Monday, 31 January 2011

Enough already

Photo © Issandr El Amrani, blogging at The Arabist, via Twitpic/The Lede.

Mubarak sticks, but money walks. Also here and here.

Friday at the White House there were “groans, shaking of heads,” as Mubarak failed to pack his bags, and today the White House prepares for life after Mubarak.

Live blogging today: EA WorldView, BBC News, The New York Times, The Guardian.

LabourStart Egypt page, via ModernityBlog.

Background from Abu Muqawama guest blogger Londonstani: Mubarak and me.

Marko Attila Hoare writes:
Rather than being paralysed by fear, we should anticipate what the democratic transformation in Egypt could mean. It could mean that a regime that has been generating Islamist terrorism will be replaced by one that will act as a catalyst for democratic transformation throughout the Arab world and the Middle East. It could mean a decisive shift in the balance between democracy and dictatorship within the Muslim world globally. Of course, this is not pre-ordained, and things could go very badly wrong in Egypt. But let us in the West keep our eyes on the prize, and do everything we can to assist our Egyptian sisters and brothers in their struggle against tyranny. Obama and Cameron should begin by telling Mubarak that it’s time to go.

Talk from some quarters of “orderly change” begins to sound like Thatcher in 1989:
Margaret Thatcher had arrived in the Kremlin on a mission: to halt reunification. She trusted Mr Gorbachev. She trusted him to keep her secrets. She asked him to stop the tape recorders and the notetakers. Then she began. “The reunification of Germany is not in the interests of Britain and Western Europe,” she said. Forget what you have heard or read in Nato communiqués. “We don’t want a united Germany.” It would lead to a change in Europe’s postwar borders. “We cannot allow that, because such development would undermine the stability of the whole international situation and could endanger our security.”
As that time showed, if polical leaders want to steer the course of this change, they need to get ahead of it, not drag behind.

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Ben Ali needs a roomie

Watching the protests, watching the army. Fighter jets low over Cairo.

Live blogging today: EA WorldView, BBC News, The New York Times, The Guardian.

Al Jazeera English: Live Stream.

On Twitter, @AymanM, @beleidy, @Sandmonkey, @hackneylad, @Gsquare86, @SultanAlQassemi, @Tharwacolamus, @shadihamid, @bencnn, @3arabawy, @monaeltahawy, @abuaardvark, and more.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Good morning Egypt

Live blogging todays events: EA WorldView, BBC News, The New York Times, The Guardian.

Al Jazeera English: Live Stream.

Earlier Twitter recommendations here.

More links from Abu M, Egypt: People Who Might Actually Know What The %$#@ They're Talking About.

Marc Lynch writes, Obama’s handling Egypt pretty well.

Added, some Egypt posts from UK blogs on the anti-totalitarian* left:

Shiraz Socialist, Quilliam Foundation on secularism vs Islamism in Egypt.

Obliged to Offend, A short exchange on the Muslim Brotherhood, mentioning the AWL.

Harry’s Place, Democratic leftists lead uprising in Egypt, and What’s missing from the Egyptian streets.

* “Anti-totalitarian left?” says someone at the back, “you mean there’s another kind?” Oh yes, Jams has an example or two for you.

I agree with Fidel Castro . . .

. . . about the robot threat:
Castro is really worried about robots. He follows stories about US military innovation closely and is particularly exercised by the evolution of pilotless warplanes. "In 20 years," he writes of the US air force, "every single one of their warplanes will be robot-operated." And it won't stop there. "If robots in the hands of transnationals can replace imperial soldiers in the wars of conquest," Castro warns, the transnationals will "flood the world with robots that would displace millions of workers from their workplaces".
Via Global Dashboard.

Though I hate the robots in the supermarket already, I think it’s worse than Castro describes. I see toy spy drones controlled by phones advertised on billboards. Drones are being used for crop spraying. This period of time where robot weapons are used exclusively by state militaries may be very short, and existing defences may prove highly permeable to robot terrorism.

Robot radio from last year: from PRI’s The World, Jeb Sharp interviews PW Singer about Drones - The New Normal, and Mr Singer also turns up in the BBC Radio 4 documentary Robo Wars (MP3), while on WNYC’s Radiolab, Robert Krulwich asks Steven Johnson and Kevin Kelly What Does Technology Want?.

And for a humble insight into how we bio-robots work, listen to Richard Dawkins on BBC Radio 4’s The Age of the Genome.

Friday, 28 January 2011

#Jan25 plus three

Live blogging links for events in Egypt: The Lede at the NY Times, EA WorldView, The Guardian News Blog.

See earlier post for Twitter recommendations.

Added: Photo by astronaut Douglas H Wheelock, taken last October:
A night view of the Nile River winding up through the Egyptian desert toward the Mediterranean Sea, and Cairo in the river delta. Such a stark contrast between the dark desolate lifeless desert of northern Africa and the Nile River teeming with life along its shores. In the distance... the eastern Mediterranean on a beautiful autumn evening.

Image copyright © Douglas H Wheelock, NASA.

Lebanon update

With all that’s happening in Egypt, we mustn’t take our eyes off Lebanon. Sietske in Beirut has an update on the crisis in this dangerous hotspot.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Favourites of the Moon

The beginning of Les favoris de la lune, by Otar Iosseliani, 1984.

UPDATE: Oh dear, it’s gone. Here’s another clip.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

#Jan25 plus one

On #Jan25 plus one in #Egypt I’ve been following @bencnn, @hebalsherif, @Gsquare86, @LaurenBohn, @monaeltahawy, @Dima_Khatib, @norashalaby, @Tharwacolamus, @hackneylad, @themoornextdoor, @RamyRaoof, @weddady, and more.

The New York Times news blog The Lede, and The Guardian News Blog* have been updating through the day.

Mona Eltahawy in The Washington Post, Will Egypt’s protests go the way of Tunisia’s revolution?
The big question now is how loyal the armed forces are to Mubarak and what role, if any, they will play should the protests escalate.
Beyond the moment, Issandr El Amrani at The Arabist looks at the democracy promotion debate in the US.

Meanwhile the story of Tunisia is far from resolved. At FP, Steven A Cook on the calculations of Tunisia’s military. And from earlier in the week in The NY Times, the Pirate Party’s minister in the interim government, blogger Slim Amamou, shows himself to be a pragmatic incrementalist sort of idealist.

More links by way of Bob from Brockley.

*Added: Modernity’s cartoonist health warning re. coverage of another story on the News Blog at The Guardian.

Nightingale 2

I wasn’t happy with my previous attempt at rendering this bird, so here’s another try. This version reminds me of my grandmother’s kitchen curtains in Galway, which makes it a success!

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Poetry cornered

There are mere days to go ’til the close of the great Philosophy Poetry Challenge over at The Poor Mouth, the challenge being to explain to blogger Jams O’Donnell those philosophical concepts that elude his understanding, and to do so in verse so they might be more amenable to his artistic mind. But not for nothing, mind, there are worthy prizes!

My favourite entry so far is by H. insciens:
Mind is just matter
having a natter

Proceeding to the wireless, and a BBC World Service programme from November last that Jams might enjoy, The Great Palace of Verse, on the Shahnameh, the epic Persian poem written by Ferdowski in the eleventh century AD. Beyond its literary importance, it has also been a central subject for painting, as seen over here where the pictures improve with clicking.

The photo above is of a copy of the Shahnameh from Iran, Shiraz, dated 973 H / 1565-1566, from The David Collection, reproduced in For the Privileged Few, Islamic Miniature Painting from The David Collection, by Kjeld von Folsach.

Having had the very short and the very long, now a choice in-between-sized from Flesh is Grass, Mending Wall by Robert Frost, with a little on how the poem has been selectively quoted to make political points one way and the other. A little of that contest can be found in the comments to a recent post at Z-Word, Bob From Brockley Goes One State. That post is just part of a continuing conversation on borders and nations and more, beginning with Bob’s post here, and still going on elsewhere.

Finally some verse voiced to music, A Worm is at Work, sung by Dagmar Krause, tune by Anthony Moore, words by Peter Blegvad, More about them from Mick Hartley. Here’s a snip and a clip:
Like tempter’s hoof
my mind is cleft,
divided I fall,
nothing’s left -

The video was cut together by Suburbanbatherson, seen earlier on this blog with Tico Tico.

UPDATE: Suburbanbatherson gone from YouTube. More.

Monday, 24 January 2011


Shirin Neshat’s Turbulent, featuring Shoja Azari and Sussan Deyhim, via Naj.

More: Sussan Deyhim with the Poznan Philharmonic, Poland, on the 50th anniversary of Solidarity, part one and part two.

Terry Glavin on the long arm of the regime, and earlier, on union struggles in Iran.

Jams on jailed Iranian film director Jafar Panahi. More at the New York Times blog The Carpetbagger: Sundance gets a taste of Iranian politics.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Fireweed 2

Last September I wrote about an exhibition with the title Fireweed, a joint show by artists Liz Davis, Clare Gerrard, and Susanna Jacobs, at the Exhibit gallery, Golden Lane Estate, London. Last week I had the pleasure of reading an excellent children’s novel of the same title, Fireweed by Jill Paton Walsh, from 1969.

It’s an extremely good book, a vivid depiction of London in the Blitz, and an emotionally strong, well told story of two young runaways from different social backgrounds who meet in the shelters and try to find a way to survive together.

The book closes with a description of fireweed growing on the Barbican bomb site, as seen in the frame grabs in my earlier post. Some of the film footage that those images were taken from was included in a 1960 British Pathé film, My Lord Mayor (from 07:30 on), along with shots of the construction of Golden Lane Estate, new office development on London Wall, and an early model of the Barbican Estate. More fireweed can be seen growing in reel two of the film, not on a bomb site but at Burnham Beeches.

The jacket illustration above is by Gareth Floyd, from what I think is the first edition of Fireweed, published by Macmillan. A larger scan with flaps here.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Animals without borders

Following on from the previous post, more Erich Kästner, with a book I haven’t read and a film I haven’t seen. The book is Die Konferenz der Tiere from 1949, beautifully illustrated by Walter Trier. I have a lovely hardback edition, but I can’t read more than a handful of words in German, so I’ll have to wait ’til I find a copy of the English translation, The Animals’ Conference, out of print since the mid ’fifties I think.

Some friends of ours were unfortunate enough to stray into a cinema during the holidays, and suffered through Animals United, a grotesque-looking film based on Kästner’s book. Having seen the trailer, I have no desire to repeat their error. It’s not the first animated adaptation, as discussed last year at Cartoon Brew.

Below a page from the story, with animals agitating for no borders.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

A stain on the wall

Photo by Ayman Mohyeldin: “in govt office on the wall was a stain from picture that was recently removed Guess whose #tunisia”.

From Erich Kästner’s wartime diary, Notabene ’45, an excerpt (translated by Mr Verstappen) describing a town in Austria immediately after the Nazis’ defeat:
Everywhere the swastika was torn from the Hitler flag. Everywhere white bed sheets were cut up. Everywhere the farmers’ wives stitched the red and white bars trimly together on their sewing machines.

[...] Darker patches on the walls told us how easily wallpaper fades and how large Hitler’s portrait had been. In some living rooms the father of the family stood in front of the mirror, made strange faces and shaved, without any feelings of piety, his tertiary sex characteristic, the Hitler moustache, from his upper lip. [...] Now that the light shines out again, there is also light shining in.

Photo copyright © Ayman Mohyeldin 2011.

Friday, 14 January 2011


Image: Republic of Tunisia presidential jet TS-100 in flight at approx. 17.48 GMT today, as seen on

Added: wider screengrab here.

Tunisia and more #ff @slim404 @nawaat @monaeltahawy @jilliancyork @weddady @themoornextdoor @arabist @EthanZ @Tharwacolamus @Brian_Whit @abuaardvark @shadihamid @SultanAlQassemi #sidibouzid

The Dublin Philosopher

A painting by Aidan McDermott from 1991, from a postcard bought years ago at The Pen Corner.

Copyright © Aidan McDermott.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

The day the Tunisian Firewall came down

Update - Slim Amamou is free - @slim404: je suis Libre

At OpenNet Initiative, Tunisia Shuts Off Internet Filter, by Jillian C York:
Following a speech in which Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali stated that all censorship of the internet and traditional media will be halted, Tunisia appears to have shut off its Internet filtering system.

At around 9:45pm local time, Tunisian news site Nawaat
reported on Twitter that their site, along with video-sharing sites YouTube and DailyMotion, had been unblocked:

“Nous confirmons, la censure illégale de Nawaat est levée POUR CE SOIR. Youtube et dailymotion également.”

The Australian, Tunisia celebrates as President backs down, by James Bone:
Crowds have poured on to the streets of the Tunisian capital after the country's autocratic president announced a dramatic climbdown on the eve of a general strike that threatened to plunge the Mediterranean tourist haven into its worst violence yet.

President Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali, 74, who took power in a bloodless coup in 1987, appeared on television to promise he would not seek a sixth term in office in 2014.

He ordered cuts in the price of bread, milk and sugar in an attempt to quell the month-long "Jasmine Revolt," named after the national flower, that has claimed dozens of lives.

Hours after an American journalist was wounded and a protester killed by police amid escalating protests, Mr Ben Ali said he would also instruct security forces to stop using firearms against demonstrators.

Despite a curfew, jubilant crowds thronged the main Avenue Habib Bourguiba, with cars honking their horns in delight.

France 24, Ben Ali rules out ‘presidency for life’ as chaos spreads:
“No one believes in this government any longer. From the elite of Tunis to the lowly worker who earns 80 euros a month,” said Vincent Geisser, a researcher at the Paris-based Institute for Arab and Muslim Studies.

“Given the politicization and radicalization of the movement, the fact that it is spreading to other cities, and the participation of multiple sectors of society – the country’s only trade union, political parties, white collar professionals including lawyers – it was obvious the president’s statements would not convince Tunisians,” Geisser told

At Global Voices, Hisham rounds up immediate online reactions to the speech. Continued shooting by police reported.

At NPR’s news blog, The Two-Way, Andy Carvin is putting together a chronology of online documents, blog posts, tweets and videos, telling the story of Tunisia’s weeks of protest so far.

Opinion at Democracy Arsenal, When Pro-Western Regimes Fall: What Should the U.S. Do? by Shadi Hamid, and at Foreign Policy, Where are the democracy promoters on Tunisia? by Marc Lynch.

Resignation letter posted on Tunisian foreign minister’s blog

In Arabic, French, and English. Its authenticity has not been verified. The posts were linked to from Kamel Morjane’s Twitter account.

UPDATE: A tweet from Tunivisions magazine says the Foreign Ministry is denying the resignation.

UPDATE 2: A follow up post on the blog confirms it has been hacked and links to opposition activist site Takriz Extranet.


Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Just two from today

Ethan Zuckerman: What if Tunisia had a revolution, but nobody watched?
Tunisia is a deeply authoritarian state, but it’s one that’s masterful at public relations. Despite being an aggressive censor of the internet, Tunisia was chosen to host the World Summit on the Information Society in 2005, apparently convincing the rest of the world that they’d use the opportunity to loosen the restrictions on online and offline speech that keep Tunisian opposition groups in check.

Global Voices attended the summit with the support of Dutch foundation Hivos, and we ran a workshop titled “Expression Under Repression” – the Tunisian government removed our workshop from the program, chained the doors of the room where we were to meet and relented only when the Dutch government threatened a diplomatic incident if we weren’t allowed to speak. When we convened, Tunisian security police flooded into the room and began photographing and videotaping the attendees, a technique designed to intimidate anyone brave enough to attend our session. (They also ate all our cookies.) When I led a workshop on internet security, a senior member of the intelligence services introduced himself to me and sat in the front row, taking copious notes, while his associates confiscated the open source software we were attempting to distribute to attendees. Some of the people who met with our team were later detained by authorities. It was a memorable introduction to a country that maintains a network of secret prisons, controls the press and the NGO community and systematically suppresses dissent, all while managing to maintain an image as a comfortable tourist destination and a (sometimes) cooperative partner in US anti-terror efforts.

Jillian C York: Letters from Tunisia
Along with Twitter and Facebook, I’ve received numerous missives from friends on the ground in Tunisia. In the past 48 hours, those notes and letters have become increasingly desperate [...]

And tonight, on the phone with a Tunisian friend in California, whose phone calls to contacts in Tunisia have been filled with gunshots in the background, and who is solidly pleading for the US government to step in and, at the very least, denounce the shootings.

I’ve been in my room too long . . .

A film would be nice, so what’s playing at The Rialto?

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Mediterranean anti-totalitarian news


AFP: At least 35 killed in Tunisia riots: rights group.
PARIS (AFP) – At least 35 people have been killed in the riots that erupted over the weekend in Tunisia, the president of the International Federation for Human Rights said on Tuesday.
“We have a list of the names of the 35,” Souhayr Belhassen told AFP. “The total figure is higher. It’s somewhere around 50, but that's an estimate.”

Brian Whitaker writes Tunisia: the brink of revolution.

At FP, Marc Lynch writes Arab regimes on edge.

FT: Riots resonate for youth across Arab world.

Issandr El Amrani of The Arabist writing in Al-Masry Al-Youm: Tunisia: A warning sign for Arab regimes.

The Economist: Hotting up.

France 24: Trouble in paradise: Tunisia’s ‘economic miracle’ unmasked.

On TVO’s Search Engine podcast, Jesse Brown talks to Robert Guerra of the Internet Freedom Project about Tunisia’s Totalitarian Tech.

See EA WorldView for more coverage.


At FP, Hugh Roberts writes on Algeria’s national ‘protesta’. Further comment on the article from blogger Kal at The Moor Next Door.

At The Arabist, Issandr El Amrani writes about US government policy on democracy promotion in Egypt.
By the time Barack Obama took office in 2009, democratic reform in Egypt had already been relegated to secondary importance. As such, the oft-heard claim that the Obama administration made a radical break with democracy promotion in its Egypt policy is patently untrue. Nonetheless, Obama’s priorities in Egypt have disappointed democracy activists.

In the LRB, old guard PLO gal Karma Nabulsi pooh-poohs the Gaza Youth Manifesto. Also read Peter Ryley’s short comment on this.

Reporters Without Borders: Former editor of Kurdish daily Azadiya Welat sentenced to 138 years in prison, via Terry Glavin’s anti-totalitarian round-up.

From November, the BBC Word Service history programme Witness remembers the part played by radio in the 1973 Greek student protest.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Frontline Tunisia

Reuters/New York Times: Deadly Clashes With Police in Tunisia.

EA WorldView: Tunisia Latest: At Least 9 Dead in Saturday Clashes.

AP/Al-Masry Al-Youm: Union officials say 11 dead in Tunisia rioting.

BBC News: Fourteen killed in Tunisia unemployment protests.

Amira Al Hussaini reporting tweets and videos at Global Voices, Tunisia: “Please tell the world Kasserine is dying!”

Mona Eltahawy writes, Tunisia: The uprising has a hashtag.

Jillian York compares the Obama administration’s response to Tunisia and its 2009 response to protests in Iran, and writes about her friend Slim Amamou, Tunisian blogger and activist, arrested this week.

More on the arrest of Slim Amamou at

Reporters Without Borders: Wave of arrests of bloggers and activists.

A Tunisian Girl: Free Slim and Aziz.

Tunisia protests timeline from Al Jazeera.

Related, from last July, a post by Nasser Weddady: Digiactivism Alive in Mideast.

Some Twitter links: #sidibouzid, @weddady, @monaeltahawy.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Journey to the Center of a Triangle

From 1976, a short piece of animated geometry by Bruce and Katharine Cornwell, available to download at, and there are more details about the film makers at Academic Film Archive of North America.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Siskin in CMYK

An earlier sketch here.