Just Wanna Know

Revolutionary Propaganda Organ

Thursday, October 11, 2012

A Conversation in Arabic about “America” with Ahmed, an Egyptian Expert in “American-ism”

(who does not read or speak English and has never had an American friend nor ever visited America, but who keeps up daily with the latest news in Arabic about American organized crime)

(cf. My other piece “A Conversation with an American Expert on Islam Islam-ism”)


John: So, I was watching this documentary on Pittsburgh the other day...

Ahmed: Pittsburgh! MS13 is moving in on the Latin Kings' turf on the west side. In fact, there was a hit last night near the Warhol Museum.

John: Yeah, Warhol—what you think about him?

Ahmed: Miloslav Warhol the Russian? The Butcher of Fresno in the early 1990s? What are you talking about?

John: No, Andy Warhol...

Ahmed: Little Ukraine in Chicago, 1930s?

John: 20th century American visual artist, from Pittsburgh.

Ahmed: Right, got it! Makes sense why they would name a museum for him. Let's see... Studio 54, drugs, partying in New York. Probable connection to the Gambinos.

John: But what about Warhol? What do you think of his legacy?

Ahmed: Well, his second cousin's grandson just got picked up in Cleveland with 2 kilos of coke. Some “legacy...”

John: But do you like Pop art? Marilyn Monroe? Campbell Soup cans?

Ahmed: Who is Marilyn? What is Campbell Soup? What are you talking about?

John: You're an expert in American culture?

Ahmed: No, that's American-ist culture.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Frankish Cannibalism and Victory!

This blog is the No. 2 destination for the search term "frankish cannibalism." This sort of thing is significant generally, since instead of canceling this blog I leave my almost six years of posts up for the main reason that I appear to continue to be a resource for answers to certain obscure questions, mainly about Arab pop music but also about other things.

But I am celebrating today because the entry for Crusader Cannibalism, my fifth post from back in October 2005, is one of three that I re-edited later (I believe in 2006 or 2007) to reflect a bet from over a decade before.

As members of a group of around 25 fellow undergraduates in Olomouc, Czech Republic, on a semester abroad in 1995, we were learning a lot about obscure historical events. We learned about the Sorbs, a tiny Slavic-speaking minority in Germany with ancient roots. We learned about the large numbers of Vietnamese in Eastern Europe. And we learned about the Sudetenland, areas of German-speaking Czechoslovakia that were voluntarily absorbed by the Nazi state and then Czechified after the war.

We wondered what sorts of other alternative histories could have resulted in disappeared and forgotten communities. We came up with the Sudetenland Chinese. We made a pact to further the goal of creating a (pseudo) history of an imaginary immigration and its subsequent disappearance. It appears that I am the only one who carried out the dare; a search for "sudetenland chinese" yields 10 results, of which I am responsible for 4.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Cairo Documentary Festival 2011

The American University in Cairo will host the Cairo Documentary
Festival from March 20-26 at its Tahrir Square and New Cairo campuses.
The Tahrir campus will host two program themes – Egypt Rising,
featuring numerous Egyptian documentaries and critical discussions,
and Neighboring Nations, featuring films from Turkey, Palestine, Iran,
and further afield.


CDF DAY 1: Sunday, March 20

Egypt Rising 1: Dawning Faces
5:00-6:30pm Stories of Al Fagallah (2011, 60m, Egypt) Mohamed Abdel Bary
6:30-8:30pm Garbage Dreams (2009, 79m, Egypt) Mai Eskander
Discussion with Zabaleen
8:30-10:00pm Beit Sha'ar - Nomads Home (2010, 61m, Egypt) Iman Kamel

CDF DAY 2: Monday, March 21

Neighboring Nations 1: Memories & Premonitions
5:00-6:30pm Walls (2000, 83m, Germany) Can Candan
6:30-7:30pm Coffee Futures (2009, 22m, Turkey) Zeynep Devrim Gürsel
Still (2009, 18m, Cyprus) Alana Kakoyiannis
8:30-10:00pm Imperial Outposts (2010, 67m, Turkey) Amy Holmes
Discussion with Amy Holmes

CDF DAY 3: Tuesday, March 22

Neighboring Nations 2: Unexpected Stories
5:00-7:00pm Next Year in Bombay (2010, 55m, India) J. Pariente & M. Mangin
Jerusalem, the Adulterous Wife (2010, 8m, Belgium) M. De Groof
Camelrama (2001, 4m, Tunisia) Carolyn Macartney
Fashioning Faith (2010, 22m, USA) Yasmin Moll
Discussion with Yasmine Moll

Neighboring Nations 3: State of Imprisonment
7:30-10:00pm Degrees of Incarceration (2010, 59m, Palestine) A.
Bishara & N. Al-Azraq
Ticket From Azrael (2010, 30m, Palestine) Abdallah Awad Al Ghoul
Of Flesh and Blood (2009, 27m, Palestine) Azza Shaaban
Discussion with Azza Shaaban

CDF DAY 4: Thursday, March 24

Neighboring Nations 4: Cultural Industry in Sudan
3:00-5:00pm Sifinja – The Iron Bride (2009, 70m) Valerie Haensch
Inscriptions on Rosewater (2010, 15m) Salah Elmur
Discussion with Salah Elmur

Egypt Rising 2: Documentary Rising
5:00-6:00pm Sura (2010, 5m) Yasser Alwan
Article 212 (2010, 9m) Karim Elshenawy
Sturm: Fayoum (2010, 5m) Philip Rizk
Sturm: Ahmonseto (2010, 6m) Philip Rizk
Living in the Nile (2010, 10m) Mohamad El Wassify
Q&A with Filmmakers

Tawasol (2010, 7m) Maged Nader
Young Arabs (2008, 18m) Michael Graziano and E. Joong-Eun Park
I am George (2010, 10m) Mohsen Abdelghany
The Wizard (2010, 13m) Ahmed Abd Elaziz
Q&A with Filmmakers

7:00-7:30pm Egypt Rising Reception

Egypt Rising 3: Remembering Tahrir Square
7:30-10:00pm AUC in the 70s (2010, 15m) Jasmin Bauomy
Neighbors (Giran) (2009, 105m) Tahani Rached
Q&A with Filmmaker

CDF DAY 5: Saturday, March 26

Egypt Rising 4: Documenting in Revolutionary Times Panel Discussion
10:30-11:00am Brunch with the Panelists
11:00-12:30pm Discussion among filmmakers, scholars, & activists about
the intersection of social justice, new technology, and the politics
of aesthetics. How can contemporary documentary efforts in Egypt and
across the region address the current state of social unrest?

Egypt Rising 5: Streaming the Revolution
1:00-3:00pm Streaming Short Internet Videos from January 25th Revolution

Neighboring Nations 5: Iranian Body Politic
3:00-6:00pm Keynote: Dr. Hamid Naficy, “Internet Cinema—Iran”
Plastic Flowers Never Die (2008, 34m) Roxanne Varzi
Iran: Voices of the Unheard (2009, 68m) Davoud Geramifard
Discussion with Dr. Naficy

6:00-7:00pm Closing Awards Ceremony

Egypt Rising 6: Expanding the Horizon
7:00-10:00pm Mafrouza: Oh Night! (2007, 138m) Emmanuelle Demoris
Discussion with filmmaker


Assembly Hour Program (1-2pm) Everyday March 20-24 (Sun-Thurs)
Nominees for Audience Award

20/MAR Sunday
Beit Sha'ar - Nomads Home (2010, 61m, Egypt) Iman Kamel
An Egyptian filmmaker encounters a Bedouin social entrepreneur in the
Sinai Peninsula.

21/MAR Monday
Iran: Voices of the Unheard (2009, 68m, Iran) D. Geramifard
Rural and urban Iranians struggle against an oppressive regime after
the 2009 election.

22/MAR Tuesday
Sifinja – The Iron Bride (2009, 70m, Sudan) Valerie Haensch
Modifications of the English Bedford-Lorry makes it as comfortable as
'Sifinja' slippers.

23/MAR Wednesday
Next Year in Bombay (2010, 55m, India) Jonas Pariente and Mathias Mangin
2000 years of Jewish history in India is nearing its demise as the
community emigrates.

24/MAR Thursday
Degrees of Incarceration (2010, 59m, Palestine) Amahl Bishara and Nidal Al-Azraq
Palestinians strive to support each other in the enduring shadow of
political prison.

Updates coming soon to:



Note: Due to the planned Constitutional Referendum scheduled for next
Saturday, March 19, all activities on that day of the festival have
been rescheduled. This adjustment to the schedule meant that the
entire schedule had to be reworked.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A New Hope

After a year without a post, I have decided to try something new. This blog is still here because of obscure posts that still turn up in searches and still send people my way. I was trying to keep it alive with topical, timely entries. See how that worked...

So my new idea: Even more obscurity! I am going to write about things nobody has thought of for decades. I embrace my obsolescence. Exhibit 1: Chaskilenkey.

Chaskalengey: A game for daring youth.

This game was invented by the juvenile residents of Upquarters, Agric Quarters, Zuarungu in the 1980s. It was played briefly, usually for a period of days or even hours, before being banned again. The name is onomatopoeic: Chas for the sound a can makes when it's been struck by a knobbed stick, and kelaynkay for the sound it makes as it rolls over the ground as it bounces away rapidly.

Equipment: One car tire; enough small cans (evaporated milk cans are best) and knobbed sticks (two to three feet long) that each player has one of each item.

Objective: Get your can in the tire.

Mode of play: Players begin by lining up a certain distance from the tire and attempt to throw their cans into the tire. The distance should be far enough that it's difficult to get the can into the tire. Anyone who gets his or her can to stay in the tire (not bounce out) becomes a "keeper" or defender of the tire.

If your can doesn't make it into the tire, you must go to where it landed, pick it up, and try to toss it into the tire from there. If it's very far, you can throw it, run and pick it up, and throw it a second time.

If a keeper gets to your can first, he or she can hit it with the stick, as hard as he or she can, in whichever direction it feels natural to hit it. The keeper is also permitted, nay encouraged, to stand guard over the tire and swing for the cans like a baseball player.

It's a good idea to yell "Tschas-kay-layn-gay!" when hitting a can.

Every player who manages to get his or her can past the keeper becomes a keeper too. At the beginning of the game, it's easy to slip a can past the one or two keepers. Toward the end of the game, when there are five or six keepers and only one or two throwers, it's nearly impossible to get in. At this point, it's a question of how much punishment those one or two throwers will take before quitting. The game is over when everybody still playing the game is a keeper.

At the height of the game, with two or three keepers and three or four throwers, it's important to keep an eye out for flying cans. They can come out of nowhere, at great speed. After they've been hit by the knobbed sticks a dozen times or so, the cans can get dented and develop sharp points. These points can gouge and cause cuts, scrapes, and scratches in the skin of the players. If you've got this far, you might understand why the game was banned, sometimes after a parent heard only the initial tossing of the cans. Sometimes it took long enough for the injured to start filtering in for treatment. Good times!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The President Bows to a Foreign Leader?

Since there's so much kerfluffel over the supposed Obama bow to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, I thought I would post another picture of a sitting US president bowing to a foreign leader. The president is Richard M. Nixon, the foreign leader is Japan's emperor Hirohito, and the occasion is their meeting in Alaska in 1971.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

J. Max Bond Jr., 1935-2009

My earliest memories of books are in the cool, cavernous Bolgatanga library, J. Max Bond Jr.'s first major project and his favorite design. One of our family's friends was the librarian back in the late 1970s. It's a really special place--even on the hottest day it was cool and airy in there. I never knew that the library was engineered not to need air conditioning. In this time of energy crisis, I wonder if Bond's design could be duplicated in other buildings.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Bolgatanga and the Uppers

Here's French actress Aissa Maiga mouthing the lyrics to the song "Naam" by Christy Azuma and Uppers International, a clip from the award-winning 2006 film Bamako, directed by Abderrahman Sissako. The song is traditionally based and has something to do with an appeal to the chief--I will have to get some more competent Farefare speaker to work it out for me.

When I was four and five we lived in Bolgatanga in a Presbyterian Mission house with high eaves in a shady neighborhood. Across an open valley behind our house was the Catering Rest House, a hotel complex built by Nkrumah in the 1960s. Before June 4, 1979, the Uppers would play there on the weekends, and the sound would waft across through our rooms at night as we slept. After the coup, the Uppers were replaced by the Police Band, who had a tendency to get more out of tune on their trumpets and trombones as the night wore on and the free drinks took their toll.

One of the guitarists for the Uppers was a friend of my parents before he hit the big-time. There's a great picture of me and my siblings with him as a teenager in the late 1970s with his creation of a guitar out of cardboard and papier-mache. I saw him again in the late 1990s on a visit, then retired from music and just living at home, farming. I wonder whether any of those people got any royalties from the excellent disk Ghana Soundz: Afro-Beat, Funk, and Fusion in 1970s Ghana Vol. 1 and Vol. 2. Christy Azuma's track is on Vol. 2.