Sunday, April 29, 2007

Quick Sand

To resist sinking into quick sand you have to surrender and let yourself go..

I've let myself go..

But am I in quick sand?

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

In my mind there are a thousand thoughts,
And most are ones that ink never blots,
A different world inside my head,
Where beasts are born and darkness spreads.

And if I were to share them out loud,
To be judged by a panel of the usual crowd,
They’d send me away from where they live,
And to six small walls, my life they’d give.

So like us all I keep them confined,
Inside the vast acres in my mind,
But once in a while one of them slips,
And is punished by a thousand angry whips.

And what becomes of my sanity,
Just a big inanity,
Because thoughts are what count even if insane,
From which no mind can ever refrain.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Ebony & Irony

Misster Congeniality

I was told by a friend to switch to melody hits to watch a Mr. Egypt competition. I thought he had mistyped it on msn, and that it was Miss Egypt. I switched the channel and found men in shorts with their bare torso walking along the catwalk and standing there rigidly.

Now the first thing I did to be honest was laugh out loud, it was hilarious seeing those guys walking in their swim suits and pose so inflexibly. It seems that they had to be in good shape but it wasn’t a Mr. Olympia contest. It was a sexiness contest. There’s something that caught me off guard seeing those men compete in a beauty contest.

Anyway, I’m googling this Mr. Egypt competition and the URL address I get is which throws me off balance a bit but then I get used to it. There’s a Mr. Photogenic, Mr. Fitness, Mr. Performance and a Mr. Congeniality… Mind goes straight to the movie (without the ending where she says all these girls are intelligent hard workers etc…)

The initial feeling I had was that those men were objectified. They were judged according to their bodies and looks. While that may be very normal to do with women, it felt very odd when seeing men in that position. I don’t want to philosophize about a very light topic as this but somehow I fear that equality will not serve to de-objectify women as much as it serves to objectify men. There is a call for men to look better and become sex symbols.

The presence of more and more sex symbols and male models will put a pressure on men such as that put on women when they observe ultra thin tall models. Try as they may, not all women can achieve that, and evidently not all men can achieve the bodies either. The main area of concern is that the bodies presented, are not part of an athletic competition but an aesthetic competition.

What gave it away is that those men weren’t all that GREAT looking, they were okay but they had slim athletic bodies. So the idea wasn’t the good looking man, but the complete man, body mostly and face secondly. Of course those with inadequate bodies were eliminated right away leaving a series of ‘Amr’s to continue in the competition. All of them seem to have been picked initially from a gym, and guess what the prize for the best body was? It was a six month membership in Gold’s gym. You’d have thought that they would have given this prize to the worst body, but the chances are that guy was already a member anyway.

So this was a show for the pleasure of the ladies, well, the ironic part is that they had models swaying around the guys and dancing and mid show they brought in 2 female singers who were the definition of sex appeal. I would understand if they brought in sexy males to do some more dances and finally target those poor women who have been deprived of sex actuating shows, but This Is Egypt. They have to bring in sexy women into everything, it’s sort of a working formula for whoever they’re targeting. They must be for all the male onlookers laughing away at the show. There is however a theory posed by a friend of mine that says that they had to put in those arousing women so that they get the ‘best’ out of these men. I responded of course that this will truly show who has the bigger ‘best’. Well done… they were able to get women exactly what they wanted. Too bad the guys had to wear formal suits straight after the sexy women though.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Helio Flat

Semi spoiler warning: If you're one of the 3 people who read these posts, then it's better if you have either seen the movie or do not intend on seeing it. Because in all likelihood you won't know what the heck I'm going on about and while it may not be ruined completely upon reading this, there is a chance that it can be ruined while watching the movie.

On another note, this isn't much of a review, just ranting and stating things that are very obvious in the movie.

Fi She2et Masr El Gedeeda (In the Heliopolis Flat) is a very simple story about 2 people falling in love coming from entirely different worlds. They are surrounded by very kind people who are helpful and do not have malicious intent. The simple story line is certainly not the movie’s finest point, for if the story itself is examined it is displaced from reality and is closer to fantasy.

It does have some realistic elements but it would suffice to say that reality is not its strongest point. Its strongest point, however is the bag of symbols that are presented throughout the story’s simple plot that revolve around life’s most outstanding quality, love. Though I hate narrating story plots, it’s is necessary that I do so for the purpose of pointing out symbols. Nagaat (Ghada Adel) is a woman from El Menya in search of her teacher and friend Tahany who used to live in a flat in heliopolis. Instead she finds Yehia (Khaled Abou El Naga) who lives in that flat instead of Tahany. Tahany has apparently vanished without warning and nobody knows whether she is alive or dead. The movie revolves around finding out if she’s alive and well and where she lives.

Yehia gets daily visits from a divorcee called Dalia and enjoys the casual pleasures of physical intimacy. With a racing bike and a great job as a stock broker he seems to have it all made. Nagaat keeps missing her train to take her back to Menya, as though fate is intervening (in bizarre manners every time). She meets a taxi driver who is called Eid Milaad and he takes her to a place to stay in with a woman called 7ayaat. And so the story goes, taking us through various circumstances that bring Yehya and Nouga together.

Tahany is obviously a symbol for love that has vanished for a while and whether love is dead or alive in this world we do not know. There are always people who are searching for it and those that believe it’s dead. There are signs of its existence but they’re all very shady signs that are open to interpretation, just like Tahany. The crux of the movie is evidently in the line spoken by Shafeeq (the incredible Youssef Dawood) when he says “She Exists!!!” an obvious symbol to the fact that love exists.

Yehia and Nougat are representatives of most people, either those who have lost hope in love or those desperately in search for true love, in both cases they’re confused and what they believe about the matter is irrelevant since eventually love conquers them. In Yehia’s life the divorcee, Dalia, represents the transactional side of a relationship, she’s there because it is pleasurable to have physical contact with Yehia, and when she realizes she can have children, after having thought she was barren, she decides that she wants to marry Yehia for a child rather than love. In the reality of the world we live in, there is no real love of the romantic kind she argues.

Nagaat knocks on Yehia’s door three times and every time is symbolic of how she has invaded his life. The first time she knocks she arrives so much later than Dalia leaves the apartment, the next time she comes just as Dalia is leaving, the time after that, she arrives much before Dalia leaves. She is evidently invading the space and control Dalia has over Yehia, he is being invaded by love that kicks out any transaction.

Yehia’s job as a stock broker also plays a symbolic role. Even though his sole role is transactions he displays his judgment and refuses to sell some stock until the stock closes. He is afraid that he made a bad judgement by trusting his gut and is in a state of confusion. At the same time when he realizes that it was a correct decision and that the stock prices have gone up, he starts to realize his feelings for Nagaat. Love has triumphed over soulless transactions.

Interestingly enough Nagaat’s taxi driver Eid Milad has has two daughters fajr and shorook (dawn and sunrise) and is a symbol for second chances and rebirth. He is kind, supportive and caring. He hooks her up with 7ayaat, whose literal translation is life. 7ayaat is a survivor and she has an evident crush on Eid Milaad. She doesn’t dare make a move, she just wants to live on, and the part that just wants to survive does not wish to take a risk.

All in all the film is full of symbolism that conveys the message of love and chance in the movie. Modes of transport and even the elevator in the building are symbols whose actions go analogously with the events that take place. The movie has been masterfully made and there is not one bad scene except when they’re playing snooker incompetently. The movie takes us to a fantasy world through symbolic helpful characters that conspire to make life work. It seems that all those working in the movie shared the vision and belief in the making of this movie and that is why the amount of details in each shot is taken care of. Even Yehia’s wounded lip remained wounded till the end.

The director of photography has done a great job bringing to us a certain fantastical mood. The sound has been gratifying as well specially with the sounds of a man singing in an echoey appartment. From an artistic point of view the movie is beautiful, in its scenes and symbols (although it may be one too many symbols at the cost of reality) but whether you believe in the message or not is entirely up to you. After all, we haven't had a good look at Tahany, and one can still wonder if she’s real, even if she does exist.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Experience and Experiences

It’s very hard to let go of experience. The more experience you gain the harder it is to accept something new… and why should you? After all, experience is what you’ve experienced. Why would you change your idea about something just because everyone says that it’s the right approach and it makes sense logically! It only sounds good but you’ve never seen it done before and you deduce that in practical circumstances it will fail, based on your experience.

The older you grow the more set in your ways you become. The problem is that sometimes experiences trick us. Experiences are really, what we see and what we feel and most of what we observe, but experience itself is virtual. The lessons learnt are not necessarily the best, we’re very sure of what we’ve seen and that clouds our vision. What I’m trying to say is that sometimes our experiences are locked in to our own actions. We get the same results from the same actions and that’s why we know for sure what to expect.

We are tricked by the consistency of our actions. When new ideas of different attitudes come up, we never think of how rigid our actions were, we think of how rigid the results were. We stop listening, not because we’ve tried all attitudes and saw the same results but because we’ve seen the same results period.

Experience is very hard to let go of. Experience is time. Experience is observation. Experience is a set of feelings. Experience is an essence for some.

The trouble is that it’s a bag we carry that weighs us down sometimes. On some occasions we find something in there that we can use well, but at other times we have to take out the old and put in the new. It is only when experiences are carved in stone that they have an adverse effect.

People are distanced by their experiences. Those experiences that never allow for a change of attitude or tolerance for a different outcome; those are what distance people.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

A Bullet to the Head

Driving down the street tonight, I heard a loud sound and then, just as they always do, my thoughts drifted to an absolutely absurd thought. I thought what if that sound was a bullet, I knew it wasn’t a bullet really because it sounded nothing like a bullet, but what if there was a bullet and that I had been shot.

Well, since my mind never stops at just that, I wondered, what if this bullet came through my windshield and through my head. The thought was scary at first but then for a while it seemed not to be. For I would not feel any pain and my life would be over anyway in a single instant. There would be no shock, no pain, no need to worry about it and it no longer seemed to be a scary thought.

But something about how my mind works makes me imagine thoughts in a frighteningly accurate manner. They become so terrifying because of how real they get and the truth is, that this thought is terrifying through the lens of reality.

The reality that strikes me is what would I feel next. Would I be dead and not know it and roam the land of the dead? Or would I be instantly transported to that other world if spirit? Or would I just cease to exit completely and all that I am, completely obliterated from the face of the earth. All these thoughts, all my feelings, all my life… suddenly gone. What is to become of me in an instant? An instant I cannot foresee; an instant that happens mid thought, while I’m thinking of something utterly silly or genuinely profound; a thief of an instant that sneaks up on you and terminates your existence.

And if I am to go to some other place of spirits, will I know what has happened to me? Will I know that my life has ended or will I be confused as to how I arrived where I did. Will it be light or darkness, will I remember who I am?

How would it feel to just teleport to somewhere so unknown, will I be lonely and scared? Will I be able to feel something?

It scares me a little not knowing what will become with my consciousness, with my thought. What will I be thinking of before that thief of an instance.

That point of no return will not scare me with any of its pain but it scares me with the uncertainty of what’s in store for me beyond.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Word Means

Just because you understand the meaning of a word does not mean that you understand what a word means. For words are just approximations of reality intended to transfer an understanding of our languageless feelings and thoughts. Though their definitions point to certain meanings the true purpose of words is for them to be a means to communicate reality. They themselves are an illusion, imaginary entities on a different plain. So it does not really matter that a word means this or that, it only matters that the word was a means to communicate this and that. A word cannot be more valued than the underlying value it transfers. If the word itself is valued more than the feeling it represents, then the feeling itself is not worthy of being represented with such a word in the first place. The interest in the words themselves irrespective of the underlying meaning is the interest of a digger in the spade more than the process of digging the earth. It is the interest in a musical instrument’s visual elements more than the interest in its ability to produce musical sounds. It is the interest in an imaginary world without the interest in how it brings us closer to reality.

A wrong word used to communicate the correct feeling is worth much more than a correct word used to communicate a wrong feeling

Perhaps that is why we value words so much. We value words because they are the means of being understood. They have the power to share thoughts and with an increasingly complex reality and a wide spectrum of feelings we are in need of an increasingly complex word set and a wide spectrum of vocabulary. Language is one of the few ways man can reach out to the other and that is why we must be careful to learn words for our sake and for each others’.

The value of words is in what they mean, not their definition. People dictate meanings to a word, a word doesn’t dictate meaning to people. Let us be careful that means don’t become an end.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Impact of Constitutional Amendments

There’s a question going on in some heads as to the impacts of the constitutional amendments. Some people have already made up their minds as to what the impact will be. Those in the National (un)Democratic Party have a very accurate idea as to what the impacts in the future will be, other thinkers have a close to accurate imagination of how things will be like in the future. The question that concerns me now is the immediate impact of these changes, say within the next month or so.

The truth be told, these constitutional changes have a very positive immediate impact. No I’m not someone from the National Democratic Party, nor am I insane, I’m just an observer. These changes that will cause the Egyptians misery for at least a half a century or more in the future will buy them one or two months of joy. After the complete forgery of the referendum and the government’s “To hell with the people, we can do whatever we want,” the people feel that they’ve been the victim of a bitter oppression and an all round scam. There is a great force of hatred and rebellion instilled into the hearts of Egyptians for being enslaved in their own country and treated with disrespect. Not only that, but they feel that the little hope of democracy that was preached before the amendments to the constitution was just that false remission of a dying man before he parts with life. All reforms from now on will be close to meaningless.

This feeling of hatred and rebellion and general disdain is felt by the government who has forcefully had its way. It is like the biggest slap in the face to the public, and an angry public it is. So, in light of all this the government has no choice but to contain the people’s anger. The general methodology used to achieve this containment is by use of distraction. I must say that this method is highly successful with Egyptians whose lives are so cluttered with venoms that one small breath of fresh air can act like a sedative to dress their many open wounds. This happened before with the African Cup when people turned their attention to the national team and forgot everything else. Notice that every time a political disaster happens, an unairable football match is aired.

This sort of distraction may seem naive but it works. It really does. But since the constitutional amendments are bigger than anything else, there are supplementary distractions. These other distractions are in the form of easing the oppression inflicted upon us by government institutions. For example they’ve decreased the amounts payable to traffic tickets to the minimum amount, such that 4 tickets cost me only 40 L.E instead of the usual 600 L.E that may have been forced upon me. Of course one ticket is at a place I’ve never been before in my life, nor do I know where it is exactly but that’s beside the point, some things just can’t change no matter what the big heads say. So this has been in effect since the start of March, in an attempt to absorb their anger, so that not everything they deal with is complete and utter crap.

In light of that I expect that traffic officers will be a bit more lenient, that the new telephone billing rates will be slightly postponed and that more UEFA matches will be aired on television. I write this as they’re airing Liverpool vs. Einderlacht. In any case this next month might be great for Egyptians. It’s the ice they will be pouring after the big slap, ease the pain a little till they can legitimately screw us over. I always thought of myself as a realist, but it seems to me that this outlook is rather optimistic. You can expect them to go a little easy on these thousand and one annoying things so that people just don’t explode.

If I were the government what else would I do? Well I’d certainly go easy on arrests, go easy on angry bloggers, go easy on freedom of expression. I’d try to control the prices better, tell the government officials to take it slow on the corruptions and bribes. Give those poor people who work day and night a raise. Offer better services to people, control the scandals that take place in hospitals, make life easier for the people. But wait!! That’s actually making this country a better place, that totally conflicts with government objectives, it’s pushing it a little too far. I mean that’s something they can do, but it would be political suicide. It would give Egyptians some fresh air and make them feel they’re humans and that they have rights. I know I pushed it a little too far. I honestly don’t know what I would do if I were the government, they have a tough job at keeping people neither too well off to live a happy life nor too oppressed to start a revolution.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Stand Up Cairo

Cairo is a comedy cow and we're milking it.

Stand Up Cairo is reviving the lost art of Egyptian stand up comedy. We will be holding auditions on the 15/16 April from 6-10 pm during which talented individual performers will be invited to perform a five minute skit of original material in Arabic or English. We are talking here about classic stand up: one (wo)man and a mic. We are not interested in theatre troupes, nor do we want re-enactments of 1960s monologues. We are looking for the accountants, students, waiters and doctors who find the comedy in Cairo's craziness, who can speak their mind and make us laugh.

What: Stand Up Cairo auditions
When: 15/16 April 2007 from 6-10pm
Where: CiC (Contemporary Image Collective) 20 Safeya Zaghloul St. off Kasr El Aini St., Mounira
Telephone: 02 - 3377535

If you can see this, tell your funny friends about it, and if you're a blogger, why not help us find some talent.