4/29/2012

Rum Stop-Motion

Light & Shadows in Wadi Rum, music by Alexandre Desplat


I didn't have a video camera in Jordan, but I wanted to catch the clouds and shadows moving through the valley. Instead, I experimented a bit with stop-motion. And since I left my tripod on a bus a few months back, I spent most of the time making this in balancing the camera on makeshift cairns or the hood of Ali's jeep. 

4/05/2012

Clash in Aarhus





There was tension in the air in Aarhus on March 31, 2012. Friends warned not to head downtown as violence was likely to break out. The US State Department issued a travel warning for Aarhus, something that simply doesn't happen in Denmark. Supposedly, at the helm of the terror was the Danish Defense League and their allies from across Europe. Thanks in large part to the media, we all imagined hordes of shorn-headed neo-Nazis terrorizing the town, throwing bottles, starting brawls and smashing the windows of immigrants' shops. Joanna and I headed down just after lunch.

The DDL's gathering was puny. There didn't seem to be more than 200 people milling about in front of the library. Sister organizations from around Europe had sent in handfuls of protesters from places like Norway, Sweden, Poland and Germany, all to make a stand against the perceived Islamization of Europe. A speech was underway, and a red, white and blue mix of Scandinavian and Israeli flags were raised from the crowd, which was well outnumbered by those watching curiously from the edge of a park.

We walked on along the river towards the anti-anti-Islamification gathering, also dubbed anti-fascist, anti-racist, and pro-tolerance. More than 5,000 people filled the grounds south of Domkirken, with red, green and yellow--but mostly red--flags emblazoned with hammers, sickles, hearts and anti-racist slogans. Palestinian flags were also passed around the mostly young, keffiyeh-clad crowd, and a Palestinian singer opened up the stage for a slew of speakers who riled up the masses with emotional speeches filled with wonderful platitudes and fist-pumping tolerance. It was the kind of newspeak tolerance that can make listeners forever unwilling and unable to tolerate or understand opposing viewpoints, in this case those of the "racists," demonized in much the same way Muslim extremists are dehumanized as "terrorists." It seems that when groups are demonized, they tend to demonize right back, destroying all chances of a healthy public discourse and replacing genuine dialogue over meaningful issues with a vicious, moral struggle for power. Just think US politics today. When I couldn't take any more of the flags, keffiyehs and moral superiority, we made our way back through the crowd.

Between the battling protests, we saw about a hundred young Arab men pouring in from a side street just ahead of us. They were marching from the tolerance gathering, fists raised and shouting in unison: Allahu akbar and La allah illa Allah (God is Great, There is no God but God). Dozens of police blocked their intended route north to clash with the tiny group of Defense Leaguers. Arabic curses and a few bottles were thrown at the police, and Joanna and I headed home.

By the end of the day, plenty of pavement rocks, bottles and projectiles had been launched, roads had been barricaded by youth with bikes and shopping carts, and two police had been wounded, all by pro-tolerance protesters. Of them, 83 were arrested while a police guard escorted the Defense Leaguers out of Aarhus.