What do you think?

Beirut Art Center, “Sexy Semites” ad in the Village Voice. It’s the next best thing since sliced flying pigs.

Arabic slips out occasionally, and sometimes the words are mine.

The sun is out and I am too. I’m squinting and smiling and admiring your crow’s feet. “Some kind of light is coming from her head.”

I’m still pissed off about Roman Polanski. And Arizona deserves to sleep on the couch.

Conversations at Cafe Younes, I will miss those. Starting to think about the things I’ll miss.

Went to Tripoli today.  Took a bus from Beirut for a dollar, driving along the water the entire way and thinking “If I lived here…” I was eating knafe two hours later. Passed the big mosque and a creepy garden next door. Reminded me that if I ever get married, it will be at the Enchanted Garden Chapel. Why do women still marry men?

I’ve been walking far and my feet are flatter than ever.

Language keeps on getting in the way, trouble conjugating verbs and people.

Walking along Nahr Ibrahim, in the mountains. The water was cold and my jeans are still damp. My lungs needed that hike.

3anjad my lungs can hike!


Check it out!  Today was the Laique Pride March from Ain El Mraisse to the Parliament.

Read about it –>


We are Lebanese citizens seeking to live in dignity, exercise our rights and duties with equality when dealing with co-citizens.

Empowered by rights, public and private liberties granted to us by the Lebanese Constitution, we demand:
– non intervention of religious institutions in state affairs as much as the non intervention of the state in citizens’ freedom of worship;
– independence of people’s representatives from any allegiance to religious leaders and the sectarian system;
– laws respecting human rights and absolute equality between women and men;
– a Lebanese civil code for personal status;
– reinforcement of public education to promote citizenship values among coming generations;
– securing equal opportunities in employment in the public sector based on qualifications rather than religion, race or gender;
– an independent judiciary in charge of protecting citizens’ rights in an attempt to circumvent the unhealthy predominant social habit of resorting to the power of kin-groups for backing.

On 25 April 2010, we will march for the first time for a ‘Secular Lebanon’. Let us prove our force on the ground and give a face to our demands.

During the march, the only flag raised will be the Lebanese flag.”

——–> BBC <———-
————–> CNN <—————-
———-> Nadine Moawad<———–
————-> Lebanese Laique Pride Blog <————

Last Sunday the laundry machine emptied across the entire apartment, soaking every little thing sitting on the floor from my used tissues to my notebook to the shoes on my feet. Ulric, Rikke and I were seeking refuge from the parading rainstorm outside, when we opened the front door to some sort of Salvador Dali painting. We saw the floor rippling against misplaced floating and sinking objects and stood in water reaching for our ankles. The apartment was full of water and my mouth was full of obscenities.  We found buckets and poured water into the tub, over the balcony, down the drains.  It took a few hours to clear, but once the sun had set, we lit some candles and gathered over a chicken and chocolate supper. Our spirits and valuables all in tact, we got rid of the water before it could really damage anything. We feasted.

Since the flood, I’ve been a bit tired and weird. Last night I dreamt that Iran bordered Lebanon.  In my dream a bunch of faceless friends and I hopped on a car and over a fence into some town in Iran.  It was at night and apparently during the middle ages (I might be able to harness my North American biases while awake, but what to do about my subconscious?!) We ended up in a little lingerie shop, circa 2010, staring at a rack of underwear for sale.

What is this?  A DREAM BLOG?!  Hell no… on to serious matters.

Orientalism and Terrorism:

We had to read an article Thomas Friedman wrote for the NYT in 2006. Before I share the class response, here are some highlights:

“Mideast Rules to Live By”

Rule 8 → “Civil wars in the Arab world are rarely about ideas- like liberalism vs. communism.  They are about which tribe gets to rule. So, yes, Iraq is having a civil war as we once did.  But there is no Abe Lincoln in this war.  It’s South vs. South.”

Rule 9 → “In Middle East tribal politics there is rarely a happy medium. When one side is weak, it will tell you, “I’m weak, how can I compromise?”  And when it’s strong, it will tell you, “I’m strong, why should I compromise?”

Rule 11 → “Our first priority is democracy, but the Arabs’ first priority is ‘justice.”

Pfff, justice.

My professor’s reason for sharing the article –> Friedman is delegating so-called truths about Arabs to their nature instead of the circumstances that surround them. This article is part of a larger discourse on the “East,” one that Edward Said critiques in Orientalism (which we are reading). It’s a discourse that is repeated about many marginalized groups (i.e. women → sexism and patriarchy). The professor wants to know –> Why does this discourse get produced and then reproduced? One answer- it works in favor of the dominant group to use tools of oppression, there is a purpose to actively disempowering groups of people, it’s profitable.

Most of the students felt the article was offensive, some thought it was malicious and a select few thought it was, at least partly, true. My professor made the point that there might be a few grains of “truth,” but that one should not make such claims about an entire population. This is also one of Edward Said’s points. The article isn’t universally true or untrue… THERE IS NO DAMN TRUTH! What? That’s what he said…

Thomas Friedman on Middle East = Christopher Hitchens on Women–> irresponsible. TAKE THAT, THOMAS! You and I need to have a meeting…

Speaking of Christopher Hitchens, I was at a bar last night. Over the past two weeks, this has often been the case.  I’ve been meeting a whole bunch of people and having great conversations, mixed with spirited dancing fits. I really like to dance. Especially at this place called Behind the Green Door.  A few nights ago they served up some fantastic music straight out of 1987.  My friends and I are smart dancers, you know. And yes, I have made friends!  You can look at some of them (I posted pictures, look to the right).

And hey!  On Monday there’s the International Women’s Day March in Beirut!  Nasawiya has been getting ready for the past month. In preparation for Women’s Day a bunch of us put together a video.  Last Friday we were editing until 3am.  The video didn’t turn out like we thought it would, but we had fun even so.  After finishing we drove an hour out of the city to drop off one of the members, driving along the Mediterranean, past billboards and checkpoints.  On the way back to Beirut we picked up food (twice).  We listened to Tracy Chapman the entire way and she reminded me of home. Which brings me to this –>

I’ve been thinking a lot about what the hell I’m studying.  I’ve got to start making a film here, and I’ve also got to start planning my division III (senior thesis).  Miscellaneous thoughts have been filling up my notepads and book margins. One of the points that has stuck with me over the past few days comes from Orientalism. Said quotes Antonio Gramsci, “The starting-point of critical elaboration is the consciousness of what one really is, and is ‘knowing thyself’ as a product of the historical process to date, which has deposited in you an infinity of traces, without leaving an inventory… therefore it is imperative at the outset to compile such an inventory” (25). Hey, that’s what I’m doing! I’m collecting an inventory, relearning a history, rethinking the discourse I’ve been raised within and considering the relationship between myself and the environment I’ve adopted for the time being.

So, this is what I’m doing in Beirut –> collecting traces.

A seafood restaurant I want to try.

Since it’s just the first week, there’s not much to report about the class material so far. But here’s a taste of what’s to come for the rest of the semester.

WARNING: Some of my notes have nothing to do with class.

Contemporary Issues in Arab Cultures and Societies (audit):
(The professor of this course, Mayssun Succarie, has a reputation for being very good at her job.  And I wanted to take a sociology class.)

Names of the region (post/colonial creations)
Middle east (1902, U.S. general)
MENA region
Fertile crescent
Arab world/nation
Islamic world-> after 911, Huntington’s “clash of civilizations”
Eastern Mediterranean
Near east

Why so many names? Shifting roles of Arab countries, oil, Israel as a colonial state, economics.

Post WWII -> power shifts from Brits to U.S., “Middle East” started to be used more as a term.  Rise of Arab nationalism.  Term “Arab World” started to be used in 1980s by Arabs themselves, until peace process in the ‘90s. U.S. began using “Middle East” instead of “Arab World” to be more inclusive of Israel.

Term “Middle East,” according to some in the class, is too inclusive of Israel -> “Moral obligation to refuse it [ term ‘Middle East’] until issues of occupation are resolved.”

Power Relations -> the geology of saving. Tribalism is the most often studied subject (from the west) of Arab world, although only 1% of the population actually live as Bedouins.

Shatila Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon -> over-researched by academics and organizations, drains the population.

Film as Text (audit):

(I decided to take a class taught by a professor that had shared some wicked poems during the reading two weeks ago. His name is Michael James Denison and he is from Pittsburgh.)


I need to go to the fruit stand today and get a smoothie (chunks of pineapple, syrup and a fruit called achtar).

“I suppose it’s my fault, I suppose when I married you I thought you were Gregory Peck.” (Denison’s wife during their divorce.)

I ran into an American kid from the Rotary club on Bliss Street.  He looked like John Edwards and when I left he shook my hand and said, “You have a good night now.”

“Middle East” in relation to London.

“Things were very boring in 1850.” Denison’s tie is askew.

Speculative film -> utopia/dystopia -> ideas vs. sci-fi (isn’t most sci-fi speculative?)

Must watch the 1970’s Solaris

Neuroscience and the moving image -> audience put under hypnosis…but not all film is passive!

“Lebanese like action!” (kid in class)
“It’s like how people here love shooting in the air and fire, as if we don’t have enough explosions!” (Denison)

Plato’s cave = film/screen
“Plato likens people untutored in the Theory of Forms to prisoners chained in a cave, unable to turn their heads. All they can see is the wall of the cave.  Behind them burns a fire. Between the fire and the prisoners there is a parapet, along which puppeteers can walk. The puppeteers, who are behind the prisoners, hold up puppets that cast shadows on the wall of the cave.  The prisoners are unable to see these puppets, the real objects, that pass behind them.  What the prisoners see and hear are shadows and echoes cast by objects that they do not see… such prisoners would mistake appearance for reality.  They would think the things they see on the wall (the shadows) were real; they would know nothing of the real causes of the shadows.”

Allegory of the cave equal to Joan Braderman’s (film prof from hamp) suggestion that the screen is “a big tit for the audience to suck.”  I’m wondering if Denison’s connection between Plato’s cave and narrative film can also be made with general news media. It follows a (fragmented) narrative, but is the audience still passive?  Depends who is watching what.  I’m active while watching Fox News.

“I hope one day you will read my book Vampirism: Literary Tropes of Decadence and Entropy.” (Denison)

“And of course, the other first films were of naked women. They were very interested in seeing people dancing naked and running naked… But what are you going to do about humanity?”

Arbitrary and intricate at the same time. (Can’t remember what this was in reference to, you decide.)

Orientalism and Terrorism:
(Bassam Haddad
“This class examines the connections between the classical and neo-classical discourse of Orientalism (study of the “orient”) and the contemporary discourse of terrorism as they relate to the Middle East… Understanding the relationship between “power” and “knowledge,” between construction(s) of the “self” and perceptions of the “other,” are corollary objectives of the course. The question(s) that guide the normative thrust of this course revolve around the conditions of possibility of discourses where the unproductive/destructive dimensions of power are either restrained or reduced… Practically speaking, in the realm of policy, discourses are often used to justify a given action and/or status quo. In turn, action and further action shape the development of a given discourse. One avenue for understanding this dialectic is to examine the relationship between power and knowledge and the instances where perceptions of “particularist interest” and “universal values” are conflated, deliberately or inadvertently.”)

Arab Studies Journal

911 (for Americans) = colonialism (for Arabs)
in feeling, not reality.

War on Terror -> Overseas Contingency Operations
Regardless of the new name, how has the war changed and stayed the same?

Lebanese Arabic
(My class notes might not be so interesting so here are some fun Arabic phrases…)

Kan ya makan- Once upon a time…

Tajara hul albee- It breaks my heart.

Ente/a metzawej/e?- Are you married?

Gregory Peck, lookin' smart.