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  • prequel

    "Top blog/Renato Obeid's World/Today's pick: This rambling weblog is worth reading not so much for its satirical posts but more for its insight into the minutiae of life in Lebanon, including the etiquette of road accidents and how to hire a taxi.” -Jane Perrone, The Guardian

    Friday, April 25, 2003  
    Haven't learnt very much new Arabic whilst I've been here this time (that I know of anyway) but I have learnt a considerable amount of cockney rhyming slang from the guys at the pub.
    The tricky thing about talking to rhyming slangers is that it's difficult to know and you can't always tell if they're talking it or talking normal as they quite easily alternate between the two and it ends up being like boy who cried wolf.
    Case in point, the other night when Peter Casey was giving me and Chady directions, he said "turn left at the Mexican Embassy".
    I half jokingly (you can never be sure) asked him whether he was talking rhyming slang or whether he actually meant the actual Mexican Embassy – something as obscure and exotic as that has to be rhyming slang right?( a la "Benghazi" meaning toilet in their lingo).
    Wrong, he actually meant the actual Mexican Embassy.

    I've created my own rhyming slang term that I'm sure will make it into the lexicon - Fergals = Fegal Sharkeys/Iraqi's.

    4:45 pm

    Thursday, April 17, 2003  
    Coming back from the pub quiz at about 3.00am, I caught a service into Jounieh.
    The driver, a young man from Tripoli, was one of my regulars.
    Seated in the front alongside him was a friend or relative and the back seat was spilling over with little brothers or cousins obviously taking advantage of tomorrow’s holiday by cruising around in a service all night!
    The boy sitting immediately next to me asked me, about the driver, “how do you know him, is he you’re friend?”
    I replied, “yes he is and so are you”.
    That seemed to please him.

    3:00 am

    Saturday, April 12, 2003  
    Days after the liberation of Baghdad and Iraq, it appears that the Americans were indeed true to their word when they promised to import to Iraq something that is pretty rare and uncommon in Iraq and the Middle East in general.
    No, not democracy (not so far anyway) but crime, lawlessness and chaos.
    The country has indeed descended in to chaos – widespread looting, retribution and murder in a cultural exchange program not reminiscent of Jeffersonian Washington but Harlem or South Central Los Angeles.
    A BBC World Service radio correspondent described looting as being "on an industrial scale".
    On BBC television, a correspondent reporting live from amidst the looting (outside a building in Baghdad), weaved his way around the looters as he did the customary on-camera walk, accidentally got in the way one of them and said "excuse me" to the interrupted looter.
    Probably half ironically but how very British is that.

    4:30 pm

    Wednesday, April 09, 2003  
    I awoke at 2.40 PM to the somewhat historic scenes on television of twos of Iraq's pulling down the statue of Saddam in Baghdad's Fardous Square – assisted by American troops who had taken Baghdad and taken Iraq.
    This is what I recorded on my dictaphone as I watched those scenes which appeared so promising at the time but were really as flimsy, hollow and empty as the tin shell statue that was torn down.

    Woke up at 2.40PM to see live television scenes of jubilant Iraq's in Baghdad celebrating the obviously apparent downfall of President Saddam Hussein and the liberation of their city and their country – events which culminated in the toppling of the largest and main statue of Saddam in Baghdad, and indeed Iraq, in the main square of downtown Baghdad, Fardous Square, at about 5.40PM Beirut time.
    Those iconic and indeed iconoclastic scenes of the tearing down and toppling of Saddam's statue reminiscent of equally historic occasions in recent history – the tearing down of the Berlin Wall and the liberation of East Germany in 1989 and the collapse of Communism and the liberation of Russia and Eastern Europe in 1991 as the Wall came down and statues of Lenin and Marx were torn down.
    Hopefully we've also witnessed a fall here, not just of the fall of Saddam Hussein and his Bathist regime and not of the great and noble religion of Islam (which is obviously not going to happen) but, hopefully, the fall of the Islamic world's totalitarian despotic fascist regimes - which, unlike the relatively short blip in time that was Communism's seventy-five years in power, have been ongoing now for some fourteen hundred years.
    But, unfortunately, that's highly unlikely and improbable but something to hope and wish for as we watch these scenes.

    5:20 pm

    Monday, April 07, 2003  
    Before the war, a pro-Bush American commentator, speaking on the BBC, expressed his displeasure at the French anti-invasion stance, saying "the French invade Africa everyday" (referring to all the French intervention in various African hotspots – the most recent being French troops sent in to Ivory Coast).
    A fair enough point and quite humorously expressed.

    The McDonald's bombing makes a lot of sense – the terrorists are opposed to innocent Arab civilians being murdered in Iraq and Palestine, so what do they do?
    They murder or attempt to murder (there but for the grace of God) innocent Arab civilians in Beirut.
    Washingtonians and Televivivians must be panicking and really feeling the pressure now – surely they're now going to reconsider their support for their wars in Iraq and Palestine now that they’ve been right in the heart of…Beirut.

    The name I've coined to describe this "genre' (my via dictaphone writing) is "spoken writing"; in that it is considered, studied and, I like to think, occasionally literary but more along the lines of a discourse (okay, a rant) then plain prose.
    Talking in to a dictaphone ("dickheadphone" in full, you’d be surprised at how many people turn into that the moment they get one of these into their hands) and then transcribing it certainly isn’t as easy as it sounds and it certainly takes as much time as writing (often more) and involves similar processes - including a lot of stopping and starting, erasing, editing, revising etc.
    It ought to be banned.

    8:16 pm

    As Baghdad totters, a BBC correspondent there (interviewed on World Service radio) described that day's press briefing given by the Iraqi Information Minster Mohamed Said el Sohaf.
    The funniest man in Iraq said that the Americans (who have indeed reached Baghdad) were not in Baghdad but had been repelled and "their throats had been cut".
    The correspondent observed "if had he cared to turn his head he would have seen, some five hundred meters away, an American patrol".
    What do you expect from a country whose leader wins one hundred percent of the vote?
    In last year's plebiscite, Saddam received one hundred percent of the vote.

    A hugely surprising result – renatoobeidsworld had predicted that the outcome would be too close to call in advance and had even feared a divisive Florida-like situation.
    Saddam's one hundred percent yes vote was a slightly up from the last plebiscite where he'd garned some ninety nine point nine percent of the vote.
    According to my calculations, Saddam enjoyed a point zero one percent swing in his favor.
    This is obviously due to increased campaigning in marginal aspirational electorates – that is, people who aspire to stay alive.

    8:15 pm

    Sunday, April 06, 2003  
    A poll conducted by the Spanish newspaper El Pais found that Spaniards regard the war as the second main cause for concern after unemployment.
    This is exactly why we won't be seeing regime change in Madrid, Washington, London or Canberra – at least not due to the war.
    Whilst it's admirable that millions of people in Europe and, to a lesser extent, America and Australia protested the war, at the end of the day (midnight) they won't be losing much sleep over it.
    Midnight doesn’t just see the end of the day but see's all these part-time pacifists   turning into pumpkins and voting according to their bottom line – the state of their wallets.
    I imagine very few of them will be voting against their governments due to the war. The main issue is the economy stupid and these governments know that – they can fuck around all they want abroad but the real danger to them is if unemployment numbers or interest rates go above a certain arbitrary but psychologically and symbolically important level at home.
    War, unlike the economy, is obviously a matter of life or death, so how can people who are so opposed to something as deadly and earth shattering as that not act accordingly politically but subjugate that to prosaic economics and cite it as the second main issue after unemployment?
    So Hose Marie Aznar, Tony Blair, George Bush, John Howard et al are safe and can wage war with impunity unless and until Spaniards, Britons, Americans and Australians lose their jobs at pet shops (If Britain is "a nation of shopkeepers", as Napoleon observed, then their former colonies appear to be nations of pet shop keepers – 6 million pet doggies in Australia alone, but the only ones that count are the Boo Boo Dog and The Buddy Dog off course).
    Essentially, taxpayers are paying for the war twice – the second time is when their governments buy/bribe them with all sorts of economically unsound sweeteners designed to make them look the other way come election time.

    7:46 pm

    Further proof that fast food is bad for you – a McDonald's restaurant on the outskirts of Beirut was bombed yesterday afternoon injuring five people.
    Police later found a car laden with explosives in the car park which had failed to go off due to a defective detonator.
    American fast food franchises in Lebanon are guarded by private security personnel, police and soldiers.
    There's a security system after my own heart!
    Bugger all the other vital installations – secure Macca's!
    Their destruction would mean famine for the likes of me.

    7:45 pm

    Thursday, April 03, 2003  
    In the early hours of the morning, after we'd put the pub to bed, Chady and I used to be in the habit of popping by the Wooden Bakery in Zalka , where I was surprised to see small bottles of vodka in the fridge.
    This is a cool country; Lebanon really knows how to party!
    There can be very few countries in the world where you can buy vodka at a bakery ? I don?t even think that that happens in Russia!*
    A huge difference from Australia's restrictive alcohol licensing ? stemming from the misguided belief that temperance is achieved via where and when alcohol is available and not what one does with that alcohol when it's procured.

    *Although any country that officially classifies beer as a softdrink, as Russia does, is pretty cool by me!

    6:44 am

    Wednesday, April 02, 2003  
    Accompanying Gulf War Two has been all sorts of speculation about who might be next.
    Amongst the candidates is Lebanon - which the US claims is home to various terrorist groups - but we all know that that is a ruse.What they're really after is our oil – our olive oil!

    6:35 am

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