May 21, 2009

Saudilogue 45


I don't remember the number of the last log, so I'm going to start with 45.

Much has happened this year. I forgot to mention earlier, the reality of the Israeli attack
on Gaza. For a month, students, faculty and staff raised money to help Gaza citizens who
had no food, fuel or medical care. I asked where the money was going. I would not
support funds to Hamas, but the millions of residents of Gaza were, as always, caught in
the crossfire.

Israel used phosphorus bombs on Gaza. CNN showed the images, so did BBC, not just Al
Jazeera. Israel denies it. I've seen the pictures. You cannot limit the area of a phosphorus
bomb. It explodes high and rains down burning phosphorus over a wide area. This is a
lose, lose situation for everyone and it is difficult to be an American here when students
ask why the US supports Israel, no matter what, without trying to limit the harm to
civilians.

And it isn't just Israel. Egypt closes it borders to Gaza, also. Gaza is an island blockaded
by sea and roadways (I don't think there is an airport). There are few jobs in Gaza. Most
of the employment is in Israel. They are trapped and being used as hostages by all parties
who are trying to make political hay out of the whole thing. It is sad.

And, since I teach here I have students who did not know, from day to day, if their
grandparents were still alive.

So, students boycotted American made products. Coke and Pepsi for example. Then they
realized that Pepsi has a local bottling plant so they were potentially harming a local
business with local employees.

Thankfully the war ended for now, but it is still a powder keg with a conservative
government now in Israel which does not want a separate Palestinian state.

I have put Bush 43 down for many years, but one thing he refused to do was wonderful.
He refused to sell bunker busting bombs to Israel so they could take out the nuclear plant
in Iran.

Just this week (May 16-18th) Dar Al Hekma College hosted the first ever graphic design
conference held in Saudi Arabia. Our presenters included Terek Atrissi, a world famous
designer and typographer who even created the identity for the country of Qatar, Will and
Doug from Adbusters, Jonathan Barnbrook of Barnbrook Design in London. A designer,
typographer, connected to Adbusters. Mohammed Harib, animation director, designer,
known for development of FREEJ, a 3D animation of 4 Emeretic grandmothers in a
modern world. It is hysterical. You can buy it with English subtitles. Nadim Karam, a
Lebanese architect and sculptor who has work in Australia, the middle east and Japan.
Anja Lutz, a book designer, who developed "Shift". Teal Triggs, from Texas by way of
London, explores design criticism and is a professor graphic design.
The presenters gave workshops to students during the day and lectures to students and the
general public at night. It was fascinating and inspiring.

Teachers, after all, are the in-house staff of "moms" whose advice is often minimized.
When known designers say the same things, ears perk up. And, many of our presenters
were from the Middle East. They speak from the same heart and background as the
students.

Many of our students would like to address greater issues. One of my students has been
floundering with loss of focus until she met the guys from Adbusters and say their
presentation. They discussed Digital Detox Day and the Don't Buy Anything Day. It
reminds me of Joellyn Rock's Take back your time day –

Quite a few students have told me this was a turning point in their education. It was
inspiring for me also, meeting people in person and talking to them about teaching and
design. I am currently designing a publication for Dar Al Hekma. My team worked to
create a bi-lingual logo. The one we currently have has been approved by the client, but I
asked Terek if he would look at it. He did, was excited to be asked, gave great feedback
and it is now ever better. Masha'allah.

On another note, if you haven't seen the movie Helvetica, watch it. Show it to your
students.

So, I am tired, planning to rest most of the weekend and study Arabic. I am in a class. I
now recognize most of the alphabet, and read it with the same skill as a kindergardener. I
often have no idea when at I am saying. Vocabulary follows reading… weird way to
learn, but I can see it is working.

I will be heading back to the US July 12, spending some time with Jen before heading
north.

I have been here nearly four years. I've watched the country grow, face itself and struggle
into a new future. One advantage of having a king is that things here can change more
quickly than a factionalized democracy. The current king, Abuddullah, is trying to push
the country into a newer way of thinking. He recently replaced many of the people in his
Council with more liberal individuals. He is trying to stop the child bride system still in
place here, has instituted a Council on Women's Rights and even appointed a woman to
his Council (for the first time).

The five economic zone cities he is building here will allow coeducational education,
movie theatres and women to drive (perhaps) in the city limits. One of these will contain
FAUST, a new science and technology university. It is 30 miles north of Jeddah. One of
the guys on our compound is designing the seaport there.

The last part of this is also recent: EARTHQUAKES. Yup. 4.9 and 5.6 on the richter
scale in NW Saudi. We didn't feel anything here, but I saw in the newspaper that last
month there were two small quakes in the area with extinct volcanoes. Knowing there is a
rift valley in the middle of the Red Sea, I wondered if the volcanoes were extinct or
dormant. Well, folks, the earthquake on May 20th, send villagers running into the streets.

Aerial photos of the area after the quakes show large cracks in the earth. Civil Defense
people have advised citizens to avoid breathing the gasses coming from some of the
fissures. Volcanic activity is beginning… whatever.

Wow. So, war, design conference, natural history making a new chapter…

Hugs
S of A and A

Posted by at 9:44 AM