Urban (Garbage & Graffiti)

When you live in the city your eyesight changes. What visitors consider ugly and want to avoid, city dwellers often find attractive, interesting, even beautiful.

Urban living reminds me to look for beauty in unexpected places.

This picture posted is called Garbage and Graffiti and is taken by my daughter, Stefanie. With it I ask the question — Where have you found beauty in unlikely spaces?

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Tahrir Square – Walls and Graffiti

During the 18 days that changed the course of modern-day Egypt Tahrir Square, in the heart of downtown Cairo, became known throughout the world as the epicenter of freedom and change. We couldn’t wait to get a glimpse of the square and talk to people about what had transpired and what is transpiring.

Just a few days before our arrival the area around Tahrir was in chaos, so much so that we made contingency plans for where we would stay. Our daughter lives just a couple of blocks away and by the time we arrived things had quieted down. Quiet is a relative term. We headed out on Friday with plans to eat Egyptian pizza (fateer) and head toward the Nile for a felucca ride. At one end of Annie’s street ten soldiers in full riot gear blocked any movement and just past the soldiers sat four army tanks, ready and waiting to be used at the sign of any trouble.

As we attempted to get to the Nile, every where we turned we ran into obstacles. Large circles of barbed wire blocked street after street. And then there were the walls. These walls are like nothing I’ve seen before. They are massive square boulders built into 12 feet high walls. They are strategically placed in the downtown area to restrict movement and prohibit protesters from gathering. They are quite simply a clever means to block civilian dissent. To put this into context, it would be like New York City blocking off all side roads leading to Zuccotti Park with massive, immoveable, concrete boulders, sending all traffic in the area into chaos and frustration. Taxi drivers shake their heads in disgust as all attempts to drive places are met with detours imposed by the walls.

As quickly as the walls have been built, the graffiti has appeared. It was my children and Shepard Fairey that first challenged me to look at graffiti as an art form and a means of expression. The graffiti on the newly constructed walls does just that as it communicates powerful messages from civilians related to both the January 25th uprising as well as the violence that has been perpetuated this fall. This graffiti is well done. A common theme includes a patched eye, an accusation toward a young soldier who is infamous for shooting out the eyes of protesters – “Yes! I got another eye” is his arrogant quote.

More than anything, the graffiti is evidence of frustration and division regarding the ongoing role of the military in the new Egypt. For me the graffiti was a look into a society where I am an outsider. My Arabic is not good and even as I struggle to communicate, I want to learn more of what people are thinking and feeling. As with any kind of art, those who create the graffiti wish to use more than words to communicate their thoughts and ideas. Take a look and get a glimpse of Tahrir Square through the graffiti in these pictures.

Blogging – Graffiti with Punctuation or Real Writing?

In the recently released movie “Contagion”, a researcher is being harassed by a blogger who wants a story. The researcher turns to the blogger and says “Alan, blogging is not writing. It’s graffiti with punctuation!” And there the conversation ends.

It’s a fair point. To those who have had formal training (and informal struggle) with writing, taking courses and perfecting a craft, writing and then rewriting sentences, forming ideas and then tearing them apart, it is galling to have bloggers throw up a 500 word post with little thought.

But what if the blogger does think carefully about it? What if the blogger gets that idea, ponders it, forms a post, rethinks it, restructures, finds a picture, hears more information, adds another paragraph, and so on? Even if the blogger hasn’t had much formal training in writing, they are working hard at developing their craft – it’s just a different sort of craft. It’s a soundbite craft of sorts – give people a couple short paragraphs with hopes that they will think about it and go find out more.

So readers, what do you think? Is blogging real writing? Or is graffiti with punctuation an apt description? Would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section. And I promise – your views are welcome, whether you like blogs or not!

Lastly – a Happy Saturday to you – may your weekend be a weekend of rest and peace.

Check out these photos taken by my daughter of graffiti near our house! Makes me want to blog :)