These bloom at night, presumably to attract night-flying insects for pollination. The sun is barely below the horizon and they have already unfurled themselves.


Chicago’s Channel 9 botches weather

Channel 9 used to have the best weather graphics in all of Chicago.  It was in grad school that this was first pointed out to me, in a course that talked about imparting information visually, and I marveled at how quickly one could take in so much complex information with just a quick glance at Tom Skilling’s weather map.

So when I wanted a button on the front of my blog so that I could check the weather instantly, for example, to see if I should mow the lawn now in case it was supposed to rain tomorrow, it was WGN Channel 9 I linked to.  Their weather page opened on a five day forecast with little weather icons.  A quick scroll down got you the radar map. With another click you could animate the weather map to see any incoming storms. Here it is (on the right), in all its simplicity, from the Wayback Machine.

But all good things come to an end, and this link deteriorated. Now it displays nothing but the current temperature, something you can find out more quickly by opening a window, if you don’t have one already open.

Looking a little further, you can find Channel 9’s current weather page, but it isn’t any better. Across the top is a photo montage of their TV personalities, whoever they are, then the cutesy photographs for the day.  In the summer they show darling children playing at the beach, today they have the pretty, pretty trees turning color.  Very nice if you have ADD and need to be reminded of what seasons are, but not so good if you want to know the weather forecast quickly on your way out the door.

Fortunately there is an alternative.  An oddball site called Wunderground uses pretty much the same format as the old Channel 9 page,with a few obligatory commercials thrown in. When you open the page you get the five day forecast complete with cloud and sun icons, and radar map, all above the fold, then scrolling down there is almanac and airport information, then at the very end, information about sunrise and moon phase.
Goodbye blunderweather, hello Wunderweather.


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Calder’s Flamingo at the Federal Building at 230 S. Dearborn in Chicago. Photos were taken July 18, 2010.

The work stands in a small plaza that is frequently used for demonstrations and political gatherings. This area is in the south loop area, and has always given me the sort of look-over-your-shoulder feeling of the South Side.  But when it is filled with a crowd, it has an intimate connected feeling, with the patterns of the impersonal city rising in the background like the walls of a protective canyon.

After considering it from afar in the context of its urban space (and shaking a mental fist at the frequent cloud cover), I walk up to it  and try to interact with it in three dimensions.  Carrying a camera seems to make me look at it differently, as color, texture, geometry, light.

Gay bullying: the dead

Last week I heard of a number of young gay men who had committed suicide lately as a result of cyber-bullying, but the only name I could google up was that of 18-year-old Tyler Clementi. Now the other names have emerged.

Tyler Clementi
Seth Walsh
Justin Aaberg
Raymond Chase
Asher Brown
Billy Lucas

[Thanks, Jason Derrick of  Wear Purple Day on Oct 20 –but careful, site may be NSFW as it keeps filling up with hate comments]


More names of the dead from the Facebook page:

“Please add Victoria Carmen White to your thoughts/prayers. Victoria was a transgender woman that was murdered last week. Her gender was then disrespected by the police reports and her death was largely ignored by the media.”


“I think the worst part is that this didn’t just stem from school bullying… RIP
A week after attending a Norman City Council meeting where a heated debate played out in public, 19-year-old Zach Harrington took own life after week of ‘toxic’ comments…

Posted in Conspiracies. Comments Off on Gay bullying: the dead

Nizar Qabbani

I shall write of my girlfriends,
of inmates’ lives sucked dry by jail,
and magazine pages that consume women’s time,
and of the doors that fail to open.

So Rajaa Alsanea (Girls of Riyadh) quotes Nizar Qabbani, “the women’s poet, and if anyone doesn’t like my saying so they can go drink from the sea.”

[image: wikipedia]

The poet Nizar Qabbani, whose sister killed herself when he was 14 rather than marry a man she didn’t want, is perhaps best known for his love poems:

Love Compared

I do not resemble your other lovers, my lady
should another give you a cloud
I give you rain
Should he give you a lantern, I
will give you the moon
Should he give you a branch
I will give you the trees
And if another gives you a ship
I shall give you the journey.

I have tried to find this in Arabic, and it simply isn’t to be found, although it gets quoted in English on enough forums.

But there are some other poems in Arabic and English, a rather astonishing assortment,  including the severe البغي The Whore, and his controversial Bread, Hashish and Moonlight, here (via google books).

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Koran 13:11

Does Allah help those who help themselves? This Koranic ayah was cited in Rajaa Alsanea’s Girls of Riyadh. I have used it as the subject of a small Sura Koran, the framed calligraphy art favored by a people whose religion discourages graven images.  You find the framed verses in homes, always over the door leading outside. The Arabic text is: إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ لَا يُغَيِّرُ مَا بِقَوْمٍ حَتَّىٰ يُغَيِّرُوا۟ مَا بِأَنفُسِهِمْ


Verily, Allah does not change a people’s condition until they change what is in themselves.
(The Chapter of Thunder), Verse 11




Posted in Islam, Poetry. Comments Off on Koran 13:11

Banned in Riyadh

Last week I saw a copy of Rajaa Alsanea’s Girls of Riyadh at the local thrift shop and couldn’t resist. I read the first five chapters at one sitting, and was reminded again of one of the things I like least about the Arab culture–what one American described as the bubblegum aspect–a sort of lack of depth or focus on superficialities.  (By way of illustration, as I recall, the administrators of a program I knew of in Jordan were called Gucci and Channel behind their backs.) But Alsanea tells the stories engagingly and you are very quickly swept into her world, and believe you have met her characters somewhere before–perhaps on the Majoob forums.

Today I was googling something completely different and was gratified to find out the book had been banned in Riyadh. It was later unbanned, but no matter, so was Huckleberry Finn.  I love to read banned books.

In an interview Rajaa Alsanea talked about her book:

“There was always a gap between intellectuals and readers, whether it was due to the very sophisticated language used in the books or the fact that young people in Saudi preferred to read blogs. The more sophisticated you sound, the more intellectual you were. That was the attitude. Also novels written in Saudi were mostly written by older male authors.

“I was criticised for using Saudi dialect in the novel but I did that on purpose as I didn’t have that urge to be distant from my readers. I wanted to write a novel that I saw myself in as a young girl in Saudi Arabia. I was also criticised for the title that was very general, but I wanted something that describes many of the different types of women I see on a daily basis in my country.”

People often ask her which one of the four girls, five if you count the narrator, represents herself. They also want to know if she is still friends with the others.

“Actually, there were no girlfriends in real life. It’s all fiction. The stories do happen. These were more than four characters. The stories were gathered from 50 or 100 girls in Saudi. I did put parts of my personality in each one of them and I do relate with the stories that I wrote about. Most girls in Saudi relate to one or other of them. The book is not about a personal experience – it’s about a generation’s experiences.”

The book was originally published in Lebanon, in Arabic as Banat Al-Riyadh. According to the author’s note in the front of the book, “In my Arabic version of the novel I interspersed the classical Arabic with languages that reflects the mongrel Arabic of the modern world–there was Saudi dialect (several of them), and Lebanese-Arabic, English-Arabic and more.”
The interview is no longer available online and can only be accessed by google cache.  The interview in its entirety is below the fold.


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