Friday, May 28, 2010

Of time and tech.

A colleague of mine today wished the 60s would come back. Back then, he said, you would send a mail and wait for three weeks till you receive a reply. Meanwhile, you would lie in the sun and enjoy the breeze. Instant messaging is a curse. I personally love technology and still waiting for the time machine to enjoy the 60's whenever I wish to.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

I'm Back... in time

I am back! I almost forgot about this blog. So here is the latest: utterly nothing, just immersed in ugly daily life which makes it exactly perfect. That wasn't so clear I guess, but that's how it is. You just bury yourself in doing tasks that seem to you of extreme importance but which, you realize, will become with time meaningless, especially if you become alzheimeric, but even if you don't. Yet the fact that you can only be in the present forces you to do what you got to do. That's only until a time machine is in place. Waiting... then I will be able to blog in the past and never miss a day.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Parking Valet Parking

Where in the world do you find valet parking services inside a parking? Well, in the parking of the ABC mall in Beirut. So basically, you are inside a parking where obviously all is left to do is park your car in the parking lot and move on to the entrance. Yet, here in Beirut, at the ABC more specifically, you also have the option and privilege of giving your car to the "valet" who will park it for you (so that you don't go through the hassle of changing your car gear to P) and that all for only 3,000 extra Lebanese Liras (on top of the 2,000 L.L.). Someone will do this for you. Isn't it amazing? Oh and you also get the closest parking lot to the entrance which is 2 walking steps less!! You don't have to suffer any more the trouble of closing the car door yourself, or walk 10 steps to the entrance, or even worry about moving your elbow and neck while parking. The solution has finally arrived. The Lebanese genius will do it for you. Yes, and guess what? Soon, on the way out,you will be lining up at the entrance (as you do whenever you go clubbing in Beirut, in Music Hall, and Sky Bar, and White, and Cassino, to name a few) waiting for the valet to get your car back because soon many Lebanese would feel ashamed to keep on parking their own cars on their own, that would totally be embarrassing to someone faithful to preserving a Lebanese lifestyle.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Blame the system

There is nothing such as "abuse of the system", there is only a system that is abusable.

Friday, May 14, 2010

No holiness in death

I don't understand when people ask me to respect death or what they call the holiness or sanctity of death. To ask me to respect the dead, this I might swallow (not necessarily but for the sake of the argument) but death? that will be hard. Why should respect always be related to fear and power? They teach kids here that they should respect the older and they never teach them that the older should respect them and by that kids can only induce that it is okay for older people to insult them. They teach them to respect what they fear and then with time they learn it by themselves. We are a society of fear. We praise and honor those who bestow fear in us and we learn to succumb to their might and kiss the hand which we cannot break. I do take some measures to avoid death (my death in particular although sometimes I call on it to help me with my fagot load!) but that doesn't mean that I should respect it. I might have escaped death a thousand times, sometimes without even knowing. I do understand that death is powerful but maybe it is us who are weak. I realize that every time I hesitate before ending the life of an ant and every time my foot crushes another of these small creatures, mostly without even realizing. I wouldn't prefer if death doesn't exist to be honest and I don't see how that could be practical but I would have liked it if the average human life is 200 years, just about double of the existing one (funny how I write this while filling my lungs with cigarette smokes). I don't know who said that it is only because of death that morality exists but Camus thinks that death makes life meaningless. I believe that we are a society that doesn't respect life but glorifies death. When Doctor Rieux was asked in Camus's "The Plague": "shouldn't we maybe love what we cannot understand?" he answered "no, I have a different idea of love and I refuse, to death, to love this creature where children are tortured (...) what I hate are death and evil and we are here to combat them and make them suffer, whether you like it or not."

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Radio abuse

Today I was listening to a radio interview with a 6 year old child who was abused by his stepfather. I swear to God that the psychological torture that the child was subjected to by the interviewer was by all means worse than all the cigarette burns and the beatings that he endured from his stepfather. "Where did he burn you? show me. where? on the zizi (baby penis)?", the stupid interviewer was harassing the child and the latter obviously did not want to answer any of his questions. "How did he beat you? where did he tie you up? did you sleep in his room? where was your mother? did she try to stop him from beating you?", the interviewer went on and on with his baby tone questions. The child only said "no." Happy to have finally received an answer, the interviewer goes on: "why didn't she try to do anything? tell me, tell me, show me the burn, I will get you a nice car!." I swear to God that brand-new curses started rushing to my mind and for the first time I felt like calling a radio station.


Why does winning the lottery seem to be a very likely and an easy target when you buy your tickets but then the moment you see the winning numbers, you suddenly realize how hard it was from the start? you feel as if an injustice has befallen you. What did I expect, you ask yourself? then you check the winning numbers again to torture yourself with how one number, one fucking number, could have made all the difference. What does it matter if you hit the 19 but got a 20 instead? That is the whole issue, it is not just a small difference, it is a difference, and that's what matters. Why would you feel better if you had chosen 1 instead of 19? You lost anyway.

Photo © Caline G.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

I can't look the other way and it is heart breaking to look their way

As I promised myself, today was a great vacation day. The mere thought that everyone else is at work but me put me in a cheerful mood the moment I woke up. It is not an evil thought but each one of those who went to work today is me of everyday. It is a revengeful feeling against the "me" that still prostitutes herself from 8:00 to 5:00. The revenge however started like a honeymoon experience and ended in a painful mind conflict. For me, the first half an hour of the morning is usually the most important and most sensitive time that could decide the mood for the whole day. This is the sweet and peacefully lazy part in my hectic and busy journeys. That too passed extremely well. No shouting in the neighborhood and for some reason construction workers were on a break too. I strolled along the corniche of Ain Mrayseh light-headed and had a relaxing swim in the pool and then dizzied in the sun. So far, so good. The idea was then to sit by the sea in the company of a book. That's when, while I was still congratulating myself for the reward I got myself today, Hussein comes to me asking for 500 Lebanese Liras (a coin worth one third of a Dollar). Hussein (the first picture below) is five years old. He has an angel-like face and a hearty smile. The issue of child beggars is a torment to me since I read "Al-Sabiyou al-A'raj" (the gimp boy) by Toufic Youssef Awwad, "Le Petit Chose" by Alphonse Daudet, and Jose Mauro de Vasconcelos's "Mon Bel Oranger" (still one of my favorite books) in my childhood. I still don't know if I should help a child not get a beating at night or refrain from encouraging the practice. This would have been okay on another day but today was the day I am supposed to despise work and all of the capitalist system. So I start a chat with Hussein who tells me that he had never set foot in a school, doesn't play, and has to collect 10,000 Lebanese pounds before he can go home. Hussein was not very forthcoming at first but when his cousin Alghadeer (a Turkuman name as he explained to me) joined, Hussein became more cheerful. Alghadeer is 10 years old. He hates both his and Hussein's parents. He told me that he only loves his grandfather and his brothers in addition to Hussein. Al Ghadeer is not a beggar; he is a shoe shiner and he feels sorry for his young cousin because the latter's father forces him to the streets and beats him at night. That's why he decided that he will make a double effort to give young Hussein the money he would be short of at the end of the day and get the beating himself instead. Alghadeer's father does not approve of him working at the corniche area because there are no clients there as many as in Borj Hammoud where he drops him off everyday. But Alghadeer takes the bus everyday to the corniche to be close to Hussein. "Look at him", he said, "just look at his face. Don't you see why? he is very short and young, the age of my tiny brother. But his father is mean. Even his mother beats him up". Then comes again the story of his grandfather. "You know why I love my grandfather?" he asked. "Because one day when I was a little child - as if he is a grown up now- I threw away a huge sum of money that my grandfather had and when it was discovered my grandfather didn't beat me. He smiled to me. He is the only one I love." Hussein is now encouraged to start a conversation "I want to be a shoe shiner when I grow up," he said. "I don't want to be a beggar." Suddenly I become aware that everyone is staring at the scene of me talking to street children. I ask the kids if I can offer them some ice cream and talk on the way. They refused at first because ice cream here is expensive, they said, it is for 3,000 Liras while in Naba'a where they live they get it for 250. We didn't find an ice cream shop, so we opted for some potato chips and drinks. Surprisingly, they were so shy to accept and felt sorry for me because I had to pay a "big" sum of money (I thought that they maybe preferred if I give it to them in cash and I felt sorry for myself again). After we got the snacks, we went back to our chatting bench. This time, they started asking me questions: if I am married, if I go to school, that I am more beautiful with my sunglasses on, and they always addressed me with"madame" and they suddenly forgot that they were at work. Looking at them, I only pitied myself and not them. I pitied myself for thinking that I have put a smile on their faces (not a selfless deed) and for taking their picture (for the blog), and for my giving deed that would do them nothing, but alleviate my remorse feeling. I could have given them the money they needed to go home and sleep without the beating, but I didn't. On top of that, I enjoyed my time with them and it was Hussein who excused himself because he has work to do. They left me there on the bench absorbed in deep thoughts about the capitalist system that I help nourish.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Taking matters into my own hands

It's Monday. I am supposed to have rested for two days and re-filled my batteries for yet another round of harsh reality: work. And work can be or is a form of prostitution but this is a subject for another time but for now, instead of a supposedly fresh start, I had an injured knee, I was sleepy all day long, I tried in vain to find an optimal relaxing sitting position, and I just burned by hand with my own cigarette. So, I decided, to extend the weekend and to take two days off work starting tomorrow. I will go to the beach, take a long swim, lose any feeling in my legs in the pool, read in the sun, and blog from the beach bar. This I call taking matters into my own hands. Finally, the mirror smiled back to me.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Hi-tech sectarianism

This is what technology brought to Lebanon: You can now see a visually attractive form of sectarianism on a pie chart with coloured sect labels.


You can't teach a bird to fly and then expect it to like the cage.


How do you expect a society whose most popular proverb is "a bird in a hand is better than 10 on a tree" (also commonly known as one bird in a hand is worth two in the bush) to vote in an election?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Elections headache

So, I have been making fun of the elections at the municipality level here in Lebanon. It is so easy to ridicule candidates and voters when you are not involved. Now, it is my turn to bear the brunt of what the reality is and as it turns out it is not funny at all. A friend of mine who has no clue about politics and who doesn't give a fuck about elections, not here not anywhere, told me how her father convinced her to go to the village (which she visits once every few years) to vote for the family's list. She argued with him for long about how she doesn't believe that she has the right to have a say in a village she barely visits and barely cares for or at least to have a vote equally to someone actually living there. She also complained about how she doesn't want to give her a vote to people she doesn't know only because her father told her to do so or because they are called "family" (her primary and real reason is that she doesn't want to make the long trip to the village). All her arguments were futile. At the end she went and she voted. Her father had to say one word only to make her change her mind, or more correctly to make her abandon this fight. He told her "you want people to make fun of me and say that your father has no say (impact) among his own children?!". When the battle becomes a feminist one against the patriarchal system represented by your own father, it becomes a different story. When my father approached me to test the waters about where I stand regarding the elections, I decided to play his own card against him, so I said "unless you want people to say that you have no say among your children, you'd better tell them that I will be out of the country on the elections day!". It worked out fine, for a short while only. Then the battle began all over again.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Elections nightmare

I don't give a damn shit about the municipal elections, not in the capital not in my small village (my village where at best 200 persons vote has a municipality same as Paris does). I don't care how many vote, who wins, who loses, or how the lists are formed. I don't want to know the background, the implications, nor the repercussions. Not that I am apolitical, no, politics for me is a hobby. No, no, it's an addiction. But when it comes to municipal elections in Lebanon, I do not give a shit. In normal days, I read newspapers backward (skipping sports section), in election days, I only read the sports page. I feel better this way. It doesn't truly require live coverage nor two thirds of a newspaper. Barely a village newsletter if any! But for a month now, I will have to see and hence dream of faces and names of people I am never going to recognize, of billboards that bare pictures of anonymous people: a Shawarma guy with a moustache here, a sophisticated woman with a purse and a cool jeans there, a serious student with a backpack somewhere else, and they will try to convince me that the winners are going to represent those faces. What do I care about that Shawarma guy with the moustache or the sophisticated woman with the purse and the cool jeans or the serious student with a backpack? Only, I dreamt yesterday about a Shawarma woman with a moustache, a sophisticated student with a purse and a cool jeans, and a serious man with a backpack torturing me to death, killing me barbarically with knives and sticks, dragging me in the streets and dancing on my body and then hanging me on the power grid pole in the middle of my village square where people gathered to discuss how the elections will change the fate of the village.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Elections: flash news

10: 05 Amin Gemayel's hair is still as strong as ever

10: 23 Dolly Ghanem is still as bad as ever. After thirty years of TV, she is still practicing

10:40 Tania Mehanna still reports in Lebanese dialect. Why bother to learn Arabic grammar?

11:25 Ziad Baroud is very very very serious

11: 41 Election race tightens between the Catholic list and the Maronite list in Hadath

Comedy coverage

The tone of local TV reporters covering the municipal elections in Lebanon is hilarious. You assume they are covering the war in Afghanistan or just another 9/11. The phono between studio and field reporters are the most ridiculous "Can you hear me?" is so recurrent that you suppose the reporter is under heavy shelling. "The President Michel Suleiman is now expected to arrive any moment! Yes, yes, I hear you... (pause) allo, allo." You turn to another TV station to hear the TV presenter announcing in a serious, loud, and rushing voice: "we now go live to Amshit where President Suleiman is casting his vote." Her tone alone made blood rush in my veins. My hands started shaking and I craved for nicotine. Then I saw Suleiman taking out his ID from his Jacket's inner pocket and I thought "he'd better not take out his forged French passport by mistake!."

P.S. Joke (or not): When Suleiman visited the US, an American official asked him "where are you from?". "Amshit," he said. The American then said "I asked 'WHERE are you from' not 'WHAT are you'!!".