Archive for the ‘Likker’ Category

Taking It All Back

April 30, 2013




January 10, 2013

Speaking of Egyptian street art, this classic still rules supreme.


Now with a companion piece:


Flora on Sand

November 19, 2012

A rose in the sand. Drawn by a pendulum during an earthquake in Olympia, Washington.

 Futility Closet relates the story behind this beautiful occurrence.

When a magnitude 6.8 earthquake shook Olympia in 2001, shop owner Jason Ward discovered that a sand-tracing pendulum had recorded the vibrations in the image above. Seismologists say that the “flower” at the center reflects the higher-frequency waves that arrived first; the outer, larger-amplitude oscillations record the lower-frequency waves that arrived later. “You never think about an earthquake as being artistic—it’s violent and destructive. But in the middle of all that chaos, this fine, delicate artwork was created.”

This marvelous natural expression is reminiscent of an aesthetic experiment discussed by Paul Klee. In a lecture at Bauhaus, Klee suggested that if you take a thin sheet of metal, cover it with sand, and stroke the edge with a violin bow, the oscillating vibrations will express themselves in a corresponding rhythmic pattern in the sand. For Klee it was an analogy of the artist and her medium; the artistic spirit rendered into the material world. “That is to say, impetus to vibrate (or will or urge to live), then transposition into material happening and finally visible expression thereof in a new ordering of matter. We (the artists) are the bow, we are the will to expression, matter is the intermediary, the figures in the sand are the ultimate formal product.”

With this & the earthquake-rose in mind, what a beautiful coincidence that Klee should have a painting called “Flora on Sand”.

Paul Klee “Flora on Sand” (1927)


In Print: 2 of 3 — Flaubert’s Business Card

October 15, 2012

Maxime du Camp, companion of Flaubert, was the first to photograph the Sphinx.

I’ve found amusement in the psychedelic business cards of Mohamed Ali Street for several years—it’s always nice to establish credentials as a Libra, Mercenary, Horse Whisperer, etc. But visitors making weird jokes with business cards in Egypt is hardly novel.

When Flaubert travelled to Egypt in 1849 in the guise of an oriental adventurer, the famous novelist accompanied his friend Maxime du Camp to the summit of great pyramid. Precluding any sense of a pioneering accomplishment, Flaubert reached the summit at dawn only to find pinned to the capstone… a business card.

The light increases. There are two things: the dry desert behind us, and before us an immense, delightful expanse of green, furrowed by endless canals, dotted here and there with tufts of palms; then, in the background, a little to the left, the minarets of Cairo and especially the mosque of Mohamed Ali (imitating Santa Sophia), towering above the others. On the side of the Pyramid lit by the raising sun I see a business card: ‘Humbert, Frotteur’ fastened to the stone.

The card gave a Rouen address, Flaubert’s hometown. It had been placed there as a gag by Maxime.

And lest you ever accuse Egyptians of being odd—as Flaubert often did—consider this extra detail. Recounting the Humbert episode in a letter to his mother, Flaubert admitted that the uncanny card was actually his—he had brought the card from France for the purpose of the gag. Double weird?: The morning of his ascent, Flaubert had misplaced the gag prop. But the card was discovered by Maxime, who, surmising Flaubert’s prank, scurried ahead to the top of the pyramid and positioned the card. Thus when Flaubert arrived at the summit, he was surprised to find the business card that he was supposed to be “surprised to find”.


“In truth, this gentleman is a luxurious Ottoman”

September 19, 2012

<<<Excuse the administrative exercise—trying to learn how to use what Blog Artists call a page jump—in the small hope of lessening the burden on your blog eye>>>


An humorous tangential chapter, No. 88 of Moby Dick, in which the author discusses caddish interlopers in schools of female whales.


In cavalier attendance upon the school of females, you invariably see a male of full grown magnitude, but not old; who, upon any alarm, evinces his gallantry by falling in the rear and covering the flight of his ladies. In truth, this gentleman is a luxurious Ottoman, swimming about over the watery world, surroundingly accompanied by all the solaces and endearments of the harem. The contrast between this Ottoman and his concubines is striking; because, while he is always of the largest leviathanic proportions, the ladies, even at full growth, are not more than one-third of the bulk of an average-sized male. They are comparatively delicate, indeed; I dare say, not to exceed half a dozen yards round the waist. Nevertheless, it cannot be denied, that upon the whole they are hereditarily entitled to embonpoint.

It is very curious to watch this harem and its lord in their indolent ramblings. Like fashionables, they are for ever on the move in leisurely search of variety. You meet them on the Line in time for the full flower of the Equatorial feeding season, having just returned, perhaps, from spending the summer in the Northern seas, and so cheating summer of all unpleasant weariness and warmth. By the time they have lounged up and down the promenade of the Equator awhile, they start for the Oriental waters in anticipation of the cool season there, and so evade the other excessive temperature of the year.

When serenely advancing on one of these journeys…

Crack o’ the Bat

August 14, 2012

Honestly & Obviously I have nothing to say about the new single from B.o.B., “Play the Guitar”. (Feel silly even typing “new single” as if I’m familiar with the chronology of B.oB.’s oeuvre.) HOWEVER, I can report the sincere smile that overtook my face at :55 where the song is punctuated with the crisp crack of an baseball being bat-hit. Not because I’m a Ken Burns false nostalgist for the smell of freshly cut grass, but because the same sound effect opens “Life Coach”, the hit track off My Mind’s Path Masher. Very love it. How do we know it’s the hit? I suspect that’s the droll joak of the sound effect?

My Mind, “A New Man, My Life Coach, He Shine”  [+an equally good demo version.]

&, come to think of it, the crack of the bat also is featured in the best opera since Wagner. $100,000 to xe who can find it.


**I’m at liberty to say that Path Masher was mine fav’rite album of 2009/ever as I’m the 1/3 of here brog not in the band.

Vauxhall & Islam

June 15, 2012

If you’ll recall, during the parliamentary elections all the thousands of wooden ballot boxes of a voting district were trucked to a huge, centralized counting center. If you’ll also recall, these centers—housed under makeshift tents inside stadiums & schoolyards & social clubs—were scenes of absolute mayhem. Thousands of military personnel, military trucks, judges, polling staff, and political operatives converged on a single gated entrance. It took hours to fight the wild throngs at the gate to gain entrance to observe the wild throngs counting votes.

So this time around the procedures have changed: votes are now counted inside each polling station; these local results are recorded on a few small forms, which are then aggregated on the district and governorate level. So… [why always these long preliminary paragraphs?!] So…

Late into the night we sat in the polling station while the judge emptied the ballot boxes and tallied the votes. In front of the fixed gaze of campaign agents, the judge dealt out a long parade of ballots into separate piles, one for each candidate. Hamdeen… Hamdeen… Moussa… Foutouh… Morsi… Morsi… Morsi… Every time the judge said “Morsi” I grinned, imagining he was saying Morrissey Morrissey… Morrissey. And I pictured the Egyptian voter entering the booth, running his pen up & down the ballot, and ticking the box for Morrissey (over Shafiq and Abel Fotouh (and Depeche Mode and Flock of Seagulls)).

Caption Caption [Courtesy of Black Cherry]


Caption Caption [Courtesy of Hell N. Carey]

We shared these crucial lulz images with a few friends. Farrah [pic’d at bottom] nodded but shook her head: “I always favored Johnny Marr’s guitar chops… over Moz’s crooning and dramatics. Conclusion: my ears hear Marrsi.” The Inimitable Tad (aka Field Marshal Tadtawi) took my Flock of Seagulls Elections Joke and raised me a Flock of Seagulls Elections Joke, sending me this ballot paper from the 2010 Malaysian elections.

The second party listed on the 2010 Mandaluyong ballot: Flock of Seagulls. (Party 69: Hotdogs; Party 77: Itchy Worms.) How u like dat civil disobedience?! Next level pomo stylie: pop culture / literal election ballot mash-up! Who’s Paper Rad now?? Mandaluyong is Paper Rad now.)

So, yes, to improve yr amusement: for the hectic rest of campaigning, re-imagine every newspaper article about the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate to be a trippy article about our favorite grim dandy crooner, Morrissey.

DIY window tint in Damanhour. Nasser… ?… Sadat… Who will be next? Maybe Moz’s mug!

Morsi claims to be the candidate of the revolution, so, appealing to the frustration of activists, perhaps he should change his campaign slogan to “How Soon Is Now?” If elected maybe Morsi will change the popular slogan “The Army & The People One Hand” to “The Army & The People One Hand (In Glove)”.

&If SCAF steals the election: “You Just Haven’t Earned It Yet, Baby”


OUROBOROS OMNIBUS! Holy shint, there’re a lots of wordz to say about the ongoing hidden-in-plain-sight military-judicial coup—as Neil says “Counter-Revolution in tha buildingzz!”—but jah gotta do some work right now for the insane elections tomorrow. Pls consider the above/below an ruff draft! Much to set the quill to, including:

*Mubarak’s whack verdict! What up with that! Plus: The Mubarak verdict foreshadowed by the romance novel found in my hotel lobby.

I found this steamy tome about the sexy & the undead in my hotel foyer. We were sitting around waiting for the Mubarak verdict to be issued so I cracked the spine. Chapter One: “The Last Council”. Go on… The first line—I swear on baby jesus’ teal bonnet: “‘How much longer will the verdict take, do you think?’ Clary asked.”

Plus, the more/most serious issue: How the Mubarak verdict gave the green light to all the smaller, provincial police violence cases—the message: it’s cool to let the killers go now. [Winning quote from Morrissey: “We want the love between the people and the army and the police to return, because unity between the people would protect the people from the beasts that want to eat the flesh of the people [referring to thefts and killing of the ousted regime],” Morsy added.] [My emphasis??!?] Spoiler alert: for friends who remember that never-ending research project I did for that Harper’s article… well… the villain is now as free as cotton candy aloft in a fragrant zephyr. [So have we all agreed to forget how monstrous the Egyptian police were before & during the revolution?]

*Shafiq proceeding in the election + parliament being dissolved! KaBoom!

*Freudian Typos on Al Jazeera!

*Visiting Shafiq’s summer villa compound! AKA All Wealth Is Stolen AKA Scream Until You… Actually Just Keep Screaming!

* The military announcing the reinstatement of the Emergency Law. Almost forgot about that one!

*New nonsense t-shirts, including:

Not just fine art, “fine ass art”. In smaller print “Unway Lagoon Resort”

…and this afternoon’s acquisition:

“Why I got kucked out of The Beatles”. Great topic. And the four lads (crossing Abbey Road??–slant allusion??) are having the most _____ conversation. Gazing off toward the mushroom cloud two ask “Nice one boy?” one asks “one boy?” and the fourth remarks “Lao Scene in the northern mountains of Laos, near here we saw men walk”. At the bottom it mentions The Beatles again: “The Beatles Again”.

* An amazing new arts space in Alex leading to more reflections on the nature of political art! Y’know, fine ass art!

[Wait, an friend just sent an picture from last night—sorta sorry I’m not on Facepage to see these things!]

The fierce & charming Dina Wadidi last night at Teatro. (And also a shoegazing foreign dude on the floor with his friend Sabrine. What up, Sabrine!)

p.s. Dina sang a romping rousing rendition of Kifeya Aish [“Stop Cheating”] dedicated to Shafiq & all the judicial nonsense of yesterday.

* Some comments related to Maria Bustillos recent essay on Oscar Wilde +++ Ricks on A.E. Houseman’s “Oh who is that young sinner with the handcuffs on his wrists?”. [Bustillos is the best—why are her books so terribly titled?]

*All I’m saying is that we’ve got some stuff to catch up on here! Egypt is getting weird! And I’m not just talking about the recently ubiquitous SpongeBob SquarePants paraphernalia or the tiny plastic lawn chairs.

Perhaps this is the wrong question, but what are we supposed to *do* with tiny plastic lawn chairs?

Transfor Blaget

June 2, 2012

Mubarak got 25 years. His swindling sons got pardoned. Protesters have taken to the streets here in Alexandria. The Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom & Justice Party has closed its offices to join the protests because… all-of-a-sudden they are the party of the revolution! Not during the Mohamed Mahmoud street battles, not after the Port Said Stadium Tragedy, not during Abassiya… but now that they are desperately trying to scrape together votes for the election in two weeks… How convenient! So, there is Much Topix to discuss, but instead let’s talk about this brinsane shirt bought today.

Bevrly Hills 501.





                                                           TRANSFOR BLAGET


Sentiment Exactly.


After the verdict was delivered in Cairo, Alexandrians streamed into the streets and marched up the corniche, tearing down Shafiq campaign posters as they went.

Not all along the corniche demonstrated.

And some flew kites.

Colleague, Islam, at sunset on the balcony at Doomspirals HQ.


Plein Air Gallery

May 15, 2012

Street art in Cairo, updated. Apologies in advance for the annoying yellow date stamps on all the pictures: jah bought a no-name digital camera in Bab al-Louq & there isn’t an option to turn off the date stamp–or even change the date!

The words dribbling from Mubarak/Tantawi’s chin read: He Who Delegates, Doesn’t Die. (When Mubarak abdicated power Suleiman announced that Mubarak was exiting the scene but “delegating” power to SCAF, thus personally appointing the legacy leadership.) BTW, Face/Off is somehow a very popular movie & meme here. Last Ramadan, Ahmed Micki starred in a popular comedy series that spoofed the Travolta/Cage art house masterpiece.

Along Mohamed Mahmoud, the street where revolutionaries battled security forces last December, artists have created memorial murals of the martyred youth.

The neon paint is somehow very affecting. Here, and the wings of the young men.

Many of the youth on the frontlines of this battle were Ultras, or soccer fan collectives. After a fan of Ahly was killed in a notorious shootout with the military, the head coach of the team—a Portuguese expat—instructed his coaching staff all to wear t-shirts featuring the boy’s face onto the pitch. Some in the press complained that the foreign coach was meddling in Egyptian affairs, but most applauded the rare prominent individual to rebuke military violence. Yes, his foreign passport shielded him from punishment, and yes he risked career not incarceration, but it was a bold and poignant gesture.

Martyrs Gallery along Mohamed Mahmoud. (These young faces died in the Port Said Stadium tragedy.)

The mixture of Pharaonic & contemporary motifs is stunning. I hope to learn more about the particular allusions. (In Alex there is a gorgeous, heavily stylized mural of a ghoul lassoing a crocodile, overseen by a peacock. I asked an Egyptian friend about the meaning. “It comes from mythology… the crocodile is Mubarak being punished for declaring himself a god… but the story is more complicated.”)

Pharaonic funerary procession along Mohamed Mahmoud St. (Right half of image)


Pharaonic funerary procession along Mohamed Mahmoud St. (Right half of image)




Hyenas, masks, gods. On the Nile side of the old AUC library.


Eldritch beasts, mythical turmoil.


Struggle as dance.


Three-headed Hydra of SCAF running the length of the block.


Hosni & Suzanne, two heads of the same serpent.

A few Fridays ago I was at the terrible scene of Abbasiya with several journalist friends and I was introduced to a young woman named Samira. We exchanged pleasantries, but didn’t say much in the hectic scene. When the violence got out of hand our group headed back to the car and someone mentioned, “You know Samira, right? She’s the only one who stood up to the military’s ‘virginity tests’ in court.” Oh my, that Samira. [The black inverse-logic of military authoritarianism: to ensure the ‘purity’ of Egyptian women, we will be the ones to violate them.] On the drive to Tahrir my journalist friend commented to Samira, “I love seeing your stencil around the city. Makes me smile every time.” Looking out the window, I began to notice on city walls the dignified face seated next to me.

Samira Ibrahim above the military. Heroine of personal rights, dignity.

Of course, the Egyptian judicial system cleared the perverted perpetrators of any wrongdoing.

Samira Ibrahim above the military, with anguished hieroglyph captions.

(I posted the picture below a few days ago, but just now noticed Selima’s face in the upper left-hand corner, above the Banksy dude’s projectile.)

Banksy + Ballerina + Farrah.

Quite like the impressionistic fluid urban stage the two dance in. And, yes, the Bart Simpson middle finger poking the Etoile David. And, speaking of impressionism, consider this small tangent: Cloisonnism.


In advance of the elections, someone tried to take Mubarak’s Face/Off face off.

But guess who had the last laugh?

BAM! Now we can see the full ancien régime entourage! Amr Moussa & Ahmed Shafiq.

(Again, the caption reads: He Who Delegates, Didn’t Die. When Mubarak fled to his resort on the Red Sea, he appointed Shafiq as Prime Minister. In Tahrir Square that February many people distributed bright yellow stickers that read simply “No To Shafiq”. I kept several as souvenirs. And now. Now, a year and a half later, Shafiq is in the run-off election for the presidency. SO DISPIRITING. What was this whole grinding struggle for? To get back to Zero? A joke you hear these days:: People used to say Mubarak was a good man; it was the people around him who were bad. Now that Mubarak is gone… they are voting for the people around him!)


P.P.S./ 2nd Update: Many of the murals photographed above are captured better by a blogger called suzeeinthecity. Suzee identifies many of the artists and provides background on the inspiration for many works. A wonderful archive.

Wall, What is it Good For

March 22, 2012

I’m not on The Facebook, so I’m not sure if Everyone has already seen this amazing photograph, amazing mural.

An while ago we posted a picture of the massive sea walls erected by the police in downtown Cairo to contain the energy of Tahrir / prevent protests from approaching key government buildings. This particular wall, abutting the old campus of the American University (i.e. the building where I took language classes with the chestnut-lock’d Mrs. Heba, sha-wing!), blocks the entrance to Sheikh Rehan Street*. Thus it protects/severs the route to the Ministry of Interior, the rotten & unreformed institution that is the tru enemy of the revolution.

When I was last in Egypt in January there was already poetic/political graffiti on these barricades, but nothing this ambitious. As boingboing notes on the implicit politics of the mural, it “vanishes the military barrier”.

It certainly trompes my l’oeil! And, LoL, reminds me of that scene in Labyrinth where an exasperated Sarah learns from the kooky worm (with blue Troll doll hair, sporting a smart red scarf(!)) that she can step through walls—that many walls are only apparent. In this sense, the mural is a synecdoche of the revolution, of the revolutionary imagination that “vanishes the barrier”.

What was so surreal about January & February 2011 was that when the regime toppled it felt suddenly that their powers had been a spell; that the oppressive strictures, which until so recently had seemed so real, had been a collective illusion. This not to say that the many vile & violent devices employed to perpetuate state order were not very very real, but rather that the regime’s powers stemmed in part from the idea that they were invincible, that the regime’s rule was inevitable, the only conceivable reality. That is why the period of the revolution was so “unreal”; it un-real’d the entrenched ideology. And it was surreal to feel ten million minds change at once.

The weekend after Mubarak fell, when his henchmen had retreated from the streets, the city was remade free. Teens danced in the downtown streets, trampling posters of Mubarak underfoot, celebrating a new reality, doing the recently impossible.

[Do you know that feeling of walking down the middle of a city street that has been silenced by a huge snow storm? And how it is strange to stroll a place that is usually ruled by rushing cars? But now the street has a new meaning.] [Do you know that feeling of being in your middle school at night for the first time? And running down the halls past the darkened classrooms and maybe ripping down a poster for no reason and maybe you visit your locker and the stuff inside seems weirdly inert? And the rules that exist as a given during the daytime are strangely absent and what has so obviously always been your school now seems like a plain building.] I remember two weeks after Mubarak fell, romping through the courtyard of State Security Headquarters with a mob of protesters. Activists came streaming from the compound’s administrative building, jubilant, waving about the plush pink monogrammed bathrobe of the director, Habi al-Adli, the most feared man in Egypt up until January 24th. Hanging around, joking, smoking cigarettes in the former nerve center of the police state, the oubliette where political dissidents were tossed & the ensnared of the CIA’s Extraordinary Rendition program were taken to talk—the most forbidden place—it was almost impossible to imagine. But the visionaries of the 25th had painted the walls of the regime, and showed the rest the view beyond.

[Doom Spirals A.K.A. Black Babes Crave Deth, “Look Beyond the Wall“]

*I always remember the name of this street because it means “Sheikh Basil” …which seems somehow cute. And, y’know, Basil.


Update?! Speaking of “Look Beyond the Wall”, check this jam by Echo & the Bunnymen, “Over The Wall” from BBC Radio Tapes ’79-’80. Every pretty baby is familiar with the sweet smash hits later in their career, but je didn’t realize until recently that they began as post-punk bleak-rockers—“Over The Wall” sounds like it belongs on Suicide’s first album. (It be cool when the song re-purposes Del Shannon’s undying national treasure, “I’m walking in the rain / to end this misery / I’m walking in the rain! / to end this misery!” Been there, pal—good luck with that!)

Boy George

March 16, 2012

A small soundtrack to leaven our reading of the news from Syria.

George Wassouf, “El Hawa Sultan“, from his 1984 album of the same name. This track was cut when George was a young teenager performing in Al-Kafroun. The boy is feeling it! (I’m going to guess that his maximum tite band is, however, composed of adults—unless there’s some mystic tween arab orchestra we don’t know about.) I’m not entirely sure what wee George is crooning about, but I believe he’s explaining that love is the sultan of the heart. Tru Dat! Romance in Ottoman Lands!

[For all the tanzimat kidz who prefer something a touch more modern, check this bonKers spaz-pop from Hoda, “Zakya Ya Zakya“. Babies gurgling, robots burping, twelve dozen drummers & synth players on Libyan trucker speed, and when the band starts chanting “Basha / Basha / Basha” we come full circle to our shared Ottoman heritage!


Apologies, just noticed that we had typed “check this boners spaz-pop”. Should have read bonkers. We regret this error?! Freud is in tha buildingz!

Car Talk

February 2, 2012

On my last afternoon in Cairo I eyeball’d 2 cars of slightly varying vibes…


Shit, don’t be shy if you’re riding a doomspiral. Let everyone who steps into yr taxi know where you stand re: this current slog on da mortal coil!

On the flip side of the doom meter: The snug shag carpet enveloped the entire amour-mobile. Across the plush trunk it read, in white on red, LOVE FOR EVER.

The driver is flashing me a redundant Thumbs Up. No shit you’re brandishing a Thumbs Up—your whole everything is Thumbs Up! You are feeling it! Let love rip!


Everything in every direction: I endorse both cars!

An few snapshots from Jan 25

January 28, 2012

Near Tahrir. In general these days, Egyptian stencil art is off the chain.

Take a look at the fuggin sea wall the pigs erected by my alma matter. The three rascals on the left were wearing those awful Guy Fawkes masks. God, I hate those things.

Dang, I bet the military regrets giving Tim Westberg’s Imagination an artists visa!

Everything I’ve ever tried to say.



January 11, 2012


Crucial cafe mural.

Marsa Matrouh, Egypt

“I Never Kiss and Smurf”

December 17, 2011



And Counting…

November 30, 2011

After two incredible, incredibly long days of voting in Alex, the ballot boxes were sealed with wax, stacked on trucks, and transported from the polling centers to the counting centers by a military convoy, accompanied by administrative clerks, party agents, and domestic observers.

A military truck pulls up to the gate of Ali Ibn al-Talab School, one of the last polling centers to close in Montaza.

Happy to transport the fruits of their hard work to the next stage.

Proud, tired poll workers ride with the ballot boxes.

We tailed the military ballot truck across the district to the polling center. The military driver figured he was entitled to the shortest possible route & cut across town the wrong way on a one-way thoroughfare. This created a quite unnecessary traffic jam! But, against the current of upset law-abiding drivers, our convoy prevailed.

Ballot boxes arrive at Victoria College counting center. The trucks push slowly through cheering throngs. Honest electoral staff, republican heroes.

The scene at Victoria College is semi-coordinated mayhem. Ballot boxes pour in from polling stations across the district. The attendant polling staff shift into tabulation mode, set up folding tables, and set to their task. The circus and its tent were bursting at the seams. When I toured this facility earlier in the week while it was being set up, the director explained the epic proportions of the counting process. “I hope you have plenty of coffee,” I said. “Barrels,” he joked, not joking.

One of four Alex counting centers: Absolutely bonkers.

Solid dudes.

Counting through the night...


...through dawn into the next day.

At nightfall when the boxes arrived, the crowds were going nuts/bananas, nearly forcing the military to halt the entire process. By morning, the trudge of long hours had subdued the mania.

You're almost there, baby!

Somewhere along the line, doomspirals appeared on live TV. This segment shows us at work (slightly staged!). Honestly, I haven’t watched the interview portion—not ready to see what variety of nonsense is said after being awake for 40 hours. Maybe tomorrow, after some rest. p.s. on the everyone-is-max-exhasted tip: this evening at a counting center in Smouha, the chief judge on the dais picked up the mic to defuse an argument among officials/party agents. “We are all brothers in this new election. Let us all speak kindly to one another. Like you, I have not gone home to sleep, I have not gone home to eat. All night I only ate cookies!

Rightly, he received a round of applause.

Last shot: one of the staff striking the counting tables at Smouha was sporting a quintessentially nonsense Egyptian shirt.

"Urban Nerds Carnival" What.

Public Image

November 25, 2011

Doomspirals Foreign Bureau is again reporting from Egypt, covering the parliamentary elections in Alexandria. Today is our first day off in two weeks and we meant to write about politics & revolutions & such things, but then we remembered that it’s Thanksgiving Weekend back home and no one wants to read that thick stuff. Better idea: let’s take a look at some of the cool public political art/graffiti that is brushed the city over.

“Free For Ever”


Closer examination reveals that the mural was painted by Juliana’s brother. Didn’t realize Matt was tagging the North African coast! A more likely scenario: his zines are huge here; this is fan art. Love these faces.


Awesome anti-American mural.


What is the military up to?


Confusingly sweet Jan 25 mural. Appealing to the Saturday morning cartoon / Russel Crowe gladiator crowd…?


I can explain this one. In the political space opened by the Revolution there has been a proliferation of new parties. One of these new outfits is called the Renaissance Party. Like other newcomers to the game the party is fast trying to establish a political brand. Well, ask yourself this: Who is one of the best remembered Renaissance painters? Raphael. This is clearly a Renaissance Party campaign mural alluding to the modern Raphael, master of the sai. And the number 9? I got this. In each phase of the upcoming parliamentary election voting will take place in 9 governorates. Clearly part of a helpful voter education initiative.

al-Thawra al-Misreya Ninja Turtle = TMNT = Egyptian Revolution Ninja Turtle


This one is beautiful…


…and, mixed with the Pharaoh’s expression, sums up the situation in Egypt.

(And, on his nemes headdress where the asp is usually located… is that a gerber baby? And, if you want to get tru doom about it… does the gerber baby… have a gun in its mouth?!)

Great Paintings

February 16, 2011

As many have noted, the pivotal moment of the revolution came Jan 28th in a stunning event on Kasr el-Nil Bridge. After hours of struggle, 20,000 determined protesters pushing toward downtown overpowered a brigade of riot police armed with tear gas, rubber bullets, and water cannons. The protesters reclaimed Tahrir Square for the people and held it tenaciously for fifteen days until their revolutionary aims were achieved.

Strolling across a bustling, jubilant Kasr al-Nil Bridge Monday night it was incredibly moving to see a row of citizens repainting the signature green railings of the bridge. Not workers, just normal proud Egyptians—and Egyptians of every stripe, Islamists, university preps, young rascals, dads holding babies, everyone. Someone might paint for 15 minutes then hand off the brush to the next passerby, who would gladly continue her revelry through doing her part for the city. I told a teenage painter I’d be very happy if he would autograph my book.*

Despite the vain efforts of the Mubarak regime to paint the protests as destructive, what has shone through most brilliantly is the genuinely constructive aim of the revolution. Amidst great motion, there was incredible focus. The fury was governed by a sense of purpose and pride and love of Egypt that moved millions to the street. It succeeded because it was beautiful.


* An elderly woman in niqab painting next to him overheard our conversation and said something to the effect of “write something about Egypt also”, so I handed him my pen. I can’t make out his handwriting very well except for “25 January”. Maybe Francesca or Neil can clue us in better…

Eye, Heart

February 16, 2011

In an NYT article on Imbaba that discusses the retreat of religion in youth politics, Anthony Shadid remarks on a few seeming incongruities in Egypt’s religious culture:

Egypt is deeply devout, and imposing labels often does more to confuse than illuminate. Amal Salih, who joined the protests against her parents’ wishes, dons an orange scarf over her head but calls herself secular. “Egypt is religious, regrettably,” she said. Mr. Mitwalli wears a beard but calls himself liberal, “within the confines of religion.” A driver, Osama Ramadan, despises the Muslim Brotherhood but has jury-rigged his car to blare a prayer when he turns on the ignition.

I think the example he’s searching for is at a shop down the block from Neil’s apartment that advertises two bumper stickers side-by-side in the storefront:



I guess this is my way of telling Neil that there’s now an “I heart boxed wine” sticker on the new speaker system.

Welcome Development (Colombia remix)

May 5, 2010

In February the Constitutional Court of Colombia thwarted President Alvaro Uribe’s attempt to run for a third term. This was a major relief, but the good news was tempered by an understanding that Uribe’s Defense Minister, Juan Manuel Santos, was waiting on the sideline ready to carry the hard-line, militaristic, oligarchic party platform into the next election. (Sort of like if George Bush was deemed ineligible to run for president and so he tapped Rumsfeld or Cheney to run in his place).

Well, over the last few weeks—in a surprising & welcome development—the eminently likable Green Party candidate Antanas Mockus has edged ahead of Badman Santos in the polls.

From my outsider point of view, this represents such a fascinating development because of the kind of person/politician that is Antanas Mockus. A former mathematics & philosophy professor of Lithuanian descent who sports glasses and a chin-strap beard, he looks like one of those cool Mennonite dudes in Harrisonburg who cruise down Rt 11 to Walmart in a buggy accompanied by two well-mannered anachronistically-dressed blond children. But what is really wild about him is his style of governance: as a successful two-term mayor of Bogotá he synthesized politics & spectacle/art to new levels. I’m talking about new levels.

One of his central political philosophies is that problems such as violence are better addressed through improved governance rather than increased force; and his governance philosophy recognizes that many of Colombia’s serious problems are essentially cultural issues and proceeds with the understanding that cultural attitudes can be constructively addressed through something like theater—rather than merely through legislation.

Thus, to clear the downtown streets of jaywalkers (a chronic safety & traffic congestion problem) he hired 20 mimes to patrol the streets and mock jaywalkers, believing correctly that Colombians respond more to mockery than petty fines. He is famous for wearing a spandex superhero outfit and parading around as Super Citizen, encouraging people to take pride in their democracy and pay taxes (even convincing 6,000 wealthy Bogotáns to pay an optional tax to improve city services). He launched several gender-awareness initiatives, including “women’s night” in Bogotá where all the women were encouraged to go out on the town while the men were encouraged to stay home, clean, and look after the kids—also he promoted a women-only music concert series that was policed entirely by the city’s female police officers. The list goes on… he ran a campaign to collect unwanted household guns and melted them down into baby spoons, he released water conservation commercials on TV featuring him delivering stump speech in the shower, etc., etc.

Of all his antics, one really jumped out at me in its paradoxical poetry. A central issue facing any Colombian politician is the epidemic of violence. Impressively, under Mockus’ mayorship, homicides in Bogotá fell by 70%. During his tenure, Mockus began receiving death threats and in response he took to wearing a modified bullet-proof vest—a bullet-proof vest with a heart-shaped hole cut out directly over his heart.

“While I was the mayor of Bogotá, I received occasional death threats. Therefore, I had to use a bullet-proof vest. I made a hole right where my heart is. The hole was in the shape of a heart. I believe this kind of gesture, gave me indeed more protection.” (Quoted here)

That last sentence is my guru; the clap sound of a one-handed non-violence koan. Elsewhere, in an academic essay about political gestures, Mockus wrote “When words run out, what’s left is art.”

[The Colombian presidential election is in three weeks.]