Sunday To-Do List: 1.Stop the Hate

Here we go again. Another terror plot. This time it was Boston that suffered the attack of a faceless, nameless evil. Around the world, there was an outpouring of solidarity. Even tweeps/bloggers/facebookers in Syria, which is currently in the throes of civil war, expressed their condolences to the American people. Meanwhile in America, the desire to point the finger inspired a subset of the population to go on anti-Arab/Islamic rants reminiscent of sentiments echoed in the wake of 9/11. Some vengeful individuals even translated the verbal hate into actions. A group of men in the Bronx. NY, physically assaulted a Bangladeshi man they believed to be an Arab Muslim. In light of the fact that the U.S. government, media and all associated authorities engaged in some degree of stereotyping and racial profiling, the tragic reactions of these men are not surprising.

What do I mean? Well, for one thing, the first suspect in the terror investigation by the Boston police was an innocent Saudi student who happened to be running in the marathon. He sustained serious injuries, and while he was recuperating in the hospital, his apartment was being thoroughly searched, his flatmate harassed questioned. In other news, shortly after the bombings, two passengers were escorted off of a flight leaving Boston for engaging in “suspicious behavior”. Apparently, that’s what you’re doing if you’re speaking Arabic: being suspicious. Meanwhile, Arab and Muslim Americans across the country silently hoped and prayed that the masterminds behind the terror plot were not members of their own community. Khaled Beydoun summed up these sentiments very nicely in his Al Jazeera article: “Boston Bombers: Please don’t be Arab or Muslim”. 

When two Chechan brothers were finally identified as the culprits, many Arabs breathed a sigh of relief. This is what has happened following every threat to national security since 9/11. Post-event hatred for Arabs and Muslims hits a high as we wait anxiously for our names to be cleared–which, more often than not, they are. But the national reaction remains the same, time and again. Timothy McVeigh was white. So was Adam Lanza. Dzhokar Tsarnaev and his brother were not Arab. So why is it that in the wake of tragedy the American public, media and government are always scrambling to use Arabs as their scapegoats? As I ask myself this question, I urge American readers to ask a few of their own.

Such as:

What reason would the world have to hate America?

Is it ‘democracy’ we’re spreading?

How have the decisions and actions of the American government effected Iraqi and Afghan citizens?

What is day to day life like for those in Syria and the Palestinian territories?

Why are we more interested in the day to day lives of celebrities than our government’s foreign policy, and who encourages such distraction?

What is Islam?

What is Arab Culture like?

Beyond just asking–research, interact, and learn. It is only ignorance that allows media and governments room to manipulate. Turn off your televisions. Read. Reflect. Reconsider.


Throwback Thursday: We’ve come a long way, baby.

It’s been forever and a day. I just haven’t been inspired to write much as of late. I came across this rather interesting collection of ads that would be banned today. It’s definitely worth sharing. Whether sexist, racist, or medically/psychologically unsound, these ads just wouldn’t make the cut today.

I’d like to think that advertising in Lebanon has advanced with the times, too. But Trillium development keeps doing its best to keep us mired in sexism.


In Memoriam

His name Was Ali Abdallah. The homeless man who frequented Bliss Street and Rue Jean D’arc in Hamra. Generations of AUB students came and went under his watchful eye. They made up stories about him. He relied on the kindness of strangers. Restaurant owners who gave him a meal every now and then, residents who donated their unwanted clothing.  Everyday unsung heroes. His loss makes me wish I had done more for him in his lifetime. We’re all guilty of passing them by at times, aren’t we? Those with nameless faces, and unspoken needs. Many claim that he suffered from Schizophrenia. His cold body was found outside of the McDonald’s on Bliss Street earlier today.  Rest in peace, Ali. Hamra won’t be the same without you.

Photo By Krikorian Mher, taken from Facebook.

Photo By Krikorian Mher, taken from Facebook.

Angry at the Sexist Monkey

An ad campaign by pub in Gemmayze called “The Angry Monkey” was recently brought to my attention. The outright sexism and vulgarity is best demonstrated visually:




Food and beverage products usually sell themselves. There’s no need to sexualize ad content if your product is delicious. People can usually tell, and those who’ve tried it will probably recommend it if they liked it. So why do the folks at Angry Monkey feel that they have to pair their offerings with a pair of–well, you know–to get the attention of their target demographic? It’s an outright exploitation and objectification of the female body, and some of the comments on the photos (which were posted on the pub’s Facebook page) are downright perverted. What’s worse is that, when confronted with commentators who tried to bring the inappropriateness of the ads to his/her attention, the page administrator defended the campaign. Shame on you, Angry Monkey.

Hear Ye, Hear ‘Ye!

Extra, Extra, read all about it! Kim K. is carrying the spawn of Kanye. The only thing larger than that kid’s ass will probably be its ego. But enough meaningless chatter already–it’s 2013. New year’s resolutions, anyone? And please don’t go on about how this year will be the year you actually manage to stick to your diet and exercise routine and shed those extra pounds. Don’t get me wrong–I really hope that works out for you. Nothing like a little self-improvement (or a LOT). But, when’s the last time you made a new year’s resolution that benefits someone other than yourself? When’s the last time you decided to put in some volunteer hours down at the nearest division of the Lebanese Red Cross? Or visited an animal shelter like BETA to help walk the dogs? When’s the last time you donated money to a good cause?

No lecture intended, but do at least one thing for others to start the year off, then read this article on, and start to make headway on that self-improvement stuff. Just to prepare you, several of the things the author listed will not be easy to swallow. It’s high time most of us stopped whining and started molding ourselves into the people we want to be. Everyone wants to be the type of person companies want to hire, employees want to work for, and fabulous people want to date and befriend. Well my darlings, that takes work. Self-improvement is fantastic because it doesn’t mean you have to sell out and stop being yourself! It just means you add to your repertoire a bit, so that you have more to offer, and actually wind up being a far better version of yourself (with all the same fantastically odd idiosyncrasies, and perhaps a few adorable new ones).

I read a quote recently that made me chuckle, and then sobered me up a bit. I’m quite the procrastinator, so I really needed to hear it: “There are seven days in a week, and ‘Someday’ isn’t one of them.” You’re damned right it ain’t. Life is passing most of us by (myself included). I mean, 1999 feels like yesterday! My New Year’s wish for all of you is the same thing I wish for myself–that 2013 is a year of action, self-improvement, and productivity.

That being said, here are a few of my New Year’s Resolutions:

1. Donate to causes I care about. I’m not rolling in money (let’s face it, few of us are), but I’ll give what I can.

2. Clean out my closet and donate clothing I don’t want/need (in good condition) to Nasawiya, which is distributing warm clothing to the Syrian Refugees in Lebanon.

3. Learn Spanish. Gonna register for an intro course at the Instituto Cervantes!

4. Read more. I love reading, but in the rush and chaos of life and all the commitments I sometimes have to attend to, I’ve let this hobby fall by the wayside.

5. Audit that class I’ve always wanted to take that’s finally being offered at my alma mater. I’ve already emailed the professor, and she’s agreed!

6. Take apartment hunting more seriously, and move the f*ck out of my parent’s house already. Even if it costs me half my salary.

7. Learn how to play an instrument. As a kid, I took violin, clarinet, and keyboard lessons. I was also in a gifted and talented choir. For some reason, I never had the passion to stick any of it out. Let’s see if I can find an instrument that’ll light the fire of creativity in me. I’m not planning on becoming a virtuoso, but it would be nice to acquire such an enjoyable and entertaining skill.

I might not succeed at all of the above, but I’m gonna do the most important thing: TRY. Now it’s your turn. Sit yourself down and engage in some self-reflection. Happy New Year!

Throwback Thursday: Notes of Gold

Last Wednesday I spent the evening swaying gently back and forth to the beautiful sounds of Sting and Co., performing live in Biel, Beirut. The 61 year old bassist and vocalist has still got it–all of it, god-like pecs included.

The house was packed, with two additional stands having been added on the sides of the venue to accommodate additional fans. I have to hand it to the organizers, the arrangement made maximum use of the space without detracting from the quality of the listening/viewing experience. They also arranged for shuttle buses to drive people from the distant parking lots to the concert hall.

Sting was casual, at times saying a few words to introduce a song or shower praise on one of his band mates. His back-up vocalist, keyboardist, guitarist, violinist, and drummer were amazing–and he gave each of them some time in the limelight.

The crowd cheered with excitement every time familiar hits like ‘Roxanne’, ‘Englishman in New York’, ‘Desert Rose’, and ‘Every Breath You Take’ started playing. For the most part however, the attendees were far from an ideal audience. A great many people arrived more than a half hour late, stumbling past those of us who were already seated as they wove through the stands. Many guests also seemed to think they were at the movie theater, and kept making trips to the Roadster stand for food and beverages. I ignored their lack of concert etiquette and let the music wash over me like waves crashing on a sandy shore. “Fields of Gold” gave me goosebumps, and brought tears to my eyes.

After finishing his set, Sting and his band returned and played a few additional songs in response to the crowd’s demand for an encore. “Shoukran!” he shouted as they left the stage for the last time.

As I left the building, I couldn’t help but wonder: What has happened to the music industry? It seems that nowadays, good music doesn’t get any airtime. The quality performers of today remain underground, and gain popularity by word of mouth, or perhaps a lucky hit single here and there. MTV and major radio stations bombard us with whatever digitally enhanced garbage Will.i.Am and the like release, to the exclusion of quality music. I’m sick of pointless lyrics and synthetic sounds. I therefore spend most of my time listening to little known bands or songs from the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, and even the first decade of the new millennium. My entire itunes playlist is a throwback–a tribute to the days when the words “Boom Boom Pow” did not a successful song make–and artists like Myriam Klink would’ve been laughed off stage.

The Lebanese music industry is, unfortunately, a mere reflection of the global music industry. Great new acts are popping up across Beirut. Few people have heard of them though, thanks to the rubbish that occupies our airwaves. I came across this awesome tidbit from ‘The Wanton Bishops’ the other day:

It seems I have to dig around for good music like a miner does gold. It’s out there, but we’re certainly not gonna find it on the radio.

Whirlwind Weekend

I haven’t blogged for nearly three weeks–an unforgivable thing, I know.  But–I’ve been busy, and that means new material! I had quite an interesting time last weekend. It certainly was a departure from my usual three days of surfing (the web, of course)  and snacking (pretty much anything I can get my hands on).

On Friday night, I headed to the recently opened Le Mall in Dbayeh to see a movie with some friends. The movie,  called “My last valentine in Beirut”, is the first Arabic film in 3D.

Director Salim El Turk takes a unique approach to telling the story of “Juliette”, a prostitute. El Turk’s project is a movie within a movie, and he often shatters the fourth wall by interjecting scenes in which a director and his assistant argue over the details of their screenplay and approach to filming. The director character also narrates, filling in the gaps in Juliette’s story, and shifting the audience from scene to scene.

The film is rated NC 18, and rightly so. Several scenes dance at the borderline of inappropriateness. El Turk doesn’t show anything worthy of censorship outright, but lead actress Lorraine Kodeih’s wanton appeals to male suitors and sometimes, the camera, probably had several of the male audience members rushing for the bathroom. The film’s vulgar subject matter was lightened with a touch of comic relief here and there.

To El Turk’s credit, he managed to address several important issues, among them rape myth. Overall, I think it’s a film worth seeing. Artistically, it’s quite a departure from other recent films by Lebanese directors, and it’s nice to see El Turk introduce some variety. Support Lebanese cinema by catching this unique flick!

Nothing like the cinematic experience!

On Saturday, I attended the second annual TEDx Beirut event. I made a point of going this year, as I somehow managed to miss it last year, and seriously regretted having done so after hearing the attendees’ rave reviews. I unfortunately will not be giving a similar review of this year’s event. The only things worth spreading at TEDx Beirut ’12 were the gift bags. I really liked the free coffee-on-the-go ceramic container. That was the highlight of my day at the Unesco Palace venue.

All we need is…Better Speakers!

I’m sure the administrative team put in quite a bit of effort, and I won’t insult the fantastic teamwork it must have taken to organize such a huge event. There were approximately 1200 people in attendance, most of whom were only there to pose as members of the country’s  intellectual elite.

Instead of focusing on promoting the event and creating branded notebooks, mugs, and pens, the TEDx Beirut organizing team would have done better to seek out speakers worth listening to. There were only three speakers that jolted me out of the semi-comatose state I spent most of the day in: Loryne Atoui (One Wig Stand), Charles el Achi (NASA), and Imad Saoud (aquatic Scientist at AUB). Some of the other speakers did have interesting things to say, but, despite having a public speaking coach, did not find an interesting way to say them (I’m talkin’ ’bout you, Salim Zwein).

The topics weren’t varied enough (Farid Chehab’s talk was similar to Imad Saoud’s), practically everyone was a blogger/activist, and didn’t we already hear what Esraa Haidar had to say at SHARE Beirut? Then there was that Jana Bou Reslan disaster. It seems that anyone capable of speaking the English language in a dramatic tone can declare him/herself a “spoken word poet”. After all, it is the current “thing” among artistic pseudo-intellectuals, innit? Either way, her ten minute rant was not a TED talk, and was far from inspirational. I just wanted her off the stage. Speaking of people who spent too much time on stage: the a cappella performing group “Beirut Vocal Point” should have quit before they put several audience members to sleep (basically, after their first song).

Unfortunately, by the second break, they’d run out of coffee–so, no pick-me-up there. The food was awful, as was the veritable stampede of people rushing to get to it. Not that any of that would have mattered had the talks been worthwhile.

Last but not least, dear TEDx Beirut team, if you’re going to invest in a trainer for the speakers, why not have him train your host? The man’s volume was all over the place, and he had a tendency to slur his words (including the names of the speakers he was introducing).

The social spaces were nice, though.