Tick Tock II

Media rights groups have voiced growing concern over intimidation of journalists in Pakistan amid political turmoil sparked by Musharraf’s suspension of Chaudhry in March that has led to mass protests by opposition parties and lawyers.

A U.S. diplomat, who was not authorized to speak for the record, confirmed last week that the United States plans to stick with Musharraf. “We are not pulling back from that relationship in any way,” the diplomat said.

Hey Malkovich, Think Fast.

I have been seriously amiss [um] in acknowledging the [somewhat disconcerting] distinction that friends & gentle readers of CM have bestowed [in service of a meme (those things are still around? {apparently})]: It makes them think.

Mucho thanks, folks. As a meme, it has some rules. Like linking to this post and listing five bloggers who make me think. Well, that’s easy enough: e., who I can’t believe I have yet to meet; juan who I have met and can confirm is a scholar and a gentleman; angry arab, who amazes me with his wit; joshua, who will be no surprise to anyone but still; and zp, whose posts I look forward to like none other. Ok, now I can go back to my no-meme rule.

Temple Destruction

A commercial was droning by, as I tried to watch the NBA game and tool around on the laptop. Something about Memorial Day tie-in at the local Jeep Wrangler dealer. I glanced up just in time to see a panoramic shot of Mt. Rushmore.

It occured to me, in that moment, that I finally have a way of getting my students to understand that ever-thorny issue of temple destruction in South Asian history i.e. the Muslim invaders destroyed Hindu temples and erected mosques on those sacred sites. Historians have countered this incendiary claim in the Hindutva arsenal by pointing out that temple destruction was a common fact of medieval warfare and Hindu kings were just as prone to do it as Muslim ones. But why, I remember a student asking me, destroy their sacred site at all? He was rather insistent that all this temple destruction pointed to some natural urge in the Eastern mind which was all bent on being religious. I think I mumbled something about the Parthenon but made little headway.

But, there an example stands: a sacred mountain blasted up to build a temple to our own nationalist gods – specifically to drive worshippers to that far-off land [promised to them natives]. That should explain it.

Kian and Ali

Mere speech against some injustice, against some regime of intolerance or hypocrisy, for some right, for some freedom is considered dangerous, radioactive and inimical by totaliarianian agendas. Such speech normally resulted in the state condemning and imprisoning the speaker and swiftly creating an apporpriate counter-narrative for the publics [Faiz is in prison because he is a hedonistic commie who hates Allah!]. Speech silenced, injustice obscured, the machinery hummed along barely noticing the press releases or annual reports issued by the good people at Amnesty or Human Rights Watch – the world rather inattentive.

And while such speech still results in imprisonment, those times of inattention are now largely over. The crackdown on bloggers and websites in Iran, Pakistan or China is motivated by the state’s panic at the rapid rate of dissemination of facts and stories the state would rather keep locked up in high-security prisons. The web coverage catapults not only international attention by goverments and organizations – all those letters received and laborious visits to consulates – but more significantly, national attention. That quickly created counter-narrative can’t bear any scrutiny and even state-owned press would rather report on the latest dam-building effort on the River than spin the news that is now on BBC.

Hence the importance of seemingly interminable efforts to spread the word about such injustices against those who dare to speak or act – or merely exist.

I noted earlier the case of Haleh Esfandiari. We can now add to that list Kian Tajbaksh and Ali Shakeri. These recent targetting of Iranian-Americans visiting Iran should be seen in the context of the well-documented and shameful history of the Iranian State demonstrating its might by imprisoning Iranian bloggers, journalists, and scholars – some of whom even get death sentences.

Please visit Free Kian to do the dutiful – sign the petition, link on your blog, write a letter to your newspaper. I cannot find any petition for Ali Shakeri, so I made one. Please go and sign it.

A brief word on what may be behind this recent spate of sabre-rattling by the Iranian state. You may have seen reports that the White House has signed off on plans to destabilize Iran. Even if you read that news – as I did – as deliberate disinformation designed to ratchet up pressure on the Iranians [remember Hersh said the same a while back and others recently], you still have to wonder what the WH hopes to accomplish here. I just hope, merely for the sake of innocents trapped in the middle, that resolutions come quickly.

Free Haleh II

Shaul Bakhash, Clarence Robinson Professor of History, George Mason University, Brookings Institution senior fellow and husband of U.S. Middle East analyst Haleh Esfandiari, will be online Thursday, May 24, at 12:15 p.m. ET to discuss his wife’s detainment by Iranian intelligence for “crimes against national security” and personal and worldwide reaction to the situation.

I would also like to point out that the WaPo reporter Robin Wright has been doing an amazing job keeping this scholar’s plight in the news. She just reported that Kian Tajbakhsh – another Iranian-American scholar – has been detained in Tehran.


I looks 4 kulcherSlate has a brilliant piece on the lolcat meme that’s sweeping the webternets these days (like a forest fire!). We were inspired by Gawker’s success in creating their own lol-meme, viz., lolgays, so we’ve created a new category of lolprofs using a special lolcat generating website.


This just in. New Facebook group devoted totally to lolprof enthusiasts.

Persepolis Hits the Red Carpet

Persepolis Movie posterJust what we’ve all been waiting for: the animated version of Persepolis is being screened at Cannes this week, and that means it should get a general release later this year. There are some great trailers on Satrapi’s MySpace page that include some pretty sweet air guitar and “Eye of the Tiger” renderings by the protagonist. As we mentioned in our Chicken with Plums review, there was a great article on Satrapi in the Independent last year, and more recently, a really good article about Satrapi in the NYT in January (behind the great wall, unfortunately), that has a lot of details about the production, including this bit:

Persepolis with smoke

The voices were recorded before the animators began work, with Ms. Satrapi coaching the actors one on one. (Aghast at the prospect of bossing Ms. Deneuve around, she said, she downed three cognacs before directing the actress, who turned out to be ”funny and intelligent and a big smoker.”) Ms. Satrapi allowed herself to be recorded while acting out the physical gestures for each scene, to give the animation team a physical reference.

”We could do any number of movements to coordinate with the words,” said Christian Desmares, the chief animator, ”but Marjane wanted to really personalize each character, to use precise Iranian gestures. And we don’t know how to do that.”

Ms. Satrapi interjected: ”I play all the roles. Even the dog.”

Persepolis prison sceneThe stills from the movie posted to the official website suggest an interesting mix of styles, with the characters drawn faithfully in the mold of the original comics, and the settings and backgrounds done in a more ‘realistic’ mode, perhaps to give the action some dimensionality to move around in. The look it produces seems almost like a visual joke about bringing cartoons into live action films (à la Spiderman, etc.).