Borders Trek

My broken ankle has improved so much that a walk to the train station now takes me 20 minutes instead of 45 minutes.  I decided I was ready to take a train ride.

My destination was Borders, a book store in Hyde Park. The Borders chain is in bankruptcy, and the store on 53rd street is in the process of closing.

Mostly people were standing next to the shelves reading the manga, which was about the only thing left, and the occasional street person could be seen napping on the floor.

The few books left were mostly on shelves with correct labels, but I did spot this one: right-wing crazies Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck filed under Mythology/Folklore and Gay/Lesbian/Transgender.  Accident or joke? They would be so not amused.

Nothing for me here.  As a consolation prize, I took myself to Powell’s on 57th Street. Sort of like my living room, only bigger.

I came away with Sandra Mackey’s The Saudis: Inside the Desert Kingdom, which I am devouring.
Chapter One. The Coming of a Foreigner:

I am Michael Collins. I am Justin Coe. I am Sandra Mackey. Behind my male pseudonyms of Collins and Coe, I spent four years as an underground journalist in Saudi Arabia.

Hahaha. As it turns out, she first arrived in 1978, so the book is a bit more dated than the 2002 copyright date would let on, but that just makes it more interesting for me.

Chapter Two. The Magic Kingdom:

In Saudi Arabia, there is no early hour of daylight when the soft shades of pink creep over the landscape, gradually waking a sleeping world. Morning comes early and comes forcefully. Within minutes of rising, the sun falls on the landscape with full intensity, savagely pounding the flat roofs and baked earth.

Ah, the desert.

I may have to stop blogging for a few days in order to finish this.

The photograph on the front cover is by Jeremy Horner.  See more of his Arabia images here.

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Tunisia, Egypt,…NYT is next

Yes, I’m talking about Ben Zimmer’s On Language column in the New York Times–the column that was started by William Safire some 30 years ago, and continued by Language Log’s Ben Zimmer after Safire’s demise. And unlike Safire, Zimmer actually knows what he’s doing. So why is the NYT magazine’s new editor getting rid of it?

Language Log wrote about it here. The Economist wrote about it here. Enough writing, time for doing.

Go to Facebook’s “Keep ‘On Language’ in the New York Times” page and click “like”.

If you don’t have a Facebook account already, you probably have to create one in order to “like” this group. I did this years ago for some cause or another, and it was worth the aggravation. They did ask my age, and it’s none of their business. I usually tell people like that I’m sixteen, but if you tell internet entities you are a minor, they might want to restrict the content they show you, so I told them I was 80 or 90 something. For the rest of the questions, I tell them as little as possible. Who knows what they will do with the information. Facebook does not have a good track record with privacy issues.

You can also write to the editor, but let’s face it, if the guy dropped Zimmer, he’s obviously not the sharpest tack in the box. It would probably be better to get someone else’s attention. Here is his twitter thingy. Quite frankly, I wouldn’t mind if they retired Safire’s number–he had his own unique conservative political thing going anyhow–as long as we get Zimmer, but this editor guy doesn’t look like he knows what he’s doing.

Bonus link: A lot of people can express ideas well if they have time to write them out and polish them, but how many people can think on their feet?  Here’s Zimmer on video (and what a fresh-faced young pup he is) with John McWhorter discussing the State of the Union address. As they used to say in the Whole Earth Catalog, cream rises.

UPDATE: Yes, write to the paper. The Facebook page now lists these email addresses:

NYT Magazine letters to the editor <>

NYT Magazine editor Hugo Lindgren <>

NYT public editor Arthur Brisbane <>

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Zenga-zenga and other things Qaddafi

A Qaddafi potpourri:


Christiane Amanpour travels to Libya and interviews two of Qaddafi’s sons and Moammar Qaddafi.


The shoe-thrower’s index. Amusing view of unrest in the Arab world. The Economist.


Featured on the masthead of al-Jazeera’s online English page is an editorial titled, “Democracy is no panacea“, where we learn, ‘It [democracy]exacerbates cultural conflicts to the point of violence, because it provides a formal opportunity for the majority to force their will on the minority'”. Hahahaha. Could al-Jazeera’s Qatar overlords be getting nervous?

To what extent should a newspaper merely report events as opposed to trying to influence events? I remember when Al-Jazeera was kicked out of Jordan. They reported demonstrations at Jordan University in Amman, long a hotbed of seething Palestinian indignation. (Why was Jordan not using all its resources to wage war on Israel from within its borders? And when I applied for a job there, “we desperately need English teachers”, said one, but her boss said, ‘You’re American, that will never be accepted.”) Al-jazeera seemed to know exactly when and where the demonstrations were going to break out on campus, but they failed to report the buses with demonstrators arriving through the back gate.
During the recent uprising in Egypt, al-Jazeera was again kicked out. Were they again viewed as trying to create unrest rather than report it? And do they only do so only in countries that have treaties with Israel? (Israel has long accused them of slanted coverage favoring Hamas.)


Qaddafi’s Nescafe comment: if true, this would be a refreshing change from the koolaid meme. Qaddafi is supposed to have

claimed that young Libyans “fueled by milk and Nescafe spiked with hallucinogenic drugs,” were fighting not for their freedom but for Al Qaeda’s leaders, Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahri.

I can’t hear it myself, but this is supposed to be the video. It was reported by the NYT.


Zenga-zenga.  A video made from Qaddafi’s speech goes viral. From the NYT:

Noy Alooshe, 31, an Israeli journalist, musician and Internet buff, said he saw Colonel Qaddafi’s televised speech last Tuesday in which the Libyan leader vowed to hunt down protesters “inch by inch, house by house, home by home, alleyway by alleyway,” and immediately identified it as a “classic.”…

Mr. Alooshe spent a few hours at the computer, using pitch corrector technology to set the speech to the music of “Hey Baby,” a song by the American rapper Pitbull, featuring another artist, T-Pain. Mr. Alooshe titled it “Zenga-Zenga,” echoing Colonel Qaddafi’s repetition of the word zanqa, Arabic for alleyway….

Web surfers soon discovered that he was a Jewish Israeli from his Facebook profile — Mr. Alooshe plays in a band called Hovevey Zion, or the Lovers of Zion — and some of the accolades turned to curses. A few also found the video distasteful.

But the reactions have largely been positive, including a message Mr. Alooshe said he received from someone he assumed to be from the Libyan opposition saying that if and when the Qaddafi regime fell, “We will dance to ‘Zenga-Zenga’ in the square.”

Here’s the vocabulary from a YouTube comment:

shebr shebr = inch by inch

beit beit  = home by home

dar dar = house by house

zenga zenga = lane by lane

ila al-amam = to forward

thawra = revolution

maee el-malayeen = I have milions (ppl)

dakkat saat al amal = time for work

dakkat saat al zahaf = time for march

dakkat saat al intesaar = time for victory

la rojoo = no retreat


And here’s the Arabic, with some hahahaha’s thrown in at the end:

شبر شبر …..بيت بيت ….دار دار …زنقة زنقة …. فرد فرد

الى الامام الى الامام ..ثورة ثورة

معي الملايين و مش من الداخل .. معي الملاين من الامم الاخرى

انا اوجه نداء الى كل ملايين الصحراء

من الصحراء الى الصحراء حتزحف الملايين و ما حد يقدر يوقفها

دقت ساعة العمل .. دقت ساعة الزحف ..دقت ساعة الانتصار .. لا رجووووع

ههههههههههههههههههههههههههههه ه­هههههههههههههههههههههههههههه

One final matter of curiosity. Qaddafi keeps insisting he has no official position in Libya, he is a mere figurehead. This is also mentioned in the Khadafy biography I just finished reading. At various times Qaddafy has abdicated, but kept his membership in the ruling council, and at other times giving up his membership in the council as well, although it is agreed he always retained de facto power. So he can’t exactly step down, can he?

Posted in Arabs. 1 Comment »

Night walk

I used to be able to walk to the lake in 20 minutes. Tonight I did it in an hour. Yesterday for the first time, I got down the stairs without sliding on my butt, just using handrails and walker.  I’m almost beginning to believe I will walk again, and soon.

I started out about 40 minutes before the official sunset.  This street is closed to traffic on account of a sewer project.

The park officially closes at sunset, so I entered unofficially.

Last night a storm went through the area, and I fell asleep to the sound of driving rain. But today there is still snow at the lake.

And the lake itself still looks frozen.

As I return, the evening star appears above a small neighborhood church.

And so to bed.

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Cohen: profound differences and serious risks

Leonard Cohen interview from 1993. Transcript here.

On men and women:

And it’s always been confrontational. Not in an aggressive sense but in an acknowledging sense that there are some profound differences and it involves serious risks and that these risks are really best acknowledged. And I think that’s the tone of most of the stuff and if the love and passion can transgress that mutual acknowledgment then you do have something that takes off, either it’s a song or a poem or the moment. But without that, you’ve got the moon-in-June school of writing–though my stuff gets close to the moon-in-June school of writing, but I think it’s that acknowledgment of the risk that rescues it every time.

[via 1heckofaguy.]

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Wisconsin Police Join Protest

BREAKING: Wisconsin Police Have Joined Protest Inside State Capitol
“Hundreds of cops have just marched into the Wisconsin state capitol building to protest the anti-Union bill, to massive applause. They now join up to 600 people who are inside.”

“Police have just announced to the crowds inside the occupied State Capitol of Wisconsin: ‘We have been ordered by the legislature to kick you all out at 4:00 today. But we know what’s right from wrong. We will not be kicking anyone out, in fact, we will be sleeping here with you!’”

VIDEO TRANSCRIPT: ( a guy with a “cops for labor” t-shirt addresses the crowd with a bull horn)

(unintelligible)…some of you have been here from the beginning and we appreciate it.

Let me tell you why we are here. Every one of us here took an oath when we started this job to protect and serve the members of our community. And that is exactly when we intend to do . (Drums and cowbells.)

This is not a budget issue. This is a civil rights issue. [unintelligible]  (drums and cowbells)

Mr. Walker, if you are listening to me, let me tell you something.  We know pretty well now who you work for. (cheers and rim shots)

Let me tell you who we work for. We work for all of these people. (prolonged cheers)

We’re not here Mr. Walker to do your bidding, we’re here to do their bidding. (drums and cheers) [unintelligible]

Mr. Walker, this is not your house, this is all of our house. (prolonged cheers)

From inside the Wisconsin State Capitol, Ryan Harvey reported on his Facebook page:

And from what the news has been reporting, things were starting to die down here.

What I saw was quite different….

The entire 4 or 5 story building is nearly completely occupied by union members, students, and people from across Wisconsin. There were literally hundreds of people here last night, and one or two hundred this morning that, like me, slept on the cold floor or on mats they had brought in….

On the second floor, along with many sleeping areas, there’s a medic station, a free food area, a child care space, a computer/phone charging station, an info desk, and other resource area that are setup and staffed full-time. Coffee, tea, and snacks are always available, and every few hours someone walks in with a gigantic load of pizza.

Above them, a third floor hosts sleeping areas and several spots where cameras are posted up. Four large-screen televisions have been setup to show footage of the House meetings that ended last night in an uproar.

As the night grew, people sang songs to each other, networked, and talked politics. One girl sitting near me was doing her math homework, sleeping at the occupied Capitol and going to class in the morning.

In case anyone is wondering who the demonstrators think Governor Walker works for, the governor refused to meet with legislators, but the one person who has been able to get through to him on the phone was someone claiming to be David Koch, the billionaire who has funded the Tea Party movement. The phone call was actually a prank, the twenty minute conversation can be heard here.
(via John Emerson on Facebook )

And then of course there are the no bid contracts for the state’s power, cooling and heating plants hidden in the back pages of the union-busting legislation.

You’ll recall that David Koch of Koch Industries is the billionaire whose backing propelled Scott Walker to the Wisconsin governor’s mansion, and that Koch Industries is a conglomerate rooted in the energy sector. In Wisconsin, Koch has significant energy-sector holdings, including a coal company, oil refineries and some 4,000 miles of pipeline.  So, who would stand to benefit from a no-bid sell-off of the state’s power plants and other energy-producing assets?

(Disclaimer: I’m a current member of AFSCME)

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Where in the world is myiq2xu?

When I read today that Google had tweaked their search algorithms, right away I googled political blogger myiq2xu to see if they finally got him right.  They didn’t.

For the record, myiq2xu’s home blog is Klownhaus.  Currently myiq2xu is a front pager–and the main attraction–at The Crawdad Hole. Previously,  myiq2xu blogged with Riverdaughter et al at the Confluence, and before that, a few other places.

Myiq2xu, affectionately known as “myiq” or “the clown”, is an internet legend. He says he is a lawyer from California.  He is a political progressive and a veteran campaigner against internet trolls and bullies.  He is frequently irreverent, and his ironic brand of humor is frequently misunderstood.  He frequently makes me laugh.  He also has been known to wade fearlessly into blogs teeming with misandrists and make political common cause with those willing to keep an open mind. I don’t always agree with him politically, but I will defend him any time.

So it annoyed me, but did not surprise me, when googled him today and found that although his own website comes up first in a google search, the website of his political enemies comes up second.  Now how did they manage that?  Maybe this line from their website has something to do with it:

My attention was directed to myiq2xu (full name for the Googlebots)…

I know as much as I want to know about these bloggers at “Buttburger”–they impersonated me on another blog and they  filled up my blog’s comments with all manner of rudeness and profanity. But clearly they know something about search engine optimization and how to manipulate it.

So here are a few links of my own for the google bots–and the full name of myiq2xu, typed a few extra times for good measure.

And if you have a weird sense of humor and want quick smile, go over to the Crawdad Hole where myiq2xu likes to fish, and mouse over the icons of the featured writers.


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A walk

Ordinarily, taking a walk isn’t particularly momentous.  But I haven’t been able to walk since before Christmas.

I am now allowed to put 50% of my weight on my foot, which means that the last few nights I have been bumping down the stairs on my butt, going outdoors, and walking a block or so with the walker. Now snow threatens so I was determined to walk several blocks to the dollar store, where pecan ice cream is four bucks instead of nearly seven bucks like in the local ma-and-pa groceries.  A noble cause.  Did I mention that ice cream has lots of nutritious calcium to heal broken bones?  A very noble cause.

There’s also a small problem, perhaps not solvable, but I’ll save that for the end.

First the stairs.  Backwards and upside down. Yes, it is day-glo lime green and no, I was not the one who painted it.

Now, outside.

“Sidewalk closed, use other side.”  The other, unclosed side is even worse. But  finally my Mecca comes into view and the ice cream is mine.  Also chocolate.

The sky is gray, the street is ugly, with its interminable sewer project, and the sun sets abruptly without colors. But after three months of looking out the window, I am outdoors and I am moving.

And so, to home. The lime green walls are strangely invigorating. Once inside my own door, the protective Hand Of Fatima, or maybe the eye of Fatima within the hand of Fatima, stands guard above the window, facing the door.

But now here’s the small problem. This is the brace I will probably have to wear for the next six months or so.  It’s an Active Ankle T1 and it fits inside the shoe under the liner. But you can see the mark it leaves on the foot after less than two hours.  And it took more than an hour to go away.  I’ve been through the fitting instructions and the videos on the manufacturers website and don’t have any more ideas. They do say you have to break it in.

BTW, the surgical incision on that side of the foot is more than 2 inches long and it hardly shows in this light.  I’m quite pleased.  I’ve been putting vitamin A oil on it.

Here are the accouterments from the physical therapist. The big yellow rubber band is for strenghthening exercises.  I have several colors for progressive resistance.   The foam with the holes is to put over the ankle bone between the foot and the brace.  There is a peel-off adhesive.  At first it helped, but in the long run, it just makes a new indentation, square with a round hole. The last item, the pinkish one,  is moleskin, a product much used by hiking boy scouts.  It is very good to put on reddened skin to prevent blisters.  You can see there is an adhesive side and a fuzzy side.  The adhesive goes directly on the skin, the fuzzy side absorbs the friction from the shoe and keeps the skin from rubbing back and forth, which is what causes the blister.  This was probably the most helpful product, but it does itch if it is left on overnight, especially right over the incision where I need it.  I can see a decreasing practicality if I have to wear this brace for several months. Perhaps I will be able to break it in…

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Yearning and Wrath: the weirdness of Saudi protest

Saudi Arabia is a conservative country that does not brook dissent.  Nevertheless, it has not escaped the rash of whatever-it-is that is now sweeping the Middle East.  There was a small protest on Thursday in the town of Awwamiya, near the Shi’ite centre of Qatif, resulting in the release of three shias, one a blogger, from jail. In Riyadh about 40 women staged a protest over jailed dissidents.

And now there is to be either a “revolution of yearning” on Friday, March 11  or a “day of wrath” on Sunday, March 13, (I have yet to see the promised Facebook links. ) I don’t know whether to seethe or sorrow, laugh or cry.

Then there’s this very strange video of protests in Jeddah.  The original video has been taken down and this one with drama music has been put up.  The protesters seem to wander in and out of traffic, blocking cars and shouting Allahu al-akbar (God is great). I can’t understand what else they are saying.

Once again, Jadaliyya has a levelheaded, if slightly dated, piece on the subject.

UPDATE: here is the Facebook page of the  الشعب يريد إصلاح النظام  (“the people want reform of the system”)

And here is a March 20 group. With English.  And a fist. Saudi Revolution 20 March – الثورة السعودية يوم 20 آذار More here.

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Qaddafi, tents, and tribes

A few days ago, Canehan made the comment:

I think it is very significant that people in Benghazi flew the old flad of King Idriss, a Senussi. Someone will enlighten me but I think there is a tribal thing here, Senussi against the rest. I have just read a book about British operations behind German/Italian lines in Libya during WWII and much of it was in the Benghazi hinterland, where they had strong support from the local tribes.

Since then I have been digging through my bookshelves and have come up with a couple of morsels.  The first is from Albert Hourani’s A History of the Arab Peoples, mostly about guerrilla actions against the Italians prior to WWII. In 1918 Italy was established on Libya’s coast and by 1939 occupied the whole of Libya:

  • “…the appropriation of land by immigrants was important during the period 1918-39.”
  • “…Italian rule had been extended from the Libyan coast into the desert by 1934.”
  • “In Cyrenaica, the eastern part of Libya, there was an official colonization of lands expropriated for the purpose, and with funds supplied by the Italian government.”

And most interesting,

  • “During the Italian conquest of Libya, resistance in the eastern region, Cyrenaica, was led and directed by the head of the Sanusi order.”

The wikipedia piece on Senussi has much detail, and further links.

The second source I found was a book long out of print, a biography by Harry Gregory called simply Khadafy.  It’s not a flattering book.  The first two pages are about why he is called a “mad dog” (Ronald Reagan’s epithet).

On one thread today I saw Khadafy referred to as a “son of a despot”.  Actually he was not from a privileged family.  They were bedouin farmers of the Berber tribe of Ghadaffa and devout Sunni Moslems.  Moammar himself was born in a goatskin tent somewhere in the Libyan desert.

I remember when Qaddafi came to Amman for a summit meeting, c 2000.  He brought his tent, as is his habit, and the king let him have the grounds of one of the palaces for it, while the other Arab leaders stayed in hotels.

Qaddafi’s grandfather was killed fighting Italian invaders in 1911.  His father and brother were in jail for long stretches of time for guerrilla activities against the Italian army.  At that time the resistance activities were coordinated by King Idris, then Emir of Cyrenaica, a Senussi, but Ghadafi’s family fought independently of the Libyan resistance movement.

The Italian army had already been routed, and its soldiers had surrendered virtually en masse.  Great Britain and France filled the void.  King Idris was quick to accommodate them.  His Sanusi force, which had fought side by side with the British at Tobruk and throughout most of the other North African campaign offered no opposition.  Only in the desert regions inhabited by Berber tribesmen like the Khadafys was there a failure to make a distinction between the Italians and  the British and French.  In the desert, all Europeans were viewed the same – with suspicion and hatred.

But King Idris joined Libya to the Arab League in 1953, then in 1956 refused to let the British march troops through Libya on the Suez canal expedition.  Then in 1959 oil was discovered and Libya became rich, too rich to need American aid or rent from American and British bases. By the time the king was deposed by Qaddafy in 1969, the British and Americans had begun to think of him as someone who might give access of oil reserves to Russia, while the bedouins thought of him as a stooge of the west. There was an attempt at a counter-coup on the part of officers from Cyrenaica, the area loyal to King Idris, officers who were for “Libya for the Libyans” and did not buy into Qaddafi’s worship of the Egyptian Nassar, but the plot was foiled by American intelligence.

I’m not finished with the book yet, but a purging of bookstores and libraries was one of Qaddafi’s repressive tactics.  Among the books publicly burned: Sartre, Baudelaire, Ezra Pound, Graham Greene, Henry James, and D.H. Lawrence. Graham Greene? Oh no, not Graham Green. Maybe the guy’s a mad dog after all.

Oh, and the demonstrators in this video from Souq al Jummah in Tripoli on Feb 21, are supposed to be chanting “الروح بالدم نفديك يابنغازي , “With our souls, with our blood, we will sacrifice ourselves for you Benghazi!”

UPDATE 2/23/11: I have now finished Harry Gregory’s biography of Khadafy and gotten curious about the author.  People with two first names tend to make me suspicious. But there is absolutely nothing about him in the blogosphere, and in the book itself, only the notation “Chicago, May 1986” at the end of the last page.  And no footnotes, index, dedication, preface, or credits.  My own article (this one) appears on the first page of a google search, always a bad sign when I’m looking for information.  Oh, plenty of used copies for sale–it seems there was only one edition, printed by the Canadian company Paperjacks in 1986 and bought in droves by libraries, if the number of used library editions is any indicator.  But the author seems to have written just this one book, with the clarity, singleness of purpose, and understatement of one of those anonymous writers of a wikileaks cable, then decided to “fold their tents like the Arabs, and as silently steal away”.

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