Friday, October 28, 2011

Yes Marcel, what you said equals treason!

Marcel Ghanem finally decided to unravel the real face of Lebanon: the garbage of the Middle East, he said, in his show yesterday about the environmental disaster in the country, a real scandal, although one everyone knows. This is a huge progress compared to his previous efforts to depict Lebanon and the Lebanese in the most chauvinistic ways, as the creme de la creme, and at a time when the Lebanese are rushing to vote for Jeita grotto, as the seventh wonder of the world. However, he suspiciously uttered some very unacceptable comments regarding Israel, but warned us of accusing him of treason. His comments were not only not innocent at all but also stupid. In context, the guy was surprised to know that the rivers in the South are the least polluted, compared to the rest of the country. He didn't take a moment to think of the reasons because his love for Israel betrayed him, Israel, the most racist and criminal so called state, albeit you could sense how he forced himself to call it enemy. He said something like: "One would be nostalgic for Israel's occupation days (decades would be a better word), it seems Israel preserved our water resources more than we did!!!!..." First, Marcel seems nostalgic for the Israeli occupation before learning this new fact, he just found a golden opportunity to express his love, or rather, was relieved to learn something he assumed supports this love. Second, he did not bother to ask why the South was less polluted. The first answer that comes to mind, although not likely plausible, would be: couldn't that be because the Southerners are more keen on the environment than others? That is surely not the case, but logic calls for you to consider such reasoning. Second, isn't it possible that the South isn't as industrial as the rest of the country which decreases water pollution? Third: isn't it possible that because of the occupation, the South is the least populated? Fourth: Israel withdrew from Lebanon, to your dismay, 11 years ago, don't you think that this is enough time for the Southerners you despise to pollute their water resources, but they did not? Fifth but most importantly: Israel contaminated the South with over four million cluster munitions, sabotaged our water pumps, and bombed a power plant resulting in the largest oil spill the Mediterranean has ever seen, but you allow yourself to even think that it was so keen on preserving our resources? So yes, Marcel, what you said equals treason. His guest on the other hand was no less keen on showing his love for Israel, he too forces himself to call it enemy. This guy said: "they have been telling us since the 50's that Israel wants to steal our water, but after seeing the pollution there, I don't think Israel cares much about it!!". That was not enough as he added "now that we know this isn't true, the problem is solved, we can now sign a peace treaty with Israel"!!! No dear, that is what you wish and will never get. Yes Marcel what you said is treason and you are afraid of being accused of harming tourism?! What a shame!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

There is nothing going on in Syria!

A Syrian friend of mine who lives in Damascus is very cautious about talking politics on the phone, so when I ask her, what is going on in Syria, she says: nothing is going on in Syria, I will tell you all about what is NOT going on in Syria when I see you.

Sad truth!

Today I tried a new approach with child beggars, when they asked for money, I offered them candy and chocolate. None of them took my offer. Why would a kid refuse to take some free sweets even when they know they are not getting anything better? Later, my sister enlightened me: next time, offer cigarettes, weed, cocaine... and they would sadly take it!

Monday, October 24, 2011


I write it down lest my memory fails me, then I type it lest the paper is lost or burnt, then I save it on a hard drive lest my device is ruined, then I print it out lest my hard drive is stolen, then I memorize it lest the paper is lost or burnt... what a vicious circle! Technology is great but not infallible, at least no less than the manual or the old ways;  otherwise, why do you need all those backups?

I like you, I hate you

There is something about smart people that makes me like them even when they are most unlikable and sometimes even when everything else about them invites you to hate them, but that does not make their company any less enjoyable. Maybe because when stupidity is everywhere around us, a little wit becomes rare and precious,  thus something to celebrate. But I must clarify that modesty and a minimum sense of humor are embedded in my use of the term smart. I cannot resist a combination of wit, modesty and humor. I once knew an evil person who had this golden mix, and no matter how I forced myself to hate him, I knew that deep down, I secretly liked him but did not really admire him. It has been some time since I last saw this person, but I ran into him yesterday, and this ambivalence surfaced again leaving me with a serious dilemma: how can you enjoy the company of someone you have no respect to?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

A very good critique of "Where do we go now?"

This post raises very valid points and presents a sharp critique of Nadine Labaki's latest film. Click here.

Friday, October 21, 2011

We really love you

So we went to look for another apartment, and a landlord asked the guy with me: shou el esm el karim? or what's your name? the guy who happened to have a very religious name told him, so the landlord answered: eh shou fiya, kelna ekhweh! something like, it's okay dear or never mind, we are all brothers. He said it in a very apologetic way. This actually happened more than once, another guy said, after hearing the name: winne'em*! I really can't translate this!
* it still cracks me up every time I remember how he said the word.

In the country of coexistence

We once went to look for an apartment and a guy came to help, he said: I am the leader of this street, from here till that shop at the corner, you see it? and he stretched his arm to show us the geographical limits of the area under his control which went a little further beyond the tip of his finger. We nodded, then he continued: look, this is a great area to live in, there is neither sectarianism nor a sectarian mix!... there were a few "strangers", but we cleaned it.


The term coexistence itself is sectarian because it reinforces the concept of the "other" who is "different" and wants to convince us that this other although different from us does not pose a threat to us. Imagine you are saying this to someone who never thought of it in the first place, take kids for example, you are telling them, there are people, "other" people who are different from us but they are like our brothers, don't think they are going to steal your chocolate bar! The natural reaction of the child would be to go and hide his chocolate bar.

Where Do We Go Now?

**Spoiler Alert!**
I finally watched Nadine Labaki's film "Where do we go now?". Here is what I think about the film. I will spare you the suspense and tell you as of here that I don't think highly of the movie (I liked Caramel more), so that you don't have to keep reading if you are a Lebanese fanatic who thinks that everything Lebanese must be genius, but you can also keep reading and see why. To be fair I need first to state that there are many positive elements in the film, and I did like a few things about it. Let's start with the positive side lest some of the Lebanese fanatics are still with us.
- First and foremost, I loved the music and the songs, although one of the songs has exactly the same tune of a known pasta ad.
- I liked the scenes and the scenery as well as the acting of most of the characters (especially Adel Karam and Mohamad Akil). The film cost 6.7 million Dollars, and you expect to get something good out of that, well we did, but the flaws of the film come from something that requires no budget: thinking.
- Another strong positive element is the script. The script is well done which is rare in the recent Lebanese production (you need to put West Beirut, Zozo, and a few other movies on the side). Finally, here is a Lebanese film where actors don't wait for one another to finish their lines (while staring in the void, usually angry), they speak at different tones sometimes interrupting each other, and there is a background noise, or the natural ambiance; where the dialogue is convincing and mirrors reality, and where not all the characters are poets, well articulate, and speak fluent and plausible full Arabic sentences. For that we need to give the film some credit.
- The characters, especially the women, also come from real life which makes us identify a lot with them because we have all seen or known at some point or another a relative or a neighbor exactly like that. Here comes the but. But, the characters too have many flaws; Nadine Labaki, although she states that she is not the main character, is the only character that has a story on the side, her love story, all we know about the other women is their religion. I also noticed, and I doubt that was done on purpose, that we know a bit more about two other Christian women, one is the wife of the Mokhtar (mayor) who is the comic relief, and the other is the strong and resilient woman head of household who sends her two sons to sell stuff outside the village. We know nothing about the other women, and the Muslim women don't have any special character traits. I am not saying there should have been a kind of balance, but I am saying that many of the characters, she calls main, are not so well developed. Nadine did not seem so good in handling a multi cast here.
- It goes without saying that the characters should be multi-dimensional unlike Marwan Najjar’s characters who are either good or evil. I will be subtle in judging the characters against this rule in this film, since it is intended on purpose to make all the women good and all the men bad, although I don’t see the morale behind it in the Lebanese context.
- We come to the story, it is entertaining as a sequence of funny or unusual situations, but as a plot, it lacks all the main ingredients, there is no build up towards the climax, there are merely detached incidents that lead to tension. The climax you assume is when the boy who makes a journey outside the village is killed mysteriously by a random bullet by some "strangers", and this is a point I will come to in a while. This climax has nothing to do with the incidents that preceded it, it descended to the movie like a parachute to claim itself a climax. Of course it adds to the sectarian tension in the village, but was not a result of it or its cause, so the climax in the movie is a mere tragic coincidence. Shortly before the climax, I started to feel bored, because we have already gotten the point, the whole point: the women are trying to prevent the men from fighting or going to war using tricks, so you would only be there waiting to see what other ruses they are going to use now, then the boy dies, as we said for reasons outside the main plot and none of the characters have anything to do with it. This climax is supposed to be the crisis, yet, the crisis (the tension between the Christian and the Muslim men) is already there, so the climax here only takes the conflict to another level (the men seeking to dig out their buried weapons). Again, the women should prevent that from happening, then comes another ruse, and they succeed. Yet the movie does not end here.
- The finale or the resolution of the crisis parachutes again and does not seem to come neither from the climax nor from an attempt to solve it. The film also closes with an open question: where do we go now, the title of the film. I do like open-ended endings, but only because they leave you with the question whirling in your head, only because it gets you thinking about it after you leave the theater. The question is supposed to intrigue you and make you reassess your reasoning or open a new dimension or a new perspective in your previous way of thinking. This question does not.
- The film, according to the director, is symbolic and has a strong message. No doubt the direct message is clear; the film calls for coexistence between the Christians and the Muslims. Did she really think that people will leave the theater, thinking: let us ask if the guy who was sitting next to us is from a different religion and if he is, let’s go give him a hug? Maybe the director was well-intentioned but the message is naive to say the least; it falls into the same lame Lebanese rhetoric which Ziad Rahbani smartly ridicules. The causes of the conflict always come from “the stranger” who stole the jar, or from factors outside our control, or from third parties. We know that it wasn't a Muslim who broke the cross at the church and we do not know who ransacked the mosque. So the villagers are all pure and innocent and only reacted to these incidents!? (by naturally seeking revenge because they are men?) yet if you leave the Lebanese on their own they would be living in love and peace (butter and honey as we say in Arabic)?!. So there are no root causes or intrinsic factors to sectarianism? Well, wars are ugly and civil wars are the ugliest, but the hidden message of the film is this: for the Lebanese to avoid wars they should stay isolated lest miseries befall them from outside. First this is called denial, and second, this message of denial is not original. The problem dates back to the Rahbani brothers and their quiet and peaceful (imaginary) village like the village portrayed by Labaki, and their Lebanese virgin girl who represents everything that is good, of course here it is none other than Nadine Labaki herself, who is so egocentric that she is the director, the main character, and the one who gets to make the “wise“ monologue (a stupid one), and gets to star in the poster campaign and makes an extra effort to look nice and sweet in all the scenes (although I do find her beautiful). Of course there is also the typical idiot of the village. Where is the innovation and creativity? The film, as a tragicomedy, had all the elements of success, but the message itself was tragicomic; it lacks both originality and depth; It addresses the deeply rooted and real problem of sectarianism in Lebanon through a very shallow interpretation. The Rahbani brothers seem to have irreversibly ruined our creative thinking.
-  Again unlike Marwan Najjar's productions where the characters have names that intentionally hide their religion (so as to protect us, the audience, from our own sectarian judgement, and of course because the characters are either bad or good so he cannot make any reference to their sect, and also where the characters call each other by their full names even if they are brothers, for example you might hear a father say to his son with astonishment: Amer Bilal! what are you doing in our house?), luckily we don't see this in Nadine Labaki's film, well, for obvious reasons. Belief is part of one's character, logic, and sometimes identity such as in this film, but why are all the characters believers; all the Christians in the film wear a cross and all the Muslim women wear a Hijab. I understand if that is intended to make it easy for us to better understand who’s Christian and who’s Muslim, but none of the characters are secular or non-believers! And we could really make it on our own without this straightforwardness, same as we did with the men, really, aren't we Lebanese genius, then why do you underestimate our intelligence?
- Finally, I do understand why the film would get such a high rating and wide acclaim in the West, simply because it reinforces all the stereotypes they have about us.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

No, it did not happen to me...

If you are one of those who walk around the house while carrying their laptop and if you happen to go to the kitchen and stop to have a cup of water, don't put your laptop on the stove top that hasn't cooled yet. Just mentioning.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Special treatment

I was at a dinner occasion yesterday at a very fancy restaurant with around ten other people on my table and I noticed that the waiter took a special liking to me. He would blush a bit and smile generously to me then pour some wine in my glass. He would come every now and then and ask me if I needed anything, if all is up to my expectations, change my barely used ashtray, and then refill my glass replacing each drop of wine I consume . He did serve the others really well but I was sure that I was getting a special treatment. At first, I entertained the idea that deep down he felt that I belong to his social class, not that I don't, well fine, I probably don't, but I thought that he was probably thinking: what are you doing here among these pretentious, fake, and snobbish people! Then I observed the others for a while and I realized that they don't actually see him. If I had asked them at the end of the dinner how the waiter who was serving us looked like, I am sure none of them would even be able to tell if he was tall or short, bold or hairy. The special treatment and few genuine smiles I got were simply because I saw him. I mean how could you not see him? A woman with us was licking the ear of the man next to her while the waiter was replacing her plate. He saw me looking at the scene and smiled then came closer and poured some more wine in my glass. A few moments later, I too stopped seeing him, literally.


There are moments when you lose someone but it gets to see his toothbrush gone to make you cry.

Trust me...

I don't believe most of what people say. I don't have trust issues, some people are simply liars.


There are moments when I look in the eyes of a perfectly handsome guy and I think: is there anything that goes through your mind at all!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

To those counting...

When I was a kid, I used to sit in the back seat of the car and watch trees move backward. The faster we drove, the faster trees moved in the opposite direction. Now, I think that time, like those trees, is still, we are the ones moving. You can't say, time passes or time flies, for what seems a reality here is no more than a distortion of your senses... you can only say, I moved forward. Knowing that, there is no harm in allowing yourself to believe this illusory perception, do what you have to do, but stop counting the trees moving past you.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Lebanon would be better if...

On a graffiti wall in Hamra street, someone had printed several lines saying: "Lebanon would be better if I..." and left a blank space next to it for people to fill in. People seem to have written wise comments (see photos below). Here are some of the random answers I like the most:
Lebanon would be better if I... find a good weed dealer
Lebanon would be better if I...  killed half the population
Lebanon would be better if I... went to Australia and grew my dreads back
Lebanon would be better if... gay marriage was legal
Lebanon would be better parents could afford a house
Lebanon would be better if... people knew who is Samir
Lebanon would be better if... weed was legalized
Lebanon would be better if... we had more skaters

Monday, October 10, 2011


I have an irrational and genuine fear of beggars, especially the kids and the badly injured among them. I avoid them while keeping a close eye on them. I panic when they talk to me and I freeze with no idea of what the right thing to do is. Do I have beggarphobia? Think of it, what should I do? The easy way is to help them and encourage the practice. If you don’t, the answers are not too many if you do not wish to be unkind or judgmental. To try and explain your attitude is really only justifying it to yourself, and wasting their time. They would definitely prefer your unkindness to your moral speeches. Not saying anything is being oblivious to their existence and that’s rude. Smiling and cuddling them is degrading, especially if in your heart you wish they do not exist. I have tried some of these reactions, and none made me feel good. Lately, I found the best reaction to be this: run, when you glimpse them, run as fast as you can. That’s how I became beggarphobic.

Relatively speaking

Today a stranger on the street told me after I parked my car: you are a good driver, rare are the ones who can park their cars with such easiness! I do hear this comment quite often and his words gave my ego a boost for a while after I walked away, then I got his point; he actually meant, rare are the women who can park their cars with such easiness!! Oh, he meant relatively speaking! I get it. When I was about to turn back he was gone. He got lucky for I wanted to hear him say: rare are the ones who punch this hard, of course, relatively speaking!

Beyond good and evil

I have experienced both: starving to the point of stealing food and eating to the point of throwing up. I assure you that the effects of the second are much worse. The first actually feels good!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Not so funny

There are moments when you say something funny and someone next to you laughs at something else, that same moment. Don't you hate that?

Why not?

There are moments when I lose my car keys or forget where I put them and for a moment I think that I want to call them and follow the ringtone.

Look at you!

Please, avoid high chignon hairstyles when you go to the movies, please. It looks great on you and all but do stop for a second in front of the mirror and consider how it fits your destination. And, if God bestowed on you the gift of tallness, and if you love the movies that much, I guess that's why there are back seats. Do sit there, please, and if you prefer hugging the screen, try to slip into the seat a little bit, please. And if you think that your fluffy hair curls are sexy and all, well, they are, and they are blocking the huge screen too. So, please. And do you really clap your hands after you watch a DVD at home? then why do you do that in cinemas? why?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Who? What? How?...

There are moments when someone is telling me a story that gets too complicated with who told whom who was there and who heard them and how that other one lied but the one who was there didn't hear anything, and somewhere in the middle of the story, your attention drifts away, even a fly can suddenly get your attention, and the other person is deep into the story now, you gather your thoughts back and try to focus but you realize it is too late to catch up by now, you stick to what you heard at the beginning and ask: who? the one who heard them? and pray that it falls right in place. Most of the time, it doesn't.

At traffic lights

There are moments, when I am driving my car and I stop at traffic lights, then look at people in the car next to mine but shy away when our eyes meet. But then, suddenly I am too self conscious and all my moves start to be slow and premeditated, while wondering if the person in the other car is still looking. Then of course, the traffic lights go green, and everything falls back in place.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Empty shells

It is better to be stupid than fake greatness, because you look stupid anyway. There is nothing bad in being ordinary. Some people try hard to assert uniqueness, non-conformity, and avant-guardism in the eyes of others, simply because when they look in the mirror, they see an empty shell. They tell themselves how great they are and when they face the world, their fake self-image roams around them like an appalling odor. These people can never win my esteem.


Unlike a Marathon, learning in itself is not worthwhile if you do not enjoy it along the way, because there certainly is no finish line.

Love rambling

He looks at her sometimes, at particular times, in a certain way, that makes her wonder if he is maybe thinking: please adopt me (or is it apprivoise-moi?). Finally, she finds a way to express her wondering through words, and he says: that's me giving up, I surrender. Does your ego feel better now?. She lays back and showers him with more questions, among them, do you love me out of habit?. I love you despite habit.