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    "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, June 20, 2003  
    Italian Prime Minister Silvio Hariri has rigged a parliamentary vote granting him imunity from corruption charges ( amongst others ) against him currently being heard by a Milan court.

    12:04 pm

    A female contraceptive patch has gone on sale in Europe .
    Didn't that used to be callled a chastity belt?

    11:51 am

    Having agreed to meet a visiting friend of a friend at her Beirut hotel at 10.30PM, I committed what is in Lebanon a social faux pas – I arrived on time!
    "How could you come on time?" she asked me when I spoke to her from reception.
    I told her that it was a gentleman's duty to be on time and a lady's duty to keep him waiting and proceeded to wait in the lobby for some forty-five minutes for her and her friends to finish getting ready for our big night out at the "Les Tycoon" nightclub.
    Who's Les Tycoon?

    5:48 am

    Saturday, June 14, 2003  

    Writen and directed by George Bush Sr.
    Grand Wizard productions.
    Running time : until the next suicide bombing

    Hot on the heels of his inferior "Gulf War" sequel comes George Bush Srs' "Bible" sequel.
    Movie-goers who have waited some five thousand years for a sequel to the still playing "Bible" classic ( CNN calls it "Conflict in the Holy Land!" ) will welcome this road movie tragicomedy.
    It stars Mahmoud Abbas and Yaser Arafat as mismatched good cop/bad cop ( respectively ) Israeli policemen.
    These two partners just can't seem to get it right or to get along and are always having their "arses hauled in" by their grouchy ( but loveable ) chief Ariel Sharon who's always threatening to "come down on you so hard you won't know what hit you!"
    Appearances by George Bush Jr as the bumbling sherif, King Abdallah as "The Wests Good Arab", Hosni Mubarak as "The Wests So So Arab" and Tony Blair as the assistant sherif - most famous for his ongoing role as manager of an American petrol station ( Britain ) in Europe.
    Colin Powell had been considered for a part as one of the cops ( to satisfy the buddy cop genres criteria of black cop/white cop ) but was deemed unsuitable for the role after his unconvincing portrayl of a black man in "Cabinet" ( Eddy Murphy he's not).
    Powell can take solace in his Academy Award for his since abondoned role as a dove.
    Not the most original film idea and doesn't differ much from previous unsuccesful films in the genre - e.g. the "Security Council Resolution" series, "Camp David", "Madrid", "Oslo Accord", "Mitchel Plan", "Tenet Plan" and "Wye River"/"Cry Me A River".
    Furthermore, it's disapointingly derivative in parts - the scene in which Yaser Arafat's Ramalah compound is destroyed mirrors a scene in another American cop comedy, "Lethal Weapon 2", in which Mel Gibsons beachside house is destroyed.
    Don’t expect any cartographic wonders either, Wrong Way Arafat has never been good with maps – when the PLO were based in Beirut, Arafat’s “Foreign Minister” Farouk Kaddoumi famously said “the road to Palestine (south of Beirut) goes through Jounieh (north of Beirut)."
    How about ''the road to Jerusalem goes through a proper map''?
    Despite playing to a "captive" audience in the Holy Land ( the entire Palestinian population ) the films popularity in the West depends on George Bush Jr's rather short attention span.
    That attention span could get even shorter as George W runs for election ( note : election not re-election as he wasn't elected in 2000 ) in 2004.
    My final verdict on "Road Map"?
    Quite simple - borrowing another cliche from the cop movie genre - "move on, move on ,nothing to see here".

    Check your newspaper headlines for details as session times ( and indeed session availability ) are subject to change depending on suicide bombings.

    11:56 am

    Australian Prime Minister John Howard says he won't retire but will continue to allow plebiscites on his rule ( what passes for an election in Australia these days ) a la Saddam.
    I think the Australian opposition in ( internal self inflicted ) exile won't be as lucky as their Iraqi counterparts - removing Saddam was easy, John Howards 69 % approval rating in the polls means the ALP leader Simon Chalabi need not pack his bags for the Lodge anytime soon.
    But, the polls aren't always right ( except the Poles who last week wisely approved their country's Europen Union membership in a referendum ) and aren't much to go by.
    Neither is previous election performance.
    Saddam scored a modest 100% at the last plebiscite ( a .04% swing ( up from 99.96% in 1995 due to his success with aspirational voters, i.e. those who aspired to stay alive ) yet months later he was over thrown by a bunch of brave Kurds armed with nothing but the worlds strongest army.
    Funny old world.

    P.S : The Kurds used to be my favourite oppresed ethnic minority but now I feel that they've sold out, gone commercial, mainstream!
    Kurd overkill in the media - Kurds this, Kurds that, Kurds and whey!
    Enough with the Kurds already!
    Now, how about those Nubians?

    10:57 am

    The England football team defeated one half of the former Czechoslovakia, Slovakia 2 - 1.
    The other half, the Czechs were in the mail.
    Englands moment of glory in world football was their little vaunted defeat of another half country, West Germany in the 1966 World Cup Final.
    England are reportedly keen to take on former Yugoslav republics ( who are one sixth of a country ).


    CAPITAL : Bondi, Sydney
    LANGUAGE : American
    HEAD OF STATE : Alister Campbell
    GOVERNMENT : One party state ( Labour parliament ). Minority rule ( Scotish cabinet ).
    POPULATION : Pakistani
    NATIVE POPULATION : The Yugoslavia of Western Europe is made up of balkanized waring ethinc and religous based nations - primarily English, Scotish, Welsh and Irish.
    They are held together by the Tito of Western Europe, Queen Elizabeth the 2nd.
    EXPORTS : Convicts ( hist ), football "fans", tabloid "journalists", backpackers, Benny Hill.
    ALLIANCES : - The European Union where they are the hermetic isolated North Korea of the E.U.
    - NATO ( aka American Petrol Stations Association ). The U.K is the American military's main refueling stop in Europe.
    - United Nations. Siamese twinned ( joined at the Blair ) with the U.S on the Security Council.
    - Britain is also the political/diplomatic wing of the United States ( the U.S being its own military wing ).
    COLONIES : Basra ( Iraq ), Northern Ireland ( Ireland ) and a volcano ( Montserat ).

    10:29 am

    Step one : Write crap.
    Step two : Keep re-reading it until you get used to it and it sounds good.
    Step three : Repeat steps one and two.

    9:36 am

    Hugh Hefneresque Yaser Arafat cooped up in his Ramallah crib ( also known as Israeli Dreamworld ).
    Contains shocking scenes of topless ( i.e. veil less ) women and wet veil competitions.
    Every week the Israeli cabinet votes on who to evict.
    followed by repeats of
    Palestinian militiamen cooped up in Jesus' actual crib.

    9:29 am

    Friday, June 13, 2003  
    Scientests in India have announced the development of a geneticaly modified potato.
    Didn't that used to be called an Irishman?

    9:30 am

    Sunday, June 08, 2003  

    1:21 pm

    Friday, June 06, 2003  

    10:24 am


    10:19 am

    A little more conversation!
    Straight off the Dictaphone – complete and unabridged.


    2.23 AM on Sunday 1st of June 2003.
    I record this with the sounds of the culmination of the Maronite* haj ( pilgrimage ) in the background.
    It’s still yesterday - in that technically yesterday ( Saturday 31st of May ) was the final day of the Maronite Month of Mary ( its actually commemorated by the entire catholic church but I don’t know of any other county, e.g. Saudi Arabia, where its so avidly COMMEMERATED! ) where thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands throughout the entire month, of the faithful visit the main Maronite cathedral, Our Lady of Lebanon, in Harisa, the “Vatican” of the Maronite faith.
    Many of them walking up – mainly from Jounieh (the Christian capital of sorts**) but some from as far afield as Beirut and the north.
    I’m a multiple haj myself, having performed the pilgrimage a couple of times.
    All be it walking up there from the relative proximity of the Paradise Buildings, where I’m ensconced, - some two kilometers away ( down the mountain from the cathedral ) and nestled between that cathedral and the Patriarchate of the Maronite church at Bkerki ( the seat of the Maronite Patriarch ) which is, once again, some two kilometers away but down the mountain this time.
    Small wonder that this is called the Holy Mountain.
    And it is blessed by more then it's proximity to holy sites - some of the best views in the world.
    I am some three hundred metres up a verdant mountain that immediately overlooks the city of Jounieh -nestled in a lovely wide harbour on the mediteranian - (and then half of Lebanon) i.e mountains,city and coast all stuck together, even the Japanese couldnt make something as compact as Lebanon where practicaly everywhere you look you find a vista worthy of a snowglobe and the size of a snowglobe.
    And small wonder that the authorities want to makes this mountain a national park.
    I'm against this though - I'll be living in a park and bears will come and steal pies I've left out to cool on my window sill and steal my picnic baskets!
    Doesnt the government watch Yogi Bear?
    What do they do all day?
    I can see people walking up with candles and bouquet of flowers in their hands to present to the Virgin Mary.

    10:08 am

    Most of those bearing flowers are Sri Lankan ( and to a lesser extent ) Filipino domestic workers, as are about a quarter to a half of the actual walkers according to my approximation.
    So either there’s been a mass conversion to Maronite Catholicism by thousands of Sri Lankan and Filipino Catholics, which is highly unlikely, or, more probably, they’re more religious and pious than we are.
    They seem to be a lot more reverential and serious about it, as they walk up, compared to quite a lot of our pilgrims who see it as an opportunity to have a good time and socialize and a small but loud minority who shout and scream and carry on – which is obviously not in the spirit of the occasion.
    Some of those Sri Lankan domestics I was told had set up a small ad hoc stand just down the road from here and were distributing votive free food ( presumably for a short time only, whilst stocks lasted ) to the faithful.
    Granted that’s not common Christian practice these days but I think ( not a hundred percent sure though, I’ll have to check ) that that isn’t in howling violation of Christian tenets.
    Tell that to the proprietor of the nearby “Worlds Most Expensive Manouchie*** Kiosk” ( the names have been changed to protect the guilty ) who decided who called the police complaining that they were taking his business!
    The manouchie police promptly came and dispersed them!
    Theyre “crime”? – being charitable in Marounistan during the religion of charity’s holiest month!

    10:07 am

    So in Harisa it is still yesterday as May winds down and the holy month of Mary winds down with it.
    I suppose that can also apply on a broader more philosophical level where most people in these parts of the world tend to live in the past.
    For them the past isn’t even the past, it’s the present – still impacting and impinging on and influencing current developments, thinking and attitudes ( see any days newspaper for more details ).
    How else could you explain my maternal grandfather's name still being in the current Lebanese White Pages (he was assassinated in 1949)?
    J.B Priestly wrote “the past is another country, they do things differently there”.
    Coming from the New World that definitely lives in the present and the future – more because of their mentality and outlook and also because they quite simply cant live anywhere else because they don’t have much of a past – I think I can definitely apply that quote with a few modifications to the future ( where I live and where the New World lives ); namely “the future is a different country they do things differently there”.
    Also, on a much more positive note, I think it’s still yesterday today in Lebanon also due to the more hedonistic life-loving and life-enjoying nature of the Lebanese whereby people don’t turn into pumpkins at midnight ( or earlier for that matter ).
    Twelve midnight doesn’t mean the end of their night, in fact the day and the night is often only just beginning at midnight!
    Often when we go out here to clubs,bars, pubs and stuff they don’t really start rocking and kicking off until at least eleven or twelve o’clock!
    Visitors to Lebanon from the future ( such as myself ) often take a while to get used to that.
    Just as when going back to the future ( such as going back to Australia after being in Lebanon ) it also takes a while to get used to earlier starts – e.g. meeting someone at the pub for a drink at 6.00PM whilst it’s often still daylight!
    I think that just about wraps up this segment and my live coverage of and musings about the haj – the holy month of Mary and those who observe it.
    As it nears 3.00AM I better start my often hours long ( due to what I like to delude myself into thinking is the “curse of the intelligent” – insomnia ) sleep preparations, rituals and attempts.
    Because, after all, in Lebanon tomorrow is a previous day!

    That Breaking News! Was brought to you live via Dictaphone!

    It’s goodnight from Harisa,Kesrwan Lebanon!

    See you next year!

    *Living mainly in Lebanon and relatively autonomous due to their historical isolation (initially in a proto-Orthodox Christian and now Muslim region) Maronite's are in communion with the Roman Catholic Church and are the majority Lebanese sect according to the last census (conducted in 1932).
    ** Some twenty kilometers north of Beirut, Jounieh became a capital and place of refuge for Lebanese Christians when the country was effectively partitioned during the war; but don’t expect refuge camps like a friends parents who visited her here and, going by the "place of refuge" tag, were expecting to find cold huddled masses living in tents on the side of the mountain and instead found the Monte Carlo of the eastern Mediterranean.
    Some Christians are still wedded to the capital fantasy – in 1995 at a press conference for the visiting then Australian Foreign Minister Gareth Evans (who was in Beirut to reopen the Australian Embassy) I heard what was one the stupidest questions I've ever heard when a reporter from a right-wing Christian television station asked him "why did you chose to have the embassy in Beirut?".
    In other words, "why didn’t you put the embassy in Jounieh instead of the capital Beirut where, by sheer definition, embassies are supposed to be?"
    Mr. Evans, either not picking up on that local subtext or choosing to diplomatically ignore it, instead spoke of the friendship and ties between the two countries that necessitated reopening the embassy.
    ***Lebanese pizza – topped with oregano, sesame seed and sumac and drizzled with oil.

    10:04 am

    Wednesday, June 04, 2003  
    Going up to the pub, the service driver asked me the usual “where are you from?” type questions.
    He asked me if I spoke Arabic when I was born (presumably meaning if I spoke Arabic from childhood) and I replied “I didn’t speak anything when I was born”
    He didn’t pick up my sarcasm.
    The car broke down about half a kilometer away from the pub because there was no water in the radiator so I walked the rest of the way up to the pub.Not the drivers’ fault of course but the manufacturers – they’re supposed to come with magic water in the radiator that lasts forever

    After our regular pub quiz triumph we (Peter Casey, Chris, Michelle and I) went down to the Hole in the Wall in Beirut and continued the evening there drinking, a lot (surprise, surprise).
    After that Michelle and I carried on, just like old times, going into Hamra for even more drinks (as we used to do after the much missed quiz at the much missed and now defunct Hare and Hound).
    We ended up at the Evergreen (as we used to post-quiz a couple of years ago) just off Hamra Street – one of the few places in Beirut open all night and one of the few remaining pubs in Beirut and in the world for that matter and one of the few remaining dives in Beirut/the world.
    When I say dive I don’t mean it in a pejorative way.
    I mean it in a positive way in that it's a lovely cozy old (or at least old looking) and timeworn (looking once again) comfortable small pub full of character.
    The requisite faded old banknotes from all over the world plastered on the wall – most of them complete with the standard signature and clichéd written comments from the donors.
    "Best wishes So and So from So and So, etc".
    Pretty much par for the course but there was one that cracked me up and was by far the most original I've seen in that clichéd, banal and predictable literary genre – a one thousand Lebanese Lira note that had written on it "haram, this could have gone to a homeless person for a manouchie, love Guy and Nooha".
    The writing from the banknotes had spilt on to the walls too.
    The owner, barman (he said he was "a one man show") and entertainment goes by the name of Amigo.
    Not sure whether that was his actual name or a nickname but, nonetheless, Amigo is a good name for a barman.
    He was certainly amiable with us and the three other patrons who were there – all bar staff from Paddy's Irish pub (sic*) downtown who regularly pop in after work.
    A busman's holiday if ever I heard one of one.
    Amigo laid before us a complete and extensive range of snacks –including little bits of cauliflower with accompanying dip, pickles, bits of cucumber and carrot (which you certainly don’t get at your local in Australia or anywhere else for that matter) along with the more conventional nuts, etc.
    He proffered us free drinks which we politely declined on account of us having definitely drunk more than enough that night and invited us to breakfast which we also had to decline on account of us wanting to get home and to sleep before the sun came up (which Michelle, staying just around the corner, probably managed to do but I certainly didn’t - having to trek all the way over to Harisa).
    Amigo told us that he didn’t have customers just friends.
    Whilst a lot of others may just say that he certainly acted it out and lived it.
    Looking like he's in his mid-forties, Amigo's been in that trade since he was fourteen and looked some what like Al Pacino albeit with longer hair and a less haggard face.
    Nonetheless a face that did exhibit the effects of at least eight years, that’s how long he's owned the Evergreen, of running a pub seven days a week from dusk till dawn.
    A very philosophical person not interested in money or status.
    Mad as a hatter but, once again I mean that in a very positive way – I wish we were all as "mad" as Amigo.
    To wit (amongst other things), he produced one of those mechanical toy parrots that repeat everything you say – "its" opening line was "you are very welcome Michelle and Renato".
    We all had a lot of fun with that parrot but I just felt that the parrot could have been more independent and said his own thing rather than just repeating everything we said.
    The Paddy's crew were saying, jokingly, "free drinks on the house" which the parrot was repeating off course.
    Then it descended into "bollocks!" a la an associate of ours whom we call Peter Bollocks (after his habit of saying "Peter" a lot) who also frequents Paddy's where, like in any other establishment he frequents for more than ten seconds, he's famous for his catch cry of (you guessed it) "bollocks!".
    Ten seconds being the maximum amount of time (the minimum being a lot shorter) that elapses before he says "bollocks!" because he's mandated by law to say it at least every ten seconds.
    Despite all the fun we were having, like all talking mechanical toy parrot tricks in pubs all over the world (namely just this one) the talking mechanical toy parrot trick soon lost its novelty (believe it or not).
    Michelle and I had bored of it long before everyone else there had.
    Of all the bars in all the world that parrot had to walk into mine!
    Although Michelle and I had previously frequented the Evergreen (a couple of years ago) we'd never really interacted with Amigo and enjoyed the full treatment.
    I must say that the talking mechanical toy parrot made me nostalgic for those days.
    Apart from that, I'm very lucky grateful that we and Amigos are amigos.
    I certainly haven't felt so much at home in many other pubs – especially those pubs that affect friendliness and homeyness.

    *Peter Casey rightly thinks that "an Irish pub is a pub in Ireland".

    Speaking of pubs, there's another pub in Beirut (who I won't name) whose manager (an Englishman straight out of the pagers of the Viz comic) told a friend of mine that he had been promoted to "owner".
    He also says that that pub is the most popular and successful pub in Lebanese history and that he's going to open up franchises in Kabul and Baghdad.
    This is nigh on impossible - apart from the fact that those cities aren’t the most liberal in the world, his pub's name is a very generic one and hardly one that can be copyrighted as a proprietary name let alone franchised.
    The area that his pub is in is fated to die – the governments trying to kill it with all sorts of arbitrary pretexts because it's competing with the Potemkin Village that is downtown Beirut.
    So the owner's trying to sell it to him (have you ever heard of a Lebanese selling a money making venture?" my friend asks).
    But Mr. Viz said that his cousin "talked to the Mufti* (sic) and that everything's sorted"

    *The Muslim equivalent of an archbishop – not usually in the habit of helping publicans.
    He obviously meant Mukhtar (mayor).

    Years ago there was a bloke at the pub who I dubbed “Motor mouth” on account of his knowing “everyfing what there is to know about mo’ahs (motors – cars) ” and incessantly talking about them.

    renatoobeidsworld records proudly presents
    Featuring "BOLLOCKS!", "bollocks", BOLLOCKS!, bollocks, BOLLOCKS!, bollocks and much more.

    7:45 pm

    Tuesday, June 03, 2003  
    New American civil administrator of Iraq Paul Bremer ( especialy the hair ).

    10:26 am

    Sharm el-Sheik.

    10:22 am

    WHERE ARE THEY NOW - DEJAVU ( or is that dejajew? )?
    Sharm el-Sheik.

    10:17 am


    I don't know much about Slovenia!
    A startling admission!
    How many men are man enough to admit to that?
    But I do know that Slovenia was the the first state to break away and secede from the former Yugoslavia.
    I also know that their war of secession lasted only about ten days or thereabouts if I recall correctly.
    Now if I was a Slovene ( which I'm not ) or even slovenly ( which I am ) I would be deeply offended - wars of secession in other countries ( and indeed in other former Yugoslav republics ) last for years, years and years!
    This one lasted for ten days!
    There are bar brawls that last longer than that!
    It's as if after ten days the central ( Yugoslav ) authorities said "ah, fuck it, let em' go, they're not worth it, never did like them anyway!"
    Put it this way, Chechnya may of been devastated and laid to ruin by it's ten year long secession war, which is still going on, but at least Chechens ( a Chechen being, understandably, a native of Chechnya and not the character from Happy Days who loved Joannie ) can feel all warm and special knowing that someone in Moscow loves them and thinks they're special and worth fighting for MISTER!
    Chechens can even put that on T-shirts, a la those souvenir kids T-shirts that proudly proclaim "Someone in Sydney Thinks I'm Special etc" ( incidentally, how about a grunge alternative INTERESTING version of those T-shirts, i.e "Someone in Sydney Thinks I'm Special SO FUCKING SPECIAL - just like the Radiohead song? ).

    9:10 am

    Speaking of which, secessionism that is ( not T-shirts ), a "Swiss style federal" solution has long been touted as a solution to all the worlds ethnic conflicts - most recently in Cyprus during the failed negotiations aimed at reunifying the divided island.
    My question is why don't we hear more about a "Cyprus style partition solution" to those aforementioned conflicts?
    I'm not a seccesionist ( or a "splitist" as the Chinese government calls them ) but I do think that we need more "Cyprus style partition solutions" ( by the way, I'm not a Cypriot either - I'm an Idiot ).
    If compatriots can't or won't or don't want to get along with their fellow countrymen then why don't they just freeze everything, stop the killing and retire to their seperate bedrooms until they can learn to and are ready to play nicely.
    As far as the Northern Cypriot Turks go, the "Cyprus problem" was solved in 1974 with the defacto partition .
    It's not the perfect ideal solution but neither is war which is often the inevitable alternative!
    Looking at it in the cold hard light of realism and realpolitik it's a simple equation.
    How many Cypriots, from both communities, died in communal violence before 1974?
    I don't have the exact figures but there were scores of them!
    How many Cypriots died in communal whatever after 1974?
    Theres the solution ( for the time being )!
    Because nobody wants a civil war and nobody wins a civil war!
    Civil war is suicide – you're killing your own, a no-win situation
    The term "civil war" is a misnomer - "civil wars", like all wars, are not civil!

    I spent a week on Cyprus in October 1993 and I found it a lovely place but I couldn’t understand why I was ‘’on’’ Cyprus not ‘’in’’ Cyprus yet when I’m in Australia (another island) I’m ‘’in’’ Australia not ‘’on’’ Australia.
    I.e. why do they generally refer to events in Cyprus as ‘’on’’ Cyprus yet refer to events in Australia as ‘’in’’ Australia?
    I’m assuming that it’s because Cyprus is a relatively small island (an English teacher friend of mine concurred with this theory too) and because Australia is a large island continent (obviously size does matter).
    I just feel sorry for the Cypriots who have to spend a lifetime perched atop (‘’on’’) Cyprus – surely it can’t be very comfortable.
    And if it’s about size why is it that we’re in Lebanon (which is about the size of Cyprus anyway) and not on Lebanon.
    I’m assuming it’s the island factor.
    And the Vatican!
    Don’t get me started on the Vatican!
    I can’t understand why I spent a bit* of time ‘’at’’ the Vatican in 1991 and not ‘’in’’ or ‘’on’’ the Vatican.

    Bit* is the operative word here.
    My brother and I, being the heathens we are, basically drove past the Vatican on a Vespa (while gallivanting around Rome), stopped for a moment next to it , looked at it and drove away.
    ‘’Look, it’s the Vatican’’
    ‘’Ok, let’s go’’.
    That was my first time abroad and the juxtaposition and contrast between the new and the ancient couldn’t have been greater.
    Travelling from the newest of the New World to the ancient outdoor museum/shrine/tomb that is Rome was like travelling back in time.

    9:04 am

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