Saturday, January 29, 2011

Walk Like an Egyptian

I'm currently riveted to Al Jazeera English, a live stream of the best coverage on the revolution going on in Egypt.  Al Jazeera may have its own flaws and agenda at times, but right now it's the best place to find out what's going on, putting US cable news to shame.

I don't know what's going to happen, but I can't help hoping that the Egyptian people will soon be enjoying a freer, a more democratic government. Meanwhile, though, it's tough to hear about the deaths, the injuries, the oppression, and the destruction of antiquities.

It's astonishing how fast a country can go from a stable but corrupt and tyrannical dictatorship to who-knows-what when the people are sufficiently galvanized.  Egypt is not the same country it was a mere five days ago.  I'm dumbfounded by the bravery I've seen.  I'm having trouble pasting the photos here, but you can see amazing shots like a protester kissing the police here, and of protesters praying as they are blasted with water cannons here.

I was in Egypt a few years ago, and along with the amazing antiquities, friendly people, and beautiful scenes along the river, I was struck by the grinding poverty suffered by so many of the people there.   I've heard that nearly half of the 18 million people living in megalopolis Cairo live on just a couple dollars a day.  Meanwhile, those in power have lived in ridiculous luxury, separated by an enormous gulf from the people they were supposed to be serving.

That gulf is narrowing as I write this, and it's fascinating, horrifying, and inspiring to watch.  The internet and social media of all kinds makes this possible.  It connects us to those who are marching on the streets of Alexandria, Suez, and Cairo, to their family and friends demonstrating in Washington DC, Britain, and New York.  It's one world, whether we like it or not.  And I find it a constant source of wonder and astonishment.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Top Picks of 2010

Book Pick: Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff.
Okay, I haven't even finished this yet and it's my pick. That's how much I love reading about Cleopatra, and how good the book is.  I first discovered the brainy Egyptian queen when I was seven and a grad student my parents had asked to babysit me while we were in Paris gave me a copy (in French) of Asterix and Cleopatra.  One look at her nifty falcon throne and uraeus-bedecked crowns and I was in love.
That was my gateway drug to a lifetime of obsession with both Cleopatra (who was of Greek descent) and then all of ancient Egyptian history.  So my book pick comes loaded with a backstory of personal obsession that leaves all other candidates in the dust.

Movie Pick: Winter's Bone.
This movie showed me a world I hadn't seen before (backwoods crystal meth-land, USA) and featured a teenage heroine stronger, more complex, and (in her own way) more badass than any who came before.  She willingly takes on a burden strong men would (and have) run from.

Sports Pick: Zenyatta
If you've even glanced at this blog this year, you've notes my obsession with this amazing race horse.  You can read my Goodbye Zenyatta post here to get an idea of the type of overwhelming emotion she evokes. But since she's a sports pick, I'll post the video of the race I watched in person at Hollywood Park in October.  It was her 19th consecutive win.  Just listen to the crowd noise rise as she rounds the far turn.  One of the other horses here, Switch, is a top filly herself.  Every time I watch it, I get worried, thinking Zenyatta might lose. And I know the outcome! But that's the Queen of Racing for you.  She provides drama, excitement, unmatched athleticism, and inspiration wherever she goes.

Pop Music Pick: F$%& You by Cee Lo Green.
Warning: contains multiple uses of the F word and this summer's catchiest hook.