Thursday, March 29, 2007

"Un homme et Une Femme" (1966) by French director Claude Lelouch

“Un homme et Une Femme” , 1966, is starring Annouk Aimee and Jean-Louis Trintignant. It is one of the classics of the French movie industry and winner of best foreign movie from the Academy and the Grand Prix from Cannes Film festival.

Sometimes when ideas are simple and are about every day life of everyone they become more capturing and real and surprisingly of stronger impact than expected. Dating, love stories and missing old beloveds happen to everyone with no discrimination.

The movie is simply capturing the moment of second chances in the love lives of Aimee and Trintignant. Both of them have lost their partners. Aimee was so in love with her husband that she still talks about him as if he is alive. But because life is not about lingering in the past, it offers her a new chance by meeting Trintignant who is also a widow.

The music of “Un homme et Une Femme” by Francis Lai is the most famous in the 60’s era. Most of the Egyptian love movies borrowed the music. As an Egyptian I could immediately recognize it and feel that I am back to some scenes of the old Egyptian movies.

Annouk and Trintignant meet by chance after spending their Sunday with their children who are in the same board school. He offers her ride back to Paris. And here comes their first unplanned date. They share the car in a journey mixed with a talk about her past memories. She talked about her past as if it was her present. She was clinging too much to her past and living it as it had never passed. However, meeting Trintignant was about her new present and coming future. The scene leaves us in suspense about their availability. They seem single but Annouk is speaking about her deceased husband as if alive. Both of them are wearing rings. The suspense level is accentuated by the bad weather factor.

Interior scenes are black and white while external scenes are colored. My first interpretation for the black and white scenes is that they are made like the dreams. We are usually not very sure about the colors of our dreams. But to my surprise it was a budget issue, according to the director. The flip flopping between the black and white, and the colored scenes was made so precisely that you can never guess it is a budget issue. The fact that exterior scenes were in colors made me believe that the openness of life are usually the true colors of life while what we live in our interior self is only made by us thus defined by two colors because it is so limited. The continuous swinging between the white and black and colored scenes is so life-like. We keep living two lives; one that’s happening to us which we are sure and certain of and the other is uncertain because it did not happen yet. And this how the movie continues to unfold. And because we lived the past, we can define it. So, those past scenes were produced in the movie in colors.

Life is a journey. The first encounter in the movie between Aimee and Trintignant was in his car. He gave her a ride to Paris. Car travel scenes were stressed in the movie due to the fact that Trintignant was a car racer and tester. And I guess about the idea that life journeys have a destination that we decide to take when we receive a chance.

The movie brings the idea of women as memory creatures. Aimee keeps remembering her husband when Trintignant is not really recalling lots of memory scenes with his wife.

Trintignant is always confused and keeps thinking every time Aimee sends him a love gesture. She was the one who even took the initiative to say the “I love you” word. He ran to meet with her, traveling thousands of miles after a car race that he won. But all the way to Paris he was thinking constantly what he should do or tell her. The director made it clear how men can be so insecure to react when they fall in love.

A climax scene in the movie is when Aimee and Trintignant go on a date that ends in an hotel room. He realizes that he is the only one involved in the relationship. She is not entirely with him as she keeps remembering her husband while making love to him. She suddenly distances herself from him after the scene. The climax scene is so classical. It is about this angle of life that widens suddenly until it comes to a full circle when things become so meaningful and clear.

Clinging to the past as Aimee did could be a decision to deny the self a second chance in life and happiness. She accepted to live her present and share the happy future with Trintignant when she let the past pass.

Recent movie blog posts:
"Ma Vie en Rose" by Belgian director Alain Berliner (1997)
Take a Life Ride with No “Amputated Spirit”
Trois Couleurs: by Krzysztof Kieślowski (1993 -1994)
“Teach Me How to Dance”, Alexis Zorba

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Friday, March 23, 2007

Washington, DC, Demonstration on Monday March 26

Washington, DC in front of the Egyptian Embassy
26 March 07
11am - 1pm
3521 International Court, NW

Egyptians are also protesting else where
Cairo: Sunday March 25 at Tahrir Square 6pm
London: Monday March 26 at Egyptian Embassy 12 - 3 pm
New York: Monday March 26 at Egyptian Consulate 12:30 - 1:30 pm, 1110 Second Avenue, NYC 10022 ( 917-392-9408) More details Here in English and Arabic!

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Egyptian Blogger Abdel Karim Suleiman Did Not Blow Himself Up in a Train Station

As an Egyptian fellow blogger I stand with Karim, because I will never side with processes meant to terrorize innocent citizens who are exercising their innate right to freedom of expression and because I will never be part of a tribunal of inquisition in the 21st century. Those tribunals judged arbitrarily and without appeal like the current Emergency Laws and military courts applied in Egypt.

During the Middle Ages between the 5th and the 15th centuries, the Catholic Church was not only a religious institution, but also an immensely rich financial establishment that interferes and influences politics in the West. The largest Sunni religious institution in Egypt and the Middle East, Al-Azahr, has the right to give its say in politics and referring people accused of heresy to courts and prisons. If the measure cannot be damaging enough to send people to prisons like Egyptian blogger Abdel Karim, an irreversible Fatwa (religious opinion) can lead an Islamic fanatic or extremist to put an end to a person exercising his freedom of expression by spilling his blood. The Cairo-based religious institution is financed by the government and their employees are civil servants.

It is worth mentioning that during the Middle Ages that the more economic and political power and influence of the Church have increased, the more its genuine religious and spiritual strength has weakened. It is clear that Egypt is showing less tolerance and spirituality over the dominance of more support to terrorist ideology that does not believe in supporting basic human rights like freedom of expression. Back in the eleventh century, the Catholic Church made the gradual change from the spiritual to worldly matters with institution of tribunal of Inquisition. Religion had to be imposed and enforced with the appointment of unqualified and misappropriate men of the holy orders which became a matter of inheritance that led to the degeneration of the spiritual life. Many of them did not know how to read and had forgotten how to say a mass. In Egypt today, informal mosques became a job for the unempolyed uneducated people to release fatwas and earn a living through people’s “Zakat” and donations. These tax-free informal mosques attract unemployed Egyptians and non-Egyptians. Any male, who volunteer to stay from dawn to sun set and call for prayers, is qualified to release fatwas and be a politician, if needed, to decide on terrorizing Egyptians before non-Egyptians and judging the level of their faith and spirituality.

Egyptian blogger Abdel Karim did not wear a suicidal belt around his waist or threaten to blow up himself in malls or metro stations. Abdel Karim was like any normal person in any free country, he worked out his mind to think about issues in life as any young budding youth. He put his ideas on his blog. In the civilized world, ideas can be always argued or refuted but never killed. Needless to say that human are in continuous process of evolution at the intellectual, emotional and psychological levels and that interrupting these processes is totally against the laws of nature. Abdel Karim was made a criminal and terrorist by his Al-Azhar University in collaboration with the government and state security agencies. He was made a terrorist in the eyes of the society by Al-Azahr Institution. By sentencing Abdel Karim to 4 years, he is denied the right to grow and develop. It is worth mentioning here that Al-Azhar fails to make straight forward condemnation for the real terrorists who blow up themselves, killing innocent people but it succeeds to bring a four year sentence to a 22-year old innocent student to trial.

This Monday, on March 12 in Alexandria, Egypt, will be the first session of appeal for Egyptian blogger Abdel Karim. The world is watching one of the tribunals of Inquisition happening in Egypt in the 21st century. Karim was sentenced to four years in prison for insulting the religion and the President of Egypt.

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Egyptian Bloggers live up to their Human Universal Commitment

Many questions have been thrown about the Egyptian blogosphere. I was asked last summer whether the Egyptian bloggers can become a political movement in Egypt. My personal answer was no, because I thought blogging is an individual activity in the first place, however it could be highly engaging. But as the time passes while observing the gruesome government clampdown on the Egyptian blogosphere, I am realizing that Egyptian bloggers have become a vocal power and highly respected by the entire the world. Everyday, they are snatching part of the information power that has remained in the hands of the government for decades. I have been following the Egyptian blogosphere with admiration for over three years now. I agree and disagree but I still have very high appreciation to all of them. From what I have seen over the past three years I can say that:

  • Egyptian bloggers embraced the universal culture of freedom of expression exercised everywhere without really saying it. So the world embraced them as result.
  • They are a bunch of young Egyptians, many of them students or young professionals who started blogs for honest lucid dialogues with themselves or with others without fear.
  • They made themselves global citizens without traveling anywhere with a high level of interaction with nationalities from all over the globe despite the complicated visa and immigration procedures in today’s world.
  • They believed in themselves and in the power of knowledge and information after decades of state-run media and government monopoly.
  • They were heard by other fellow bloggers all over the world that they had never met, because they were able to speak the same language. They succeeded in striking real honest partnerships with peoples who share their concerns.
  • Egyptian bloggers showed exemplary level of patriotism by standing next to other fellow helpless citizens who are abused and harassed by the government and helping them get their rights.
  • They have worked as independent human rights organizations, without being paid by anyone except their own conscience, by exposing frequent torture and abuse cases and fraudulent political processes.
  • They are taking the level of media to unprecedented level of freedom of expression in a very short time after decades of censorship exercised by state security armored by the crippling Emergency Law.
  • Egyptian bloggers succeeded in making Egypt the priority number one after decades of media diversion to other regional and international issues that do not bring much dignity to the Egyptian citizen. Addressing Egyptian issues and fixing home before looking outside became a genuine concern. Domestic issues are no more neglected or overlooked as the case with domestic media outlets. They are trying to make the government accountable.
  • They won international awards for best blogs on their own away from the widely-spread corruption and nepotism in Egypt. They believed in themselves and the world believed them.
  • Their ideas have shown continuous evolution, flexibilty maturity and development over the course of events.

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Thursday, March 08, 2007

To My Girls... Happy Woman's Day

Today is Woman’s Day. I am dedicating this blog post to a very special dear group of friends. It happened that this group is all made of the greatest girlfriends I had ever had in my life. Despite places, travel, work, studies, husbands, children and different time zones, we always find a way to connect, communicate and remain together as group. It was very difficult for the eight of us during the past few years to meet together physically in one place. The internet, however, can bring all of us together. We did not plan to have a group of women only, but it happened that our department or my class at university had the most refined girls but the worst men ever (no offense). Today, I want to celebrate my girls and I want to thank them for:

Being my best friends;
The best four years of my life in college and the following years;
All the jokes we share;
Our continuous attempts to grow mature in vain;
Keeping the uniqueness of each one of us;
Making fun of each other without being judgmental;
Sharing families, parents, sisters and brothers;
Being funny yet with some little brains;
Accepting all the differences we have;
Insisting on going to the same places;
Almost dying in some car accidents;
All the fun we make of guys;
Sharing the love stories and heartbreaks;
Knowing that we are never alone;
All those funny string emails that we keep replying to;
Saying stupid and nonsense things;
The Hilarious time every time we meet;
Laughing loud;
Playing games;
Giving Nicknames;
Celebrating birthdays, engagements, weddings, and children;
The Travels and trips;
Getting naughty and feeling sexy about it;
Making jokes about getting old;
Fighting without getting angry or upset;
Sharing the pain and tears;
Being there for each other;
Remembering our memories;
Giving needed and unneeded advice;
The sisters I never had;
Dreaming together and;
So many other things.....

Today, I do not feel like saying speeches about women’s history or day. I simply want to celebrate my friends who make the best women group in the world. A toast to all of us where ever we are! For the very special friendship that brings happiness and laughter to our lives every day…. Happy Woman's Day my Girls!...

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

US Department of State's Human Rights Report Scandalizes Egypt's Regime

The United States' Department of State released its annual human rights report for 2006 in a major event inaugurated by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. The report brings to the attention human rights violations worldwide by country.

The number of incidents for human rights violations in Egypt in the report is scandalous. The report is extremely comprehensive and detailed. Literally if you were abused by the regime of Egypt and you could not find your name or your incident you have to report back to the Department of State. The report is a reminder and sum up to all incidents of human rights violations in the year 2006 in Egypt.

Internet Freedom for the first time!
This is this the first time in the history of the annual human rights of the US Department of State to dedicate one whole section for Internet Freedom in Egypt with specific emphasis on all human rights violations against Egyptian bloggers like Alaa Seif Al-Islam , Malek Mostafa, Karim Al Shaer, Mohamed Adel, Mohamed Sharkawy, Hala Helmy Boutros and Abdel Karim Nabil Suleiman.

Other Areas where Human Rights are Violated in Egypt from the Report:
Respect for the Integrity of the Person
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
Role of Police and Security Apparatus
Arrest and Detention
Trial Procedures
Political Prisoners and Detainees
Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies
Freedom of Speech and Press
Internet Freedom
Academic Freedom and Cultural Events
Freedom of Assembly
Freedom of Association
Freedom of Religion
Societal Abuses and Discrimination
Freedom of Movement within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
Protection of Refugees
Elections and Political Participation
Government Corruption and Transparency
Trafficking in Persons
Persons with Disabilities
Worker Rights

Here is the Report: Egypt's Human Rights Violations in the Year 2006 by the US Department of State.

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Tom Palmer Describes Egyptian Embassy's Response to the Washington Post's Editorial as "Pathetic"

On February 28, 2007, one of the Washington Post 's editorials was about the oppression of freedom of expression highlighing Egyptian blogger Abdel Kareem Nabil Soliman's four year sentence.

On March 5, the Egyptian press attache in Washington publishes the government's response to the newspaper 's editorial describing unrealistic standards for freedom of expression that are supposedly applied in Egypt. Not to mention that he is not referring to the crime of insulting the president that Karim has to spend one year for it in prison. This crime that does not exist in any law in Egypt!!

Same day, Tom Palmer describes the Egyptian Embassy's response as "Pathetic".

Tom Palmer is a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute and director of Cato University. In addition to his work at the Cato Institute, he is on the board of trustees of the Foundation for Economic Education and work with a number of other organizations.He frequently lectures in America, Europe, Eurasia, and the Middle East on the history of liberty and constitutionalism, globalization and free trade, individualism, public choice, and the moral and legal foundations of individual rights.

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"Ma Vie en Rose" by Belgian director Alain Berliner (1997)

I recently watched “Ma Vie En Rose” (1997) by Belgian director Alain Berliner. The movie simply addresses trans-sexuality which is a well-trodden theme especially in the western movie industry. However the novelty of the movie comes from addressing trans-sexuality for a child at the age of 7. It is certainly a crisis when a person believes that his or her body does not reflect his or her true 'inner' gender. How about for a little kid? In “Ma Vie En Rose”, it is not a problem for the boy, who wants to be a girl, however, it turns to be a real nightmare for the family. As a matter of fact, the boy is lucid about his own needs and his future dreams. He does not hide from his difference, may be because he is not yet aware of it as the parents do.

In a religious context, trans-sexuality is simply sin. In other contexts, it is possibly a wide range of all kinds of disorder.

The story of Ludovic (played by Georges Du Fresne) in “Ma Vie En Rose” is the greatest fear in families all over the world. Most of the Egyptian families or parents for example keep reminding their boys at the very early years of their lives that they are men. They make jokes with their boys about flirting with other little girls in the family or the neighborhood even when the boy is two-year old. It is to remind him all the time that he is a boy. In the rural areas in Egypt, families take the flirting jokes to a commitment of marrying his cousin. So the boys and girls in the families grow with the assertion of their gender regardless of their real inner tendencies. If an individual was proven to be a gay or trans-sexual, social aggression and communal violence can mount to the tensest kinds of retaliation. It is not that this is going to be the rule that everyone will grow to be different, but difference should not be a crime to pay for.

The family and neighborhood of Ludovic could not accept the fact that he wants to be a girl. They made fun of him. He was sent to a psychologist, but he kept dreaming about being a girl. The movie confirms the innocence of Ludovic of being honest about his gender inclinations versus the hypocrisy of society where he lives. Adults in the neighborhood are full of moral deviations, yet they continue to hide them to claim a perfect world that normally does not exist.

The best part about the movie is the music, songs and the dancing. It is indeed reflecting the ambience of la vie en rose.

The movie reminded me of a conversation that took place between me and my brother. I was talking to my brother over the internet one day and he was fuming but also being sarcastic. I guess it is running in the family. I asked him what’s wrong? He told me there is one gay (he named him with the Egyptian slang word which is a very nasty one) living with us in the apartment, everyone knows except me. He was so angry about it. My brother does not live in Egypt and he is sharing an apartment with some room mates where he lives. I told him what is your problem with him? He said nothing. I told him, this is personal freedom. My brother has no personal problem with him but he has a cultural problem with being associated with a gay in a place I guess. He probably also cannot digest that the fact that an Arab is a gay. In most of the Middle Eastern countries, masculinity is a big thing, even if being hypocrite about so many other things in life. The second time we talked about his gay roommate was at the Valentine’s Day. He was talking about the big celebrations where he lives and that he saw his roommate with his partner having fun and he was ok about it. My brother is not related to this guy by any means, however he was extremely angry and could not take or tolerate the idea. I do not know what would he have been the situation if we had a brother who is a gay or trans-sexual? I do not want even to think about the answer. But I guess one way of accepting the difference is living the experience and acknowledging it in public which is not happening in any Arab country so far at any level.

The climax of “Ma Vie en Rose” comes at the very end when the mother insists on pulling her son from his fantasy world, but instead of pulling him, she falls down herself to pass out for a while. She wakes up to realize that she fell because instead of reaching out to the reality of her son’s world, she was trying aggressively to bring him to a world where he does not belong. Failure becomes a consequence.

Recent movie blog posts:
Take a Life Ride with No “Amputated Spirit”

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Saturday, March 03, 2007

Egyptian Blogo-activisim By the Daily Star, Egypt

I came across an article by Frederick Deknatel, published by the Daily Star, Egypt. The article is about blogo-activisim. And I guess I am coining a new word here, blogo-activisim. At the forefront of the article, Deknatel is referring to my blog post about the first Israeli Arab Muslim Minister's appointment.

The article also starts with the dilemma of Karim Amer, the Egyptian blogger who was sentenced to four years in prison for insulting religion and the President. He almost got a sentence like the imprisoned political leader Ayman Nour who is spending five years in prison for challenging the President at the presidential elections.

The article also referres to some very popular bloggers in Egypt like Sandmonkey, 3arabawy, authored by journalist Hossam El-Hamalawy, Big Pharaoh, Wael Abbas’s at misrdigital.blogspirit, Arabist’s Issandr El Amrani, and “Torture in Egypt" . The article is just mentioning samples of what is going on in the Egyptian blogosphere that has become a role model and exemplary for many other Arab countries in the region.

The successful and stronger the Egyptian blogosphere turns, the more ferocious the state security agencies in Egypt will become.... The clamp down that has started early by Karim Amer and Alaa Abdel Fataah in 2005 and 2006 was just a beginning to new successful meduim or a giant that revealed the real status for the freedom of expression and speech in Egypt that government keeps mouthing off about in all international fourms.

Here is: Political activisim continues to create a buzz on Egypt’s political by Frederick Deknatel.

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Thursday, March 01, 2007

Four year old Girl, New Human Case of Avian Flu in Egypt

Of the 23 bird flu cases that have been confirmed to date in Egypt, 13 have died, according to the World Health Organization. Egypt is recorded as the hardest hit country outside Asia by bird flu.

Same month last year Egypt has declared the first human death of the bird flu. One year later after outbreak of the virus in Feb, life is not getting any better for Egyptians.

CAIRO (AFP) - "A four-year-old girl became Egypt's latest victim of bird flu, the 23rd to be diagnosed since the virus was detected in the country, the official MENA news agency said on Wednesday." More

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Washington Post on Oppression of Freedoms in Egypt

Blogger on Ice
Once again Egypt's Hosni Mubarak shows zero tolerance for a secular democratic dissenter.

"THE BUSH administration has tolerated Egypt's brutal crackdown on domestic dissent and the broader reversal of its democratic spring of 2005 in part because President Hosni Mubarak argues that his adversaries are dangerous Islamic extremists. It's true that the largest opposition movement in Egypt is the Muslim Brotherhood; how dangerous it is can be debated. But what is overlooked is that Mr. Mubarak reserves his most relentless repression not for the Islamists -- who hold a fifth of the seats in parliament -- but for the secular democrats who fight for free elections, a free press, rights for women and religious tolerance." More