March 2008 archive

Next to the bed

The setting: Sequoia.

The Players: Me, R. (Financial associate, MBA Student, one of the most intelligent females I know), M. (a female acting coach who also sings a mean Amy Winehouse), A. (Structural engineer who is even a worse case of "know-it-all" than me), K. ( Brilliant Architect and Designer, also one of my closest friends) and J. ( American Lawyer who works in Irbil, and whom I think is now drafting what will be known in the near future as the Iraqi commerce law, really nice guy).

The event: R. Farewell Party after returning to the motherland for a 2 week vacation from her MBA program at Wharton.

The Set-up: R., who was staying in a hotel infested with Saudi tourists, but otherwise respectable, found a Viagra pill lying next to her bed (Make your own conclusions), and she is about to share the story, which I already knew, with the rest of the group.

R.: So, you guys, you will love this. So Yesterday, as I was packing my bags, I look under the bed to see if I am maybe leaving a sock or a shoe behind, and I find something really indicative of the nature of the Egyptian tourism industry. Can you guess what it was?

K.: can you be more specific?

R.: Well, what do Saudi tourists come here to do? Think along that lines.

J.: A condom?

R.: you are in the right direction, but take a step back.

A.: Sperm stain?

M.: Cum stain?

K.: A used condom with cum in it?

R.: No, no and no. You guys, a step back. Take a step back.

J.: Well I got to go to the bathroom, so you guys tell me when I am back. (He then leans towards me and whispers in my ear as he is leaving) you know, my next guess was a blood-filled Condom.

M. (speechless, mouth agape in horror, looking at the walking away silhouette of J. as if he is a toilet filled with condoms): OH MY GOD. THAT'S JUST FUCKING WRONG!

K.: What?

M.: What did he say?

Me: You don't want to know, trust me!

A.: But we do!

K.: Dude, if it disturbed YOU that much, I want to know it.

R.: Yes Sam, tell us.

Me: Fine. You asked. He said "a blood-filled condom".

(They all share the same look of horror that I had on my face as they all visualized it, and then an avalanche of "Ewws" and "Yucks" followed for like a minute, and then J. came back!)

R.: J., you sick bastard, it was just a Viagra Pill. That's it. What's wrong with you?

J. (looks at me all surprised): You told them?

M.: Of course I did. You want me to suffer from that mental image all by myself? I had to share it

R.: Yeah, thanks for that Sam. Thanks a lot.

M.: I just have to know, how the hell did you come up with that?

J.: It's just something I once saw!

M.: Where? In Iraq?

J.( solemnly while looking down): Nope. My fraternity!

Me (I stop for a minute, process what he just said and what it means, and then I pat him in the back and say with a sympathetic tone): Oh J. , You poor poor bastard!

J.: I KNOW! I know!

The 6th of April Strike

There is supposed to be some sort of strike on the 6th of April organized by Kifaya, the Karama and Wasat Parties and the workers of various government factories and ministeries. They are calling it the "Egyptian Intifiadah", cause, you know the Palestinian one worked out so well. Here is the text in English:

“All national forces in Egypt have agreed upon the 6th of April to be a public strike.
On the 6th of April, stay home, do not go out;
Don’t go to work, don’t go to the university, don’t go to school, don’t
open your shop, don’t open your pharmacy, don’t go to the police
station, don’t go to the camp;
We need salaries allowing us to live, we need to work, we want our
children to get education, we need human transportation means, we want
hospitals to get treatment, we want medicines for our children, we need
just judiciary, we want security, we want freedom and dignity, we want
apartments for youth;
We don’t want prices increase, we don’t want favoritism, we don’t want
police in plain clothes, we don’t want torture in police stations, we
don’t want corruption, we don’t want bribes, we don’t want detentions.
Tell your friends not to go to work and ask them to join the strike.”

You know, so far they had me on board, and then I read about the people that want to organize it, and what else is pissing them off:

After a meeting held and represented by Egyptian
people forces: Ghazl Al-Mahala workers (who are striking since last
year expressing their demands to increase their wages to be in line
with price hikes, their strikes were followed by a series of strikes by
many working sectors in Egypt); Al-Karama Party; Al-Wasat Party; Labor
Party; Kefaya Movement; the Bar Association; Educational Workers
Movement; Grain Mills Workers; they expect a positive
response regarding Moslem Brothers’ participation and support in the
strike.

The slogan of this campaign became wider than just
asking for better wages, whereas it included the “Political Change”:
they cited in their paper, it is against the tyranny of the regime. The
campaign is also against the regime’s foreign policy represented in
Egypt’s position towards Gaza and the Palestinian cause; exporting
natural gas to Israel with the lowest prices; strictly abiding by Camp
David Accords; and opposing Iraqi, Lebanese and Afghani resistance.

So the campaign is for our borders to be breached and our soldiers attacked, the end of peace with Israel, and in support of the Taliban, Hamas, Hezbollah. Al Qaida and Muqtada's Al Sadr's militia? A7a!! Really? Seriously?

Fuck that. I ain't playing with those assholes. I am going to my job, and so should any of you with two cells of logic or reason in your heads!

Have a lovely day! 

Makari just got famous

While it is illegal to do so, there are evangelical forces operating in Egypt to convert Muslims to Christianity. The two very famous ones are the Protestant Qasr El Dobara church in downtown Egypt, and the Coptic St. Mark Church in Shobra. Qasr El Dobara does good old evanagelism through usually really good sermons, and if you ever go there, you would find that the first 3 rows usually have Hijabis in them. It is rumored that Muslim Evangelist Superstar Amr Khaled actually spent 2 years attending the Qasr ElDobara services in order to learn the ins and outs of evangelistic speeching. One of m christian friends once told me that when he first heard Amr Khaled he thought it was one of Qasr El Dobara's tapes. But that's not our Story. Our Story has to do with St. Mark's church.

You see, St. Mark, on the other hand, doesn't really count on sermons: they convert through exorcisms. Yep, that's right. Exorcisms. I once saw a video of one of his conversions (By the way, there is a whole underground thing with movies and plays in the egyptian coptic community. Forbidden plays, testimonials of the recently converted, and tons of other stuff. And they usually don't share them. Hmmph.. Copts are no fun!) where he did the exorcism on a muslim boy, and then told him to do the mark on the Cross on his chest, and when the boy refused, Makari told him that he should do it, because it was Jesus who kicked the demon out, and then left the boy's side, who eventually, and kind of defeatedly, ended up doing the mark of the cross to joyous applause from the congregation. And stuff like this supposedly happens, like, every week.

And now AFP did a story on him:

Every Friday, thousands of Christians and a handful of curious Muslims pour into Cairo's St Mark's Coptic church to hear Father Makari Yunan preach, drawn by his power to exorcise demons.

Vigorously splashing holy water from a gardening can, the white-bearded
Makari has been healing the sick and casting out demons for 32 years.
People come from all over Egypt and even from as far afield as the United States.

Throughout the three-hour service, shouts and screams can be heard from the affected, writhing amid the pews.

Some of the people eventually faint, collapsing to the floor.
Unconscious, they are picked up by attendants to be unceremoniously
dumped near the altar pending their exorcism.

[...]

Makari says some Egyptian newspapers and television stations have taken
him to task over the presence of Muslims in his congregation.

"I don't heal people, Jesus does. For me there is no difference between
Muslims and Christians. Everything is done in the name of Jesus.

"People know I do this for Jesus. I don't ask for anything in exchange.
I perform a service and it doesn't matter if people accept it or not.

"It's normal that Muslims and Christians come to the church," says
Muslim teenager Nur. "Muslims come to be healed by the priest. He's
really very kind, he heals us when we need it."

Needless to say that writing this story puts that church under the spotlight, which is something I am not sure Makari or his congregation wants. And if this article gets translated into arabic, some newspapers in Egypt would have a field day stoking sectarian fire and talking about the Evil Coptic Priest who tricks simpleminded muslims.

Hmm.. 

On the litte Bastards

People who know me know that I don't like children. Don't hate them, but highly dislike them, to the point where I contemplate daily if I want to have children at all. I mean the headaches, the expenses, the loss of freedom, the responsibility, the ungratefulness that will most likely ensue, not to mention the increasingly volatile and fucked up world all around us. Anyone who has kids these days must either be crazy, irresponsible, or both!

And then I see this , and all of those thoughts melt away, and I think it can't be that bad. It can't be that bad at all!

What a sell-out I am!

Anti-Israel egyptian singer makes Obama song

Shaban AbdelRaheem, of the "I hate Israel" song fame, is reportedly making an Pro-Obama song:

The hugely popular Egyptian pop singer Shaaban Abdel Rahim, best known for his controversial political songs and outrageous style, will soon release a new track celebrating the end of Bush's presidency—and endorsing Obama. In an interview last week with Dar Al-Hayat, Rahim said that Obama is (roughly translated) “a good man, kindhearted, and better than Bush.”

Rahim, also known by his nickname “Shaabolla,” gained international notoriety in 2000 when he released the song “I Hate Israel.”
(The song’s subtitle, “But I love Amr Moussa,” refers to Egypt's former
foreign minister and head of the Arab League.) Since then, he’s had a
rocky relationship with Egypt’s censors. They allowed “Israel” to be
broadcast but banned his follow-up tune praising Osama Bin Laden. (Its
chorus: "Bin Bin Bin Bin Bin Bin Laden.") Other songs he has rolled out
include “Hey People, It Was Only a Tower” after 9/11, “Don't Hit Iraq” in 2003, and “We Are All Out of Patience” about the Mohammed cartoon controversy in 2006.

Now, the person who wrote this story is my very own good friend Gemmyhood, who is enjoying a stint of employment at Slate. Gemmy- who is an Obama supporter- had told me about the story before he published it, and I told him that it would be used to harm the Obama candidacy. He thinks I am exxagerating, but follow me on this, ok?

Obama has a problem now: this is the third time in recent memory where he gets endorsed or supported by someone who is blatantly anti-semetic or anti-Israel ( Farakhan, Wright and now Shaabolla). While it's not the man's fault that he gets supported by kooks, it could totally be used against him in that  slimy "we are just asking harmless questions" way usually employed by DC political hitmen. First they will start asking questions in an innocent way : "well, we are not saying that Obama is an anti-semite, but he certainly has a certain appeal to anti-semetic people, so it begs the question of 'why is that?". What is it that those people know that we don't?" And that should get the ball rolling in the heads of people, especially that Obama so far looks too good to be true, and as we all know, that probably means he is not. Some people will start wondering if maybe there is something to the accusation of Obama being anti-semitic, especially that the man whom he considers his spiritual guide- and the man he won't disavow- has had his share of Anti-Israel and -US sentiments. That will get the ball rolling, and it won't stop there.

Secondly, they (Hillary's people most likely) will start sending e-mails that highlight these concerns to jewish donors, and they will add to them quotes like the ones in this post, which show clearly Jihady Anti-Israel people saying that they would like Obama to be the President and that it would embolden them in their attacks. Done right this could make many Jewish donors very Jittery, which could lead to them to re-consider supporting Obama, or starting to fundraise more for Hillary or McCain. And that's when the third step starts.

The third step would be running headlines reporting the phenomenon of declining support for Obama amongst Jewish voters. Headlines like " Jewish Donors escape Obama" or "Due to anti-semetic concerns, Jewish voters flock to Hillary, McCain" will start rolling on newspapers, websites and Opinion news TV shows. This will, of course, start attracting the real anti-semetic crazies in american politics. Sure, Stormfront won't exactly endorse Obama, by Cynthia Mckiney can, and she is both black and anti-semetic (no longer a democrat though, but imagine if she still was, a trifecta). The news of course would find its way to the Middle-east, to which arab people will respond with statements of sympathy and support against those "damn joooz" who are going after him, which will also be carried to the US media via international news agencies, blogs, etc..etc.. Soon enough the words "Anti-semetic" and Obama will be together in so many headlines that people might start believing that Obama is really anti-semetic. And how bad can it go from there? Well, very bad…

If this takes place before the super delegates fight at the convention, well, then the Clinton-Loyal super delegates will finally have the excuse they need to support her over him, despite his leading delegate count. You see, they can't "in good conscience" give their votes for someone whose views on racism and anti-antisemitism have "so many questions around them". Better to be safe than sorry, they will say, and they will vote for Hillary anyway, who no one can ever accuse her of being antisemitic (Senator of New York, hellooooooo). And even if that doesn't happen, even if the super delegates give Obama the nomination, this will surely be used by McCain in the general election. And after all, Israel is the US number #1 ally in the war on terror, so do we want someone leading the war who could harbor towards Israel the same views that the terrorists have against it? Does that seem like the kind of person you want to trust with America's national security? Huh, does it?

You know it would work. 

On Lebanese men

I was toying with the idea of writing a silly post on the different types of girls out there to date, kind of like "The Sandmonkey's guide to women of the region", only it wouldn't just be the region, it would involve different religious and political backgrounds, and a lot of generalizations and feeble attempts of humor. I had a problem writing the entry on Lebanese girls, because the only lebanese girls I've dated were Maronites, so I asked my lebanese Sunni friend Fatma if there are any distinguishing features or traits to Shia or Druze girls. She told me that she can't help me with that, but if my question was regarding men, she would know exactly what to tell me, and then the chat disconnected due to internet troubles on her side. She, cool friend that she is,  decided to continue the conversation by sending me this following e-mail, which I thought was so hilarious that it had to be shared with y'all. So, there ya go:

I can tell you, if this may help, that maronite men with
beards (who smoke and/or play a musical instrument, and are french-educated,
most often at college protestant or lycee), are by far, the best kissers of Lebanon.
They like to discuss Palestine, the
French Revolution, law, and obscure poetry. They listen to African Tribal Music
while smoking pot (if they smoke pot). The problem usually is introduced when
Family becomes part of the picture. Of the three Maronite Mothers i have met, they
seemed inclined to dislike me, probably because of my first name. Or maybe
because i am stand-offish. I really don't know.

Coming in (a close second) are Shi'a men who usually have either Communist
leanings, and/or are members of the Hezb. I have always been very attracted to
radicals, as long as they are not willing to blow themselves up for
"the" cause (but are willing enough to discuss it over dinner). They
tend to have long relationships with banet min il day3a, but like to
occasionally cheat on them with secular, leftist girls, like myself. The
positive aspect of this is that it is always very hot. There is no discussion.
It is usually straight to the point because it is always given that Resistance
is Right and anything else is plain wrong.

Coming in a distant third are the Druze men, who tend to be communist or
socialist with little grasp of what either means (using Jumblatt – father and
son – as a reference point), on the one hand, or have a profound, intellectual
grasp of both but subscribe to neither, on the other. Dating entails Nescafe at
AUB's maingate for long conversations about life, its meaning, and how
"Faith" is more important than "Organized Religion". they
will occasionally take you up for trips up to the day3a, so you can understand
"what they're all about". and yes, it's all about spirit.

Because they are usually jabal boys, they always have a certain charm. Arak,
mette, tawleh, mezze, marcel khalife. They are family-oriented at heart. They
are dating you, possibly with the distant hope that they could leave the
sectarian-abyss that is their life (inflicted unfairly upon them by their
family and their inability to marry out of their "faith"), but they
know that in reality, whatever semblance of a relationship you have will later
be eclipsed by more important sectarian realities. Druze boys, those of them
who don't have guns in their cars, that is, are sweet. they are warm. they are
like a bar of chocalate. you know that whatever satisfaction you get out of it
is short-lived, at best. but you enjoy it no less.

Then there are the well-to-do Greek Orthodox. They know how
to court a girl and are less obvious about getting straight to It. They are
polite. They are well-kempt. and they are well-mannered. Sometimes they are
mama's boys. That's okay, though, because they tend to be intrigued with the
idea of dating the "Other". So it's always sushi, great DvDs, and
making out in very posh night clubs that require reservations and heels.

Coming in last are Sunnis. Confused. Radical yet pretend to be Progressive. or
Progressive yet tend to be Radical. Rich, but sex-obsessed and/or sex-deprived.
Like to discuss the Ottoman Empire (who cares?) and the War in Iraq . And like nice cars but have bad taste in music. Good kissers but
don't know what to do, most of the time.

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