Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Nice Weather Today

Amazing weather today. Took my class out again where we talked about Coleridge and Opium. (I hope no one starts having ideas)

Scattered my second grass on the lawn in Kaifan (yes we have one). One group sat on the floor and I was tempted to spend more time with them than with the other groups. That group of 5(my limit to group work) increased to 7 members, tempted by their picnic style lesson (I told them all we need now is wine and cheese, but then suggested Vimto to preserve our traditional values)

(Another Lawn. Another Place. Far Far Far Away From Kaifan)

There was a stray kitten in front of our department and I was tempted to bring it some milk. It was greatly enjoying the weather while spoiling itself on the welcoming rugs they seem to spread ourside our building whenever we have a certain function. (Could it be their idea of a welcoming red carpet? But it's 3 big 3x5 rugs??)

Saturday, November 26, 2005

تلفون خربان

Why do government employees lack the simplest levels of customer service?
Why do they assume that customers have nothing to do other than wait for them while they chat with this and that?
Why do men have a problem looking at you when you talk? And I'm not talking about those so-called religious le7ya dudes. This guy had no trouble blabbing away with his female colleagues.

I went to Surra (phone company? what do you call those places?) to get some things done and the woman servicing me didn't know what to do so she had to ask this man who appeared to be her superior. He was chatting in his loudest voice with other employees so stepped forward to quickly answer her questions then went back to his yapping. When I addressed him with my question he seemed to look right through me. Am I invisible? The woman asked him another question, and again he gave her a quick answer and moved on without waiting to see if she got it (she didn't). Why can't those people be a little more professional?

Lunch today was a three piece meal of dark chocolate shot for appetizer, fondu for the main dish, and dark chocolate truffle for desserts. You think I overdid it?

And Now I sleep.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Marooned in Iraq

Optimistic in its ending, as seen in the continuation of life through Hanareh's daughter, the film is an extremely somber type of dark comedy. The devastation of life that is evident throughout Mirza's journey, though presented lightly, gives a heartbreaking image of the life of Kurds both in Iran and Iraq.

Mirza sets out with his two sons in search of his ex-wife who sent for his help. Moving from one village to another, we become witness, through the eyes of Mirza and sons, to the degrading life suffered by those villagers. As the trio move into Iraqi borders, this poverty is made the more harsh by Saddam's constant bombing of Kurds, intensifying in the end when we hear of Hanareh's exposure to chemical weapons and the effects they had on her face and voice.

The education of children, within these harsh circumstances, is noticable in this movie. In the first 'school' scene, the student are hidden inside what seems to be an upside down crate (thought my eyes might be deceiving me). When next we meet a school of students, their lesson is taken outdoors (much like my morning lesson today though with a totally different kind of scenery). This second group of students are orphans who live in a refuge for Irani and Iraqi Kurd orphans, an orphanage quite dismall.

The movie ends in an affirmation of life and a confirmation of the Kurds' resilient nature. Life goes on in the midst of all this poverty and bombing, and the adoption of Hanareh's daugter by Mirza further symbolizes the Kurds full grasp on life.

One of the most beautiful images in the movie is one in which the students, after learning about the two types of planes, throw their paper plane off a cliff, resulting in a shot of so many white kites gliding across the mountain. Breathtaking.

This is by far my favorite movie in film week.

Monday, November 14, 2005

The English Sheik and the Yemeni Gentleman

Yemen is beautiful, or so the movie makes it look. But Yemen is also ancient, so very very ancient. And even though those old mud houses appear beautiful, I think living in them can be quite a scare. "The site of them becomes all the more attractive the more fearful it is, provided we are in a safe house." (Kant) I like my safe technology-enhanced house, so unless that country moves into the 21st century, I'd like to stay in my less sublime but oh so much more habitable house.

Kant also says "it is rather in its chaos that nature most arouses our ideas of the sublime." Chaos is surely abundant in the film's depiction of Yemen no matter how hard director Bader Ben Hirsi tried to cover it. I do not see beauty in this chaos, nor do I see sublimity.

What registered in the audience's minds, other than the beauty of the country, is the chewing of qat. Comments were initially made on tourism in Yemen, gradually developing to food in Yemen (shock at seeing the Englishman help himself to a plate of goat's head, breaking it open to eat it's tongue and brain), yet qat soon became the center of the post-movie talk.

Curious to know more. I surfed the net for qat. Here's what I found out:
Qat contains cathinone, a natural amphetamine which produces a high after prolonged chewing. In the United States, cathinone is listed as a Schedule I drug, with heroin and cocaine
The effects of qat include alertness, energy and euphoria.
Qat can also result in increased aggression and "fantasies of personal supremacy."
Long-term use may produce impotence.
Stimulation from qat can occur with in first 15 minutes of chewing, though the peak "high" is reached in the third hour. Effects from the chewing can remain up to 24 hours. Following the high, a slight depression, or melancholy, sets in and remains for a few hours.
Read more on http://www.american.edu/projects/mandala/TED/qat.htm

Qat ... is a stimulant producing a feeling of exaltation, a feeling of being liberated from space and time. It may produce extreme loquacity, inane laughing, and eventually semicoma. It may also be an euphorient and used chronically can lead to a form of delirium tremens. ... Upon first chewing khat, the initial effects were unpleasant and included dizziness, lassitude, tachycardia, and sometimes epigastric pain. Gradually more pleasant feelings replaced these inaugural symptoms. The subjects had feelings of bliss, clarity of thought, and became euphoric and overly energetic. Sometimes khat produced depression, sleepiness, and then deep sleep. The chronic user tended to be euphoric continually. In rare cases the subjects became aggressive and overexcited. ... [in a study on 51 khat users] The respiratory rate and pulse rate were accelerated and the blood pressure tended to rise. The subjects also had a decrease in the functional capacity of the cardiovascular system.
Read more on http://www.africa.upenn.edu/Hornet/qat.html


Responses generated by the audience (paraphrased and condensed):

-- I’m surprised that even though the movie is feminist in its story, we see patriarchy being enforced by a woman rather than a man. It is the mother-in-law who causes the family’s demise.

-- That patriarchy is represented not through the men in the movie, but through the actions of a female, is a clear example of how the oppressed often perpetuate their own oppression.

-- Why is the husband such an angel? He is perfect.

-- It’s a fairy tale. We don’t see such characters in real life.

-- It actually is a very honest picture of middle-eastern and Irani views on marriage.

-- The husband isn’t really an angel. He is a very impotent character here, one who cannot or does not appear as a strong figure, one who does not make a stand against his mother.

-- The men here are mostly submissive: both husband and father-in-law seem unable to be part of the decision making scheme in the two families.

-- The movie is a cry for men and women both to see more in the relation between man and women than the begetting of children. The couple’s life together demonstrated their ability to create, not necessarily children, but rather a happy and productive life.

-- The movie uses color to background the feelings of the characters, moving away from the Hollywood tradition of using music for such effect.

-- The billboard that the wife hid behind in order to see the new wife had a picture of a man’s eyes, enlarged. This reminds me of The Great Gatsby where the billboard was a witness to the husband cheating on his wife.

-- The billboard’s eyes also suggest the idea of the gaze, a very recurrent theme in feminist works.

My connection was acting up so I could't post this last night.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Dreams Without Sleep

Turnout was pretty good. The room, albiet small, was packed. Unfortunately neither director Waleed Al-Awadhi nor manager of the Kuwait Cine Club Imad Al-Nouwairy were able to attend to take questions. Audience comments went from sharing an experience of heading to New York on 9/11, to a comment about the image the movie perpetuates of the Arab as constant outsider in the US, to a retaliation on that remark that clarified some of its misconceptions.

I had a good time, particularly when I ended my night by going to Chocolate Bar with a friend after being ditched by my sister. I think that was the highlight of the evening (Not my sister ditching me, but chocolate itself)

Totally irrelevant: A friend told me she heard an interview with me on Kuwait Radio tonight. I don't recall being interviewed. I'm not the kind of person who gives in to interviews. However, when she repeated what I'd supposedly said on the show it sounded completely like me. She said my name was mentioned so even when I insisted that I haven't been interviewed she insisted that I was. Could I have been hypnotized into an interview? I'm not that much of a celebrity so I doubt that. Could I have totally forgotten that I gave such interview? I doubt that too since that would've been in Arabic and I know for sure that I can't talk shop in Arabic.

Totally totally irrelevant: When a teacher, myself, didn't prepare the presentation for her class tomorrow, what does she do? After wasting time blogging, she decides to give her students a writing exercise on 'what is beautiful?'. So what do I waste time on now? Finding paintings for the 'what is beautiful?' slide-show.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

film week

the department of english language & literature presents

film week
featuring films from the gulf

12-16 november 2005, 7 pm
abdullah al-otaibi bldg., basement
kaifan campus, kuwait university
free admission

12 november 2005
dreams without sleep
directed by walid al-awadi
kuwait, 2003, 90 minutes
this documentary traces the lives of five new yorkers of diverse backgrounds immediately after the horrific events of 9/11. from his unique perspective as an arab filmmaker, al-awadi reveals how, despite the odds, dreams continue to flourish in the city that never sleeps. this film captures a sense of people's immense fragility and inexorable resilience.
13 november 2005

directed by dariush mehrjui
starring leila hatami, aUmosaffa
iran, 1996, 129 minutes
farsi with english subtitles
recently married, leila and reza are deeply in love. Their happiness is cut short when they learn leila is unable to concieve. while reza insists their love for each other is all that matters, his mother believes otherwise. She convinces her daughter-in-law that reza needs to take a second wife in order to carryon the family line. Mehrjui eloquently explores the devastating effects of tradition and the perversity of love in this moving story.
14 november 2005
the english sheik and the yemeni gentleman

directed by bader ben hirsi
yemen, 2000, 76 minutes
arabic with english subtitles
this autobiographical documentary chronicles the return to yemen of british-born director, bader ben hirsi. the son of exiled yemeni parents living in london, ben hirsi journeys to yemen to explore his lost country, its people, and their way of life. together with the eccentric English expatriate, tim makintosh-smith, who has spent the last sixteen years in sana' a, ben hirsi rediscovers his homeland. this film poetically unravels the profound significance of place and the power of unlikely friendships.
15 november 2005
marooned in iraq

directed &written by bahman ghobadi
starring shahab ebrahimi, alah-morad rashtian,
faegh mohammadi
iran, 2002, 97 minutes
kurdish with english subtitles
mirza, an iranian-kurdish musician, learns that his wife, hanareh, who left him for his best friend many years ago and ran away to sing in iraq, needs his help. with his sons, audeh and barat, mirza makes his way across the border into iraq to find her. what ensues is a madcap adventure that reveals the determined struggle of the kurdish people in the face of annihilation. ghobadi exuberantly presents music, love, education, children, and humor as an antidote to violence and war in this award-winning film.
16 november 2005
selection of shorts from the u.a.e.

signs of the dead
directed by waleed al-shehhi
starring bilal abdullah, nawaf al-janahi
2005, 26 minutes 30 seconds
directed by abdullah hassan ahmed
starring saeed obaid, nora albady
2005, 28 minutes 38 seconds
arabic with english subtitles
directed &written by fadel saeed al-muhairi
starring eisa al-eisa
2004, 38 minutes
arabic With english subtitles
silk strings
directed &written by amina ataya
starring adel ibrahim, amani, hassan yousif
2005, 35 minutes 15 seconds
arabic With english subtitles

Sunday, November 06, 2005

I had to stop reading :)

Here I am here. How I have arrived in this place at this moment on this day with this feeling history future problems life this horrible fucked-up good-for-nothing waste of a life how. Fifteen minutes ago I was holding a lifelong Criminal and cocaine Addict who spent his childhood with his Father’s dick in his mouth as he cried because he was scared to go back into the World. I ate my lunch with some kind of menacing middle-aged movie-star Look-alike and a three-strike Fugitive and a Steel Worker with torn-out hair plugs and a one-hundred-ten-pound Ghost who used to be the Champion of the World. I was given a coloring book and told it would help make me better. I watched some Judge’s stupid fucking video and I was told it would help make me better. I got sick, just like I do every other fucking day, and I am not getting better. I am twenty-three years old and I’ve been an Alcoholic for a decade and a drug Addict and Criminal for almost as long and I’m wanted in three states and I’m in a Hospital in the middle of Minnesota and I want to drink and I want to do some drugs and I can’t control myself. I’m twenty-three.
I breathe and I shake and I can feel it coming and the rage and need and confusion regret horror shame and hatred Fury the Fury and I can’t stop the come. Let it motherfucking come. The Fury has come.
I see a tree and I go after it. Screaming punching kicking clawing tearing ripping dragging pulling wrecking punching screaming punching screaming punching screaming. It is a small tree, a small Pine Tree, small enough that I can destroy it, and I rip the branches from its trunk and I tear them to pieces one by one I rip them and I tear them and I throw them to the ground and I stomp them stomp them and when there are no more branches I hear a voice and I attach the trunk and it’s thin and I break it in half and I hear a voice and I ignore it and I throw the broken trunk on top of the branches and one half of it is still on the ground I hear a voice and I want it out of the fucking ground and I grab it and pull pull pull and it doesn’t budge not an inch I hear a voice and I ignore it and I pull scream pull and it doesn’t budge this fucking tree I want to destroy it and I let go of it and there is a voice I ignore I start kicking kicking kicking and the voice says stop stop stop stop. Stop.

From A Million Little Pieces

Thursday, November 03, 2005

We are family ...

I got all my sisters with me ...
Ok so it was sisters, brothers, sons, etc, but you catch my drift.

Today was a happy family day. We went to Kuwait Towers, my least favorite place in Kuwait, the followed it with Chocolate Bar, my most favorite :)

When I go out with friends and family I almost always let them choose the place, insisting that: "it's not the food, it's the company" that matter and today proved this to me. Being around my family gives me great pleasure.

Happy Eid to you all and I hope you had an enjoyable time with yours as well.

p.s. 11:40 pm: Ending the day with my three best friends made it an even more special day to me. I think the spirit of Eid is getting to me 'cause I felt very festive today.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Because they decided to start their holiday today ...

So students at KU apparently have an agreement to miss their classes starting today. When asked, they told me it's because it's so close to the end of the month anyway and Eid is coming soon. They'd already told me Sunday that most of their teachers have decided to start their holiday Tuesday but I refused to believe that. We have an obligation to teach our 15 week schedule. If teachers decide to start their holidays 2 days before Eid then what model are we setting to our students? When are people in Kuwait going to learn to respect their jobs and be dedicated to them? I realize that many times these jobs can be unsatisfying. But this is the university for crying out loud. Is our job only to teach them what Shakespeare meant by this line and what Plato meant by his cave allegory? Don't we have a bigger moral responsibility to bring up better citizens? Many teachers have the habit of missing the first and last week of classes, claiming that students don't show up anyway. Isn't this the chicken and the egg dilema? If teachers don't commit to their classes why should students do that? I see a few teachers around me, so it's good to know that there are some dedicated ones here. But Kaifan is deserted and it's depressing and I have to stay here for my two other classes at 11 and 2.

So what do I do to kill time?


Thank you for your time ladies and gentlemen. I am now off to class, leaving you with my current msn picture:

Update: 30% attendance at 9:30, 50% at 11, and 30% again at 2.

But guess what? Classrooms were locked at 2. Kuwait University. Go figure!!!

Oh and this from Al-Qabas today: الـجلال يؤكد: لا تهاون في الغياب