Tuesday, December 09, 2014

My Utopia and the Time Machine

I am in the French language class again. We read samples of Utopias. Our teacher asks us to write how our own Utopia would look like. I spend a week confused not knowing how my Utopia would look like. In the last moments before the class is held again and we are ought to present our Utopias I write fast my Utopia. It is a village.  Agricultural. People travel by the speed of light. And they had a time machine. They can go back in time.

Ideas not so well linked. Explanations not perfectly given. The time for our class ends. I go walking and thinking why exactly I thought of Time Machine! Is that really Utopic to me?

The other day I am in the kiosk receiving my newspaper when I hear one man, who comes searching for "Le Silence de la Mer" of Vercors, saying: "Sometimes a movie kills a novel by adapting it". I keep thinking of what he said while I am on my way to the restaurant.

I return home after lunch. I sleep for long hours. My body is still in convalescence from that long influenza that caught me lately. I wake up refreshed. I hold the short story of Fitzgerald and head to the kettle in the kitchen to make more tea. "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button".

When I first began reading the short story before days it seemed so silly, with no wisdom behind to find. But as Benjamin was getting younger, passing through the life cycle in a reverse way, I remember my time machine, and my Utopia.

This morning the sky is grey. Washed clothes hanged for drying in the balcony are still wet. I go back to my cup of tea. I finish the short story. Its end is so beautiful. So grand. Like a closing of a Jazzy grand piano rusty riff from New York. So Fitzgerald. I didn't like Fitzgerald when I tried to read "The Great Gatspy". I didn't like neither editions of the movie, the Great Gatspy. I don't like much DiCaprio, because he is so sweet like a candy. And sometimes he looks mean. I hope I am not practicing prejudice. Still I feel one is little free to say even toxic things about celebrities. Anyway, I don't like candies and cakes. I like olives and garlic.

But how Benjamin Button ends is grand. Grand not candily or cakely, but grand olively and garlicly. Like a wine fermented by a demented witch who has bad breath. Now this is rambling. This is called "post-reading rambling", and this occurs when you read something good and try thereafter to write and you are not that good. You ramble, garlicly. Like an olive that grew out of a cactus in an autumn that widows itself bravely.


I go back in memory, in time, to the French lesson. The last one. Our teacher mentioned Tahar Ben Jelloun and how he imagined a village full of children. All but children. An alluring to innocence. Our French teacher asked us if that can be a model to a Utopia.

Now that I end reading Fitzgerald short story I head to Tahar Ben Jelloun novel our teacher mentioned to us before days. I find that chapter. I read. It is like anew to me. Like never read before. I discover. I discover that the novel "The Sacred Night" is narrated by an elderly woman who says in the first lines of the novel: "I have now, that I am an elderly woman, all the serenity to live. I will speak, I will reveal words, I will testify time".   She then goes talking her childhood including when she visited that secret village of children.

I remember that I have bought a new book by Jelloun named "Sur ma mere" translated to Arabic to حين تترنح ذاكرة أمي which means (when the memory of my mother sways). It is thus translated because it talks about his mother's days with dementia and how she started seeing things anew.

Benjamin Button, the movie differs much from the short story of Fitzgerald. That starting scene of a dying lady in her bed narrating the past. That blind man who fabricated a watch. A watch that goes backwards. Then his saying that he did that deliberately. Benjamin being raised in elders house, by a black woman. That adds. I think Fitzgerald would agree on those additions. Fitzgerald is lucky.

Let us go back to Benjamin Button last days in the book, as written by Fitzgerald, and read:

"There were no troublesome memories in his childish sleep; no token cam to him of his brave days at college, of the glittering years when he flustered the hearts of many girls. There were only the white, safe walls of his crib and Nana and a man who came to see him sometimes, and a great big orange ball that Nana pointed at just before his twilight bed hour and called "sun." When the sun went his eyes were sleepy - there were no dreams, no dreams to haunt him." p.86

The sun sneaks on from between the clouds. Hope that will help dry up my clothes.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Reading Iraqi Newspaper

The first pages of all Iraqi newspapers have to be ugly enough to be taken seriously, or to raise itself to the proclaimed level of ugliness needed those days. As an Iraqi I cannot help but to avoid reading them. Although I will put for you some pictures from yesterday’s first pages of Al-Mada Newspaper, without translation. 

As you approach the end of the journal the pages get more interesting, a little. Here an Iraqi poet writes about what is happening in the USA lately in that young black man being killed and all what followed. Still I don’t find what Yacine Taha Hafudh had written as interesting to me. 


Then you see a poem by Awad Al Nasir, which has a good title, but very silly lines. The title says: "A blind's man stick that knock on the doors of the world". Too long?? Well.. that was the best line.. the title was the best line.. it is so silly and I won't translate a bit from it. Still, it is little better that the first pages. It gets you to the mood of reading a newspaper.

 I flip to the last page. My favorite.
 When you read a thing, you link it to other things you already know, especially those things that are stuck to your mind lately. Ideas will be linked to different ideas each time they hit your mind, depending on the time they are doing so. I think that is the cause why Al-Mada columnist Ali Hussein wrote today about how Spinoza’s lessons of accepting the other, the other different human being.

I do not know much about Spinoza. I read about him when I was trying to capture the concept of “consciousness” as Antonia Damasio talked about it. It was one of the first times that I concentrated on Descartes. Spinoza then appeared as a Vs. to Descartes. And I was lost.
Did I read Spinoza’s name again as a title of one of Irvin Yalom’s novels? I am not sure and I will not check in the google for it right now. Just let me ramble. It has been a while.
So the Iraqi columnist  see’s in Spinoza a lesson of conviviality, diversity, and tolerance. The columnist had written in previous columns about Nelson Mandela and Gandhi.

Believe it or not, as an Iraqi, I was more interested in the picture of Lea Seydoux. I saw her for the first time in Midnight in Paris, where her hair was blond and long. She was selling old discs in Paris including Cole Porter’s. She liked the rain. She didn’t mind walking under the rain without an umbrella.

The next time I saw Lea Seydoux was in a movie where she appeared as a wonderful lesbian, with short hair dyed blue. She was so sexy in that movie entitled “Blue is the Warmest Colour”.

Well, Lea Seyboux was the most beautiful thing to read in yesterday's issue. 

Friday, September 19, 2014

Stars We Look At

Since my friend's coming back from the USA and we meet almost each evening and chat. Each time he got something new to show me. Yesterday he brought with him some magazines. Two of the magazines talks about Robin Williams. I like Robin Williams movies. I remember seeing AWAKENING before I knew Oliver Sacks and Dopamine. That was something unforgettable. 
My friend also brought a book and a DVD about the life of Marilyn Monroe. We talked about Elton John's CANDLE in the Wind, and Lady D, and we were smiling with joy but...
 But when we saw this next picture of Robin Williams we thought that he was pictured in a crying spell and our smiles faded for a while..
 Reading the description of the photo we knew that he was laughing to a joke. So we smiled again.
I asked my friend if he can find a picture for Monroe where she is not smiling. He laughed. I told my friend that both Marilyn Monroe and Robin Williams had suicided. He stopped smiling again. I think my friend started thinking: "How come I chose to bring things on those two who suicided?"

He looked at the other things he brought and there was Jennifer Hudson. I think he thought for a while that she is somebody who interest him, and she didn't suicide. But wait, he says to himself, her friend had.. Witney Huston...
 Finally came Dolly Parton..
 Such joy this Dolly Parton can bring....

We ended that evening listening to Dolly Parton and that was a good day...

Monday, September 15, 2014

Reading Reader's Digest in Baghdad

 A friend of mine came back to Baghdad from Abroad bringing with him some newspapers and magazines. September's issue of Reader's Digest was in my hand while my mesmerized eyes were glistering and saying: "you are holding the latest issue!"

After 2003 we started seeing the used books and magazines of the US Army personnel in Baghdad including some Reader's Digest issues, usually from more than a year past, but holding the September issue in Baghdad is such a privilege.

 I was in a 2-store bus like that one in the picture above. Next to the window Hedy Lamarr is said to have invented the Wi-Fi. I thought that that was a joke, one of those silly jokes that, as an Iraqi with bad English, I don't understand from the first reading. I thought that there is some playing with words but there ain't any. I believed that there was something that I misunderstood but when I reached home and googled that, to my surprise, and to yours maybe, that is true.

Then President Obama and Carl Sagan both appeared out of the blue, Obama said: "the next great American project will be Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative, while Sagan talked about the Golden Record project.

 I left Obama and Sagan wishing them success and promising that I will help in some voluntary efforts. Angela Merkel was waiting for me in a that turning street in Al-Midan sequare, central Baghdad. She was nodding her head approvingly as I was approaching her, so I accelerated my steps to reach her sooner.

Her face shined with joy as she saw me and said: "Living in freedom and defending freedom are tow sides of one and the same coin." Well, she said that while he right hand was still shaking my right hand, and our two heads were nodding to each others approvingly with love till, till Hitchcock appeared from the shadows and he stood stand still till he got all the attention he always like to get and then said: "There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it."

 I thought for a while that Hitchcock was talking about Baghdad, telling us in some symbolized coding that there might be an explosion of a bomb nearby, but nothing happened.

I greeted my friend Angela and wished her a good day.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Waiting for the Miracle

 Ah I don't believe you'd like it, 
You wouldn't like it here. 
There ain't no entertainment 
and the judgements are severe. 
The Maestro says it's Mozart 
but it sounds like bubble gum 
when you're waiting 
for the miracle, for the miracle to come. 

Today's morning was sunny more than usual. I went to work a little bit late. Took the newspaper and went to the bus. In the bus it was so hot. The air-conditioner of the bus was weak. A man from the back seats started a conversation with the bus driver. A conversation that soon turned into a verbal fight. After few minutes of silence a woman started an agitated conversation with the bus driver about the poor quality of his bus's air-conditioner. The driver kept finally quite. The woman and the man who started the two quarrels started to talk about sectarian violence with each other in loud voices.  I opened the newspaper but could not concentrate on the words. I just started looking at some pictures avoiding the first three pages. I Leonard Cohen appeared suddenly from a page and said: "Sami, I've been waiting, for the miracle to come!" and he smiled wide. I felt like I am a Moses who knows how to play an electric guitar. 

Leonard, my camarade, told me about how Philip Kenney used his words in an interview translated to Arabic in Al-Mada Newspaper in Iraq. While Leonrad Cohen started telling me a story I started nodding me head right and left for the stereo ear-pieces chanting "Waiting for the Miracle".  
 When you've fallen on the highway 
and you're lying in the rain, 
and they ask you how you're doing 
of course you'll say you can't complain -- 
If you're squeezed for information, 
that's when you've got to play it dumb: 
You just say you're out there waiting 
for the miracle, for the miracle to come.

 The newspaper says something about the house of Paul Elward in France threatened to be converted to a parking. Well, that is surrealism. I think Dali would agree.  
I went to job and forgot all about my newspaper. Ended my work with reality but I still had to have lunch so I headed to that not-so-clean restaurant in the bus station and had a last lunch with reality. I took the bus back to home. 

- "Hey Lennie!", I called for Leonard Cohen but he didn't recognize himself.

- "Hey Lennie, do you know George? That George that killed you in Of Mice and Men? Killed ya so that you don't see them troubles."

Leonard kept looking at me and I don't know why his eyes were glistering in that Iraqi late evening sun....

This was written while listening to "Waiting for the Miracle" by Leonard Cohen and some of the lyrics are typed above between pictures

Thursday, July 03, 2014


As usual he avoids all videos of violence in his country (his country?) published in youtube.com. He starts listening to songs. In T.V. he starts watching an Arabic Lebanese series named لو (=If), which is about romantic relationships. He chooses to write a new article on an Arabic website about some old paintings about hypnosis. He opens the newspaper less often and prefers to see anything but the first three pages. The other day he liked this picture in the first page of his newspaper. 

But as he flips the first three pages to that page of culture he found this caricature.

As he sees that caricature he remembers that the World Cup of Football is running in Brasil. He turns the page to read a story. It was a new short story by Ahmed Khalaf. He remembers that he wrote once an article about Ahmed Khalaf's novel, "The Death of the Father." The new short story starts with a man feeling numb and confused after an explosion and he sees a head beheaded on the ground. The gut-feeling, the feared gut-feeling says that this head might be the protagonist's head.

That was true, as he anticipated, the protagonist's head was in front of him on the ground.

He turns the page and reads about an idea of making a center in Berlin for Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. All can pray there. He remembers that he is in Ramadan. He wonders how Ramadan look like in Berlin. Or in Algeria. Or France. Australia. L.A. Anyway.
At night he meets his neighbors. He asks his friend to bring that small T.V. so that they can watch the match. His friend doesn't respond quickly. He knows that his friend is feeling tired and doesn't want to go to bring the T.V. but he insists and the T.V. finally comes.

A neighbor opens the issue of that Uruguayan footballer who bit an Italian one. The neighbors argue if that biting is a sign of mental illness. He thinks about the goalkeeper of USA team who talked publicly about Tourette's syndrome and how he made some tatoos in his body for the sake of animal rights. (animal rights?) He remembers how he once read about psychiatrists for pet dogs.

He sighs.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014


I was training my French language by reading La Putain Respectueuse, and Morts sans Sepulture, in French since I have also the Arabic translation by Suhail Idriss. Both are pieces of theatre written by Sartre. La Putain Respectueuse talks about a prostitute which came down to one of the southern states from New York. She was asked to give false testimony against a black man. She was bribed to do so. The man who was trying to bribe her chose first to sleep with her that night, then the next morning he offered to bribe her so that she give a false testimony. The black man visits her and asks her to give the right testimony. It is interesting piece of theatre. I remembered that a friend had lent me a D.V.D. of a new movie about slavery of black people in the USA "12 Years a Slave". He told me that the black actress, who came from Kenia, had won an Oscar for her first performance ever. I just searched her name in the google and found that she is Lupita Nyong'o, and she had won the Acadmy Award for best supporting actress.

I read La Putain Respectuese and it was delicious. Bitter sweet. Realistic. Like a having a dinner of cheese and olive, with tea and a last cigarette. I hold Al Mada Paper to read what Lutfyia Al-Dulaimy had written. She talks about Hypatia and she was murdered by Christian monks back then in Egypt in 415 AD. I let the newpaper for a while to be hanged down from my stiff grip while my eyes were fixed somewhere in the wall in front remembering that question I read once: "do you prefer to live in a period of historical turmoil? Or you prefer to live in stable situations?" the question was something like that and was supposed to measure how much you are "opened to experience".

That was a silly question to me. To an Iraqi living these days in Iraq.
I take another page from Tatoo, that supplement of Al-Mada specialized with arts and literature and all things related and saw those paintings by an Iraqi painter named Layla Kubba.

Another supplement of Al Mada talks about an Iraqi doctor who used to paint. A picture of the doctor included in the supplement, a picture of the doctor while he paints from near the river, Tigris, while he was in Baghdad Hospital. Baghdad hospital is on the bank of the river. The hospital is not anymore that good old hospital with good reputation, nor the river is that Tigris that we used to hear poets writing about, nor Baghdad is Baghdad, nor doctors are like before.


Yesterday I read Karen Horney talking how a "neurotic" might chose to separate himself from people around and see even marriage as some difficult commitment that he fear. A friend used to tell me that I fear commitment, and this is neurotic.

Well, my answer to that is: "Putain !"

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Maitham Rathie Caricatures in Al-Mada

Since some time I noticed a new cartoonist publishing clever caricatures in Al Made paper. His name is Matham Rathie. I chose for you these four cartoons that I like the most, if we can use the word "like" in this context !!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Turtles Can Fly in Kerbala

Days were separating us from the elections. Politicians were doing their propaganda. Streets were filled with pictures of them. The Minster of Higher Education, who was also a nominee in the coming elections, was on his way to our university in Kerbala. He was to raise one of the biggest Iraqi flags, in a monument that was built lately in the university. We were working that day and the orders come to us to leave or job and go to welcome him. My colleague told me that we are supposed to dress formally. I felt nauseated. I told him that I will not go. I went to the market to kill the time till Hana’a Edward would reach Kerbala. 

 It is for the first time in Kerbala that I see a lady not wearing a veil. Her hair is grey and short. I liked her much. In Kerbala Book Club she talked to us about the role of non-governmental organizations in Iraq, including their role in scrutinizing the election process. When one of her colleagues, at the end of the lecture, narrated to us his memories with her when she came to Kerbala in a rainy winter in the 60s or 70s, I cannot remember precisely, his voice shivered from emotions. She came back then as a member of the forbidden communist party. She was risking her life. He harbored her in his home. He said that and his voice was so emotional. When he finished narrating, Hana’a Edward rose up and headed towards him. He rose up. They shake hands. They kissed each others’ cheeks. We applauded. Tears were withheld difficultly inside my eyes. With these people human have a value. I will keep coming here.
 I was told later that night that the Minster of Higher Education was welcomed with songs that praise him. Anyway.

The other day Shurooq Al- Abayatchi came to the Book Club. She told us about her work in water engineering. A subject that was new to me. 

 The elections came and I voted for them. Even that that Minster of Higher Education had won a seat in the Iraqi Parliament, Shurooq Al-Abayatchi had won another. I was relieved a little. I can take a breath.

We gathered again in Kerbala Book Club after the elections and this time to watch a movie entitled: “Turtles Can Fly”. 
The method used to show the film was primitive: a laptop linked to a datashow which projects to a small white board. The film was not clear. The image was not clear, nor the sound. But the idea is that we were trying to do some kind of a cinema in Kerbala. Oh yes, turtles can fly!

Friday, May 02, 2014

Labor Day

Like the tree that grows so tall
Leaves turn gold and then they fall
That same kind of music. That same kind of pictures. American movie direction. American music. American county side. Huge trees.  

Mountain streams may run and flow
Clean the sands on which they go
Yesterday was the first of May. Before yesterday was the day of Iraqi parliamentary elections. I went and chose the “Civil and Democratic Coalition”. That coalition contains some secular and liberal forces, some individuals, and the Iraqi communist party. Yesterday I started watching a DVD of a movie named “Labour Day”.

The summary of the back cover of the DVD said that it talks about coming-of-age of a teenager. I was asked before three weeks to write two medical scenarios for the second year medical students around the theme of puberty, one scenario about a girl, and the other about a boy. I felt totally lost while trying to fabricate a story. I googled and saw examples then wrote just one about a female in 9 years old and send it by email to who asked me to write it. I still didn’t write the boy scenario. I thought seeing that film might help. Especially it is about Labour Day and we are at the first of May.

 The film, based on a novel, is about a fugitive prisoner kept away from police by a divorced mom and her teenage boy. They both liked him since he filled that gap of the father. He worked at their home and fixed things. I watched the first part of the film while sitting next to my neighbors. We were talking about the elections. That was when in a particular moment the talking reached a peak of tension. At that peak I paused the movie and listened well. I may have murmured some words but can’t remember well now. Then there was a laughing. Then the talking continued more fluently and calmly. I started watching the movie again. I was having my laptop with me with a headphone.
 I must have seen some parts of that film someday. Some of the things are familiar. I don’t know if it will help me writing a scenario of a boy passing through puberty or not. I don’t know if we are able to uses the words “Iraq is passing through political puberty”, or not. I hope that civility win sooner in Iraq. I need to see Iraqis leaving those religious-sectarian-racist perspectives. Or I need to leave Iraq and go and live elsewhere. I like those American movies and they make me dream.

The 4 lines in rosy color are from a song played in the movie named “I’m going home” by Arlo Guthrie