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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

    Tuesday, October 30, 2007  
    The smarter one gets, the stupider others get (appear).

    7:15 pm

    Thursday, October 25, 2007  
    Juz kickin' back in da crib wid ma homie E. Diddy.
    Eli is insisting that there’s an actual technical term for a guy who works at a shoe shop.
    I disagree and am trying to get him to bet on it like I do with his other wild suggestions.
    I maintain that there’s a term for someone who makes or fixes shoes – a cobbler – but that there isn’t a specific term for someone who works in a shoe shop.
    Maybe there is in Kazakhstan.
    I even searched it on Google Kazakhstan to humour Eli but without any luck.
    I thought that there may have been a medieval or Victorian Era English term (like haberdasher or costermonger) for such a thing (they had a title for every conceivable job back then) so we went to ye olde websites and checked ye olde terms but alas to no avail.
    So we’ve made a bet for five thousand lira but I’ll end up forgiving this like I’ve forgiven most of Eli’s other gambling debts.
    Eli learnt the hard way that, amongst other things, room temperature is so not twenty eight degrees as he insisted it was (maybe in Jamaica it is).
    8.00pm Monday 21st April 2008
    I asked Eli (in an instant message exchange) if he’d been asking people at shoe shops what they’re called and he replied that he hadn’t been to a shoe shop since he was in Lebanon last summer.
    And to think that he regards himself as an expert on shoe shop employees!

    Five thousand lira is the minimum bet I will make.
    Don’t waste my time with anything beneath five thousand lira.
    Sometimes I make ten thousand lira a day (which is Eli’s cut-off point) off Eli.
    I could make a living out of betting with Eli but, as I said, I more often than not forgive Eli his debts so he can keep on betting like a fisherman who catches fish and then throws them back in again.
    I forgive Eli his debts but I don’t forget them – I find that I get more mileage out of always reminding him of his debts than I would have had he have actually payed them.
    Eli also found out the hard way that there are no such words as ‘’subconcial’’ and ‘’insulitive’’ and would have found out the hard way that the late Diana Princess of Wales was not actually Welsh (despite the title) had his father not have explained it to him before he could bet on it.
    It hasn’t been all loses for Eli.
    He won one bet with me regarding how many American soldiers died in the Vietnam War.
    He bet correctly that it was fifty eight thousand.
    I bet that it was seventy thousand.
    I don’t know where I got that figure from – maybe I was ‘’subconcially’’ factoring in all the allied losses.
    The secret to my gambling success is that I’m not smarter than Eli nor anyone else but that I’m very canny – I only bet when I’m absolutely certain of something (i.e. very rarely).
    Not much different than Eli actually – Eli only bets when he’s absolutely certain of something but, like most twenty year olds, he’s absolutely certain of everything.
    My cousin Omar used to be another good source of gambling income for me until he grew out of shooting off his mouth when he wasn’t sure.
    And that’s exactly the reason why I do it – to teach them the value of their own credibility.
    Whenever they’re bullshitting, I’ll demand that that put their money where there mouths are.
    Omar has learnt this lesson, Eli hasn’t yet.
    Omar has also learnt, amongst other things, that a tomato is a fruit not a vegetable.
    I got him on the oldest trick question in the book!
    Are there still people in the twenty first century who don’t know that a tomato is actually a fruit?
    When I told Omar’s father about my gambling exploits he quoted an Egyptian proverb that ''the madman chases the idiots''.
    He wasn’t being ‘’insultive’’ and neither am I, it’s all jokes.

    Sometimes I go into chat rooms for a bit of a laugh.
    I was talking to a woman from China today and when I asked her what she did in life she replied ‘’I sell batteries’’.
    That’s got to be the most random job I’ve ever heard of – straight out of Borat.
    6.00pm Thursday 24th July 2008
    How’s this for another random job?
    “…Mohamed Ibrahim a university student who works part-time selling watermelons in the southern part of the city (Aman)’’ (some online newspaper).
    The watermelon selling industry must be so hard to break into that there are only part-time positions available.

    9:45 pm

    There’s too much swearing on television.
    I just heard the newsreader on CNN talking about the ‘’bloody military crackdown in Myanmar’’.
    Don’t get me wrong, I condemn what the junta are doing but I just don’t think that language like that is going to achieve anything.
    I also think that the word damn is used too much in the media too.
    E.g. ‘’rescuers continue to look for survivors at the scene of yesterdays damn collapse in northeast China’’.
    I think that ‘’collapse’’ will do sufficiently without the use of profanities thank you very much.

    4:30 pm

    Monday, October 15, 2007  
    Eli's in da house.
    Three years ago when he was in Sweden (where he lives for most of the year) Eli asked me for my residential address in an instant message exchange so that he could mail me some stuff.
    I was reluctant to give it to him because I didn’t want to bother him.
    He misunderstood and said that he understood if I didn’t want to disclose it for ‘’security reasons’’.
    ‘’Dude!’’ I exclaimed ‘’It’s the same address as yours – minus two floors!’’
    He saw the humour in this and said that it would be funny if he wrote on the package ‘’4th Floor minus two floors’’.
    I must stress that I’m not laughing at Eli but laughing with him.
    Eli is a very intelligent young man with great potential (this sounds like a school report card) but, at twenty years of age, he is a member of the first generation of internet kids who are now coming to maturity – impatient, helter-skelter and with a very short attention span.
    This gentle giant (Eli is six foot two and weighs one hundred and forty kilos but that's all heart) reminds me a bit of Lenny from ‘’Of Mice and Men’’ only because of his size, innocence and good heartedness.
    If he’s Lenny, then I must be George the a***hole*.
    Our night walks are getting a bit dangerous – with crazy taxi drivers and citizen militias** etc – so, in the best tradition of Lenny Small, Eli said ‘’I’m the brawn and you’re the brains, so if we get into a fight, I’ll do the fighting but if the police get called, you do the talking’’.
    All right Eli – you do the sockin’ and I’ll do the explainin’.

    *I’m going to end up talking like Eli.About two weeks ago the usually demur Francophone senior secretary at Eli’s dad’s office sent another secretary at the office a SMS in English saying ‘’this f***ing manouchie made me sick!’’.The other secretary replied jokingly ‘’what – you’re talking like Eli now?’’
    **Last Tuesday I was approached by an ad hoc militia comprised of a chef (minus the rolling pin a la the cliché) and two other characters who were God knows what from a nearby restaurant because I happened to be standing at an intersection on a main street in the nightlife centre of town at three o’clock in the morning waiting to catch a taxi back home after my walk – obviously highly suspicious behaviour!
    Maameltien at night is essentially a red-light zone so I think that these gentlemen can find lots of shady characters to interrogate without harassing innocent walkers.
    Heck, why don’t they start with their own bloody patrons – that’s the seediest bunch of people I’ve ever seen outside of a strip club.
    They politely asked me for my ‘’my good name’’ but I declined to divulge any information to them – telling them that this was public property and they were behaving like a militia.
    They said that they just wanted to make my acquaintance to which I replied that they could make my acquaintance if I went to their restaurant but that, in the meantime, I was not obliged to tell them my name.
    They threatened to call the police or the army and I said that I wished they would so that I could report a militia.
    This happy gathering broke up when the taxi I was waiting for arrived and I hopped in and left them.
    If this is a portent of things to come in Lebanon, then we’re in serious trouble.
    I don’t know what I prefer – terrorism or militias.
    They’re both the same thing anyway.
    If plebes can go around harassing people in the name of ''counter-terrorism'' then I’m not sure what I prefer.
    United Nations Security Council Resolution 1559 (which calls for, amongst other things, the disbanding of all militias in Lebanon) shouldn’t just apply to dudes with beards (Hezbollah).

    5:30 pm

    Sunday, October 07, 2007  
    Eli’s over.
    ‘’You look pretty calm and chilled’’ he observes.
    ‘’That’s because you’ve only been here for ten minutes’’ I reply.

    I told Eli two ghost stories within a week of each other and he believed both of them.
    On one occasion I convinced Eli that a ghost haunts the abandoned road near our building and, another time, that I later found out that a friendly old man we encounter on our walks had in fact been dead for ten years.
    Eli wanted to call a priest, which is quite logical, but he also wanted to call the police (try both the spiritual and the temporal).
    Sure, sic the police onto a ghost.
    What are the police going to do to a ghost?
    Maybe our police have a ghost buster unit.
    Our cops have enough trouble catching real criminals let alone ghosts.
    And sometimes they even confuse the two.
    In September 2005 the then-Interior Minister Hassan Sabaa famously said "unfortunately we are facing some kind of a ghost'' after television personality May Chidiac was maimed in a car bomb explosion (one of tens of politically motivated hits that have plagued Lebanon since October 2004 – all of them unsolved).
    The first hoax he fell for wasn’t even believed by my twelve year old cousin Nour.
    When I later revealed to Eli that it was a hoax, he kindly offered me the use of his mobile phone to call Nour and tell her that it was indeed a hoax (she’d left us about half way during the story).
    I told Eli that I’d already told her that it was a hoax when I saw her off at the elavator so he wouldn’t feel like a complete retard but the truth is that she didn’t believe a word of it.

    I used to walk along the abandoned road but I don’t anymore partly because of the ghost (who knows, there may be a ghost there for all we know) but also because, now that it’s reverted back to nature, there must be all sorts of creatures there.
    I wouldn’t be surprised if there were even dinosaurs and highwaymen down that road that time forgot.
    Besides, a judge on a walk got bashed there a couple of years ago but that was a targeted attack (they appear to have followed him from his home in Jounieh and took advantage of the secluded location) because of a case he was presiding over and he’s been bashed elsewhere before so it doesn’t appear that judge-bashing is endemic to that particular road but more to that particular judge.

    11:30 pm

    Saturday, October 06, 2007  
    Just got back from my walk to Jounieh.
    The slippery roads (‘’black ice’’ as the taxi driver so aptly called them) after the first rains of the season and a high security presence made it a particularly long walk.
    The army were out in force ahead of this afternoon’s parade at Jounieh stadium commemorating the army martyrs from the Nahr el Bared conflict and I must have been stopped by every solider in Lebanon.
    It was more like inspecting the troops than taking a walk.
    My beard makes me look like a Syrian worker or an Islamist terrorist (none of them too popular in Lebanon at the moment).
    Once they established my bona fides they were pretty friendly and professional - as the Lebanese army are – with one of them even asking me to stop for a cup of tea.
    Eli did not accompany me on this walk – fear of slippery roads was today’s excuse.
    His excuses vary from fear of puppy dogs to fear of the security situation to fear of slippery roads* (even when it’s not raining!).
    He’s doing well for a twenty year old – most people don’t establish such a comprehensive list of phobias until they’re at least twice that age.

    I was coughing earlier on in the evening, so Eli said the usual Lebanese pleasantries for such a situation (Lebanese have pleasantries for every situation under the sun).
    I interrupted my choking to rattle off the pleasantries that one usually replies with to that.
    When I recovered, I told him that the last thing that somebody choking wants to do or can do is to exchange pleasantries.
    But I suppose it distracts you from it.
    The Lebanese bereavement ritual, whether by design or coincidence, does exactly that – the afflicted are distracted by days of process (mainly receiving condolences) that they can be forgiven for forgetting the actual bereavement.

    *UPDATE At least they’re better excuses than the one he gave me the other day about not being able to go for a walk with me because he didn’t have ''a can of deodorant spray for dogs''.
    It’s not that he wanted this to deodorise any dogs we encountered so they would smell nice and fresh and not be sweaty when they attacked us (I have this mental image of Eli lifting up each of the snarling dog's legs and spraying underneath them) but he wanted to use it as a flame thrower to fend off said dogs.
    I didn’t think he was entirely serious until now, 8.45pm on Saturday 13th October 2007, when he appears with a can of deodorant called ‘’Hector for Man’’ (sic) made in Turkey which he bought for all of 2000 lira.

    3:30 am

    Wednesday, October 03, 2007  
    Just got back from a walk to Jounieh with Eli.
    The driver of the taxi we caught back home was a retard – surprise, surprise.
    I didn’t have anything smaller than a fifty thousand lira note and he claimed not to have any change so I told him that we should get some change in Jounieh but he insisted that there must be a petrol station en route up here where we could get some change.
    Spent half the drive trying to convince him that there wasn’t and the other half was self explanatory – a petrol station wasn’t going to appear out of thin air.
    I asked him where he was from and he replied that he was from Akkar (extreme north).
    I told him that we were from here so we knew where the petrol stations were here and that when we went to Akkar he could tell us where the petrol stations in Akkar were but, in the meantime, he should kindly permit us to tell him where the petrol stations were here.
    After he was finally convinced that there were no petrol stations up here, he observed that it was a ‘’miracle’’ that there wasn’t.
    ‘’Miracle’’ in this colloquial context means something very rare and very strange.
    I agreed and, playing on words, told him that he should go light a candle (which is what Lebanese Christians usually do when a religious miracle occurs) even though he was clearly Muslim.
    When we got up here he tried to pull the oldest trick in the book – the old dollars-not-liras switcheroo.
    When we first engaged him in Jounieh, he said that he wanted 15,000 lira (10 USD) but I insisted that I never pay more than 10,000 lira, but when we got up here he said that I had agreed on ten dollars rather than 10, 000 lira which was patent nonsense because I clearly said 10,000 lira, besides, why would I refuse to pay 15,000 lira yet agree to pay it’s equivalent in dollars?
    I stood my ground and insisted that he give me 40,000 lira change instead of the 35,000 lira he tried to stiff me with (I don’t know where the change ‘’miraculously’’ appeared from but it certainly wasn’t from a petrol station because, as I may have mentioned before, there are no petrol stations up here although apparently they’re all over the place in Akkar).
    He grudgingly conceded after a short stand-off.
    That done, Eli and I got out and I told the taxi driver that he should consider himself lucky that I didn’t sic the cops guarding the building onto him.
    He swore at me as he drove off, I returned the favour and we exchanged further pleasantries.
    The secret to a long stress-free life is to avoid Lebanese taxi drivers and internet chat rooms.
    During our walk down I was telling Eli about how some Crimean bitch* in a chat room called me an ‘’idiot guy’’ because I thought that Crimea was in Russia whereas apparently it used to be a part of Russia but became an autonomous republic of Ukraine after the break-up of the Soviet Union.
    This parochial bitch obviously thinks that her little rump republic is the centre of the world and that people who can’t place it correctly are stupid.
    Eli agreed and said ‘’it’s not it’s like Florida, the headquarters of the United Nations’’.
    I told him that the United Nations was based in New York.
    ‘’So what’s in Florida? Oh, that’s right – Disneyland’s in Florida!’’
    Although he does have Ali G moments like that Eli is usually quite switched on.
    In Jounieh he pointed out the oddest road sign you’ll ever see – in a circle with a vertical line through it was written ‘’no parking’’ (in Arabic).
    Eli observed that ''no parking'' was crossed out so you can park there and said it was like writing ‘’no parking…NOT!’’
    That sign is basically saying that you’re not allowed to not park there so you have to park there a la those no smoking signs that have a cigarette with a line through it – meaning that you are not allowed to do what is crossed out there.

    *Eli reckons that the best way to determine whether someone is retarded or not is to give them a computer and an internet connection.

    3:40 am

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