When Lebanon Fails Its National TV Station: BeIN Sports Suing Tele Liban

tele-liban

Breaking news: BeIN Sports, formerly known Al Jazeera Sports, the Qatari TV station that has bought the rights for every single major sports tournament till kingdom come is suing Tele Liban over it broadcasting this year’s World Cup games.

Soon after the 2014 World Cup began, Lebanese people found themselves unable to watch the tournament. The government had failed to kiss up to Qatar enough to get the World Cup for free. Talks with Sama, the major Lebanese politician-owned company with exclusive rights for BeIN sports in Lebanon, failed to go through. We reverted to either buying the World Cup subscription, which did not work most of the time because the service was abysmal, or to managing with Turkish, French and, well, Israeli TV stations in some parts of the country.

But the Lebanese government wouldn’t have it, of course. How could Lebanese people have their God-given right of watching the World Cup taken away from them? So our government paid $3 million to Sama to make sure such a thing does not happen. The ramifications of that payment were as follows:

  1. Cable owners in Lebanon would be able to broadcast the World Cup to their subscribers using BeIN Sports, TF1 or any other station at their disposal,
  2. Tele Liban, the TV station the government is in charge of, gets screwed over as the government completely disregards it in favor of those cable owners,
  3. Sama nets in pure profit for their exclusive rights,
  4. The Lebanese politician in charge of Sama gets a whole lot of money while pretending to do the Lebanese people a favor.

Tele Liban, however, wouldn’t have it, so it decided to broadcast the games anyway outside of the $3 million deal. The first day of its defiance was literally Turkish before they had their very own commentator. In doing so, Tele Liban managed to fill the huge gap in World Cup viewing that the government’s deal made, especially in rural areas where cable owners have not set ship yet and where a World Cup deal would be the most beneficial.

As a result of its defiance, Tele Liban – with its minimal capacities and reach – is now finding itself in a lawsuit by BeIn sports because it broadcast the World Cup games over which BeIn has copyright in Lebanon. I guess we have our government to thank for failing to do the minimum and make sure its very own TV station is protected in this matter.

Instead of paying $3 million to make sure Tele Liban gets to broadcast the games, our government has effectively made sure Tele Liban is in the tough spot it is now. Those $3 million are definitely badly spent. Should we have paid it? My answer is a definite hell no. Those $3 million could have done the following:

  1. Equipped our security forces against the current rise of terrorism,
  2. Provided districts such as Akkar with much needed infrastructure to prevent its sons and daughters from dying on Indonesian rafts,
  3. Enhance the living standards of people in Bab el Tebbaneh and Jabal Mohsen,
  4. Contribute towards the fiber optics project to improve our internet,
  5. Go towards water-centric project to prevent the typical summer drought in Beirut,
  6. Go into public transport programs that could prevent people from being randomly attacked by taxi drivers,
  7. Tighten our grip over our border and therefore increasing our security,
  8. Work towards slightly fixing our electricity crisis,
  9. Improve the non-existent roads in my home district,
  10. About three hundred other thing that could come to mind.

Watching the World Cup is not the right our politicians want to fool you into believing it is, just so you can ignore their gross shortcomings in every other regard. That expenditure, however, could have been at least slightly conceivable hadn’t it gone to the benefit of cable owners, SAMA and BeIN, at the expense of Tele Liban, which spent a whole lot of resources in rebranding because it was promised it would broadcast the World Cup.

What will happen to Tele Liban now? Odds are it’ll get stuck in a mess of legal troubles, which it probably can’t handle against the Qatari onslaught coming its way. I doubt our government will take any measures to protect it. Do they want to upset Qatar? What a joke. Can they go against the politician running Sama’s influence in Lebanon? Let’s not be foolish. They threw Tele Liban under the bus once, watch them as they leave it to get squashed by a tank.

The entire problem when it comes to the World Cup and other tournaments is with Al Jazeera (now BeIn) having basically unlimited copyright over Lebanon. Have no doubt, such an ordeal is to be repeated every single football tournament. Watch as we forgot how difficult it was for us to watch this World Cup come Euro 2016 time. Then watch as we forgot that as Russia’s 2018 World Cup rolls by. FIFA is a greedy entity, sure. But there’s a definite slacking in securing our own broadcasting rights. Till when will our government sit by as that Qatari company sustains its hegemony over Lebanon’s broadcasting rights? Why is our country lumped under the auspices of BeIN sports – and subsequently at the mercy of a company like Sama – for every single major tournament? Why can’t we do as other countries do: just tune in to any of our TV stations and watch the World Cup game?

I forgot that this is Lebanon and it’s always, always complicated. Forza Azzurri! Oh wait.

 

Where To Have Breakfast In Tripoli This Ramadan

With Tripoli’s Mayor hell-bent on turning his city into the Lebanese version of Qandahar, which years of constant fights didn’t do, with his recent request to effectively stop publicizing breakfasts within the city’s municipal bounds, I figured I’d compile a list of my favorite places to have an awesome breakfast in Tripoli.

Ahwak Cafe

This place is an absolute delight. It is the liberal hub of the city. I’d go on and on about that bathroom but you can get lost in the debates on its walls for hours. No wonder this place gets hammered, in one way or another, whenever push comes to shove in Tripoli. That same bathroom has atheists express their lack of belief in God on those walls. Those same atheists converse with believers who keep an open mind on its rustic tables while they enjoy the delicacies offered.

Ahwak makes awesome cakes. I love their Oreo cheesecake (Roadster could take notes of the recipe if they ever venture beyond Jounieh) and their Carrot Cake is still by far the best I’ve ever had. Their coffee is also entirely based on the “Tafesh” brand, which is known to be excellent.

By having breakfast at Ahwak, you’d also be supporting this place against the constant religious and political persecution affecting it, from Islamists who want to ruin Tripoli with an image that it isn’t befit for, and politicians who believe its youth’s open mind is on its way to ruin their city, necessitating such memos in the first place.

Ahwak is located in the hip “Dam W Farez” area of Tripoli, full of newly built cafes and restaurants that have managed to withstand the economic stagnation that befell their city due to the security situation and economic neglect over the past few years.

Hallab

It goes without saying that Hallab is always a must visit place in Tripoli and it’s not because I’m friends with Zaher Hallab. The place has character which is something you won’t find at other Hallab locations now that they’re expanding across Lebanon. Sit in “Le Palais” section and look at the great building facade, observe Tripoli’s “Ebrine Road” (I had to put in my hometown’s name) and its bustling life. There are many options for you. You can go sweet with “knefe” or other delicacies or you can go with Hallab’s “lahm b’aajine.” Either way, the only regret you’ll be having is about your delusion of a diet. They also offer cakes and beverages. And it’s all very affordable. Bye, bye Beiruti expensiveness.

Akra

If you’re in the mood for a traditional Tripoli breakfast, this is the place for you. It takes quite a bit to get to it and a local is advised to guide the way. In order to get there, make your way to the Tel area and ask around. The place is extremely known to the people there and should be known nationally if you ask me. They make so many different varieties of humus, each of which is great. They also offer awesome “fatte.” Order as much as you want. I assure you that you won’t be disappointed. And I can also assure you that you won’t end up paying more than 10,000LL per person. Yes, Akra is that cheap but more importantly Akra is so good that it has turned me into a person who craves hummus for breakfast. You can thank me for the recommendation later.

Coffee Pot:

Near Al Salam Mosque, which was destroyed last August in one of Lebanon’s now 22 explosions, lies a nice breakfast spot called Coffee Pot. They offer a set of omelette with toast, American coffee and pancakes for less than $10. You can also have separate options if you don’t feel like going all out. It’s quiet. They offer indoor seating as well as a terrace overlooking the busy street, though I would assume that wouldn’t be too favorable with this heat. Service is very friendly too.

Fasting Ramadan

It is an insult first and foremost to the Muslims fasting to have a mayor, sheikh or whatever other entity believe that them fasting Ramadan should be met with a whole lot of “kindly forced” consideration from everyone else.

I’ve seen a lot of people lump all of Lebanon’s Muslims into the basket of people who agree with what Tripoli’s mayor did. The truth is that the mayor’s ideological representation is so limited that it only spans very few people whose voice is only being augmented because that voice is what’s “in” right now. It was Muslims who were the first to make fun of the “no breakfast” memos. It was Tripoli’s Muslims who told me about their municipality’s decree, who asked me to try and express their anger at this shameful attempt to repress not only the freedom of others but their very own in the city they call home, but you don’t hear those voices as often as your hear that mayor.

The courtesy that those fasting Ramadan should receive is not something that can be bestowed upon them by a municipal decree, emanating from an Islamist Council. Such a courtesy is a mere manifestation of being considerate and being aware of how difficult it is to remain without food and water in this heat for such long hours and to be aware of how much dedication such an endeavor entails. Illegally and unconstitutionally enforcing a twisted version of “tolerance” defeats the entire purpose of Ramadan. Those sheikhs and mayor should have known better than to tarnish such a month in their city like that.

Ramadan is a beautiful time. I’ve only been massively exposed to it recently when I became friends with Muslims who – gasp – happen to be from Tripoli. Those people were kind, hospitable and so kind-hearted that they’ve shown me – a stranger and an outsider – the ins and outs of their holy month. I attended more iftars than I could remember. I went to s’hours, heard the tarawih, walked the city as it bustled with people leaving prayer. And it was all beautiful.

To that family in Tripoli and almost every single Muslim I know, be it from Tripoli or elsewhere, fasting Ramadan is an act to bring them closer to the God they believe in. It is not something they proclaim to the world. I haven’t heard any of my friends nag that they’re fasting. I haven’t heard them nag that people around them are eating. They know that while fasting that month is a religious duty to them, it remains a duty that is exclusive to them and should not be generalized upon everyone else. They don’t need anyone telling them it’s not their right to force it upon anyone. It’s innate knowledge to them. On the contrary, they find it honorable when they share their iftars with people who hadn’t been fasting and who had breakfast and even lunch.

Tripoli is a city that has been literally screwed for the past several years by downright negligence. We’ve all seen the capacities of our security forces with the recent explosions overdrive taking the country. Those same capacities were never applied to that city as the country left it to be burned alone, an island in a sea we quickly judged as full of Islamists that should perish with it. Tripoli’s mayor and some people who have his mentality are hell-bent on turning their city into the different-phobe version they believe is the best for its Muslims population, but Tripoli’s people – Muslims and not – know better and they’ve stood up to him.

They are the people who won’t let their city get turned into what’s been planned for it, who won’t let their own reputation be tarnished and turned into that of people who hate those who are different, even when it comes to meals, forcing restaurants to cut down their businesses according to someone with authority’s version of what God said, and who know that fasting Ramadan does not mean you are entitled for preferential treatment by any municipality or government. It is a personal act that remains as such. The Quran has told them, after all, “لَكُمْ دِينُكُمْ وَلِيَ دِينِ.”

That mayor’s actions are a mere ploy for increasing popularity at a time when he assumed such a memo would resonate with the people in his city, bringing him accolades and newfound fame. The only accolade and fame he found were those of mockery from the same people he governs. He believed current times necessitate such a decree. He was wrong. There won’t be a time when Lebanon needs wishes upon restaurants to refrain from publicizing or even serving breakfast. Contrary to popular belief, such memos will never find their ways to fruition in Lebanon, be it in Tripoli or elsewhere, not now and not in the future. Why so? Because regardless of how downright despicable religious practices can get in this country, there are people who are aware enough to stand against them, people who managed to turn down that memo in mere hours after it was published. Those people are not Lebanese Christian-born activists who were appalled at a time when their breakfast options could be limited; they were Tripoli people born and bred and mostly Muslim.

Tripoli will not be Qandahar, not now and not in a future that many believe is upon us. Not when it has Muslims like the ones I know, friends and almost-family, who make sure you don’t leave their house on a Ramadan morning without them serving you breakfast.

Ramadan karim to everyone concerned.

Patriarch Raï Equates Terrorists With Atheists & Non-Religious

Patriarch Bechara Rai

It’s yet another Sunday in Lebanon and another opportunity for the Maronite Patriarch to offer his words of wisdom, in his weekly sermon, to the ears that would listen. It’s also yet another Sunday in a Lebanon of presidential void, security chaos and with more people listening in to the likes of Raï for possible hints at what to expect in the next few weeks when it comes to political development, the patriarch new quite well the stakes of his sermon. Here’s an excerpt, translated by yours truly, of Raï’s sermon today:

“In this occasion, we cannot forget that the Lebanese family is made up of two components: Christian and Muslim, and it has become a model for today’s societies, eastern and western, threatened by two extreme and opposite movements: religious regimes that aim to eliminate those that are different and to enforce their own faith and teachings onto others, and secular atheist systems which exclude God from society, legislating what they please without any regards of the natural laws of God. We are seeing signs of both these movements in Lebanon…. we demand the government and concerned ministries to issue decrees that stop such practices as is stated in article 9 of the constitution: freedom of belief is absolute.”

Color me confused but I was under the impression that it wasn’t non-religious people that took over Iraq recently, killed people just because they prayed differently. I was also under the impression that it wasn’t the acts of those non-religious people that led to many terrorist attacks, a few years ago, whose repercussions we still live today. Spreading across the Middle East today, and now in Lebanon, is a clear attempt to equate lack of religiosity with the terrorists threatening the fabrics of our society.

I have always been under the assumption as well that the root of Lebanese problems is our twisted understanding of religion. We have always been taught to fear that who is different: Muslims, Christians, Jews and now atheists – who are becoming a more vocal part of society, albeit still squashed by the thunderous voices of religious men whose influence spreads much deeper than to be challenged anytime soon. Secularism wasn’t what built our country, it wasn’t what ignited both our civil wars, it wasn’t what perpetuated the status quo from 1990 till 2005 and it’s not what’s bringing about the Lebanon of 2014.

Today, Lebanon is without a president, without a decent legislating body, without a decently functioning government, without security and without a functioning labor force. Who’s the cause for the mayhem and anarchy that Lebanon is living today? I’ll go on a limb and say, not those very horrifying nonbelievers, but our deeply sectarian system that empowers what Raï is championing. “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it” is the saying. But this is deeply, irrevocably broken.

Religious men of Lebanon like to spread fear. It is what puts food on their table at the end of the day. Patriarch Raï is no exception. By lumping ISIS, Al Qaeda or whatever terrorist group fits the bill with non-believers in one basket, he is doing just that: be afraid of those killing you… and be afraid of those that can challenge your well-rooted beliefs that have been enforced in you for such a long time by your families, by your schools, by your communities and by the likes of Mr. Rai.

What’s threatening the fabrics of Lebanese society isn’t lack of belief. It’s the blind attachment to belief and taking those beliefs to a point where they become maimed, mutilated and unrecognizably wrong. What’s threatening the fabrics of Lebanese society today is people, like Raï, still making people fear the premise of a secular system where people are treated based on their merits, not sect, where their worth is contingent upon who they are as people not on which region or religion they were born in, where equality is assured to everyone and isn’t relative to the inner rules of the sect your parents happened to belong to.

What’s threatening the fabrics of Lebanese societies aren’t some of Lebanon’s citizens becoming more liberal, supporting laws that their parents or parish priests wouldn’t approve of, it’s the fact that the absolute majority of Lebanese don’t challenge their parents’ beliefs or what they’ve been taught at school for so many years or what they’re being told by the head of their sect during a Sunday sermon.

Article 9 of the Lebanese constitution asserts freedom of belief, as Raï pointed out. Freedom of belief also extends to the freedom of not believing in any god and in having a country protect your right of not believing. Raï is afraid of the influence the increasing number of Christian nonbelievers has on his power. Perhaps he shouldn’t as it’ll be a long time before his influence budges. But I’ll let him know this: once upon a time, Mr Raï, I was one of those people that belonged to the flock that calls you their shepherd. I’m so glad I’m not part of that Maronite herd anymore that is susceptible to every word you say. I’m one of those you don’t have power over anymore, and it’s been extremely liberating.

What’s Happening At Zara Lebanon?

Update: AZADEA were kind enough to explain the process of their pricing. Sales and promotions are monitored by the Lebanese Ministry of Economy. If such a mistake were to be found at their premises, the customer is to get the lower price guaranteed. You can also always consult their costumer service in case you encounter such an aberration.

A friend recently sent two pictures my way of people they know shopping at one of Zara’s shops in Beirut and discovering that they were possibly victims of fraud by a chain that many believed wouldn’t resort to such techniques for profit.

Every year, come sales time, retailers slash prices off many of their items in attempts to lure customers into buying. We all fall for it – what’s better than paying a whole lot less for something that, a few days ago, cost a whole lot more?

Except it seems to be possible that some retailers have reverted to a technique that many of us had only heard of before but haven’t seen: increasing the pre-sales price on an item and then applying the sales discount on that, to maximize profitability on the item to be sold.

I don’t know how long this practice has been going on in their premises nor do I know if other retailers in Lebanon also adopt this fraudulent technique to rip us off of our hard-earned money. What it seems to be, however, is that even shopping in Lebanon isn’t the simple straightforward matter that it should be.

Perhaps it’s a typing mistake, perhaps it’s not. But even international brands may not above bending the law when they set ship over here. Today even our markets are in anarchy. With no control, no safeguards, no monitoring and no regulations, who protects the average Lebanese customer from falling to such practices?

Getting Assaulted By A Taxi Driver in Beirut

It was Sunday June 15th, a few hours before starting my final year of medicine, as I headed to the graduation dinner of colleagues at my university. I took the unfortunate decision to go to the location by a “service,” or the cheap fare for taxis in Beirut. The place was within walkable distance on any given day but I was borderline suited up and it was June in Beirut.

The taxi picked up a 25 year old guy who wanted to go to “Hotel Dieu” and drove onwards. He dropped me off next to Banque Byblos on Achrafieh’s main road, facing Sofil, and I gave him 20,000.

That was mistake #1.

The moment he saw the bill, he started barraging me about how I hadn’t told him that I had such a huge bill with me. I looked at him and replied: “it’s just 20,000. What would you have done if I had a bigger bill?”

He didn’t like my reply. Perhaps I should have just ignored, but I have a very low threshold as an individual for unnecessary rudeness. A few minutes later as he held up traffic, under a street camera belonging to the bank or the nearby Dutch embassy, he threw all 1000LL bills at me, so I got out of the car and closed the door behind me with an extra flair. I turned my back and crossed the street.

That was mistake #2.

A moment later, I started hearing shouting from behind me. “I will fuck your mother, you cunt!” I turned around and saw that the taxi driver was addressing me. I turned around and walked onwards. “You cunt, you cunt. Your mother is a whore.” I turned around and immediately gave him the finger. His voice kept rising and the insults kept coming. I gave him a second finger and walked onwards.

That was mistake #3.

I walked down the Sofil road, on my way to the location of the graduation dinner, when I heard the shouting get closer. The guy he was supposed to take with him to Hotel Dieu still in the car, the taxi driver drove his car towards me. A moment later, he was out of his car with a bat and before I knew it he slammed me on the side. It was one of those fight or flight moments we get taught about in biology. I decided to fight. So I started beating him as he hit me with the bat he had.

A minute or so later, I break free as the valet parking personnel of nearby “Le Maillon” come close. The taxi driver then runs to his car and drives away as he sees people getting closer. I hadn’t gotten his license plate number. The guy with him was texting throughout; he hadn’t moved a muscle.

My (brief) medical training allowed me to quickly assess my injuries. I felt blood gushing down my neck and lip. I also felt a bruise over my forehead and shoulder. I hadn’t lost consciousness, nor did I feel dizzy or vomit. I assumed my injuries were minimal so I marched on the dinner.

I was disheveled and obviously shocked. I had never thought such a thing would happen to me. My friends were all smiling when they saw me. Their smiles turned into shock when they saw my bloody neck. They went with me to the bathroom to help me clean up.

The graduating physicians assessed my head wound and decided it was superficial and didn’t need stitches. I let my body’s coagulation system run its course and headed back to the dinner. I decided not to ruin the night for the friends who wanted me there, and I tried my best not to.

A couple of hours later, I couldn’t take it anymore so I headed out to my hospital’s ER room. I entered without going through the personnel at the entrance. I saw familiar residents. They knew me. They immediately asked what was wrong so I explained to them that I needed a medical report of what had happened to me to present it to the police. The ER physician asked me to go open a file, the way any other patient would do. I told him I didn’t have money on me – he couldn’t care less. There was no preferential treatment for their own student there. I paid whatever fee they asked, running out of money in the process, and waited in my own triage cubicle.

I quickly told the resident examining me that there was nothing wrong. I just needed my wound cleaned so I can get on my way. The whole thing took about an hour. I was out of the ER and broke my 1AM. My friend was going to take me to the police to file an official complaint.

The best part of the night was yet upon me.

I arrived to the police station a few minutes later. What do you need, the policeman guarding the door asked. I told him the purpose of my visit and he directed me to the 5th floor. To reach said floor, he pointed me towards an elevator for everyone minus “officers.” The elevator wasn’t working.

I reached the 5th floor and explained what had happened to the personnel there. Their initial reaction was not to ask whether I was okay or not, it was to make sure they understood the precise location of where the assault had happened. The reason? “The location falls outside of the jurisdiction of this floor. Please go to the 1st floor so they can assist you.”

Make sure you go down the elevator to the ground floor, they said, it doesn’t stop at the first. I did as they said.

On the first floor, the personnel there brought up fancy Google Earth. They had underestimated my ability to read Beirut from satellite, telling me I wouldn’t understand what I saw. I pointed them to where the assault had happened. Guess what? It wasn’t their jurisdiction either. I was pointed to another floor.

I went up. It wouldn’t end there. “Did the assault happen on the sidewalk or on the asphalt?” They asked. “Does it matter?” I replied. Of course it did. Their jurisdiction only extended to the asphalt of the road going up from Mar Mkhayel towards Achrafieh’s main street. The assault on me had happened on the way down to Mar Mkhayel… on the sidewalk. So what what I supposed to do?

“You look okay,” they said, “and we’re obviously not going to do anything now. So why don’t you come back tomorrow at 9AM?”

I didn’t return.

Perhaps I had different expectations of how my first police encounter and how my first calling upon the law would work.

Perhaps I was too foolish to believe that those policemen wouldn’t waste an entire hour of my time at 1:30AM in the morning sending me between their office’s floors in their vain attempts to throw their work off on each other.

Perhaps I was too stupid to believe I would actually get the law working for me, in an area with about 100 cameras per squared meter, by simply asking for my right without resorting to my non-existent connections to help push my cause forward.

My friends told me I should have gone the second day and wasted my time because no one will give me my right if I don’t fight for it, but I have to ask: is it acceptable that, after getting assaulted with a bat at a supposedly safe street in your capital, you need to also figuratively fight with those whose job is to supposedly fight for you, wasting your energy and effort at something they told you wouldn’t lead to much anyway?

I guess I’m lucky he didn’t have a gun.

As I was walking down the stairs to exit the police station, I saw those anniversary posters for our internal security forces. “Our job is to serve and protect you,” they said. I just laughed at the irony as I headed back to the car that drove me back home.

Oops, Sorry For “Accidentally” Destroying Your Mar Mkhayel Home

While everyone jumped from one pub to the next in Mar Mkhayel yesterday to catch the first game of the FIFA World Cup, there was a woman there standing in disbelief in the midst of her living room, looking over the streets filled with traffic. She was not looking out of a window.

The Facebook group advocating to Save Beirut’s Heritage (link) is trying to propagate the story of a woman who could have died because of the greed of contractors in Beirut who know there’s no law to hunt them, no regulations to constrict them and no one to tell them they did nothing wrong.

Right next to that woman’s house is a 1920s building which as of yesterday does not exist anymore. In the process of demolishing that building, her own apartment’s walls were destroyed in the process. If that woman had been there while those skilled workers were doing their “job” she would have been seriously injured, if not killed. The wall that was demolished is that of her living room. Her apartment is in a building that’s over 100 years old. The contractor has offered the woman to buy her another apartment instead, but what good would that do when it could have almost cost that woman her life?

Let’s not be gullible and assume it’s an innocent mistake. I don’t know the woman’s name. I don’t know who the contractor is. What I do know, however, is that the practice of damaging houses “accidentally” in order to force their tenants to evict has been going on for a long time in Beirut as the city’s manic rush to exemplify its concrete maze status is pushed full gear.

This isn’t about the value of an old house in Mar Mkhayel, although that’s another topic worth discussing in itself especially that the area is facing yet another round of demolition soon with the Fouad Boutros Highway tearing it apart. This is about the length that Beirut’s real estate mafia would go to in order to get that new “it” high-rise they’re craving for so much. This is about how little the lives and well-being of people mean in the grand picture of millions of dollars in investment being put to remodel the city and make it more chaotic, irregular and without a character than it already is.

A few blogs have already spoken about the issue (here and here), but I believe this is something vital to highlight so here I am trying to propagate it further. Beirut’s Municipality should care less about fencing Rawche at this point and care more about the well-being of the people in the city, the people who are dying because of their total disregard to the illegality taking place here. Lebanon’s ministry of interior should care less about people not having an easy path to World Cup watching and care more about making sure such a thing never happens again.

Yesterday, this woman returned to a damaged home. Some other day, many of us – living in old Beiruti apartments in areas bustling with construction – could suddenly face a reality without home.

These are a few pictures from Save Beirut Heritage:

 

 

The Fault In Our Stars (2014) – Movie Review

fault-our-stars-movie-poster

There’s a multitude of ways that movie adaptations of books can go. They can span from an absolute abomination that gets fans of the novel rallied up against the atrocity they see on screen or it can be a very faithful representation that preserves the subject matter in the best of ways. The Fault of Stars is the latter.

Hazel Grace could be your every day 16 year old girl. Her time is filled with reality TV series, while obsessing and re-reading her favorite novel. Except she walks around with nasal cannula connected to a tank of oxygen that she carries around wherever she goes. Hazel Grace has terminal thyroid cancer with lung metastasis. The cancer is held at bay with a wonder drug in clinical trials – but it’s just that: barely held there, capable of getting her fragile body to collapse at any given moment.

At the request of her mother, Hazel goes to Cancer Support meetings carried out at the litteral heart of Jesus. She hates them. You see, Hazel Grace is not your average fictive cancer patient who relishes in the idea of telling her cancer story over and over again, while identifying with those who share her disease. No, she seeks normality in any way she could find. A Cancer Support meeting, however, is where she stumbles on Augustus Waters, an 18 year old boy with a limp. Augustus had been free of osteosarcoma, a form of bone cancer, for 14 months now. Full of positivity and always upbeat to Hazel’s constant demure, Augustus sets out on changing her entire perspective on life… even about the significance of a cigarette between one’s teeth.

As I said yesterday, it’s easy to dismiss The Fault In Our Stars as a tale for hormonal teenage girls. But this movie is anything but. It’s gut-wrenching, exceedingly tough to watch at times for an average viewer who has never been exposed to the atrocities of cancer that are represented in the most real of ways on screen. Sure, there are some inescapable cliches here and there, but the people I watched the movie with – not hormonal teenage girls, for the record – all found the movie exceedingly tough to watch. It’s not the kind of tough that makes you feel run over by a truck once the credits roll; It’s the kind of tough that – for a moment – gives you a perspective over how lucky you are to be sitting in that cinema chair, not with a nasal cannula as your main way of breathing.

The Fault In Our Stars is bolstered by a pair of great lead performances that elevate it to what it is. Shailene Woodley, on a cinematic roll with “The Spectacular Now” and “Divergent,” is an absolute wonder to watch on screen. Not many young actresses can pull off the role of Hazel Grace the way that she does. The nuances with which she infuses her character are A-rate. The camera lingers just a little longer for a lot of moments on Hazel Grace’s face – those moments help you encompass the scope of the emotion span that Woodley’s character is going through. They also help you make sense of how it is to be those characters, living those lives.

On the other side of the cinematic lead is Ansel Elgort, whose first major role came in the atrocity of a movie called “Carrie” and who also shared screen time as Woodley’s on-screen brother in “Divergent,” is a reveal. While most of us knew Woodley had the cinematic chops to carry on the role with an Academy Award nomination under her belt already for her role in “The Descendants,” I – for one – never thought Elgort would pull off Augustus Waters as well as he did. He spans the entire shades of his character throughout the movie effortlessly, from positivity to fragility, from strength to weakness. He balances Woodley’s act in the best of ways.

The movie wouldn’t be as it is without the decent screenplay that it has. Those who are wary the movie might have ruined the book need not be afraid as John Green had a lot to do with the screenplay at hand. Another entity that could easily be overlooked for The Fault In Our Stars is the stunning soundtrack it bolsters. I personally can’t get enough of some of the songs there – so make sure you give it a listen.

At the end of the day, The Fault In Our Stars is a movie about human fortitude. It’s a rare thing to have such a theme embodied on screen and this movie does a great job at it. Is it for all tastes? Probably not. But it’s also not as easy to dismiss as many would like to. The Fault In Our Stars the kind of movies that stem power from them being truthful, realistic and – ultimately – human. Go watch it. Okay?

8.5/10