First Photo (Test)

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First photo. Thought I’d start taking my negatives from travels and post them on this blog. It’s been almost three months since, but now that COVID-19 is keeping me at home, it’s time to kill some time and start posting.

1997 to1998 UAE (14)

Spring of 1998 in Al Ain with student.

Written by Caleb Powell

December 24, 2019 at 5:03 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

I hope you won’t mind if I now try to sell you my first book!

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Self-Promotion:  Artists need to promote, it’s part of the business, and publishers/editors/literary magazines/peers often solicit, whether The New Yorker or a college journal. Nevertheless, there are right ways and wrong ways to promote.

My Response:

Hi Exxxx:

Thanks for this, promotion is a lot of work, and the artist must promote promote promote. Since you’re the one soliciting here are my thoughts.

You’re a good writer, and your story a compelling and well drawn examination of desperation in the face of expectations of marriage and parenthood, told with dramatic flair.

Yet I’m of the mind art projects must sell on their own merit, and rise above the competition. There are so many writers trying to sell books, me included, but participating in the “you-buy-my-book-and-I’ll-buy-yours” carousel usually becomes an end game. Getting friends and family support means just that. Rarely does it help attain the goal.

That being said, making friendly acquaintances with peers, artists supporting artists and promoting one another, does help, even if only in small increments. When you do have a book you’ll have a network for soliciting reviews and publicity. Your journalism career seems to be flourishing and that’s an excellent platform.

On my end, I’m jaded on the promotion game. Forgive my cynicism. There are so many artists asking for money for their “projects.” My policy is that I don’t give or ask for money. But I sometimes buy books of my peers if they can’t get their publisher to send a review copy my way.

That being said, I hope we can continue our acquaintance, and I’ll definitely follow your writing and say a good word on your behalf.



The Result?  Unfriended and blocked.

Written by Caleb Powell

May 30, 2017 at 8:37 am

Posted in Art

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Guest Post by Nemat Sadat: “We must kill you gays to teach Afghanistan youth a lesson.”

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Guest Post by Nemat Sadat

Shaheen is a 25-year gay Afghan man in Kabul, Afghanistan. On March 6, 2017, his family confronted him was about his sexuality after his cousin saw him being intimate with another adult male. Shaheen was promptly dragged back to his parents’ house where his uncle, father, brother and cousin smashed his legs with a leather belt and other objects until he confessed being gay and committing a carnal sin.

The next morning, Shaheen, still reeling from the previous night assaults, was blindfolded by his uncle, and along with his father and several unknown men, and was taken to a nearby deserted area where he was supposed to be stoned to death. After being thrown to the ground, in the middle of nowhere, Shaheen’s uncle, showing no remorse, stated, “We must kill you so that we teach Afghan youth a lesson. Make sure they do not become filthy faggots like you.”

Having lost all hope for mercy, Shaheen accepted the fact that he was going to die alone with no one in the world who would care or know what happened to him. In a last minute effort right before the first stone was thrown and surging with “do or die” adrenaline, he bit his uncle’s hand and fled, sprinting hard for the next 30 minutes. After losing his executioners, he collapsed and hid and then wandered around aimlessly until finally finding his way out. 

He is currently still hiding inside Afghanistan with no friends or money to escape. I wired $125 US dollars to him as an emergency lifeline of support. We need to help him get a visa for Turkey, an airline ticket to Ankara, and support him for the first several months in the new country until he can recover from this trauma. A queer Afghan couple (a trans woman and gay man) have offered to pick Shaheen up from the airport, host him, and help him file for asylum at the local UN office.

Once he arrives safely to Turkey, he will make a video and share with you this harrowing experience (and hopefully his success story). Until then, he is forced to stay in a country that wishes his death. Shaheen’s family has reported him missing and is actively searching for him.

Shaheen’s uncle wanted nothing more than to murder his nephew to restore their family’s honor and set an example so no other LGBTQ Afghan will try to be free and live a meaningful life honoring their true nature.

I have known Shaheen for over a year. I know he is a kind and hard-working young man, who completed his studies in engineering and had big dreams for himself.

This past week as the money in his bank account dwindled, he wanted to kill himself or turn himself in to the authorities. After he contacted me on Facebook to share his story in weeping sobs and say goodbye, I convinced him to live and escape.

Let’s rescue Shaheen to show, that despite his family trying to annihilate everything good inside him, that the decent and dignified people of this world stand in solidarity with him. Let’s make sure that he escapes safely and that his courage becomes a source of inspiration for the millions of LGBTQ Afghans inside Afghanistan who are criminalized to death and trapped in perpetual turmoil.

As the first public figure to come out gay and campaign for LGBT rights in Afghanistan, I personally know the beneficiary and can vouch that he is gay and has gone through all the hardships that I have described. Shaheen and I have corresponded by Facebook, Instant Messenger, and Skype. I plan to wire the money raised to him via international wire/remittance to his bank account in Afghanistan. Since I am a US resident with a valid US social security number, I will go ahead and fundraise on behalf of the beneficiary. 

Shaheen’s life matters. Please show your generosity and support. Thank you.

Donate here:  Rescue Shaheen

Nemat Sadat was a professor of political science at the American University of Afghanistan, where he came out as gay and became an LGBTI Rights activist. His story has been featured in the Guardian Magazine, BBC, El Mundo, Global Post, GT, Diplomat, Gay Times, Out, Voice of Israel, Voice of America Dari, and the Washington Post. He has appeared on segments of CNN, NBC News, TOLO News, and on Huff Post Live, and has worked at ABC News Nightline, CNN’s Fareed Zakaria Show, and The UN Chronicle. He has graduate degrees from Harvard, Columbia, and Oxford.

Written by Caleb Powell

April 27, 2017 at 2:01 pm

Currently We Are Trying to Steer Clear from Blogs on Blasphemy

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Last month an editor from The Express Tribune asked me if I wanted to write a blog on United Airlines barring two girls wearing leggings from boarding. I responded:


This article is interesting, and it seems just absurd that an airline would ban anyone for wearing leggings, however I’m not sure if I’m the right person for it, I’m much more interested in writing about a different topic. The #HangAyazNizami hashtag is exploding ever since he was arrested. Blasphemy is one of the more important issues in Pakistan, and the extremists are pulling down the entire country with their ideology. I also realize how sensitive the issue is, and would be respectful both of Islam and its followers in the context of speaking against judicial executions. This goes back to the dialectic between fundamentalists and Salmeen Taseer for his support of Asia Bibi. I would examine compulsion in religion and how this contradicts punishment for blasphemy. Let me know if you’re interested.



But The Express Tribune responded thus:

“Currently, we are trying to steer clear from blogs on blasphemy.”

We know the danger, as the BBC reports, “At least 65 people have been murdered in Pakistan after being accused of blasphemy since 1990.” This goes back to Rushdie and Egyptian Nobel Laureate Naguib Mahfouz, who wrote on topic:

“No blasphemy harms Islam and Muslims so much as the call for murdering a writer.”

Then Pakistan then experienced another tragedy. A young student, Mashal Khan, was murdered on campus.

“Students beat classmate to death while screaming ‘Allahu Akbar'”

PEW reports that 64% of those in Pakistan support capital punishment for those who blaspheme, and section 295C of the Penal Code also mandates the penalty. So it’s not mere cowardice to avoid polemics if you are on the ground in Pakistan.

We fight those who support blasphemy laws, for they are at the forefront of the dialectic between benevolent humanity and the evils of religious chauvinism. We also fight those who obfuscate in their condemnation, out of cowardice, ignorance, or complicity. Many in Pakistan and the West are guilty (a tangent that runs too deep for a short blog).

Therefore, those who have freedom of speech, non-Muslims and Muslims alike, must challenge the evil of blasphemy laws and recognize many “blasphemies” are actually not evil at all, but calls for tolerance.

To double down on the above, just like I have no desire to burn the American flag, use racial slurs, or mock the religious, I also claim my right to criticize the United States, culture, and religion. Those who criticize are often falsely accused of being unpatriotic, racist, and blasphemous when in fact they are pushing ideas that will help humanity progress. That’s why not enough can be written in support of free speech and against blasphemy, whether secular or religious.

Such evil ideology can only flourish in a vacuum of speech. From Mao’s China to North Korea, those who control speech control society. And right now, in Pakistan, evil is flourishing.

Pakistan, we realize the danger you face and we support you, but please write about blasphemy. Be convincing, be strong, be courageous, spread the risk. We who have speech support you.

Written by Caleb Powell

April 15, 2017 at 10:01 am

Milo Yiannopoulos, Vida Rz, and the Right to Be a Bigot

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How should we respond to a bigoted post on social media?

Facebook:  My Facebook “friends” include liberals, conservatives, libertarians, etc. Many post political views that warrant exchanges. Often hatreds erupt, and underlying this is free speech’s relation to “hate speech.” The former covers the legality of speech, the latter relates to ethics.

(This post is not primarily about Facebook protocol, but here I’ll mention I rarely block or unfriend anyone, making exceptions for pornbots, solicitors, and the rare tool. I try to welcome, respect, and engage with those whose views clash with mine, and hope the feeling is mutual.)

The Milo Effect:  Recently I wrote an article at The Express Tribune Blogs on Milo Yiannopoulos where I defended our right to express our hatreds, and made clear this does not condone bigotry:

“Let’s face it, most of us hate something or someone. Whether it’s broccoli, rush hour traffic, Trump, conservatives, liberals, terrorists, dictators, bigots, or anti-free speech fascists. I claim my right to excoriate that which I hate, and you should too.”

Free vs. Hate Speech:  The Milo brouhaha highlights the current dialectic regarding speech. In Bangladesh, speech inaccurately deemed “hateful” can get a blogger murdered. Thus we debate “hate speech” in the marketplace of ideas. Example:  Vida Rz’s joke.

The Joke:  Unlike SJWs, who shut down and ban speech, the Alt-SJWs seem to double down on bigotry. I tried to engage, to see if Vida and her friends would consider the context of Charlie Hebdo or Raif Badawi, I mentioned that my grandfather was born in Iran (we’re Mizrahi), and to support Iranians’ rights should mean something. 

Did Raif Badawi get 1,000 lashes so Vida Rz could use “free speech” to call Muslims goatfuckers? I told Vida and company:

Bizarre, folks. As if Raif Badawi and dissidents in Evin prison fought for the right for free speech so dingbats like you can make bigoted unoriginal jokes. Fair enough, it’s the marketplace of ideas. If you want to fight bigotry, it’s quite simple, don’t be a bigot back, don’t play the SJW perpetual game of Tag, You’re Racist.” 

The result?  A few people supported me, but mostly I got called a “pussy” and an “SJW.” Vida proclaimed her right to hate Muslims b/c “they” wanted her dead. She didn’t quantify. (I linked to the post, but it has since been deleted)

Final word:  We’ll stand by the Westboro Baptist Church’s constitutional right to say “God hates fags,” but we’ll use the same right to condemn bigotry. We reject the Neo-PC SJW authoritarianism party line and don’t need the self-imposed censorship of “safe spaces” and “trigger warnings.” Why? Because we recognize that only free speech can destroy bad ideas, and you can’t do that from a safe space.

Written by Caleb Powell

March 21, 2017 at 8:46 am

Trump’s Muslim Ban

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The media went on overdrive when Donald Trump, immediately after inauguration, followed through on his promise for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims”. The New York Times reported: 

“The president’s order… suspended entry of all refugees to the United States for 120 days, barred Syrian refugees indefinitely and blocked entry into the United States for 90 days for citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.”

When The Express Tribune asked if I wanted to write a blog on the Muslim ban…more

Written by Caleb Powell

February 27, 2017 at 6:23 am

Posted in Express Tribune

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I Think You’re Totally Wrong at Northwest Film Forum

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Our movie, I Think You’re Totally Wrong:  A Quarrel, releases this February. The film will play at these venues:

(James Franco, director, 87 min)

NW Film Forum:
Wednesday, Feb 08 at 07:30PM
Wednesday, Feb 15 at 07:30PM
February 22, USC, Los Angeles, CA 7 pm, Ray Stark Theatre
February 24, U. of Richmond, VA 3 pm
February 25, Virginia Tech, VA 3 pm
Feb 27-28. University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA
March 1, Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, NY
March 6, Brown University, Providence, RI
March 7, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA
March 8, Boston University, Boston, MA
March 10, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA
March 12, Tuscon (Loft Cinema), Arizona Festival of Books
March 21, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO
March 22-23, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO
March 29-31. Furman University, Greenville, SC
April 1-3, Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA
April 4-6, Gemini Ink, San Antonio, TX
April 7-8, Austin Film Society, Austin, TX
April 11, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ

Loosely based on the book of the same name, writers David Shields and his collaborator and fellow-combatant, Caleb Powell, decide to put their friendship on the line by spending four days together in a cabin in the Cascades. The men barely make it down the driveway before an argument breaks out. On the drive to the cabin, things degenerate even further, as they variously debate the idea of life versus art.

On the first day of shooting, an actual fight breaks out over what and who can be talked about in the course of the film with the director getting dragged into the mix along the way. As the three men, and their respective egos, circle and jab at each other, you wait for someone to get punched in the face. The gladiatorial aspects of the film are only a beginning, as the weekend continues, something altogether more surprising happens — genuine and real communication.”

“More than a deconstruction of the buddy film, I Think You’re Totally Wrong assails the divisions between reality and fiction, documentary and life, with subversive glee.” – DOXA Documentary Film Festival

January 2015:  “That it is outrageously entertaining, as is the rest of this talking book, constructed out of four days’ worth of unceasing dialogue between two old friends and sometime rivals, should go without saying.” Saul Austerlitz, – Boston Globe

March 2015:  “Their extended verbal jam session is one of the most spontaneous literary artifacts since Jack Kerouac unloosed ‘On the Road’ during an amphetamine bender.” – John Murawski, Charlotte Observer

Interview with Massachusetts International Film Festival
Interview with Word and Film


Written by Caleb Powell

January 30, 2017 at 4:06 pm