A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

a multi-faceted look at the middle east, and the middle west

Archive for the ‘fire’ Category

a pen from Sukleen

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on November 25, 2008

I have mentioned Sukleen’s advertisements/PSAs in several posts in the past couple of years – primarily because I find that the company/public utility/gift of the Hariri family takes interesting positions on the array of issues that Lebanon and its people face.

This is from yesterday’s newspaper:


And here is my translation of what the text says (with apologies as I am not sure that I have gotten the first bit entirely right – so if you are a native speaker, please feel free to jump in with corrections!):

We’re getting by with a green pen*

*the green space in Lebanon has shrunk to only 13%

Between forest fires, unregulated development, pollution, and generally weak environmental policies, the size of Lebanon’s forests has shrunk dramatically from year to year. (You can see a surprisingly good story that CNN’s Brent Sadler did earlier this month on this same issue here.) Sukleen’s ad suggests that using a green crayon to draw a cedar will be an adequate replacement for the actual tree.

This ad is intriguing on a textual level as well. The Arabic used is Lebanese Arabic – “pen” is spelled “2alam” and not “qalam”, for example. Yet the words are highly voweled: I count four fathas and two shaddas. As Arabic speakers know (and I have mentioned before), vowel markers are used when a word is unfamiliar, or might be mistaken for another word with the same consonantal spellings. In other words, they are used for clarification, and for formal writing.

Although I’ve seen vowel markers used with spoken Arabic in other advertisements, I still find it a bit jarring – an odd mixing of language levels. I’m also a bit surprised by the use of the alif in “2alam” – it looks confusingly like “alam”, which is a regular Arabic word meaning “pain”.

I think here that the similarity might be intentional – after all, losing Lebanon’s cedars is a source of pain for many people – but in general my understanding is that the hamza’ed qaff is written in Arabic as just that: a qaff with a hamza over it, so readers recognize both the original Arabic word and the regional pronunciation of it.

Does anyone else have any thoughts on this – either the ad in general, or on the use of colloquial Arabics in standard Arabic script?

Posted in advertising, Arabic, Beirut, cedar, fire, humor, Iowa, Lebanon, words | 3 Comments »

Where there’s smoke there’s a … conference about fire

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on June 26, 2007

I celebrate my academic nerdiness, I do. But sometimes even I see the humor in intellectual endeavor.

This CFP (call for papers) had me laughing out loud.

On the one hand, I can clearly see the historical value of a comparative look at pre-modern urban fires.

On the other hand, a conference about fire? that takes itself seriously enough to have devised the phrase “fire regime”?

Even as I laugh, I am wondering at the amazing skills of persuasion the conference organizers must have, to have secured such generous funding.

And wondering, too: how can I learn to be more like them? After all, I can envision all kinds of esoteric research questions that would be fun (with funding) to explore …

Flammable Cities:
Fire, Urban Environment and Culture in History

Conference at the
German Historical Institute, Washington, DC
May 15 – 17, 2008


Proposals are invited for an international multi-disciplinary conference on the comparative history of uncontrolled fire in large urban settlements around the world. Through a focus on fire, we hope to illuminate a host of issues surrounding urban cultures and the environmental significance of cities.

Preindustrial cities burned frequently. Yet many prospered, and some grew to populations of over a million inhabitants. Although new building and extinguishing technologies and the rise of fire insurance fundamentally altered the relationship between cities and fire beginning in the seventeenth century, many cities remained largely wood-built into the twentieth century. Some still are.

The English-language historiography on urban fire history is strongly weighted toward Europe and the United States. The conveners therefore look forward particularly to contributions on cities in the non-Western world in addition to proposals on European and North American cities. Comparison of differing urban morphologies, types of building material, social systems, cultural attitudes, and methods for coping with disaster in diverse locations should make this conference a significant first step toward a truly global history of urban fire.

We seek fresh thinking on a range of interconnected questions including:

  1. Architecture. Why were flammable materials used and until when did they continue to be used? What was the relationship between fire hazard and city planning?
  2. Habitation and urban morphology. How did density and other aspects of construction and habitation encourage or inhibit the spread of fires?
  3. Environment and economy. What were the effects of climate and seasonal weather patterns? How did urban fires affect rural areas, as sources of lumber and fuel, as part of the urban economy, etc.?
  4. Social factors contributing to fire. How did fires start? Were there incentives to start uncontrolled fires? What role did changes in the use of controlled fire have on the problem of uncontrolled fire?
  5. Social effects of fire. Who was most affected? Who lost most and who benefited? How did citizens cope with fire?
  6. Management of fire. Who fought fires and how? How did government and urban residents cope with the risk of uncontrolled fire and with the aftermath of large fires? How were fires recorded? How were they understood? What was done about arson?
  7. Politics and social change affecting fire regimes. What was the impact of war in regimes of fire management? What social, political, or economic factors brought about change in the regime of fire management?

Of course, individual papers cannot address all of these questions—nor is this list intended to exclude other possible questions. We are interested, however, in papers that will draw from the archive of particular cities and at the same time offer broad insights on the historical relationships between urban habitation, urban governance and urban environments. We also encourage proposals that incorporate transregional or global economic and environmental issues.

By addressing a common core group of questions for global comparison, we hope to be able to map regional patterns and determine in a nuanced way for the first time what roles climate, economy, government and culture have played in fire regimes in different parts of the world. Presenters must commit themselves to intensive collaboration with the editors and other participants toward publication of a coherent and wide-ranging global study.

Posted in academia, advertising, Americans, fire, humor, media, research, words | 3 Comments »