Thursday, August 21, 2014

Why I will NEVER win the lottery

Artwork by Tarek Chemaly
So I got around to admitting it: I will never win the lottery. Never.
Sure, as the saying goes "to win the lottery you need to buy a ticket" something which I have done a grand total of 2 times in my life - at the suggestion of two different people who saw me being "lucky" on those two occasions. The world is full of people whose life was ruined by winning the lottery.
Some people are pragmatic about it, an Amercian friend - the US being a country where nouveau riche and excessive display of wealth is not frowned upon - told me he wouldn't buy a lottery ticket because if he won he didn't want his children to squabble over the money and people to start befriending him out of nowhere.
This reminds me of a recent exchange over social media with former Minister Nicolas Sehnaoui who was prompting people to come read my blog, sheepishly I admitted that - apart from this making sort of shy, I also did not recognize him when we met the first time in February 30 cafe in Hamra. His reply was something to the effect of that this is how real relationships grow, out of lack of expectations. And people approaching him out of "expectations" is something he knows only too well.
Actually, I once read that the common denominator between lottery winners is that they all feel they are lucky, so does this mean I don't feel I am? Assuming so would be would be taking a pessimisitic view of events. Rationally, you might be thinking "He will never win the lottery because he doesn't buy tickets, he doesn't buy tickets because he doesn't feel he is lucky, he doesn't feel lucky because he thinks the odds are too far against him, he feels the odds are against him because he doesn't believe in happiness".
How about this expalanation: he will never win the lottery because he already won it.
And whereas I do not subscribe to simplistic notions of happiness as sold in pop psychology, I will end with this gem in the words of House M.D.: "Miserable stays miserable, happy doesn't buy lottery in the first place".

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

USA: Of "American Exceptionalism" and tarnished brands.

Artwork by Tarek Chemaly
The above artwork was done in the spirit of the Obama "Hope" poster by Shepard Fairey (which itself was subject to litigation by the way), and depicts current Texas Governor Rick Perry in his mugshot. On the one hand, this can be seen as a "democratic act" a la "no-one-is-above-the-law", but Perry was supposed to be one of the candidates for the 2016 elections in the US, and this in itself bodes well badly as to what kind of politicians are running there and what kind of governance this will enduce (the "oops" moment in question goes back to his failed presidential bid of 2012 when he forgot during one of the debates with fellow Republican contenders the name of the third government agency he would shut down if elected).
But the above pales in comparison to what is happening in Furgeson, Missouri, with protests, chaos, and riots which followed the killing of an unarmed (and reportedly with hands up in the air) Michael Brown by a police officer.
The notion of "American Exceptionalism" - an unwavering faith in the country, a "USA! USA!" shouted during every Olympics when other nations would try to snatch the gold medal from the rightfully-deserving American team, the "America the beautiful", the "land of the free, home of the brave" - were put to the forefront by Ronald Reagan to an America trying to get over the (Nixon) Watergate scandal and the Vietnam war blunders.
And should you think this notion has gone out of style, look no further than Hillary Clinton (supposedly the front runner of the Democratic Party for the 2016 elections) who still parroted that notion on CBS very recently only to repeat the notion in her interview with the Atlantic saying "we don’t even tell our own story very well these days” which makes it look as if - with the right narrative (think pre-emptive attack on Iraq with fake evidence of Weapons of Mass Destruction) - the whole thing would be fine and dandy again.
Of course it's all pretending that the Snowden NSA revelations did not happen, or Julian Assange never existed, or that the US sided with every wrong side in recent history, or how powerless they are in all international conflicts to impose their view (including the oh-so-loved-ally Israel whose PM Benjamin Netanyahu said to the US "don't ever second guess me on Hamas again").
However it is sobering to see US enemies having fun at their expense publicly, such as Russia's Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin who tweeted the following photo:
Source The Guardian
Even Egypt is lecturing the US as to how it ought to handle the crisis in Furgeson (crowd control is a kind of a speciality for Egypt perhaps), and there's a general feeling of glee and hand-rubbing. All such acts of international schadenfreude would have been unthinkable a few years back.
The bully of the neighborhood is still delusional about his grandeurs, but to everyone else he is a down-on-his-luck slob living in times gone-by.

Monday, August 18, 2014

"How to succeed in blogging without really trying" Auditions now open.

Auditions for "how to succeed in blogging without really trying" now open. #freebies on the way out for everyone. No previous experience necessary.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Supporting wine and Lebanese religious contradictions

"From the harvest of our grapes, the joy in our wine" - such is the new campaign from the Ministry of Agriculture dubbing itself "the national campaign for the support of Lebanese wine". Never did one visual encapsulate all Lebanese contradictions in one go - let me explain: this campaign is supported by the taxpayers' money, a respectable chunk of whom is Moslem, and assuming that a solid proportion of which is against alchohol consumption due to religious reasons (notice I am measuring my words very carefully, using abstract and generic terms due to absence of any statistics or reliable surveys), then we deduce that the money these people put went to promote an industry they vehemently oppose. Go figure! All this at a time when one of Lebanon's big cities (Tripoli) took it upon themselves to ban beer ads over there

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Fenicia bank, continuity via Chinese whispers.

Fenicia Bank (formerly known as Bank of Kuwait and the Arab World) is emphasizing its heritage with a cheesy ad. I think though not sure that the client is actually old and the "client service" people (just look at the name card in case you did not get it) are young to emphasize continuity? The line is "lifelong relationship" - for a more confusing take, check this on their own homepage. Under the line of "there are things you'd rather not inherit". Only to come to the visual above with "some things you'd want to inherit".
Of course what the bank did not bet on is that when you open the page the images start scrolling randomly which makes it difficult to understand the visuals being displayed. Frankly, if you did not want your clients or potential clients confused, maybe you should not have changed your name in the first place instead of emphasizing on heritage and continuity.
The other issue is that in Arab society, it is very taboo to speak of "inheritence" especially when related to a bank, because of the view of life and not wishing-ill on anyone (especially not your rich fat uncle as he appears in the ad). Hence the words "be3d el char" (may evil be averted), or "Allah ytawwil bi 3omrak" (may God give you a long life) etc.... whenever unintentionally a death reference is uttered.
Funnily enough, the game "Chinese whispers" (or telephone cassé) is also commonly known as "telephone Arabe" in France. So this might explain it then!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Picon fails on all counts

Picon, the popular spread cheese, is reintroducing the large portion. Actually, this is the shape we have always known Picon in until a smaller portion was introduced (sorry, not able to pin back the date). And so now Picon is going back to a larger shape with a drastically silly campaign.
My first question is - who are they talking to? The visuals (the cut cucumber to make it a "balance" and in another visual cut in the shape of a boy showing his "muscles" made of cucumbers) are silly even to kids by today's standards. If they are adressing mothers (or parents at large) it's also a fiasco. And - if - as they did with the Picon melting blocks - they are adressing hipsters in rock bands (with girl groupies preparing cheese sandwiches - yeah right), then...
OK, and the visuals suck too.
So what's left?

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Beautiful graffiti vanishes in Hamra

Hamra mural before (1)
Hamra mural after (1)
Hamra mural before (2)
Hamra mural after (2)
My most preferred piece of graffiti in Beirut has been painted over "warning from the ministry of heath, thinking can lead to dangerous and deadly diseases" - now it's been painted over as "Parking". The other graffiti which was done by Yazan Halwani (adorning the parking's ticket booth) and which was already defaced (I think by the same nutso who was defacing all graffiti in town with Christian religious stuff written with his handwriting next to them) is now gone. Fayrouz, our national diva which was on the original is now back though, albeit on a while background.