A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

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Archive for the ‘media’ Category

the origins of jihad, New Yorker edition

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on October 23, 2009

I’m on a media kick these days – and totally addicted to online newspaper and magazine archives. One thing that interests me is the way that certain terms come into vogue, and how the meanings that attach to them change over time.

So today I took a peek at the New Yorker‘s archives, curious to see when the word “jihad” first appeared, and in what context.

The New Yorker‘s archives stretch back to 1925, but the first mention of the word “jihad” does not appear until 1985, in the July 8 edition of John Newhouse’s “Diplomatic Round”. Titled “A Freemasonry of Terrorism”, the multi-page article uses the word “jihad” four times – but only as part of the group name “Islamic Jihad”, and not as a religious concept or a political strategy.

Terms that today might be associated with jihad, such as “martyrdom”, are used, but there is nothing in this article about terrorists “advocating jihad” or “espousing jihad” or “belief in jihad”.

The next article to use the term is Jane Kramer’s April 14, 1986 “Letter from Europe”. Kramer also uses “jihad” only as part of “Islamic Jihad”. (After introducing the group, she refers to them as “the jihad” in a way that reminds me of how some journalists today talk about “the hizb”. I find this approach bizarre, but what do I know?) Nor does this start much of a trend: the word “jihad” does not appear again until a July 1990 piece on Egypt, where it is again used as the name of a group (“Jihad”).

However, by November 1995, the situation appeared to be changing. A piece by Mary Anne Weaver on “The Annals of Covert Action”, titled “The Stranger”, used the term as follows:

“… the C.I.A.-sponsored “jihad”, or holy war, against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan …”.

In other words, “jihad” now appeared as a term of its own, but required a definitional gloss for readers.

By July 1998, the word had become detached not only from group names, but also from the need for definition: a feature on the failure Prince Charles’ campaign for traditional building styles described him as on “a jihad against modern architecture”.

I don’t have any sweeping conclusions to offer about this – I just find it interesting. Next up: “jihad” in the New York Times, where its use as noun and metaphor has a much longer history.


Posted in internet, media, research, words | Leave a Comment »

Sunni Love, take one

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on October 18, 2009

I should be calling this post “Lives of the Rich and Famous: 1953” – but “Sunni Love” was too much fun. While poking around in Time‘s online archives, I found this December 1953 gem about the non-marriage between a son of Ibn Saud and a daughter of Riad al Solh. Its a bit overwrought in parts (“with dark eyes that pierced like a Bedouin’s”, not to mention “he paled and muttered to himself” – seriously?), and a bit stereotyped in its views of Muslim Arab women (after all, the piece is titled SAUDI ARABIA: Western Woman) but its a good story, and Mlle. al Solh certainly sounds like someone I would have wanted to be friends with. Enjoy!

The bullet that killed Lebanon’s first and greatest Premier, brilliant, little Riad el Solh (TIME, July 30, 1951), distressed the generous heart of old Ibn Saud, autocrat of Saudi Arabia. The old lion of the desert could always count on an ally when El Solh was representing Lebanon. Ibn Saud wept and vowed to look after his old friend’s widow and four daughters. Tragically in the patriarchal Arab world, El Solh died without leaving a son.

So in the summer of 1953, when 29-year-old Sultan Al-Saud arrived in Lebanon, he bore his father’s sympathy to the bereaved family and an offer of $79,000 to the widow so that she might finance the mansion her husband had begun. Then Emir Sultan’s eye lighted upon 22-year-old Alia Solh. She was slender and bright, with dark eyes that pierced like a Bedouin’s when she was talking and crinkled when she smiled. She was also the big girl on campus at the American University of Beirut, where she studied political science and practiced it by leading demonstrations for women’s rights, daring hapless cops to shoot her down.

The Spark. Though Sultan was Ibn Saud’s 16th son, he was one of his favorites. Unlike some of the other 43 sons, he was able and hard working. As mayor of the capital city of Riyadh, he had done a first-rate job, and in negotiations with Aramco he had amazed the American oilmen with his quick mind. Matchmakers suggested that Alia and Sultan would make a good couple; Ibn Saud and El Solh’s widow agreed. Sultan heeded his father and in traditional Arabic style delicately indicated his wish to Mme. Solh through go-betweens. Unaware of all this, Alia went off to England, then to Paris for a holiday. Quite by chance, Sultan appeared in Paris, too, and inquired around about his bride-to-be. What he heard alarmed him. He hired detectives, who reported that Alia was indeed no strict Moslem maiden but was gadding about the Left Bank with a young crowd, behaving herself like a thoroughly emancipated, Western-style 22-year-old.

The Flame. When Alia returned to Beirut this fall and learned of the marriage negotiations, she laid down conditions. She would marry Sultan if he would join the foreign service and live in Washington, Paris, London, Beirut or any other civilized place. She would not live in Saudi Arabia, where women stay in seclusion. She would never wear a veil. Sultan must marry no other woman and must agree to live his entire life with her. Sultan must put a large sum in escrow just in case he should decide to leave her.

When Sultan heard these terms, he paled and muttered to himself. Added to what he had learned about Alia in Paris, this was too much. Though he wished to honor his dying father’s dynastic wish, he wanted a traditional Moslem wife, not a Western woman. Meanwhile, in Beirut, Alia did some fast research on her own and discovered that Sultan already had at least one wife, as well as two sons and four daughters.

Last week it was all over. The matchmakers bowed out. Alia was back in her political science classes at the American University of Beirut. Sultan tended to his job of governing Riyadh and seemed a good bet to become Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Agriculture. Both heaved great sighs of relief. Their families were disappointed, but also aware that times have changed in the Middle East.

Posted in Arab world, Lebanon, media, romance | 2 Comments »

more firsts: Hariri in Time magazine

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on October 18, 2009

I’d like to say that Rafiq Hariri’s first appearance in Time magazine was just as much a non-sequitur as his first appearance in the New York Times. But it wasn’t. In fact, Hariri’s first appearance in Time heralds many later associations: construction wealth, civic generosity, an interest in ridding the streets of garbage, and a focus on Beirut’s downtown.

Hariri was first introduced to Time readers in a November 8, 1982 piece called “Coming Back to Life“, which is excerpted below:

Beirut rebuilds, but old wounds are slow to heal.

The flower shops are open again, with their carnations and birds of paradise spilling out of the open stalls and onto the sidewalks. Fruit and vegetables are once more being hawked on nearly every street corner, and coffee wagons have again sprouted their gaily colored umbrellas along the avenues. The sound of a car backfiring is likely to be exactly that and not the blast of gunfire. And early every morning, joggers of every description—Lebanese and foreigners, students and businessmen, paratroopers and housewives—swarm along the Avenue de Paris, popularly known as the Corniche.

Beirut, slowly, is coming back to life. It is a remarkable feat, considering what the city has endured. For most of the summer Beirut was a bloody battleground for Israeli troops and Palestinian guerrillas …

Nonetheless, recovery has begun. Aside from the gradual revival of commercial life, an extraordinary transformation has taken place in the shattered western section. Every day dozens of bulldozers clear away rubble, and convoys of trucks cart off debris. Shell craters have been filled, sidewalks repaired. The result: West Beirut is cleaner than at any time since the beginning of the civil war in 1975. The Corniche Mazraa, site of some of the war’s heaviest shelling and once littered with broken masonry, is well groomed, and the four-lane high way to the airport has been repaved.

Most of the credit for the cleanup operation belongs to Rafiq Bahaeddine al Hariri, a wealthy Lebanese businessman from Sidon. Owner of a construction firm called Oger, which has headquarters in Paris, Hariri has donated the services of hundreds of workers and a small army of equipment, including 40 bulldozers, 60 trucks, ten garbage trucks, five excavators and a pair of cranes, each able to hoist up to 40 tons. The estimated tab so far: $7.5 million, all of it paid by Hariri.

The siege has also created a chance to rebuild the old city center, which was reduced to rubble during the 1975-76 civil war. By cleaning up this section, Hariri hopes to bring life back to a no man’s land that most people in Beirut did not dare visit for seven years.

(The inflation calculator at http://www.dollartimes.com tells me that $7.5 million in 1982 dollars would be worth $16.77 million today.)

1982 was a very rough year for Beirut and its inhabitants. I’m tempted to say that I wonder how grateful the (Amin) Gemayel government was for this in-kind donation, but I’m not sure that one can wonder when one thinks she can already guess at the answer.

Posted in Beirut, Lebanon, media | Leave a Comment »

firsts: Hariri in the New York Times

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on October 17, 2009

I find firsts interesting. When did someone we now consider famous first attract the notice of major media outlets? How was he or she portrayed, and how has his or her image evolved since?

Some time ago, my interest in firsts intersected with my interest in Rafiq Hariri, and I began poking around a few news outlets, starting with the New York Times.

I bet you won’t be surprised to learn that Hariri’s name first appears in the Times in 1982 – but I also bet that you will never guess why. Will it help if I tell you that he appears in a section titled “Middle Western Journal”?

Yep – that’s “Western”, not “Eastern”. Hariri appears in an August 25, 1982 story about a stalled dam project in Missouri. The dam project put pressure in turn on the economy of nearby St. Louis, which had been anticipating good things:

It was to have been a boon to the St. Louis area: a large, $200 million complex with a 400-room hotel, three high-rise office buildings, a shopping mall and condominium apartments, all to be built on choice land in Clayton, Mo., just west of St. Louis.

Instead, the complex was described as a “six-block-long crater”. And guess who was behind the project?

It all began with considerable fanfare a few years ago when Rafik B. Al Hariri, a Saudi developer, put up money to get the project going. There was a flurry of activity: Architectural plans were drawn, Western International Hotels became involved and work crews began gouging the earth to prepare for a major parking lot that was to be the project’s first stage.

But Mr. Hariri encountered snags, according to Gyo Obata, a partner in the architectural firm that designed the project. ”It was one of those absentee ownership deals that was made worse by problems with getting financing as interest rates went up,” Mr.  Obata said. ”He kept putting up more money for the project and probably spent $30 million. Finally he said he could go no farther and the project stopped.”

The article noted that Hariri was “said to be looking for another developer”, but that few might be interested given the raised interest rates and lack of interest in the complex’s office space.

I’m amused but happy that Hariri’s first appearance in the Times has to do with the Midwest, rather than the Mideast. And I’m delighted to have a new spin to put on the old phrase: “Meet me in St. Louis”!

Posted in Americans, Arab world, construction, Lebanon, media, news, Saudi Arabia | 1 Comment »

nothing but blah blah blue skies

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on May 12, 2009

I love posters, I love graphic design, and I love election campaigns. So its been killing me to miss out on all the fun that +961, Beirut/NTSC, QN, and others have been having with their photos of the various and varied electoral posters that currently pepper Lebanon’s highways and byways.

Of course, I have been enjoying all the digital riffs I’ve received via email (not to mention those on which friends have been “tagged” on Facebook); my favorite, of course, is the Jumblatt’ed “Sois Beik et Pivote”. And last week I began to have the glimmer of a hope that I might have stumbled upon a new source for electoral ads: the Daily Star.

But I’m not sure in the end that this is worth getting at all excited about. Here is last week’s political ad, courtesy of Mustaqbal:



Am I missing something here? Is there some deeper meaning to “blue sky”? I get that Mustaqbal’s color is blue, and that blue skies are tranquil. But in my memory, blue sky days are good not only for beachs and skiing, but also for a whole lot of less-than-tranquil ishtibakat’ing. If I were a voter, I’d like to see a detailed platform explaining how a Mustaqbal vote would encourage some blue-sky activities and discourage others.

Sometimes simplicity is artistic. And sometimes its just unhelpfully vague. Blue sky. Yawn.

Posted in advertising, Arabic, Beirut, Lebanon, media, politics | 2 Comments »

dream jobs, part I: “Good representation and looking”

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on April 17, 2009

Yesterday I received an email that I initially mistook for spam. Upon reading it a second time, I changed my mind. I think that it is a genuine job email – just a terribly written one. No wonder the company wants someone with “Good English writing and speaking!”

If you consider your self to have good looks, a good command of English, a good amount of Minimum experience, and charity in your heart, this job may be for you:

A printed and online Magazine is looking for Media Specialized Sales Representatives in Sharm El Sheikh Qualifications needed:

* Good representation and looking
* Good English writing and speaking
* Computer Skills
* Six month of Minimum experience in that field

If you see your self fitting those Qualifications Please send your CV with recent photo to the following mail redseajobs@yahoo.com

Note: any CV without recent photo will not be considered

Qualified person will be entitled to good salary, accommodation and commission

Posted in advertising, Arab world, Egypt, internet, media | Leave a Comment »

when “international opportunity” knocks …

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on April 2, 2009

One of the nice things about having nice friends in a bad economy is their willingness to email around news of any forthcoming job opportunity. I am (happily!) still gainfully employed, but I appreciate each opportunity to be part of a chain of virtue – passing job postings on to those who might be looking.

So for those of you who might be in the market for a real fixer-upper of a job, and are eager to spend a bit more time in Dubai, this job might be for you. (And if you aren’t familiar with MBN, scroll down to see what semi-popular radio station and total-disaster television channel you would be responsible for resurrecting before you ready your resume :).)

International Opportunity

Television Center Management

Director, Dubai Production Center

The Middle East Broadcasting Networks, Inc. (MBN) is seeking an experienced television professional to serve as Center Director of our broadcasting facility in Dubai U.A.E. This is a non-editorial position.

The Dubai Production Center Director has overall responsibility for the management of television and radio production operations at MBN’s Dubai Production Center and is MBN’s representative in the UAE. This individual will manage all aspects of the Center’s television and radio production operations to meet MBN’s programming requirements including:

· Oversee daily technical operations as well as the implementation of approved technical projects, upgrades, and equipment installations.

· Lead the Dubai Center staff; ensure compliance with MBN practices, production standards, and procedures.

· Manage operational plans, work flows and resource requirements. Manage spending for Center operations within prescribed budgets.

· Communicate changes in local conditions that affect operations to senior management.

· Represent MBN to visiting officials and dignitaries.

· Work with the Branch Manager to ensure administrative operations adequately meet Center requirements, developing budgets, staff plans, and organizational structures.

· Assist with on-site management of human resource and other administrative management issues.

The Center Director is responsible for building and maintaining positive business relationships, including liaison with the US Embassy in the U.A.E and Consulate in Dubai and must be able to negotiate and manage in a multi-cultural environment.

This is an exciting opportunity for a television broadcast professional with production or business operations experience.

The successful candidate will have a 4 year college degree and have strong strategic, analytical and general management skills honed through at least 10 years of experience in television business or production operations.

If you are a leader with a proven ability to provide structure and oversight with experience integrating new technology into operations, we invite you apply!

MBN is a Washington, DC. based international multi-media broadcasting corporation broadcasting television and FM /AM radio news and information in Arabic to the 22+ Arabic speaking countries of the Middle East and North Africa as well as to Arabic speakers across Europe.

MBN offers a challenging work environment, competitive pay and excellent benefits. The selected candidate must be able to pass background check. MBN is a private, nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation. Please visit our television website at www.alhurra.com and the radio website at www.radiosawa.com.

Please forward your cover letter, resume, and salary expectations to mbnjobs@alhurra.com. Please include the job title of the position in the email subject line.

Posted in advertising, Americans, Arab world, Arabic, media, radio, television | Leave a Comment »

Beirut: banding together

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on February 10, 2009

One of the many events currently taking place in New York’s busy cultural scene is a music festival called “Sounds Like Brooklyn“, which features musicians from – yes, you guessed it – Brooklyn. And the headliner band, which played a concert this past weekend, is called Beirut.

The first time I heard of this band was – appropriately enough – in Beirut, during drinks at Bardo. An incredibly lush piece came over the sound system (a nice break from the usual music played there) and B, whose blushing description of meeting his girlfriend’s parents belied my friend A’s description of him as “a total rogue”, smiled and said, That’s Beirut.

The song was “Scenic World”, and the lyrics are actually quite depressing – but the music is stunning. (You can listen to it here.) Does it sound Lebanese? Not at all – and that’s the rub.

Beirut-the-band has no connection to Beirut-the-city. No Lebanese musicians, no Lebanese musical influences, although the group does claim a strong interest in Balkan harmonies. I wish there were a deeper connection – as do the numerous journalists who have asked Zach Condon, the band’s founder, to explain its name. Perhaps its the fault of youth: Condon was only 18 or 20 when he chose the name, and (thanks perhaps to beer pong?) he seems to have thought nothing more than: “sounds cool”.

Of all the articles I found that addressed the group’s name, this one – a feature in the August 6, 2006 issue of New York Magazine – made me the saddest. I know where I was on August 6, 2006, and I know how I felt about “the Beirut situation”.

Here’s what Condon had to say:

Condon’s band has grown to ten members—just in time, it would seem, to defend its name. “You know, it’s ironic,” he says, addressing the “Beirut situation” before a rehearsal in his Bushwick loft. (Spackle covers everything, including the pots and pans. He and his roommates are trying to build individual bungalows, maybe buy a pool table.) “One of the reasons I named the band after that city was the fact that it’s seen a lot of conflict. It’s not a political position. I worried about that from the beginning. But it was such a catchy name. I mean, if things go down that are truly horrible, I’ll change it. But not now. It’s still a good analogy for my music. I haven’t been to Beirut, but I imagine it as this chic urban city surrounded by the ancient Muslim world. The place where things collide.”

I still like “Scenic World”, but I’ll wait to hear Beirut play live until they do a bit more research into their city.

Posted in Americans, Arab world, Arabic, art, beer, Beirut, Brooklyn, Israel, media, music, news, words | Leave a Comment »

Presidential overtures: Hisham Melhem on the Arabiya interview

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on January 31, 2009

I hadn’t planned to write anything about the interview that President Obama gave on Arabiya this past week – for several reasons. That he would choose to give his first official news interview to an Arabic-language news channel is a wonderful first step; that he chose Arabiya – a weak, pro-Saudi channel -, and not Jazeera – the Arab world’s best, most neutral, and most professional channel -, was a huge disappointment.

Also, on a personal level, I don’t care for Hicham Melhem. I sat near to him at an event this fall, and he was incredibly rude: he insisted on chit-chatting (or rather, chatted up – see below) in Arabic throughout the entire event, ignoring the speakers in favor of the young women seated five feet away. In other words, his behavior was not only rude to the speakers, but it was also rude to the audience members around him, who (like me) might have preferred listening to the headliners’ talk than his own largely snide remarks.

My personal experiences aside, I can say that he turned out to be a fine interviewer, and that happily he did not ignore our President in favor of whatever comely young producer was working off-screen.

Anyway. If you watched the interview (its in English) and are curious to hear more about the interview process and reaction in the region, NPR’s On the Media has a very nice interview with Melhem that you can listen to here. Its not too long – 7.5 minutes – and quite interesting.

Posted in Americans, Arab world, Arabic, media, news, politics, television | Leave a Comment »

a treehouse in the sea

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on January 28, 2009

Has anyone else heard about this? Qifa Nabki wrote in a group email that I received this morning. Am I the last one?

QN was talking, of course, about Cedars Island, a planned cedar-in-the-sea more-Dubai-than-Dubai development. I had heard about it, thanks to a Facebook status message that M posted last week:

M wants to move to Cedar Island.

Okay, I thought – M is fairly peripatetic – after which it slipped from my mind. Luckily, QN was a bit more on the ball – and has a hysterical, very on-point post about the development, which you can read here.

The project’s website is a laugh-out-loud hoot to read. Its news section recounts Tourism Minister Elie Marouni’s recent visit to developer Noor Holding’s offices, in which he “expressed his blessing” and wished them “big success”.  The project promises residents an “exotic, pleasant, and peaceful environment”, which will “mainly consist of 8 distinct zones.” What are these distinct zones? you might ask.  They are “zone a, b, c, d, e, f, g, & h.”

Curious to know what a cedar in the sea might look like? Me, too. After all, how one draws a Lebanese cedar often tells much about one’s political affiliations.

Here is the official rendering of the project:

cedar-islandSigh. It looks like a joke, doesn’t it? But as QN says: this is the real thing. And it will be located on the coast of Damour, between the airport (easy exit in case of troubles: a plus. distance from Beirut: a minus.) and Jiyyeh (easy access to a power station: a plus. increased likelihood of Israeli bombing raids: a minus.), where cedar imagery has been few and far between.

So.  Which cedar do you think Cedar Islands should most resemble?

Chamoun’s cedar?


The Kataeb cedar?


The Ouwet cedar?


The Lebanese Communist cedar?

lebanese_communist_party_flagThe national flag cedar?

lebanese-national-flagOr – my favorite, thanks to its slightly goofy shape – the AUB cedar?aub-logo

Cedars are a serious topic in Lebanon. If Noor Holding doesn’t fully understand what it is getting into, the lifestyle it promises residents could be “exotic” indeed.

Posted in advertising, Arab world, Beirut, cedar, construction, economics, friends, Lebanon, media, politics, tourism, vanity | 5 Comments »