Survival is Victory

Survival is Victory

After watching Dunkirk, you’ll likely spend some time silently processing the film. The interwoven timelines, the high pressure soundtrack and the constant threat of death can easily captivate the viewer. More»

Israel in Germany

Israel in Germany

It can be lonely to be a critic of Israel in Germany. Across the political spectrum most German media and all major political parties adhere to a strict consensus in defense of Israel. Even on the left, where Israel’s worst transgressions may inspire an occasional scolding, any position that questions Israel’s “right to exist“ on any grounds whatsoever is anathema. More»

With No Room for the Dead, Graves Go Up for Rent in Damascus

With No Room for the Dead, Graves Go Up for Rent in Damascus

In Damascus, war profiteers are leveraging the scarcity of burial spots in the capital to rent out graves as one would apartments, charging as much as $1,000 per year for a plot of land. More»

Latest entries
A State of Narcissism

A State of Narcissism

It was cold outside and pouring rain. The cafe was packed, upstairs and down. “It’s really a commune here, huh?” the woman next to me said as I sat down. I smiled, nodded, and asked if it would annoy her if I plugged my laptop in. The wire would run right behind her, grazing her back. “No problem,” she said. More»

Aim Low, Score High

Aim Low, Score High

“In My Time”, one of the sunnier numbers on Kurt Vile’s new album Smoke Ring For My Halo, begins with a curious couplet: “In my day I was young and crazy/Sure I didn’t know shit, but now I’m lazy.” While such introspection made sense for musicians who had been through the madness of the late 1960s and were keen to follow Voltaire’s advice and tend their own garden to recuperate, it sounds strange coming from someone like Vile. More»
My Life as a Sugar Daddy

My Life as a Sugar Daddy

It was the middle of January. It had rained all day, but the sun had finally broken through. There was a noticeable dearth of tourists in Piazza Venezia, even for such an offseason time of year. On the lookout for customers, the guys in gladiator outfits were more aggressive than usual, stopping anyone they could find who happened to be carrying a camera. More»

Arizona Wen Zi Yu

Arizona Wen Zi Yu

University teachers are at the brink of becoming an endangered species in Arizona. Entire non-tenured groups of teachers have already received their termination notices. Thousands are disappearing. Gloom and outrage are palpable in the hallways and in online exchanges. More»

Hidmo Means Home

Hidmo Means Home

My Seattle starts here, on the corner of 20th and Jackson, more than twenty years after first arriving in this town.  I’m not sure what to call my connection to Seattle during all those years. I was here, but somehow I hadn’t actually arrived. Then, about two summers ago, at this corner, in this building, possibly in the company of some of these people captured in this Google Streetview image, I felt my relation to Seattle, and the world beyond it, shift into a new mode. More»

Mussolini and Me

Mussolini and Me

On the taxi ride from Malpensa this morning, I learned a little history of our neighborhood in Milan.  I asked the driver to take me to Piazzale Loreto. About 20 minutes into the ride, the driver filled me in on Loreto’s history, specifically regarding Mussolini’s execution, in April 1945. More»

Literature Goes to Jail

Literature Goes to Jail

Arizona has become the site of a little-noticed literary flowering:  it is home to some of the best prison writing in North America. During the last two decades, Jimmy Santiago Baca, Ken Lamberton, and Richard Shelton have converted their experiences with Arizona’s penitentiaries into prize-winning books.  No US state can claim a similar cluster of prominent prison writers. More»

Haunted by the Present

Haunted by the Present

While it’s possible to listen to Violet Cries without thinking about history, the forcefulness with which Esben and the Witch invoke musical forebears makes the exercise a little perverse. Not to mention that, unlike many artists who are assigned to the mental bin labeled “Goth,” the band doesn’t shy away from the burden of association. Asked in an interview to discuss the term’s abuse, they declared “that Gothic should be revered in its greatest forms” suggesting that, while this sensibility “lends itself to a sense of the dramatic and the ostentatious,” it need not be an object of derision. More»

Clampdown

Clampdown

On Friday night, Jennifer and I went out for dinner. Our destination was an Arab-run Tex Mex place on the other side of Piazzale Loreto, a block from the Egyptian consulate. In the year that we’ve lived here, it has become one of our favorite restaurants, even though it’s not exactly orthodox in its take on the cuisine. Nevertheless, its offered us welcome relief from pasta. More»

The Road to Nuremburg

The Road to Nuremburg

The imagery is a bit harsh. However, it gets the message across. Driver safety sign, highway A9. November, 2010.