Friday, March 24, 2006

A Quicky

I'm actually happy to see the lack of entente, of dialogue and consensus because it validates all the negative feelings I harbour towards every single politician. There is not a single voice working for a united Lebanon. Not one.
Most of them are working hard for their pockets, some for outside influences, others out of sheer vanity but you won't find one solitary politico who really believes in any of their own slogans.
They take over downtown for a day, reducing the city centre to a no man's land and don't even bother to pretend to want to compensate all the cafes and restaurants who would normally be overflowing....all this while screaming about the importance of revitalizing the economy.
The worst thing is that I wouldn't care one tiny little bit if at the very least they did something constructive and concrete with all the confidence and hope they strangled out of the population. It's all smiles and handshakes and photo ops going in and then I imagine they just leave through another exit for all the good it's doing.
Their apathy is amplifying all of their shortcomings.

Weather's hot.


Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Cheap Thrills

Can't say there has really been that much to post about in the last week or so. Well, personal stuff but that interests only me. On the local front, I seem to have lost interest in any headline or supposed news story - maybe it's just that there is absolutely nothing happening or I'm feeling thoroughly marginalized by the Olympian level of inertia practiced by the ruling class of our fair state.
On the resumption of our supercharged national dialogue , I guess the proper way to deal with problems is to pretend they don't exist and maybe they'll just go away - mind you, that's the way I would deal with things.....if I was 3 or mentally retarded, but I shouldn't cast aspersions.

Hezbollah says that the economy and a "sound electoral law" should also be added to the national dialogue. My own astute analysis of this would be "duh!" but I wouldn't trust Hezbollah to dialogue my lunch order.

General Michel Aoun has been uncharacteristically quiet these days but I assume he's busy counting the pesos unwittingly handed over to him by the orangeshirts through various dubious schemes. Playing on the loyalty of your partisans is fine if you're not a political group trying to portray some semblance of impartiality and transparency. For example, a Chelsea petrol card I would buy - but I would rather walk home than apply for an orange one.
*UPDATE*....Michel Aoun has in fact been very his latest Jumblattian outburst he's railed against all the "Rustom Ghazaleh's" at the conference table. Apparently, he's incensed that the Future Movement is spearheading a propaganda campaign aimed at denying him the presidency.

Hariri instills nothing but confidence in me as he stays out of the country unless his presence is absolutely required. Funny, I would have thought that being the figurehead of the country's leading political party would have required your presence, but ask me a question about music instead.
Rockets found near his home in Koraytem on Monday were not primed to fire but said to have "Hebrew inscriptions" on them.
Well, that proves it. He shouldn't be here, right?

Saniora's words of wisdom for the week have been that Brazil "may" extradite Rana Koleilat. Pfft.

Jumblatt. Who has he alienated this week?

Geagea is rapidly becoming just a mouthpiece for almost anyone. Mind you, just being noticed again must be keeping that Mona Lisa-esque inscrutable grin on his face.

I can't listen to Berri anyway because his arrogance makes me so damn angry & the less said about Lahoud, the better. And because I try to be fair, have I left anyone out?

I'm still reeling from the shock of all the sporting defeats (ah, the agony of defeat) of the past week.

Both the England rugby team and my lovely Chelsea were on the wrong end of stunning victories. England's pathetic 6 Nation's campaign was brought to a blundering conclusion on Saturday when Ireland rightfully took the Tri-Nations Cup by comprehensively beating all of the other British Isles nations. The real pain is the fact that an average French team took the 6 Nations title. Ouch.

My lovely Chelsea inexplicably lost 1-0 to West London neighbours Fulham who are currently languishing in 14th position compared to our top spot. But I would like to assure you all that being an England fan in all things means I am no stranger to disappointment and thankfully, the same applies to my being a long-term Chelsea fan. Still.

Lastly, I would like to congratulate MacDara (the bringer of craic...who knew he had a sense of humour and no stage fright?) and the team for organizing the great St. Patrick's bash last Saturday in the Bristol hotel. The only failure of the evening was the decision to have a screen installed in the ante-room for the pre-prandial rugby, in which Ireland beat England. This game was also watched by 3 (very) quiet England supporters. Shhh, we know who we are. That is what a Bristol gathering should be about.
Damn the luck of the Irish.


Monday, March 13, 2006

Is Everyone Here?

Monday is finally here. I've been waiting impatiently all weekend in the throes of excitement just to see what's going to happen to the National Dialogue today. After cutting it short and blaming everything on the mercurial Walid Jumblatt (unreasonable, unpredictable and unbalanced are other traits attributed to him but you have to make up your own mind), the national leaders reconvene to hammer out an agreement over the most crucial issues facing our country today.

My interest in it, though, remains firmly in the area of vocabulary.
If, to quote Speaker Nabih Berri, "failure is not an option", then what word or expression could be used if the whole farce is a complete and utter waste of time? My own personal favourite is "What meeting?"
Suggestions are more than welcome.

Can we blame Israel? Can we blame the CIA or the Mukhabarat? Or will we do what we do best and have a Mexican standoff with fingerpointing?

Hope your weekend was good. Mine was one of mixed blessings, of joy and bitterness, of great happiness and utter abjection. The weather was extraordinary with a bit of a chill in the air but blindingly blue skies.
On Saturday, my lovely Chelsea took a 2-1 win against Spurs, with Gallas cracking in a superb strike with seconds left to play. The Barcelona games are becoming a distant memory and hurt much less now that we are back on track for the Premiership.
Sunday, in contrast, was painful. Not only did England lose against France in the 6 Nations tournament, but were utterly thrashed by a so-so French team. I'm still hurting so be gentle.

Huge thanks to MacDara who kept his word (and commiserations for the Irish Blog Awards) - during the Scotland-Ireland match Mac asked me who I was supporting and I told him that I was applauding both teams (friends on both sides of that one). In a grand gesture, Mac then said he wouldn't applaud the French on Sunday. He obviously didn't applaud England, but I thought his abstention from clapping the Frogs was a nice touch and much appreciated because everybody knows that there is nothing worse than a smug Frenchman. Again.


Thursday, March 09, 2006


What foul weather today. It’s absolutely pouring down – cold, wet, windy and miserable. I absolutely love it!!! I can’t understand people who just want sunshine all the time. I like a bit of weather in my life, although maybe this qualifies me as depressive. Here in this part of the happy-go-lucky Middle East, we’re blessed by being the only country in the environs without a desert and as such, we’ve got weather. We’ve got green in a big way, we’ve got the Med, we’ve got mountains with some pretty fine skiing, we’ve got rivers, we’ve got forests. Of course, we also have some bad pollution – a fine brown haze that hangs over the horizon every evening. We also have a garbage problem, not just your basic ‘throw it out the window’ mentality but huge dumps that break off into the sea with the regularity of an iceberg. Hell, our garbage has even floated to Turkey!!

I hate to harp on about things as basic as this when we do have so many other problems that need addressing. I’m not an environmentalist, nor an aging hippy who believes in communal living nor am I even a damn lefty pinko, but I do believe that attitudes need to change at a grass roots level if we’re ever to progress. There is no sense of greater community, a civic sense that doesn’t allow you to throw your trash out of your car window or into the gutters – it stops you from burning stop lights just because you think you have much more important places to go than anyone else. It allows you to respect others around you and tempers your ‘me first’ mentality. It may make you stop for a car trying to merge without playing chicken at every street corner. It may even one day allow you to form a queue, although probably not in my lifetime.
And you thought you had a bad drive to work this morning.

On to the Champion’s League again. Shock, horror!!! Reigning champions LiverPoo were knocked out at Anfield by Benfica by an aggregate score of 3-0. The only British team left in the tournament is Arse-nal. My philosophy is always to back the British teams in Europe if my lovely Chelsea are out, but this is Arse-nal and I would rather show support for a French team than support Arse-nal (and believe me, that is a grand statement) – wait a minute, Arse-nal is a French team! Not a single drop of British blood in the entire squad that beat Real Madrid 1-0 a couple of weeks ago and held on to a 0-0 draw yesterday to go through.
Double the reason to hate them.
Hola Barcelona! Olé!


Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Goodnights (And Goodbyes) Of The Round Table

I could be wrong but I always thought that the people who ended up sitting at a round table discussing national unity would be leaders. Leaders, as in people who can and do make decisions. Working forward from that assumption, why would the participants in the "Lebanese National Dialogue" need to, in Speaker Nabih Berri's words, "take time out for consultations"? Who do they have to consult? Although I'm tempted to say Syria & Iran, I won't because that is just unhelpful and divisive. Whatever. It's Syria and Iran. Add whomever else you like to that list because who is included on it doesn't matter; what matters is simply that other powers have to be consulted, yet again.
The basic issues are pretty uncomplicated - getting rid of Hezbollah's weapons, getting rid of a treacherous president and getting to the bottom of the Hariri assassination - but still no consensus on anything. Then Jumblatt sods off to the US and slags everyone off.

Rumour has it that when it came time to discuss the weapons, Hizbullah leader Nasrallah and Nabih Berri 'questioned the point of such dialogue' and then the bearded one 'allegedly stormed out of the room'.
I ave many other choice expressions for it but none that are really acceptable in polite company (yes, I'm talking about you). For someone who whines and whinges about consensus and the need for dialogue, he doesn't do either very well at all. National unity, my ass.

And to add insult to injury, they shut down downtown. You could still go there, but you couldn't park anywhere in a 300-mile radius and you would get frisked every 10 yards by a military type. Despite this, restaurants (paying extortionate Solidere rents) stayed open hoping that people would still come down. By some accounts, the total sum of diners in downtown restaurants over the weekend was 11 - apparently, it would have been 12 but some guy got stood up. Did these restaurants receive any compensation? Did they hell.

The whole thing is just a farce, another attempt to batter the Lebanese populace into submission by raising false hopes. Frankly, I'm sick of all the crap, yet I get sucked in every single time. Every time there's a chance of dialogue, I start seeing beautiful sunsets everywhere I look and hear choruses of angels with every step I take.
It's not their fault, it's mine. Damn this optimism. I'm old enough to know better.

If I sound a little negative, it's probably because my lovely Chelsea were knocked out of the Champion's League last night by Barcelona. I can't say it was unexpected but it still rankles. Yesterday's game was the way I want my lovely Chelsea to play all the time. Inventive, classy and rolling with the punches (of which there were relatively few). Barcelona were frankly a little bland - except, of course, for the sheer genius that is Ronaldinho. I'm always mesmerised by his play - the way the ball seems, by the way he moves it, to be another limb for him. Little heel flicks, scooped passes unerringly on target, sidestepping defenders without a second glance.....all pure magic.
I can't stand the fucker.

More bad news on the entertainment front. I heard from a couple of friends that the brilliant TV comedy Arrested Development has been cancelled. What? Probably the best comedy to come out of the US in absolutely ages snuffed out because it didn't pander to the great unwashed? I understand the concept of business, but when you're a TV corporation you should also produce some class to go along with your lowbrow, a small loss to go along with your mega-earnings. Take a hit for the team, guys.

I think that's enough for today. I still have to read Mourinho's post-game comments.


Thursday, March 02, 2006

Spring In The Air

It's been a while since I've figuratively put pen to paper and first of all, thank you for your emails (however brief, John-no) enquiring as to my general health and failing that, my mental well-being. I'm sure you'll be pleased to know that both are as robust as ever.

It's been a busy week on many fronts, interesting things happening all over the place in my life, mostly good, some atrocious and one or two were even fantastic....

Let me start with where I left off last week. My lovely Chelsea were about to beat Barcelona at home and that went horribly wrong - that could have been enough of a blow to stop any fan writing, but not the True Blues....we're made of sterner stuff! As nothing was really happening on the political front that inspired or required comment, I decided to wait for the weekend Six Nations rugby to cheer me up.
That too went decidedly pear-shaped as Scotland whipped our asses. I say that because even though the score was only 18-12, any loss to Scotland in anything (except maybe curling and caber-tossing) should be considered an absolute thrashing. For a Celt's point of view, you may want to visit the "poem" that MacDara, who's got a good pair of lungs on him, posted courtesy of the G-Man - it is really very funny.

I was going to go and watch the Ireland-Wales game on Sunday but was having serious doubts about who to support (ya listening, Mac?) so I decided to stay home and lick my wounds. I was further pacified by my lovely Chelsea winning on the same day. I almost felt like my old self last night as England put on a decent performance to overcome Uruguay 2-0. A special mention should go to Ireland for whipping our bête noire and old nemesis, Sweden, but they were mainly powered by a Chelsea boy in the form of Damian Duff, so perhaps it is to be expected.

Most of downtown Beirut is today (and for the immediate future) looking like a SWAT team training camp. Snipers all over the rooftops and military types on every corner. I would have taken a photo of them but was afraid of being mistaken for target practice.
The reason for all this security is that the increasingly rare animal that is the Cabinet is rumoured to have been spotted in the downtown area and we're taking no chances about scaring it away, especially since the understandably skittish El Presidente has made an appearance.
So now we're supposed to have faith in a Cabinet that can't even agree on a meeting place let alone anything under discussion?

First, it was supposed to be Baabda and the anti-Syrian camp refused to go there - and rightly so. Then El Prez was going to come to Beirut but his 'security' said they couldn't secure downtown properly, so it was off again. Now it's on again. Whatever.
Elias Murr, the Prez's son-in-law, gave him a mouthful about not protecting him and even quoted his father-in-law as telling him that he should leave the country lest he become "a slave or a corpse." Niiice.
Murr apparently then finished up with "resign, and go back to being a grandfather to my children." Good role model for them.

Once again the momentum given by popular support comes to a crashing halt at the doors of wherever the Cabinet meets. I find it ridiculous that a country as wealthy as ours could be in terms of brainpower and adaptability should be again run into the ground by a governing body better suited to some banana republic - especially when El P turns up with a ton of folders, apparently detailing the past of each Cabinet member, just in case there's any mudslinging to be done.
In fact, in fucking infuriates me.

And just to add insult to injury, here comes the National Unity Dialogue. I have a problem with each of those words on their own - put together they sound like a punchline, but I can't figure out the joke just yet. It doesn't matter what you call her, folks, she's still just a really ugly girl.
Hezbollah wants their keeping their weapons at the top of the list before discussing anything. Others won't budge until removing Lahoud is top of the list. Yet others won't say a word about anything until the truth behind Hariri's assassination is placed firmly at the top of any list. And there are still others who believe the economy should pull rank. There are even blah, blah, blah, yawn, blahh...
It's all going to end in tears.

The only thing that really interests me is how I'm going to park to be able to pick up my books at Virgin downtown.

Enjoy yours.

Peter Osgood 1947-2006

One of Chelsea's & England's greatest players passed away yesterday. Peter Osgood, dubbed the "King Of Stamford Bridge", died Wednesday from a sudden heart attack. He was only 59.