Arts

Encounter

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Stupidity and Genius enter a coffee shop. Genius takes a moment to take in the different smells and noises, and to let all types of observable information sink in. Stupidity, on the other hand, jumps right into the middle of the coffee shop, winks at Halima, the waitress, and roars, “What up, biaaaaatch!” to everybody and to no one in particular at the same time.

Everybody in the coffee shop notices the frivolity of Stupidity without paying the slightest attention to Genius. Unobserved, Genius sits down and waits for Halima to notice him and take his order. In the meantime, Stupidity makes himself comfortable and yells at the guy behind the counter, “where’s my brew, dude?! Arrogance will be here at any moment, and I’d hate to leave with her before I get to enjoy my coffee.”

Two ladies enter. With a step ahead of her companion, the lady in flashy clothes throws a confused look at the place as if looking for someone in particular. Stupidity notices them. “Hey, hotties!” He screeches. “Oh, hey Stupidity! Thank God you’re still here. I was afraid you’d have already left.” She says at the top of her voice as she catwalks towards him. “Come on, Arrogance! You know you and I are meant for each other. I just can’t leave, or live, without you!” He points out. “Oh! I see Genius has taught you some of his stupid puns.” She remarks with a cringe. “Naaah, I just made that up. Genius and I haven’t really talked much lately. He’s over there, by the way.” “Argg! Gosh, I hate his guts! Can you believe he told me to move my car from the super market’s parking lot just because it had a sign of a disabled person? He said no one should park there except for disabled people. He behaved as if he owned the place! What a pain in the ass!” “Oh well, I guess we know him very well. He’ll never change. He thinks he’s smarter than everybody else, and that we owe him stuff. That’s why I could never befriend him. He doesn’t know to enjoy life! He’ll never be as cool as we are”

The other girl shrinks at the remark. Then, as if she needed to gather some courage, objects, “Ummm sorry, but I think he’s got a point.” Astonished, Stupidity looks at her then turns towards Arrogance, “I see you’ve got company. Who’s your friend?” He asks. “Oh, right! Please meet Common Sense. She’s an old friend from elementary school. I just bumped into her and I thought we could have a cup of coffee with you.” She answers as she motions to Halima to come. “Common Sense. Huh?! I like compound names. My favorite is ‘ass-hole!’ HAHA! HAHA! HAHA!” He continued his frantic laugh as he stood up and made his way through the tables and towards Genius. “Did you hear that, Genius? Did you hear my grand joke?”

Without taking his eyes off the morning paper, and with a tone close to how a bored dead man would sound, Genius answers, “Ah yeah, but technically ‘asshole’ is one word. And honestly, I haven’t known many people who have it as an OFFICIAL name.” And with a fainted voice adds, “But I can think of someone who deserves to have it.” “What was that?” Stupidity asks as he leans nearer. “Uh, nothing. I said have a great day, Stupidity!” Genius replies with a fake smile gently pushing Stupidity away and making space for himself to stand up. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I’d like to get going.” He adds with the same fake smile.

In his way out, Genius takes a second to throw a look at the two ladies and salutes them with a gesture. Common Sense smiles and waves back, while Arrogance turns her head away in neglect, and keeps herself busy running her hand over her silky hair and puffing her cigarette’s smoke regardless of the complaints of the people in the next table. Common Sense stands up and excuses herself, too. Feeling that Common Sense was not enjoying her company, Arrogance looks at her in disgust, puffs her cigarette towards her and Common Sense turns her face and motions with her hand as if to stop the smoke that is invading her space. “I think you should quit.” She finally manages to suggest with a smile. “I think you should shut the fuck up!” Arrogance snarls. “You and Genius are the scum of society. Haven’t you realized how much trouble you have caused to everybody? Right people?” Everybody turns their faces away! Shocked, Common Sense finally takes a step away from Arrogance. She still bids her and Stupidity farewell in a hurry, and departs.

“I think she’s nice.” Stupidity declares. “Arrogance looks down at him with the same disgusted look she just offered Common Sense. “ I told you you were not supposed to think.” She answers in wrath. “Sorry dear, I just…” “You’re just too stupid to follow simple instructions, Stupidity!” She interrupts him. “Now hand me my bag and let’s follow them. I know they’ll go together, and we can’t allow them to stay together for long. They’ll definitely be up to something against us and we can’t allow it to happen.” She orders. “But I thought this was Nosiness’ business!” He protested. “CRACK!” Everyone in the coffee shop turns to the source of the sound. Stupidity holds his left cheek and moans in pain! “Why did you slap me, Arrogance?” He struggles to ask. “Because I wanted to, Stupidity. It’s not like you’d understand anywyas, so just deal with it!” She yelled and left.

Halima, with a grin as big as the door that saw Arrogance leave, comes with the addition to Stupidity. “Sir, my shift will end in a few minutes. Will you please pay me, now?” She asks without even trying to hide her amusement. “Oh, sure.” He grins back. “I like it when you smile at me.” He says. “And oh, nice boob job! Who’s your surgeon?” Halima rolls her eyes in frustration, turns away, raises her hands and announces; “Stupidity is alive and kicking, ladies and gentlemen!”

Why Is Banning “Much Loved” The Best Thing Ayouch Could Have Hoped For?

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Amidst heated debate, the ministry of communication has decided to stand on the side of the critics of “Much Loved” and ban the screening of the movie in Moroccan theaters. Ayouch said he was “shocked” to receive the news, but he should probably be happy as the ministry did him a huge favor.

Apparently, universally acknowledged truths exceed a man’s want for a wife to a want for anything that is banned. Human history is rich in examples that illustrate this claim. For instance, the prohibition of alcohol in the U.S. during the 1920’s did the country more harm than good. On the other hand, legalizing Marijuana in the Netherlands has been proved to be a healthier choice.

Therefore, banning the screening of “Much Loved” is the most powerful and effective advertising campaign Ayouch could have dreamt of. This ban will certainly generate unprecedented interest in the movie and widen the circle of debate to larger scales. It will also make people even more excited to watch “the movie that scared the ministry!” especially that the ban isn’t based on solid grounds and many people think it was just a response to the public outroar.

Furthermore, it is inevitable that people will find ways to watch the movie just the way they managed to watch banned movies and read censored books before. The highly-wired world we live in, and the accessibility to different media outlets make it really challenging for governments to conceal information, unless North Korea is a role model that we’re looking up to!

Worrying when you put that way, right? But what’s even more worrying is that the ministry decided to ban a movie that they had allowed to be made and filmed in Morocco and with a (mostly) Moroccan team! So, to think that all of these points have gone unnoticed by the ministry leaves much room for interpretation… and WORRY!

Thus, due to this “banertisement,” Ayouch has now become the most famous movie director in Morocco. The ministry has now given him something to brag about and present himself in the image of the liberating hero of Moroccan cinema. In fact, many Moroccans with libertarian mindsets think of him as a hero who should be celebrated. To these people’s joy, Ayouch’s film was invited to premiere at the acclaimed Cannes festival in France. This event didn’t go unnoticed as many of the movie’s supporters interpreted it as a triumph of art and freedom of speech over oppression.

So, Ayouch has now become a renowned director at an international level thanks to a) his gift as a director, and b) the ministry’s gift of baning his movie.

In short, if the ministry is afraid the movie would give a bad image about Moroccans, the ban isn’t going to help alter that image, either. So, instead of thinking of Morocco as a country with many prostitutes, foreigners would now think of Morocco as an oppressive country that doesn’t tolerate freedom of speech and arts. sounds better now? Naah, it’s a lost war!

Ranting About the Rants About “Much Loved”

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Even though I have been trying to keep my mouth shut on the topic, there was a time when I felt a need to have my say on Nabil Ayouch’s “Much Loved.” So, although I know that this post will probably get me more hatred and cynicism than respect and empathy, I just can’t resist the urge to voice my opinion on this matter.

If there’s anything my father taught me as a kid that I could never forget, it was the fact that we can’t judge a book by its cover. Now, what can be said about books can also be transferred to other areas where many people find it comforting to spit out their judgments before they even make informed opinions about those matters. Ask any university professor about the usefulness of making judgments and coming up with conclusions without carrying out any type of research, and you’d probably be asked to review your primary school materials!

With this in mind, I just can’t figure out why so many people are angry because of “Much Loved.” I find it very appalling that people from different walks of life are jumping to conclusions about a movie they haven’t even watched! Making judgments based on leaked out excerpts is the same as reading a few passages from a book and coming up with conclusions and judgments about the book and its writer. Just unbelievable!

In general terms, bashers of Nabil Ayouch’s movie base their opinions on many assumptions, the most recurrent of which are as follows:

  • The movie gives a bad image of Moroccan women
  • The movie encourages sex tourism
  • Nabil Ayouch is supporting and is supported by a foreigner agenda
  • The movie is a threat to our identity and religion
  • We should keep our problems to ourselves
  • etc.

None of these reasons are valid. If we’d find it odd that a movie that addresses education isn’t filmed within the confinements of educational settings, then why would we find it insulting that a movie about prostitution is filmed in casinos and whorehouses? The problem here is that most Moroccans are used to discourses where “la langue de bois” reigns. Thus, most people were shocked to see a film using the language that many Moroccans use on a daily basis. Oh, the irony!

Furthermore, what most critics fail to understand is that the movie is not representative of EVERY single Moroccan woman. The movie deals with prostitution and sex tourism, and it has, thus, limited itself to that particular context. However, people seem to forget that a movie, just like a novel, should be seen under the light of its context.

Taking these points into account, I don’t seem to agree with people who claim that the movie encourages sex tourism. It’s actually quite the opposite. “Much Loved” could be an eye-opener and a call for action so that we put an end to this phenomenon. Sweeping our problems under the rug and turning a blind eye doesn’t exempt us from our role in addressing these controversial issues.

As for those who claim that the movie represents a real threat to our religion and identity, I can’t but think that their identities and religious beliefs are weak already. If a movie succeeds to alter one’s beliefs, then the affected person didn’t really have any belief in the first place. Therefore, one has to be either ignorant or hypocritical to pretend that this can be regarded as an argument against the movie. Moreover, times change and it’s difficult for some people to embrace that change. For instance, in the recent past, men couldn’t accept the idea of women working outside. They saw that as a challenge to their status and presented arguments such as “a woman’s place is inside her house,” while others went to greater lengths by claiming that working women is the sign of the nearness of Doomsday! I think it’s all about NOVELTY. New things scare us, but shouldn’t we have learned from the past?

Finally, playing the “foreigner agenda” card has always bugged me. Most of us try to shift responsibility by putting the blame on other people and circumstances. Many of us justify failures by external factors that might, or might, not be responsible for those failures. On the other hand, very few of us face their problems and try to work them out the way they should.

To cut it short, prostitution, like many other social ills, is rampant in our country, and being in denial won’t do us any good because for a problem to be fixed, it, first, needs to be diagnosed and analyzed. If one has cancer but is in denial, the cancer doesn’t fade away, it just gets stronger and stronger.

PS: I know many will say that the cancer that needs to be eradicated is Ayouch and his likes. (Me included? I hope not! 🙂 )

Café/restaurant Les Artistes, Rabat.

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Les Artistes is a small but beautiful space in Rabat where you can enjoy food, photography and painting at the same time.

Ifrane’s Forest

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Ifrane

Beautiful forest surrounding the beautiful city of Ifrane in the Atlas mountains, Morocco.

I took this picture while taking a family trip. (Oct, 2013)

Book review: “The ABC Murders” by Agatha Christie

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Agatha Christie

Finally, I got the chance to read something by Agatha Christie, the Queen of mystery fiction. “The ABC Murders” is not a fascinating book, but it surely is a good detective story.

We are reading from Captain Arthur Hastings’ narrative. Upon the Captain’s return to England from his ranch in South America, he visits his old friend Hercule Poirot. Poirot is the great Belgian detective who helps the British police solve some of the biggest mysteries they happen to encounter.

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Poirot and his strikingly dull, but faithful, sidekick try to get to the bottom of some mysterious murders committed by a cold-blooded serial killer. The latter is a psychopath who tries to outsmart detective Hercule Poirot by revealing the place where his crimes will be committed.

The plot in the ABC Murders is genuinely sewed. The twists are very complicated, which makes them even more stimulating to the reader. However, unlike the serial killer in this story, I never try to outsmart the author in guessing the identity of the killer because I know my prediction will not be the correct one. Hence the frustration anxious readers might get as they read along.

Nevertheless, if you’re curious enough, you’ll keep perplexing your senses in a try to “help” Poirot and his sidekick, Captain Arthur Hastings to track down the serial killer and solve those complicated cases.

All in all, “The ABC Murders” is a good book, but not the kind of book that leaves you open-mouthed. You know who’s going to “win” even before you start reading, so basically, readers might only be interested  in the plot and its twists rather than the ending, which to me, leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

Book Review: The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

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I know very well that you can’t judge a book from its cover. Nevertheless, the moment I set my eye on The Kite Runner’s cover on one of my favorite bookshop’s  shelves, I decided it was good. The moment I read the synopsis on the back cover, I decided it was great. One hour later, I was telling myself it was one of the best books I’d ever read!

The Kite Runner Book Cover

Amir and Hassan are bond by a friendship that is closer to brotherhood. Hassan and his father are Hazara Shia who work for Amir’s father who is a Sunni Pashtun. Nevertheless, the alleged superiority of Amir’s descent and religious affiliation, and the continuous molestation of Amir’s Sunni Pashtun neighbors never made him give up on Hassan…until the day cowardice betrayed him.

So, Hassan got raped and Amir couldn’t do anything about it, although Hassan suffered his fate just to secure Amir’s glory after he’d won the kite running competition in Kabul. He could’ve given Assef the blue kite and saved himself but he hadn’t wanted to betray Amir who, on the other hand, just hid there and watched his friend, brother and servant get humiliated in the most awful of ways.

Leaving your friend suffer this atrocious humiliation is a coward deed, indeed. However, and since he’s not a naturally bad kid, his indignation and fury get beyond description and what does he do to redeem himself? He plans to kick Hassan and his father, Ali, out of their mansion! Guilt and disgrace are killing him in the inside and he can’t stand looking Hassan in the eye anymore.

When the Russians invade Afghanistan in 1979, Amir and his father sought refuge in the USA. As years passed by, Amir has succeeded in becoming a published writer. He’s now married to a beautiful Afghan girl with a suspicious past but they’re in love and happy as can be.

…But sometimes, it only takes one phone call to change the course of our lives.

Rahim Khan, Amir’s father’s friend, calls Amir from Pakistan and tells him that Hassan was killed by the Taliban along with his wife and that their son, Sohrab, was still alive in Kabul. Rahim Khan then whispers a phrase that shakes Amir’s world and life: “There’s a way to be good again.”

As it turns out, Rahim Khan knows about everything and he’s now providing Amir with a chance for redemption. Nevertheless, Amir is happy and relatively well-off now. Should he opt for his happy American life or go to Kabul and haunt his haunting past in a city controlled by the Taliban wolves?

As mentioned above, Amir wasn’t a bad kid and he hasn’t grown up to be a bad man, either. Therefore, he  seized the opportunity to reconcile himself with his past and undo his mistakes.

Kabul is not a welcoming city, neither are its rulers. However, true Afghans like the driver Farid and Rahim Khan are there to help. Amir sets foot in Kabul with one goal in mind; finding Sohrab. Sadly, Amir learns the boy is sold to entertain one of Taliban’s big guns, whom, it turns out, is no one but Assef, Hassan’s rapist!

After a big quarrel between Amir and Assef, and with very considerable help from Sohrab and Farid (Sohrab is genius with the slingshot and Farid is an amazing driver,) Amir manages to break free from the Taliban. After an even bigger administrative quarrel, Amir succeeds in getting Sohrab out of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Adult Amir and Sohrab

“The Kite Runner” is a feelings stirring phenomenon. I think that you can hate the book, but you I don’t think you can deny it moved you. The reason I used the word phenomenon is because, up to now, there is not a single person I know  read the book and wasn’t moved by the events. Some people liked the book, others loved it, and a few hated it, but they were all moved to different extents and in different ways. Actually, someone complained that she hated the book because it was TOO moving!

The story in “The Kite Runner” is a complicated mixture of overlapping connections. Friendship, brotherhood, bravery, regret, guilt, redemption, racism, in/justice and love are all heavily presented themes. Hosseini makes good use of his storytelling skills to convey images that actually speak to you. The description is startling yet realistic. The thing about “The Kite Runner” is that the film plays on after one or two lines. I know we can imagine while reading other books but the description and the storytelling in this book enjoy a high quality graphics! Also, the events are enchanting in good and bad ways but they’re all deeply moving. If this book doesn’t move you, I don’t know what will.

As far as the characters are concerned, one cannot but remark that each one of them enjoys unforgettable traits. Amir, Hassan, Baba, Ali, Rahim Khan, Sohrab, Assef, The General, Soraya…are quite different people but whose behavior is very relatable. I think one of the most attracting features in this book is that the characters’ traits are not farfetched. You can see relatable examples of their behavior in everyday life.

However, I think that this novel falls short in describing the Taliban. I’m sure they’re bad people but Hosseini’s description was extravagantly grotesque. Hosseini sure hates them, but the way they are portrayed is surreal. Sometimes, I felt I wouldn’t be surprised if the book said the Taliban had fiery eyes and threw flames of fire out of their mouths!

Holding my copy of the book

Finally, I think that, although it might bring you down to tears, “The Kite Runner” remains one of the most enjoyable reads I’ve had. Also, if you’re into writing as I am, then this is the kind of book that when you finish might scream: “This is the book I want to write.”