Hiba Tawaji To Be On France’s The Voice

I thought the 4th season of The Voice France (La Plus Belle Voix) passed by without us noticing because there wasn’t a Lebanese candidate there.

The first season of the show had Johnny Maalouf, who received the least media attention in this home country even though he reached very advanced stages on the show; the second one had Anthony Touma, who reached the semi-finals before losing to the eventual runner up of that season; and last year’s season had Aline Lahoud, daughter of Lebanese late singer Salwa Al Katrib, who auditioned with one of her mother’s most famous songs and made it to the battle stages of the show.

According to LeFigaro, LBC and up and coming Lebanese blog Sharbel Faraj, Hiba Tawaji is set to be the opening talent of the 4th season of The Voice France, set to debut on January 10th, 2015. Judging by the hype that even TF1 is making for her, she has obviously made it through.

TF1 had shared an instagram video 3 days ago for a talent they called Hiba, singing a-capella for the press conference announcing the show. The talent in question starts off singing “Les Moulins De Mon Coeur” before – and you can barely hear this at the end of the video – moves into لا بداية ولا نهاية, Hiba’s Lebanese take on the song.

#TheVoiceisBack A quelques jours de Noël, on vous offre la première voix de la Saison 4 -> #Hiba ! #TheVoice

A video posted by The Voice TF1 (@thevoice_tf1) on

They also tweeted about it on December 17th, but few have failed to notice in this part of the world, as well as posted a vine of a shorter portion of the instagram video you see above:

Screen Shot 2014-12-20 at 2.21.39 PM

I’m sure Hiba Tawaji will do remarkably well on the show. She has the pipes for it. While I’m not a big fan of her music, I can’t but appreciate the magnitude of professionalism and the sheer caliber of her pipes. I daresay, The Voice France has probably never had a singer as talented as she is and they ought to make sure everyone knows that, although I have to wonder if French audiences aren’t sick of having a Lebanese candidate on their show every year.

What I’m less sure of, however, is the need for Hiba Tawaji to go on such a show. She’s already a household name in Lebanon – much more known that last year’s Aline Lahoud. She already has two best-selling albums out, has been in multiple Rahbani plays and can sell out concerts quite easily with the following she has amassed, dedicated to listen to her pristine vocals.

Perhaps the confines of this country have become too narrow and limited for such a talent, perhaps she wants more for herself than to be pigeon-holded into the very narrow-frames that our culture places on female singers. Perhaps she has bigger dreams in mind than selling out Casino Du Liban for a couple of nights.

Good luck to her although I’m sure she doesn’t need it. I mean, can you imagine how gaga those judges and audiences will go if she sings my favorite songs of her?

Or:

Beirut Is a New 7 Wonders Of The World Cities!

Remember that competition that found us voting our asses off for Jeita a couple of years ago? The one where we had pinned all our touristic dreams on? You know… *looks around to see if someone is looking and whispers* the one Jeita did not win?

Well, those running that competition figured it would be a good idea to keep the subcategories of new 7 wonders going. So for the past two years, another one has been taking place and, even though most of us hadn’t heard of it apparently, Beirut has found itself on the winning list of 7 cities that are now the new 7 wonders of the world when it comes to cities, whatever that means and whatever weight the list holds.

*Drumroll please.*

So to start this in perfect press release-like fashion, here it goes:

Beirut, our lovely capital, the city of endless youth, parties and life. The city that has risen from the ashes SEVEN times. Seven. It’s a sign for it to be a on a list of seven. See, it’s all as god intended. The city that was a pile of rubble in the not so distant past. The city of Gemmayze, Hamra, Monot and Dahyeh. The city of coexistence, of the Muslim chants merging with Church bells and of Churches being endlessly taken into that Mosque-containing picture frame. Yes, that city has won!

…. And it’s sharing the list with Doha, Qatar.

New 7 wonders cities

 

Arabs have won. Worry not about all the troubles ravaging the Middle East away. This tiny region of the world, where Allah saw fit to deposit all of his three religions, where imperialistic powers have looked for years at those lands in envy, were the Zionists will (eventually?) meet their demise. That region has produced not one, but TWO cities on that 7 cities list.

It’s a matter of regional pride. I demand a day, or several days off to rejoice.

I can smell it as I type this. Soon enough, the blog posts rejoicing about Beirut being on that list will start trickling down, like they always do when something Lebanese does something somewhere, regardless of how irrelevant that might be.

Following the blogs will be our news services who will forget about Ali Al Bazzal, those kidnapped soldiers, and their grieving parents. They will forget about the fact that this wonder of the world was, until very recently, in a state of drought. They will forget that this wonder of the world is still without electricity for at least 3 hours a day. They will forget that this wonder of the world is all about diversity by name but its buildings are now being sprung up with sectarian graffiti to make sure people know they are in East or West. They will forget that this wonder of the world is losing itself away to those corrupt contractors, real estate companies and high rises towering above it and calling their buildings its sky.

They will forget about all of that and inundate you with the wonderful news that your city – our city – is one of the most important places to be in the world right now (along with Doha, of course), and you will, in turn, forget about the lack of water, electricity, public transportation, president, parliament, elections, those kidnapped soldiers and Ali Al Bazzal as you drink to that wonderful news on your typical everyday night out at those many pubs springing around this wonderful city that serves alcohol in a region where alcohol is pretty much haram, enjoying that wonderous joie de vivre in this wonder of the world.

I cannot wait for all the excitement.

Extremism in Lebanon: Why Are You Shocked The Red Cross Was Banned From A Mosque?

Breaking news out of Lebanon today, because those are very few and scarce, but a Red Cross volunteer had his colleagues banned from entering the mosque where his family was receiving condolences for the passing of his grandmother, just because they were wearing their logo, which happens to be – well – a Cross, albeit having nothing to do with religion.

First with the story was the Facebook page “Stop Cultural Terrorism in Lebanon,” and at thousands of Facebook shares and likes, as well as having the story picked up by various news outlets now, it has definitely gone around, as well as have people in shock and anger.

I’m here to ask the very simple question: why?

To those who are shocked, I wonder if you’ve been so disconnected from life in this country lately that you haven’t noticed the fervent rise of extremism all around you. This isn’t exclusive to a single sect or religion. Of course, some get blamed more than others because it’s more popular to do so, but it is a tangible reality everywhere and in the hearts of many people around you, including people you know.

The time for you to be shocked was years ago. It was when hearing about things such as ISIS was not common place in your news. It was when people didn’t come up with excuses here and excuses there for their religious folks of choice to come off unscathed. It was when people weren’t made to believe that their entire existence in this country depended on the existence of their religious sect. It was when the discussion of an electoral law was not only about a law that allowed people of one sect to vote for that sect’s MPs. It was when I didn’t wake up every morning to the following graffiti outside my building:

Spotted in Achrafieh

Spotted in Achrafieh

The time to be shocked, disappointed, mortified, appalled or whatever you are feeling right now is long behind us. What you can and should do now is hope this is an incident that won’t set precedence, which I think is the case. This was probably the case of a few goons with near subzero IQs and near illiterate education levels deciding to flex their Allah-given muscles, as has become quite customary around this country.

Those people won’t care about explanations that the Cross on the Red Cross’ vest is not actually Christian. They won’t care that women wearing the Hijab can enter Churches whenever they want, albeit to increasing groans, and that people wearing Crosses can enter Mosques whenever they want. No, those are the people whose existence we have loved to dismiss for so long now, toning it down until we made them irrelevant in our minds.

The truth of the matter is that as everything in this country, this too will pass. You will forget about in a couple of days as something more media-grabbing happens. You may be reminded of it by some politician down the road who wants to cash in some political coins, of course.

What I hope this transpires into is more support for the Red Cross, this truly noble organization in the country that has transcended sects and political lines and religions to help people just for the sake of humanity. You want to be mad at those who didn’t let those Red Cross volunteers in at a wake? Go donate.

Ironically, at a time when some Lebanese retards were upset the Red Cross could have entered a Mosque, the Pope was praying at the Blue Mosque in Turkey. Contrast Lebanon with the following picture. As they say, a picture is worth a 1000 words. I’ve probably written something close to that by now, so you get the picture.
Pope Francis is shown the Sultan Ahmet mosque, popularly known as the Blue Mosque, by Mufti of Istanbul, Rahmi Yaran, during his visit to Istanbul

R.I.P. Lebanese Legend Sabah

Sabah

You’ve killed her a thousand times over with those senseless jokes, the rumors and then some more jokes when the rumors were debunked. But this morning, Lebanese singer Sabah passed away at the age of 87.

My earliest memory of Sabah is being a kid hovering around my mom’s waist as she sang her song “Sa’at Sa’at” while she cooked, or, if she felt playful, went about a round of “Jib el Mejwez.” Today, my mom is the one who reaches my waist, but she still sings those songs when she cooks, and they’ve become engrained in my mind as a result too.

With over 50 albums in her decade-long career, she is on the same rank as some artists that many consider worthier of more clout, such as Fairuz and Um Kulthum.

More senseless things happen daily that’s for sure, but Lebanon lost one of its giants today and that is something that should be acknowledged, whether you liked Sabah as an artist or not. Of course, Sabah is also yet another example of a Lebanese patriot who is under appreciated by both her government and her countrymen: you only need to look around to see the same people making fun of her over the years suddenly remembering that yes, she is human, and that humans die, as corny as that sounds.

Sabah’s death marks yet another nail in the coffin of true Lebanese artistry, at a time when Lebanese singers gave the world and their country true art, not some rehashed Turkish tune or some mysognistic song about how women are only supposed to stay home.

Earlier this morning, as I told someone the news, their reaction was “finally.” I, for one, hope the collective Lebanese population does not share that sentiment about Sabah passing away. I also hope the jokes, at least today, do not find their way onto the timelines and twitter feeds.

Rest in peace Sabah. May your songs live in the memory of those who love them forevermore. I believe that is the greatest honor that an artist could have and you’ve done that exceedingly.

Fail: Lebanese Media Gives Oprah Cancer

So much for credible news reporting.

Our newspapers have a lot on their plates. Not only do they have a pretty screwed up political situation to wrap their heads around, dismal infrastructure to cover (link) and, well, opinions to dish out like aspirin pills, but they also have a need to keep their readers very well up to date with what’s happening and the who’s who of Hollywood and American pop culture.

Al Balad newspaper and Oprah go way back. A couple of years go, they flashed her picture for an article about Opera, the web browser:

Oprah Opera Al Balad

Today, they’re at it again with what can only be considered a hit article at almost 4000 shares: Oprah has cancer. She will be dead in 12 weeks. And all her money is going to her fans.

Those three statements are bold. You’d think one of Lebanon’s leading newspapers would try to go in depth of each and every single one of them. Cancer. Dead soon. You get money, you get money, YOU ALL GET MONEY.

Guess again. The following are screenshots before the likely take-down of the article, along with a picture of Oprah weeping because, you know, she’d likely be sad because she has cancer:

Layalina and Beiruting.com were also quick to jump on the bandwagon. Anything for Facebook likes and website clicks.

A quick google news search of Oprah reveals the following top results:

Oprah

 

You’d think someone like Oprah getting cancer would be top Google news. Anyway, then I decided to give them the benefit of the doubt and make sure to include the term “cancer” in my search query:

Screen Shot 2014-11-16 at 7.38.31 PM

 

The result is even less important news than before, not that the results before were of any importance either.

Lebanese media is going downhill. Even more renowned newspapers such as Annahar have been very prone to ridicule lately. Check the Twitter feeds of all major news outlets and you’ll find stories being flashed around for dogs with elephant trunks, kangaroos fighting, a Polish woman waking up at the morgue after she was thought dead.

You’d think a newspaper like Al Balad would at least make sure breaking such a story would at least involve making sure it exists in American sources. Guess again. I wonder, if our news outlets make such horrendous mistakes covering such obvious news stories, how badly are they handling the very important reporting that needs to take place in Lebanon?

Lebanon and Rain: غير مطابق

I bet the above pictures look familiar. You saw them happening yesterday, didn’t you? Beirut’s airport being flooded, the tunnel leading to the airport being flooded and trapping cars for hours, etc…

Except the above pictures are not actually footage from yesterday’s Lebanese apocalypse. They are the same pictures I posted on this blog in 2012, around the same time of the year, when Lebanon had its first rainstorm of the season. Here’s the link (click) if you don’t believe me. And they happened again in 2013, and again yesterday.

It’s the same story every year. Whenever those dark grey clouds gather and those raindrops indicating the summer-long drought will soon be over, everyone and their mother is absolutely taken aback by how horribly our roads and infrastructure handles the year’s first downpour.

It’s akin to our ministry of public affairs and the various municipalities around the country being like the blue fish in Finding Nemo: no short term memory whatsoever. Every single year, they are absolutely dumfounded that their jurisdiction is nowhere near equipped to handle a few millimeters of rain. A state of utter shock ensues. It rained? In November? Oh my god, it can’t be!

I wonder: how much resources would it take the ministry in question to make sure the gutters are clean, the roads are equipped and that the country wouldn’t be in near-apocalypse mode when it rains?

Perhaps the energy that goes into the thought process in question is too much and too unnecessary. This is what happened in Lebanon yesterday:

  1. It rained,
  2. The airport’s road got inundated,
  3. The tunnel leading up to the airport road got flooded,
  4. Horrible traffic ensued,
  5. Water piled up to 0.5 meters in certain areas, flooding houses. It wasn’t a monsoon,
  6. Electricité Du Liban’s generators got disconnected off the grid, leaving the country in electrical blackout,
  7. News surfaced that City Centre was closing down due to the electricity cut. This was later denied.
  8. Cinema Abraj in Furn El Shebbak was flooded (check picture below), in what looks like a typical Hollywood movie that cinema was probably screening at the time.

The following are pictures that took place yesterday:

On the bright side, we can now say the four month drought in Beirut is officially over.

We live in a country that cannot handle two hours of rain, and some think we are equipped to handle the graver issues facing our great Lebanese nation of eternal beauty. It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words. Ladies and gentlemen, how about several pictures, two years apart, that are exactly the same in content?

Welcome to the country of utter and absolute corruption regarding which you can’t do anything. And if you thought that this year would end up in a lesson to our government to pull it together and prevent floods in 2015, you thought wrong. As they say: فالج لا تعالج. The following is a picture of Lebanon’s first rain in 1965:

First Rain 1965 Lebanon St. Georges

Lebanon’s “Bad” Restaurants: How The Ministry Of Health Messed Up

Earlier today, minister of health Wael Abou Faour decided to go on a press conference and out high-profile restaurants and supermarkets across Lebanon that are, according to him, selling Lebanese customers “bad products.”

I was sent the following pictures that detail what are “bad products,” incompatible as they supposedly are with the ministry’s standards:

This isn’t about naming and shaming the restaurants and supermarkets in question. Actually this is far from it. If you’re reading this expecting an angry blog post about Roadster or Hallab, then you’re very mistaken. What this will be is a rant about the utter lack of maturity and professionalism that the ministry has handled this with.

For starters Mr. Faour, what’s the point of a high profile press conference to name and shame restaurants without actually listing how those restaurants failed to meet the standards checked by the ministry? No, I’m not talking about what the “products” in question, but about how exactly those products failed to meet the standards.

This brings me to point #2. What are the ministry’s standards for evaluation exactly? You’d think a big ass conference that is bound to cause such a stir would at least start with that: on what basis were those places evaluated, what scientific measures did the samples go through to be assessed, how reputable are the labs where those samples were taken, how qualified are the doctors who actually oversaw what was taking place to begin with. None of this actually happened.

Mr. Faour’s press conference was yet another example of the fact-less, crowd-pleasing, let-us-get-the-biggest-buzz-possible Lebanese mentality of handling things: the less everyone knows the better; why do people need more information to be critical anyway? Faour knows best, and he knows where you should eat and where you shouldn’t.

In the next few days, everything you will hear about will be the restaurants named by Mr. Faour. There will probably not be any other piece of news that is worthy of airtime. People will freak out and panic and call for boycott all based on nothing but an empty list by a ministry known for its inaptitude. I mean, just look at the hospitals that are run by its teams. I’m rotating at one currently, so I would know exactly how miserable and despicable the conditions are over there. But isn’t this government, ministry and country all about half-assed measures?

Many of the restaurants that Faour named have standards that the ministry can only dream of reaching.

ISO-22000. This is an international certification that a few of the restaurants in question on Faour’s list have. To ensure that this certification is not revoked, those restaurants have to submit to regular quality checks. The ISO certification is internationally recognized for its high level of standards, and is applied in countries where governments are always vigilant and do not, like ours, wake up from a deep, deep slumber every now and then in order to fight for the gastroentereological rights of Lebanese citizens. That is a standard I trust, not some shady ministry measure aimed purely to create a scandal and boost a minister’s popularity.

I suggest you do the same for now.