Thursday, January 26, 2006

Arab videos on Google Video

I've been addicted to Borat lately... the fictional Kazak 'Journalist' played by the same guy that plays Ali G. Which is why I've been using Google Video alot, searching for Borat vids.

After watching all the Borat I could find posted on Google Video, I decided to type in "Arab" in the Video Search box and see what comes up. Here are some samples (paste url into your browser).

Arab dating ad:

Arab boarding a plane:

I must admit this one is quite funny (German Engineering vs. Arab Technology)

How to be recognized as a major terror group:

I don't really find myself offended so much as annoyed that these skits aren't better made.

There were also videos made by Arabs posted, quite a number of Gulf Arabs racing/driving cars insanely.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

On my inability to make small talk

I have never been good at making small talk and casual conversation with random people. Being here in America, moreover, makes me realize that what skills for random banter I do have are very much seeped in Arabic rhetoric, and therefore useless here, as the example below will illustrate.

I had been waiting for the bus this damp morning and there was an older man with a scraggly face, white hair, and a walker waiting at the bus stop with me and muttering weirdly to himself. He finally approached me and the following conversation ensued:

Old man:
"That sonofabitch dropped another 10 inches of rain last night, and they had 12-15 inches of snow up in Snoqualmie"
(note: I could be quoting inaccurate figures here from the ones he provided)

All I could think of saying was "naih'meh min allah" (a blessing from God), but I knew that would sound too weird for an American. After a few milliseconds I said "That's good, I guess", rather lamely.

Old man:
"More rain is supposed to come this week". He also said other rain-related things which I cannot recollect/reproduce now.

Again, an Arab response invoking God popped up in my head which I felt I couldn't use; I reflexively wanted to say "Illi beeji min Allah m'neeh" (whatever comes from God is good). I can't recall what I did say, though, but for sure it was as lame as my first response.

Old man:
"All that water cause a lot of damage. Trees, property". I think he also mentioned damage to cows or cattle, but I don't remember very well.

"Oh wow, I guess it will" I muttered, surprised to hear something I did not expect, and having no clue what else to say in response to that. It didn't occur to me that all the rain and water will cause a lot of damage.

The old man then shuffled off a few feet away and went back to his mutterings.

Friday, January 13, 2006

The cost of the war in Iraq

One of the less discussed issues about the war in Iraq these days is its cost to the US taxpayer. I had been going to the website below to figure this out. It is a running counter and the figure is presumably based on congressional appropriations. The cost so far: $233 billion.

An article in the BBC today, however, quotes a Nobel prize winning economist as having calculated that the eventual cost will be closer to 2 trillion (i.e. two thousand billions). His modality is interesting and seems robust; check the article out.

For all of us Arabs that are thinking: well, they will probably take it out of Iraq's oil exports anyway, here's a sobering fact. The entire sum of Iraq's exports in 2004 is $10 billion (all oil exports, presumably). In that light, and even if Iraq's oil exports say, triple eventually, it would seem that paying for the war out of these exports is an entirely unrealistic proposition, especially as these monies have to pay for reconstructing a destroyed country and infrastructure.

The question remains: why aren't ordinary Americans outraged by this? My guess is that it is either hoarded information that doesn't get to the proverbial ordinary American, or otherwise doesn't really have a lot of "meaning" to him/her in the context of their daily existence and their personal pocketbook.