Friday, February 26, 2010

According to a government official, at least 26 people were killed in a stampede on Thursday at a historic mosque in the northwestern city of Timbuktu, Mali.

“There were 26 killed and 40 wounded,” Oumar Sangare, the Internal Ministry spokesman, told Reuters. However, other news agency reports put the death toll as low as fifteen.

An official, who requested to remain anonymous, said the accident could have begun as a result of renovation work on the Djingareyber mosque—which is made primarily of mud, and was built in the fourteenth century. Construction work blocked off some of the roads, and that could have been a factor in the incident. “The mosque is being renovated, financed by the Aga Khan, and the work is carried out by South African specialists,” the official told the Agence France-Presse (AFP) news agency.

“Because of these renovations, the passage on the north side of the mosque is closed off. On that side, to get through, the faithful found an improvised alleyway. But the alley couldn’t take the number of people using it. So there was a stampede. Somebody shouted ‘someone has died’ and panic took over,” the same official went on to say.

Others have remarked that rescue services responded “very quickly” to the stampede, and helped the “many injured.”

The Xinhua news agency reports the stampede started when an elderly woman fell in one of the town streets near the city’s main mosque, where a sermon was being conducted in front of a large crowd; a passersby then rushed to assist the woman, apparently disrupting the crowd’s movement and causing the stampede.

“People were circling the mosque, a ritual at each Mouloud [the observance of the Prophet Mohammed’s birthday] and there was a huge crowd build up,” commented Mohamed Bandjougou, one of the witnesses to the event, to AFP by telephone. “There were at least fifteen dead. The bodies were taken to the morgue.”

Authorities warned the number of injured may actually be higher than reported, saying that “we cannot rule out the fact that the number of those injured will increase because some of them are still hiding in their homes instead of coming to the hospital.” A hospital source commented that some of the people hurt were in critical condition, and needed to be evacuated to the capital, Bamako, as soon as possible.

The mosque’s imam, who gave his name as Asseyuti, commented on the incident. “We’re in mourning. What happened is a real trauma. We accept the will of God. He gives us life, he takes it away,” he said.

According to an official statement, Malian president Amandou Toumani Toure is traveling to Timbuktu from Bamako in light of the stampede.



Saturday, November 15, 2008

Scotland has refused bail to the Libyan man convicted of the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 despite his terminal cancer, as he can receive treatment in prison. Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al-Megrahi was jailed in 2001 for the 1988 bombing of the transatlantic airliner, killing 270 people, but is seeking to have his conviction overturned.

Minutes after Edinburgh’s Appeals Court rejected bail on compassionate grounds Jim Swire, spokesman for the victim’s families who lost his daughter in the disaster, complained about the ruling. “It has never been a goal of our group to seek revenge,” said a lawyer outside the court reading from his statement. “The refusal of a return to his family for a dying man whose verdict is not even yet secure looks uncomfortably like either an aspect of revenge — or perhaps timidity.”

Al-Megrahi, a former intelligence officer, is 54 and serving a minimum of 27 years for the bombing. He has advanced prostate cancer which is spreading through his body. His request for bail was rejected by Lord Hamilton, Scotland’s head judge, who said that as doctors say he could live a few more years he should not be released unless and until after his appeal succeeds or his condition worsens.

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Some other doctors give his time as just months, as the cancer has reached his bones. Hamilton however said that palliative hormone treatment could prolong his life. Hamilton also said Al-Megrahi was not suffering “material pain or disability”.

The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission ruled last year that the conviction may be a miscarriage of justice. It said there was significant doubts to be raised over several key pieces of evidence in the original trial.



Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Buffalo, New York —Two weeks after a 19th century stable and livery on Jersey Street partially collapsed and caused 15 homes to be evacuated in Buffalo, New York, residents still do not have answers from the city despite a court order to work with them and come to an agreement on a way to save some or all of the building, Wikinews has learned. Despite the frustration from residents, the city is planning on suing the building’s owner. A rally was held at the stable’s site where residents are hoping to bring more awareness to the situation and gain more support to save the building.

On June 11, a significant portion of the stable’s right side wall collapsed into the yard of a resident’s home. Authorities, including the Buffalo Fire Department were called to the scene to evaluate the collapse and evacuate 15 homes of residents surrounding the stable as a precautionary measure. The following day, the city ordered an emergency demolition on the building, which was stopped by a restraining order residents with Save The Livery (www.savethelivery.com) won on June 14. Two weeks later, five homes are still evacuated and residents don’t know when they will be able to return.

On June 19, Judge Justice Christopher Burns of the New York State Supreme Court ordered a halt to the emergency demolition and ordered the city and residents to come to an agreement to save the building, or at least a significant portion of it. Despite a court date today, no agreement has yet been reached between the two parties.

“It is in the interest of the city to have a safe environment–but also important to maintain a sense of historical preservation,” stated Burns in his June 19th ruling. The court ruled that a limited demolition could take place and that the city was only allowed to remove material in immediate danger to residents and pedestrians, but stated that the demolition could only be performed with “hand tools.” The court also ordered that any rubble which had fallen into neighboring yards when the building collapsed, to be removed. Since then, most of not all the significantly damaged portions of the building or portions in immediate danger of falling have been demolished. The roof has also been removed to put less stress on the stable’s walls.

“Its been over three years since we have been having problems with part of the livery falling down. There was an implosion two weeks ago and suddenly the city wanted to have an emergency demolition,” said Catherine Herrick who lives on Summer Street immediately behind the stable and is the main plaintiff in the lawsuit against the city. Many homes on Summer are small cottages which were used as servants quarters when the stable was in operation, many of which were built in the 1820’s. At least seven homes on Summer border the stable’s back walls. Residents in those homes have significant gardens which have been planted against the building and growing for decades.

“Both parties are to continue to work together to see how we can meet everybody’s needs. This is the third time we have been in that courtroom, and that is what we were basically told to do,” added Herrick who said the rally was held today because this “is Buffalo’s history. Buffalo is a wonderful place to live because of its history and this is a historical, beautiful building and we need to keep those beautiful buildings.”

Herrick states that the city is working with residents, but also believes that its “slow moving” and they are allowing the owner to get away with neglect on the property.

“I believe right now that they are letting the owner get off. The owner was negligent for 20 years, and hasn’t done anything to it despite what he has claimed to say. Now that this is an emergency situation, the city has a lot to say about it,” added Herrick.

Currently the building is owned by Bob Freudenheim who has several building violations against him because its poor condition. He has received at least five violations in three months and residents who live near the building state that Freudenheim should be “100% responsible” for his actions.

Freudenheim gave the city permission to demolish the building on June 12 during an emergency Preservation Board meeting, because he would not be “rehabilitating the building anytime soon.” Freudenheim, along with his wife Nina, were part-owners of the Hotel Lenox at 140 North Street in Buffalo and were advocates to stop the Elmwood Village Hotel from being built on the Southeast corner of Forest and Elmwood Avenues. They also financially supported a lawsuit in an attempt to stop the hotel from being built. Though it is not known exactly how long Freudenheim has owned the stable, Wikinews has learned that he was the owner while fighting to stop the hotel from being built. Residents say that he has been the owner for at least 22 years. Attorneys for Freudenheim confirm that the city is starting proceedings against him for his violations beginning as early as Wednesday June 25. Freudenheim has not released a statement and could not be reached for comment.

Many residents want the building preserved and Herrick states that their engineer can have it stable in “four days” as opposed to the 14-30 days it would take to demolish the building and “at a lesser cost than what it costs to demolish it.”

It will cost the city nearly US$300,000 to demolish the building which is paid for with tax money collected from residents in the city. The Buffalo News reports that fees are approaching $700,000. Though reports say there is a potential buyer of the stable, Wikinews cannot independently confirm those reports.

Residents say the stable was designed by Richard A. Waite, a 19th century architect, and was first owned by a company called White Bros., used as a stable and housed at least 30 horses at any given time. It also stored “coaches, coupes, broughams, Victorias and everything in the line of light livery,” stated an article from the West Side Topics dated 1906. According to the article, The company first opened in 1881 on Thirteenth Street, now Normal Avenue, and later moved into the Jersey building in 1892. The Buffalo Fire Department believes the building was built around 1814, while the city property database states it was built in 1870. It is believed to be only one of three stables of this kind still standing in the country.

At about 1950, the stable was converted into an automobile body shop and gasoline station.A property record search showed that in 1950 at least four fuel storage tanks were installed on the property. Two are listed as 550 square feet while the other two are 2,000 square feet. All of the tanks are designated as a TK4, which New York State says is used for “below ground horizontal bulk fuel storage.” The cost of installing a tank of that nature according to the state, at that time, included the tank itself, “excavation and backfill,” but did not include “the piping, ballast, or hold-down slab orring.” It is not known if the tanks are still on the property, but residents are concerned the city was not taking the precautions to find out.

Wikinews has called the city along with the Mayor’s office several times, but both have yet to return our calls. There are conflicting reports as to the date of the next hearing. According to Herrick, the next hearing is July 1, 2008 though the Buffalo News states the next hearing is July 8. The News also states that Burns will make a final ruling on the stable at this time.



Submitted by: Lanh Nguyen

The Blackened Teeth of Traditional Vietnamese Tribes

Asia is a land full of weird and wonderful customs and rituals. Throughout the continent there are literally thousands of different traditions that remain alive to this day and these customs often stem from religious beliefs that have been faithfully upheld for thousands of years.

Trekking through the gentle mountains of Northern Thailand, Laos and Vietnam is a great way to experience these traditions first hand.

A strangely interesting custom that is often misunderstood is the Vietnamese ritual of tooth blackening or tooth lacquering. Tooth blackening is not total uncommon for those Vietnamese people living traditional lives, nevertheless many tour guides still tell tourists the blackening is the result of chewing betel nut.

This mild stimulant comes in the form of a tiny parcel made up of betel nut, the fruit of an Areca tree, and lime paste wrapped in a leaf of the betel pepper vine. It is chewed in a similar way to tobacco and this stains the teeth.

It is actually quite easy to spot the difference between blackened teeth and those stained by betel nut the betel nut stains the teeth a dark red/brown color and the constant chewing and spitting is also a clear sign.

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Betel nut can be found all over Asia, predominantly in areas occupied by hill tribes, but the more abrasive procedure of tooth lacquering is a tradition that only really remains in Vietnam.

Mrs. Nguyen Thi Pham, a 67 year old Hanoian, dressed in a loose silk over blouse, black satin trousers, jade bracelet and necklace, described the ritual blackening of her teeth when she was 17. Pham waves her slender gold-ringed fingers as she described the party-like atmosphere of the ceremony

Her grandmother blackened her teeth as the rest of her family looked on joking and making joyful comments to her as her mouth was being painted. There needed to be three applications (every other day for a week) because natural saliva washed off the original application of chemicals. For that period of time she could not eat solids and could drink only through a straw

The ritual certified that she was grown up and ready for marriage. Although it was not a painful process for Pham, I have spoken to other women who recall that their mouths swelled up or that their gums burned and stung for days. The procedure could take place sometime after the age of ten when the child has all her permanent teeth but is usually done after menarche.

The chemical ingredients used to blacken the teeth can take several forms.

The lacquering process can take several forms. In Vietnam it is ration to use red sticklac, a resin obtained from secretions of a tiny aphid-like insect that sucks the sap of a host tree, as a dye.

The resin is diluted with lemon juice or rice alcohol and stored in the dark for a few days. It s then applied with pressure to all the teeth. An application of iron (mainly from iron nails) or copper from green or black alum and tannin from Chinese gall reacts with solution to give a blue-black insoluble coating.

In other areas of Southeast Asia coconut husk is burned to form a black sticky char that is then combined with nail filings and adhered to the tooth surface until the dye takes.

The traditional method once used by the Japanese was to make a mixture by soaking iron fillings in tea or sake. This liquid then turns black upon oxidation of the iron. Spices like cinnamon, cloves and anise were often added to the resin to reduce the harsh chemical taste of the dye.

As with most Asian traditions, there are long standing cultural reasons for tooth blackening.

It was believed that only savages wild animals and demons that long white teeth. The filing and blackening of the teeth, filing was also a popular procedure, was assurance that one would not be mistaken for an evil spirit.

In Japan tooth blackening was known as Ohagura. It was believed to enhance sex appeal in addition to maintaining healthy teeth. Linking tooth blackening to a prolonged set of teeth is not just a belief; studies have shown that those with blackened teeth maintain a full set of teeth for longer than those without lacquered teeth.

Similar procedures of tooth blackening and filing, were also performed by tribes from Indonesia and the Philippines. Back in 1938, a French survey found 80% of the countryside folk of Vietnam had blackened teeth. Medieval kings of Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries also blackened their teeth.

The procedure has been quite popular throughout Asian history. But when the French came to Vietnam, they did not appreciate the implied beauty and the procedure was discouraged. Since then the numbers of Vietnamese dropped drastically, but in these modern times, the traditional people of Vietnam are once again trying to revive an almost lost tradition.

About the Author: This article written by Lanh Nguyen from Vietnam Heritage TravelFor original article, please visit:

vietnamheritagetravel.com/news/1374-tooth-blackening-the-forgotten-tradition.htmltravelagencyinvietnam.com

Source:

isnare.com

Permanent Link:

isnare.com/?aid=1160854&ca=Wellness%2C+Fitness+and+Diet}



This exclusive interview features first-hand journalism by a Wikinews reporter. See the collaboration page for more details.

Friday, November 3, 2006

On November 13, Torontonians will be heading to the polls to vote for their ward’s councillor and for mayor. Among Toronto’s ridings is Scarborough-Agincourt (Ward 40). One candidate responded to Wikinews’ requests for an interview. This ward’s candidates include Sunny Eren, Norm Kelly (incumbent), George Pappas, and Winston Ramjeet.

For more information on the election, read Toronto municipal election, 2006.



Thursday, September 21, 2006

On Monday four Canadian soldiers were killed in a suicide bomb attack. The soldiers were in Afghanistan since the end of July and in operations since the beginning of August. They are now returning home in Canada for a memorial service.

Pte. David Byers, 22, of Espanola, Ontario was identified after a suicide bomber attacked the soldiers in Kandahar. On Tuesday, the Department of National Defence said the attack also killed Cpl. Glen Arnold, based in CFB Petawawa, northwest of Ottawa; and Cpl. Shane Keating of Saskatoon and Cpl. Keith Morley, based at CFB Shilo in Manitoba were also killed.

“All three of these men were proud citizens and exceptional examples of the men and women who serve this country, both at home and abroad,” said Maj. Stephen Joudrey, acting commanding officer for 2PPCLI at CFB Shilo, on Tuesday.

The Prime Minister also made a statement saying: “I wish to send my heartfelt condolences to the loved ones of Corporal Glen Arnold, Corporal Shane Keating, Corporal Keith Morley, and Private David Byers, who were killed by a suicide bomber yesterday in the Panjwayi region of Afghanistan.”

Thirty six Canadian soldiers have died in Afghanistan since 2002.



Saturday, February 5, 2005

AustraliaJames Gosling, the creator of the Java programming language, said last week that he believes Microsoft is wrong in its decision to support C and C++ programming languages in the common language runtime in Microsoft .NET. According to him, this decision may lead to severe security flaws in .NET. Gosling is currently in Australia, giving talks and visiting friends.

According to Gosling, the problem lies with the programming languages and some of their characteristics: “C++ allowed you to do arbitrary casting, arbitrary adding of images and pointers, and converting them back and forth between pointers in a very, very unstructured way.”

The Java language was developed due to limitations of C++. Gosling began using C++ for the former Sun Microsystems‘s star-seven project. At that time Gosling concluded C++ was inadequate and created the Oak language. The Oak language would become the language known today as Java. The former star-seven project shares its defining characteristics with networked software applications today: safety and portability.

Gosling continues: “If you look at the security model in Java and the reliability model, and a lot of things in the exception handling, they depend really critically on the fact that there is some integrity to the properties of objects. So if somebody gives you an object and says ‘This is an image’, then it is an image. It’s not like a pointer to a stream, where it just casts an image.”

Charles Sterling, a Microsoft developer and product manager of the .NET framework, didn’t entirely disagree with Gosling’s thoughts. But he said that .NET defines different types of code. And there is the code which is managed by the .NET framework. All new Microsoft languages, such as C# and Visual Basic.NET, produce only code managed by the .NET framework, so they are safe.

A key idea that has not shown up in Gosling’s talk is that Java itself allows a very similar process to occur. Java’s JNI (Java Native Interface) allows the integration of the same unsafe code that prompted Gosling’s central thesis.

However, Gosling says languages like C and C++ can still produce unsafe code which would not follow the rules of safety of .NET. This sort of code, usually found in old software applications, requires additional .NET permissions to execute. Sterling says it is up to developers to decide whether or not to use unsafe code in their .NET applications.



Sunday, May 20, 2012

U.S. Democratic Party presidential candidate John Wolfe, Jr. of Tennessee took some time to answer a few questions from Wikinews reporter William S. Saturn.

Wolfe, an attorney based out of Chattanooga, announced his intentions last year to challenge President Barack Obama in the Democratic Party presidential primaries. So far, he has appeared on the primary ballots in New Hampshire, Missouri, and Louisiana. In Louisiana, he had his strongest showing, winning 12 percent overall with over 15 percent in some congressional districts, qualifying him for Democratic National Convention delegates. However, because certain paperwork had not been filed, the party stripped Wolfe of the delegates. Wolfe says he will sue the party to receive them.

Wolfe will compete for additional delegates at the May 22 Arkansas primary and the May 29 Texas primary. He is the only challenger to Obama in Arkansas, where a May 10 Hendrix College poll of Democrats shows him with 38 percent support, just short of the 45 percent for Obama. Such an outing would top the margin of Texas prison inmate Keith Russell Judd, who finished 18 percent behind Obama with 41 percent in the West Virginia Democratic primary; the strongest showing yet against the incumbent president. Despite these prospects, the Democratic Party of Arkansas has already announced that if Wolfe wins any delegates in their primary, again, due to paperwork, the delegates will not be awarded. Wolfe will appear on the Texas ballot alongside Obama, activist Bob Ely, and historian Darcy Richardson, who ended his campaign last month.

Wolfe has previously run for U.S. Congress as the Democratic Party’s nominee. On his campaign website, he cites the influence “of the Pentagon, Wall Street, and corporations” on the Obama administration as a reason for his challenge, believing these negatively affect “loyal Americans, taxpayers and small businesses.” Wolfe calls for the usage of anti-trust laws to break up large banks, higher taxes on Wall Street, the creation of an “alternative federal reserve” to assist community banks, and the implementation of a single-payer health care system.

With Wikinews, Wolfe discusses his campaign, the presidency of Barack Obama, corporations, energy, the federal budget, immigration, and the nuclear situation in Iran among other issues.

Contents

  • 1 Campaign
  • 2 Challenging the incumbent
  • 3 Policy
  • 4 Related news
  • 5 Sources


Wednesday, December 7, 2005

The United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has begun to address concerns raised by the EU, the Council of Europe, and several member countries about the CIA’s detention practices upon her arrival in Germany for a European tour that began Tuesday.

“As a matter of US policy, the United States’ obligations under the U.N. Convention Against Torture, which prohibits, of course, cruel and inhumane and degrading treatment, those obligations extend to US personnel wherever they are, whether they are in the United States or outside the United States,” said Rice, speaking from the Ukrainian capital of Kiev on Wednesday.

Media reports and Human Rights groups have alleged that the CIA transported renditioned prisoners through European countries, which could violate European laws and the sovereignty of countries involved. Secretary Rice claimed that the United States has respected the sovereignty of other countries, and that it has not transported detainees from one country to another for the purpose of interrogation using torture, and has not transported anyone to a country when we believe he will be tortured.

“We consider the captured members of Al-Qaeda and its affiliates to be unlawful combatants who may be held, in accordance with the law of war, to keep them from killing innocents. We must treat them in accordance with our laws, which reflect the values of the American people. We must question them to gather potentially significant, life-saving, intelligence. We must bring terrorists to justice wherever possible,” Rice told reporters before she left from Andrews Air Force base on Monday.

Rice said that European nations should realize that interrogations of terrorist suspects have produced information that has saved European lives. However, Secretary Rice provided no specific cases.

“Secretary Rice made extra-legal rendition sound like just another form of extradition. In fact, it’s a form of kidnapping and ‘disappearing’ someone entirely outside the law,” said Tom Malinowski, a Human Rights Watch official in Washington.

The CIA practice known as “extraordinary rendition” is used to interrogate terrorist suspects outside the U.S., where they are not subject to American legal protection.

“Kidnapping a foreign national for the purpose of detaining and interrogating him outside the law is contrary to American values,” said Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on the Khalid El-Masri case. “Our government has acted as if it is above the law. We go to court today to reaffirm that the rule of law is central to our identity as a nation.”

The ACLU feels the government has to be held to account over “extraordinary rendition”.



Thursday, September 27, 2007

John Vanderslice has recently learned to enjoy America again. The singer-songwriter, who National Public Radio called “one of the most imaginative, prolific and consistently rewarding artists making music today,” found it through an unlikely source: his French girlfriend. “For the first time in my life I wouldn’t say I was defending the country but I was in this very strange position…”

Since breaking off from San Francisco local legends, mk Ultra, Vanderslice has produced six critically-acclaimed albums. His most recent, Emerald City, was released July 24th. Titled after the nickname given to the American-occupied Green Zone in Baghdad, it chronicles a world on the verge of imminent collapse under the weight of its own paranoia and loneliness. David Shankbone recently went to the Bowery Ballroom and spoke with Vanderslice about music, photography, touring and what makes a depressed liberal angry.


DS: How is the tour going?

JV: Great! I was just on the Wiki page for Inland Empire, and there is a great synopsis on the film. What’s on there is the best thing I have read about that film. The tour has been great. The thing with touring: say you are on vacation…let’s say you are doing an intense vacation. I went to Thailand alone, and there’s a part of you that just wants to go home. I don’t know what it is. I like to be home, but on tour there is a free floating anxiety that says: Go Home. Go Home.

DS: Anywhere, or just outside of the country?

JV: Anywhere. I want to be home in San Francisco, and I really do love being on tour, but there is almost like a homing beacon inside of me that is beeping and it creates a certain amount of anxiety.

DS: I can relate: You and I have moved around a lot, and we have a lot in common. Pranks, for one. David Bowie is another.

JV: Yeah, I saw that you like David Bowie on your MySpace.

DS: When I was in college I listened to him nonstop. Do you have a favorite album of his?

JV: I loved all the things from early to late seventies. Hunky Dory to Low to “Heroes” to Lodger. Low changed my life. The second I got was Hunky Dory, and the third was Diamond Dogs, which is a very underrated album. Then I got Ziggy Stardust and I was like, wow, this is important…this means something. There was tons of music I discovered in the seventh and eighth grade that I discovered, but I don’t love, respect and relate to it as much as I do Bowie. Especially Low…I was just on a panel with Steve Albini about how it has had a lot of impact.

DS: You said seventh and eighth grade. Were you always listening to people like Bowie or bands like the Velvets, or did you have an Eddie Murphy My Girl Wants to Party All the Time phase?

JV: The thing for me that was the uncool music, I had an older brother who was really into prog music, so it was like Gentle Giant and Yes and King Crimson and Genesis. All the new Genesis that was happening at the time was mind-blowing. Phil Collins‘s solo record…we had every single solo record, like the Mike Rutherford solo record.

DS: Do you shun that music now or is it still a part of you?

JV: Oh no, I appreciate all music. I’m an anti-snob. Last night when I was going to sleep I was watching Ocean’s Thirteen on my computer. It’s not like I always need to watch some super-fragmented, fucked-up art movie like Inland Empire. It’s part of how I relate to the audience. We end every night by going out into the audience and playing acoustically, directly, right in front of the audience, six inches away—that is part of my philosophy.

DS: Do you think New York or San Francisco suffers from artistic elitism more?

JV: I think because of the Internet that there is less and less elitism; everyone is into some little superstar on YouTube and everyone can now appreciate now Justin Timberlake. There is no need for factions. There is too much information, and I think the idea has broken down that some people…I mean, when was the last time you met someone who was into ska, or into punk, and they dressed the part? I don’t meet those people anymore.

DS: Everything is fusion now, like cuisine. It’s hard to find a purely French or purely Vietnamese restaurant.

JV: Exactly! When I was in high school there were factions. I remember the guys who listened to Black Flag. They looked the part! Like they were in theater.

DS: You still find some emos.

JV: Yes, I believe it. But even emo kids, compared to their older brethren, are so open-minded. I opened up for Sunny Day Real Estate and Pedro the Lion, and I did not find their fans to be the cliquish people that I feared, because I was never playing or marketed in the emo genre. I would say it’s because of the Internet.

DS: You could clearly create music that is more mainstream pop and be successful with it, but you choose a lot of very personal and political themes for your music. Are you ever tempted to put out a studio album geared toward the charts just to make some cash?

JV: I would say no. I’m definitely a capitalist, I was an econ major and I have no problem with making money, but I made a pact with myself very early on that I was only going to release music that was true to the voices and harmonic things I heard inside of me—that were honestly inside me—and I have never broken that pact. We just pulled two new songs from Emerald City because I didn’t feel they were exactly what I wanted to have on a record. Maybe I’m too stubborn or not capable of it, but I don’t think…part of the equation for me: this is a low stakes game, making indie music. Relative to the world, with the people I grew up with and where they are now and how much money they make. The money in indie music is a low stakes game from a financial perspective. So the one thing you can have as an indie artist is credibility, and when you burn your credibility, you are done, man. You can not recover from that. These years I have been true to myself, that’s all I have.

DS: Do you think Spoon burned their indie credibility for allowing their music to be used in commercials and by making more studio-oriented albums? They are one of my favorite bands, but they have come a long way from A Series of Sneaks and Girls Can Tell.

JV: They have, but no, I don’t think they’ve lost their credibility at all. I know those guys so well, and Brit and Jim are doing exactly the music they want to do. Brit owns his own studio, and they completely control their means of production, and they are very insulated by being on Merge, and I think their new album—and I bought Telephono when it came out—is as good as anything they have done.

DS: Do you think letting your music be used on commercials does not bring the credibility problem it once did? That used to be the line of demarcation–the whole Sting thing–that if you did commercials you sold out.

JV: Five years ago I would have said that it would have bothered me. It doesn’t bother me anymore. The thing is that bands have shrinking options for revenue streams, and sync deals and licensing, it’s like, man, you better be open to that idea. I remember when Spike Lee said, ‘Yeah, I did these Nike commercials, but it allowed me to do these other films that I wanted to make,’ and in some ways there is an article that Of Montreal and Spoon and other bands that have done sync deals have actually insulated themselves further from the difficulties of being a successful independent band, because they have had some income come in that have allowed them to stay put on labels where they are not being pushed around by anyone.
The ultimate problem—sort of like the only philosophical problem is suicide—the only philosophical problem is whether to be assigned to a major label because you are then going to have so much editorial input that it is probably going to really hurt what you are doing.

DS: Do you believe the only philosophical question is whether to commit suicide?

JV: Absolutely. I think the rest is internal chatter and if I logged and tried to counter the internal chatter I have inside my own brain there is no way I could match that.

DS: When you see artists like Pete Doherty or Amy Winehouse out on suicidal binges of drug use, what do you think as a musician? What do you get from what you see them go through in their personal lives and their music?

JV: The thing for me is they are profound iconic figures for me, and I don’t even know their music. I don’t know Winehouse or Doherty’s music, I just know that they are acting a very crucial, mythic part in our culture, and they might be doing it unknowingly.

DS: Glorification of drugs? The rock lifestyle?

JV: More like an out-of-control Id, completely unregulated personal relationships to the world in general. It’s not just drugs, it’s everything. It’s arguing and scratching people’s faces and driving on the wrong side of the road. Those are just the infractions that land them in jail. I think it might be unknowing, but in some ways they are beautiful figures for going that far off the deep end.

DS: As tragic figures?

JV: Yeah, as totally tragic figures. I appreciate that. I take no pleasure in saying that, but I also believe they are important. The figures that go outside—let’s say GG Allin or Penderetsky in the world of classical music—people who are so far outside of the normal boundaries of behavior and communication, it in some way enlarges the size of your landscape, and it’s beautiful. I know it sounds weird to say that, but it is.

DS: They are examples, as well. I recently covered for Wikinews the Iranian President speaking at Columbia and a student named Matt Glick told me that he supported the Iranian President speaking so that he could protest him, that if we don’t give a platform and voice for people, how can we say that they are wrong? I think it’s almost the same thing; they are beautiful as examples of how living a certain way can destroy you, and to look at them and say, “Don’t be that.”

JV: Absolutely, and let me tell you where I’m coming from. I don’t do drugs, I drink maybe three or four times a year. I don’t have any problematic relationship to drugs because there has been a history around me, like probably any musician or creative person, of just blinding array of drug abuse and problems. For me, I am a little bit of a control freak and I don’t have those issues. I just shut those doors. But I also understand and I am very sympathetic to someone who does not shut that door, but goes into that room and stays.

DS: Is it a problem for you to work with people who are using drugs?

JV: I would never work with them. It is a very selfish decision to make and usually those people are total energy vampires and they will take everything they can get from you. Again, this is all in theory…I love that stuff in theory. If Amy Winehouse was my girlfriend, I would probably not be very happy.

DS: Your latest CD is Emerald City and that is an allusion to the compound that we created in Baghdad. How has the current political client affected you in terms of your music?

JV: In some ways, both Pixel Revolt and Emerald City were born out of a recharged and re-energized position of my being….I was so beaten down after the 2000 election and after 9/11 and then the invasion of Iraq, Afghanistan; I was so depleted as a person after all that stuff happened, that I had to write my way out of it. I really had to write political songs because for me it is a way of making sense and processing what is going on. The question I’m asked all the time is do I think is a responsibility of people to write politically and I always say, My God, no. if you’re Morrissey, then you write Morrissey stuff. If you are Dan Bejar and Destroyer, then you are Dan Bejar and you are a fucking genius. Write about whatever it is you want to write about. But to get out of that hole I had to write about that.

DS: There are two times I felt deeply connected to New York City, and that was 9/11 and the re-election of George Bush. The depression of the city was palpable during both. I was in law school during the Iraq War, and then when Hurricane Katrina hit, we watched our countrymen debate the logic of rebuilding one of our most culturally significant cities, as we were funding almost without question the destruction of another country to then rebuild it, which seems less and less likely. Do you find it is difficult to enjoy living in America when you see all of these sorts of things going on, and the sort of arguments we have amongst ourselves as a people?

JV: I would say yes, absolutely, but one thing changed that was very strange: I fell in love with a French girl and the genesis of Emerald City was going through this visa process to get her into the country, which was through the State Department. In the middle of process we had her visa reviewed and everything shifted over to Homeland Security. All of my complicated feelings about this country became even more dour and complicated, because here was Homeland Security mailing me letters and all involved in my love life, and they were grilling my girlfriend in Paris and they were grilling me, and we couldn’t travel because she had a pending visa. In some strange ways the thing that changed everything was that we finally got the visa accepted and she came here. Now she is a Parisian girl, and it goes without saying that she despises America, and she would never have considered moving to America. So she moves here and is asking me almost breathlessly, How can you allow this to happen

DS: –you, John Vanderslice, how can you allow this—

JV: –Me! Yes! So for the first time in my life I wouldn’t say I was defending the country but I was in this very strange position of saying, Listen, not that many people vote and the churches run fucking everything here, man. It’s like if you take out the evangelical Christian you have basically a progressive western European country. That’s all there is to it. But these people don’t vote, poor people don’t vote, there’s a complicated equation of extreme corruption and voter fraud here, and I found myself trying to rattle of all the reasons to her why I am personally not responsible, and it put me in a very interesting position. And then Sarkozy got elected in France and I watched her go through the same horrific thing that we’ve gone through here, and Sarkozy is a nut, man. This guy is a nut.

DS: But he doesn’t compare to George Bush or Dick Cheney. He’s almost a liberal by American standards.

JV: No, because their President doesn’t have much power. It’s interesting because he is a WAPO right-wing and he was very close to Le Pen and he was a card-carrying straight-up Nazi. I view Sarkozy as somewhat of a far-right candidate, especially in the context of French politics. He is dismantling everything. It’s all changing. The school system, the remnants of the socialized medical care system. The thing is he doesn’t have the foreign policy power that Bush does. Bush and Cheney have unprecedented amounts of power, and black budgets…I mean, come on, we’re spending half a trillion dollars in Iraq, and that’s just the money accounted for.

DS: What’s the reaction to you and your music when you play off the coasts?

JV: I would say good…

DS: Have you ever been Dixiechicked?

JV: No! I want to be! I would love to be, because then that means I’m really part of some fiery debate, but I would say there’s a lot of depressed in every single town. You can say Salt Lake City, you can look at what we consider to be conservative cities, and when you play those towns, man, the kids that come out are more or less on the same page and politically active because they are fish out of water.

DS: Depression breeds apathy, and your music seems geared toward anger, trying to wake people from their apathy. Your music is not maudlin and sad, but seems to be an attempt to awaken a spirit, with a self-reflective bent.

JV: That’s the trick. I would say that honestly, when Katrina happened, I thought, “okay, this is a trick to make people so crazy and so angry that they can’t even think. If you were in a community and basically were in a more or less quasi-police state surveillance society with no accountability, where we are pouring untold billions into our infrastructure to protect outside threats against via terrorism, or whatever, and then a natural disaster happens and there is no response. There is an empty response. There is all these ships off the shore that were just out there, just waiting, and nobody came. Michael Brown. It is one of the most insane things I have ever seen in my life.

DS: Is there a feeling in San Francisco that if an earthquake struck, you all would be on your own?

JV: Yes, of course. Part of what happened in New Orleans is that it was a Catholic city, it was a city of sin, it was a black city. And San Francisco? Bush wouldn’t even visit California in the beginning because his numbers were so low. Before Schwarzenegger definitely. I’m totally afraid of the earthquake, and I think everyone is out there. America is in the worst of both worlds: a laissez-fare economy and then the Grover Norquist anti-tax, starve the government until it turns into nothing more than a Argentinian-style government where there are these super rich invisible elite who own everything and there’s no distribution of wealth and nothing that resembles the New Deal, twentieth century embracing of human rights and equality, war against poverty, all of these things. They are trying to kill all that stuff. So, in some ways, it is the worst of both worlds because they are pushing us towards that, and on the same side they have put in a Supreme Court that is so right wing and so fanatically opposed to upholding civil rights, whether it be for foreign fighters…I mean, we are going to see movement with abortion, Miranda rights and stuff that is going to come up on the Court. We’ve tortured so many people who have had no intelligence value that you have to start to look at torture as a symbolic and almost ritualized behavior; you have this…

DS: Organ failure. That’s our baseline…

JV: Yeah, and you have to wonder about how we were torturing people to do nothing more than to send the darkest signal to the world to say, Listen, we are so fucking weird that if you cross the line with us, we are going to be at war with your religion, with your government, and we are going to destroy you.

DS: I interviewed Congressman Tom Tancredo, who is running for President, and he feels we should use as a deterrent against Islam the bombing of the Muslim holy cities of Mecca and Medina.

JV: You would radicalize the very few people who have not been radicalized, yet, by our actions and beliefs. We know what we’ve done out there, and we are going to paying for this for a long time. When Hezbollah was bombing Israel in that border excursion last year, the Hezbollah fighters were writing the names of battles they fought with the Jews in the Seventh Century on their helmets. This shit is never forgotten.

DS: You read a lot of the stuff that is written about you on blogs and on the Internet. Do you ever respond?

JV: No, and I would say that I read stuff that tends to be . I’ve done interviews that have been solely about film and photography. For some reason hearing myself talk about music, and maybe because I have been talking about it for so long, it’s snoozeville. Most interviews I do are very regimented and they tend to follow a certain line. I understand. If I was them, it’s a 200 word piece and I may have never played that town, in Des Moines or something. But, in general, it’s like…my band mates ask why don’t I read the weeklies when I’m in town, and Google my name. It would be really like looking yourself in the mirror. When you look at yourself in the mirror you are just error-correcting. There must be some sort of hall of mirrors thing that happens when you are completely involved in the Internet conversation about your music, and in some ways I think that I’m very innocently making music, because I don’t make music in any way that has to do with the response to that music. I don’t believe that the response to the music has anything to do with it. This is something I got from John Cage and Marcel Duchamp, I think the perception of the artwork, in some ways, has nothing to do with the artwork, and I think that is a beautiful, glorious and flattering thing to say to the perceiver, the viewer of that artwork. I’ve spent a lot of time looking at Paul Klee‘s drawings, lithographs, watercolors and paintings and when I read his diaries I’m not sure how much of a correlation there is between what his color schemes are denoting and what he is saying and what I am getting out of it. I’m not sure that it matters. Inland Empire is a great example. Lynch basically says, I don’t want to talk about it because I’m going to close doors for the viewer. It’s up to you. It’s not that it’s a riddle or a puzzle. You know how much of your own experience you are putting into the digestion of your own art. That’s not to say that that guy arranges notes in an interesting way, and sings in an interesting way and arranges words in an interesting way, but often, if someone says they really like my music, what I want to say is, That’s cool you focused your attention on that thing, but it does not make me go home and say, Wow, you’re great. My ego is not involved in it.

DS: Often people assume an artist makes an achievement, say wins a Tony or a Grammy or even a Cable Ace Award and people think the artist must feel this lasting sense of accomplishment, but it doesn’t typically happen that way, does it? Often there is some time of elation and satisfaction, but almost immediately the artist is being asked, “Okay, what’s the next thing? What’s next?” and there is an internal pressure to move beyond that achievement and not focus on it.

JV: Oh yeah, exactly. There’s a moment of relief when a mastered record gets back, and then I swear to you that ten minutes after that point I feel there are bigger fish to fry. I grew up listening to classical music, and there is something inside of me that says, Okay, I’ve made six records. Whoop-dee-doo. I grew up listening to Gustav Mahler, and I will never, ever approach what he did.

DS: Do you try?

JV: I love Mahler, but no, his music is too expansive and intellectual, and it’s realized harmonically and compositionally in a way that is five languages beyond me. And that’s okay. I’m very happy to do what I do. How can anyone be so jazzed about making a record when you are up against, shit, five thousand records a week—

DS: —but a lot of it’s crap—

JV: —a lot of it’s crap, but a lot of it is really, really good and doesn’t get the attention it deserves. A lot of it is very good. I’m shocked at some of the stuff I hear. I listen to a lot of music and I am mailed a lot of CDs, and I’m on the web all the time.

DS: I’ve done a lot of photography for Wikipedia and the genesis of it was an attempt to pin down reality, to try to understand a world that I felt had fallen out of my grasp of understanding, because I felt I had no sense of what this world was about anymore. For that, my work is very encyclopedic, and it fit well with Wikipedia. What was the reason you began investing time and effort into photography?

JV: It came from trying to making sense of touring. Touring is incredibly fast and there is so much compressed imagery that comes to you, whether it is the window in the van, or like now, when we are whisking through the Northeast in seven days. Let me tell you, I see a lot of really close people in those seven days. We move a lot, and there is a lot of input coming in. The shows are tremendous and, it is emotionally so overwhelming that you can not log it. You can not keep a file of it. It’s almost like if I take photos while I am doing this, it slows it down or stops it momentarily and orders it. It has made touring less of a blur; concretizes these times. I go back and develop the film, and when I look at the tour I remember things in a very different way. It coalesces. Let’s say I take on fucking photo in Athens, Georgia. That’s really intense. And I tend to take a photo of someone I like, or photos of people I really admire and like.

DS: What bands are working with your studio, Tiny Telephone?

JV: Death Cab for Cutie is going to come back and track their next record there. Right now there is a band called Hello Central that is in there, and they are really good. They’re from L.A. Maids of State was just in there and w:Deerhoof was just in there. Book of Knotts is coming in soon. That will be cool because I think they are going to have Beck sing on a tune. That will be really cool. There’s this band called Jordan from Paris that is starting this week.

DS: Do they approach you, or do you approach them?

JV I would say they approach me. It’s generally word of mouth. We never advertise and it’s very cheap, below market. It’s analog. There’s this self-fulfilling thing that when you’re booked, you stay booked. More bands come in, and they know about it and they keep the business going that way. But it’s totally word of mouth.



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