Tuesday, January 31, 2006


I've been reluctant to blog lately because I've been feeling totally wiped out. Tired and feeling stretched too thin.

But luckily a few of the things I've been reading today have made me feel like I'm not the only one. Chasing after a toddler is killer, and it's wonderful to see in print that I'm not alone in feeling catatonic half the time. Pre-school hookups with other moms have also great for commiserating. . .

Anyway, I get these postings nearly every week from some parent-type website, and it cracked me up to look at this week's poll. "How do you keep romance alive?" is the poll question (tee hee hee), and it's just so pathetic that we moms even bother to look at these things they're so cheesy and unencouraging. I mean, even the notion of "romance" is just laughable for me at this point.

Well, the poll is encouraging in a way, I guess, since it looks like most of the other moms who responded are getting just about as much romance as I am. In fact, it's 8:30 and I can barely hold my head up. In fact, I'm in heaven with the thought that I'm going to be able to crash out before the ungodly hour of 11.

Friday, January 27, 2006


Today and tomorrow are audio insanity. I can't wait to be done with this film. Meanwhile, catch me back in this space next week.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Extra ears

Bush is making a valiant effort to let everyone know just how important his domestic spying program is. "What's the big fuss about, anyway?" he's asking. And I have to say I'm a little shocked people are surprised it's been going on. I had assumed this was standard practice. It might not be legal, and it's a stretch of executive powers, but that's never a problem for these guys.

Perhaps Samer and I should refrain from referring to him as a mutakhallef in future conversations with my in-laws back in Amman.

Here are a couple of pieces I came across on the subject today: an editorial from the Washington Post and a New York Times article on Bush's feel-good trip to the National Security Agency today to commend them on a job well done. Of course, he'd have to do that.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Just how bad are they?

I am not an expert on nor fan of Hamas and am not too versed in the intricacies of Palestinian politics, but after listening to a little ditty on Hamas yesterday on NPR, I for sure felt like I had much more of a clue than that reporter did. It was nothing but full-on, un-nuanced "reporting"--or rather, scare tactic stuff about just how big, bad and armed that party full of terrorists is.

Ok, so people in the West are freaked about Hamas. But in my mind, a big part of the story is why so many people are thinking about voting for them. The NPR guys could've at least attempted a semblance of objectivity by exploring a bit why Hamas has so much support. It's not like people are supporting them because they are counting on them to go blow up Israeli civilians, after all.

The truth probably really is that most of American journalism has a shorthand story for anything it categories as "terrorism" or "terrorists," and pretty much everyone on the outskirts of these stories end up portrayed as scary and armed. So, the people attending a Hamas rally a few days ago are lumped together and described in an ominous light--as if the first thing on all their minds is to go kill people, not clean up the corruption in their government. Just like those freaky pictures of angry men marching in the streets wearing keffiyehs are dragged out every time someone's assassinated in the territories. And believe me, those images are very foreign and scary to most Americans I know--including myself half the time.

Journalists would not be reporting stuff from such a bystander perspective if they actually learned the languages spoken in the places from where they're reporting. The NPR piece yesterday was a classic example of orientalist and clued-out writing that I had just about thought close to extinction.

But hey, there HAVE been a few interesting pieces I've come across on the Palestinian vote. First and foremost is this Guardian commentary by Hussein Agha and Robert Malley. Another one to check out is Aaron David Miller's column in the Washington Post.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Football fever

Seattlites are all abuzz with their home team's football win last night. The Seahawks are going to the Super Bowl, and that's a huge deal. Apparently. Last night we went to a get-together at a friend's cafe and more than a few people were talking football. And I'm never around people who talk about football, so that's a good indication of just how much it was on everyone's mind here last night.

As we drove home, people were hanging out on the sidewalks celebrating outside the bars down the street from us. Some guys who walked by me opening the door shouted up, "Seahawks! Seahawks!" to me. I made a pretty decent effort to do some kind of "Yippee! Go Seahawks!" type of thing, and it was probably pretty obvious I had no clue what to say. I stopped myself from saying, "Bravo, Seahawks!" because that would've just sounded way dumb.

Today I got the Post-Intelligencer, and not only is there a gargantuan picture of some footballer on the front page, there's also a whole huge section on that one football game. Ten-plus pages on, geez, it must've been every play that went down during the game.

Don't get me wrong. It's not that football is completely foreign to me. We go way back, as a matter of fact. I mean, who could get out of Ironton, Ohio (home of the Ironton High Fighting Tigers, who 3/4 of the town goes out to root for every Friday night in the fall) alive and not know a little something about it? Well, a little something is all I know about the sport, really. I know about the 10 yards thing and kicking after a touchdown, but that's about it.

I did a stint in the marching band for a few years in high school (yep, I was a band geek forced to stay in band after my parents purchased me a $300 flute in jr. high) and during that time I had no choice but to sit through all those games. They seriously sucked. Plus, all the studly, truck-driving, crewcut, tobacco-chewing, country music-loving guys who I avoided like the plague in school were seriously into football. And that was plenty of reason to stay away from the game, too.

But there's something very American about how everyone's so into football with the win, and all. It's kind of cute.

I've always enjoyed baseball, and while I don't follow any of the teams or anything, one of my favorite activities is to go out to the ballpark. A number of years ago when we lived in Boston, I took Samer to his first baseball game. It struck me as people were passing the beers and hotdogs down the bleachers that we were all taking part in something that was distinctly an American tradition.

And after my years in graduate school studying anthropology and the traditions of other cultures and living in places that have gajillion year-old histories, I've often felt that as an American I've been gypped somehow--that we don't have too many age-old traditions that we rally around. Not so, though. This country's intense love of football can pretty much be summed up as our answer to, say, those African manhood rites we've all read and seen so much about.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Well, maybe I wasn't. . .

Ok, so I most definitely, certainly wasn't back. Life has been utter insanity for the past 3+ weeks and I'm happy to report that I'm almost back in the game. Or back to normal. Whatever you call it.

Editing the film was the most exhilirating, exhausting activity I've done in a long time, except perhaps spend 24/7 with a two-year old for days on end. Which I've been doing rather a lot of, as well. Um, actually, spending 24/7 with a two-year old AND editing a movie at the same time is killer.

The screening is this upcoming Saturday eve, and I'm looking forward to it. I'm happy with what I've ended up with and am excited to hear what people have to say about it. I got a bit of an idea of possible comments the other evening when a friend came over and was concerned that my subjects were saying way too many positive things about the U.S. without focusing on positive stuff in the Arab world. I certainly wasn't aiming for that, but I definitely can't please 'em all.

A number of years ago, Samer and I went to a screening of one of Azza Hassan's first documentaries. It was about Palestine and the relationship between Arabs and the first Jews who had arrived in Israel. The film showcased lot of old photos and had many rather loving images of a time that wasn't so fraught with hostilities. It was short and sweet--a lovely story. Which is why I was shocked when the lights came back on and everyone in the room began pontificating in that annoying way people do in public settings, speaking formal Arabic and attempting to look as if they were experts on the subject. They trashed the film, with every one of them asking some variation of "Why didn't you show _________?" or "Why did you do _________ ?" Good lord, it made you want to give all of them cameras so they'd just leave her alone and go out and make the film they wanted.

Part of the problem was that this is simply what happens when among the self-appointed "experts" everyone always encounters in these settings in Amman. But the other part is that Azza's film was telling their stories. It was like they all wanted her to speak for them, make sure to include everything right down to the minutest detail and include their point of view as well.

As if that were possible.

So perhaps I'm setting myself up in making this film. I'm telling stories of Arabs, yet I'm not Arab. But the reason I want to make films in the first place is because I want Americans to see images they never see of the Arab world and voices they don't expect to hear. That, in my mind, seems like one of the few ways people can begin to "get" what's going on there and how people feel about the U.S. and its policies. And because of my perspective, I have a good idea of where Americans are coming from (I was raised in Appalachia, for Pete's sake!) and how to approach the whole awareness-raising side of it.

At least I hope so. Don't look for me anytime soon showing my film back in Amman, though. I don't think my sanity could handle it. . .

Monday, January 02, 2006

I'm baaaack!

It's been a nice break. Probably not as relaxing as I had hoped it would be, but whatever. It never really is, I suppose. I do have to say, though, that keeping away from the computer is very nice sometimes. Man, I hadn't realized how much time I spend looking at random stuff (read: blogs) and generally wasting time on the computer until two weeks with nearly nothing.

Our old buddy Haitham came on Christmas Eve and stayed for a week, and we've been out and about quite a bit. I also managed to get some good work done on the film. It's finally started taking shape, and the end is kind of in sight.

There's probably not going to be too much exciting stuff in this space over the next week or so since I've got a couple of books to get through and serious work on the film still to be done. I'm popping some pictures up on Flickr from the past few weeks for anyone who's interested, and I'll try and show up regularly and briefly here at ajnabeeyeh.