Monday, May 30, 2011

Greatest of All Time

Greatest of All Time: A Tribute to Muhammad Ali encapsulates the boxing legend’s legacy
They say man is born to fight. We come into this world with clenched fists much like a boxer. Boxing, they say, is a noble art. But only a few make it to the ring, fewer become champions and only one can be crowned the heavyweight champion of the world. Muhammad Ali was one of them.
The man with the Golden Gloves was no Fancy Dan and it was Ali who introduced the famed ‘Ali Shuffle’ that saw the crowd roaring every time he entered the ring and moved his feet back and forth in a dazzling blur.
Ali was simply the best. He strode in with giant steps into the world of boxing, floor-ed his opponents and conquered the hearts of millions across the globe.
Boxing fans will always remember Ali upper-cutting Ingermar Johannson. The ‘frozen’ sweat, the mouthpiece in the air, the hair flying… It epitomised the power of boxing that reached its peak in the Sixties and has never been the same since.
They say Ali had the gifts but only in parts. Others were scientifically better. Floyd Patterson was neater and cleaner and ‘floated’ more convincingly. His only flaw was he had a glass chin. Sugar Ray had the best short jab. Manny of the Philippines, who’s making waves now, is a lighter version of the old Cassius Clay. Tyson had staying power. Joe Louis was a legend. And even Ali could not touch the Brown Bomber’s status — the well-known Trinidadian had the hardest punch.
But of all these boxers then and now, one name rolls off the tongue the most. Muhammad Ali. The man who returned after three years in exile and reached heights that no man before, or after, ever has and possibly never will.
I wonder what Ali would have been if he had not become the GOAT — the Greatest of All Times. A vehement social activist or a chart-busting stand-up comic, the kind whose wit and humour will go on, even after he is long gone?
That was the magic of Muhammad Ali, the greatest sports person who ever walked this earth, the little boy who believed he was God, because he knew that to believe anything less than that would not get him to his ultimate goal.
The gentle giant turned 69 this year. I remember seeing him in Dubai, the fire in his eyes had dimmed, the dark-honey-toned skin was a wee bit wrinkled and the floating butterfly had lost his legendary sting, but not the art of the gab. He could still floor you with his repartee.
Much has been written about the man who was the king of the ring and, for Ali fans all over the world, there is good news in the form of an affordable edition of GOAT, Greatest of All Time: A Tribute to Muhammad Ali the Taschen limited edition mega-book about the icon, that was first launched with price tags of between $15,000 and $4,500.
When it first hit the streets, boxing enthusiasts and fans of the gentle giant had perhaps eaten their heart out because only the rich and well-heeled could afford to lay their hands on the mother of all coffee-table books. I mean, what else would you term a book that took four years to make, weighs 34 kgs and is 50 cm x 50 cm (20” x 20”) in size, 30 brilliant interviews with a whopping 800 pages of sheer poetry in pictures?
GOAT is possibly the closest any publisher has got to the pugilist who is not just the icon of an era when sports was clean, honest and all about hard work but who was also the voice of the black community and of all those who did not believe in America’s role in the Vietnam war. He was willing to go to prison but not ready to get drafted for a war that he did not believe in. How many modern-day sports people do you know who would trade their trend-setting lifestyle for a few years in prison garbs?
“By Ali standing up as he did, that gave many of us much more courage. That gave us much more hope than we’d ever had before,” says BB King of the much-venerated and idolised boxer whose life is a symphony of paradoxes. He was both cruel and kind, a fighter who turned peacemaker as he was sent on missions to Muslims countries by US Presidents.
Gilbert Rogin, writing on Ali, said: “What strange times we live in. What a strange, uncommon man is Clay (his former name). Who can fathom him? We can only watch in wonder as he performs and ponder whether, despite his truly affecting ways, he doesn’t scorn us and the world he is champion of.”
GOAT is a book that must be read — and not just by die-hard boxing fans. It’s no exaggeration to say it is, as Spiegel magazine describes it, “the most megalomaniacal book in the history of civilisation, the biggest, heaviest, most radiant thing ever printed.”
Putting this book together was a challenge and journey of love by one man who dearly loved Muhammad Ali since his early childhood. The man: Benedikt Taschen. It took him four years to complete his mission and it involved sifting through millions of pictures of Ali in archives all over the world. He and his team “visited and talked to dozens of photographers, journalists, writers, ex-opponents, managers lawyer — everybody we could think of. Some 20 people were involved with me on the journey, plus additional contributors who wrote essays on various Ali-related issues.”
When the massive tome was launched, what pulled the buyers to the book, like bees to honey, was the fact that you could not get closer to the story of the handsome young man’s now legendary rise to the top of the boxing world and his metamorphosis to a living legend still remembered and revered.
Ali was closely involved in the project which is why the book is alive and bursting with anecdotes, insights and comments from him and those closest to him such as managers, friends, family members including children. For those with money it was an irresistible deal — the opportunity to lose themselves in 3,000 photographs, some of them previously unpublished, and his writings, drawings, and reproductions of fight posters and classic memorabilia that gave them an up-close look at his life like never before.
In addition, the publishers gave a contemporary hook to buyers by roping in artist Jeff Koons to work with them. The book was eventually launched in two versions: the (Champ’s Edition), limited to the first 1,000 copies and featuring a specially-commissioned congenial multiple by Jeff Koons as well as four silver gelatin prints by Howard L. Bingham, an Ali insider and Ali himself.
The remaining 9,000 copies came with a photo-litho made by Jeff Koons. All 10,000 copies were individually signed by Muhammad Ali and Jeff Koons. We don’t know who else owns it but we do know that Indian cricketing icon Sachin Tendulkar owns a copy — he was gifted one by a fan and Sachin is known to be fascinated by Ali’s life.
The new book, that literally brings the popular icon back to the people who made him the hero that he is, now comes at a much more affordable price, $150, and gives a memorable journey of Ali’s life inside its 651 pages which are alive with some 1,000 pictures, art, boxing posters and just news reports of that era. Plus, columns by close friends, colleagues and others who saw his transformation.
Go pick up a copy to relive the nerve wracking moments of his meteoric rise from his breakthrough with an Olympic gold medal to his legendary defeat of Sonny Liston (he promised his fans that he would “totally eclipse the Sonny”), his face-off with other boxing greats such as George Foreman, Ken Norton, Leon Spinks and his biggest rival of all, the gutsy, crusty Joe Frazier, with the “thrilla in Manila” (boxing fans are guaranteed to get goose-bumps from reliving the ferocious, gutsy, bloody fight, that Ali later said was his closest shave with death; he vanquished his very worthy rival and that put him way up there, much above the average men and women in sports).
Pick up the book for other reasons too, such as walking down memory lane and connecting with the happy-go-lucky-young man, full-blooded and fun-loving to the core. Lose yourself in a picture of Cassius Clay letting his hair down with a new pop group, The Beatles, on Miami’s beaches. Then there is an irreverent, evocative image on the cover of Esquire of a “bleeding” Ali, arrows in chest, that embodied the man’s fearless spirit as he refused to be inducted into the army on religious grounds.
Ali addicts can get rare insights into what the legend of Ali signified at various points in history and you could do well to read the interviews of Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Ken Norton, Floyd Patterson and Ali’s confidantes Angelo Dundee and Ferdie Pacheco, among others. Author Alex Haley and writer Budd Schulberg (of On The Waterfront fame) and journalists also lift the veil over the most fascinating living sports legend in the world.
If you are a boxing fan and an Ali worshipper, this book is a must in your library.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Reading Can Also Make You Dumb

Facebook:  New York Times  executive editor Bill Keller argues that social networks are making our brains go mushy.
Facebook: New York Times executive editor Bill Keller argues that social networks are making our brains go mushy.

The Internet makes us stupid. It robs us of our souls, leads to a flattening of our personalities and reduces our attention spans. This nonsense is now being spouted from an unexpected source: Bill Keller, the executive editor of the Internet-savvy New York Times

The demonization of tools, not despite but because of their usefulness, is one of the more ludicrous phony arguments driving the recent debate over the Internet and digitization. Pocket calculators have diminished our math skills, some say, making us less able to do calculations in our heads than, say, people in the 1950s.

Computer hard drives and mobile phone SD cards are robbing us of the last of our memory abilities, most of which that damned printing press had already stolen from us. At the moment, GPS systems are destroying our sense of direction. Oh, the many ways in which machines are depriving us and causing our brains to shrivel.

"We are outsourcing our brains to the cloud," New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller wrote last Wednesday. According to his logic, solving real-world problems -- computing tasks, information storage and finding our way around -- is a step in the wrong direction, because it increasingly softens our brains.
Keller's lament about our lost cognitive skills and abilities proves to be absurd if one extends his arguments a little farther into the past. Nowadays, very few people can weave baskets, bake bread or till a field with an ox, a harrow and a plow. In fact, merely the physical exertion of tilling a field would be too much for us. We have all read our fair share of malicious remarks in recent years about welfare recipients in Germany who were simply not up to the rigors of harvesting asparagus or cucumbers.

But the fact is that much of the working population would hardly be capable of performing these and other similar tasks. There is no doubt that an 18th-century farmer was tougher than we are, and that he could probably endure pain with far fewer complaints (and, as a result, also had a much shorter life span). This suggests that the decline of mankind must have begun with the invention of steam-driven farm machinery, if not with the use of draught horses.

Criticizing technical progress on the basis of the ways in which it makes our lives easier is both absurd and reactionary. And yet this attitude, expressed openly or clandestinely, is gaining steam once again. This is because of the speed at which digital technology is currently changing the world, which some see as a painful experience.

Digitization seems to be perceived as all the more torturous the later it enters a person's life. Just as an aside, it is a scientifically proven fact that man's ability to adjust to change begins to decline rapidly at about 35.

Keller's Masochistic Experiment
Bill Keller was born in 1949. At first glance, his outburst against the digitized world seems so astonishing because, as Keller writes, his own newspaper, the New York Times, "has embraced new media with creative, prizewinning gusto." The newspaper was one of the first to create the position of "social media editor" to professionalize the interface between the New York Times website and social networks like Facebook and Twitter. In fact, the Times is seen as a model of online journalism.

Keller uses Twitter himself. To write the article, he conducted what he calls "a kind of masochistic experiment," in which he tweeted "#TwitterMakesYouStupid. Discuss," and waited to see what would happen. As expected, most tweeters disagreed with Keller. This, by the way, is the same way people in the offline world here in Germany would react if they were told that they are stupid or on the road to becoming stupid: They would be annoyed. It's an easy experiment. Anyone can try it: Just walk into a sports bar/library/samba dancing school and shout loudly and distinctly: "Football/reading/samba makes you stupid! Discuss!"
In contrast to the presumed outcome of such real-world experiments, Keller's tweet, astonishingly enough, did not just trigger rejection. In fact, as he writes, it also "produced a few flashes of wit" and "a couple of earnestly obvious points," including the remark: "Depends who you follow." Journalism Professor Jeff Jarvis, whom Keller did not quote in his article, shot back via Twitter: "Bill. The NYT no longer tells us what to discuss. Twitter does. ;-)"

Nevertheless, Keller concluded, based on his personal evaluation of the reactions to his tweet: "Whether or not Twitter makes you stupid, it certainly makes some smart people sound stupid."

The Price of Innovation
Keller writes that he fears that this time the price of innovation could be to lose "a piece of ourselves," a concern he embellishes with the usual, often heard objections to digital communication: that it is not "social" at all, that it only distracts us, that it promotes flat, trivial forms of communication and, even worse, it threatens "our ability to reflect, our pursuit of meaning, genuine empathy, a sense of community connected by something deeper than snark or political affinity."

The real reason for this journalist's surprising reckoning with the social network of the present was apparently an experience with his 13-year-old daughter. He writes that he and his wife had recently allowed her to open a Facebook account. "Within a few hours she had accumulated 171 friends, and I felt a little as if I had passed my child a pipe of crystal meth."

One could imagine how Keller may have recounted this experience to a group of New York Times senior editors, all of whom must have had similar experiences with their children, and how the ensuing debate, interspersed with jokes and interjections, eventually led to someone suggesting that he write something about the subject, because it simply had to be said.

It's almost a given that fathers whose 13-year-old daughters have discovered a new passion, be it horseback riding or Justin Bieber, generally observe something similar to what 62-year-old father Keller experienced with his daughter: an incomprehensible, excessive fascination for a seemingly trivial object. The fact that the New York Times executive editor used this as an opportunity to diagnose a possibly soul-destroying effect of social media suggests a lot of bottled-up angst about the present (and relatively little confidence in his own child).

Generation Internet

The journalist offers no evidence for his sweeping fears other than his personal discomfort. Keller's 13-year-old daughter probably does know most of her 171 Facebook friends personally. Many studies in the United States and in Germany have shown that for the most part social networks do in fact reflect the real social environments of their young users. This does not apply to the same degree to 62-year-old newspaper executive editors.

People over 50 have a critical disadvantage compared with those under 40 (roughly speaking) when it comes to the communicative Internet: Most of them got to know it as a joyless work tool, writing their first e-mails to coworkers or their boss, and not to a girl they were secretly in love with. They have Facebook accounts because they feel that they should, not because it's a venue for their friends to communicate with one another. And they do communicate, via Twitter, for example, with total strangers. It isn't terribly surprising that this sort of communication produces conversations that some would characterize as "flat," "not social" or "trivial."
The fact that such people might feel that they have a dearth of quality conversations probably has more to do with their work loads than with the Internet. It is just as impossible to derive general statements about the effects of social media on the spiritual life of mankind from this notion as it is to derive general statements about the usefulness of pulleys from the average bicep diameter of modern man.

By Christian Stöcker
Translated from the German by Christopher Sulta

Saturday, May 28, 2011

'Powerful Men Have an Overactive Libido'

As the former head of the International Monetary Fund awaits trial in New York on sexual assault charges, SPIEGEL ONLINE speaks to Dutch sociobiologist Johan van der Dennen about the relationship between sex and power. Powerful men, van der Dennen says, "just take what they want."

In a story about former International Monetary Fund head Dominque Strauss-Kahn,...  
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Those in positions of power have sex with the secretaries; they assault hotel maids, or at least are accused of such, and sleep with the nanny. Is there a normal percentage of oversexed people among powerful men, and it's just easier to notice their lapses, their misconduct, because they are so visible?

Van der Dennen: Both may be true. Powerful men have a both an overactive libido as compared to 'normal' men, but they are also more willing to gamble that they can get away with their sexual activities whenever and wherever. Power is a great aphrodisiac, as Kissinger said. Powerful men almost automatically expect other people to do their bidding. Sex is just part of that game. Powerful women also have larger-than-average sexual appetites.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Would Clinton, Berlusconi, Strauss-Kahn and Schwarzenegger have done the same if they weren't in a position of power? Or is it the power itself that makes them do such things?

Van der Dennen: Undoubtedly men who eventually reach positions of power have strong ambitions in that direction and indeed a certain recklessness and even unscrupulousness. But, in my opinion, it is the position of power itself that makes men arrogant, narcissistic, egocentric, oversexed, paranoid, despotic, and craving even more power, though there are exceptions to this rule. Powerful men generally have a keen eye for female beauty and attractiveness, and women generally are attracted to powerful, successful, famous, and wealthy men. Every "willing" woman confirms the power of the powerful man.

Former US President Bill Clinton in 1994. His affair with White House intern...
SPIEGEL ONLINE: In their minds, what happens to empathy, care, and last but not least, reason?

Van der Dennen: Sex and the powerful male sex drive existed on this earth millions of years before humans evolved some sense and sensibility. Every sexual act involves some retrogression, in which empathy, reason, etc. are temporarily suspended. This is valid, I think, not only for powerful men.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Psychologist Satoshi Kanazawa from the University of Canterbury found out that successful men have more sex and more sexual partners. Is it an evolutionary adaptive behavior?

Van der Dennen: Not only Kanazawa, but dozens of studies have found this relationship. An interesting evolutionary analysis of the power-sex-polygyny link was presented in 1986 by Laura Betzig in her book "Despotism and Differential Reproduction: A Darwinian View of History." With unbridled enthusiasm, powerful males have used their power in the service of reproductive success.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: What do you think these men must be thinking about themselves in the moment when they are about to have "forbidden" sex?

Van der Dennen: It is not too speculative to think that powerful men live in a sexualized or eroticized world. Not only do they expect to have sex whenever they fancy, but they also expect that every woman is always willing to provide this service, and enjoy it. They are completely egocentric and opportunistic and just take what they want. It probably comes as a complete surprise when somebody does not comply. The forbiddenness, and the awareness of transgression, makes the sex even more attractive.

French Director Xavier Durringer has a new film out, "The Conquest," about the...
SPIEGEL ONLINE: You do not mean to say that everybody who climbs to the top is at risk of becoming a rapist?

Van der Dennen: Not necessarily. Most powerful men do not need to rape because they have consensual sex much more frequently than their more unfortunate brethren. That does not preclude that some powerful men might do it for "kicks," or to see if they can get away with it. Virtually all studies of rape show that it is powerless and disenfranchised young men who rape.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: What's needed to feel powerful: is social status enough? Or money, too? Fame?

Van der Dennen: Power is omnivorous, as it were. Power tends to correlate with wealth and fame and success and with sexual access to more, and more varied, partners. The only thing that is really needed for you to feel powerful is my submission, and vice versa.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: What else does power do to people?

Van der Dennen: Ultimately, power corrupts, if you pardon this cliché.

Interview conducted by Rafaela von Bredow.

Unnatural Selection: Chinese and Indian sex ratios are a time bomb

The scene from the preschool in the Chinese county of Suinin, approximately halfway between Beijing and Shanghai, could have been an advertisement for cuteness. Two lines of children walk out of school at the end of the day, led by their beaming teachers towards a cluster of expectant parents. Mara Hvistendahl witnessed this scene but when she did, she noticed a strange phenomenon: there were nearly twice as many boys in the two lines as girls.
The situation in Suinin is hardly unique. Across the developing world, from China to India to Eastern Europe to the Middle East, sex ratios - the ratio of boy babies to girl babies - are becoming increasingly skewed. The normal human ratio is around 105 boys for every 100 girls, a natural evolutionary ratio that takes into account the fact that more boys tend to die before reaching adulthood. But in China today, the ratio is 121 boys for every 100 girls; in India the ratio is 112 boys for every 100 girls; in Tunisia the official ratio is 107 boys per 100 girls, although the real figure is believed to be much higher.
In her thorough and compelling new book, Unnatural Selection, Hvistendahl explains why these trends will have far-reaching effects. She argues that the sex imbalance could prove devastating to social stability across the developing world, sparking crime, human trafficking, and - if history is any guide - even war.
Some societies have long held preferences for boys. In China, boys historically helped ensure that rural families would have a steady supply of labour to work on their smallholdings. In India some higher castes have historically practised infanticide of baby girls to ensure the family had boys, who were regarded as critical to economic survival and also to ancestral rites. In Vietnam, many families traditionally preferred boys for similar reasons of economic productivity and ancestor worship. But to her surprise, once she began investigating skewed sex ratios, Hvistendahl found that it was the wealthiest and most urbanised parts of the developing world, cities such as New Delhi and Tunis, that had the most unbalanced ratios of baby boys to girls. India's latest census shows an increasingly skewed sex ratio in all but eight of the country's 35 states, including many of its richest regions.
The fact that sex ratios were growing more imbalanced in even these more affluent areas gave the lie to the idea that traditional preferences for boys were responsible for skewed sex ratios, and would vanish as societies modernised. Instead, in these wealthier regions, the meeting of traditional preferences and new technology - principally, cheap and highly effective modern ultrasounds - has been a dangerous combination.
In some developing nations, it is illegal to use ultrasound scans to find out a baby's sex to then abort it. Hvistendahl finds that small bribes easily persuade ultrasound technicians to skirt the laws. In other developing nations, such sex selective abortion is not illegal anyway. In clinics in New Delhi, Hvistendahl finds that selective abortion has become big business. The hospitals advertise their gender selection services to India's wealthiest parents, and women often use abortion as a kind of contraception, becoming almost blasé about the procedure. One obstetrician there tells Hvistendahl that for some of his patients an abortion is "like having a cup of coffee".
Changes in technology, however, are not the only answer. Though the book is occasionally clumsy, Hvistendahl delivers serious investigative work. She finds that the population control policies of the 1950s and 1960s, captured most notably in the best-selling book The Population Bomb, unwittingly sparked the growth of sex-selective abortions and subsequently skewed birth ratios. At that time, many demographers warned of a Malthusian future in the developing world, whose rising populations would exceed the Earth's ability to provide, leading to a vicious competition for food and other dwindling resources.
These predictions proved wildly off - successive agricultural breakthroughs helped ensure that food production yields rose exponentially - but they made their mark, too. Fifty years ago, many of the leading western foundations and politicians advocating population control either implicitly or explicitly endorsed sex selection as a means of cutting down births, since having more men meant fewer chances of pregnancies.
With its "one child" policy, China took the concept of population control to its extreme. Across the People's Republic, Communist Party officials pressured women to have only one child, forcing them to abort if they broke the law.
Today, skewed sex ratios appear to be getting worse. What will become of the millions of "surplus men"? Their future could be very grim. Marriage, scientists have found, actually makes men more peaceable - it lowers quantities of testosterone, thereby making men less likely to attempt risky behaviour, and seemingly calmer and less likely to be depressed. Scientists have found that single young men are far more likely to commit violence than their married peers, and are more likely to be in poor health. Already, parts of India, China and other countries with skewed sex ratios have witnessed higher rates of crime, a result in part of angry and bored young men looking for outlets for rage. In China, surplus males increasingly congregate in certain areas of cities - train and bus stations are favourites - and have begun to form gangs.
In the worst nightmares of the authorities in Beijing, these angry young men could turn against the state. Within a decade, China could have 30 million men who cannot find wives, and similar skewed ratios will plague many other developing countries, including tinderboxes like Pakistan and Tunisia. It is too soon to tell how sex ratios affect the Middle East, but history shows that a surplus of men often sparks attempts to topple the government, and certainly large numbers of angry young men have led the front lines of revolts from Libya to Syria to Yemen, as well as manning the ranks of terrorist groups such as al Qa'eda. As the scholars Valerie Hudson and Andrea den Boer earlier claimed, in the mid-19th century unequal sex ratios, which left men idle, contributed to armed rebellion in the Chinese countryside that ultimately led to the overthrow of China's last emperor.
Surplus men will not mean an easier life for women, either. In theory, skewed sex ratios might make women more desirable. But so far, just the opposite has happened. In places with the most skewed sex ratios, "honour crimes", such as the killing of sisters who have supposedly dishonoured their family, have increased. Across developing nations, the skewed sex ratios have fostered a rising trade in girls and young women, either through bridal agencies that match them voluntarily to foreign men or, too often, through criminal syndicates that kidnap girls to sell them to suitors in other countries. In Thailand, where I have worked for years, 160,000 women and girls are trafficked each year, often subjected to repeated rapes, as well as beatings and even murders. In China, Hvistendahl finds, syndicates grab girls in counties with more equal sex ratios, to sell them to men in places where there are fewer young women. The authorities pay little attention to the problem.
Are bachelor nations inevitable? Not necessarily, at least over the long term. Developing countries from the Middle East to Asia could create better social safety nets, reassuring parents that they will not need sons to support them in their old age; governments also could take concerted measures to raise the status of women, such as educational campaigns to teach people to protect girls and stricter monitoring of obstetricians and ultrasound technicians. Still, Hvistendahl suggests that, in many countries, the die is already cast: the trends that have skewed sex ratios will take at least a generation to correct, even if governments take steps to address them.
Joshua Kurlantzick is fellow for South-east Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

'Grandma Graffiti'

German Knitting Guerillas Go Global

By Alison Kilian
Photo Gallery: Germany's Knitting Guerillas

Knitting graffiti's yarned tentacles have reached Germany, where "knitting guerrillas" have sprung up across the country -- but one group has taken on the special mission of sharing the cozier, friendlier urban art with people around the world.

In the North Rhine-Westphalian town of Velbert, a weeping willow looks much cheerier than its name suggests. It's wearing a rainbow sweater. Rings of multi-colored yarn hug the trunk, giving it the look of a giant package of plush Lifesavers. The vibrant tree is the work of Ute Lennartz-Lembeck, one among the world's growing ranks of knitting guerrillas and founder of the German knitting graffiti group B-Arbeiten. The 50-year-old art teacher took up the hobby, also known as "yarnbombing" and "yarnstorming," after seeing the work of others on a visit to Berlin.

Lennartz-Lembeck, who lives in Remscheid, packed her trunk full of essential...
Ute Lennartz
Lennartz-Lembeck, who lives in Remscheid, packed her trunk full of essential supplies before setting off for Velbert.

Graffiti knitters typically install their stitched creations on signposts, statues, bicycles and any other surface that can serve as a creative display space. And just like graffiti of a more permanent kind, their work can be politically-motivated, whimsical, witty or inane. Lennartz-Lembeck was so inspired by the cozy urban art she saw in Berlin that she decided to import the concept from the capital to her hometown of Remscheid and beyond -- but her projects incorporate language too.

It took approximately 200 hours of labor and 400,000 stitches to complete the...
Ute Lennartz
It took approximately 200 hours of labor and 400,000 stitches to complete the project.

"It's about words and art, putting art in an open space and not necessarily a museum," she says of B-Arbeiten's work. The group, whose name is a play on the German word "bearbeiten," which means to edit or alter, revises city streets with their colourful creations in hopes of getting passers-by to reconsider their surroundings.

The tree shows off its stripes at night.
Ute Lennartz
The tree shows off its stripes at night.
Armed with her knitting needles, Lennartz-Lembeck aims to return significance to words representing values that "we are all familiar with but that have become little more than meaningless shells." The German word for courage, "Mut," is stitched on one of her signs. On the sidewalks of Cologne, pedestrians are confronted with the word "Idee" (idea) hanging on a lamppost. "Raum" (space) reads another sign, hanging on a pole by a deserted lake.

The work of knitting guerillas "Strick & Liesel" has an activist focus. The...
The work of knitting guerillas "Strick & Liesel" has an activist focus. The Dortmund-based duo, who maintain their anonymity, have created the "Fluffy Throw-up" knitting project to protest nuclear power, a hot-button issue in Germany these days.

Unlike some knitting guerrillas who follow the lead of traditional graffiti artists like Banksy and keep their identities secret, Lennartz-Lembeck has taken on the role of yarnbombing ambassador, installing her creations openly and during the daytime, which often spurs conversation with curious strangers.

B-Arbeiten proves that knitting graffiti need not be limited to urban centers....
Ute Lennartz
B-Arbeiten proves that knitting graffiti need not be limited to urban centers. The group has work in both urban and rural areas. Here, the German word for space, "Raum," decorates a lonely lakeside area.

Going Global
Over the last several years knitting has evolved from a grandmotherly hobby to a trendy diversion, but American Magda Sayeg is commonly credited with taking the trend to the streets as the creator of the yarnbombing movement in 2005. Within a few years the Houston, Texas resident had a large enough "granny graffiti" following to create her own crew of yarnbombers, who called themselves Knitta Please.
Other groups have emerged around the world, including in Germany, with outfits like the Katernberger Strickguerilla in Essen and the Dortmund-based Strick & Liesel. The Dortmund duo has already made headlines by using knitting to protest nuclear power, a controversial topic in the country. Their project, called "Fluffy Throw-up," involves knitting yellow-and-black radioactive warning signs onto everything from tree trunks to street lamps.

While Lennartz-Lembeck's goals don't mirror the more subversive yarnstormers like Strick & Liesel, she does say that social and political questions always play a role in her work. "I understand it as a means of disruption, even though it's done in an affectionate way," she explains.

Her bigger pieces take weeks of work. The tree sweater in Velbert, for example, required 200 hours and 400,000 stitches to complete. But much of her work, like the single-word pieces, is more compact and easily shipped abroad for installation. Since she began in 2010, Lennartz-Lembeck has sent 162 works to 32 cities in eight countries around the world. But what makes them special is her use of each country's native language -- even the tags she attaches with information on their origin are translated accordingly.

A bright-yellow knit sign proclaiming "Futuro," the Spanish word for future, found a new home in Spain. One of her knit flowers can be seen hanging from a tree in Haiti, where it was sent after the country's devastating 2010 earthquake. Meanwhile she's expecting photos of a new installation after a recent shipment to France, while four other pieces were just mailed to the US. Belarus and Iceland are next, she says.
"Besides that I'm finishing entire sentences. In the long-run there will be a story," Lennartz-Lembeck told SPIEGEL ONLINE. "The project is constantly changing and growing."

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Mingguan Malaysia 12 Jun 2011 - Musim Bunga di Frankfurt

Musim Bunga di Frankfurt

Anjakan arus yang melintang
hamparan ilusi perjalanan hayat
ada bayangan merentas siang
tempias  warna-warna imaginasi
dan merangkai dedaun masa
ke serata taman
ke saujana laman
kehidupan perantauan jasad

ketukan yang menjerut ceria
suasana kelabu kembara rohani
ada kilauan menyambar malam
imbasan dari kilasan rindu
dan menyusun imej-imej hari
ke batasan langkah
ke sempadan mimpi
realiti permainan emosi

di sini, semanis musim bunga
tidak mungkin mengulang jejak
tidak pernah mengundang kejutan
sekadar memetik kata-kata
yang tunggang terbalik
dari skrin yang menjalari
langit dan bumi
sebagai cendera hati
memori kasih di kejauhan!

Frankfurt, Jerman

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Aerotropolis: The Way We'll Live Next

The project will see an industrial park, a logistics hub, an IT park and a township developed around the airport
This brilliant and eye-opening look at the new phenomenon called the aerotropolis gives us a glimpse at the way we will live in the near future—and the way we will do business, too.

Not so long ago, airports were built near cities, and roads connected the one to the other. This pattern—the city in the center, the airport on the periphery— shaped life in the twentieth century, from the central city to exurban sprawl. Today, the ubiquity of jet travel, round-the-clock workdays, overnight shipping, and global business networks has turned the pattern inside out. Soon the airport will be at the center and the city will be built around it, the better to keep workers, suppliers, executives, and goods in touch with the global market.
As more and more aviation-oriented businesses are being drawn to airport cities and along transportation corridors radiating from them, a new urban form is emerging—the Aerotropolis—stretching up to 20 miles (30 kilometers) outward from some airports. Analogous in shape to the traditional metropolis made up of a central city and its rings of commuter-heavy suburbs, the Aerotropolis consists of an airport city and outlying corridors and clusters of aviation-linked businesses and associated residential development. A number of these clusters such as Amsterdam Zuidas, Las Colinas, Texas, and South Korea's Songdo International Business District have become globally significant airport edge-cities representing planned postmodern urban mega-development in the age of the Aerotropolis. This is the aerotropolis: a combination of giant airport, planned city, shipping facility, and business hub.
Already the aerotropolis approach to urban living is reshaping life in Beijing and Amsterdam, in China and Rwanda, in Dallas and the Washington, D.C., suburbs. The aerotropolis is the frontier of the next phase of globalization, whether we like it or not. John D. Kasarda defined the term "aerotropolis," and he is now sought after worldwide as an adviser. Working with Kasarda’s ideas and research, the gifted journalist Greg Lindsay gives us a vivid, at times disquieting look at these new cities in the making, the challenges they present to our environment and our usual ways of life, and the opportunities they offer to those who can adapt to them creatively. Aerotropolis is news from the near future—news we urgently need if we are to understand the changing world and our place in it.

About the Author

John D. Kasarda, a professor at the Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina, has advised countries, cities, and companies about the aerotropolis and its implications. He lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Greg Lindsay has written for Time, BusinessWeek, and Fast Company. For one story he traveled around the world by airplane for three weeks, never leaving the airport while on the ground. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Walk to your aerotropolis
Roger Cohen (Globalist)

19 May 2011, 7:17 PM
At a dinner the other night an urban designer, Christopher Choa, was telling me about a project he’s involved in to build an “aerotropolis” next to Cairo airport.

It appears the aerotropolis – with production lines leading right into the belly of planes – is the next big thing.
Choa has been involved in other “aerotropoli,” including one at India’s Hyderabad airport where a hospital has been built between two runways. “If you fly to India for a heart operation you don’t want to fuss around with taxis and things,” he explained.
The aerotropolis is “glocal,” a place that draws on local competitive advantages (like cheap labour) even as it plugs into the planetary I-want-it-now faubourg. It is part of the universe dubbed “Airworld” by John Kasarda, a professor at the University of North Carolina’s business school, who also coined the phrase “the physical Internet” to describe the networks that ensure iPhones and winter cherries are always a click away.
In this speeded-up universe it makes sense to affix cities to airports on the model of the aerotropoli for those Airworld deities – Fedex and UPS – at Memphis and Louisville. Having begun life as an outlying curiosity, where planes taking off and landing were as wondrous as those in children’s picture books, the airport becomes the heaving heart of the metropolitan beast, its raison d’etre. As the temple was to the Roman city, so the runway is to the Tennessee aerotropolis. The gods have become noisier and more restless.
Kasarda and his amanuensis, Greg Lindsay, have produced a book called ‘Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next’  that sets out a hectic vision for the soon-to-be nine billion inhabitants of a small planet. As electronic connectivity demands its mirror image – the physical connectedness of human beings scrambling to keep pace with digital algorithms – the growth will be spurred that keeps us whole.
Already, Kasarda and Lindsay write, the numbers are compelling. While world GDP rose 154 per cent between 1975 and 2005, world trade grew 355 per cent. “Meanwhile, the value of air cargo climbed an astonishing 1,395 per cent. More than a third of all the goods traded in the world, some $3 trillion worth – but barely one per cent of its weight! – travels via air freight.”
Those numbers provide a useful image of a post-industrial world where air-freighted Chinese-made iPads, Ivory Coast sea bass and French foie gras satisfy the needs of the wealthy for instant gratification while those bound to defer gratification – like jobless workers of a de-industrialising middle America – scramble to get in the fast-lane to aerotropolis.
In a rosy view, Airworld serves the winners as it sets losers on an upwardly-mobile path with a basic wage. But I find a darker image insistent: of a frenzied world chasing its tail even as it devours scarce resources.
Choa sees in the aerotropolis a symbol of a city-dominated world. “In the 19th century you had the apotheosis of empire, in the 20th century of the nation, and today of cities,” he told me. “The Chinese are not remotely interested in what the UK thinks, but they are very interested in London.” New Songdo, an aerotropolis near Seoul, does business with Sao Paulo; the South Korean-Brazilian relationship is but a detail.
Self walked from London to New York – that is, he walked from central London out to Heathrow and from JFK into New York City – and found “Manhattan suddenly jammed into the Thames estuary, a continuous land mass forged from walking for two days.” In similar fashion he did a two-day trek from Dubai airport across the city and into the Empty Quarter – a traverse that found him alone among uprooted migrant workers of the ultimate Arab aerotropolis.
Before we commit headlong to Kasarda’s and Lindsay’s vision – what Self in a powerful critique of their work in the London Review of Books calls “the redeye flight to apocalypse” – I recommend that we all take a walk out from our old cities to our airports with their supplicant aerotropoli, the better to measure where we really are, who we are, and where we want to go.

Hitam Putih Sarajevo

Kedatangan menitip musim berlalu
bayang-bayang pun bertalu
mengisi imbauan cerita-cerita
bersama fragmen duka
merentas kata-kata mesra
pasrah ke jiwa kembara
yang memahami peristiwa
dari imbasan senario semasa

Suasana mengapai sejarah hitam
masih terus berbalam
di lembah dan pergunungan
satu catatan putih perjalanan
bangsa yang mahu bangkit
dalam persaingan sengit
biar jatuh, tidak tenggelam
mendaki kekeliruan mendalam

Sarajevo, berkabus hitam putih
dari sungai Miljacka yang tidak jernih
melontar keruh di permukaan
warna-warna perasaan
memanjangkan bara tragedi
buat mereka yang peduli
pada warisan dan perjuangan
di tanah kelahiran!

Sarajevo, Bosnia Harzegovina
13 Oktober 2010


Friday, May 20, 2011

I Speak for Myself: American Women on Being Muslim

By Zahra T. Suratwala
In recent years Islam has developed an aura of controversy.  Stereotypes abound with regards to Muslim women, their hijab, their freedom and their lives in general.  I Speak for Myself (White Cloud Press) is a compilation of essays by forty American Muslim women who have decided to break down some of the stereotypes aimed at them by speaking up and telling their stories.  This book is written to demystify the idea of “a” Muslim woman to readers and show the remarkable diversity that exists among American Muslim women.
While the book showcases diversity, the beauty of this starkly honest collection lies in the fact that it is a unifying force for all who read it.
The editors of the book are myself (Zahra Suratwala, a writer and editor who owns Zahra Ink, a writing firm in Chicago) and Maria Ebrahimji, (executive editorial producer at CNN in Atlanta).  When starting this book, we did not give the contributors a topic or theme upon which to write the essays; rather, we knew that the women’s identities as Muslim American women would inform whatever the contributors chose to write.  The result is an awe-inspiring collection of personal responses to the dramas of life.  What is common to each story, however, is that these women – and so many women like them – defy the labels put upon them and define for themselves what it means to be a Muslim American woman.

The women themselves are many things — surfer, lawyer, artist, doctor, state legislature representative, mother, blogger, journalist, anthropologist, philosopher, poet, basketball player, fashion designer.  Married, single, mothers, professionals, struggling with their faith, holding steadfastly to it, questioning their identity, finding their purpose, carving their niche, experiencing trauma, experiencing triumph.  They are Arab, African-American, Pakistani, Indian, Iranian and Afghani – and of course, they are all American.
The book acts as a bridge between these women and their readers, but it also emerges as a way for the women to find commonality in each other.
The book is already being hailed as an important addition to the literature on religious pluralism in America.  It has caught the attention of Jim Wallis, Her Majesty Queen Noor, Nobel Peace Prize Winner Muhammad Yunus, Zainab Salbi and many others.  I Speak for Myself is igniting a response in the media as well, with book reviews, op-eds, features and blog posts from outlets such as Publishers Weekly and The Christian Science Monitor praising the book and expressing relief that the gap is finally being filled.

the Book

Readers of I Speak for Myself are presented with a kaleidoscope of stories, woven together around the central idea of limitlessness and individuality. A common theme linking these intimate self-portraits is the way each woman uniquely defies labeling, simply by defining for herself what it means to be American and Muslim and female.

This book serves as a source of inspiration and education for people of other faiths who are interested in learning more about what it is like to be Muslim in America, as well as Muslim women themselves. Some of the issues explored include the balance of Western values with Islamic ones; whether adopting the veil can be an obstacle in the professional arena; expressing oneself as a Muslim within society; and political engagement.
The essays featured in I Speak for Myself are not intended to be reactionary to the current climate of suspicion towards Islam in America, but they certainly address such suspicion in a very personal way. The contributors embody real everyday American women who struggle with their faith while balancing their careers and private life. Some are public about their faith and include their knowledge of it in their professional endeavors. Others keep faith and profession separate. Some are working to change their fellow Americans’ views of Islam, while others are still trying to find their own religious identities. Some stories are so deeply personal you feel you’re reading a private journal entry rather than an essay.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Parliamentary debate in Kuwait leads to a fistfight

Yasser al-Zayyat / AFP - Getty Images
In the parliament, Kuwait City on May 18, 2011, Shiite and Sunni MPs fight during a heated debate over inmates held in the U.S. at the Guantanamo detention center amid rising sectarian tension in the Gulf state.
Yasser al-Zayyat / AFP - Getty Images
Kuwaiti Shiite and Sunni MPs fight during a heated debate over inmates at Guantanamo detention center in the parliament, Kuwait City on May 18, 2011 amid rising sectarian tension in the Gulf state.
Yasser al-Zayyat / AFP - Getty Images
Kuwaiti security try to stop a fight between Shiite and Sunni MPs that erupted during a heated debate over inmates at Guantanamo detention center in the parliament, Kuwait City on May 18, 2011 amid rising sectarian tension in the Gulf state.
Agence France Presse reports:
The parliament was holding a debate over two Kuwaiti detainees in the US prison camp in Cuba when Shiite MP Hussein al-Kallaf provoked some Sunni fellow MPs by dismissing the prisoners as "Al-Qaeda" militants.
Chaos erupted when Jamaan al-Harish representing the Muslim Brotherhood replied to Kallaf saying that the session was not called to discuss Al-Qaeda but Guantanamo prisoners.
Two Shiite and four Sunni lawmakers were involved in the fight prompting MP Abdullah al-Rumi to adjourn the session.

Ignorance is not bliss in diabetes treatment and care

Today diabetes has overtaken HIV/AIDS, taking 3.2 million lives every year as compared to 3 million HIV related deaths. Together with other non-communicable diseases (NCD) it has replaced infectious diseases as the major cause of mortality in the world. India has the second highest incidence of diabetes in the world with over 47 million people in the country living with the disease, and the numbers are rising every day. Apart from affecting the metabolism of the body, diabetes also affects the eyes, heart and kidneys, and causes severe foot problems resulting in an estimated 50,000 lower limb amputations every year, which is likely to increase to 100,000 amputations in the near future. Thus diabetes impacts not only the quantity, but also the quality of life.
The statistics is scary indeed. But what is the way out? It is one thing to pontificate and another to take simple action at preventive and curative stages. The best option obviously is to try to avoid the disease by avoiding processed /high fat foods and a sedentary lifestyle. But still the disease may creep upon one stealthily with no obvious external symptoms, and one may have it before one knows it. So, coupled with leading a healthy life style, it is also important to go for routine medical checkups, including the blood sugar test, — which, sadly, is not happening even in the urban populace of India, forget about the rural areas where medical facilities and personnel are woefully lacking, despite numerous welfare schemes of the government.

All said and done, if at any stage the disease is diagnosed then, neither the treating physician nor the patient should remain complacent toward this silent killer. The two main components of diabetes are blood vessel damage and nerve damage (neuropathy). Blockage of the blood vessels results in lack of blood supply. The first symptom of neuropathy is numbness in the feet and sensation block. Loss of protective sensation of pain is a major cause of creating what is called the ‘diabetic foot’.

So apart from diet/sugar control, one needs to take extra care of the feet. Any person, who has been living with diabetes for 5 years or more, should go for foot examination once every six months. Very often even the doctors may miss out on the initial symptoms of a tiny abrasion/wound in the feet which, if left untreated, develops into an ulcer. These ulcers act as portals for the entry for bacteria leading to serious infections, which, in the immuno-compromised diabetic patient, can result in amputations or even death. Frequent and thorough foot examinations on part of the doctor, as well as the patient are a must.

According to Dr. Arun Bal, one of the legendary diabetic foot surgeons of India, associated with Raheja Hospital, Fortis Hospital and Hinduja Hospital, “Doctors are taught that every infection will have fever and every ulcer will have swelling. But this is absent in diabetic foot lesions, which are like 'silent' icebergs — we see only a small part of them. They are often missed because the usual signs of infection are absent, and patients don't complain of pain. So, unless people living with diabetes take very good care of their feet, it is likely that they will end up with ulcers in their feet which can trigger the disease to take a completely different progression path and even become unmanageable.”

He aptly quotes JA Lindsay — "For one mistake made for not knowing, ten mistakes are made for not looking" — and advises strongly that health care providers must properly examine patients’ feet at every visit.
Dr. Miranpuri, a reconstructive foot surgeon from Detroit, argues for collaborative and comprehensive care of people with diabetic foot with the goal to save the limb. He emphasizes that, “Both doctors and patients need to be aware of the risk factors in diabetes and be trained to handle them. There is a need for some ancillary support (in the form of medical educators) in the hospitals to interact with the patients, as very often the physicians do not have enough time and patience with the patient. This becomes all the more important in India where patients, very often, may be poor and uneducated and lack proper knowledge of the consequences of not following the doctors’ instructions. This is especially true of Indian women, who are programmed not to care for themselves, and hence tend to neglect themselves completely.”

Professor (Dr.) Rama Kant, a noted surgeon and president-elect of Association of Surgeons of India (ASI), also feels that awareness should reach the masses through doctors. He laments that, “Primitive and modern methods co exist in India. As far as control and management of diabetic wound infection is concerned, there is not much difference between 19th and 21st century rural India. Infection control and meticulous examination of foot as well as footwear is very important. There have to be preventive societal programs. People need to be aware to understand the earliest symptoms of ulceration and see a specialist. We need to innovate and try to save the patient’s heel, even if it looks ugly and bad.”

Dr. Rajesh Kesavan, diabetic foot specialist from Chennai, rues that time is ticking fast. With a view to improve the existing situation he suggests: “Diabetic foot problems and diabetic neuropathy should be made a compulsory part of medical curriculum; more medical professionals should be trained in quality wound care management; and research should be encouraged for developing cheaper and better wound care products and therapeutic footwear.”

So, cost effective methods, coupled with doctor’s ability to diagnose correctly and timely, is the need of the hour. At present patients are ignorant and indulge in negative socio cultural practices — like walking barefoot, wearing foot jewelry (especially toe rings), wearing Hawaii slippers, which, though popular in India, are very harmful. Sometimes even doctors and surgeons are not aware of diabetic foot problems themselves, and may not even do routine examination of the foot, in a proper way. It should be remembered that “many wounds look innocuous but may not be inert. So, all wounds need to be probed.”

There is also a need for patients and general public to know about the importance of correct footwear. Faulty footwear and/or walking bare foot, which is so very common in India, are an invitation to infected ulcers and eventually amputation. According to Dr. David Nielson of USA, a patient should be well aware of the consequences of noncompliance of doctors’ suggestions. This is especially true in patients who have to wear a diabetic shoe, which should not be taken off at any time of walking, even for a small distance. Very often patients do not realize the seriousness of this instruction and tend to under comply. This prolongs the treatment without yielding purposeful results.

Experts also stress upon counseling by trained personnel. Depression therapy is a must, so that the patient not only learns to manage diabetes but also feel happy with life in general.
Let us hope that everything will be fine one day. To think that everything is fine today is an illusion.

The author is the Editor of Citizen News Service (CNS) and also serves as the Director of CNS Diabetes Media Initiative (CNS-DMI). She is a J2J Fellow of National Press Foundation (NPF) USA. She has worked earlier with State Planning Institute, UP. Email:, website:

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Nizar Qabbani

Nizar Qabbani (21 March 1923 – 30 April 1998)

Through a lifetime of writing, Qabbani made women his main theme and inspiration. He earned a reputation for daring with the publication in 1954 of his first volume of verse, "Childhood of a Breast," whose erotic and romantic themes broke from the conservative traditions of Arab literature. The suicide of his sister, who was unwilling to marry a man she did not love, had a profound effect on Qabbani. Thereafter, he expressed resentment of male chauvinism and often wrote from a woman's viewpoint and advocated social freedoms for women.

He had lived in London since 1967 but the Syrian capital remained a powerful presence in his poems, most notably in "The Jasmine Scent of Damascus."

After the Arab defeat in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, he founded the Nizar Qabbani publishing house in London, and his became a powerful and eloquent voice of lament for Arab causes.

Qabbani was a committed Arab nationalist and in recent years his poetry and other writings, including essays and journalism, had become more political. His writing also often fused themes of romantic and political despair.

Qabbani's later poems included a strong strain of anti-authoritarianism. One couplet in particular -- "O Sultan, my master, if my clothes are ripped and torn it is because your dogs with claws are allowed to tear me" -- is sometimes quoted by Arabs as a kind of wry shorthand for their frustration with life under dictatorship.

His second wife, Balqis al-Rawi, an Iraqi teacher whom he had met at a poetry recital in Baghdad, was killed in a bomb attack by pro-Iranian guerrillas in Beirut, where she was working for the cultural section of the Iraqi Ministry.

Nizar Qabbani died in London of a heart attack at the age of 75 

Nizar Qabbani had written that poem called Footnotes to the Book of Setback after the 1967 war between the Israel and Egypt-Jordan-Syria forces.
The old word is dead.
The old books are dead.
Our speech with holes like worn-out shoes is dead.
Dead is the mind that led to defeat.
Our poetry has gone sour.
Women’s hair, nights, curtains and sofas
Have gone sour.
Everything has gone sour.
My grieved country,
In a flash
You changed me from a poet who wrote love poems
To a poet who writes with a knife.
What we feel is beyond words:
We should be ashamed of our poems.
Stirred by Oriental bombast,
By boastful swaggering that never killed a fly,
By the fiddle and the drum,
We went to war
And lost.
Our shouting is louder than our actions,
Our swords are taller than us,
This is our tragedy.
In short
We wear the cape of civilization
But our souls live in the stone age.
You don’t win a war
With a reed and a flute.
Our impatience
Cost us fifty thousand new tents.
Don’t curse heaven
If it abandons you,
Don’t curse circumstances.
God gives victory to whom He wishes.
God is not a blacksmith to beat swords.
It’s painful to listen to the news in the morning.
It’s painful to listen to the barking of dogs.
Our enemies did not cross the border
They crept through our weakness like ants.
Five thousand years
Growing beards
In our caves.
Our currency is unknown,
Our eyes are a haven for flies.
Smash the doors,
Wash your brains,
Wash your clothes.
Read a book,
Write a book,
Grow words, pomegranates and grapes,
Sail to the country of fog and snow.
Nobody knows you exist in caves.
People take you for a breed of mongrels.
We are thick-skinned people
With empty souls.
We spend our days practicing witchcraft,
Playing chess and sleeping.
And we the ‘Nation by which God blessed mankind’?
Our desert oil could have become
Daggers of flame and fire.
We’re a disgrace to our noble ancestors:
We let our oil flow through the toes of whores.
We run wildly through streets
Dragging people with ropes,
Smashing windows and locks.
We praise like frogs,
Swear like frogs,
Turn midgets into heroes,
And heroes into scum:
We never stop and think.
In mosques
We crouch idly,
Write poems,
And beg God for victory
Over our enemy.
If I knew I’d come to no harm,
And could see the Sultan,
I’d tell him:
Your wild dogs have torn my clothes
Your spies hound me
Their eyes hound me
Their noses hound me
Their feet hound me
They hound me like Fate
Interrogate my wife
And take down the names of my friends,
When I came close to your walls
And talked about my pains,
Your soldiers beat me with their boots,
Forced me to eat my shoes.
You lost two wars.
Half of our people are without tongues,
What’s the use of people without tongues?
Half of our people
Are trapped like ants and rats
Between walls´.
If I knew I’d come to no harm
I’d tell him:
‘You lost two wars
You lost touch with children’
If we hadn’t buried our unity
If we hadn’t ripped its young body with bayonets
If it had stayed in our eyes
The dogs wouldn’t have savaged our flesh.
We want an angry generation
To plough the sky
To blow up history
To blow up our thoughts.
We want a new generation
That does not forgive mistakes
That does not bend.
We want a generation of giants.
Arab children,
Corn ears of the future,
You will break out chains.
Kill the opium in our heads,
Kill the illusions.
Arab children,
Don’t read about our windowless generation,
We are a hopeless case.
We are as worthless as water-melon rind.
Don’t read about us,
Don’t ape us,
Don’t accept us,
Don’t accept our ideas,
We are a nation of crooks and jugglers.
Arab children,
Spring rain,
Corn ears of the future,
You are a generation
That will overcome defeat.

(Translation by Abdullah al-Udhari)