Incredible Art

I saw a write up in an old issue of Smithsonian Magazine (thanks Mom!) of this installation.  Brian Jungen does incredible art with objects.  Brilliant!

Above: Carapace

Above: Prototype for a new understanding #23

And my favorite: Prototype for a new understanding #21:

One Man’s Trash is Brian Jungen’s Treasure

Transforming everyday items into Native American artwork, Jungen bridges the gap between indigenous and mass cultures

There’s an old belief, shared by many cultures, that a sculpture is hidden within a block of uncut stone, just waiting for an artist to reveal it. Jungen, 39, likely would agree: the half-Dunne-za (a Canadian Indian tribe), half-Swiss installation artist has a gift for seeing images in mundane objects. “When a product breaks, it’s kind of liberated in my eyes,” says Jungen. In 1997, when the Dunne-za chief council began distributing funds from a land claims settlement among tribal members, the artist noticed that some of them were using the money to buy leather couches. “I thought it was this crazy icon of wealth,” he says. “But there’s a lot of hide in them.” Jungen dismantled 11 Natuzzi sofas and built a massive tepee with the leather and wood.

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Yes Sir! No Ma’am!

I have definitely been spending too many hours consecutively with my Jordanian families. They are all kind and loving and wonderful, but they also have different ideas for…well, almost everything…and it’s starting to wear me out. There seems to be a common culture here in Jordan that it is everyone’s job to tell everyone else what to do ALL THE TIME! I know they do it to each other, but days in a row of being ordered around is starting to wear on my American Freedom-Loving soul. Mostly I just like to be the bossy one!

So, what are they telling me to do? Well, where to start…

  • Correcting my Arabic—this one I appreciate, I have many faults and I like to be told when I’m using the wrong pronunciation or phrase in a given sentence. However, there are some who will start drilling me “bread…bread…bread…bread…bbbrrrrrreeeaaaaaaad!” At times it reminds me of the scene in “Better off Dead” when Ricky’s Mom is pinching the Monique’s cheeks like a chipmunk and saying “frrrriiiiiieeeennnndssss.”
  • How to eat—and I don’t just mean if there is a meal with which I’m unfamiliar, I mean, trying to force me to eat more (one husband got so riled up he started yelling at his wife to go cook something that I’d like better because I could only eat four pounds of rice and chicken instead of the 7 pounds they all were eating) no matter how many times I tell them I just can’t eat the quantities they do! Eventually a lot of the women start to understand and their “eat, Lexi, EAT” gets a bit less fanatic, but the men seem to take it personally and get so upset! It’s bizarre. But amount is only half of it, it’s also telling me what to eat and when. For example, the meal just began and I will take a bit of bread, immediately it’s “Lexi, eat this chicken!” before I have finished the same bite it’s “Here, have some soup, eat this date, here are eggs” as if I can’t see or identify the food in front of me. They will take food from their side of the common platter and pile it up on my side like an eating contest! Then, once they’ve told me everything I must eat immediately, it’s also how to eat it: “Lexi here’s a spoon for the soup…Lexi here’s more bread for the sauce…Lexi here’s the spoon, see, I told you use the spoon for the soup!” I swear, if they didn’t do it to each other (well, they only do it to guests and they only do it a TINY bit compared to how they do it to me) I would think they think I’m retarded. I think sometimes they figure since my Arabic isn’t perfect I am retarded.
  • How to cut a tomato—seriously, when I help cook, or clean, or anything, I am incapable of doing it correctly. It’s a hell of micro management. “Lexi, see how I cut the tomato, push the knife forward, not backward, and slice it first then cube it!” Actually, they’ll often just take something away from me, like the broom or squeegee and send me to the other room to move furniture or stir the pot—something I can’t do wrong (except I did stir the milk incorrectly and had to be reprimanded).
  • How to style my hair—yes, especially those who have coarser more African hair think I don’t style mine correctly. They are always trying to put gel or hair pomade in my hair because it gets too “frizzy” by their standards. One woman tried to pour olive oil in my hair immediately after I’d showered because she thought my hair wasn’t stiff enough. This is just scary!
  • How to sit, lay, or in general be—ok, I get that around men I have to have a blanket or something covering my feet or ankles if they stick out of my pants/skirt. I can handle that. But people are constantly yelling at the kids to get me a pillow whether I want one or not, and then instructing me to lay back or sit up, stretch out or curl up, literally they will grab my ankles and pull them down if they want me to lay on the couch. Seriously, they think I can’t figure out how to be comfortable on my own!

Ok, I think that’s enough examples for you to understand how exhausting it can be! Sometimes I get so irritated I have to snap “I’m not a kid, I can decide [how I want to sit/how much I want to eat/how to chop this tomato/etc.]”!!

That said, I am very happy to be heading back to my own house where I can lay or sit or stand or do somersaults without someone telling me what to do and I can eat as little or as much as I want without making someone so offended they erupt in angst. Truth is, they do all this because they want me to be comfortable and to do everything the “right” way–they like me.

So, just maybe, it’s worth it!

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Book Review: The Arab Center

More great reads on my goodreads pages…

The Promise of Moderation The Arab Center: The Promise of Moderation by Marwan Muasher

My review

Just heard the author on the Diane Rehm Show (NPR). He’s a long-time Jordanian (yeah!) politician, articulate and intelligent. I hope to read this so that I have more information to back up my claims that there are millions of “center” Arabs who are moderate, modern, and non-violent in spite of the coverage we see on US TV.

Book Review: Islam, Karen Armstrong

If you’re interested, from my page:
A Short History (Modern Library Chronicles) Islam: A Short History by Karen Armstrong

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars
This is a solidly written and concise history of this fabulous religion. Not what they say on tv, but very interesting nonetheless. I’d recommend it to anyone wanting a cliff notes version of the history that appeals to Western thinking. However, it is not well-sourced–meaning Armstrong does NOT note if/when her interpretations of Islamic history are supported by Islamic scholars (especially mainstream contemporary Islamic scholars). It would be more useful if she clarified where she was interpreting the history and where other scholars had drawn similar conclusions. I will look at her other books though, especially the history of the three religions she wrote about Islam, Judaism and Christianity.

If you would like to see my other reviews, drop me an e-mail (upper left corner) and I can send you the link!

Working Hours

Arrgh!  Frustration.  For some reason the internet at home is down…again.  The family downstairs is gone so I can’t ask them to try to fix it.  So I need to find internet somewhere to work.  Plus, my main urgent task today is to download and open a read-only document, make some changes, and print it.  The document is in a ridiculous form in which it can’t be saved with the changes I need to make.  I have to complete it and send it by incredibly slow, so slow it is actually snail-like, international mail to the university.  Don’t ask; university bureaucracy is absolutely asinine!

Anyway, on my numerous walks around my neighborhood, I’ve seen at least 5 or 6 internet offices, where you go and pay to use computers, the internet, printers, etc.  So I set off this morning at 10:30…clearly a mistake.  Apparently no one in Jordan likes to work in the mornings…so very few stores at all were open and none of the internet offices.  So ½ hour trudging up and down the hills to no avail.  But, the other store owners do tell me that the internet offices will open soon, like around noon or so.

On a brighter note, one guy who runs a photocopier repair store says “sure come in and use my computer and internet (his office computer not for general use), no problem, you can print whatever you like!”  What a nice guy right?!  How kind of him to take pity on my frustration and struggle!  But alas his computer doesn’t have Microsoft word, so I can’t work on the document I need to work on.

Sigh… Meanwhile, I am trying to stay close to home.  Supposedly, the phone company is going to come and install my phone today…and they claim they’re going to call when they are on their way.  Well, they’ve been saying that for 10 days so I’m TRYING to be accepting that this is how things go here.  The point is that I can’t head over to the University area, where I KNOW internet offices open earlier.   So, I sit in my house, listen to podcasts, and try to do what little work I can without the internet (have many days of research online to do, which doesn’t work either if the web is down).

Finally, at 12:45 I decide I’ve given it enough time.  Off I go, to wander the streets.  This time the internet offices are still closed.  Or at least the ones with printers are.  I can’t tell you the number of kind store owners who offered me their computers “for a minute, if you need to check your e-mail” but that didn’t have printers!  Seriously, these are some really, really nice people!  One guy even came over to open the door of his large internet office, just to tell me he wasn’t going to open for another couple of hours.

So apparently, I am the only person in the country who would actually like to get some work done during working hours…oh haven’t I mentioned that?  Yes, the official working hours for government, businesses etc.: 8am to 3pm.  Which means that the internet offices don’t open until the businesses for which you might need to do work, are closed.  How convenient!  J

So that is today’s rant.

Normally it wouldn’t bother me (one of the fun things about being someplace different), but with the frustration of the non-working phone at home, and being unable to call the phone company because I can’t get online to get their number, all adding up, well, I’m having a very frustrating day!

At least my hiking up and down the hilly neighborhood is good exercise—and it’s sunny so I guess I can’t complain about that!  Thank heavens for small things!    J