INGULFED

In Shanghai

Archive for Speaking before thinking

Grocery List: Abu Dhabi

One head lettuce: 5.3 dirham / $1.44
4 carrots: 3.45 dirham / 94¢
4 tiny limes: 0.6 dirham / 16¢
0.065 kg Indian chilis: 0.65 dirham / 18¢
1 loaf boring brown bread: 1.5 dirham / 41¢
3 Chinese golden apples: 3.35 dirham / 91¢
1 white onion: 1.7 dirham / 46¢
4 cashew ice cream bars: 7.8 dirham / $2.12
2 pistachio kulfi bars: 1.9 dirham / 52¢
3 small cucumbers: 0.65 dirham / 18¢
3 lemons: 2 dirham / 54¢
6 small tomatoes: 1.6 dirham / 44¢
3 giant figs: 6.45 dirham / $1.76
1 red repper: 3.75 dirham / $1.02
4 black plums: 3.30 dirham / 90¢
3 red onions: 0.65 dirham / 18¢


Total: 44.65 dirham / $12.16

$رأس من الخس (1) : 5.3 درهم / 1،44
جزر (4) : 3.45 درهم / ¢94
ليمون صغيرة (4) : 0.6 درهم / ¢16
تشيليز الهندي (0،065 كلغ) : 0.65 درهم / ¢18
رغيف خبز ممل أسمر (1) : 1.5 درهم / ¢41
تفاحات ذهبية صينية (3) : 3.35 درهم / ¢91
بصل أبيض (1) : 1.7 درهم / ¢46
$قضبان الآيس كريم الكاجو (4) : 7.8 درهم / 2،12
قضبان القلفي فستق (2) : 1.9 درهم / ¢52
خيار صغير (3) : 0.65 درهم / ¢18
ليمون خضراء (3) : 2 درهم / ¢54
طماطم صغيرة (6) : 1.6 درهم / ¢44
تين ضخمة (3) : 6.45 درهم / 1،76$
فلفل رومي أحمر (1) : 3.75 درهم / 1،02$
برقوق سوداء (4) : 3.30 درهم / ¢90
بصل أحمر (3) : 0.65 درهم / ¢18


$المجموع : 44.65 درهم / 12،16

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Off the Cuff

There is something distinctly comforting about the lack of possibility. To be entirely unable to do something, to be barred from success by the laws of physics or nature or immigration — this is a kind of freedom that relieves us of the stress of trying.

If, say, I had to be on Mars by 2 p.m. today to polish the wheels of the Rover, I just couldn’t do it. Relax. It’s impossible. But even the faintest whiff of the minutest possibility that something cool is out there or somewhere cool is visitable and that the time and the tides are right — this is the pea under my mattress. And this princess has a lot to do in the morning.

Recently, the Vice-Consul of the Embassy of the largest democracy in the world, which will remain nameless (rhymes with Joo-dan), rejected my application (delivered by a Sudanese friend — Americans cannot apply directly from Abu Dhabi) because my last name revealed a deal-breaker: that I was Jewish. In Saudi Arabia, a country I want to visit out of the kind of curiosity that sends a couple of young kids to drop by Boo Radley’s house, I have also been stymied. No tourist visas, and no 2-day transit visas for men traveling alone (without a wife or family).

Their proximity, and the fact that I once thought I could go to these places, has made me unable to give up. There must be some way. Once the possibility switch is flipped, it may be impossible to flip back. Or maybe there is some way to let go — to realize that some things just cannot happen, or aren’t worth forcing, or, or, or…

When I run out of time, I can decide whether to regret defeat or to be satisfied by the attempt.

For now, I guess I’ll keep trying.

My Day at Osama Bin Laden’s House — رحلتي الى بيت أسامة بن لادن

Very long story short: it seemed like the right time to go. Once, in the romantic glory days when Osama had just been killed and we all saw the world through rose-colored sniper scopes, daytrippers from the capital or from Lahore would come in to Abbottabad (EPP-ta-bad) to pose for pictures in front of the ex-warlord’s house. It is not as big as it looks on TV. Now, men in camouflage weave through the grass holding rifles and eyeballing everything that moves. Dozens of cellphones have been smashed, and, on the first day I was supposed to drive north to Abbottabad, five “CIA Informants” were arrested by the Pakistani government for cooperating with Americans. Still, it’s a very pretty town. Nice hills.

[My apologies, this story has been submitted elsewhere and cannot honorably be published here. Until we can give up on “honor”, I can offer only the poor summary above. To read the full story about my tea party with Osama and the long games of bridge we played while I waited for Seal Team 6 to do the honors (maybe — you’ll have to find out!): send an email with a sentence including the words “Boca”, “curry”, and “fuckface” to INGULFED at GMAIL dot COM]

The Karakorum Highway starts here.

Abbottabad Hills.

Cricket in Abbottabad.

Country home.

Pakistani Suburbia.

More pictures from pakistan here.

Osama and Me — انا و اسامة

I don’t appreciate what Osama Bin Laden did yesterday.

Everyone has someone with whom they agree to disagree. You live your respective lives at peace with the fact that there exists someone who you cannot change, whose every fiber contradicts the principles woven into your DNA. Think of your neighbor Geoff who you don’t speak to anymore and who has stopped poisoning your gardenias to flex for you, ad infinitum, his forbearing cold shoulder. Osama and I were like that — or at least I was — and just like you would for Geoff, I lived my life hoping nothing I did would ever make him happy and I cheered and high-fived people when I heard he was, as your other neighbor Lorenzo would say, swimming with the fishes.

Yesterday though, Bin Laden’s voice was given a sounding board from the bottom of the sea, and with it he praised the valiant struggle of citizens across the Middle East and North Africa — the struggle known as the “Arab Spring,” which is (curse him) valiant.

The equilibrium I struck that allowed me to stress less in his existence was balanced on the expectation that we would disagree on everything, just as we’d promised. To hear any semblance of reason from a sworn enemy of good sense was to come face to face with the fragile foundation of my inner status quo. The quo until yesterday was one in which I was more comfortable ignoring, more secure behind a wall of cultural insolation built from lazier bits of my own personality.

This is certainly a window into the other side that the reasonable can analyze for clues into the psyche of bad people with bad opinions that are wrong. It is perhaps an opportunity to come to terms with our absolutism and to engage more deeply with nemeses and the Other.

We may even humanize the world’s devils as we allow that there may be overlap — the reasonable — between our minds and theirs.

Meh, fuck it. And Osama. And screw your neighbor Geoff, too.

Wonderlust

Or, Vending for Yourself

Thalia read my fortune on the inside of my coffee cup.  It was unpredictable — large, empty white spaces told her that I had a standing date with the unknown, and crinkly dregs pointed to my need for motion.  One thing was sure: facing the figure of a man with big, “heavy” feet and arms lifted and waving were the undeniable letters “A–D” — the first two letters of my name, the initials of the city I live in, and a close misspelling of my favorite kind of arithmetic. Whatever the message was, I think it was for me.

Deep in the underground cistern sixty meters away from the entrance to the Hagia Sofia (street signs are very accurate) big fish swim around in fresh water and their own shadows, just as they have been doing for the past 1500 years.  Wet walkways under the round, vaulted arches lead to two columns whose bases are carved Medusas, one upside down, one sideways.      

"Please, sir, can you spare some Wi-Fi?"

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جت سكيات وفتوى وواقع شخص آخر — Jetskis, a Fatwa, and Someone Else’s Reality


     A young Kuwaiti scientist and his teacher. Kuwait City.



He handed me the card below:

“GRAND MOSQUE: western perception of islam dept.”  Wow.  I don’t think anyone has ever cared so much about what I think. He was our tour guide, Khalil, a short man with a long beard who spoke bits and larger bits of a million languages and answered his phone with, “I hope it’s not my wife!” He knew just how to make us laugh.

Gulf countries are, for the most part, young and successful parvenus that don’t seem to need your help or give half a damn whatchu think, but it isn’t so. In Kuwait especially, where George Bush the First finds his framed place among family photos, allies are more precious than gold, and blood runs thicker than oil.

Yet, to borrow the title question from one chapter of Werner’s Fassbinder’s 16-hour Berlin Alexanderplatz, “How is One to Live if One Doesn’t Want to Die?” How can a country thrive it is afraid to be vulnerable? Good question. The answer, as always it appears, is spin. Perceptions are monitored and framed in a manner made possible by Kuwait’s particular circumstances: small population, strong governmental oversight, little economic disparity amongst citizens, high percentage of unassimilated residents, money. If this is starting to sound like a political science paper, it’s not. Look at this silly picture:

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Berlin Alexanderplatz LiveBlog

On Saturday, April 9, 2011 at 9:00 a.m. in the timezone called SAMT (Samara Time, named for a town in southern Russia on the Volga River), INGULFED will host its first ever LiveBlog.

The subject: Rainer Wener Fassbinder’s controversial epic, Berlin Alexanderplatz. All are invited to watch and follow along with the commentary, which will document the relentless struggle of one man to watch the entirety of a film about the relentless struggle of one man. It will take 940 minutes.

The event has ended. Click the Saint Pauli girl to read the replay.

Click here to hear a ukelele reading of some subtitles (to get a feel for the film).

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