A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

a multi-faceted look at the middle east, and the middle west

Archive for October, 2007

Lebanese grindhouse

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on October 30, 2007

G sent me two “movie posters” last week – French-language posters of Quentin Tarantino’s “Grindhouse” double feature doctored up to reflect Lebanon’s political situation.

Here is the first one, Planet Error (ne Terror) a “Shamhouse” production featuring Saad Hariri, Walid Jumblatt and Samir Geagea:

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and here is the original, English-language poster:

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I love the creativity that goes into the appropriation of these movie posters, just as I loved the “Holy Family” and other politicized holiday montages that circulated last December during the first days of the downtown sit-in. Anyone can criticize Lebanon’s political situation – but it takes skill, hard work and a sharp sense of humor to critique the country’s politics in a way that makes people laugh, not scowl.

Posted in film, humor, Lebanon | 1 Comment »

building a better Lebanese light bulb

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on October 29, 2007

In the United States, changing a light bulb is a non-event. Turn off light switch, unscrew burned out bulb, screw in new bulb, turn on light switch.

In my Beirut apartment, the process is more complicated, thanks to the glass bulbs’ tendency to separate from their bases. In order to remove the bulb from the light socket, I turn and pull, rather than unscrew. Since moving in sixteen months ago, I have managed a 0% success rate of detaching bulb and base in the same moment.

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Sometimes the base is easily removable on its own; other times, a combination of towel, gardening gloves and muttered words does the trick. For the worst ones, though, I have to resort to feminine wiles.

Why is that chair in the middle of the foyer? G asked yesterday while walking through the door.

Ohhhhh, that chair? I said innocently. I was hoping you could change the bulb for me (thinking: because I’m sure this is what you are dying to do with your final hours in Lebanon).

As G wrestled the bulb’s base from the light socket, I complained about the quality of Lebanon’s light bulbs.

Diamond, G sighed. Its not Lebanon – its where you shop. You just buy bad bulbs.

Now that G is off to Asia, I have extra time on my hands – and I could use a new hobby. I even have a name for it – and I can just imagine the conversations.

I’m a quilter, Diamond. What about you?

Oh, me. I used to be a shopper, but I’ve decided to focus more. Now I’m a bulber.

I’m sure Martha Stewart has some tips to get me started 😀

Posted in Beirut | 1 Comment »

Time returns to us: autumn in Lebanon

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on October 28, 2007

G leaves tomorrow for a six-month stint in southeast Asia – an in-between amount of time that could be considered a short-term move, an extended business trip, or, as G’s friend M suggested last night, a “temporary foreign assignment”. That way we can say that both you and Diamond work for the CIA, M noted happily.

We were having dinner at Solea, a Spanish restaurant on Monot with a menu heavy on tapas offerings. The restaurant has a tiny, worn blue facade, and I used to wonder how a restaurant that small could survive – were there three tables? five? but after my first visit, I realized Solea’s secret: the interior wraps around and behind the adjacent building, and it opens onto a large, covered patio.

Last night the patio was a perfect place to dine – not too crowded, not too loud, and delightful with the temperate (finally!) fall air.

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(G took all the people photos, luckily, as my contribution to the evening’s photographs was this shot of the candle-holder :).)

And the night came with a bonus: Lebanon’s daylight savings time ended at midnight – a week before the United States, which ends Sunday, November 4, and five days before Syria, which ends this Friday.

In English, we describe this process in several ways, most of which involve the idea of going backwards: setting our clocks back, falling back, going back an hour.

In Arabic, a similar expression is used: raja3na sa3a – we come back (or return) an hour. But when I first heard this, I mis-heard it, as raja3atna sa3a: an hour returns to us.

Even if my ears were in error, I prefer this version. Going backwards sounds so negative – but the idea of time returning, of an hour coming back to us so we can live it anew, I love.

Posted in Beirut, food, friends, time | 2 Comments »

vintage wonders: the AUB Vacufume

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on October 27, 2007

Earlier this week I snuck into the AUB library to rifle through a few old books. Books there were a plenty, although not many students, curiously enough.

As for “old”, I found something hiding beneath a stairwell that looked like it had begun its days when Lebanon was a newborn:

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Of course, I had to take a photo – I couldn’t imagine what purpose this 1950s Space Age-style container might have.

Happily, as I was uploading the photo, curiosity prevailed, and I googled “vacufume”.

Thanks to several archivists’ listservers, I now know what a Vacufume is. Its a fumigation chamber, designed to kill library and archival pests – termites, beetles, silverfish, and lice, among other unwelcome critters. (If this sentence hasn’t already exhausted your interest in the subject, I highly recommend the Getty Conservation Institute’s Inert Gases in the Control of Museum Insect Pests. For more on vacufume chambers specifically, see pages 65-66.)

This made the “wash” cycle and pressure gauge more comprehensible – not a water wash, but a nitrogen (“anoxic”) wash.

 

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The books I had hoped to find proved to be less useful than I had hoped – but the library excursion was very much a learning experience. AUB: where the “B” stands for “Bug-free” :).

Posted in academia, books, bugs | 1 Comment »

mamma mia: amateur pizza photography

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on October 24, 2007

On Monday night I had a delightful dinner with a full table’s worth of friends. We ate at Olio, in Gemayze – Italian with a light touch.

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Five of the seven of us ordered pizza – and, amazingly enough, we all ordered different pies. As on Noah’s ark, they came in pairs: my primavera with K’s rustica; S’s prosciutto e funghi with W’s tre funghi.

And then … we waited. What had happened to M’s pizza? M2 and C, whose salads had come the earliest, looked patiently at their greens. The rest of us less patiently picked up our special pizza knives, “inspecting” them (otherwise known as: getting ready to dig in:D).

But when M’s pizza arrived, we all forgot our own meals. M’s pizza bianca was a diva worth the wait: a stunning contrast of creamy white cheese, deep purple-grey olives, and dark dark sundried tomatoes.

Its not that our own pies weren’t delicious – they were. But M’s was a knock-out.

Inspired, I tried to take a photograph. Or perhaps I should say: Foolishly, I tried to take a photograph.

M is a professional, i.e., trained, i.e., good, photographer. And she was very gracious about my sudden desire to delay her dinner further with some egregiously amateur snapshots!

This is the worse of the two – even after extensive editing it still looks like microwaved leftover pie:

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This one turned out a bit better. Doesn’t this pizza look tempting? Aren’t you hungry just from seeing the photograph?img_0025.jpg

Posted in Beirut, food, friends, photography | 2 Comments »

where everybody knows you (if you’re foreign:))

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on October 24, 2007

On my way to work this morning I stopped at the drycleaners to retrieve a skirt and favorite pair of trousers I had dropped there early last week.
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This isn’t my usual drycleaners – I usually take my clothing to a place much nearer to home.

But I had been carting these two pieces around for ten days, back and forth, intending to drop them on my way home from work … and finally I thought: I’ll just take them somewhere near work and actually get them clean.

Of course, in the meantime I had lost the receipt. Did I worry? No. I simply walked into the shop this morning, said hello to the woman behind the counter and waited while she retrieved my clothing.

No hesitation, no wondering who I was or what clothing I had brought in. She recognized me – a first-time customer – immediately, and knew exactly what clothing was mine.

Sometimes there are advantages to looking foreign :).

Posted in Americans, Beirut | 2 Comments »

weird warden messages

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on October 22, 2007

Yesterday I received a very strange warden message from the US Embassy in Kuwait. Twice – and once more from my aunt. Needless to say, I took it very seriously.

(I know – its been over a year since my last trip there, but the embassy wardens still keep me up to date. And thank goodness – if I held my breath waiting for the embassy here to pass on any critical information, I would be … dead. And blue.)

LEBANON

This Travel Warning alerts American citizens to the ongoing fighting and political tensions in Lebanon and advises them of safety and security concerns. The Department of State continues strongly to urge that Americans defer travel to Lebanon, and that American citizens in Lebanon consider carefully the risks of remaining. This Travel Warning supersedes the Travel Warning issued on December 22, 2006.

This warning alerts U.S. citizens to the renewed threat of attacks against western and Lebanese government interests by the extremist group Fatah Al-Islam. Similar threats also were made by the militant groups Jund Al-Sham and Al-Qaeda. The Department of State remains concerned about the personal safety and security of American citizens as the fighting continues at the Nahr El-Barad refugee camp. Sporadic fighting also has occurred outside several other refugee camps. U.S. citizens who visit refugee camps in Lebanon risk becoming trapped during hostilities. On June 7, a bomb exploded in the town of Zouk Mousbeh, north of Beirut . This was the fifth small-scale bomb attack in greater Beirut in recent weeks and follows the June 7 discovery of explosives-laden vehicles in eastern Lebanon . Since May 20, explosions have occurred in the Beirut neighborhoods of Achrafieh and Verdun, the Beirut suburb of Sad Al-Bouchrieh, and the resort town of Aley. The possibility of related episodes of violence in popular districts of Beirut and other tourist areas in Lebanon remains high…

Not to throw cold water on this warning, but … June 7 was a long time ago (and its “Bared” or “Barid”, not “Barad” – “cold”, not “refrigerator”). We’ve had several big bombs since then, each taking multiple lives: the June 13 bomb in Manara, which killed Walid Eido and more than ten others; and the September 19 bomb in Sin el-Fil, which killed Antoine Ghanem and six … I think … others.

Also, the Nahr al-Bared conflict ended September 2.

I would be the first to agree that Lebanon has many, many problems, but I think someone sent out the wrong warden message. As with the strange Syrian warning my aunt blogged about a few weeks ago, I’m more worried about Israel causing havoc here than I am about homegrown nuts.

I appreciate being warned about real threats – even if the US Embassy here in Lebanon can’t be bothered to send them. But warnings that address outdated events while ignoring current issues? I can do better than this by reading the newspaper :|.

Posted in advertising, Americans, citizenship, explosion, Lebanon, politics, words | Leave a Comment »

feeling loved

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on October 20, 2007

For the past few days I’ve been receiving a number of love messages from Lebanon’s sms advertisers, like:

في شخص بحبك بالسر بدك تعرف مين اتصل1429

Someone loves me secretly – and if I want to know who, I only have to dial 1429 to find out.

This was more convincing until K mentioned that she had received the same sms. Either the same man loves us both – secretly, of course – or 1429 is the sms equivalent of the romance-based email spam I used to receive at work.

What K has not yet received, however, is the EXTREME “Love Kiss” sms:

Get NOW the EXTREME “Love Kiss”!! That’s Trendy and FANTASTIC! Just Send K1 to 1069 and Enjoy this COOL “KISS” 🙂

I am partial to smiley faces with noses (the “-“), but skeptical about the EXTREMEness, Trendiness and COOLness of a digital kiss I have to pay for. As Billie Holiday tells us, love for sale is at best “love that’s only slightly soiled”!

Posted in advertising, Beirut, friends, music, romance, vanity, words | 1 Comment »

summer falls away: the change of seasons in Beirut ii

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on October 19, 2007

Its cool in the evenings now, although yesterday at lunch both Charles Malik and I were commenting on the sultry afternoon heat. I’ve been told that daylight savings time ends this weekend, although I need to double-check before resetting my clocks – as in the US, falling back and springing forward are moving targets, date-wise.

During the past few days I’ve been hit with an intense longing for autumn signs: the crisp apples, the bright leaves, the pumpkin carving. The last would make more sense if I were a more gifted carver – my pumpkins have been almost eerily similar over the years. Triangle eyes, triangle nose, smile with two teeth on top and one on bottom – its the most I can manage with my “oops!” knife skills.

And I keep dreaming of a costume party – again, not due to any brilliant displays of creativity on my part. I’ve been a cat for nearly a decade, minus one inspired turn as “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”. But so much of life here is pageant anyway … why not celebrate it :)?

Yesterday morning I saw a little cargo ship sailing towards the port. Most of the ones I see in the mornings are much larger, and being pulled by a team of hard-working tugs. This one was smaller, and on its own – like me :).

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Posted in Beirut, photography, sea, shipping, time | Leave a Comment »

tinkering

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on October 18, 2007

Yesterday marked the end of a project I’ve been working on for a very long time.

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Posted in academia, family, media, photography, radio, research, Seattle, time, words | 2 Comments »