Mne2leba Ta3ate

Knowing some people can truly help. They could provide you with a job, get you out of a tough spot, provide you with a decent future. The saying goes: behind every comfortable man in this country is a super “wasta” taking care of things.

Some people’s wasta is so strong it gets them to evade jail time entirely for trading massive amounts of drugs, ruining the lives of countless people in the process. It’s fairly straightforward: mne2leba ta3ate. (we turn their drug trading to drug use).

I will not mention acronyms or allude to names or people or political parties because the issue isn’t specific to one side of Lebanon’s political spectrum.

But do you know those major drug scandals we hear about in the news?

I know for a fact that those who are in charge of the whole affair never get reprimanded. All they get is a very, very minimal jail time that serves to “clean their system” while the bigger fish take care of all those extra loose ends that may have remained.

If you want to trade drugs in Lebanon, make sure you know someone influential. That someone could be a parliament member, it could be an family with a full blown military wing, it could also be a major political party head. Because if you know such people, you will never get caught. And even if you get caught, the only thing you get is a slap on the wrist while someone else pinches your cheek.

Good boy, they’d say. He turned his whole life around.

As for all those poor souls whose lives this good boy ruined, well, tough luck for them. They don’t know someone who can make jail time easier for them.

Mne2leba lal tajra ta3ate. Because breaking the law, ruining the lives of so many people and not facing repercussions for it is how things are done here. And they have the audacity to want to keep their shamelessness secret.

What We Know So Far About J.K. Rowling’s “The Casual Vacancy”

This year’s most anticipated book release drops this Thursday. The project has been under tight wraps from the moment it was announced, reminiscent of the supreme amount of secrecy surrounding J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter releases. Don’t you miss those?

The Casual Vacancy is 512 pages thick. The idea of it was conceived on a plane where Rowling thought “local elections” and the idea wrote itself out. She says it was the sort of idea that hits you and you know it will work. It was the same with Harry Potter.

The title was initially “Responsible.” But when Rowling stumbled on a newspaper with the words “casual vacancy” in it, she immediately knew that it fit her story better. She has been writing the book since Harry Potter was done and considered publishing it under a pseudonym but she figured it would be much braver if she published it under her own name.

And it is her name alone that’s causing this book to be a success even before it is released.

The Casual Vacancy opens with the death of a parish councillor in the village of Pagford. Barry, the councillor, had grown up on the Fields, a nearby estate that’s drenched in poverty, with which other citizens of Pagford, notably the middle class, have lost patience. If they can fill Barry’s seat with one more councillor sympathetic to their disgust, they’ll secure a majority vote to relinquish responsibility for the Fields and hand it over to a neighboring council.

The battle for the seat starts. And it’s not a simple election as one can conceive, it is the story of a town at war. Pupils at war with their teachers, sons and daughters with their parents, the rich with the poor…. It is the battle of different classes. The chairman assumes the seat will go to his son, against whom are a cold GP and a deputy headmaster with ambivalence towards his son, a self-possessed adolescent whose subversion takes the form of telling the truth.

The Fields’ most notorious family is the Weedons.

Terri Weedon is a prostitute, junkie and a victim of abuse. She is struggling to stay clean to stop social services from taking her three-year-old son away from her. But it is her daughter, Krystal, who will take up the mantle of being the mother. But the death of Barry, the only adult whom Krystal considered as a friend, leaves her alone and struggling in the poverty that she lives in.

Anonymous messages will then start appearing on the parish’s website, exposing the laundry of the people living there and the town sinks into paranoia and tragedy.

The novel is written from multiple perspectives. So it invites the reader to delve into the head of different characters. Some journalists who were offered the chance to read the book said that this differing perspective made them think the book was closer to a comedy until it really sank in and they were hit by the severity and tragedy of it all as they delved into the Weedon’s minds.

The book is about the middle class of Britain. It is a representation of what J.K. Rowling says a “phenomenally snobby society.” And she has laid it bare. It is the story of heroin addiction, teen sexuality and economical problems. So it is as an adult book as it can get without it being Fifty Shades of Grey. The book is so unlike Harry Potter, in fact, that even the language used is one that would definitely shock any Rowling fan.

Some quotes from the book are as follows:

  • “The leathery skin of her upper cleavage radiated little cracks that no longer vanished when decompressed.”
  • [A lustful boy sits on a bus] “with an ache in his heart and in his balls.”
  • And there’s a reference to a girl’s “miraculously unguarded vagina.”

The Casual Vacancy has already sold more than one million copies in pre-orders and will be the year’s top selling new release. I will review it as soon as I finish reading it upon its release this Thursday. But I have high expectations.

(Sources: 1 and 2)

R.I.P Amy Winehouse

Amy Winehouse

Amy Winehouse was found dead in her London apartment a few hours ago.

Is anyone surprised?

The 27 year old Grammy-winning singer has been “battling” substance abuse for years now. But can you really call it battling if she never seriously sought out to make herself better?

They say death should be revered. But how can you pay tribute to someone who had it coming for such a long time that when the news of her death broke out, no one was shocked.

It’s sad to see such a talent go to waste especially that this talent has only given the world only two critically-acclaimed albums: 2003’s Frank and 2006’s Back To Black. Now that Winehouse is gone, many of her unreleased tracks will find their way to be marketed. It’s the way it is with artists whose lives are so troubled that they cannot maintain a regular album release schedule.

There will definitely be a Greatest Hits album by the year’s end to celebrate this young woman’s untimely passing. Let’s make a few dollars off of her. That won’t hurt anyone, right?

Back To Black is #1 on iTunes as of now. At least her label is starting to rack in the dough.

Amy Winehouse had a story to tell. Her life could have served as a great source for music about anguish, need and pain. Her death is like cutting a novel short indefinitely.

I guess Amy shouldn’t have said no, no to rehab and gone. Her greatest achievement will remain introducing a sound to the music industry that allowed people like Adele to make a breakthrough. For that, we’ll all be thankful.

Here’s hoping her last moments were fade to white. But at the end of the day, her death was a lifestyle choice.

Fast Five – Movie Review

Fast Five is the latest installment in the Fast and Furious movie franchise. It stars regulars of the past four movies: Vin Diezel as Dom, Paul Walker as Brian O’Conner as well as introducing Dwayne Johnson as Luke Hobbs, a DSS agent, specialized in finding wanted criminals.

Former FBI agent Brian O’Conner, along with Mia, Dom’s sister, help Dom escape a 25 year prison sentence while being taken to jail on a prison bus. They split up and agree to meet in Rio De Janeiro. However, Mia and Brian run low on cash and agree on doing a job for their friend. The job turns out much complicated than expected, however. The train on which the cars are found are seized property by DEA agents. And among the three cars to be taken, there’s only one in which those running the operation have special interest. Why? because it contains information about the location of $100 million, drug money, that Dom and co decide to steal and use to buy their freedom. But the money belongs to the most corrupt man in Rio and they’re being haunted by Luke Hobbs.

The fact that this movie is meant to entertain more than garner awards does not excuse the horrible performances you have to bear with for about two hours. There’s a sheer amount of melodrama in the way the actors react to what they have to do that is just mind blowing. At some points, you can’t but sit and look at the screen and go: “are they kidding me?”

Moreover, the script, especially most of the dialogue, is garbage material. I cannot conceive how the actors actually agreed on uttering some of the lines that were said. Some of those include: “I like my dessert first” when asked if they wanted good news or bad news first, followed by “now give me the vegetables”, among other lines spread throughout the movie that are completely ridiculous.

And even though you’re expecting to go into a movie with lots of cars, don’t be too disappointed when you see little car action sequences. At one point, they basically set up a race and jumped into the next scene with the race already done. There is an emphasis on the “furious” part though. The characters are almost angry all the time.

The final sequence of the movie, however, was well done. Even though it defied every law of physics that I know, it was still an enjoyable watch. And the overall resolution is quite smart, even though you might have seen it coming.

Overall, the movie should have been more accurately titled “Furious Five” but I guess that would have gotten some people confused with Kung Fu Panda. Why? because the amount of anger in the movie is unbelievable and always over the top. Although the cars and women that are featured are quite awesome, the movie fails. Why? simply because it’s too indulgent. The movie makers know this will be a hit financially and that’s all they cared about: deliver action sequences that keep a viewer entertained (hate them or like them, you cannot but watch action sequences) and that viewer would forget about all the other silly and ridiculous stuff. I’m not saying you won’t enjoy it, after all, it is a movie about cars and weapons and women, but it could have been done in a much, much better way. And watch out for The Godfather reference at the end.