Sunday, November 23, 2008

Expired Candy

This was written almost 18 months ago. I no longer feel like the person who wrote it but am posting it now, with minor editing, to keep a promise to the one I love:

I'm often left stunned at my tendency to knowingly make the wrong decision.
I'm not referring to a certain adherence to a moral code or a cosmological order, merely that decision which I personally render right or wrong for myself. Thus it is that through whatever mad confluence of mental emotional and spiritual factors I reach a certain decision, believe that it is good, then willingly do the complete opposite. It almost feels like a conscious decision to negate my very self, my very being. The melodrama is not lost on me but while some decisions may be all too trivial to think twice about, some are crucial tests of character that pose potential for growth and enhanced insight.

I find myself at times craving complete detachment from my circumstances in a way not unlike the depressive days of yonder. I wonder whether I am merely a product of my own ego and its machinations or if I can rise above myself to see beyond the horizon.

I suppose in a manner I enjoy considering my options, or rather, I like to keep my options open; line them up and ponder their pleasure potential. When I was a kid I used to buy all sorts of jelly candy, adorn the table with them then pop one after the other savoring each slowly, running my tongue over it, rolling it around until its juice is sapped, only then would I bite down to devour it; the yellow then the red then the green then the purple, etc.

I guess what I'm saying is I wish life was more like candy.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Three Floors Up

She grunts, snorts, heaves and lifts a mammoth left,
Rests a swollen right, a bit, to breathe
She mutters, "Ya Rab"
and wipes the sweat from off the forehead,
hair, tattered, red, curls, cling,
Sting, the face,
Feels like a brick.
She pants, a child runs past
A single giggle cracks, entwines,
With baby breath and orange peel,
She smiles, Collects and picks herself,
Exhales, her tongue and lips connect
"Come on now, only six more steps..."

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Deflating trapped air...

I often wonder what the difference is between people who write "haha" and those who use LOL. Though emoticons provide an ample array of graphic representations for various emotional states of being, initialisms in internet slang like RFL (rolling on floor laughing), LOL (in capital letters for emphasis) and haha are the most common performative utterances used to describe states of jubilation. Personally I find the locution "haha" to be ineffective and rather "testicular" to use a favored Egyptian expression. I only use "haha" when the desired effect is sarcasm, and even then I make sure to add a third ha as I find two has alone to be too weak to transmit a sufficient degree of denigration. In expressing spontaneous rapture I consider LOL to be most effective and more genuine in that it informs the interlocutor of the subject's state rather than merely describe it through onomatopoeia.
I must confess that I sometimes use "hehe" to impress a sneaky-coy temperament (note that in this case two hes are sufficient), this is because the e in the hehe transmits a softer less imposing sound.

Anyway, haha sounds more like the braying of a donkey than the laughter of a human being.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Referendum Blues

Maria Golia's latest...

Egypt’s ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) should be congratulated for its expeditious handling of the March 26th referendum. Well-scripted, timed, and executed, it also fulfilled the public’s expectations. Everyone knew the yes-no vote would favor the institution of 34 constitutional amendments drafted by the state. They knew it so well that only an estimated ten percent of registered voters, the bulk of which are, in all probability, employed either by the state or NDP backers, bothered going to the polls.

While the usual accusations of fraud have been leveled, they are as empty as the voting boxes. Since the opposition, including the Muslim Brothers, encouraged their constituencies to boycott the polls, they have little grounds for calling foul. Had they participated, they might have more legitimately contested the results.
Granted, the state ensured that there was no time to rally. Yet, if notoriously bungling administrators could mobilize a nationwide election in a few weeks, the Muslim Brothers, feared by the regime for their widespread popularity, could surely have gotten the word around. It may be that in the current depressed atmosphere, even the Brothers figured they would make at best, a poor showing. Then too, there is the justifiable fear of arrest for challenging the state.

Another opportunity has meanwhile been lost. Most Egyptians say, with a rueful laugh, that their opinion doesn’t matter, that the outcome would have anyway been fixed, that they are too busy trying to put food on the table to take time out for futile exercises. Nevertheless, the government has afforded them a valuable lesson in democracy, Egyptian-style, i.e. you had your chance, such as it was, to say ‘no’ and you blew it. So don’t come crying to us.

On the eve of the referendum, another of the ruling party’s tutoring sessions took place as a few dozen protestors tried to assemble and march the two blocks between Tahrir and Talaat Harb Squares. Along the way they were harassed and several were arrested. Those that made it to Talaat Harb were outnumbered twenty to one, surrounded and pressed against the mirrored windows of the Air France office on the square.
There is a very tall, sad-faced, plainclothes cop who oversees these gatherings. When politely but fervently requested to let the few demonstrators, including women and journalists, out of the tortuously packed circle, he gestured with one hand: wait. When asked again, ten minutes later (while women bleated, ‘let us out’, and someone struck up the ‘down with Hosni Mubarak’ chant before either losing or being deprived of his breath), the tall man motioned calmly again to wait.

It became clear that the police were training these young people, these very few brave ones, accustoming them to the idea that they are vastly outnumbered, showing them how being roughed up, much less going to jail, is not fun and probably not worth it. Yes, there were slaps, kicks and punches thrown in the melee, but the prevailing police tactic in these situations consists of encircling protestors and tightening the circle, piling people on top of one another, suffocating them, exemplifying the notion that there is no space for them in Egypt, no air for them to breathe unless they tow the line.

It is likely that the tall sad-faced man felt he was going easy on the protestors; he had all the air of a disappointed father. Likewise, when President Mubarak defends the constitutional amendments, saying ‘the security and stability of Egypt and the safety of its citizens are a red line which I have not allowed and will not allow anyone to cross’, he no doubt speaks what he considers a beneficent truth. Egypt has in fact remained admirably quiet despite economic hardship and regional turmoil; you might even say dead quiet.
The ruling party, which sees itself as Egypt’s benefactor, cannot grasp that by denying civil rights it has condemned people to lives of painfully slow attrition, where each day brings fresh loss, of possibilities and self-esteem. In precisely the same way, America’s Bush regime, blinded by wealth and privilege, serves but a few in the name of democracy.

When Condoleezza Rice offered her pallid criticism of Egypt’s constitutional referendum, Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit retorted, ‘Only the Egyptian people have the right to say their views…[this] is our country’. But whose country was he referring to, if not the ruling party’s? Which views can be fully expressed, if not theirs?

The first article of Egypt’s new constitution now reads that ‘the Arab Republic of Egypt adopts a democratic system based on citizenship.’ But what does it mean to be a citizen, what are the rights and responsibilities attached to that title, aside from obedience and mediocrity?

Several articles of the constitution related to personal freedoms have been overridden by article 179, which is meant to replace the Emergency Law, and grants the executive branch a free hand in dealing with whoever it perceives as terrorists. These articles (41,44,45), demanding warrants for arrests and surveillance, were added to the constitution under Sadat, an era known, ironically, for its tapped phones and opened mail. The constitution is hardly sacred writ in Egypt, where actions speak louder than words. Indeed, the new amendments merely formalize existing conditions.

Similarly, while much opposition to the constitutional amendments centered on the notion that they facilitate Gamal Mubarak’s succession, it hardly matters. Whoever Egypt’s next president happens to be, he will be cast in a familiar authoritarian mould. Unless the space for alternative leadership is not only opened but creatively encouraged, it will not magically appear, and the NDP is presently incapable of rising to such a challenge.

One of Cairo’s polling stations is located in an old villa that has been used as a school since the Officer’s Revolution, a splendid building with graceful proportions. Traces of fine Egyptian craftsmanship are still evident in the woodwork, tiling and stained glass, despite a half-century’s accumulated grime and general gratuitous decay. When asked to whom the villa once belonged, the NDP apparatchik-in-charge, perhaps embarrassed that he did not know, said sorry, but he had strict instructions not to answer any questions. ‘What matters’, he said with a hint of menace, ‘is that now it is a school’.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007


Visit the Center for Socialist Studies to sign the petition.

بيان تضامني
ندين هجمة السلطة على قوى المعارضة ونرفض المحاكمات العسكرية
الموقعون على هذا البيان، على اختلاف مشاربهم السياسية ومواقفهم الفكرية وانتماءاتهم الحزبية، يعلنون رفضهم القاطع لقرار النظام الحاكم إحالة عشرات من الأعضاء القياديين في جماعة الإخوان المسلمين إلى المحاكم العسكرية وحرمانهم من المثول أمام قاضيهم الطبيعي، ويعلنون تضامنهم التام مع المحالين ومع المعارض الليبرالي أيمن نور الذي يعاني الحصار والحرمان من الحقوق القانونية في محبسه، وذلك بغض النظر عن أي اختلافات فكرية سياسية أو فكرية مع كل منهما. ويرى الموقعون أن قرارات الإحالة للمحاكم العسكرية والحصار الذي يخضع له نور، وغيرهما من الظواهر والتطورات، كلها تشير إلى إصرار السلطة على مواصلة نهجها الاستبدادي القائم على قمع الحريات وتزييف إرادة الشعب وحصار القوى المعارضة الحقيقية. من هنا يعلن الموقعون إدراكهم الكامل لمدى خطورة الإجراءات الحكومية الراهنة، حيث أنها تعكس عزم الحكام وحوارييهم على تأبيد سلطتهم وتعزيز مواقعهم، وإصرارهم على مواصلة نهجهم الديكتاتوري. إن المسئولية السياسية تدعو كل الموقعين إلى اعتبار الهجمة على الغد والإخوان هجمة عليهم جميعا ينبغي، بغض النظر عن الاختلافات السياسية، التضامن ضدها بكل الأشكال والوسائل السلمية. متضامنون معا ضد هجمة السلطة على المعارضينمتضامنون معا ضد إحالة المدنيين إلى المحاكم العسكرية

Monday, March 19, 2007

I feel the earth move under my feet

I've been deliberately avoiding writing for a while . I needed distance...from psychotic as that may sound. I think I want to try and write again now.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Hakuna Matata

Seems some doubt has been cast on my being the proprietor of the cuddly giraffe picture below, so to dispel the rumors, here are a few more pics I took in Nairobi.
Yes gentlemen I can take pictures.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Karibu Kenya

A morning cuddle...

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Loosy Goosy

I tried to let this slide but I can't...

About 3 years ago, I believe after breaking up with Mad N (who is now incidentally married and with child) I ran into R at the Heliopolis club. This was during my healthy jogger phase so we kept running into each other, no pun intended, completely coincidentally, which was nice. We knew each other from school but had never really developed any real friendship despite the fact that she briefly dated a very good friend of mine (who later broke her heart and who is now incidentally married and a father). She was energetic, quirky, smart, funny, in short I began developing an interest in her. After the second or third week it became obvious I liked her and I decided to invite her out for coffee, (and dessert , always dessert), to test the waters.

It was disastrous. I had just about as much charm as a cup of Cole slaw; I was nervous, sweaty, anxious, my timing was all screwed up, everything about the night was off. To make things worse, R, who apparently was still quite scorched from her previous experience, decided to shoot down all hope by bringing up the ever morbid topic of marriage. She didn't have time for any advances she said, especially those made by gits I thought. We spoke a little about relationships in general and the conversation dwindled into the usual flaccid statements people make when things get awkward. She knew exactly what my intentions were and she made it quite clear she wasn't interested. Ok, got it, thank you very much, moving on. And I did, but obviously not before trying to reach her a few more times just to make sure that I embarrassed myself adequately enough.

Fast forward two years, Jester receives a phone call in the early hours of the night, the voice sounds vaguely familiar, she jokes and giggles refusing to let on, he finally comes to, "Yekhreb beitek elhlly fakkarek beyya"!

They talk for a half hour, her questions are precise invoking details she'd apparently retained for two years. He's flattered and asks to see her. They decide to meet the following Friday. They go for a walk, he guides her through his favorite Heliopolis side streets pointing out favorite buildings, trees, and "quaint pockets of beauty amongst the rubble". They talk about African music, she dreams of Mali, he perspires as he recounts his trips to Dakar, Cape Town, Accra and Stone Town, obviously trying to impress her. It's almost romantic.

She tells him she's leaving again to continue her doctorate, shame she didn't call earlier, he thinks. He tries to see her again, sending seemingly casual messages inquiring whether she has time to sneak away from family obligations. Her response is curt, brusque, almost impatient "Brother and wife coming to visit...", no harm in being flexible he thinks "I'm free later... let me know...", "Very busy, will ring you". She doesn't.

She does manage a farewell message before she flies out, Jester feels a little redeemed, a little disappointed.

There's a dream sequence in the Hulk where the Hulk and Bruce Banner stare at each other through a mirror and suddenly the Green Behemoth punches through it, shards of glass flying, he grabs a terrified Bruce by the neck and with loathing exclaims "Puny human!".

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Petition for Academic Freedom

On December 14, the Egyptian State Security Police conducted mass arrests of students and faculty members associated with the Muslim Brothers organization at al-Azhar University in Cairo. Reports about the number of those arrested vary between 140 and 180 people. Under the current emergency laws, those arrested could be detained indefinitely. It is common knowledge that the State Security Police often use torture in their investigation of political detainees. The arrests were made in the wake of a demonstration organized at al-Azhar University on December 10 in which the demonstrators wore headbands that resemble those worn by members of the Palestinian and Lebanese Islamic resistance and demonstrated their skills at Karate and Kung Fu. The government press has presented the demonstration as a militant and violent act and has called thestudents “al-Azhar militias.” Not a single act of violence has been proven against the students and the disputed government claims revolve only around minor property damage. The demonstration was part of a larger series of protests by Egyptian university students on many campuses, including the two largest, Cairo and Ein Shams. These protests, which have included other demonstrations, strikes, sit-ins, and petitions, are directed against the persecution and harassment of active students and faculty members critical of the current regime, and their exclusionfrom student unions and university faculty and administrative committees. Such persecution continues to be carried out by security personnel on and off campus. We, the undersigned students and faculty, express our solidarity with the detainees and affirm our belief that university studentsand faculty are entitled to freedom of expression, regardless of their political views. We demand the immediate release of the detained Egyptian students and faculty of al-Azhar and other Egyptian universities and the exclusive use of due legal processesin their prosecution should it be proven that they have been involved in illegal or unconstitutional activities.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

I hung out at the Greek Club tonight after attending Amal Kenawy’s opening at Karim Francis gallery. If you don’t know her work you should check it out; nightmarish, emotionally disturbing and very sensual. Despite its mercurial quality and deeply personal symbolism, her art isn’t complicated. It isn’t a rational process that her work invokes but rather a guttural intuitive connection that leaves you jaded, as though falling in a dream you suddenly awake before hitting the floor. Or perhaps I’m just a dumbass and I don’t know what I’m talking about, either way, this isn’t the purpose of this post.

I was hanging out with some friends, chunking on a Greek salad and sipping on an insipid glass of lemon juice when lo and behold a blue eyed beauty with chestnut colored hair and a shy wandering gaze waded in with HL.

HL is adorable, I love her, but I didn’t move to her table half an hour later to talk about her plans for new years', a fact that didn’t escape her sharp wit. A couple of minutes into the conversation she turned to blue eyed girl and said M this is Jolie. I don’t care how cheesy your name is Jolie, Good God you’re cute! HL asked for the bill, SHIT, they’re leaving; I had to make a move, “So what are you doing in Cairo Jolie?”…to which Jolie smiled, stared into the ceiling with a wide eyed look, sighed and responded in a mousy French accent "I dunt no”… ridiculous really but my heart sank. I said some nonsense about how we’re all confused, realized I was blabbering and ended my remark with a murmur. They said their goodbyes and Jolie gave me a wide smile as she walked away.

I moved back to my table to find M had devoured my salad “Eh mish 2oltelak 7akol ma3ak”. M was wearing her trademark fishnet stockings; I pulled on them for revenge.

The entire episode doesn’t amount to more than being a nice little quaint encounter, except of course Jolie was cute and you see I have this thing for cute women, a thing I recently coined with Gayyash as the Arthur Miller syndrome. Now Jolie could be mentally retarted for all I know, I mean seriously, who has any more tolerance for inane responses to simple questions dressed up as wise and other worldly...did I mention Jolie was cute!

M once accused me of being a superficial git, well not in so many words but that was the gist of her diatribe (if you read the previous post you’ll realize that our friendship is characterized by mutual, slow, gentle, character assassination). I have no qualms with the claim, if simply for lack of energy to refute it. Attraction with me starts with the physical…it doesn’t obviously end there. Indeed if anything it has been my obsession with all the other things that has thus far been the cause of many breakups in my life and that continues to hinder me from meeting and falling for someone...but that's another story.

Now if only Jolie would turn out to be smart, witty, intelligent, fun, humorous, compassionate, available and willing to date a sod like me, hmmm, Arthur Miller eat your heart out!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Mamosay Mamosama Makossa

Warning, self absorbed ramblings ahead...

About a week ago, whilst enjoying a pleasant evening at M’s, the subject of my condition came up. M and I almost always approach everything with an air of flippant tomfoolery, so when you consider that we were listening to Disco hits from the seventies at the time, you can be sure the discussion that ensued was anything but serious.

M exclaimed: “You can’t wake up every single morning and re-question the basics of your existence! It’s not sane!” She further elaborated the point with superb comedic flair by impersonating me waking up; a quizzical frizzled look on my face: “This is earth, I live in Cairo, I am human, this is my room, my name is…” get the point?! After establishing initial bearings, I would then step out of my room and begin affiliating myself with the elements that shape my life and identity. The skit was actually quite funny, and not only because M is a scathing comedian by nature, but because her words rang with a particular din of veritas.

We laughed at the idea; it seemed like a great premise for a movie. I’d of course be played by Johnny Depp. I vote Jenna Jameson for M.

My capacity (and evidently M’s) to poke fun at my torrent affair with existence has developed into a sort of self-administered substitute for clinical therapy. In the past however, different reasons forced me to seek professional help, none more imperative than the desire to “get better” and the realization that I was unable to do it alone.

My life has greatly been shaped and influenced by the ongoing dynamic of confronting, dealing, and dancing with depression, and I do believe that I am better for it. I used to question whether my depression may not in fact be a self perpetuated myth, some sort of bogey man I’ve raised and fed to add intensity and substance to my life. Back in my dark philosopher phase in college I actually believed that my depression gave me an edge, an esoteric persona. But somewhere along the way I recognized that my mood swings, my troughs and crests weren’t necessarily symptomatic of a particular possibly curable condition, but an indication of a volatile character. This was a first step towards seeing the truth behind the fiction so to speak, and I eventually learnt to acknowledge and deal with the nature of my character, its flaws and its perks.

I’ve had a successful track record with the battle against depression, but there remains much room for pontification on the frequency of its occurrence…which brings us to M’s little comedy act.

I think I do have a tendency to constantly question my identity…except, not really. True I tend to doubt myself a lot, but that’s just my inbred insecurity not a deep philosophical introspection into the essence of moi…Ultimately, it’s just about being happy. But while I’m aware of how fickle happiness can be, I’m all too aware of the very real possibility of attaining it. I’m distinguishing here between the perpetuation of fleeting moments of pleasure, and the visceral contentment that is the result of making peace with time.

If we accept that there exists the possibility of attaining happiness in life, then it should follow that the attainment of happiness must not only be a worthy goal to pursue, but that it must surely be the ultimate goal of every living individual.

One of the most important steps towards the realization of this goal is the acceptance of one’s responsibility towards oneself, and while I recognize the absolute primitiveness of this notion I find it necessary every once and again to remind myself of it. Perhaps this is what M meant in her skit, “This is earth, I live in Cairo, I am human, and I intend to be happy…!”

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

"It is not necessary that whilst I live I live happily; but it
is necessary that so long as I live I should live honourably."

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) German philosopher

Monday, November 20, 2006

Land of the brave...

From Ha'aretz

The IDF canceled a planned air strike on the home of a militant in the northern Gaza Strip on Sunday after several hundred Palestinians barricaded themselves inside the building, an IDF spokesman and witnesses said. Palestinian sources said the protest against the planned IAF strike was first of its kind to have in effect prevented an air strike. An IDF spokesman said the strike had been called off so to avoid inflicting civilian casualties. Hundreds of Palestinians formed a human shield around the home of the militant in Beit Lahia late Saturday to prevent an Israel Air Force air strike on the building, residents said. "The attack plan was canceled because of the people there," the spokesman said. "We differentiate between innocent people and terrorists," he added. The spokesman vowed Israel would continue its strikes against militants, and accused gunmen of using the civilians in the camp as human shields. People flocked to the home of Mohammed al-Baroud after he received a warning from the army late Saturday giving him 30 minutes to leave the house. Barhoud is a commander in the Popular Resistance Committees in the town who is in charge of firing homemade rockets at Israel. Crowds of people stood on the rooftop and in the yard of the home. Israel routinely orders occupants out of homes ahead of air strikes on suspected weapons-storage facilities, saying it wants to avoid casualties. The incident in Beit Lahia was the first time Palestinians have tried to prevent such an airstrike.The crowd chanted anti-Israel and anti-American slogans, and people said they were prepared to give their lives to protect the home. "Yes to martyrdom. No to surrender," the crowd chanted."We came here to protect this fighter, to protect his house and to prove that we are capable of defeating this Zionist policy," said Nizar Rayan, a local Hamas leader who joined the protest...

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


Last Saturday The US expectedly vetoed a draft resolution for the UN Security Council to condemn the killings of 19 Palestinians in the northern Gaza Strip by Israeli Defence Forces.

This is the second time this year the US vetoes a draft resolution on Israeli military operations in Gaza.

Ten of the council's 15 members voted in favor and four -Britain, Denmark, Japan and Slovakia - abstained.

Various news sources reported Rice and Bolton saying the draft was "unbalanced" and "biased against Israel and politically motivated".

The US has a long history of its own "politically-motivated" vetoes and negative votes against resolutions condemning Israeli actions in the Middle East.

The draft called for Israel to cease hostilities and withdraw from Gaza but also urged the Palestinian Authority to act to end violence - including rockets fired at southern Israel. The draft also called the Quartet – UN, US, EU and Russia– to take immediate steps to stabilize the situation, including through the possible establishment of an “international mechanism for the protection of the civilian populations.” It also urged the Secretary Genral to conduct an investigation into the recent Beit Hanoun killings which Olmert and the IDF are claiming was a technical error. A claim which independent United Nations human rights expert Miloon Kothari has rejected saying the attack indicated premeditation. He also urged Israel to stop destruction of homes and infrastructure, and called the international community to impose military sanctions against Israel.

In response to the ongoing crisis, the United Nations Human Rights Council will hold a special session this Wednesday on Israel’s recent military actions in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

According to Palestine Campaign's website, casualties since 25 June 2006 include:
- 342 Palestinians, mostly civilians, 64 children and 15 women, killed by Israeli Forces.
- At least 1186 Palestinian civilians, 344 children and 49 women, wounded by the Israeli Forces gunfire.

More statistics and in depth information can also be found on the Israeli human rights group, b'Tselem's, website.

On a lighter note, the Arab League announced it would lift the financial blockade on the Palestinians in defiance of the United States. What I'd like to know is what the fuck were they doing endorsing it in the first place!