04 July 2005

03 July 2005

A Farewell to Palavers? Terrorism's Legitimacy

April 23, 2005

Hookah Palaver IV: Terrorism, Yay?

On a cool Saturday night, we took in a renowned film focusing on the role of terrorism in an independence war. Since I read that “The Battle of Algiers” was being screened in the Pentagon (with the hope that it would shed light on the insurgency in Iraq), an examination of the merits of terrorism would make for an interesting Hookah Palaver.

Cha Cha, Jenny Marie, Anjy, Kentaro, Natalie, and Jennifer showed that their RSVPs were indeed their bond. Many thanks must be bestowed on James for his hospitality.

While ordering Al's Pizza and setting up the hookah, we started out with a DVD “extra” – a half hour discussion featuring Richard Clarke and a less celebrated former counterterrorism bureaucrat (the latter was from the State Dept.). You may recall Richard Clarke as the pre-September 11, 2001, terrorism Cassandra on the National Security Council for both Clinton and Bush – you know, those halcyon days when obfuscating titles like “Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States” lulled our leaders into a false sense of security. Their discussion centered on the continuing relevance of “The Battle of Algiers,” whether terrorism is ever the right tactic, and the long-term outcomes of relying on torture.

Serendipitously, further insight into the cogency of “The Battle of Algiers” was provided by George Will’s op-ed piece in today’s Washington Post!

With Jonah now smouldering, we turned to the main film. Although not graphic by today’s standards, “The Battle of Algiers” does not shy away from the wages of war. These range from the bombings and tortures carried out by French soldiers (between 500,000 and 1,000,000 Algerians died during the war for independences) and the FLN’s (National Liberation Front’s) bombings of places frequented by Algeria’s French residents. One indelible image is of a young child eating an ice cream in a cafĂ© shortly before it is reduced to rubble.

The film crystallizes what I alluded to in the event details – that definitions of terrorism are malleable, and that in some cases it may be justified. In addition to waxing philosophical on the ideas prompted by the film, we also entertained other notions, such as the viability of traversing the lower 48 states, and, dare I say the necessity, of procuring a chauffeur.

Given that a palaver is 5hist. a parley between African or other natives and traders, James has suggested that it may not be apt to have another Hookah Palaver sans an African – yours truly, who is leaving for, yes, Gambia in West Africa this July. I hope that Jonah will still make appearances, as he, his owner, and our friends have brought good times to Why Did Blacks Vote Republican in 2004?, Gentrification, Parley Beyond the Parochial, and even Our Final House Party. Thanks all!

Shisha Soiree pics

HP3 Attendees

Senor Smokeface!

Hookah Palaver III: Parley Beyond The Parochial

Chronicalling the events of Feburary 19, 2005

“Hookah Palaver III: Parley Beyond The Parochial,” sought to build on the traditions of “Why Did Blacks Vote Republican in 2004?” and “Gentrification,” this time looking at issues of international import. As with all shisha soirees, however, the subjects and conversation meandered, and the evening culminated with a viewing of an episode of “The Family Guy.”

Our first topic of the night was one brought to our attention by my erstwhile hostess Liz. We discussed HIV/AIDS prevention policy, namely the ongoing debate over the three pronged A (abstinence), B (be faithful), and C (use condoms) approach to prevention. Liz mentioned Uganda’s success in reducing their HIV prevalence rates, the reasons for which have been a bone of contention, although a preponderance of the evidence shows that promoting abstinence and monogamy, and encouraging the proper use of contraception when sexually active, is the most effective strategy. This topic has particular salience, with the Bush Administration’s Global AIDS Fund requiring that at least 33% of the funds go towards “Abstinence-only” education programs.

Any conversation of international reproductive or sexual health issues inevitably involves U.S. domestic politics, so our discussion veered into an examination of, and reminiscence on, the American sexuality education experience.

From here, we discussed the current situation in Iraq, with most of us falling under the description of beleaguered realists, subscribing to the view that we must soldier on, the merits of the war notwithstanding.

This evaluation was followed by a discussion of American policy towards China. Many a prospective president has promised to take a stand against Beijing’s human rights abuses and occasional bouts of regional surliness, only to turn into a pragmatist once in office, with nary a mention of Taiwan, Tibet or Xinjiang. This reluctance to confront burgeoning powers, or longtime allies, meant a logical point of further discussion was…

The municipal elections in Saudi Arabia! Has the Middle East ever been so free!? While President Bush was his effusive self when describing the Middle Eastern election du jour, many wondered exactly how far our much ballyhooed push for democracy would go if it meant that the oil spigots were turned off. Leaving aside the conspiratorial tones of the House of Bush, House of Saud variety, the discussants couldn’t help but wonder how the U.S.’s incredibly close relationship with the Saudis may jeopardize our idealist tendencies. The inconsistencies of our foreign policy were mentioned by not a few people.

At this point, the palaver left the international realm altogether, while some friends attempted to best immortalize their pipe-toking for posterity. Many thanks must go to our erstwhile benefactor, Brandon, for supplying the digital camera. As always, we did not end where we started, but enjoyable conversations were had, friendships made or strengthened, and a cool vibe embraced.

Much, much gratitude must be reserved for Liz, who introduced several topic ideas, and helped me attend to our guests. Thanks, friend! Wo pE laif paa!

Special thanks in absentia to James for the use of Jonah, and Kavitha for once more allowing me to let India spend the night. In honour of James, and in deference to my head cold, I carried the torch and used a catheter, or condom (in line with our first topic of the night), when inhaling. Keep your eyes peeled for Hookah Palaver IV: Title Embargoed For Release.

Hookah Palaver II: Gentrification

With our first shisha soiree fast gaining renown, and safe in the knowledge that we would have a hookah or three in attendance, Hookah Palaver II: Gentrification saw an uptick in popularity. 100% of “Yes” respondees showed that, for this event at least, their RSVP was their bond. And we even squeezed in a couple more roommates and other friends. Thanks everyone!

Compared to “Why Did Blacks Vote Republican in 2004?” we were not as focused on the topic at hand. After I introduced the subject, we had a short all-inclusive conversation on the merits of gentrification. With such a large group, though (approaching 25), we soon devolved into smaller discussions. Still, the seed was planted, and throughout the evening I heard exchanges relating to the evening’s theme.

In addition, James gave us a treatment of gentrification, to the tune of “Frosty the Snowman”:

Displaces families
Thru soaring rent and selfish landlords
And the influx of yuppies.

Is fair market change they say.
Interest rates are low, but we all know
How greed is the American way.

Is alive as it could be
Cultural demise right before your eyes
That's not the way it has to be

I think this is an important topic, particularly in the DC area, and I'm glad everyone gave some thought to the demographic changes in our region and in cities around the country. An example of this is our own house, which we will (most likely) vacate in April 2005 once it's sold. Of course, we in turn displaced some residents bought out by our slumlord.

Of course, the other “agenda item” was to chill out and smoke some hookah while listening to Ali Farka Toure, Khaled, and sundry other performers. Although we did not listen to any Bob, we did “turn our lights down low,” and enjoyed the ambience of fruity tobacco in the air.

The flavours we sampled included cherry, apple, orange, coconut, cantaloupe and grape. As time goes by, we are gradually learning how best to tend coals, apply foil, and get the water pipes flowing. This is an upward trajectory, so soon enough we shall be masters. We also broke in Kavitha’s hookah, “India,” which heretofore had not been used (aside from an abortive attempt which left the hookah filled with water).

Besides a gathering of friends, there were a couple more milestones to celebrate. It was Liz’s birthday the day before, and on top of that she took the GRE last Wednesday. So we were able to fete my great roommate, and partook in some chocolate mousse (soup?). Of course, there was other great fare (samosas, veggies, clementines, hummus, cheeses, cookies, etc.) that our fabulous guests brought along, not to mention a few fruity drink mixes and some wine.

Our night also included an obligatory broadcast of “Meet Me in the Parking Lot!” as James, Andy, Sam and Chris shook it to Panjabi MC. Plus a massage line formed in the dining room to eliminate any residual stress from the week that had not already gone up in smoke and/or Scooby snacks.

Finally, as the clock approached midnight, my old friend Mo arrived from Pennsylvania. Not even a car crash or 10 hour layover in Hagerstown, MD, could keep him away. Of course, upon his arrival, Mo promptly tutored me on the proper layering of foil on the hookah pipe. Also, we need to upgrade our coals. Think of Mo as filling Anthony Hopkins's role in "The Efficiency Expert."

After most everybody left, James, Mo and I took in a short film on Muslim stand-up comedians performing in post-September 11 America. It’s an extra on the Fahrenheit 9/11 DVD and well worth a look. We knew the event was officially tapering off once roommate Brendan made his now-traditional early morning appearance to help us polish off the grape tobacco.

Thanks to everybody who came out to join us for a wonderful evening. Special thanks to James, Amber and Kavitha for bringing along their hookahs. Thanks to MIDC's Brandon for his selfless donation of flavoured tobacco. We'll you have in the fold for the third parley, Brandon! And gratitude is extended to Kevin and Picot for helping the less technologically endowed folks of Chez 1209 with the documentation of the proceedings.