Thursday, June 29, 2006

Addressing Complaints

And there have surely been a few. OK like three. Since there are four readers. But at least 2 have been that I don't post enough pictures. This is because I haven't taken a picture here since our last excursion out of the city. I never was a picture person.

But today, Slate's Magnum Photo feature is running a series of photos of Stokeley Carmicheal (aka Kwame Toure). Today is his birthday. They're great photos.

My favorites being the opening photo, the seventh photo, and this photo tops the list.


Sunday, June 25, 2006

“As long as it’s talking with you, talk of the weather will do.”

The afternoons have been filled with what’s best described as a flat warm wind. Oddly, I don’t find it refreshing, as I do for most breezes. I still find a certain type of placidity brought by the wind, though the breeze isn’t calming by any means, and I don’t want to say that it brings a sense of apathy.

So every afternoon an odd dislocation sets in, and when not so removed, maybe one day I’ll find better words to describe it. But as for now, as a subsequent line in the BTS song “The Weather” advises, “Nobody's hoping for better days/ No one knows what to do./ You're okay in your secret place,/ No one bothering you,” I’ll leave it alone.

Work, as stated many times before, chugs along. It’s providing the continuity and pace that is necessary to allow me to cocoon myself to what’s going on down south. Occasionally, something that floats across the wires (or gets emailed to me from the security staff) affects my work. Largely, I can float along, in my office/bedroom enjoying the afternoon’s dislocation.

Also, as I’ve stated many times before, we’ve continued to wind down the project. So we’ve consolidated houses and offices. I’m taking over the wrap-up of another project as one of our expats heads home. That may involve some scurrying across town, so I may not be able to cocoon myself so much in my secret place. I’m definitely going to be bothered by more people too.

To buffer that (and I’m getting a little “escape envy” as coworkers [even the Chief is taking some, well deserved, time off] are coming or going), I’m trying to get out of town for a few days in a week or two. Go to Dubai just to leave here for a while. Not much of an exchange as it will be intolerably hot there with hot winds. But it will be not here, and that should be good for a few days.

So, in the end, I’m going to say it’s the weather that I blame for me not posting links to some articles and news on Afghanistan. Also, there seems to be a lot more news that is readily available to everyone. There were two recent articles on by Fred Kaplan. He dicusses the opium conundrum and NATO's Afghan strategy. There was also this good article by Ahmed Rashid, a book review that has a great “introduction” before getting to the review. Cut the man some slack on the self-serving aspect of writing an article that is 3/4s background and exposition, and 1/4 review, because it’s really good background and exposition.

Parts of Rashid’s article, which is largely on current issues and the climate here reminded me of a recent find, Peter Lamborn Wilson’s “travelogue”/article. Wilson, otherwise known as Hakim Bey for those familiar with Bey and all that entails, visited Afghanistan many times in the 60s and 70s and returned in 2003. This piece covers all that. Something struck when contrasting what was evoked in the above Rashid article with this Wilson quote:

The fact that the Taliban succeeded in taking over Afghanistan has always seemed to me a certain sign that the Afghanistan I knew was completely smashed to hell by the Russians and civil war. I never heard any Afghan, however pious, praise "fundamentalism" or mullah-inspired bigotry. No one had ever heard of this perversion of Islam, which then existed only in Saudi Arabia. Afghan Islam was very orthopractic, but also very pro-sufi; essentially, it was old-fashioned mainstream Islam. The idea of banning kite-flying would probably have caused hoots of incredulous laughter. It must have taken 20 years of vicious neo-imperialist ideological cultural murder and oppression to make Talibanism look like the least of all available evils.

In the last post, I noted that the discontinuity of this place was a tired cliché, especially as this place is and these people are constantly on the move. There may be even too much continuity and history here. In following my own advice, I'll search for something else. So maybe through “dislocation”—physically, temporally, cognitively, every which “-ly,” can this place be better understood. In the least, dislocation is helping me understand my current state here.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Late Again And Blaming Kabubble

It really is that odd 30 extra minutes added in this timezone. That's the reason, a discontinuity...that maybe explains too much, or rather is such a ripe metaphor, it's cliche. Anyway...

Another 'new to me artist', that apparently blew the charts up in Europe and in G.B. late last summer, Mattafix. So I was in the US then. Whatever...minor point.

I just saw the video of "Big City Life" on the South African sat channel we get. And the thing is, there is so much wrong: the video was at times quite trite (the homeless man vignette, though the pregnant woman thing and the accountant/skateborder i just don't get), the lyrics are painfully simplistic (i.e. not unlike The Streets or Audio Bully, but there is nothing really personal nor just "fuck all" as they say, about the lyrics. This particular song is just generic and universal.), the carribiean/dancehall emcee is a bit forced, the male singing is downright bad with its atonal falsetto, and it totally cops the feel (I think the cymbals and bass line in the beginning) of Primitive Radio Gods "Phone Booth" song (had to google that, as I was chatting w/ a friend and neither of us could remember that info, but I remembered vague and odd snippets). And it's so mid-90s trip-hop, with a few 2-step beats thrown in.

But I love the song.

I can't stop listening to it. I've even grown to like the signing voice, terrible as it is.

I love this song.

Dowload/Listen to some of their stuff here.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Not Quite Quiet or Quite Not Quiet?

The reason I still think it’s fairly quiet here, I’ll chalk it up to the distance and mountain passes between Kabul and Kandahar. Despite my few recent post titles proclaiming the quiet, and the music I've been listening to, the editors at seems to think there is an "unquiet" here, or at least in the east. They even put it on Wednesday's front page. As for the news accounts, even the daily ones I receive from our security folks, I should be counting them in the same log, but I’ll still insist upon my claims of quiet. Here is the fairly pessimistic, but well written, article in Though to me, with my biases fully acknowledged, the tone seemed a bit sensationalist. Don’t ask me to justify that, else I’ll have to think about it more. And if you haven’t noticed, either by the dearth of posts, or the nature of the posts recently, I haven’t been thinking much about the situation here. Futher, if the sensationalism gets more public care/awareness of the situation here, I'll thank the press.

A lot has been going on, work wise, and the continuing extension and scale-back makes for a weird work environment. Luckily, of late my job has largely been operational. There are daily tasks to be done, things to be monitored, keep things running and such. So, though tedious at times, it keeps me moving. But in general, project wise, we’re in a glide pattern. And as we step into another three months, it’s somewhat frustrating. It’s especially frustrating because it seems like the whole of the donor/aid world is entering that pattern. Though I may be just imposing my sentiments, it nonetheless seems that the riots and the preceding and continuing escalation of military action and violence has a lot of groups and people in a "wait and see" attitude.

The problem--that is probably the last thing that is needed here. What is sorely needed is not only a redoubling of military/security measures, especially from the ANA (not just foreign troops), but also a redoubling of actual efforts and plans from aid groups (as the article linked above notes). Of course, the Afghan compact, and plans are all fine and dandy, with actual shovels to the ground being much better. Yet, the reality, as it seems to me, is that it will be a while before more can be done, physically. So it’ll at least be some good paperwork that needs to be done in the mean time.

Tangentially, yesterday, after getting our daily headline/news update via email, I was about to immediately post it. The humor of it struck me, and then it just got kinda disappointing. The irony of the first two headlines being concurrently true now gone, and the reality sinking in, my (essentially trivializing) motivation to share the headlines slipped away, thankfully. Now, I’ll still post the headlines, as I think they better capture the current moment here:

Afghan President Denies Forming Militias
June 11, 2006 -- Afghan President Hamid Karzai today denied media reports that he is forming militia forces in southern Afghanistan to fight the...

Afghan president: Tribal fighters will help battle Taliban

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Sunday his government will give weapons to local tribesmen so they can help fight the biggest increase in Taliban violence in...

Karzai says between rock and hard place on reforms

KABUL (Reuters) - Afghan President Hamid Karzai said on Sunday his government was trying to follow a moderate path in the face of competing pressures from the international community and his nation...

So as many are commenting now, and a few started sounding the warnings signals before, the situation is slipping further into factionalism. Motivations are becoming individual again, and though they may have been so all the while, actions towards such are now more transparent.

So mine is a sense of apathetic frustration towards the politics and such going on here. Thus the lack of news, well, rather sharing of news and posting and such. I still keep up with the news. I’m just not excited by or vested in much of what I read, news wise. I still have a job to get done, and will try to and hopefully give my best effort on that. I still see more than enough to inspire hope—the markets are still busy, construction still goes on, many folks aren’t at the point of running scared yet, and there is a recently launched CF/ISAF offensive in the south. So, maybe it’s that I just don’t care to hope much right now. We’ll leave hope for when the fighting slows down again.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

In Desperation...

...I'll fall back to a music post. Again via's Audiofile (so yeah, this page has nearly become a proxy for that least becoming one of my primary sources), I've been introduced to a new to me artist, Carl Hancock Rux.

His new album, on Thirsty Ear (which, with the few recent Blue Series releases I've really liked (El-P's jazz album and DJ Spooky's release), may be put the "must buy" label list), is really strong. A neo-soul/blues/jazz/hip-hop album, along the lines w/ the two other name drops above. Some of the piano work does strike some similarities w/ Matthew Shipp's efforts on El-P's album.

And then there is the singing. The voice isn't spectacular, but rather a really solid baritone. Rux's lyrics (especially, which makes sense given his apparent literary talents) and delivery make the album, and really fill in and carry the sparse compositions. Think Chocolate Genius, with less experimentation and more gospel influences and generally uplifting, rather then wretchedly miserable, sentiments and tone.

Here's the free song "Lies", and a "video/add/interview" off of the Thirsty Ear site. The album, "Good Bread Alley" is on iTunes as well.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Quiet As Curfew Should Be

Today, thankfully, went with apparently no major incidents. At least I heard nothing, and heard of nothing.

The city, all of it, has been under curfew. And even during the day it seems a bit more subdued. But I haven't left the house. We are allowed to move around, essential travel only though.

Of my national coworkers that I've talked to, they seem apologetic and angry--at the riots and rioters and the US military for the accident, all of which is understandable. And with the lack of incidents and the anger towards the destruction of parts of the city, **we wont see any repeats in the immediate future.

**Hopefully, I meant to say.