Friday, September 29, 2006

The King is Naked

I will not get involved in the petty internal political bickering. What a boring bunch of clowns with nothing to offer. Same cast for the last 20 years+ repeating the same lines, ... those are the days of our lives. I'm sure no one pays attention to them anymore.

We're in Ramadan which means Kellaj season for me. Kellaj is basically a mixture of fat and sugar that's then deeply fried and deeply sweetened. Yummy. For others, however, it's "ask Jamal why isn't he fasting" month. While it's a clearly intrusive and inapropriate question, you have to be careful how to answer it because your answer might offend some Jesus freaks, Mohammad freaks, whatever, they would be offended in way that would make the 1400 years fight over the Caliphate look like a piece of Kellaj. They really want you to go to heaven. It's for your own good.

It's day 7 or 6, depending on which of the Earth's moons you follow, which means I can't use the "I got my period" excuse much longer. Of course, I should've gone with I am Christian, that excuse would've lasted me at least a month, but too late for that now. There's also the Aoun or Geagea deal; I might miss one of the hand signals which would open a whole other can of worms. So it's back to the drawing board...

I do have my first Iftar of the month this evening. Those things I do take part in. Come 6:30 pm or 8:00 pm, again depending on which of the Earth's suns you watch set, everyone around the table would have developed an animal predator approach to dining which makes me feel normal for once.

So if I pick up the tab tonight, do you think I'll get dressed with the Sultan's Garb?

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

1 Year Anniversary

This Blog is one year old today.

I want to thank everyone who has spent time reading my rants.

I also want to say a Big THANK YOU to Amal for this beautiful gift which basically sums up the year that was.

Here's to a less eventful Year 2.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Everyone Loves a Parade

Yesterday I decided to walk to the newly dubbed "Pride and Dignity Square" , an 8 KM distance as the Google Earth flies, to get a full picture of Beirut on this day.

At 12:30 pm, I had my cup of coffee and scoured the daily newspapers at my favorite cafe. There was a shouting match across the street but surprisingly it was apolitical. By the way, Rania and Abdallah of Jordan are sleeping in seperate bedrooms.

1 pm; Hamra Street has its regular crowd combined with some motorists sporting their Hezbollah flags and blasting their Nasrallah speeches while some passers by discretely wish for them and him to drown in shit.

1:20 pm; I get side tracked when I spot a new restaurant. Food gets me everytime. However, this restaurant's decor is too colorfull for it to have good food. Also, the fact that this spot used to house a Pizza Hut doesn't work in its favor.

1:30 pm; Someone I know sees me and offers me a ride wherever I was going. He felt offended because I told him I just wanted to walk. He wasn't convinced. No one "just walks" in Beirut. Oh Well.

1:35 pm; The Spears Barbar bottleneck is not exclusive to cars on the street, the sidewalk is also a victim to this phenomenon. Instead of bombing bridges, Israel should've built Barbars everywhere that would've clogged all roads (and arteries) and paralyzed the country.

1:40 pm; in Zoqaq Blat you can buy one Kilogram of Tomatoes or Grapes for 500LL. No one will ever starve to death in Lebanon.

1:45 pm; I stopped at 3ezz Cafe Downtown, since this used to be my caffeine supply when I worked in the area. "3ezz" is a staunch Haririst, and so was everyone else present there. Let the fun begin. Ok, I couldn't take notes fast enough. Siniora stopped the war, he's no traitor. All the arabs abandoned the Palestinian cause, why won't we. If they open the Golan front, we will go and fight there. We all used to love Nasrallah, but not since he said "Thank You Syria." Overall, a lot of resentment towards Syria.

2:15 pm; I spot Ibrahim Kanaan at Le Georges in Gemmayze, the dude stood less than a meter away and I still couldn't tell whether or not he has a moustache. It's a light angle trick that has me baffled.

2:25 pm; The young cedar on the Lebanese Forces posters looks much healthier than the blossoming cedar on Almanar TV.

2:35 pm; Tabaris, Furn El Hayek, Sodeco are all emptyish, early start to the weekend I guess. I hear my name and have a 5 minute with someone that knows me without having a clue who he is.

2:45 pm; Oh I remember who he is, he used to work at one of the companies I worked for.

2:50 pm; I've been walking for two and half hours mixing with the people of Beirut, but fuck it , my destination is still over 5 kilometers away, so I'm hitching a ride.

3:15 pm; The Mar Mikhail church is as far as cars can get, so back to walking. Tons of people, mostly with yellow flags, but you'll spot occasional black, green, orange, red and the unmistakeable mutant radioactive pistacchio colored flags of the Marada party.

3:45 pm; Ice cream trucks, cotton candy, roasted nuts, Nasrallah speeches on Cassette or CD (I got me the classical 1998 Jerusalem day, but most youths prefer the Ashura 2003 remix.), and lots and lots of baby carriages; plenty of pride and dignity but still no square.

4:00 pm; More people heading away from the "square", than those heading to it , they said they weren't letting any more people in. Are you kidding me, I didn't walk and hitch all this distance to be left out. Oh and by the way, I spotted a couple of Israeli MK drones in the sky filming the event.

4:15 pm; the pace got slower and the space tighter and the oxygen scarcer and butt grabbing more frequent, it was getting obvious I' m not gonna make it and even if I managed to push my way close enough to Pride it would have to be at the expense of Dignity. Right there I decided to give up.

5:00 pm; While I was in an air conditioned living room, Nasrallah started delivering his victory speech.

6:15 pm; He finished his brief talk. Main points: Olmert and Peretz are pair of boobs. Condy's New Middle East is a miscarriage. Yo Arab Leaders, wake up(Dream on Sayyed). Blue Helmets, Blue Balls. Internally he delivered strong words but weak messages. The roof of his demands remained a National Unity government. I already commented on this issue in my last post.

8:00 pm; Shower!!!!!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Blue Helmets and Black Turbans

On the eve of the "Divine" victory rally, there are several asking "Where to?" Since it's pretty clear to everybody that we're not "there" yet.

Let me start south of the Litani on the frontlines with Israel. UNSC 1701 is starting to look like a bizarro Cairo Accord. Allow troops from all over the world, it's preferably the light skinned ones outnumber the darker complexions, to turn South Lebanon into a stage where they can "protect Israel's right to exist" and prove to the world that they are not anti-semitic and have no Hitler genes whatsover. Today's Unifil is a baby blue helmeted PLO with guns pointing north instead of south. Well, come to think of it the original PLO's guns also pointed north instead of south. Freedom, sovereignty, Never Mind. While the ambiguity of Unifil's role is of concern, I personally think they are just here for show. While I don't question Europe's genuine love for Israel, I doubt they are willing to administer Qana III for them. They should start leaving come February. So for the southern Lailas looking for blue-eyed Romeos, Hook'em Fast!

North of the Litani, on the always entertaining Lebanese political scene, we are due for action. The first voices after the war were those who where screaming that they shouldn't be accused of treason. Why would anyone with a clear conscience be concerned with this issue? Hmmm. Anyways, these people were and will always be irrelevant tools, so let's talk about the more relevant free people. The Siniora government will not be overthrown, not now at least. It is protected from "El Diablo" himself. (Sorry Cowboy John, I know I shouldn't be taking this comic book approach to dealing with international policy. Destructive wars, bloody invasions, and violent occupations are the way to go.) However back to Lebanon, Hezbollah owes it to his supporters and allies to stand up to the Bristol troop. But how? They can not pull out of the cabinet because they do not trust the ruling majority with all the power and they can't overthrow it. So their only option is to press for a national unity government. Boring. If you thought the current crew has been impotent wait til you see the National unity jambalaya. Well, at least it'll be more entertaining when you have Fatfat and Frangieh in the same room.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Half Good or Half Bad

I'm sorry I've been slow when things are moving at light speed around here. When I try to put my thoughts about a topic on paper it seems to be trumped by another more urgent news. To keep up with the pace of ongoing events I will resort to bullets, just like everyone else seems to be doing these days.

  • The Saudi-Qatari propaganda war is the best thing on TV since Seinfeld (before Larry David left the show.)
  • The Saudi-Qatari propaganda war is the best thing to hit news stands since Oprah's Magazine.
  • What's with the media blackout on the gun clashes erupting here and there.
  • Walid Jumblat was a tool, he's now free. His words not mine.
  • A country whose number one export is Cocoa was rewarded with a shipful of fatal toxic waste.
  • God hates chocolate ... and Africans.
  • God led Hezbollah to victory .
  • God also led the Miami Heat to victory.
  • My friend who has been job hopping in the desert since the 90's thinks the job market and economy in Lebanon are dead because of the 2006 Israeli war on Lebanon.
  • Finance Minister Jihad Azour agrees.
  • Dori Chamoun: Goatee or no Goatee?
  • This week marked the death anniversaries of Bachir Gemayyel and Hadi Nasrallah, as seen extensively on TV, oh yeah and the thousands at Sabra and Shatila, barely seen on TV.
  • Yemen.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Por La Plata Baila El Mono

A Spanish saying that translates to: "For the Money, The Monkey Dances."

While many people fit the description, my monkey du jour is Hassan Sabra.

I saw the cover of his respected magazine today and he had Michel Aoun featured with a photoshopped Iranian flag patterned foulard draped around his neck. I guess the idea of Aoun being in bed with the Syrians didn't fly, so Sabra is resorting to the other "bo3"*. Apparently people don't forget 15 years of Syrian-enforced exile so easily. I mean what does it tell you when even Al-Shiraa readers don't believe the story?

But why is he a dancing monkey?

I remember Hassan Sabra of the early 90's; his son used to play soccer with us when the father performed his weekly pilgrimage to Chtaura. Actually, Junior broke his arm once and that was when I learned that when bones break, they actually break break. As in break in two pieces break. But enough with my childhood traumas.

My point is that Hassan Sabra used to have his tongue so far up Ghazi Kenaan's ass he could taste his lunch. Today he's a "courageous journalist." Who's fooling whom?

But dancing monkeys are not completely useless. You can always use them to gauge whose propaganda machine has the deepest pockets at any given time.

*The bo3 is the Lebanese version of the Chupacabras.

The Crucifix of Siniora

At the end of the day, Fouad Siniora is just a loyal employee of Hariri Inc. (Not to use harsher descriptions thrown his way.) His failed 13+ months experiment as Prime Minister was nothing more than a lesson in the grooming process of his boss. While he was dizzy being pushed around in different directions, Boss was lounging on a Mediterranean island beach doing lines and taking notes on the Dos and Don'ts of Prime ministering. Siniora's usefulness seems to be expiring soon and while his name has been battered in many circles, his non-committal Boss is unscathed.

Welcome to Feudal Leadership 101.

Unfortunately for us, it has been reported the Boss's top advisors do not think he's ready for the job yet. (Insert your favorite expression of astonishment here.) So which loyal employee will be volunteered to be the next lab rat in Boss's educational curriculum?

Monday, September 11, 2006

Cluster Bombed

I've been away for a few days not because I have nothing to comment but because I have too many things that I wanted to talk about that I didn't know where to start. I'll just vent a little now, but I'll have a more level headed analysis in the future.

At this moment Prime Minister Lame Duck is meeting with Prime Minister Lame Duck in the Grand Seray. I wonder what they're quacking about. They are probably comparing golf vacation plans. Meanwhile, south of our border Prime Minister Lame Duck is still in denial. What can one do to get job security in this world?

On another front, if you are "pretty", "rich", or "smart" and you are secure about it would you go around announcing to everyone your virtues? So why does the ruling majority in Lebanon feel the need to keep reminding everyone that they are the majority.

I see Hezbollah targeted the Bristol gathering with a batch of Katyushas a couple of days ago. To Hezbollah I say, Stop teasing the people. You've been using these empty threats for over a year now and every time these supposed "thieves" bend and give you what you want, you turn a blind eye to all the looting. You are either against corruption or you are a partner in it. You are either against the government or you are part of it. You can not have the damning evidence you speak of and sleep on it for political gains. Stop talking off both sides of your mouth, state your position, and stick to it.

As for my contribution to the ongoing media smear campaign against Aoun, hmmm, what hasn't been used yet? Digging up picture with IDF, done. Calling him senile, done. Questioning his Maronitism, done. Syrian Mukhabarat accusations, done. Sold his soul for the presidency, done. Abou Ali Aoun, done. Party hand symbol resembles gun slinging, done. Well, it seems I can't add anything to this campaign, our fair and balanced media has got it all covered.

Enough for now...

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Beyond Bint Jbeil

As I was leaving Beirut I ran into the around the clock procession of dump trucks that are moving Dhahieh to its new seafront location. Once you get past that, you'll start noticing some redecoration courtesy of the Israeli Air Force. Overpasses are out. Not a single overpass remains between Beirut and Saida. Silly Israelis! Any casual observer of Lebanese driving patterns knows that we don't use these things. Why take the long dizzying way when you can just jump the median?

Bridges are a different story; we do need those because we have many many rivers. A river is a continuous flow of water that pumps life into everything in its path. Water is life and we have an abundance of water. I just wanted to rub that in.

After a few detours to find alternative ways to cross the numerous water sources along the way we reached Soor, home of LBC's favorite mufti Sayyed Ali El Amin. Just a piece of advice here, If you're heading South fill up gas before you leave Beirut since gas pumps are an extinct species south of the Litani.

My destination was the border village of Yaroun, my grandfather's hometown and where he spent the first 15 days of Olmert's anger tantrum. Yaroun is one of the heavily damaged villages that didn't get much media coverage, probably because it is beyond Bint Jbeil and Bint Jbeil is more photogenic. Like most houses in Yaroun, my grandpa's is now missing a wall. On the bright side the living room is well ventilated and enjoys an unobstructed view of Jabal Al Jarmaq. So we went to the local "Jihad Construction" office to pick up some cash. Note that "Jihad" is one of the Arabic words that is never translated to English only so that the terror alert levl can remain at orange, just like Madrassa. By the way, Little Jihad cannot go to his Madrassa in Bint Jbeil because Bint Jbeil is, well, more like Bint Jbeil was.

Before you reach Yaroun from Bint Jbeil there is an ant hill on the left between the road and the border. It is known as Maroun El Ras. When I used to see the TV footage of the Maroun El Ras battles, I thought that was just one angle of this strategic base. It turns out that there were no other angles, Maroun El Ras is just what you saw in the camera frame; a couple of houses on what would be rated as a baby stroller hiking trail. You have to see how small the areas in question are to grasp the magnitude of the Israeli military failure. There are no visible Merkava tracks beyond the outskirts of Bint Jbeil. To put it in perspective the distance from there to the border is shorter than the distance from where you are to Starbucks.

On the way back, we stopped for food at th only open restaurant in the area. Two rocket holes adorned the seating area. A couple of mine explosions and stray Israeli jets provided the ambience music. Judging by the clientele present, the waiters will be needing intensive French and Italian courses. Barbecued Merkava was the Plat du Jour.

Tomorrow (Lebanese time, so it might be a few days) I'll go Beyond Beyond Bint Jbeil with a political reading of the war's results.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Back from the Frontlines

I shall write up a detailed account of my trip to Bint Jbeil and what's beyond beyond Bint Jbeil sometime tomorrow.