Archive for February, 2011

The Promise

Posted in Culture, Me, Palestine, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 28/02/2011 by arabrhizome

I spent last night watching the four episodes of the Channel 4 mini-series The Promise. I had avoided it after hearing from people I really like and respect on twitter that the first episode was really bad. But yesterday those same friends on twitter were urging me to watch it, saying that it was brilliant. They said that while the first episode will get on my nerves I should stick with it and that I would be pleasantly surprised. I had realised that I wasn’t going to be able to sleep that night. So I thought that I might as well watch the whole thing because I wasn’t going to do any work anyway.

I sat and started watching it on the watch again feature for channel 4 (4OD). I have to admit that within 15 minutes of the first episode I wanted to grab my laptop and smash it repeatedly on the wall. It just looked like it was going to be a complete surface pro-israel account. There was a point when the main character, an annoying, rich, White, British, 18-year old, clueless girl from London on her gap year, who goes to israel with her best friend, who’s going there for her military service, says, while sitting on the beach next to the villa of the family she’s staying with in the rich part of Haifa: ‘this is paradise!’. At this point I just wanted to scream. The whole first episode is filled with things like that. I also noticed that the Arabs were conspicuously absent. The only arab character seemed to be a reformed Al-Aqsa brigades member, who only appears for a small part.

But anyway, before getting carried away, let me explain what the series is about. It follows the afore-mentioned British teenager’s trip to israel on her gap year. Before she leaves her grand father falls ill and she takes his diary, from his time in british mandate Palestine to read. The series therefore follows two parallel storylines, one in modern day Palestine and one in 1945-1948 Palestine. She’s a clueless, privileged, annoying teenager, and he is a British soldier who liberated a concentration camp during world war II and found himself in Palestine.

So the story begins with both of them, especially the grand father, being quite pro-zionist. She out of uninformed stupidity, he out of the horrors he witnessed in the death camps. So this is why the first episode was so annoying to me. It is because the story is really told from the perspective of the two characters, and no one else’s, that the first episode needed to be like that, from a story telling point of view. However, the next three episodes go on to shatter every single assumption and lie that seemed to be told by the first one. They also go on to tell the truth about the Palestinian tragedy without compromise. It felt so good to watch a drama the wasn’t afraid to show the truth and shatter this idea of false equivalence between both sides’ suffering.

I cried my eyes out through the whole last episode. I’ve always known the history of the Nakba, and Deir Yassine, and the truth of the brutality of the occupation in the West Bank and the giant interment and concentration camp that is Gaza, but I was still emotionally drained and affected by it. The most beautiful thing about it was the way in which it showed things that are important for all arabs but that most people don’t know. Like the centrality of the keys in the Palestinian struggle for the right of return of the people who were forced out of their homes and were ethnically cleansed in 1948.

Another really good thing about it was all the very subtle ways in which it showed the apartheid system of israel for what it is. For example, the main character’s best friend makes fun of the recruits on her first day of induction into the IDF calling them idiots for the way in which they act, she’s spent most of her life in England and thus feels like an outsider. However, during her basic training graduation party, she acts exactly like the people she made fun of in the first place. This is not in your face but is subtly represented. Another example, is the moment when ‘liberal israelis’ are forced to have dinner with a Palestinian for the first time. They ask him where he’s from and he tells them, being from a village cut in half by the  illegal apartheid separation wall, and they act politely outraged. Then he asks them where they’re from, one of the says I’m from here. He then pointedly asks, ‘no I mean where are you from originally?’

Anyway, the whole thing was brilliant in every single aspect. It is one of the best pieces of television ever made and takes its place amongst the other greats like The Wire and Battlestar Gallactica. The acting is brilliant, the story is wonderful, the sets are fantastic, especially the period ones, and the history is completely accurate. I cannot recommend it enough. It’s still on 4 OD for another few days and it is already out on DVD. Trust me you will want to watch this, whether you know about Palestine and its history or not. It is an education for those who don’t know and a reminder for those who do.

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Working, Hanging Out, and Stand Up

Posted in about the blog, Culture, Friends, Me, Uncategorized, Work with tags , , , , , , , , , on 27/02/2011 by arabrhizome

Yesterday was a good day. I haven’t had one of those in a very long time. It started a bit weirdly. I ended up sleeping for about 12 hours and woke up quite late. I decided to go to town to work, rather than staying home. So I went to Broadway Cinema and sat in the cafe there. I spent most of my day doing work. Again it was mostly reading, but it was better than nothing. It was fun seeing the cafe fill with people and get quite loud, then empty up and become quiet. It was a bit of a cycle. I was going to meet a friend who I met on twitter during the height of the Egyptian revolution.

Around 6 she came over and we went and had some food at an indian place and then had a bit of tea. It was really fun. I haven’t hung out with people in a while now, and it was nice to go out and see someone. She was here to work, she’s a stand up. I went with her to the club and hung out with her and the other comics in the dressing room. It was an incredible insight into the world of a working stand up. The club, it has to be said, was a bit of a shit hole. But it still made me want to try out stand up even more.

Everyone was so nice to me when they heard about me wanting to try as well. Everyone gave me names of promoters and were really encouraging. I will try to write some material and have it ready to try out this summer. I want to get through writing a couple of chapters of my thesis before I try though. I need to get my work in order, than try stand up and see how that goes.

Anyway, this was the first time I met someone online and then met them in real life. I knew this friend before from a few tv and radio appearances and liked her material a lot. We got to talking while tweeting for the revolution in Egypt and just met up when she was here. I can say that I have a new friend now, and I’m really happy about that. After the show we hung out a bit with the headliner, who was a very nice guy, and chatted about stuff. The whole day, afternoon, and evening, were just lovely and I had an excellent time. It’s been a while since I felt this way and I’m glad I made the effort to go to town. Anyway, I need to go back to work now, I’m still quite late.

Quick Hello

Posted in about the blog, Me, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on 26/02/2011 by arabrhizome

This is a quick hello to all my faithful readers. I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to look at the number of hits on this self indulgent project of mine. Thank you very much for coming back to read about my insignificant ramblings. I am in town working today. I don’t think I will make it home before the midnight mark, as I am going out to watch a friend do some stand up later. I have therefore decided to write this quick note now.

I don’t have much to say. I’ve been trying to work hard in order to make the deadline in a bit over a week. I’m still a long way away, but I’m making some progress. Hopefully my going out tonight is going to recharge my creative batteries and I’ll be able to write a few thousand words in the coming few days. So far I have mainly been reading and gathering concepts and ideas that will go into this chapter. The problem with this phase of the work is that I can’t see the results. Hopefully, that will change soon.

Anyway, that’s pretty much all from me. I am waiting for a friend now to meet me here in order to have a chat and a coffee before tonight’s gig. I will therefore leave you and get a little more work done before she gets here. Thanks again for coming back, especially when my posts are so boring and tedious. Hopefully, once the work starts flowing they’ll be a little more entertaining. Bye for now and see you tomorrow.

Another Semi-Productive Day

Posted in about the blog, Me, Uncategorized with tags , , , on 25/02/2011 by arabrhizome

Hello readers. I’m sorry my posts have been short lately, this one will be too. I’m just not able to think about them too much and write something consequential. So I woke up at a normal time today and spent most of it between working and watching the news. I didn’t end up going to university. It was grey and rainy and I didn’t feel like getting wet. Also, I’m mainly reading and I prefer being on my couch while reading. I was also feeling a lot better, illness wise. I was breathing normally and my head wasn’t hurting. However, I am now feeling a little ill again. Hopefully it’s the last push by the illness.

I’ve decided to go to town tomorrow and work in a cafe there, rather than at home or in university. I am meeting a friend for coffee later in the afternoon anyway, and I thought I might go watch a comedy show as well. I have been stuck at home mostly and I’d like to get out a bit. I haven’t decided yet if I’m going to the show on my own or with a friend. I guess I’ll figure that out later. For now I’m going to make myself a cup of decaf tea and try to beat this illness’s last push. See you tomorrow, hopefully with more to say.

Semi-Productive Day

Posted in about the blog, Culture, Uncategorized, Work with tags , , , , , , , , , on 24/02/2011 by arabrhizome

So I had a semi-productive day today. It started quite badly with me oversleeping and waking up quite late. I had to teach at 13:00 and woke up at 12:00. So I didn’t have time to take a shower and just got ready and ran to university. The problem is I spent most of the night last night staying up watching poetry on youtube. I mainly watched Def poetry jam stuff. It started with this poem by Amir Sulaiman called Danger. My favourite line in this one is: “I am a Palestinian teenager opening fire at an Israeli check point, point blank checkmate now what!” Wow! I then mainly watched poems by Suheir Hammad, who is just wonderful. Here are a couple for you to enjoy: here and here. The second one is one of my all time favourite poems.

I have always had a bit of a problem with poetry. It never really touched me. But I guess I just never really heard it and seen it performed. Also, I probably never heard poetry that spoke to me, like the words of Suheir Hammad or Amir Sulaiman or Mark Gonzales, here‘s one of his poems. I think that I like the hip hop inspired urban poetry. After all I loved hip hop in the 1980s and 1990s, back when it wasn’t all N words, B words, guns and bling. What I saw in these poems is that questioning spirit. Also, the way they weild words and perform their poems is incredible.

Anyway, So I woke up late and ran to university. My class was okay and then I sat in the post grad room and tried to get some work done. I didn’t get much writing done, but a lot of reading, which is really good. I am going to try to wake up early tomorrow and make my way to university before noon. I need to continue reading, but more importantly I need to get back to writing. I think I’m on my way there. I just hope  I can make my deadline. Anyway, that’s all from me today. I’m tired and hoping to go to sleep at a normal hour, will I though? I’ll let you know tomorrow.

Tired and ill

Posted in about the blog, Me, Uncategorized with tags , , , on 23/02/2011 by arabrhizome

I woke up today feeling even more ill than yesterday. I wanted to go to university in order to write but I couldn’t go out of the house. I was just too tired. My head has been pounding all day and my body is aching. I also have a bit of a fever. I tried to work but I wasn’t able to focus most day because of my head ache. So I spent my day basically following the news on Twitter and Al Jazeera. But basically my day was spent drinking tea and trying to make myself feel better. I’m quite tired right now and I will go to sleep soon. Hopefully I’ll be able to go to university early tomorrow. I have to go tomorrow anyway, because I need to teach. Anyway, Hope you’re all alright and I’ll talk to you tomorrow. Bye for now.

Supervision and Teaching

Posted in about the blog, Me, Uncategorized, Work with tags , , , , , , , , on 22/02/2011 by arabrhizome

It’s going to be a short one today I’m afraid. Also, it’ll be about my life and not politics or the revolution. So today involved me going to University in order to teach and also in order to be chastised for my lack of productivity in a mid day supervision. Let’s begin by talking about the teaching. I’m a seminar leader in this first year module. Basically students give a 20 minutes presentation and then I take over and basically fill in the blanks. I had three sections to go through today. I like this class, as it is quite easy and quite pleasant. It’s nice to see the students’ minds open up and expand as they start to get more and more intellectually stimulated.

Anyway, the first class went fine. The presentation was pretty much what I expected. It was very much what one would expect. The second presentation however blew my mind away. It was fantastic. It was a truly complete and perfect presentation. I really didn’t expect this from first years. It was easily on the level of final years. I was riding high. I was really proud of my students. However, I was brought back to earth by the third presentation. It was awful. 5 minutes, no powerpoint, even though it’s about interpreting art. So that was a real downer. But I explained that the next presentations need to be better.

Finally, let’s talk about my supervision. I have been writing about the fact that I am quite late with my thesis and not really able to work for a while now. The fact that I was going to be chastised by my supervisors was a matter of time. Today was the day. They were very nice still, but made it clear that if I don’t produce something soon I would be in real trouble. We have now drawn a very tight schedule. I need to write up this chapter in 2 weeks, and then write another one 5 weeks after that. I’m hoping to do that. However, this would mean not doing much that is not work. So all I’m saying is that I might still write a few long posts from time to time, but most of them in the next 2 months will be short. Anyway, that’s all from me now. Good night you lovely readers.