Mo’hameds, Mo’problems

    According to the UK’s Office for National Statistics, it’s time to put away the age-old reference to “Tom, Dick, and Harry.” It seems that the canon has been forever destabilized as, for the first time in history, the name Mohamed has made the list (2004) of the twenty most commonly chosen baby names in England and Wales. Suddenly, chances are that the boy next door may be a Mohamed, God help us all. A testament to the UK’s rapidly changing demographic fabric, the news reflects the alarming rise in the number of Muslim families in the country, as well as their apparent insistence on maintaining traces of their cultural heritage, however symbolic. It seems that the days of Hossein = Hoss, Mohamed = Michael, and Cyrus = Cy are coming to an end, alhamdillah. Britain, with a population of roughly 61 million, is now home to about 1.6 million Muslims. When reached for comment, officials noted that Jack and Emily firmly held on to their status as the most popular names for newborn boys and girls. Jack, in fact, has held on to the top spot for ten years running. David has altogether dropped from the top fifty — marking an end to the days in which Bowie, Beckham and beyond ruled naming circles. Meanwhile, the BBC reports that Charlie and Evie made notable gains, while last year’s big climber, Alfie, dropped nine places to 27.

    Dubai is at it again, desperately trying to make a name for itself on the world stage. This time, the city-state plans to ambitiously enter the annals of history. During this year’s shopping festival city planners managed to orchestrate the largest-ever gathering of persons with a single name. According to witnesses, between 1500 and 2000 Mohameds gathered at one of the city’s green spaces. From babies to the occasional geriatric, it was undoubtedly a rare moment in which class and race lines dissipated. According to our correspondent in Dubai, the event moved countless to the point of tears. So how did organizers ensure that the assembled were legitimately Mohameds and not mere attention-seeking charlatans? All participants were asked to produce a birth certificate upon arrival. The previous record for the gathering of people with one name was in Spain. There, a comparatively modest figure of 375 Marias gathered in 2003. The name record was the latest in a string of record-breaking feats that Dubai has engineered. The city also holds the record for the largest human flag, the biggest prayer mat, and the longest sofa. According to the BBC, plans are in the works for the largest charity box, the biggest mosaic made from drink cans, and the fastest pizza-eating attempt.

    —Negar Azimi

    Branding a Revolution

    As crowds gathered in Martyrs’ Square in Beirut for the funeral of slain former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, all the old flags came out. One could catch sight of the tired Progressive Socialist Party logo (white graphics on a faded blue background), Pierre Gemayel’s mug flogging for the Kitaeb (his haggard face jutting out from a stylized cedar tree), and a glut of hastily spray-painted banners. Aside from the fractious political implications at play, from an aesthetic point of view, one could only scan the crowd, read the typology, and sigh: How seventies. The old flags looked as tattered as the history of Lebanon’s civil war itself.

    That was on a Wednesday. By the time popular protests swarmed the same square to bring down the government the following Monday, visual strategies had changed dramatically. “Independence 05” banners — stark, hip, sleek, and modern — flashed before the cameras, projecting a youthful, energetic image to a frenzied media eager to take it all in. The posh sophistication of these logos should come as no surprise. This is Beirut after all. But how did such a massive aesthetic overhaul happen so quickly?

    Behind the scenes, a few members of Beirut’s bumping advertising community — creatives, if you will — had been exchanging phone calls among themselves and the opposition camp. They met to crank out a logo in less than two hours and boom, a revolution was branded.

    The people who created the “Independence 05” logo work for two of Beirut’s leading ad agencies and one of its major production houses. None will disclose their names or affiliations, in large part because their firms do brisk business throughout the region, Syria included.

    The chief designer of the logo, however, was happy to discuss aesthetic choices. “It’s a reminder of the first independence,” he says, in reference to Lebanon’s independence from France in 1943. “What we are trying to say is there is a new one and this time, this year, it’s no joke. It’s the second independence if you wish.”

    The language? English and Arabic. The colors? Red, white, and a hint of green. “Like the flag,” he says, “plus the colors are good to freshen the image.” (Any media consultant will sell you on the success of red and white branding.) “It’s designed in a trendy way, in expectation of a media situation. It has taste, has forwardness, has progressive feeling. The choice of typography — modern, clean, bold.” And the medium? “Everything — pins, stickers, posters, banners, wallpaper for your mobile phone.”

    —Kaelen Wilson-Goldie

    Beasts of Burden

    It seems that the sweeping tides of benevolent political correctness missed Turkey entirely on their passage though the Mediterranean. Go figure. A recent press release from the Environment and Forestry Ministry announced that Turkey will rename three animals whose scientific designations include references to Kurds and Armenians — historically shafted minority communities within greater Anatolia.

    Vulpes Vulpes Kurdistanica, a species of red fox, will now be referred to as just Vulpes Vulpes. A species of wild sheep called Ovis Armeniana has been changed to Ovis Orientalis Anatolicus, while a variety of deer known as Capreolus Capreolus Armenus will be rechristened Capreolus Cuprelus Capreolus.

    “Unfortunately, foreign scientists, who for many years researched Turkey’s flora and fauna, named plant and animal species that they had never come across before with a prejudiced mind-set,” the Ministry statement read. Prejudiced indeed, let the purging of the lexicon begin.

    —Negar Azimi