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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

    Thursday, January 31, 2008  
    Just got back from my walk to Jounieh.
    Lebanon has been enduring a patch of particularly cold and stormy weather but the show must go on so it was business as usual with my walks*.
    Not business as usual for the taxi drivers though, one shark wanted to charge me fifteen thousand lira because ‘’it’s snowing up there’’.
    I told him that I had just walked down from ‘’there’’ and he smiled at me as if to say ‘’respec’’.
    The second taxi driver I flagged down (who I eventually agreed with) asked me what the roads were like up there.
    I replied that I’d just walked down (my stock answer this evening) i.e. if I can walk down those roads then you can surely drive up them.
    The roads weren’t too bad because even though it was snowing** lightly it was raining too so the snow was being washed away although the roads were covered with snow for a while in the late afternoon.

    *I didn’t go for walk yesterday because it was particularly stormy as opposed to today where it’s settled down and is just cold.
    Walking in fifty kilometres per hour winds is counterproductive.
    Even my rain suit wouldn’t do in that sort of weather – I’d need a suit of armour for that.
    **The Eskimos might have two hundred words for snow but I’m a sand nigger so I only have one word for it.
    Although it wasn’t the kind of snow that you’d get in Alaska, it was still snow albeit light snow (quite rare so close to the coast).

    12:30 am

    Sunday, January 27, 2008  
    Just got back from my walk to Jounieh.
    Although taxi drivers are the bane of my existence, I’m usually quite patient with them, as I'm patient with other retards, but today I lost my patience a bit.
    First of all, I waited half an hour at the bottom of the mountain where I usually catch a taxi during the day and early evening.
    None of the regulars were there so I had to put up with other passing taxi drivers.
    There it struck me that there are no more taxi drivers in this country, they’re all ‘’gentlemen’’ (or at least they think they’re gentlemen).
    They demand obscene prices and treat you as if you’re begging off them.
    That is until you agree to their exorbitant price, then they’ll treat you like a king.
    I saw one taxi driver who ‘’rejected’’ me (on price) stop at a shop and fetch a drink for his plebeian passenger who was sitting in the front passenger seat eating a sandwich bigger than he was.
    I finally had enough of that and walked down to the Jounieh square.
    I approached a taxi driver who was parked there and told him my destination.
    The usual ‘’how much do you usually pay, how much will you pay?’’ etc questions ensued.
    I never answer those questions because they should state their price and then I, as the customer, can accept or reject it.
    I told him that but he kept on carrying-on so I finally told him a price that was half what I usually pay.
    He rejected my opening gambit and doubled it to the price that I usually pay.
    I told him that that was what I usually paid but that I wasn’t going to go with him but was going to find another taxi and pay that exact same price because he had quizzed me for half an hour like I was a contestant on some bloody television game show.
    So I went into a nearby fast food place where I usually enquire about a taxi and they phone one of my regulars or one of the ‘’civilian’’ plebes there will drive me up.
    One such ‘’civilian’’ plebe who'd driven me before just sat there smiling like a retard repeating ‘’so you want to go up then?’’.
    I replied that yes I did and he just kept on smiling like a retard.
    So I had enough of that and stormed out.
    I flagged down another taxi who then launched into the ‘’how much do you usually pay, how much will you pay?’' rigmarole before I cut him short and told him to state his price which he finally managed to do (wow- wonders will never cease!).
    Of course it was too much so I stated my price and he agreed.
    When I got in he told me that he’d previously taken me up so I asked him why we had to go through all the negotiations and carrying-on then?
    It’s not the first time I’ve had to start from scratch with a taxi driver I’ve already had the pleasure of doing business with.
    I finally got home and had a smoke (although I usually don’t so soon after my walk) but I didn’t need to – I was already ‘’smoking’’.

    Lebanese public transport unions keep threatening to go on strike (which they finally did last Thursday although I didn’t have any problems getting a service to and from Beirut) and I wish they would because that would give us all a much needed break and at least it would sort out the reasonable ones from the rip-off merchants and leave the one’s who wanted to do an honest trade to do the job (as happened last week).
    As far as I’m concerned they have nothing to complain about – the conditions they’re carrying-on about (rising petrol prices, the cost of living etc) affect the rest of the population just as much.

    9:15 pm

    Thursday, January 17, 2008  
    It’s been almost two months since the last president of Lebanon ended his term.
    There have been twelve unsuccessful attempts by parliament to elect a successor to Emile Lahoud who vacated the presidential palace at midnight on Friday 23rd November 2007.
    Just like the Nepalese parliament recently voted to abolish the monarchy, it appears that the Lebanese parliament has indirectly ‘’voted’’ to abolish the presidency by not voting to elect a president.
    The entire international community has been harassing us to elect a president for months (Lebanon is the ‘’biggest’’ small country in the world), most recently harassing the opposition to accept a constitutional amendment to allow the current army chief to become president.
    The United States and its lackey the United Nations obviously sees no irony in making the Lebanese parliament amend their constitution through foreign (Western) pressure after they boycotted Emile Lahoud for three years because his term was extended by a constitutional amendment allegedly imposed by foreign (Syrian) pressure.
    Despite being on ‘‘iggy’’ for three years, President Lahoud left office with his head held high and was defiant to the very end.
    If anyone can sing ‘’My Way’’ at a karaoke bar it is Emile Lahoud, who a supporter claimed was more powerful than Adolf Hitler because he, unlike Hitler, managed to prevail against the whole world.
    Although we haven’t had a president for two months, the executive branch of government has not been idle would that it was.
    Prime Minister Siniora’s cabinet has been acting as the executive branch in a so-called caretaker capacity since.
    Pretty busy caretakers I would say.
    Last I heard, they had signed some seven hundred bills that President Lahoud had refused to sign because he did not recognize their government as being legitimate after all the Shiite Ministers (and one Orthodox thrown in for good luck) resigned in November 2006.
    I’d hate so see what they’d do if they weren’t acting in a caretaker capacity.
    At least half the Lebanese couldn’t wait to see the back of Prime Minister Siniora and now they’re stuck with him as prime minister and president too.
    Siniora says that he can’t resign now because there is no president for him to tender his resignation to (as required by the constitution) yet he is the effective president and is usurping the role of the president with such gusto.
    Why doesn’t he just pass his resignation from his left hand to his right hand (or vice versa)?
    I’m not constitutional lawyer but I reckon that that ought to do it.
    Lebanon is the land of irony and the land of ironic firsts.
    The Lebanese government is the only government I know of in history to blame the opposition for the countries problems.
    This is despite their having been in power since July 2005 or should I say in power in this incarnation since July 2005 because Rafic Hariri, whose son Saad is now parliamentary majority leader, was prime minister for most of the post-war era and Foaud Siniora was his finance minister.

    Meanwhile, it’s been a cold yet relatively dry winter.
    Annual rainfall to date is two hundred millimetres as compared to three hundred millimetres at the same time last year.
    Which gets me to worrying about possible ‘’drought’’.
    Water supplies here are dodgy at the best of times even during floods (water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink) so one can only imagine what they’d be like during a drought.
    The private water sector isn’t much better.
    The tank jockey who fills up our water tanks at an exorbitant rate when we’re out of mains water apparently won’t come if it’s raining but waits for it to stop raining.
    Water is his job!
    If I can go for a walk in the rain in a waterproof suit than surely he can get one too and do his job.

    8:30 am

    Friday, January 04, 2008  
    Applying a Band-Aid to a microscopic scrape on my hand I got to wondering whether black people wear black Band-Aids.
    I’m not being racist (some of my best friends are Band-Aids) but the Band-Aids that white people wear are the colour of their skin so it stands to reason that black people should wear black Band-Aids that match the colour of their skin.
    White Band-aids on a black person must stick out like a…sore thumb.
    I’ll google it and if I find that they don’t exist, I’m going to make my first million manufacturing black Band-Aids.
    I’m not joking (it’s not like Ali G’s ice cream glove), this will be two-in-one – healing the wounds of the body while, at the same time, healing the wounds of the soul.

    8:00 pm

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