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Zaki Hasan: The Grandmaster of Geekdom

Posted in Activism, Art, Books/Magazines, Islam, Media, TV/Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 8, 2011 by irydhan

Originally Posted on ILLUME Magazine.

Zaki Hasan has been a geek all his life, though he’s never felt comfortable admitting it until now. From a childhood steeped in Superman comics and STAR TREK reruns to his current role as a professor of communication & media studies, Zaki has spent much of the last two decades analyzing and evaluating the role of popular culture in shaping and defining our cultural, societal, and spiritual discourse. It’s this realm of ideas that’s central to GEEK WISDOM, the new book he co-authored.

How did you get involved in this project for co-authoring the Geek Wisdom book?

I’ve had an online friendship with the editor, Stephen Segal, for several years through various message boards and common interests, and through that he became a reader of my blog, ZakisCorner.com. I think what Stephen glommed onto is that I give equal coverage to society, politics, and pop culture in my writing, and my interests tend to lie where all three intersect. As a matter of fact, two summers ago, at the height of the manufactured “Ground Zero Mosque” controversy that ate up so much media bandwidth and which I had been spending a great deal of time covering and refuting on my site, Stephen sent me a very nice note thanking me for my fortitude in dealing with this story — and the hate it was eliciting — day after day. It wasn’t too long afterwards that he contacted me about working on the book. I feel like, in some small way, it was my coverage of the Park51 story that, directly or indirectly, led to my being included in the lineup for GEEK WISDOM.

What are some of your favorite quotes featured in the book?

There are so many great quotes in this book that it’s hard to narrow it down to just a few. You can literally just pick it up, flip through it, and find something interesting to ponder on whatever page you land on (which I’m doing right now, as a matter of fact).

Of the ones I didn’t work on, one of my favorites is probably an essay on the quote, “This is an imaginary story. Aren’t they all?” which is a line from a Superman comic from 1986 that wonderfully encompasses the textual and meta-textual knots we tend to tie ourselves in to make fictional stories “matter,” when we should really just appreciate them for the enjoyment they give us. In an age of Trekkies and Twi-hards and Potter-heads, that’s a lesson that could really stand to be learned.

Another essay I really enjoyed was a reflection on “Godwin’s Law,” which states that the longer an online conversation stretches, the greater the likelihood that someone will invoke Hitler — and thus all meaningful interaction has effectively ceased. One need only glance at the comments section under every news story to know how scarily true that is.

Which ones did you select and comment about in the book?

The way we parceled out the quotes was that we started with a pool of around fifty or so, and then the five co-authors (Stephen, myself, Eric San Juan, Genevieve Valentine, and Nora Jemisen) contributed more for the next week or so, which were then whittled down to the roughly-200 that made it in. We got to call “dibs” on whichever quotes we submitted, and the rest were assigned randomly, unless we REALLY wanted to do one.

What was both fun and challenging for me was taking lines from some of my favorite things like STAR WARS (which I did three entries on: “Do, or do not. There is no try.” “The Force will be with you.  Always.” “Fly casual!”), BACK TO THE FUTURE (“Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads!”) and PLANET OF THE APES (“Take your stinking paws off me, you damn, dirty ape!”) and trying to find the philosophical wisdom underlying them. What is it saying? What is it trying to say? It was this ongoing process of peeling back the layers, and sometimes having to start over from scratch, that made this experience hugely frustrating and hugely rewarding all at the same time.

In a sense, each of the mini-essays presented different challenges, with the all-encompassing challenge being to say something meaningful about what we’d been given. As you can imagine, some quotes were easier than others to wax philosophic on. It wasn’t hard to find the “meat” (no pun intended) in Charlton Heston’s “Soylent Green is made out of people!” from 1973’s film SOYLENT GREEN, but figuring out what to say about “Oh, boy,” the trademark exclamation of the lead character in TV’s QUANTUM LEAP was a higher hurdle to overcome, as was divining wisdom from TRANSFORMERS’ Optimus Prime when he would say his trademark, “Transform and roll out!”

Another one of the quotes I wrote about is a line said by the character Sayid Jarrah on the TV show LOST, which I happened to have covered extensively in my Master’s Thesis for San Jose State University, which was about the portrayal of Muslims in media post-9/11. In that instance, the struggle was in figuring out how best to encompass the gist of my thesis while somehow boiling 80 pages down to 150 words.

There were some references to religious scriptures such as the Bible, Quran and the Bhagda vita in Geek Wisdom – Does this mean that “Geekdom” is universal and open to people of all faiths and religions (and no religion) even though most of the movies/comics/books featured in the book come from a Judeo-Christian (i.e. Mainstream American) perspective ?

I absolutely believe Geekdom is universal. I’ve long subscribed to the idea that you take your wisdom wherever you find it, and I think we do ourselves a huge disservice by dismissing these cultural artifacts out of hand as inherently devoid of merit simply because they have the word “pop” affixed in front of them. The fact is that our responses to these artifacts — be they film, television books, what-have-you — the resonance we find in them bespeaks their potential worth as, if not sources of wisdom themselves, then certainly as signposts to something bigger and deeper than us.

What do you think of people who put down “Jedi” or “Matrixism”, etc. as their religion on Census forms (Australia, etc.) ?  Is that taking their love of movies/comics too far?  Is there a line one crosses when people are over-zealous fans, etc.?

Well, just on a personal level, stuff like that tends to strike me as a little nutty, and maybe taking things a bit far. On the other hand, the mere fact that people take these fictional worlds/realms/universes seriously enough to do stuff like that highlights not only the important role these fictions have come to play in our societal tapestry, but also the religious/spiritual void that exists in people’s lives, such that they’re seeking answers from a George Lucas or a JK Rowling or whoever.

Do you consider yourself a Geek or a Nerd?  And Why?

Well, as someone who wears an Indiana Jones fedora as a regular part of his ensemble, and who knows far more about the various intricacies of the PLANET OF THE APES film series than I feel comfortable admitting in a public forum, the reflexive answer is yes. As to the why, that’s a harder one to puzzle out. In his book SUPERGODS, author Grant Morrison makes the point that, given the human capacity to weave myths that continue to spin long after their creators have shuffled off this coil — highlighting the immortal nature of the stories and the temporal nature of their creators — one starts to wonder what is the real and what is the imaginary. To some extent, I think that explains why we’re ALL geeks of some stripe or another. Whether that geekery be in service of the many iterations of the STAR TREK franchise, or the latest technological wizardry from Apple — we all have an innate desire to be a part of something that’s bigger than us, something to let us put our own small stamp of ownership on the great, unending stream of human myth-making.

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ILLUME Media Seminar: Digital Journalism in the Age of Multi-Media Story Telling

Posted in Activism, Books/Magazines, Islam, Media, TV/Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 5, 2010 by irydhan

ILLUME magazine in assocation with the South Bay Islamic Association (SBIA) Media Committee, CAIR-SFBA, and the Islamic Cultural Center of Northern California (ICCNC) present a special 2 -day In-Depth workshop for students of Media and Journalism as well as others who are interested in learning the art and techniques of professional story telling in the Digital Age.  The weekend seminar will take place on April 17th and 18th, 2010 in the S.F. Bay Area.  There is also a FREE panel discussion on the Importance of Local Media Activism with Several Muslim Media Professionals (see below for details) which will be held at SBIA Downtown Center on Friday April 16th from 7pm to 9pm.

Students who take the weekend seminar (April 17th-18th, 2010) will learn:

  • Understanding the different mediums: print vs broadcast vs web
  • Effective news writing & storytelling
  • Pre-production and script writing
  • Interview techniques
  • The different styles and approaches
  • The “Five Elements of News Production”
  • Basic Camera operation
  • How to Light the Perfect Interview
  • Getting the right Coverage
  • Understanding Audio
  • Selecting the correct mics
  • Hands-on DV & HDV Camera use and tips
  • How to shoot an Interview
  • DV Editing with Final Cut Pro
  • Editing techniques and styles
  • Understanding rendering and nesting using FCP
  • Exporting out of Final Cut Pro
  • How to make DVDs, Overview of DVD studio Pro Basics and iDVD
  • Entitled: “Digital Journalism in the Age of Multi-Media Story Telling” the seminar will be taught by

    Farzad W, Executive Producer of 14th Road Productions. Farzad is an Emmy award-winning director with more than 10 years of production and teaching experience.He has directed and edited more than a dozen independent videos & documentaries, and produced more than 400 interactive media applications for publishers and businesses. His scholarly works have been published internationally while his films have been screened locally and overseas. Marquis Who’s Who in America of 2010 selected Farzad Wafapoor as one of 95,000 of America’s “most noteworthy people”.Farzad earned his Master’s degree in Mass Media from Webster University in St. Louis, Missouri.

    Additional Instruction will also be provided by:

    Muhammad Sajid, Editor-in-Chief of ILLUME 
    Muhammad Sajid is an award-winning journalist and graphic designer. He received an Edward R. Murrow award and has been named the Society of Professional Journalist 2004 Outstanding Young Journalist of the Year. He worked as a newspaper reporter for seven years before switching to broadcast. Muhammad Sajid received a BA in Journalism and a second BA in Graphic Design from San Francisco State University. He is currently pursuing a JD.

    Anser Hassan, Executive Producer of ILLUME 
    Anser has worked both on-air and behind the scenes at several news stations across the country, including ABC, CBS, and CNN. His career began at CTV30, an award-winning cable station in the San Francisco Bay Area. There he was a reporter and news anchor, plus hosted two of his own shows. He also reported for the New York Times broadcast division at WQAD-TV. He has also reported at KRON4-TV/Channel 4 in San Francisco. Currently, he is an assignment editor at CBS5/Channel 5 in San Francisco. He was recognized as an up and coming reporter from the national branch of the Asian American Journalist Association, being featured on the “Men of AAJA DVD.” He was also the recipient of the national New York Times Reporter Trainee award and selected into the prestigious New York Times L.E.A.P. program, a company wide leadership program. Anser is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of San Francisco State University, with degrees in TV/Radio News and International Relations, with a Middle East regional concentration and an emphasis on Islamic political movements and Islamic feminism.

    The costs for the seminar is $25.00 for Students (ID Required) and $75 for Professionals before April 16th and $50 Students/$100 Professionals afterwards.

    For more information and/or to register for the class click here.

    Media Panel (FREE Admittance on Friday April 16th, 2010) Topic: “The Importance of Local Media Activism

    Panel Speakers:

    Wajahat Ali is a playwright, journalist, attorney, humorist and consultant. His play, “The Domestic Crusaders”, is one of the first major plays about the American Muslim experience originally premiering at the Thrust Stage of the Tony award winning Berkeley Repertory Theater to universal acclaim in 2005 and making its New York premiere on 9-11-09 at the world famous Nuyorican Theater.  He is a frequent contributor to the Washington Post, The Guardian, Huffington Post, Counterpunch and Chowk.

    Farzad W is an Emmy award-winning director with more than 10 years of production and teaching experience. He has directed and edited more than a dozen independent videos & documentaries, and produced more than 400 interactive media applications for publishers and businesses. His scholarly works have been published internationally while his films have been screened locally and overseas. Marquis Who’s Who in America of 2010 selected Farzad Wafapoor as one of 95,000 of America’s “most noteworthy people”. Farzad earned his Master’s degree in Mass Media from Webster University in St. Louis, Missouri.

    Carma Hassan is a journalist and story planning editor with a KTVU Ch. 2 News in Oakland, CA.  She is actively working to bring a stronger Muslim presence to mainstream media. 

    Javed Ali is the founder and publisher of the world-class, award-winning media organization, ILLUME. He is a seasoned technology expert and entrepreneur, who previously founded Digital Pad in 2003, a technology consulting company. He has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Network and Communications Management and consults with non-profits in the areas of media and technology.

    Anser Hassan has worked both on-air and behind the scenes at several news stations across the country, including ABC, CBS, and CNN. His career began at CTV30, an award-winning cable station in the San Francisco Bay Area. There he was a reporter and news anchor, plus hosted two of his own shows. He also reported for the New York Times broadcast division at WQAD-TV. He has also reported at KRON4-TV/Channel 4 in San Francisco. Currently, he is an assignment editor at CBS5/Channel 5 in San Francisco.

    Panel Moderator:
    Irfan Rydhan is a “Multi-Media” Activist who lives in the Bay Area. His background includes non-profit management, film/video production and graphic art/design. He is co-founder of “Jam-Productions: An International Video/Film Company” and Executive Producer of “The Muslim Round Table Television Show” which currently airs on Comcast Ch. 15 in San Jose and streams live on Sundays at 12:30pm on www.CreaTVsj.org  He is one of the founding members of the SBIA Media Committee, which conducts training programs and classes on how to effectively interact with the media in it’s coverage of issues relating to Islam and Muslims. Read his blog about Architecture, Islamic Art and Media Activism: Al Mihrab: The Place of War

    Watch “American Muslim Views on the Obama Presidency” – Friday 2/27 on Ch. 15 @ 3:30pm (San Jose)

    Posted in Activism, Islam, TV/Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 25, 2009 by irydhan
    watch on San Jose Community Channel 15 or on YouTube

    watch on San Jose Community Channel 15 or on YouTube

    For Those of you who live in San Jose/Campbell, CA – Be sure to check out the interviews I conducted a few weeks ago of American Muslim Activists in the S.F. Bay Area to get their views and opinions on Barack Obama’s election to the Presidency of the United States of America.  This unscripted and special edition of the “Muslim Round Table Television” program will air on Friday Feb. 27th, 2009 at 3:30pm on Comcast Channel 15 which airs in San Jose and Campbell, CA.

    For those of you not in the San Jose area – you can still watch the video (Split into 3 parts) on our YouTube page, under the name: “jam1productions”

    Below is the Part 1 of the interviews:

    Check it out and leave us a comment!

    My Personal Experiences with BridgesTV

    Posted in Islam, Media, TV/Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , on February 22, 2009 by irydhan

    The recent tragedy affecting American Muslims is the murder by decapitation of Sr. Aasyia Zubair, the co-founder of BridgesTV, reportedly by her husband Muzzamil Hasan, the CEO of BridgesTV.

    I have met Muzzamil “Mo” Hasan a few years ago, when he came to the Bay Area searching for funds and content for the new American Muslim “lifestyle” channel he was starting called “BridgesTV.”

    I along with some other Bay Area Muslims who met him, thought he was like any other “normal” Pakistani Muslim man, who had no real experience with the TV industry or media fields in general, but his idea seemed good, and he had a good “selling” point which was that his background was in finances and “Wall Street” (this was back in 2003 – when the stock market was still pretty good) and he knew that funding was the key to keep an American Muslim satellite channel alive.

    I had a few talks with him over the phone and although I didnt agree with his politics (He told me that he did not want to do shows about Palestine – which is one thing I was pushing for – because he had alot of Jewish people helping out with the TV channel and he did not want to offend them or “rock the boat”). I thought to myself – “then what is the point of having a Muslim channel, if we dont even want to express our point of view on important topics?”

    Anyways, that should have been my first clue that something was wrong (in terms of the channel’s purpose and content).  But I went ahead and made a deal with BridgesTV to have some of my programs aired on their channel.  Obviously they did not offer very much in terms of compensation – but their other main selling point was that they are showing our programs to a nationwide audience, rather than to our current local channels (this was before YouTube:)).

    A few months later, I started to work with Aasiya Zubair, who was the programming director at the time, and later on I realized that she was married to Muzzamil.  Aasiya was a very intelligent woman, who seemed to be very business savvy and was interested in having a diverse range of content for BridgesTV.  I exchanged many emails with her and talked to her on the phone several times.  She was always very polite and professional, even though sometimes we did not agree on certain business issues.

    I recently found out she was educated and trained as an Architect, which is also what my field of expertise is in as well.

    I was very shocked and saddened when I heard the news of her death, and even worse, that it was due to a violent and gruseome act by her husband, which I also knew – or thought I did!

    All the good work that Muzzamil may have done with BridgesTV is now all gone down the drain, with this brutal act of murder.  Some Muslims are saying that we shouldnt condemn him without knowing all the facts, but from the information I have seen and read from ISNA, CNN and other reports from people who knew and worked with Muzzamil and Aasiya closely – there is no doubt that he committed this crime and he should be punished to the fullest extent of the law.

    Alhamdullilah there have been many Muslim leaders coming out and condeming this act of violence and also speaking out against Domestic Violence – which Sr. Aasiya was a victim of for several years.  It also came out recently that Muzzamil was married twice before, and both marriages ended in part because of domestic violence claims by the wives against him.

    InshaAllah this Friday, Imams and Khateebs across the country will speak out against Domestic Violence in our communities.  Here is the link to the facebook event page: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=621925963&ref=ts#/event.php?eid=54807221754

    May Allah forgive Sr. Aasiya Zubair and grant her the highest place in Janat-ul-Firdos.  May Allah also make it easier for her family and especially the young children she left behind. Ameen.