Old Achrafieh (Geitawi) House To Be Demolished

A few seconds’ walk away from my house is a small building that I never took much notice of. That small building, however, is counting the days until it exists no more to give way for a new high rise.

As I walked next to it this past weekend and was taken aback by the metal frames to keep people out, I looked at the facade of the two-story building and couldn’t but notice how beautiful it could be. It’s a shame really that the mentality of renovating instead of demolishing isn’t taking hold in Beirut, especially Achrafieh.

Former minister of culture Salim Warde had a law proposition involving forcing contractors to have the new building they intend to erect be of the same number of stories as the one they demolished. His proposition went into a bureaucratic drawer and will probably never get out of it.

Achrafieh desperately needs such regulations. It’s fast becoming a concrete jungle of buildings that all look alike and feel imported, without a Lebanese flavor to them apart from the people that live in them. It’s a shame really.

And what’s even worse, the parking situation in my apartment’s street is about to get worse. People were allowed to park next to the building set to be demolished. The new building will obviously not allow that.

Cultural Terrorism in Lebanon: The Adventures of TinTin in the Country of Brainless Censorship

Welcome to Lebanon, the country where blocking a director’s name off his movie poster is apparently our *awesome* government’s way of affirming its power.

The latest incident of cultural terrorism in Lebanon is having Steven Spielberg’s name hidden off TinTin’s movie poster, simply because Spielberg donated $1 million to Israel during the July 2006 war. While I am firmly against what Spielberg did, as I am against anyone who actively supports acts of violence either financially or morally, does this really warrant this ridiculous act of hiding his name?

Spielberg is Jewish so it is natural for him to feel some compassion for the state of Israel – regardless of whether we like that or not. The same applies to many Sunnis in Lebanon who feel loyal towards Saudi Arabia and many Shiites who feel loyal to Iran. It’s just the way things are. If religion is important to you, you feel strongly about countries where your religion has a good stronghold. It doesn’t mean it’s right, it just means it’s there. If religion is the least of your concern, well, power to you for being”free”.

But before we start thinking about banning movie directors’ name off their movie posters, why don’t we contemplate this:

1) If we’re going to have a problem with every Hollywood director or producer who has Israeli-ties, then the only array of movies we’ll have in our theaters will be the crappy Egyptian movies we get and the occasional Nadine Labaki movie which takes our theaters by storm (PS: If you haven’t watched Where Do We Go Now? yet, what are you waiting for?)

2) The act of blocking Spielberg’s name off the poster is simply ridiculous. What end is served through the decision to do so? People won’t know that he’s involved in the movie when his name is flashed on a huge screen in front of them? It would have made more sense to have the movie banned in its entirety, not that would be acceptable in itself. Tintin is an animated movie based on a hit comic series that many of us have grown up reading. The fact that this agenda-less movie is being targeted in a flimsy “ban” is beyond ridiculous. It’s simply egomaniacally stupid.

3) For those who are probably furious that I’ve somehow, in a nonexistent way, shown “compassion” towards something Israeli, this is far from the case. In fact, if Tintin had been “Waltz with Bashir,” I would have probably been less offended by whatever’s taking place with Tintin today. While I could simply download the aforementioned movie, I would have understood not having it play in our theaters, simply because it’s an Israeli production. But Tintin is not an Israeli production, even if an Israel-compassionate person had a role in doing it. If Tintin had been serving some hidden pro-Zionist agenda, which as I’m writing this seems hilariously ridiculous, then perhaps I would have understood an act of banning in any form towards the movie.

4) Our country needs to start getting accustomed to the idea that, even in these simple ways that it does, it shouldn’t “silence” those that are different from us. We pride ourselves that we are a beacon for freedom of speech in the region and we most definitely are. But things like this “ban” put a damper on what is, truly, an innovative country that we have. The fact that Tintin was played in theaters across the region without a hitch is a clear indication that our lovely government (or whoever issued the Spielberg ban) is out of its mind. Maybe the government should start caring less about blocking a director’s name because of a Wikileaks article and more caring about fixing the internet situation of the country (I still haven’t gotten my upgrade!).

5) Just for your reference, this is a list of actors, actresses, directors, producers & singers who have ties with Israel, be it moral or financial: Adam Sandler, Annette Bening, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Ashton Kutcher, Ben Stiller, Billy Crystal, Bruce Willis, Dustin Hoffman, Halle Berry, Harrison Ford, Kathy Bates, Kevin Costner, Kobe Bryant, Madonna, Frank Sinatra, Natalie Portman, Nicole Kidman, Paula Abdul, Norah Jones, Robin Williams, Sarah Jessica Parker, Tom Cruise…. and the list can go one to list hundreds of other names. All of these people are entertainers that provide us with movies and songs that we love. How about we ban all of their movies, music and anything they’re affiliated with?

The sad thing is this isn’t the first time this happens. First it was Gad Elmaleh, then Lady Gaga’s album, which was later unbanned, passing by an Iranian movie against the Islamic revolution: Green Days. When will Lebanese cultural terrorism stop and we begin to care less about a person’s political,  religious or whatever affiliation they may have and care more about what they’re providing the world with. If you think it’s offensive, you can CHOOSE not to be exposed. But you have NO RIGHT to force your own views on other people who don’t share them in any way whatsoever. As for me, I may have not wanted to watch Tintin but I’m definitely going to now.

So dear Hezbollah, protecting your precious arms doesn’t start with you blocking every single that that is related to the root of your weapons. Culturally terrorizing the whole Lebanese population into believing that if something isn’t approved by you then that thing shouldn’t work is NOT acceptable. Instead of having Lebanese traitors, whose dealings with Israel are as clear as the sun rising every morning, almost getting no jail time (Fayez Karam in case you’re wondering), Hezbollah is offended by Steven Spielberg’s name on a movie poster. You see, a movie poster is simply a weapon of mass destruction.

Hezbollah allies speak of “change and reform.” Well, where is change and reform when you truly need it? Or does it apply to some internet upgrade through a submarine cable that’s suffering from more outages in its month of service than the whole Lebanese internet sector has had over the past two years? Perhaps Mr. Aoun, instead of being Hezbollah’s little minion 24/7, you’d pass some of the freedom values you might have learned in your fifteen year stay in France because of Hezbollah’s BFFs?

Lebanese & Halloween

Over the past five years or so, Halloween grew exponentially in popularity among the Lebanese population. Halloween parties started to take place a couple of days in advance with people celebrating the holiday – like – well, like Americans.

Part of what bothers me about this is that most Lebanese nag about losing some of our culture and traditions in the shuffle of globalization. And that is apparent the most when it comes to Halloween. After all, it is not a holiday that is Lebanese. There’s nothing Lebanese about it to be exact. It’s like many of those other things we take in like a sponge: Halloween is cool. Let’s celebrate it.

Back in my days, which are still here since I’m only 21, our version of “Halloween” although different in meaning yet very similar in form, took place on December 3rd. I remember going house to house with my friends and sitting on sofas in the warmth of stoves, waiting as those families tried to know who was behind the mask.

Do any of the people celebrating Halloween today (or celebrated it over the weekend) actually celebrate the “Lebanese” version of that day, which holds some significance by being St. Barbara’s day, a Christian martyr who had to disguise herself to escape the king’s persecution?
I guess not. After all, it’s much “cooler” to celebrate something where getting wasted under a mask than to go all rustic and knock on people’s doors to let them guess who you are…

Call me old-fashioned, but if there’s something I would like to keep “Lebanese,” it’s the day where we wear masks just for the fun of it. There’s no reason for us to copy other people’s holidays just because it has been shoved down our throats in movies, series, pop culture… to the point where it has officially been deemed cool by the masses.

What’s the difference between wearing a Jack Sparrow costume on October 31st and December 3rd, other than the date? A whole cultural identity.