Saturday, May 23, 2009

A Spanking Guide to Terrorist Organization Logos

With terrorism so widespread today, it is getting increasingly difficult to tell your Hamas from your Hezbollah or your Mujahedin from your Taliban or Al Qaeda.

How am I supposed to know what terrorist group put out the photo above? Terrorist groups, like any organization, need brand identities. With so many groups claiming credit for terrorist acts, and so many videotapes being put out featuring men in ski masks, it’s hard to keep track of which group committed what violent act.

So terrorist organizations have marketing and communication departments which ensure we are exposed to their logos. It recently occurred to me that someone had to actually design those logos. But how did they decide who gets to do it? Did the job go to whichever terrorist had a copy of Adobe Illustrator? Was that copy legit or pirated?

I did some research and rounded up as many logos as I could find from terrorist groups past and present. While I hate to give terrorists any more attention, I still think it’s interesting to see the various approaches they took in their logos, and wonder what considerations went into designing them.

Does the logo successfully convey the organization’s message? Is it confusingly similar to another group’s logo? Does it exhibit excessive drop shadows, gradients, or use of whatever font is the Arabic equivalent of Papyrus?

Quick Disclaimer: I picked these terrorist groups from a list of designated terrorist organizations on Wikipedia. Since Wikipedia is a user-edited website, I can’t verify who decided these groups are terrorist organizations. So if it turns out one of these groups is an actual army or a legitimate non-violent organization, don’t blame me.

Quick Disclaimer 2: If my house and/or car is mysteriously bombed in the near future, look for the logo of the group on the bomb remains.

I decided to group the logos roughly by their dominant design elements:

1) Stars

It occurs to me that “stars inside circles” is a subgroup of this category.

2) One Gun

Notice that there’s a little bit of overlap between this group and the last group. The last two “Stars” logos featured a gun, but I decided that the star motif was strong enough to keep them in the “Star” group. The first logo in this group has a star, too, but it’s small.

The bottom three logos are presented in the order they were designed, each inspired by the one before it.

3) Two guns crossed

Why settle for one gun, when you can have two?

4) Other weapons crossed

Guns are so barbaric. Here are some logos which feature blades instead.

5) Crossbones

White supremacists seem to prefer skulls over swords. Hey, haven’t I seen that Combat 18 logo somewhere before?

6) Animals with multiple heads

The SLA’s seven-headed cobra, below, was apparently taken from an ancient Sri Lankan symbol.

7) Other

What to make of the rest? I’m not sure what the Oromo Liberation Front logo is supposed to suggest. And that “EPB” logo doesn’t inspire terror at all. It looks like an Olympic team logo. I’ve never heard of the Creativity Movement before, and now I still have no idea what they stand for. What’s with the “W”?

Note: This weekend, an Al Qaeda suicide bomber killed 150 people in a market north of Baghdad. Another 250 were wounded. When this news broke, I had already begun working on this blog entry, and thinking of those victims made it hard to finish.

So I just want to be clear that, although this entry focuses on a relatively trivial aspect of terror organizations, it is in no way intended to make light of terrorism. The guns, the blades, the maps of Israel, and other elements in these logos do effectively communicate with painful clarity what some of these groups intend.

While my overview of terrorist logos is meant half-seriously as satire and as an examination of graphic design in a place we might not think to look, I don’t want to minimize the devastation these groups have wrought.

An Inconvenient Woman

It’s a familiar and recurring story. Rich and powerful man sees a beautiful woman, normally an actress, model or singer. Rich and powerful man covets the beautiful woman. Rich and powerful man woos and seduces the beautiful woman with his wealth, buying her everything her heart desires. They have a torrid affair.

After a while, beautiful woman wants more than an empty sexual relationship. She wants to be rich and powerful man’s legitimate partner. Rich and powerful man already has a legitimate wife and several legitimate children to boot. Rich and powerful man can’t afford the embarrassment of a scandal to his personal life, social standing and business interests.

Beautiful woman starts to nag rich and powerful man to divorce his wife and marry her instead. When rich and powerful man ignores her demands, beautiful woman withholds her sexual favours. Now beautiful woman becomes a liability. Rich and powerful man can’t bonk her anymore but still has to support her expensive lifestyle and listen to her constant nagging and demands.

Rich and powerful man gets fed up. There are plenty of younger and more beautiful women for his taking. He is rich. He is powerful. He has the right political connections. He is invincible.

Rich and powerful man outsources his solution through third parties and hires himself an assassin to get rid of his problem permanently. The hired gun does his job. Beautiful but noisy woman is silenced forever. The next step to unfold depends on which country he is located in.

Egyptian Billionaire sentenced to death for slaying singer Suzan Tamim

An Egyptian court on Thursday 21-05-2009 sentenced an Egyptian mogul and a former policeman to death for the killing of Lebanese singer Suzan Tamim. According to press reports, Tycoon Hesham Talaat Mustafa and retired policeman Mohseen Al Sukkari will be hanged for the murder of the pop star in a luxury Dubai apartment last year.

The ruling came after 27 hearing sessions in the trial of the prominent property developer, accused of ordering the killing of Tamim. Mustafa allegedly had an affair with the victim and asked Al Sukkari to kill her in return for $2 million. During the court sessions, Mustafa had strongly denied these claims.

In the scandal that has the whole Arab world captivated, Egyptian business tycoon and member of the Shoura Council (upper house of Parliament), Hisham Talaat Mustafa was arrested and charged yesterday for the murder of Tamim.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the case, Lebanese singing sensation Suzanne Tamim was mysteriously murdered in her Dubai flat on 28 July 2008. There were a few leads on her killer, but for weeks many were worried that there wouldn’t be enough evidence to convict him.

From the start, the case was connected to Mustafa, her former lover who happens to have very close friends in the Egyptian government and private business sectors.

Soon after the murder, Egyptian press started going wild over the Mustafa allegations, which led to major investment regression in his businesses. After that, coverage of the case was banned in Egypt… until this morning, when he graced the covers of both the Al ahram and Al hayat newspapers.

Shares of his company — Egypt’s largest real estate company by market value — declined by 15.97 percent yesterday to LE 5.21, weighing on Egypt’s stock exchange.

In addition to being a leading businessman, Mustafa is a senior figure and MP of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP).

I was following the case, eager to see how the trial will play out. Billionaire with the right friends. Dodgy Egyptian justice system. High profile international murder case… not to mention the case’s effects on the Egyptian economy. Should be interesting. This is like the OJ Simpson case of the Arab world

Hisham Tilaat Mustafa, has been charged with arranging the murder of Lebanese singer Suzanne Tamim. He now faces the death penalty. I doubt his money will save him, and his brother was immediately named as chairman of the company. They’re fast, these Egyptians………..

Tamim had a rather chequered past, married twice and herself named in a plot to kill her second husband. She had been having an affair with Mustafa (whose family practically ‘own’ Sharm Al Sheikh ) and this was broken off about three months ago. It seems she then high tailed it to London, before heading off to Dubai.

Unfortunately love spurned Mustafa trailed her to Dubai and paid an ex policeman a whopping $2M to kill her. The hired gun did this by cutting her throat.

I’m sure if you’ve read this far you’re probably wondering what I’m blabbering on about. What has this case in Egypt got to do with us here in Bolehland?

Well my friends think of these “inconvenient women” – Canny Ong, Noritta Samsudin, Altantuya Shaaribu, K Sujata. See the similarities? The only difference here is that our local rich and powerful men got away with it. Malaysia Boleh!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

We're Back

The Spanker apologizes for his absence. My trusty laptop got barbecued by lightning and I had to buy a new one. Thank God I managed to extract my hard drive and save most of my data.

To the readers of Spanking DA Monkey who called, text messaged and emailed to say that they missed my usual "monkey business spam" in their inbox every week - thank you. I have taken steps to ensure that my new laptop is protected.
It is people like you who keep me going :-)

Eckhart Tolle's Quotes

Instead of my usual irreverent observations and occasional rants of a misspent life, this time I will leave you with a few quotes from "The Power of Now" by Oprah Winfrey's favorite author, Eckhart Tolle. They are powerful messages if only you will spend a few moments thinking about their profound meaning. Here's five quotes to start you off:

* "I cannot tell you any spiritual truth that deep within you don't know already. All I can do is remind you of what you have forgotten"
* "The mind is a superb instrument if used rightly. Used wrongly, however, it becomes very destructive. To put it more accurately, it is not so much that you use your mind wrongly—you usually don't use it at all. It uses you."
* "all the things that truly matter — beauty, love, creativity, joy, inner peace — arise from beyond the mind"
* "All true artists, whether they know it or not, create from a place of no-mind, from inner stillness"
* "Emotion arises at the place where mind and body meet. It is the body's reaction to your mind — or you might say a reflection of your mind in the body"

AIMless Awards

I personally have stopped going to the AIMless awards for quite a while now. Why? My friend Hassan Peter Brown's article reproduced verbatim below says it all. I couldn't agree more.

Anugerah Industry Musik Awards (AIM) 16th 2009 May 3rd 2009

It was an excellent set, grandiose, majestic, romantic with excellent lighting and backing musicians, excellent production and co-ordination, but that did not make up for the shortcomings of this pageant of pop Malaysia. This year it was more than ever an exhibition of Malay Chauvinism in music. The bosses - that means those who supervise and tell the managers what to do and what not to include in the show, having succeeded in stifling the English language alternative scene, relegating it to the margins, and with that any chance Malaysia has of stepping out into the international world of music, now celebrate their victory by sidelining and/or ridiculing everything that isn't pure classical, stereotyped Malay pop.

Indeed the judges’ apparent prejudice against anything other than this (unless it is awful copy-cat black American rap - tuneless ranting boredom) is evident in their choices. Four fine artists with original, high quality music and songs, who have laboured over time to achieve excellence in their own way - Karen Nunis, Estranged, Juwita Suwito and Shal Sagan are cast aside to make way for this crap.

But leaving out disappointments with particular awards - the failure to seize opportunities to give genuine artists encouragement - the live performances left much to be desired. Sheila Majid and M. Nasir were weak to the point of embarrassment (why not get Jamil Abdillah instead? Well we know why); in a duet with classy Indonesian singer Rossi, Faisal Tahir showed his inability to sing (How come he's so big? Does everyone have cloth ears? What's the secret of success these days - it certainly doesn't seem to be skill or quality). Joe Flizzow just flaunted his coarseness and crudeness, which wasn't disguised by a giddy ensemble of singers and dancers (oh, and the costumes they were amazing too - the prize goes to Misha Omar's earrings which must have hurt to wear and especially to cavort about in).

Talking of Misha, whose performance, together with the Chinese artist Man Jiang Hong and his troupe represented the only rays of light in an otherwise dull and depressing landscape, she showed an ability to do things with her voice that Siti Norhaliza would need several years of vocal training to perfect. Yet the latter still wins awards - how come? Is reputation enough to score? Are we getting as bad as the Grammy Awards in which successively mediocre performers Nora Jones and Amy Winehouse were multiple winners?

But the very worst of rudeness, poor taste and disrespect came at the end with the absurd device of making the only two alternative rock bands permitted to perform play their songs together (with the necessity of fitting in the whole procession of dull sama sama obviously no time could be spared for them to do genuine performances consecutively). But there was clearly a hidden agenda here - this was a way of subtly ridiculing their music and everything the alternative scene stands for, by people who in their small mindedness feel threatened by real rock. So they have to strip it of serious credibility. Hujan and Meet Uncle Hussain should have been given a chance to present their stuff as they truly intended it.

We on the fringes who have been trying to promote sincere music have been waiting in vain (thank you Bob Marley) for years for the controllers of the music establishment to wake up to the proliferation and variety of talent in this country. When are Seven Collar T-Shirt, Estrella, Deja Voodoo Spells, Love Me Butch and a host of other deserving bands going to be given the stage at the AIM? To begin with why split up the awards into Indian, Chinese and Malay when so many bands are mixed - embodying the concept of 1Malaysia? They represent the essence of where this country is moving now, towards a united society. Once you categorise people into racial communities then it is easy for the producers to treat the non-Malays as just a “by the way”, an adjunct to the real show, which is what they did last Saturday.

As for the presentation of the show, well the less said the better, although I'm going to say more, just to put the boot in. The same old boring comperes, year after year trotting out the same pathetic attempts to be funny. Afdlin's ridiculous hairstyle - was he trying to be punk for God's sake? He's the distance from here to Pluto away from true punk, superannuated, soporific and stuffy (at one point he came on looking like he had stepped in from a Russian winter - the comedian who came in from the cold, wearing a coat and scarf. Is the air-con in the PWTC now really that bad?)

My message to the time-serving crew who make the decisions: isn't it time for some new blood? Above all WAKE UP AND OPEN YOUR EARS!

Hassan Peter Brown