Saturday, October 08, 2005

For those who aren't afraid to laugh at themselves and others...especially others.

This is wrong on so many levels that I had to laugh at it. The cartoon was made by one Aron Johnston who used to be an expat in Kuwait. You can find more of his cartoons and some other observations concerning life in Kuwait here. Don't get too offended, he's a cartoonist, not a voice of authority on what's what in Kuwait.

(Correction: Turns out that the cartoon above was not made by Aron Johnston, but is part of the website that showcases Johnston's work. Go check them out, they're just as good, if not better than this one. Thanks Stinni!)

Friday, October 07, 2005

The Voodoo That We Do?

I had no idea you could be arrested in Kuwait for selling 'witchcraft' paraphernalia:

Three Iraqis are in custody for selling sorcery and witchcraft materials in a Jahra residential area. Patrol police apprehended the trio along with their paraphernalia and referred them to the concerned authorities. Security sources have informed that the men entered the country on visit visas and that they did not have any identification at the time of their arrest. -from The Kuwait Times

Hmm, am I the only one who thinks this is a bit silly? I mean, what next, burning people at the stake? Well, it could provide for some entertainment. New question for the masses: I know Kuwait is pretty tolerant of "organized religion" (ie, People of the Book and all that), but what about Disorganized Religion? And what if the pagans decided to organize themselves? Ok, ok, I'm being stupid, but arresting folk for having a voodoo doll or two is just as stupid.

Who Needs Johnnie When You've Got Osama?

From the Arab Times:

The Criminal Court Wednesday refrained from passing a sentence against three Kuwaiti men... but ordered them to sign a pledge of good conduct for one year for beating another man during a fight. The court, citing lack of evidence, has acquitted another man...Case papers indicate on March 31, 2004, Abdul Aziz was driving along a suburb in Khaitan with Ahmad and Meshal. They stopped at a grocery and all three drank cologne. An argument erupted between Abdul Aziz and Ahmad but both men parted ways.

I know alcohol cannot be legally sold in Kuwait, but any young enterprising fella should have no trouble acquiring the stuff. So my question for the masses is: how desperate do you have to be to resort to drinking cologne? Perhaps I'm looking at this the wrong way. This is probably a new form of terrorist activity. Now I'm really curious as to what kind of cologne was consumed by these three genuises. Anyone want to hazard a guess?

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Boring Economic News That Every Kuwaiti Should Know.

I hate reading articles about the Kuwaiti economy. I also hate reading articles about Kuwaiti politics. However, now that I am part of the voting public, I feel that it would be irresponsible for me not to be up to date about these things. Same goes for you. So in the interest of our collective edjemacation, I'm pointing us to this article. And because I'm nice, I'll just parse out the stuff that I feel is important and quote it here for those who don't feel like reading the whole thing. Oh wait, I'm not that nice: the block quotes also come with my own insipid editorial musings.

Project Kuwait: A sell off or sell out?

This month Kuwait’s parliament is set to vote on a bill that would for the first time in decades de facto give foreign firms a percentage of the oil they find.

(If you’re not going ‘WTF?!’, then you probably are not grasping the gravity of the situation. Put simply, this means two things: either we’re in big trouble economically, or we’re in big trouble economically. Anyway, following this great opener are several boring paragraphs about how Parlaiment is in an uproar about the whole thing (big surprise there) and who said what and who reacted to what was said blah blah, lots of numbers, blah blah blah..Valid points, but pretty boring.)

The government wants to attract foreign direct investment and sell off state-owned businesses (outside the oil sector) to liberalise the economy for the wave of young Kuwaitis who will soon be on the job market.

(Personally, I think this is a necessary evil. Unemployment in Kuwait for young Kuwiaties is on the rise. Using this tactic will most likely encourage a new generation of entrepreneurs. This we definitely need.)

...many powerful MPs want to torpedo the plan and keep foreigners’ fingers off the nation’s patrimony.

(I rarely support Parlaiment in anything: they fucked up way too many times in the past. The more I read about it, the more I'm leaning towards this Kuwait Project as being a good thing. If most of Parlaiment hates it, then it's most likely beneficial. Mind you, the article mentions that this isn't the first time they voted on this project, so I'm predicting that it's not going to pass.)

Whether they scent cash or crude, three consortia led by BP, ExxonMobil, and Chevron who are jostling for a place to drink at Project Kuwait’s wells...

(Ahh poetic imagery. No business article is worth its metal without it.)

Parliament has previously supported the government to open up the economy. In 2001 it passed the Foreign Direct Investment Act, which lifted restrictions on foreign banks, protected foreign investors against nationalisation or confiscation, and abolished the requirement for overseas firms to have a Kuwaiti sponsor or partner.

(I had no idea this happened! It's kind of upsetting and exciting at the same time. It also explains a lot of the things that have been going on in Kuwait for the past five years.)

Kuwait pours some 10% of its oil and gas dollars, which account for 90% of government revenues, into the Future Generations Fund for the day when oil no longer flows. How much cash is in there for tomorrow’s children when that day arrives may come down to the success or failure of the precedent-setting Project Kuwait.

(My father spoke to me about the FGF before. Without it, many of the Kuwaities during the Gulf War would have perished. Messing with the nest egg does worry me a little, but on the whole, I've come to the conclusion that Project Kuwait will do more good than harm to our ailing economy. If I'm wrong, you have every right to give me the virtual smackdown in the comment section. If I'm right, please write me a haiku. Sonnets are ok too.)

That's it for tonight's lesson. Now go have some fun.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Woman in Pink Amongst Women in Black.

I admit, I am always fascinated by how Westerners experience and view Kuwait. As much as I complain about it, I'm still proud of my country. So I found this article today about an American woman's experience in Kuwait. It's a two parter, and I don't have the time nor the desire to quote the whole thing, but I will quote one part that I especially liked:

"“One of the biggest mistakes that we can make here is to assume that by walking down the street and passing a covered woman that she doesn't want to talk to you. Underneath those covers and veils are the most intelligent and lively women that anyone could meet."

As much as I don't like to see veiled women (I will discuss the reasons in another post), it's good to know that they are being acknowledged, if only by another woman. Miss Sharon seems to be having a grand old time in the motherland, and anything that makes Kuwaitis appear in a positive light cannot be all that bad.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

What's in a name?

It's a thirty minute drive. Try to ignore the trash and debris hanging onto the long chain-link fence running alongside the highway. It's in the desert, and leaving the city any time between noon and four will guarantee a hot sun glaring off your windshield and sunburns on your arms if you're not careful. Along the way, you'll pass two kinds of vehicles: those with the windows rolled up tight against the rubber guards, sealing in the cool environment with air-conditioners running on high (never a good idea in the desert, but given a choice between heat and rationality the heat always wins), and those with the windows rolled down, trucks so old that the word Toyota painted in red across the back has been worn away to just two or three letters; oya.

So far it's only been ten minutes, but you can already see it glinting in the distance. At first you dismiss it as part of the mirage (after all, mirages are so familiar around here that you can sometimes experience them in the middle of the city). But no, not this time. There it is, emerging out of the reflection, then pulling away, rising above it, and now hovering over it, an image to be reflected in its own right: two Arabic eights entwined together in unholy matrimony. "Thamanya-thamaneen," we call it - the Eighty eight, the all too familiar ubiquitous M, a glaring cheap sticker in an otherwise clean sky (I'm lovin' it!).

Twenty minutes go by and you're pulling up at the drive-through window to get your order. A young Filipino man sticks his head out. He speaks three languages, probably has a BA in Engineering, and is here to serve you with a smile. You know his kind very well by now, this country is ripe with them, the Middle East's own caste of Untouchables but with a much nicer label slapped unto them: "guest workers." He's looking a bit haggard (dealing with stoned Arab boys all day has taken its toll on him) but seems glad to see you. He processes your order graciously (pay him with Dinars, hon, your Dollars are no good here).

So now you're in the car, sitting in the middle of the desert with nothing around you but a huge expanse of sand and sky. It's time to experience the McArabia in all of its glory. You unwrap it and take a look. Yes, it matches the descriptions perfectly: "Arab bread, grilled chicken, lettuce, tomatoes and Arab sauce". All is in order. You take a bite.

How does it taste? This symbol of Arab cuisine sucked in through the imperialist machine and spat out to be consumed by other Arabs like me. How does it taste for you? I ask this out loud but you only frown at me and say:

"It's just a fucking sandwich."
"That's not the point."
"What's the point, then?"
"It's fucking crap, isn't it?"

Monday, October 03, 2005

Ten ways to introduce myself.

1. Kindness makes me cry.

2. Idiots don't.

3. I am proud to some, arrogant to others, nice to most.

4. Nina Simone sings my pain, and Dorothy Parker writes it.

5. I am rarely in pain.

6. People who are smarter than me intimidate me.

7. Until I get to know them, then they fascinate me.

8. This list is unfair, but so is life, and so am I.

9. Well, only one week out of the month.

10. I have come to the realization that kindness, intelligence, and honesty are too much to hope for from most folk.

11. So I'll settle for respect.

12. Look, I'm cheating already.