Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Finally, someone making sense

The Maronite church in Lebanon condemned the banner that used Virgin Mary in a slogan for the municipal election campaign in Jounieh . Their argument was that "the Lady is the mother of all and does not take sides." Ah. That's why! So, she is still going to vote but she is voting blank. I get it now.

Outside the cave

Yesterday after the march, on the way back, with a group of friends, we immersed in some sort of a laughing hysteria. We started laughing for no particular reason; anything we said about the march triggered a wave of laughing. There was a strange feeling of happiness filling our lungs, a joy of a different nature. We suddenly felt an urge for a cold orange juice. "No, a gallon of beer," someone said. Everyone agreed. We ended up buying both, juices and beers, plus a bag of ice but we didn't drink any. The laughing was enough to make us queue at the door of the bathroom. Why were we laughing? Was it a sudden wisdom of absurdity? or an absurd splash of stupidity? We laughed at ourselves, at our heroic old days, at our dreams, at our strength and our weakness. We laughed at what seemed unattainable, believed possible, and thought realized. Maybe, but we certainly laughed because we simply missed laughing, the true laugh, the deep laugh, the sincere laugh. We do have fun everyday. We do enjoy our time everyday. We do laugh everyday, many times to make us pee in our pants. But those were shadows and echo's of a laugh on a cave's wall. Yesterday's laughs were utterly different. I do not intend to sound poetic nor romantic. But the sunny day seemed to have freed us from the cave. We could smell, see, and hear colors although everything around us seemed to be white. Our steps dragged us like sleepwalkers. We didn't care if we reach anywhere. We were driven. There were no leaders and no followers, only people, dreamers. How many times, did I dream of a day domestic workers would flood the streets of Beirut, drag their employers by their hair and spit on them? of Palestinian elderly women hunting down politicians and throwing stones and shoes on them? of refugees burning down the Lebanese flag in the middle of a busy street? of mothers of civil war prisoners and kidnapped renouncing their peaceful movement and resorting to violence? How many times did I picture a revolution, the one that destroys to build and that pains to give birth? How many lovers split? how many fates changed? how many lives destroyed? how many hopes crushed? My mind was flooded with those and similar questions as my feet swelled with every step. I didn't shout slogans but I wasn't silent. I had become a voice. For the first time, I felt that I belong. I belonged not to a particular group nor to an idea. I belonged to that free spirit that I could inhale, to that limitless space between ultimate freedom and the stupidity of believing it. On the way back, I felt an urge for a cold drink and for a laugh, like a laugh of a mother who lost a child long ago but forgot to cry back then. I cried.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Meanwhile...

"Everyone is against us, Virgin Mary is with us", a banner as part of a campaign for the upcoming municipal elections. Don't be surprised if soon you also see Virgin Mary casting her vote in Lebanon. And they say Alice in Wonderland had imagination!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

A Feminist in the march

Isn't it awesome?!

Unlike other demonstrations in Lebanon, today's was highly underestimated that hardly three police members (darak) were delegated to it.

Freedom in the air

What I particularly liked about the march was that even Rastafarians and Pastafarians took part. You could feel, smell, and breath freedom in the air. That spirit was so inviting that everyone felt that the march was their own. Everyone joined for their own very individualistic cause. One of the demonstrators got very excited and suggested that the next step should be a naked parade. A guy heard her and started a chant for animal rights. A girl without a banner decided then that it was time to demand "sexual freedom". An old man frowned at her while an older lady gave her a thumb up. A guy then approached and said, let her be, and you can have your own demands. Somewhere near, a guy got offended when he heard insults towards Sunni and Christian figures only leaving out the Shi'a. It wasn't on purpose but if you are against sectarian balance, you shouldn't make sure you preserve an insult balance too! A guy withdrew and asked that Shi'a be insulted equally. Another got offended and tried to improvise some rules and regulations. A woman came close to him and said, if you hate Shi'a just say so, it is much better than repeating that stupid slogan about your love for each other. Just say whatever you like to say. That's the beauty of it.

The others

Today was a happy day in Lebanon and that's a huge progress. I don't know and I don't care how many, but many people took up the streets in Beirut today to call for a secular Lebanon. This is the first march of its kind in this shitty sectarian country. Obviously, the march was demanding no less than overthrowing the current political, economic, and social system. Yet, there were no defined demands and no specific authority against which the demonstration took place, rather it was against the whole system. I mean the same demonstration could take place anywhere else in the world and still make sense. Some were chanting for sexual freedoms, others got offended but started their own chants. Some found it a golden opportunity to declare their atheism in public and laugh. "God, go to hell", they chanted. A number of communists showered Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir and Mufti Rachid Qabbani with insults. They were asked to leave the group. They did but found others had already started the insults somewhere else. They joined. The gay community proudly marched and looked happy. It was probably the first demonstration they could join. But the feminists were the highlight of the day. Their chants were the most meaningful. They voiced chants in support of freedom and social justice, the Armenian genocide cause, against retardation, and against Zionism. Those are the silent minority. Those are the uncontrollable masses, the ever different and ever unique individuals. Those are the others.

Best banners from today's march















كنت مقدم ع وظيفه بس طلعت لطايفة تانية

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Secularism and secularists

Tomorrow, some will participate in a Laïque pride in Lebanon. They wont all be on the same wave, that's for sure. They will split. That's highly probable. They will fight. That's very likely. They have some common demands but they stand on different grounds. They don't share the same definition of secularism and they pick and choose when it comes to basic rights. In a country like Lebanon, where
Atheism is punishable by law
Homosexuality is punishable by law
Cohabitation is punishable by law
Extramarital sex is punishable by law
Abortion is punishable by law
Public display of affection is punishable by law
Domestic violence is not punishable by law
Honor crimes are attenuated by law
Freedom of expression has limits and regulations by law
Right to vote is excluded for adults aged between 18 and 21 by law
Women do not have the right to give nationality to their husbands and children by law
Civil marriage is not a right not even an option
Heritage rules follow religious laws
Books, movies, TV programs are pre-screened by law enforcement authorities
Child labor, child soldiers, child beggars, child exploitation are common phenomena
let alone the forgotten rights for foreign migrants, victims of trafficking, Palestinians and other refugees,
picking and choosing is pointless. Rights are indivisible. Freedom is a package. All or none. But tomorrow many will join the march and take advantage of the sunny weather for tanning purposes.

Pavlov

I am Pavlovically conditioned to coffee stimulating in me a talking urge. Somehow, I like it and tend to talk nonsense and enjoy it.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Small country complex

Georgians believe that their country is the most beautiful country in the world. They believe that their Georgian blood is of a distinct nature. Georgian women dress up and wear makeup and high heels for a 2 minute walk from and to the bakery. Their men buy the most expensive and latest sports cars but have no money to fill up the gas tanks. They speak three languages and their favorite topic is showing off their country, their unique culture, and great history. That's Georgia. That's Georgia as described by a Georgian national. Ironically, those words were said in Beirut.

P.S. So here is a tip of advice to the Lebanese: go to Georgia and feel at home.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Prayer

On a prayer book, where believers can write down prayers and personal wishes, available at the entrance of a church somewhere in this world, on one of the pages is written "Dear God, may you protect my mind from believing in your nonsense."

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Suits

Dressing up for specific unusual occasions is a fascinating phenomenon. I saw today for the first time the concierge dressed up fully with a tie for he finally got a visa to leave Lebanon and never come back. He was dressing up for the new life at the other side of the globe. It made me remember: My mother's grandfather, when he was almost 90 years old and who was said to have been a very wise and devout man during his life asked his wife one day to bring him his suit, (the last time he wore a suit, or something close to it, was when they got married) and help him wear it. He then lied down on the bed, closed his eyes, and died. Was he dressing up for the new life at the other side too? Let's say, he was dressing up to bid his life farewell.

Friday, April 16, 2010

The boat trip syndrome (2)

A girl was longing, counting, and waiting impatiently for today to come. She has been living on and for the 16th of April 2010 for the past few months. Yesterday, it finally became clear that the long awaited day had finally come. Today, it was certain. Her lover, whom she hadn't seen for quite some time, will take the flight Paris-Beirut. No more waiting. There we go. Then comes the Iceland volcano, of course. I mean how often does a volcano take place? almost as often as I sky-dive (the mere idea of sky-diving freaks me out. I never even dared to bungee jump). The volcano, called Eyjafjallajokull, took place at just the time and exact location where depending on the wind direction and speed will disrupt that specific awaited flight to make the girl learn a lesson. A volcano? In my teenage, I hardly believed science books when they talked of volcanoes. It was almost surreal.

The boat trip syndrome

Once when I was about 10 or eleven, some organizers planned a boat trip to a group of kids my age. I begged my parents a week in advance to give me permission to go. "We will see," was their answer. I asked every single day, twice, three times, more sometimes. I suddenly became the most obedient and tidiest kid. I asked the same question in different ways and I talked about different topics from the wonders of the sea, waves, whales, marine flora, swimming, and swimsuits, boats.. ah speaking of boats. These were the first days. The strategy changed later on, to pouting, untidiness, crying, and threatening. Of course they talked about all sorts of sea dangers, including getting lost on an island and turning into a mermaid. But at the end they succumbed to my relentlessness and persistence (they maybe didn't care much after all if I drown and get eaten by a shark) and I am not sure which of the strategies worked, maybe the combination. I celebrated. I packed. I readied whatever necessary and unnecessary. I went mentally on the boat a million times. I tried the deck and the front seat. I jumped from the boat and I wandered on the island. I crossed calendar days. I counted the hours. I named the few things that need to pass before the day comes. Finally, on the eve of the big day, as I went to bed very early, it started raining. It was summer time! but I didn't lose hope. I was certain that it will stop soon and it will shine again, next morning. It wasn't wishful thinking. I was certain of that because that is what ought to happen, because I prayed, because I wished it, no because I willed it. My parents started preparing the ground to avoid a major deception, to bring me back to reality. But they didn't believe me when I told them "you will see. It will stop. the trip is still on". That night, I didn't sleep, I heard the whistling wind and listened to the rain, the heavy rain. I imagined it stop at one time, but it didn't. I woke up very early next morning. I put on my boat trip costume. I stood on the balcony and I watched the heavy rain. The boat trip was canceled. I wasn't upset because of that. I was upset because it was canceled because of me. It was canceled because I wished it so much, and because when you want something very dearly, you never get it. I grew up of this traumatic story now and I came to like the rain but I believe that I need to adjust the innocent wisdom that unveiled itself on the balcony that day: You always get what you will heartily just make sure the weather or God can't have a say in it.

Mysterious mom

When I have coffee with my mom, it means something is definitely going wrong, not with her but with me. Maybe wrong is a strong word, unusual let's say. It means that I am in the best of moods. To say yes for coffee with my mom, I have to be in the 'today I will say yes to everything' mood. Coffee, bitter, was almost the only thing we exchanged. I feel I know her too well and at the same time she remains a mystery to me.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Mystic Eye


180$ to explore the realms of Life! You leave and you have learned a valuable lesson: Exploring the realms of life was the only thing in life that was given to me free of charge but I paid for it.

With all due respect

There is a new song playing on Lebanese radios that goes "We have no women who work (more accurately: We don't allow our women to work or our women should not work)... I will afford for you because I have to... because you are the president of my heart republic". The song is followed by a comment of the singer thanking all his fans and promising to keep up the good work. He then ends his statement by saying "with all due respect to women's rights". He means, not to take him wrong. He meant no harm. It's just a song! Mr whoever you are: F*** you... la lala.. F*** you lala. Don't take me wrong, I mean no insult. I am just singing with all due respect to you.

The 90s.

I asked some young Lebanese guys in their twenties about their first encounter with internet experience in the 90s. That's what I got:

1) When internet first came home, the first words I typed were www.sex.com then I tried www.porno.com until I found the needed website: sexforme.com

2) Before internet, we used to share pornographic photos from magazines and circulate them among friends. We sold some too. When internet arrived, we started downloading and saving them on floppy disks, an easier way and you don't run the risk of getting caught at school. The problem however was that each picture would take hours to download fully. I would wait impatiently in front of the desktop while the picture unfolds by bits and pieces, when the boobs appear, that's when the first celebration takes place, a quiet celebration of course, then I would take a nap again before the rest appears all while your mom would be screaming from the kitchen about the soaring telephone bill. Once after waiting for long hours to see the full picture, my mom enters my room suddenly and I had to close the picture instantly. You know, when you wait impatiently and with perseverance and then as you are about to be rewarded your efforts would crumble before your eyes! That was the 90s for me.

3) In the 90s my family moved to a new apartment which was previously occupied by a French couple. There one day, my two brothers, my sister, and I found a box of VHS tapes under our parents' bed which it seems was left in the apartment by the older tenants. One of them had the title "Red Hair". We started stealing and watching them one by one. My brothers and I would watch while our younger sister would be guarding the door to cover us. I would be holding two remote control devices one to stop the porn video if someone comes suddenly in and the other to start another TV that would be screening some kids stuff. We were never busted but my parents still got the tapes.

4) I used to sell pornographic pictures on floppy disks to friends. One day, I promised a friend to drop by his house and deliver the "material". He had told me to give it to his mom and to tell her that this is the program required for our school homework. As I reached his house, a veiled woman opens the door. I gave her the floppy disk reciting what I had to say. She looked extremely happy and thanked me a thousand times for taking the effort to come to their house to make sure her son gets the program that will make him a better student. I went home that day praying for God's forgiveness.

Time: 2010. Location: Hotel in Madrid. Character: one of the guys above.
I was on a business trip to Madrid to attend a workshop. At my hotel room at night, as I was zapping through channels, I came across a paid pornographic clip. I knew that if I entered the room code, I would be charged for it and I wasn't honestly interested in watching any of that stuff at the time. But I was curious to see what that specific clip was about. I entered the code for three seconds only before I stopped it. After checking out, I discovered that the room bill had charged me for "room entertainment". I had to submit the bill to my client who had invited me to the workshop at his company's expense.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Oh... Jesus!

Thinking retroactively now that I saw how "virgin Mary" unified the Lebanese Christians and Muslims over one holiday, that of the 25th of March, to mark the day when the "virgin" got pregnant, I guess that Muslims should also from now on consider celebrating Christmas* too as a Muslim holiday. I mean they too agree that Mary got pregnant on the 25th of March, count 9 months, she would be due (according to very primitive calculations by the church) on the 25th of December. Right? and now again we have more Muslim Holidays than Christian holidays. Where is the balance? You promised us not to upset the balance. In the name of Lebanese Christians, I ask for one more Christian holiday otherwise I will be extremely frustrated.

* Some Christians believe that promoting the "X-mas" spelling of the word "Christmas" is part of a Jewish propaganda to make the occasion sound like the birth of an anonymous X). I won't fall for that and hence I use the word correctly and I insist on having one more holiday before the end of this year.

P.S. According to the church calculations (or miscalculations), Jesus was born on the first day of the 10th pregnancy month which equals 42 weeks of pregnancy! that's the limit of a normal pregnancy. But when you believe how he was conceived you would definitely not question the pregnancy period or for how long before the Lady had missed her period (the conception date is the date of sex and not that of learning about it). According to the religious version of the story, Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and said "you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus". Notice the tense of the verb "will". He did not specify when the conception will take place however the church assumed that the conception took place on that same day and very smartly counted 9 months to celebrate the birth of Jesus.
No seriously. The church decided to mark the birth of Jesus on 25 December, which pagans claim was the day on which the sun god was born. The 9-month counting was in reverse!

Football circus

All Lebanese politicians including the so called president, PM, deputies, and other clowns on top of ambassadors decided to start their football circus just as I was about to head home back from work which happens to be on the same way leading to the stadium where the game should take place. More than 100 internal security forces and Lebanese army soldiers spread all along the road, those were the ones I managed to count let alone the many under cover James Bondic agents. Police cars and Yamaha motorcycles blocked the main road. Hundreds of civilians were stuck inside their cars, me included, their insults and curses, mine included, muted by police sirens. All aside, the game itself was an epic representation of what the Lebanese society is: A circus.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

God's sense of humour

Is God playing the weather game again? Is he trying to look busy adjusting the clouds, testing the wind, and timing rainfalls? Enhance weather forecast accuracy, I have the right not to be part of this game. God and I have a very different sense of humour. I have been wearing woolen sweaters in the morning for the past three days only to find it shining and hot as hell in the afternoon. That's not funny!

This is really unnecessary. We laugh at you everyday!


They think they are funny! Only their shorts are. Ah, and I am impressed by their fitness too. Oh.. the colours! I am touched. It almost gave me goosebumps.

Photo by by Charbel Nakhoul

Why Beirut night life is booming

because for young unmarried Lebanese in their twenties and thirties, that's the only escape from parents' scrutinizing and investigative eyes, for it is easier to fight over late partying than over independence and sexual freedoms, for family evenings are heavy, too heavy sometimes. Those less privileged to afford partying or party fights, get married.
You don't believe me? Ask.
Oh and those who managed to break free, stopped partying!
What does that make of parents and nightclub owners?
partners!!!!!
Yes. And that all only comes at a price. Ask those young Lebanese how much they have spent or how much they have lost on the way.
The city is rocking over its own dead bodies or is it dead bodies rolling over their own dead city?

Common sense

The more I hear phrases like "Muslim and Christian brothers", "our partners in the nation", "our unity, brotherhood, partnership", "embrace the other", "We, You, Us, They" -no matter how nice the verb you insert in between- the more I know that the civil war is approaching, or shall I say continuing? That is not a sixth sense. That's common sense.

Monday, April 12, 2010

A few things only stand the test of time

During a coffee conversation with an older man I heard him say (in Arabic) "they would be considered legally a man and a woman" only to mean by it "they would be considered married". I tried to rephrase his words in the context of the conversation, to find out what else he could have meant by it, but unfortunately for him -but more for me- he could only have meant it this way. I smiled, my way of repressing a loud laugh. He didn't understand. He smiled back and I thanked him for the coffee. The coffee aroma was still in my nostrils when I wondered thereafter that there is nothing such as a slow and gradual change. Sometimes, there isn't time. I will always enjoy the coffee he has to offer and smile, I thought, but one day, the flood will sweep him, his ignorance, and his coffee away. He will scream. He will long for a rescuing hand. He will beg. But I will turn away. He will curse then he will look me in the eye and I would read there "you are a traitor". I will understand but I will walk away with one thought: the scent of his coffee.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Inspiration

Why is everything suddenly going just fine in my life? How do I write now? Peace and serenity are the enemies of inspiration, it seems. Why do I sound like Morgan Freeman? I will go back to reading now: If you can't find your own words, get lost in someone else's.

Monday, April 5, 2010

School days

Do school children still suffer because of sunlight spots on blackboards? "Miss, I can't see what you are writing, the board is shining!" was just a normal thing to hear and say at school. It cracks me up to hear it again now.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Halal

A mother asked her 35 year old son today: You have no luck with girls or you just haven't met yet the "bint al halal"?. "It is true that I have no luck with girls, all those I meet turn out to be banat halal," he answered.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Motherly clock?

Most of of my dreams lately involve a baby. I have never experienced that before. Only once the baby was mine in the dream. I am told that it means that my clock is ticking and I am not quite sure if such a clock exists and where or when it functions and why. I have for some reason always admired Abou al-Alaa al-Ma'arri's saying - or what he requested be written on his grave- "that is what my father doomed me with and I have doomed no one" (My translation or interpretation). I entertain the idea that humans' (and animals') bodily functions are all devised to serve the purpose of procreation. Somehow, human beings are doomed by their own nature.

Memory mysteries

Who says that living a mental or imagined situation is not actually living it? Visions, dreams, whether during sleep or wakefulness, fantasies, and all sorts of other imaginations, often involve a physical and/or emotional feeling and thus could only mean that one is truly experiencing something. Normally, one needs a witness to their life, like the one whose role is to pinch you to make you believe, only here that role is to make you constantly believe that you exist. Yet imagined experiences are still experiences lived, and can be, if not often are, one of the best lived. One can often have memories of these imagined experiences and they could with time become indistinguishable from witnessed experiences in your memory. And we do not have two archiving memory drawers! Of course, it would be better if you could draw the line and if such experiences are in a way believable and not stemming from a previously lived life. I do have one of those memories which I cannot tell now whether truly happened or was imagined or even dreamed (I could have more of those that have been mixed in my memory in one drawer but since I am certain that they did happen in the "witnessed life" although they could equally be imagined, you will never be able to tell, neither will I). The image involves lots of balloons, the rest is for me. I know someone (not that same one) who would read this and would comment: I told you to invite me when you are having a weed circle!

The power of dancing

Have you ever tried dancing your fatigue away? It is much more effective than drinking it or even sleeping it away. When I want to shut down my tired brain, I tend to exert extra physical effort to switch the focus into something else. When angry I just start walking hastily, roaming without any destination and just focus on my pace. Such an effective practice! Your anger starts slipping away through your toes. Now, I discovered how fatigue can be crushed by dancing. You almost stop hearing the music and start moving at the rhythm of your restlessness.