Saturday, May 21, 2005

The Underwear

The first thought I had yesterday when I saw Saddam Hussain’s naked picture was about the make of his underwear. The thought itself will not be strange when I tell you why I was thinking of the underwear and not the political or humanity aspects of Saddam’s human right or whatever you want to call it.

Approximately two months ago, a friend of mind showed me the store which Queen Elizabeth purchases her underwear from. When I glanced at the store, I was able to tell how much it would cost you to get underwear. Few weeks later, I had to shop with two friends of mine in one of the biggest stores in London. While I was in the underwear section, I noticed how the underwear where kept in nice boxes; the type of boxes that you would probably see in chocolates or gift stores. Although, I wasn’t intending to buy any but thought of looking around and feel the materials that were made from. In few seconds, a sales assistance popped up and offered to help. The first question he asked: What sort of underwear are you looking for? Are you looking for left hang or right hang? Ummm “What are you talking about?” was my reply on him. The sales assistance noticed that I didn’t have a clue of what a “left or right hang” was and maybe he looked at me and noticed my Arabian look and thought about my stupidity, and therefore, he came forward couple of steps and gave me a presentation about underwears as he was a researcher in the underwear department of University of London. He taught me things that I didn’t have a clue about and I assure you no one from the middle or lower class would even know anything about them. Has anyone thought of where he would place his eggs when wearing underwear or about ventilation?

Once he finished his lecture, I dared and asked him about the people who would afford to pay 500 pounds (300 BD) for underwear. The salesman didn’t take a second to think and gave me couple of Arab princes who were regular customers. I said to myself: Ok so this means Prince X wears the right hang type. But curiosity kills the cat. I was thinking about the royal family in wonderland. What type of underwear do they wear? To explain the point, the question should be, what is their life style? Where do they go shopping and how much would they spend? Don’t we have the right to know?

Information about Gorge Bush (the president of the United States), for example, are publicly available. We know how much he gets paid, where he goes to play golf. Clinton (ex-president) once was questioned by the Congress because he spent hundred dollars in a barbar shop which the Congress found waste of money. Don’t we have the right to question our royal family for their personal spending which I am sure it is covered by the government budget?! Well, maybe I am loosing my brain on this..

Clinton, in his book My Life, approaches the story of his youth with gusto, sharing tales of giant watermelons, nine-pound tumors, a charging ram, famous mobsters and jazz musicians, and a BB gun standoff. He offers an equally energetic portrait of American history, pop culture, and the evolving political landscape, covering the historical events that shaped his early years and the events that shaped his presidency.

Five million copies, I repeat, Five million copies of My Life were sold making a fortune of at least Five Million Dollars (if we assume that each copy was sold for a dollar). Why don’t the members of the royal family start writing their autobiography then? They will make a fortune too..What I am talking about?!! They don’t need an extra income. They already own the country and everything in the country.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Struggling with the Russian names

How many of us Arab people have picked up a book from the Russian literature (yesterday was my first time to read a Russian novel!) and quickly become confused by the strange, seemingly innumerable -- and long -- Russian names. And who could begin to try and pronounce them? Ivan Alexandrovich, Yuri Mikhailovich, Elena Sergeievna, Olga Nikolaievna...what's it all about, anyway?

After stugelling with the names, I have made some conclusions that turned up to be true later one when I asked for details from my Russian friend.
It all starts at birth. A Russian-born child is given a first name just like children in other cultures. The Russian child is also given a middle name, but unlike their Western cousins -- whose middle names, if given at all, are similar to a first name or perhaps a family name -- Russian babies take on a special version of their father's first name, known as a patronymic, or "otchestvo."

Put more simply, Ivan Alexandrovich is translated -- Ivan, son of Alexander. If the child is a daughter of Alexander, she will receive a first name (such as Maria) and she will be known as Maria Alexandrevna, or "daughter of Alexander." So, the boys attach "ovich" or "evich" and girls attach "ovna" or "evna" depending on which works better with their father's first name.

As for boys who are named for their fathers, well, there are no "Juniors" in Russia. If a boy child is named for his father Pavel, then his name will be Pavel Pavlovich, or Pavel, son of Pavel. There are also Alexander Alexandrovich, Mikhail Mikhailovich and many others!

To further the Russians go around calling each other by such names?
The short answer to that is -- yes. But it depends upon the person and the circumstances. If the relationship is a formal one, such as employer/employee, then both names are used upon greeting and in conversation. The use of both first and patrynomic together is also used as a mark of respect or affection, whether to older people, people one does not know well, or even little children.

There are also cases where someone may refer to another person *only* by their patronymic. In other words, to her close family and friends, Tatiana Ivanova may be referred to only as "Ivanova" or, daughter of Ivan. There are even Russian married couples who will refer to one another in this manner. In the case of good acquaintances, friends, co-workers and family, chances are good that only the first name is used, although that name will most certainly be shortened and altered in various ways. Russians love word play, especially with names and nicknames.
Some examples include: Sergei=Seriozha, Maria=Masha,Mashka, Tatiana=Tasha, Tatya, Ivan=Ivanushka and so many, many more. It is a sign of pure affection. This really drove me crazy sometimes when my friend’s friends come to the office and start calling him with different names that his name. I thought the other names were nicknames or something but it was just today when I found out it is just a variation.

So, if you have a Russian in your life, you can gauge your loved one's affection for you by the number of "names" that have been bestowed. Some nicknames can be quite fun and nonsensical, having no translation.

Another unusual aspect of Russian names concerns the surname, or "familiya." Anyone who has studied a Romance language is familiar with feminine and masculine endings for words. Well, in Russian, it is much the same -- including surnames. For instance, a woman who is married to a man with the surname of Chekov, is addressed as Chekova. An unmarried woman also adds an "a" to her father's surname.

So if I say my name is Mohammed Ahmed ZamZam, then it should be Mohmmed Ahamedovitch ZamZam. This is not my real name just in case :P

Thursday, May 19, 2005

The Rectangles

Look at the picture below. Can you sort the rectangles based on thier size?

I guess you would say: the middle rectangle is the biggest, then the one on the right, then the one on the left.

Well, you are wrong. I have drawn this picture this morning and showed it to my students. The two rectangles (the one on the left and the one on the right) are identical. You are not the only one who was fooled with this. So don’t think you are a dim :)

There is a scientific and philosophical explanation for this phenomenon. But I would only explain the philosophical one here. The distance of the right rectangle from the middle one is greater than the distance of the left rectangle from the middle one. Although the two rectangles are identical, you still see the left one smaller than the right one. The reason is that when you stand close to something big you see yourself smaller. Take few steps away of it and you will see yourself bigger.

Two examples can be drawn from this:
In politics, whenever you get yourself closer to the bad guys or (the hawameer as we call them), people will see you as their baby. While others who keep themselves away from their dirty plans, are bigger in the people's eyes.

In relationships, when a woman comes closer to a man, she finds herself tiny and weak between his arms and that what it should happen. Let her keep a distance and she would see herself bigger and problems would starts. Well, this applies to men too, just in case you think I am biased.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

No Comments

Although i was still feeling dizy this morning, this cartoon made me feel better :)

My Ancestors

You can never ever enjoy a long lasting dream. In less than 72 hours from enjoying the conference dinner and spending a great weekend with a special friend, I felled sick. Well, it wasn’t a great deal but a sever stomach-ache with vomiting and diarrhoea that forced me to stay in bed all day.

The good news is that I took the opportunity to read couple of books I was supposed to read long time ago. While I was reading the books, I discovered that my family (AL Majid) used to rule Bahrain in the 18th century. To be honesty, I wouldn’t call that a novel discovery as I was always told by my father that my grand grand father used to govern Bahrain but this was the first time that I read the whole story in a book. Well, I am a bit flattered and proud not because I belong to decent family but to a family that fought the first invasion of Al-Khalifa (the current royal family of Bahrain) and kicked them out of Bahrain.

Briefly, in the mid-18th century the al-Khalifa, a prominent family among the ‘Utub tribe from the central Arabian Peninsula’, established control over parts of Zibara in Qatar. Once, they have captured Zibara, the greediness of Al-Khalifa led them to invade Bahrain (which used to be the richest country in region along with Basra). However, the invasion was confronted with a strong resistance from the Bahraini citizens who made alliance with the Al-hwala (الهولة). The ruler of Bahrain at that time was Shiekh Mohmmed AL-Majid who was responsible on the religion aspects and the person who asked help from Al-hawala and fought Alkhalifa invasion.

What interested me was that Bahrain at that time had another ruler who was responsible on the political aspects (the book doesn’t mention his name). What I concluded was: The Bahraini government in the 18th century was ruled by two people. One was responsible on the religion affairs and the other was responsible on the political affairs. From my understanding to the events, that the first was the person who made the alliance with Al-hawala and confronted the invasion of Al-khalifa. This is particularly interesting as the government structure looks like the one in Iran at the moment.

Friday, May 13, 2005

It feels like flying!

Did you ever dream you were flying? As a child, this was one of the good dreams, one of those I hoped for and wanted. Waking up from them always made me feel exhilarated and happy. I still occasionally dream I can do it, I still have that feeling, but it has become oh so rare. Not like as a child when I would find myself in a dream running like the wind, and then I would just take off and run just above the street, then higher and higher, in great, impossible leaps above the world. Sometimes I woke from those dreams, laughing myself awake.

I remembered this because two nights ago, I was experiencing the closest I ever got to that feeling. In the last couple of weeks I was extremely busy with preparing an important symposium that was sponsored and hosted by my organisation. It was one of the most stressing jobs I had lately.

Two nights ago, the symposium was over and my prize was a BIG dinner in the most wonderful place I could imagine. I had that dinner (actually it was a conference dinner) in a museum. Well, if you are into art, would you imagine having a dinner in the middle of the museum's main hall? To complete the scene, imagine a professional catering company is serving you with the finest food you could have.

Well, this was certainly a dream. But lucky me, that I lived that dream in the real life.

And not think of those other dreams.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

كتب عن البحرين

This is a list of the books I know about Bahrain. The majority of these books focus on sociology, politics and the history of the Bahraini people. If you know any other book, write the name of book, the author and the publisher if possbile and I will add it to the list.

البحرين قصة الصراع السياسي
سوسن علي الشاعر
الحركة الدستورية نضال شعب البحرين من اجل الديمقراطية
 دار الوحدة الوطنية

البحرين الاصالة ومظاهر التغيير السياسي
كريم المحروس
مؤسسة الرافدين

انتفاضة البحرين وافاق المستقبل
ابراهيم الحاج
ظواهر التجربة المسرحية في البحرين
د ابراهيم غلوم
شركة الربيعان للطباعة

البحرين قضايا الامن والحرية
عصام الاديب
دار الصفا

البحرين في صدر الاسلام
د. عبد الرحمن عبد الكريم العاني
الدار العربية للموسوعات - لبنان

ال خليفة من صحراء نجد الى الاستيلاء على البحرين
جواد عبد الوهاب
مؤسسة الرافد

البحرين انتهاكات حقوق الانسان
محمد مهدي
حركة احرار البحرين

البحرين قضايا السلطة والمجتمع
فيصل وهون
دار الصفا

الزواج وتطور مجتمع البحرين
عادل احمد سركيس

الحركة الاسلامية واليسار في البحرين
احمد حسين
الصفا للنشر

البحرين مشكلات التغيير السياسي والاجتماعي
د.محمد الرميحي
دار ابن خلدون

البحرين من امارات الخليج
خضير نعمان العبيدي
مطبعة المعارف بغداد

العلامة السيد هاشم البحراني
فارس تبريزيان
 دار المعروف للطباعة والنشر

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Skepticism in the Arab media

What's interesting (and somewhat encouraging) about this clip from an interview on Al-Arabiya with Saudi "women's rights advocate" Suheila Hammad (transcript here) isn't that she repeats the tired allegations that "Zionists" were responsible for the 9/11 attacks. It's that the interviewer for the Saudi-owned station expresses genuine skepticism and makes her look even more ridiculous than she makes herself.

The reason that I am writing about this is not becuase I am with or against Zionists. It is beacuse the popular myths that we use to answer all the issues we face in our life. Before 9/11, we would would usually say that Musad is responsible for the explosion in the X city. After 9/11, some people would give the credit to Al-Qada, others would definitly link it to Zionists, and the rest of the people would say the American.

I hope this sort of thing catches on in our media, neither encouraging nor censoring popular myths, but confronting them head-on with demands for evidence and countering them with facts. If this is done, I think we may realise the real problems that we are facing in the Arab world and start putting practical solutions.

Endless Love

As British Prime Minister Tony Blair faces re-election, I offer a reprise of this classic video featuring a lovestruck Blair and Bush singing the breathless ballad "Endless Love."

The credit goes to Johan Söderberg who created this movie for a Swedish television program called 'Kobra'.