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Month: July 2008


Hello, here’s this week’s New Yorker cover:

An extension of pound-gate (please don’t call it a fist-bump), secretly-muslim-gate, Osama-Obama-ethnic-names-all-sound-alike-gate, and patriotism-gate, all boiled into one illustration. Tasteless? Cowardly? Sure, maybe. I see what Barry Blitt was trying to do with “The Politics of Fear” — take a swipe at the outrageous smears and apprehensions carried by those who oppose the presidential hopeful. I don’t want to argue over how appropriate or inappropriate his attempt is. That was yesterday.

What I want to talk about is Michelle Obama’s hair. Everything else in the illustration — the garb, the burning flag, the bin Laden portrait over the mantle — have their root in some public scandal or Fox News special. But unless Bill O’Reilly started a rumor somewhere about her wearing a wig (made from the threads of Rachel Ray’s kaffiyah), I haven’t heard a thing in mainstream media about her hair.

Her hair, typically styled in a relaxed bob, is up and out here in a full, thick afro. Or, as Brian Lehrer just called it on WNYC, “Angela Davis hair!”

Is this the appropriate way to wear one’s hair while carrying an AK? Is this terrorist hair, befitting a terrorist wife? Is this really scary? Is this really 2008? Blitt made a decision at some point that the straightened, Jackie O bob was not interesting enough for his illustration, and that it didn’t fit his message. I wonder if there’s an early draft somewhere of her wearing a hijab.


Reports continue to pour in (as much as any foreign news not associated with Iraq, Afghanistan or Iran makes it through the American media machine) regarding the anti-immigrant violence in South Africa.

My dear friend Alex lives and teaches in a township outside of Cape Town. She writes:

On Monday’s assembly at school, the Principal and English HOD (P.) had spoken about the attacks and violence that had taken place over the weekend. About how it was wrong and how students must stay away from it. ‘Even if you only take a loaf of bread from a shop that has been broken into,’ P. told them, ‘you are just as guilty as the one who broke the window to get in’. The reaction from students had been mixed. It was clear there was a divide in where they stood on the issue. In my classes that day, I asked them what was going on.

‘Xenophobia!’ came their chorused reply.

‘Okay,’ I replied, ‘now how many of us know what xenophobia means?’

Not one student in any of my classes knew.

And so, I wrote the definition on the board.

Xenophobia is a fear or contempt of that which is foreign or unknown, especially of strangers or foreign people.[1] It comes from the Greek words ξένος (xenos), meaning “foreigner,” “stranger,” and φόβος (phobos), meaning “fear.” The term is typically used to describe a fear or dislike of foreigners or of people significantly different from oneself.

After we read through it, I asked them why, if it’s a fear of that which is foreign or unknown, I am not under siege. I am clearly foreign, so why is my house not being burnt down?

‘Because you are white, miss’, they told me.

Of course, then it’s not really anti-immigrant violence, is it? Not anti-foreigner. It’s an anti- that goes a whole lot deeper.

Who is responsible for it? If you trace back the anger far enough, what would you find? Follow the money, follow the borders.

wknd recovery // monday linx

  • As-tu des pop-tarts à la place? Donne-moi une pop-tarts, juste une pop-tarts.
  • Lisa is passionate about mobile revolutions.
  • She put me on to this and this a few months ago, and they’re still among the few blogs I check in on regularly.
  • Martin the tailor reminds me so much of my own dad and his own story. Both my parents are tailors, and my maternal grandfather owned his own tailor shop. Between the three of them, they’ve clothed generations of people, hundreds of people, maybe thousands, across three continents. Sloped shoulders, curved spines, protruding bellies — every body is perfect if you cut the fabric right. “There are no tailors anymore,” my dad tells me. To hear Martin echo his thoughts makes it feel like a poem.
  • Angry journalists seem to need anonymity to rant. A climate of paranoia within a climate of paranoia.
  • The Economist thinks coke costs too much in America.
  • Not sure what the point of this hands-wringing mixtape is, but it would be far more interesting if there had been some cross-referencing of arrest rates and incarceration patterns. Crime has always been scattered; arrests and convictions much less so. Dig deeper! What crimes, anyway? And is the “ghetto” really a physical place? If you tear destroy the place, do you destroy the space? You already know what I think.
  • So what’s good in Paris these days? No link, I want you to tell me. Ont-ils des pop-tarts?