Thursday, November 30, 2006

Do You Get the Point... across?

Milo Frank's book How to Get Your Point Across in 30 Seconds or Less, a heavy tome of 1500 pages....

No, just kidding. Frank's book is svelte (12 chapters, each on average 9 pages, with a 4 page intro). Easy reading that packs a punch. Know what you're after, know what your audience is after, take an approach, hook your reader's attention, present your subject concisely, and finally ask for it, whatever it is that you're after.

There, now you don't have to read the first half of the book.

I invite you, the reader, to use this book to criticize my style... and your own style.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Milton died

Milton Friedman has passed away according to this report from the Cato Institute. It's hitting me hard.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Bluegrass Samisen

When it rains, it pours. More samisen!! This time it's bluegrass samisen from Takeharu Kunimoto with The Last Frontier.

Update (May 31, 2008): I spent quite a bit of time putting together a flash player with a collection of Takeharu Kunimoto's music. I'm disappointed to see today that has left no trace of my effort, which was up and running above for at least a year or so. It just disappeared. I can't even log in to MyFlashFetish. They don't have a record of my email address anymore.

Update (Nov 7, 2008): I discovered today that the player is playing music again. It's now someone else's music!! I'll never use their service again. I commented out the flash player. You can still see it in the HTML if you "view page source".

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Samisen Boogie Woogie

I love this video, particularly Umekichi Hiyama's samisen segment towards the end.

Here's an article about her in the Asahi Evening News, 'Edo-freak' blossoms by Ken Kawashima.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Dewa - Warriors of Love

The fab five from Indonesia, Dewa, sing Warriors of Love.

Here are the lyrics of the English rendition of the same song, along with audio.

Hat tip: Tom Palmer

See also: Indonesia Matters

and: Sufi Journeys

(This is a crosspost from Rhino Watch)

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Remembering the World Trade Center

Disbelief. Faces looking up at the World Trade Center.

There he was, Philippe Petit, entertaining the crowd, performing a tightwire act above the plaza, way above the plaza, a quarter of a mile above the plaza between the tops of the twin towers. In so doing, Phillippe humanized the brand new towers. Here's Phillippe's story on YouTube, as written by Mordicai Gerstein, and here's an interview with Mordicai Gerstein on the NewsHour.

Fast forward 27 years. Two brothers, Jules and Gedeon Naudet, witnessed the 911 Massacre like no other filmmakers. They were doing a documentary on a rookie fireman with Ladder Company 1 when Jules happened to point his camera at Tower 1 as the first plane hit. He then went to the scene, into the lobby of Tower 1, camera still rolling, as firefighters struggled to rescue what lives they could amid the chaos, human bodies loudly crashing on the plaza outside. Jules was still in the lobby when Tower 2 collapsed.

The Naudet brothers' film gives us 911 writ small, in human dimensions, up close, in real time. The enormity of the event itself can dehumanize what happened when cameras are distant, as most were.

Their film is available at Amazon .

Here's a snippet of the French version of their film showing the lobby of Tower 1.

Update (Aug 1, 2007):
Here's a wonderful documentary on Philippe Petit's feat.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

"You do not want youth politicizing" - Sweden's Pirates

So warns John Dvorak. The US government stirred up a hornest's nest by strongarming Sweden to shut down The Pirate Bay. In the aftermath, the Pirate Party was born in Sweden. Now it's hit Dvorak's radar. And he notices how young and energetic the people are in this movement. Dvorak writes, "Well, it looks like the boneheads in Hollywood and the RIAA, along with onerous new copyright laws such as the DMCA and other restrictions, are triggering change."

Creative Commons LicensePhoto by Michell Zappa.

Having just read the book Information Feudalism: Who Owns the Knowledge Economy by Peter Drahos with John Braithwaite, I feel embarassed by the bullying of our federal government, foisting our artificial intellectual monopoly grants upon the rest of the world through threats of trade sanctions. Bad karma.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The Pirate Party of Sweden hits US shores

There's a new party in town, the Pirate Party, and it's about time. Arrrr!

As mentioned in my last post, I agree with Randy Barnett that Article I, Section 8, Clause 8, of the US Constitution is a defect and needs to walk the plank. Any party worth its weight in doubloons would construct such a plank. Along these lines, the Pirate Party of Sweden set out on its first voyage earlier this year. Now there's a budding US counterpart. They are destined for great things ... if they be liberalizing pirates. They'll part some waters. I feel it in my bones.

Here is a speech by Rickard Falkvinge, founder of these brigands, entitled Friends, Citizens, Pirates, in which he declares, My name is Rickard and I'm a pirate.

Avast! and answer me this. Be ye an intellectual-monopoly landlubber or be ye a pirate?

Monday, May 29, 2006

Liberty and Randy Barnett on Minnesota Public Radio

Randy Barnett, author of Restoring the Lost Constitution, talks to MPR's Kerri Miller on Midmorning today. Here is the audio.

I met Barnett years ago at an IHS seminar when he was still a young professor at Chicago-Kent School of Law. He's come up in the world, arguing in front of the Supreme Court in the California medical marijuana case (Gonzales v. Raich) and landing a new position as Professor of Legal Theory at Georgetown Law Center. I read his book on the constitution a year ago November, and it comes closest to my starting point in thinking about government.

In this interview on MPR, Randy and Kerri have a wonderful conversation on the topic of liberty. I was particularly pleased to hear that Barnett's legal case defending the use of medical marijuana lives on. According to Barnett, after his defeat in the Supreme Court last year, he is rearguing the case in the 9th Circuit on the basis of individual rights, instead of the commerce clause.

In short, Barnett argues for a "presumption of liberty". He writes:

The Constitution that was actually enacted and formally amended creates islands of government powers in a sea of liberty. The judicially redacted constitution creates islands of liberty rights in a sea of governmental powers. Judicial redaction has created a substantially different constitution from the one written on parchment that resides under glass in Washington. Though that Constitution is now lost, it has not been repealed, so it could be found again.

Barnett also edited two volumes of essays on the Ninth Amendment The Rights Retained by the People Volume I Volume II. For those who are not familiar with the 9th amendment, here it is:

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Barnett does not argue that the United States Constitution is perfect. For example, we both see Article I, Section 8, Clause 8, as a defect (Restoring the Lost Constitution, p. 355). He does argue that changes must be made deliberately with debate and amendment, not by ignoring the language.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Is Osama bin Laden an alcoholic?

Tonight I saw the movie United 93. As I left the theatre, I felt both shaken and stirred. It's been nearly five years, and I have something to say....

Consider this hypothesis. Osama bin Laden has alcoholism and is not in recovery.

Active, abstinent, binge, god knows which kind....

The idea occurred to me after reading Doug Thorburn's Alcoholism Myths and Realities, given bin Laden's destructive, controlling, ego-inflated behavior. Adam Robinson's Bin Laden: Behind the Mask of the Terrorist corroborates it. Thorburn writes, Recovery requires abstinence and ego deflation. Without both, good solid recovery in which behaviors markedly improve is impossible. (p. 12)

I'm not an expert on alcoholism. Might Hazelden, Talbott, or Sierra Tucson invite him for a month's stay? I don't know. But it's an idea. Family week might get a bit busy.

Update (Aug 1, 2007):
I am currently reading Lawrence Wright's Pulitzer Prize winning book The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11. Wright does not support this hypothesis.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

"Wide-angle liberalism" - Alternative Libérale

A new party is born in France. Alternative Libérale. Its spirit is liberalism, liberalizing liberalism, and its color is violet, underlining that it's ni gauche, ni droite, neither left, nor right, neither socialist, nor conservative, neither red, nor blue.

Edouard Fillias sent me an email today with the news. This is news, big news. I love France, and I hope the French escape from the dirigistes that plague them from both the right and the left. I might even decide to work there if they do. Half the battle is understanding what liberalism is. Here in America, too.

Sabine Hérold, photographed above, explains their opposition to the French Minister of the Interior, Nicolas Sarkozy. Sarkozy is liberal on the economic plane, but not on the societal one. With us, it's wide-angle liberalism Edouard Fillias says, We do not have a cult of authority like Sarkozy. We do not believe in a savior. Liberals don't like it when someone bosses them around.

By the way, in the last sentence I translated the French verb diriger, which I really think should become an English verb of opprobrium, to dirige. The noun dirigisme already exists in English. Diriger literally translates to the English verb to direct, but it carries connotations of arbitrary, centralized, top-down control.

I first found out about Hérold and Fillias last June from the blog of a friend Tom Palmer.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Danish cartoons and a dozen writers

12 writers have come to the defense of the 12 cartoonists. In their call to pen-and-ink battle against religious totalitarianism, in their call to defend the universality of freedom of expression, so that a critical spirit may be exercised on all continents, against all abuses and all dogmas, they deploy the means that are their very ends.

After having overcome fascism, Nazism, and Stalinism, the world now faces a new totalitarian global threat: Islamism ....

Its success can only lead to a world of domination: man's domination of woman, the Islamists' domination of all the others. To counter this, we must assure universal rights to oppressed or discriminated people ....

We refuse to renounce our critical spirit out of fear of being accused of Islamophobia, an unfortunate concept which confuses criticism of Islam as a religion with stigmatisation of its believers ....

We appeal to democrats and free spirits of all countries that our century should be one of Enlightenment, not of obscurantism.

The signatories include Irshad Manji, Salman Rushdie, and Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

Hirsi Ali is the Mogadishu-born writer of the movie Submission. What's particularly poignant is that Hirsi Ali once thought that Khomeini was right when he called for her fellow signatory, Rushdie, to be killed for insulting Muhammad. Hirsi Ali now defends the the right to offend. I suspect from this piece that she had a lot to do with framing their statement in the context of other totalitarianisms. Hirsi Ali currently holds office in the Dutch parliament, the Tweede Kamer.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Minneapolis - Indian Ocean Restaurant

My first taste of Somali cuisine was the Indian Ocean Restaurant in Minneapolis thanks to a heartfelt recommendation from a cab driver. Everyone in my party enjoyed the fantastic food and excellent service and the endearing banana included with every meal.

Our salads were memorable. When was the last time you had a memorable salad? We ordered mediterranean greek salads with feta and chicken, which were presented elegantly with a subtle sauce on the chicken. It was one of my favorite feta salads ever, and at a quite modest price.

As for the main course, I combined into one order their Somalian Key Key and philly steak. It is a bit confusing to see philly steak on the menu, but they prepare it magnificently with Somali spices in bite-size strips. If you like things spicy, try their green sauce, bursting with coconut flavor.

Be sure to order some Somali spiced tea. It's chock full of cardamom.

I'm going to come back.


Here's more info.

Directions: The Indian Ocean is just off of 8th St. as you're heading from downtown towards Hiawatha. Turn right after Elliot Park, on 11th Ave, and it's one block down.

Wafa Sultan - "Civilizations do not clash"

Wafa Sultan speaks out courageously on Al-Jazeera. She packs a punch with six words.

The clash we are witnessing around the world is not a clash of religions, or a clash of civilizations. It is a clash between two opposites, between two eras. It is a clash between a mentality that belongs to the Middle Ages and another mentality that belongs to the 21st century. It is a clash between civilization and backwardness, between the civilized and the primitive, between barbarity and rationality. It is a clash between freedom and oppression, between democracy and dictatorship. It is a clash between human rights, on the one hand, and the violation of these rights, on the other hand. It is a clash between those who treat women like beasts and those who treat them like human beings.

What we see today is not a clash of civilizations. Civilizations do not clash, but compete.

translated from Arabic by the MEMRI TV Monitor Project

Danish cartoons and the 13th Muhammad cartoon

Not many people know about the 13th Muhammad cartoon. Here's a cartoon by my friend Anthony over at the Frenetic Pen Project.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Danish cartoons, blasphemy, and the Organization of Islamic Countries

Nat Hentoff of the Village Voice argues that the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) mapped out a strategy for pressuring international organizations to criminalize blasphemy back in December 2005.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Dear Deeyah - brilliant, brave, and beautiful - new video

Deeyah releases new music video

Despite death threats, Deeyah is doing it. She's releasing her new single "What Will It Be?" You can see the video here.

Her video brought me to tears. First video to do that ever. I think I was particularly affected when I saw my hero, Irshad Manji, taped at the mouth. Yes, Manji appears twice in the video. She rips the tape off near the end.

Deeyah also takes a cue from Theo van Gogh's movie Submission in displaying victims of honor killing on her own nude back.

The rapper Young MayLay is a force.

Deeyah has a MySpace profile here.


Alphabet City has some of the lyrics.

Interview (audio) of Deeyah found at DeeyahPoint

Deeyah discusses verbal abuse in another interview (part 1) (part 2) (part 3) (part 4) with Sonia Deol of BBC (available at DeeyahPoint). It's one thing to write about liberty in the abstract. Verbal abuse is where slavery begins amongst real-life people. It's where it creeps in, plants its roots. I recommend Patricia Evans' work on this subject, particularly her book Controlling People.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Danish cartoons, blasphemy, intimidation, and Kamran Tahmasebi

There are two key issues in the Danish cartoon wars. One is the freedom to blaspheme in general. The other is the freedom from initimidation in particular for Muslims from Muslims (and everyone else for that matter).

America was built upon the blasphemy of the Anabaptists, and it took a few centuries. Removing one portion of humanity from the muck of clerical intimidation was no mean feat. Now the UN and EU at the OIC's urging are considering anti-blasphemy edicts. How old-world can you get!

Then there is the matter of intimidation. Irshad Manji relates how young Muslims "fear persecution", persecution from Muslims, throughout the West.

What percentage of the Muslim population feels like they'll be punished for apostasy if they commit a thoughtcrime? Now I don't mean punishment by mere disassociation. I mean punishment by a violent breach of rights, even death. What percentage of Muslims would be threatened with death for apostasy? Is this a small percentage? Is it sizable? Is this threat explicit in any variants of Islam?

Finally, there's the story of Kamran Tahmasebi of Denmark. Hjörtur Gudmundsson writes, "Moderates such as Kamran Tahmasebi say they have had enough of fanatic Islamism and its intimidation of the Muslim immigrants in Denmark. 'It is an irony that I am today living in a European democratic state and have to fight the same religious fanatics that I fled from in Iran many years ago,' Mr Tahmasebi says. ... '[A]s a parent I feel a responsibility to fight, so that my children will not have to live under Islamist dogmas.'" Tahmasebi has joined a network of like-minded Muslims. I wish him well as he separates himself from the Batenburgers of our time.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Danish cartoons and Akron, Ohio

Without the freedom to cartoon, no matter what you do, you just can't win. Case in point...


The cartoonist Chip Bok writes about his meeting with leaders of the Council on American Islamic Relations.

Irshad Manji - What's the buzz?

Irshad Manji, in this interview on Studio 4 with Fanny Kiefer, describes the impact her book The Trouble with Islam Today: A Muslim's Call for Reform in Her Faith has had on young people in the Muslim world.

Remember that the greatest support for a book like this has actually come from those who are living these realities on the ground, .... young Muslims in particular. They obviously not are just the future. They are the present. And they're the ones who are saying, Keep going. Because the more you use your privileges to speak out from the West, the more you're creating a ripple effect for us to be able to create these kind of conversations in our own communities. And I've got evidence of that when I was at the World Economic Forum this past January. A number of Arab journalists and politicians came up to me and said, You don't know me, but I know you. And do you know how much buzz our kids are making about your book? And I played dumb. 'Course I knew. But I asked them, Tell me more. And you know what they told me? Please stop! And that's exactly when I knew you gotta keep going.

The other day I was happy to see an article of hers in the Wall St. Journal regarding the Danish "cartoon wars", to use Manji's phrase. She's made it available at her website

On the other side of the Atlantic, The Economist uses the very same phrase, "cartoon wars", as the title for its lead opinion piece. It starts with a brilliant misquote of Voltaire, I disagree with what you say and even if you are threatened with death I will not defend very strongly your right to say it. This captures well the miserable Milquetoasts I have talked with in the past week. Where's liberalism? When I was a teen, there was a poster hanging in the Stevenson high school library with the Voltaire quote, I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it. That poster inspired me deeply through the years.

Unfortunately, it appears that Voltaire may not have actually said that, but he did write something similar. The really real quote is Monsieur l'abbé, I detest what you write, but I would give my life to make it possible for you to continue to write.

This brings us back full circle to the interview. Manji says:

I had occasion to ask [Salman Rushdie], Why would you support a young, Muslim woman writing a book that might invite into her life the kind of violence and chaos that has been visited upon yours?

And without any hesitation, he replied, Because a book is more important than a life.

Now I laughed, Fanny, thinking this guy's a joker. He's poking fun at his situation. He's about to tell me the serious answer.

No, no, he said. Let me tell you the serious answer. It is this. Whenever a writer puts out a thought, it can be disagreed with vigorously, vehemently, even violently, but it cannot be unthought. And that is the great permanent gift that the writer gives to this world.

Now what I loved about his answer is that he wasn't denying I might die as a result of this work. He was implying strongly that it may still be worth it. And try as I did for the next two weeks to come up with a counter-argument. I couldn't. And that is when I knew I had made the emotional commitment to write this book

There's liberalism.

UPDATE: 2 AM - Just listened to an interview of Irshad Manji with John Moore on CFRB where she validates my point on idolatry last week.

UPDATE: Next day 1 AM - Voltaire himself dallied in Mohammed depiction. Two months ago it became an issue in Geneva for the Théâtre de Carouge.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Danish cartoons and South Park

Thank God for South Park and our freedom to cartoon ...

Here is the famous short animation that started it all, "The Spirit of Christmas". It proved so popular on the internet that "South Park" was born. At this time of cartoonist consternation, let us give thanks and remember that in "The Spirit of Christmas" Trey Parker and Matt Stone artfully have Cartman call Jesus a pig-fucker, and it's funny.

The cartoon lampoons religious war. At the mall, Jesus confronts Santa for his blasphemy. Santa retorts, "This time we finish it. There can be only one." Little Stan laments, "Dude, this pretty fucked up right here". As Jesus and Santa do battle, one kid (Wendy?) is tossed from Santa's lap. Worse yet, Kenny is decapitated, and six other children become collateral damage. Stan finally interjects, "Wait, wait, just a second, we've got to think here. Now let's see. What would Brian Boitano do?" Finally, after Brian's sermon on the skates, Santa and Jesus realize what they're doing. In his apology to Santa, Jesus says "I've been a right bastard." Ouch.

In America, we declare the right to free cartooning for all humanity, and Parker and Stone exercise it. Not only do we get to see Jesus and Santa wrestle it out, we also get to portray, belittle, compare, and criticize our religious icons. Who's the real idolator? Now don't shirk the question.

In the hands of artists, we might get a glimpse of the true spirit of religion. With uncritical orthodoxy, only a cartoon version of religion remains.

Thursday, February 02, 2006


Manderlay is brilliant. Lars von Trier comes through with a masterpiece, again, meeting the high-water mark he set with Dogville. Two down, one to go, in his trilogy "USA".

Von Trier creates a microcosm where slavery breeds despite the best intentions of his protagonist, Grace. Slavery seems so distant. Lars brings it in close. In both of his works, we see his characters get comfortable with slavery. How does this happen? How could this have ever happened? Surely it would not happen on my watch. Surely we can undo it if only given the power. If you're so sure, watch Lars...

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Masa Restaurant

A new restaurant, Masa, in downtown Minneapolis, explodes with flavor, Mexican flavor, authentic Mexican flavor. No gratuitous globs of gordo goo, thank you, can be found folded in their fare. (Translation: refried beans and rice aren't stuffed into everything as filler, at least into anything my friends or I tried.)

Masa's cuisine is haute. Masa's chicken mole rivals that of El Moro in Cozumel. Masa's Mayan margarita contains nectar from a Yucatan flower. The appetizers reminded me of the tapas at Solera. The one taste I had of Masa's flan lingered on the lingua happily.

Masa, Masa, Masa... I'm going to come back.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Mario Vargas Llosa, 2 interviews

In these two audios, the novelist Mario Vargas Llosa talks about two of his works.

Mario Vargas Llosa

interviewed by Michael Silverblatt
KCRW's Bookworm