Sunday, June 8, 2008

Little Women and the City

(editor's note: no spoilers)

Tonight, I watched Sex and the City.

...and I fucking loved it.

The fashion was impractically fabulous, the comments sharp with wit, and the sex uncomfortably hilarious. And yet, it appealed to me. Personally, I'd choose a Corona over a Cosmo, a new pair of Nike kicks over Manolo Blahnik stilettos, and a novel by William Faulkner over Vogue magazine. However, Sex and the City captures different aspects of femininity that make it possible for all women to relate. Actually, it probably does for feminism what Alcott's Little Women did for feminism in 1868. Believe it.

The comparison between SATC and Little Women was first noted to me by Professor Scottie Parrish at U-M. After showing a clip of SATC in class, we debated and discussed the effects the novel and TV show have had on society.

Both insightfully develop the characters of Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte, and Samantha as well as Beth, Meg, Amy, and Jo March. In both, we meet the ambitious intellect, the unoffending mother, the oversexed and unconventional rule breaker, and lastly, the creative and independent protagonist. Both sets of women are beautifully flawed and a cluster of complexities. However, they, as a group, have forced mainstream America to reevaluate their definition of "femininity".

The March sisters represent a diversity of female empowerment. Alcott represented their struggle between domesticity and ambition in a way that's impacted the progress of American women for generations to come. SATC seems to have picked up where Alcott left off. Taking for granted that women have roles outside of domestic duty, it takes us inside the brutally honest sexual anecdotes of four empowered women, without discrediting any one aspect of femininity. Domesticity, ambition, professionalism, child birth, and independence are represented through each set of women.

Both the novel and the film also bring light to a phenomenon that often goes unnoticed: the strong bond and companionship of women, the ability for them to share their stories, talk through their struggles, and expose their true inhibitions.

Activism comes in all forms...through speeches, literature, and as SATC proves, film. Women talk about sex -- sometimes they aren't even emotionally invested. They don't even believe that Mr. Right exists. They attempt to balance their careers with the conventional definition of femininity. Some live for the designer bag, some live for their books, some live for their children, and some live for their independence. The qualities of these four women combined represent and advance different, yet important, aspects of modern femininity.

Editor's note 2: it's ok to disagree. it's just a blog.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

University of Michigan Commencements

On a sunny April 28th morning, 6,500 graduates of the University of Michigan sat in the most beautiful of places, listening to one of the most inspiring men, and reflecting on the most memorable time of their lives.

I, along with my classmates, sat on the field of the only stadium large enough to be called the Big House, listening to the most loved President in recent time, Bill Clinton, deliver an unforgettable commencement speech, at the single most amazing campus in the world.

With 59,000 supporters in the seats, graduation surpassed every expectation I had.

The administration has declared that Commencements will take place at Eastern Michigan University, located 6.5 miles from campus. Students will be shuttled to and from the ceremony. The administration has stated that parking will be better and measures will be taken to give it a "Maize and Blue feel."

Give me a break. Let's not even dive into the logistical nightmare the shuttles will cause. You want to bus thousands of hungover and untimely college students to Ypsilanti in the early morning??

The class of 2008 has every right to be upset at an administration that didn't seem to explore creative options for an on campus alternative to the Big House. Logistically speaking, the administration either knew about the Big House's inability to host Commencements for months, or carelessly overlooked them (which I cannot believe). Regardless of what decision they were bound to make, they should have at least pretended to care what the graduates wanted. A simple survey like THIS could have been sent in an email asking students if they preferred 2 tickets at Crisler Arena or 8 tickets at Eastern's Rynearson Stadium. At least then the University could have said they weighed all options and made a decision that they believed was most appropriate.

To complicate matters, the VP of Student Affairs, Royster Harper, stated in a Michigan Daily article that there is a chance students could overturn the decision and Commencements could be held at Crisler Arena. While I am glad that the administration isn't calling this a done-deal, I am wary. If the administration was seriously considering overturning their decision (which I am not sure they are), why would they send an email stating a decision has already been made, evoking a very aggressive reaction from students? Why would they then allude that the students should wreak havoc in order to get their way? I quote Harper verbatim: "If there was a cry from the folks that are really affected - these current seniors - and it was 80 or 90 percent of them, that would be worth a pause."

Really Harper? 80-90%? Is that a scientific number? And you propose yielding that number how? By adding it to the Michigan Primary on Tuesday? There is no way to prove that "80 or 90 percent" of them want change. However, now you have them organizing on a grass roots level, spamming the hell out of Regents, Administrators, and various University departments, and writing an endless amount of letters to various media outposts bringing negative attention to the U.

I hope for Harper's sake that that the administration is seriously considering overturning their decision and told her to go on record and make that claim. She has given students even more incentive to blow this up. This isn't Proposal 2, Israel, or MSA -- which rile some students up but leave most apathetic. This has struck a cord with Peter who plays video games in South Quad all day just as much as it did with the campus activist who pursues any chance to start a revolution.

This is going to get ugly.

Monday, December 17, 2007

In Rod We Trust

Bill Martin welcomed Rich Rodriquez to the Michigan Family on this notorious day. I must say that my overall feelings in regard to Rich have developed tremendously in the past 24 hours.

My first reaction:
Dammit, that’s not Michigan football. That’s fool’s ball. What do you mean you have a spread hurry-up offense with an option and 5 men lined up to catch the ball? You mean you LIKE it when the quarterback runs?? Have you seen Mallet? He’s as mobile as a log. Bo would turn over in his grave if he saw this style of play. It’s going to be a season of interceptions, fumbles, and mistakes.

After thinking about it:
• He is one of the best coaches in the country.
• He knows how to win.
• He is genuine, passionate, and understands the importance of tradition.
• Yes, it’s risky. I commend Martin for this decision, though. At the end of the day, Martin is a businessman, and successful businessmen take big risks and win big.
• His name has attracted the top recruit in the country, Terrelle Pryor (which could be bad for Mallet).
• He said all the right things during the press conference, and he convinced me. Bill Martin and company knew exactly what people like me were worried about and he hit on every one. He described Rich verbatim as:
  • A man with strong character who truly cares about his players and treats them as family.

  • An innovative coach who would enhance Michigan’s standing at the winningest program in the history of college football.

  • A team player who would be a great University citizen.

When Rich spoke to us, he convinced me in a way that Les Miles never did. I said that Miles reminded me of a car salesman: disingenuous and trying too hard. Rodriquez is genuine and will earn the trust of the Michigan community.

• Yes, we will endure growing pains. We may see a lot of turnovers our first year, but Rodriquez is here to stay and we will grow accustomed to change. Change is not a bad thing, which leads me to my next point:

Tradition is a beautiful thing, and we love it at Michigan. However, if Michigan were content with the status quo then Fielding Yost would have never built our Big House grand enough for the world to admire.

Tradition is not reason enough to keep things the way they are when there is evidence that change could be better. When Canham renovated the Big House in order to hold 107,501, change proved to be appropriate. People will similarly look back and praise Martin for bringing in Rich Rodriquez from West Virginia. Innovation and risk revolutionize the game, and Michigan has always been at the forefront of that.

Fielding Yost was an innovator of college football, creating offenses that literally scored a “Point a Minute”. Rich Rodriguez is the coach who developed the spread option offense. New and exciting change should be welcomed and is possible to maintain alongside a proud and rich tradition.

In Rod We Trust.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Majida: The Voice of Lebanon

So much is lost in translation, but the quiver in her voice, the power of her words, and the passion for the Lebanese people speak for themselves:

How many hearts have to be broken? How many homes have to be ruined? How many Lebanese have to be given worries as their daily bread? How many young men and women have to leave the country before you decide to meet and put an end to this disastrous situation and this horrible division? How can divisions reach the point of having people tell me, “Do not pray at Pierre’s funeral or say a word in Gebran’s commemoration, or you would be speaking up against the others.” Who are the others? Aren’t you all Lebanese? All those martyrs who have died from the southernmost part of the country in massacres perpetrated by Israel to its northernmost part, in the case of our beloved army martyrs, and all those who died for our youth’s sake, … Aren’t they all – truly and honestly – ours? Didn’t they break our hearts? Aren’t they only guilty of being Lebanese?

We no longer meet to pray for the martyrs’ souls, since we now have “their” martyr and “our” martyr. I reject this painful discrimination. I hereby say that it was an honor to sing for Pierre inasmuch as it is an honor to speak about Gebran. If I am accused of being Lebanese, then I am the lucky one. I no longer care who will be offended by these words. Indeed, I know that some people will be offended, but I no longer care about them because, after 30 years of war, we have come to lose hope. I no longer care to bear witness to anyone on this earth, especially not in politics. I only bear witness to the Lord, and our Lord loves peace. He is against violence and He tells me to bear witness to what is right, to the best of our youth and to the sovereignty and freedom of this land, as any self-respecting citizen with some dignity should do. I bear witness to the tormented, martyred Lebanese people who has close brushes with death everyday and barely hangs on to life. I say: enough is enough…

You say you are entrusted with Lebanon’s sovereignty and our safety… [In reality,] you have torn the country into pieces, and you want to replace it with one that is tailor-made for confessions, parties and power obsessions. However, this country is far greater than that. You are responsible for driving wedges among us and dividing us under a single roof. You have scattered us and linked our case with half of the world’s pending issues… Why should we be a card in everyone’s hand? How can you accept to remain divided for 30 years, and then tell the whole world that you are unable to run the country’s affairs? In the end, this may be the ultimate aim. If so, then why are you doing it? You are entrusted with our freedom, our sovereignty and our independence. I am here to say: [You have done] enough… let us live.

In the name of what is right, in the name of the Lord, who you say you love and according to whose will you claim to be acting, let this state remain a state. Whose interest would be served if this nation remains unsheltered and if the state breaks up into countless component parts? I am here to conjure you up in the name of the Lord to make peace. You are so stifling us that there will be no one left to hear you. I am here for Gebran’s sake to tell him: I have come to pay tribute to you, my dear brother and friend. Our hearts will keep on beating as one as long as you are alive within us. Why is that so? Because we remained oblivious to the worth of the perfect man that you were. If no tribute is paid to you today as a King who left us, who deserves such a tribute then? Do those who have slain us deserve it? We shall not give it to them. Dear Gebran, I see your pictures on billboards, and I am ashamed to tell you that your blood will not have been spilled in vain. In the name of the everlasting God, I tell you with total confidence that there will come a day when your blood will bloom only in the three colors of our national flag. This day of freedom and sovereignty will undoubtedly come no matter how long it takes because no one can grow greater than Lebanon… Nor shall Lebanon ever be diminished. All shall perish and Lebanon shall remain, and you shall always be there, O Gebran, along with the great men who have borne witness to its dignity and its special vocation on this Earth.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

The St. Alphonsus Arrows

Some of my favorite memories stem from my time at St. Alphonsus Grade School. Opening its doors in 1846, the school served the German immigrant population that was fleeing Europe and settling in Dearborn, Michigan. Almost 150 years later, St. Alphonsus opened its doors to me, an immigrant fleeing a different part of the globe.

For about 9 years, I attended the Catholic private school, and by the time I left, I had felt very much a part of the parish community there. For the entirety of those 9 years, I attended church regularly at 8:30am on Tuesday where Father Mike preached the Gospel of either Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John -- depending on the theme for his sermon that week. Young children, faculty, and loyal church-goers would congregate for the student's mass. If you were lucky, and chosen amongst your peers, you got to read the Gospel reading for that week in front of the entire church, and I found myself doing that more often than a non-Christian should have been able to. Our favorite songs to sing were "On Eagles Wings" and "Sing a New song", and we often sang them energetically. They were as catchy as most of the pop tunes of the 90s, and I am proud to say I still remember every word. That's not the only thing I remember. I remember the prayers: the Our Father, the Hail Mary, and the Apostles Creed. I remember the Stations of the Cross, and I wonder now, how the elderly church goers persevered through the hours of standing, kneeling, sitting, standing, kneeling, sitting...

I remember when most of my classmates received the "Body" and "Blood" of Christ during Communion. Then there were the few of us who weren't Catholic. More often than not, this group was comprised of Protestants whose parents had swallowed their pride for good schooling. We placed our index fingers in front of our mouth as a gesture implying that we weren't up there for the Bread, but rather a blessing. And Father Mike would gently lay his hand on my head, and he would bless me every week.

Kind nuns like Sister Mary Ann always had a parable to share, and young children flocked the tenderly woman daily. But even at a young age, you knew to steer away from the not-so-pleasant nuns in the convent who had no patience for young children.

I remember Mrs. Pazur who had a heart of gold and made me feel secure. I remember how she told me that she, too, had been teased for her height growing up and that we had a lot in common. I respected Mrs. Pazur and so that made me feel good. When I arrived to St. Als, English was a second language, if one at all. Interestingly, I left as president of my 8th grade class. I remember Ms. Horner's sharp tone and quick tongue. I remember how much I respected her for her discipline and wit. I remember how these women, and many others, took pay cuts because they believed in this school when the city of Dearborn and state of Michigan started to doubt. With that doubt came less money, and with less money, St. Alphonsus became just another charter school. A school that opened its doors in 1846 would become just another historical monument. An aerial view of the church yields one of it's most beautiful attributes; shaped like the Cross, you can easily find the church prior to landing at DTW airport.

People ask me what compelled my Druze father and Muslim mother to send me to a Catholic private school, opting out of the free and Arab saturated elementary schools around the corner. The answer lies a generation removed. My parents left Lebanon with the notion that a good education was a private school education. My grandmothers were widowed in their 20s and raised 3 and 5 children respectively, yet they shelled out the money they didn't have to send their children to private schools. While my family has come a long way, the life of a new immigrant is always a struggle, yet my parents felt they had no choice but to make the same sacrifices their parents made to send them to the best schools. I cannot thank my parents enough for the lessons I learned at St. Als and the community that welcomed me. Had I gone to the Dearborn public schools with other Arab children I would have never been exposed to the cultural differences; I would have never been uncomfortable...and then comfortable again; I would have never read the Bible from cover to cover... enough times to quote scripture in my sleep.

Some of you are probably waiting for me to criticize the idea of religious coercion, the way it was instilled, the politics it alluded to. I can't do that, though. I didn't feel unwelcome at St. Als. As for the times that people didn't understand me, well, it made me stronger to teach them about the rich culture I came from. It made me more passionate about being Arab, and it taught me how to have these conversations in the future. I have nothing but thanks for the teachers, families, and parish I grew to love.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

My Pilgrimage

Below, I have included the email I wrote to my team explaining why I will be out of the office next week. I have officially lost my mind; this is my secular religion:


A simple "Sirene: OOO" in the subject line is not sufficient enough
for why I will be out of the office Mon-Wed next week.

Some of you have Christmas, others have Diwali, some may even
celebrate Darwin's Day. I have one holiday as well, and it falls on
the third Saturday of every November. As with other holidays, there
is a lot of preparation that goes into this day. There are songs that
are sung leading up to this festive day. This may be why you have seen me clapping, jumping, and beaming from ear to ear at my desk with headphones on this past week. I am anxiously awaiting my favorite day of the year where tradition is ingrained in every second and the believers bow to the South part of the city. As with other religions, it brings people together, but also helps you distinguish yourself from the "others."

This Saturday, November 17th, 2007, I will be landing in Detroit at 5
a.m. and driving to Ann Arbor, MI for the game of epic proportions.
Hailed by ESPN as the #1 rivalry of all time, I will be taking a seat
in the Big House, the biggest stadium in the United States, and will
be watching the Michigan Wolverines take on the far inferior team to
the south with the largest crowd watching a football game this season.

During my pilgrimage, I ask that you keep me in your thoughts, and
whether you hail from Stanford, Harvard, UCLA, Northwestern, Penn,
Cal, Columbia, or other fine institutions all around the world, I ask
you to bleed maize n blue with me this Saturday.

I will be back November 26th bearing gifts from the motherland, and I only hope that I can convert you to Wolverine-hood, if only for one day.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Modern Day McCarthyism

There has been a common theme perpetuated across college campuses and on mainstream television lately. "Academics", journalists, and politicians have propagated a new ideology. Similarly to how there are sects within religion (for example: Orthodox Judaism and Reformed, Catholic and Protestant, so on and so forth) there now seems to be "Muslim" and "Islamist." This distinction has also manifested itself into Good Arab v. Bad Arab. What do these pseudo-identities mean and what purpose do they serve?

According to Daniel Pipes, David Horowitz, Bridgette Gabrielle, the '3 ex-terrorists', and others of the sort these distinctions are made to better serve the Arab and Muslim communities. They say things along the lines of: most Muslims are moderate, but some are mean, angry, bad "Islamists." Most Arabs are alright, but watch out for the violent ones.

What's wrong with this people ask. I understand that some people are bewildered by the fact that Arabs and Muslims are offended by these speakers and their messages. Why do organizations on campus turn down offers to cosponsor these events? Don't these communities want to condemn terrorism and separate themselves from it? After talking to some of my friends about the issue and rethinking the WearYellow.WalkOut protest we put together last year, I'll share some thoughts. Keep in mind that this issue deserves extensive detail, but I just want to touch on a few ideas.

1) Imagine this ideology existed elsewhere. For example, when Bill O'Reilly stated that there are "Black people and then there thugs" the progressive community threw a fit, and I stood alongside of them in condemning his remarks. How ridiculous would it be if we congregated on campus to discuss the differences between Timothy McVeigh type of White people and the Jones' next door. Obviously, there are good and bad in every community. Do we need to have 'educational' events about this? No, not unless we have an agenda. What agenda might that be? Glad you asked.

1b) The intent for these events is simple: to instill fear in Americans. These remarks, books, speakers, etc perpetuate stereotypes and promote racial profiling. These events are justified because of the times, similarly to how McCarthyism was back in the day. Governments can easily control the masses with one tool: fear. When people are scared they will do things that they wouldn't normally (i.e. support an unjustified war, accept internment camps, etc).

1c) Now that the average American has been told that there are "two different types", what comes next? Are people supposed to retain that information and just sit on it? No, people act on their fears. A simple Google search will provide evidence in regards to the number of hate crimes committed against Arab Americans each year. These crimes are perpetuated by these lessons of good Arab v. Bad Arab, good Muslim v. Bad Muslim, and the such. How is one supposed to differentiate between these 'good and bad' Arabs and Muslims? How do you go about finding them? You don't. It's a scary tale of guess and check.

2) So, making this distinction between the 'good' and the 'bad' Arabs and Muslims is destructive as I stated above. However, let's take a step back. The distinction that Pipes makes between "Good Arabs and Bad Arabs" begs the question: what defines "bad?" 9/11 shocked Americans and proved to be the worst hit on our own soil. Palestinians feel their own 9/11 every time an Israeli fighter jet fires on a government building. Israel feels 9/11 every time a suicide bomber makes his way to Tel-Aviv. The sad fact is that terrorism does exist in the Middle East, only in a different way than the media would have you believe. Western sponsored state terrorism exists in almost every single Muslim and Arab country. This is where Pipes' simplistic message becomes offensive. Instead of discussing the impact Western colonization has had on the geopolitical and social makeup of the Middle East, Pipes conveniently decides to explain terrorism as a Muslim phenomena, making it a problem for the Muslims to deal with. The fact of the matter is, Daniel Pipes couldn't be farther from the truth. By making terrorism a problem for the Muslims to deal with, Pipes ignores the West's explicit support for undemocratic Middle East regimes and how that has instilled in the Arab world a deep-seeded frustration with the leaders of the West. In addition, no matter how you feel about the creation and existence of the State of Israel, it was, and continues to be, a colonial project, the likes of which haven't been seen since Europe's collective subjugation and devastation of the entire continent of Africa. But I've digressed. When it comes to the definition of "bad," I would assert that what's good to the West is in fact bad to the Middle East. Marines in Beirut: BAD. Sharon in South Lebanon: BAD. Black Hawk in Somalia: BAD. Support of the Shah in Iran: BAD. Support of the Saudi Monarchy: BAD. Gulf Wars 1 & 2: BAD. BAD. BAD BAD BAD. Books upon books have been written about the West's skewed, violent, and internationally illegal interventions throughout the Middle East. To say that the collective Western deconstruction of Middle Eastern society and Western Orientalist (Yes, you should read the book) views of Islam have had no effect on the creation of "radical Muslims" and "bad Arabs" is to demonstrate a lack of common sense. The fact is, the West helped create extremism in the Middle East when it put guns into the region, not books. The West helped create radicalism when it supported regimes that refused to allow religious political parties to participate in government in the 50's and 60's.

Lastly, I want to add a bit of commentary. Who goes to these events? People offended by the remarks or those who love hearing things that they want to believe. From pictures of the Pipes event, I saw a young lady wearing a pink "Happy Naqba" shirt. I must say that I have never been more offended by a student at Michigan and that is not a comment that comes easily. I have been offended plenty. The Naqba translates to 'the catastrophe' and refers to the 1948 exodus or displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians (although there are over 5.5 million to date). Some progressive scholars have compared the Naqba to the Trail of Tears and others have compared it to other horrific events in history. To call the Naqba a sensitive issue is an understatement. It is now observed as a day of remembrance and sorrow. Imagine a community suffering from a cataclysm that haunts them to this day, and another individual essentially celebrating that event. I cannot begin to express my disappointment and disgust. My point is that these events aren't educational. They are used to promote fear, reiterate ignorance, and simplify complex issues.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Classiest program around...

I believe that this Bo speech compliments my post below, and reiterates the spirit that is Michigan. If "inspiration" were an mp3 this would be it:

Friday, October 26, 2007

The win column, the loss column, and the FIGHT column...

Great leaders set great expectations for themselves. Not only do they bear the weight of their own expectations, they often carry their team's with them. The media, the fans, and the commentators come second to only 'the team.' This is important to remember when all that is expected is not met. The standards at Michigan are high, and whether you are captain of the soccer team, project manager of the solar car team, or leading the football team, you strive to meet and exceed them. Those expectations are often rooted in victory, but some things cannot be measured by the win and loss column.

Now, don't get me wrong. The first question my dad asked me every time I came home from a game was, "Did you win?" If the answer was 'no', he would stop and look me in the eye. The second question came after some silence. "Did you try your best?" My answer was always the same and my father's response never altered. "Yes, I tried my best." My father would look up, nod, and say, "At the end of the day, it's not about whether you win or lose. It's about how you practice, how you lead, and how classy your program is. It's about what you left out there." Now, I don't completely agree. It's definitely about winning or losing; if it weren't, then I wouldn't be an alumnus of the University of Michigan. However, I stand by his emphasis on leadership and character. It's not enough to play; it's not even enough to win. It's about leading a team and playing in a dignified manner.

This becomes most difficult when the expectations a leader sets for her/himself are not met. It takes true leadership to keep Fighting, to keep playing, and to win when the ultimate expectation is not possible. We have seen other leaders and programs falter when the car crashes, when the goals weren't scored, or when the kick was blocked. However, at the University of Michigan, we are not afraid to aim as high as possible and then continue to Fight when that expectation is out of reach. That takes character, that takes class, and I am humbled to be surrounded by the great leaders that have continued to Fight regardless of the stakes. Thank you for continuing to drive, thank you for continuing to play the game with such Fire, and thank you for continuing to inspire me.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Batter Up

I was watching college football when a GM commercial came on. If you thought that American car companies couldn't get worse at marketing, wait 'til I tell you about this shit. The theme was 'game changing plays.' Not only does this further the already dull and pointless messaging that companies such as Ford and GM try to sell, they crossed the line with their antics this time around. GM, a DETROIT based company, used the Appalachian State/Michigan game as the example. They chose to show the last field goal attempt that was slow motion. PLEASE explain to me why a FAILING MICHIGAN COMPANY would choose to exploit it's home state as a method to sell shitty cars? As you can see, I am quite agitated by all this. Agitated doesn't begin to explain it actually. I could have walked outside and took a bat to every GM car in the lot. Luckily, I live in California and most people are smart enough to buy foreign cars. Get off me with the patriotism shit. If you are a patriotic American then you should further the idea of capitalism and buy the more affordable, gas efficient, and durable car. You should force them to step up their game and get with the program. I regret the fact I no longer have a Volkswagen.

Anyway, if you, your mother, or GM wants to bash Michigan football, please keep in mind I was the clean-up hitter in the batting line-up and I am anxious to get back into the 'swing' of things; the pun is most definitely intended. If you attempt to bash Lloyd Carr or threaten to burn his picture then I will save you the trouble (and carbon emissions in environment friendly California) and frame it. The last 2 times Michigan started the season 0-2, we went on to win the Big Ten Championship -- 1988 and 1998. May the trend continue and may GM dissolve into nothingness and melt in the Detroit River.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Flavors of Ice Cream

At one of the cafes at work, they serve homemade ice cream (a delightful treat, indeed). Anyway, in addition to the 3 customary flavors, everyday there is a special flavor. While this may seem to be an added bonus, I wish they would get rid of it. I stand over the counter perplexed for minutes at a time in attempting to decide which flavor to choose. Should I stick to the ordinary ice cream or go out on a limb with the specialty? Seems like an easy decision, doesn't it? Well, I would like to think that I pick up on the small things in life, and I have come to the conclusion that choosing the customary flavors guarantees that:
1) The portion size is larger (the cups they give you the ice cream in are so tiny)
2) The potential to add toppings to the ice cream increases. We have an assortment of of these to the left ranging from hot fudge to gummy bears to raisenets. Joy!


I was especially keen on today's specialty flavor! You can just imagine my inability to make a decision promptly. So, as I stood there, I went back in time and thought about the great lessons I have come across in regards to decision making. Last year, I spent a lot of time with a special group of fired up individuals and we had to make a lot of decisions. These are just some of the many great take-a-ways I have:

* To think too long about doing a thing often becomes its undoing (i.e. ice cream will melt).
* If you have waited for ALL the information before making a decision, then you've probably waited too long (Other Googlers have eaten up all the ice cream).
* Decisions can only be made when you have tangible options to choose from. Do not care compare hypothetical options because it's counter-productive and stressful (Limit your options to the ice cream in front of you -- not the choices which you may have tomorrow; tomorrow may never come).
* Take time to deliberate, but when the time for action arrives, stop thinking and go in strong (EAT THAT ICE CREAM WITH NO REGRETS).
* More is lost by indecision than by the wrong decision (2nd best ice cream is still better than none at all).

After recapping those central ideas, I went in strong and will leave you wondering what I chose. I will save you the broader social commentary, but I am sure some of you have already picked up on it. Nonetheless, I would like to think that these lessons in decision-making will stay with me forever -- whether I am choosing between two sugary snacks or contemplating the rest of my life, I believe in the these principles.

PS. Booozah = Ice Cream

LOL, Ohhh Dearborn....

Monday, September 3, 2007

Freedom and Purpose

In middle school you are anxiously awaiting the excitement and independence of high school. Your goal eventually becomes getting into a good college. Once you arrive, you understand the importance of doing well in the classroom, and more importantly, finding your niche outside the classroom. These experiences provide insight on the future -- what do I want to do? Where should I work or attend grad school?

Graduation nears and you find yourself embarking on your new journey. If your new journey is a full-time job, then welcome to adulthood. For once, there is no logical next step. My friend (who pops his collar with Pride) put it well when he said that prior to graduation we are always anticipating what is next. After graduation anticipation is replaced with uncertainty. For this reason, it is essential that we find purpose and set goals. Without goals we start focusing on the things that don't matter; our minds are congested with minuscule paranoias and a consistent feeling of restlessness.

This is partly amusing, and I find that this uncertainty allows me to learn a lot about myself. Having moved this far away, I realize that every option is possible and that every challenge is ready to be conquered. It's just a matter of prioritizing, planning, and kicking ass. It's about finding purpose.

But is every option possible? How much are you willing to compromise? It's interesting that my location within the United States has little to do with freedom. Freedom is an inner ease that allows a person to be confident to explore any and every option. One can feel suffocated in any state or city. With the right frame of mind, one can be as free in Dearborn that they can be in Mountain View, California. The consequences may be different, but the freedom is there -- awaiting for the right amount of confidence to make use of it.

As you can tell, there is a lot behind these statements, but for once, I am not driven to explain. I think it's because I have a lot of figuring out to do myself...

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Ode to Rick's

This past weekend I went to the Giant's game with a few friends and then proceeded to go to a bar in downtown San Francisco called Bar None. The second I walked in, it instantly came rushing back. This bar reminded me of a better place....Rick's American Cafe.

Bon Jovi was blasting, the floor was sticky, beer pong tournaments were taking place in the back, and the place smelled of age old beer...Rick's

There I was, at a bar that smelled and felt like our favorite hang out in Ann Arbor, but it wasn't. I realized this when I got a phone call at 11:02pm my time (2:02am ET) from friends that had just walked out of Rick's -- they said that it wasn't the same without me, that they were planning on going back to my apartment at UT to smoke 'hookah', and that I better have it ready.

I never liked Rick's. It was never about Rick's. The ceiling looks like it fucking drips, the people piss me off, and it smells like ass. I went to Rick's because my friends went to Rick's. I grew to like the music because it made me think of the last time it played and the memories that were made. It was a place for post-meetings and post-games, and was often followed by late nights at my apartment where we discussed everything from Hezbollah to the MCRI to how Jake could finish a case of beers in one sitting.

These pictures are just a few of the hundreds taken at the place that became our second home when graduation was approaching (apologies to those not pictured -- so many to choose from). While facebook may house hundreds of more pictures, the memories are endless and the friendships priceless. Although my time was short with my friends in 08, they definitely played a large role in the memories as well. After all, this is the place where they pointed out "this is why I'm hot", this is where I learned that white girls can indeed dance (well, some of them), and where we said our final goodbye on graduation night.

Bottles were spun, sins were committed, and fun was had.

I'll see you at Rick's soon enough. Same time, same place.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Great ol' U.S. of A

This is an issue I have wanted to write about for a long time, but it becomes increasingly more difficult.

There was a point in my life where I was extremely proud to be an American. Times have changed, though. It's difficult to be an Arab in the United States; contrary to popular belief, it has always been difficult -- not just post 9/11. Nonetheless, the current administration has waged war on "terror" -- an intangible ideology that applies to any country and religion at whatever time they deem appropriate. The countries and people that have suffered the most are ones that hit close to home -- sometimes too close, sometimes it hits the apartment next door.

Unjust and unconstitutional legislation has been passed; innocent Arab-Americans are awaiting charges in jail, and Iraqi's are dying by the hundreds everyday. It is difficult to be a proud American. Many of my friends and family members find themselves juggling their identities in this point in history. A sense of guilt hangs over our heads as the United States has just pledged another $30 billion to Israel over the next 10 years. I also find myself lost in thought when staring at "Support the troops" stickers. I am not sure how people define 'support.' I wish for their safe return home, but I do not support the destruction and occupation. Occupation is never justified.

A cloud of ignorance hangs over this country, and there is little understanding of anything outside the scope of an individual's intermediate life. However, the profusion of international news available on the Internet has made it increasingly difficult for the average American to ignore the rest of the world, a trend that threatens Americans' long, proud history of disregarding anything not about them. This is scaring most Americans, as they realize they are acquiring knowledge regarding other countries then their own.

Facetious, I know. Nonetheless, I want to be proud. I yearn for that sense of community here, but it's hard. I want to be thankful for the prosperity and opportunity without reservation -- without feeling guilty about why I am so fortunate to begin with. My parents worked long and hard, and this country gave them the opportunity to not only survive, but thrive. I think there are some great things to be proud of here. I think that Americans are polite, sweet people. I love softball, fireworks, and bbq on a summer day. I love the great American cities, the top notch education, and capitalism. I hope that the United States finds itself content one day; I hope that the imperialistic nature dies; I hope that Americans strive to understand the world as it is, and not how lobbying groups portray it. I am waiting until I can firmly say, I am PROUD to be an American.

Friday, August 17, 2007

World Cup 2010: South Africa


It's one of the very few words that means the same thing to everyone in the world. It invokes the same emotion and produces the same reactions -- a universal word if you will...

The next World Cup will be held in South Africa in 2010. WHO'S COMING WITH ME?!

So, here's the dillio:
There are a total of 3 million tickets available for the games (there are approximately 6.6 billion people in the world). The odds suck, huh? Well, it gets worse.

a) 1 million tickets go to South Africans and the rest of Africa
Possible Solution: Although I am not African, my uncle lives in Egypt and works for the Arab League. Hmm...
b) 1 million tickets go to sponsors
Possible Solution: I don't think Google has any eggs in that basket. It's okay. MAYBE I will become friends with someone that works/worked at Nike, and just MAYBE they will look into some connections for me. I'm just sayin...
c) The remaining 1 million go to...THE REST OF THE WORLD
Possible Solution: um, sucks.

I will worry about tickets later. Until then, I am going to pretend I'm going and will talk about how amazing it's gonna be. South Africa has got to be one of the more interesting places in the world:

-- In 1948, a White government came to power and enforced a separation of races with its policy called apartheid (I am really not going to go there right now). SA's political history was intriguing enough, but even more-so with the apartheid murderers recently convicted.
-- Not to mention, the country has 11 official languages. I really don't think most Americans can name 11 languages.
-- Sadly, SA also has the second highest number of HIV/AIDS patients in the world; 1 in 7 citizens have HIV/AIDS
-- It will be the first African country to hold the World Cup and that makes me happy :) Hopefully, the World Cup will bring millions of dollars to the country (and hopefully, for once, it will go to the right people).

Assuming I go, the main attraction of my visit will be the World Cup. The thought of watching the top football clubs play before my eyes is unreal. The matches will definitely be entertaining, but so will the most loyal fans in the world. Football fans are, for lack of a better word, crazy. Football has halted Civil Wars, revolutionized civil rights, and given countries hope.

I hope to see you there.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A Project here and there...

I was concerned that post-graduation, I would have a hard time finding projects outside of work that are rewarding. Luckily, I have incredibly inspirational friends, and have found some things to work on that really inspire me. I have listed them below. I urge you to either contribute to them or read about them:

The Olevolos Project
Help some Michigan Alumni (Class of 2007) build an orphanage in Tanzania. These people were in class with you, some of them proudly wore the Block M on the soccer field, and most importantly, they are my friends :) The website looks great and gives a detailed account of what the Project aims to do. This may be one of the most amazing student run organizations to come out of the U.

MED Surplus of Michigan:
A couple guy friends from Michigan started this organization over the summer. It's a non-profit corporation that approaches various healthcare institutions in Michigan with the hopes of receiving donations of excess medical supplies and equipment. The goal is to redistribute these resources to needy healthcare institutions throughout the world. They have chosen Lebanon as the first shipment location :) If you have questions or know of where they can get their hands on more supplies, please contact either George Ghareeb ( or Justin Khoriaty (

Also, I am getting pretty Fired Up about the upcoming football season:

All these people are under the age of 22.

"We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give."

Saturday, August 11, 2007

"Palestine? You mean like, Pakistan?"

I remember when I decided to stop having the endless, frustrating, and unfocused debates about the Arab-Israeli conflict. Ironically, it was at an event called 'Solidarity Day' in the Diag, which was hosted by a pro-Palestinian organization. I had a clear shot of a table that had been set up in the center of the Diag next to our beloved 'M'. It was interesting that the 'M' brought them together, but it seemed like that is where their similarities ended. On one side, members of the pro-Palestinian community, on the other side, many members of the pro-Israel community; only this time, they were separated by a table, not the 20ft apartheid wall in Palestine. Anyway, there they were, shouting and screaming at each other. I approached the table and heard someone say, "It's called the IDF! Israeli DEFENSE Forces. That's the only thing they do: defend Israel!" I was perplexed by his statement, and replied, "That's like saying the Patriot Act is the PATRIOT Act. It's about patriotism, not racism and racial profiling." He looked at me and said, "You're stupid and don't make any sense." With that, I walked away from the public and unfacilitated conversations regarding the issue. Apparently, I was far too "stupid" for this debate.

I have tried to avoid the senseless conversations on facebook and have aimed my energy at dialogue with those that want to listen. I have learned a lot from having these conversations, and I hope to continue to have them. I tend to ignore ridiculous statements made on both sides, but today, I couldn't help but comment. I came across someone's blog and their entry was titled, "Don't Give Up the Golan!"; they claimed that Israel shouldn't give up the Golan Heights because it is "integral to the security of the State of Israel." That was the sum of the argument. I was pissed for a couple reasons: 1) I completely disagree with the logic and as you will see below, have my own opinions about this and other Israeli occupied territories, and 2) I believe that the writer of the blog spent 2 paragraphs making an argument that he thought would go uncontested. I think that a lot of people who blindly support the state of Israel don't realize that there is a valid and considerable alternative way of seeing things. I am not sure they have heard it articulated, and I don't think they are used to people saying, "No. I think you are wrong. I see things this way..."

It is for this reason that I sometimes do voice my opinion. I do not think that I will convince the people who already have their minds made up. I do think, however, that I may show them that another valid argument exists. In the United States, the Palestinian or Arab side is often censored and more often than not, dehumanized and villainized. To many people, I am a human and far from a villain. Maybe my opinion will have someone think twice about an issue that seems very black and white. Maybe not. What do I have to lose? (Now that I think about it, maybe a lot, but eh. My last name sealed it for me. My political career was over before it started.) Anyway, I commented on this individual's blog. I encourage you to read it, and let me know if you want to discuss it some more. This is it:

Sirene said...

I am not sure I understand your logic. Because it is in Israel's best interest to occupy the Golan Heights, then it has a right to do so? Clearly, you realize how destructive this ideology is if every state adopted it, don't you?

I don't think it would make much sense for me to sit here and discuss the legality of the occupation. I would rather defer to UN Security Council Resolution 497 (December 17, 1981), which condemned Israel’s decision to “impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights” as “null and void and without international legal effect.” The acquisition of territory by force goes against the very principles of the UN Charter and international law. But hey, it's just the UN, right? It's interesting how pro-Israelis site the UN as one of their reasons to exist, but disregard this resolution as well as 237, 252, 446, 1559, and the other SIXTY-odd ones they are in violation of.

Recently, Defense Minister Amir Peretz has suggested that Israel begin negotiations with Syria. On May 7, National Security Council Chairmen Ilan Mizrahi said that “Syria’s call for dialogue with Israel is authentic.” This statement was met with some reluctance from the Israeli government.

Well, look at the International Crisis Group’s April 10, 2007 report, particularly the sentence that relates directly to lingering security concerns you have with Syria: “Officials in Damascus provided their clearest indication to date both that they would resume negotiations without any precondition and that the country’s regional posture and relationship with Hamas, Hizbullah and Iran inevitably would change following a peace deal."

Hm, I wonder what Iraq, Lebanon, and Gaza and the West Bank would look like had they taken them up on their offer. This leads to the obvious question, if Israel wants peace for itself then why not promote the peace of the territories surrounding it and give up land that they are unjustly occupying?

Let the comments and replies roll in. I can't see myself replying because I know what this is going to be become: "Ya, but Oslo...", "Don't forget that in '67...", "But during the Ottoman Empire they.." And so on and so forth...My entry was trying to shed light on the alternative side. I am not interested in debating the Arab-Israeli conflict here.


I know I haven't convinced most people of anything, but at least they know that their arguments can and will be contested.

Also, I know that somehow I pissed off members from both communities with this post. Never fails. What else is new?

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

'The Michigan Difference'

Last week, someone at work asked me what I did at the University of Michigan. She wanted to know if I joined any 'clubs.'


Where to begin...? In the instant she asked me, I had flashbacks of meetings at the Union, in MSA Chambers, and every square inch of campus. I thought of the Diag, the protests, the campus politics, the Daily (ohhhh, the Daily :), the friction, the experiences, the friendships, the elections, the administration, those that thought they were much more important than they were, those that thought I was much more important than I was, Rick's!, the Bell Tower, the Big House, the ASA office, the Dopp 'Campus Day' -- the memories are endless.

Summarizing my Michigan experience is close to impossible. I have no idea how I will ever explain to anyone the experiences I had, the people I met, the memories I made, the lessons I learned, and most of all, the friendships I made.

At Michigan, you will indeed find 'the leaders and best'. Some find that to be an elitist statement. Eh, tough shit. Michigan is a breeding ground for leadership, excellence, and philanthropy. It provides its' students with the top programs in every facet of college life -- whether it is within the realms of academia or athletics. I know this is a rather bold statement, but I truly believe that Michigan offers the best undergraduate college experience in the country. I know I haven't been to every other college, I know the weather isn't as beautiful as that of UCLA, and I know that some programs may be ranked higher than Michigan's, but the sum of all of Michigan's parts is greater than any one institution. No where in the country will you find an athletic program as thriving as Michigan's, yet still find that every department and college ranks within the top 10. Not to mention, the activism on campus is intriguing. Not always logical, but intriguing.

I stopped daydreaming and realized that she was awkwardly staring at me waiting for me to answer her question. I smiled and said, "I was lucky enough to experience a little bit of everything."

Sunday, August 5, 2007

The devil may wear Prada, but he also shops at Wal-Mart

I am proud to say that I have spent a total of $30 at Wal-Mart. Some of you think that's $30 too much, while others are probably wondering why this is an issue to begin with. As a Googler, whose company's motto is "Don't Be Evil", I have qualms with the way Wal-Mart is run. The problems I have with this retail monster stem from it's irresponsibility to the American people and economy. Interestingly, Wal-Mart began as a company of strict American nationalism; it also began as a “Red” corporation to the extreme, whose political contributions in 2000 and 2004 went exclusively to George W. Bush and his party. Now, I am not pointing any fingers due to this -- many of you know why -- but rather due to their hypocrisy. The very company that claims nationalism and patriotism is the same one whose imports from China led to the loss of nearly 200,000 U.S. jobs from 2001-2006. The U.S. trade deficit with China reached a whopping $233 billion last year, and imports for Wal-Mart alone accounted for $27 billion - 11 percent of that total (source here). Make up your mind, Wal-Mart. You sound like the Bush Administration; you are as American as can be...until someone buys you out.

There are entire books and websites on how evil Wal-Mart is so I won't ramble off too many more facts. I wanted to include this paragraph though: According to, the average take-home pay of an American Wal-Mart employee is under $250 a week; the minimum wage pay scale places employees with families below the poverty line. The company is staunchly anti-union, and Wal-Mart employees make 25% less than their unionized counterparts after two years on the job. 85% of the stores' merchandise is made overseas, often in Third World sweatshops.

As many of you know, I am a supporter of capitalism. I understand that while some of the things that Wal-Mart are not illegal, there is a responsibility that they are not fulfilling. Driving small shops out of business is an effect of capitalism. However, once you drive their owners and employees out of business and force them to sweep your floors, then you better give them full time employment opportunities and benefits. Wal-Mart provides one of the nation's lowest full time opportunity rates in the country, yet employs 1.2 MILLION Americans. That's a lot of Americans who aren't working full time simply because Wal-Mart won't let them.

I am proud to say that I drive a couple blocks past Wal-Mart to shop at Target for my daily essentials. I, personally, don't mind paying a few extra dollars per checkout for a better experience and moral conscience.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Dearborn & Beyond

(Arab-American National Museum in Dearborn)

I moved to Dearborn, Michigan from Lebanon when I was two years old.


It's a culture I cannot explain. It is not the authentic Arab culture. It's definitely not 'Little Lebanon' as some people call it. It is simply 'Dearborn'. With the highest concentration of Arabs outside of the Middle East, it makes for quite a unique site. The awnings are written in beautiful Arabic calligraphy. Amazing food is served in restaurants that have 'borrowed' the names of their influences from across the Atlantic. Many immigrants found themselves settling in Dearborn during the auto industry's boom. The wave of immigration grew, but as it grew, so did it's racism. Henry Ford and Mayor Hubbard led half-successful campaigns to 'Keep Dearborn Clean', a slogan that has often referred to keeping the Arabs and Blacks out. I still wouldn't recommend Driving While Black in Dearborn, though. Ford and Hubbard have left a legacy. Anyway, a historically racist city is now dominated with Arab residents that contribute to a booming economy. Arabs kept Dearborn on the map when the auto industry begin to fizzle. All these things are true, but there are more truths to Dearborn.

(As reported by the Wall Street Journal, this picture is a glimpse of the 500,000 people that rallied in Dearborn when Israel was viciously bombarding Lebanon with illegal cluster bombs last summer)

I have a hard time deciding whether or not Dearborn is a subculture of American society or a counter-culture. While I am not sure which is true, I know that it is a culture I don't want to be a part of. I know what many of you are thinking: "She thinks she is better than Dearborn." I am not better than Dearborn. It has contributed to my upbringing and has been my home. However, it is a city that frustrates me. I don't feel like the general population in Dearborn aspires for something outside of the very vacuum it operates in. That is not to say that this applies to everyone. Some of the most impressive people I have ever met are from Dearborn. Aspects of Dearborn, however, are disappointing -- partly because I set my standards for Arab-Americans so high, and partly because I feel that a sense of complacency has infected it's residents.

Many of the immigrants that arrived in Dearborn during the 1980's had little English speaking skills and were either uneducated or had degrees that were worthless here in the States without proper language skills. Nonetheless, Arab immigrants hauled ass, opened up shop, and helped create a city with the most gas stations, pizzerias, and sub shops per capita. I mean, that's not a real statistic, but I wouldn't be surprised. Arabs are/were business oriented, and often came here with nothing and became successful. So what is so disappointing about all this? The fact that the children of these immigrants don't aspire to take it to the next level. They have a found a comfort zone, and most aren't willing to pursue education or job opportunity outside of Dearborn. I think the definition of success in Dearborn hasn't changed and that's a problem. When the immigrants came, success meant supporting your family and establishing a home in a foreign country where you knew no one and had nothing. I guess the definition of success has changed in some ways. Now, 'success' for my generation is buying a bigger home (maybe even in Dearborn Heights, oooh), a cooler car, and the newest Nextel. Saying these things is difficult for me because I am very passionate about the Arab-American community. I think cities like Dearborn are harmful for ethnic groups because it doesn't force them to wander outside of their comfort zone and experience new people and things. Undoubtedly, Arabs in Dearborn are doing well for themselves and their entrepreneurship is interesting, but there is so much more that no one is exploring. Many of the people I meet in Dearborn have no interest to visit Royal Oak, let alone Tanzania, Africa ( Point being: Life may be good for people in Dearborn, but there is a whole world out there, and I am not sure most of them care.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Diplomacy & Dialogue Are Out

I watched 'Hairspray' with a friend from work tonight. As many of you know, I am not much of a movie-watcher. I find them to be quite disappointing, but this movie was different. I enjoyed it a lot, and it made me think. It reminded me of a friend that has an 'intense' passion for musical theater. One day I am going to watch her perform in New York.

The movie also reminded me of a blog entry I wrote awhile ago. It's very obvious that when I wrote this entry I had a lot of built up anger and frustration regarding race relations in the United States. I am not sure that has changed, but I find myself handling my frustration about racism in a different way. It's one thing to bitch and moan amongst a group of people that share your sentiments about the way things should be. It's another thing to make yourself vulnerable in situations where people may not understand your perspective and background. As a person of color, I used to get angry when people were ignorant of my identity as an Arab-American. I realize, now, that anger only causes more ignorance. If we scare away the very people that don't understand us, then we should expect racism and ignorance to continue. The burden is upon each individual to have the conversations that are difficult with the people that understand them the least. People shouldn't be afraid to ask me or anyone that is 'different' about culture, food, identity, geography, hair texture, hijab, religion, etc.

I was talking to a friend after Don Imus got fired. We had a very interesting conversation regarding the outcome of the entire spectacle. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson claimed 'victory'. I laugh at their definition of victory. When a co-worker does not fear getting fired for asking me about my Arab heritage, when people aren't too scared to ask Black people about their culture, when Americans aren't reluctant to engage in meaningful conversation about sensitive subjects -- once all those things happen, then we can claim 'victory.' Firing one White man for what other people may think does not solve any problems. I am waiting for a intimate and honest conversation regarding why those remarks were offensive to begin with. (Also, I am waiting for someone to ask for Al Sharpton to step down from whatever position he doesn't have. His previous homophobic and racist comments offend me just as much as Imus did: “White folks was in caves while we was building empires ... We taught philosophy and astrology and mathematics before Socrates and them Greek homos ever got around to it.”) Hm, 'homos' and and 'white folks' in 'caves'. It's a wonder why we can't have real dialogue about any of these issues. People are either too pissed to answer questions or too scared to ask them. Clearly the only way to make people understand is to protest, yell, and wreak havoc, right? Diplomacy is over rated, and divisive exclusion and rejection of dialogue is in. My, how helpful this has been for people to understand us.

But shit, what do I know? I am just as racist and elitist as the rest of them.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Why "A Fig Tree"?

I think this would be an appropriate time to discuss the significance of the "fig tree" and why I chose it as my url. My favorite novel is "The Bell Jar" by Sylvia Plath (maybe one day I will explain to you why my blog is called "My Bell Jar"), and one of the motifs in the novel is "the woman that wants everything."

Ok, enough said.

I'm being facetious :) As I said, it is my favorite novel, and the protagonist is quite interesting. It's somewhat biographical of Sylvia Plath and her struggle for perfection in different facets of life. Below is a snippet of the novel that discusses the fig tree and it's metaphorical meaning. It identifies the struggle for a woman to be a scholar, mother, lover, businesswoman, philosopher, and wife all in one -- the woman that wants to be everything. Sylvia Plath wanted it all, and below she describes the struggle:

"...I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree.
One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn't quite make out.
I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn't make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet." ~Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar, Chapter 7

Sylvia said, "
I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest..." -- I, too, want all of them. I want them, and I want to do them perfectly. I would hope that these identities are not mutually exclusive. I aspire to be the perfect mother, but at the same time, I want to be the boss' boss. I want to coach, but I want to teach, too. I want to be an independent woman, but I want to love and live for my husband and kids. I want my figs, and I want to eat them too.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Capitalism and Religion

Religion has always been apart of my life -- not in the way you may think, though. I attended Catholic School for 9 years (and can probably still do a decent job at Bible Quiz), I attended Arabic/Muslim School for about the same period of time, and have taken a couple classes regarding Judaism. While I used to be a spiritual person that believed in some sort of superior moral being, I was never a religious or denominational person. I was always resentful of religion because I have seen first hand the divisions it causes. I have seen the aftermaths of war, the look in people's eyes when they are threatened by what is different, and the inability to cross those unnecessary divisions.

People argue that if religion were followed the way it was intended to be followed, then it would promote cohesiveness. I don't buy it. I would argue what I think it promotes, but that is a completely different argument. Anyway, let's take this example. It's similar to a company that produces a new product. The intent of the product is to do 'X', but it repeatedly fails; the margin of error is too high. Sometimes it works, but when it fails, it fails big time and causes the user injury and sometimes death. How long would a product like that stay on the market? Not very long. I am sure many of you are shaking your head at my extremely capitalistic example (Back off Commies :), but regardless, I think the logic stands. I understand the argument that religion is supposed to promote peace and give people stability, just like the product is supposed to work a certain way. I understand the argument, but, nonetheless, religion fails. The margin of error is too high. It often causes distress and more often than not, it causes war, hate, judgment, and chaos. That has been the function of religion. Religion is not needed to promote social cohesiveness. A friend once told me that a local Sheik at the Dearborn mosque said, "Those that are moral solely because they are religious are neither moral nor religious." I couldn't agree more. Religious teachings and morality may go hand in hand, but morality can operate completely independent of religion. It's quite logical, but that is another post. I have not done this issue justice, and would have to write pages upon pages to begin to scratch the surface. Take this post for what it is: a blog.


It has come to my attention that if you go to instead of my url, you arrive at another person's blog that discusses Israel and whether or not it is described as a fig tree in the Old Testament.

hehehe. One letter separates a world of difference in opinion and meaning.

Oh, the irony.

I wonder how many of you are anxiously waiting for me to discuss Israel...waiting...waiting....


..."I bet she's going to criticize Israel right now because she is an Arab and that's what they do."

No, I won't discuss the fact that I become LIVID when I see hummus, falafel, and 'hookah' (properly known as arguileh or shisha) described as Israeli culture. I won't discuss the Arab-Israeli conflict here because the only appropriate place for such a sensitive debate is Facebook, of course. That, and my apartment at 5am after a night at Rick's, right guys?

Sunday, July 29, 2007

The Golden Gate Bridge

I got some feedback after posting my lost blog. Some of you seem very concerned that I will not be writing with the same edge and honesty. No worries, my friends. I am every bit the sarcastic jerk I have always been. Now that I have a Michigan degree, I am even more arrogant and self-righteous than ever.


This past weekend, I was biking across the Golden Gate Bridge -- hold up. I.was.biking.across.the.Golden.Gate.Bridge. Wow, life is beautiful. Anyway, as I was biking, I saw the most beautiful view I have ever seen in the States. It was breathtaking. The second the fog lifted and my bike made it's way around the edge, I saw the mountains, the ocean, and the San Francisco skyline in one blink. I don't know what came over me, but I said, "Bism Allah al Rahman al Raheem" (translation: In the name of God, the most gracious, the most merciful). To those of you who know me well, this should come as a great surprise. I haven't said that in a year; the last time I said was instinctive as well because I was in a bad situation. As a devout agnostic, I pride myself on relying on everything logical to get myself through situations. I was very weirded out when I said it, and I thought about it then for a few days. The thought escaped me, and a year later, here I am thinking about it again. Why did I say it this weekend? One possibility is that we have been conditioned as children to say it when we are scared, happy, in awe, or in need. It must have been pure impulse. The other possibility is that the vision of beauty reaffirms the fact that a god exists; a view as magnificent as this can only be created by a creator with a plan.

Well, I thought about it all day...for the rest of the bike ride actually, and I know what I think. I am not sure I care enough to let you know. The people that know me well have stopped asking questions because they know what decision I came to.

A New Beginning

I began to start posting to my previous blog when I realized that a completely new blog was needed. The colors of my old blog were dark, the tone was aggressive, and the person writing was very defensive. I told a friend that I was thinking of starting a completely new blog instead of bringing the old one back to life. She said, "Good. Start over."


The very reason why I am writing this blog is because I am starting over. New city, new job, new lifestyle, new blog. Things are new and exciting, and I want my blog to represent how I feel. I think it's important to mention that I think the previous blog was pretty damn funny, and the asshole that wrote those things is still very much alive and well. I am just at a very different stage in my life and I think my readers have changed. I am no longer speaking to a campus community consumed with "activism" and judgments. I no longer feel the need to appease or piss off. I am not as angry or resentful. I used to rant about things coming to an end, and more often than not, I polarized many issues. The first two words of this post are, "I began..." -- Indeed, I have begun something new, and I am happy to write without the intent of provoking a reaction.

I have many things to say, and many posts to share them in. I want to discuss religion, politics, god, friendships, people, and emotion. I have so many things to share, and I need to start sharing them. After all, it's just like a fig tree. Imagine that each story or idea is a fig. If I stare at the figs long enough without choosing one, the figs will grow old, die, and fall to my feet. That would be such a waste, wouldn't it?