TagMusic

Review: THE DJINN FALLS IN LOVE & other stories

Mahvesh Murad and Jared Shurin‘s THE DJINN FALLS IN LOVE & other stories is a stunning anthology of multicultural perspectives on the various lives and natures of the creatures known alternately as Djinn, Jinn, or Genies. Each story is, in its own way, breathtaking, heart-wrenching, melancholy, and joyous; at once familiar and fundamentally alien and Other. Which is precisely as it should be for a collection about the places where the lives of these beings intersect with our own.

As Murad and Shurin note in the introduction, almost every Asian culture—as well as many North and East African cultures—has something like a Djinn. The creature that burns brightly, made of smokeless fire, or fireless smoke; that grants wishes, or resolutely does not; that knows of our desires, tastes them, feels them, and seeks to make them real; or twists them to show us our ignorance, our selfishness, our folly. The Genie of the Lamp, the Ring, the Rug; the Djinni made by God, before humans, capable of a form of salvation and divine communion that humans could never fully grasp; the Jinn, who see us and know us, but perhaps don’t quite fully understand us. And whom we don’t quite fully understand. This book opens a window onto them all.

After the introduction, the anthology opens with the eponymous poem, by Mohamed Magdy, whose pen name is “Hermes.” If you read our previous review, then you are perhaps struck by what it means for the name Hermes to appear writing in Arabic to explore the concept of the place where divinity and humanity meet, where love and compulsion and and possession and freedom are one thing. It is the title poem, for a reason.

Kamila Shamsie‘s “The Congregation” is a story about what it means to sacrifice and what it takes to shape yourself in the name of love. Love of yourself, and love of others. Family.

Kuzhali Manickavel‘s “How We Remember You” is about that place in which the cruelty of youth sits within the vault of guilty memory. About being confronted with the miraculous, the divine, the otherworldly, and needing to bleed it of that so that it might prove itself to you. About understanding that you’ll never get to understand what you broke and what you stole.

Claire North‘s “Hurrem And the Djinn” is a story about expectations regarding the type of power women wield, about a refusal to respect that power or assess those expectations, and about how that chain of events can come to spell disaster.

J.Y. Yang‘s “Glass Lights” is about desire. Want. Need. About what a creature made to sate desires, might desire for herself. About how little we understand of what it takes and means to grant a wish.

Monica Byrne‘s “Authenticity” is about desire, too, but desire as a brutal hunger. A dreamlike touch and taste, moving from once thought, one touch, one node of resonance to the next. Desire felt in the visceral urges and needs, in the juice from bitten orange, the abrasion of rough sand.

Helene Wecker‘s “Majnun” is about loss and loneliness. About seeking redemption in the whole of what you are, by paradoxically denying what you have been. About abjuring that which made you happy, and the question of whether you get to make that choice for anyone but yourself.

Maria Dahvana Headley‘s “Black Powder” is about desire twisted into regret, about time and hate and family. A story about killing what you love, and loving what you kill. About someone loving you enough to stop you, so everything can start again. It begins with a paragraph that stars “The rifle in this story is a rifle full of wishes” and ends “Maybe all rifles seem as though they might grant a person the only thing they’ve ever wanted.”

[The cover image to THE DJINN FALLS IN LOVE & other stories]

Amal El-Mohtar‘s “A Tale of Ash in Seven Birds” is about being hunted, being driven, being forced and tricked to change yourself, for the sake of another, and about what you can become when you finally learn to anticipate those tricks, and embrace that change for yourself.

James Smythe‘s “The Sand in the Glass is Right” is about thinking that if you just had a little more time you could finally get it right, and about the many ways you can be told that maybe there’s no “right” to get.

Sami Shah‘s “Reap” is about the many ways the 21st century puts the lie to the idea that we are any of us disconnected, detached, objective. About the ways in which what we put out comes back to us.

Catherina Faris King‘s “Queen of Sheba” is about dreams and legacies, about the traditions we pass down from one generation to the next, and about what’s going on in all those houses with the well-lit windows while noir detectives are out there in the dark.

E.J. Swift‘s “The Jinn Hunter’s Apprentice” is about the future of our relationship with the magical and the strange. Is about what might happen if we as a species make our way up and out only to find that some of our oldest companions came along for the ride. Or were already there, waiting.

K.J. Parker‘s “Message in a Bottle” is about duality and trust. It’s about who we think we are and know ourselves to be, and the paralyzing fear that comes with being shown that what we thought we knew—about ourselves, or about our world—is supposition and speculation at best.

Saad Z. Hossain‘s “Bring Your Own Spoon” is about building community in the face of degradation, in the face of people trying to strip every last bit of person-ness from you. It’s about the warmth and joy that come from sharing a meal with a friend, and about the hope that meal can bring, even in the face of all evidence to the contrary.

Neil Gaiman’s “Somewhere in America” is about need and power and fear and the ability to finally understand an give yourself over to what you truly want. It’s about finding your way in a new place and accepting a new role, and never, ever granting wishes.

Jamal Mahjoub‘s “Duende 2077” is about find oneself in suspicion and fear, and the place we might all find ourselves if authoritarianism took hold and stamped out all opposition. It’s about the voices that whisper of revolution and revolt, and it’s about the understanding that those voices’ interests might not be recognizable to us, on the other side of that fear.

Sophia Al-Maria‘s “The Righteous Guide of Arabsat” is about letting fear rule you, letting it twist you, letting it push you away from everything you claim you desire, and toward a cracked, desperate version of yourself. It’s about refusing to see what’s right in front of you.

Kristy Logan‘s “The Spite House” is about a world in which the social pressures of otherworldly neighbours cause humans to make blandly evil choices. It’s about being trapped in our own need and hatred, and about needing to push that off onto someone else, to make them responsible for the thing you wanted all along.

Usman T. Malik‘s “The Emperors of Jinn” is about the monstrousness of having every desire immediately sated, about the innocent and casually evil lives of spoiled children. It’s about what that lack of limitation might cause us to become, and about the forces we might unleash when we demand the same instant gratification of time and history and divinity itself.

Nnedi Okorafor‘s “History” is about celebrity and about being a part of something much larger than you could ever hope to comprehend. It’s about not needing or wanting to comprehend it, but knowing that you’ve done your part to make that thing real.

But that’s just some of what all of these stories are about, and I’ve told you nothing of the richness and lushness of the settings, the depth of the characters, the feel of these worlds. Many of these stories are masterful expressions of the short story form, in that they are finished in themselves, giving whole windows onto complete arcs, with the fullness of a world behind them. And some of these stories instead offer keyhole glimpses onto sections, snippets of lives that make you want more and more, whole books and series worth of more. Which is to say that every story in this anthology is pretty much perfect.


You can get THE DJINN FALLS IN LOVE & other stories pretty much everywhere.

Review: MAGIC IN ISLAM by Michael Muhammad Knight

On one level, Michael Muhammad Knight’s Magic in Islam is an exhortation to study Islam through psychedelic drug use, rap music, and mysticism. On another level, the whole text is an argument to reframe the ways in which we draw categorical distinctions between orthodox and heterodox/heretical practices and beliefs, altogether. Knight makes the case that even the most fundamental or orthodox positions (be they in Islam or any other belief tradition) are at least in part founded on principles that would be considered heretical, today.

Knight starts the text off working to problematize the term and category of “magic” as a whole, saying that the only things that really distinguish magic from religion are context and practitioner self-identification. This sets the stage for the book’s overarching question of “Is there any such thing as ‘Pure’ Islam?”

Continue reading

Imagine A Quote From ‘Phonogram’ or ‘Soul Music’ Here

[Editor’s Note: This blog entry is an edited and modified version of a portion of this week’s newsletter, so if you received that, feel free to skip this.]

Coheed & Cambria – [The Velourium Camper III: Al the Killer]— We’ll be doing a thing, this week, that I used to do in the old days, back when LiveJournal was a thing. I took the “Current Music” tag pretty seriously, back then, you see, and I would pretty much always be listening to a rather large playlist on random/shuffle, and whenever the song changed I would. (Screamin’ Jay Hawkins – [I Put a Spell on You]). Note it. Voilà.

So we’re going to do that, this time around.

I also bought myself a copy of Fiona Apple’s Extraordinary Machine, for my birthday. That’ll become pertinent, later, but for now it’s just coincident that there have been a great many articles and thinkpieces about machine intelligence, this week, including some more fun pronouncements about “killer robots” from Hawking, Musk, and now Steve Wozniak. (Nine Inch Nails – 3 Ghosts I). It’s difficult, at times like these, to not just print out things I’ve said on a sandwich board and wander around with a megaphone, screaming like some kind of prophet of not-doom.

“GET YOUR SHIT TOGETHER AND BE BETTER PARENTS AND STEWARDS AND MAYBE YOU WON’T HAVE THIS PROBLEM!”

“STOP FUCKING EACH OTHER OVER FOR A PERCENTAGE AND MAYBE YOUR CHILDREN’S CHILDREN WILL LIVE TO SEE THE LIGHT OF A DIFFERENT SUN!

That kind of thing.

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – [What a Wonderful World]— I think what makes this all the worse is that I’m really stoked about this “Teaching-Robots-Jazz” idea, and that makes the glaring failures of imagination in re: change and adaptation all the worse, in the end.

Likely none of this is helped by the fact that I finally saw Ex Machina (Kirsten got me a copy for my birthday; coinciding), and it was almost exactly the film I would have made. Almost.

Weezer – [The World Has Turned and Left Me Here]— One thing about doing the music notation is, you can see how often I pause to do something else while I’m writing these.

So let’s cut to it and, talk about Divination.

Radiohead – [Backdrifts (Honeymoon Is Over)]— Divination is best understood as a process of gaining information from the conjunction of symbolically meaningful signs, omens, or portents. The flight of birds, the coil and overlap and colour of intestines of certain animals at particular times of day, the way three coins or sticks or leaves fall, in relation to each other. Divinatory practices are languages with grammars, and those languages have dialects and those dialects have slang, and each one means something in its larger context, yes, but also has something very specific to say about the kind of thing it is and what it can do. Dr Karen Gregory has some really interesting and useful thoughts on divination and its place in sociological history.

Divination can be used to talk about the future, or the past, or the present. Carl Jung believed that all we were doing in divination was using a psychologically potent symbol system to tell us things we already knew, in a method that we’d actually listen to and understand. Or at least that’s what he most often claimed in public.

Patsy Cline – [Sweet Dreams]— Jung was a Tarot and I Ching kind of guy. Liked the cards and coins and sticks, and thought that the more resonant and primal the better for the purpose of understanding what the unconscious knew but couldn’t directly say. (Aesop Rock – [Coffee] Good idea…). So we’re talking about resonance. Emotional resonance, mental resonance, things that hit you right in your gut, things that engage intellectuality, sure, but aim for your feels. So let’s talk about music.

The hidden track on this song, for instance, makes me think about things going on this week (month, year, century, epoch) that I don’t want to raise my blood pressure about, right now, so we’re skipping it and going to…

Avenue Q Original Cast – [Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist]— …Be confronted with the exact same thing, in a tauntingly humourous context. Hm.

Welp. Still, I wanted to make a point so here it is: Divination, scrying, applied synchronicity, pronoia, directed apophenia, it all comes down to the determination of patterns from seemingly unconnected instances. Drawing pictures in clouds, and then living your life by what they have to say. Like that one episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender.

Childish Gambino – Unnecessary (ft. Schoolboy Q and Ab-Soul) {prod. Childish Gambino}— Put it down to confirmation bias if it fits, but the longer you live your life in this way, the more things start to take on that kind of “Fertility of Meaning.” Our experiences conform to our expectations, regardless of the sources of either.

The Darkest of the Hillside Thickets – [Shoggoths Away]—Now Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie introduced the word “Phonomancy,” to the wider world in their groundbreaking Phonogram series, but if you’re still unfamiliar, just know that it’s a word that means what it says on the label: Magick via sound. (Mike Geier – [12oz Mouse Jazz Theme]). It’s most often specifically used to mean magick via music, and this is where the whole thing comes together.

Electric Hellfire Club – [Whores of Babylon]— The basic idea behind Phonomantic Divination is really pretty simple: Open the music player of your preference, load all of your music into it, repeatedly click Shuffle/Random while thinking of a question, then listen to whatever songs play, relating them to you and each other. I do mine in the style of a tarot Celtic Cross, which requires 10 Songs, and I tend to listen to each song all the way through, before moving on.

µ-Ziq – Gruber’s Mandolin—If you’re unfamiliar with the tarot, the Celtic cross looks like this:

And I tend to think of each position as:

1) Me As I See Myself:

2) Immediate Influence:

3) Goal:

4) Recent Past:

5) Further Past:

6) Near Future:

7) Me As Others See Me:

8) Further Future:

9) Emotional/Mental State:

10) Ultimate Outcome:

The Chemical Brothers – [Block Rockin’ Beats]— I like this format because it more easily puts everything in an individual and intercontextual significance, but you should use whatever feels most comfortable to you.

You could throw shuffles on three open instances of your music player six times and do an I Ching thing. You could assign each song a value and then do complicated math to get rune values. You could write down lyrics on paper, burn that paper, and read the smoke. Whatever. After all, this is about finding a symbolic system with emotional resonance to you and using it to probe the depths of your psyche.

Flogging Molly – [May the Living Be Dead (In Our Wake)]— Or it’s about using ancient mystical secrets and new technologies to tell you about the shape of the future. Whichever.

All I know is, I’ve been trying to figure out a way to map divinatory practices onto my DVD collection, for years, and I still haven’t sorted it out. Honestly, it’s a large portion of why I want Netflix to institute a feature where they give you a (pseudo)randomly selected episode or movie from your lists and preferences and maybe even its algorithmic discernments about your tastes. I also think it could really be the last nail in the Traditional-TV-vs-Netflix/Hulu/Etc competition, because it’d effectively replicate channel surfing.

That’d be really nice.

Brianna Olson uses Twitter for what looks like a kind of divination, very often. She’ll get a word or phrase or concept in her head, and plug it into the search function, and retweet what comes out. Fascinating process.

Nine Inch Nails – [Closer]— Final thoughts: Kirsten bought me Ex Machina for my birthday, I bought myself a copy of Extraordinary Machine, and I still think Carl Jung would’ve really loved Twitter.

Until next time.

The 8-Bit Reggae Underground

Robert Berry writes:

There is an alternative universe in which the most important reggae tune of 1985 was not Prince Jammy and Wayne Smith’s ‘Under Me Sleng Teng’, but the music to a Nintendo game called Wrecking Crew.

The game saw a pixelly young Mario smashing his way through a series of obstacles with a hammer as big as his face. The skanking soundtrack, with its square-wave walking bass and off-beat 8-bit accents, was created by a 27-year-old Sly and Robbie fan named Hirokazu “Hip” Tanaka. In this other world, kids who grew up with SNES controllers permanently appended to their thumbs are today busily recreating classic riddims using Gameboys, toasting over chiptunes, and colouring in power-up mushrooms with the distinctive red, gold, and green of the Ethiopian flag.

Fortunately, the internet is a place where all parallel worlds exist at once, and this alternative reality is just a few clicks away, down a wormhole composed of Wikipedia pages, Facebook groups, and Soundcloud communities.

Full Story: Fact Mag: Digital mystics: the strange story of the 8-bit reggae underground

(via Chris)

Status update: head bobbing furiously.

See also:

Jahtari netlabel

Natty Droid netlabel

Laptop Reggae/Electric Dub group on Soundcloud

Pasta and Vinegar’s 8-bit reggae playlist

Mutation Vectors: A Fantastic Death Abyss

David Bowie Outside

Status Update

Just finished recording an episode of Mindful Cyborgs with Arran James and Michael Pyska of the “post-nihilist” website Syntheticzero.

It was a great episode, and I can’t wait for it to be online, but it’s left me in a weirder than usual headspace.

Browsing

So what is post-nihilism? I should probably tell you to wait til the podcast is out. But in the meantime, here’s a bit from an article Arran and Michael wrote in the Occupied Times:

After nihilism, then, are embodied realisations of and exposures to vibrant ecologies of being offering an ultimately untameable wilderness which we participate in on an equal footing with all other bodies, even if we have an unequal ecological effect. In order to cope-with and cope-within the wilderness of being we must abandon the charnel-house of meaning and its theological tyrannies once and for all. As coping-beings we must leave our reifications behind in order to engage in post-nihilist praxis: an ecologistics of tracing these rhythms and activities, their multiple couplings and decouplings, and taking responsibility for our way of cohabiting in, with and alongside other bodies.

Playing

Finally getting around to playing A Dark Room, a text-based game I’ve mentioned before. It’s like Oregon Trail meets The Road. Dark stuff indeed.

Listening

I’ve been listening to David Bowie’s Outside a lot this week. It was the first Bowie album I ever heard, back when I was a teenage rivethead, but I hadn’t listened to it in a good 14 years. Back then I knew it was supposed to be a concept album, and that Bowie had worked with Brian Eno on it, but that was about it. From Wikipedia:

Bowie and Eno visited the Gugging psychiatric hospital near Vienna, Austria in early 1994 and interviewed and photographed its patients who were famous for their “Outsider Art.”[1] Bowie and Eno brought some of that art back with them into the studio[1] as they worked together in March 1994, coming up with a three-hour piece that was mostly dialog. Late in 1994, Q magazine asked Bowie to write a diary for 10 days (to later be published in the magazine), but Bowie, fearful his diary would be boring (“…going to a studio, coming home and going to bed”), instead wrote a diary for one of the fictional characters (Nathan Adler) from his earlier improvisation with Eno. Bowie said “Rather than 10 days, it became 15 years in his life!” This became the basis for the story of Outside.

Here’s the Adler diary.

I was never able to follow the narrative of Outside, but this page tries to unpack the songs and stitch the story together.

BTW, there were also some fantastic moments on the Outside tour, like Bowie singing “Scary Monsters,” “Reptile” and “Hurt” and others with Nine Inch Nails.

Mutation Vectors: Speculative Geopolitics Edition

Status Update

I spent yesterday afternoon at Maker Faire volunteering at the Tesseract Design booth, where I was lucky enough to watch Crawford 3D scanning people and then printing out little plastic busts of them. Talk about a New Aesthetic experience. I also got to see a a real-life Flintstones car and a bunch of Tesla coils.

Spending today recovering from too much heat and not enough water, and catching up on some reading.

Browsing

“The current struggle for Scottish independence has about as much to do with the events depicted in Braveheart as America’s ongoing racial struggles have to do with the events depicted in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter,” writes Amanda Taub for Vox. In fact, the movie is outrageously historically inaccurate even by Hollywood standards. Fortunately, Taub also wrote a nice ‘splainer on the whole situation. Meanwhile, Quinn Norton puts it in context with other contemporary independence movements.

On a weirder note, China has been manufacturing islands in a bid to gain legitimate control over the South China Sea. M1k3y speculates that China could eventually become the first off-world power.

Elsewhere in hypothetical geopolitics: if Reddit were a country it would be a failed state.

And for a taste of something completely different, how about the Islamic roots of science fiction?

Watching

After binging through the entire new season of Trailer Park Boys, we just started the latest season of Channel 4’s Utopia which as I’ve mentioned was one of my favorite shows of last year.

Listening

Continuing the fequent Mutation Vectors motif of me finding out that one of my favorite bands has a new album out months after the fact, this week I found out that Bruxa who I raved about before put out a new album in July on a pay watcha want basis.

Apps

Mailpile, a web-based e-mail client that aims to balance security and usability, is now it beta. You can check out my story on them from back when they had just finished their crowdfunding here.

Beats Antique: She Is Looking for Something

This new Beats Antique video features costumes made by my wife and her business partner Brandy Grey. Jillian also makes a small cameo appearance in the video!

Mike Tyson Once Used a Coil Song to Terrorize an Opponent (Maybe)

The Awl reports:

Whatever power of Spinks’ entrance had immediately evaporated when a deafening drone of noise started swirling in the air. As it crescendoed into a maddening roar, the crowd at the Atlantic City Convention Center arched to follow the procession of men, all cops and security guards, emerging out of Tyson’s locker. Tyson, bare-chested and already soaked in sweat, slowly materialized from the back and meandered to the ring, barely blinking. The broadcast announcer Bob Sheridan, struggling to define the scene, played it straight: “It’s interesting Mike Tyson selected as his pre-fight music just noise; every once in a while you hear the clanging of chains. I think that’s what he’s got in mind to do to Mike Spinks’ head, but we’ll wait and see. Everything that Tyson does is intimidating.”

The “noise” was in fact a song by the British band Coil.

Full Story: The Awl: A Man Walks into a Boxing Ring

Via Metafilter, which casts doubt that the song was in fact by Coil. I can’t really hear it very well in the video, so I’m not sure, but I don’t think it’s the Sergio Cervetti song that one of the Awl commenters suggested either.

Muslim Punks vs. Sharia Law in Indonesia

Short Vice documentary about the actively suppressed Muslim punk scene in Indonesia’s only Sharia province:

Update: I hadn’t noticed before, but the damned embed auto-plays the video. If you want to watch the video visit the site.

New Bonus Tracks Added to Psychetect: Extremism

I’ve uploaded three new bonus tracks to the last Psychetect album Extremism:

“Recalculate”: A new recording using some of the same instruments and effects I used for “Solar Rattle.”

“Perverse Intimacy with the Sun”: A sequel to “Thirst for Annihilation” from Return to the Wasteland.

“Sleeping Demon”: A short remix of “Aqua Demonic Operating System.”

If you’ve already purchased the album you should be able to download the new tracks from Bandcamp. Let me know if you can’t.

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