Monday, July 31, 2006
"O say, can you see, by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming!
And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
... O long may it wave"
-The Star Spangled Banner
(Francis Scott Key)
(Photograph: Mahmoud Zayat/AFP/Getty Images)
Friday, July 28, 2006
Just got back from Beirut.
This must be a world record – a service driver in Beirut was telling me that he was ferrying people from Bint Jbeil (in the south) to safety for one thousand dollars a trip and that in one load he had twenty two people in his car.
His human load consisted of two women and twenty children, eight of which were in the boot.
I asked him whether he had put any under the bonnet.
Just got back from my walk to Jounieh.
The taxi driver on the way up said that this area is unaffected by the war because it is protected by the Virgin Mary.
Thursday, July 27, 2006
There’s no such thing as a secular or non-sectarian Lebanese.
As a matter of fact, it’s the Lebanese who say that they are secular or non-sectarian that are the most sectarian.
It means they’re overcompensating.
My ‘’the lady doth protest too much, methinks’’ (to quote Shakespeare) theory or as Winston Churchill so aptly put it: ‘’if a lady has to tell you she’s a lady then she isn’t’’.
SUN, SAND AND SHIITES
I used to occasionally frequent the Ramlet el Baida (‘’white sands’’) public beach in Beirut - the only public beach in Beirut and a magnet for the Shiite underclass.
Despite the clientele, this urban beach was a in a great location and, besides, no Shiite ever kicked sand in my face (to paraphrase Mohamed Ali’s ‘’no Vietcong ever killed me a nigger’’).
On the contrary, they’re quite friendly and, unlike Westerners, they’re very industrious at the beach – they frolic, play games, build sandcastles, picnic etc.
Just lying on the beach like decadent Westerners isn’t going to do it for these people in the little leisure they have in life.
Apart from a famous location (it’s on one of the most expensive strips of real estate in the Arab world), another attraction (for me anyway) of this beach is the clothed bathers – it’s not uncommon to see young women frolicking in the water in full body chadors or, for the more liberal among them, jeans and t-shirt.
Some of them have quite okay bodies and this shows those bodies off to the best advantage.
It’s basically like a full body wet t-shirt competition.
Although there aren’t that many young women to be found there – most of the beachgoers are young men, children and hajjis (usually much older women).
The ski fields in Lebanon are mainly a Maronite Christian preserve.
Although some British friends of mine were able to distinguish the odd smattering of what they called NSM (Non-Skiing Muslims) marvelling at this ‘’wet sand ‘’ amongst the majority hardcore SFM (Ski Fascist Maronites)
So, there you have it – Lebanese sectarianism even extends to leisure activities.
Sunday, July 23, 2006
Hariri’s Future television is providing us with an overview of the internet editions of the Israeli newspapers.
That’s very kind of them but also highly redundant.
I don’t read Israeli newspapers because I don’t need to read them for Israeli news – Israeli news is all over the press, why bother look for it?
The disproportionate Israeli response is like slamming a door without shutting it properly.
Like the doors in this apartment, you can slam them but they won’t necessarily close properly – unless the latch clicks then the door isn’t properly shut so you have to gently close the door until it clicks.
Friday, July 21, 2006
WAR IS ELSEWHERE
Apart from the occasional plume of black smoke, we can’t see any of the fighting but hear the constant drone of Israeli fighter planes above (sounds like distant thunder) and hear the dull thud of explosions.What we can see is the pollution that has engulfed the country for ten days and, looking out at the Mediterranean from the balcony, a flotilla of foreign warships and some cruise ships evacuating foreign nationals , steaming out of Beirut harbour headed to Cyprus and to safety.
I’ve stared imposing wartime censorship on the emails I write for the Hajji (to family and friends abroad) – no extreme negativity, no ad hominem melodrama, no clichés.She’d started to sound like Winston Churchill until I put a stop to it.
The Israelis say that they want the Lebanese army to deploy in the south…except the tens of Lebanese army soldiers they’ve killed so far.Not them.Others.
Sunday, July 16, 2006
I woke up three hours ago to learn that, while I slept, the Israelis had bombed Jounieh, some three hundred meters down the mountain, and had been ‘’engaged ‘by the Lebanese army in a lively half hour or so shower of useless antiaircraft fire and flares.
I’m supposed to be an insomniac yet I sleep through a war!
This attack, coming on the fourth day of Israel’s sustained bombardment and blockade of Lebanon, was aimed at the Lebanese naval base on the Jounieh bay.
Our very own Pearl Harbour.
THE QUITE COUNTRY
What does a country at war look and feel like?
Well, this country, when it’s not being bombarded, is eerily quite.
Standing on the balcony, looking out across Jounieh, it is very quite and very dark with barely a car on the road.
A sense of anticipation permeates the air as thick as the fog that hangs over our heads like rain clouds and as thick as the man made fog, the fog of war.
You can't even hear a dog barking.
Even dogs are silent when the dogs of war are unleashed.
During wartime, ones afraid not just of the war itself, which is quite random, but of the lawlessness that often occurs during wartime.
Not that it’s happening now but it did happen during the civil war so you still feel a sense of unease that bombs aren’t the only thing that you have to worry about but that anything can happen in this abandoned country.
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
I don’t usually write about my dreams because I have a life (or at least an intellectual life anyway) but I found this one that I just woke up to a bit weird and funny.
My Australian cousins and I were at my old house in Melbourne,
It was early morning and we were asleep.
I was sleeping in the kitchen and the ghost of a young lady walked in, my cousin’s ex-boyfriend followed her and said to me ‘’Renis (my Australian nickname) did they have female electoral workers in 1901?’’ (As if he was seeking to verify the ghost’s claimed identity and is if the most remarkable thing about her wasn’t that she was a ghost but was her past career).
I perceived that as the most natural question in the world to ask and didn’t perceive it as being weird - I don’t know why I was so confident of this but I replied most emphatically ‘’of course they did!’’
The funny part is that we all started speaking to her in really bad Australian French, assuming that because she was ‘’foreign’’ she spoke French (in dreams you just automatically know the details, the plot etc of everything)
In my dream I got up and escorted her to the living room and sat her down.
We all gathered around her and she said to us in Melbourne Australian/Greek accented English (I’m obviously a phonetics expert a la Doctor Higgins in my dreams) ‘’I actually speak English and Greek’’ and some language beginning with I which I didn’t hear.
How can you not ‘’hear’’ something in your dream?
And then I woke up.
One’s dreams of course reflect one’s interests and preoccupations and two reoccurring themes in my dreams probably reflect my interest in politics and satire.
I often have dreams about world figures and my dreams are often comedic (revolving around my wit -I’m funnier in my dreams then I am in real life)
Amongst world leaders who have made special guest appearances in my dreams are Slobodan Milosevic, who I dreamt I was hiding in my garage in Melbourne, former Polish President General Wojciech Jaruzelski(we were all speaking Polish of course and I understood everything) former US Secretary of State George Shultz, George W. Bush, John Howard and Queen Elizabeth II.
Friday, July 07, 2006
THE PIRATES OF PENRITH
It’s amazing how cultures perceive other cultures.
This afternoon the hairdresser was telling me that Australian English sounds like pirate-speak to him.
He offered the example of Australians using ‘’me’’ for ‘’my’’.
That’s the most interesting take of the Australian accent I’ve ever heard.
Shiver ‘’me’’ timbers - I should have made that scurvy landlubber walk the plank! (Rather than crossed his palm with silver doubloons as I did).