Earth Hour Every Single Day

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So you sat with the lights turned off for an hour, smartphone in hand of course, reading the tweets of hard-hearted villains who didn’t give a rat’s face for the well being of mother earth. You suffered in silence, and in darkness; that was your contribution to Earth Hour. You gave it an hour of your time and felt you’d paid your dues, you were then able to go back to indulging in all sorts of environmentally irresponsible practices that could be easily avoided. You can easily make everyday Earth Day; I’m not saying that by following the steps below you will save  the earth of all of its calamities, but at least your existence will be lighter.

1. Unless you’d been rolling in a pigsty, a shower that lasts longer than 10 minutes is an obvious case of water-gluttony.

2. Turn off the lights when you leave the room – easy, just a matter of logging the act into your memory.

3. Don’t keep the tap running while you’re brushing your teeth or shaving (ladies and gentlemen).

4. When grocery shopping, don’t buy groceries that come with a free gift that is wrapped in a ton of plastic wrapping and which will  most likely end in the trash along with the wrapping.

5. Fan of hot baths? Don’t forget to turn off the water heater when you’re done showering, and don’t leave it on over night.

6. Recycle the supermarket plastic bags that you put your groceries in by using them as trash bags.

7. If you have a water cooler at home, don’t use plastic cups to drink from it, go for glassware instead.

8. Keep a private mug at work to use instead of plastic or styrofoam cups.

9. Walk! Whenever you can, does both earth and your bum loads of good.

10. If you’re going up to the first, second or even third floor, take the stairs; you’d be saving electricity and burning calories at the same time.

I’m not an environmentalist, but I know that all our actions, regardless how insignificant, do make a difference.

The Ten Commandments of Being Lebanese

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A Decaying Society

Lebanese? You are to follow these commandments:

1. You shall not eat when you are hungry because meat is rotten, fruits and vegetables are treated with tons of carcinogenic pesticides and are irrigated with sewage, poultry and eggs are choke-full of hormones and antibiotics, dairy products are swarming with bacteria, bread is kneaded with straw and razors, and canned food is a preservatives and additives fest.

2.You shall not drink when you’re thirsty because the Litany River is nothing but a humongous sewage drainage system, and according to the Minister of Health, only 15% of water-bottling companies are licensed; the rest are just distributors of  ‘disease in a bottle’.

3.You shall not breath because according to a study by AUB’s Dr. Najat Saliba, the air in Lebanon is saturated with toxic particulate matter produced by the millions of cars that roam the streets, while factories and power plants emit their fumes raw and unfiltered right into our lungs.

4.You shall not have a decent public transportation system even though a tank of gas costs almost 5% of the Lebanese minimum wage.

5.You shall not enjoy nature because it simply doesn’t exist anymore.

6.You shall not own a house or any other property unless you belong to the elite 1% that has gotten filthy rich selling rotten meat and drugs.

7.You shall not receive medication when you fall sick because you don’t have an insurance, because the NSSF is dysfunctional, because major hospitals give their cancer patients water injections rather than cancer treatment, and because 100% of all medicines in Lebanon are either counterfeited or have a dubious expiry date.

8.You shall not get a proper education because the Lebanese University is under-budgeted and corrupt and private universities are open only for the daughters and sons of expatriates who toil away all of their lives in the Gulf in order to afford the skyrocketing tuition fees.

9.You shall not have clean, sustainable energy which is readily and abundantly available through harnessing our wind, solar, and hydroelectric energy because importing ship-mounted power plants is much more profitable for the Minister of energy and water.

10. You shall either emigrate or die.

The New, Nasty Kid on the Block

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Zaha Hadid design for new IFI building

Can you guess what this undefined structure is? Can you guess where it is being built at the moment?

As you read this, The Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs is being constructed on The American University of Beirut’s campus and it’s the world famous Zaha Hadid’s design.

According to the IFI page on the AUB website:

“The new, purpose-built IFI building will complete a grouping of five buildings surrounding the Green Oval, which includes Nicely, Jesup, Fisk, and Bliss Halls. It will blend in architecturally and be integrated with the existing open spaces and vegetation, including the landscape of the middle campus. The architects must “meet the challenge of creating a contemporary building in a cherished historical spot.”

Am I the only person who thinks that the architects have not really met that challenge? Am I the only only one who finds this structure totally foreign to its surroundings? How will such a futuristic design “blend in” with buildings that date back to more than a century?

You would expect a talented architect like Hadid who is also an AUB graduate to be eager to preserve AUB’s architectural heritage; but then, it’s not really her fault for presenting a design that’s true to her established style. The question is, why was such a design approved in the first place?

 

Eureka! Or Why We Are Jungle Beasts

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I had a Eureka! moment the other day. I had stopped at the pedestrian red light at a crossroads on Hamra, waiting, with my daughter in her stroller, for the light to go green so I can cross over to the other side of the street. Two guys arrived by my side but didn’t stop walking; they confidently kept going, and they were about to pull the famous Lebanese zig-zag maneuver among the stream of cars when they noticed poor’ol me standing there. They took pity on the lady with the baby who couldn’t make it on her own in that jungle, so they invited me to tag along their heroic procession to be able to cross over: “l7a2eena l7a2eena”,  they said. I raised my voice above the din and assured them that I was waiting for the light to go green.

So this is it then; one of the reasons why the Lebanese do not respect laws is because they view compliance as a sign of weakness, and “feminine” weakness for that matter, and God forbid that a Lebanese male should be accused of such an affliction.

Who Can Own a Police Siren? Just a Lucky Few

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our local version of the beagle-boys

Have you ever wondered who dwells behind the steering wheels of cars with tinted glass? Did you know that they are above the law thanks to “divine intervention”?

On a nice Sunday afternoon, one Mercedes ML350, a big black SUV, was heading towards Faqra. On board were two couples who were on their way to have lunch in a restaurant in the area. The car has tinted glass all over– remember, the installation of this type of glass in civilian vehicles was ruled illegal a long time ago.

Passenger #1: “Cool ride dude.”

Sami: “Thanks man. It’s my dad’s you know, but all of the extras are the handy work of yours truly.”

Passenger #1: “What extras?”

And ON it wailed.

For no more than $100, Sami had managed to buy the most outrageous and illegal of gadgets. He had in his car a police siren device complete with a public address system and a sound amplifier. Is there a need to mention that such a device should be exclusively installed in Internal Security Forces’ (ISF) police cars?

Sami then held the microphone to his lips and mimicked the line usually repeated by ISF when “someone important” is blessing the commoners with his presence among them on the streets: “silver Toyota, move to the right!” And the poor woman driving the silver Toyota actually moved to the right side of the street. The incident had a surreal quality to it: a typical Lebanese– Sami had actually perfected the aggressive tone of ISF officers who always sound like caffeine addicts deprived of their daily dose of the drug. He was maniacally speeding down the sloping hills of Rayfoun, pushing the siren on and on again (the image of a laughing Joker from Batman movies comes to mind), and cars around were frantically moving out of this menacing death machine’s way.

The truly scary bit came later though. Sami confessed that he had tried this trick with a genuine motor officer. He sounded the siren while his tinted windows were rolled up and the policeman moved his motorcycle out of the way of “important man’s car”, no questions asked.

Sami had also added a fake antenna to the top of his car to imply that he had a transmission set in his car, a device usually used by politician’s bodyguards. He put his full gear to use when he was picking up his cousin from the airport. Of course, we commoners get hassled by police officers when we park in front of the airport even if for just a few seconds, however, the ISF officer didn’t even dare look in the direction of Sami’s car. What else could he do? It was an “important-looking car” and he was just a policeman stationed in a hostile territory.

*This post was published a while ago in The Daily Star

Damn You, Google Translate!

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This post was featured on LBC Blogs http://bit.ly/w1RQxZ 

I have a habit of reading food labels. I read the nutritional information, the list of ingredients, and I search for grammatical and spelling mistakes in the commercial copy – like your typical teacher of English. I usually find handsome booty in Chinese products, the labels of which are notoriously fraught with typos and grammatical atrocities.

The other day, I was enjoying a roll of Ghazl El Banet (cotton candy), minding my own business, when I decided to look at the label inserted in the package. And boy did I find something worthy of a blog post:  just look at the below wonder of man and nature:

 

Where do I begin? This is so wrong on so many levels.

The manufacturer of this cotton candy (whose factory is in Dora, Rue “Saing” Joseph,) claims that “our good is our propaganda”. And sure enough, their goods are very tasty, so back off Mr. Goebbels, your services are not needed here.

The cherry on top of all of these copywriting disasters came to my attention a bit later than did the ones I just mentioned. Even though I am English educated, I was highly suspicious of the French in this prodigy; a quick search revealed that “barbe du pup” means ‘puppy’s beard’, and upon more research I discovered that this term does NOT refer to this candy neither in French nor in any other known language. To solve this mystery, I asked a French educated friend what Ghazl Lbanet means in French, and guess what I found out? It means ‘barbe a` papa’. I mean, ‘pup’and ‘papa’ are two different species of living things, so how could a person confuse one with the other? Beats me.

Several questions come to mind here; first of all, this product is obviously not intended for export (thank Goodness), because the label doesn’t say “Made in Lebanon” and even the phone number doesn’t have the international code included. Thus being the case, why did the manufacturer feel compelled to use a foreign language he is obviously not competent at? And why didn’t he hire a copywriter to do the job for him? Better yet, the obvious, easy solution in this case would have been using Arabic instead of English to avoid the whole embarrassment, but no; we Lebanese are proud of our multilingualism. Aren’t we the people who speak three languages in the same sentence and thus are superior to our Arab neighbors? We have to keep up with the appearances since Arabic has become a low status, outdated language that’s reserved for the “uneducated” and the “anti-modern” bums.

Sadly, this is an Arab country where school children think of the Arabic session at school as an absolute waste of time and where parents boastfully announce their kids’ weak Arabic language skills “ibne d3eef bil Arabe”. Would they be so willing to publically admit such weaknesses in Math or French? I highly doubt it as that would be so.not.cool.