With this I shall return to our regular schedule… Last Sunday we went for a little art tour all around town – we, that is Shayma, Hisham and me. Sunday’s are the typical day to do such a thing, not because they are part of the weekend – Sunday is a normal working day in Egypt – but because openings usually take place on Saundays. We started at a palace close by Ibn Tulun Mosque. The gallery there is showing Rembrandt copies, which however are supposed to look magnificent in the setting of the palace. However government galleries and museum close at four o’clock and therefore we had to do without. From there we passed Ibn Tulun Mosque, which was also closed already and continued to Dokki. In the second hall of the supposedly most relevant private collection of Egypt, which I could not see because it was closed at 5 o’clock, the Mohamed Mahmoud Khalil Museum is showing city sketches by Wesley Willis from Chicago and Ingo Giezendanner from Zürich. The exibition was very nice and it is interesting to see these two artists face to face. Finally we walked to down town to see the opening at the Townhouse, where currently a photo documentary on the situation in Gaza is shown. As usual, you can find more pictures and better quality on Wuala.
I just walked down the road on the way home and a guy comes up to me and asks me if I have an Anti-Virus CD-ROM. What was that about? Follow the white rabbit? Some weird code? Is that a local pick up line in the gay community or was I supposed to answer something equally abstruse to be able to join some strange club or political conspiracy? Or was he really just looking for an Anti-Virus software? He looked like someone who owns a computer. I imagine him writing an important paper, trying to finish it before the morning, and now at eleven o’clock his computer crashes because of a virus. Cairo is a good place for late night shopping, but software might very well be an exception. And so the poor man is roaming the streets talking to strangers like a beggar in despairing need for this piece of software. When I shook my head in surprise he merely smiled and marched on, determined in his quest, as it seemed.
This time I have more updates than anything else. But let’s see how it goes. TED, a quite amazing conference series, now has an online archive of their talks, free for all. There is many talks on art, architecture and technology. A very good talk by Lawrence Lessig covers the issue of how copyright law is not suitable for the Web 2.0 modernity. Besides copyright and Web 2.0 I have been continuously blabbering about Web 2.0 and science. Others do as well. The National Endowment for the Humanities (US) has even opened a special office for this, the Office of Digital Humanities. Technology has been very relevant for another of my favorites topics, the political situation in Egypt. Not only did Twitter take part in saving a man from custody, blogs are also relevant for organising a potential second strike. Was the last strike after all only the alpha version, or does Mubarak hang on, whatever might happen. No matter of the point of view, the problems are due to the inflation and the low salaries, even for educated jobs like doctors. Another relevant issue in Egypt of course is the gender question. Be it because women are fighting for the right to wear a veil or for the right not to be considered as sex symbols, it still is central. Getting back to inflation and salaries however, one main problem is the rising global food prices. This effects also the rest of Africa. The inflation in Zimbabwe however, which hit onehundredsixtyfivethousand per cent recently, is not due to global markets. The question is however, how bad is Mugabe really, compared to other dictators in Africa? The same could be asked about the Chinese. Are the evil, as our media tries to portray them, or is this a simplification. Sometimes news in media can not be just considered in the dichotomy of true and wrong, especially on April the First. But instead of analysing text in such a way, one could simply try to visualise it in a graphic. Or of course one might try to make a concrete wall display it. Or you could leave your message on your computer. Someone who really needs no words to communicate is Gregory Colbert, whose pictures are surreal and sometimes even ethereal. Surreal is also the sand David Horvitz offers to send you in an envelop, given you sponsor him with an equally surreal 1642 US$.
Below my attempt to visualise the state of the Egyptian state.
Most sausages you can get in Cairo taste boring. They usually do not really taste like sausages at all. My theory used to be, that you can not make good sausages with halal meat. However on rare occasions even halal sausages taste reasonable. Nevertheless I still wonder what they want to say with that label.
When discussing the issue of availability of books and journals in humanities I argues, that this is a slightly overlooked problem, as it does not occur in well funded Western universities. I continued my argument: “However for a researcher in poorer countries, this usually means that he has no access to most of the relevant publications” which I pointed out, is a major problem in “area studies, non-european history and anthropology.” However I believe now that this focus is not the central aspect of the problem. I would still argue that low availability of books and journals in the universities of the developing world is a central issue, but there is something even more central.
Recently we had the pleasure of hosting Adrianne Koteen at our flat. She conducted a photography workshop at the Townhouse at the time. Having a good photographer around of course has the side effect of getting some good photgraphs. I will just add two of her shots (and try to convince her to upload some more on Wuala). On the first one you can see the local fruit guy and me (don’t worry, the beard is gone by now). The Second shows our “bawwab”, which could be insufficiently translated with doorman.
“The trouble with censors is that they worry if a girl has cleavage. They ought to worry if she hasn’t any.”
Censorship is an interesting phenomenon. Especially in modern times, when most countries are not able to censor anything but the official market for physical media. Recently the Egyptian government decided to censor the SPIEGEL SPECIAL edition on Islam. The decision was taken, because, as the government points out. the magazine is insulting to the prophet Muhammad. While censorship in case of the SPIEGEL magazine has become a lot more subtle in recent years, this is a stark reminder that it is still in place. Articles in the normal magazine covering Egypt or Islam are not anymore removed from the magazine, as they used to be five years ago and even naked women, when not printed too large, seem to be acceptable these days in a foreign language magazine.
There has been comprehensive “discussions” on the relay of the Olympic torch in the recent days. Some people argue that it is a mere show of Chinese propaganda. I encountered the connection between fire and Chinese propaganda in a completely different field recently. When buying cigarettes at my local kiosk I also got a lighter. Most lighters available in Egypt are made in China. Nevertheless I was rather surprised about the motive chosen for the decoration of the lighter. A similar version, which I lost however, shows a soldier in the same pose, as the lighter depicted below.