Tuesday, July 24, 2007

of Renato Obeid
The Cupboard Collection
(destined to remain in the cupboard)

*Lebanon, its capital Beirut once known as the Paris of the Middle East, it seems is now franchising and exporting that mantle (and its staple crop – superlatives).
A report on Lebanese expatriates in Cote d’Ivoire on Future Television said, “Lebanese have helped make Abidjan the Paris of Africa”.
Planet Paris – coming soon to a city near you.
On the subject of superlatives, Lebanese have the highest rate of superlative usage in the world.

*I’m all for gender equality – if only women would agree.

*The first myth about the Lebanese civil war is that it was about religion; the second is that it wasn’t.

*The best thing that one can do for one’s children is to not have them in the first place.
Just the very act of bringing children into this world is itself a form of child abuse.
As the Arab philosopher, poet and writer Abu-al-Ala-al-Ma'arri (973 – 1057 AD) wanted inscribed on his grave ''This wrong was by my father done to me, but never by me to one'’.

*The soundtrack of the NATO Yugoslav bombing campaign – “Boom! shake-shake-shake the Roum”.
Roum means Orthodox Christian in Arabic – a relic of their original association with Rome.

*If Marcel Khalife (singer accused of blaspheming Islam in his latest song) and his ilk and their monkey supporters are as secular as they claim to be, then what are they doing quoting the Koran or transgressing any other religious beliefs?

*The received opinion (regurgitated like all so-called opinions of the masses) about profane, indecent blasphemous, stupid banal forms of expression (such as pop art) is that “at least it makes you think”.
Thinking people don’t need to be provoked into thinking.
A gruesome car accident can make you think but that doesn’t mean that gruesome car accidents should be encouraged.

*Environmentally friendly – no dictionaries were used in writing this.
Proper spelling is the refuge of the mediocre.
I’m a writer not a speller.

*I bought an Islamic alarm clock (shaped like a mosque and blares the call to prayer).
It’s ugly, tacky and doesn’t work very well.
As for the clock…

*Forget primary production, Australia’s main export to the world is bar staff.
Australians have a compulsion to turn into bar staff the moment they leave Australian soil.
And, on the off chance that they’re not serving alcohol, they’re drinking it.
The idea of “cultural exchange” to a lot of Australians is getting drunk (“pissed”) with people in the host country.
“We went to Czechoslovakia, Pakistan, Afghanistan etc and got pissed with the Czechoslovaks, Pakistanis, Afghans etc – we’re all human beings!”

Foreigners who watch Australian soap operas must think that all Australians ever say to each other is “rough” and “mate” (the latter is true).
E.g. “that was a bit rough”, “you were a bit rough with Charlene”, “sorry mate, I’ve had a rough day at the office”.
Regarding “mate”, you can get away with anything in Australia if you say “mate” (the poet laureate, no less, even wanted to include “mateship” in the preamble to a proposed new constitution).
An inverse back to front Antipodean “Simon Says”
Example one: “I’m going to have to kill you mate”
“That’s okay, you did say ‘mate’”.
Example two: “I’m going to have to kill you””That’s not okay, you didn’t say ‘mate’”
Example one is the correct way of going about killing an Australian.
Did you guess the right way?

*For satirical purposes only.
I’m not an Indonesian - I don’t advocate killing Australians.
Don’t try this at home.

“Spewin’” is also a popular word in “Australian”
E.g. communiqué from the Australian Prime Minister on the situation in East Timor
“The Australian government is spewin’ about the situation in East Timor.
We’ve spoken to President Clinton and Prime Minister Blair and they too are spewin’”

*Slogan for fundamentalism.
“We put the FUN into FUNdamentalism”

Criminals are allowed to vote in Israeli elections, but allowing Yitzhak Rabin’s assassin, Yigal Amir, to vote in the resultant elections for his successor seems to be pushing it little bit.
Hadn’t he already voted?
On the other “hand”, the Arab states go to the other extreme – a lot of Arabs (criminals or otherwise) don’t have the right to vote and a lot of Arab women don’t have the right to bare arms.

(Sketch for game show spoof).
The logo is the traditional theatre symbol of two intertwined masks but they have spew gushing out of their mouths.

VOICE OVER: Australia’s favorite expression is now Australia’s favorite game show.
Ladies and gentleman, tonight we’re SPEWINNN’…

PART ONE requires our panel of three randomly chosen plebes to relate their spewinst stories, but with a catch – they have to conform to a chosen category (tonight’s category is “travel) and end with “and I was spewin’” (a refrain which the compere and audience join in with).
So let’s begin with our intrepid travel spew stories.

CHERYL: It was me first time overseas, I was with me boyfriend Wayne in Bali.
It was our last night so we’d been out and we were both pissed.
Anyway, we got to the airport only to be told that the plane had delayed for two hours and I was spewinnn… (Audience and compere join in refrain).

WAYNE: (not to be confused with Cheryl’s boyfriend Wayne) It was me first time overseas, I was with me girlfriend Cheryl, not be confused with contestant number one Cheryl although she’s all right - I’d give her one (contestant Cheryl blushes at such smooth talk) and we were in Adelaide.
It was our last night so we’d been out and we were both pissed.
Anyway, we get to the train station, only to be told that the train had been delayed for two hours and we were spewinnn… (Audience and compere join in refrain).

PART TWO is a Family Feud type situation where contestants have to guess (in correct order) what our previously polled studio audience would find most spewish.
This episode’s answers are
Losing your keys – 14
Spilling your beer – 15
Having a plane/train delayed for two hours in Bali/Adelaide – 18
Receiving more Asian immigrants – 14
Keeping current Asian immigrants – 16

PART THREE – ‘Who’s’ spewin’?
A “who am I?” type question about a historical figure or celebrity who was spewin’.
“I was born in Austria in the late 19th Century.
I was imprisoned after leading a putsch in protest of the airship to Bavaria being delayed two hours in 1933 but eventually rose to become leader of my country.
Whereby I precipitated a World War in 1939, making significant gains, only to have them reversed and ended up committing suicide.
Whereby I was well and truly spewin’”
Contestants may answer at any stage but must phrase their answer in this from “so an so was spewin’”
In this example, “Adolph Hitler was spewin”

*A study indicates that 10% of Lebanese children work.
That’s shocking – a 90% child unemployment rate! (Nike products don’t just materialize out of thin air).

*It’s 5.30pm on Monday 10th January 2000.
Phew! – This is the first time I’ve written “2000” with this pen and I’m so relieved that it’s Y2K compliant and has clicked over to “2000” rather than “1900” without any problems.

Some customs official at the airport wouldn’t allow a shipment of Intel microchips into the country because they also do business in Israel.
So, for a while, Lebanon was “Intel Outside”.
Despite that misguided monkey’s efforts to ban Intel because they were “Inside Israel”, it looks like the south and the Occupied Territories are going to have “Israel Inside” for some time to come.

(Other than the title of this piece, this is my proposed motto for the United Nations).

Some time ago some Lebanese body passed some sort of law (writing is all about the details) governing the way the South Lebanon Army (SLA) is referred to in the press.
Rather than that somewhat legitimate self-styled moniker, they were to be referred to as “the militia collaborating with Israel”.
Why stop there?
Why not pass a law that the country’s enemies have to be called offensive names too?
E.g. “Israel’s ugly Prime Minister Ehud Barak visited Washington today”.
Shades of the tin pot South American republic depicted in Woody Allen’s “Bananas” (“from tomorrow, the official language will be Swedish”).
All that’s mild compared to Hezbollah’s (media) organs (Hizbollocks?) who refer to Israel as “the Zionist enemy” and the American and Israeli defense ministers as “Minister of War”.
The local English language media* refer to the SLA as “the Israeli allied militia” as does UNIFIL.
The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon was established in 1978 after the Israeli invasion.
What’s wrong with the above sentence?
Answer – even in Lebanese time, twenty-two years isn’t very interim.
"Nothing is more permanent than that which is temporary" as the French proverb goes.
They should just call themselves the Hezbollah Allied Militia (HAM), which they sometimes appear to be.
Rightwing Americans who believe that there’s a UN plot to take over the world should just observe these tourists with guns in action in Lebanon (or anywhere lese in the world for that matter) to set their minds at ease – these guys can’t and aren’t taking over anywhere!

*They have a little bit more leeway.
A British journalist working for a local paper put it to me quite succinctly – “The Israeli press will say that such and such an Arab dictator is a so and so, the Arabic press will say that he’s not and we’ll say that he might be”

I was standing by the side of the Jounieh autostrade (Tuesday 4th January 2005) waiting for a taxi up the mountain.
It was 3.30am and I was coming home from the pub quiz at the Hare and Hound.
It was raining and very cold after a bout of spring-like weather and it seemed like “the night services forgot”.
The Islamic fundamentalist insurgency in the mountains in the north that had started on New Years Eve (just like the Zapatistas) and was now nearly totally suppressed may have also contributed to the dearth of these real “ships of the desert”.
Most of the services that troll at night are from the north.
In fact, I make it a point of looking for diesel powered “Tripoli Tanks” – they’re cheaper.
I pay only 5000LL up the mountain, a far cry from what I used to pay in my early days here – things are also tougher economically now which means that their previously too expensive prices are now half reasonable.
It seemed that the insurgency was also going to affect me directly too not just indirectly as it had so far.
I had a beard (although I don’t call it a “beard”, just “not shaving”) and I looked, I suppose, like a fundamentalist (having “not shaved” for a record three months).
A police van en route to the north drove past and, on seeing me, did a cartoon-like head turn and screeching stop ahead of me (surprise, surprise!).
The cop riding shotgun called me over.
Under normal circumstances I would have insisted that they reverse but because I’d never had any altercation with any sort of Lebanese security forces before and didn’t know the procedures and due to the fact that they were under serious pressure I decided that now wasn’t the time for me to be pedantic.
They asked me for my identity papers and I rummaged around in my pocket for them.
While I was doing that they asked me what my name was, where I was from etc and the standard “were where you living?” that my accented Arabic usually elicits.
When I replied Australia, they didn’t appear too convinced and asked me from what state in Australia I was from.
They must have thought that I was one of those non-Arab fundies that were fighting with the insurgents - a lot of the insurgents had fought in Afghanistan and there were Afghans who were now returning the favor.
Melbourne mustn’t be a fundamentalist stronghold because that seemed to satisfy them somewhat.
But their questions didn’t cease altogether (I was still trying to piece together the tattered jigsaw puzzle that is my identity paper) until they found out my family name.
On learning that, they apologized and told me that they’d mistaken me for a fundy, advised me to have a shave, asked me if I wanted a lift to home (I declined) and then went off on their merry way.
Police are so superficial – they stopped me because they were looking for fundamentalists and I looked like a fundamentalist!
Seriously, what would a an Islamic fundamentalist, on the run from a major crackdown, be doing standing out in the open, on the side of a major highway, in the Christian heartland, waiting for a taxi up to a neighborhood that hosts the Patriarchate of the Maronite church and the Our Lady of Lebanon Cathedral?
I also think that they were secretly disappointed – they’d probably initially thought that they’d stumbled across Osama bin laden just waiting for them by the side of the road.
If the Mohammedan can’t go to the mountain, the mountain will go to the Mohammedan (or something like that).
For my part, I was disappointed that they didn’t say “move on, move on – nothing to see here”.
Do American police really say that or is it just in the movies?
It can be argued that all Muslims are inherently fundamentalist, but militant fundamentalism hasn’t been a major problem in peacetime Lebanon.
A faux-liberal friend of mine said that this uprising was all due to the inordinate influence religious institutions had in Lebanon.
I don’t think so, as I told him (ever so politely quoting, only quoting, the 1992 Clinton campaign slogan):“it’s the economy stupid”
That ought to be on Lebanese license plates.

The Mayor of Jerusalem Ehud Olmert warned Orthodox Christian leaders off politics.
“You would do better not to interfere in politics because under another regime than Israel’s you could perhaps become second-class citizens,” he told a visiting delegation of clerics.
That would be a sep up, a promotion!
Christians are currently third-class citizens in Israel – the country of Christ (after Jews and Muslims of course).

*If nothing else comes of these Random Ravings, they can be melted down for liquid paper.
I’m so pedantic that I even apply a second coat.

*Ecuadorian president Jamil Muhuad has proven that he is indeed of Lebanese descent – he’s dollarized the economy.

A recent Danish study has found that women’s breast examinations are a waste of time.
I don’t think so.
I’ll do them!

*At the pub, somebody (looking at a picture of Marilyn Monroe on the wall) said something to the extent of “I’d love to have given her one”.
One of the lads replied “I bet you’re the first bloke to have ever said that – how eccentric of you”.

*An upper class oxford educated English friend of mine (who’s a lefty of course) was telling another friend that he didn’t know whether he wanted to be a Baathist or an Islamic fundamentalist.
The mutual friend answered that the fundamentalists might have a problem with his drinking.
Whereupon he said “it’s just an intellectual position”.

*The WHO reports that this winter’s influenza epidemic has been caused by a virulent strain of the bug called Australian Flu or Sydney h3n2 - ticking of another curse on Sydney’s almost biblical list of recent curses: plague.
When I was last in Sydney (1998), it experienced flood and pestilence (water contamination which occasionally reoccurs) in rapid succession.
The water contamination was particularly huge – a near state of emergency, all over the front page (and nearly all subsequent news pages), bottled water, round the clock coverage on television and radio etc.
I couldn’t help but think that a little hubris and karma may have been involved – people had been making fun of Lebanon throughout my stay (my cousin, noticing me drinking my orange colored effervescent vitamin C, asked me if I had brought Lebanese water with me).
Suffice to say, I wasn’t very concerned about Sydney’s water – I’ve seen worse.
Literally seen worse.
Lebanese water isn’t that bad but it isn’t perfect either.
Even loads of water that you buy at 20USD a pop when you run out of mains water is a bit dodgy – I saw at least one chicken feather in it once.
But the “decadence” curse was a bit of a worry.
Sydney’s motto may as well be “any lifestyle – so long as it’s gay” (paraphrasing Henry Ford’s “any color – so long as it’s black”).
Some of my best friends are gay (really) but I believe that a person’s private sexual proclivities are just that – private.
They shouldn’t (as even heterosexual proclivities shouldn’t) be imposed on people – particularly in the reign of terror that is political correctness (aka intellectual fascism).
One of the aforementioned best friends (who works abroad) cut short his only meeting with myself and other straight friends to attend a Gay Lebanon meeting.
What do they discuss at Gay Lebanon meetings (or Gay Anywhere meetings for that matter)?
“Item number one (and only) on the agenda: we take it up the arse. All those in favor say ‘aye’. ‘Aye’. The ayes have it…Umm…Err…How about those Mets”
I’m not in the habit of writing or speaking vulgarly but let’s call a spade a spade and that’s simply all there is to it.
It’s not an intellectual, political or cultural matter and one should counter those who attempt to make it one.

Over the years here in Lebanon, I’ve picked up a bit of French via osmosis.
I can understand the odd word, sentence and expression here and there and vaguely fathom writing on billboards (nothing that a two- year-old French child can’t do) but I can’t speak or read French.
Although I stupidly try to.
I recall reading Le Orient le Jour and being startled at the headline “Yaser Arafat meets with visiting cabbage”.
That can’t be right.

Regarding civil rights in Lebanon, I‘m a non-taxpayer like everybody else and I demand my rights.

One of the reasons given for holding an international holocaust conference in Sweden is that research there indicates that ten per cent of school children are ignorant of the holocaust.
I was quite surprised, I’d thought that everybody on earth had had the holocaust shoved down their throats (and up to their ears) and that the space program was to ensure that if there’s life on other planets, they know about the holocaust too.
Ninety percent brand awareness would be a dream come true for any product, but the holocaust industry isn’t happy with that.
If they want to get through to kids, why don’t they advertise on MTV – “the Holocaust, it sucked!”
The Hezbollah sent a delegation but it turned out that they had been victims of a misunderstanding – they’d thought that it was an instructional how-to course.

The Whitbread Prize for Literature had been won by a translation of the 1000-year-old classic Beowulf from Anglo-Saxon (old English) to Anglo-Saxon (modern English).
If that’s all there is to I, why don’t I translate the classic into Australian? (Verbatim but add “mate” and “spewin’” where appropriate).
“Is not a rose a rose by any other name mate?”
“Now is winter of our discontent – spewin’!”
“Etu Brutus ya c***?”
The novel Molly Flanders becomes Mole Flanders.

*The Sydney City Council has passed an ordinance banning Sydney residents from cracking any clichéd, hackneyed corny jokes about the Hard Rock Café’s car stuck in the building.
E.g. “the driving’s pretty bad around here”, “I drive like that after I’ve had a few drinks” and “where’d I park the car?”
The ban applies to taxi drivers in particular – most of who are immigrants and immigrants get jokes, expressions, etc handed down to them a generation after Anglo-Australians have abandoned them.
During the Sydney deluge, a Vietnamese shopkeeper told me “Nice weather…for ducks…yuk, yuk, yuk…” (That’s how they laugh) which hasn’t been heard since the Menzies era.
The ban doesn’t apply to tourists, particularly Scandinavians, who bust a gut at that sort of thing: “we lurve it – you guys are crazy!''

-crazy car

Since Australians are saying “sorry” to the Aborigines left, right and center, can’t the Aborigines say “sorry” for drinking all the alcohol, sniffing all the petrol (we’re an industrialized country and we need our petroleum products for development) and taking all the twenty cent coins?
Why do Aboriginal beggars only ask for twenty cents?
“Can I have twenty cents Mac, I gotta call me cousin?”
Maybe that’s how much a bongo drum “call’ costs.
I imagine that when radical Aboriginal leader Michel Mansel went to visit Colonel Gaddafi in Libya and allegedly received funding from him, it was twenty cents.
“Can I have twenty cents Colonel, I gotta call me cousin?”
I think I’m the only one, other than the Australian government, to “donate” more than twenty cents to the Abos.
While visiting the Old Parliament House in Canberra, I chanced upon the self-styled “Aboriginal Embassy” – a highly emblazoned gypsy caravan that’s been parked on the grounds for years.
The Abos are masters of finance and litigation but not apparently masters of literacy and logic: the OED defines an embassy as “a deputation or mission to a foreign country”
Ergo, the “Aboriginal Embassy” is contradictory and misconstructive to the Aboriginal claim to be the original Australians.
You can’t have an “embassy” in your own country.
I went into the “embassy” and met a man who I assumed was the “Ambassador”.
A sign at the door read “entry through donation”, so I asked the “Ambassador” what I should donate.
Aboriginal “diplomats’ are obviously a cut above the rank and file, so he didn’t ask for twenty cents but said “how ever much you can - some people donate a dollar, some people donate a hundred dollars.
A hundred dollars is probably the entire GDP of the Aboriginal “nation” but I wasn’t going to argue and, seeing it was the smallest paper money I had, I “donated’’ ten dollars (I don’t remember what the petrol prices were at that time so I don’t know what that is in Aboriginal “currency”).
It definitely wasn’t worth very much information wise.
Although he was very hospitable and sat me down and offered me some scones (donated by the staff from some government department), he wasn’t very articulate and forthcoming with any answers to my questions (granted it wasn’t the usual “white man come and take all that land and blackfella he run like the wind”).
On learning that I was living in Lebanon, he said, “well, it’s just like the situation between the Israelis and the Lebanese”.
I still haven’t been able to figure that one out, but I bet that he would have drawn “parallels” with any visitors “plight”: “Oh your Irish, well it’s just like the situation between the British and the Irish”
That was as far as we got, some unkempt, subversive, quisling, fifth columnist-type Anglo couple, who seemed to be friends of his, turned up and they are sat around carrying on about having some “mulga” later on.
“Mulga” is some sort of Aboriginal slang for marijuana – great, now they’re going to take all our hash too!
There’s a new form of “diplomacy” – “drug diplomacy”.
I thought about testing their “diplomatic immunity” and telling the policeman meters away at the old Parliament but decide against it and just said goodbye and left.
The Aboriginal sense of humor evident in my “diplomatic audience’ was also evident on January 26th 1988 (the anniversary of the British sailing into Australia, raising the flag and claiming it for the Crown) when an Aboriginal activist sailed into the harbor in Dover England, raised the Aboriginal flag and “claimed” England for the Aboriginal people.
The Old Parliament House was closed by then – I don’t get it, I get up at the crack of midday and everything’s closed by the time I’ve had breakfast and lunch!
I’d already been to the new Parliament House, which is pretty much all there is to do in Canberra, and wished that I hadn’t after a forty-five minute tour that consisted mainly of references to “the Australian bush”.
E.g. “the color tones of the seats (and everything else) in the Upper House (and everywhere else) reflect the colors found in the Australian bush”.
Eighty percent of Australians live in cities but Australians, nevertheless, have an obsession with “the Australian bush”.
So I decided to see some real comedians; I was in Canberra with my comedian cousin Anthony Mir and his friend and colleagues Gary Eck and Akmal Saleh (who were touring there) and I went and caught their last show in “the nation’s capital”.
I was their groupie.
I was also their timekeeper.
Being Bohemians, they didn’t wear watches but spent a surprisingly disproportionate amount of time asking me what the time was (as most people who don’t wear watches tend to do).
The masses (the silent majority) aren’t having any of this “sorry” business.
Yobos at a recent Australian Rules football game were chanting “sorry, sorry” when ever an Aboriginal player from an opposing team had possession of the ball.
Aborigines make up just under two percent of the Australian population, although two hundred and twelve years ago they made up just over one hundred percent of the population.

*It’s been reported that Anwar Ibrahim, the former Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister now in jail on sodomy and other charges, is suffering from arsenic poison.
Could that be ‘’arse poisoning’’ perhaps?

One of the stupidest things I’ve ever heard was from an oafish nouveau riche Lebanese Australian who was complaining to me about high taxes in Australia (which is fair enough) but proceeded to say ‘’we’re Lebanese, we go to Australia to make money, why should we pay taxes?’’
Yeah right buddy, next time you’re filling out a tax from, just click the LEBANESE IN AUSTRALIA TO MAKE MONEY, DOESN’T THINK SHOULD PAY TAXES box.

*The only point and use of objectivity is to reach subjectivity.

I don’t like arguments.
Not only are they ‘’vulgar and often convincing’’ (as Oscar Wilde put it) but (along with objectivity and its evil twin political correctness – really just intellectual fascism) are desultory, lazy and cowardly.
Objectivity and political correctness are often just a front for plain vacuousness, stupidity and ignorance.
It’s easier for most people to just receive opinions, values, politics, etc, as a package from an elitist superficial prepackaging ‘’liberal’’ media, academia, education system, etc.
In the West, the media aren’t the fourth estate any more; they’re the first and often only estate in the absence of real politics, religion, society, family, etc.
Richard Gere tells us that Tibetan Buddhism and the Dalai Lama (a feudal theocrat) are good and a sellout audience flocks to see him at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
Supermarket religion, values, politics, culture, etc, with only what suits us (often the soft easy aspects, disregarding the harder ones) put into the trolley.
The Church and the Pope are bad because they’re not exotic, cool hip and easy.
‘’Objectivity’’ in the media is far from objective anyway.
The media have the above mentioned slant but make a charade of presenting ‘’both sides’’, often manufacturing (pro forma and by rote) another side when ‘’two sides’’ don’t exist.
That’s obviously disingenuous and adversarial.
It also leads to a boy who cried wolf scenario – if things are always good and bad and have two sides, then how do we distinguish the things that are blatantly and unequivocally good or bad?
We’ve lost our ability to differentiate – it’s Orwellian.
Even op-ed pieces in the media follow this format (opinion and objectivity are mutually exclusive) and end up like a very boring game of tennis – back and forth, back and forth.
Banal, desultory, specious trite.
And they’re all the same – the op-ed/letters pages of nearly any newspaper in the world are practically identical.
What’s the point in the masses being able to read and write if they can’t really read and write?
Everyone has an ‘’opinion’’ and they’re all the same opinion.
Which is why I prefer satire – any monkey can add to the mountain of ‘’opinions’’ (and why would we want them to?) but real satire is not only refreshing but harder to fake and less of a pain in the neck.

‘’Leo Harvey Oswald’’
-My answer to pub quiz question ‘’who predicted the assassination of John F. Kennedy?’’

*Fuck Tourettes Syndrome.

*Traditionally laissez-faire Lebanese pharmacists are getting too conscientious for my liking.
Buying my sleeping tablets, the pharmacist told me to ‘’only take them at night’’.
Incidentally, I’m not addicted to these tablets, I’m just ‘’addicted to not staying awake all day and all night.

*There’s no danger of Australia being accused of not keeping up with the times.
Two hundred years ago, ‘’Australians’’ (or Australians-to-be) were suffering Draconian penalties for petty offences – transportation to the colonies for stealing a loaf of bread.
Now Aboriginals (proto-Australians) are suffering Draconian penalties for petty offences – an Aboriginal in the Northern Territory (soon to become a state known as the Northern Territory State – I don’t get it, is it a state or a territory?) has been sentenced to a year in jail for stealing a packet of biscuits and a bottle of cordial.
I guess biscuits and cordial are a concession to modernity.

*Whilst candidates and candidate lists are still being negotiated and horse traded for this summer’s parliamentary elections, I can confirm the name of one candidate who’s definitely running – Gerry Mander.

*It’s no secret that Lebanon’s new ‘’traffic laws’’ aren’t being applied too assiduously.
My question is why can’t the regulations governing blood alcohol content be delegated to various religious authorities as are other personal matters?
Isn’t drinking a personal matter?
The legal BAC limit in Lebanon is 0.07, but the legal limit for Muslims would be 0.00; for Christians from the mountains it would be 0.07 of arak; for urban yuppie Christians and Muslims it would be 0.07 of some cocktail with a stupid American name (e.g. ‘’sex on the beach’’); and for Druze it would be ABC (alcohol blood content – the amount of alcohol allowed in the Christian blood they drink whenever they get half a chance).

*Taif backwards spells fiat, which is exactly what this ‘’accord’’ (or should I say disaccord) is.

*The democratization of ‘’knowledge’’ and ‘’education’’ hasn’t necessarily improved their standards.
On the contrary, it has brought those standards down.
The world is awash with pop ‘’philosophy’’, ‘’culture’’, ‘’politics’’, ‘’spirituality’’ and, most dangerously, ‘’psychology’’ for the masses.
One of the favourite ‘’pastimes’’ and preoccupations of the Western or Westernized middle classes would appear to be sitting around psychologically ‘’diagnosing’’ themselves and others.
The Seinfeld Era.
This mania is so prevalent that it seems that the only way to avoid psychobabble is to befriend psychologists, a la the probably apocryphal story of Oscar Wilde living in the Eifel Tower because it was the only place in Paris where he could avoid seeing the Eifel Tower.
What makes this particularly dangerous is that psychology is obviously a rather technical and exact science and reading a ‘’self-help’’ book or watching Seinfeld does not make one a psychologist.
Sitting around saying ‘’I’m a bit manic’’, ‘’you’re obsessive compulsive’’, etc is exactly like pretending to be a medical doctor.
E.g. ‘’ you know what? – I think you’re a haemophiliac’’, ‘’ha, that’s rich coming from someone who’s obviously a closet diabetic’’.
Besides, all these amateur snake oil charlatans are encroaching upon professional snake oil charlatans – psychologists (and any doctor for that matter).
Get it through your thick head – the only cure in life is death, everything else is just a temporary palliative band-aid (if even that).
Psychologists are just graduates of the University of the Bloody Obvious and Intuitive.
Here’s the mass popular psychology definition of ‘’obsessive compulsive’’ – doing the same thing more than once.
E.g. if you drink through your mouth once and then drink through your mouth again (rather than through your nose and/or ears) you are an obsessive compulsive and classified accordingly. You’ve been warned.
Beware of the prevailing pop psychology McCarthyism.

*Is this spooky or what?
Mum is smoking Kim cigarettes (British American Tobacco) and reading ‘’Kim’’ (British Indian imperialist author Rudyard Kipling).
How often do one’s cigarettes and literature match?

*Dad asked me for two passport photos so he can get an electoral card made for me.Aren’t Lebanese elections supposed to be democratic?

*Attacking European royalty is so anachronistic and passé, yet it seems that Australians can’t resist humiliating themselves and every member of the British royal family that has the misfortune of visiting.
As a bemused British friend told me, Australians were not colonized, they are the colonizers.
And, besides, Australians freely voted to remain a constitutional monarchy.
So there’s no need to do a Gavrilo Princip and assassinate a visiting Imperial royal just vote!
But they can’t disabuse themselves of their romantic myth- downtrodden ‘’Aussie Battlers’’.
Nobody cares, least of all the British we consider us an amusing feral outpost.
We’re in danger of being stereotyped as a people who sit around waiting for royalty to visit so we can harass them.
Just like hillbillies are depicted in the movies crouching behind rocks and shooting at strangers who they ‘’don’t take too kindly to around here’’.

*Sunday 26th March 2000
The clocks went forward today but I haven’t complied yet as I got up very late today.
I intend to tomorrow.
I told mum to wake me up at ‘’3.00pm your time, 2.00pm my time’’.
So we effectively have two time zones in this household - one apartment on the old time and one apartment on the new time.

*I can’t understand the Western media’s carrying-on about Russian President-elect Vladimir Putin’s past as a KGB agent.
I don’t recall any such controversy over George Herbert Walker Bush being head of the CIA.

-Lift title from classic tome.
E.g. the Bible – ‘’House of Many Mansions’’ (Kamal Salibi); Khalil Gibran – ‘’Pity the Nation’’ (Robert Fisk).
Incidentally, the later should be renamed ‘’Pithy the Nation’’ and the eponymous poem by Gibran that gave it its name should be reworked to include ‘’pity the nation that has to put up with the likes of Robert Fisk earnestly imploring that it be pitied’’.
-Befriend your taxi driver who you can conveniently write half your book on.
Making sure to include something along the lines of ‘’ he invited me to his house and we shared the bounteous fruits of Arab hospitality – a feast interspersed with cups of pungent Arabic coffee’’.
-Befriend a Lebanese socialite or intellectual who you can conveniently write the other half of your book on.
-Take sides – usually the ‘’left-wing’’ Muslim side.
-Make up irrelevant obscure portents after the fact (who’s going to know?).
E.g. ‘’as I drove to office on the morning of the Sabra and Chatila masacre, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of foreboding (as if there was going to be a massacre at Sabra and Chatila) when I saw a) cabbages being sold by the side of the road or b) Palestinians being massacred by the side of the road.

*’’Veni, Vidi, Vichy’’
- suggested campaign slogan for Vichy Regime.

*’’Vichy Vichy Spider’’
- suggested title for Marshal Pétain biography

*Concept for a typically abusive subversive ‘’dissing’’ rapper who’s also a dissident – DJ DISsident.

*I don’t trust people with perpetual suntans.
A case in point is President Lahoud.
He’s said to be working tirelessly for the nation yet he always has a suntan.
How does he find the time?
Where did you get that from? To quote the slogan of a famous anti-corruption drive in Lebanon in the 1960’s.

*There’s only one word to describe the Elian Gonzales Affair – piracy.
Cuban American detritus (they call themselves exiles but are merely economic immigrants couching their materialism in ‘’ideology’’) should just leave the poor child alone.

*’’If I haven’t seen any further it is only because I have knelt at the feet of dwarves’’ (to paraphrase Isaac Newton).
- the feudalised Lebanese masses

*I got up early today because I had a ‘’good dream’’ and I couldn’t get back to sleep.
Paradoxically, this ‘’good dream’’ had the same effect as a bad dream (if not worse) in that when your ephemeral respite ends and you wake up you realise the contrast - how bad things are and how good they could and should have been and how these dreams, like all your other dreams ,will never be realized.

*The only time I’m fully awake is when I’m trying to get to sleep.

*’’Objectivity’’ is a refuge for the mediocre masses who don’t know any better.

*I’ve become quite used to being rejected by women.
To the extent that when I met a woman I like I think ‘’she’s nice – I’d like to be rejected by her’’.
Hurry up and reject me, get it over and done with – ‘’shot straight - don’t make a mess of it’’ to quote Breaker Morant (an Australian soldier controversially executed by the British for alleged war crimes during the Second Boer War).

*After being the Blair Broadcasting Corporation (Tony Blair being the American ambassador to Europe) during the Kosovo War, the BBC has become the White Farmer Network – twenty four hours of news, information and updates on the ‘’white farmers’’ in Zimbabwe.
It doesn’t take very much for the BBC and the nation they represent to ditch their usual objectivity, rush to the barricades and go into wartime mode – the Kosovo campaign becomes Normandy and Zimbabwe land reformation becomes the Black Hole of Calcutta.
Having been midwives to Victory in Europe II* (Kosovo), the BBC are carrying on their Cold War II propaganda role – constantly informing us about opposition street marches in Belgrade and dispensing statistics like traffic police – ‘’the biggest street marches in Belgrade since…(yesterday, last year, the last time we told you about ‘the biggest street marches in Belgrade since…’’).
*It came complete with very authentic World War II style land grab (e.g. the mad dash to grab the airport) and friction with the Russians.

*Computers make stupid people smart and smart people stupid.
Quark sounds like a Doctor Seuss character.

*The patron saint of travellers – John le Carre.

At one stage civil marriage was the issue of the hour here.
I’m all in favour of civil marriage – all marriages ought to be civil.

*Someone asked me whether I though that there was going to be another civil war here.
I don’t think there will be another one because the civil war in Lebanon never ended.

*What do you call a Shiite crocodile?
An aligator.

*What do you call an Irishman living abroad?
An expat.

*Best and most accurate typo ever: ‘’Bachelor Party. Starring Tom Wanks’’ (seen in a Lebanese television guide in 1994).

*Top acronym names of political parties and some suggested slogans.
1) NAP – National Awakening Party (Indonesia).
2) FARC -Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Columbia). ‘’This country needs a good FARC’’.
3) RUF Revolutionary United Front (Sierra Leone). ‘’RUF on roughnecks’’.

*Lebanese basketball team La Sagesse ‘’won’’ the Asian Basketball Champioship again and there was the usual carrying-on – including thanking, congratulating, accrediting it to and praising the President.
If you successfully park your car in the Arab world you have to thank (etc) the president or the king.

Israel has withdrawn from South Lebanon and local television has been singing at us all day – calling it a ‘’wedding’’, i.e. celebration (the only way of motivating the Lebanese masses.

*The best way of eradicating malnutrition in Asia is to eradicate chopsticks.
No wonder there’s so much malnutrition there – how anyone manages to eat (or eat enough) using two sticks is beyond me.
Malnutrition not withstanding, only people whose culture requires it should be allowed to use chopsticks – not pretentious yuppies trying to intimidate people who are used to cutlery (i.e. normal people).
Many Asian restaurants in Sydney don’t even issue cutlery – you have to demand it.
‘’For Confucius’ sake, give me a fork and knife or you’re on the next boat back to Vietnam.’’

The song played with intentional symbolism at the pub (which defied an official mourning closure decree and repeated visits by the police) on Saturday 10th June 2000 – the day Hafez el Assad died (Assad means lion in Arabic).
Literally playing the devil’s advocate, I told the ‘’mourners’’ (just a handful of expats who claimed to be holding a traditional British wake) the erroneous cliché that Assad ‘’saved the Maronites’’ (by sending in his army in 1976 to prevent certain Muslim victory) and heard the best and truest rebuttal of that I’ve ever heard – ‘’ he saved them for later’’.
A Syrian official on television said ‘’Syria’s a democratic country and we’re going to vote in Doctor Bashar el Assad.
The lion king is dead, long live the lion king.
At least we’ll be rid of some of our ‘’guest workers’’ for a couple of days – there’s been an exodus of Syrian labourers flocking back home to do I don’t know what.
As a popular joke goes ‘’a building in Syrian collapses, how many people are killed or injured? – None, they’re all over here.’’
I’ve been to Syria twice and I reckon it’s a terrible place to visit but you wouldn’t want to live there.

*Regarding women with whom things don’t out with, who reject me, who aren’t appropriate etc, I’ve adopted a ‘’the queen is dead, long live the queen’’ type attitude.
The drawback to that is that it leads to more regicide than the complete works of Shakespeare.

*People are always telling me that I’m intense but I’m not – I live in an apartment (Bedouins live in tents).

*When you first meet someone you like you have everything in common.
You create things you have in common – ‘’you have nose too? no way get out of here!’’.

*I have various aches and pains.
People tell me to see a doctor.
I don’t need to see a doctor; I need to see a travel agent.

*I don’t want to get married and have children.
I’m afraid that I’ll turn into my father, my wife will turn into my mother and my son will turn into me.

*Why’s everybody getting so carried-away about this submarine (the Kursk) that’s underwater?

*Lebanese political policy/program – a truckload of asphalt.

Saturday, October 3, 1998

Saturday 3rd October 1998
While elections were happening back ‘’home’’ in Australia (two accountants go to war), the main event in Beirut Lebanon today was the latest salvo in the Arab/Israeli war of words (real war ceasing a long time ago except for the designated war zone – Southern Lebanon).
Or war of chords rather, for today singers from all over the Arab nation (which I don’t believe in , just as I don’t believe in the tooth fairy, Santa Claus etc) were gathering in Beirut for a free open air concert in Martyrs Square; the war-ravaged former heart of Beirut that I used to call Little Hiroshima before Prime Minister Hariri made it the cornerstone of his grandiose reconstruction plan and did more damage to it than the entire war did – knocking practically everything down including scores of historic buildings which could and should have been saved (I hope Hariri never gets his hands on Baalbeck).
Dubbed ‘’The Voice of One Million Arabs’’, this Lebanese Woodstock/Million Man March’s main event was the performing of the nationalist song Al Hilm al Arabi (the Arab Dream) – a chart-topping hauntingly beautiful melancholic song of Arab woe and aspiration sung by an all-star line-up of singers from Syria to Sudan and lasting just as long (twenty minutes I think but who can be bothered timing it?).
I left my mountain retreat, catching a taxi down to Jounieh.
Caught a service (beat-up one window won’t open, one window won’t close old Mercedes shared taxi) to Dora on the outskirts of Beirut and then another service to the venue.
Not as much traffic as I’d expected but masses of people, the estimated half a million people there were a census takers dream.
Or nightmare.
Lebanon hasn’t had an official census since 1936 and here’s why – the country is crawling with Shiites and the country’s seventeen other officially recognized sects don’t want to admit it and face up to its consequences.
And they all seemed to be here tonight, Ayatollah Khomeini’s funeral revisited but without the fervour.
Mostly young men with severe looking, yet essentially bland faces, dressed in colourful gaudy rough Italo/Shiite jeans and t-shirts.
What the fuck are Casegrande Jeans?
I realized that telling my friend I’d meet him ‘’there’’ wasn’t the best idea I’d ever come up with so I tried to call him on his cellular.
With great difficulty, most people I approached told me that they were out of prepaid units.
Even when I’d score a phone with units, I couldn’t get through.
Finally got through but my friend had already left the venue.
He wasn’t alone- scores of people were leaving, frustrated by the chaos, the delay (the main bill eventually started two hours late) and inaccessibility (despite giant video screens, spectators could hardly see what was on the stage).
Just as I’d decided to leave, it seemed that everybody else did too – suddenly a mass of people began running past me.
Not knowing what was happening, I decided that running people have a higher probability of falling and being trampled so I stood my ground.
Soon after, just as quickly as it had started, the stampede stopped.
My questions started, one man told me that there was an Israeli plane overhead.
Is it a bird, is it a plane, is it there?
No, nothing in the sky but on the ground it seemed that spectators (closer to the action than I was) upset at being forced to leave seats apparently reserved for VIPs and invited guests had gone on a rampage, hurling chairs and stones at the stage and bringing the event to a sudden holt.
Lebanese soldiers and police are usually courteous and gentle but don’t take too kindly to messing about so riot police responded willy-nilly but that didn’t seem to help.
Neither did the announcer shouting ‘’don’t ruin the dream’’ to the crowd
Nor did the administrative reform minister (administration sorely lacking at this event) telling the crowd ‘’those of you throwing stones are acting like Israelis’’.
Don’t Arabs usually throw stones?
During the initifada, a friend of mine met a Palestinian in the US who was studying geology.
The future geologist did not take to kindly to my friend’s joke about him ‘’studying it at the source’’.
Still sounding like a school teacher (stop it – you’re acting like Israeli’s!) the minister demanded we ‘’contain those Zionists throwing stones’’.
It’s all a conspiracy.
Not too long ago, sewage pipes burst on a downtown construction site damaging archaeological artefacts and prompting the minister of culture to aver that it was all part of a Zionist conspiracy.
Shit (literally in this instance) never just happens in the Middle East.
Once that was all over, everything returned to ‘’normal’’ and the show went on as paramedics tended to the injured – press reports say that three hundred people were injured.
I overheard a headscarf wearing penguin-suited middle aged lady (can’t give you anymore details – they all look the same to me) asking a Red Cross volunteer with a megaphone to find her child who didn’t know his name but was wearing orange jeans (what did I tell you about their fashion taste?- I didn’t even know that they made orange jeans let alone sold any).
Sure, and while you’re at it, can you please find a needle in a haystack?
You got to hand it to these Red Cross people who, apart from dealing with cases like this, have to walk around New Tehran (Beirut) with ‘’a target on their backs’’ (the distinctive glow-in-the-dark red cross) as my friend Sue once put it.
I’d had enough so I caught a service into Hamra with two more headscarf wearing penguin- suited middle aged ladies (part of triplets perhaps?) who were also victims of the riot – they claimed to have been pushed and shoved by the police.
In Hamra my cellular woes were revived.
A drunken retarded taxi driver offered me a ride, then offered me women and then finally, third time lucky, use of his cellular phone to call my friend to pick me up and then demanded ten dollars for a six second phone call.
I gave him two thousand lira and he went berserk, saying he had had only six units left and I’d used them all.
Forget the Lira, the unit of currency in Lebanon nowadays is the ‘’unit’’.
I was rescued by my friend who came along and whisked me off.
Or rather the taxi driver was rescued – a drunk moronic taxi driver throwing my two thousand lira on the street and haranguing me was about to become the first person I’ve hit since primary school.
It was now nearly 11.00pm and I hadn’t eaten all day (which tends to happen when you sleep all day).
Saturday night couldn’t be salvaged but my hunger could be assuaged.
We went to a shawarma/ fast food place called Malek al Batata*.
Malek el Batata’s claim to fame is that PM Hariri occasionally pops in for a bite and his photo has pride of place on the wall.
While I waited and dreamed of my shawarma, the ‘’Arab Dream’’ reappeared – an ambulance, fresh from what had become the Arab Nightmare pulled up, its sliding door open.
The driver popped out and ordered a shawarma while two volunteers and a young boy hooked up to a drip and writhing in pain and/or discomfort waited in the back.
My friend asked the driver whether it wouldn’t be a better idea to get the boy to hospital before getting a shawarma but was told that it was for the child who’d come from the South and hadn’t eaten anything all day except some rough treatment from a riot cop in the confusion at the concert.
A clear case of life imitating art – the film clip of The Arab Dream shows the usual stock scenes of Israeli inflicted death and destruction, including Israeli soldiers beating a Palestinian child.
The clip was meant to have been shown at the concert but there was obviously no need for it – it was redundant.
We watched the finale of the concert on television with other refugees from the concert at a friend’s apartment.
The performers lip-synched the Arab Dream – the song everyone had come to see and the sentiment everyone had come to realize would always remain just that, just a dream.
In the aftermath of the concert, as the dust settled at Martyrs square, the cleaners and spin doctors got to work.
An official told a local newspaper that what had happened was ‘’a consequence of young people’s enthusiasm and overexcitement for the Arab dream’’.
I hope Arab leaders were watching – maybe they can learn from their ‘’enthusiasm and overexcitement’’.
They’ve been warned.

*King of Potatoes (Arabic for chips) - I’ll write that in English but I can never bring myself to actually saying ‘’King of Potatoes’’.