Creativity. Distilled.


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Getting and Spending in Amman

City Mall in Amman

Sometimes when i’m walking around City Mall, this poem comes into my mind… particularly the line “getting and spending we way waste our powers”:

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon,
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers,
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not.–Great God! I’d rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.

“The world is too much with us”, William Wordsworth, c. 1802
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War Cry


It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again. Because there is no effort without error and shortcomings, he who knows the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the high achievement of triumph and who at worst, if he fails while daring greatly, knows his place shall never be with those timid and cold souls who know neither victory nor defeat”.

Theodore Roosevelt,
“Citizenship in a Republic,”
Speech at the Sorbonne, Paris, April 23, 1910

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What is ‘Interruptions’?

So after months and months i finally got a version of what must be Amman’s most mysterious magazine: Interruptions.

What makes this magazine different? To begin with, its only produced when the team have enough money to go ahead and print it.  The content is let’s say not quite “mainstream” so advertising is an issue (Syntax being a notable exception) – which means a limited print run.  Then of course there’s distribution to think about… which involves some guy on a bike (or okay, maybe car) travelling around Amman to deliver the gem of a publication by hand, to strategic persons and locations.

The idea is to create an underground, edgy slightly cultish magazine with a dedicated tribe of followers, passed around by hand, and sustained by word of mouth.

So getting your hands on this Magazine is a bit of a mission – which is all the more reason to read it. But what’s it actually about?


Flicking through the NOISE EDITION [pictured above] there’s lots of interesting stuff. A picture of adoring fans pouring over Paris Hilton is matched with the headline “Why Things Suck” while an article by Raafat Majzoub on “Kul-Haifa-Thum Obstruction” asserts “we are no longer born gifted, we are made.”

There’s an article about branding Amman from 360.east on there, a piece on “neoliberal urban transformation” by Rami F. Daher which JO referenced here, as well as an article by Yara Saqfalhait entitled “The line between Utopia and Crime” – (excellent subject, still have to read).

As for the cat on the front cover, there’s an entire section dedicated to the “hidden feline society” which in fact is not “so much hidden as unseen” – the inference being that Amman’s creative’s experience something very similar [“this secret society has taken it upon themselves to start creating their own little world right under the nose of the humans”]

Interruptions definitely takes a certain amount of glee in being misunderstood… in a calculated sense of exile.  While most magazine’s dumb down their content to appeal to the widest audience this one does the opposite: “if you don’t get this, then you probably shouldn’t be reading this” is implicit in every page.  At times the language can get a little verbose, and the niche-nature of the work can create a slightly inward-looking ‘clubbish’ mentality, but perhaps this is understandable?

The sense of frustration and alienation running through the entire Magazine was probably the impetus for printing it in the first place.

You can check out the thinking behind Interruptions here or flick through previous issues here.

But do so quickly.  According to a founding “interrupter,” Khaled Sedki, the project has been ‘put on hold’ for now.  So these first impressions may well be your last.

I leave you with the lovely opening from the most recent issue:

“Dear Interruptionists,

This is certainly not the edition that will save the world. The content is neither coherent nor structured. It does not carry a gesture of order, or even attempt to build an idea. Noise edition is almost unedited, and its actual production took only a few weeks almost a year after releasing Banana.  For many, it’s a business failure since we beg for the money to print and then distribute for free! Many articles were postponed for lack of funds, and great ideas were ditched for lack of time but nothing was held-up for the lack of passion, energy or determination”

What do you think?  Would you pay for this Magazine?  I know i would.


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On People and Paper: JO vs Western Bureaucracy

Recently there have been a spate of blogs examining how things work in Jordan.  Raghda Butros writes in 7iber on the positive experience of renewing her ID card in JO. Tarawnah compares renewing a passport in Jordan to doing so at the Canadian embassy, concluding that it’s ‘interesting to see something in the public sector that Jordan is actually better at than a first world nation.”

Meanwhile on 360east Humeid paints a black picture of Jordan’s deteriorating Universities, and why he’ll be sending his kids abroad to study unless something changes.  This was a fairly shocking post actually.

I thought I’d add my two cents, just generally.  I don’t know much about bureaucracy in Jordan, but I do know about it in the USA, UK and Europe – and at times it borders on the absurd.  If at times Jordan suffers from a lack of rules, the West suffers from way too many – the weight and intricacy of bureaucracy becomes an impediment to getting anything done. Try filling in a college application to a UK or US University, organizing anything with the banks, cancelling a mobile or satellite subscription, or working with the health services.

I met a British couple a few weeks back who had to have an interview with social services, three references from a priest, and a ‘home visit’ in order to get their child into a Catholic School for one year.  The bureaucracy only ever seems to work one way: student loans have taken half your salary by mistake and take four months to pay it back. Your Landlord goes into liquidation so the deposit takes a year and a half to be returned. The parking ticket machine is broken, but they fine you anyway…

I remember once walking into a small medical clinic in Warwick, to ask how a family member was doing:

Me: Am just checking up on my [relative]. Have they seen the doctor?

Receptionist: Sorry, data protection, that’s confidential

Me: Fine can I go inside to walk them back home when there’re finished?

Receptionist: For security reasons we can only allow patients inside.

Me: Fine can i wait here?

Receptionist: Please wait outside.

Me: It’s raining. Okay. Can I book an appointment for later in the week?

(Receptionist looks me up and down)

Receptionist: What’s wrong with you?

Me: Sorry I can’t tell you that – Data Protection.

Another time – at college – i got disciplined for standing on a department balcony one sunny spring day, due to ‘health and safety’ regulations and ‘concerns about suicide’….

Sometimes the way things work in Amman can be refreshing.  A few weeks ago i read a piece bemoaning the “excessive personalization of affairs in Middle Eastern Business and Politics” and a lack of “appropriate institutions.”  The comment left me feeling torn. After all, Europe has lots of institutions :-p

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Claustrophobia and the EU Film Festival: A Rant.

Last Thursday I went to the Hussein Cultural Center to enjoy the most anticipated movie of the 22nd European Film Festival in Jordan – the Prophet.  We turned up an hour early, and ended up being literally trapped in a small glass smoking room for two hours – with the only toilets in the entire building out of reach in the area beyond.  Women who needed a drink or to sit down were told by boorish bouncer type organizers to stay put and ‘wait for just five more minutes.’

The previous act finished over half an hour late.  It took the audience an age to leave the building.  About 20% of those who turned up for the movie (including the Ambassador’s whose embassies had supported the event itself) just went home after being released.  I wish I’d had their self-discipline.

After slipping through the door I went to the restroom, and the minute I came out some JO tried to put me in a headlock and force me back into the room! When it looked like things were about to kick off, a middle aged lady told me ‘you’re completely right’ and a girl in a headscarf literally had to throw herself on top of the guy involved to calm him down.

Then the organizer (who’s usually very good) arrived, and told me ‘this was completely normal’ and things ‘were beyond her control’. Parting salvo: “This is an art event, not a football stadium” as well as obnoxious words like ‘disgrace’ and one or two colorful adjectives 😦

Anyway this was the scene.

Jordan’s cultural scene is superb – the events are smart, wide ranging, usually well organized and executed with taste.  Even if things start late, that’s fine if people are agreeable.  The people who work in this field do so because they care about it and, in the case of the RFC, happen to be really good at what they do.

As for the artists – even wonder why galleries are often so calm, or screenings tend to take place in comfortable or inviting surroundings?  Because they want their work to be enjoyed, and given the attention it deserves.

As cultural events become larger in Jordan, I hope they retain their quirkiness, their friendliness, and their openness to anyone vaguely interested… while staying hermetically sealed to the corrosive effect of those who couldn’t care less.

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Cafe Des Artistes opens on Rainbow

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“The Tower of Misunderstanding”

A touching animation.

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Lilly Allen: “22” Lyrics

Lilly Allen often comes across as the same old, but her lyrics are anything but….

When she was 22 the future looked bright
But she’s nearly 30 now and she’s out every night
I see that look in her face, she’s got that look in her eye
She’s thinking how did I get here and wondering why

It’s sad but it’s true how society says her life is already over
There’s nothing to do and there’s nothing to say
‘Til the man of her dreams comes along
Picks her up and puts her over his shoulder
It seems so unlikely in this day and age

She’s got an alright job but it’s not a career
Whenever she thinks about it, it brings her to tears
‘Cause all she wants is a boyfriend, she gets one night stands
She’s thinking how did I get here, I’m doing all that I can

It’s sad but it’s true how society says her life is already over
There’s nothing to do and there’s nothing to say
‘Til the man of her dreams comes along
Picks her up and puts her over his shoulder
It seems so unlikely in this day and age

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Hell Yes.

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