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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

    Monday, March 29, 2004  
    Irish authorities have banned smoking in pubs.
    Could of fooled me – I went to an Irish pub (Paddy's Irish pub in downtown Beirut) and loads of people were smoking (including me).
    By the way, we won last nights pub quiz again (third week in a row).
    I'll never go hungry on a Sunday - the prize is dinner for the winning team.
    A practical prize but there’s nothing like a tactile prize that you can carry home like a trophy of your victory.
    Such prizes at other (now defunct) quizzes were bottles of alcohol (albeit cheap alcohol such as ‘’cooking vodka’’ as a team-mate of mine called it) and promotional t-shirts, lighters, etc.
    If I had have drunk all the alcohol I won at quizzes over the years I’d probably be dead by now.
    I gave most of it away – including some I gave to a Sr Lankan maid who was going back home to visit (quite useful because her husband’s an alcoholic).

    Why did the Irishman go to fight in Cyprus?
    Give up?
    Because he wanted a united island.
    Get it?
    Renatoobeidsworld's patented JokeXplainer.
    Island sounds like Ireland and the Irishman (whose countrymen, according the stereotype, aren’t renowned for their intelligence) thought he was going there to fight to unite Ireland rather than that divided island.

    1:16 pm

    Saturday, March 27, 2004  
    Arab foreign ministers are one their way home from Tunis empty-handed after the Arab League Summit collapsed before it even started.
    The ministers, meeting ahead of Monday's opening heads of state session, announced that the summit would be "postponed" for a month because they were unable to reach agreement on several issues.
    Egypt has offered to hold the summit then at the headquarters of the Arab League in Cairo – although Tunisia isn’t happy with this (what are they going to do with all the t-shirts?).
    Quite a shame because, as far as spectacles go, the Arab League Summit is the last great summit – what else can match the opulence, the pomp and ceremony, the drama, the intrigue, the squabbles, the boycotts, the walkouts, the clashes etc?.
    Look at European summits; they just sit around talking about cows!
    Look at Asian summits; they just sit around talking about computer chips and wearing funny jackets!
    The Arab League Summit (when and if it's held) is the daddy of all summitry.
    And who says there isn’t democracy in the Arab world?
    Look at the summits, twenty two members and twenty three different diverging conflicting opinions.
    Remember Beirut 2001 when "video killed the Arab Summit"?
    The Palestinians walked out because they couldn’t watch the video they wanted – the Teletubbies as I recall.
    The Lebanese hosts wouldn’t allow a live video address from Ramallah by the besieged Palestinian President Yasser Arafat under the pretext that Ariel Sharon could have jammed it and appeared before the summit instead (just like in the superhero movies when the evil villain video addresses stunned conferences through superimposition).
    Remember last years Doha summit when the Libyans and the Saudis clashed in disagreement over who was the biggest American puppet?
    "I know you're an American puppet but what am I?"
    Advice to sailors: to stock up on profanities and insults that not even you are capable of coming up with hang around at the Arab summit.
    The renatoobeidsworld correspondent at the last summit reported seeing blushing sailors in the public gallery.
    Basically, it's our version of the Hip-hop Summit or WWE Smackdown. - but with more aggresion and less statesmanship.
    Given all that plus the fact that nothing is ever acheived at these summits the summit that never was will go down as the greatest summit ever.

    P.S: We were never ever told what exactly transpired, what killed the Arab Summit but, reading between the lines of what was said by those attending afterwards , it would appear the Tunisian's were a bit too bossy – thinking that they were the boss of everyone they wanted to impose items on the agenda that did not have majority consensus.
    I wonder whether this will affect Tunisia's bid for the 2010 Football World Cup – whether the specter of the Tunisians grabbing the ball (highly illegal) and storming off in a sulk will influence the FIFA delegates when they vote.

    1:02 pm

    Tuesday, March 23, 2004  

    6:55 pm

    Monday, March 22, 2004  
    Definition:(1)websites that are, beyond an enticing home page, nothing but an empty facade with all clicks leading to "HTTP 404 - File not found".
    Example:www.harissa-notredameduliban.com - surely the website of the "Vatican" of ten million Maronites can do better than that.
    (2)"websites" that are permanently "under construction".

    2:58 pm



    Re-elect President Bush and Vice-President Anan Campaign,
    Republican National Committee

    1:55 pm

    Tuesday, March 16, 2004  
    The honorable respectable electric journal renatoobeidssubcontinent is now to be outsaucing the transcribing from written papers and dicktaphone recording to electronic parchment on the computing machine to a respectable honorable typing key pressing service in Bangalore India.
    May this venture be bringing honor to all our ancestors.
    A thousand apologies to readingers.
    Death to Pakistan.

    Chief Typing Key Presser and Stereotype
    Bangalore Typing Key Pressing and Stereotype Providing Company

    2:34 pm

    Saturday, March 13, 2004  
    The Passion of the Christ has just premiered in Lebanon.
    The controversial movie is based on the gospels - that is, the weblogs of the disciples Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

    2:21 pm

    Tuesday, March 09, 2004  
    Renatoobeidsworld wishes to apologize to women offended by yesterdays controversial Women's Day special edition by offering compensation in the form of accepting their recipe ideas and contributions to this weeklong series.
    To have your emails deleted please write to us at the special hotline that we have established for this purpose - renatoobeid@hotmail.com
    Women wishing to "show us your tits" can also send pictures in the form of attachments to the above address.
    This should clear things up.

    Proceeds from this weeks editions will go to combating the bird flu epidemic that has so affected womankind.

    4:42 am

    Monday, March 08, 2004  
    - Special International Women's Day commemorative souvenir edition of renatoobeidsworld

    Traditional Roast Sirloin of Beef
    The only way to enjoy this most splendid of feasts is to make absolutely sure the beef is good because, in this case more than in any other, the cook is at the mercy of his or her supplier. Use a known reliable butcher, a supermarket that specialises in matured traditional beef, or else a recommended mail-order supplier. As with a whole ham, beef cooked on the bone has the best flavour of all.

    Serves 8

    1 sirloin of beef on the bone, weighing 5-6 lb (2.25-2.75 kg) – this would be 3 ribs

    1/2 onion, peeled

    1 level dessertspoon mustard powder

    1 level dessertspoon plain flour

    freshly milled black pepper

    Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 9, 475°F (240°C).

    Place the beef, just as it is, upright in a roasting tin, tucking in the half onion alongside it. Combine the mustard powder and flour, then dust this all over the surface of the fat, and finally season with a few twists of freshly milled pepper. This floury surface will help to make the fat very crusty (for those like me who want to eat what I call the 'crispies'), while the onion will caramelise to give the gravy a rich colour and flavour. Place the joint in the oven – it will have plenty of fat so don't add extra. After 20 minutes turn the heat down to gas mark 5, 375°F (190°C), and continue to cook for 15 minutes per lb (450 g) for rare, plus 15 minutes extra for medium-rare or 30 minutes extra for well-done. While cooking, baste the meat with the juices at least three times. To see if the beef is cooked to your liking insert a thin skewer and press out some juices: the red, pink or clear colour will indicate to what stage the beef has cooked.

    Remove the cooked beef to a board for carving and leave it to rest for at least 30 minutes before serving (while it's resting you can increase the heat in the oven to finish the roast potatoes if you're serving them). This resting period allows most of the juices which have bubbled up to the surface of the meat to seep back into it, and the meat itself firms up to make it easier to carve. Some of the juices will escape, though, and these should be poured into the gravy. Serve with Yorkshire Pudding and gravy.

    (This recipe is taken from Delia Smith's Christmas)

    TOMORROW : Meatloaf recipe

    2:51 pm

    Sunday, March 07, 2004  
    ‘’The lights are much brighter there…You can forget all your troubles; forget all your cares and go downtown –things will be great when you’re downtown’’
    -Petula Clark, Downtown

    Went to a Floridaesque pub quiz at Paddy's in downtown Beirut – at the end of the quiz we were declared the winners only to be stripped of our title soon after when Pub Quiz Officials announced that the runners-up had incorrectly tallied their scores and were in fact the actual winners.
    They – American teachers as far as I could fathom – were very gracious about it and later gave my team-mates their prizes.
    The downtown enclave is in what was the pre-war heart of Beirut – Martyrs Square and the adjoining souks and streets - that became the border between Muslim West Beirut and Christian East Beirut and thus the frontline for the various factions during the war and was subsequently destroyed.
    When I first arrived in 1991 I called it "Little Hiroshima" such was the extent of the destruction.
    The only unaffected part was the virtually intact Bank Street and Parliament - which tells you something about the war and the interests of those fighting it.
    Most of what was not destroyed in the fighting was later destroyed by the controversial government/private sector (the two are virtually indistinguishable in Lebanon) company, Solidere, who requisitioned and leveled most of it – finishing off what the war couldn’t – including a lot of irreplaceable heritage buildings that could and should have been restored.
    We should all be thankful that Solidere, the private sector/government company (the two are indistinguishable in Lebanon) that was especially created for that reconstruction, hasn’t got their hands on the Baalbeck ruins yet.
    I can just imagine them totally leveling the ancient ruins and rebuilding new ancient ruins in their place.
    Rising from the ashes like the legendary Phoenix that derived its name from the ancient people who first dwelt here, the Phoenicians, downtown Beirut is now a teeming maze of shops, restaurants, cafes, bars, offices and government buildings – equal, if not superior, to anything any world city has to offer.
    Despite all this I personally remain a Hamraphile – preferring old, earthy now almost deserted Hamra (which became the proxy heart of Beirut during the war) to beautiful, fashionable but, like most tourist precincts, artificial and soulless downtown.
    Sure it looks good but so does Las Vegas – they were both built by the mafia on human suffering and misery.Downtown is also a Potemkin Village, a "display home" for impressing and attracting international companies, tourists and governments (a friend of mine who lives in the area, sees workmen scrubbing the street signs etc in the morning) and their money built at the expense of ordinary Lebanese living outside the "walls" of this Forbidden City (prohibitive prices and an elitist atmosphere make it out of bounds to most Lebanese) who have yet to find a way to eat the tarmac, concrete and marble their government favors over bread and butter.
    Downtown also serves a useful domestic purpose.
    It acts as a sort of sop to some of the naïve masses who’s mantra is ‘’he (Hariri) built a country’’ when in actual fact all he built was a couple of streets (downtown) but these people can’t see the forest for the downtown trees.
    Although the architecture and the prices are grand, it is ironic and paradoxical that it is a magnet for the masses – like most places around the world considered “posh” by the masses tend to attract people who belong to an all-together different milieu, flocking there as a form of escapism and out of the demotic belief that merely being in such places makes you somewhat “posh” yourself by very association.
    Being on the outside looking in on that kind of society, the masses can only imagine what such lives are like and are thus susceptible to the misconception that ostentation means wealth whereas most “posh” people don’t actually live like that caricature.
    A good example of this is the commoners who get outrageously dressed up, hire a limo and go to some fancy place for their special occasions.
    Their false consciousness tells them that this is the good life and that this is how to commemorate something, their hearts tell them that they’d rather be at the pub.I think that people may have been a lot happier in the old days when people “knew their place” and didn’t torture and torment themselves thus.
    Downtown – its default name – is too generic a name for this Taj Mahal and doesn’t honor the glory of the "emperor" who built it for that purpose (it hasnt hurt his bank balance either).
    What then to call the capital of the capital?
    I think we need not create a totally new name; we can borrow the name of the Zimbabwean capital, Harare, and adapt it – merely changing two of the vowels (the later two) and replacing them with another vowel.
    See what I mean?

    Most of the construction/reconstruction happened in Beirut, literally cementing pre-existing Lebanese demographics – the Sunnis get the coastal cities, the Shiites are shoved into the hinterland and some slums around Beirut and the Maronites are perched atop the mountains (their old friends) as if we were goats or something.
    They build Disneyland on the Mediterranean in Beirut and just stick a couple of roads and pipes through the rest of the country.

    Downtown is a very un-Lebanese area in that there appear to be no pharmacies in the entire precinct.
    There’s a gay pharmacy (a vitamin store) but there’s no actual pharmacy.

    1:25 pm

    Friday, March 05, 2004  
    The Lebanese system is the only one that I know of that has loyalists and oppositionists within the same cabinet.
    It's not uncommon to have cabinet ministers who are critical of the very government they comprise of.
    Watching television interviews with certain Lebanese ministers, I'm reminded of those sitcoms or comedy movies where a character is living some sort of intricate convoluted double life.
    This is what it looks like to me - the Minister, speaking as a loyalist, defends the government, but, moments later, runs of the set to the wardrobe room and frenetically changes his clothes, puts on a wig and a Groucho Marx moustache, glasses and eyebrow mask and runs back on to the set to make oppositionist sounds, changing his voice to a movie-Nazi accent ("ze government has run out of stim").
    Another popular form of dissimulation is for governments and regimes to criticize themselves.
    The first time we heard this we were quite impressed but, eventually the novelty wore off, and we cottoned on to the fact that this was just a ploy designed to disarm, co-opt and pacify the masses – beat them to it, head them off at the pass, steal their thunder!
    In this age of spin, totalitarian governments spin their negative performance into circuit- breaking safety valves that they hope will appease us.
    Here in the Middle East we get that sort of statement everyday, "we were wrong, the situation is dire, we can do better, etc" (our businesslike businessman Prime Minister/majority shareholder is the champion of this sort of thing, especially in his "candid" and "frank" conferences with businesspeople, students etc) and, then, they just leave it there, stop!
    That may impress the few people who haven’t heard it before – Jane Smith, 8lbs 4ozs, 53cm, who was born yesterday - but it won't wash with all of us who have heard it all before.
    Whilst admitting a problem is halfway towards solving it, when this is merely used as a ploy and an end rather than a beginning we are all doomed to permanent residency in the "halfway" houses our rulers have built for us.

    The government and the opposition are just different sides of the same coin.
    Where most of our political players now are isn't due to their convictions but where they were and the chair they dashed for when the world turned off the music in 1990 (the same world that turned it on in 1975) and ended the senseless game of musical chairs that was the Lebanese uncivil war.

    8:24 am

    "We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."
    - Preamble to the new Iraqi constitution that has just been unveiled by the interim Iraqi Governing Council who insist it's not an American imposed rush job.

    "Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that 'all men are created equal' "
    - Iraqi Governing Council head Ahmed Chalabi, who insists he's not an American lackey, speaking at the launch.

    "We're coming, you're going and don't let the tent door hit you on the way out"
    - His main rival Ayatollah Sistani, who insists he's not an American lackey, at a Shiite primary in Karbala.

    5:43 am

    Tuesday, March 02, 2004  
    The Haitian capital Port-au-Prince is the latest venue for the ongoing Military Olympics.
    Sponsored by Haliburton, CNN and The United Nations other main venues include Baghdad and Kabul.
    Australian Prime Minister John Howard is the Official Mascot of the Military Olympics.

    As troops from all over the world continue to flood into Haiti for Port-au-Prince 2004 my question is does Haiti (or any other country for that matter) really need more men with guns?
    I urge the international community to send in the clowns.
    That’s right; I am proposing – nay, I am demanding - a UN led stabilization force made up of clowns to be sent to Haiti immediately!
    It’s a little known but startling and astonishing fact that not once in its almost sixty-year history has the UN deployed Peacekeeping Clowns.
    I, for one, am outraged!
    Give clowns a chance.
    We've got nothing to lose.
    What's the worst they could do?
    Slip over banana peels, slap pies into faces, cram too many of their number into too small a car?
    Isn't this better than ethnic cleansing, massacres and looting?
    Laugh you may at my radical clown suggestion but answer me this - have conventional forces done any better, have conventional forces ended wars and strife and ensured world peace?
    I also demand that all member nations replace their ambassadors to the UN with a high-ranking senior level clown and that a Clown Centre For Conflict Resolution be established.
    We and they certainly can't do any worse than we already have done.

    2:37 pm

    Monday, March 01, 2004  
    The US stealth invasion of Haiti is underway.
    American troops started arriving in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere last week under the euphemistic pretext of "protecting the (US) embassy (nudge nudge wink)".
    "Protecting embassies" (nudge nudge wink wink)" is the modern equivalent of the cold war euphemism of sending in "advisors".
    The United Nations/States (Embassy) Security Council has just rubber stamped approval for a larger force to be deployed after Baby Bush gave President Jean-Bertrande Arsitide (Father Doc – he's a former Catholic priest who, although starting out well, ultimately turned out to be not much better than his infamous father and son predecessors Francois and Jean-Claude Duvalier nicknamed Papa and Baby Doc) his marching orders yesterday.
    Which is more than a little bit ironic because the US last invaded (sorry," embassy protected") Haiti in 1994 after President Who's You're Daddy? Clinton ordered in twenty thousand marines to reinstate Aristide after a short-lived coup.
    The latest world leader turned Today FM Fugitive's current whereabouts are unknown – initial reports after his Sunday departure was that he was considering exile in either Morocco, Taiwan or Panama
    Say what you want about Father Doc but you certainly can't accuse him of not keeping his options open and varied.
    The United States has the best protected embassies in the world with "embassy protection" bases in over seventy countries – the largest being the hundred thousand plus "embassy protection" unit at and "around" the American embassy in Iraq.

    5:58 am

    - didn’t see that one coming
    The surprise of the day would have to be that an Australian parliamentary "inquiry" has exonerated the government from blame for intelligence failures during the run-up to the war in Iraq.
    The inquiry also recommended that another (non-political) inquiry be held which reminds me of an Arabic joke where a stutterer goes to apply for a job as a broadcaster.
    The astonished panel interviewing him ask him why on earth he came and he says "to tell you to not to count on me".
    So when's the US "inquiry" into intelligence failures or is "massive intelligence failure" too personal a subject for George W?

    3:40 am

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