have life, balls, a capacity for booze and various felony records.

The show was one huge adrenaline rush. It began with For Those About to Rock, pounded on through what do you do for money, honey and big balls... let there be rock had us yelling for more.. half an hour more of unadulterated rock ended with Thunderstruck... which is how we felt when we left the Planetarium.

We salute you, O bad boys of Rock.


Saturday, July 30, 2005

With a purple umbrella and a fifty cent hat, livin', lovin'...

Got to sit inside a black globe and watch a Zeppelin laser show last night.

*smug look* HA!!!!!

No, I will not rub it in. But by our holy mother of all saints and sweet flowers that bloomed in the dawn of time THE SHOW WAS BLOODY AMAAAAAZING!!

Damn I love this band.

Driving there, and back again after the show was great too- Katie taking the freeway because it means driving faster, Portland for the first time minus the glass air-conditioned controlled sheath of a college van or city bus. The lights and the sharp curves run their laughing fingers through your hair as you stick your neck out to feel breathless in the km's zipping past. You deft-swerving to avoid kamakazi sparks off her ciggarette as she flicks it out the window. Pinball Wizard on the stereo.

In short, I had finally left L&C behind for the first time to go out into the city to see what I would see. It felt like the first time anyway. Everything was sharper-cut, and we didn't need anyone or anything except the ride and where we were going to. We turned off the freeway, and then we reached the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, popularly known as OMSI. The show started at 8:15pm.

Imagine if you will sitting inside a pitch black sphere in chairs eased back at a comfortable obtuse-- No one breathes, you cant hear anything or see the tips of your fingers. And then In The Light starts itself. Glowing bits of laser open their eyes, raise their heads and then fall striking the black in front of your eyes, then rear back... soft fluid circles swallow each other and then get re-enter the space as flickering shafts of sharp blue, red, green and yellow.

My favourite was when this gridded tube that moved like a roller-coaster anaconda out of a Beck video glided all around us over the inside of the Planetarium's walls, swooping down to swallow us whole as Black Dog rolled out. Illusion of falling out of your seat into a black hole but with this music playing, who cared? In fact falling and flying was the only thing on all our minds.

The song list altered a bit for the evening- Kashmir and Stairway to Heaven were not originally on the list but played anyway. No complaints from me, hell no.

Light and sound in your brain and soul, and your feet forget the ground.. you actually start lifting yourself up out of your seat, especially when the gridded anaconda swirled you around, to the left up and over with Plant crooning "baby, baby... pretty baby" over and over [which he did do a lot of, tis true]

Damn, I was born in the wrong decade. This was the band to see live, and to remember forever. Eyes fixed on the centre of black at the core of the laser works, letting myself be dragged into the blue long strands moving upwards and page's solo taking over everyone's breathing... our shadows taller than our souls.

To be a rock and not to roll.

We got back that night, with plans to return today for the AC/DC and Floyd shows.

These are the moments which have you stand inspite of the world hurtling on with no ties, no troubles and only one thought and that played by a magic man on his guitar. They are rare, so you hold them to you, even when the sunlight comes in at the window on the day of the family picnic.

The autumn moon lights my way.
For now I smell the rain,
And with it pain,
And it's headed my way.
Ah, sometimes I grow so tired,
But I know I've got one thing I got to do...

Ramble On...

...Got no time to for spreadin' roots,
The time has come to be gone.
And tho' our health we drank a thousand times,
It's time to Ramble On.

Friday, July 29, 2005

I should be dancing!

Aye. Coz I miss that. Portland's great, but what with all the age restrictions-- and an incredibly high degree of wacko-ness past 7pm in the city, not sure why-- there aren't really any places to go to.

This isn't the city for clubbing. Thrift shopping, bubble tea, alternative concerts yes. Clubbing, no.

Ipods and pc speakers can only do so much, unfortunately. Sigh.

Till I pass the age bar, find a good club or return to madras [whichever comes first] guess I'll have to live vicariously through chair-dancing to well-choreographed videos like this one and damn, yeah-this one!.

Damn. Why can't I move like that?

No NO no, don't answer that one. Be kind, humans, be kind. Hmpf.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Of Ryze and Java beans

There's something about online networking that I really can't put my finger on.

Many of course, claim that THAT is in fact the whole point why its so popular: the lack of messy, hands-on, in-your-face interaction that often, considering the human context, can get messy.

Ryze is a bit different though: here are no smileys, no winks or any other ingenious, annoying inventions of the chinese kind. It serves as a contact network for professsionals and artists all over the world, most of who do in fact meet, once it's of mutual interest to do so.

My mentor at JWT India [madras] introduced me to Ryze when I was a copy intern on the first floor. A year ago... just a year. And through this year, I have both sharpened pencils and broken 'em, had haircuts and then forgot about them, loved and... yeah well. But throughout this circus, this whole mad season, the thing that has remained has been Ryze. Ethereally so, and mayhaps a tad incongruous, but remained it has.

One page, filled with guest book[GB]entries from people who, apart from being rebels or CEOs or both, also happen to be some of the most creative, and most human of humans I have ever met: Ryze has been a space of acceptance, of pushing the metaphor and containing the word.

I disagree, and strongly, with the idea that forming communication links in cyberspace is something otherworldly, unreal and a bit strange.

Can get strange, oh yes. I have had shout-down battles with strangely offensive skin-heads over downloading music... I have written doggrel verse alongside another friend, laughing at our valiant efforts to verbally out-joust the other. He won, of course. But nonetheless, those few exchanges will be things I remember forever...

like how I will always remember how the SEA-EAT blog began with the idea that a few people had in the days post december 26th to have an online resource space where people from all over the world could ask for advice, provide information and help pull together, and through.

No company, no aid agency, no U.N.O. Just the power of minds, fingers and fibre-optic cables. The SEA-EAT blog has been accessed thousands of times, covered by papers and news channels, and has provided hope and relief to hundreds.

I am moved by this, yes. I am constantly awed by it, I jig to the hallelujah chorus in the wave of joy that such connection brings. Because it is in such weaving of minds that the boundaries that exist between people in physical reality break, and fall away.

Ryze has no lofty goal of human redemption though. You will find no networks discussing a possible answer to the Palestine-Israel issue. But you will find people exchanging business principles, writing pieces, chocolate recipes, social aid, strategies, contact info, and holiday trekking ideas... to name but a few. A common thread also seems to be the love for caffeine: apparently both nocturnal and diurnal tapping at gb's and networks goes with a good cuppa joe.

I do like Ryze. Not only have I met some wonderful professionals who gave me the perspective on advertising that I needed at that time, but I have also found an eclectic set of friends... and in a strange world of great distances and neon DNA, I have also found in them an extended family.

God, I hate mush. But seriously though- if you don't believe the part about meeting great people...

...I would like to introduce you to Vishal Misra, Esquire and his beautiful art.
I rest my case.

I need more coffee.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

The bubble

It floated out of the sunlight from behind a tree
sailing by in spite of stares and a strong breeze.
And by the wall and the corner and beyond among the pine trees
It kept to its immortality.

I gawked and looked in vain for its popped death.
It laughed at me and went on and on
till the sun took my sight
and it into her arms.

All was light. And I still human,
Wondering whether I would ever be able
to blow myself into oblivion
and sail on... and on.

About being a Pro, one way or the other..

One of my last posts, for now anyway, on this issue of Abortion-- Closure having come from listening to the official stand of both pro-lifers and pro-choicers on the aforementioned subject.

The benevolent Mr. Krauss felt that the best way to give us students a comprehensive look at the issue would be to invite two representatives of both sides to talk to us.

They took that point to heart. Talking to us, that is. One even talked at us. Talking with us of course, being outside their job description.

The pro-choicer came first, as a representative of NARAL. She brought with her flyaway officially blonde American hair, a business-like authority and hand-outs that seemed to say that contraception and medicare was what pro-choicers were fighting for, not the right to free and fair abortions. I found this a bit amusing-- Only because I always appreciate good marketing. By talking about contraception and medicare failings on the part of the government, stating the first as a method to prevent the need for abortions, and the second as a good reason why pregnancies place financial burdens on the mother, and thus abortions would help take that burden away, the woman deftly steered away from the most controversial bits.

Nothing was said about partial birth abortion. Nothing was said about providing expectant women with opportunities other than abortion to help deal with the foetus. She did cover the political aspect a little, and spoke of the injustice behind the government removing the citizen-- and what was obviously ten times worse, the woman's-- right to choose.

That right to choose rankled my friends. One asked what about the foetus' right to choose?

She looked puzzled, and asked him to repeat the question. Which he did, with indignant clarity. Go Bilal, go.

She mentioned the metaphor of the acorn and oak tree, stating that one could not say that the acorn "is" a tree, until the oak grows- root bark branches and leaves. The potential for life was pooh-poohed.

That left most of us gasping with the effort it took to stop ourselves from standing up and cussing in our respective vernaculars. That left me wondering whimsically at who came up with that example, and whether when that was first said out loud, if a room full of pro-choicers jumped up and clapped till their pantyhose waved triumphant.

I suppose the anger and confusion arose out of the complete lack of a valid connection between a human foetus and an acorn. Acorns, am sure, are wonderful little nuts. But what about the lack of sensory nerves, and the appearance of human features at 11 weeks into gestation?

An acorn falls into ground that sometimes helps it grow, and sometimes kills it. A baby starts in a warm, soft, nutrient-filled place which is a constant, race creed and country no bar. If it was so left to chance, this issue of birthing, then why doesn't the stork deliver them, or why dont they show up in the mail?

We spluttered, and she left.

The next speaker was a pro-lifer. In black and white, clean and precise, she came in armed with plastic tiny foetuses, 2 videos and enough pamphlets to paper our dorm rooms. She scored high points for preparation.

Her focus was that of partial birth abortion, and the lack of awareness of the foetuses own being. Personhood of the little bugger was not a question with her. With the models and with the videos she told us calmly of when fingers first formed, of responses to stimuli in the first trimester itself (3 weeks) which is the offically prescribed "best time" for having an abortion, and which the pro-choicer blondie declared was the period chosen by 98% of women to have an abortion.

It was curious however, that the videos focussed on women who though did have their abortions in the first trimester, were forced into the decision by family and partners, who declared moral or medical reasons: there was one woman who had a baby who was diagnosed with Down's syndrome, and whose partner asked her to get the abortion.

The videos were stark. No blood and screams, but tears and words describing how the act was regretted, how no one told them about the baby being "human" and not just a mass of cells.... how no one described fingers, and no one talked about the actual process of partial birth abortion.

Which by the way, consists of dilating a woman's cervix over 3 days, and then pulling the little thing out, feet first, with a pair of tongs, and while it's head is still inside, puncturing its spine and suctioning its brain out.

Which was, btw, a method used by the ancient egyptians to mummify their dead. Dead being the operative word.

None of us knew about the procedure. Neither, according to the video, did the women who got the abortion. You can imagine our reaction, especially since she had just passed around a soft-rubbered, moulded 6 week version of a baby, complete with nose, fingers and toes. Faces were turned away, and I am proud to say tears were shed. So much for the cynicism that pop culture brings.

The number of partial birth abortion cases, the pro-lifer declared, are never comprehensive, because it depends on who releases the information, and since its such a controversial operation-- note that the head remains inside, because if the kid was fully out, it would be infanticide-- no one wants to come out and claim statistics.

The videos-- and the speaker-- focussed on how no one tells the mothers about the procedures of abortion to be followed. This I found bizarre: go in for an open-heart surgery, and you can sue if Doctor Jones doesn't explain in detail the exact cuts he plans to make during your slicing and dicing. The problem is that since abortion is so hushed up, except in metropolitan cities, no one treats it as a surgical procedure which is exactly what it is.

Other issues were neatly addressed by this speaker-- who by the way, had an easier time simply because she had a sympathetic audience-- such as the issue of psychological health brought up by the pro-choicers.

Apparently a pregnancy could cause grave imbalance to a woman's mind. What the speaker did was to focus on the psychiatric issues that women who had gotten abortions faced, and which no one talked about, except the "victims" themselves, and that too only now. Much weeping, much talk of anniversary syndromes, of the inability to have more children due to a perforated uterus, or wondering what the child at 5 would've looked like.

Amidst the on screen weeping, and the plastic kiddies with thumbs and umbilical cords-- a few strong arguments came up which I wonder how pro-choicers fight with any validity.

The first was the issue of choice. Pro-choicers say a woman has the right to choose, the right to her own privacy. And yet, according to the pro-lifer, they are not allowed to retract their decision.

I can put off a bloodtest. According to the videos and the speaker, a woman who schedules an abortion can't go back on it. She is strapped down, jabbed and anaesthesized.

Jesus. I mean really. How is that freedom to choose?

The second, is the sparseness of choice. For pro-choicers like NARAL, abortion is the only other option a woman can choose other than having her baby. No one talks about adoption, no one talks about pregnancy centres or financial aid.

I am only curious to know why. And also, why ban ultrasounds from abortion centres?

In short-- Why are you so desperate to hide the kid's appearance from the mother?

Fear that she will change her mind, and you will be stripped of a cause to fight for?

Bush signed the ban on partial birth abortions. Probably the only intelligent thing he ever did during his term. It was almost immediately called into question by the Congress, who fuddle-duddled with the litigation and the bone-weary defintion of privacy according to the 14th amendment.

I am bone weary. Because I have a vague suspicion that in this fight to make a blanket law for what is and always will be an individual decision, sovereign to each case, the very people whose rights are being fought for-- the indigineous, uneducated, underage women of America-- are the ones who are suffering the most, being victims of propoganda and vote gathering.

As for the foetuses-- My children, the thought of you dying unnoticed, unnamed and un first-toothed pains me beyond measure. But in such a world of chaotic, skirted, flag-waving women and political brochures, I can only hope you will be born into another time where the grown-ups remember what it was like to depend on someone else for the chance to live.

I'm not afraid of Virginia Woolf

Quite the opposite actually. Joyce and her were the first ones who made me love the twist and give of words, and the magic you can still make with them.

The first two weeks of June at Lewis & Clark saw an conference on the Woolf and her works, attended by people from all over the country. Along with the conference, came an exhibition of a private collection of books that belonged to the author-- The conference was closed to me, but the exhibition was a different matter.

I'm not sure what it is about old books. And old handwriting. And dates and names that mean very little to very few people, almost no one, anymore, but did once describe the entire universe of one witty sad woman who lived a long time ago, and wrote about, among other things, a man named Septimus who saw his life and death in a tree, and wasn't afraid of gravity.

I have often wondered at this woman, who was so incredibly honest about her childhood and her mind, who walked into the sea to prevent her husband from seeing her loose her senses completely.

The books in the glass shelves in Watzek library traced a lifetime of reading, bus tickets, translations and concert passes-- Woolf and her husband were both scholars in Greek, and I was thoroughly kicked to see her fitting in words and question marks in the margin of a book of poetry by Sophocles....

... She lived at a time when people still wrote quotes into the front pages of books they gifted to friends, daughters and lovers. For example, in a copy of Samuel Johnson's 'Lives' [a book that made us shiver in lit crit class last year] gifted to her by her brother and sister, the following was scrawled in scrawny cursive-

'To Goat from Nessa and Thoby Jan 17th, 1895.
"It is a very hard thing upon the great men of past centuries that they should've come into the world so soon"

She was 13 years old, was Woolf.

I wanted to touch those pages, sniff the bus ticket that took her around London, the way I breathe in the pages of my grandfather's books.

People live on through the books they leave behind, books that knew what their nose hairs looked like, that were dog-eared, carried around and coffee-stained.

I found it hard to walk away from the library. I thought of her reading and shelving all these books in front of me, while dealing with bouts of manic depression... while book-keeping for Hogarth Press which she and Leonard co-owned... I thought of her choosing the words to write that last note to her husband:

"I feel certain that I am going mad again: I feel we can't go through another of those terrible times. And I shan't recover this time. I begin to hear voices, and can't concentrate. So I am doing what seems the best thing to do. You have given me the greatest possible happiness... I can't fight it any longer, I know that I am spoiling your life, that without me you could work" (The Letters of Virginia Woolf, vol. VI, p. 481).

This in 1941, no young violent life, but one that had walked with depression and success and people coming and going-- She went to classical music concerts. A woman came to college, a noted pianist, to play pieces Woolf would've listened to while writing books like Orlando and Mrs. Dalloway...

...Music by Debussy, Ravel, Albeniz... music that if you closed your eyes brought you pictures of blue imps melting and growing into the night, a water-sprite women who called to a man with tear-drops, dew-drops on his window pane, seeking human love as her release from the lake... Faustus watching the gibbet and feeling the horror of a new power he would never understand till it was too late....

This is what she knew, till her last days when she spoke incessantly, word on word, un-ending, seeing birds that spoke in Greek to her.

She walked into water, and was found 3 weeks later by children.

I respect her for this. There is something to be said for walking into cold ocean alone and aging, as opposed to walking into fire at noon with people crying and yelling all around. It takes dignity and the calm that comes with a lifetime of living within one's own head.

Like Vincent, Virginia, you came into this world too soon. Thank you.

"The young man had killed himself; but she did not pity him; with the clock striking the hour, one, two, three, she did not pity him, with all this going on. There! the old lady had put out her light! the whole house was dark now with this going on, she repeated, and the words came to her, Fear no more the heat of the sun. She must go back to them. But what an extraordinary night! She felt somehow very like him—the young man who had killed himself. She felt glad that he had done it; thrown it away. The clock was striking. The leaden circles dissolved in the air. He made her feel the beauty; made her feel the fun. But she must go back."
- Mrs. Dalloway.

Monday, July 25, 2005

So we go on a, summer holiday- pt. 1 Yahalla

This weekend, the administrative staff and professors in charge of us here at Lewis & Clark decided to take us camping, to the great pacific north-west coast.

I have stories to tell you, and pictures to show you- but having just returned today, these will build themselves into this goblin lair over the next couple of days.

But since a journey it was, I must start at the beginning. Which was a pit-stop for tobacco supplies for our hookah at our favourite lebanese restaurant here in Portland, called Ya-Halla. A beautiful little place, completely out of the way which still doesn't prevent it from being crowded all times of the day. Their makloubeh and hommus is some of the best I've had, and they serve Vimto- All gulf born/bred kiddies will know why I am kicked by that... Vimto is about as popular as Coke in Oman and other Gulf and Middle East states; it tastes of berries and was introduced by the British. Damn. Downer. Ah well.

But food wasn't our goal, as previously mentioned. Those of us with i.d's that said we were over 18 peered at different containers of frangrant jasmine, apple, lemon and bubblegum flavoured tobacco for our little orange hubbly-bubbly. Those of us without looked at olives and dried figs.

Walking by the olives-- For I, but of course, was one of those without an i.d card-- I got to peek into the main restaurant... my mind flew back a few months to the day when a huge group of us from L&C, as diverse as a W.T.O protest group, descended on Yahalla for dinner.

3 tables were joined. Bills seperated. Much food ordered. Hommus decimated. Languages spoken- At that gathering, there were people from Jordan, California, Eritrea, Syria, Bahrain, Morocco, India, Canada, South Korea, Japan, Idaho and Seattle. Those who knew what to order laughed at those who didn't, and good-naturedly helped them do so. Waitresses wilted, chefs fumed. Life was beautiful.

And this is what a pickle at Yahalla looks like.

That was a good night. Beyond all cynicism and tiredness, coming together will always be the most positive thing that humans can do.

Yahalla means hi!

The power of that word is underestimated. With it, loves and phone numbers have been won and lost.

We were soon on our way again, rolling towards the campsite, jasmine and apple flavoured baccy in a bag. More on the trip soon enough.

Stomp on Tampons

[Forgive me. But this is one mother of a blustery rage. The squeamish may scroll to calmer waters]

Tampon is french for plug. No, I jest not. And though patented only in America in the 1930's, the Greeks and the Egyptians were the first ones who had a go at it. Papyrus, vegetable fibre, cotton and lint have been used variously down the years.

For the less informed, and thus happier mortals- tampons are supposed to work like socks, absorption being the key word. To the point where it dries you out like grapes left in the sun. One would think these things would be built to be a bit soft considering their final point of destination. My friend Laura doesn't call it "the knife" for nothing. Personally I prefer the phrase "the concrete finger"- It's so much more telling.

Why am I so moved by this creation, satanic inspite of all its usability?

I have just returned from a camp, my compatriots. I now understand why the place I've been at the past 2 days-- surrounded by picnic tables, marshmallows and a built fire-- is described with the same word used to talk about the place where they tortured polish jews in 1942.

And the only reason the experience, which would've been quite nice otherwise, is such a black hole in my conciousness is because due to unforseen circumstances, I had to survive with this french word for plug.

Sacre bleu.

I tell euu, mes amis, zis paeen is sumzin I chouz to nevarre go threu agin, in ma vie- jamais, je te dis!!

Oh yes- and apart from the fact it feels like an angry dildo staging a sit-in, there are also factions fighting against ze plug- from baptists [but of course] to health activists who are concerned because.... damn, coz they have good reason to be so!!

Im not sure about the argument that it aids mobility. Hides pantylines yes... but mobility?? Felt like a vetted camel limping amidst the pine trees of the great pacific north-west coast line this weekend. A man-eating snail could've ambushed me without me being in a place to listen to my adrenal glands.

Humans are crazy. Only we would go around causing ache on top of ache. And only we would be dumb enough to try it.

Think I'll go find a pillow to sit on.

Don't get me wrong though: the camp was a good idea. I'll put the link up here the moment the pics are ready.

Friday, July 22, 2005

On the impropriety of dressing up as Bin Laden for Halloween

Of course it’s funny, and ten points to little Bob whose keeping up with current affairs.

But apart from getting mobbed and lynched in certain charming spots of this beautiful country, there are other reasons why doing so would be improper, which have everything to do with the way we see ourselves and the world. It is surprising how pertinent a Halloween costume can be to current foreign affairs these days.

It's not the same as a Nixon mask. It wouldn't just be a reflection of how we react to popular culture, and all the joys and sorrows it brings. Dressing up in beard and turban would mean that we are giving in to a stereotype. And unlike Nixon, such a costume tends to be representative. Why? The only reason is that unlike Nixon, Bin Laden has never been interviewed on 60 minutes. He represents an unknown malevolent terror. And since we don’t know his background, he remains an icon. One who is used as a standard-- unfortunately-- to judge others who also wear beards and turbans.

What is it that makes us classify people by categories of race, religion and appearance?

The other day a few friends and I were downtown in Portland, shopping. At some point, the store assistant gave us his card and asked where we were from. Being international students we're used to this routine. My friends answered Morocco and Bahrain respectively, and I followed with India. With a smile, he quipped- "you speak English very well". I sweetly returned with, "I was just going to say, so do you!"

Stereotypes can be dangerous things when the world is more than just a time and place that ends Halloween night with kids going home with candy.

So I’m Indian. And yes, in India there are many temples. But there are also many Indians who believe that out-sourcing is a curse because college kids see it as an easy way to make a quick buck. No, Indians do not want to kill Pakistanis or vice versa- But there are Indian women who are likely to beat you senseless before they let you call them docile.

I must confess- I have an ipod. I have Indian music on it as well as Floyd and the Rolling Stones. I haven’t adopted rolling my r's- yet. And I will fight the accent till my last breath, so help me God. I don’t think the war in Iraq will ever be justified. I do believe however, that global warming will probably kill us before nuclear war.

I acknowledge the power of media. I believe in the power of free speech. I prefer sushi to pizza schmizza, and pizza schmizza to mac and cheese. None of these however, stand a chance against my mother's cooking.

In short- I am me. Human. Female. Indian.
But what am I staking my claim here for? My being stereotyped or not doesn’t affect the fate of another person or country. No one will declare war or deliver aid to India based on who I am.

Bin Laden is a different matter though. Of course he stands for what he believes in. Of course he and his followers believe in a devious and extreme form of violence in order to convey their ideas.

But not all those who wear beards and turbans do so. They may grumble at the taste of mac n' cheese, but the majority of them, people like you and me with families and in-grown toe-nails, just want to live, work, be a little happy and then die old.

We cannot see a fundamentalist, any fundamentalist, as a representative of his or her religion and people. Just as we cannot see Nixon as a representative of the American people.

Don’t shudder in fear when you hear middle-eastern languages spoken. Don’t ask my friends if they ride camels to school in Jordan. Don’t ask me if my parents have already picked out a groom for me. Don’t think every Muslim is a fundamentalist, every blonde dumb, and every Asian out to get your job. I’m sure the above stated situations and individuals exist. But they aren't everyone. It’s a pretty big world we live in. In order to deal with the threat of violence that seeks to overtake nations everywhere, what we need the most is an open mind and strong decisions based on fact, not fear of the unknown. Leaders come and go- it’s the people who live on. All of us. Neighbors. Solving the world’s problems today by standing at fences, and just… talking.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Of Hubris and Doppelgangers


What the Greeks used to describe the tragic flaw in a hero's character. Nowadays we call it pride. It's a bit more though. To explain:

Yeah, stuff like that. It's being pig-headed as well, not just proud. In short, an excessive belief in one's own belief. O President Bush...

... It was hubris that made me google Don Marquis and not look beyond the nice old man I first found. This of course in the article on abortion that I dashed off in such heat yesterday.

Truth is-- I bare my soul here-- The Don Marquis that the Wiki article was referring to was in fact this genial, though watery senior gent who was not and never could be the pithy creator of such gods as archy and mehitabel who are the wonderful people I spent all of yesterday with. I apologize to both venerable gentlemen, and to you, good readers of this Goblin's scribbilage. Head hung in shame, forked tail between my legs, I can only quietly promise to never let such a slip occur again. Vae victus.

But the fall was worth it. While in the mud... I did find Archy and Mehitabel. Who are they, you ask?

To put it simply, Archy is a cockroach with the soul of a Byron, an Eliot. He types poetry on Marquis' typewriter. Mehitabel is an alley cat who thinks she's the reincarnation of cleopatra.

In short, ever since Gary Larsen, this is some of the best stuff I have ever seen. Please come meet them and make them your friends.

In short though- Apart from the joy I received at meeting Marquis' creations, I must declare the incredible and deep shame experienced at having misattributed an article. How could I do this to you, O Marquis Of Archy's typewriter? Your soul is of higher things, not mere socio-political debate. And apologies, O musty-fusty-sweet Marquis Of Pro-life Views: I nod and bow to thee as the originator of my present pro-breathing argument.

But really, ladies and gentlemen- This did carry some fear for me. Two Don Marquises?

Freud and his saxon ancestors did speak of doppelgangers but this is too much.

Then came the second fear- Was there, dear god of all sweet mercies COULD THERE BE another Priyanka Joseph?????

[The 5 worlds stood silent, still awed- fishbowl to goblin lair remained pale and cowed. Fingers were clenched... the weight of the universe's behind rested on the shoulders of those who stood barely breathing in the shadows of the brickwork... For the first time, the shocked public, the knights and maids, saw the ultramarine corners of the goblin's lips tremble...]

I searched, I sought with a gleaming intent. I had to know. I had to.

Google vomited up search results for my name.


The horror. There is a carrier of my name, and it even lives in the city I used to reside within until very recently.

I feel robbed. Lessened. Reduced. Made a shadow of what I used to be.


Wonder what Archy would say about how I am feeling now....

"...yes i am sad
says the majestic mackerel
i am as sad
as the songof a soudanese jackal
who is wailing for the blood red
moon he cannot reach..."
- excerpt from Archy interviews a pharaoh

What he cannot reach. Ah, over-reaching oneself... O hubris. I guess I should be ok with another female humanoid walking around with my name in my hometown. I know Marquis could not have minded having this milk-faced professorial kind carry his banner on.

Greatness does not lie in pride, but in the ability to talk to cockroaches, and not mind if they misspell your quotes.

Archy, I bow to thee.

Of Hubris and Doppelgangers


What the Greeks used to describe the tragic flaw in a hero's character. Nowadays we call it pride. It's a bit more though. To explain:

Yeah, stuff like that. It's being pig-headed as well, not just proud. In short, an excessive belief in one's own belief. O President Bush...

... It was hubris that made me google Don Marquis and not look beyond the nice old man I first found. This of course in the article on abortion that I dashed off in such heat yesterday.

Truth is-- I bare my soul here-- The Don Marquis that the Wiki article was referring to was in fact this genial, though watery senior gent who was not and never could be the pithy creator of such gods as archy and mehitabel who are the wonderful people I spent all of yesterday with. I apologize to both venerable gentlemen, and to you, good readers of this Goblin's scribbilage. Head hung in shame, forked tail between my legs, I can only quietly promise to never let such a slip occur again. Vae victus.

But the fall was worth it. While in the mud... I did find Archy and Mehitabel. Who are they, you ask?

To put it simply, Archy is a cockroach with the soul of a Byron, an Eliot. He types poetry on Marquis' typewriter. Mehitabel is an alley cat who thinks she's the reincarnation of cleopatra.

In short, ever since Gary Larsen, this is some of the best stuff I have ever seen. Please come meet them and make them your friends.

In short though- Apart from the joy I received at meeting Marquis' creations, I must declare the incredible and deep shame experienced at having misattributed an article. How could I do this to you, O Marquis Of Archy's typewriter? Your soul is of higher things, not mere socio-political debate. And apologies, O musty-fusty-sweet Marquis Of Pro-life Views: I nod and bow to thee as the originator of my present pro-breathing argument.

But really, ladies and gentlemen- This did carry some fear for me. Two Don Marquises?

Freud and his saxon ancestors did speak of doppelgangers but this is too much.

Then came the second fear- Was there, dear god of all sweet mercies COULD THERE BE another Priyanka Joseph?????

[The 5 worlds stood silent, still awed- fishbowl to goblin lair remained pale and cowed. Fingers were clenched... the weight of the universe's behind rested on the shoulders of those who stood barely breathing in the shadows of the brickwork... For the first time, the shocked public, the knights and maids, saw the ultramarine corners of the goblin's lips tremble...]

I searched, I sought with a gleaming intent. I had to know. I had to.

Google vomited up search results for my name.


The horror. There is a carrier of my name, and it even lives in the city I used to reside within until very recently.

I feel robbed. Lessened. Reduced. Made a shadow of what I used to be.


Wonder what Archy would say about how I am feeling now....

"...yes i am sad
says the majestic mackerel
i am as sad
as the songof a soudanese jackal
who is wailing for the blood red
moon he cannot reach..."
- excerpt from Archy interviews a pharaoh

What he cannot reach. Ah, over-reaching oneself... O hubris. I guess I should be ok with another female humanoid walking around with my name in my hometown. I know Marquis could not have minded having this milk-faced professorial kind carry his banner on.

Greatness does not lie in pride, but in the ability to talk to cockroaches, and not mind if they misspell your quotes.

Archy, I bow to thee.

Talking about Controversial issues...

... its another course we're all immersed in this summer. The issues we're dealing with right now are abortion laws, and legalizing drugs.

This is our class's home page, created by our dear Professor, Mr. Krauss- "And still they gazed, and still their wonder grew..." though, far be it from me to call Mr. Krauss' head... erm... dimension-challenged, in any way. Goldsmith's Village Schoolmaster came from a lesser line.

Now see folks, this is what I like about classes here. There's a website. It's updated. We can post homework. There are online resources to read. And best part? All our blogs are linked to the class page (check us all out in the link above). Now THAT was new when heard the idea. Ah, the freedom of small classes.

Coming back to controversial issues though... here's a bit I wrote for class a while back. The idea was to look at this picture-

And free-write based on that. This is what came up:

"And if you thought that I cant see you, that you cant hear me, that I don't have an opinion hahahahahahahahahahha- nah na-na-na-nah-naahhhhh!!!

Eyes maybe closed, and u can suction me out anytime you want me gone, but at this moment go screw yourself, mr. man who thinks he's god…

God. Weird old dude in white… his beard looked a lot like all this stringy goop around me right now, was as soft too. Could fall asleep in it, as fast asleep as I am now.. The ends of it would stream out, smokish…

Smokish. If I ever get out of here, and grow big and open my eyes, Im going to smoke, and its going to be a pipe. So I will still look as cool as I do now, but then that streaming out smokish will be mine, my own, MINE I TELL YOU!! MINE!!

Mine. Does this person I can hear breathing and swallowing all around me think that I am her mine? Does she think to herself feeling me yawn and go na-na-na-nah-naaah-naaaah that “hey, you're mine, kid”?

Mine. Goldmine? Don't dig me out of here. Im the kind of precious stuff that gets better when you keep it. Kinda like that shiny yellow stuff…That will allow me to buy many many pipes. Much smokish. And I will be powerful too, with my own soft stringy goop that people will like to put their face in and tell others about.

My god its bright in here. Feels like Im inside a grape that's sitting in the sun just after a frost-down in a vineyard in France… grapes like glowing sun-is-hidden purply-orangy-life staying hidden, waving, yawning, under a blanket of smokish frost. "

Sunday, July 17, 2005


Every saturday during the month of June meant volunteering at some environmentally or socially motivated site. This was because hands-on work was part of our course on Consumerism and Sustainability... It is a big deal here in Oregon.

People all over the state-- at least those who can afford it-- focus on buying groceries from locally owned stores filled with local, organic produce. They sort their garbage. They recycle. They use paper, not plastic. They donate towards charities that support squirrels and old growth forests. They even fight passionately to preserve a certain spotted owl. Not to be over- wit(ty) , but such does woo even the most hardened of consumerist hearts. Ergo, it was this ethos that they figured needed to be passed on to us hardened, consumerist scholarship students.

Our first quest [this blog being a bit delayed in its postings, apologies] was thus to clean/weed out the unwanted green stuff at Jackson Bottom Wetlands. The trip commenced with sleepy grumbles about an ethereal span of breakfast time whose components consisted of frozen-- and I mean ice age frozen-- yoghurt & stolid muffins baked during the Revolution. And yes, I mean the Russian one.

We were then buckled into our seats. Sniggers rose out of the back regarding whose bottom we were going to go clean out, and such. Children.

We reached there in the misty coldness of a Portland June morning. There were other volunteers there, all bundled up and garden-gloved. We were cheerfully shown water, shovels, cookies and grass cutters... Not necessarily in that order, mind you.

And here we are just before we started- Mary, kneeling on the left. Mary the Invincible, she is the patron saint of us scholarship students, the one who helps us with paperwork, the one who finds us friendship families, who then work as extended units of the college taking us around Portland, and showing us parades, restaurants, picnics and gorges. Standing behind her is Christy [our faithful student guide, and the driver the school car a.k.a the Walrus, coz its so huge], Adel [from Syria, gaunt, red-sweatered and grumpy. The muffins were still an issue], Bilal [from Morocco, glazed over as he was concentrating on the arabic music streaming from my ipod], Zainab [kneeling next to Mary, from Bahrain, and passionate about human rights issues and politics], Yours truly next to Bilal [beginning to miss my ipod], Ben(azir) [next to me, and still unused to the cold] and finally Debbie Anholt, far right, and the professor who taught us that course.

We set to work soon enough. The ground was assailed by bloody rakes, gashed open with spades... weed-roots screamed as we pulled them out of the scalp of the earth. Slender-waisted grass wept and swayed as we unceremoniously attempted snipping them short. The scene was that of gory and inept-- though thankfully unequal-- battle.

The troops acting like a bunch of pillaging vikings, laughing and posing amidst the carnage, like so:

Oh, the pity... the horror of it.

Do note that Bilal and I are holding our Weapons of Weed Destruction (WWD) far above the actual battlefield. I must confess that apart from bouts of spirited evacuation of the enemy, this is pretty much the level at which they stayed held. Sort of like U.N peace keeping forces in Africa, we remained onlookers at this great plantnic cleansing.

Do also note that I had retrieved my ipod by this time. Victory, thou soundeth sweeth.

[Hate that lisp. Comes upon me at the strangest timeth.]

Weeding we did. Flowering shrub-seed sowing we did. Earth worm hunting, garden snake finding, and looking out for eagles-- who use the wetlands for nesting-- followed. Breaks of cookies and water occured. Jackson Bottom used to be a dumpsite that is now being turned into a safe biosphere for bird and plant life. Thus though this weeding and planting is noble work, it is also unending. There is much to do, everyday. It is an environmentalist's Iraq: they cannot pull out now, but must go on.

At least the eagles and waterbirds seem to be benefitting from this toil. Aas well as the beavers and ants and earthworms and all other gentle creatures that can be found in The Wind in the Willows.

We returned muddy, and grass scented. Grass still, in whatever its form, conveys a sense of brooding, happy at times, othertimes sombre.

No ecstatic highs this time... though fyi, Oregon is one of the few states that has legalized medical use of marijuana. Doctor, I feel a pain coming on. Roll me a J. And such. But to go on-

No ecstatic highs. Ezekiel's right though: weeds show us the earth's cycle of mortality... it takes very little to get a dandelion to grow. I would let everything grow, though. Grass and weed together, thistle and fuschia shrub.

But then as Volodimir Barabash , that sweet Canadian-Ukranian says,

" Myself, I hold no grudge against the weed.

Especially, since I don't own a lawn."- To a Dandelion, that little golden devil

Friday, July 15, 2005

Of the ways we walk in, and the roofs we sit under

I can't say enough about Lewis & Clark, campus-wise. And for an already verbose person, this could be bad for you.

But hey lookie- I got pictures as well to aid the process... seeing is believing, et al.

Close your eyes first though. Yes, now.


Imagine a sun-bright day, clouds away to the east but too far away to obscure this brilliant, almost painful blue that the sky dives into in waves. Imagine happy tiny bees who might fly into you in their glee, but then apologize softly and carry on. Imagine deliriously happy labradors chasing over lawns. Imagine cool breeze that laughed at the heat of the sun, and peeked under your skirt gallantly.

That was the kind of day at Lewis & Clark that Im going to show you pictures from:

Voila. Thats Howard Hall, where all my classes are, since its just the summer session. The granite blocks are where students sit, sun themselves, smoke, wait, talk and read. My dorm is to the left, and up a gentle slope, a flight of stone steps, another gentle slope (huff, puff) and there it stands, squat and comfy with grass all around it.

And thats inside Howard- a view of the main staircase that rises through its centre, a wall collage of impressive range, a patient Ben(azir) and a sleepy Rama. This was taken in the first week or so of me and Ben getting to LC... We were on a tour of Howard for our class on sustainability, since its built with recyclable material and installed with energy saving devices and has a environmentally-friendly, though minimalist design.

To give you a glimpse of what Im talking about, check this out- recycled carpet polymers in the sofas... those cabinets are made out of the cores of trees usually thrown away because worm paths can be seen in the final product... as fine, thin, red lines. The Y-shaped beams use less material and yet structurally hold as well as a wall of concrete. The light panels work on sensors, and dim or brighten depending on the amount of sunlight in the room. There are sound-absorbing panels all over the building, to balance the acoustics, which are great. Just ask the guy who plays his guitar with spanish fingering everyday in between classes.

And there's one of the main conference rooms. The view looks out on Mount Hood, the friendly neighborhood snow capped mountain. As it can only be seen on clear days, It usually gets a ton of smiles from Portlanders who see it.

And finally-

There's us outside Howard, after the tour- There's Debbie our professor standing next to Ben(azir), and David, our santa man from Facilities who took us on the tour. Here you see us smiling, coz we're waiting to tramp off to lunch. LC won an award for Howard.

It was the kind of day that a new kingdom could've been founded, world peace reached, and the ozone hole closed up. Everything was bright and beginning.

Lunch wasn't bad either.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

I wonder if Noah ever peeked in here...

... Or the three little pigs, for that matter. Here being the Rebuilding centre in Portland, where they love the concept of recycling so much that they even recycle houses.
Those that are being demolished, that is. The Rebuilding Centre, a huge warehouse cum workshop thus finds itself filled up with bath-tubs, cabinets, nails, commodes, plywood and heaters all year round.
We were driven there one saturday in June, where we helped fill a cleared up space with merchandise for the Centre to hold a sale, where those who wanted cost-effective house fixtures came to sniff around and buy, cash or card. The Centre is also dedicated to promote an environmentally-friendly lifestyle.
Hard work, I say. Brave volunteers that we are.
And yes, the natives here DO help out at places like this for free. I wonder at the motivation. And puff and pant alongside.


Get yer programs here... yours truly and Rama. Notice the cool T-shirts. The grey skies. And Rama's deslike for cameras. Posted by Picasa

And here's tweedle-dum and tweedle-dee, the people who give me a reason to smile each day. Meet my faithful Ben(azir) on the left, and Laura on the right. Behind them, beyond the railing, is the Willamette.  Posted by Picasa

And here we are down on the Waterfront for the Blues festival, getting our briefing. Yes, that is my still sleepy, red-tinged head behind Rama's. Yes, that is Rama, third from the left and my very good friend from Jordan. Posted by Picasa

I got da ba-loooze...

... (as Gul used to say in school), on July 2nd in downtown Portland, on the waterfront.

The Waterfront Blues Festival here in Portland is an annual event that brings blues lovers and artists from around the country to the banks of the Willamette, along which people walk, smoke, stretch out, run after dogs and children, listen to great music and eat corn dogs. And since it usually coincides with the 4th of July, everyone-- And I mean EVERYone-- huddles together like happy sardines on that night and stares up the sky, waiting for the fireworks to go off.

Our intrepid group ventured out on the 2nd though- we were helping out the organizers, who happen to be Safeway [a happy chainstore found in yankville] and the Oregon Food Bank, who through this festival collect cans of food and green bills with old mens faces on them that those who visit the festival care to donate. No entry fee, give if you feel moved to do so.


I don't think I've ever been to a charity affair anywhere else where the audience could choose to be charitable, entry-fee-wise or not.

Another thing I was moved to whoa about? The money and food collected goes towards fighting the hunger problem in Oregon.

I didn't know there was a hunger problem in Oregon.

In fact, together with a large number of people from around the world, I didn't think it was possible for the States to have a hunger problem. All I have been told is about the U.S government dumping surplus wheat into the pacific. Rumor or not, the following fact isn't:

According to the Oregon Food Bank's website, working Oregonians in two income households have a hunger rate almost 4 times that of the rest of the nation. 2 parent houses with kids have hunger 3 times the national average.

Perspective gained, then. And a T-shirt, with the festival logo on it, and the chance to see what kind of genial animals live in the Portland Ark.

My job-- and that of three of my brave companions-- was to hand out festival programs to visitors. And thus the full regalia of the portland community burst forth first upon our eyes... and it was more fun than I have had in a long time.

I could tell you about the piercings, the dyed hair, the cyclists, the sk8er bois, the grandparents, the mexican tribes, the lone smokers who strode on full steam ahead, eyes focused on the concrete... I could tell you about the children, and the unfortunate man who asked me which blues performance I would recommend. I shifted from one foot to the other, made polite throat noises, thrust a program in his hands, and pointed him towards the main volunteer group. What can I say? Blues, though I do love it, is not my strong point.

Gregorian chant and polkas yes, Blues no. Though one day...

That day however, saw us standing there under a rain-threatening sky for 4 hours, energetically telling people to "have a great day!" and tapping the occasional foot to music being played on one of the four stages closest to us.

Ben and I even got to stand backstage, since one of the technicians figured we were having so much fun on that side of the fence, we might as well be where the action was. And I loved it. The band on stage was doing a smooth rock and roll groove to the blues their lead singer was croonin', and four couples were on stage, dancing.

Could've been you and me, or mum and dad, or the guy who works at Fred Meyer and the nice lady who serves out my spaghetti every day at lunch. They were laughing, having the time of their lives, and the crowd loved it.

God, I wanted to dance. The smiley techie guy informed me that all I had to do, like these people on stage had done, was to go find a partner.

A partner. I grinned, shook my head, and got back to distributing programs before someone noticed I had been gone. Program distribution is simpler though less fun than negotiating the intricate steps of dance and man-finding in life, and always will be.


There were ducks in the waters below the pier, sun streaming from behind clouds above. There was also an enterprising young man who had painted himself and his clothes, and his little pedestal, a shiny blue-green. To the tips of his hair, even. And then he'd stand on the edge of the crowd, on his pedestal, very still, and play statue.

People loved it. The festival should include him as one of their attractions- He kept raking in the moolah with his handshaking when people came too close, his juggling of three glass globes, and his immaculate silence.

At the end of our shift, amidst the ice cream stains... the genial security people guiding boozed-out-of-their-skulls young men to the side... the cajun food smells... the dried grass, and the crushed ciggie-buds... the whistling and clapping crowd, and the shrieking kids running in and out of gushing pools of a hydrant someone had let blow....

at the end of our shift, we went home.

The festival attracted 1,500 volunteers this year. $348,000 dollars and 107,000 pounds of food was collected. And when you got tired of distributing programs, you could blow soap bubbles for general amusement, and personal Oming.

God, I love Portland.

Epilogue to the need for bricks and free speech

It is finished.

Not being blasphemous. Fact is, it really IS finished.

The uproar was flamed, and then the growling lions tamed. Everyone got together for a moot over the issue of the article in the Oregonian: professors, students, scholarship people, other students at Lewis & Clark.

Points of view heard, the reporter and I had a talk-down over the phone- I accepted she had the right to frame an article any way she wanted to, and she accepted that generalizations will most often get a bunch of antsy international students on her case.

As a class project-- For after all, such things are to be learnt from-- We are all writing op-ed pieces to the Oregonian.

500 words.

And as for those of ye who don't think this goblin can keep to the word count- HA! All I can say to you is...

dear god, you're probably right. Sigh.

This is going to take work.

Promise to post it when Im done. Here's to a declaration of rights, including the freedom to be safe from stereotypes and all print media.

An economically worded declaration at that.


Monday, July 11, 2005

Of free speech and the occasional need to throw a hard brick

Folks, today has been a funny day to say the least.

First, I oversleep and miss my first class, and get to my second class-- Foreign Policy-- almost, almost too late. Class was the stimulating universe in a golden vitamin C globe that it always is.

And then I got to read the article in the Oregonian, a local newspaper here in Portland, which was supposedly a feature article on all us international students here at Lewis & Clark college in the PLUS scholarship program.

The key word there is "supposedly".

People were left out. Single perspectives were concentrated on. Interviewees claim they were misquoted, or at least their views mis-communicated.

But that wasn't the worst. Oh no. Not by a dragon's ass.

The worst was the following bit (and I quote):

"...Priyanka Joseph, a 20-year-old from southern India with red highlights in her hair and the Black Eyed Peas on her iPod..."

The goblin's eyes grew to flaming cold slits. His curiously carved fingernails curved into the stone wall, the rock squealing for mercy. His concentrated frown suddenly turned an annoying but fuzzily cute blue otherwordly creature into a flat-footed evil from hell, who spewed the worst at enemies, from over-used nylon socks to insults pertaining to the unfortunate mortal's mothers. His stare caused a crack to develop in the far wall of the courtyard. A black hole appeared behind it... the servants ran screaming as the maniacal laughter of creatures locked up in the vast darkness for a thousand years rent the air with their adamantine freedom cries....

Erm... yes. As I mentioned before, yours truly was a tad peeved.

My brick thus, is enclosed below.

I warn you. It's as ascerbic as the worst tempered lemon. And why not?

No one gets away with saying I have the Black Eyed Peas on my iPod. Screw you, biyatch. Eat my flaming words.

Date: Jul 11, 2005 4:42 PM
Subject: Re: 'Classroom with a world view ', appeared in The Oregonian, dated July 11, 2005.

Dear Shelby,

I felt moved to write this on reading your article published in the Oregonian today. It is unfortunate that due to computer errors you [and I assume, the editor] got the raw, incredibly impassioned, and pretty peeved version of what I'm writing to you now. The facts in this version remain the same, I do hope that thanks to a second and third reading of your article, my outlook is now a bit more sober and more understanding that it was an hour ago. And yes, I still do want to send this out to all the people concerned, because I feel it has to do with the way we all see the world.

To summarize my draft then- I had stated that I greatly admired your writing style, and did appreciate you taking time off to come visit with us at Lewis & Clark, and hear what we had to say. The "we" being- for those who were not present on this occasion- Zainab, Lamya and I, who are all students with the Dept. of State sponsored scholarship program called PLUS. I would also like to say at this point, that you had originally planned to speak to only Zainab and I, as you had informed us via email. I say this only because I want it recognized that I would've refused your interview, Shelby, since I don't like this kind of thing, except I thought that as I foreign student here I should be polite. Next time I'm sure I will pay more attention to my own gut instinct and choices.

I then went on to declare in my draft that I personally am never one to seek out publicity especially that of a newspaper, be it even one as esteemed as The Oregonian. I then said that this response to you and those involved has nothing to do with a lack of personal limelight or coverage. I said this because I want to ensure that no one misunderstands my motives for writing this piece, which are as follows-

Firstly, I have always been a student who has written about the things that has moved me the most. In the vernacular, that would be "whatever got me ragingly pissed off". This mode of communication happened through school and my college in India, and I consider it my freedom of expression. And considering others have the same sort of personal liberty, I try, most times, to ensure that I hurt no feelings in getting my point across with as much clarity as I can muster. So at this point, I would like to say I have no grudge against any person or institution, but would just like to voice my opinion.

Secondly- The first reading of your article left me asking questions about what exactly was the story you were trying to tell: was it about a class at Lewis & Clark College taught by Mr. Partovi, a scholarship program, young Arab women in America or all these put together? I then read this article over again, three times. And I begin to see that yes, it seems to be about all these three. This is good, and gives a lot of people a lot to read about. But one anxiety still remains: it concerns the effect of such an article on those who read it, who unlike you Shelby, did not get to hear all that was being said, but only get to read what you think—and quite justifiably so—is newsworthy. I have a problem with this because of the mental image your article creates, not only of the three elements I have already mentioned, but of the mental image it creates of the other individuals referred to collectively in your article- the other students in the foreign policy class, and the other students in the PLUS program present here at Lewis & Clark College. I have a problem with this because it offers only a narrow perspective, and doesn't tell the whole story.

And thirdly—And this is a petty motive, I will concede—I'm writing this article to state that I dislike being stuck in a paragraph in your article to add colour to the theme, and a refreshing change from the general storyline. I am no one's circus attraction, really. Call it an issue of pride, perhaps. I am but human. Mea culpa. But personally I think it would've been better for your article—and myself—if you had used a general, well-sketched paragraph about all us international students, and perhaps our music tastes and restaurant preferences, as a break from the main story rather than that one reference to just me. It would've pointed out a feeling of solidarity, it would've increased interest, and it would not leave me in a place wondering why one earth did I have to be mentioned, at all?

Now that motives have been stated, I need to talk about your article.

Let us assume that each of the three elements stated above—Partovi's foreign policy class, the PLUS scholarship and young Arab women—were each individually a theme in your article. I would like to deal with these separately.

Firstly, about Mr. Partovi's class: In your article, you have stated: "Partovi, who is more conservative than many of his Lewis & Clark students, often finds himself in the minority on the Southwest Portland campus…" Now I'm not sure about how American Journalism works, but I'm quite sure that such a sweeping statement requires just a tad bit more backing up than one student, and that too a summer session student's, point of view. Of course, if you did base this statement on fact that either Mr. Partovi himself or another student or faculty member supplied you with, then I retract and humbly apologize. But as a reader, it seems a distinct judgment of the Professor's stance by the author. I bring this up because I, like other students in Lewis & Clark College, know that though Mr. Partovi does not go yelling and waving slogans with the rest of the liberal bandwagon, and though he does quite brashly declare his liking for this country that offered him sanctuary and a place to grow and live in after the Iranian Shah was overthrown and he along with the other diplomats had to flee… though these stand as facts, I know Mr. Partovi to be an intense and energetic challenger of the decisions taken by present and past administrations belonging to this country's government. I know that he himself wrote to the President criticizing the move on Iraq. I know that he questions every conservative—and liberal—policy made by every administration till now. To me, this seems that Mr. Partovi is merely a subtle and keen-eyed intellectual, and not particularly conservative or liberal. And the problem with such statements in the newspaper is that that opinion turns public since it came from such an authority as The Oregonian. Otherwise, the fact that the class is a forum for students to speak based on fact, and to question everything is true, and granted. And of course, such classes, especially for students from a crisis-laden area, is of great importance because it means that important and immediate world issues are being discussed here and now. I fully agree with your article on this point.

As for the second element: you have mentioned facts and figures about the PLUS scholarship, and how the process of study moves the scholarship students through a two year period. Wonderful stuff, as the scholarship is a great idea and an open-minded venture by the Dept of State and the NGOs involved. However, it's the grouping and the generalization in your article that I have a problem with, which is what I will come back to after referring to the third element, which is young Arab women in America.

Now I understand that for the present day and age, such a theme, an element, is exactly what pushes a story. Women from traditionally oppressive countries and systems breaking out, coming forth, saying the good word, fighting the good fight. And if your story specifically had this element in mind as the core of the article, then I concede to that as well, and will continue this response solely based on my reaction to your article. However, if this element was NOT specifically your goal, then I have issues. Big ones. For such using of a minority—or a majority—voice to give context to the state of the entire group is just wrong. So wrong. Especially since this scholarship has aimed at bringing many minorities together, not just one. Especially since it aims to look at all countries, all stories, all students, not just one.

Your article talked about PLUS students. What about the others here? Am sure not everyone's parents or close relatives are involved with some noble politically-affiliated cause, but I am quite sure that each one has as big a story: all of which would've contributed to a more authentic reading of this story of international scholarship students here in Portland.

For example: there is a student who was detained by customs officials in New York for five hours, only because they asked him who Lewis & Clark were, and he replied that he did not know. There is a student here who's bags were searched in Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris only because she seemed more foreign than her companion, and thus more likely to be carrying suspicious objects. There is a student here who received indirect religious insinuations against his faith only because he did not eat the meat offered at the meal as it was not prepared according to the doctrine of his religion. This same student had to be polite, for after all he is a guest here in this country. There is a student here who has lost family and a brother in the Palestinian conflict, and is held up as the poster-child of all those who espouse the peoples' cause in the Middle East, with none of these cause supporters realizing the extent to which other Arab nations ignore the Palestinian conflict, and how the other Arab nations abandoned the Palestinian people when they needed help the most.

Of course, even the least cynical reader at this point would probably point out that the only reason for all this rodomontade is basically that I didn't like the way I was portrayed in your article. I don't deny that that isn't true. Being the child of my parents, being at the hub of student activity, decision making, forum forming and outreach activities in my city in India, and being a person who quite snobbishly considers herself a hopeful intellectual—It was hard for me to be described by red highlights [now faded, I must state the truth] and ipod usage. In my draft, which was accidentally sent to you, there was mention of how I strongly protested my saying, ""I'm like, 'I don't do blues,' ". I stated that I would never say "like"—good god, the horror. You, in your polite and speedy response [thank you for that] said that you put it down verbatim which is why you included it in your article. I remain upset—For if that is the truth, as I'm sure it is, then America is affecting my English much more than I thought it would, which means I have to be extra careful from now on.

But seriously.

I reiterate: it is not that A received the lion's share of article time, and B was given a passing reference. I repeat, I am not one for paper rustling and name quoting. But my point is, why did you have to include me at all? Or rather, why did you have to leave out all the others? You could say that it was because you were only covering those in the Foreign Policy class. But then why refer to the group outside of the class, in the context of the scholarship, with no other points of reference other than Zainab and Lamya? Of course, I respect Zainab and Lamya as my fellow students and my friends. But I'm wondering if you could honestly feel satisfied with the authenticity of your article, when it was meant to be a feature piece on international students—all elements considered—and you leave out the bits about the rest of the group. And indeed, in writing about the class, how could you leave out the perspective of the other students or at least one other student who does take Partovi's class and is a full-time student here?

Again, I am not the professional journalist. You are. But here I am, making the case out for those who you didn't speak to, and who also have stories that must be heard.

Those who think Partovi's class is one of the few real forums for liberal, intelligent discussion of world events and views on campus.

Those whose parents fought for citizenship, and who have known what refugee camps are like.

Those who have known religious orthodoxy, and are learning to live in harmony with more than just that one point of view.

Those who lost family in the tsunami, and missed weeks of college traveling up and down the coast, contacting relief material suppliers, co-coordinating volunteers from around India and the world, meeting with district government officials, consoling families, holding fund-raisers.

Tell the whole story Shelby. Or if not, tell just one. And leave those of us who don't listen to the black eyed peas on their ipod and never will, and who dislike being used for the oomph factor, out of your stories.

But once again, thank you for your time and energy. Am sure that the PLUS program, Lewis & Clark College and The Oregonian all gained from the article. I apologize profusely if any of my views seem boorish, narrow-minded or lacking in imagination. I did however, have to say this.

Yours sincerely,

Priyanka Joseph.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

it starts

I've finally done it. Starting up the blog, I mean.

From now on, anecdotes, views, recipes, pictures, news clips, lyrics and radical environmental view points [hey, its Portland!] pertaining directly to this west coast city I love will be posted here at What The Blue Goblin Says...

Come see what the cheeky little ultramarine bugger is upto.

And yeah- tell mum.

I'd like to introduce you to Mr. Sal Taki...

... A medium height, gentle-mannered, moustachioed man who sat next to us on the flight from New York to Salt Lake city on May 14th, 2005.

Sal [or Saleh, to be authentic]lives and works in Arizona, and was on a flight back home from Baghdad, which is where he was born. Where his family lives. Where he hasn't been since he was 17, which was a little more than a couple of decades ago.

He had been visiting his family, and had just spent six months with them.

He wanted to exchange seats: thats how it all started. Frequent visits to the high-pressured hell hole a.k.a the inflight loo did not call for a window seat. "I've not been well", he said, gently crumpled in his sky blue long sleeved shirt. I nodded, and complied- God knows anyone suffering on a flight that day had my sympathy. I had decided that trans-atlantic flights were the nearest you could get to Dante's purgatory.

Actually, wait.

That wasn't quite how it started. It started, at the very beginning, with Saleh asking me something in portuguese. My startled look made him switch to spanish. A pretty disgruntled "Im sorry?!?" got him to switch to the Queen's Own. He hurried to explain that he had thought I was a latina, which is why he had tried them lingos.

Madre de dios. I was curious- First, that someone could think I looked latin. Second, that this man who distinctly looked turkish-kurdish was speaking to an Indian in portuguese. The mind swum with the expansiveness of globalization... but then recovered quickly, for Saleh Taki was speaking to me.

Im not quite sure how this happened. Americans, and anyone who's lived in America for a justifiable length of time are notorious for their ability to small talk. It took a while for me to get used to bus driver's asking "hey, how are ya?" and me answering that with a "great, you?" with smiles and nods finishing the act. But this wasn't small talk. Saleh with the smiling moustachios and tired eyes wanted to know where we came from and why, and sounded a congratulatory grunt on hearing about the scholarship. He then proceeded to tell us that he lived in Arizona, and worked a lot with mexican and portuguese immigrants and I somehow reminded him of one. Concillatory nods all around. Delta airline staff supercilliously walking up and down, straightening hair and telling people to sit upright. The pilot drawls. The plane takes off. Ben [my ever faithful companion on this trail] dozes gently. Sal and I, sitting at an incline till we reach 3000 feet, talk about his home, his family, and what he does and why he does it in Arizona.

Biochemistry called, when he was a young lad. He set out by himself then, and though visa-wise the cross-over was easier for him than students like us now, there was none of the soft cushioning we received. No talk of culture shock. No family, and few calls back home. Sal Taki came as a boy, determined to leave what he saw and knew in Baghdad, wanting a new life in the land of dreams.

He took to contracting later- Building made him feel better. And all that time-- from 17 to 21 to 25 to 30 to 38 to 45-- he didn't go back home. Didn't want to. Till six months before the day of that flight, when his father and mother told him that they were getting old, and wanted to see him.

He went. And was returning on the flight I was taking, with Ben, to a new country with a bag of my own dreams.

Maybe it was because he needed to talk so desperately. Maybe I looked talkable to. But for the nine hours of that flight, Saleh Taki filled my ears with the tale of what he was just returning from.

"And see"- he said, pulling out his shirt to point to the white undershirt he said he always wore, always- "this is where the grease stains are. See? They get there if you carry a gun stuck into your pants like that. I was always trying to wash them out".

He has a family in Baghdad city- His father is a rich man, he has sisters and a brother, and two nephews, 12 and 15, and countless nieces. He's very fond of them, and told me of how he had to bribe Damascus airport officials to let him carry gold to them: earrings, necklaces, rings... things that Kurdish uncles from America carry home to their nieces. Saleh is Kurdish Iraqi, and knows how to use a gun.

Who does he use it against?

Cats, he repied laughing a little, though not above the general hum of the plane. He and every member of his family-- yes, his sisters and yes, his nephews-- carry guns all the time, to protect themselves from looters and gunmen. In Baghdad, you shoot by noise: if you hear something move in the garden, bang, BANG! Though most times, Saleh said, it would only be prowling cats.

The women know how to use guns as well- They are strapped on to their sides as they stir pots in the kitchen. The boys, 12 and 15, have guns of their own. They use it to protect their grandparents. They have been told that the old people's safety and that of the house rests on their shoulders.

Every night and day, shootings and bombings. Saleh said his ears still rang with the sound. Sure, his dad would never leave- That land was his, he was a rich man.

Saleh never took walks... though there are parks. The only problem is that dismembered bodies, not to mention toes and fingers, litter the grass. The present state of affairs allows anyone who thinks he has an issue or a grudge to extract personal payment or revenge.

He says he's not going back there. Good food- They day he landed his sister made biryani. But his stomach couldn't take it. He couldn't, and didn't want to, take it.

I didn't ask Sal who he voted for, what he thought about the Gulf war, why didn't he mind his parents staying there. Instead, I listened, and then we ate raisins-- "watch it, those can give you the runs too"-- cream cheese and crackers. After having to repeat "orange juice" to a belligerent, majestic, afro-american stewardess twice, Sal leaned over and murmured, "you know- you should say onjus. Don't try and make them understand what you're saying. Use their word for it".

Onjus. After the peanuts, he told Ben and I that he loved shami kapoor and rajesh kapoor movies. The women were so pretty, he said, with their long hair, their saris, and their eyes. Beautiful. At some point he thanked Ben and me for being there..."thankyou for being so kind". He and Ben hummed some old tunes together. I felt my eyes close slowly... and then felt Saleh open a blanket and throw it gently over me, making sure it covered me completely.

I woke a while later; Salt Lake city was near by. Ben complained about the lack of taste in airline food... I nodded, gently smiling, at the woes of my poor sancho panza. Sal spoke about the kebabs he could make, and invited us over to Arizona anytime we wanted to visit. He did give me his number and email address. I have it in front of me now, as I type... black micro-tip held gingerly against a turblence-shaken tiny writing pad.

He got up and left the moment the plane stopped taxi-ing. Said he needed a ciggarette, and hadn't had that, or a good meal, ever since he had left Baghdad. And that was it.

No bigger pictures, no hand shaking, no recognization of a Moment. But that was what it was.

A good man, is Mr. Sal Taki. I hope he-- and his family-- sleep safe, and have lesser causes to shoot at cats in the night.

1921 SW 6th Ave, Portland, 97201

That's the address of Abu Rasheed, possibly the best little lebanese restaurant in Portland.

I'm not quite sure what you think of lebanese food, but one thing is true: after afternoons and evenings of college pasta, there is something to be said about fresh cut halloumi cheese, kebabs grilled in tomato sauce [slowly, and to perfection], and chicken shawarma with rice, yoghurt and tabbouleh that rolls tenderly over your palate like the gentle bosom of a sea wench on the HMS Seagull upon the pacific, murmuring blue-green-purpleness...

[...I of course assume the metaphor. Pirates not being a part of the extended family, inspite of my wistful longings as a child...]

... Baladi.

Which means, "coming from home" or "authentic", in Arabic. Which is the word one of my Jordanian friends and fellow PLUS student used to describe the food at Abu Rasheed. And while saying it, her eyes lit up, she laughed and spoke arabic with the family who runs the restaurant [like most lebanese restaurants here, its self-owned]and smiled and waved her hands over the food- As the rest of us did, except the arabic part.

The food was perfection. And the hookah that came afterwards?

[NB- 'The Caterpillar and Alice looked at each other for some time in silence: at last the Caterpillar took the hookah out of its mouth, and addressed her in a languid, sleepy voice.
`Who are you?' said the Caterpillar']


Blissful Baladi, last night's dinner and post dinner peace-hookah session was.

Double apple, out of a green burbling, gurgling bottle, through a friendly pipe with a wooden stem that seemed to cordially smile as your fingers wrapped around it. Watching the 12 go by, burbling like gods of the desert.

Never underestimate the power of the hubbly-bubbly. Or so I said to myself, eyes closed, sardined into the back of a big yellow taxi which I managed-- quite gracefully-- to wobble my way into.

It put Caroll's three inch high, laconic, blue creation into perpective. Only a bug on bubbly could've said- "That is not quite right"...


'Not quite right, I'm afraid,' said Alice, timidly; some of the words have got altered.'

`It is wrong from beginning to end,' said the Caterpillar decidedly, and there was silence for some minutes.

The Caterpillar was the first to speak.

`What size do you want to be?' it asked.

`Oh, I'm not particular as to size,' Alice hastily replied; `only one doesn't like changing so often, you know.'

`I don't know,' said the Caterpillar.

Alice said nothing: she had never been so much contradicted in her life before, and she felt that she was losing her temper.

`Are you content now?' said the Caterpillar.

`Well, I should like to be a little larger, sir, if you wouldn't mind,' said Alice: `three inches is such a wretched height to be.'

`It is a very good height indeed!' said the Caterpillar angrily, rearing itself upright as it spoke (it was exactly three inches high).

`But I'm not used to it!' pleaded poor Alice in a piteous tone. And she thought of herself, `I wish the creatures wouldn't be so easily offended!'

`You'll get used to it in time,' said the Caterpillar; and it put the hookah into its mouth and began smoking again.

This time Alice waited patiently until it chose to speak again. In a minute or two the Caterpillar took the hookah out of its mouth and yawned once or twice, and shook itself. Then it got down off the mushroom, and crawled away in the grass, merely remarking as it went, `One side will make you grow taller, and the other side will make you grow shorter.'

`One side of what? The other side of what?' thought Alice to herself.

`Of the mushroom,' said the Caterpillar, just as if she had asked it aloud; and in another moment it was out of sight."
-(Caroll, Lewis. Alice's adventures in Wonderland, 1865)


`Keep your temper,' said the Caterpillar. And in a city filled with cafeteria food, assignments, tests and like Alice, the strange need to be bigger and smaller and-not-knowing-which-is-best-

That is some bloody good advice.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Free Music- raaging on. An important note for tune-heads everywhere.

Its came to a point where the need for a cache of good music, easily accessible online, became tatamount.

In the vernacular, that would be- "Doode- where the @#*! are my @#*!ing tunes?!?!"


Call it cold turkey after being separated from my D and E drive back home for so long.

On being inspired by Soumabh Sen, Esquire's idea about gmail accounts, and a certain Outlaw torn's [link to be provided shortly] idea about keeping his music interactive, thanks to my friend Gul, there now exists a gmail account filled with tracks ranging from Aventura to AC/DC... snoop dogg to Floyd [but of course]... Verdi, Franz Ferdinand, Dispatch, Black sabbath, Disney, M.S Subbalakshmi, The Knack, Rush, INXS, Cuban traditional music, Sade, Bach, U2 and much more.

The idea is that there exists a secret place filled with eclectic music that can be accessed by a certain group of people- a tad exclusive only because any messing with passwords and settings can mess up the music for the majority.

WIth this account, you can download the music you want, request for music you need, send music you think others must hear and will thus share when they access the account, and send tracks to friends and foes alike.

Musical freedom. Burn your bras, feed your draft card to a cow, and give thy finger to download bit rates and strange copyright laws.

Contact me at for password and account name info. Your needs will finally be appeased.

Om. And may Gmail be with you.

~*~musical quotes~*~

"Sleep now in the fire"

-Rage Against The Machine

You are the music while the music lasts.
- T. S. Eliot

Too many pieces of music finish too long after the end.
- Igor Stravinsky

I don't like country music, but I don't mean to denigrate those who do. And for the people who like country music, denigrate means 'put down'
- Bob Newhart

There is nothing stable in the world; uproar's your only music.
- John Keats

Friday, July 08, 2005

Of unkept promises, turbulent times and bubble tea

It is July, and I have things that still have to tell themselves, pending since May 13th.

It is July, and already the Egyptian ambassador has been supposedly killed, Al-Qaeda is supposedly responsible for the london blasts... at least they didn't blame Greenpeace this time.

It is July, and Iran and Iraq have signed a military agreement... China is going to buy Unacol... Japan may consider rearmament... The E.U will now scramble towards their constitution and include a military clause in it, since Italy and Germany now are shaking ever since pop went the weasel in the tube and on a big old jolly bus yesterday.

Yesterday... a thing of note, ladies and gentlemen. It has been said in U.S foreign policy class that U.S policy for a long time centred around a theory of isolation, of staying away from world issues. Till World War II anyway. At first I snorted and sniffed over this. But look at this: today's NY times carries the stories of yesterday's in London. News a day later. News which, at least here in Portland, is pushed behind news of a hustle for a new supreme court judge, a little boy's murder, and the Hilton family's new reality t.v show.

Jesus. I suppose such only makes me more grateful for Mr. Cyrus Partovi's foreign policy class. Fingers prodding into the world outside this starred and stripey continent... fingers which learn to feel the tension in central asia, the sprained tendon in sino-japanese relations.

I want to ask you so many things. About what Barkha Dutt and we the people are saying about the recent skirmish at Ayodhya. Whether the water crisis has gotten worse. Whether people fawned over good ol' Bill when he visited the coastline... whether someone took him to mahablipuram or pondi.

I want to know whether they will ever show the old man beheaded. I want to know if it was really Al Qaeda, the blasts I mean. I want to know what Zarqawi thinks he'll gain. I want to know why that lawyer quit from the defense team who are handling mr. Saddam Hussein's case. I want to know if everyone knows that pot is legal here in Oregon, though still a debatable issue.

Unkept promises. Unanswered questions. Ok, alright, the break has been long enough. Regular posting WILL resume immediately. The silence is beginning to ache. Before which- Bubble tea is a drink that is all the rage here in Portland, and consists of iced tea and tapioca bubbles that you suck up and gleefully chew through a large, large straw. To drink it, mouth full, tongue cool and chewing silently, is to be happy.

My favourite flavours are coconut and almond chocolate. The drink originated in Taiwan.

Blair looked like a hurt little boy standing outside the summit waiting to inform the delegates of the news. America has stepped up its security, especially on trains. The markets have bounced back, and the Times described the Brits as being "oddly stoic".

Up yours, mate.

And hand me my bubble tea.