Sunday, December 11, 2011

Top 10 actors to look out for in 2012

It's been a while since I've made a list, and a longer while since I've written about something mindless. So here's my end-of-year contribution. A list of 10 amazing and not-too-shabby-looking actors  (ok fine, really hot and moderately talented actors) whom I'd like to see more of in 2012, because they made my 2011 that little bit more enjoyable. And I will start with the most obvious:

1. Ryan Gosling

I first saw Ryan Gosling in Half Nelson. Good movie. Good acting. Nothing to write home about. Lars and the Real Girl was original, funny and sweet. But he was a an awkward little thing. Then came Blue Valentine, in which the guy showed us some amazing talent. It was only until Drive and Ides of March though that I started to see something more. And the moment he took that shirt off in Crazy, Stupid, Love... it was all over. Watch and judge for yourselves.

2. Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Who remembers that scrawny teenager in 3rd Rock from the Sun? Here he is.

Who knew this kid was gonna grow into a bold young actor, undertaking challenging roles in indie movies like Brick, The Lookout and Mysterious Skin? His recent flicks (500) Days of Summer and Inception has given him mainstream recognition. But be on the "look out" as he blossoms into a star in this new hit 50/50.

3. James McAvoy

Maybe James McAvoy is less known for his role as Mr. Tumnus, the faun, in The Chronicles of Narnia, but this is where I first met him. Soon after he was cast in The Last King of Scotland and the underrated comedy, Penelope. His big break was surely Atonement, in which he made his mark on the soft-hearted of us - and whoever said they didn't at least hold back a tear are simply lying! Less impressive, for me at least, was X-Men: First Class - though to be honest his presence in that film made it more palatable. But seriously, look into his eyes. Don't you see a bright future that wants to just suck you in?

4. Mila Kunis

Mila Kunis started off as a silly little girl in That 70s Show. I'm not sure how much further she's ventured away from that, either as Meg Griffin in Family Guy or alongside Justin Timberlake in Friends with Benefits. However, I still think that she is a talented young actress, whose role, to be honest, was one of the few things I enjoyed in Black Swan (Yes. Natalie Portman drives me crazy).

5. Neil Patrick Harris

What can we say about Neil Patrick Harris? Teenage doctor in Doogie Houser turned serial womanizer in How I Met Your Mother turned gay in real life turned singer on Broadway. Here he is doing the  opening number at the 2011 Tony Awards. The guy's pretty funny, and he actually has talent.

6. Olivia Wilde

It's a shame that I can't watch Olivia Wilde every week as House's Thirteen anymore. She's moved on to bigger things. Guess I'm gonna have to catch up.

7. Hunter Parrish

Isn't it nice when you watch an 18-year-old become an adult right in front of your eyes? OK I sound kinda creepy but hey, everything about Weeds was kinda creepy. So, yeah, I enjoyed it. And one season I woke up, and Hunter Parrish was hot.

8. Marion Cotillard

Man. I feel like this is the only serious actor on my list... But she's not done yet.

9. Darren Criss

Darren Criss, as Blaine Anderson, is the best thing that happened to Glee. After a disastrous ending for the first season, I was ready to stop. But then came this highly talented, up-beat and gorgeous yet boy-next-door-looking character, and I was back. We have caught him at the very start of his career. Let's hope there's a lot more to come.

Glee - Baby, It's Cold Outside por pedrinhorafa no

10. Emma Stone

We've been through this before and she already has a clip at the beginning of this post (with Ryan Gosling). But here she is again. Though you know what? With all her and Gosling's charm combined, they couldn't save that lame ass movie called Crazy, Stupid, Love. It was just a stupid film with only one super cool scene.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Myriam Achkar and the Collective Response

On 22 November 2011, Lebanon's independence day, the body of a 28-year-old Lebanese woman, Myriam Achkar, was found in the woods of Sahel Alma near Jounieh, north of Beirut. She was murdered by Fathi Jaber Al-Salatini, a Syrian national working as a janitor at a nearby monastery. He had apparently attempted to rape her. First I want to extend my sincere condolences to her family - although belated. I cannot even begin to imagine the pain and suffering they are going through.

Although I was extremely shocked and angered by this crime, the reason I am writing this post is not to talk about the murder itself, but what it has shown about the level of discussion in the country. I may be mistaken but I strongly feel that this was one of the most widely discussed issue in the Lebanese blogosphere, from what it meant that she was a Christian and the fact that the murderer was Syrian to the debate about sexual violence against women in general and the irresponsible behaviour of media outlets. I have therefore collected all blogs addressing this heinous crime in this post, with a brief about some of the conclusions made for each. I will be adding more to it as I find them (please feel free to point out any that I've missed in the comments section and I will get to it).

Friday, November 18, 2011

Requiem for Jean Charles de Menezes

Many of you will remember Jean Charles, the Brazilian who was shot in the head seven times at the London Underground by the London Metropolitan police on July 22, 2005. They had misidentified him as one of the fugitives involved in the previous day's failed bombing attempts. The British people were shocked by his death and were left in a daze, wondering what the real value of their supposed security was.

Well last week, at the International Istanbul Biennial art exhibition, I found this lovely piece by the UK artist Claire Fontaine, a requiem for Jean Charles and I'd like to share it with you:

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Gender and the operator

I am writing this post not quite sure what my opinion on the matter is, though I feel like I need to have a strong one. I have gotten accustomed to reading in the wanted ads of Arabic language papers calling for an operator or secretary, always female. In fact, yesterday, I called Byblos Bank in Beirut and got the automated answering system which asks to hold for the operator. In Arabic, it's the female operator (عاملة الهاتف).

I even encountered a situation at work when I caught our HR making the same generalization. When I asked them why they are assuming that this person has to be female, the response was, "Isn't that usually the case? Aren't office secretaries and receptionists generally women?" That is the reality of the situation. But my issue is why does it have to be spelled out as if it's a requirement? Doesn't that deter good male candidates from applying? And is that why these positions are mostly filled by women? Most importantly, why does this seems like a wrong that needs to be made right?

Friday, October 21, 2011

Does our Bambi view of nature need to change?

I'd like to share this thought-provoking quote from this excellent piece I recently read entitled The Business of Cooling the Planet:

"The Bambi view of nature is the wrong view," Eisenberger tells me as we settle in for a long conversation on his porch, looking at the ocean below. "On a longer time scale, nature is very violent. It operates by creation through disruption -- asteroid impacts, super-volcanoes, giant tsunamis that totally reset things." These disruptions created beautiful places like the Mendocino coast or the Grand Canyon. "There's this whole correlation in nature between violence and beauty," Eisenberger says. He pooh-poohs the idea of preserving the earth in its "natural state" because there's no such thing. "If we just leave nature alone, nature will not leave us alone," he says. "We should manage nature."

Monday, October 17, 2011

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Labaki's Ou Hala La Wein: Form without content?

Is it finally here? The film that will get the international recognition that Lebanon has been waiting for? Ou Hala La Wein (Where Do We Go Now) has it all. It's got a rustic feel with a modern look. It's got an excellent cast, who can also sing. It's got drama and tragedy, with some pretty witty comedy. It touches upon, but never really gets into, a war that baffled many, enough to intrigue but not too much so as to take away from the drama. It's directed by a strong, confident, young woman who can also perform. I can't imagine how this film could possibly go unrecognized.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The definition of psychopath

"Psychopathy is a mental disorder characterized primarily by a lack of empathy and remorse, shallow emotions, egocentricity, and deceptiveness. Psychopaths are highly prone to antisocial behavior and abusive treatment of others, and are very disproportionately responsible for violent crime. Though lacking empathy and emotional depth, they often manage to pass themselves off as normal people by feigning emotions and lying about their pasts."

So in my opinion, anyone capable of doing this and telling a seventy year old mother, while beating her up, 'We're going to teach you a lesson. Obviously you did not know how to raise your kid', cannot be anything but psychopaths. Nothing explains this lack of humanity other than the perpetrator's physiological inability to be human. Of course this also applies to all those who give out the orders.

I really do hope Malek Jandali manages to get his family out of Syria. But I hope more that one day soon, he can play his music back home, where he belongs.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Did Nour Merheb Know Something We Don't?

I've been meaning to write a post this past week to share a few thoughts about freedom and our current state. I wanted to raise questions about whether we, as humans, can ever be really free? Do we, as a collective, really want to? And then, out of nowhere (obviously not for him), Nour Merheb, a Lebanese human rights activist kills himself. Last year, Nour had been sentenced by the Military Tribunal in Lebanon to three months in prison because he refused to pay a court-ordered fine in an assault case, in which he was the victim of a beating by an off-duty army soldier. His story in full and his struggle for justice can be found on his website.

Now it is extremely difficult to believe that there was no connection between his suicide and the sentence that he may, at some point, have had to serve. But the suicide note he left (via a video recording) leaves me a little baffled. Here are some excerpts:

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

الديكتاتور وشعبه

من وقت ما سمعت عن البوارج يللي عم تقصف اللاذقية وأنا عم بفكر بهالمقطع من كتاب قريتو من فترة. الكتاب اسمه (نداء ما كان بعيداً) للكاتب الليبي ابراهيم الكوني عن أحمد القرمانلي، يللي حكم طرابلس في القرن الثامن عشر وذكرني كتير بالحكام اللي عم نتفرج عليها هلق. وهيدا هو المقطع، وهو لحظة يقظ بعد ما وصلها حداً منهن:

"وبرغم أن النجاة في زمن الطاعون تعد استثناءً فريداً وهدية ربانية، لم يطمع أحد في نيلها. القرمانلي أيضاُ لم يفرح بالنجاة لأنه، ككل أهل المدينة، اعتبر الهدية حقاً مكتسباً برغم من أنه فقد في هذه المعركة عدداً من رجال دولته. ليس هذا فحسب، ولكنه فقد أعداداً هائلة من الجند، بل والآلاف من الأهالي الذين لم يعودوا بعد اليوم مجرد أهالٍ، ولكنه اكتشف لأول مرة أنهم روح المدينة وركيزة الإيالة كلها. وقد أحزنه ذلك إلى حد أيقن فيه أن البلاء لم يكتف بتجريده من الجيش، ولكنه جرده من الرعية التي رآها دائماً مجرد زحام دهماء، مجرد سواد أعظم، ولم يكتشف إلا بعد حلول النكبة أن هؤلاء كانوا هم الدولة، هم الإيالة، هم العرش، هم صاحب العرش الذي يدعي امتلاك العرش ناسياً أن لا وجود لعرش من دون وجود رعية تسند بسواعدها كيان العرش."

يللي بيقتل شعبه، ببطل حاكمه. الموضوع سهل.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Untold tales of courage: Confetti, hoover bags and a shrapnel

So here's Story 3 in the series of tales of courage by women during the Lebanese Civil War. You don't need to read Story 1 and Story 2 first but I've linked to them anyway. I am trying to collect as many as I can and so far it's been an intense experience. Here's the tale of Yola Sowan, in the summer of '82, during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon and later the siege of what was then called "West Beirut". The story took place in that part of the capital with the first shelling from the Israeli fleet. Yola didn't write the story, she relayed it to me in all its details. So this is me, telling you her story, in her voice, with her blessing:

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Yes Madam, No Sir. Another classic from Lebanon.

Seriously. What the hell were MoneyGram thinking when they came up with these ads? Or is it just me and a few others who were insulted by them? But if that were true, then the voice overs of the "pilipino" and Shandra, who is only good at talking and knows it, would have been by an actual man from the Philippines and a Sri Lankan woman named Shandra. Not a Lebanese making fun of the two.

Oh and one more thing MoneyGram: It's not even funny.

MoneyGram Lebanon Summer Campaign Radio Spots:

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Speaking of the Arab awakening, when are we going to wake up?

Nariman works in business development in Jordan and is on a mission to a gulf country. Throughout her trip, she would complain about the number Indians there were, and how it is difficult to understand them (once to an Indian expecting empathy), or how everything smells when they're around. At some point, she just blurts out "Look. I can't stand them. OK?" In one of the business meetings she had with a local, she started asking about the reasons for the competitive edge some companies have over others and then deduced "Yeah it's maybe cause they have so many Indians". The local business owner said "But we all employ many Indian engineers. You know they get paid more than Arabs. They don't need to come here, there's a boom in their country."

You'd expect Nariman to have been shocked to the core by this piece of info. But no. She made a derogatory remark and brushed it off. We are Arabs. Of course we are better.

True story.

Friday, July 15, 2011

The debate of the decade

Something interesting is happening in Jordan. People want to discuss issues, and they are finding more and more forums to do so. A few weeks ago, I attended two such events. The first was the "Debate on Advantages and Disadvantages of Nuclear Energy" organized by Edama and held on the 28th of June at the Landmark Hotel. The second was a lecture by Minister of Energy Khaled Touqan on "Nuclear Energy" at Shoman Cultural Center on July 4, which was followed by questions from the audience. I have to be honest that until then, I had not formed a definitive position on nuclear energy and it was in that frame of mind that I attended both debates, hoping to come out leaning one way or the other.

Friday, June 24, 2011

A long overdue dedication

A couple of weeks ago, I encountered a news item that transformed my mood into what I can only describe as a mix of sadness, quiet anger and helplessness. The news was of a jailed Iranian journalist and activist, Mr. Hoda Saber, who had died of a heart attack resulting from a 10-day hunger strike. "Mr Saber, who was in his 50s, began his strike on 2 June to protest about the death of fellow opposition figure Haleh Sahabi, during an incident at the funeral of her activist father." On the face of it, there is nothing about this tragedy that specifically warrants an emotional reaction from me. I had never heard of Mr. Saber and his death will in no likelihood affect my life. However, it was these reasons specifically that made me tweet this news story over and over. It was because I had never heard of him, because millions have never heard of him and never will, while he languished in jail and died alone, that I was saddened. It was because my life was not affected by his death that I felt culpable for being indifferent.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

The social contract I never signed

Having just left the Ahliyyah School for Girls on the First Circle, beaming with pleasure at a lovely concert I had just attended (Thanks to the wonderful Dozan wa Awtar Singers), my friend Kariman and I embarked on what soon proved to be the most stressful drive in recent memory for the both of us. Apparently, we had not been warned that Rainbow street and all its side streets, were to be avoided at all costs on a Friday evening. To reach the Second Circle, which normally takes 3 minutes, took us exactly 1 hours and 30 minutes (from 9.20 pm until 10.50 pm. I can prove these numbers). Now having grown up in Beirut and still driving there quite often, I have to admit I've been through traffic like this, many many times, before. This was not the problem.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Untold tales of courage: Najla's story

A few months ago, I attempted to start a series of posts about courageous women who lived some amazing stories during the Lebanese Civil War. I started with one about my friend's mom but then never pursued it. Until today. The story for this post is very special to me, because it was written by my own mother. After some digging, I found out, from her obviously, that she actually kept a diary of everything that happened to her during the war. I asked her which one stood out more than the others, and she gave me this piece during the Israeli invasion of Beirut, in July 1982. What's below is my own translation, under it is the original in Arabic (more or less). I hope you take the time to read it, because it truly is a story of almost mad heroism that I am proud to be at least genetically linked to. And I think that with the direction this country is headed, it's very appropriate to remember the war, because this really should not be an option ever again...

Sunday, May 01, 2011

32 - الحياة في بيروت

لقد انتهيت للتو من قراءة كتاب "32" لسحر مندور التي كالعادة سحرتني بولعها برأس بيروت والحياة اللطيفة ولو المحدودة فيها وأحببت أن أشاطر هذا المقطع من الكتاب:

وبينما أسعى لوضع السماعتين في أذني، أنتبه إلى أعصابي تتراقص على حافة الانتفجار. لماذا، لماذا هذه المرة؟! أستقصي السبب وأكتشفه. سائق سيارة الأجرة يعاني من عادة تبدو أنها خارج قدرته على السيطرة: يطلق زموره كل 10 ثوانٍ، "بيب" واحدة، سريعة، رتيبة، تثقب فراغ الشارع. كما أنها تبقى على ثباتها في ظل تواجد المارة فيه، حتى ولو كان اتجاه سيرهم يأتي في غير اتجاه سيره، أو كانت معالم الرياضة الصباحية بادية عليهم، أو كانوا يترجلون للتو من سيارة خاصة، أو من سيارة أجرى أخرى، أو على دراجة نارية، أو يتفرجون على واجهة عرض تجارية، أو يهمون بالجلوس في مقهى، أو يفرحون للقاء بعضهم صدفة في الشارع، أو يسيرون بشكل عادي جداً، لا يهم، يطلق زموره، باستسلام تام لعادة يتعايش معها، بسكينة، وبغض النظر عن العالم الخارجي.

أنصح بهذا الكتاب كما أنصح بآخر جميل للكاتبة وهو "حب بيروتي"، فسحر تتكلم لغة المدينة وتعرف مشاكلها اليومية، التي تتعامل معها بالكثير من الفكاهة لأنها تدرك بأن العالم قد يكون كبيراً جداً لكن رأس بيروت تبقى الملاذ الأول والأخير، وكل من عاش فيها يعلم بالضبط ما يعني ذلك.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

My naïve conclusion

I feel like I’m ten years younger writing this post, saying something that should be basic to any curious and intelligent being who is well into her thirties. But I justify it as delayed maturity caused by a late onset of teenagehood at the age of 21. So here goes.

I recently read an article by Adam Curtis about development of the concept of humanitarian intervention (obviously spurred by the highly debated western intervention in Libya). It goes without saying that this extensively researched piece is a must read. However, in summary, Curtis describes how a group of French philosophers, innately interested in helping victims of injustice, started a thought movement that justified intervention aimed at achieving this justice, by force. Needless to say, that journey was a bumpy ride that in my opinion can no longer be seriously defended, for two main reasons. One is that when you use violence, for whatever reason, you will attract the vilest people who would jump at the opportunity to take advantage. The second is that no matter how well you think you understand the situation on the ground, how many experts you consult with and how smart your weapons are, you can never predict the outcome of the intervention and ensure that more innocent lives will be saved than if you hadn’t lifted a finger. So humanitarian work reaches another dead end. Where do humans go from here?

Monday, April 18, 2011

Giving the term "matching clothes" a whole new meaning

I'm currently attending CityScape Abu Dhabi, an exhibition and conference on real estate in the region. The exhibition obviously hosts booths of regional players showing off their luxiourous residential or tourist projects and investments. The booths are actually quite fancy and in most cases tasteful. But something caught my attention and increasingly disturbs me. The women representing the exhibitors are not only required to wear the same clothes (in most cases extremely short skirts), they are also dressed in accordance with brand, i.e. The same exact colors as the logo. The men, on the other hand, are simply wearing suits. What exactly does this mean? That the women exhibitors are actually exhibition items, like the branded pens and chocolates? Are they also on offer somehow?

Something is not right here.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

What about ME? (A guest post by Bana Bashour)

I was recently sitting at a café in Miami when two teenaged girls walked past me with similar t-shirts saying: “I love ME”. It was obviously a play on the I love NY t-shirt, so I wondered why these young ladies felt they had to express their affection towards the Middle East. Was it out of solidarity? Out of concern? Was it that the recent developments in Egypt and Tunisia moved them so much that they had to express their admiration for that part of the world? It was only then that I realized that ME was not an acronym. These young ladies were simply expressing their affection towards themselves, and doing it so the whole world would see.

That is not a surprising image in the 21st century. Facebook and Twitter provide the ideal forum for people to share every detail of their lives, every mood they are going through and every meal they have eaten. In fact, they are so encouraged by others who “like” their statuses (the likers were probably referring to themselves and their own feelings towards the relevant experience/mood/meal). It’s not a bad thing to love oneself, it may not even be a bad thing to be self-centered, for after all, our “self” is the only lens through which we can see the world, and having a better understanding of this “self” enables you to understand the world and other people better. So what’s the problem?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Daily Show comes to the Arab world

There is no denying that The Daily Show's Jon Stewart has become a household name not only in the US but in the Arab world as well. With his extensive coverage of world hypocrisy, Stewart has transformed comedy into a serious form of television and become one of the most trustworthy news sources out there. From US republicans and democrats to state leaders throughout the world, he spares no one. Here's a classic moment in the show on America's Freedom Packages:

Sunday, March 27, 2011

A personal message on recent events in Amman

Friday, March 25, 2011 will be marked as a sad day in the history of Jordan. It is the day we were bombarded with images of Jordanians throwing rocks and insults at other Jordanians who were protesting peacefully in the streets of Amman, demanding real reform. This group was not chanting "down with the regime" or the king. They just wanted a better country and were inspired into action by events in Egypt and Tunisia. Reckless, yes. Admirable, definitely.

The more I read about this, the more I became convinced that this was a case of a simple misunderstanding (I use "simple" in the loosest meaning of the word). Most of the stone throwers seemed convinced that the protesters had only one intention: To dethrone the King and establish an Islamic Palestinian state in Jordan. Those Jordanians truly believed they were defending their country. Misguided, yes. Needs addressing, definitely.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The generation gap

A couple of weeks ago, I attended one of the events of the Israeli Apartheid Week in Amman in which Attallah Hanna, the Archbishop of Greek orthodox of Jerusalem, was giving a talk. Upon arriving there, I immediately noticed that the age group of those attending was markedly higher than that of other events I had recently gone to, such as the Hashtag Debates at Makan House and Freedom Choir at Balad Theatre. I didn't think much of it and thought maybe this topic appeals more to the older generation than it does to younger crowds, who are now busy changing their own countries (to be fair I did spot a few familiar faces who present at all 3 events).

And then it started... One and a half hours of a talk, to people who completely disapprove of Israel, on how criminal Israel's actions are. I will not say that the Archbishop said anything that I disagreed with in principle. The problem is, he was just preaching to the choir (pun intended). My friend, Kariman, kept turning and asking me, "Is he gonna propose practical solutions?" I would just shrug, hoping that he would, knowing he won't. Because obviously, if he had practical solutions, he wouldn't be in Amman, talking to a group of people who enthusiastically applaud every time he said "Arab unity" and "Nasrallah". A woman next to us kept yelling "Yes! You are right!" at the end of each point. I am sad to say, and with all respect to the Archbishop and the struggle of his people... I was not inspired.

Monday, March 14, 2011

To motivate or not to motivate

This is not a blog post but I wanted to share this with you. It's a video debunking the myths on what really motivates us. It's a relatively old theory that I've encountered many times in the past few years, but this video is to the point and extremely entertaining (who doesn't like things explained to them in cartoons?). It also forced me to think more about my work and helped me set clearer objectives for myself. This is a must watch for anyone whose career is an essential part of their life. Here it is:

Saturday, March 12, 2011

In the wake of the quake

Less than a year ago, I started suffering from knee pains and was diagnosed with what is basically weak muscles in my legs. The doctor told me that all I had to do was strengthen those muscles by doing daily exercises. I went back home excited and determined that I shall overcome this and exercise myself into well-being. So I embarked on a regiment of a 5-minute muscle strengthening exercise that I would jot into my daily calendar to make sure that I am consistent in applying it. Within a week, I started noticing an improvement. However, two weeks later, I also noticed that I was skipping days and just over 2 months after my initial diagnosis, I had completely stopped. Currently, every now and again, when my knees pains become too much to handle, I do a couple of days of exercise and think to myself "This is silly. I need to go back to doing this on a daily basis. No need to ruin my already weak knees at such a young age." But I never do.

Now, replace every "knee pain" in this story with a problem the Arab population is facing, "doctor" with "group of experts (economists, scientists, or even doctors)", "exercise" with the solution they prescribed and tell me if this isn't exactly how almost every issue is handled in our countries: Identify a problem, find a solution, start implementing, and lose steam really really quickly. Anyone who has been involved in the public sector in Jordan or Lebanon will know exactly what I'm talking about.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

What we really need

A while back, my mom was planning a business trip to a certain Arab country but realized she didn't have sufficient time for the visa. Since my dad knew the ambassador, he decided to call and see if there was any way to issue the visa earlier. As soon as he started explaining the situation to him, the ambassador interrupted "Speak no more. I understand. You want to make sure her visa gets denied without implicating yourself. Consider it done!" Of course my dad then assured him that this wasn't the case at all and he had no problem with the fact that his wife, a PhD holder who owns a well known establishment for making educational toys and books for children and teaches at the American University of Beirut, travels on business.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Everyone wants a piece of the revolution

Before we get into this, I'd like to clarify two things:
  1. I am fully aware that the situation we are in is most likely the result of years and years of bad government policies and opportunistic behaviour by a select few.
  2. I am even more aware that I will probably never make an impact in the real world, because my ideals are too extreme and frustratingly impractical.
Fortunately for me, and maybe unfortunately for you, technology has given me this platform to let my voice be heard, if only by a small number of people. I know that a lot of us are still high on the domino effect of democracy that started with Mohamed Bouazizi's desperate act of giving up on his country. Yet, we are struggling to find our own path, some of us asking for reform, others for a secular government. I am not quite sure, however, if we are just riding the wave of revolution or if there is a genuine desire (I had argued in an earlier post that I don't believe there is a real need) for change. Are we certain that we don't just want the desire to change, instead of change itself?

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Are we all Egyptian?

In solidarity with the Egyptian revolution, many have claimed "I am Egyptian", joining Facebook groups, changing their status or tweeting similar support statements. Personally, I never had it in me to make such proclamations and I couldn't quite understand why. Until Monday, around midnight.

The interview with Wael Ghonim, Head of Marketing at Google MENA who was detained for over 10 days during the January 25 revolution, was as disturbing to me as it was beautiful. It was disturbing because watching the raw honesty and pain in which Ghonim spoke somehow helped me connect every single event that's been happening in Egypt, not for the last few weeks, but years. The horrific torture and murder of Khaled Said was not a one-off incident but a systematic mode of operation by the Egyptian regime, a regime that has no problem running over peaceful demonstrators as if they were insects. It is only now that I see the ugliness in its full form. These are not spontaneous protests by people who have had enough. This is a well-planned long term revolution of a people who have had enough a long time ago, but were waiting for a spark to ignite their flame.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Let's talk about sex

I want to share with you a story that I heard recently from a 23-year-old woman, let's call her Rana, who comes from a well-off middle class family and has just returned to Amman after obtaining her degree from a university abroad. As Rana enthusiastically started work at a well-respected Jordanian firm, she soon found herself face to face with what I believe is one of the biggest issues facing working women today. Rana's 40 something-year-old superior, let's call him Ra'id, turned out to be, to put it mildly, a flirt. Of course this is a problem that can easily be handled, just don't encourage him, and if needed politely push him away.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Change in the Arab world, where do we fit in?

It feels like a historic moment and people have gone crazy trying to be a part of it. From Facebook, to Twitter to demonstrations outside embassies all over the world, we, as Arabs, are obviously craving something. But is it the same thing? I think that's a very important question we need to ask ourselves. I look around me and I see a revolution in Tunisia over an economic situation that has deteriorated beyond what the people can accept. Will change give them what they want? I don't know. Maybe. At least waste from corruption will decrease. What about Egypt? I hear statements like revolution of the "middle class poor", educated professionals who don't have a chance of a decent life because the system has become too corrupt to accommodate them. I can relate to that.

Friday, January 21, 2011

So a Khaleeji guy walks into the Interconti lobby

I'm sitting in the Doha Intercontinental lobby with a friend having a drink and minding my own business. An Asian woman shows up, sits at the piano and starts playing some pretty mediocre music, as you normally do in hotel lobbies. Soon we notice two local men standing right next to her saying things like "Hello. How are you? What is your name?" The woman is obviously annoyed and does not respond. Then a male hotel employee shows up to the rescue, takes the men aside and starts talking to them. "Please. The woman is playing the piano. She cannot chat." One of the neanderthals responds "But I want her to come and sit next to me." The employee says "You cannot ask her now. You have to wait until she's done playing." An angry response comes "You don't tell me what the rules are!" I'm not sure how they finally resolved the issue and quite frankly I don't care. All I could think about was how many times an employee did not show up to tell that guy to respect the woman playing the piano.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Wittiest bits of comedy (in my humble opinion)

Comedy is a tricky thing. How many times did you think a movie was hilarious only two watch it a few years later and curse yourself for being so silly? I don't think it's only because we grow up and change or become more mature. I think comedies become less funny as we develop as a people. I suppose we can say that they can become irrelevant. Of course some don't fall into this trap. And that's what I think constitutes a good comedy. The best example to illustrate this is Friends and Seinfeld. Despite the heated debate on which show was best, I think few people can now argue that Friends is a classic. Although I was big fan of the show, I now watch most episodes with unease, wondering how I wasted so many hours of my life on one-liner jokes. Seinfeld, however, is still as great today as it was in the 90s. I won't go into why. It just is.

And for this post, I want to share with you a few moments of comedy that have stood/should stand the test of time. They are mainly stand-up, and unfortunately I couldn't find a single one by a female. You will also not find Eddie Izzard or Ricky Gervais, cause I think these go into the Friends category... Sorry.

So in these crazy times, I hope you enjoy 30 minutes of meaningful laughter and please share your own.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The death of the retweet button*

When I first heard the term Social Media, I didn't quite grasp its significance. But then I delved into it, by joining Facebook, Linked In and Twitter and started hearing things like "You're not supposed to do stuff like that on Linked In" and "What do you mean you didn't "like" it? That's why he's angry with you." and the more common "That's not really appropriate material for Twitter." Of course I now use these expressions too, as the medium quickly develops into an independent society with etiquette, norms and yes, traditions. Since I'm not really an expert, I am not going get into the sociocultural theories behind all this. What I want to do is just express my amazement at one specific phenomenon.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

A global problem and its self-creating solution

A month ago, I attended a talk about "Sustainable Development" by Jeffrey Sachs at Columbia University Center in Amman. In case that name means nothing to you, Sachs is the Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and author of the book "How to End Poverty". He's an economic activist (if there ever was one) who has campaigned with the likes of Bono to eliminate poverty around the world. Now who wouldn't want to hear from a guy like that? So Sachs comes in and starts talking very generally about sustainable development. Ten minutes into it and the lecture takes a sharp turn; we are suddenly listening to a diatribe about the evils of climate change. Now don't get me wrong, I am not a climate change denier, nor am I a blind follower of the sect either. But I felt like I was scammed into listening to a member of a cult bent on recruiting me.