Archive | January, 2011

The Fog of War.

“Only the unknown frightens men. But once a man has faced the unknown, that terror becomes the known.” – Antoine De Saint-Exupery

So it would seem we’re in for another few months of what foreign media outlets will inevitably euphemistically call turmoil. Last week eleven ministers walked out of the Lebanese government, leading to its collapse. Not that the difference is immediately obvious, given the systemic paralysis the country ritually suffers from. We’ve come to expect very little from our leaders, all the while bestowing them with demi-god status. The result is that most Beirutis are pretty self-reliant, providing themselves with essential utilities the state fails to provide, like water and electricity.

However, it’s still nice to know there’s someone in power somewhere taking care of things, however badly. Saying I’m not particularly fond of Lebanese politics is the understatement of the decade. I wrote a piece in l’Orient Le Jour a couple of months back detailing the extent of my disdain for a system that has forced me to live for decades in lands that weren’t my own. Despite having a father who’s a political analyst and journalist, and having studied the politics of the Middle East for years at university, I have absolutely no interest in the country’s politics.
Politics is a pretty fancy word to describe the Machiavellian machinations a cabal of self-interested ideologues. I find my level of happiness in Lebanon is exactly correlated to how little news I read in a given week. Don’t get me wrong, there are a few good people in the system on all sides, but the overwhelming presence of corruption and pettiness drowns them out, and I’ve stopped caring about them too.

All I want is to be able to go to work in the morning without seeing 15 tanks on the way there. Without the nagging suspicion that someone, somewhere today might grab his finest AK-47 and head out into the street. Knowing for sure that we’re not on the verge of armed conflict in the streets would be nice. You know, the simple things in life and whatnot.

I just want a normal life really…

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Plagiarism Gone Nuts.

Plagiarism is nothing new, so I guess I shouldn’t really be shocked by this latest example from the Lebanese advertising industry. Following the shocking ripping off of a Nina Ricci campaign, some agencies are now busy ripping off public service announcements. From campaigns that started as far back as 1987. As anyone who’s involved in […]

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I miss IKEA.

I’ve recently embarked on a quest to find the perfect coffee table. And when I say perfect, I mean an adequate coffee table that won’t require me to sell my right kidney to an Uzbek organ dealer to finance it. That sounds pretty simple, right? You’d be forgiven for thinking that. However perusing the furniture stores of Lebanon isn’t as straightforward an experience as you might envision.

Products fall into three broad categories. First off, you have the ridiculously unaffordable foreign brands. “Ooh, look, such a pretty desk lamp. Oh wait, it costs three months salary”. Secondly, you have the highly talented local designers, who’ve appropriated tradtional approaches to craft and who make coasters that cost more than my undergraduate education. The final and most prevalent category is the plethora of nauseating “galleries” selling faux Louis XVI armchairs and gold-plated dog bowls.

So it is with wistful melancholy, in a showroom that redefined my understanding of how many shades of grey the world has to offer, that my mind wandered to Neasden. “Not THE Neasden!” I hear you clamour. “You mean the Neasden where the UK’s first McDonald’s drive-thru opened its greasy doors in 1988?” That very one, ladies and gents. The streets of this fair neighbourhood are lined with semi-detached houses with boarded up windows, and burnt out 1993 Ford Fiestas sit idly in their drive-ways. It’s what I like to call “ASBO chic”.

But my nostalgia for this bastion of urban decay and suburban squalor isn’t tied to the golden arches or the rolled up copies of the News of the World in the dash of every Transit van…

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