amari_z: (daily)
"As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our founding fathers faced with perils that we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience's sake. . . . [Our ancestors] understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use. Our security emanates from the justness of our cause; the force of our example; the tempering qualities of humility and restraint."
amari_z: (on crack)
Well, it seems like the people--or the one's who've missed smoking anyway--have spoken, and while the tie was broken, there was enough interest that I'm going to do my best to do a crackiverary fic. (I really am on crack and apparently quite open to suggestion as well. I probably don't need to remind some of you that's how I got myself into this mess in the first place. And if you think I'm looking at you, I probably am.)

There was less interest in me answering reader questions. Still, if anyone wants to, go ahead and post them in the comments. I'm not going to promise that I'll answer all of them, but I'll do my best with any that are asked by Wednesday.

There will also be-for the first time ever!--a crackiversary party game. You are all expected to play. There will be prizes. Come on, prizes!
amari_z: (tree)
I've been keeping my mouth shut about it here, but as pessimistic as I always am about getting balanced Middle East coverage from the U.S. media, I've still been completely appalled by the one-sided reporting on Israel's attack on Gaza. But now, even the mainstream press has had to give more than the back of the hand acknowledgment of the death and destruction that Israel has wreaked against civilians.

Quoted in the NYTimes:

“It’s a war against us as people,” a man shouted. “What happened to Hamas? Nothing!”

***

The house had a special meaning. The family had lived for generations in a refugee camp, and six years ago had saved enough money to build it. This morning they came to find it in shambles, a crushing discovery.

“It was my dream and now it is erased,” said Hadija Saker, 55, who ticked off the evidence, as she saw it, of Israel’s unjust actions. She said Hamas lacked influence in the area. A teacher at a United Nations school lived on one side. A journalist on the other. Most painful, she said, were her lemon trees, which she had nurtured for years and now lay crushed under the sandy soil crisscrossed with the marks of tank treads.

***

"The Israeli actions made the situation more intractable, he said. “How can I convince my neighbors now for the option of peace? I can’t.”

He added: “Israel is breeding extremists. The feeling you get is that they just want you to leave Gaza."



For better coverage, I have a lot of respect for Democracy Now!. And although I'm not always thrilled by it, the BBC does a far better job than any major American media outlet.
amari_z: (res)
Crackiversary poll is still running (go have your say if you’re inclined). For those of you who’ve had your say already, I love you people, but you’re also crazy. We currently have a tie between wanting crackiversary fic and telling me to stop procrastinating on the next chapter—many of you taking the opportunity to vote for both. Apparently, it isn't clear that writing crackiversary fic is procrastination on the chapter, but whatever. ;)
amari_z: (crack)
So, it’s only something like 11 days until the third Crackiversary.* Hard to believe, for me at least. This year wasn’t a good one for teh crack, since the last actual chapter appeared in December 2007. How that happened, I’m really not quite sure, but I am working on the next chapter, which is 30 plus pages at present, but still has a ways to go.

I have developed a sort of tradition of Crackiversary celebration, but I’m not sure what to do this year, considering the lack of progress. So I guess I’ll leave it to you guys. Are you interested in me doing something this year? If you want to see what’s happened on previous Crackiversarys, you can click the Crackiversary tag. I'm pretty busy these days, so if there's not much interest, I probably won't do anything. So, cause you know I think they're shiny, poll!

[Poll #1331072]

As always, regardless of what I end up dong, if anyone is inclined to do a crackiversary gift of their own, feel free.

*Crackiversary=the anniversary of the date I posted what became the first chapter of the eponymous series Resurrection.
amari_z: (reading)
Because it's the only hope (however benighted) of keeping me in check, here's my Big List of Shame for 2009. The BLoS is a list of all of the books I've acquired in the last few years that I haven't yet read (in theory anyway--I'm sure some have escaped listing). I seem to have developed a tradition of resetting it at the beginning of each year.

As of the date of this post, the BLoS stands at 39 books of fiction, 58 non-fiction (or 57--one is down). I eroded a lot of my progress in 2008 by going on a recent, huge book buying binge (I think I had 62 or so left on the 2008 list). If one were inclined, one might talk about a fear of success or self-sabotage; I do get anxious if there aren't piles of unread books collapsing in my living room.

We'll see how frightening this looks in another year (can you believe that'll be 2010?).

2009 Big List of Shame )
amari_z: (addict)
Rather to my own amazement, I managed to read 101 books in 2008 (not including “trash” books—damn you, kindle!). This means that I made it more than half way through my Big List of Shame, which stands at 163 books, eighty-three of which, according to the BLoS, I bought this year.*

I read sixty-seven works of fiction and thirty-four of nonfiction. This is bad only when you consider that despite the 2:1 ratio in reading, I have a nearly 1:1 ratio on my BLoS. I did the best in summer—no surprise there, since I tend to develop insomniac tendencies in hot weather. My worst month was April, followed by December. In April, it took me a long time to read Gate of the Sun. In December, I think it was all the trash novels and general laziness.

Although I enjoyed most of the books I read, and I generally dislike picking favorites, here are ten rather randomly chosen highlights:

1. Joshua Ferris, Then We Came to the End. I’m in love with this book. It’s the only narrative I’ve ever read that successfully managed a second person plural pov. And it’s funny and spot on about office life.

2. Amitav Ghosh, The Hungry Tide. One of my favorite authors, and I think this is my favorite book of his to date (I haven’t read his new one yet). If for no other reason, read it for the setting, the Sundarbans, the ever-changing Ganges tidal delta, inhabited by tigers, crocodiles and, perhaps, the rare river dolphin.

3. Peter Godwin, Mukiwa and When a Crocodile Eats the Sun. There are a lot of areas of the world about which I feel my knowledge is sadly lacking, and the entire continent of Africa is one of them. These two books are memoirs of a white boy growing up in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe, the end of white rule and what followed. Well written, troubling, and topical if you’re following today’s news.

4. Elias Khoury, Gate of the Sun. I already discussed a bit about this one.

5. David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas. I don’t know why it took me so long to read this. Six connected stories spread across time, set up like concentric rings. Brilliant.

6. Tahir Shah, The Caliph's House. I bought this one up on a whim and have no regrets. A British writer of partial Afghani parentage makes a sudden decision to pick up and move his family to Morocco.

7. Jonathan Shay, Achilles in Vietnam: Combat Trauma and the Undoing of Character. If you like the Iliad and are interested in the psychology of war, run to read this book.

8. Raja Shehadeh, Palestinian Walks. See here.

9. M. G. Vassanji, The In-Between World of Vikram Lall. I had never heard of this Canadian author, which is one of the reasons I’m selecting this book for mention. Story of how the main character, of Indian ancestry but born to immigrant parents in Kenya, comes to be one of the most notoriously corrupt men in a country notorious for corruption.

10. Evelyn Waugh, Black Mischief. I read a lot of Waugh this year. It was hard to pick between this one and Put Out More Flags, but I think this one wins for me by a narrow margin. Read both.

Complete List of 2008 books )

* This is rather a cheat. I bought *ahem* quite a few books toward the end of this year that I haven’t added to my list (some of them haven’t arrived). Coming soon: 2009 Big List of Shame.
amari_z: (Castus 2007)
Since I’ve been so very slow with the next chapter, here’s a little present in the spirit of the holiday season. Set somewhere toward the beginning, but AU in the timeline, since it wouldn’t have been December.

A Resurrection X-Mas )
amari_z: (Lunatic)
A couple months ago I got a Kindle for my birthday. This should be a cause for glee and rejoicing (and it was), but somehow I've also managed to make it into a metaphysical-type quandary. Perhaps I’m just special that way.

Cut for blabbing (now with footnotes!) )
amari_z: (Time changes everything)
Most likely everyone who’d be interested has already seen these, but in case you haven’t, here are some wonderful “backstage” pictures from election night.
amari_z: (mt whitney dawn)
But tonight I'm going to sleep happy, in a way I haven't been happy in eight years.
amari_z: (summer heath)
Voted.

(I love New York’s archaic voting machines; I hope they never replace them with something modern and electronic. There’s something about physically pulling that long lever and actually flipping little black switches by your candidates’ names. And then you get to pull the lever again, and it makes this great, final, solid, thumping sound. I love that sound.)

Now all that’s left is the waiting. Followed by the either the glee/running around in excited circles/joyful shrieking/(now what?) or the (please, no) horror/rage/disbelief/despair/(fleeing? rioting?).

So if you have lucky underwear, socks, or hats, today’s the day. I’m trying for zen at this point, but yeah, right.
amari_z: (egg)
If you've friended this journal, you might want to read the third paragraph if nothing else.

I’ve been pretty much AWOL lately, and haven’t been spending much time online at all. (So, if there’s something anyone wants me to know, please tell me/post a link in the comments, because I haven’t been keeping up.)

I’m still working on the next part of Resurrection (a/k/a teh crack). I was hoping to finish it by the end of the year, but it’s going slooowly and I don’t seem to have much time/energy for it, so that seems unlikely--although I‘m going to try to have at least a draft done (provided work doesn‘t decide to explode in my face). I’m up to about 20 pages, although they need severe rewriting. There are a bunch of things in this chapter that I’ve been building toward for ages, so hopefully when it’s done, it’ll be somewhat exciting. It’s funny--I think I originally figured I’d get to these plot points in something like the sixth part. Ha! I actually remember sitting in an airport awaiting my connection on my way back from Austria, o so many moons ago (after I had been prodded into making this a series and realized I probably couldn‘t just get away with making bad jokes), and coming up with these vague plotty things. (I think I was smirking to myself because people in the waiting area gave me a couple odd looks. Or maybe that was because they were just worried I was a terrorist.) Anyway, this just means that in addition to the usual agonizing I do when writing this stuff, there’s no pressure or anything.

Also, I haven’t been paying attention to the friending thing for a while. I think a couple people have friended me. If you’re one of them, and you want me to friend you back, you can post something here. If you want to be added to my personal filter (mostly me venting my rage about work and other stupidities, but not even that lately), let me know, but I tend not to do that unless you have an active journal. And at some point when I get around to it, I am going to prune my filters, which are kind of a mess. This means that if you’ve haven’t commented much but are currently friended and included in the filter, I might defilter you on the assumption that you’re here for the fic (when I post any), which is all public. So, if you’re the quiet type, but don’t want to be defiltered, I’m afraid this is your chance to speak up. If you you aren't sure whether you're filtered and/or likely to be defiltered and care one way or the other, feel free to ask.

Ok, complete random change of topic: in one of the last posts I managed to make, the one after September 11, I quoted from a book by Rashid Khalidi, who is Middle Eastern scholar of moderate bent. I just recently saw this. You know, I do find it infuriating that even the hint of being critical of Israel in this country is enough to brand you as evil. I find this comment, made by a student, telling: "'It should have been like, yes, I know him, and I’d like to know more Middle East experts, because that’s an important thing when you’re making policies.’” How the hell are you ever going to begin to address the situation unless you can acknowledge the positions of both sides? It’s absolutely essential as a starting point--unless, of course, your ultimate policy is actually genocide.

And so what if Mr. Khalidi had babysat Obama’s kids? What’s wrong with the concept? The Colin Powell line seems to be the one to take here, not a simple denial. (And, to my mind, whatever else he’s done that I despise, Powell has completely redeemed himself in my eyes. He’s the only major political figure I’ve heard who’s made the point that I’ve felt like screaming since this whole Obama-is-a-Muslim stuff began.)

And also, btw, if anyone is interested in reading something from the non-Israeli perspective, I just finished Palestinian Walks, which is beautiful book about the landscape of Palestine and the change that Israel’s policies have wrought. It gives some sense of what it means to live in the occupied West Bank. I also read Let It Be Morning, a novel set in a Palestinian village in Israel just before the Oslo Accords were signed. Both are recommended.

And speaking of books, I’ haven’t bought a book in at least a month (I think). That’s pretty scary (and has nothing to do with the frightening state of the economy, since I‘ll forgo food before reading material). Consider it my contribution to the Halloween thing, since I worked late yesterday, did not dress up, ate no candy, gave no candy away, and played no tricks. I’m determined to make a good dent in my Big List of Shame. I’m actually down to under 20 books on my fiction list (we won’t mention the nonfiction). This, if you know anything about me, is pretty much unprecedented.
amari_z: (daily)
Because a cult of victimhood is unhealthy and gives rise to a strident self-righteousness, and because, if our true goal is to provide a worthy memorial to those who have been lost, we can only do so by learning the lessons offered, here’s an excerpt from the introduction of The Iron Cage: The History of the Palestinian Struggle for Statehood by Rashid Khalidi, the Edward Said Chair in Arab Studies at Columbia University, that says what I want to say with far more eloquence and erudition than I could hope to manage. Reluctantly excerpted for length.

It seems that even a shock of magnitude of September 11 was not sufficient to free most Americans of such illusions )
amari_z: (sun voyage)
Happy Independence Day to all my US f-listers. This day seems an appropriate one to muse on something that’s been on my mind a lot in recent years, but which was particularly triggered by a truck I’ve seen parked outside my building for the last week. As I might have mentioned once or twice before, there’s a big construction pit right outside my door. One of the trucks stationed to collect debris has stenciled across the front: “AMERICA LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT!!!” The sight of this demand (threat?) sours my mood each day as I approach home. This sort of rhetoric is a sore point, especially now when it has become commonplace in our political discourse to call any criticism of the government unpatriotic and a betrayal of the country.

On this, the day we mark the 232nd anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, I find myself wanting to remember that this country was founded by the revolt of people who, whatever their other faults and virtues, were deeply distrustful of the power of government. They in fact were so wary that the first national government they created was so weak as to be disastrously ineffective. It was only after this failed attempt that they drafted the Constitution that is the basis of our government today, and its Framers had to work hard to convince the suspicious nation to accept the stronger national government it created. The Constitution, which provided for a far weaker executive branch then we’ve come to have today, is built on a concept of checks and balances, a theory that embraces inefficiencies in government and pits separate, equal branches of government against each other. The Framers viewed this systematic inefficiency as preferable to the danger inherent in a more streamlined, and hence more efficient and effective, government. They feared the danger of power collecting into one person or groups’ hands. None of the Founding Fathers would recognize the concept that debate and dissent were unpatriotic--in fact they would argue the opposite. Debate and dissent (if one disagreed) were the responsibility--the duty--of the citizenry, which would be informed by a free and vigilant press.

This is not a controversial reading of early American history. To truly love this country, to protect its founding ideals, is to be willing to take the time and have the courage to scrutinize the actions of those who hold office and to voice support or dissent. A state where the government’s policies must be supported without debate and dissent is not in keeping with the Republic declared on this day over two centuries ago; it is instead the foundation of a fascist state.

We’ve all heard the excuses for the abuses of the current administration too often: that we’re fighting a war like no other; that drastic measures are necessary for survival; that unless we hand over some liberties, the enemy will win.* But this is bullshit. It’s an excuse that echoes the rhetoric of the Nazi party when it took control of Germany. And even if it’s correct--if preserving our ideals, our free state, costs us something in safety--is the alternative really preferable? What, then, are we are seeking to protect? Ben Franklin once wrote, “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” I’ve thought of this often in the last seven or so years.

So on this day of barbeques, fireworks and celebration, let’s not forget what it means to be truly patriotic. I say this not so much for you, my fabulous f-list, for I realize I’m largely preaching to the choir, but for myself, as a reminder that, while I find so many activities of the United States’ government morally, ethically, and legally repugnant and am made ashamed and afraid by them, I do love this country for the ideals it is supposed to stand for. The Framers called it the quest for a more perfect union. It is a quest that recognizes that democracy, liberty and justice are fragile aspirations that a vigilant citizenry must constantly define and strive for, and not something that any administration, party or politician can complacently claim to possess.

“Guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism.”
~George Washington

“America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”
~Abraham Lincoln

Happy Birthday, America.



*But lest it be thought that there’s no need to fret on these matters, since it looks possible that the Democrats will gain the White House in the next election and that the last years will come to be an aberration, a nightmare, from which we will awaken, remember that it was a Democratic Congress that recently passed legislation immunizing telecom companies from their illegal spying, that the passed the wiretap law legitimizing the administrations’ ability to tap our conversations without judicial supervision, that has permitted the Guantanamo incarcerations and “trials” to go on, and that has failed to act to prevent what any rational person can only call state-sanctioned torture.
amari_z: (lilies)
Yes, I persist. [livejournal.com profile] flawsrevenge asked for 3D Camelot (which I kind of want now). Set in the same AU as Errant.



Building the Legend )
amari_z: (addict)
I’ve been very, very bad with the book-buying thing. I will happily blame New York’s “Amazon law,” which recently required online retailers with New York affiliates to start charging New York sales tax. Its legality is questionable, but in the meantime it provided an excuse for me to buy a whole bunch of books at five minutes to midnight the day before it went into effect. My 2008 Big List of Shame is now updated (mostly, I think), and it is more shameful than ever. But I have been crossing things off as well (if at a much slower rate), and I’ve read some great stuff.

I don’t think I’ve done any of my periodic mini-book reviews so far this year, but that seems rather daunting at this point. Instead, I’m going to do something different, and quote a few lines from some of my recent reads. If anyone’s interest is piqued, feel free to ask for more information.

Books, Books, Books!!! )
amari_z: (daily)
I missed this last night, but I've been waiting years. Unfortunately, nothing seems likely to come of it, but it's about time. It's unquestionable (unless you're a fact-immune pundit) that Bush has broken the law numerous times, and there's every legal justification for impeachment.

You can see the video at Crooks and Liars (and I hope a bunch of other places).
amari_z: (addict)
This (with a few judicious alterations) could be me in about 25 years (if I’m not killed before then by a collapsing shelf). Not sure whether to laugh or cry.

Books are much more than container vessels for ideas. They are very nearly living things, or at least are more than the sum of their parts.

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