Sunday, December 14, 2008

Travel advice in Istanbul

A friend just wrote me to ask for advice about things to do and see in Turkey, which reminded me of a long list of ideas posted on a blog by Nassim Assefi, a friend of a friend who is a medical doctor and novelist, and currently lives in Istanbul. You can click here to see her suggestions (look for her March 21, 2008 post). Her tastes seem more refined (and expensive) than mine, but she has some great ideas. I especially like her reading list -- (Birds Without Wings is one of my favorite novels ever), and I liked Orhan Pamuk's Istanbul -- and the suggestion of finding a rooftop restaurant to admire the city's views. My favorite in this category is the one at Hotel Arcadia, which is expensive, but when I went just for a cup of tea they did not seem to mind. The photo here is from their website.

Other favorites of mine are strolling Istiklal Street, the Homer Kitab Evi (Bookstore) which has a fantastic selection in English, having a fish sandwich underneath the Galata bridge, taking the ferry to just about any location and going for a walk. I'll keep thinking about this and perhaps post more ideas later, and I encourage other readers to comment here to add their own.

Friday, December 05, 2008

on procrastination


one of Ashleigh Brilliant's "Pot Shots," as seen on

( which I am posting, of course, on the last day of the academic quarter, when I should be working on final papers ... )

Monday, December 01, 2008

quote from Anatole France

We thought we were dying for the fatherland. We realized quickly it was for the bank vaults.

--as quoted by Hardt & Negri, in Empire, p. 93

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Happy November 30!

Seattle WTO Shutdown 9 Year Anniversary: 5 Lessons for Today
by David Solnit

"What lessons can we learn from the shutdown of the 1999 WTO Ministerial in Seattle 9 years ago today and from the last decade and a half of global justice organizing as we face today's major crises under an Obama Administration? This was the question a group of organizers from different parts of the last decades of global justice organizing responded to last week at a forum in New York City put together by Deep Dish TV, an independent video/media pioneer. Here are my thoughts..."

Click the link above to read David's comments on social movements, the WTO, the Obama Administration, and five organizing lessons:






Photo by Al Crespo, from; article from

Monday, November 10, 2008

"I Hope," by Eduardo Galeano

"Will Obama prove, at the helm of government, that his threats of war against Iran and Pakistan were only words, broadcast to seduce difficult ears during the election campaign?

"I hope. And I hope he will not fall, even for a moment, for the temptation to repeat the exploits of George W. Bush..."

Click here for the full commentary.

whose heroes?

My friend Gus, a great lover of history and a retired Lt. Colonel of the U.S. Marines, wrote the following on a recent trip to Mexico City. Every time he travels, which is often, he writes travelogues full of history and wonder.

Chapultepec Castle, site of the battle during the Mexican-American War in 1847. I am a little uncomfortable here. This is a sensitive site for Mexicans. On Sept 12-13, General Winfield Scott took the castle from General Santa Anna in a bloody battle that has been central to Mexican-American relations ever since.

Many non-combatant Mexicans were killed in the battle, as were six young teenage cadets from the military academy in the castle. Five of those cadets died in the battle, and the sixth wrapped himself in a Mexican flag and jumped to his death from the castle ramparts to avoid capture. The six are immortalized as the "Ninos (Children) Heroes" in a colossal memorial at the foot of the castle hill.

The battle played a significant role in US history also. "From the Halls of Montezuma", the opening lines of the Marine Corps Hymn, originate from this battle. The red stripe on Marine Corps dress blue uniform trousers commemorates this victory. [I don´t know if this is true, but I have heard that the US Marines at the embassy in Mexico City are not to wear their dress blue trousers for that reason.] Robert E. Lee, George Pickett and Ulysses S. Grant were all participants in the battle.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Seattle folks, don't miss this

Correo Aéreo, Gabriel Teodros, Cristina Orbé, three of my favorite groups and musicians, and it is a fundraiser for KBCS, the best (and only) community radio station in town! (I hear Laura Love is good, too.)

Thursday, November 06, 2008

No We Can't, White Folks

Now that Obama has won, here are five things white people shouldn't do ...

Click to read this from Christopher Beam & Chris Wilson on

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Let's talk about what happens AFTER election day.

On November 5, millions of Americans and millions more around the world will be rejoicing, breathing great sighs of relief, and hanging their heads in disappointment. We will experience all of these, because regardless of whether the majority chooses Obama - which would represent an important step forward - many crucial initiatives and propositions on the ballot in various states will profoundly impact people's lives, their marriages, transportation, schools, treatment programs and incarceration, and all the others you have heard about. Progressive forces will likely not all win on all of these.

Regardless of whether the majority chooses Obama, we need to keep working, because no president is ever solely responsible – or even chiefly responsible – for positive social change. The last thing we need now is a re-run of the Clinton era, when many liberals were relived that the twelve years of Reagan and Bush I were finally over, the far right gathered its strength, and we allowed the Clinton Administration to go along with – and even sponsor – reactionary legislation that targeted immigrants, scapegoated families struggling to get by on welfare, accelerated corporate media consolidation, and created NAFTA and the World Trade Organization, for example.

What is the change that Obama speaks of? We have heard some of his policy proposals, but what actually comes out of his office will be determined largely by what is made possible by the work of progressive organizations. The change that is Obama's motto and that we so intensely long for will only come with the committed effort of a society organized, of people personally involved at the workplace, on campus, in the neighborhood, for specific issues and in coalition, within the demographic groups we belong to, and also reaching across the lines that separate us.

I just came from a phone bank against Proposition 8, which would eliminate the right to marry for same-sex couples in California. I will volunteer a few hours on election day for "Get Out The Vote" activities with PUEBLO, a local organization that builds power and leadership among low-income people. Please, do what you can in the coming days. Vote, of course. But also talk courageously with friends and family about the key issues. Volunteer – work a phone bank, give someone a ride to the polls. (If you don't know how to get started, check out Or you must know at least one activist. Ask them.) Make another donation, even if you can't afford it.

And the day after election day, please, stay involved. The day after that, keep fighting. And the day after that, and the day after that, and all the days to come. We need you.

reprinted Nov. 3, 2008, in the UCSB
Daily Nexus

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

McCain's Private Visit With Chilean Dictator Pinochet Revealed For First Time

From NACLA's Report on the Americas
John Dinges, Oct. 24 2008

John McCain, who has harshly criticized the idea of sitting down with dictators without pre-conditions, appears to have done just that. In 1985, McCain traveled to Chile for a friendly meeting with Chile's military ruler, General Augusto Pinochet, one of the world's most notorious violators of human rights credited with killing more than 3,000 civilians and jailing tens of thousands of others.

... To keep reading, click here.

Monday, October 27, 2008

No on Prop 8 phone bank Wednesday!

For folks at UCSB ... Are you doing all you can to stop Prop 8?

No on Prop 8 phone bank, Oct. 29, at UCSB
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
4:00pm - 8:00pm
UCSB Student Resource Bldg, room 1103 (conf. room)

The No on Prop 8 campaign is tracking polls that show CA is in jeopardy of Prop 8 passing. That's why we need your help right away.

"Phone banks" are a simple, effective method to sway voters. We have a list of voters in the 805 area code, and a script you can use to bring people over to our side. It doesn't matter if you have never phone-banked before, we will provide a brief training, and it's not hard to do.

There will be FREE PIZZA -- please RSVP saying what time you will arrive and what kind of pizza you want.

With two weeks to go, the time to impact this campaign is now. Please join us!

And if you use Facebook, you can invite people via

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Paying your share.

I would like to send this to the farmer in question, but I don't know his name or address. And I would send it as a letter to the editor, but the S.B. News Press is a ruthlessly anti-union company, and a journalistic embarrassment. So I'll just post it here, instead.

At the Saturday farmers’ market, one stand was selling “McCain tomatoes” at $1.50 per pound, and Obama tomatoes for $3.00. The man behind the table seemed to enjoy riling up the liberal Santa Barbara crowd, calling out, “Spread the wealth! Buy Obama tomatoes!” The woman by his side was engaged in damage control. “They’re all the same tomatoes,” she said, “and they’re all the same price.”

At first I laughed, appreciating the man’s willingness to talk politics with a crowd that was likely to disagree, and his sense of humor.

“So does that mean you make more than $250,000 a year?” I jabbed back.

“No,” he responded, “more like $47,000.” Then he continued yelling, “Spread the wealth!”

As I walked away, my smile faded. His message really bothered me. If he supported McCain because of his stance on abortion, or the Iraq War, I could simply agree to disagree. But the tomato joke was repeating perhaps the biggest lie of this presidential campaign: that Obama wants to raise taxes for people like the farmer and his customers.

The Washington Post, not a liberal paper, tells the truth of the matter: “Obama's plan gives the biggest cuts to those who make the least, while McCain would give the largest cuts to the very wealthy.” (That’s from 6/9/08.)

More specifically, under Obama’s tax plan, the average taxes would be the same or lower in 2009 for anyone making less than $603,000 per year. Anyone making less than $112,000 per year would receive a larger tax cut under Obama’s plan, compared with McCain’s. Only people making more than $603,000 would see an increase in taxes.

Have you seen these details, Mr. Farmer? McCain is twisting the truth, terribly.

In order to pay for essential services, such as schools, Medicare, bridges and roads, we all have to pay taxes. In our tough economic times, I strongly support Obama’s plan to give the majority of us a tax break, and to tax the richest among us a bit more.
It’s called “paying your fair share.”

On second thought, I'll submit this to the Daily Sound and the UCSB Daily Nexus.

Fandango Jarocho

First draft of a prose poem, after last night's fandango at Muddy Waters café

Six standing against the wall, instruments in hand
Skulls smile from over their shoulders, flowers in their hair.

Two men, un chaparrito y un gordito, welcome the crowd
in two languages, and call on everyone to participate.
El chaparrito teaches the rhythm of the dance – the zapateado –
says "café con pan, café con pan,"
two stomps with the left foot, one stomp with the right, one more with the left.
Then switch sides.

Then they begin to play, the harp,
the marimbol, and jaranas –
the big huapanguera and three others
each smaller than the one before.
The man in the white hat, white shirt
plays the smallest jarana, the mosquito,
and has the smallest voice.

They sing, taking turns
starting and ending each verse with the same line.
These songs are stories, funny and sad.
The first starts, Ay Guacamaya, ¿adónde vas?
A los Estados Unidos, a la pisca, a trabajar.

Still playing, the chaparrito calls everyone to come closer.
The band circles 'round the tarima
more people crowd in the door
a brown woman in a huipil
a white man with a ponytail
a little girl on her papa’s shoulders
more jaranas of all shapes and sizes join the circle.

On the tarima, the dancing platform,
two big mamas learn the zapateado
the "café con pan" on their lips,
smiling big.
No one cares they miss a step or two.

The song goes on and on
verse after verse
circling around the rythym,
the call and response
now quieter, now louder
‘til el chaparrito yells “una!”
the musicians play one more round of chords
their hands drop silent to their sides
in the same moment everyone brings theirs together
to clap and cheer ...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

quotes from historian Marc Bloch

There is no waste more criminal than that of erudition running ... in neutral gear.

To plumb the consciousness of another person, separate from us by the interval of generations, we must virtually lay aside our own ego, whereas, to say what we think, we need only to remain ourselves. This is a less arduous endeavor.

It is so easy to denounce. We are never sufficiently understanding.

Interestingly, it seems to me that the last two quotes apply not only to the craft of history, as the author intended, but to interpersonal relations.

Taken from The Historian's Craft, Vintage Books, 1953, pages 86, 141, and 143.

PS For whatever it's worth, this guy looks a lot like my grandfather.

Paul Loeb: Volunteer Energy and Political Tipping Points

Volunteer Energy and Political Tipping Points

By Paul Rogat Loeb

On election day four years ago, I was canvassing in home state of Washington, alternately knocking on doors for gubernatorial candidate Christine Gregoire and breaking to call Ohio and Florida. After three recounts, Gregoire won by 129 votes. I had no idea my state election was so close, but I did get three people who wouldn’t have otherwise voted--one forgot it was election day, one needed a ride to the polls, and a third didn’t know how to turn in her absentee ballot. If you multiply my efforts by those of thousands of other volunteers, we clearly helped make the difference.

The same happened in 2006. During the election’s final weeks, I spent about 30 hours calling through MoveOn’s Call for Change program, contacting voters in Virginia, Missouri, Montana, and other states with key Senate and Congressional races. Grabbing spare moments where I could, I dialed my way across the country, convincing maybe 20 people who wouldn’t have otherwise to back the Democratic challengers. Some initially resisted saying, “They’re all the same. They’re all corrupts.” Or “My vote won’t matter so why bother.” But I convinced them to vote, and added a few with election-day reminders. Later I read that MoveOn had 120,000 volunteers. If each had half the impact of my efforts, that meant over a million votes, in a season when US Senate seats swung on margins as close as Montana’s 3,500 votes, Virginia’s 9,000, Rhode Island’s 29,000, or Missouri’s 48,000. Our common efforts again tipped the balance.

It’s easy to think of our individual election volunteering as insignificant. But when enough of us act even in small ways, we can have a powerful impact. Studies have found that if you talk to a dozen people by going door-to-door, you’ll likely add at least one new voter for your candidate, a ratio that tends to hold true from local to federal elections, so long as you’re working in reasonably receptive neighborhoods. Phone outreach can have a similar impact, though you need to talk with more people for a comparable result. Imagine what a few hundred more volunteers could have done to shift Florida’s 537-vote official margin in 2,000, even with all the Republican machinations.

individual actions can be multiplied on both sides. In 2004 a friend was overseeing a cluster of Florida precincts for John Kerry. He’d exceeded his target for turnout, and was feeling guardedly hopeful. Then a couple hundred people showed up en masse, many holding Bibles. They’d been mobilized by Los Angeles and Omaha phone banks, calling fundamentalist congregations. Those who called had every right to do so, and their efforts, alas, helped reelect George Bush.

So why don’t more of us participate, or participate more? Between now and the election, far too many of us will spend plenty of time reading political articles, blogs and polls, obsessing on the latest twists and turns in the headlines, and rooting for our candidate as if for a favorite sports team—while doing relatively little to change the outcome. We can do more than be passive spectators.

Many of us live in states where the presidential race is largely settled, although the popular vote mandate will matter in terms of political leverage, there are numerous close Senate, Congress and governor’s races, not to mention important state ballot initiatives. Even if you don’t live in Virginia or Colorado, Ohio, North Carolina or Pennsylvania, you can go to the campaign websites and find lists of people to call in key swing states, scripts through which to call them, and step-by-step explanations to walk you through the process. You really can do it from the comfort of your home or apartment--or as part of a group phone bank, if the support makes it easier. Getting involved is more challenging in some states than others, but still an opportunity to affect the long arc of history at a potential key turning point.

Even in the ground-zero battlegrounds, I’ve met people who passionately follow the contest, yet hold back from actively participating. When I was in Cleveland last week, a woman raised her hand and said “I’ve been walking neighborhoods for Obama, but my friends don’t want to join me, even though they care just as much about the election. They say they don’t like rejection.”

I asked if anyone in the audience enjoyed rejection. Surprisingly, no one did. But the woman who had canvassed said the time she spent was actually pretty decent. She got some butterflies at first—it’s always hard approaching strangers. But once she got into the swing, she enjoyed it. She even had some thoughtful conversations, once she left the necessary training wheels of the script.

Many of us also hesitate due to a perfect standard where we feel we need to be totally eloquent or our efforts will be worthless. My retired neighbor considered calling for Obama, then worried that he wasn’t as articulate and persuasive as he used to be, so decided not to. But our efforts don’t have to be perfect, they just have to be heartfelt, and we have to keep at them.

With Obama opening up a steadily increasing lead, it’s easy for those of us to support him to get complacent. But this is a volatile electorate—a little over a month ago, McCain led with his Sarah Palin bounce. So while the polls are encouraging, given economic meltdown, attack ads, racial issues, and potential voter intimidation and suppression, we’d be wise to view this as an election where our actions really could determine the outcome.

Most of us reading this essay will vote. And maybe most of our friends will as well. But in a politically divided nation, victory may well go to the side that turns out the greatest numbers of more marginal supporters, including those who are newly registered and uncertain about the process, or who doubt their vote will matter. Particularly when reaching out to those who haven’t traditionally voted, getting people to the polls isn’t something that can be done by just running more ads. We have to make the phone calls, knock on the doors, and remind people as many times as necessary of the differences between the candidates and the impact they could make with their vote. This election may well be won with presence and persistence. It might just be in our hands.

Paul Rogat Loeb is the author of The Impossible Will Take a Little While: A Citizen's Guide to Hope in a Time of Fear, named the #3 political book of 2004 by the History Channel and the American Book Association. His previous books include Soul of a Citizen: Living With Conviction in a Cynical Time. See To receive his articles directly, email with the subject line: subscribe paulloeb-articles

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Respóndele a Obama

Let me repeat: even if Obama wins, the state of the U.S. and the world is precarious, and we can't leave it up to one man to fix things ... but still, I feel hopeful, especially after watching this video!

Monday, October 06, 2008


What follows is a chronicle of an afternoon spent in Ankara last summer,
which I meant to post months ago...

Pazar, 8 Haziran
Sunday, June 8

After lunch, I accompanied cousin İnci to the castle district, where she was to meet some friends. We parted ways and I wandered the steep cobbled streets, stopping for a ring of hot simit, or sesame bread, and stepping into a handicrafts shop called Öykü. A man bounded up the back stairwell, out of breath by the time he reached me. When I asked him how much for a painted ceramic fish on a string of beads, he snapped, “I am so tired from running up the stairs to greet you and all you ask is the price?" Then he burst out laughing. He turned the dangling artwork around and said, "Look, it’s on the back. You could have figured that out!”

He asked where I was from. "American?" He lifted up my arms, pantomimed a security search. “Where is your gun?” He made a gun with his thumb and forefinger, and explained that no American goes unarmed. No, I answered his questions, I am not a soldier, and no, I don’t like war. His smile softened a bit. He shook my hand warmly and called me “dost.” (Close to the word “compañero” in Spanish, this means “friend,” “comrade,” or “lover,” depending.) Then he handed me his business card. His name was İbrahim Ö., Proprietor. "But my friends call me 'İbo.'"

The phone rang, and İbo sprinted to the back of the store. (“Yes, I’m here at the store, yes, it’s going well, I am talking to an American.”) When he returned, He saw me smiling and tapping my foot to the Balkan music on the stereo. “Nice song, isn’t it?” he asked. Now it was my turn to laugh. It was the absurdly macho refrain of "Pit Bull Terrier," from the film Black Cat White Cat. Then he laughed, and we recounted our favorite scenes from the movie and its wild, absurd humor. His rapid-fire speech was punctuated by finger jabs, shoulder pats, squeezes of the arm. He was on the short side, with shoulder-length black hair turning gray, a few days’ whiskers. Blue jeans and long-sleeve black Polo shirt.

He asked if I was married, and I told him about my girlfriend. “Do you have children?” he asked. “No? You must have children, lots of children! You are a good man, I can see that from your smile. There are so many bad people having children, good people must have more children than them!”

After meandering conversations and a bit of haggling, I bought the ceramic fish, asked him to wrap it up safely, a gift for some friends getting married soon. "Fish are very good luck," he told me. "This is a great gift, handmade, hand-painted." I thanked him many times over in my poor Turkish and promised to return.

"Ah," he said, shaking my hand, not letting go. "There's one more thing I want to tell you. This store, I named it after my daughter, eight years old."

Öykü was the name. Meaning Story.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

the magic of Bruce Goldish

After spending another beautiful day indoors, I went for a walk downtown and was amazed to hear beautiful acoustic guitar booming out of a parking garage above the street. Apparently Bruce Goldish is a Sunday evening institution in Santa Barbara, here in one of his "favorite outlaw places to play." His energy verges on maniacal, he has talent and humor to match, and his personable interaction with listeners includes posting every hand-written comment on his website!

Saturday, October 04, 2008

PUEBLO: a great group in my new town.

One of the many reasons I am pleased to now live in Santa Barbara, California, is the existence of this great organization, PUEBLO.

This is how they describe themselves:

PUEBLO is a 501(c)4 non-profit economic and environmental justice organization dedicated to building the political power and leadership of low-income residents throughout Santa Barbara County.

Santa Barbara County is home to one of the wealthiest communities in the United States, yet there is tremendous poverty throughout our County. Santa Barbara County has the highest rate of uninsured children in the State, and the economy is dominated by low-wage jobs in the service, tourist, and agricultural industries.

The high cost of living is forcing working families to hold multiple jobs, commute long distances for low-wage work, and live in crowded apartments. Many working people are frequently forced to make hard choices between paying the rent, feeding their families, or going to the doctor. When working families are unable to meet their basic needs, our whole community suffers.

PUEBLO’s primarily organizes around the following issues: living wage, public transportation, affordable housing, health care, immigrant rights, and child care.

One of my favorite parts about this is that they are organized as a 501(c)(4) organization. This means that donations to the organization are not tax-deductible, as they are with the better known 501(c)(3) organizations. The flip side is that PUEBLO does not have to conform to the legal limits placed on 501(c)(3) organizations, namely that they can't support or oppose candidates for elected office. In other words, they are less hamstrung by the "non-profit/industrial complex." I look forward to learning more about them.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Seattle WTO People's History Project

The Battle for the Story of Seattle: A Call to Social Movements to Reclaim Our History

"Until the lions have their own historians, tales of hunting will always glorify the hunter." —African Proverb

A major motion picture called "Battle in Seattle" is being released now in cities across the country. The movie is a docu-drama – a fictional story based on real events — that features extensive archival footage. It may shape what most people in the US and around the world think happened for decades to come—unless we speak up. We call for social movements to take action: to reclaim our history, our stories, and our future.

The story of popular resistance to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Seattle in 1999 is a story of how people power can change the world. It is a dangerous example for the global elite, and a powerful one for movements.

For eight years, the US corporate media, global elites, and their police have been twisting and marginalizing the truth, in order to invent their own story of Seattle 1999 and the stories of social movements' resistance and victories. These lies and revisions of history have been used in an attempt to criminalize and repress our protests, movements, and mobilizations.

The movie will be released on the eighth anniversary of the 1999 Seattle anti-WTO uprising and shutdown. It was written by a well-meaning actor-director, but is unlikely to reflect the motives, experience, or thinking of the movements behind the shutdown of the WTO. The potential is high and the possibilities are infinite to interrupt this narrative and claim the history that we helped create.

"The struggle of people against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting."
—Milan Kundera

It's time that we in the social movements tell our own stories, reclaim our own histories, and publicly fight damaging myths of our movements past and present. We must intervene in the public understanding of what happened, what is happening, and what it all means. Stories are how we understand the world and thus shape the future—they are part of our fight against corporate power, empire, war, and social and environmental injustice and for the alternatives that will make a better world.

The real story of Seattle 1999 is of tens of thousands of people rising up, taking direct action, and changing history; standing up to corporations and governments and winning; joining with movements around the world in our common struggle against the WTO.

"When it's truly alive, memory doesn't contemplate history, it invites us to make it."
—Eduardo Galeano, Upside Down: a primer for the looking-glass world

Let's link the 1999 resistance to the WTO in Seattle and globally with building support for today's 2007 resistance that is continuing the fight for global justice on many fronts; against war and occupation for environmental and climate justice; for workers, immigrants, women, and farmers rights, etc. We call for commemorations, public events, performances, media, interventions, interruptions, educational events, performances, screenings, gatherings, and celebrations.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

The Battle for Reality

The Hollywood movie "Battle in Seattle" is opening in select theaters around the country. This article in Yes! Magazine is very helpful in understanding the film's context, achievements and flaws. It was written by David Solnit, an organizer who was a key player in forming the Direct Action Network that shut down the World Trade Organization meetings in 1999.

Also of note are the film's official webpage and, a people's history project David and others have been working on, and the WTO History Project I worked on a few years ago at the UW.

Monday, August 25, 2008

New book: Illegal People

Much respect to David Bacon, an accomplished labor journalist and photographer. I haven't read this book, but it looks very promising ...

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Unicycle Collective at Bumbershoot

My friend Mary Purdy and the Unicycle Collective she performs with is brash, hilarious, honest, touching -- great performers -- and they'll be at Bumbershoot this Labor Day weekend. Check them out, then or at future shows in Seattle.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008


To find this place,
we followed the road that hugs granite
and redwood, filled our arms
with provisions at a roadside market,
looked for a place to camp,
consulting maps
and our intuition.

At Kirk Creek we built a fire
using all the kindling,
kept our fingers crossed.
We stood close together,
recalling names of constellations.
Orion stepped over the mountains,
bow and arrow drawn.
We watched him stalk
across the sky.

We zipped together sleeping bags, amazed
that love was built into their design.
Our eager hands
caressed bellies and thighs
like ice water
on hot skillets
and when we rested
face up to the sky
the hunter looked down upon us.

In the morning, we saw elephant seals
sunning clumsily.
Mothers laid in the sand with new pups.
Monstrous bulls, braying and aloof.
No one saw the newborn
struggling in the surf
silenced by waves
pulling out to sea,
stones crackling underneath.

I needed to tell you something,
tried to speak
but words fell from my mouth
like pebbles,
and scattered in the sand.

Last week I ran into Dominic, a writing buddy I met at the Richard Hugo House a couple of years ago. He reminded me of this poem, which I was working on then, following a breakup. Now, after a fresh look and a few edits, I think it is finally done. Or very close.

Monday, August 04, 2008

BROADSIDED: Putting literature and art on the streets

My friend Susan Rich has a poem now ready for you to print and post anywhere in the world you choose to, accompanied by artwork by Undine Brod. Click click, this is magic.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Memed, My Hawk Memed, My Hawk by Yashar Kemal

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars
A classic, adventurous novel about a boy named Slim Memed who becomes a Robin Hood-like bandit. He is driven to his fate by the cruelty of the local pasha or feudal lord, the hunger of his village in southern Turkey, and especially when his young love's hand is promised to the pasha's nephew. In this exciting story, Yashar Kemal's elegant prose burns with love for the the rugged landscape, the fertile earth, and the people of the Taurus Mountains.

View all my reviews.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Father's WWII stories live on in son's e-mails

from the Oregonian (via Seattle Times) ...

"Michael van der Hout, 51, a legal services assistant at a Portland law firm, sorts through his father's memorabilia to craft a story about his family's history. He sends stories to 200 people, many of them strangers, across the United States, Canada and Europe."

photo by Olivia Bucks, story by Tom Hallman, Jr.
[click on headline for the story]

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Ferocious Attack Kitten

My internet dependency seems a veritable addiction at times, like right now, when I decided to look at "just one more thing" before bed - the Best of Craigslist.

I'm glad I did.

[click headline to see why.]

Friday, July 11, 2008

Facing Poverty at UC

Service workers at the University of California plan to go on strike next week for a contract with decent wages. A friend of a friend made this video, interviewing UC workers about what they and their families go through day to day.

Monday, June 23, 2008

"Democracy has its own remedies"

An interview with Murat Belge, a leading left intellectual in Turkey, discussing the prospects for Turkish democracy.

Friday, June 20, 2008

push back on Fox

Dear Friends,

Right now, Fox News is trying to paint Barack Obama as foreign, un-American, suspicious, and scary. They're trying to send Americans the message that our country's first viable Black candidate for President is not "one of us."

I've joined on to's campaign to push back on Fox, publicly demanding they stop their race-baiting and fear mongering. If that doesn't work, then we'll go to their advertisers and the FCC. I wanted to invite you to sign on as well. It takes only a moment:

Here's what happened recently:

After Senator Obama won the nomination, he and his wife gave each other a "pound" in front of the cameras. Fox anchor E.D. Hill called the act of celebration a "terrorist fist jab." Then last week, a Fox News on-screen graphic referred to Michelle Obama as "Obama's baby mama"--slang used to describe the unmarried mother of a man's child. It was a clear attempt to associate the Obamas with negative cultural stereotypes about Black people, an insult not only to Michelle Obama but to women and Black people everywhere.

After each of the incidents mentioned, Fox issued some form of weak apology. But what does it mean when you slap someone in the face, apologize the next day, then slap them again on the third? It means the apology is meaningless.

These aren't one-time incidents--they're part of a pattern that continues no matter how often Fox is forced to apologize. Fox has a clear record of attacking and undermining Black institutions, Black leaders, and Black people in general.

If we don't push back now, we will see more of the same from now until November. Please join me in helping to bring an end to Fox's behavior.


Burcu's jewelry designs

On the flight from New York to Istanbul, I sat next to a jewelry artist named Burcu Büyükünal. I just now got around to looking at her webpage, and her designs are lovely. (Click the headline to see them.)

The image below is cut in half apparently to dissuade people like me from copying her work without permission, but I hope she won't mind ...

Thursday, June 19, 2008


Full moon rises, burning dark orange through the city’s smog.
Does the sight take my breath away,
or is this just my lungs aching?

Where are you from?

Last year at a party in Seattle, someone asked me where I was from. California. What part? San Luis Obispo, a town halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

“And what are you doing in Seattle? she asked. “Are you visiting family or friends or something?” No, I explained, I have lived in Seattle for a dozen years, and I work for the county health department.

“But you just said that you are from California!”

For a few seconds, we just stared at each other over our drinks. We were speaking two different languages. To me, where you are from is where you grew up. I wasn’t born there, but I lived in San Luis from the time I was five until I was twenty. I might live elsewhere for the rest of my life, but I will always be from central California.

Could this woman possibly mean what she seemed to imply, that if a person picks up and lives somewhere a while, if she makes friends in a new place and receives mail there and has a favorite place to take a walk or have coffee, that she is from there?

I was reminded of this the other day in Ankara. My cousin Gülrü and I went shopping recently along the steep cobblestone streets that lead to the castle. In a jewelry store we met a young man named Yusuf, who was friendly and helpful as a salesman and not at all pushy. We chatted a bit, Gülrü bought some earrings, and as we left, he said, “We’ll be waiting for you another day. Come back, we'll drink tea.” A week later I had another opportunity to visit the castle and I took him up on his invitation, arriving with simit, smelling freshly baked and covered in golden sesame. Yusuf cheerfully called from the doorway for a neighborhood boy to fetch tea for us. As we touched on the the standard topics of small talk, I asked him where he was from.

“I am from Erzurum,” he said. “I mean, I was born in Ankara, and I have never been to Erzurum, but that’s where my family’s village is. That’s where we’re from.”

How dare you not love Atatürk?!

After Parliament recently amended the Turkish Constitution to allow women to wear headscarves into public universities, and the Constitutional Court exceeded its powers by annulling this amendment, the battle continues, between those who value the freedoms of religion and expression, and those who want to maintain the Kemalist stranglehold.

In his June 14th commentary, Mustafa Aykol writes:

"Love cannot be imposed. If you want all citizens to appreciate Atatürk as The Father of All Turks, then you should make him the symbol of freedom and justice for all."

Click on the headline to see his column in the Turkish Daily News.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

how to find your way.

Ankara, June 6, 2008

Today I went looking for somewhere with wireless internet where I could sit for a spell, drink tea, and read and write online for as long as I liked, without tying up my cousin's phone line. One of Ezo's cousins suggested a place in busy busy Kızılay, a downtown neighborhood thronged with students and other youth, and lots of cafes.

Once I knew I was within a block or two of the place she described, I asked a man on the street where Leman Kultur was. He led scratched his head, smiled, took me by the arm, and led me to two youth sitting outside the bookshop where they work. They didn't know where the place was either, so all three took me indoors to ask someone else, who asked someone else. Soon a browsing customer gave her two cents, and half a dozen people were discussing where this place was and the best way to get there.

(This happens all the time, and not just to tourists, mind you -- the same thing occurs whenever I'm out with my cousins and we are unsure of our route. As my traveler friend Gus observed, street signs are are rarely posted in Turkey, and no one EVER uses a map. The people-centered culture here assumes that if you need to know something, you consult a person. Not a piece of paper.)


Flag sways in the breeze, heavy
like a blanket for Goliath,
dipped in blood.

Cargo ship inches
through the narrow strait
from Ukraine
to god knows where.

Late-day sunlight burnishes the stones
of Sultan Ahmet’s mosque, moving
from spire
to golden spire.

Trees lean this way
and that,

Seagull chicks
shuffle along dry raingutters, waiting
for a meal.

after spending seven hours on the cafe terrace of the Arcadia Hotel (Istanbul)
June 10, 2008

speaking of transportation ...

My last post made me think of Carla "Bus Chick" Saulter, whose road-smart column in Real Change I adore. If you don't know know about her writing already, check it out:

adventures in transportation

Ankara, June 2, 2008

I have had some humbling experiences riding the buses. It is one thing to be a foreigner asking for directions or making a purchase -- people are generally very helpful and patient here, so there is time to hobble through a conversation. But with a bus, it's different, especially when it is the last bus of the night. Tonight I hurried from a dinner with my cousin Gülrü to catch the last bus, at 11 my aunt told me, from dowtown (Kızılay) to Konutkent, at the city's edge. Just as I arrived to the stop, at 10:50, a bus pulled up with a sign that said "Konutkent." I asked two men standing nearby whether it went to where I wanted to go, and they said yes. I hopped on board and asked the driver if he was going to the *second* addition to the sprawling Konutkent development, to confirm. He rattled back at me something that included the phrase "I don't know." When I said I didn't understand and repeated my question, "do you go to second Konutkent?" he seemed to say the same thing, with a couldn't-care-less expression. I hopped off and asked an old woman in a headscarf (the traditional, loosely-worn rural style, not the modern, tightly-tied one that has more religious and/or political meaning). She said yes, it would go where I wanted to go, but it would take the long route, and that I should wait for another bus, coming soon.

The first bus drove off in a cloud of diesel smoke, and the two men I had first consulted began to argue with the woman, pointing in different directions and clucking their tongues. Turns out I had just missed the last bus of the night that went directly to where I was going. Instead, I caught the last bus of all, which looped around one suburban development after another, but at least it was heading west on the Eskişehir road. At nearly the last stop, the two men and the old woman all got off, scowling, and walked in three different directions, fading from the streetlight into the shadows, where the sidewalks end and the city dissipates into dry hills. At very nearly the last stop, I finally recognized where I was -- just minutes from home -- and breathed a sigh of relief.

fashion report

Ankara, May 29, 2008

Like elsewhere in the world, many people in Turkey sport t-shirts and accessories emblazoned with English text, often touting the brand's "authentic and original design." It can say anything, really -- as long as it's English, it's hip.

Case in point: the other day I noticed a teenager in Ulus wearing a shirt with shiny silver text, all capitalized. From a distance, the design and typeface immediately made me think it would say something like NEW YORK LONDON PARIS TOKYO OUR BRAND IS THE LEADER IN AUTHENTIC FASHION. Instead, it said:


And sure enough, sandwiched between all those capitalized letters were little piggies in fluorescent pink, green, yellow and blue.

(If the kid saw me trying to supress a giggle, I hope he didn't take it badly.)

Kara Güneş - a great band I saw play on İstiklal Street the other day.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

notes from Konutkent

Ankara, June 4, 2008

Mornings are cool and crisp. Skies cloudless.
Magpies hop and flap about the tended lawns, black feathers, gray feathers, hoarse cries.
Sprinklers stutter and click.
Roses, cut grass, water mist.
Cool shadows, concrete.
Voices echo in stairwells, elevators hum.
Breakfast at auntie Ulku's: cucumber, tomato, cheeses,
olives, bread, homemade jam,
talk-show TVwith a wise doctor promoting broccoli and avocado.
Tang infomercial, the host mixing mixing, smiling smiling,
then lip-synched arabesque singers and a belly dancer.
Afternoons turn hot, dusty, smoggy.
Sun shines bright on the high plain.
Buses and cars grumble nine stories below.
The call to prayer,recorded, plays from the minaret nearby, mournfully, ecstatically.
Evenings again cool and beautiful.
People of all ages walk and chat among beneath tree canopıes and identical apartment towers.
Basketball. Soccer. Bicycle bells ring.
Old men argue on a park bench.
A young couple flirts in the trees' shade.

Anatolian road

Stone ridge across the valley—
tinned mosque roof gleams on distant hill.

Trees blur by, the colors of olive,
mint, young lemon fruit, dusty sage,
some sheened yellow with small flowers.
I wonder about their names,
like the words, the syllables
I hear around me,

I reach for them, run my fingers
through the branches slipping through,
catch a few leaves between cupped palms.
I wonder at their colors, the determined route
of their veins.

Sand and rock, lonesome pines
give way to green grasses
of the fertile plain. Sparse trees
gather more together, moving west.
Violets and poppies gather.

Beside me, a young man
has cellphones, two, on his folding tray,
ears plugged into the radio,
into the very wiring of the machine.
Song after song,
the same bass and tick,
the rhythm that quickens hearts
the beat of glamour, broadcast.
His sigh falls heavy on my arm.

Across the aisle, a woman
traces a line of brown hair
behind the ear
of her daughter,
sixteen years old.

Two attendants pace the aisle
in starched white shirts,
bushy brows and adam’s apples.
Every little while they offer something--
Çay, bey effendi?
Nescafe, soda?
A sandwich crinkled in plastic,
newspapers of every stripe.
More tea,
and “refreshing moist towelettes.”

(Sadly, the lemon cologne,
the ritual offering
poured from bottles
into open hands,
is disappearing.)

Towns nestle at the feet of stony hills—
red roofs, faces white and gray,
weathered wood, cinderblock and brick,
some just skeletons,
silent, until the money’s saved
to continue building.

Trucks muscle past,
onions and potatoes
bound in plastic sacks.

A driver from Iran
stops by the watermelon vendor
still yelling karpuz! karpuz!
over the highway’s roar.

Cows, brown and white, black—

dust, stormcloud—

Oases sell hot meals and trinkets
on either side of the road,
declare their names on billboards:


Rosy Spring,
Speckled Fish,
Son of Ismail.

At every turn, crimson
waves the flag
for the Republic
and the football team.

Muddy river curves,
laundry on the line, waving.

Auto factories, train tracks,
the Marmara Sea opens up.

Row crops,
power lines,
vines of rusty leaves, waving.

This is draft number five of a work in progress. Critique is most welcome.

Unfortunately, this daft refuses to display the dozen or more lines that are irregularly indented, especially near the end. Try imagining some of the lines shifting horizontally across the page. Or if you would like to see the original, I can email the Word file to you.

Many new photos online

I have just posted more than 50 photos and one video from Turkey at
. I hope to post more in the coming weeks as I explore Istanbul and visit the Aegean coast, and perhaps other places.

(There are also some recent photos from New York, the northwest coast of Washington state, and of friends in Seattle.)

Friday, May 30, 2008

marketplace in Ulus

Ankara, May 29, 2008

My sister's last day in Turkey, we went shopping in Ulus, a historic neighborhood in north-central Ankara, where from the broad, grimy, cacophonous Ataturk Boulevard, smaller streets and alleyways spread up toward the castle. At the base of the hill is a typical urban marketplace, with an indoor area dedicated to food ringed by small shops, shoulder to shoulder, selling baby clothes, teapots, drill bits, nuts and spices, and any other household item you might want. With the clock ticking toward our date with auntie Turkan and uncle Faruk across town, and the list of people to buy gifts for glaring at her, Kate got down to business. In the kitchen shop, she bargained like a pro with a short, balding, tight-lipped man. A true professional, he held his own in the haggling, but Kate came away with a good deal on tea pots, glasses, saucers and spoons.

She spoke, and I interpreted. Mind you, I speak Turkish poorly. It helps that I have pactice working profesionally as a Spanish interpreter, but interpreting Turkish feels like batting practice, with baseballs flying at me from two machines set to super-fast.

Meanwhile, the salesman's coworker shuffled between us and the door, where called out the shop's wares, prices for soup pots and such. He was taller, thin, mustachioed, smoking, wearing a straw cowboy hat. He smirked as he sized us up and asked us where we were from, then turned to help an elderly couple wearing Muslim skullcap and headscarf. Soon he bounced back to where we were, tapping a few piles of tea saucers. When Kate looked up to see what the racket was, he opened his eyes wide, pointed to one as if to say "check this out," then banged dozen saucer piles in quick succession, like a xylophone. We chuckled, his coworker scowled. Later he came up to me, grabbed my forearm, pointed at my sea star tattoo, and in the simplest of body language, he asked, "what's all this about?" I answered in kind, "who knows?" Looking at me in the eye, up close, he smiled, and went back to yelling for customers at the door.

too cool for Istanbul

Bebek, May 23, 2008

In this chic neighborhood, a young man walks alone past yachts and scrappy fishing boats. His t-shirt says, in English of course: Define girlfriend.


May 26, 2008

Today we toured the Green Mosque. Four years ago, my friend Gus was there, and had a similar experience:

"Went to the fabulously beautiful Yeşil Camii just as 20 year old İsmil was opening the place. He spoke some english (a rarity here) and we talked about the early Sultans. He took me to the usually closed Sultan's balcony booth and helped me find the spinable vertical cylinders that were installed by the original architects to test the "health" of the building. If they spin, all is well. If not, the supports are bearing too much pressure. The cylinders became unspinable about four years ago. The mosque was built by Mehmet I in the early 15th Century after he had salvaged the Empire following the rampage of Tamerlane (one of the most interesting figures in history). "

The man who guided us around explained the fountain inside the mosque -- very unusual -- was built so that when the Sultan held secret meetings in his balcony rooms, the water's sound would cover the conversations. Also that the ground-level shelves in the mosque's center were for people to discreetly leave food, if they could, or take food, if they needed.

Outside the mosque my father joked with a handful vendors selling trinkets. I only caught snippets of the conversation, but it ranged from bragging about his father the Congressman, about his grandfather, the pasha who owned the entire state of İzmit, and about himself, claiming to be something like the Godfather back in the States. (Yes, as in Marlon Brando.) These and other tall tales had everyone laughing and shouting back, but hardly matching his silliness and pomp.

Later in the day, Judy, Kate (or Suzan, as she insisted we call her) and took a taxi up the hill to the castle and Tophane area to see the tombs of Osman, founder of the Ottoman empire, and his son Orhan, who conquered Bursa, made it the empire's first capital, and during whose reign many elements of modern Turkish culture (such as architecture) were established. In Osman's tomb, although its size and design reminded me of a chapel, I was surprised to see an older couple praying, as if they had gone there to pay homage. What did that mean for them, exactly, that their prayers include the return of the Empire?

In Orhan's tomb, just a few steps away, across a shady patio, I first shooed away a kid insistenly selling packets of facial tissue, but after reflecting on the place and taking a photo, I reconsidered my automatic reaction. I called him over and gave him a coin, calling him "little brother," one of the many affectionate and respectful forms of address people use for strangers all the time. Soon he was out the door, buying simit, a ring of sesame bread, from a white-haired man with a wooden-glass cart that looked like a carriage.

Looking for Necip Bey

Bursa, May 27, 2008

Over breakfast, shortly before we are to leave Bursa, my father mentions that his father's birthplace lies not far from the hotel. Now he tells us. Local foks offer various estimations of the distance -- a few blocks away, a 35 minute drive -- so we decide we can't go, but it's nice to know we have a lead in case I come back here.

With an hour to spare, I walk through the covered market. It seems stories saturate every stone, every shop as narrow as two broom handles, every glance and voice of vendors and shoppers, chidren and beggars. I come to the Great Mosque, leave my shoes at the entrance. Scaffolding blocks some of the colums and decorations, and temporary walls hide construction equipment, but the solemnity and cool air still feel soothing. A few men and women pray in different sections; a Japanese tour group listens to their guide.

Outside, I request a shoe shine from a dark-skinned man who is missing a tooth. He speaks like a drum roll. After asking him to slow down and clarify certain words I almost understood, I give up and just nod, repeating the two or three Turkish affirmations I know: yes, true, of course, ah hah.

I return to the hotel a few minutes late; the taxi driver has already arrived. He knows the old village off Chelik and takes us straight there, chatting amiably with my father in the front seat. Leaving behind the city's busy boulevards, we pass apricot groves, crumbling plaster homes, a new mosque under construction. My father tells us about visiting his grandfather here as a child, recalling the peach trees, the sheep and goats, and the silkworm hut, where the little critters ate mulberry leaves all day long, "making a sound like crunch crunch crunch." At the roadside, between tilled fields, red poppies grow in batches like bright flames, like blood.

We come to a graveyard that spans both sides of the lane to look for the grave of my great-grandfather. It's quiet, no cars, a breeze in the tall creekside grove. At the driver's suggestion, we split up and work toward each other from either end.

There are many graves grouped by family name, none of them our own. According to many headstones, the person was born in the 1300's and lived into the mid-twentieth century. I scratch my head for a minute and realize this is because the new Turkish Republic adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1925.

My father starts getting anxious, saying we should go. He speaks Turkish, losing track of which language is which. We cross the road to search the other section, and again he calls for us to leave. I ask for a few more minutes and walk gingerly around graves.

Then the driver calls out: "Look! Necip Simer!" Sure enough, there it was, a gravestone bearing the same name as my father. Inscribed with graceful Arabic calligraphy at the top, the dates and birthplace follow in modern Turkish. We gather watering cans and empty them in the weeds atop his resting place. My dad cries a little, swears he will come back one day and fix the whole place up. We take some photos and return quietly to the taxi.

Prospect Park on a sunny day

Brooklyn, 5/21/08

At the entrance, two farmers chat beside their large truck, in the shade of an umbrella, a stone's throw from a massive traffic circle. Their folding tables boast potatoes, bell peppers red and green, apples, tomatoes.

A grandmother reads a letter aloud, in Russian, to a baby, hidden in a stroller.

Three Latina nannies call out with accents to white children, spinning dizzy on the grass.

Six Hassidic men at a picnic bench, beneath the tallest tree, at the edge of a large field, discussing.

A teenage girl straddles her boyfriend on a bench, like a horse, whispering.

Beneath shadowy trees, a small blond boy quietly marvels at a waterfall.

The sound of streams running.
Tennis balls bonked by rackets.
Two birds take turns: a bold and melancholic melody, then a shrill whistle.
A Haitian woman sings woefully, eyes closed, one palm up to the cloudless sky.

The Hassids saunter by like it's Shabbat: an elder rabbi among five young men, each with sideburn curls, beards, black suits. Some continue the discussion. One straggles behind, thumbs jumping from key to key on a mobile phone.

Three white guys scratch in their notebooks.

a few other photos from New York:

Friday, May 09, 2008

Sabri Boğday urgently needs your help.

A message from my friend Ezo:

I am writing to ask for your help in saving a life of a Turkish man who has been unjustly sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia. Sabri Bogday is from my home town Hatay, a southeastern Turkish province. He had moved to the Saudi city of Jeddah and was running a barbershop. He was arrested by Saudi officials after being accused by his Egyptian neighbor, a tailor with whom he had a brawl, of “cursing the name of Allah.” Saudi authorities condemned him to death, and an appeal case is in progress. Boğday's family demanded that the president and prime minister intervene to prevent the execution.

Turkish President Abdullah Gül has joined in the efforts to save Turkish barber Sabri Boğday from execution in Saudi Arabia. Gül emphasized the unfairness of the accusation against Boğday, and stressed that Turkey expects the withdrawal of the execution decision. Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan, too, is taking part in the efforts to save Boğday's life. He told reporters that he had contacted Saudi officials, and was waiting for the result. For more information please see:

Turkish Daily News:

Los Angeles Times:

Amnesty International USA
But even though the president and the prime minister are involved there is no guarantee that would be enough and Amnesty international is urging as many as people as possible to contact the Saudi Arabian government and has issued the following urgent action.

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send appeals to arrive as quickly as possible, in English, Arabic or your own language:

- expressing concern about Sabri Bogday's death sentence and calling for it to be commuted immediately if it is upheld on appeal;
- reminding the authorities that they are bound by international standards for fair trial, and in capital cases they are also bound by the United Nations safeguards guaranteeing the protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty, which guarantees adequate opportunity for defence and appeal.

PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY. Check with the Amnesty International Secretariat, or your section office, if sending appeals after 4 June 2008.


His Majesty King Abdullah Bin ‘Abdul ‘Aziz Al-Saud
The Custodian of the two Holy Mosques
Office of His Majesty the King
Royal Court, Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Fax: (via Ministry of the Interior) +966 1 403 1185 (please keep trying)
Salutation: Your Majesty

His Royal Highness Prince Naif bin ‘Abdul ‘Aziz Al-Saud
Minister of the Interior
Ministry of the Interior
P.O. Box 2933
Airport Road, Riyadh 11134
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Fax: +966 1 403 1185 (please keep trying)
Salutation: Your Royal Highness

His Royal Highness Prince Saud al-Faisal bin ‘Abdul ‘Aziz Al-Saud
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Nasseriya Street
Riyadh 11124
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Fax: +966 1 403 0645
Salutation: Your Royal Highness

Mr Turki bin Khaled Al-Sudairy
Human Rights Commission
PO Box 58889, Riyadh 11515
King Fahad Road, Building No.373
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Fax: +966 1 4612061
and to diplomatic representatives of Saudi Arabia accredited to your country.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

This kid is a genius.

I just learned about Quizlet from my friend Sara's "Spanish for Social Change" vocabulary blog. Quizlet was created by a high school student named Andrew Sutherland to help him learn words for French class. It's a super useful version of flashcards. You can create your own list of things to memorize, or draw on others' lists. The computer program tracks which words you know and which you don't, and repeats words as necessary. I just learned how to say "ceiling" in Turkish, as well as "refrigerator," "wall," and a host of other words, and refreshed my memory about dozens of other terms. (I'm headed to Turkey in two weeks, in case you're wondering.) Check it out –

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Cheat Neutral: just as great as carbon offsets.

Some clever Brits have taken the concept of carbon offsets -- people paying a voluntary fee for their "carbon footprint" so that carbon emissions will be reduced somewhere else -- and applied it to the ethics of cheating on your partner.

[Click on the headline to see how it all works]

Friday, April 25, 2008

Where will you be the first of May?

Join Jobs with Justice and El Comite Pro-Reforma Migratoria Y Justicia Social for the 2008 Immigrant Rights March and Rally!

Date: May 1st
Time: 4:30pm
Location: Beginning at St. Mary’s 611 20th Ave South, Seattle

This year’s theme is “We are not illegal, we are not undocumented, we are workers.”

May 1st has many histories of celebration around the world, currently; it’s globally celebrated as International Workers’ Day. Seattle has a rich history of marching for immigrant/worker rights on May 1st. In 2006 the first massive immigrant rights march took place in Seattle. It created history by mobilizing approximately 60,000 people in protest of House Resolution 4437, debated in Congress, which would have instantly criminalized all undocumented persons, as well as persons who offered them humanitarian aid. Last year, despite the federal government’s harassment of immigrants, thousands of immigrants and allies came out in support and to protest the draconian policies the federal government is enforcing. El Comite, Jobs with Justice and many other community, labor, faith and student groups continue to fight for immigrant/worker justice.

[The text above copied from Jobs with Justice, For information in Spanish, click the headline to go to the Comité website.]

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Photos from "The Party of the (18th) Century"

On April 5th, I had a party, originally meant simply to raise funds for a research trip to Spain, but it turned into a farewell bash once I decided to leave Seattle. My friend Carina was there, and took some fantastic photos ...

[click headline to see them]

Friday, April 11, 2008

Healing across the divide of war

I find Robert Jamieson's columns to be a mixed bag, at times insightful, other times smug. In this one, about two veterans, one pro-Bush, the other anti-war, I think he has done justice to a an important story.

(Click on the headline for the link to the article.)

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Remembering Abe Osheroff

When I first met Abe Osheroff in 1996, he said something I will never forget.

At the time, UW professor Tony Geist (and surely others) organized a film festival and exhibition of posters from the Spanish Civil War. During these events and some classroom chats, I got to hear many of Abe's impressive stories, such as when he and other activists in Depression-era New York broke open chained doors to move families and their possessions back into the apartments from which they had been evicted. Later, when the U.S. banned Americans from going to Spain, he tried to sneak into the country, to fight against Franco's coup and the larger wave of fascism that was gathering across Europe. His ship from Marseille to Catalonia was torpedoed by an Itaian submarine, and Abe and his fellow volunteers had to swim to shore.

Around the time I met Abe, I was studying labor history, doing an internship with the United Farm Workers, and participating in a campaign to win family housing and health insurance for gay UW students' partners, equal to those which heterosexual students' spouses already received. It was a transformative time for me, and Abe was part of it. His stories inspired me to be bold, and his practical philosophy of "radical humanism" was equally compelling. His words I will never forget: "We are all a part of history. Every single one of us. It's up to you to decide whether you want to be a participant, or a spectator."

Two years later came the 60th anniversary of when the ALB left Spain. A plaque was placed in front of the UW student union building to commemorate the students who had joined the fight, and Abe and other ALB veterans from across the country reunited in a moving ceremony. I was one of many who shed tears to hear the veterans' tales of valor and humor. I felt their stories had infused into me, somehow becoming my own.

That same autumn of 1998, I graduated from the UW. Developing a roll of photo film from my graduation party, I came up with some great shots of family and friends. I tucked these into my wallet, including one of Abe and fellow ALB veterans Bob Reid and Dutch Schultz, posing by the UW memorial on the day of its unveiling. I carried these photos with me for the four months in 1999 I reported on the massive student strike at its National Autonomous University, and during the rest of the year, while I and every other activist in Seattle was frenetically organizing the historic protests against the World Trade Organization.

Abe's memorial will take place May 25th in Seattle. I am sad to say that I will be out of the country, but I will remember him, always.

To read more about Abe Osheroff, a lion of a man:

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer obituary:

The New York Times obituary:

[This post was revised 4/23/08, after receiving a couple of historical corrections from Gunnel Clark, Abe's wife. Thanks, Gunnel.]

Monday, March 31, 2008

A Village Away from Home

From ...

"Imagine what would happen if you picked up a village in rural Mexico and transplanted it in Seattle's suburbs. Something similar is underway in South Seattle – a village within the city is emerging. The Seattle area has recently become a top destination for the indigenous Purepecha people from the rural hill–towns of central Mexico. Their native language, culture and traditional lifestyle are vanishing in parts of Mexico, but reappearing here. In this five–part series, A Village Away From Home, Reporter Liz Jones traces this migration trend from the Mexican sierra, to Seattle's fast–paced suburbs."

[I'm quoted in one of the segments, in my capacity as a Spanish interpreter, because I interpret for many Purépecha people at White Center Public Health.]

Monday, March 17, 2008

Rally to End the War, Bring the Troops Home!

Wednesday March 19th at 6pm, Westlake Plaza
4th Ave & Pine St. in Downtown Seattle

Join Jobs with Justice and our other membership organizations to mourn and protest the 5th Anniversary of the Iraqi war.

The U.S. Government has been at war in Iraq since 2003. In these five years our government has spent over $400 billion on the Iraq war. Tax dollars that normally would have gone to healthcare, education and affordable housing instead are being diverted to pay for this war. In Washington State over $10 billion have been diverted to the war. In

Seattle alone almost one billion dollars has been diverted.

That means that Washington residents are losing out on affordable and quality healthcare, education, housing and living wage jobs.

End the War Now! Bring Home the Troops Today!

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Honk Fest West!



Friday, March 07, 2008

Jake in Algeria

My friend Jake is doing research in North Africa, and has posted a fascinating summary and photos of his recent trip through the Sahara. Here's a snippet of his writing:

To get by, Tuaregs have had to adapt their traditional practices of trans-Saharan trading to the new globalized economy. Instead of salt, cigarettes now come across the open desert, often in small convoys carrying a million dollars of the contraband. Instead of gold, drugs are coming from South America to West Africa through the Sahara to Europe; a billion dollar trade, and every local official up to the highest generals has a finger in the pie. Instead of slaves, waves of desperate African youth try to reach the shores of Europe on their own, via long and perilous journeys through the Sahara. They work their way from desert town to desert town to make enough money to pay for the deadly passage to Europe, either the straight of Gibraltar from Morocco or Italy from Libya.

Click on the headline above for more.

Sunday, March 02, 2008


To raise funds for my upcoming research trip to Spain, I have put together a raffle that will be drawn on Saturday, April 5. The prizes include:

Latest additions:

The Spanish Table Cookbook, from the delicious store by the same name

Bicycle tune-up (an $85 value!) ~ 20/20 Cycles (Central District)

Chocolate bars from Theo Chocolates ~
all locally produced & Fair Trade Certified
* One Origin Ivory Coast 75% cocoa bar
* One organic Coffee & 65% dark chocolate bar
* One organic Fig, Fennel & Almond 65% dark chocolate bar

One hour massage ~ Elizabeth Chaison, LMP (Capitol Hill)

Pitcher of sangría ~ Gaudí, a Catalan restaurant (Ravenna)

$20 gift certificate ~ BluWater Bistro (five locations)

"This Is What Democracy Looks Like" DVD ~ Corrugated Films/Jill Freidberg

"Grain of Sand" DVD ~ Corrugated Films/Jill Freidberg

"A Little Bit of So Much Truth" DVD ~ Corrugated Films/Jill Freidberg

Crab enchilada dinner for six, with wine, delivered ~ Bernal

Two hours of Spanish lessons ~ Natalia Morales

Two hours consultation and help in organic gardening ~ Backyard Bounty/Leonard Wainstein

Photographic print, "Cairn" ~ Carina del Rosario

"Who Are We? Investigations & Findings. A Workbook with 7-inch record"
~ Vis-À-Vis Society

Tea and handcrafted mug by Barbara Dunshee ~ donated by Shelley Gillespie

Bound story-collage, "Jenkins' Memory Store" ~ Shelley Gillespie

$20 Gift certificate ~ Café Rozella (White Center)

Tickets are $2 each. More prizes may be added before the drawing date, so check back here. Some restrictions apply (e.g. many prizes must be redeemed in Seattle). Please email me for details at jeremy at riseup dot net.