Saturday, September 30, 2006

What made me like “Yacoubian Building”??

The question popped up when I was reading the comments posted by my new friend, aNarki about the movie “Yacoubian Building”. I thought: “why not write about that movie?” It’s worth it! But before I do that, I want to thank aNarki for his kind words about my blog, especially regarding Iron Maiden. They are the best… and their new album, “A Matter of Life or Death”, is just another masterpiece of music!

OK, let’s talk about movies, about the movie ““Yacoubian Building””. I didn’t have the chance to watch the movie in theaters, simply because no single theater showed it, or not? So finding the movie on the internet and download it was the best alternative. Every person I know was busy searching on the internet, trying to get a proper copy – For some time, the only “proper” copy can be found on the internet was missing more than half an hour from the total time! However, I had the chance to watch the movie at my best friend’s a month ago. His family and mine share passion for watching movies, and we are used to arrange a specific date from time to time on a weekend to meet and watch a movie. This time they suggested “Yacoubian Building”… They managed to get the full version.

Did I like it? Yes, very much – otherwise it won’t be in my profile’s favorite movies list. Why did I like it? Because it was not like any movie! I will come to that later, so keep on reading. Was it a very long and boring movie? Yes, it was a VERY long movie, but far from considers it boring for a bit. Should I tell more about the story? No, better watch it, and if you want to have some overview, check the movie tralier. Word of advice, don’t look for articles on the internet if you didn’t watch the movie yet, it contains many spoilers. Is it true that the movie was considered the most expensive movie made in the history of Egyptian cinema? Yes, it cost more than $3 million. Is it true that the movie contains a number of adult scenes, which are considered not appropriate for some viewers? Well, the answer is yes, maybe one of the reasons why censorship in many Arab countries chopped off many scenes from the movie, if not totally banned in other countries! Did the film reached out to the level of international standards in movie making? I guess so, I hope so! Otherwise it wouldn’t be enlisted into the Oscar nominations for next year for the category of ‘best foreign film’!

To start with, I couldn’t hide my aggregation towards the dark and pessimistic view of most events and characters alike in the movie. What made me also little sad is the “concept of comparison” between past and present: by considering the past as very nice, and how Egypt from social perspective went gradually down hill in the last 30 years… hey, that was not a spoiler, for two reasons: first, we all know that this is the reality, unfortunately; yesterday is much better than today in most of Arab countries. Second, I am sure that millions of people watched the trailer of the movie tens of times on TV channels, especially watched the legendary Adel Imam’s rants: “we live in a mutant society…everything was better in the past…”

However, that did not spoil my enjoyment of watching the film, especially with the development of the story or pack of stories, minute by minute.

Everyone knows (by now) that the movie dealt with a number of critical (and for some sensitive) subjects in Egyptian society. Well, it is not fair to say this, because these subjects are also present in other Arab societies, and not limited to Egyptian. For instance, the movie is hit indirectly hard on the issue of government corruption: this theme has been dealt with in many Egyptian movies, but in this film it did not need a scientist to figure out the hints to certain high-level corrupted political figures in power from past and present Egypt!

Corruption was not only about money and power; the movie showed a wider aspect to corruption when very sensitive issues like poverty, injustice, homosexuality, and even Islamic extremism were related. In addition, showing the contradiction in the behavior and attitude of most of the characters was the most obvious (and dangerous) dilemma in society, by letting the viewer sees certain character believe in something, express his or her beliefs very loud, and then act to the opposite of these beliefs – and I am not talking about religious belief, only, it includes love, respect, successful career, even humanity and simplicity in dealing with each other!

It didn’t stop to that limit, the movie also showed how a person can play the role of a rebellion against his or her principles, by becoming something new, good or bad, resisting these principles they grew up with, and for some is influenced by the same people who preach these principles. On many occasions and with different characters in the movie, those people do the extreme just to take chances where he or she can hopefully see a blink of a light in a dark and somber reality.

Speaking of power and abusing power, this has been shown in the movie like in any recent movies criticizing the political system in Egypt. What differentiates this movie from other movies is how it showed those who seek power as tyrants, but at the same as victims of a bigger game. It didn’t limit this to certain characters of a particular life-style, but it included others in society from low and high classes, people from different faith and beliefs, residents from various locations and areas. They were either having been forced in participating in this bigger game or choose to do so for personal reasons.

Homosexuality as a topic in the movie did go further than the common theme (or what people think the common theme) when it showed unfairness for some due to a certain situation, even for some it has been used as a tool for terror! I don’t recall if there is a similar Arabic movie that showed this subject in the way this movie did. I thought of another Egyptian movie, I think it was called “A Cat on Fire”, starring the great Noor Al Sharief. That movie can be the only one I can think of to might compete in dealing with this subject.

I was not surprised to see terrorism and Islamic extremists have their share in this movie, especially in a film where Adel Imam plays in it. Check “Al Irhabi” or “Irhab we Kabab” and many more. Even in “Arees min Jiha Amnia”, you see the reference to this subject when the father was trying to stop the wedding of his beloved daughter by any means. Interesting to see the movie tackle the issue of religion and link it to other social elements in Egyptian society, such as poverty, and ambition. Both, especially in case of ambition, many people believe (some of them are right with such an opinion) that the first step to make their dreams come true is by joining certain group or community. This is natural instinctive behavior for humans to feel that way - anyone heard of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs? In the movie, this has been tackled beautifully when it shows someone with a target in life, trying his best to reach that target and find that joining a particular group will help making his dream come true. Interesting, though, is when that person finds himself being rejected by this group or community, look for another group, the result became disastrous, then to another group and so on and on and on. More interesting when we see the dreams of that person take another direction, and with same motivation he pushes himself in order to fulfill that dream. This topic was not only emphasizing on the young boys and girls who are looking for a chance in their cruel world, and where their chances in more than one occasion shatter, it also shows middle-ages men and woman, divorced or widows, single or married, all searching for their dreams with dust from brutal reality almost blinding their eyes.

I agree that “Yacoubian Building” for some is an uncomfortable experience, but the movie did not generate all that fuzz only because of homosexuality or government corruption or social degradation, rather than it shows much sensitive social wrongness within Egyptian society in a complex and fully completed chaotic formula. In Arab countries, the movie was tabooed because it gave deep & open illustration in dealing with this subject. Some called it “crossed the line of social principles”. However, In the west, critics were very positive because they say that the movie has dealt with problems in Arab society in a very frank and open way. Some went further by saying that the director of “Yacoubian Building” is trying to change Egyptian society… I find it a little bit exaggerating … but wait… is he??? Is this true?? Or is it that the movie was just overrated… let’s says politicized by some of those who call for “political and social reform to Arab and Islamic world”?

Monday, September 25, 2006

Whom the pope should talk to?

Today early morning news headlines were focusing on two events: The first event was about Judge Muhammad Oreibi al-Khalifa ordering Saddam Hussain to leave after refusing his request to be let out of his metal cage. This is the second time that Saddam being thrown out of the court room by the new judge. The second event was of Pope Benedict XVI meeting envoys from 20 different Muslim countries where he expressed “total and profound respect for the Islamic faith”, and he emphasized on "strengthening ties between Catholic Christianity and Islam".

After reading the news about the pope meeting with the Muslim envoys, I was wondering about something: among all Muslim countries, whom the pope should talk to?

The pope represents the Catholic church, he is the figure where people and countries from other cultures and various religions all around the world can have a dialogue with. The puzzle is to look the other way around: if the pope want to address the Islamic world, whom he should go to? is there a leader or even a representative of the Islamic nation where he can initiate this "dialogue of civilization"? We all know that in the Muslim world there is no unity among its countries.

There is no single alliance that consists of a number of countries where we can point our fingers and say "ok, this can represent the majority of the Muslims, so the pope can start from there"
Lets not involve the Islamic Conference Organization, because everyone knows that it is just a symbolic gathering of Muslim countries from all over the world.

I might think of Saudi Arabia, with obvious reasons: Mecca. But what about Iran? The strongest and soon to be (if not already) the most powerful Islamic country in the region with its military might. If we start talking about either Saudi Arabia or Iran, then we are drawn into the Sunni / Shiá dilemma, oh no, not again!!! What about Egypt? will be the one who can be symbol for the Muslim country that the pope can have a conversation with? Especially if we take into account its status among the Arab countries! I thought of Morocco, especially that the king still carry the title "Amir Il Mo'meneen". This will give the traditional aspect of Islamic monarch and maybe legitimacy? will that be enough to qualify? What about Turkey? Maybe, considering its ties with Europe and Turkey’s appeal to join the European Union!

Wait a minute, Iraq would be the best candidate, yess!!! I am not joking, really! It is the country where Sunni and Shiá used to live with each other, marry from each other and do not despise each other.... they are the symbol of Islamic unity… but oh no, not anymore! for a fraction of a second I started dreaming of old modern Iraq.

Back to reality, what other country can qualify to be that representative country of the Muslim world that the pope can address in his attempt to "strengthen the ties between Christianity and Islam”??

Lets put the Arab world aside and go to non-Arab Muslim countries: Is Indonesia a candidate? Maybe, especially with its most populous Muslim-majority nation in the World. However, with the atrocities exchanged between Christians and Muslims every now and then, one can have second thoughts. However, will Malaysia or Pakistan be good candidates?

Before answering the question, there is another one, a bigger one, I consider it a very essential, in fact a dangerous one: What is the reaction of other countries when one country has been nominated? Will country A be happy for country B and back it up, or will country A consider it as a competition and will turn its back instead of backing country B up with all sorts of support?

It is either the pope aware of such a situation in the Muslim world and he is just playing it safe, or he is forgetting that the Muslim world is far from being united to let one individual country represent them, especially now.

In second case, I only wish the pope all success because he will really really really hard time, and I doubt that he will initiate this “dialogue of civilization” the way it should be.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

First day of Ramadam

It is the first day in the holy month of Ramadan.
From my heart I wish Iraq will be safer, happier, stronger.
I wish Iraq be free of the occupier
I wish Iraq be cleaned up of all sick souls trying to poison our society with their secterian poison

They tried today, they killed tens of innocent people in Baghdad, again. We have faith in Ramadan as a holy month, we also have faith in our country, because of that the enemies of Iraq will not succeed. Our love to our country will remain in our hearts, this love will conquer hatred, division, arrogance and premitive mentality that some have.

Ramadan Kareem

Friday, September 22, 2006

Bush owes the whole world an apology

I think what to come will be the next to big debate in the coming days in the United States. There are more and more voices objecting towards the way Bush and his administration is handling things in Iraq. But Keith Olbermann, who is a host of a show on NBC channel called "Countdown" where it discusses the latest daily news, went further than that. Olbermann wrote an article carrying the title "Bush owes us an apology". The issue under debate now is Bush's response to a reporter during his last conference time. The reporter was asking the U.S president about his reaction to the letter former secretary of state, Collin Powel sent, saying: "the world is beginning to doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism." The link to this blog is here

The debate now is not about what Bush thinks of Powel's words, or about the morality of the U.S. foreign policy, it is more about the phrase Bush used, which Olbermann refered to it as Bush's attempt for a "monopoly of thinking"!!!

It became obvious that the cause for "fighting for democracy by the United States" became an internal affair. It seems that the Bush's administration policy of promoting "free speech" and "free will" in the whole world has back-fired, and the essense of democracy in the land of freedom is at stake, especially after hearing Bush's words!

Are we witnessing a struggle to re-initiate democracy in the way it used to be more than a decade ago in the United States? In other words, does the American people sensing the heat nearing to them that their democracy now under threat from it's own government? starting with monitoring every word said or written on telephones, internet, newspapers, on the streets...etc? Does the American public begin to be afraid that actions committed by their government abraod in the name of democracy would be mirrored inside the country?

In this case, Bush owes the whole world an apology, and not only he should do that to his own people, Mr. Olbermann

Thursday, September 21, 2006

A look into the salary of…

Benedict XVI
Born: 1927
Position: Pope of the Catholic Church
Yearly Salary: € 0

Bill Gates
Born: 1959
Profession: Director of Microsoft
Monthly Salary: € 41518

Tony Blair
Born: 1953
Profession: Prime Minister of the UK
Monthly Salary: €27408

George W Bush
Profession: President of the United States
Monthly Salary: € 29333

Monthly Salary: € 4173772

Zinedine Zidane
Born: 1972
Profession: Football player
Monthly Salary: € 1250000

Born: 1976
Profession: Football player
Monthly Salary: € 1450000

Is There Hope?

Like every Thursday, I have to be at work very early, I was late a little bit today! After finishing a number of things at work, I decided to read more and more blogs from Iraqi, inside Iraq. I read what Baghdad Burning was saying about "saying goodbye". Not far from her reality, but to the opposite. How? My relatives decided two weeks ago to leave Iraq: two old parents, two married men with their wives and their children decided to leave, why? because at any moment "it will be our turn" and "They will kill us". That was their reply! I asked them "by whom?" and "why?" or "can someone stop them?", but my question was already answered by what we hear, see and read in the daily news and from people we know...

It is like something programmed to target certain areas in Baghdad, or the rest of the country. Each family feeling threatened decids either to abandon their houses and go somewhere else, or the last resort by leaving the whole country. Saddam did that for years and now there is an opportunity for some groups to do the same.

A colleague of mine compared the disaster in Iraq with what happened more than a decade ago in former Yoguslavia. He said that this exactly what happened when the Serbs used to go to Muslim neighborhoods and force people to leave their houses, or vise versa... things escelated and the result was dividing the country into many, but it didn't stop there and a bloody war was waged that made more people fleeing the country and more deaths!

Bastards from the east and from the west are digging in our society in Iraq. One group is killing, the other counter-killing, and another group is standing from a little distance, just watching! Ah, and the same group who is watching is participating in the killing when they have the chance too - whether in public or secretly. In all this chaos, another disfunctional generation is born (the first disfunctional group is the one that Saddam created since he became president).

10 years ago I had a middle-aged man who fleed Iraq in early 1990s. I told him that there is no hope for Iraq to get over these crisis - during that time there were sanctions on"the people" of Iraq. He did not agree with me, and replied with a calm tone:"Iraq went through a lot of crisis... Civilizations in Iraq collapsed in the past, but Iraq remained always a sort of survivor. Iraqis has been always rise up and rebuild their beloved country, despite all the crisis they have been through."

Very optimistic point of view, but does that apply on the current disaster we are facing?

A country can be built by its people and also can be distroyed further by its people. I am sure about the fact that people like riverbend from Baghdad Burning and Truthteller and his family from Family From Mosul (whom I only know them from their writings on their blogs) are one of those who would love to build new society, and participate in re-building the current wounded society. On the other hand, there who do the opposite, by steeling, killing, cheating, and distroying the whole country with their actions. But does those who build making a balance with those who distroy? and will we be able to see the day when those who build as winnars?

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The Best Headlines You Will Ever Read

Bush Found Guilty Of War CrimesGeneva- Former President of the United States George Bush was convicted by an international tribunal Monday morning of crimes against humanity and mass genocide. He is to be sentenced later this year for his crimes in Iraq and recently discovered role in the 9-11 attacks. “Even though we have not seen one in years, the possibility of a firing squad has not yet been ruled out…”

Internet Neutrality Laws PassedWashington- A new amendment was passed in a majority vote by Congress early this morning guaranteeing the neutrality of the World Wide Web. Investigations were also announced into the dealings of certain large internet service providers, including AOL and MSN. In addition to net neutrality, the amendment also states the distribution of spyware is to be considered a serious offense that allows for the offenders to spend prison time getting ass raped…

File Sharing Deemed Legal By Supreme CourtWashington- In a unanimous vote last week, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of internet users everywhere in their class action lawsuit against the MPAA and the RIAA. An unprecedented $200 billion fine was levied upon the entertainment industry for violating invasion of privacy laws. Despite the ruling in favor of the plaintiffs in this case, cocaine use amongst rock stars this weekend was not affected…

Bill O’Reilly Arrested On Crack, Child Pornography ChargesColorado- According to his lawyers, the police roughed up the popular right wing television personality when he was arrested on charges of child pornography and possession of crack near downtown Denver Friday night. “There was an unwarranted full body cavity search and my client was repeatedly tasered,” said the high profile attorney outside of the courtroom Monday morning. According to the police, O’Reilly was hyped up on crack and threatening them while masturbating in the middle of a busy street…

Rare Plant Found In Rainforest That Cures EverythingBrazil- A team of scientists have confirmed that a rare psychedelic herb found growing wild in the rainforests of southern Brazil is indeed the miracle drug it has been called in the press as of late. The herb creates a LSD-like high when smoked and causes human cells to regenerate and repair themselves. The first batch of cancer patients began their trips early this morning…

Marijuana Legalized WorldwideGeneva- In a stunning move Friday at a special session called by the United Nations, governments all over the world agreed unanimously to legalize the cultivation and sale of the hemp plant. Over the weekend sales brought in more money than all other industries combined and single-handedly repaired the world’s economy. In related news, everyone is stoned…

Science Finds True Origin Of The UniverseRome- The group of scientists hired by the Vatican to prove the existence of God without a doubt did just the opposite last Thursday when they unveiled irrefutable evidence that the universe was actually created by a rogue group of garden gnomes. “Apparently, everyone was wrong.” One of the scientists was quoted as saying. The Pope was bathing in his Naziness, so he could not be reached for comment…

Superman Thwarts Terror Attack: Cheney ArrestedNew York- A plane set to collide with the new World Trade Center was intercepted by the Man of Steel last Wednesday morning. Former disgruntled Vice President Dick Cheney was found to be controlling it remotely from a nearby public restroom. He was led away in handcuffs by FBI agents after getting slapped like a bitch in front of everyone by Superman…

First Contact Made: Aliens Bring Better Gaming TechnologyFlorida- NASA has announced early this morning that three astronauts made contact with an alien species last Tuesday while doing routine repairs on the international space station. “Their handheld technology was awesome,” reported one of the astronauts, “They had a gaming network running through the entire galaxy. When you get shot in the game, it actually hurts!” The purpose of the contact was apparently to announce a release date for their own gaming system to compete with Microsoft and Sony just before Christmas…

Nasrallah dates: best quality, highest price

With all preparations for the holy month of Ramadan, Egyptian public markets (souq) came out with a list of new names for their products, especially dates. The most expensive dates in Egyptian public markets now and with the highest quality carries the name “Hasan Nasrallah”, when the secretary general of the Lebanese Hezbollah is considered as a hero, especially after the victory they made in the war with Israel. The price of the one Kilogram of “Nasrallah Dates” is 24 Egyptian Pounds (more than four Dollars for the Kilo). The “Ahmednajadi Dates” (the Iranian President) comes second with a price of 18 Egyptian Pounds (more than 3 Dollars for the Kilo). On third came the “Chavez Dates”, after the Venezuelan president Chavez, who is highly regarded and respected by the Arab people. The price of “Chavez Dates” goes to 14 Egyptian Pounds (more than two dollars for the kilo).

This is not the first time that dates carry names of famous political or religious leaders or celebrities, such as in previous years when dates were called after Palestinian leader , Arafat, or the Egyptian female actor, Layla Alawy.

However, the worst quality type of dates did also took its share after: First come “Olmert Dates” (Israeli prime minister, Ihod Olmert), after years of carrying the name “Ariel Sharon dates”. The price for the kilop is 1.5 Egyptian Pounds (less than $0.20).
Egypt is considered now the first producer of dry dates in the Arab world, with its 11 million dates-palm, preceding Iran and Saudi Arabia in this field. In the past and for years Iraq used to be on top as the first producer and the country with the highest number of dates-palms.

The link is here for those who is interested in reading the original article (in Arabic)

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

First Post First

After reading and reading blogs almost for the whole day, this is my first post on my own blog. I couldn't stop myself from smiling for having to choose the name "mix mode" for my blog, becuase I got that kind of feeling when I read all these opinions from the different people all around the different countries in the world. I am really feeling this mix mode type of thing at the moment: happy to share these words on the internet; sad because of some comments that make some people stupid; proud that there are very relatively young boys and girls who can debate, well, discuss universal issue like experienced ones; angry because there is no fair in some of the postings and some of the comments on other posting!

In fact, the world has the perfect ingridients to become the "mix mode" place, but I am not going to talk about this now... I hope I will find time tomorrow to do that