The Real Superheroes are still in Comic Books…

“His comic books have captured the imagination of so many young people with superheroes who embodies the tolerance and teachings of Islam.

… Superman and Batman have reached out to their Muslim counter parts…. And I hear they are making progress too.”

- President Barak Obama, 2010

Last summer I had an opportunity to spend part it at the Columbia Business School (CBS) in NYC where I was part of the Rothschild Fellowship. During this time, I had an opportunity to meet social entrepreneurs from the UK and France,  continued fostering a passion and had an opportunity to expand my cultural and religious beliefs.

On an early New York morning we hard a guest speaker to begin our day- Dr. Naif Al-Mutawa, a former CBS alumni. Here was Dr. Mutawa, dress shirt tucked into his jeans, a glowing aura of passion and only small patches of grey in his beard that would hint at his age.

Over the next couple hours Dr. Mutawa spent some time speaking to us about his creation of  the 99….. the world’s first superheroes based on Islamic culture and society.

At first I was a little hesitant. But that was quick to change. What would eventually be Dr. Mutawa’s TED Talk presentation at Oxford the following week, we were introduced to a group of superheroes that have brought a complete different identity to the Islamic world.

Dr. Mutawa’s TED Talk- must see talk on the history of the 99 and how it has evolved:

I was so thrilled to hear about this concept!

Just a few weeks ago DC comics released the first of six comics where the the Justice League of America (… Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, Green Lantern, Aquaman…) began partnering with the 99 (…Dr. Ramzi Razem, Rughal, Widad the loving, Jami the assembler…).

It is not the first time that powerful superheroes put their egos to the side to over come evil. In fact, I remember as a kid when Marvel’s Spiderman teamed up with Strom and Beast from X-men and on a diferent occasion with the Fantastic Four.

Tonight I sat down and read the comic. Although I remember it taking me much longer to read a comic book, I was so excited that for the first time in my life, the superheroes I grew up admiring have refreshed my youth by continuing my admiration of the ability for these individuals to over come evil together.

Sounds chessy. But its not.

We may be too old to read comics, but every kid grew up on comics at some point in their life. Our childhood comic heroes are today’s Hollywood superstars. I can only hope that today’s real heroes can learn from those we look up to as kids and overcome their differences to truly appreciate the beauty that exists in all cultures and religions.

The truth is that one superhero can make a difference. A team of superheroes – with different abilities- can make an lasting impact.

To end, I wanted to show a couple quick snap photos of the first time where we see such a unique relationship between superheroes being created.

Justice League of America

Superman meets part of the 99

Introducing the 99

| if I knew all the words I would write myself out of here. |

Vegetarian’s Nightmare….

In honor of Michael Pollan’s (author of In Defense of Food and The Omnivore’s Dilemma) new book Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual, I’d like to share a hilarious poem.

by Baxter Black

a dissertation on plant’s rights

Ladies and diners I make you
A shameful, degrading confession.
A deed of disgrace in the name of good taste
Though I did it, I meant no aggression.

I had planted a garden last April
And lovingly sang it a ballad.
But later in June beneath a full moon
Forgive me, I wanted a salad!

So I slipped out and fondled a carrot
Caressing its feathery top.
With the force of a brute I tore out the root!
It whimpered and came with a pop!

Then laying my hand on a radish
I jerked and it left a small crater.
Then with the blade of my True Value spade
I exhumed a slumbering tater!

Celery I plucked, I twisted a squash!
Tomatoes were wincing in fear.
I choked the Romaine. It screamed out in pain,
Their anguish was filling my ears!

I finally came to the lettuce
As it cringed at the top of the row
With one wicked slice I beheaded it twice
As it writhed, I dealt a death blow.

I butchered the onions and parsley.
My hoe was all covered with gore.
I chopped and I whacked without looking back
Then I stealthily slipped in the door.

My bounty lay naked and dying
So I drowned them to snuff out their life.
I sliced and I peeled as they thrashed and they reeled
On the cutting board under my knife.

I violated tomatoes
So their innards could never survive.
I grated and ground ‘til they made not a sound
Then I boiled the tater alive!

Then I took the small broken pieces
I had tortured and killed with my hands
And tossed them together, heedless of whether
They suffered or made their demands.

I ate them. Forgive me, I’m sorry
But hear me, though I’m a beginner
Those plants feel pain, though it’s hard to explain
To someone who eats them for dinner!

I intend to begin a crusade
For PLANT’S RIGHTS, including chick peas.
The A.C.L.U. will be helping me too.
In the meantime, please pass the bleu cheese.

| if I knew all the words I would write myself out of here. |

Valentine’s in Economics…

As Saturday comes, some will be celebrating old friendships over dinner, some may be celebrating a birthday or anniversary but many will be with their loved one. The beauty of relationships is its ability to be translated into any language, including economics.

I was introduced to Tim Harford by a professor here at Cambridge. Harford is an economics writer for the Financial Times and is known for his “Dear Economist” column. Aside from my superficial understanding of economics, below is a funny excerpt from one of his columns in the Financial Times.
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The Life of Others…

We live in a society that is continuously flooded by overly perverted teenage drama movies and in a rare instance hope comes back and really brought me to realize the beauty behind the art of film making. This is to not say that there are not great movies previously produced- The Shawshank Redemption, Crash, Amelie- just to name a few. Unfortunately, we live in a time where the great movies are the ones that have been stumped on by Hollywood’s massive budgets. For what ever boundaries that exist and what ever variable that affect the popularity of a movie, when a movie such as Ashton Kutcher’s What Happens in Vegas (5.9/10, out of 20,295 votes) has a $35 million production budget, it would be obvious that a movie such as The Life of Others (8.5/10, out of 48,060 votes), with a $2 million budget, would be dwarfed by big budget films with big budget stars.

It begins with-

1984, East Berlin, Glasnost if nowhere in sight,
The Stasi, the East German Secret Police, keeps the population under strict control,
The Stasi declared goal: ‘ to know everything’

Glasnost was a policy introduced by the last Soviet Union General Secretary, Mikhail Gorbachev. This was a policy of openness and transparency, which was to be a means of combating bureaucratic distortion. 1985 was the commencement for the fall of a wall on November 9, 1989 that would be written in the history books as one of the most powerful times of the 20th century. For anyone who is a writer, a patron of the arts, a scholar of history or just someone who appreciates a movie that completes your thoughts but still leaves you yearning for more- although I am two years late- I would absolutely recommend for you to go out and rent/watch/download(itunes ☺) The Life of Others.

Das Leben der Anderen (The Life of Others) was written and directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck and received the 2007 Academy Award for Best Foreign Film. The movie is filled with drama, excitement, love, sadness, and happiness. Any summary I give about this movie would be a disservice to it. However, the general synopsis of the movie is about Georg Dreyman, an East-German Western educated playwright. Loyal to his country and uncritical to the Party, Dreyman knows the truth about his corrupt Soviet government, yet continues to live his life doing what he is good at. What Dreyman does not know is that Stasi Captain Gerd Wiesler begins to secretly supervise him due to a suspicious tip off from a minister. From here the story of these two opposite individuals evolve and the audience comes to see how the world of Dreyman and Wiesler merge. This movie simply takes you to a world that existed on a side of the wall that many generations of Orwell readers could only imagine. A movie is art when it converges your feelings all together and this is what Donnersmarck was able to do.

Next movie: Slumdog Millionaire

| if I knew all the words I would write myself out of here. |