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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, August 29, 2003  
    (edited version)

    Oh, say can you see, by the dawn's early light,
    What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?
    …Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
    The Star Spangled Banner
    (Francis Scott Key)

    On Thursday 14 August some sixty million people across North-eastern America commemorated President George W Bush Day (also known as The Festival of No Lights) in the form of massive state-wide electricity blackouts.
    The man of the hour, President Bush, made a live address to the nation – reassuring them that it was not the end of the world.
    My parallel counter-address to the American people is, quite simply, “get a life and stop blaming Canada!” – its not use blaming them, as far as I know they don’t even have electricity!
    Furthermore, I don’t think my welcoming Americans to the real world is schadenfreude – it’s an astonishing fact that more people today are living in the dark than during the Dark Ages!
    This is merely how the “other half” live!
    It certainly doesn’t warrant the blanket Breaking (so-called) News! coverage it received on U.S television!
    The “star” of that coverage would have to be CNN’s Wolf Blitzer who offered
    what I’d consider pretty obvious advice in the form of “a warning to viewers using candles – don’t let them spill over”.
    First of all, that’s pretty elementary and furthermore it’s a non sequitur - if you're actually using candles then you wont be actually watching television in that you wont have the electricity to watch TV
    And also its very low-tech advice from CNN – the polar opposite of the high tech involved in putting CNN to air and the polar opposite of the techno babble they usually bombard us with (yet very welcome respite).
    Which just goes to show how in this high- tech era we can go from A to Z almost instantaneously and all it takes is just for the power to go out.
    We’ve got all this technology but we don’t have the technology to actually be able to handle life without this technology - i.e. during a power failure when all that technology becomes useless and CNN, one of the most technologically advanced outfits on the planet, resorts to Candle Information which is pretty much all they can do in these circumstances.
    Nobody here in Lebanon (where I am at the moment) needs that sort of information – although the civil war here ended more than twelve years ago we still have irregular power supply and daily power outages.
    You certainly wont see wall-to-wall Breaking News! coverage on Lebanese television of power outages (even if they’re affecting entire cities)!
    Actually, strictly hypothetically though as we’re a long way away from this, what you probably would get is wall-to-wall Breaking News! coverage in the very unlikely eventuality of power “inages” so to speak – that is electricity being on in entire cities.
    Our situation here reminds me of a joke popular in Nigeria – “what did we have before we had candles? – electricity”; meaning that many such countries actually had functioning electricity before then going on to destroy that through war, corruption, incompetence, negligence etc (or all of the above and more in some cases)
    And if that’s not bad enough, sometimes we even have to pretend that we don’t have power even when we do!
    I’m not disclosing any state secrets here – its pretty much common knowledge – but during at least one of the Israeli incursions that happened every couple of years during the nineties (separate from the war of attrition that went on everyday) when Israel would conduct a one to two week concentrated blitzkrieg on Lebanese infrastructure (electricity being a major priority – several substations were destroyed) it would appear (it was pretty blatant) that the authorities had ordered all the electricity in Beirut turned off at night to give the impression to the Israelis that we weren’t home (TRY NEXT DOOR!).
    Seriously, it would appear that that was done to give the Israelis the impression that they’d already succeeded in their mission and that they’d blown up and destroyed all our power plants and that they could just go home now – “ Nope, no electricity here! Move on, move on, nothing to see here!
    Despite having one of the most powerful armies in the world, the Israelis weren’t my main concern at the time - my bête noir the in noir (so to speak) during that and other outages has always been what I call the “iron supplement’.
    Whenever I go looking for a candle in the dark I’m always surprised to find that an ironing board always pops up from nowhere and painfully ambushes me somewhere along my path.
    Attack of the Killer Ironing Boards!
    There may not of been an ironing board in the house, in the country or even in the entire world for that matter but as soon as the power goes, there it is – the malevolent ironing board from hell!
    If you ever need an ironing board or simply cant find yours (although they’re pretty hard to lose) try this – turn out the lights (power cut simulation for those not lucky enough to have them) and it will come to you!
    But, when all is said and done, there’s a silver lining in every cloud.
    As antiquated electricity grids worldwide struggle to accommodate larger populations (coupled with increased demand) and power outages increase I urge anyone experiencing any sort of power outage anywhere to see that silver lining in those dark clouds of darkness.
    Enjoy the all too brief respite from the world, technology and the twenty first century.
    Catch your breath; lie down in the darkness and, God forbid, actually think!
    Listen to the BBC World Service on a transistor radio or, God forbid, actually talk to people rather than bombarding them with stupid indecipherably abbreviated text messages or stupid unfunny emailed jokes and attachments.
    Read a book by candlelight.
    Look at the stars.
    Make shadow puppets on the wall using a flashlight – the easiest is a bunny rabbit (although the novelty of this wears out pretty quickly).
    But, if all that fails and your still not happy and you still cant live without electricity then I suggest you go fly a kite!
    It worked for Benjamin Franklin!

    10:26 am

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