1. Facebook Egypt: The New York Times Sunday Magazine yesterday had a very interesting article about Facebook politics in Egypt, focusing on the April 6 Youth Movement in support of striking Egyptian textile workers. (Among other things, this line from Egypt's beloved Nubian singer, Mohammed Mounir: “I didn’t need to repent; loving Egypt is not a sin.”) And it tells us that the US government is deeply interested:
James Glassman, the outgoing under secretary of state for public diplomacy, told me he followed the group closely. “It’s not easy in Egypt, and in other countries in the Middle East, to form robust civil-society organizations,” he said. “And in a way that’s what these groups are doing, although they’re certainly unconventional.”
Other State Department officials told me they believe that social-networking software like Facebook’s has the potential to become a powerful pro-democracy tool. They pointed to recent developments in Saudi Arabia, where in November a Facebook group helped organize a national hunger strike against the kingdom’s imprisonment of political opponents, and in Colombia, where activists last February used Facebook to organize one of the largest protests ever held in that country, a nationwide series of demonstrations against the FARC insurgency. Not long ago, the State Department created its own group on Facebook called “Alliance of Youth Movements,” a coalition of groups from a dozen countries who use Facebook for political organizing. Last month, they brought an international collection of young online political activists, including one from the April 6 group, as well as Facebook executives and representatives from Google and MTV, to New York for a three-day conference.
2. Taqwacores: A post on this is long overdue. The LA Times on a teenage Muslim punk/taqwacore in Sugarland, Texas. "Muhammad was a punk rocker, he tore everything down. Muhammad was a punk rocker and he rocked that town."
PS: The Kominas, oldschool taqwacores, will be playing at South by Southwest this March. More on this later.
3. Palestine Art: I just learned about this book, Palestine, rien ne nous manque ici (Palestine, We Lack Nothing Here), ed. Adila Laidi-Hanieh. It is described as follows: "Ce livre est le premier à penser une Palestine contemporaine de manière introspective, multidisciplinaire et critique, telle que vécue et perçue par des artistes et intellectuels Palestiniens et non Palestiniens internationalement confirmés et émergents, a travers des textes en majorité inédits - dont trois nouveaux textes de Mahmoud Darwich."
The editor, who has taught at Birzeit University and is now working on a Ph.D. in Cultural Studies at George Mason University, will speak on "The Palestinian Paradox: Post Modern Globalized Cultural Practices under Colonialism," on February 6, at
7:00 PM, at Cabinet Magazine’s Open Event & Exhibition Space, 300 Nevins St, Brooklyn, NY. Sponsored by Arteast.
4. Cincinnati: The Arts section of yesterday's NYT reminds us that Cincinnati was a major, but forgotten player in the development of rock and soul and R&B in the US. And that the scene, developed by King Records beginning in the 1940s, was as cross-racial as that in the much better known hothouse of Memphis. I was cheered to learn that it was Bootsy Collins who has played a major role in preserving, and reviving, the memory of King Records, run by the irrascible genius Syd Nathan. Didn't know that Wynonie Harris' "Bloodshot Eyes" was originally a country song, or that The Stanley Brothers recorded Hank Ballard's "Finger Poppin' Time."
5. Forget Gaza?: Robert Fisk reminds us why we had a right to expect Obama to talk about Gaza, Israel and Palestine at his inauguration address:
Did Obama's young speech-writer not realise that talking about black rights – why a black man's father might not have been served in a restaurant 60 years ago – would concentrate Arab minds on the fate of a people who gained the vote only three years ago but were then punished because they voted for the wrong people? It wasn't a question of the elephant in the china shop. It was the sheer amount of corpses heaped up on the floor of the china shop.