27 December 2006

Whatever happened to just being an Arab?

Ah, rants. Life just wouldn't be the same without them. Today's subject of choice shall be "whatever happened to being an Arab?"

It seems to me these days that everyone in the Arab World seems to be Sunni, Shi'a, Kurdish, Maronite, (other) Christian, Assyrian, Phoenician...basically belonging to any religious or ethnic group other than Arabs. OK, fair enough for the Assyrians, and the Kurds, but where does everybody else fit in?

For those who wish to say that the Arab World was never totally ethnically Arab, you're absolutely right. A lot of people tell me I look foreign. That might well be due to my slightly European features and light skin. Yet I don't really look European/white/Caucasian. I look Arab, as far as I'm concerned. The only place I've found people who look like me is in the Arab World, particularly the Levant.

But I guess that's the point. It never was the "Arab" world. Not in the strict sense of ethnicity, I guess. Arabs have probably been the majority in the past few thousand years, but they're hardly the only race that inhabits the area. In fact, the "Arab" in Arab World is closer in meaning to the term "European".

So what does this mean? it means that I believe in the term Pan-Arabism still. I don't want to see the whole of the Middle East and North Africa torn to pieces because of stupid, petty racial and religious squabbles that have no place in our collective culture.

Let's just try to get over these little adolescent tantrums that led Europe through two world wars, and finally to union. We had that union. Though it was never that effective, let's see if we can make it better rather than going through that process again.

04 December 2006

Resolutions: People I should physically harm

I've decided to start a series of articles to publish my violent fantasies of retribution against those who trespass against me, my friends, or the bounds of public decency. Henceforth, when I feel the particular desire to let off steam, I can either hurt someone, or write about it.

So, just a quick entry today on the theme of people I should physically harm. Today's entry is about those three twats who wouldn't stop talking during Casino Royale last Wednesday.

Crime: Speaking and making little adolescent arsehole comments throughout the film.

Punishment: Yell out to my friends for back-up and kick each of their heads in, preferably during the performance and in full view of everyone.

1-Remember that I'm much bigger and stronger than the average 7afartali arsehole
2-Forget about pacifist mindset and live by the rule of Nemo me impune lacessit (Let no man fuck with me)
3-Perpetuate the pre-existing cycle of violence in the world to make myself feel better about dispencing Karmic justice on all deservers.

Man, I feel better already.

05 November 2006

Lost Words

It's strange how often things can snowball and make life unbearable. It's strange how often you feel like curling up into a little ball and avoiding everyone in the world. It's strange how you always need some space, a place to be alone in the world, away from all the terrible shit that seems to cross your path and jump out from behind every corner.

We all need space sometimes; a haven, if you will, where we can just hide, collect our thoughts, or even distract ourselves from those nagging troubles that won't go away. Today, I'm sitting at the office at six thirty in the evening doing just that. There are people who are very close to me who I hate with utter contempt. There are those I love who I find it difficult to be with right now. It seems that those places that used to offer so much support and direction have now become the sources of stress. To quote a much better writer than myself: So from that spring whence comfort seem'd to come, discomfort swells (Macbeth 1II).

The words that are lost are many. They are of betrayal, shame, cowardice (both mine and theirs), and an unwillingness to do what is necessary. But necessary to whom? That is the question.

Well, I have some stale coffee and an old egg sandwhich to get back to. May your day be going a little better.

15 October 2006

Three things I hate right now

Life is not really worth living if you can't rant occasionally, so here are three things that have bothered me at some point during the last few days.

1-Customer Service is non-existant:

I wanted to mail a package from the local post office a few days ago, only to find out that the local post office doesn't have a package/parcel service. One might question the efficiency of this technique when one considers that all you need to provide this service is to be able to weigh the damn things and take down the information needed with a pen. Of course, in a bid to ease the workload of people employed in the services sector, someone very wise decided that this was too much work for them, and that it should only be handled by people in the main branches. Genius!

This morning, I went to exchange an article of clothing from a clothing store, and as soon as I walked through the wide-open door, the security guard comes up to me saying: "Sorry, closed."
Exactly how difficult would it be to actually close the door or have a sign up that said the shop was closed when you can see all the employees walking about? Frustrating.

2-Cops are wankers when they're bored:

On my way back home from a relative's house where I've been spending time for the last seven months almost every day, two guys from Preventative Security (Amn Wiqa2i) decide to pull me over to harass me over the air freshener hanging from my rear-view mirror; it's shaped like Palestine, and that, apparently is against the law. I had a ten minute conversation with the two of them which involved me asking about what law actually forbade this (they skirted the question) and how my being a Jordanian living in Jordan means I cannot have an Arab identity (I also alluded to the fact that this was instilled into me by the government-approved textbooks I learned at school). When they asked me what I did and found out that I'm a journalist, they both backed off and offered me coffee. What dickheads.

What was the point of that whole exercise? What did they glean? Is there really such a law? Because I can't find it anywhere! It was a pure case of harassment. Don't these guys know how to pick up a book rather than harass people?

3-Why do people become aggressive, stupid, licentious bastards in Ramadan?

This is supposed to be the month of forgiveness, good deeds, piety and just plain being good to your fellow man (and woman). Instead, people drive like fuckers, they try to swindle you at every possible opportunity, and they try to get away with doing the bare minimum of work under the pretext of fasting. What's the deal?

This is called a self-reinforcing delusion: People think fasting is misery so they act miserable, and they also want to one-up the others who are fasting, and finally, you get a cumulative effect of everyone being unpleasant just to show off the fact that they're fasting.

I'm not a religious person by any means, but do you really think god accepts pious deeds when they don't come of pure intent? Would god accept repentance if one does not truly repent in one's heart? How can people claim to be fasting for god when all they're doing is depriving themselves of food, drink and cigarettes? Where's the spiritual aspect? What good is the former if you ignore the latter and spend your days being nasty to people, shirking responsibilities, cheating people and ogling women?

Please tell me if I'm wrong.

03 October 2006

I want to invent a new word: israeli, adj

israeli, adj and adv:
1-Describing an act, usually in a political, moral, or conflict context, of extreme hypocricy

2- Utterly devoid of any morality.

E.g. The French operation that resulted in the sinking of the Greenpeace boat "Rainbow Warrior" was an act of israeli impudence.

-I can run you over with my car on purpose and claim you threw yourself onto it; urgo, I am israeli bad.


It has struck me over the years how extremely hypocritical, devoid of morals, and downright rude Israeli political attitude is. It makes no apologies about this fact, but acts as if no matter what it justifies is always justified. I would compare Israeli political rhetoric to a thug with a bloody knife stabbing an old woman in a wheel chair while saying she was a terrorist about to run him over.

Another genius comparison was a cartoon I saw years ago, where an Israeli (israeli?) soldier was stending over the bodies of a dead dove and a Palestinian boy still holding an olive branch, saying "He was threatening me with his big stick and his bird of prey."

Yet, sadly, such is the power of Israeli rhetoric that many people around the world believe it. it's sickening how you can shoot a peace activist in an orange vest in the head, claim they were an armed militant in fatigues and a balaklava, and get away with community service and probably a commendation from a senior officer. Heck, you'd probably go teach at a military academy. Professor of Israeli Army Ethics. Perhaps the Israelis claimed that god had long ago prmised them the words Israeli Army, claim the Ethics were trying to drive them into the sea, and expel them en masse.

Very israeli of them.

17 September 2006

On the annals of reactionary stupidity.

So, the Pope, Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church, quotes a Byzantine Emperor who's been dead since the days we thought the Earth was flat and carried on the backs of elephants hitching a ride on a turtle swimming through space, and a few twats over in Gaza think "Hey, let's go bomb and burn some of our fellow Arabs!"

How can you argue with that logic?

Well, here's how: First of all, I'd like to ask those stupid, demented, irresponsible fuckwits responsible for those attacks something: How, in the name of the cottage cheese you have for brains does attacking your fellow Palestinians, be they Christian, Muslim, Athiest, Pagan or Norse, in any way:

1-Help you convince those biased idiots who think Islam is a death cult that they're wrong?
2-Convince the Pope that he was wrong?
3-Relieve the inter-faith tension?
4-Help anyone's cause, except perhaps the Israelis, who are now slapping their knees and laughing at the fact that as long the Palestinians are fighting internally, they'll wipe each other out?

Please...someone...anyone....tell me how the Catholic Pontiff's (wanker though he may be), translated into attacks on Orthodox churches? How's this different from those skinhead idiots in Europe and the States attacking Sunnis and Shias indiscriminantly because of their hatred towards some Muslim somehwere?

People! Get a fucking grip! Life's too short to start burning and acting like brainless thugs every time some idiot says something stupid or takes a quote out of context ( I haven't read the text of the Pope's speech. Has anybody? Has anybody bothered to find out the context of it, or has all this been sparked by the usual sensationalist media that likes to make mountains out of molehills?)

The Arab world has been an oasis of interfaith tolerance for a very long time. Why are we now moving towards such suspicion against each other? What has changed? We are all people, sharing the same land, Muslim and Christian, as we have been for many centuries. Why all the hatred? Do we want anything more than to survive in a tolerant society?

Chill out, talk and LISTEN to each other.

We are more alike than any of us think.

Conflict, especially internicine struggle, is not the answer. It's easy to lash out and not think. It's easy for silly things to escalate into troubles that will reap innocent lives.

Don't let that happen here.

We have enough to worry about.

30 August 2006

COME WATCH A PLAY! Murdering Antigone

Yes folks, it's time to come see a really good piece of theatre in Jordan. My friends and I have come together to give you Murdering Antigone, a re-take of the classic Greek tragedy, heavily re-written, using scripts by Sophocles, Brecht and Anouilh, to create a murder-mystery/courtroom drama the likes of which the Jordanian stage has never seen! So grab your phone, and reserve some tickets (they're only 3JD's!).

The show runs approximately 2 hours, including interval, starting at 7.30 on September 1st, 2nd, 8th and 9th at the Haya Cultural Centre, Shmeisani. For more info and reservations, call: 0796463321

Cheers folks! Hope to see you there!

10 July 2006

Why I hate stupidity...

It seems I am becoming a very critical and rant-prone indivdual these days...very possibly...most of my posts concern me bitching about one thing or another, but rest assured, fearless reader; this is NOT the case. I am a very happy person. The blog is just a perfect forum for me to get things off my chest. And, speaking of which, here we go:

It's absolutely mindboggling! Why, oh why, oh why do we take to the streets, clogging them up and impeding traffic while at the same time creating so much noise pollution by beeping our car horns and sitting dangerously perched on windows when Italy wins the world cup?

Why do we have this innate need to behave like complete idiots, endangering our lives and the lives of others by driving recklessly and firing guns into the air? Does this make us feel better? If so, then WHY? What the fuck is the point of that?

I mean if we had a massive Italian community in this country then I could, perhaps, understand the rabid need to do this, but the fact of the matter is, we don't. I also understand that this is a spontaneous method of expressing glee. Well, why can't you just have a party? Go out somewhere? Why in the name of God and all his angels do we need to be out honking and beeping and shooting until three in the goddamn morning?

Needless to say, I believe this sort of behaviour is irresponsible at best, and at worst, the cause of the decline of Arab civilisation. If we can go about on the streets doing this kind of stupidity, surely we must be able to harness that kind of zeal for something better than devastating the already-strained Jordanian traffic grid?

06 July 2006

The Actor's Journal:
King Lear; a Sufi

Well, what an absolutely riveting few weeks it has been! My first professional stage production AND my first professional film shoot.

King Lear was an experience, but unfortunately, not a very good one. Despite everyone lauding it as far above the standard of jordanian theatre (or perhaps because of that), I was extremely dismayed by the whole experience. The cast was infested by people who have no business being in theatre; childish, selfish, uncommitted, dishonest, unprofessional liars and fools.

The production was plagued from the beginning by the cast's complete lack of conscience, as well as the director's terrible (and frankly often uncalled for) temper, and going back to the cast's unjustifiably large egoes.

The show was good on the first two nights, but struggled to regain any form of energy it had in later performance. I say this about everyone's performance, and especially my own. It was just a terrible play.

At the end of these three months of rehearsal, I have suffered cuts while fencing, amoebic dysentary, severe muscle cramps, stress headaches, and numerous sprains and other painful injuries.

I've two more performances to give at Jerash, then we're off to play at the Experimental Theatre Festival in Cairo in September. God knows, I don't want to mix it up with this bunch again. Ah, well.

16 June 2006

The Lamentation

How curious is this world of ours.
How curious is your life.
Twists, turns and other myriad surprises,
Love, hate, and outward disguises.
Regrets are many, and the world is uncertain,
All is hidden behind tomorrow's curtain.
Whilst we seek answers for that we should not know,
Seeking, always for what lies beyond our reach.
Regrets abound, choices made in error,
The veil between sanity and tears thin as paper.
For who would fardels bear to grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the promise of something after death,
That undiscovered country from whose born no traveller returns,
Puzzles the will, and makes us rather bear those ills we know than fly to others we know not of.
The world is a frightening place, and all we who dwell within it are subjects to its cruel laws
Whilst you may think that you have evaded the fatal arrows,
They find you, sure as the surest lance.
Fear not that which may be, and weep not for what is.
Do not curse your evil luck, but be thankful for the trials that shape you.
When the trials of the world bay at your heels,
When the evil that men do waylays you,
When all hope seems forelorn, and all the evident future is bleak,
Be wise, and fear not. For what have fear and anger ever done to ease your woes?
The Lamentation

How curious is this world of ours.
How curious is your life.
Twists, turns and otheand myriad surprises,
Love, hate, and outward disguises.
Regrets are many, and the world is uncertain,
All is hidden behind tomorrow's curtain.
Whilst we seek answers for that we should not know,
Seeking, always for what lies beyond our reach.
Regrets abound, choices made in error,
The veil between sanity and tears thin as paper.
For who would fardels bear to grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the promise of something after death,
That undiscovered country from whose born no traveller returns,
Puzzles the will, and makes us rather bear those ills we know than fly to others we know not of.
The world is a frightening place, and all we who dwell within it are subjects to its cruel laws
Whilst you may think that you have evaded the fatal arrows,
They find you, sure as the surest lance.
Fear not that which may be, and weep not for what is.
Do not curse your evil luck, but be thankful for the trials that shape you.
When the trials of the world bay at your heels,
When the evil that men do waylays you,
When all hope seems forelorn, and all the evident future is bleak,
Be wise, and fear not. For what have fear and anger ever done to ease your woes?

12 June 2006


I hate beggars. I do. Absolutely, totally, and utterly.
I realise that this is a truly callous statement, but to be perfectly honest, I really don't care. I realise that there are social reasons why some people may be forced to beg because they cannot support themselves any other way, but I believe that these cases make up only one case in a thousand.

I know I'll get a lot of flak for this, but again, I'm pretty solid in this belief.

What I'm attacking today is professional beggary (if that is the term). People who go around in neckbraces for six months, moving from traffic light to traffic light, trying to get money off people. I hate women carrying children with their handbags in tow trying to weasel money out of motorists.

I don't for one second believe that they can afford handbags, decent clothes and nice shoes if they were really in need. I think that if they were truly hungry they would get off their arses and go do some work, no matter how menial it is.

I refuse to participate in encouraging the emotional blackmail that these people utilise, and I firmly believe that if they are capable of standing at a traffic light in the hot sun for a whole day, then they're bloody capable of doing some manual labour cleaning houses or washing dishes.

So, in summation: Get a job!

Following on from that, I'd also like to criticise the whole valet phenomenon. Valets are a form of theft, so far as I think. For one, I am perfectly capable of parking my own car myself. If I do happen to be in a hurry, I'll give my car to the valet. I do not, however, appreciate the fact that if someone does not tip them, they have the audacity to knock on your window and demand you pay them a dinar for their services.

Excuse me?

One dinar for parking my car and then getting it for me again? If you've had to run uphill to find my car or had to go through some trouble getting it, fair enough. But I'll be damned if you saunter down ten metres down the road to get the key, saunter back, and then ask for money while I'm standing next to my vehicle.

I guess what I'm truly up in arms against is how people try to get money for nothing. A particular incident riled me the other day when I was parked at the Zara centre. This guy was giving me "help", telling me to park my car this way and that (which I didn't need, ask for, or look like I needed). By the time I got back to my car, three hours later (which, by the way, was FILTHY), he asked me for money.

"What for?" Quoth I
"Because, you know, I've been standing here since seven in the morning" Quoth he.

Did I miss the logic anywhere? See, another thing that riled me up was the fact that he'd washed all the cars in the lot, except mine (because it's a 78 model), and then asked me for money. Why should I feel bound and bequeath to give you money for washing other people's cars? You can offer a service, and yet you chose to ignore my vehicle because you somehow assumed I wouldn't pay you or something? Well, far be it from me to disappoint you.

So, all ranting aside, I hate people who try to get money off me for nothing. I venerate those who are nice to me, and I adore those who help me or do me service. But I work and earn the money I make, and I'll be damned if some git is trying to blackmail me into giving him something.

Man, that felt good.

Back to being a bastard, now.

23 May 2006

Violence, Mayhem, and Murder Most Foul: Ideas on the Anti-Hero

I love writing posts like this. They're an opportunity to look at truly profound and philosophical aspects of the human psyche, yet they are dumbed down enough by references to geeky pop-culture to still amuse me. So, today's topic shall be: The anti-hero.
In literature and film, an anti-hero is a fictional character that has some characteristics that are antithetical to those of the traditional hero. An anti-hero will perform acts generally deemed "heroic," but will do so with methods, manners, or intentions that are not so.
Thus, anti-heroes can be awkward, antisocial, alienated, cruel, obnoxious, passive, pitiful, obtuse, or just ordinary. When the anti-hero is a central character in a work of fiction the work will frequently deal with the effect their flawed character has on them and those they meet along the narrative. Additionally, the work may depict how their character alters over time, either leading to punishment, un-heroic success or redemption.

Thus spake the great Wikipedia.

Anti-heroes are cool. They are, in essence, different from the traditional goody-two-shoes good-guy (Superman, Prince Charming, Captain America) in that they are somehow flawed. That's what makes them fun.

Take film for example: Some of the most successful franchises deal with anti-heroes of some sort: The Terminator, Die Hard, Batman, The Punisher, Shaft, the X-Men (specifically Wolverine), the Mask (part one, only). Oddball characters with a tendency for violence tend to come to mind, but in general, most action films revolve around a character that has problems and bad habits. 24 is a great example of this, especially with the heroin-addicted Jack Bauer in series 3.

So what makes these guys so fun to watch? Well, I think there are two main reasons. The first is that they depict the true conflict we like to imagine affects us all internally; our basic struggle to do good/lead a good life (well, some of us, at least) while dealing with all our problems. We don't want to see beautiful, invulnerable, successful people who can't really exist...we want someone real and gritty.

The second reason is that they can get away with acts of gratuitous violence in the name of "the greater good" that we can only fantasize about in our daily lives.

My personal favourite examples have got to be Wolverine of the X-Men and Black Mage, from the online comic strip 8-bit Theater http://www.nuklearpower.com/index.php (seriously, check it out).

Wolverine is a born mutant, a step up the evolutionary ladder from normal humans. He has senses as keen as a predatory animal, accelerated healing, and a skeleton and claws covered with an unbreakable alloy, which he uses to hurt people. He's severely emotionally scarred, can't remember much of his life, and is prone to fits of extreme violence where his conscious mind is overthrown. But he tries to help people and do the right thing. During the course of his adventures, he gets shot, stabbed, bludgeoned, incinerated, poisoned, thrown off of/out of high places, bludgeoned, mauled, disemboweled, drowned, crushed and otherwise abused, and still survives and goes on to do what he must, usually committing acts of extreme violence on the way. And he's haunted by this.

The other extreme of the situation is Black Mage. A parody of an 80's Nintendo videogame character, he is more a villain than a hero, as he takes pleasure in stabbing people, destroying their lives, burning towns, and otherwise being responsible for vast amounts of property damage and loss of life. And perhaps that's what makes him so appealing: You love to see him hurting people for being stupid, hurting them because they're trying to rip him off, and just generally trying to hurt EVERYONE. At one point, he is faced with the manifestation of his evil given form, and kills that, too. He takes over hell, briefly. But his finest moments are when he actually ends up saving the day, and nobody but the audience sees it happen. That's when he gets frustrated and starts behaving violently again.

So, in conclusion: Violence is fun, especially when being employed for a good cause (good being a VERY relative term here), and characters who aren't afraid to use it are very cool to watch. Thus endeth today's lesson.

15 May 2006

Days, Nights, Hours, Minutes.

Is whispering nothing?
Is leaning cheek to cheek? is meeting noses?
Kissing with inside lip? stopping the career
Of laughing with a sigh?
Skulking in corners? wishing clocks more swift?
Hours, minutes? noon, midnight?
Nay, tis not nothing, but the passage and course of life
That thus reveals the truth of our world to us.
The flow of time we wish to hasten,
With every fibre of our soul,
For every minute passing, brings us closer.
There is longing, and sighing, and whisper'd words.
There are confessions, revelations, and secrets told.
I shall not fear being away from thee, though it hurt me to the quick,
For knowledge I bear that soon again we shall unite.
I bid my longing farewell, and blow thee a kiss,
My marvelous angel, my rain cloud, my gift.
On the Scientific Names of Beings Animalculous

Well, in case nobody knows what that line means, it's actually a stanza from a song called "I am the very model of a modern Major General" from a musical called The Pirates of Penzance, by two English gentlemen of the 19th century known as Gilbert and Sullivan


The song is positively hilarious and is perhaps one of the nicest bits of music to listen to when sung correctly. The lyrics http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Major_General%27s_Song are worth a moment of your time, but it's highly recommended that you download the song if you can find it.

So why should anyone care about this crap?

The character goes on and on about things that really have no bearing on his position as a major general. Who cares if he can "write a washing bill in Babylonic cuniform"? Not really a handy skill. But that's really the irony of it: The man has a number of tasks that, at the time, were considered superfluous and at the same time funny, but which nowadays would make him a valuable "team player" with a "versatile employment portfolio" to use some modern business jargon.

And where am I going with this? I don't know. But I must ask: where does one draw the line between padding a CV with useful skills and just blatantly filling space by putting in Cub Scout merit badges for selling lemonade as a skill? Something to ponder, I think.

08 May 2006

That's what I call job satisfaction

Wow! A great end to a crap day! After a serious bout of amoebic dysentary (yeah, who knew you could get that in this day and age?) and a crap day at one of my jobs, I had one of the best rehearsals in living memory! And I'm chuffed about it! (That means happy, by the way. I'm not suffering linen burns or anything.)

Despite not having a great run during the run of the scene, and even having to run a certain sequence three times, it still worked out great! I was pumped, I was emotional, I made contact with the goddamn character for the first time! I'm slightly worried, however, that I might not be able to maintain it for the "press night" we're having wednesday, but who knows? Whenever there's someone watching, actors tend to give a little extra, so I may not have peaked just yet.

So, that's good news. What else do I have to add? It's just been a difficult to work with my character, because he's essentially got no journey; he appears in two scenes, one at the very beginning and one at the very end of the play, and only has dialogue in the latter. It's been quite a jump going from mild to positively fuming to having a mental breakdown in the space of a ten minute scene, but it clicked for the first time today. The only comments the director had at the end of the run-through were "louder" and "don't look at her, look at the king". Sounds like an achievement.

So, I think I must needs look through the script a couple of times in the next day or two, and just kick some arse when the run through happens. Cool!

30 April 2006

Methinks I have too much pent-up aggression...

Now, I'm not a violent person. At all. I've hit people out of anger perhaps twice in my life, and neither time did I do it intentionally. But sometimes, today, for example, I'm overtaken by this desire, nay...a need, to actually grab someone and smash their face in. If anything, I almost seem to want to pick fights with people. But why?

Back to today: My girlfriend and I were down in Balad. Now, as much as I love that place, I hate the way people feel obligated to stare at any female walking around dressed in less than a full-body hazmat suit. And I fucking hate that. I hate the dirty, depraved, sleazy looks and off-hand comments people make. It just becomes a personal matter for me. My girlfriend says it doesn't bother her. Fair enough. She's a big girl and she can stand up for herself. But I still feel protective, and I still want to smash the teeth of any bastard who looks with anything less than respect. Is that so wrong?

Again, back in Amman, some little fucks from the neighbourhood decided to write "fuck" in the dust of my car's rear window. Why? What exactly did that achieve? Now, I'm actually sorry i didn't grab their individual faces and smash them into the bumper on general principle. But why the violence? why the pent-up aggression? I exercise, I have a pretty good career, a great girl who loves me and who I love back....why do I feel the need to physcially harm people who get on my nerves?

then again, are there not people in the world who deserve to be beaten up? I believe it finally comes down to a Jekyll-and-Hyde situation (or Me, Myself and Irene, if you will). Certain events push people over the edge sometimes...guess I'll have to wait and see what does that for me.

25 April 2006

Woohoo! I'm on satellite TV!

Ok, so...not exactly. I've been dubbing a horrendously god-awful historical TV series into English, and I got a call a few days ago from the bloke who is the producer on the project, telling me to switch on to Saudi TV's channel 2 at around 2pm. I didn't get the call in time, but it was still cool to know that my work was being broadcast to three people and their pet cat somewhere in the world!

So, that was my first bit of international acclaim! My name up in lights! Hey, at least it's money in the bank.

18 April 2006

Stressful as they come...

I don't think of myself as an alarmist. I don't think of myself as a cry-baby...well, actually, I do. But I'm also proud of the fact that I have enough professionalism to keep such matters under wraps as might affect the flow of my work, especially in the theatre context. However, following the events of today, I am forced to wonder how far someone can be pushed before they snap completely.

I shall begin, as it is always best to begin, at the very beginning: The morning!

So, my car has been in the shop for two days now for what was supposed to be a four hour job (Giligan's island, anyone?). This meant that I had to catch a ride to work with my dad. Again. And this time, he was driving at an infuriatingly slow pace, not quite getting the idea that the long circumspect way we were going to get past all the traffic meant he could make better time if he went faster due to the lighter traffic. Anyway, I got to work about ten minutes late, but it was ok, because nobody else had bothered to do anything anyway. So I went on my merry way.

The morning show was an utter cunt, thanks to an audience of apathetics, arseholes, and one teacher's choice to march all her students out of the theatre mid-performance, then march them all back in three minutes later. Cheers, bitch! Also, a special Up Yours goes to the gentleman who kept jangling his keys throughout the play. When I went backstage, fuming, my supervisor admonished me for letting it get to me. Gee, thanks, fuck-face. And what exactly did you do to help today? Or any day for that matter? Twat!

Day went further downhill when the car got delayed AGAIN, and when I finally managed to make it to Marka to pick the damn thing up, it still wasn't ready. I took my dad's car back to Amman and made it to my dubbing job three minutes before my call... a decent margin by any standard. The people knew that i had a window of an hour and 45 minutes to finish four scenes, then be on my way to rehearsals till 11pm. So instead of going straight into the studio, they decided to wait around for half an hour, then go into the studio, then take my scene partner out and do a different scene. By the time I had got to my second scene, it was already 7pm, and we spent the next half hour with my two scene partners fucking up so much, that we covered half a page of script. I got really livid, because I had to be out in ten minutes, and they wanted to finish the episode today, so I ended up dubbing three whole scenes on a seperate track (which means the other actors will be recorded at a later date).

I ran like hell, got to rehearsal, and spent the next three hours being yelled at by the director, and badgered by this cunt of an excuse for a human being who claims to be an actor.

Now, about the aforementioned person, I'd just like to say why he gets on my tits: Firstly, he's always late, which means he has zero commitment. He waltzes in fifteen minutes after the rest of the cast without so much as a "I'm sorry I'm late", then spends the rest of the rehearsal changing stuff the director's put in, and telling people how to speak their lines. He's also off smoking a cigarette when he should be on stage, and is just a wanker to begin with. I have a strong feeling that I'll end up either yelling at him, or kicking his face in at some point in the near future.

I finally got home at 11.30 pm, and I'm writing this. I have to be at my first job at 9 am tomorrow, I have a rehearsal from 6-10pm, then I go on to myu dubbing job till about 12.30 am. In the meantime, I have an article to finish writing, a dozen scenes to prep, and a few shows to perform. Now, I'm not the sort of person who easily gets stressed out, but this has truly been a really bad day.

I think I need a drink....

14 April 2006

How very odd...

So here I am, working two plays at the same time, trying to make the time to rehearse both Antigone and King Lear, and as it so happens, one of the members of the Antigone company has become slightly...missing. Not being funny...the guy, went off on holiday about ten days ago, and nobody's heard from him since. Now, understandably, he might just be in need of a break, but I'm slightly worried about him, as are we all. So, mate, if you're out there, give us a buzz or an email or something. We're worried about you!

09 April 2006

Ode to the Rain Cloud

I cannot find words.
They fail me.
But it is not from lack of trying.
My vast knowledge, my repository of vocabulary is empty,
Drained by the emotion I feel.
Yet it is not anger that does thus to me.
Nor hate.
Nor envy, that dries my mouth and steals away my cognizance.
I do not feel sad, nor do I despair.
The cause of my muteness is love;
Though I would not have believed it, yet so it is.
It fills my heart, drawing strength away from the bitter and the rash.
It is the humour of the body that makes all mellow,
The beauty that is without form.
And what is she that hath enchanted me thus?
Why, the little rain cloud, on a sunny summer day.

29 March 2006

Antigone: The First Proper Version in Jordan!

Well, to be honest, I have no idea whether or not it's ever been performed before in this country, but I'm quite happy about the version my friends and I are working on. Oh, in case you didn't gather, we're looking to put on a production of the play, based on three versions of the story by Sophocles, Bertolt Brecht, and Jean Anouilh. We're hoping to be up and running by July, but it's still all theory so far.

The really exciting thing about doing this play is that we're adapting it as we go along. The characters are fun to look at in three different versions, though Anouilh's is by far my favourite. I also happen to think it's the best written. Sophocles' (or is that Sophocles's? Does it count as a plural S?) version comes in a close second, with Brecht's trailing third. Don't get me wrong, Brecht is a marvellous writer, but his version is too skewed by his quest for his Verfremdungseffekt (alienation effect) and the fact that he had Hitler in mind when he wrote the character of Creon (or rather Kreon, as it's written in his version). The character comes out too much like a cartoon villian with no redeeming qualities, but then, that's just my reading of it.

I think Anouilh does a much better job of fleshing Creon out...perhaps too good a job, as his major scene with antigone goes on for about twenty pages. It gets tiresome, though it has some utter literary gems, especially when Creon goes into fate and the line of Oedipus. Good stuff indeed.

Well, looks like I'll keep a journal of what's going on...stay tuned for more.

10 March 2006

Prayer by the Foolish

The guilt of my words still echoes in my head,
Words badly chosen, a joke that should not have been made.
Material is not my craving, nor the be-all and end-all of my life.
But I do not know if you are either.
What I do know is that you mean more to me than any stupid words,
Uttered in a haze of thought, a state too silly to be believed.
I cannot bear bringing tears to your eyes,
It hurts me to the quick,
And I wonder about all the things I hold dear.
I have gone against nature, against everything I ever swore to uphold.
I have betrayed myself before, but never to do something so bad,
Never to do aught that has unleashed so much guilt.
In the shortest span of time, you have come to mean so much,
And were I a person of faith, I would be on my knees,
Begging whichever god I believed in to help you forgive me.
This is my prayer, my lamentation of life.
The guilt that I hold deep within my heart,
And the thanks I give that you are willing to move on.
Doubt the motion of the world, doubt the fire of the stars,
But let nothing shake your conviction in my constancy to you.

08 March 2006

On the nature of relationships with your co-workers.

It strikes me as very odd, the way I interact with people I work with. I'm lucky enough to work a variety of jobs, many on a freelance basis, but it's obvious that every place has its own set of interactions within the microcosm that is the institution.

Actors are great to work with, when they're not the "I'm so great you should get on the floor and worship me" type. They are generous people to be around, and are generally well-read and aware of the world around them.

Techies, i.e. those with technical expertise who make the world go round, are also amazing people, so long as you don't treat them as subordinates or look down on them because they do the menial but necessary tasks.

Custodial staff are by far the best of the lot. Though they can often be world-weary and constantly depressed, they are some of the nicest human beings you can ever hope to meet. Oh, and in case you're wondering why they grumble so much? it's becase others are such arseholes to them! From personal experience, if you're nice to people, they will be nice to you. Custodial staff are not slaves. They are not meant to be going around fetching you tea and cigarettes. I've got a pair of legs, dammit! I can go across the road for some food.

And why should they handle all the lifting on their own? I'm a big lad, stronger than average, and I can help out, so I do. Yet others just stand there and laugh when I squat to lift a heavy box. And why? Because I'm performing a menial task? Can the Happy McLaughy do that? NO!

Honestly... give me custodial staf over most other people every day. True, they often aren't that great for conversations about Sartre and physics, but they have a wealth of knowledge, life, and anecdotes that you'll never hear elsewhere. And as a general rule, they aren't stuck up wankers who look down on others, simply because there's no one for them to look down upon. Being branded as the lowest in institutional hierarchy makes them incredibly nice people, and perhaps in spite of the lack of regard others give them, they make the finest examples of humanity in most places. Here's to you, folks!

Another matter that's been on my mind since morning is the fact that many people I work with are just lazy cunts. I get in to the theatre every morning, start readying the set, setting props, checking them, and doing the morning routine of getting shit ready for the plays. For all intents and purposes, I am the stage manager. But why is it my responsibility? Because nobody else will do it. My immediate superior is really useless, in every sense of the word. I do part-time hours, half a day, and I get more done in two hours than he tends to do in a week. He doesn't even WANT to do anything. And that's the problem with the "old guard" at this place: they don't want to make an effort.

We had a malfunctioning prop, so I took it in to the tech department to get it fixed. Lo and behold, there he was, having breakfast with the Old Guard, and gladly told me that he'd already explained the nature of the problem to the guy who would fix it.

Very helpful. Thanks mate. Don't suppose you could've bothered taking the damn thing in to be fixed in the first place because you're the one complaining about it in the first place, you tosser?

But I'm not bitter. On the contrary. It's nice to know that I can say I earn my keep here. True, I don't do that much work, but that's because there isn't often any work to be done. Still, I go around other departments asking if I can help with anything. Hell...I've brought in a crap load of work for the centre and helped raise its profile, and I've been here less than six months. He's been here a good eight years, and he complains about how difficult it is to adapt a childrens' story into a play. Boo-frickity-hoo! It's the only work I've seen him do since I got here!

Ok, rant over, I rock, sod the rest. My conscience is clean.

01 March 2006

Everyone's a critic!

Now, being a very left-wing, liberal sort of person, I am wholeheartedly in favour of the concept of people expressing their views. However, what I personally dislike is the fact that people express their views about things they have no business having views about in the first place. For example, I really know sod all about architecture. I have aesthetic judgements regarding what I think is an attractive building and what is not, but I really can't find faults in the positioning of a pillar to support a multi-storey building. So I don't usually, when I speak to architects, critique their schematics or their projects. What the hell do I know?

So why do people feel like they are obligated by some higher moral purpose to spout absolute bollocks about shit they really know nothing about? Why is there this overwhelming need in Jordanian society to incessantly give your unappreciated and unasked for opinions to people who really don't need mindless babble to make their work day any harder? Why do we do this?

Criticism, in certain destructive cases, I'm told, is a by-product of feeling inferior. The person doing the criticizing does it in an effort to prove their worth to the other part of the equation. Though I'm not sure how true this is for other people, it seems to me the majority of people who have qualms about my work don't really know jack shit about what it is I do. So, the next time you hear some idiot giving someone grief about something they know nothing about, please, take a moment to ask yourself if what I've said holds true.

17 February 2006


Are you there?
I call you forth, darkness!
Come forward!
I call upon you, light!
Come forward.
I challenge the earth, the sea, and the sky!
Come forward all, and heed my words.
I shall endure your hardships, and emerge the stronger,
Or die in the attempt.
You, darkness, my fear of the unknown.
The fear I kept out with morals and ideals.
But as I live, these shields rust through,
And their splendour grows dull.
The boundaries between us melt, and I look into you.
I see there echoes of myself, and I understand;
I understand the unknown, because it is I.
I am the frailty of humankind, the failings of it.
The dark forgotten corners that few admit they have.
We all share them, and we are all human.
Light. My fear made visible.
My knowledge given form.
You are the future I see heading towards me at the speed of life.
The apprehension I have of things I know will happen.
I cannot escape you, but I dread facing you;
But all in all, I have faced you time and again.
I have passed through your fires unscathed.
I shall pass again, and live to tell the tale,
For you are that trial that shall purify my soul with insight.
Sea; huge and difficult to touch and hold.
Ever elusive.
I plunge into your depths, you surround me, yet you are not.
I cannot clutch you, you are incorporal, unreal.
Water is a promise, cool, refreshing,
A lie, salty, cloying.
Earth; betrayer! What bonds did we forge?
I have stood with you throughout my life,
Yet you are an aberration.
What trials we have shared,
What words have gone between us!
I have bled for you, yet now I am fogotten.
The wide desert swallow you!
I shall not wait. Though I want to forgive,
I know not how I shall forget.
And you, sky, vast and beyond my reach!
So far away, unattainable.
Yet I do not wish to attain you.
Tempest. Wind. Lightning.
I do not wish your acquaintance at all.
Stay far away from me, as we were never meant to be joined.
Remain you, and I shall remain me,
and in the difference we shall prosper.
Your wrath is great, but so is mine;
You may think you own this world I inhabit,
But you do not.
We share it, all, and you merely look down on us,
Disapproving, angry.
Your cries of anger are the rantings of a small, spoilt child.
Though you think you are mighty, you are insignificant.
Personify yourself, then, you vast emptiness,
And dash your brains out on the earth's rocks,
Or drown in despair seeking in the sea.
I care not.
For I shall best you all and emerge the stronger.
So hear my challenge; the gauntlet is thrown.
"I am the master of my fate, the captain of my soul"
Defiant, I stand, before you all.
Lay on, foes, single or several, and cursed be he who first cries
"Hold! Enough!"

14 February 2006

"Whatever is in any way beautiful hath its source of beauty in itself, and is complete in itself; praise forms no part of it. So it is none the worse nor the better for being praised. "

Marcus Aurelius, The Meditations, IV, 20

I love that quote. But not as much as I love praise. I'll be honest. Few things in life give me as much satisfaction as being praised. And therein lies the problem: I think I may also be some sort of praise-junkie....what psychologists might call a codependant personality. What makes matters worse, is the fact that I'm an actor, of all things. Now, I don't think of myself as an artiste, but I certainly believe that what I do requires more than just training.

The problem, I believe, is that the praise has become such an integral part of my experience as an actor, that it has ceased to be a motivating force, and become something I view as my right. Which is not only wrong, but problematic on several levels.

For one, I've become really terse about taking direction, especially because I think most of the people who give me such direction have no bloody idea what they're on about. I hate it when another "actor", who merely started acting because he had a good speaking voice, starts directing me in the middle of a session (which I guess is fair enough, because it's none of his fucking business to direct me. That's what the director is there for). Still, there's a massive arrogance within me because I get that agitated about it. Where do I get off having the stones to decide what people should and shouldn't direct me? So what if I've trained as a professional actor at one of the best drama schools in the world? Does that training make me a better actor than another person? Does the fact that I have vocal technique on my side mean anything? Why am I being such a snob?

On the other hand, I think that the level of "drama" in Jordan is beyond piss poor. And thankfully, a lot of people agree with me about that, namely, the new breed of what i like to call the "Jordanian Acting Renaissance" (ok, it's not original, but it gets the message across); they agree that acting is horrible, as is direction, production, writing, etc. Ever seen a Jordanian soap/drama? I rest my case.

But there's a glimmer of hope: My kids' shows are often interesting, because the kids love them, and even though none of their teachers even look me in the eye when I'm done (usually), the sight of a hundred kids lining up to shake my hand at the end when I'm drenched in sweat is a victory like no other... it even alleviates the pain of my own co-workers not giving me as much as a tap on my shoulder for a job well done.
My drama school handbook actually has a note about how an actor should always respect his or her audience. "Your audience does not need you, but you need your audience. Do not be rude to them. There is no such thing as a difficult audience. If they are not receptive, that means you have to work harder."

In part, I totally agree with that statement, yet I also disagree with it totally. I have been taught that the performing place is sacrosanct. The audience should at least respect the actors while they are performing, and not smoke, eat, drink, chat to each other, or talk on the phone while a play is in progress....that's just common decency...basic manners. But some members of my audience have done that. And I wish I could say it was just the kids: Sometimes, it's their teachers who do all this while a play is in progress. Teachers for crying out loud! Those who should be setting a positive example!

Anyway, rant aside, I think that apart from being rude, this is perhaps due to the fact that they just don't know how to behave in a theatre. Still, it's pretty disconcerting when you're trying your best to concentrate on a hundred different things onstage and having two teachers in the third row gaily chatting away about god knows what. How can you work harder when that happens? How can you maintain character?

So, for those of you who've got completely lost, the whole idea is to juxtapose Marcus Aurelius's quote (which is really about subjectivity in judging things) with both my experiences in theatre, and my opinions of acting in Jordan. Feedback welcome. Oh, and before you call me an arrogant bastard, be aware that I totally agree with that statement.

Thus endeth another rant.

11 February 2006

What's your type?

I got into a somewhat odd conversation with a friend of mine the other week, regarding a certain lady I was interested in. The conversation went a bit weird when my friend commented that:"She's not your type. AT ALL."

Now, that brought up an interesting question: What, exactly, is my type? The myriad women I've been interested in throughout my life are diverse to say the least; For one, they've all been women. That's one unifying factor. But I don't know where else to go....independant thinkers? Not all of them. Most of them, I guess. Free spirits? Again, many of them. So what remains?Intelligence? Well, I guess, but that varies.

So what remains? Some were younger, most were older (with margins varying from a few months to over a decade). Some had long hair, some had short hair; curly, straight, blonde, brown, black, red, tanned, pale, thin, muscular, full-figured...the list of differences is massive....as it would be for most people, I guess.

And that led me to think (a rare occurance, I know): What is the type of person people go for, and how is that different from the sort of person you end up with/wanting to be with?

Does the "type" you usually go for have any bearing on the sort of person you end up falling for? is there really such a thing as a "type"? If the "type" really does exist, what influences it? is it some sort of psychology? A reverse psychology? Do we go for potential mates/partners who follow the Freudian model (yes, I know he was a crackhead), or does this have no bearing whatsoever? And if not, then how do we choose? What are the subconscious elements that affect these choices? Are they choices in the first place, or do we have no control over them?

What makes a person fall in love with one person, then hate someone else who is nearly the same? interesting when you come to think about it. Well, that's been on my mind for a while now, hope you can come up with some answers, dear reader. Till next time!

09 February 2006

Hamlet: Why Shakespeare rocks!

Well, continuing the theme of most wondersful Shakesperean masterpieces (which as far ad I'm aware of, only three people read), I will now be approaching the next cool Hamlet speech:

O, what a rogue and peasant slave am I!
Is it not monstrous that this player here,
But in a fiction, in a dream of passion,
Could force his soul so to his own conceit
That from her working all his visage wann'd,
Tears in his eyes, distraction in's aspect,
A broken voice, and his whole function suiting
With forms to his conceit? and all for nothing!
For Hecuba! What's Hecuba to him, or he to Hecuba,
That he should weep for her? What would he do,
Had he the motive and the cue for passion
That I have? He would drown the stage with tears
And cleave the general ear with horrid speech,
Make mad the guilty and appal the free,
Confound the ignorant, and amaze indeed
The very faculties of eyes and ears.
Yet I, A dull and muddy-mettled rascal, peak,
Like John-a-dreams, unpregnant of my cause,
And can say nothing; no, not for a king,
Upon whose property and most dear life
A damn'd defeat was made. Am I a coward?
Who calls me villain? breaks my pate across?
Plucks off my beard, and blows it in my face?
Tweaks me by the nose? gives me the lie i' the throat,
As deep as to the lungs? who does me this? Ha!
'Swounds, I should take it: for it cannot be
But I am pigeon-liver'd and lack gall
To make oppression bitter, or ere this
I should have fatted all the region kites
With this slave's offal: bloody, bawdy villain!
Remorseless, treacherous, lecherous, kindless villain!
O, vengeance!
Why, what an ass am I! This is most brave,
That I, the son of a dear father murder'd,
Prompted to my revenge by heaven and hell,
Must, like a whore, unpack my heart with words,
And fall a-cursing, like a very drab,
A scullion!

Hamlet Act II, scene 2

So, in case you're wondering, Hamlet's just met the Player King (bigshot actor), who's just delievered a very moving speech about Queen Hecuba and her feelings of loss following the murder of her Husband Priam. And this is what starts Hamlet off: How could an actor cry such tears, look so sad over people that mean nothing to him? What would they be like if they had Hamlet's motives for vengeance? That's when Hamlet does what he does best and goes psychoanalytical: "So why am I angry?"

He starts looking inwardly. "Who calls me coward?" After a few musings, he comes to the conclusion that he is a coward. Otherwise, he would have taken action long before and done terrible things to Claudius's corpse. Cheerful fellow. And then he goes ballistic again. The last nine lines are all about raw anger against Claudius, and helplessness. He vents, does a tantrum, and then examines himself critically. "I'm all talk." He says...in much better words than that.

Why do I love this speech so much?

From one angle, it's a great exploration of self-consciousness. Actors, in a play, talking about actors and plays. There's a very....I don't know what to call it....metaexistential quality to it. Im not sure that's even a real word, but it sounds impressive,at least.

The other bit is that this is the first real idea we get about what Hamlet is like: A reluctant hero. He doesn't want to do anything rash. He's determined to be sure of Claudius's treachery before he acts against him.

But why?

Well, I think it's because he's real. A truly real, natural, three-dimensional character. There's so much complexity in him, you can believe that he's an actual person. The conflict, the uncertainty, the frailty, the disbelief...Hamlet as a person is perhaps the most natural figment of anyone's imagination I've ever been exposed to.

In this character, Shakespeare takes internal conflict to a new level, without overdoing it, just. Personally, I think he could have done with a bit more pushing, but then again, that may not have worked and I trust that a writer of his calibre knew what he was doing.

The final lines of the speech, although not really dramatic, are included in the end. What he decides there is to entrap Caludius through a re-enactment of his father's murder, hoping to make him confess, or at least indicate that he did murder the old king.

Fie upon't! foh! About, my brain!
I have heard That guilty creatures sitting at a play
Have by the very cunning of the scene
Been struck so to the soul that presently
They have proclaim'd their malefactions;
For murder, though it have no tongue, will speak
With most miraculous organ. I'll have these players
Play something like the murder of my father
Before mine uncle: I'll observe his looks;
I'll tent him to the quick: if he but blench,
I know my course. The spirit that I have seen
May be the devil: and the devil hath power
To assume a pleasing shape; yea, and perhaps
Out of my weakness and my melancholy,
As he is very potent with such spirits,
Abuses me to damn me: I'll have grounds
More relative than this: the play 's the thing
Wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king.

Thus endeht Part II. Stay tuned for Part III, which features the most famous line in theatre history: To be or not to be.

07 February 2006

Racism in Arab culture.

Yes. It exists. And it SUCKS.

What disturbs me the most, is how most people hardly even realise how overtly racist they are!

Ok, perhaps this only applies to the caste-ridden middle and upper classes, but by Jupiter, it's rife there! How so? Well, it's a two-fold problem, as I see it. First off, we have the general racist tendencies that nobody seems to notice. For example, I was appalled by a "comedy" series on MBC called "Tash Ma Tash". One of the trailers for the series involved two blacked up actors (made up to look black) speaking gibberish and pretending to be Africans, behaving stupidly in a lame effort to illicit laughs from the audience. Now, not only was that in bad taste, it was also offensive.

The second aspect is much more insidious: it's a racism few people are even aware of. I don't know how true this is in other Arab countries, but in Jordan, it's an epidemic (or should that be endemic?). It's caste-based racism that dehumanizes foreign labourers. How so? Well, just listen to how people in Jordan refer to Egyptians and Asians from Sri Lanka, India, the Phillipines, etc. These countries are famous for one thing in Jordan: They provide a steady stream of poor people willing to do the menial jobs that most natives of this country find shameful/"low".

Just walk into 99% of upper-class houses. Go to a restaurant. Chances are, the person doing the serving will be a Sri Lankan maid or an Egyptian waiter. And these people are often treated like garbage by patrons and employers alike. Just listen to the terminology people use in conversation: Sri Lankan (or Sirlankiyyeh) is synonymous with a maid...no, servant girl is a more accurate term. Egyptian (Masri) is a term used for a low-income labourer who does menial tasks like gardening, washing cars, serving coffee, etc etc.

These individuals (whom I shall intentionally refer to as people simply because they are rarely treated as such) are mistreated by everyone. The police, their employers, the people they serve. They have few rights, and everyone likes to lord it over them. And why? They aren't exactly slaves, but they are pretty damn close to being that. And why is that? Why does society hold them in such low regard? When will this end? Do we not realise how wrong this is?

06 February 2006

Hamlet: Why Shakespeare rocks! Part 1

It wasn't until relatively recently (November 2004 to be precise) that I had the pleasure of sitting through a mostly-intact version of Shakespeare's Hamlet for the first time. Oh, and the second as well. In one week. That's right: I had to sit through two four hour plus performances of the play by two different directors in the space of four days. It was hell.

As far as plays go, I definitely believe that Shakespeare (or any other playwright for that matter) should not be read silently, but aloud. Not Read aloud, but acted on stage.

HOWEVER, since Hamlet is perhaps the most famous play ever written and definitely the most (mis) quoted (ok, perhaps Romeo and Juliet gets that honour, but only just), there's a certain feeling of terror that grips most actors wanting to tackle the roles therein. In short, the lines can almost never live up to expectation, because it's hard to do something new with them, or fulfill people's expectations.

But all that aside, Hamlet is a masterpiece. Forget existentialism, the Oedipal complex, and all that modern crap that people try to tack on to the play; Shakespeare never read Freud, nor was he awre of the works of Sartre. If he was aware of such things, it was not as philosophies. What the play does, is address human frailty, and it does it in ways that no other work I've read does. In essence, I think this comes out best in three of the speeches. ahem ahem:

O, that this too too sulleid flesh would melt
Thaw and resolve itself into a dew!
Or that the Everlasting had not fix'd
His canon 'gainst self-slaughter! O God! God!
How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable,
Seem to me all the uses of this world!
Fie on't! ah fie! 'tis an unweeded garden,
That grows to seed; things rank and gross in nature
Possess it merely. That it should come to this!
But two months dead: nay, not so much, not two:
So excellent a king; that was, to this,
Hyperion to a satyr; so loving to my mother
That he might not beteem the winds of heaven
Visit her face too roughly. Heaven and earth!
Must I remember? why, she would hang on him,
As if increase of appetite had grown
By what it fed on: and yet, within a month
-- Let me not think on't--Frailty, thy name is woman!--
A little month, or ere those shoes were old
With which she follow'd my poor father's body,
Like Niobe, all tears:--why she, even she--
O, God! a beast, that wants discourse of reason,
Would have mourn'd longer--married with my uncle,
My father's brother, but no more like my father
Than I to Hercules: within a month:
Ere yet the salt of most unrighteous tears
Had left the flushing in her galled eyes,
She married. O, most wicked speed, to post
With such dexterity to incestuous sheets!
It is not nor it cannot come to good:
But break, my heart; for I must hold my tongue.

So, your dad just died two months ago, and your mother has married his brother. Now if anything, that's enough to screw with your head. Freud aside, these are words of anger, denial, disbelief, and conflict. In other words, GOOD DRAMA.

But is it realistic? Well, considering that none of us are Danish Princes who have recently been put into this situation, or are likely to be any time soon, then no. the setting isn't. But let's not forget that this was written to appeal to your everyday average londoner nearly half a millenium ago. Escapism is the order of the day; people didn't want stories about peasants and back-alley salesmen, they wanted tales of royalty and high adventure.

So peel all the royalty away, and think of it as a normal person might. I don't know what you'll find, but personally, I believe there's a great deal of humanity in the words. Now try reading them out loud. And again. I know they don't make much sense, but how do they feel? Read the monosyllabic words slower than the polysyllabic ones. Feel the vowels and the consonants. Feel the rhythm of the speech. Now imagine you've just lost YOUR father, and your mother has just remarried your uncle. There you go!

Thus endeth part 1. Stay tuned for two more installments featuring To be, or not to be.

03 February 2006

Another poem with a dark theme:

I am the freeman, and my sins are legion
But the sins of the past are nothing compared to those of the future.
The precipice is ever near, and I walk the line,
Greed blinds me, and I want ever more.
I am chaos, I am confusion,
And full of scorpions is my mind.
yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I shall fear no evil, for what is evil?
It is but the dark side of my mind.
It is the indifference of the just.
It is the overwhelming love of self that I exhibit.
Altruism, that was once my strength,
Fades into the shades of memory, forgotten.
I once looked into the eyes of my Future,
and it blinked at me in fear.
Now that future mocks me,
It fears me not.
My destiny is mine to control, yet how can I have freedom,
when it is not my mind that can decide?
"Ere yet the salt of most unrighteous tears" has faded,
I am loathe to face what is and what shall be,
For the present itself has become abhorrent to me.
My hope is not forlorn, it merely looks elsewhere.
Where that elsewhere is, I do not know.
Promises broken, lies told, dreams taken away.
I stand on the edge of change,
wondering where I am heading
And where I have been.
Fortune does not favour the bold,
Despite what they say.
There is neither rhyme nor reason to the way things are;
There is no justice in all we hope for;
It is in matters of greatest consequance that Fate betrays us.
I am lost to the sands of time,
And I pity my once great self.
All my dreams but one are nearly achieved,
yet it is that one last dream,
that vision I had never expected,
that puzzles my mind.

01 February 2006

Guilty no matter what.

Well, it's the evening of wednesday, and I can now update my blog. First off, I'd like to thank everyone for their support; it was really amazing how many people stepped forward and offered their to help me. You guys rock!

Anyway, in case you're wondering, I'm still alive, and more importantly, free as a bird. The charges were dropped, and I was let go, which I had hoped would be the case since I hadn't done anything to begin with.

Still, it was interesting how the guy who nabbed me in the first place was still trying to scare the bejesus out of me even though he was letting me go. Apparently, this charge carries a 6 month- 3 year jail term, and then he dropped the whammy that they were letting me go.

So, I was set free, but the guy still doesn't believe I'm innocent. I have a sinking feeling someone either really did say the things he heard, or someone who has it in for me lied and reported me to the police on some trumped up charge. Either way, I have nothing to hide because I've done nothing wrong. Now all that remains is getting familiar with the Jordanian penal code and issues of due process....don't want to get this crap again.

31 January 2006

Guilty till proven innocent.

As of the time of writing (3.50 AM, Tuesday morning, January 31st 2006), I am now free on bail, awaiting the continuation of my case/further investigation to be carried out in approximately 28 hours. Why? Well, it has to do with something I never even said.

I was out with some friends tonight, and at about 1 am, the club's DJ stated that they would be closing early. Fair enough....I spoke to some other friends, and they decided that we could go to someone's house to hang out. We went down, collected our coats, and I had just opened the door to my car and gotten in, when two individuals with a serious attitude problem called me "aboo bita3" (I have no clue what that even means, so I can't translate it), and ordered me to come with them. I don't think they even identified themselves as police (plain clothes), but it was obvious by the sound of their walkie-talkies.

They escorted me to a parked car, told me to get in, made a comment about "Sha3ib ma biji illa bil kondara" (a people that can only be dealt with with contempt), and chucked me in with the driver. he was pleasant enough, asked me who I was, what I did, and what had happened. I told him that they'd accused me of saying things I hadn't heard, much less said, and he seemed to take it at face value. My friends, meanwhile, were busy trying to figure out what was going on, unsuccessfully. Another friend, who was English, was oblivious about the goings on, and tapped the glass asking if I was meeting up with them later.

The first two individuals, one who I would later learn was called Lieutenant Adnan, and another called Hasan, joined me in the car, and that's when the compost hit the fan. I was now being accused of insulting the policemen, and (get this) insulting the Prophet Mohammad. They then whisked me off to the Zahran police station.

Now, I'm not a religious person. By any means. I was born Christian, but haven't practiced since before I was a teenager. But I have never made any comments about Islam or the Prophet Mohammad, and I certainly would not have been stupid enough to do so in public, with two suspicious looking men with walkie talkies looking on. Ask anyone who knows me. Ask my Muslim friends. In fact, ask my muslim friend who was walking next to me as I came out of the club. Ask my colleagues at work...at all five of my jobs.

Anyway, back to the thrilling ride to the police station: The ever-cheerful Lieutenant Adnan kept accsuing me of saying things I could barely understand, and then began making blanket threats. "One of the people at the club, when I told him what you'd said, told me that he'd take care of you himself....If I'd let them have you, they'd butcher you! ...But enough...the Law will take its course, but if it doesn't, there are other ways."

The last sentence got me a little worried. I thought I was about to get beaten up or worse, but thankfully, all that was to be had was more gestapo-style talk. More intimidation. "Stand up straight! Don't lean! Put your foot down!"

What was worse was the fact they kept telling me to "confess" what I'd done. The promises of letting me off if I'd just apologise. "Apologise for what? I didn't say anything!" I kept retorting. They just kept calling me a liar, kept trying to scare me. No less than four different cops walked in and out of that room during the course of the "investigation", which was more akin to something you'd see in film noire.

"And what is the nature of your relationship with the girl who you walked out of the club with? Is it friendship? Love? Sexual?"
"She's my friend."
I wondered why he didn't bother to ask about the three other friends with me, or the other people who had been coming out the club at the same time. I was also not severly inclined to tell him that his question was of a personal and private nature and that he should shove it. I chose to remain silent and diplomatic, instead.

They made attempts to provoke me into anger. Comments about how youth these days were liars, good for nothing. I have no idea how many times they accused me of lying, then sarcastically said "Well, then, WE must be lying".

My heart was racing. I didn't know if the Lieutenant would make good on his blanket threats. Luckily, I have a very good poker face, and I managed to stay calm and collected, sharp of mind, and I made sure I read the statement they wrote down to be sure they didn't sneak anything in. I maintained that I was willing to undergo medical testing to prove I was sobre, and not under the influence of anything.

A friend of mine eventaully arranged bail, but not before another cop had come in, been told the story, asked me if I had said what I'd said, and upon hearing my selfsame answer, asked me why I wouldn't stop lying. The feeling of "guilty until proven innocent" was more than palpable...I was practically choking on it.
So there you have it. In less than 28 hours, I have to report back to the police station to see what happens. I'm very stressed out, but despite everything, I will not cop a plea. I have done nothing wrong, I am completely innocent of these claims (I don't even know if they're charges yet), and I did not insult anyone, neither the police, nor ANYONE's faith or ANY religion.
I'm told this sort of charge is punishable by jailing. I don't know how true it is, but I am quite afraid that this might happen. I am determined not to admit doing something I did not do for the sake of my freedom, but I don't know how well my courage and principles will hold out if I truly do face a run in prison.
And there you have it. My run-in with the law in Jordan. Hopefully, I'll be able to update this in a few days to tell you what's happening, and say that it was all a big misunderstanding, and that I was being overly sensational. I hope.

30 January 2006

James Blunt: The most depressing music you'll ever hear.

It's funny how much music you listen to and like in your life. What's funnier is the fact that you seldom take the time of day to actually hear what's being said. Case in point: James Blunt. My ex is a huge fan of his, and I think it was she who introduced me to the guy... it was romantic music to listen to, nothing more. But then, at some point, I started listening to the actual lyrics, and what I discovered what depressing themes the bloke sings about. Consider for example the song Beautiful. He goes on about seeing a beautiful woman in public, how she smiled at him, and how they "shared a moment that will last till the end". And the crux of the song? "And I don't know what to do, cuz I'll never be with you."

Now, am I just being a soppy bastard, or does that not bespeak a metaphor about lost love? The next song is "Goodbye my lover": A massive ode to a lost love, about saying goodbye to the person you love. And for all those who have loved and lost, there's a certain ring to that. (Lyrics at:http://display.lyrics.astraweb.com:2000/display.cgi?james_blunt..back_to_bedlam..goodbye_my_lover)

And the theme goes on: Cry, Tears and Rain, High, Out of My Mind..... why is this guy so depressed? Or is it just a commercial ploy? Expanding on the theme a bit more, why are all these soppy (yet admittedly beautiful) soft-genre romantic songs popping up? James Blunt, Damien Rice, Katie Melua, Norah Jones...the list goes on. Still, James is the king of depression. But it all begs the question: why the obsession with hurt and pain?

Do we, as humans, truly define our existance through pain (as Agent Smith in the Matrix said)? Or do we just like to be reminded alternately of what love and pain are, depending on which situation we're experiencing? Are we all emotion junkies?

And the questions await an answer....in the interim, I shall be listening to some depressing music.

27 January 2006

Reflections from the edge of madness

So here I am once again.
I walk a precipice of a different sort.
I am free, at last.
I cry tears of joy mixed with pain,
Yet I cannot tell which drop is bitter
And which is sweet.
I am the Free Man, and my sins are legion,
But I remain free, no matter what wrongs I have committed.
The call from beyond the borders of light is potent,
Virulent poison that calls me forth into the darkness.
I try to resist the urge to leap headfirst to certain death,
Yet the call is too strong to ignore.
The voice is sweet as honey, temptation
Given form.
Immaculate in dimensions,
Its eyes stare into my soul.
They see me for what I am
As no mortal eyes have ever beheld,
And call me forward, daring me to come to them again.
She is a nymph, temptation incarnate,
The promise of all I desire.
Yet I know that the promises cannot be true.
They are illusions, mere shadows in my dreams,
That shall vanish as smoke through my fingers.
I cannot hold on to water,
Nor can I embrace the air.
Yet somehow I believe that these ethereal dreams are within reach.
Desire is not a facet of logic,
But a creature all its own,
Spawned by chaos and the human soul.
My path is strewn with pebbles, and one false step threatens to o'erwhelm me,
To bring me down.
I fear not the darkness, for in it is a perverse warmth,
Though I know that in the end it shall kill me.
Embrace me, sweet death,
Enfold me in your arms.
I no longer wish to walk this thin line every day.
Whisper into my ear, and promise me lies.
For from these lies, I draw comfort.
I find meaning for all that I am.
And all that I shall ever be.
One more step, let all follow me
And come to dust.

23 January 2006

The culture of motoring stupidity

So here I am, driving back from my second job at midnight, and as I'm going through Abdallah Ghosheh street, I see a sight that stops my heart: A bottle neck...cars parked on both sides of the road, flashers operating in a symphony of blinking lights, and idiots running across the street, oblivious of the traffic moving at a snail's pace. There had been a traffic accident, a while earlier, as I guessed by the fact that the cops were there, and a car was being removed by a tow truck.

So why, oh fucking WHY, were people double parked across two lanes just to look? Why was the only clear lane slowed to a trickle so that people could look at something that they didn't have a hope of seeing (Whatever happened, had happened on the road under the bridge)?

Why do we have this stupid, stupid habit, this disgusting obsession, this horrific fetish for looking at accidents? And no, it's NOT because people here are helpful. That's just crap. People don't pull over to offer help...it's usually the first car or two that do that. Everyone else is just there to watch.

Why this bloodlust? What does this accomplish besides fucking up everyone else's day by slowing traffic through which an ambulance might be en route to save people's lives? Unless I'm mistaken, the average first aid kit that most cars in this country do NOT carry is not quite up to scratch compared to an ambulance. Potentially, lives could be lost due to this stupidity...in fact, I don't doubt they have been and are.

So for the love of whatever things you hold dear, people, the next time you see a traffic accident, either call the cops, see if you can help (if you're first on the scene), or just drive the fuck on ! You want pictures of wrecked cars? Get them off the internet. Pictures of mutilated bodies? No shortage of that either. But don't put more lives at risk to satisfy your curiousity. Next time, it could be you or someone you love who's jeapourdised by this habit.

22 January 2006

Denial, revisited.

It's a great song by the Offspring. But it's also a theme I've been thinking about ever since I came back to Jordan, ever since I had to write a theatre piece about it.

What is denial? Who says you're in denial? Who gets to judge? What adds fuel to the fire is that I'm the sort of person who believes that nothing is impossible. It's a philosophy that's served me well in my life: here I am, doing things few people would have ever thought possible, experiencing things I'd never imagined.

And back to the denial itself? Is there really a clear cut case of black and white in life? Ever? or is everything all about shades of grey, moral ambiguity, and uncertainty?

We experience denial because we are afraid. We're afraid to face a situation that will ruin the beauty of our ignorance, even though we sometimes do not realise this. We fear that we shall forever lose that beauty of not knowing...that precious illusion that gives us the most important thing in the universe: Hope.

There's a latin saying, which I'll have to look up sometime...it goes: Whilst I breathe, I hope. I'm going to rephrase it as Whilst I deny, I hope. After all, sicne denial is buolt on what one doesn't know, who's to say we're wrong?
Two households, both alike in dignity,
In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.
Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, prologue

Adaptation will be the topic handled today, children, specifically the adaptation of plays/stories. Well, as luck would have it, I'm sort of teaching drama to kids these days, and something got me thinking the other day as I was telling them the story of Romeo and Juliet: This story would work REALLY well in Jordan. no, think about it: Two warring factions (clans, tribes, families with grudges), a boy from a rival family sneaks into a wedding, meets the girl, falls in love with her, they get married in secret, their love can never be...the grudge (tha2r) gets worse as people keep getting killed...it works!

I'd like to say at this point that I'm not necessarily in favour of adapting/modernising plays in general. As I mentioned to Tololy on her Oresteia entry, one of the things that drives me insane is pretentious directors trying to put "current" elements into plays by hammering a square peg into a circular hole. Julius Caesar CANNOT be made into a commentary on the invasion of Iraq, neither can the RSC's version of Hecuba. Also, starting a play about the Baader-Meinhof Gang with a speech that seems taken from a reactionary reply to the so-called War on Terror is NOT clever. It's obvious and lacks imagination.

There's also the ethical question of whether or not someone SHOULD adapt a classic. of course, a lot of people think they can improve on the original...which in some cases, is not too difficult...a cut or two here and there in the text are almost expected. But where is the line crossed? When one updates the references? Is that even ethical? Can you do that outside of the context of a translated play?

Hmmmm.....I wonder. And ponder. Anyway, I'm supposed to do an Arabic version adaptation of King LEar in the summer. Guess that'll be an experience.

20 January 2006

Sic transit gloria mundi (Thus passes the glory of the world)

Tololy recently posted about the pressure on girls fresh out of university to get married. Well, I think it's an absolute shame that society has such dictates. Why is a person not a person unless they're married? Stupid! I wasn't actually intending to post about this, until my mum came back from having her hair done, and broke my back with the proverbial straw: Her hairdresser asked her "Isn't it about time your son got married?"

About time? Are you taking the piss? I'm 22 years old, never been in a serious relationship, been out of higher education a shorter time than it takes for a foetus to gestate, and working five jobs on top of that. I'm just now gaining some independance, making my own money, and saving up enough to do the things I've always wanted to do. I'm meeting all sorts of interesting people, developing as a person, learning new things every day, and being damn successful in what I do, and I'm somehow supposed to put all this on hold and worry about getting into a lifetime commitment? Sod off!

Now don't get me wrong. I'm not against marriage at all. On the contrary. If anything, I think marriage is taken too lightly. If and when I get married, it'll be to someone I love at the very least, and will come of my own volition, certainly not because someone tells me it's about time I did it! Look at my cousins: In their thirties, and one of them JUST got engaged. That's more like it! You've done well, boys! But you should see the crap the other one gets at family gatherings! "Eimta ra7 nifra7 feek?" (When shall we rejoice [at your matrimony]?)

Now, I fail to see why he, or I for that matter, should give one toss about the rejoicing of our family members. They can rejoice when we're bloody good and ready! DOn't they have kids of their own who are married? And on another note, I DON'T want to see pictures of your grandchildren. I know you love them, but they're right in front of me. I can see them. I don't need photographic evidence to prove they exist.

So far, the family's been pretty lenient with me. My aunts on both sides have not asked me (well, not more than once or twice in recorded memory) whether or not I'm in a relationship or intend to get married. My parents haven't asked me about whether or not I'm in a relationship, even though my mum has shown immense insight at times. Sometimes, they make inquiries, but not in an intrusive manner.

Why does Jordanian society have this negative view of people who believe that an individual's right to make personal choices belongs to said individual? If a relative of mine I hardly know from Adam thinks it's suddenly their duty to ask me about when I'm going to get married, am I not justified in telling them it'll be when I'm ready to? If I haven't brought that subject up, it's because I don't value their opinion, or I don't want to talk about my personal life with them. I also DO NOT want their unsolicited advice. Or their "3o2bal 3indak" (May you be next) at weddings. Just let my private life be that: Private!

Thus endeth today's rant.

17 January 2006

The daily digest: Thoughts on Elitism, English, and the Welfare State.

A recent argument flared up between me and a friend of mine while we were having dinner the other day. She said that I'm too much of an elitist. This was brought up by the fact that I correct people's English. Often. Very often. Which, I must admit, is damn annoying.

But that's exactly why I don't do this with everyone, only specific people. Case in point: Three of my friends, including the one who accused me of elitism. But why them, you ask, faithful reader? Well, my aforementioned friend is an English/Italian major, so is another person who was present and frequently corrected (the latter works as a translator). I'll get to the third person in a minute.

So, these two are supposed to speak good English. In fact, one of them has a job that depends on it. And both of them often ask me to edit their writing, I'd guess on average five times a week. Why, then, is it so surprising that I should correct their English outside of a professional context? What's the difference between the English that's part of their degree/profession, and the English they speak (Slang and colloquialisms notwithstanding)? Would they be happy to go on making mistakes when they should, and can, know better?

The third individual makes some pronuciation mistakes. But he spent four years in England, studying first for a BA, then his MA. Yet he makes mistakes like pronouncing Onion On-yon (as opposed to un-yen). Ok, so in his case, perhaps I was a bit harsh to correct that...but it brings me on to my next point:

The accusation of elitism developed into an argument about whether or not speaking English with a particular accent is elitist. In essence, she was saying that speaking with an Arabic accent is a good thing, that it's a choice, and shows character. Since we're Arabs, we should we try to speak with an English (British) accent?

Well, that argument is all well and good, but it's not logical; people seldom choose to have the Arabic accent or any other when they speak, it's just how they're taught to speak English. Pronounciation errors is what they are, not some romantic, nationalistic gesture that's meant to evoke the declining Arab identity in a society seemingly overwhelmed by "western" influences.

I, personally, make it a matter of honour to speak English with an English accent. Why? Because I like to show native speakers that even though I'm speaking a second language, I can still do it as well as the best of them.

I guess it goes back to my first days in England; it was a knee-jerk reaction to the way some people I met viewed Arabs (not that the arabs there were doing much to dispel the negaitve imagery); it was disgusting how many viewed all things Arab as backward and inferior. It was from then that I decided to be the best I could be to prove a point.

But who cares what other people think? Well, considering the overall view of arabs around the world these days, a bit of aptitude isn't a bad idea. Still, I do need to chill out a bit, I guess. What does everyone out in Blogland think?

13 January 2006

Procrastination! What a wonderful word. Just say it. Roll it around on your tongue! The very speaking of the word is indicative of what it is: delaying the doing of action out of free will/lack of will to do it.

I procrastinate. A lot. Especially these past couple of days. Case in point: I have to summarise and translate some research I did about shadow puppet theatre. Have I done that? Have I BALLS! Also, I'm supposed to proof-read, edit, and prep about twenty pages' worth of script for my new part-time job (I'm now dubbing an Arabic series into English, playing the main character in the first two hours).

But I don't do it. I take breaks every ten minutes, and can't be asked to go back and do anything. It's like being back at school. Funny thing is, I used to complain that when I'd start working, it would be different, because then I'd be getting paid for my work. Well, true enough about the pay, not so much about the motivation.

For some reason, nobody I've spoken to today has been capable of doing any work. I've got two friends trying to study for their university finals. I say trying because they, also, can't be asked to do any useful work. They were also procrastinating, wasting time online.

So why do we do it? Do we feel that we have enough time to do things later? But I know I'll probably be absolutely fucked for time in the next few days (What else can I expect working five jobs?!?!?)

Is the cause a lack of willpower? What is willpower, anyway? What's the physiological explanation behind it? Is it only the weak-willed who procrastinate? Is it mere boredom, or some sort of escape mechanism that humans develop, a form of escapism that distracts us from the rigours and unpleasantness of life?

Good questions all. But I feel as though this whole tirade of philosophical introspection exists for a single purpose: Stopping me doing all the things I need to do. I hope these words will help someone consider why they're procrastinating next time they do it. If not, well....at least they've got me thinking a bit. Suddenly, work doesn't seem so frightening.

11 January 2006


Oh, how I have felt your sweet tapping in the back of my head
Sometimes, you are graceful, walking on tiptoes, silent
Others, you strike hard, like a hammer of the gods.
Always, you draw me, fill me with fear
That I shall no longer be the person I am in the eyes of someone else.
Why do I fear that they shall change?
Why do I fear that I will be replaced?
Fears unfounded plague my mind, scorpions that poison my soul.
I see thee still. I hear thy voice.
At times silken, at times booming, always with the same message of fear.
"Beware, my lord, of jealousy"
Advice to be heeded.
"It is the green-eyed monster that doth mock the meat it feeds on"
Oh, Iago! Truer words were never spoken.
Admonish those who speak of jealousy,
Ignore those who speak of fear;
For you are your own worst enemy.
It is you who listens to the threats, you who believes what others think.
You have the power to ignore the signs.
You have the power to make their words affect you.
For what you believe, you make real.
Give not your inner demons flesh,
Let them not manifest into the world.

10 January 2006

"Nothing lasts forever.
Everything dies.
The Earth itself is eaten away by time."

Ok, I'm not even sure I've got the quote right, but I think that's the rough version. It's from the Hellenic legend of Orpheus (or-fee-yus) and Euridice (yoo-ri-di-see), excuse my spelling to blazes.

When Orpheus, the hero whose musical skills could move mountains and pacify storms (like he did with Jason and the Argonauts on the quest for the Golden Fleece), loses his love (Euridice), he gets very depressed, and decides to reclaim her from the very pits of the Underworld. because he's such a bad-ass musician, he manages to play tunes that soothe Cerberus (the three-headed puppy guarding the gates of hell) and coerce Charon (the Ferryman) to give him a free ride across the river Styx. He stands before the throne of Hades, and plays music so sweet, that the foundations of the earth are moved by it, but Hades merely laughs at him.

So Orpheus plays again.

But this time, he plays to Persephone, goddess of the spring, wife of Hades. Good thing, too, because she's so moved by his music, into which he pours his sadness, his love, and all that he is, that SHE appeals to Hades to release Euridice. And Hades, the big bad boy of the Realm of the Dead, agrees.

But being a Greek God comes with a few fringe benefits, which meant that Hades got to set a condition: Orpheus could have Euridice back, provided he did not look behind him to see if she was following while they were still in the underworld. Now, normally, that shouldn't be a problem, right? Well, it wouldn't have been, but the steps of the dead make no sound, and so Orpheus was forced to walk, unsure of whether the woman he had done the impossible to save was following him, until he couldn't help it any more, and looked back.

And lost Euridice for the second and final time.

Understandably, he went into deep depression, and refused to play beautiful music again, until he was murdered by a group of angry women....can't remember why exactly.

So, the moral of the story? I'm not sure. But the quote at the beginning is from Persephone telling Orpheus that he should give up on his quest, and accept that death is the end of all. I guess that quote has stuck with me for so many years because it was the first time I thought about mortality and that nothing lasts forever.

If any of you are familiar with the works of Tom Stoppard, check out a play called Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. It's an ingenious work in and of itself, but one particular bit sticks out: the two characters are philosophising, and they wonder why nobody remembers the moment they learned about death. I mean, it's a pretty traumatic experience. You'd expect that to be imprinted on your psyche.

Well, that proves Stoppard wrong.

But anyway. So, the world is not infinite; in fact, nothing is. The universe itself will one day collapse into nothing. Weird concept, nothingness. That's why people like to believe in an afterlife, I guess. That's why I like to believe in it, anyway.

So if nothing lasts forever, and "all we are is dust in the wind", what's the point to it all? As far as pearls of wisdom go, I believe this to be the true essence of happiness:

Enjoy life. Enjoy every last moment. Take the time to appreciate things. Remember the happy moments, and think back on them often. They should stay with you forever. Contentment is a great thing, so worry not about what might have been, be happy about what was. No recrimations, no regrets. After all, it is this fleeting nature of the world that makes it all so special. The beauty of a kiss, the feel of a loved one's hand in a moment of anguish, the look in someone's eye...the list goes on.

Just imagine if we were meant to last all eternity; you'd be so sick of life, you'd give anything to end it. There's a certain providence in the fall of a sparrow (Hamlet, Shakespeare's attempt at Haiku), and it's that briefness of life that makes everything so beautiful. Sure, it feels as though the world has ended when someone you love has been lost to you, and you'd do anything to get them back. But even orpheus, who gives me hope by how close he got, was incapable of changing the way things must be.

All shall one day come to dust, so enjoy that which you have.