Monday, January 09, 2006

epilogue: l'agente provocateuse

Yes. This poem is terminated.

The truth: "saudigirl" was a literary experiment, an instance of rhetorical transvestism, an attempt by a young saudi guy to create a female character, in blog/poetic form.

Why? Well, it's complicated. But here's a stab at my thinking at the time:

It first started when I became livid by some of the idiotic arguments that certain public men were using to justify, or make apologies for, the dearth of women's rights in Saudi Arabia. I decided to write to these men in a public fashion. Why not write as a man you ask? Well, I thought it would be more effective (for the cause) if a woman demonstrated the total absence of logic in their arguments.

So Alia, a character created for an angry email, became my Arab Amazon, fighting for her rights, and for the rights of all downtrodden Saudi women. That was the vision... the reality, well... was a bit different as you can surmise. As literary constructs do, she developed in unforeseen ways, lodging herself in a particularly autonomous zone in my mind, reading feminist literature, and acquiring knowledge on Saudi women's issues, all the while finding that she could not do anything but verbally attack that set of glaring problems immediately pertaining to women in Saudi Arabia.

But many exceedingly important issues, she noticed, were “human” issues and therefore super-sexual. They rose above gender/ethnic/national/cultural lines. This observation, along with another in which she noticed the inordinate time and energy devoted to separating people from one another led her to conclude that this need to segregate all issues into those of women and those of men was a sign of an unhealthy society: pathologically divided and unable to harness the collective talents of its members.

Not being able to operate in the real world, she became horrified by the sublime proportions of the problem. Overcome and depressed, she followed the hermetic poets under fascism into solipsistic art, music and sound -- into the warm (and universal) embrace of the insular aesthetic.

And what of those poor oppressed women? I asked, appalled at this abandonment of her raison d'etre. She quoted Bernard Crick to me: “The person who wishes not to be troubled by politics and to be left alone finds himself the unwitting ally of those to whom politics is a troublesome obstacle to their well-meant intentions to leave nothing alone.” She then packed her bags and emigrated to a Greek island, muttering on her way out of the door: “Life's too short to waste on the likes of you...”

I'm surprised it lasted so long. Even if it did continue, I really could not see it developing further than a few months given her exceedingly demanding nature. Ultimately, I no longer wanted to spend time with my exhausted heroine. I got bored with her, and she with me. She is gone.

It is, of course, for the better.

Ali K

PS: Thank you for reading/participating; apologies if this liberal interpretation of poetic license offended anyone along the way. As one of my readers said, I'll see you all on the 'other side' (-;

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

the end

I was a heteronym.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

ten questions for a listener

"The purpose of this exercise is to facilitate a discovery of new meanings in sounds that are normally taken for granted.

1. Find a location - indoors or out, public or private - with an interesting array of sounds. Sit down in this location on your own and listen for 30 minutes or more.

2. When you begin listening, try to gather and give attention to all of the sounds occurring around you - no matter how familiar or mundane.

3. Try to collect and remember in your mind as many of these sounds as you can. After a few minutes, focus your concentration on just one of the sounds. Try to select a sound that you think will be frequently heard.

4. For the remainder of the listening session your concentration will be directed primarily to this one sound.

5. Once you have selected your sound, you can begin responding to the sequence of questions that follow. Devote a minimum of 90 seconds to every question... Dedicate more time to questions that relate more appropriately to your sound.

Ten Questions

1. Off the top of your head, what would you say to describe your sound? What is its most distinguishing characteristic?

2. During what time of the day or week would your normally hear your sound in this location?

3. Since you arrived in this location, how frequently have you heard your sound? Would you measure its frequency by the minute, second, or milli-second? Does its regularity follow a recognisable pattern?

4. How does your sound complement (or detract from) the other sounds in your environment?

5. What objects in your environment does your sound directly or indirectly identify? Are there objects and surfaces in your environment that your sound helps to illuminate or hide?

6. What social, geographical, or physical features of your environment could your sound symbolically represent?

7. Are you likely to encounter your sound in other environments? How identical are these environments to the one you are currently in?

8. Can your sound be associated with any memories from your past?

9. How has your sound changed since the time you first arrived?

10. Overall, what does your sound contribute to your experience of this environment? Does it have an influence on the mood or character of things around you?"

[quoted verbatim from an article by Darren Copeland in the Journal of the Communautè èlectroacoustique Canadienne]

Friday, October 21, 2005



"Skelm is a Johannesburg based paranoiac with an unhealthy interest in electronically mangled sound. There are many reasons for this paranoia, but most have been systemically erased through a sustained scorched-earth attack on Skelm’s memory facilities. Inevitably, some formative influences, typically those associated with childhood trauma and those awful attacks on the public transport system, escaped unscathed. Plagued by these lingering fragments of mal-consciousness, and determined to erase those neurological circuits which (mis)lead the brain into constructing a simulacrum of a coherent world, when what in fact exists are random and meaningless events, objects and interactions, Skelm stumbled on the idea of using sound to induce a gap in consciousness. Fortuitously, there is a neurological precedent for this endeavour. A scotoma (darkness/ shadow) is a disconnection or hiatus in perception, or a gap in consciousness. Previously considered to be an affliction, bleeding edge theory now sees scotoma as the logical next step in biogenetic engineering- the potential to eradicate those parts of the subconscious which cause undesirable traits or behaviour. If this experiment in sound-induced scotoma works, you will have no recollection of reading this page, listening to this music, or ever having used Reaktor. However, you will live the rest of your life with a vague sense of discombobulation and an uncontrollable desire to commit frottage with strangers on buses."

Monday, October 10, 2005


"Nobody sees a flower, really – it is so small – we haven't time, and to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time."

Georgia O'Keeffe

Sunday, October 02, 2005


I shouldn't be writing to you as you have stopped all contact with me.

But you are the 1st letter of this letter, and given that I feel separated from my reason to be, presently paranoid to the possibility of all-seeing agencies, and mad at myself for not accepting responsibility on so many fronts, I would like to ask you this: do you miss the day we met?

Perhaps it was the way you explained our attraction in terms of valence bonds, and love in terms of symmetry which you defined as “the invariance of a configuration of elements under a group of automorphic transformations”. Perhaps it was the red glow of the exit sign above the entrance to the underground Roman bath-house-turned-bar where we first danced. Perhaps it was the painful company of your absence during my reading of Balzac’s harlot high and low. Perhaps it was the memory of that night when I brought you an ashtray so you could keep me on ice until my body returned. Perhaps it was the laughter heard with you and the silent fear of what was to come. Perhaps it was the emergence of the possible end of the relationship as an idea in my mind. Perhaps it was the proximity of air-conditioned sounds to our bed. Perhaps it was your morning mood swings and temper tantrums suggesting you had a more variable body bubble than most. Perhaps it was that I liked thinking about you or liked myself thinking about you. Perhaps it was your unbearable tendency to say 'perhaps'.

You were so effortlessly intuitive - 'a simpler interface is a more perfect interface'.

And all your analytical judgements – nothing next to your smile.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005


"I can’t sleep…" he says.

He has called me "his unknown entity".

He says he wants to understand me so that he can "understand himself better through me". I suspect this is his way of saying that he does not yet understand himself sufficiently well to know what he wants. And if he does not know what he wants by now, then how can I be what he wants? Perhaps I am some temporary placeholder between states of lesser or greater self-understanding on his part - a convenient means by which he seeks to become what he wants.

Every now and then, a contradiction appears in his explicit articulation of what he wants, and when I point out the flaw, inconsistency, contradiction, he immediately agrees:

“You are absolutely right, but it's only natural that I reflect the contradictions in the ways and practices of the culture we live in. I am aware of them, but I cannot completely reject them -- to reject them openly, i.e. to announce this rejection from the rooftops, is to apparently reject the culture as a whole and risk physical alienation from those around me; to reject it privately is to remain a hypocrite, but to somehow better 'manage' my alienation, or 'contain' it, so to speak."

I don't like his explanation or his alternatives, and say:

"One way of dealing with your problem is to find common ground with similar hypocrites or conformists, find those who exhibit similar patterns of contradictory behaviour, similar asymmetries.

Another way is to try resolve these contradictions and come up with a well-formed and internally consistent belief-structure. If you do this, you can then decide to keep these ideas to yourself or expose them to the public. If you want to keep them to yourself, then you will have to resort to a kind of personal pragmatism; otherwise, you can release the generalized version into the wild and entertain criticism until the structures become resilient and strong, better able to acquire a life outside the confines of one’s head."

"Look, I really don't have time to figure this all out right now. I really have to go to bed as I've got an early appointment tomorrow..." is his response.

I can’t sleep.