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.