Adonis Diaries

Archive for April 2011

The voices of Arab Spring uprising: They have been sounding for decades!

For three decades, hundreds of “Arab” authors have been publishing poignant novels, describing accurately and harshly the social and family conditions in their particular countries.  Wrong! The intelligentsia and public activists have been very engaged: It is the world community that was ignoring the upheaval among the youth of the Arab World, by not getting committed in translating the works extensively.

You hear that foreign politicians were taken aback by this “Arab” mass upheavals, and are unable to comprehend the new dynamics.  It has been proven that novels and stories (narratives in movies and documentaries) are the best medium to break through “cognitive dissonance”, which  totalitarian regimes and media oriented “democratic” regimes educate citizens on the proper political positions to taking. 

The “Arab” masses have been liberated from their despotic indoctrination and they assimilated the indignities that novels have been sharing and exposing clearly, boldly, colorfully, and brightly.

Before mass printing in the 20th century, people mass uprising needed a century of novel swapping to understanding the big picture.  Nowadays, a decade is enough to getting people up in arms and demanding regime change.  What the politicians could not comprehend is “How many of these changes happened by peaceful means of mass determination”.

You might hear skeptics saying: “Any Arab author could not expect more than 3,000 books to be purchased, much less to be read.  How can you account for the masses to have assimilated the problems in their countries?” 

First, maybe entire books are not read, but essential extracts are disseminated on the internet.  Second, people know their own situation: All they need is to hear that someone else is sharing their plight by telling their stories. I guess that is what I have been doing in the last three years: I have been reviewing books and commenting them in my blog; you may check my category Book Review, of hundreds of translated manuscripts from Arabic, French, and English.

The first novel of the Libyan Hisham Mattar “In the country of men, 2007)” is about a young boy who lived during the Qadhafi regime in the 1970’s, in the shadow of the “Guide”.   The father, an opposition personality is sent to jail, never to reappear.  The second novel of Hisham “Anatomy of a disappearance, 2011” recounts the story of Nouri El Alfli, a young boy of 12 year-old, who fled with his family from Tripoli (Libya) to Cairo in the 70’s.  The young boy recollects his love for Mona, an Anglo-Egyptian, that he met with his father in Alexandria.  Mona was to become his step-mother.  Nouri had this Oedipal rivalry with his dissident father relative to Mona.  The father is kidnapped by the Qadhafi security in Cairo, and Nouri is never to see him again.  The story is how sadness build an identity, how absence transforms relationship, and how loss in young age affects sexual behavior in adulthood. 

In this novel, Hisham Mattar celebrates the father who disappeared 21 years ago in Qadhafi jails and how despots ravage the normal lives of normal families and individuals, for “we cannot live outside History!”

Raja Alem, a female Saudi author, published “The pigeon collar” (Tawq al hamama).  This novel depicts the Sacred City of Mecca as a hotbed of delinquency and religious fanaticism, where foreign workers are exploited by the mafia of Real Estates development enterprises that are destroying historic quarters.  These stories are told in letters sent to her German lovers, another taboo of foreign relationship not appreciated by this Wahhabi obscurantist theocracy/absolute monarchy.

Mohammad Achaari is a Moroccan author: He published “The Arc and the Butterfly” (Al Qawss wa Al Farasha).  This novel treats the relationship between Islamism and terrorism from the perspective of their consequences on the lives of family members.  It is the story of a leftist activist who receive a letter from Al Qaeda informing him that his son is a martyr.  The father was under the impression that his son was studying in Paris  and not in Afghanistan, fighting with the Al Qaeda. How this revelation impacted on the family life, father and mother.

Raja Alem and Mohammad Achaar received the “Arab Booker” laureate of best Arabic book of the year by the International Award for Arabic novels held in Abu Dhabi this year.  For the last four years, the British Booker institute has been awarding prizes for best Arabic novels.

The three taboo themes of sexuality, politics, and religion are now wildly approached and dissected in Arabic novels.  The government censure is exacerbated by Islamist threats:  A situation that forces the Arab authors to publish in Europe, Russia, and the USA, and most of the time in foreign languages for wider dissemination.

In the last three decades, Arab authors have been emulating the Soviet dissident authors and doing their best to break through tight censorship and rounding up of entire families for punishing a single author.  For example, the Lebanese author Hanane El Cheikh published “London my love” as a message to highlighting the divergences between western life-style and Arabic conditions and what our society lacks in means of reform and change.

You may read the novel of the Egyptian Alaa el-Aswany “The Yacoubian building”; the Libyan Ibrahim Al Koni “Gold dust” and “Angel, who are you?”; the Egyptian Ahdaf Soueif “Lady Pacha”, and many women authors from Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Syria, Iraq, Yemen…

You may also read my post:

Note:  I translated part of an article in The Courrier International#1067

Reid published ten rules for successful business ventures, borne from his experiences starting companies and partnering with great entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley.  I slightly edited the rules before commenting on the rules, this insane urge for going bigger and bigger once we start a company, and the lack of defining exactly the product for the reflecting on the relevance of a rule. You may read the link to the original

Rule #1: Look for disruptive change.
If you’re about to start on a new venture, ask yourself: “What is becoming possible or necessary that wasn’t possible before? Is a new product (or service) able to take over an existing market or create a new market?” When I co-founded LinkedIn, the tech industry was in a deep depression. I looked at all the opportunities created by the Internet and had the idea that, eventually, everyone would need a professional profile online. The disruption was that people were able to directly reach the best candidates rather than hoping for responses from a listing in the paper or an ad on a Web site.

(I guess that disruptive change was empowering the entrepreneur for direct access to the best qualified professionals in specific fields.)

Rule #2: Aim big.
Regardless of whether a start-up is targeting a big idea or a small one, it will still require the same amount of blood, sweat and tears—so aim big! What is “big?” It is a new product or service that creates or dominates a significant market.

(The term “niche in a market” used to be the common expression in marketing studies, but again, it is better to venture into a stable and developed market.  For example, every specialty business are grouped on a certain street or locality for obvious reasons of clients attraction)

Rule #3: Build a network to magnify your company.
People tend to think that behind every great start-up is a single entrepreneur with a whiz-bang idea. The reality is great companies are built by a number of people with talent who are surrounded by amplifying networks. The most successful entrepreneurs bring in advisors, investors, collaborators and early customer relationships.

(The idea is to steer away from templates that dictate rigid principles for starting up companies.  The trend is to empower many early collaborators in the ideas generation, planning, and decision making.  Open discussion of the early problems are necessary for the designated decision makers in the start-ups.  For example, the enterprise “kharabeesh”, based in Amman, permitted the office kitchen employee to becoming their best animator, and the driver to lend his voice to Qadhafi…)

Rule #4: Plan for good luck and bad luck.
You should always assume you will have both good luck and bad luck with your new company. Good luck is not as simple as “it worked out.” Rather, this is when you discover a great opportunity and can quickly shift to go after it. Bad luck is what happens when your first idea doesn’t work. It doesn’t mean failure; it means you need to pursue plan B.

(No matter what some professionals insist on getting on with the business, and investing time on trial and error tactics, it is essential that meticulous research and comprehension of the business be the first building block.  Otherwise, how would you be able to selecting the best candidates for the job?)

Rule #5: Maintain flexible persistence.
Very often entrepreneurs are given conflicting advice: “Be persistent! Stay committed to your vision!” or “Pivot on key data! Know when to change!” The challenge is to follow them both, but know which advice is most appropriate for which situation. You must know how to maintain flexible persistence.

(I guess flexible persistence presumes a thorough knowledge of the business venture and the need to have confidence in the professionals in the field. How are you supposed to “Pivot on key data” if you are unable to making heads from tails looking at data?)

Rule #6: Launch early enough so that you are embarrassed by your first product release.
With my first start-up,, it took us nine months to launch the first product. That was a disastrous mistake. We wanted to have all the detailed functionality right away, including social controls to people could decide to connect or not with the people in their networks. We wanted everyone to “Ooh” and “Aaah” about how terrific the product was. We wasted a bunch of time and it put us months behind on more important problems that needed to be solved, such as how to get our product in the hands of millions of people. From that I learned, if you are not embarrassed by your first release, you’ve launched too late!

(If you are not slightly embarrassed by your first release, how would you convince the customers that you consider “redesigning a product” is more important than patching faults and errors?”

Rule #7: Aspire, but don’t drink your own Kool-Aid.
Target excellence, but be very careful about blind trust or belief in your theories. It is important to launch as early as you can in order to learn how your customers use your product or service. It is equally important to identify metrics that tell you if your aspirations and vision are on target. You should also get feedback from your network in order to iterate or pivot on the target, the product and/or the service. In other words, maintain your aspiration but always look for good perspective on how you are doing. It is very easy for creative innovators to get caught up in their own story rather than learning where they should be headed.

(It means, factor in data collection process and timely analysis on clients behavior and feedback as an intrinsic part of the business.  How could you “pivot on the target” if you don’t believe that “data can talk”? How can you gain different perspectives if you refuse to communicate with the data from different venues?  How do you think financial multinationals are making such huge profit if not from mastering the process of gathering data and instant analysis and synthesis of the market responses, needs, and wants?  Fact is, financial multinationals do not speculate: they know for fact what is the outcome of every decision!)

Rule #8: Having a great product is important, but having great product distribution is more important.
I meet a lot of entrepreneurs who think the best product is the most important thing and that the best product should always win. What a lot of people fail to realize is that without great distribution, the product dies. How will you get your product in the hands of millions or hundreds of millions of people?

(That is the principle of vertical integration: Associate with a successful distribution company from the start.)

Rule #9: Pay close attention to culture and hires from the very beginning.
Your first hires set your culture, so make them good ones. These first people hire the next people and so on. The old wisdom was that you needed people with a decade more of experience in your start-up. The things a smart person learned a decade ago won’t help you now – you’re doing things that have never been done before, and the world and the competitive landscape are changing at hyper speeds. What you really need are people who can learn fast.

(Most important rule of all: every generation has a new brand of intelligence that is quicker and more adaptable to the new technologies.  You might be doing a huge mistake if you insist on not hiring from an older generations:  Knowing and adapting to the newer paces in technology is never enough for building a cohesive and sustainable business.  Any exclusion of older generation is a sure sign or amoral ethical conduct of the start-up:  Social movements of solidarity are fine-tuning their selection of companies of choices, not based on just good product, but on sustainable moral and ethical conducts)

Rule #10: Rules of entrepreneurship are guidelines, not laws of nature.
Do not pay too much attention to rules set by other people. Entrepreneurs are inventors. They are successful when they make something work for the very first time. Sometimes in order to make something work, you will drive over the guardrail of one of these rules. Entrepreneurs sometimes just make new rules.

(Do not be dominated by “template” success stories.  Reinventing the wheel is a great mechanism for discovering new ways of doing business:  Pioneers have necessarily missed to investigate many factors, and the new age has a different way to look at wants, needs, and problem solving.)

My first question to these rules is: Are we considering the new “ethical paradigm” of sustainable environment and life-style?  The key words in this generation are “green”, sustainable, rejuvenation, recycling, quality life-style, reforestation, climatic changes, water quality deterioration, toxic waste disposal and sites.  For example, why market a less than “clean” performing product and end-up dumping millions of outdated toxic leftover products?

My second question is: Are we researching how raw materials are being exploited and how the citizens of poor countries are being abused and robbed dry in order for your “great idea of a product” be manufactured and marketed successfully?

Who are the Akas pygmies; their songs? Who is Louis Sarno?

Deep in the equatorial Congo forest, live the African pygmies; one of the tribes is the Akas, famous for their melodious songs.

The pygmies number in the 100,000 and dwindling as their neighboring tribes the Bantous or (Bilos as called by the Akas), more numerous and of higher stature, have deforested extensively and have been using guns for killing animals.

For the Bilos, the Akas are no better than slaves and chimpanzees since they don’t live in houses.

Louis Sarno was born in the New Jersey (USA) in 1954, studied literature and loved to listen to Bach, Beethoven, Schubert, Mahler,and the classics.

Louis also liked to read Jack Kerouac and Albert Camus, reading shared by his roommate Jim Jarmusch (the director of “Dead Man” (1995) and “Ghost Dog” (1999), both movies were inspired by Sarno experience among the pygmies).

Louis married with a young Netherlands girl and moved to Amsterdam .  The marriage didn’t last. One winter night in 1980, Louis heard songs on the Netherlands radio that hypnotized him, nothing that he ever heard before in his life by his attuned ears.  He said: “A web of polyphonic feminine voices, of refined yodel kinds, a melody that keeps going back and forth without ending.  These exotic harmonies were pure magic and I had to meet these people who produced such songs. It was a chant that attracted me to the heart of Africa”

With $500 and a tape recorder, Sarno purchased in 1985 a one-way ticket to Bangui in Central Africa. Louis said: “In exchange for initiating me to their music, the Akas demanded that I live among them. It was a win deal for me.”

Sarno has been living there for the last 25 years.

A team from the German daily Die Zeit (Hamburg) were impressed by the book “Song from the Forest“, written by Louis Sarno and published in 1990.  This team, headed by Michael Obert, decided to meet with Sarno in the jungle without any warning.  The team landed in Yaounde (Capital of Cameroon), crossed the borders of Central Africa via the river Sangha, and walked to the village of Yandoumbe.

The team was welcomed by pygmies pointing spears at them.  The women with tattooed faces and pointed incisive grab them by their shirts.  Suddenly, the shouts stop and a white man, (two feet taller than the men around him 190 cm), bare chest and bare feet, with elongated and skinny face, arrives carrying two babies in his arms.

The piercing black eyes of Sarno are expressing displeasure.  Then, a six-year old child takes our hands and starts to sing.  Sarno melts and changes to a friendly guy.

We mentioned the book that was the catalyst for their adventure and Sarno replied: “Never mention this book: I didn’t know much of the Akas at the time of writing the book. In New York they made fun of me calling me “The King of the Pygmies

Louis Sarno is already a legend: He recorded 400 hours of the Akas music and songs, survived typhus, hepatitis, and all kinds of equatorial diseases. Inside his rudimentary hut made of branches, you find no television, or phones…

Actually, there is no electricity or running water.  The radio and taping recorder function on batteries.

When asked how people can find their way in this jungle, Louis says: “The forest is an orchestra and the Akas add their solo pieces.  The songs of birds and the sounds of the animals and branches have their special directional orientation.  They can hear the river from long distances. For example, a woman knows that her husband had a good hunt by the birds singing variations”

Louis Sarno married a pygmy girl and has two sons, the elder is Bokumbe (12 year-old) and Yambi (7).

They divorced because Louis never learned to climb trees and bring in the wild honey “Without honey, do not expect honey in return!”  The children wear T-shirt of Harry potter, Tokio Hotel, Vodafone

The Akas name Sarno Looyay because they cannot pronounce Louis. He became their guardian angel since he is in contact with officials in order to preserving the Akas rights. Louis says: “The Akas are my family and the forest is my home”

Recently, Louis’s mother of 83 sent him an e-mail with an plane ticket to visit her.  Sarno is in New York for a short visit in order to record more Akas songs and generate money for the tribe. Louis purchased a Panasonic LS86, a DVD reader for showing the favorite movies of his two sons, Bruce Lee and Fantastic Mister Fox…

Note 1: You may listen to the Akas music such as “Bayaka”: The extraordinary music of the Babenzele pygmies and their Forest Home-a book and CD by Louis Sarno”, or “Central Africa Pygmies Akas: Chants of hunting, love, and mockery-a CD Ocora-Radio (France)”, or “Central Africa: Antology of pygmy music– a CD Ocora-Radio (France)”

Note 2: This story was taken from “Courrier International #1067”

Note 3: The neurosurgeon, Saul Schwarz, MD (E-mail : sent me this request:  “I am one of Louis’ closest friends, through high school and college. We were last together in the mid-1990’s, when he stayed with me in our home in North Carolina. Can you give him my contact info? Greatly appreciated. Denver, CO. USA.

Note 4: Patti Waters sends this message to Louis: “When I was a teenager, my friend Louis and I would create stories where we imagined a different life. I know he indeed has a life that we could not have imagined then. If he would like to contact me I would welcome that. With love and respect.”

Case of the Julius Bar Swiss bank: “Inside WikiLeaks” story

Daniel Domscheit-Berg wrote in “Inside WikiLeaks”:

On January 2008, I had started working as volunteer for WikiLeaks, when the first batch of documents were leaked to us relative to a famous Swiss bank called Julius Bar. The documents sent to our mailbox contained plenty of numbers, organigrams (or flow charts of responsibilities and high level personnel), business procedures, and contracts…Internal correspondence, notes, and computation were included in the hundred of pages that Julian Assange and I had to analyze and digest.

The documents revealed hundred of rich people bypassing fiscal laws by rerouting their wealth to the Caiman Islands.  The accounts ranged from $5 million to hundred million.  The Swiss bank Julius Bar had fine-tuned its complex system of erecting screen financial societies that would secure the flux of capital.

Julian Assange and I did a few side research and on January 14, 2008, we published our report on Internet.  We had dispatched press releases to a few media.

This Tuesday at work, I glanced every 5 minutes on my portable computer to check the reactions on Google News.  We had no means to find out who consulted our site (hits) since this would contradict the anonymity principle of WikiLeaks. Julian Assange and I never called one another; we communicated by chatting on the net.

The first reaction arrived at 8:30 pm on January 15. 

The sender of the mail was a lawyer from a law firm.  The lawyer wanted the name of the leaker of the documents!  We were excited to test our security system that was fine theoretically. Thus, we asked the lawyer a few more details so that we know who is the client he was defending.  We let this lawyer presume that we had our own lawyer.  Actually, the only volunteer lawyer, Julie Turner lived in Texas and we could not get in touch with her.

I was using the name of my cat for pseudonym Daniel Schmitt: I had no inkling to letting banks detectives coming to sniff around me.   Mails started to flood us, particularly from American media and civic rights movements that rallied around our case:  Protection of sources and freedom of press, stupid.  The thematic of “alert launchers” as heroes was more developed in the USA than in Europe.

A legal  complaint was lodged against us  in California by the bank lawyers, where the domain was created.  The judge ordered the shutting down of our domain name on account that most probably, the leaker must have signed a confidential clause in his contract!

A wave of indignation irrupted around the world and journalists wanted to interview us. I spent days responding to the mails. The CBS News titled “Free speech has a number” and mentioned our IP address  WikiLeaks was propelled quicker than we imagined without the lawyer complaints.  The judge had no alternative but to reverse his decision.

We published all our correspondence with the bank’s lawyers.  Many individuals in the list of tax evaders were implicated and they tried to bribe us in order to removing their name from the list.

Julian Assange and I were the only persons writing, sending press releases, and replying to mails, though people had the impression that a large team of employees and volunteers were involved.  If the new literary analysis program was applied to our writing, people would have discovered that only two individuals were behind that job.

Daniel Domscheit-Berg divulged that WikiLeaks managed to hire only two technicians but Julian failed to secure any consistent and serious volunteers.  The server was an outdated equipment and if it failed, the entire enterprise would have gone down the drain.

Ya Omar talk to Ali

I was riding with Ashley and Hanane for the launching event of a new video clip song “Wehdeh” by Tania Saleh in the restaurant of Em Nazih in Ashrafieh.

On the road, Ashley inserted Tania’s CD and I heard the song “Ya Omar kallem Ali”

The song is encouraging the two Moslem sects of Sunni and Shia to start communicating and desist from this non-sense of centuries of animosity.

The Shia were upset that Caliph Omar bin Khattab was selected as the second caliph instead of Ali (a close relative and son-in-law of the prophet Mohammad who died without a male son): Apparently, Omar refused to designate Ali as he was dying from an assassination attempt, and preferred to designate 5 people to decide on the next caliph.

That is why Omar is hated by the Shias and his name is cursed.  The third caliph Othman bin Affan was also from the Koraich tribe and the fifth Moawiya was from Koraich, and established the monarchic hereditary system for succession,  and so on.

The Shias were persecuted in the Sunni Kingdoms as heretics, even worse than the Christian minorities.

You might think that there are major theological differences between the two sects, but it is a matter of “tribal” mentality among those who considered that the tribe of Koraich is the essence of power, instead of the ancestors of a member of the tribe, for example the prophet Mohammad.

That is a long story and I wrote extensively on that subject.  You may start with this article:

This schism resembles splits among political parties:  More focus is given to the content and the serious context of the split among the “charismatic” leaders is hidden under the rug.

Anyway, Tania is telling Omar that if he wants to play he has to play with Ali.

And Why Omar refuses also to play with George and Antoine and …?

The song “Wehdeh” (unity) might give the impression that a man needs to “unite” with a woman in order to gain support and consolation from isolation.

In fact, the song is encouraging the Lebanese to definitely chose one identity from a variety of unions, such national, Arabic, Islamic…in order to find cohesion…

I cannot see this need of selecting from fictitious concepts in order to find common denominators among the Lebanese with 18 recognized religious sects and many ethnic varieties like Armenians, Kurd…

What we need is to discuss and analyze what are the ingredients or factors that we share and are ready to get engaged in for preserving and saving for our survival and the survival of our children.

What we need is a Constitutional, regular, and solid legitimate government and State institutions in order to make all Lebanese feel that they are within the category of “modern citizens” as defined by the UN.

What we need is that all Lebanese enjoy full citizenship, including the female genders

So far, the Lebanese enjoy a passport as a token of citizenship, and nothing else material that demonstrate belonging to a democratic State.  The election laws basically identify us as chattel to local feudal leaders or members of religious sects.

It was a nice cool evening, and Lebanese-made beer and wine were served.  We had whole peanuts for food.

We watched the clip of the song “Wehdeh” that Ashley contributed in the animation, David in selecting the pictures and the drawings for the design, and William designed the entire cover package.  Tania autographed purchased CD costing $10 each.

We stayed from 6 till 9 pm and then converged to Schtrumph of Ashrafieh for a bite and all you-can-eat salad buffet.

I was shocked that the prices on the menu tripled within a couple of years, and that a bottle of water is no less than $2.  This restaurant was packed, and it turned out that a luxury bus was waiting for the foreign teenagers to finish eating.




April 2011

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