Thursday, September 28, 2006

In our darkest hour

It is in our darkest hour that we need to stay strong. It is in our darkest hour that we must not lose faith.

This notion is very powerful and appealing. I find myself, as I’m watching a movie, during its darkest hour, during the climax of the plot, I find myself beseeching the protagonist not to sway from the course, to keep the faith and to stay strong in the darkest hour. But that’s just in the movies where you know that a story has a beginning, middle and an end. It’s just in the movies that you know that this is truly the darkest hour. It’s only in the movies where heroes stay strong and every thing turns out okay. It’s only in a story where the writer can choose how it ends and can give the characters strength and faith. Only in a story can we be so demanding but only because we’re well aware how stories are.

But what of real life? Do we even recognize our darkest hour when it arrives? Do we know that things will turn out okay? Do we know that our convictions are correct enough to hold on to? Do we even know how long our hour will last?

When it comes to real life, I probably won’t be as motivated as the characters in a story. I’ll probably lose faith, and probably things won’t turn out alright.

The truth is that we’re blinded in our darkest hour and we’re usually so alone and it doesn’t feel like someone is watching us beseeching us to stay strong. We’re all alone and it doesn’t seem that everything will turn out okay. We’re all alone and we don’t know if this is the middle or if it’s the end.

Yet with all the discrepancies between stories and real life, I still think that it’s worth something to hang on in your darkest hour. It’s worth something to have faith and believe that this too shall pass. It’s worth something to be a hero even if just to yourself.

It’s worth something to endure and believe that in great heat, gold sublimes. I think that those who endure during their darkest hour are the better metals and that their endurance purifies them.

I know it’s easy to preach, just spurt out those words. I also know that they mean too little to someone in his darkest hour because they’re just words, and words cannot know the details of that hour and words don’t know its future. I know how hard it is to ask people to keep the faith during their darkest hour, I know it’s hard to ask people to find strength in their darkest hour and I know it’s hard to convince people that someone cares about their darkest hour.

But I have to say, for what it’s worth, that it’s always appealing to see someone stay the course. It’s inspirational to see it in the stories but powerfully moving to see it in real life. It’s worth something… It has to be.

So I send this out to those who feel that this could be their darkest hour, but most of all I send this out to me for when I’m discouraged while in my darkest hour…

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Amnesty Report

I just saw this Amnesty Report about torture in Egypt. I was very moved by how oppressed we are. Once you're in power, everyone else is powerless to stop you. Unfortunately most people choose to abuse any given power. I have much to say, but for now what this report should suffice...

Egypt is a country I love and hate.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Parking Problems

I don't know what to call them really, car keepers is the closest word, basically cause I saw someone with a badge spelt 'CAR KEEBR' down by the pyramids.. In Arabic it's sayes, which then went on to become just menaady, it’s very interesting how they’ve evolved actually.

You see I have a real problem with those car keepers, I really do. My problem is that basically they demand money for nothing. Even when I was a student in college with little money to spare they would provoke car drivers in the most absurd manner. Back then they made more money than I do, and even now, I stop to wonder if they still do. It's not that I don't pay them for a service I need, I do.. but I only pay when the car is filthy or I want them to keep an eye out or for just any service that I actually require and that they actually do.

In the old days they used to wipe your car window even if it was clean, and they would offer the service in a very enthusiastic manner.. as time went by, the cloth got dirtier and dirtier, and they got more complacent. They dirtied your car and expected to get paid for it. The real problem is that if you don't pay they give you a condescending look, like it’s their absolute right to take money that belongs to you. Some of them would throw money in your face if they didn't like what you gave them.. they're elite I tell ya.. It has become their implicit right to take money off you for something you don't want and don't need and which they don't offer.

On one occasion a complete stranger demanded that he take my car keys just because he claimed he was a sayes. That’s a lot of power for someone off the street really. On another occasion one of those sayes people got very angry cause I pulled the handbrakes while I was parked correctly!!! I mean he got really upset, like the street was his.

You see, it turns out that streets are rented for a price, they give some street bully money and that street becomes theirs. No wonder they’re so demanding, someone sold them thin air and for that they need to extract your money. It’s vicious I tell ya.

They got lazier and lazier and more demanding than ever lately, and that's when they changed names from sayes, to menaady. It's cause they don't even bother with that filthy cloth anymore, the elite sayes now only calls out to help you in and out of a parking space which you would have already found on your own. You see this would all make sense if I didn't have a license, but if he's there to tell me how to drive (with bad instructions if I might add) then why do I even carry the license?

Okay so it's not so bad, they sometimes do help.. but then again so do I.. when I see someone trying to park in a tight spot, I give them instructions.. sometimes I would park their car for them, but do I ask for anything? No!! Do I give them a condescending look if they don’t give me money? No!! I just offer my friendly human services expecting no reward except perhaps a thank you!
Eureka!! that's it.. I found out that I needn't pay them money for their kind words. It's fair that I repay them this kindness with kindness of my own. These days I'm at peace with Car Keepers, for their vocal services I reward them with vocal gratitude. I really smile at them genuinely and thank them for getting out of their way to give me instructions, after all, if they were driving, I would have done the same.

So the last time I was with R he saw me smiling to the menaady and after we had gone off he asked me, did you give him something? He wasn't even there when we parked. I told him no, I didn't give him anything. Knowing my history and my attitude towards car keepers, he said, okay, cause for a moment there I was surprised and thought you'd changed your attitude towards them, I know how you feel about them. So I told him that I'm no longer angry at them, I'm thankful for their selfless services and that’s why I smile at them.. all I did was adjust my attitude a bit but the results are still the same.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Old lyrics in modern times

دا عاوز يكوش عالعالم بحاله
دا عاوز يهوش يعمل ما بدالو

da 3awez yekawesh 3al 3aalam be7aaloh
we da 3awez yehawesh ye3mel ma badaaloh

I wouldn't normally post arabic, but I heard these lyrics by Ahmad Mouneeb that reminded me of two certain entities in today's modern world .. perfectly.. these lyrics were in the seventies or eighties I guess but it's strange how they describe accurately some entities that still exist to this day..


My friend R told his friend I that we can let H in on the plan but not M. We were interupted by S who was telling N that she can't go out with K because of the relationship he had with T. But just to let you in on a secret S herself saw something in K because K was E's best friend and she knew that she would be able to get to E if R and K came to an agreement. So I told H that K would meet with R if S would let J take G to a play..

Welcome to blog world..

Welcome to the very anonymous, mysterious and yet revealing blog world...


Saturday, September 16, 2006

Male Discrimination

Well I'm sick. I'm not sick of discrimination or anything of that sort, I'm just sick. I have a kind of cold that won't leave me alone, but then again I don't give it a chance to slip away. I keep running errands despite my running nose, and the more I run the more it runs. I don't want to be visual here but that's just the way a cold gets.. very disturbing and without rest, you're under its hold.

So despite being sick I still had to go and say goodbye to a friend R, (and I won't write the name not because I want to keep it anonymous but because it would be disastrous in the blog world if any real names were used) who was leaving to S - I mean Saudi Arabia.. (totally forgot it was okay to use real country names but it would be more interesting if I don't next time and just limit things to the initials) So I travelled all the way to Nasr City which was such a hassle cause it's so crowded, and I discovered that sickness impairs my driving abilities.. I just lack some of the common sense I have with driving when I'm sick.

So anyway, what I really want to say without the amusing paragraphs of how I got there is that I was in Nasr city on a normal 'male only' coffee shop.. (Ahwa) and we decided to go on to a cafe. Of course the difference being that you get better lighting, interior design and uniformed waiters (but hardly anyting much better on the menu I guess, just better packaging perhaps) ..oh and let's not forget, the other half of the community (chicks) .. but you need to pay almost ten times as much for each item in order to get these kinds of privileges.

So in that privileged, well lighted place by the name of Armando, located off Merghany street I guess, we found ourselves a nice high table and sat ourselves there. Well it took them around 10 minutes to get us a menu. That was the last we got of them, and after almost 30 minutes of sitting there we left... having enjoyed the beautiful scenery and company. It would make sense if the place was overpacked to not serve, but it wasn't... and waiters were lingering about and deciding that mopping tables was more important than taking our orders.

As soon as we left the waiters were prompt to remove the menus they'd supplied us and mopping the table. What very diligent waiters that efficiently mop tables. After we'd left, R said, they probably didn't like us, I had to disagree, cause I managed to trigger a few smiles in there.. but by the looks of it my friend R was claiming that we were discriminated against because we were just a bunch of young males. Now, I had been to Armando some time earlier with my friend D, and while she was around they were very prompt to serve..

That place's service has either gotten really bad or it discriminates against males without their female companions. The level of service in Egypt is apalling and most places don't have a clue as to what customer satisfaction means.. but if it's not the service, could it be that males are discriminated against? To tell you the truth, I really don't know which is worse, that it's very bad service or just discrimination..

Well in a lot of places, only couples are allowed, very counter culture though cause it encourages the coupling of male and female entities which is exactly what tradition fights against (if the connection is not formal), and oddly enough I was denied entry to Hard Rock with that same friend R. I mean women are today's tickets, each man must get one.. at least to go to places he wants. Of course R is now married and he can go anywhere he wants, and while with female companions I can go places I want to, but perhaps this is payback for us men dominating some Ahwas and of course other fields in life.

So anyway, the world is now telling us the value of women, not that I don't already know, and I certainly agree.. but next time I'm with a female companion I won't go to that place again... or maybe I will and just experiment a bit.. but I sure know that my friend R won't take his wife there..

Thursday, September 14, 2006

4am thoughts

I'm tired, it's late and I've nothing to say. Nothing to say that would be of use to anyone, and nothing to say that would be of use to me. I'm just tired and it's late and that seems like enough to say for this moment. Sometimes I say 'I'm tired' and it just means that I'm tired, and at other times it's just an expression of some feeling that goes beyond. Tired of the things I have to deal with and tired of things around me. Tired of being surrounded by all sides by things that tell me what to do and who to be. Tired of being trapped in a system, where I'm just a controlled variable necessary for life's experiment... Tired of having to fight too many battles to get my rights...

My rights.. well that's a really broad phrase, I sometimes wonder if it ceases to become my right if I have to fight for it so hard, I mean I may as well fight for something that isn't mine in the first place... Does it make a difference that things are yours? I mean you'd think that just because you have a right would mean that you would get it easily, the meaning of simplicity is implied I guess, but I must be mistaken. Lately I've noticed how everyone fights for their right. I mean shouldn't it be that people automatically get their rights and fight for privileges? It's a strange world I'm living in where rights are wrong.

I've been reading too many gloomy blogs, of ordinary people feeling ordinary things. When I was younger I used to write to my journal the strangest thoughts and I felt so odd amidst my friends, but somehow I felt I wasn't alone out there. I had nothing to substantiate this feeling but certainly I'm not the only one feeling gloomy. I've always felt like such an alien because I could not indulge in the common things people do with enthusiasm... but I wonder how many people kept a journal like mine? How many people went back home and cried out to a piece of paper that sort of told them that everything would be okay.. you've got me to share all this with.

Anyway, not to sound too pathetic or alone, I would like to note that as a person you'd never think I'd fall into these morbid moods, I simply couldn't be bothered or so I appeared. There's a feeling of strength that is harvested only when appearing strong. When people see you as a strong person you're empowered, you have the ability to be as strong as you choose. For me it's been that way, I'd be a shapeless piece of matter if it weren't for decisions of what shape I am to take. I mean to be a liar would have been easy, I just needed to decide, to have been a jerk would have been easier, I just needed to decide. I decided the harder things, but I guess it wouldn't have made a difference one way or the other which I had decided, I was able to stick to my decision.

I'm not saying that I'm not a liar or a jerk, it would be a real disaster if I wasn't a bit of both, but at least I'm not decidedly so ... I mean, it gives me great pleasure when some people see me as something I'm not.. why? I'm not sure.. something about misdirection. I've always been interested in things that are not what they appear to be, layers, depth... People would be very boring if they were what they appeared to be, and that's why I don't trust people that seem too trustworthy. It's more interesting to meet someone with bad qualities and some good in them.. it's more interesting to dig out the good. Good people burry their bad qualities and never show them, but they will appear some day. Bad people burry their good qualities and try not to show them, but it's very interesting when they appear some day.

Listen to me, now I sound like some ancient monk from Tibet.. why do I say ancient? more wisdom ? I don't know, just sounds right.. but I'm not into the whole cookie fortune wisdom thing.. not the whole "I'll tell you what you need in life".. I mean stuff like "honesty is the best policy" .. yeah right.. whoever said honesty was the best policy wasn't being very honest..

And more ramblings and more ramblings, like the ramblings I would write during my sad winter days, but then again a blog can be my new found journal.. but I mean who cares really.. we read to know we're not alone, I'm sure many people have stranger thoughts.. stranger lives.. and stranger blogs ..

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Satellite Guy

Isn’t it strange the people we meet, some of them surprise you and some of them disappoint you. It strikes me as odd, the things you hear from people reflecting how they think. An example of a very strange encounter I had with someone was when we were installing our satellite receiver.

We struck up a conversations about a variety of things, I listened to him talk about his philosophies in life. Though seemingly a simple person some of the things he said were interesting and had a fair amount of truth to them. Other things didn’t make much sense. I’ll recount things he said:

Two rumors spread through the whole of Egypt just before the elections. The first being that the current president has stolen enough out of the country, his pouch is full, he won’t be stealing much more, so why elect someone who will start to rob the country all over again. Well I tell you now, this applies to a petty thief, but not to a gang leader, you see the problem with this theory is that it assumes the president is stealing small amounts that he’s just a common thief, but in fact he’s a gang leader and those around him steal as much. He’s like a thief that knows where the safe is, if someone new were elected, he wouldn’t know where the safe is, that would give time for us to enjoy the country at least for a while.

The second rumor that was circulated is that there is no one better to rule. Now there are probably people who are better and can do well in this country with a population of seventy million people. But good people can never rise to places where they can be of use. In the first place being president is a big responsibility and it seems foolish to step up. Consider those who nominated themselves for presidency, Ayman Nour and Nomaan Gomma, they’re both in prison.

America wants Mubarak. They’ve told Mubarak he can win as long as he enforces democracy. Now Mubarak did enforce democracy, and what happened when he did? A lot of members of parliament were from the Ikhwan Muslimeen, a radical party, at which America told Mubarak to halt the democracy and get back to how things were before. I guess America only wants democracy that will serve its purpose.

When asked about a former prime minister who was kicked out, he said Bees can’t live anywhere but hives, and no other creature can live in a hive. You have to belong to be able to make it somewhere, if you don’t belong you’re kicked out. The government is too corrupt to accept men of integrity.

Egyptians are doing so well elsewhere, but when it comes to Egypt, no one with the right talent is in the right place. I agreed with this and told him we have many jackasses in our midst. He said, the problem isn’t with someone who’s a jackass, the problem is with someone who insists on being a jackass. In a famous movie by the name of “Ramadan foa el Borkan”, featuring Adel Immam, he plays the part of a crook who calculates that it’s better to steal and do the time than it is to work. He goes out of prison and starts a con company and then one of his friends from prison comes to work with him. So Adel asks the guy, do you know how to read or write? The guy answers no. Do you know how to answer telephones? No. Do you know how to do anything at all? No. Do you understand anything about anything? The man replies no. Adel then says, “In that case, hire him as a member in the board of directors”. This is the kind of people we have.

What happened to the world we asked, why are things so different. The satellite man asked if thirty years ago one could catch a cat. Those who could answer the questions answered no. Cats used to run away, no way you can catch it. Then he asked, back in the time, how were the dogs? Those who could answer said that dogs were more vicious. So the satellite man said, these days cats stick like glue, you shoo them off and they keep coming back. Dogs are afraid these days, kids have tamed and scared them. There’s a change in the environment around us, the times are changing and things aren’t what they used to be.

By that time we were nearing the end of the tuning of the channels. He said that women would usually watch whatever channel they see, and men would just keep flipping the channel. Women weren’t as curious as men, and men didn’t want to see the channels for their content, just more of an exploration. He commented that there were many porn channels stored. There’s no problem with the channels themselves, he has a kid who he tells that it’s okay to be curious, but becoming addicted is the real danger.

We asked him if he enjoyed his job. He replied, I always do what pleases me and what I like that’s what counts in the world really. But the beauty of the world is in its obstacles. If you want something for 4 days and buy it on the fifth, you’ll enjoy the five days more than you enjoy the time after you get it.

This is a very brief account of the conversations that went on between us. We talked of how people abroad respected the human being, and that it’s always better and how life was smooth. He said it was always better to live outside Egypt because of how smooth people have it. This is almost the only place I made a statement. I told him, but I thought you said life without obstacles is not livable, Egypt here has all the obstacles we need for a good enjoyable life.

It’s strange the people you meet and the opinions you hear. Not all conversations are memorable and not all parts of a memorable conversation are new, but perhaps sometimes you hear things out of people that you don’t expect. It’s all a matter of opinions and expectations I guess.

Friday, September 08, 2006

The 45 in one shampoo

Isn’t it amazing how there are products today that say two in one and three in one. Shampoo and Conditioner. Shampoo, Conditioner and Anti Dandruff. But what I also find amazing is how specialized products are becoming. The once popular soap for the hair has evolved into shampoo, and if that’s not enough there’s conditioner and if that isn’t enough there’s shampoo for each kind of hair, and then there’s a shampoo for all kinds of hair. There’s a soap for your hands, soap for your legs, soap for your ..ahem.. special parts, soap for the dishes and soap for the laundry. So many different kinds of soaps have evolved and for a human to function with a bare minimum, you have to have at least 6 kinds of soaps. Even cream; there’s hand cream, there’s face cream, there’s anti-aging cream there’s body cream, there’s lubricant cream. The diversity is just amazing. Perhaps that’s why two in one and three in one items have in turn evolved. There’s a need to simplify the products, to eliminate all the diversities found in the multitude of soap. There’s a need to re-instate the items that could be bought for general use.

Now as we continue to evolve, more and more subsections of products will appear, and yet that in itself will allow for more and more generalizations to make their way to our hands. So today we have the two in one and three in one, in ten years we’ll have the nine in one and ten in one, in 2 decades we would have reached the thirty in one and perhaps by the time I’m ready to leave this world I would have witnessed the forty five in one hair shampoo, which is effectively the equivalent of the first shampoo when it first came out.