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Bright Felon: Autobiography And Cities By Kazim Ali Is Now Available
|| 9/1/2009 || 6:52 pm || 1 Comment Rendered || ||



This groundbreaking, trans-genre work—part detective story, part literary memoir, part imagined past—is intensely autobiographical and confessional. Proceeding sentence by sentence, city by city, and backwards in time, poet and essayist Kazim Ali details the struggle of coming of age between cultures, overcoming personal and family strictures to talk about private affairs and secrets long held. The text is comprised of sentences that alternate in time, ranging from discursive essay to memoir to prose poetry. Art, history, politics, geography, love, sexuality, writing, and religion, and the role silence plays in each, are its interwoven themes. Bright Felon is literally “autobiography” because the text itself becomes a form of writing the life, revealing secrets, and then, amid the shards and fragments of experience, dealing with the aftermath of such revelations. Bright Felon offers a new and active form of autobiography alongside such texts as Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s Dictee, Lyn Hejinian’s My Life, and Etel Adnan’s In the Heart of the Heart of Another Country.



From the Book:

You wouldn’t think I would have wanted a beacon. Rather to find myself in the wilderness on my own.

But I did, I always did.

Could there have been someone else like me, not one thing not another, barely able to choose.

A poet, a Muslim, and of a particular persuasion.

When I knew someone like me I barely knew him and we couldn’t bring ourselves to speak of the one thing we needed to speak to each other about.

Silence stretched between us taut as sin.

In 2004 I moved with Marco down the river to Beacon, NY.

Named for the signal fires placed on top of each mountain in chain running from New York City to Albany.

So if either city fell to the British the insurgents at the other end would know about it.

I placed signal fires up and down each street, so anxious I was to belong somewhere.

—From the chapter “Beacon”



Endorsements:

Bright Felon will steal your heart and outrage your poetics. Part memoir, part trip book, part literary discourse, there is in it an urgent sense of a life lived in words. The tale is one of both innocence and experience. Rigorous, romantic, experimental, true, and yet mysterious, it is a book for the ages.” —Laura Moriarty, author of A Semblance: Selected and New Poems, 1975–2007

“Kazim Ali writes in Bright Felon a prose shaped by the various cities he has lived and loved in. This is a book that is so much more than memoir or autobiography. It is embodied and questioning and it carries through its politics a grace and generosity. —Juliana Spahr, author of Fuck You, Aloha, I Love You



KAZIM ALI is the author of two books of poetry, The Far Mosque (2004) and The Fortieth Day (2008). He is an assistant professor of creative writing at Oberlin College and teaches in the low-residency MFA program of the University of Southern Maine. He is one of the founding editors of Nightboat Books.



The text above was copied from the website of book distributor, University Press of New England



Below is a detail from my map Manhattan & Brooklyn Bridge Quilt, which is featured on the cover of the book:

Detail of Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridge Quilt


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Changing Channels – Al Jazeera English begins broadcasting in Washington, DC
|| 7/2/2009 || 11:52 pm || 2 Comments Rendered || ||

A couple weeks ago on June 25th, I attended the taping of Al Jazeera English’s town hall forum titled “Changing Channels” at the Newseum. The aim of the Q & A styled show was to give people in the Washington, DC area the opportunity to ask pointed questions to some of Al Jazeera’s main movers and shakers. Starting yesterday Al Jazeera English began broadcasting in the Washington, DC area on Comcast Channel 275, RCN Channel 34, Cox Channel 474, and Verizon FiOS Channel 457. Its too bad none of those channels show up on the basic cable at my house.


I was able to spot myself in the crowd:


For more videos visit Al Jazeera’s YouTube Channel. If you don’t have access to Al Jazeera in your city, contact your cable provider here.



The Craig Retroazimuthal Projection aka the Mecca Projection
|| 4/21/2009 || 11:45 am || Comments Off on The Craig Retroazimuthal Projection aka the Mecca Projection || ||

The Craig retroazimuthal map projection was created by James Ireland Craig in 1909. It is a cylindrical projection preserving the direction from any place to another predetermined place, while avoiding some of the bizarre distortion of the Hammer retroazimuthal projection. It is sometimes known as the Mecca projection because Craig, who had worked in Egypt as a cartographer, created it to help Muslims find their Qibla. Check out the mathematical calculation used to create the map on Wikipedia.

I think it would be neat to use this cartographic projection technique to create a map that uses Washington, DC as the center.


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Google Map Mashup: The Qibla Locator
|| 4/20/2009 || 10:54 am || 1 Comment Rendered || ||

Following up on yesterday’s posting, I stumbled across this interesting Google Map mashup. The Qibla (or Kiblah or Qiblah or Quibla) is the Arabic word for the direction that should be faced when a Muslim prays, otherwise known as the direction of the Kaaba in Mecca. For obedient muslims, the Salah, or formal prayer, is performed five times a day: at dawn (fajr), noon (dhuhr), in the afternoon (asr), at sunset (maghrib) and nightfall (isha’a). The Qibla Locator is a simple Google Map that is designed to automatically orient Muslims toward the direction of the Kaaba. Simply enter your location and the red line that is generated shows the shortest distance to the Kaaba. In the case of the screen grab above I decided to show what direction a Muslim would pray if they were in the White House in Washington, DC. I chose this location because I’ve read about some nutty folks who actually think president Barack Obama is a Muslim. Frankly, I don’t care what religion he practices and to take issue with anyone’s religion is a sign of intolerance and veiled ignorance. What I find most interesting about the Google Map is that the rhumb line toward the Kaaba can be somewhat deceiving. I’m not blaming the author of the mashup, rather, I think the nature of how the Quibla is found is unique. Since its based on the shortest distance to Mecca, sometimes the fastest way seems counter-intuitive, as in, I was thought the path from the White House (above) would be facing South-East instead of North-East. If you have a moment, try it out.


A couple interesting notes from the Wikipedia entry:

• The head of an animal that is slaughtered using Halal methods is aligned with the Qibla.
• Muslims are buried with their faces in the direction of the qiblah. Thus, archeology can indicate a Muslim necropolis if no other signs are present.

A short history of the Qibla:

Originally, the direction of the Qibla was toward Masjid al-Aqsa, Jerusalem (and it is therefore called the First of the Two Qiblahs). At least since Mishnaic times (AD200), Jews face the Temple Mount in Jerusalem while praying. The Mishnah speaks about this in Berakhot (Talmud) chapter 4, Mishnahs 5 and 6 and this practice is even found as early as I Kings 8:35-36. In Islam, this qiblat was used for over 13 years, from 610 CE until 623 CE. Seventeen months after Muhammad’s 622 CE arrival in Medina, the Qiblah became oriented towards the Kaaba in Mecca. According to accounts from the prophet Muhammad’s companions, the change happened very suddenly during the noon prayer in Medina, in a mosque now known as Masjid al-Qiblatain (Mosque of the Two Qiblahs). Muhammad was leading the prayer when he received revelations from Allah instructing him to take the Kaaba as the Qiblah (literally, “turn your face towards the Masjid al Haram”). According to the historical accounts, Muhammad, who had been facing Jerusalem, upon receiving this revelation, immediately turned around to face Mecca, and those praying behind him also did so.


Related Mecca Entries:

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[Update] The Architectural Athan Drum & Bass Mashup via YouTube Doubler is now transcribed
|| 4/19/2009 || 10:36 am || 1 Comment Rendered || ||

Click image to view the mashup on YouTube Doubler

Just under one year ago I created an interesting mashup using Brian Kane’s YouTube Doubler. Dubbed “the Athan Drum & Bass Mashup” (and since then I’ve added “architectural” to the title), the mashup features a slideshow of Islamic architecture on the left side and a stationary camera focused on a Drum & Bass DJ’s turntables on the right. Last night I revisited the original entry and discovered that whomever had uploaded the slideshow decided to transcribe the Athan using YouTube’s annotation feature. Now you can actually read the English translation of the morning call to prayer sung in Arabic.

#update – This iteration also automatically rewinds!


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Found in the Grand Juxtaposition: I am not a terrorist in Tucson
|| 11/20/2008 || 5:09 pm || Comments Off on Found in the Grand Juxtaposition: I am not a terrorist in Tucson || ||

This screen grab from the Grand Juxtaposition and combines the arabic text “I am not a terrorist” with Tucson Quilt.

Related Arabic Entries:

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A View of a Partially Decorated Kitchen Wall
|| 10/20/2008 || 1:24 pm || Comments Off on A View of a Partially Decorated Kitchen Wall || ||

I think the decorations are cute: a poster for kids showing the basic fruits & vegetables in written Arabic, a faux-antique plate, and a mandala dish. I don’t know where any of them are from or how they got to where they are at, but I am enjoying the random juxtaposition.



The Athan Drum & Bass Mashup via YouTube Doubler
|| 4/24/2008 || 11:00 pm || Comments Off on The Athan Drum & Bass Mashup via YouTube Doubler || ||

The other day I wrote about Brian Kane’s YouTube Doubler. Continuing on the same style of taking a beat track and adding a new element, today’s mash-up is similar to one that I made before using dub reggae back in December of 2004. Unlike the last version, which was created before YouTube even existed, this mashup features the Muslim call to prayer, known as the Athan, combined with a very techy drum & bass mix.

First and foremost, if you are reading this and are offended by my use of the Athan, I apologize. It is not my intent to debase or make fun of the Athan in any way, rather this mashup was designed to expose others to different ways of hearing the Muslim call to prayer. One of the fundamental tenets of Islam is tolerance and I hope you are able to tolerate this mashup. Drum & bass is very abrasive form of electronic music and the Athan is normally sung without any instrumentation, so I feel it’s an interesting sonic juxtaposition.

What I like most about the Athan video is that it features mosques from around the world. So not only do you get to hear the beauty of the call to prayer, you are shown the beauty of Islamic architecture as well. If you are interested in seeing/hearing a different Athan, check out the call to prayer being sung inside of a al-Masjid al-Haram mosque in Mecca. It’s the holiest site in all of Islam.

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(Mecca) is now Makkah
|| 11/28/2007 || 10:27 pm || Comments Off on (Mecca) is now Makkah || ||

On August 12th, 2007 I took this screenshot for my blog entry related to the Astro-theological overlays for Google Earth. The project overlaid the zodiac on locations of religious importance: Vatican City, Mecca, and Jerusalem.

Today I discovered that that the names for the locations have changed in Google Earth.

note: the Kaaba is in the lower right-hand corner

My entire life I have always spelled it the city as Mecca. I wonder when this was changed? Should I change my spellings? Some day I would like to visit the holy city of Makkah :-)


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Random Banners Now Greet You – continued
|| 7/20/2007 || 2:35 pm || Comments Off on Random Banners Now Greet You – continued || ||


Banner created from Star of Guinea-Bissau

In March of this year I created 15 banners that are displayed randomly each time the website loads. Earlier this week a friend of mine in Shanghai, China sent me my name in Simplified Chinese. She also sent me some useful words I plan on adding to some future maps. I’ve decided to make another batch of banners using this text. There are now a total of 34 different banners.

View the new banners after the fold…

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Nikolas Schiller is a second-class American citizen living in America's last colony, Washington, DC. This blog is my on-line repository of what I have created or found on-line since May of 2004. If you have any questions or comments, please contact:

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