Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Forbidden "L" Word

I've been on a diet for some time now. I've been refraining from anything even remotely related to that word.
To my utter surprise this sorta, kinda made my heart pop. I didn't know I can react to things like that anymore. I'm going to presume this is a good sign; that I do in fact have a heart, not just some metal machine pumping blood through my body.

See this photograph here

For the sake of the forbidden "L" word (and humanity too) take a look at the post. Your heart might dislocate too for a minute or more. Especially if the quote used applies to you.
"Most people have a harder time letting themselves love than finding someone to love them." - Bill Russell

As cliche and super cheesy as it sounds (and looks), we have to admit there is a portion of truth in that.
The rest of the blog post linked to here is as heartbreaking as it is inspiring.
Read it, reflect on it and listen to this.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Doubt and Decision

Damn you Jason Mraz, for making so much sense.

Even though I've been keeping myself out of the blogosphere the past month up until yesterday -due to many irritable blogs that just make my blood boil- this man's blog was just too difficult not to keep updated with.
The fact that he's an internationally renowned artist (genius musician I say) and still blogs almost twice a week and allows people to comment on his posts, just blows me away! Respect, respect, respect.
His topics are genuine, they're humane, they're thoughtful and they make you feel that other than the fact that he has a gazillion fans, deep down there, he's just like you and me.

It also seems like he's out to get me. While my previous post had a mini rant against new year's resolutions and all the hype that goes with it, he posted this. Now, I'm still a 100% convinced that new year's is overrated, but I have to admit I can back off a little and recognize the fact that this is a begining of a decade.

In a decade, you will be grown up and moved out, possibly married and a parent of your own. In 10 years, our planet’s population will be almost double what it is now while the possibility of losing your own parents are even greater. The food demand will almost-certainly still be supplied by a military-industrialized system while our armed forces will either be assisting and rebuilding the world or adding more fuel to the fire. No matter what age group or demographic you’re in, 2010 is now and you are its generation.

That's just the tip of the iceberg.

It's my generation at stake here. We're going to be held responsible. We aren't kids anymore- I'm 21 for God's sake! Who saw that coming?!
I don't know about the getting married and having kids part; it seems highly doubtful right now (ha. ha. ha.), but oh dear do I know about the other big and small messes we'll have to manage. I believe in the power of possibility too Jason, but I also believe in the power of responsibility. It's scary.

I still won't come up with a list of things I will committ to doing for the year (nor for the decade for that matter), I know I won't follow through. But what I will do is two things:
  1. Take pride in the fact that I actually admitted I might be wrong, and that I opened up my ears and mind to someone else's take on things
  2. And I'll committ to being committed to daily resolutions that encompass not only myself and my tiny life on Earth, but also to my country and to Earth itself.
I will not hinge my life in the next year or 10 on one night, I'll hinge it on every night.

How about that for grand decisions?

Two Thousand and... Oh Give Me a Break!

I refuse to be the resolutions-forming kind of girl. I won't waste an entire week of my life thinking of sassy, witty, creative "new year's resolutions" that I'm bound to forget about a week later. It's a week like every other and time is precious.
Once a year we celebrate a night that takes us into a new year. We have this absolute conviction that the New Year will bring us happiness, that we'll change our lifestyle, that we'll lose weight, that we'll fall in love, that we'll be successful and independent. God bless man's forgetfulness; to repeat the same night and same mental routine year after year. I say "we" because, up to this point, I am a part of it. But that is no longer.

I'm a part of last year, I'm part of next year, I’m part of every year to date. Every year is a part of me.

A friend told me a couple of days ago "if you can't beat the system, be part of the system"... or something like that anyways.
I laughed it off at first. It just sounded too... preach-y. But then I gave it second thought this evening. I've never tried to fight the system. I was born different, and I did my absolute best to systemize myself ever since. Excuse me, but I think I've succeeded to an extent- at least I'm capable of humor that other people actually get.

Freak the system.

Self-righteousness is unbecoming. I am flawed. Seriously and in all the ugliness the word could imply: flawed. I hate it, I accept it, I do not brag about it. At least I try not to- I can at least admit that.

Borrowed from Postsecret

My graduation was on Thursday the 24th and it was to be one of the most signifcant events of my life. It was absolutely amazing to be there in cap and gown. My older sister was in tears the second she saw me step out in the march. Her tears brought tears to mine, only then did I realize how major it was. The excitement, the day, the rush, it flowed through my veins; I was high on "graduation-stacy". Yet the second my foot crossed my home's threshold, the bubble burst. It was imperfect, it was unsatisfactory- it was not what I expected. I ignored it and moved on. Just like I did my high school prom.

Actually when I think about it, I'm rarely ever satisfied. That's one more very common human flaw (duh?). Some people get over themselves and learn how to be contented and fulfilled, and some people fail miserably. I can safely say I'm with the second group. I'm not satisfied with the job I have even though I like it plenty. I'm not satisfied with my financial situation. And I won't even begin to discuss my personal life.
Will I ever be satisfied though? Do I need to be? Or does this come automatically with ambition?
Another friend snapped me out of it for about two seconds though: "saying that you lack inspiration and achievement is just lame, you just achieved something you sought for the past 18 years: you're a college graduate. From one of the best schools too!"
Eye-opener, while it lasted. But it has its repercussions.

Achievement is engraved in the depths of me. "Demotivation" is a big recurrent word in my dictionary, but "quitting" is nonexistent.

She's the mommy, she's the sister, she's the motivation

A third friend whom I truly do appreciate got me a new truly fantastic book (that my mother started reading before me. So much for the concept of "property"!).
As I sat and stared at the book's cover and smelled its -then- unread pages, I made a grand discovery: I am not in the least bit interested in writing a book. I do not care about seeing my name in bold on a book's spine- I've already done that. I'm not one with fiction-writing talents either. Not the least bit. And I do not have a certain message that I'd like to convey to the world that I cannot articulate through my blog. Not that anyone would read a book I write, people barely read my blog.

There is a saying in Arabic "من يطلب الولاية لا يولى". He who asks for authority, should not be given authority.
Based on those exceptionally wise words I theorize the following: who ask for fame, should not be given fame. Fame, power, authority and all other similar concepts are consequences, they should not be targets. Does that sound too self-righteous? I apologize.

I have my eternal inspirations. I have inspiration that pops in every six months. I cannot be brought down -intentionally or not- for long. To a lot of people's misery, I do re-surface.

(Again this is someone's secret as much as it is mine)

And that is all I need to know to go on.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Truth

Nobody cares.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Part-Timing My A**

I have no idea why I'm in this office right now. No seriously... no clue! I also have no idea why in heaven and hell I volunteered to come in the office today... what an idiot.

I'm supposed to be a part-timer. I'm supposed to work 3 days a week. Felxibility is good, stupidity is bad.
But I always try to get some sort of kick out of it anyways. So..ahem.. right now, in stead of working on an introduction to the hugest presentation I had ever seen in my life and in stead of working data on (yet another) excel sheet, I decided to watch Glee! My new absolute favorite show.

Into good music, highschool retards, outrageous slushie-smacking and a whole load of perfectly delivered lines by an ex-army-hitperson-horse steroids-consuming cheerleading coach? Watch it! Just let me say that this show isn't for everyone, this kind of show isn't in the grey area at all either; you'll either love it, or you'll hate it.
You have been warned.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Pop Tarts and Their Mystical Powers

I walked very casually into the Quick store. Just browsing, nothing more.

Their vast array of imported sweets, candy, snacks and cereal proves to be irresistably tempting more times than not, but after much effort and wasteful money spending, I had finally taught myself how to resist the irresistable. So now I just walk in very casually, buy a pack of Egyptian made gum for 1 pound 75 pt and just as casually walk out. This time, however, something happened that made the system I had programmed myself on go haywire. There it was, sitting innocently on a shelf was a box of pop tarts... not just any pop tarts: S'mores Poptarts!
Now, I'm not a poptart fan or anything; wrapped toaster baked thingies don't really get to me; it was the word "S'more" that did me in.
20 pounds later, I walked out of there with a memory in my pocket.

First time I tasted s'mores was almost a year and half ago during my first ever All-American camp night and I have to admit they were sensational. Who could ever say no to fire roasted marshmellows sandwiched between biscuits and melted chocolate?

            Recipe with a "Skinny" twist              

That specific camp night is one to be cherished, not only for this exquisite introduction to what may very well be the most delicious dessert on Earth, or the magnificent view and open greenfields I have never seen in my life before, but also for the spectacular introduction to fireflies!

Like most people I've heard plenty of stories and songs about fireflies, -mostly about how people try to catch them and put them in jars- so when I first saw some light blinking about 2 meters away from where I was sitting after night fell on the camp sight and the camp fire was almost out, I had to blink twice and register what I just saw. However, seeing how "out of it" I was at that moment due to a sever case of s'mores-over-consumption, what I registered was that someone was walking the distant trail with a flashlight and that they weren't 2 meters away at all, more like 200.
...not very bright with too much chocolate and marshmellows in my system it seems... it took me at least another 5 minutes and 10 more blinking fireflies to realize what I was looking at.

Getting up ever so slowly, I walked closer to where they were.. or at least I tried. Fireflies are mischevious creatures, they flash their fancy lights, and just when you think you know where they are the go dim and reappear 50 meters away, how on Earth people manage to catch them still baffles me to this day. The thing is, the more you concentrate, the more you can see them; you could be walking right through them while immersed in a conversation with someone and you won't even notice they exist, but if you're out there in the wilderness with the soul purpose of finding them, you'll find them every where you turn.

After some chasing, I decided to stop. Watching them dance around me was beautiful enough, there was no need to waste so much energy and breath in trying to catch something better left alone: wild, free and provocatively stunning.
And in that I learnt the most important lesson of my life.

The poptarts didn't taste so good afterall, but the forgotten memories and lesson were definitely worth every piaster..

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

To Learn and To Label: Venturing Into Delta

Almost a month ago, I -finally- found a project-based job that I consider to be appropriate for someone aspiring to be a respectful economist; I'm now part of a team working on a development plan for one of Egypt's new yet run-down cities (to me it isn't just a worthy job, it's one I could've killed for, for many many reasons; working with a multinational highest-ranked consultancy firm being one).
In addition to some economic research, analysis and reviews of 442 638 pages of strategic development reports, this new job requires that I sometimes make short one-day business trips outside of Cairo, usually to Delta region cities, seeing as it is the main region we're concerned with.

Delta Fields (pictures I took)

Now, as an upper-middle class young woman who was raised in Cairo and has only ever been to the beaches and tourisitic cities outside of Cairo, having to make business trips to cities like those in the Delta was a huge step outside of a certain bubble I grew up in... not to mention of course an enormous step outside my comfort zone.

First time they asked me to go? Almost cried trying to find an excuse to get out of it. I didn't want to travel 2 hours by car to some rural, run down city and I definitely did not want to go meet a bunch of old Eyptian bureaucrats who'd most probably regard me with disdain seeing as I'm a woman with no scarf on her head covering her hair.
End result? I found no excuses. I ended up going. I also ended up enjoying the experience, the exposure, the ride, the company and the lunch we had on the way back.

The second time I was asked, it was a different situation and a different city and it was by far more intense than the first. This city is one of the biggest cities in the Delta with almost 200,000 inhabitants and being the capital of the governorate.
I called every single sane person I know trying to find only one who would tell me not to go and not to waste my breath even considering it.
I ended up going after all; my curiosity peaked one hour before we were supposed to move out and as usual it had to be satisfied. So again it turned out that I enjoyed the experience, the exposure, the lessons learnt, the ride, the company and the lunch on the way back even more than the first time, even though admittedly this time I sensed a certain odd vibe from officials and people on the streets.

A gas pump on the side walk... right next to a qahwa!
(Our French co-worker made fun of me for acting like a tourist and taking this pic)

 The whole city is one big informal settlement

Last time they announced an upcoming trip to that city? I was all for it. I wanted to go. I needed to go. I knew I would learn more if I go, I knew I would have a chance to discuss things about my work there and I knew that I could have had a lot to offer in the discussions and findings because I know I worked hard preparing for it.

End result? I never went.
This specific business trip included -among other more important meetings and discussions with officials- piloting a quantitative survey. In plain English, we would've had to walk around the city and ask random people specific questions that we need answers to.

What happened? Well...I got a phone call the night before:
"I don't think you should come along with us this time, even though we really need you there"
"Because we'll be out on the street, and it wouldn't be safe for you"
Because I'm a girl?
"Yes, and not what people there are used to typically seeing"
"You see... your hair isn't covered and you significantly look like you're from out of town...and that might attract unwanted attention."

Unwanted attention. Interesting what young female Egyptian aspiring economists can be labeled as sometimes.

** Links are from wikipedia (which is shameful) but no other website has any info on any of those places!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Lame John

At the age of 12 my mother handed me down 2 Beatle's tapes. Having been bought in the 70's and survived almost 3 decades, I guess it's safe to say they're vintage.

I still listen to them daily, and I still sing along with every single song. Honestly, you can't help not sing to those ballads. The songs are short and to the point, usually with the same verse being repeated over and over and over, so it isn't that difficult to know every song by heart.

I had a friend in the car one day as the cassette played and she made a comment that immediately rang truth: "those songs are made for simpler times and a simpler world".
Well... it isn't entirely true seeing as the Vietnam war was underway, Japan was still going through its post A-Bomb reconstruction and Egypt was still in a state of War with you-know-who and had just witnessed its greatest defeat at their hand. "A simpler world" isn't really the right description, but we get the gist of the comment: musical tastes were simpler and music itself was more to the point.

Take the song Michelle for instance: who on our planet today could ever get away with a song in which the chorus says "I love you, I love you, I love you" in the cheesiest way possible? Some might... but I doubt they'd win a Grammy for it and I guess it would hardly ever be the 42nd most played song in the world.

Rumor has it was John Lennon who suggested this "I love you" bridge to McCartney (who was the mastermind behind the song that was intended originally as a slight mockery of the French Rive Gauche culture that was taking England by storm).

Oh John... how lame!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Never Mix Sheep and Mental Notes

Don't you just hate it when you're itching to write something and its just. not. coming. to. you.? I find it quite despicable. What's more sickening is how often it happens to me.

The bigger problem is, however, when all the inspired ideas and topics gracefully arrive in the middle of my nightly ritual of counting sheep. All day I rack my brains out trying to tame the words and compose the structure with no sucess, and then I actually get a decent idea with the right formulation of words in the middle of the night?! Outrageous!

All the same, I try to get around that problem through the masterful utilization of what is generally knows as "mental notes". See, I always had the strong belief that mental notes are better and more comfortable than real tangible ones; you do not have to go through the hassle of finding a piece of paper and a good pen that actually works in the middle of the night, nor keep looking for that piece of paper the next morning for at least an hour before you give up and eventually find it a month later in the middle of a stack of rubbish you were about to throw out. Mental notes are simply easier and better: you just tell your mind to remember it and there you go, the thought/idea is safe and sound.
I absolutely completely believe in them... I even test myself every once in a while to prove it.

I focus real hard on a specific moment so that next day when I try to remember what it was I was thinking about, I can easily trace it back from that sole moment I focused on. After many self-tests and trials, there appeared to be one hiccup in the "mental note" plan: 8 times out of 10 it doesn't work.
That does not mean however that I ever learnt the lesson.

So last night when I was hit  by a wave of inspiration as I watched the pretty sheep jump the fence, I decided to make a small mental note to remember whatever genius idea occured to me and to not to forget to put it down on my green book's slightly yellowed paper the next morning. But of course to no avail. I woke up with a vague recollection of an idea and of my constructing a mental note. What the note said however had completely vanished from my memory.

Allow me to illustrate:

1 sheep. 2 sheep. 3 sheep. I hate not having good ideas. 4 sheep. 5 sheep. 6 sheep. 7 sheep. They're pretty jumping that fence, thank God they don't lock sheep up in zoos. 8 sheep. 9 sheep. 10 sheep. 11 sheep. I can't find anything to write about. 12 sheep. 13 sheep. Ouh animal abuse is a good idea. 14 sheep. 15 sheep. Or maybe how some people like to use overcomplicated words with no real point or substance. 16 sheep. 17 sheep. That's a good idea I should remember that when morning comes. I won't forget. 18 sheep. 19 sheep. 20....

*Poof* the idea is lost for good.

Hmph. That darned sheep ran away with it.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

And That Applies to Blank White Pages Too!

I've gone white. I think it's more healthy. And besides I've always made it a point to reflect my inner and outer states in everything I do. 
Right now I'm trying to be healthier: I always wear at least one white item rather than the mainly black clothes I'd been more fond of the past year, I work out, I keep in touch with people I want to stay in touch with, I'm making the kind of friends I'd like to make, I'm sticking to my roots, I sleep early, I wake up early and I'm not keeping myself too busy all the time.
I think that last one is the most important of them all; if I keep myself too busy most of the time...well... I'd never be able to do any of the previously mentioned things, the same way I haven't been able to for a really really long time.

So.. I've gone white.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

A Nation-Wide Lack of Demand... for Economists?!

As I go round that last roundabout my mind is racing. Quite furiously too. I park quite randomly, violently pull the hand break, get out of the car, slam the door shut and stomp up the stairs. Apartment door effectively slammed, I barge in on the woman carrying her child putting him to bed and that’s when the disbelieving wrathful rant begins.

Really, even though she saw it coming, my sister could not have possibly done anything to prevent this. Neither could have my 3 month old nephew. Even with all his attempts at distracting cute smiles and gurgles. The rant had already started on the way home in my mind and it needed to get out into the world.

I had just come out of my 3rd job interview and even though that’s not a big number (…more like the tiniest number of interviews I’ve heard of recently) I was starting to become quite frustrated with the state of the labor market. No wrong ideas please; there are plenty of jobs available and plenty of firms and companies recruiting and hiring, unlike what most of my graduating class expected, but my frustration is a symptom of another quite unexpected disease. My frustration stems from the fact that there seems to be quite limited room for poor ickle aspiring economists such as myself in this supposedly booming economy.
Now thus far I have not been able to delve into studying the matter deeper and I may as well end up terribly mistaken, but I cannot help this ugly impression right this instant…

I think accidentally ending up interviewing for one more marketing and sales job when I at first had the distinct impression that the office I was interviewing at was actually involved with coordinating between private and public sectors for the sake of the greater good of Egyptian welfare and the Egyptian economy did that for me. Hmph. Let’s just say that’s just 5% of the rant my mother and sister and friends and family and anyone on the street who is showed the tiniest interest had to bear.

With all those marketing and sales jobs out running about looking for someone to get them done I began to wonder what in heaven and hell are all those people selling and more importantly: to whom?! Everybody seems to be selling something to someone, and I really cannot help the disbelieving resentful facial expression I’ve been wearing around. Because honest to God, I thought before looking for people to sell and market –sometimes- non-existent (and quite “developed country” like) products to quite delusional buyers*, this market would be looking for qualified and willing people to help develop the effing non-existent structure the economy is supposed to be operating with.
Has this attempting-to-be-“free market” been like this for a while? Or did I have higher expectations than supposed?

I guess part of the problem will always lie in the fact that public institutions and offices will always say that they’re looking to recruit fresh blood that would bring in new ideas and help get out of that ridiculous rut resulting from the stupid bureaucratic details, but in reality do nothing about it.
I don’t blame them a 100% (“them” being the highly qualified personnel working the public sector). I only blame them for the part where they don’t try to put themselves out there and start respectable organized recruitment campaigns. They don’t even check their HR emails for heaven’s sake. How else can a fresh graduate with high hopes and ambitions get her resume in to the director in charge? I bet we all know the answer to that one don’t we?

But let’s not be unfair, there are those public institutions that successfully surpassed all the unmistakable faults of the public sector and evolve into the perfect “private-structured public institution”; the Egyptian Competition Authority (ECA) being one. At least I’d secretly like to believe that, and please, even if I’m wrong this time do not correct me.

There are of course different things that economists can do that would not require them to completely stray off their intended course: may it be financial analysis, working the securities and investment field, research and academics (I willingly count marketing research as one of those fields, because it admittedly does require a certain amount of economic background) or conducting highly economic feasibility studies for private sector projects.

All the same, do those few sectors and the few opportunities they offer and provide suffice? Can they possibly absorb the almost 2,500 economists graduating economists per year? Can they help encourage high aspirations for fresh graduates and supply them with sufficiently challenging environments that are needed in order to ensure that the ranks of “crème de la crème” students remain as such and not be drowned with the routinic down slope of the working life? Have I been successful in concealing my overflowing disappointment?

I recognize that not all the graduates from my school and the other private schools offering majors in economics are looking specifically to work within the specified fields of economics; some of them don’t care what they do as long as they do something, anything. Others don’t mind drifting into the banking sector, or the advertising, marketing and sales sector I have come to despise… but that’s their conscious choice to wander off from the field they’ve supposedly been preparing themselves for for 4 years.

It’s not my choice… and may I be damned I shall not give up. And no nation-wide lack of demand for economists shall come in my way.

At least I hope so.

* I understand that marketing and sales could involve material physical products as well and I have no problem with that, but the fast growing market for abstract products and services is becoming quite the problematic issue. At time the fact that products could be abstract helps in completely wrecking the concept. That is in the likes of “convincing CEOs to sponsor attempts at creating conferences and events in different and multiple areas of economic interest with the façade of the economy’s greater good but in truth just hoping to inflate both our egos and our bank accounts”.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

They Lied! Mosaic Is Much More Than Just Pretty Art.

We’ve all been told stories growing up, whether they were bed time stories, stories of princes and princesses relayed as cartoon, stories of suspenseful and quite lame vampire fiction as teenagers, or the more drama-filled stories we read as adults. The one thing in common between each tale we are told of is this: they all have just one story in its folds. One hero, one heroine, one happily ever after or one tragic ending. Those protagonists had a story told about their lives. One story.

That’s exactly where the story tellers lied. And that is one heck of a lie; it is so immaculately weaved to the extent that we get systemized to it since the youngest age possible and then we can hardly see the problem with it when we grow up… until it hits you straight in the face of course.
Taking the lead from those nice fairy tales we admired so much as kids, we all tend to think of our life as just one big, really long story that we might be able to tell our grandchildren when we’re 75 and slightly senile. Fiction is one thing but in reality this cannot be farther from the truth. We might be able to tell those little brats things, but we won’t tell them just one story; we’ll tell them stories.

So how did I come to realize this very obvious yet quite elusive grand charade that I and most of the people I know are living? Well… It did more than just hit me in the face; it tripped me over. But then its light and breezy consequences lift me up right away.
I’ve spent almost the entirety of the past 21 years searching for my story: looking for the perfect prince, the perfect kingdom and yearning for the perfect ending (and of course timidly fearing that fate holds an ugly one for me instead). At some point I was quite sure I found it and that this was IT!
Okay… I lie; at multiple points of my life I was quite sure that it was it! And every time it slipped away the sadness set in instead and so did the disappointment. I always felt entirely thwarted whenever something ended and I reprimanded myself for being so deluded as to think that “it was it”, because it so obviously wasn’t! Every time I promise myself I’ll be wiser next time and more careful, and that I’ll judge the situation with a more mature perspective, only because I cannot afford anymore bad aims. Time was running out and I needed my story. I needed it when I could still call myself young… those were always the nicest stories.

It was not until the few days before my birthday that it hit me. Seeing as I was turning 21 during the holy month, my thoughts were less fixated on the big party that would not exist and more on what the past 21 years meant. The more I thought about it the clearer it became: I’ve done everything, I’ve been everything, and I’ve been through every kind of story line known to Cairo. I failed miserably at finding something that I feel I had missed out on so far!

I have so many stories to tell about the things I’ve been through to the extent I am sure I could easily write an entire series of books and still won’t run out of tales. And through simple math, I recognized that I’ll still have more stories to tell as the years go by. That could only mean one thing: I should not be looking for “my story”; I have plenty already and there is more yet to come. It’s all about accepting the idea that this so called “one big story” –that is actually none other than “life”- is actually compromised of small miniature plots and subplots that may, or may not, have their own little consequences on the future ones. The trick is to treat past stories -whether comedies or tragedies- as compost to be used to feed and nourish future ones.

The implications of this realization -to me at least- are “Major. Huge!” as my mom said the night I turned legal. Now that I have finally caught that lie red-handed and now that I fully understand the “mosaic theory” of life, I quiver with anticipation at the prospect of the next story... or the one I’m already inadvertently in the middle of.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Robert Fisk: "Cockroaches" Is what the Israelis call the Palestinians

No matter how many times he had declared his escalating dislike for Egypt or for the Arab's midieval and ignorant perceptions, I still have to admit Robert Fisk is one of the few political literature geniuses of our time.

His most recent publication "The Age of the Warrior", which is a compilation of most of his recent coulmns in the Independant, is not only a satisfying read in terms of its rightfully biased political analysis, but it has also proven to be highly entertaining in terms of writing style and linguistic construction. Although only a handful of pages through the book, I have long decided that his approach to both analysis and language are ones to learn from and emulate. Ever since the preface really -where Fisk deliberately and systematically clarified the origins of the name of the book- I had decided that Fisk should be a role model. And I has also decided that my writing and perception should be upgraded with the assistance of those columns that make The Age of the Warrior. That decision ultimately lead to one of the most surprising and personal decisions I had taken in my career thus far; to continue writing seriously and eventually take that up as a profession.

Ever since I got over my ambition to become a spy when I was 9 (thanks to Harriet the Spy and the Woman who Disappeared), I wanted nothing else than to become an author and a writer. Writing since that very young age was one of the few cures to my wounded soul or my overly excited heart... it grew through time of course, rather than simply keeping a silly little diary, I had ventured upon more serious attempts at writing fictional stories with characters. Only when I failed to please my own taste did I decide to write only one page short stories. And after that failed to pass my editing and re-editing and re-editing, I began to write about the simpler things in my life; the ones I know I would like someday to remember and to be remembered by when my grandchildren come across them.

But I think the day for self-authored notes about oneself has passed, and I think the day has come to discover a new dimension to my capabilities as an editorialist or a columnist.

Still, as wonderful as all those conclusions and decisions may be, I remember that haste only leads to impatience. And impatience eventually leads to quitting. And quitting ultimately leads to self pity and wallowing. So, there is absolutely no reason to jump in with both feet just yet; one toe is quite enough.

I'll know when I can take myself and my new perception to writing and analysing seriously; it is when I can find the links between literature and current events and most definitely it is when I can come up with ingenious metaphors such as the ones Fisk uses in his book... you know... something that would match the greatness of Fisk when he says: "...Israelis leaders have variously beastialised their enemies as 'serpents' and 'cockroaches'. Pardon? What on earth does that mean?"

I need to send this man a thank you postcard for making this wonderfully outrageous point!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Harry Potter Lessons: What Was, What Is and What Will Be

I started reading Harry Potter again. Yes, from the very beginning.
Flipping that book open and seeing my mother’s note on the first page was in the true sense of the word overwhelming. I felt like I was being pulled back in time to that moment when I first saw it; when she first got it for me.
It’s something to walk down memory lane in your head. It’s something else to start really wandering about it.

I don’t really know what made me pick that book out from my bookshelf that’s literally filled with tens of books I have not yet read. Maybe it is the fact that I’ve been stumbling along relics that belong to the same day and age as that book; things and people that belong in the past… more specifically: that belong back in 1999.
10 years ago. That number is utterly stupefying. I never thought I’d actually live that long. I didn’t even know back then that 2009 was even possible! And yet here I am, 20 years old, alive and well. I remember how the future was unknown; how I didn’t even know where I’d be in the next 3 years and who would be my friends. I remember I took it one day at a time, because –let’s be realistic- I wasn’t going anywhere. I most probably would be in the same school, around the same people, with the same friends. Why would anything change? There was no reason and no seen catalyst for change, there were no complications. Honestly, I liked it better that way.

Now, 10 years later, I’m in the same position, however with a different outlook. I do not know where I will be in 3 months, let alone 2 years. And there is one thing I can take for granted: nothing is predictable; literally everything can change. Everything.
That’s why they call that age of 10 the age of innocence. So little worries, so little surprises. Most of the time it all goes as planned, because more or less, our parents plan it for us, and they always make sure it goes through. It’s sweet to watch that old film that is my past and smile at how at how small, innocent and simple I was and at how I knew nothing and -most of all- at how I now know all the things I wanted to know back then. It’s sweet… except it has a slight bitter taste to it; it hurts just a little bit to be so bluntly faced with how much I’ve grown up.
Yet no matter how bitter it may be, it gives me faith in the future and in destiny. See, at that time, 10 years ago, I had no knowledge of the Prisoner of Azkaban, the Goblet of Fire, the Order of the Phoenix, the half blood prince or the Deathly Hollows. I would’ve died to know; it was so exciting and so intense with every book that came out and every new note my mother wrote me. It consumed 8 years of my life thinking, contemplating and building theories about what is going to happen at the end. Now here I am, knowing it all and so confidently rereading it all.

So I guess the lesson learnt from rereading Harry Potter is that even though I may feel intimidated and ignorant of what is going to be, at some point in the future, I will be confident and knowledgeable of all that was. Doesn’t mean my curiosity is satisfied though… it never is. But I think I can afford to be a little patient, because I will be there for the ending after all and no matter what it is won’t I?

Thursday, April 2, 2009

A crazy Mathematician you say?

"People who are crazy, do not wonder about being crazy... therefore you are not, in fact, crazy"
There are two reasons this line got to me:
  1. It's quoted from a movie about a crazy mathematician.
  2. I sort of got one last assurance that I am, in fact, not crazy.

I discovered after watching that particular movie, that movies revolving around crazy mathematicians and their life's work actually fascinate me. And digging a little deeper into that feeling that overwhelmed me while watching it, I began bit by bit to find out why.
I have always been intrigued by the fact that genius -yet crazy- people who end up being the central characters of a movie are mostly and usually mathematicians. The more important reason behind my fascination, is their frantic passion for work, research and study; the way it is portrayed in a movie has always fueled my own ambition and zeal, that I had never succeeded in even beginning to take advantage of or apply in real life.

The main thing that always held me back from applying my potential for constant work that might lead to age-defying miraculous breakthroughs? Fear.
Fear of failure. Fear of impatience. Fear of loss. Fear of realization that even if applied, it might turn out to be a string of inadequacies and washed up thoughts.

I have always been convinced that I am in deed not the smart person some people (mostly or entirely my parents) like to tell me I am. I know that this is why I do not even try to experiment with my capabilities or potential. Because most of the time I just tend to come out as... let's just say... the antonym of the word "winner"... not matter how hard I try to rid myself of that result and that label.
I have to admit though, most of the time, it had been a self-granted label. I have never allowed any person the chance to name me as such; no one would be allowed to insult me in that way. Only I am allowed to label myself as that. Only then would it not be a humiliation. I jump to the opportunity whenever its scent presents itself; just to make sure no one sees it first.

The problem then occurs when I return to a state of soberness. When my system and veins are rid of all the intoxication that fills them. All the fear. That is when I begin to doubt my being; my sanity.
Which human being would be sane yet not begin to try to test out their full potential? Which human being would be sane yet back out of the competition just because there may be a 1 in a 100 chance they fail?

I think -contrary to what the voices try to say- millions. Even zillions.

I believe that more people than I think get scared everyday of facing something that they may very well be capable of doing, just because they are not strong enough to face themselves and their minds if they fail.

And let me just add a note to that thought: that no matter what it actually is they (we) do not face, it is a competition.
May it be becoming a parent, or studying for a test, or applying for a position, even if it is about facing a fear of closed spaces. It remains a competition. Human beings by nature (yes let's all face it) are competitive beings. No matter what we do, we compare ourselves to those around us. No matter what they do, we compare ourselves to them. We wonder if we are the best, or if there is someone out there that is going to do it better. And in some cases, we may never know.

I have been there, I have done that. And I shall never know.
With all the fear I have bottled up in my lungs and gut; with all the failed attempts to try, I have once reached a state of soberness for long enough that I got myself into one of the toughest challenges to face me in my life thus far (one grander than this blog about which I had once written: "I probably should not be pre-judging this newly-found trial arena before I even begin my attempts, but something tells me it won't not really work and the purpose would yet again be unfulfilled" and which I almost abandoned and let go of, if not for one spell of soberness).

How I came out of that challenge after its time had elapsed is a controversial topic. It, however, taught me one thing and brought out one question.
It taught me that no matter how much we try to deny its effect: Karma is a bitch. And it will get you every time, there is no place to hide and no where to go.

It also made me wonder the extent of instability and craziness that has overcome my constantly functioning mind. One day I'm up and letting go of all the problems and social dilemmas my life is facing, and the next day I'm six feet under because of them. Some things, some issues, as minor and insignificant as they are eat at me and feed on my insides. Deprive me of sleep and make me wonder at what my darkness calls "my incompetence" and what my sunshine calls "my modest triumphs".
So... am I? Am I crazy?

Well... since I started wondering if I am... I guess I'm not.

Recommended Movie: Proof

Recommended Song: Dream Catch Me- Newton Faulkner