December, 2009

Getting Offered for…. Sex!

Getting Offered for…. Sex!

You read that right.

And I am just as bewildered.

[obvious note: 'adult' content follows. Kids interested in learning about sex should go here]

It happened yesterday, as I was waiting for my friend to arrive. I decided to kill time before lunch by going to the beach (in Ajman) in the middle of the day to enjoy a true winter’s noon – chilly winds and a burning bright sun. My body was perplexed by that very combination, but it felt comfortable to be BBQed at a deceivingly cool temperature.

As I admired the seagulls being chased by a species of roaches I had nightmares about during the night, a portly short man in his 40′s strolled by and commented on the weather as an ice breaker. Having been single for a while I missed the whole point of this cheesy introduction. From his accent I deduced he was Lebanese.

Indeed, I replied, it’s quite nice. The one thing people seeking solitary retreat hate is having someone adulterate the experience with a conversation. The epic battle of mechanical roaches and the majestic griffins (the ancestors of seagulls) that was waging in my head had to be put on hold. The man found it perfectly reasonable to sit at the other end of the bench where I was sitting.

Life is tough, he reminded me, which is why I find the sea relaxing. I have imagined, like countless times before, that a tsunami arrives at that very moment from which a form of Divine sea serpent emerges and swallows the nuisance that arrived in the form of that man. I remained silent. He continued, I got fired from my job and I am taking them to court because they refused to pay me.

It’s not a story I have not experienced myself in one of the agencies I dealt with in my previous job, so I was not interested in hearing it. But the man went on anyway, describing the details of a case and the court hearings and the paperwork and the disputes at the Ministry of Labour, most of which I have blocked out of memory.

Being a nice person that I am, I let him talk, giving him half an ear while my attention was diverted on more important matters, like the fallen commander from the griffin army and the rolling out of the Mass Griffin Annihilator  by the mechanical roach army. But the griffins were an orderly bunch; even without a commander they would follow The Order as has been dictated to them by the Battle Plan. The Mass Griffin Annihilator, however, was unaccounted for, and after a brief moment of confusion, the griffin flying the highest was elected as the new commander. The ritual was a quick one with each griffin giving up a feather, rendering the sky a white confetti flying up in celebration of the soaring new commander.

… and then I knocked on the door and my friend opened it and he was naked. I was snapped back to reality by his shocking switch of topics. He and my Egyptian roommate were sleeping with a Romanian woman at the same time. His C-grade 2 minute porn flick did not interest me in the least but he was far from done. He described to me in detail the times he caught his roommates sleeping with other women or, often, even with another men they brought in. I have no idea why I did not tell the guy to stop. My facial expression was that of disgust and I expressed it verbally but did not manage to explicitly tell him to stop.

He went on describing how his friend got fooled by someone else in a job interview, where the interviewer took his friend to the “site location” where he coerced him into sex and paid him 10,000 AED. Taking people to “site” and forcing them into sex is a cliche story line right out of a 1987 porn movie remake of 1937 Disney’ Snow White.

Then he said something that finally made my brain click: His friend was coerced by the interviewer easily because the interviewer has been talking about sex earlier in order to arouse the man, so that he reaches a state where he will do anything just to experience the pleasure. Not aroused in the slightest, the man sensed it and thought if he let me talk about my sexual experiences I might get aroused and probably succumb to him later on.

With nothing but disgust and disbelief on my face I still did not know why I just didn’t beat the shit out of the guy. Disappointed in my lack of response, he opted for a last resort: to entice sexual feelings through bestiality. As soon as he started to talk about him taping cats mating, even the mechanical roaches told me enough is enough.

You know what, I said, finally, I will leave you to your porn and quickly left. My car was close by but I didn’t wanna risk him knowing what my car is and its number. I feigned hailing a cab until the guy went back to his car and left. A good 20 minutes later I decided to leave.

Recalling the whole scenario, it was karma. Back in college I went out with the guys and did what all guys do: make fun of whores (and some of the guys did a bit more). We hollered from the car asking them how much? before we left them to their devices to grab a bite and head back to the dorms.

Oh dear, what does the future hold!

Movie Review: James Cameron’s AVATAR in IMAX 3D

Movie Review: James Cameron’s AVATAR in IMAX 3D

Thank you Lord for blessing humans with creativity, the technology to make it happen, and my eyesight to see it.

I don’t know how the movie would look in a regular screening, but getting one of the best seats in the IMAX theater and enjoying the movie like it was envisioned in Cameron’s mind is something truly extraordinary. I feared that I may have been too over-hyped about the movie given the buzz surrounding it, but believe you me I have read nothing on the movie and have had it, for a long while, mixed up with Avatar The Last Airbender movie, coming out later.

Avatar Movie

So yes, you could say that I was entering the movie knowing that it was in 3D and that it featured blue people.

And I was SHOCKED!

I need to get this out of the way: though the IMAX gigantic screen really did help in the immersion into the movie, like all other movies shown in 3D (IMAX or not) there is this general fuzziness and softness to textures that degrade the quality (if you’ve seen it and seen the trailer below, you’d know what I am talking about).

Still, a loss in quality was a small price to pay, for it is a beautiful world of the Navi-inhabited Pandora that Cameron created, too beautiful to not allow yourself to be sucked in. To thoroughly enjoy the movie you either need to be a tree hugger or truly let go of rationality. And unlike many sci fi flicks out there, the characters that are out of place are the humans. Avatar’s world is rich in history, nature, lore, culture, and even language. It is blatantly apparent that a lot of effort has been put into the realization of the world, yet at the same time you do get the gut feeling that some stuff had to be cut out to fit the movie, like the Lord of the Rings flicks.

Avatar Movie

What’s beautiful about the movie is that it takes everything ordinary and turns it into extraordinary. Lots of rituals, beliefs, animals, plants and landscape exist in reality and are recognizable in the movie, but they’ve been made into truly magical elements.

The overarching story could become preachy at times, and there are many subtexts you can indulge in (terrorism, invasion of other countries, colonialism, the whole mother Earth narrative), however, the face-value story isn’t something that has not been done before, even the tribal wars and the inter-species love stories. What accentuates the typical, however, is the immersive magical world that makes everything endearing and breathtaking. As for the acting – thankfully most of the movie focuses on the animated Navi, which animated beautifully, and the human counterparts do a pretty good job, with Sigourney Weaver throwing in dry humor here and there typical of her Alien experience. Worthington’s Terminator experience helped with the grunt work too.

Avatar Movie

If there’s anything to say to people who are to see it, the movie is about the experience, much like the Matrix and Lord of the Rings when they came out. You can read into the story as deep as you want, but like the previously mentioned movies, it’s the experience that will keep you talking for a long time to come.

Now enjoy the HD trailer!

The Christmas of 1988

The Christmas of 1988 is an unforgettable one, as hard it is to remember how a single day was when you’re only four years old, but it is still unforgettable.

I still lived with my family back then :P and Saudi Arabia was pretty much like it is now, only friendlier to live in, I am told.

There was no hope of a white Christmas, so we all decided to dress up in white. Our neighbors were Christian, and with my dad being a fresh convert (to Muslim) it was a good time to enjoy some form of celebration in the conservative kingdom. Up went the Christmas tree and the decorations were lighting up the whole tiny apartment.

I can only remember the name of the lady, which was Denise. My memory has no recollection whatsoever of her husband’s name or her two daughters’ names – which is an embarrassment for me as one of the was my first girlfriend.

Ah yes! Young love! Pure and innocent, two young lovers exploring the never ending sea of… well… I’d leave the photo below to tell the story :P

xmas-88

Apparently I still have my “handy” habits. Have a great Christmas everyone!

Death to the “A” Student

Don’t you just HATE people OBSESSED with grades and ONLY grades?! 

Those self proclaimed geniuses must be peed upon and dragged through a pool of poo before being ignited and burnt to death. Yes, I am talking about them treacherous, imbecilic excuses of human beings who claim they have the God-given right to dominate the class through their “intellect” and memorization abilities.

And, typically in this part of the world, they’re the Hijabi girls with attitude problems. You typically see them boasting on how much they pray on time, how everything should be prim and orderly and proper, and how dedicated they are to their studies and predestined schedules.

Admittedly, there could be found some admiration in their determination to be achievers. If only they could drop the self centered attitude, and their obsession with grades.

There is one in my class, and, for better or worse, I am with her in a group project. The course is on management (like pretty much else in this degree), and therefore I am exercising my managerial skills in utilizing her OCD and grade obsession by giving her the green light on handling the “tough jobs” – because, according to her, she “doesn’t want to be blamed for the other potentially sloppy parts”. Apparently her sense of team work has eloped with her understanding of achievement and fled to someone else. With two more people in the project, my role typically transforms to the Negotiating Diplomat.

Now here is an example that truly pissed me off. After a midterm – which of course she had been preparing for for two weeks (while I on the other hand found out about the exam a week prior) – she came up to me to ask about how well I did. I told her I did the best I could do given the amount of material I had to cover in a week. She discussed all the questions with me – 3/4th of which were numerical – and her grin widened with every incorrect answer I gave.

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The next week, when the grades were out, she was appalled that we both took the same grade. She told me explicitly that it is illogical and unfair that she should study more than I did, get all answers correct, and we both end up with the same grade. I sympathized with her, myself wondering the same, though I knew the case study questions had something to do with it. She was so upset about it she kept reminding me of her disbelief at 10 minute intervals.

For the record, I was given a good grade because as I was solving I knew the numbers I was giving were incorrect and have explicitly stated how the trends should be, and noted some error in the calculation somewhere (through question marks and sad faces, of course). So the professor knew, at least, I understood the material.

Just yesterday I was telling her that we are putting too much effort researching on supply chain management (we read over 30 papers), especially that people do their PhD on the wide-open subject while we were doing a mere introduction to it. She simply answered “no we put the right effort, we will get FULL MARKS” shortly followed by “inshalla”, in case she ends up jinxing herself.

Now I understand grades are important, if you’re factoring in scholarships, future admissions to universities as well as the “excitement” in being called a “Cum Laude” (what were they smoking!). But there’s more to passing courses than grades – namely understanding the material, interpersonal relationships as well as appreciating other human beings on the same boat.

Honoring the 38th UAE National Day

Honoring the 38th UAE National Day

The UAE has been the media spotlight – both positive (Abu Dhabi F1) and negative (Dubai World hiatus) – heralding a new era of Dubai Bashing (see my thorough how-to here) as well as justified criticism and the typical market flux a la Pelham 123 (so who made $300m now?).

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But today is the 38th UAE National Day, and these special occasions, like Eid and Thanksgiving and Christmas, are here to remind us of the greater good that we keep tucked in the shadows. For it is easy to dwell on our miseries and use them as our crutch to move forward, but it takes a movie scene, an Oprah episode or a family-feud-free-family-gathering to remind us that we have it good.

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What has the UAE given me? A good beating! Yes, and I am thankful for it. Tough love is what everyone needs, and tough is what Dubai is about. Being exposed to so many cultures (and, seriously, there are just so many nationalities here) teaches you to be tolerant and respectful to people around you. It teaches you how to collaborate and communicate effectively in teams and with individuals. It gives you pleasure when expats greet you with “Eid Mubarak” and inform you – genuinely – that their perception of Arabs has significantly changed through their stay in Dubai. And it lowers the barrier of the “them vs us” concept, when we all hold hands together for a cause, raising awareness through marathons and walkathons around town.

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On the sombre days, Dubai teaches you patience. It teaches you to network, to use your wits, to appreciate the value of money (and damn this city is expensive!). It shows you who your true friends are and how much value do you have in people’s lives, and they in yours. With Dubai’s every-changing population, and the tough competition – both on personal and career levels – it becomes quickly apparent who you should place your trust in.

But most of all, what I am truly thankful for is to be part of this “movement”, to celebrate the rise of a nation, no matter how much it stumbles on the way. When I have visitors over and show them around town, not all of them are impressed. “We have tall building in NY, so?”. Indeed, NY is a class of it’s own. But you won’t appreciate Burj Dubai unless you have seen it being built over the years, floor by floor. It’s difficult to appreciate or imagine that the 25km stretch of land between Dusit Dubai on Sheikh Zayed Road and Jebel Ali was a desert only 7 years ago. It won’t make sense to an outsider as you describe how Garhoud Bridge was only three lanes, and how the 7 lane roads were 2-3 lanes only a few years back. It’s sounds ludicrous as you describe how one thing was here a few months back and now it shifted in its entirety to another location.

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Yes, Dubai functions and looks like a living being. It evolves and changes – too rapidly sometimes – but you, too, grow with it, and grow to love it. I don’t know about you, but I feel a deep sense of pride when I show someone around town or talk about the city. There is a sense of awe as I drive around town at night or take a trip on the metro just for the heck of it, to see the city from a slightly higher altitude.

 

So yes, you can bash Dubai or the UAE as you like, come up with rhythmic news titles and call yourself an expert in laughing at Dubai’s constant stumbling about, mediocre media, censorship, and the cult that is known as Etisalat.

But what has your city done or achieved in 30 years? 10 years? Last year?