Shrek the sheep ran away and hid in a cave in New Zealand for 6 years. When Shrek was finally found in 2004, the sheep had gone unsheared for so long that it had accumulated 60 pounds of wool on its body, enough to make 20 suits! The sheep became famous and even got to meet the Prime Minister. Shrek finally passed away last month at the age of 16.
Reza Aslan, editor
Tablet & Pen: Literary Landscapes from the Modern Middle East
W.W. Norton and Company, 2010, 657 pp.
Spreading through American living rooms last winter, as live broadcasts streamed from Cairo’s Tahrir Square, was an overdue recognition that Arabs and others in the Middle East were not so different after all, not inhibited by their culture and religion, for instance, from wanting modern political and economic systems. A young, university educated woman articulated in eloquent English her plans for reform. An older man, a shopkeeper, was ready to die to change a system he knew in his gut was wrong. Those who have spent time in the region could not help but feel relief, not only at the bursting-forth of new momentum for change, but at the shift in perceptions here at home. Then came the pop video “Voice of Freedom” by Mostafa Fahmy, showing families in the streets singing of their hopes for the future. The week Hosni Mubarak left office, “Voice of Freedom” reached 1.5 million YouTube hits.
This many could relate to. Protesters were not shouting for Allah to kill Jews and Westerners. They were demanding decency and dignity. Ordinary people rallied against violent intimidation and structural discrimination, for better jobs and an end to money-grabbing cronyism among elites. In Tunisia and Egypt, in Bahrain, Iran, Libya, Yemen and Syria, movements of various sizes and varying agendas began to form. Each country came into focus as distinct. Once these folks began inhabiting the west’s laptop screens, we grew anxious to get to know them better. We craved — and still crave — more back story.
How timely, then, is the anthology Tablet & Pen: Literary Landscapes from the Modern Middle East. Edited by Reza Aslan, author of No god but God and Beyond Fundamentalism, the collection came out late last fall just before protests in Tunisia started the season of change. Digital media may have spurred aspiration into action, but it’s the region’s wealth of stories and poems that have animated the spirit behind the recent events. Al Jazeera’s live webcasts were crucial, but so were the words of poet Abu al-Qasim al-Shabi’s “The Will to Live,” words activists chanted in Tunis as they began the wave of uprisings in January:Tunisians recited these words in the 1950s as they fought for independence from France, and this year their children and grandchildren revived them. This poem, and others by al-Shabi, spread with the speed of a mouse click to Alexandria and Cairo, and now provide comfort to the friends and family of unarmed civilians recently killed by the regime in Syria — more than 1,500 as of this writing.
If, one day, a people desires to live, then fate will answer their call.
And their night will then begin to fade, and their chains break and fall.
“The true feelings of joy and the warmth of having people to depend on, and to be there for you. For the people that have those individuals in their lives, the holidays are when you really feel it.”
Let’s think about those who aren’t as fortunate to have people to share the holidays with. Maybe we can invite them to our own company. Thanks for calling.
I’m fundraising for my debut album, “The Listener”.
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Dog Reportedly Hates Getting Bills
You think you hate bills? Not as much as Nokie. The Brooklyn terrier apparently hates receiving bills in the mail so much that he spent hours last week signing up for automatic online payments for nearly all of his accounts, a process that took many times longer than usual due to his lack of opposable thumbs.
The range of color variation in Golden Retrievers.
One of each, please.