Sunday, April 30, 2006

The Land of Free Advice

No wonder the Consulting job market is dead for the most part in this country. Why would anyone want to pay for advice when millions of people throw it at you for free whether you ask for it or not. There are exceptions of course, those being consulting the Dead and the Stars. Those are never free. Understandable though, even in Lebanon we do appreciate the difficulty of acquiring supernatural skills.

Here is a sample list of unsolicited advice I personally got granted today.

"You should get Married soon."

"Enjoy your youth, once you get married your life is no longer yours."

"Move to Dubai."

"Don't move to Dubai. Move to Europe."

"You shouldn't have left Miami in the first place."

"You should do such and such in this empty space."

"You should go see 50 Cent."

"It's hot! You should go to the beach next weekend."

... and the best part is you are not allowed any input. Any attempt at a "But...", Is quickly put down with a "No, You MUST."

You must.

New Month New Poll

The results of last Month's poll show that Hezbollahians have the least sense of humor.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Just Park it There- Volume One

When the City has to line all its sidewalks with enforced metal khazouks to keep cars from parking over people, then you can pretty much say we have sort of a parking problem.

If you are lucky enough to find a curbside parking spot, do not make the amateur mistake of parking there. You will be punished for your legal parking job by getting double parked in for days. Double parking is culturally accepted, however if you triple park you become a moral-less animal who parks in the middle of the road.

Parking in the middle of the road is also an option, but in that case you must keep the flashers on. Otherwise you might unearth one of Lebanon's hidden rare historic artifacts, a parking ticket.

There is always the option of paying for parking. Beirut Parking lot management is an artform. You need genetic giftedness and years of experience to be able to squeeze the largest number of cars in your alotted area. Physics and geometry laws are out the window when you hear the phrase "Leave the keys in it." Don't panic if you come back to see your car burried in the back of the lot with tens of cars blocking it. A good Beiruti Lot Attendant will get it out with a maximum of two moves. That performance is a joy to watch.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The President

Friday is the deadline for discussing the President, although I have a feeling the annoying Daily "Vote for the Next President" SMS will never cease.
What started modestly with a "Fill!" evolved into pots and pans. Then came the One Million Lebanese signatures(1500LL= 1$). The climax was Adel Imam's " Baddi Fatiftak". The sky was the limit, but instead we got an abrupt end to the show. Suddenly Lahoud's approval rating is double that of George W. Bush and he's looking forward to a re-election campaign.

So let's look ahead to the Fall 2007 Candidates (in order of likelihood to win):

General Aoun: The Secular one will be President because of the Secular way the Sunnis select the Prime Minister and the Shiites select Berri.

Riad Salameh: The Middle Man. Boring choice, but money would just be paper without his signature.

Anti-Syrian Boutros Harb: If the Parliamentarian majority decides to go ahead and pick one of theirs to spite the Feb.6th paper signees.

Pro-Syrian Boutros Harb: Even when he was on top of the world he kept kissing Syrian ass. The man never burns bridges, cuts ropes, unpaves roads, rolls carpets, pulls up ladders,.....

General Lahoud: Crazier things have happened.

Naseeb Lahoud: Can he overcome the fact that he got less votes than Pippo Gemayel in the parliamentary elections? That's just embarrassing.

Sleiman Frangieh: Will go down as the most entertaining president in the History of Lebanon, but will most likely have to wait till 2013.

Edmond Naim: Hey, we all thought Lahoud was dead a month ago and he definitely has more of a chance than the next group of candidates.

Rober Ghanem, Chibli Mallat, Doctor Samir Geagea, Nayla Mouawad, Pierre Hashash, Pippo Gemayel, Nemo Gemayel.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

You are no Gibran

Recently I came across one of my report cards from Secondary school. I admit I was a bit of a dork, but something really stood out in my report cards. The 2 lowest grades were English and Arabic writing. I never used a comma or a semicolon properly but that wasn’t the reason the grades were the lowest.

There is a weird logic used when grading student writing in Lebanon. While a ten year old can get a 20/20 for saying that a Dog and a Tree are different in Science Class, a deep philosophical discussion of these differences in Writing class could never get him or her higher than a 13 or a 14. Why? “Don’t be discouraged 13 is excellent because in writing you can always do better, and you are no Gibran or Shakespeare.” No Shit! Shakespeare didn’t write Hamlet when he waseth TEN.

At twelve, it’s the same story, protons are positively charged. Wow you’re a rocket scientist but you still are no Gibran. Don’t ask me why Gibran is the one and only standard, that’s a whole different story, but no wonder kids grow up traumatized with everything that involves subjective grading.

Now you know why we have 10 Million doctors while our Art has been reduced to Wawa Bahh. It’s all Gibran’s fault.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

In Lebanon we say Marhaba.


Sabah El Khair.
Sabah El Nour.
Sah El Nom.
Good Morning.
Ya Hala.
Assalamu 3alaikum.
Ahla W Sahla.
Ca va.
Ya3teik El 3afie.
Yes3ed hal Masa.
Masa El Kheir.
Masa El Nour.
Good Evening.
Good Night.
Au Revoir.
Tesbaho ala Kheir.
Ma3 El Salame.
Allah Ma3ak.
Yalla Bye.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Kissing Guide in Lebanon

Greeting standards in Lebanon can be very confusing for unexperienced visitors. For example , if you hug and kiss someone who greets you with a hand on their chest (like someone I know did), you will have a traumatizing experience that will stick with you for life(7 years and counting).
So here are some guidelines to help you with the different situations, but beware even the experienced and savvy mess up with this complex system.

1.No kiss, No Handshake (and preferably no eye contact)

When meeting an ultra-religious Muslim (Hezbollahian, Your Saudi friend's wife, etc...) of the opposite sex.

2.Handshake with No kiss.

When being introduced to someone for first time (same or opposite sex), or when greeting some you know of the opposite sex who is a practicing Muslim.

3. One Kiss (One cheek)

Casual friends of opposite sex that you see often.

4. Two kisses (Both Cheeks)

When you're pulling back from what you think is a One kiss situation and you realize the other person thought it was a 3 kisser, it is immediately understood that a compromise is reached at 2.

5. Three Kisses (Right Cheek, Left Cheek, Right Cheek)

When greeting a friend or a relative that you haven't seen in a while. "A while" ranges between 3-4 days for an opposite sex friend and 3-4 months for a same sex friend.

6. Four Kisses (Right, Left, Right, Left)

When greeting someone you genuinely like, someone you really dislike, or you're a politician during a photo-op.

7. Twenty Seven to Over a hundred Kisses (9-35 kisses in quick succession on right, left, then right cheek again)

Grandmas, Aunts, and random old ladies in the village. They might look weak and fragile but once they get a hold of you there is no escaping until they are done with their barrage.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

From Lebanon 10

The April Tan

As soon as temperatures creep above freezing level, it becomes officially "Bronzage" season in Lebanon.

It's time to even out the body with the face which is already tanned from Ski season. The number one complaint heard around town is," Uff, Why don't beaches open before May!?"

Closed beach club gates only pushes the Lebanese brain to be more innovative. Alternatives are private pools, roof tops, and some hotels that cater to the early birds. Some, however, risk it all. In pursuit of skin color in April they are willing to commit the biggest sin of them all: Going to the Saint Balesh Beach! Shou Sauvage.

Oh, and when I say a tan, I mean a Lebanese tan which is complete pruning of the skin.

Spring traditions in Lebanon: birds chirping, green and flowers all around, and no pale skin.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

10 Years Late

This post is 10 years late but this thing bothered me then and I haven't had a chance to express it.

Miami, Florida-April 18th, 1996

I had heard what happened and tried to squeeze a young internet for all the info I could get. All I could find were some grotesque low resolution pictures attached to computer generated wire reports. The only other thing left for me was the limited cable line up on my 12 inch dorm TV.

So I sat there waiting for something, anything, knowing I won't get much from CNN or the networks' evening news. Well, I got absolutely NOTHING. A Blank Screen. CNN did cover the event at length, they showed the gruesome pictures, how could they possibly ignore it? However, the cable provider blacked it out. For 20 minutes during the evening news the screen went blank. Move along, Nothing to see here. Residents of Coral Gables did not hear of Qana. It didn't happen.

I don't know if anyone else noticed the black out but I didn't hear anyone raise a peep about that incident. I forget what the cable company was called back then, but I know it was bought out by AT&T and later turned into Comcast property. I think Arabs exaggerate greatly the "Zionist Conspiracy", but on that day the Israeli propaganda machine censored the news in Coral Gables and sent the First Amendment of the United States of America to Hell.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Step By Step

First came the No Parking signs and the Street Closures. That was only a small price to pay for security.

Then came 24 hours a day eyes in the sky of Beirut. Again, if you have nothing to hide you should not fear having your every move recorded.

Then came the threat of getting shot if you go up on the roof wihout a permit. I just pray that my satellite TV does not lose signal during one of my Hurricanes' games because I will risk my life to get the signal back.

Today I saw new No Photography signs all over the street. This is just Useless and Silly in the age of camera phones and Google Earth.

So what is next?

Saturday, April 15, 2006

From Lebanon 9


Also known as Banjees, Banjous, Bonjiseye, among other similar variations.

A Bonjus is a pyramid shaped juice box with a straw hole. A Bonjus is chugged as fast as possible to get to the real reason people buy Bonjus; which is to inflate the box and pop it. So simple yet so much fun, especially for schoolboys trying to win over cute girls' hearts by making them skip a few beats.

While the Bonjus producing company insists on labeling different boxes with different flavours, Ananas and Orange Bonjus are exactly the same thing, a cheap sugary liquid. A cheap sugary liquid that along with cheap newspaper wrapped mana'eesh made me what I am today, a "young" and "healthy" man that cries of pain on a simple hiking trip.

Polluting the body is not the only thing Bonjus does well. Bonjus drinkers are also dirty bastards, as they are the top litterers in Lebanon. You will find popped Bonjus boxes all over the country; in the streets, at historic sites, and even in churches and mosques.

Bonjus. A staple of the Lebanese diet that you will never find at Fakhreddine in London.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

13 turns 31

What do you remember of the war? Do you remember it?
Is it really over for it to be a memory?

I remember my parents not being able to go to my school because they feared for their lifes. My school was 10 minutes from home yet people there were of a different.... species, Nope,..... race, nah, ....... nationality, definitely not ....... religion, not necessarily, .......Sect , that's what it was.

I remember Israeli warplanes raiding the SNSP office in Chtaura; the destroyed building is still there. I remember a lot of israeli raids. I remember a Syrian anti-air missile striking the building next to ours during one of the raids. Soooo close to bring the plane down.

I remember people rushing to raise the volume on the radio when they heard "Maktab El Tahreer fi Khabarin Jadid."

I remember lots of assassinations. The days Karami and Muawwad got assassinated stand out the most.

I remember the "mukhabarat" checkpoint insulting people. I remember Ghazi Kenaan standing there while people kissed his ass.

I remember militias collecting tolls on the roads.

I remember Amal and Hezbollah fighting in Saadnayel, wait aren't they the same sect?

I remember we had to take Tareek El Karame to get to Beirut because of some event at Galerie Semaan, must've been a Sale.

I remember Aoun and/or Geagea shelling the same building that was hit by the Syrian missile. i wonder what the Layoun family did to piss everybody off.

I remember all the neighbors gathering at our place since it the was the safest, wait again, weren't we all of different sects? Shouldn't we have been killing each other? I remember we played these games; guess if it's being fired or landing? Guess if it's a 155mm or a 240mm. Normal children's games.

I remember collecting shrapnel when things calmed down. A rocket's tail was the highest valued collectible.

I remember Aoun and/or Geagea stopped firing our way and turned the guns on each other.

I remember October 13th, 1990 I woke up to see a different kind of warplanes in the sky. These ran on diesel.

I remember El Jalbout making an old woman cry at the Beit Yahoun crossing so he could feel like a MAN. I remember hating him for it and wanting him to die. He did.

Then I remember telling 2 visitors in their first day in Beirut who's motorcade just sped by us a minute before a loud explosion and glass shattering all around us.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Hezbollah 2006: Faster, Higher, Stronger

Many Likud officials were celebrating UNSC 1559 as the means to weaken and crush Hezbollah. Cut off the Syrian hand of support and corner it internally with the burden of proving their loyalty to Lebanon. The assassination of Rafiq Hariri provided the opportunity to push the all out attack on Hezbollah. So with all the world powers and half the Lebanese people ganging up on HA, they surely had to beat the crap out of it. Right?

Here's what actually went down. Instead of cutting off the Syrian support, the Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon removed the Syrian handcuffs off HA. The Lebanese opposition's obsession with punishing the "pro-syrian" parties pushed all these groups to seek protection with HA. Then came the collapse of the opposition coallition due to many reasons (previously discussed) which emboldened HA even further, and allowed them to strike a deal with one of the main opposition parties. Regionally, the growing pressure on the Syrian regime pushed them in turn to seek Iran's protection. Syria remains loyal to the Iranian regional stratgy, and Iran protects the Assad regime.

Let's recap, before 1559 Syria controlled Lebanon and HA. After 1559, HA built an alliance that controls Lebanon (see all the National dialogue decisions for proof), AND they highly influence Syrian decision making through their Iranian ally. So it's safe to say 1559 didn't quite reach its goal.

While I'm really really glad the Likudists aren't celebrating today the death of Hezbollah today, I worry that as a secular Arab, I'm stuck in a Catch 22 situation.

The point I'm trying to reach through all this is that the Western powers just don't get it. It's one failed policy after another. Every step they take in the Middle East in name of Democracy and political progress seems to strengthen the fundemental Islamist movements. Whether it's Hezbollah, Hamas, Muslim Brotherhood, or any of the local Islamic variations, they are feeding off the West's obliviousness of Middle East culture.

If the powers want to see the Middle East "evolve", just let it be. Stop interfereing. It might take a while but it will at least head in the right direction. If they want to really help, build schools, build hospitals, but stay out of politics (AUB is good, AlHurra not so good). Don't support one dictatorship against another. Don't turn a blind eye to a friendly tyrant while scolding the one opposed to you. All these hypocritical practices are just providing ammunition to the fanatical fundementalists.

Now, since I don't see an end to this, here we continue to try stopping crazy fundementalists and their "Democracy-Spreading" Western Allies.

It won't be easy.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Play Review: " Meryl Streep"

The fact that this play has been attracting crowds for over a month in Beirut should've been a hint, but I still went ahead and checked out "Testofel Meryl Streep". The story was so lame that no matter how good a job the director and cast did in dressing it up nicely, there was no way to salvage the play. To be fair, the director, Nidal Al Ashkar, did an excellent job putting out a professional product. The cast as a team they completed each other, Rana Alameddine with her looks and Elie Karam with his skill.

On to the lame, because lame is more fun to critique. The writing was just poor; cheap laughs, a story that goes everywhere yet reaches nowhere, and a cliche taboo. Just in case you haven't heard yet, "Women have sex!" Yeah, I'm not kidding. Your Mom has sex too , by the way.

This "taboo" by itself is not enough to carry the show. People do watch Sex in the City, The L Word, and Desperate Housewives, so there is no novelty in that subject. Oh, but they speak in
Arabic! Ok, in that case the Beirut theater scene these days is heaven for you. You have "Testofel Meryl Streep". If you still need to satisfy your fix "Hayat Al Mar'a Al Sirriya" should do it. Not enough? There's "Sayyida, Hurra, Mustakilla". You're still horny? "Hakki Nasswane " opens up next week on Masrah el Madina. Enjoy.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Iraq and Palestine-Israelovina

I avoid talking about these regional hotspots because I don't want to beat a dead horse around the bushes or something like that, but I'll make an exception today.

First of all, Sharon is stil shitting himself.

Less importantly, the world's democracy lovers are shitting on Palestinians for practicing democracy. Ironic isn't it? Not only are they strapping the democratically elected government financially, but Israel has stepped up its oh-so-accurate "targeted killings" campaign. They are so smart and precise that they can locate, convict, and execute terrorists without disrupting the peaceful lives of regular citizens(The one positive in this process is it eliminates the need for lawyers), yet not smart enough to figure out a strategy that sniffs a peaceful solution.

It really really sucks though to be PLO/Fatah, PFLP, Islamic Jihad, etc.... right now. Not only did they lose the elections, but Israel is making them pay for it to incite them against Hamas. Another smart move, but not very peace loving.

The choice is clear for the Palis. Next time you either elect a submissive puppet we like or live peacefully without the evils of money or lawyers.

On to Iraq...

I keep hearing Iraq is "on the verge" of civil war. On the verge. Yess, so the best is yet to come. I must admit I'm impressed with these Al Qaeda dudes. For primitve tent dwellers they have a sophisticated organizational chart, digital multimedia technology, complex untrackable logistics, and an unending supply chain of (a.) TNT and (b.) idiots willing to strap (a.) to themselves. When I lived in South America I thought swallowing cocaine-filled condoms was idiotic. Simple Latinos! They got nothing on Arabs.

Seriously though, there is no question Iran is playing a major role in trying to control Iraq today. Also there is no question the majority of the suicide bombers are coming from Saudi Arabia(better known in US media as Syria).
The question is:
Is Saudi Arabia dumping those Lunatics in Iraq:
a.) to get rid of them so they don't have to deal with them.
b.) unwillingly because they have no control of the border.
c.) to turn Iraq into an Iran-Saudi battlefield, a la Lebanon's Syria-Israel "Civil" war.
d.) What Iraq war? Mission Accomplished.

Friday, April 07, 2006

The Week in Review

Thursday: The Great display of Statesmanship and Responsibility.

Friday: The opposition steps up its attack on the Government and asks for things that really matter. Abdul Rahim Mrad was seen smiling for the first time in over a year.

Saturday: The opposition attack intensifies asking for accountability and an end to corruption. On a side note, only the party of the omnipresent can manage to be in the government and in the opposition at the same time.

Sunday: It turns out the opposition demands where an April fool's joke. Why would they want corruption to end when they can always use this corruption fighting threat to get their way?

Monday: The National Dialoguers decide 3 hours a week is way too much. They decided they will meet 3 hours a month instead.

Tuesday: Wiam Wahhab forms the Loud Empty Talk Party.

Wednesday: The Cabinet meets amicably to discuss the economic "reform" plan. By Reform they mean a cosmetic patch up job to incur more debt and impoverish the people more. Raising taxes and selling off property is not reform. Cutting off the people at the bottom of the government job pyramid scheme will not be a great source of income for the country. Ok, I'll stop here. More ranting on this subject in the Future.

Thursday: Bush's approval ratings hit a new low, but he continues to be supported by a group of religious fanatics. Sounds Familiar?

Friday: Emile Rahme, President of the Tadamon Party, appears on TV. Which leads us to the question of the week:How many official political parties are there right now in Lebanon? How about now? .... and Now?

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Trees Saved...

Just an update on the tree situation.

From As-Safir:

أعلنت <<لجنة رأس بيروت للحفاظ على الاشجار>> في بيان لها امس، <<ان المسؤولين اللبنانيين والسعوديين تعهدوا بوقف قطع الاشجار في مقر السفارة السعودية القديم في رأس بيروت (في اطار مشروع تشييد مبنى جديد للسفارة)، اثر لقاءات عقدتها اللجنة مع وزير البيئة يعقوب الصراف وسفير المملكة العربية السعودية عبد العزيز خوجة>>. وأشار البيان الى <<سعي اهالي المنطقة الى التوصل الى تسوية تبقي على الاشجار التي لا تعوض ولا تعيق عمل الشركة الملتزمة ببناء المبنى الجديد للسفارة>>.

It seems the neighborhood movement was able to save the trees, and by doing so they outperformed 9 months' worth of government work.

Speaking of, yesterday they kissed and made up.

Hal Seesan, klock, klock....
Shou Helween, klock, klock,.....
3am Bi douro hawla Immon Mabsouteen........

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Eat Chicken

I'll borrow the Chick-Fil-A cows whom I've become acquainted with due to my beloved Miami Hurricanes sucking the last couple of years. Playing in the Chick-Fil-A bowl wasn't embarrassing enough, so we decided to get thumped in the Chicken-Shit bowl, but back to Lebanon.

People of Lebanon, PLEASE EAT CHICKEN. First of all, have you seen the chicken prices? Chicken has become so cheap, that even McDonald's has switched to real chicken to save money. Secondly, you will not get bird flu from eating chicken. You are million times more likely to get bird flu from a pigeon crapping on you on the street. So stay indoors. I've been to Tanmia's facilities, they have every possible health and quality control certification , they will not sell you sick chicken.

Last and most importantly, our chicken is 100% Lebanese. Cows aren't. Our economy needs every little help it can get. I don't want to be like our demagogues that cherish chances to rile up the racism in us, but have you heard cows? You know who else says,"Moo".

Monday, April 03, 2006

Lebanese Sausage Fest - Day 17

Elie Skaff is still courageously sacrificing 3 hours out of his week for the salvation of Lebanon. Where would this country be without the heroics of men like Skaff?

Skaff also visited Lahoud on Friday and they discussed the Republic.

Apathy and boredom reign by now. Summer season is right around the corner though, and that should provide the people and the government much needed distraction. After the festivals and a sexy tan, the people will find themselves paying more taxes, more for gas , more for bread, not getting anything in return for their late night SMS binge to get on that annoying New TV game show, and most likely still owing $40 billion.

That's what Sausage Fest- Day 117 and Beirut II will be for.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Rouhana at Blue Note

One of the benefits of artists struggling in this country is that it allows you the privilege of hearing Charbel Rouhana's Oud every fortnight in a cozy little place.

I must say though that for a place that regularly hosts musical events, the acoustics at the Blue Note Cafe are horrendous. Their Hi Fi system has definitely outlived its usefulness. The table set up and the waiting staff is uniquely Lebanese, and so is the chatter noise level during the performance.

Personally, I prefer his performance of his own compositions to the classics he performs. His hit songs "Hi, Kifak, Ca Va" and "La Shou El Taghyeer" are original and catchy but it's a shame that they trigger the karaoke impulse in the crowd. "La Shou el Tashweesh?" I ask.


"It's a Shame!" is the most overheard phrase about things concerning Lebanon.

That's a Shame.


I'm relaying this message I just got, please forward it and see you there.


They surprised us this morning by tearing down the last trees remaining in Ras Beirut, a sanctuary of life and nature. We urge you to stand firm against this crime

Residents from the neighborhood are calling for a protest act.
Please stand by us, show up in front of the main gate of the old Saudi Embassy opposite Mike hairdresser, Bliss Street, Ras Beirut TOMORROW April 2nd, at 10AM although they may start their chainsaws earlier.

Save out trees that are over 100 years old

Please circulate this message immediately as widely as you can

Residents of the neighborhood

ساعدونا الآن
لنحمي الشجرات الباقية في منطقة بلس في رأس بيروت

تألمنا صباح يوم السبت لسماع المناشير التي تقطع الشجرات القديمة في رأس بيروت .

نناشدكم للتضامن معنا للاحتجاج على العمل ، وحماية الشجرات الباقية من قطعها .

الوقت: يوم الأحد 2 نيسان 2006 م الساعة العاشرة صباحاً (علما بإمكانية بدء قطع الشجر قبل ذلك) .

المكان: أمام باب السفارة السعودية القديمة (مقابل مايك الحلاق)
شارع بلس ، رأس بيروت .

نرجو إبلاغ أكبر عدد ممكن من الناس .

سكان الحي