Friday, May 25, 2007

"Freedom for Egyptians" featured in Gulf News today

"The Gulf News Web team delve into the blogosphere to bring you the best of blogging on the clashes in Lebanon that gripped the attention of the region and the world for the past three days... More."

Thursday, May 24, 2007

No More Cinderella Stories!

When I was a little girl, I read so many children's stories classics in Arabic and in English. It was my mom's treat to take me to a bookstore Down Town to buy the books I like.

Most of the girls' stories were ending in victory because the prince fell in love with her. The girl's happiness was always dependent on winning the heart of the prince. The only way to get out of her misry is by marrying her prince..

In today's world, men and women equally create their own happiness and such stories are no longer valid that's what got today in the new fairy tale.....

This is the fairy tale that should have been read to us when we were little:

Once upon a time
in a land far away,
a beautiful, independent,
self-assured princess
happened upon a frog as she sat
contemplating ecological issues
on the shores of an unpolluted pond
in a verdant meadow near her castle.
The frog hopped into the princess' lap
and said: " Elegant Lady,
I was once a handsome prince,
until an evil witch cast a spell upon me.
One kiss from you, however,
and I will turn back
into the dapper, young prince that I am
and then, my sweet, we can marry
and set up housekeeping in your castle
with my mother,
where you can prepare my meals,
clean my clothes, bear my children,
and forever feel
grateful and happy doing so. "
That night,
as the princess dined sumptuously
on lightly sauteed frog legs
seasoned in a white wine
and onion cream sauce,
she chuckled and thought to herself:
I don't freakin think so

Thursday, May 17, 2007

"Perfume" by German Director Tom Tykwer (2006)

Perfume. The movie title could be misleading for those who did not read the novel, one of the best-selling novels worldwide. Das Parfum was written by German novelist Patrick Süskind in 1985. The book was translated into 45 languages. Finally in 2006 the novel was translated into this huge movie production that held the same name. And now it is playing in Cairo movie theaters.

I highly recommend watching “Perfume”. The story is so different. It goes beyond children’s vast imagination.

Humans’ senses and instincts reflect a balanced interest in life pleasures. Each sense and instinct build up our reactions and interactions with what we want in life. If a human being is reduced to owning a strong olfactory, consequences could be catastrophic. The main character Jean-Baptiste Grenouille that was played by Ben Whishaw is a human being who was reduced to a nose. He interacts and reacts with life through his nose. The strong powers allow him to identify smells and combine them to beautiful perfumes.

The movie takes place in the 18th century in France. One night Grenouille loses his way in Paris while following a woman that sells plum who did not even see her face. He was so attracted to her scent. He stifled her unconsciously. He could not get over the loss…the loss of the scent not the woman.
Whishaw succeeded in vacuuming his own self to play this role. On screen all you can see is a sexless void empty human being. It is very difficult to express this human voidness and soul emptiness because it is also so rare to find in real life. If you look into anyone’s eyes, it has to say something, not necessarily a smart thing but the eyes can say “I am stupid”. But at the end of the day, it says something. I was so impressed to watch Whishaw’s talent in reflecting this soul voidness and emptiness.

Every one of us has a way to capture life and love. Humans fail to capture love with the same magnitude and strength. Jean-Baptiste Grenouille tried to capture love and life in a bottle of perfume. And because he is a human being reduced only into a man with a strong sense of smell, he captured love in a fatal way that turned him into a murderer.

His attraction feelings towards the plum woman that he could not satisfy nor understand turned him into an obsessed person. He wanted to bottle the scent of humans like the rose petals. His mind could not help understand losing the scent of this woman he got attracted to her by death.

It is a very complicated and sophisticated story to be related, but the main actors and actresses personified their roles with high level of talent. The story has so many levels and aspects that can be highlighted. It reminds me of old British literature classics.

I cannot forget to mention the music of the movie. Director Tom Tykwer together with Reinhold Heil and Johnny Klimek, performed by Berlin Philharmonic, put the music together to bring one of the best sound tracks for any movie I have seen recently.

All I can say that Perfume is one of those movies that words fall short of giving it its due. Probably the reason is because it is an adaptation of a very well-written novel.

Recent movie blog posts:
"Un homme et Une Femme" (1966) by French director Claude Lelouch
"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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Sunday, May 06, 2007

France Goes Right

French Presidential Candidate Conservative Nicolas Sarkozy is taking over the Elysee Palace on May 16 or 17 when President Chirac leaves after 12 years in power.

Sarkozy’s victory will signal a new balance of powers in Europe and worldwide. Following the war on Iraq, most of the European governments that took over were leftists or center left as the case with Spain and Italy. Sarkozy who made it clear that he is against the war on Iraq, is a right wing pro-American French politician however. Sarkozy's victory in a world charged against right wing governments that supported the war in Iraq, says something about France’s domestic affairs and the French people’s new orientation.

In his victory speech, he addressed the United States and the American people acknowledging the importance of America and its role. The White House’s spokesman congratulated the new French president on behalf of President Bush.

If the socialist leftist candidate Segolene Royal have won that would have put France in a very awkward position. Chavez’s bloc might have been a first resort for Royal, something would have soured France’s relations not only with the US but with the entire EU bloc and would add the French people frustration.

I remember a conversation with a French colleague who is a very Pro-American. She expressed her anger and disappointment at the politically-encouraged anti-American sentiments in France. She was not happy about it at all and she said that this is affecting our country economically and taking us down. Like-minded people as my friend who voted for Sarkozy will take France to a new juncture politically.

Germany, the EU current president, and France will bring a new political power to the European Union that could push for the ratification of the EU constitution that did not pass when Europe voted against it in 2005.

May 16, 2007 is bringing a new France to the world. France may not change radically its policies towards the Middle East to which it has been a friend all the past decades but France’s new political alliances will definitely affect the region indirectly. Arabs who shared with France their anti-American sentiments will no more find this resort.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Iraq's Madfai sings for “Al Baghdadia” in Cairo

Thousands of young Egyptians, some Iraqis and other nationalities from all over the world gathered in the Chinese Garden at Cairo Conference center for one day long of music. The musical day was organized by a private-sector initiative, Vodafone Live Music, which means it is a non-Ministry of Culture event. It was a very causal concert. You can only be standing or sitting on the grass. And the musical day was concluded with the talented Iraqi artist Ilham Al Madfai.

I was surprised to see another Egypt that I did not expect to see. I went with my friends hoping to see Iraqi artist Madfai in the first place. His singing and music is a mix between traditional Arabic lyrics and Latin American tunes. He has a band that plays on traditional Arabic and western musical instruments which makes his music close to a mystical international blend that appeals to all tastes. One reason of his success is that he does not claim to be sticking to the authentic Arabic music nor being a copy from western or Latin American Music. His music is his own original invention that only sticks to global taste. Some Arab fanatic musicians take pride in being nothing but Arab musicians, but Madfai created an international fusion of music, very difficult to be missed by any audience anywhere.

As for the crowd that came to attend the concert, they were mainly this generation that was born in the 80’s. They are a very open and free youth socially and my assumption they are all still in school and college. The new private universities established in Egypt recently brought new style of youth that I believe divided the society into two extremes. Those new private universities include the German, French, British and Canadian, and regrettably before the American university which was in a way invaded by the Ikhwan (Egypt's Islamists) style, enroll young Egyptians that you can see in any school in any country in the world. Needless to say that the state-run universities became the hotbeds and pockets for Islamists in Egypt and the wall paper for extremist ideas and political Islamist fanatisim, despite the long history of those Egyptian universities like Cairo Univeristy. I had the chance to talk to some of those young students but not enough to learn about what is going on in their minds. However, appearance wise, they look like any western students in my own opinion. Some of them do not speak except a foreign language. I have heard strong American accents. It just tells me one thing about the huge gap between the leadership of the country and the new rising generations. Most of the Egyptian leadership is calling for maintaining our Egyptian and Arab identity as if they have hired themselves to be guardians to an undefined identity that does not longer exists except by devaluation in the global market to determine its real value. Those thousands that I saw yesterday are a beautiful hybrid of modern life and Egyptianism. There is nothing in their attitude that says what the country’s leadership is saying about sticking to our Arab/Egyptian identity. Three of the Egyptian bands that played yesterday were playing their original music in English. In modern world, normal people normally become magnets to diversity and to the values of tolerance that encompass anything that appeals to human senses in general. There is no more ownership to human history and civilizations or universal culture. And that’s what I have seen yesterday.
A group of Iraqi youth came yesterday to cheer Madfai. When he started to sing for “Al Baghdadia” (a woman for Baghdad) you could easily know where they are. Madfai replaced the “Al Baghdadia” with the Egyptian and Lebanese women and that led to more whistles and applause as if it was a competition. Part of the Iraqi flavor that was added to the night was the Iraqi Dabka. A group of young Iraqi guys were dancing between the standing crowd. Another big cosmopolitan circle that included Asians, westerners, Middle Easterners and Egyptians continued dancing all night with different versions of dances, some of them I had never seen in my life. But they brought such a wonderful positive energy to the scene. My friends and I were dancing too and to my surprise no intimidation from any one around.

This does not mean that there was no intimidation on part of the government. But while talking yesterday to a member from the participating bands, he told me that his band had to change their name because of clashes with state security over the lyrics by one of the popular opposition poets that they sing. The good news is that they do not give up. They came back with a new name and started working again because they have an audience that motivates them. One of the organizers also told me that three Iraqis artists who were supposed to come with Madfai from Amman, Jordan, were denied visas to Egypt. The claim is that Egypt does not grant Iraqis and Palestinians visas any more! I guess refugees problem. Despite complications of visa procedures, the music of Madfai reached out to the hearts of thousands of Egyptians last night who gathered to celebrate and cheer such an important Iraqi artist in the Middle East and worldwide.

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