Monday, September 27, 2010

Seeing is deceiving

The past 10 days have been an extravaganza of seeing things differently, on a personal level and for the nation as a whole.

On the personal level
I had Lasik surgery done, finally. No more chasing contact lenses around the back of my eyeballs for me. For those of you thinking of doing it I say, “Proceed” while noting that at one point you go blind briefly. 

Luckily for me I had a very nice doctor who talked me through every stage of the operation (at least during the first eye) in insistent detail like a real estate agent attempting to sell me a penthouse. I didn’t know however about the aforementioned temporary loss, so when Dr announced “you’re going to lose your vision”…“Haa, has your vision gone?” It all got a bit Clockwork Orange and I was startled, to say the least, as all before me turned black.

The hospital where I had it done has a streamlined conveyor belt approach to its patients, rather like a processed cheese production line. The human element did emerge at a few points however, such as when the accountant asked my nationality and I said Egyptian-British (the order varies, I say whatever come out of my mouth at that particular moment) and he interrogated me about my parents’ origins. When I explained that my father is from England he said “ahh, British-Egyptian then” with no further explanation, and sent me on my way with a file number.

Then when I was having a repeat last minute test of the curvature of my cornea I enquired why the repeat test was necessary the technician said, “el doctor talab reblay” [your doctor has requested a replay]. Maybe this is ocular terminology, I don’t know.

Moftasa noted that the porter who was portering me about the various floors for blood tests etc had “toz” [difficult to translate, but in essence two fingers up at the world] conspicuously written on his hand in biro, which offset all and any discomfort endured that day.

The best bit however was immediately after the operation when me and four other processed cheeses who had also been Lasiked were instructed to sit in a group of chairs outside theatre, while Dr finished off other patients. 

The way it worked is that the patients on their way to theatre walk past the newly-Lasiked people, which is fine except that we were all in various stages of discomfort after the operation and – from what I could tell when I was briefly able to open my eyes – we were mostly flailing around in silent agony, our faces contorted like an experiment in Cubism. The patients on their way to meet their destiny were thus forced to walk past a scene out of a Ralph Steadman dystopian nightmare.

On the national level
Anyone who has been within 10 yards of the Internet in the past two weeks will have heard about Photoshopgate, Al-Ahram’s misguided bit of Adobe meddling which the newspaper’s editor Abdel-Meneim Said subsequently described as “an expression of Mubarak’s position in the region”. The flood of “expressionist” pisstakes that subsequently ensued were described by Mr Abdel-Meneim as an “attack” on Egypt. Rather than keep his mouth shut until it all blows over he then informed us that the “re-orientation [SNORT] was well received” by the authorities.

There was more photoshopping of reality this week at the 2nd session of the Khaled Said trial. The ministry of the interior deployed the same pro-police “protestors” it had used during the last trial session, but on a much larger scale. I say protestors, but these were essentially Egypt’s answer to Millwall fans, a load of vest-wearing mullet-bearing dickheads who (as Moftasa said) for LE 50 and a strip of Apitryl were happy to turn up and spout out any old shit, namely that Khaled Said was a drug using army-evading criminal who (presumably, in their world outlook) deserved to die.

I attempted to talk to them through a police cordon (while dodging the wooden sticks they were throwing at the pro-Khaled Said demonstrators) but they refused to talk to any journalists, most likely because they had been ordered not to. That is if they were capable of rational speech.

The reason I was outside the court and not inside was that the wall of security officers surrounding the court told the press that the head of the court had ordered that we obtain his permission in order to enter. This obviously was a load of bollocks and I know this because it’s a common tactic. If you know the right lawyer - and depending on what mood the Interior Ministry has woken up in that day – the lawyer can talk you through the cordon, into the court, where you discover that the judge doesn’t give a shit about your presence or lack of it

So essentially I got up at the crack of buggery dawn in order to stand in Alexandra’s heat and humidity to watch the really sad sight of an image of Khaled Said being hit with a shoe by men in vests working for an interior ministry carrying out its version of damage limitation and in the process shitting on everyone.

The regime is aware of how high-profile this case has become. A friend who has contacts in the Interior Ministry told me that in the wake of the uproar about Khaled Said’s death officers were brought in and given a bollocking, told to calm things down for a bit. Not sure I believe this. 

However the Interior Ministry did go to the trouble of mobilising the Milwall fans and printing a huge vinyl banner for them; because on the international level it still insists on that fragile veneer of respectability while behind its back it gives the finger to everyone at home. This time however its standards were really shoddy, and the whole spectacle was in essence a huge fuck you, world, we do as we please.  

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Update your history book

Al-Ahram* have disabused us of our misconceptions concerning important historical events in a series of pictures, below. Wael alerted us to the most recent important historical event, here

أخرجتنا من أوهامنا جريدة الأهرام بخصوص مفاهيم خاطئة كانت لدينا بشأن أحداث تاريخية مهمة في سلسلة من الصور ، أدناه. وائل نبهنا إلى الحدث التاريخي الأخير، هنا.

الطريق الى مصر
The road to Egypt

الطريق الى هاستنجز
The road to Hastings

الطريق الى الفضاء
The road to space

الطريق الى كأس العالم و العالم كله
The road to the world cup and the world

الطريق الى المجد
The road to glory

* Silly buggers have removed the picture now.
** Thanks to Moftases as usual for the technical assistance and translation of the big words.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

A night in with Google Reader would have been better

I went to a cultural event in Cairo on Friday after a self-imposed hiatus following a dire evening at an open-mic “talent” evening some months ago which made X Factor auditions look like a Three Tenors concert. So much bile built up during that never ending 45 minutes that I could have saddled my inflated gallbladder and ridden home on it.

Friday night Natasha Atlas graced the Geneina theatre in Al-Azhar Park and while not a huge fan well it’s lovely to sit outside in a gentle breeze isn’t it. We arrived early, Natasha started late, Guns and Roses style. As her band walked out before she appeared, a heavily accented voice bellowed out “welcome to Egypt” possibly thinking that the female piano player was Natasha? Who knows. Natasha eventually appeared, festooned in what looked like Siwan (tent) material.

Her voice really is incredible and her band was mad tight but there was something missing, despite – or maybe because of the fact – that everything was perfect. It was just like listening to one of her records. It didn’t help that she spent the whole time sitting down (having apparently hurt her leg) and dancing on her chair in a manner resembling a child trying to contain urine.

There were two exceptions to this, but both however were marred by external factors.

1.The achingly beautiful “Black is the Colour (Of My True Love’s Hair)" which Natasha sang very nicely indeed (though no one sings it like Nina). Alas however seated behind me was a Blackberry-owning penis-featured obnoxious tosser who spent virtually the whole song loudly telling someone how to reach the Geneina theatre which meant that we heard:

Black is the colour of my true love’s hair


His face so soft and wondrous fair


The purest eyes and the strongest hands


I love the ground on where he stands


I love the ground on where he stands


Every last bit of romance was stripped out of the song.

2. "Riverman", again she sang this well (although not sure that the super vibrato worked) and the band were great, but it pissed me off that she didn’t mention that this is a cover, particularly given that Nick Drake spent his entire career plagued by depression and doubting his own ability (!) before topping himself – and then going on to enjoy posthumous success. Isn’t there some kind of protocol regarding giving credit where credit is due in the music world?

Twenty minutes into the concert my friends and I were already starting to get a bit itchy but the final push was provided by an interminable Tabla solo which was brilliant and everything but all a bit Youtube “Learn Tabla with Ali”-ish. There was a minor comedy moment before hand however when Natasha handed he mic over to Tabla player Ali, explaining that she and he had written a song together which was played at Ali’s recent wedding.

Ali then went on to precede his solo with a short speech in which he introduced “the most important person” in his life. His wife surely! No, his dad bounded on stage in a baseball cap and I imagined somewhere in the audience, a woman bristled.