14: farah khimji, the wine critics of early islam, pantry items as reparations, iranian cowboys, kosherati

Welcome to the coda: a last wrap-up month of newsletters to close out the year. What happened? I managed to poison myself with my beloved herbal tinctures, getting very sick. I was lucky enough to (have to) go to Dubai, where—unlike their NYC equivalents—doctors were able to figure out what was wrong and I’m pretty much back to normal now.

Most of all, the pandemic didn’t go away, but the infinite expanse of empty directionless time did. I began this newsletter as something I hoped would be like a little jewel caterpillar in people’s inboxes, a nice thing in a time of bleakness. But as work thankfully picked up again, it became another source of stress and frankly unsustainable to keep doing. Next year, I’ll be moving back to Dubai and working on a new publishing project dedicated to critics of colour which I’m super excited about, but will leave even less time.

I do want to keep this going in some way because, have you seen the Pantone colours for 2021? Incredibly grim. Maybe biweekly, maybe monthly, maybe with the diary element removed. Images here are studies of twilight phenomena post-Krakatoa. And the diary comes from an old friend and LIES cofounder Farah Khimji.

spiky bois

The empty space where normal once lived. The epicenter. On the periphery. Every story in America, through one neighbourhood. Right now I will jump to that spot over there. I’m 33. I got Covid 8 months ago. I’m still sick. Reading Camus in time of plague and polarisation. What it means to be Black and South Asian. Ventopenings: conditioning in pandemic times part 1. Did you think the new laws were only about the farmers? The environmental afterlives of Sri Lanka’s civil war. Saving Uighur culture from genocide.Toward a decolonised Pacific: interview with Simeon Man. 🔊The rise of extremes. The vulnerables can wait. vaccinate the superspreaders first. The reigning queen of pandemic yoga. Apocalypse then and now. Get Well Soon!

glouglou and snackchat

Discover Jewish Kosher food & its Emirati Fusion. The wine critics of early Islam. “Pantry items as reparations.” The food stylist who creates Hollywood’s unreal food and drinks. How ‘Tikim’ shaped Filipino food writing—and how it was resurrected.The layered history of biscuits in India. Reviving saffron production in an unlikely region. Cider makers are betting on foraged apples for climate resilience. A fond look back at the Futura pressure cooker cookboook. The only Ainu restaurant in Tokyo. Feasts and holy days in the Kazakhstan desert. Taste the secret source of the legendary South Indian chain MTR. These hobbit cooking TikToks are so good you’ll want to have a second breakfast. Why grocery shopping is on its way out. The industrial croissant deserves your respect. Bananas for Mappilas. “When I launched my brand in 2012, I was the only Black person in America with a license to make liquor.”  Where it all began. Fozia Ismail cooks the Bibis. Cooking with James Baldwin.

♬ & filmi

Thinking through Bollywood’s class consciousness. These cassette tapes hold intimate British-Pakistani histories. 🔊A brief history of Azerbaijani Soviet Jazz Funk. Arab film on Israeli television: an interview with Eyal Segue Bizawe. We review film and TV’s most famous fat suits. The mystery of the missing viola. Audiences won’t have seen anything like this: how Iranian film Chess of the Wind was reborn. Fight and Flight. When did Afghan cinema begin? An elegy for India’s single-screen cinema palaces. How do i walk all the way? Somalia’s enduring love affair with Bollywood. Does art have a caste? A debate on Carnatic music. A fistful of rials: morality and Iranian cowboy masculinities in a Shirazi western. From Palestine to the world, the militant film of the PLO. The last of Pakistan’s cinema artists. I lost my voice before I found it.

watermark

The strangeness of eating fish. Black hole kingdom. Fijiri: collective work songs of Gulf pearl divers. Fishermen fear Pakistan’s new city for the elite will end their way of life. The island that humans can’t conquer. My priceless summer on a Maine lobster boat. How Saudi Arabia obliterated its rich cultural history. When rubber hits the road—and washes away. How famous surfers and wealthy landowners are endangering Hawaii’s beaches. The nation’s largest remaining river swamp. When in drought, ancestral Pueblans turned to ice blocks in lava tubes. Where camels take to the sea. Leave or die. Verdegris: the colour of oxidisation, statues and impermanence. A queer love story at the bottom of the sea.

☞\( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)☞ yeehaw

The curse of the buried treasure. Female incels are obsesed with ‘angel vs witch’ skull shapes. The princess and the shaman. Shell is looking forward. A nameless hiker and the case the Internet can’t crack. 98 million TikTok followers can’t be wrong. The perfect victim. Shades of grey. How western travel influencers got tangled up in Pakistan’s politics. The $2bn Mall Rats. Russian mercenaries in Libya: “They sprayed us with bullets.” How Discord (somewhat accidentally) invented the future of the Internet. I bought a witches’ prison. The leader as image: Prabhakan and the visual regimes of the LTTE. How Bunny the dog is pushing scientistst’ buttons. The art of building the impossible. Garbage language.

culture diary: farah khimji

monday

Today is usually an exciting day in central Brooklyn: Labor Day, the day of the annual West Indian Day Parade. A day usually so fun and full of warmth and color and gaiety that you forget it’s the last day of summer. 

But this year, nothing is the same. Last night there was no j’ouvert, and today there is no parade.

Feeling depressed, I slumped on the couch and glared gloomily at the sun streaming outside my windows. I smoked weed. I ate cereal. I had a fight with my partner. I smoked more weed. I made up with my partner. I gloomed. I went to bed early.

tuesday

Woke up feeling much less gloomy and actually pretty well-rested.

I ate cereal while FaceTiming my sibling, N, for a wake and bake session. They live in Texas. We started FaceTiming regularly as NYC went into quarantine lockdown in March, and it has become a near-daily ritual of grounding and intimacy.

I did some work and then met up with a friend, G, who I haven’t seen in a while. We sat at an outdoor table near Prospect Park, eating tacos and drinking micheladas. We remarked on the strangeness of eating at a restaurant. We carefully replaced our masks whenever the server came by our table. We chatted with him about his job, asked how things were going with business (bad). He snuck us shots of tequila. 

I rode home on my bike, a little tipsy and a little too happy that I got to see a friend and talk to a waiter. Just like old times.

wednesday

I woke up today buzzing with anxiety and anticipation for the Zoom organizing meeting that was to take place later in the day. I was not looking forward to the discussion of ongoing conflict among our group members, but I also felt a strong sense of duty to go and deal with the messiness of humans as we try to build something somewhat less horrifying than our current reality.

I ate cereal, I smoked weed, I didn’t get much work done.

The meeting was actually ok in the end. It left me feeling surprised and somewhat heartened, as the arguments and divisiveness I was expecting did not occur. “Maybe this time people really do care,” I think. Maybe we can do this.

After the meeting, I logged onto Jitsi to join my partner and friends in playing our weekly game of Shadowrun. A full day on the internet.

thursday

Thursday is therapy day. I love my therapist. I was not looking forward to therapy today however, because my therapist had forewarned me that we were going to talk about my Parents and my Childhood Trauma. I ate cereal and prepared myself to Be Vulnerable and Open.

After therapy I pampered myself by smoking weed, eating my favorite dark chocolate covered pretzels, and watching anime.

In the evening I tuned in to a Zoom sangha for people of color, run by the East Bay Meditation Center in Oakland, CA. I’ve deeply appreciated the EBMC since I first walked through its doors for POC sangha back in 2014. Another boon provided me by the pandemic is that with everything going virtual, I can now attend EBMC events even though I’m firmly ensconced in Brooklyn.

I go to bed feeling warm and peaceful.

friday

After semi-successfully hacking at my own hair for the last couple weeks, I caved and made an appointment with my barber, E. This is only the second time I’ve gone to them since everything opened back up in July. I’m still nervous, so I took the first appointment of the day when things are least busy.

E does an excellent job as always and I leave feeling fresh, if a little itchy. I wander down Utica Avenue. I grab a Haitian pastry. I bike home.

saturday

Woke up late and a bit stressed. I generally have a pretty chill Saturday routine, but today I had lots to do before my friends and I took a weekend trip out to Montauk to celebrate C’s birthday. I tuned in to my weekly Zoom pilates session, attempting to convert my stress into visible abs. My instructor told me I did a good job today. Glowing with this praise, I did a small mountain of laundry and finished packing for the trip with time to spare. I walked over to see my neighbor and friend, J, and we took our usual Saturday tea on her building’s front lawn. She’d made hibiscus tea with lemon syrup. We ate plums. We toasted to summer’s end.

The drive was uneventful. We took an extended stop at a Wal-Mart to acquire things the city’s Targets could not provide: a camping stove, mesquite-flavored wood chips, headlamps. We stuffed our cart with fun-sized Cheetos bags and consumed unnecessary amounts of caffeine.

Once we got into Montauk we drove around looking for a hot meal before heading to the campsite. The only place still serving food was a rowdy sports bar. We edged into the open doorway, and placed our orders with the waitress — the only other visibly-identifiable person of color in the space aside from us and the doorman. “To go,” we said grimly, taking in the red-faced, mask-less Long Islanders yelling wantonly into the close air of the bar. The waitress met our worried gazes with a shrug and a sigh that all service workers will find depressingly familiar, and turned away, pausing on her way to the kitchen to threaten a particularly drunken table with expulsion from the bar “if you don’t SIT DOWN dontmakemetellyouagain!”

We scarfed down our mozzarella sticks and chicken nuggets and fries in the car and drove down to the beach campground, setting up our tents and hurriedly making a fire in the brisk breeze. Over the flames we toasted marshmallows and ate mushrooms, covering the fungi-dirt taste with sticky-sweet nostalgia. 

Some of my friends made faces as they swallowed their mushrooms. I myself don’t really mind the taste much. It tastes solid, like something you can depend on. Something you know. Something you can walk into fully embracing the delight of the return, the familiar sensations that remind you you’ve been here before.

I laid on my back and stared up at the stars, so many more than I was used to seeing in the city. So many that I could barely make out the usual constellations I always find: the Big Dipper, Orion and his belt. I realized I could make out the Milky Way, a dusty haze of dense stars that sent shivers of delight down my spine. Some guys nearby had a telescope, and through it showed us Jupiter and Saturn. It was nearly too awesome for my mushroomed brain to bear.

I sat back down at camp and thought about the fires in the west as I watched our little flames. I breathed in the smell of smoke in my clothes, on my skin, and thought about how most people I know think the world is dying. I thought about how to make the most of this life, of whatever we have left here, before it’s gone.

We gave thanks to the Montaukett and the Shinnecock. We gave thanks to the little children, the holy ones. We offered some to the fire. We watched them crackle and turn to flame and ash.

sunday

I opened my eyes to my friend P’s head sticking into the tent flap, yell-whispering “wake up!” We had made an ill-begotten pact the night before to get up before dawn and watch the sun rise over the Atlantic. We grumbled and groaned our way out of our sleeping bags and into our hoodies, trudging across the camping grounds to follow our friend up the path through the dunes and onto the beach.

The night-cooled sand squelched between my toes as I cautiously approached the surf. The sea was the color of those greenish-clear glass coke bottles. Waves lapped at my ankles, surprisingly warm. 

Some clouds hovered stubbornly on the horizon as we peered toward the eastern sky, which had turned a shade of pale peach. Someone wondered out loud if we’d even be able to see the sun come up through the swirls of misty gray. Impatient to get back to sleep, I grumpily mumbled that I was giving up and going back to camp. Just as I reached the top of the dunes I heard my name called out over the crash of the ocean. Turning back, I saw my friends waving to me and pointing excitedly just past the clouds.

A red-orange globe bloomed from the water.

featured creature: mirror spider

Also colloquially called sequined spiders, it seems to be an overarching genus. Here’s a site with many more species and images. Sometimes the metallic plates expand and contract:


niͥghͪᴛⷮliͥfeͤ is brought to you by rahel aima / @cnqmdi.