Archive for June, 2010

Schizophrenic

Posted in about the blog, Culture, Me, Silly Thoughts, Uncategorized with tags , , , on 30/06/2010 by arabrhizome

I thought I would use today’s post to address the fact that my blog seems to be quite schizophrenic at times. I jump between kung fu cows, tv shows, and political analysis. The reason is I want to use this blog in order to explore ideas that I find interesting. As its subtitle says it is an experiment in thinking online. That is why I called it Arab Rhizome. Let me explain.

The rhizome is a concept developed by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari (D&G) in their book ‘A Thousand Plateaus‘. I wont go into the details of it, because it requires a whole book chapter to even scratch the surface when it comes to this incredibly complex concept. I will only explain how it related to my blog, or at least how I hubrisly like to think of my own naval gazing that is this blog.

So the rhizome is basically an alternative image of thought to what they call the tree model. We are all quite familiar with the tree model which is basically that every point, be it an idea or a concept or something else, leads to two or more points which themselves in turn lead to two or three more points. The genealogical tree is a good example of the tree model. What D&G argue is that this model has been the dominating model of thought. We have all been trained to think in this way.

They propose the rhizome as an alternative form of thought. The rhizome is a sort of subversive model that breaks the old image of thought. It is based on the vegetal rhizome and does not function in the same way as the tree does. A rhizome is a multiplicity of forms that functions by connecting points with each other that are not necessarily connected. They say that while the tree model functions through a logic of ‘either… or… or’, while the rhizome model functions through a logic of ‘and… and… and…’. It is an inclusive model that attempts to complicate and add connections rather than limit and separate ideas.

A rhizomatic way of thinking is a constant connection making form of thought. Now, this might sound unworkable, but that is only because we are locked within the dominant way of thinking. The rhizome, of course, does not mean that anything is possible. You cannot just do anything and claim that it is connected to something else. The rhizome doesn’t function outside the rules of rationality. It only refuses to limit these rules to the tree model.

This blog for me is thus my way of trying to think rhizomatically. I am trying to let my mind make connections that it wouldn’t make if I wasn’t writing this. In fact, because of this blog I’ve already thought of many future academic projects, as well as thought of many things that can be turned into routines for when I try out stand up. The schizophrenic tendency of this blog is a direct result of the fact that I am trying to think in a rhizomatic fashion. I hope this made it a bit clear. I also hope you all realise that even though it sounds like I’m taking it a bit too seriously, I really am not. The moment this blog stops being fun to write I will stop.

Not Much

Posted in Lebanon, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on 29/06/2010 by arabrhizome

Well I don’t have much to write about as today was quite uneventful. Although I’d like to rant a bit about what’s been happening in Lebanon. Three young men were arrested because they made “slanderous” statements about the Lebanese president on Facebook. A warrant for the arrest of a fourth man has been issued as well. Now this is unacceptable on every level. If you remember yesterday Nayla Tueni accused the Palestinians of hindering freedom of expression, back in the day, in her racist op ed. Well what’s this then? Or is it okay when it is her government that does it.

Lebanon has always had a certain level of freedom of expression that many Arab countries do not enjoy. However, this freedom of expression has never been completely there. Indeed, I remember having to sneak out pamphlets about Palestinians civil rights in the trunk of my car. I also remember when the people who are now anti-Syrian used to crack down on any anti-Syrian expression, from articles to marches.

I don’t know what these men said about the president and to be honest I don’t care. It was on Facebook and so probably wasn’t that bad. More importantly, this kind of action only shows that Lebanon is nothing more than a police state. This smacks of complete stupidity. To me, this whole affair shows just how corrupt and out of touch the Lebanese government and justice system really is. It goes after people who wrote something on Facebook Instead of focussing on more important crimes in Lebanon, like the rife corruption, the violence against women, LGBTs, and migrant workers. Of course the state perpetrates most of these crimes so it would be naive to expect it to actually do something about it.

The problem with Lebanon is that the majority does not question the failed state that is Lebanon. It is based on sectarian and racist principles that no one in the political class really questions. If we want to get somewhere in that country than we must question these basic principles and be ready to build a free democratic and egalitarian state.

Spam and Racism

Posted in Lebanon, Palestine, Uncategorized, World Cup with tags , , , , , , , , , on 28/06/2010 by arabrhizome

Right, so after yesterday’s post I was assaulted by spam messages. I had about 40 comments on my post that were all spam. I think FIFA’s afraid of me and thought they would try to annoy me with spam comments. Well you know what FIFA? You did annoy me, well done. I hope you’re happy with yourselves, wasting your time on spam rather than try to fix football with technology. Rumble, rumble, rumble…

Anyway, speaking of spam and talking shit. Nayla Tueni, a young Lebanese MP and one of only 4 women in the parliament, has written a horribly racist and disgusting Op Ed in her family newspaper Al-Nahar. Here is a blog post by a good friend of mine Nadine Moawad, who’s a fantastic activist in Lebanon, that has an English translation of the Op Ed, originally written in Arabic. I invite you to read it before you go on reading this post because I will be referring and responding to it after giving a bit of context.

Right, so first a bit of context. In 1948/1949 the native population of Palestine was ethnically cleansed by zionist forces, this is known as the Nakba. Around 700000 Palestinians were forced out of historic Palestine into the neighbouring arab countries or the bantustans that are Gaza and the West Bank. At least 418 Palestinian villages were destroyed by the newly born israel. Most of this population that was forcibly removed were put in temporary UN refugee camps where they were supposed to stay until they return.

As we all know, despite the numerous UN calls for their return, israel continues to defy UN resolution 194, which calls for the return of Palestinian refugees. So as time passed each country dealt with the refugees differently. Some opted for naturalising them (what a horrible word naturalising is, it implies that foreigners are not natural) like Jordan, or by giving them full citizen rights like Algeria, I believe. But in general most arab countries kept them in a sort of in limbo state, allowing them to enjoy some rights, but not full citizen’s rights. This in turn allowed, and continues to allow, these arab regimes to use the refugees as political pawns.

In Lebanon, where until 1982 the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organisation) was stationed and which it used as a base for various resistance operations in israel and around the world, there is a huge refugee population. During the time when the PLO’s headquarters in Lebanon they did a lot of bad things there. They were one of the major factions during the Lebanese civil war, until they were forced out when israel invaded the country in 1982. The Christian Maronite parties were their main enemies in Lebanon, including the Phalanges and the Lebanese Forces. They both perpetrated the Sabra and Shatilla massacre under the protection of the israeli defence force.

Anyway, the Palestinians in Lebanon do not have full citizen’s rights. In fact, they do not have full human rights. They cannot, for example, be issued a proper work permit, but only a temporary one. Their movement is highly restricted and most of them live in squalid conditions in refugee camps in which they cannot even bring building supplies freely. So for a while now there has been a movement asking for the civil rights of Palestinians living in Lebanon. A few days ago, or maybe yesterday I forget, there was a march for the civil rights of Palestinians.

So that’s the context in very general term. So, Nayla Tueni writes in her Op Ed that she read an article written by a Palestinian-American that calls the Lebanese racist because of their treatment of Palestinians and migrant workers. She is angered by this and goes on to argue that Palestinians suffer a lot more in other countries yet they only complain about Lebanon because they feel they can bully the country.

The points she makes are not original. In fact, they are part of a general mythology around the Palestinians, and a certain rhetoric that portrays the Lebanese as the good hosts that are betrayed by their guests. She pedals this non-sense that the Lebanese gave Palestinians their freedom and “Palestinians tried to live their freedom – chaos on Lebanese land.” I am not here to be an apologist or to deny the crimes of the PLO on Lebanese territories. But to say that the Lebanese gave Palestinians their freedom is a lie. More over to say that they lived their freedom by causing chaos in Lebanon is ignoring the tensions that exist within Lebanon and trying to pin the blame on “the other”, whoever that other may be. In this case the Palestinians. This is a classic attitude in Lebanon, the 20 year civil war is referred to as the “war of others on our territory”. In this case Tueni is blaming the Palestinians.

I will not address each and everyone of the examples she mentions because they are essentially problematic since they conflate the refugees with their leadership, or worst a few isolated bad people. This attitude of course is simply racist, and is best expressed by her statement: “We don’t want to open wounds of the past every time the Palestinian issue is brought up because their rights are human rights and Lebanon must work seriously to deliver some of these rights according to capabilities that do not affect Lebanese citizens negatively”, which is sandwiched between instances of her opening the wounds of the past. Now this statement is problematic on so many levels, I will only pick up on a couple.

First, when she says that Lebanon must work seriously to deliver some of the rights of Palestinians, which she acknowledges are human rights. Well If they are human rights than there is no question that the Palestinians should have them. If Lebanon is denying these rights, then Lebanon is wrong. Denying human rights because of a certain history is unacceptable, whether there are wounds in the past or not. Second she conditions the delivery, as she puts it, of these rights on them not affecting Lebanese citizens negatively. Again, if they are human rights than the effects they might have on Lebanese citizens is completely and utterly irrelevant. Every single human being is entitled to their human rights regardless of the effects they might have on anyone else.

Then comes the proper racism. She writes: “Is it always up to Lebanon to give up and concede and tolerate, and after all this, someone comes to hold us responsible and accuse our government and people of racism?” Well Nayla, human rights shouldn’t be a concession, and unless you are racist you shouldn’t have to tolerate Palestinians but simply live with them. More importantly, if you are racist then yes you should be held responsible and called racist.

She then finishes the article with a point that proves that she actually doesn’t know what she is talking about, and is in fact just repeating talking points without any real knowledge of the facts. She asks: “since the Palestinian Authority still exists, why doesn’t it issue official passports to all Palestinians on Lebanese land so that they are counted and identified, and can thereby get work permits just like any other Arab citizen?” Well Nayla, the PA, that was created by the Oslo accords, has absolutely no authority to produce such documents. It can only provide the Palestinians of Gaza and the West Bank with passports. It cannot even issue passports for the Palestinians of Jerusalem.

In conclusion, Nayla Tueni’s Op Ed is filled with inaccuracies and blatant lies. I could have written a lot more about this piece of racist writing but I would just get myself too angry. The main point is that she is trying to justify the unjustifiable. Palestinians in Lebanon shouldn’t have to be given their basic human rights. More importantly those rights shouldn’t be conditioned by anything else. Nayla Tueni you should be ashamed of yourself. Your arguments indistinguishable from the israeli ones that refuse to give Palestinians their full rights.

Technology

Posted in Uncategorized, World Cup with tags , , on 27/06/2010 by arabrhizome

Right I’m afraid this will be a short post as well. There’s a lot to write about, but I’m working quite well and I don’t want to stop for more than a few minutes. I will therefore just address the stupidity of FIFA very quickly.

Well, like a lot of people around the world, I watched two games today that screamed for FIFA’s stupid stance to not allow any form of technology in football to be reversed. Now, if you haven’t seen the games today, a goal was scored by England and yet was not counted because the referees didn’t see it cross the line. Now, whether England would have gone on to loose or win is besides the point. This kind of mistake can be avoided very easily. There are a lot of different technologies that exist at the present that can tell whether a ball has crossed a line or not within a fraction of a second. Most other sports have embraced such technology, as it makes for less mistakes and thus allow for less human error and more fairness in the sport.

The second game saw a goal by Argentina counted even though it was scored from an offside position. Again, this happened because the referees didn’t see the offside position. But then someone, against FIFA regulations, played the replay within 2 seconds on the giant screen of the stadium, and the referees knew that they had made a mistake. By the way, the person who did that is a hero. Interestingly, they couldn’t do anything about it because they are not allowed to use video technology, and their first decision must stand. How stupid is that? Now again, whether Mexico would have gone on to win or loose is besides the point. Video technology would have solved this problem. It would have also solved the Thierry Henry hand ball thing.

FIFA really need to rethink their stance on this. Their argument is that football should be the same when played on the streets or in a stadium. They think that football should not become a sport that is played differently by the rich and by the poor. Now, the sentiment is very commendable, but if that was the case, then no one should be paid to play football. Also, teams shouldn’t have kits. Finally, they need to play, not on turf, but on muddy fields where the goals are rocks or ruck sacks put at a certain distance from each other. The game is already divided between poor and rich FIFA, and competitions like the World Cup need to be fair. Technology must be introduced in order to make the game more enjoyable and fairer.

Stand Up For The Week

Posted in Culture, Uncategorized, World Cup with tags , , , , , , , , on 26/06/2010 by arabrhizome

Right I wanted today’s post to be about Palestine, and there is a lot to say there. But I will probably write that tomorrow. Instead I want to write about the first episode of “Stand up for the Week” the new stand up show on channel 4. I have a lot to say about it. But before that I have to acknowledge Ghana’s beautiful victory over the USA today. The game was beautiful. It really was the best game of this world cup. Ghana were fantastic, the US were good as well. They both played extremely well and most importantly both teams didn’t try to dive and do stupid shit like that. The US did however do a few dirty fouls and that wasn’t very nice. In the end, this great game was thoroughly enjoyable. Well done both teams. Well done Ghana.

Now, I was quite excited to watch “Stand up for the Week”. I, like many stand up comedy fans, find that there isn’t enough stand up on television. We have “Live at the Apollo” and “Michael McIntyre’s Road show”, which are good but a bit too mainstream. That’s fine by the way I’m not really a snob about this kind of thing. However, apart from “Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle”, there isn’t really any show that offers a bit of fresh and non mainstream comedy. So a new comedy show was welcome. The fact that it is on channel 4 meant it could go either way, be excellent or dismal. Let’s get it out of the way straight away, it was the most shameful, unfunny, unoriginal piece of tripe I have ever seen, and I include BBC3 and all its programs in that statement.

So let’s look at why it was so bad. Well earlier in the week Jack Whitehall, who is one of the regulars on the show, was caught by The News of The World newspaper snorting cocaine off his phone in the street. While I couldn’t give two shits about him taking cocaine, let’s be honest a lot of people do it and it has absolutely no baring on him being funny or not. In fact, a lot of great comedians do it. The thing is it was all a bit fishy. As Richard Herring and others remarked, it seemed to coincide quite well with the launch of the show. It could be thought that this was a ploy to make him look edgy right before his show started. This kind of thing has been done before. Before I go on though I’d like to point out that there is absolutely no evidence of this. I’m just pointing out that this could have been a publicity coup.

This feeling was strengthened by the fact that the show’s main host Patrick Kielty, who I have a lot to say about, introduced Jack with a very elaborate bit about the whole affair, with video and stuff. Moreover, Jack himself had a lot of material about it as well. Now, I realise that this all could have been thought of after the fact. But it just felt a bit too rehearsed. Anyway, even if this is not what happened the rest of the show was horrible.

First, since I am talking about Jack Whitehall I’ll stick with him. Half of his set was about the whole cocaine affair, with a very bad, and slightly racist, joke about a Japanese tourist with a camera (how creative, and completely not over done, and not at all racist joke) outside his house who his dad mistook for a paparazzi. But then he went on to talk about Michael Jackson, it was around his death’s anniversary. It was all together quite distasteful and seemed to be trying to offend simply to offend. He then went on to have a tirade against his aunt who said “as a mother, I am glad he’s dead”, which is a stupid enough comment that should be made fun of. However, he decided to make fun of it by explaining, quite shoutely, that if Michael Jackson was in fact a pedophile, then he could have had any child he wanted (at which point the audience actually whooped, they actually whooped that statement). Therefore, he certainly wouldn’t have tried to do his ugly cousin. Now, I don’t mind offensive comedy, I certainly don’t think that there should be taboo subjects, but when you are on dodgy territory then you need to at least be extremely funny, like Frankie Boyle, or be making some kind of point.

Second, Patrick Kielty is a self satisfied, smug, and completely uncreative unfunny man. His whole sets consisted in predictable gags that were very dodgy. He also had a smile throughout that seemed to be saying: Yes I know, I am that good. His bit with Lembit Opik was a particularly low point in the show. Most of the jokes were about Lembit being, and I quote, “a fanny magnet”. There was a particularly unpleasant bit about the cheeky girls (again how creative and not over done).

The rest of the people were just as unpleasant and uncreative, apart from Rich Hall who really seemed to be out of place. His set was the only time during the whole show that made me smile. If it was any other show I would have laughed, but I was so disgusted by the time he got on that a smile was all I could muster. It seems a real shame that he has agreed to be a regular on that show. He is so much better than that, and deserves to be on a better stand up show.

The whole show left a bad taste in my mouth. It seemed to be just a bunch of swearing and shouting. Now I don’t mind either. In fact, many of the comedians I like are very sweary and very shouty. But when the swearing is there just to be there, without any sort of content to justify it, it becomes lazy and predictable. And I think that was the real problem I had with the whole show. It was lazy and uncreative. The people seemed to try to offend just to offend. As I said before, I don’t mind offensive comedy when it is funny and intelligent, I am thinking of Frankie Boyle in particular here. I also don’t mind it when it is trying to make some more important point and thus make the audience think. But these people were just being lazy and seemed to be going either for the shock effect of offence, i.e. the “I can’t believe he/she just said that!” feeling, or the predictable gag that would make the thick laugh.

All in all the show was just dismal and in the end undermines stand up all together. It alienates people who don’t really know stand up and feel that it is just stupid, lazy, offensive tripe filled with swearing. Say what you will about Michael McIntyre, his comedy is at least inclusive and might be a gateway for people to discover more incisive and creative comedians. It also undermines stand up because it alienates comedy fans who are looking for intelligent, creative, and smart comedians who are trying to do something interesting with the medium. That being said, it had one positive effect, which is that it made me feel a lot better about trying out stand up. Because if that is considered funny, then the stuff I have in mind is gold. In fact, I have thought of about three different bits that I think I can turn into three very strong pieces of material. Of course, what I think is irrelevant, it’s what the audience thinks that matters. We’ll see, next year I will try it out at some open mic night.

Many Things Hopefully

Posted in about the blog, Friends, Me, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on 25/06/2010 by arabrhizome

So I have been writing short posts for a few days. I’m hoping to rectify this today or tomorrow. Let’s see how this one goes, the thing is I have a massive head ache, so I might just give up if it hurts too much. Anyway, you have been warned.

Z left for London today. We slept in her new flat, it’s lovely. It’s such a good flat. it’s roomy with a lot of light. You can get a bit of air circulation when you need it. We had a nice bit of fish in the oven and a good night all in all. We also had a very good time this morning before she left. I am quite sad that she is leaving but she’ll be back in a couple of weeks. I walked her to the train station and said good bye. And then walked back to work.

We kept chatting by text. We actually had a very nice bit of a comedy riff going on by text. She texted me that she had seen a funny looking brown cow. To which I replied that it must be a cow made of poo. She imagined it would be called either a pow or a coo. I then thought that if two of them were to get together they would be ‘coo-pow’ the deadliest pair of cows around. Which I think must be added to my list of rubbish super heroes. ‘Coo-pow’ the pair of deadly kung fu cows made of poo.

In other news, I am looking to move and might have found a nice house. I’ll be viewing it on Wednesday. I hope it’s not mouldy because if it isn’t it’ll be perfect for me for now, and then A might move in with me if he needs to. If I can find a house soon I’ll be very happy indeed.

I was thinking of writing a post about Palestine today as there have been a lot of positive, negative, and apparently positive but really negative developments (in other words, it’s pretty much as usual),I also wanted to write about a few other things, but my head is just exploding with pain. so I am very sorry, but I will have to stop now and hopefully be able to write a better one tomorrow.

No Internet

Posted in about the blog, Friends, Me, Uncategorized, Work with tags , , , , , , , , on 24/06/2010 by arabrhizome

So today’s post will be short as well. Z’s leaving tomorrow for a bit over 2 weeks, so I’ll be hanging out with her. And so, I will be leaving here soon and will be in a non-internet place. I have been working quite well today. I decided to take a break now and write this, so as soon as I finish I’ll get back to work, and hopefully be done with my quota before leaving.

I went to sleep almost straight after writing last night’s post. But I woke up this morning feeling a lot better. I have been writing a lot today. I’m still way off my target but if I keep writing consistently then I’ll make up for lost time by September or October. I really need not to get distracted in the next three four months. It’s therefore very good that my mom is coming to visit for two weeks at the end of July, and then almost straight after my dad is coming for a month, also a friend of mine is coming to visit for a bout 2 weeks. It’s good that all of this is happening when I need to focus completely on my work. I’m sure it’ll be fine, I just need to divide my time properly.

So I’m looking for a new place to maybe move to. That’s another thing to worry about. I am hoping to find a place before my mom gets here, so I can move there in time for her to visit. The thing is, the flat I’m in is very nice, but it’s really too small. I need an extra space for work. So a study of some sort. I have a few leads. Next week will be viewing week. I’ll keep you all updated. Now, back to the coal mines (because working in a coal mine is exactly the same as sitting in my living room and writing on my laptop. It is exactly the same so the analogy is fully justified. Fully justified I say!).