Sunday, December 31, 2006

darfur is dying

In a past post (el emigrante) I brought folk's attention to some free online video games which dealt with "Grenada-esque" themes but were done in very questionable taste. As a contrast, Darfur is Dying is an online "game" which actually tries to spread some awareness about the situation in Darfur and is done in a much more respectful and realistic tone. It is still basically a video game so it definitely has its limitations as a way of conveying information. I also wonder to what extent it might be considered a form of propaganda.

I've noticed other examples of people using online games to encourage people to think in certain ways about a certain situation. The most fun example which comes to mind is the McDonald's Videogame where you are given the task of successfully running McDonald's. The action takes place on four different levels: initial production of feed and livestock, preparing cattle for slaughter, management of employees at the franchise-level, and finally setting the broader corporate policies. The game has a very good cartoon visual-style and is simple enough to be manageable, but complex enough to remain interesting. The game also has an interesting anti-McDonald's slant; opportunites abound to engage in all sorts of shady activities (e.g. adding industrial waste or hormones to the feed, mistreating your employees, bribing a variety of public officials, bulldozing a tribal village for their land, etc.) and the economic and ecological harms which McDonald's contributes to are emphasized throughout.

I suspect that the McDonald's game has actually gotten some people nervous because I've recently seen a hastily programed game called Bacteria Salad which emphasizes the dangers of fuits and vegetables?!?!?

Saturday, December 30, 2006

eid mubarak y'all

A blessed eid to all those celebrating today and a second helping for those celebrating tomorrow. And if you are interested in some of the astronomical/fiqh issues you might want to check out Hamza Yusuf has to say about the issue over at

kwanzaa in the blogosphere

It doesn't look like anyone took me up on my suggestion in it's beginning to look a lot like kwanzaa... to create a Kwanzaa blogring. But in any case, with the exception of anti-Kwanzaa right-wing bloggers who basically copied or linked to Ann Coulter saying nasty things about Maulana Karenga, fewer people than I expected seem to have blogged about Kwanzaa at all this year. But here are some of the meatier, thoughtful and positive examples of folks blogging on the merits and significance of Kwanzaa. Enjoy! Peace.
So What Can I Do? (last year) Umoja , Kujichagulia , Ujima , Ujamaa , Nia , Kuumba , Imani
and also:
Karenga's Us Organization Website

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

do platanos go wit' collard greens?

Since today is the first day of Kwanzaa and today's principle is umoja or unity, it seemed appropriate to mention the following:

Platanos and Collard Greens is a play based on David Lamb's first novel, Do Platanos Go Wit' Collard Greens which centers around a romantic relationship between an African-American man and a Dominican woman. I have not yet seen the play, but I have read the novel. One recurring theme is the common African heritage of African-Americans, Dominicans and Puerto Ricans.

To be sure, there are other works on this topic I would recommend more highly such as Piri Thomas' Down These Mean Streets or Jesus Colon's A Puerto Rican in New York and other Sketches. But Lamb's novel, and presumably the play, serve as a decent introduction to these issues in the idiom of the hip-hop generation.

See also:
On cross-racial unity:
an open letter from latinos to african american sisters and brothers
on being black at a latino march

On Afrolatinos and the African component of Latin culture:
piri thomas interview
the afrolatino connection
black and hispanic
the black latino experience
somos primos: black latino connection
african aspects of the puerto rican personality

And for a heads-up on an upcoming conference at UC Berkeley:
beyond visibility: rethinking the african diaspora in latin america

Monday, December 25, 2006

all hail dragon jesus?

You may have heard about the Virgin dragon to give birth in holiday season. Flora is a Komodo Dragon living at the Chester Zoo who has managed to lay fertile eggs without ever being exposed to a male Komodo Dragon. It has long been known that other organisms have the capacity to reproduce in this fashion (known as parthenogenesis)but this is one of the first cases it has been observed in a Komodo Dragon.

The story reminds me of the Woodland Critter Christmas episode of South Park which centers around a porcupine giving birth to a Savior (with a twist).

richards' racist rant (epilogue)

Shortly after the Richard's meltdown, the folks at National Lampoon quickly put together the parody Seinfeld: The Lost Episode combining new footage with clips from the original show. Personally I found it hilarious. And some of the clips (especially with Kramer in "blackface") show that even well before the meltdown, the Seinfeld show left something to be desired when it comes to its racial politics.

Andy Dick -- The New "Kramer"?
Wayans Drops N-Bomb, Faces Fallout

Andy Dick was already near the top of my list of least favorite comedians but reading about him dropping n-bombs at LA's Improv certainly isn't helping. Damon Wayans has also attained the infamous distinction of being the first famous comedian to violate the Laugh Factory's n-word policy (resulting in a $320 fine and a 3 month ban).

While I'm glad that the Laugh Factory seems to be applying their policy equally to black and white comedians, I do think that on a social level, black and white usage of the n-term and similar comments can be viewed differently. The identity of the speaker is part of the context which can have a large impact on the significance of the word.

For example, what if both Marcus Garvey and the Grand Wizard of the Klan say to a Black person: "Go Back to Africa." The same four words, in one case they are an expression of solidarity, pride and achievement. In the other case they are an expression of exclusion, rejection and worthlessness.

I tend to think Michael Jackson jokes (about him being or becoming white) tend to have the same split. When a black comedian does such a joke, the subtext is often "Michael, we love you. Come back home." When a white comedian does it, the subtext is more likely "N------ please, who do you think you are?" The difference is all in the context.

Grenada's past:
richards' racist rant
richards' racist rant (part 2)

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Monday, December 18, 2006

black presidents (part two)

I'm still working on a blog entry about some of the past real-life Black presidential candidates, but in the meantime...

just today, NPR's All Things Considered did a report called Will American Voters Elect a Black President? which dealt with the idea of a Black president in general and Barack Obama specifically. The point which resonated the most with me is the idea that although there are clearly Black candidates who are qualified to be commander and chief and leader of the free world, the white electorate has a basic fear that a "black president" would seriously address and eliminate white privilege. And that is one deep and serious security blanket for a lot of folks. Like Chris Rock said: "there's not a white man in this room that would change places with me, none of you and I'm rich"

black presidents (part one)

Saturday, December 16, 2006

there is something about mary (gabriel's message)

Gabriel's Message is a version of an old Basque Christmas Carol from A Very Special Christmas Album (released back in 1987). I remember seeing Sting perform this song on tv back in the day and at the time I found it hauntingly beautiful. I still kind of like it, especially since it doesn't raise any theological problems. If you don't believe me, just check out the recent Guadalupe post to see what Islam has to say about Mary.

The Angel Gabriel from Heaven came
His wings as drifted snow
His eyes as flame
"All Hail!" said he, "Thou Holy Maiden Mary,"
"Most Highly Favoured Lady,"

"For know a Blessed Mother thou shalt be,
All generations laud and honour thee
Thy Son shall be Immanuel, by seers foretold
Most highly favoured Lady,"

Then gentle Mary meekly bowed her head;
"To me, be as it pleaseth God," she said.
My soul shall laud and magnify His holy Name
Most highly favoured Lady!

Of her Immanuel, the Christ was born,
In Bethlehem, all on a Christmas morn.
And everyone throughout the world forever saved,
Most highly favoured lady!

it's beginning to look a lot like kwanzaa...

Last year, I wrote a whole series of posts on the seven principles of kwanzaa (the nguzo saba) and on the holiday as a whole. And in the course of doing that series, I started to look around and see that a lot of other Black bloggers were also reflecting on the principles daily and it occured to me that it might be productive/ deep/ interesting/ beneficial if there was a blogring/ carnival out there to bring together all the kwanzaa bloggers. At the moment, I'm honestly not certain of the best way to implement it so the main purpose of the current post is to encourage someone out there with more web knowledge and initiative to pick up the torch. What I have in mind is some sort of easy-to-join, easy-to-read, easy-to-link-to forum where bloggers can share their thoughts on the Nguzo Saba. It doesn't have to be some kind of cultural-nationalist-Karenga-fan-club (some of my posts were definitely critical of certain aspects of Karenga's ideology) but I would hope the participants would take the principles seriously and wrestle with their significance to our lives today.

Last year's Kwanzaa series:
tawhid (umoja cont')
ujima continued
julius nyerere and ujamaa
why i like it, why i don't
even a stopped clock
kwanzaa gains momentum among caribbean blacks

Thursday, December 14, 2006

lupe fiasco

Lupe is a devout Muslim, although he admits to not being a role model Muslim.

Lupe on Islam:
"Well, I was born Muslim, so Islam plays a part in my everything I do, to a certain extent. I'm not like the poster boy for Islam you know what I'm saying? So it's like I still got my flaws and stuff like that, so I don't really wear that on my sleeve. [But] I'm really with some underlying consciousness, no matter what it is that I can talk about -cocaine, or I can talk about carrying guns. I've been literally carrying guns since I was five, like four or five years old, simply because my father was in the military and he wanted to teach us how to shoot. I've been shooting AK's since I was as baby, you know? I don't like to glorify ignorance or nothing like that, but I know you need to – you can talk about it in certain aspects. You'll still get the people who don't listen unless you're talking about nonsense. Catch their ear, and then at the same time, teach them something, you know? It [also] plays on the extra curricular stuff that happens about, about being like a rapper and being in the music business like going to – all right, I don't go to clubs, I don't drink, I don't smoke, you know like my whole – the whole groupie situation is shut down."

Official Lupe Fiasco page
Lupe Fiasco on Myspace
Lupe Fiasco on Islam (with lyrics and music to "Muhammad Walks")
Wikipedia: Lupe Fiasco

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

return to guadalupe

I learned recently that today(December 12) is the feast day for Our Lady of Guadalupe so I thought it would be nice (and easy) to put together some past entries on the subject of the Virgin of Guadalupe specifically, and the theological significance of Mary in Islam generally.

islam in mexico - the spanish conquest
more thoughts from the guadalupe candle
the name guadalupe
the once and future goddess
the wise men
the son of mary
jesus and the virgin mary in islam
immaculate conception

Some of this (devotion to saints) (reminds me of the similarities between Orthodox/Catholic Christianity and what I would call orthodox/traditional Islam (use of tangible objects like rosaries/tasbihs or "talismans", richness and solemnity of ritual, an aesthetic sensibility) which I alluded to in the radical middle way.

Monday, December 11, 2006

another latino muslim blogger

I just found AHL AL HADITH - reviving the way of reason and revelation put together by Yusuf Ibn Yusuf Abu Al Hussein who seems to come from a Salafi perspective. Born in USA of Latin American descent. Graduated with a BA in Philosophy and in Sociology. Studied to be Catholic Priest for 2 and half years and then converted to Islam. Student of: Islamic American University, Michigan USA.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

black presidents (part one)

It is amazing to me how powerful the very concept of a "Black President" is in terms of the varied ways it has been a frequent catalyst for the popular comedic, dramatical and political imagination.

At first, I was just looking around on YouTube and came across Richard Pryor doing a "Black President" sketch for his short-lived television series but very quickly many other examples sprang to mind.

Dave Chappelle: Black President Bush
Dave Chappelle: If Deep Impact kept it real (Dave as Morgan Freeman as the President)
Dave Chappelle: Wyclef's If I was President
Wyclef's Video: If I was President

In 1964, Irving Wallace published a novel called "The Man" about the first Black president of the United States. The book was later on made into a film with James Earl Jones as the lead. The screenplay was written by Rod Serling who is most famous as the creator of the Twilight Zone. (I'll try not to read too much into that). Of course the main character isn't actually elected as President. Instead he was elected to the Senate (and becomes President Pro Tempore) but after the first couple of people in the Presidential order of succession either die or become incapacitated he becomes the next person in line.

More recently we have also have Dennis Haysbert's portrayal of Black President, David Palmer on the popular series 24.

The last two examples are the most realistic and emphasize the complex set of challenges and obstacles which would face a Black man who fills "the most powerful office on the planet". The earlier examples are more imaginative than realistic and (with the exception of Black Bush) I would argue that the Black President idea is used as a vehicle to express a certain utopian vision.

An example which is both absolutely realistic and totally hilarious is the Onion piece: Zambia Elects Black President

Although strictly speaking, not on Black Presidents, there are also some poignant examples of criticizing the current president in terms of his policies towards the Black community among others:
Pink - Dear Mr. President
George Bush Don't Like Black People (Remix)

More later. In part two I'll want to bring in discussions of some of the real live candidates for the position of Black president: Barack Hussein Obama, Shirley Chisolm, Eldridge Cleaver, Lenora Fulani, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, et alia.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

in the cards?

I got this from Sister Scorpion's post: You are the Female Mullah (not!) The questions didn't seem all that deep, but here is how I came out:

You are The Hierophant

Divine Wisdom. Manifestation. Explanation. Teaching.

The Hierophant's purpose is to bring the spiritual down to Earth. Where the High Priestess between her two pillars deals with realms beyond this Earth, the Hierophant (or High Priest) deals with worldly problems. He is well suited to do this because he strives to create harmony and peace in the midst of a crisis. The Hierophant's only problem is that he can be stubborn and hidebound. At his best, he is wise and soothing, at his worst, he is an unbending traditionalist.

spilling the beans

Over at the Third Resurrection blog I just added two entries on recent books/papers which offer candid looks at the current situation in Israel/Palestine. jimmy carter and the a-word brings together a couple of links related to Jimmy Carter's new book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. While the israel lobby and u.s. foreign policy points to a controversial working paper which came out several months ago with the thesis that the Pro-Israel lobby has way too much influence on how the U.S. government chooses to act in the Middle East.

"to the shores of tripoli..."

Since Sondjata wanted something "meatier" on Dennis Prager's ignorant comments about Keith Ellison's decision to take his oath of office on a Quran instead of a Bible:
"As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries."

Article 11, the Treaty of Tripoli (the Treaty of Peace and Friendship) signed 1796.

The above passage is of particular significance because as part of a treaty it was ratified by the U.S. Senate (unanimously) and signed by the President so it had a certain amount of legal force (until the treaty was broken). The passage is also especially relevant in the present case because it explicitly refers to Islam (although in somewhat dated terms). On the other hand, the famous phrase "wall of separation between church and state" was never legally binding in the same way and instead comes from a letter written by Thomas Jefferson giving his interpretation of the establishment clause (i.e. "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion...").

In any case, the treaty is clear. "... the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion". And Prager's tirade is cut off at the knees.

But as silly as Prager is, he does make me think about certain deeper issues. For example, when it comes to politics in the Muslim world (e.g. Algeria, Turkey, Iraq after the dust settles), I feel like I definitely need to think through some of the details, but I generally feel like the best kind of government would somehow combine democratic reforms and large helpings of Islamic law. It only makes sense. If you are in a part of the world where most of the population consists of religious Muslims and you set up a government there which is responsive to the values, beliefs, hopes, aspirations and interests of the people, then you should expect the government to be "Islamic" to some degree.

So when I look back to Prager's piece, I'm not really objecting to the idea of a religious state per se but I'm mainly making the legal/historical objection that U.S. was neither set up nor intended as a "Christian nation". Religious states certainly have their own special sets of dangers and temptations but at this point I wouldn't categorically throw out the baby with the bathwater.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

"i'm not sure about the universe"

A saying, often attributed to Albert Einstein goes: "Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity... and I'm not sure about the universe."

Here is an example from Dennis Prager: America, Not Keith Ellison, decides what book a congressman takes his oath on

Basically, recently elected Muslim Congressman (takbir!) Keith Ellison announced that he would take his oath of office on a Quran instead of a Bible. And Dennis Prager, who apparently is advocating for America as a homogeneous Bible-based culture, seems to have a problem with it. In every other sentence of his tirade Prager alternates between displaying deep misunderstanding of Islam, the US Constitution, freedom of religion, American history and the nature of extremism.

For some non-stupid reponses to Prager's rant check out:
Taylor Marsh: That Uppity Democratic Muslim!
The Carpetbagger Report: It’s not a change of Biblical proportions
Professor Bainbridge's Journal: Dennis Prager goes off the Rails re Keith Ellison