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Showing posts from January, 2008

Rich Man, Poor Man*

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The following piece of ... contains gross overgeneralizations. Exceptions prove the rule. It also contains foul language. I have no excuse. Have you ever wondered what the grimy poor and the filthy rich have in common?** Well, I often did. It’s a disturbing thought and it weighs heavily on me. I’ve always considered myself a non-judgmental person, but here I am, passing verdicts on people based principally on their income. On those rare occasions I had had the misfortune to spend time with a despicable beggar or a contemptible mogul I felt as if I had lost an essential part of my humanity. I became a culprit and a victim of an eccentric fact of life: disparity of fortunes. I not only hated them but loathed myself as well. Damn it, why are they so offensive! Certainly there's something about money that brings the worst in people. Its scarcity and abundance are two sides of the same fetid pie of crap. I sympathize to some extent with a hungry person who let loose the reins of his m

Leisure Suit Larry

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The year was 1983. I had just completed my Master’s degree in urban planning after publishing my thesis. The text was entirely written and printed out using the university’s main frame computer. This was the Pre-PC era and the most advanced piece of hardware to hit the market till then was the scientific calculator. I don’t quite remember how it came about but I was fascinated by a new gadget, a small computer called the Sinclair . It measured about 25x20X4 cm and had a membrane keyboard. Well the whole thing was a membrane keyboard really with an external AC adapter and a cable to connect to a black & white TV. Oh yeah, there’s one more thing I forgot to mention, a regular cassette player was needed to load the programs before the Sinclair can run them. There were no floppy drives yet, let alone hard disks. The reason I bought this peculiar piece of electronics was to play a game. Not any game but one in particular, a flight simulator. I was fascinated by flying then, as I still

Mjadra

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I went to bed late, very late last night. As I was losing consciousness, a vision of a Mjadra plate with onions, pickles and Fattouch tantalizingly floated in my head. I must’ve had a big smile when I passed away. I woke up very hungry. Mjadra is certainly the most quintessential dish in the Levant . It is shared across the politically drawn borders of Palestine , Jordan , Lebanon and Syria and dates back to the region’s very early history. Fossilized Lentils and Burghul were found (together) in some archeological sites dating back to 1,000 BC in northern Syria. Mjadra is probably the simplest and most straightforward Levantine dish to prepare. It is known as the poor man’s feast, because that’s what it’s really all about, a deliciously healthy meal with plenty of protein at a very low price. Traditionally, low income families would cook a large pot of Mjadra on Friday morning and head for the outdoors for what is known as a Sayran (picnic). Or better yet, cook it outdoors

Tender Spots

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We all have our tender spots, our Achilles heel so to speak. Food, wine and sex top the list for many mortals. Intemperance in any of these human flaws leaves visible scars on the body and mind. We have to admit, however, that these inflictions are so charming and gratifying if kept under control. To this end, when we occasionally gorge we should be finicky and eat the best victuals imaginable. Wine and spirits are to be consumed with respect and consequently when we choose to get inebriated we must be pernickety over our Merlots and Malts . As for sex, need I say more! With the associated gilt, ignominy and possible infectivity we ought not to settle for anyone less than the Clooneys or the Therons . This post, among a few others, is preordained to partially fulfill my obligations toward the reader in bringing interestingly revealing information about this land and exotically scrumptious recipes. Syria is a mandatory corridor for migratory birds on their annual commuting between E

Farewell to Years

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I shouldn’t get critical over New Year’s celebrations and denounce them as being solely fit for the brainless masses. In fact I commemorated the occasion last night sharing a few drinks with old friends, dining heartily with the family, lighting up fireworks with the neighborhood kids, hitting the sack a few minutes before midnight then falling asleep in a jiffy after an extra long day at work. Over the span of my life, there are a few New Year Eves I always remember. Tartous 1966 - The first time in my living memory to stay up so late. The moored ships in the unfinished Tartous harbor blew their horns and shot colored flares in the night sky. A few minutes past midnight my aunt delivered her baby. He is a doctor today and lives somewhere in Canada. He had recently become a father himself. 42 years have passed since. Damascus 1978 – A little after 9:00 PM, a friend dropped me at my aunt’s house in Azbakieh . I hurriedly tucked in the envelope containing my passport and one-w