tuque /tūk/ n Canadian English, var. toque [19th c. Canadian French, from the French toque, from the Basque tauka] 1 A close-fitting knitted cap, often with a long tapering end or tassel or pompom. 2 fig Something quintessentially Canadian.
souq /sūk/ n from the Arabic سوق var. souk 1 An open-air marketplace. 2 fig A central meeting place for the circulation of news and ideas.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christ's boyhood house discovered just as everyone is talking about him again

'Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even... wait, wait, wait. Someone is stirring. It's that little rugrat, belongs to Mary and Joe. Little what's-his-name. What's he playing?

Where did Jesus play? Right there (possibly), according to a team of archaeologists in Israel, who've just dug up an approximately two-thousand-year-old home in the city of Nazareth, coincidentally just in time for the holiday when Christians celebrate the birth of their approximately two-thousand-year-old savior.

Round about two millenia ago in this town, an angel delivered a one-line memo from God to Mary that said "You're preggers" and advised her to head for Bethlehem. The subsequent parts of that legend have been laid down allegorically in the best-selling book of all time, "The Bible: Or How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the God-Baby" (subtitle later dropped by marketing department).

What the gospels--those that made the final cut--didn't much tell us is how Jesus grew up, did in school, got on with his mates, fared on the football team, got punished for breaking curfew, and rebelled against his parents by screaming "I wish I'd never been born of the one true God in a smelly barn surrounded by donkeys."

Until now, believers and skeptics alike have only been able to imagine in their mind's eye how Jesus must have lived in the town of Nazareth between the ages of zero and thirty.

But now, thanks to some timely digging in the parking lot directly opposite the Church of the Annunciation, which is built on the spot where Mary is believed to have been sitting knitting when she received God's angel-fax, we can all see exactly where Jesus spent his youth: in a hole in the ground.

For you see, much like today's Nazareth--which is a mostly Palestinian-Arab-inhabited Israeli city with a mixed Muslim and Christian population whose economy relies heavily on tourist dollars from foreign Christians while they otherwise face economic discrimination--the Nazareth of Christ's boyhood was also a poor place, and thus it is not surprising that Jesus and his family lived in the dirt.

The credibility of this theory is certainly being touted by Israel's Ministry of Taking Dollars from Christians, a spokesperson for which said, "We were, er, as surprised as anyone that there was this two-thousand-year-old dirt home here in Nazareth where your Messiah happened to live, and further that we found it, hehe, just in time for your celebration of his, uh, totally believable virgin birth."

In related news, the Palestinian Ministry of Taking Dollars from Christians Brave Enough to Cross Israeli Checkpoints has announced it has started digging in the parking lot outside Bethlehem's Nativity Church. "Maybe we'll find a sandal or something," said a spokesperson. "Perhaps Jesus dropped a baby rattle on his way out of town. If it's here, we'll find it. Please come visit. Please. Pleeeeeease."

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Israel's Rage Against the Machine saves Christmas

Millions of Israeli Jews and the reported Arabs who live amongst them were saved from certain catastrophe this week when Israeli border guards fought and destroyed a deadly intruder to their land.

The laptop computer of 21-year-old American student Lily Sussman was discovered at a border crossing between Egypt and Israel trying to sneak into the promised land under the disguise of an American student's laptop computer.

According to witnesses, Ms. Sussman was carrying the machine--a so-called "MacBook"--on her person as she tried to enter Israel. She was allegedly unaware that her benign-looking companion was actually at the top of Israel's most-wanted list.

"Yeah, we've been looking for that sonofabitch for years," said a spokeperson for Israel's Ministry of Defence Against the Dark Arts. "But all Israelis can sleep soundly tonight. That, er, item will not be threatening us again."

As Ms. Sussman reported on her blog, the Israeli border authorities seized her laptop, dragged it out back and shot it three times. The grieving student concluded that her computer was targeted because of its purported pro-Palestinian keyboard layout ( ضصثقفغ instead of QWERTY), but this blogger senses a more clandestine motive.

The Tuque Souq has learned that the offending laptop computer matches the description of a certain machine that was sent back in time by the leader of a future cyborg insurgency to destroy in the present the mother of the unborn future savior of the planet, who reportedly lives with her husband just outside of Nazareth although she has been seen in the Bethlehem area recently.

"That's one Christmas story that will have a happy ending," said the Israeli soldier wittily as he shot the laptop, before adding, "Hasta la vista, baby."

(The soldier is now being sued by James Cameron for copyright infringement.)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Ladies and Gentlemen, the P-P-Prime Minister of L-L-Lebanon



What's got Sa'ad al-Hariri all sweaty under the collar? The newly sworn in Lebanese prime minister delivered a speech to parliament last week during which he choked on more words than Peter MacKay at a torture tribunal.

Doing his best impersonation of Ken from A Fish Called Wanda, Mr. al-Hariri stumbled through his address, finally reaching the point where the whole chamber was splitting at the seams as the prime minister self-effacingly laughed off his own awkwardness. Finally, parliamentary speaker Nabih Berri came to his aid and finished the speech.

Why was the PM so nervous that he could not deliver a simple speech with the text right there in his hand? Is it that tough to run Lebanon? Oh right, it is.

Related post: Syria to open embassy in Beirut, BBQ planned for opening night

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Egypt seeks return of hieroglyphic monolith

What's mine is thine, unless of course you don't give it back.

For more than two hundred years the Rosetta Stone--a seven-square-foot block of granodiorite whose carvings are comprised of the only translations from hieroglyphs to ancient Greek the world has ever known, without which the writing of ancient Egypt might still be a mystery--has sat in London, far from its home in a place called Al-Rashid, Egypt, where it was discovered in 1799 by soldiers of Napoleon's army.

Upon Napoleon's defeat the stone passed to the victorious British, who took the stone as well as thousands of other artifacts of antiquity from the sand and soil of Egypt during the colonial period. Now Egypt wants its treasure back.

Egypt's Pharaoh of Antiquities (and here we're using the world 'pharaoh' in the way that Americans use the word 'czar'), an influential and dedicated gentleman called Zahi Hawass, has said he is prepared to launch a fight in both judicial and public-opinion courts to retrieve the Rosetta Stone from the British Museum.

(Readers of Harper's Magazine may recall Zahi Hawass's cameo in the January '08 issue in a fantastic article called "The Mummy's Curse" about a group of old Egyptologists fighting in the desert. And this week he is profiled in a New Yorker article dubbing him, naturally, "The Pharaoh.")

Mr. Hawass, on behalf of Egyptians, wants the famous stone to reside (at least temporarily) in the new Grand Egyptian Museum in Giza, a multigazillion-dollar project being constructed at the base of the Great Pyramids slated for completion in 2013. His trump card, for now, is a pledge to drop (at least temporarily) Egyptian demands for a permanent resettlement of the stone if it is returned on loan for three months or so.

The British authorities seem concerned that, should they lend the stone to they who claim right to it, there is little doubt of its permanent abduction.

Oh, the irony would be worthy of celebration were it not steeped in haughtiness, if not outright prejudice.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Suez Canal marks sesquicentennial with excuse to use the word 'sesquicentennial'


Egypt's Suez Canal is celebrating its 150th birthday this year, or more accurately its 150th conception day (since construction began in 1859 but the famous canal was not finished until 1869, meaning we'll probably have another sesquicentennial in 2019). Nevertheless, congratulations old friend, may you live to see 150 more.

Great moments in the history of the Suez Canal: 1869 BCE, when Pharaoh Senusret first came up with the idea to build the canal; 1869 CE, when Egyptian forced laborers under British command completed the 192-km waterway and the first boat completed the journey; 1956, when Egyptian revolutionary Gamal Abd al-Nasser nationalized the canal leading to a war of Britain, France and Israel versus Egypt; and 1973, when Egyptian military engineeers, during another war with Israel, displaced occupying Israeli soldiers on the east bank of the canal by shooting water at them via cannons feeding from the canal.

Also celebrating a sesquicentennial in 2009: Oregon, A Tale of Two Cities, Big Ben, Queensland, the Titusville oil well, The Origin of Species, Billy the Kid, the Victoria Pioneer Rifle Company, and the Pig War (which ended in 1871, but not necessarily to everyone's satisfaction).

Monday, December 7, 2009

Shoeless shoe thrower throws shoe at ex-shoe thrower

Oh irony, you backstabbing rapscallion,
You devilish hairpin turn,
You are the shoe on the other foot,
You are the eternal guarantor of chaos.

Tuque Souq hero and Iraqi journalist Muntazer al-Zaidi, the man who launched a global movement when he launched his shoe at distantly remembered former US president George W. Bush one year ago, has been hit with a shoe.

What went around has, er, come around.

Mr. al-Zaidi was speaking at a conference in Paris when another Iraqi journalist, identified only as Khayat, threw a shoe at him, apparently in protest of Mr. al-Zaidi's anti-US presentation. The mysterious Mr. Khayat had spoken earlier in support of the US-led occupation of Iraq and accused al-Zaidi of advocating dictatorship.

The assailant was slapped and tackled after his shoe barely missed the head of its target. Then, as he was being escorted out of the room, another person--possibly al-Zaidi's brother--threw a shoe at him.



It is not known what will become of Khayat. After his attack last year, Mr. al-Zaidi spent nine months in prison for assault. After being attacked last year, Mr. Bush fled to Afghanistan. Whatever happens, you can be sure the press will tell us. The Tuque Souq tried to reach Mr. Bush for comment, but the former president is not aware of irony.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Syria bans the Hookah, can Canada save it?

Sure, it was a laughing matter when Syria banned Facebook, YouTube and the Tuque Souq, but this time the joke has gone too far. Banning the Hookah?!

The Syrian government--i.e. President Bashar al-Asad and the angel and devil on his either shoulder--has decided to ban shisha smoking in public places, citing fears of "cancer" and other spurious health issues.*

The ban is seen as revolutionary in the Middle East by anti-smoking advocates, the first attempt to address openly tobacco's threat to society. Purveyors of the delectable vice that is shisha smoking, however, are dismayed at the law, which is a blow to their businesses and livelihoods. Some even fear black markets and bribe-taking inspectors will emerge to circumvent the law

Shisha-smoking in Syria is a centuries-old tradition; its origin a bygone era when merchants and traders travelling from India--the birthplace of the hookah--would park their wagons in Damascus or Aleppo, two important trading hubs, and rest for awhile amongst the famously hospitable Syrians with whom they'd share their smoke. Nowadays, if you can't find a Syrian to take a puff from your pipe, you're just not looking hard enough.

And over the years, the tranquility and camaraderie with which Syrians enjoy smoking the water pipe have been among that country's most enduring images, not unlike the way Canadians gather round clunky tables at Tim Horton's on weekend mornings to grumble about hockey and the weather and Americans.

According to the titularly authoritative website ShishaCanada.com, the popularity of smoking the hookah in this country is entirely due to the activity's social element; smoking the shisha is a group thing, and Canadians love hanging out in groups.

Naturally, most places in this health-care obsessed country forbid indoor smoking in public places, so the multitude of hookah bars that have sprung up in the past decade are turning to tobacco-free, herbal shisha concoctions that don't run afoul of the smoking bylaws.

The popular Internet shisha factory Hookah Hub has an entire department devoted to herbal blends, which are essentially teas that you smoke in your pipe, in flavours such as blueberry, fruit punch, grape, green apple, guava, kiwi, lemon, mango, margarita, melon, orange, peach, peanut butter, pina colada, pineapple, pumpkin pie, spearmint, strawberry, watermelon and, the most popular shisha flavour of all time, tufahtayn ("double apple").

Now, no one can predict how smooth peanut butter and pumpkin pie will go down amongst the discerning Syrians, but otherwise the herbal remedy may be just what can save shisha in Syria.The Tuque Souq is dialing Bashar right now. Save Syrian Shisha! Say it with me five times really fast.

* From the Tuque Souq Surgeon General: The World Health Organization considers tobacco the #1 cause globally of death and disability, with lung cancer especially crippling developing nations' health-care services and killing millions each year. More than 90% of lung-cancer cases stem from tobacco use. Smoking kills you, and before it kills you it makes you really, really ugly. Unless you're this person in the image at left. [Click to enlarge]

Friday, December 4, 2009

World Cup draw: Algeria becomes world's most popular team

If you're looking for a Cinderella World Cup team on whose bandwagon to jump, the Tuque Souq recommends you look no further than Algeria. Just hours ago at the official World Cup 2010 draw, the Algerians were put into Group C with the hated Americans, the reviled English, and the happy-to-be-here Slovenes.

Les fennecs--the desert foxes--as the Algerian national team are nicknamed, had a remarkable run through the World Cup qualifying rounds in Africa, culminating with a sudden-death playoff with nemesis Egypt that nearly resulted in a United Nations peacekeeping mission.

Following Algeria's 1-0 playoff win over Egypt in Khartoum, which followed Egypt's desperation 2-0 win over Algeria in Cairo that forced the playoff, which followed a sordid bout of hooliganism when Egyptian fans attacked the Algerians' team bus upon arrival in Egypt that left many of the Algerian players bloodied, and which followed Egyptian fans tearing apart their own hometown vandalizing Algerian-owned businesses and property, it is fair to say that Algerian-Egyptian relations are at an all-time low.

Alaa Mubarak, son of Egyptian president Hosni, went as far as to question the Algerians' very identity: "When Algerians learn how to speak Arabic, they can then come and say that they are Arabs." (Colloquial Algerian Arabic dialects are heavily influenced by Berber and French loanwords and often do not sound very Arabic. Then again, Egyptian Arabic is nothing to wax your ears for, either.)

You know things are bad when Israel offers to resolve your dispute. You know things are worse when the only other offer of mediation comes from Qaddafi. But it seems the sore losers in Egypt prefer to be grumpy, and Algeria have the moral high ground until they meet again.

WHAT IS THE ARABIC FOR KARMA?
But that's not the only reason to cheer on les fennecs. Algeria have qualified for the World Cup twice before--in '82 and '86--but have never advanced beyond the group stage. And back in '82, they were the victims of the most egregious incident of match-fixing in World Cup history, an event that is known in German as Schande von Gijón, or the "Shame of Gijon."

In the '82 World Cup prelims, Algeria shocked West Germany and also beat Chile, losing only to Austria. As a result, Algeria were ahead of the West Germans in the standings as the latter went into their final group match against Austria, which was already assured a spot in the quarterfinals. In that game, both sides knew that a German victory by the score of 1-0 would allow West Germany to advance to the quarterfinals and not affect Austria's standing.

So it is widely perceived that both teams covertly agreed to allow that exact score to prevail, a teutonic collusion that eliminated Algeria from the World Cup.

During the Germany-Austria match, the Germans scored 10 minutes into the game. For the remaining 80 minutes, the two teams did not attack each other; they simply kicked the ball back and forth until the whistle blew. The TV announcer was so disgusted he refused to continue calling the match. Disgraced German fans burned their own flag in the stands in protest.

But FIFA, soccer's international governing body, never could prove any fraudulent intent on the part of the players. So Karma took over, as Austria lost to France in the quarterfinals. West Germany went on to reach the championship game, losing to Italy.

It would've been grand had Algeria drawn Germany this time, but the Group C lineup is still enticing. There is no bandwagon for USA or England; either you love 'em or you hate 'em. So unless you're one of the statistically insignificant few people who feel a preternatural bond with Slovenia, then Algeria should be your team next summer.

Full World Cup draw and schedule.

WE GOT NEXT?
In vaguely related news, Qatar has announced it will bid on hosting the 2018 World Cup finals. Qatar. FIFA will announce the 2018 host one year from today. (Yes, I did say Qatar.)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Hezbollah dumps old manifesto for younger, hipper model

Hezbollah leader and reclusive former socialite Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah made a shrewd return to the public eye this week at the launch party for the new Hezbollah manifesto, dubbed Hezbofest 2009.

Sheikh Nasrallah, who was recently re-elected to a sixth term as Hezbollah secretary general from an undisclosed bunker where he's been hiding since the 2006 war with Israel, dropped a bomb--no, no, figuratively speaking--when he announced that "People evolve, Lebanon has changed. The whole world order changed over the past 24 years [since Hezbollah's first manifesto was proclaimed in 1985]."

By engaging in one of Lebanon's most cherished national pastimes--public manifesto reading--Sheikh Nasrallah demonstrated that he is serious about a live-and-let-live political policy that, for example, no longer seeks to subject the country's large Christian and Sunni-Muslim populations to a Shi'ite theocratic republic.

He offered assurances that Hezbollah will continue supporting parliamentary democracy in Lebanon and has no immediate plans to use its massive arsenal of Iranian weapons to destabilize the country.

Hezbollah's original manifesto, proclaimed on February 16, 1985 from the al-Ouzai mosque in suburban Beirut, was a standard, Mad-Lib style document of contemporary political zeitgeist urging perpetual armed resistance to everything and everyone in the name of God and high-yield returns on weapons smuggling and money laundering.

The new document is softer, happier and less Persian. While still affirming the group's self-proclaimed inalienable right to shit on Israel, the new Hezbofest calls for a new era of inclusivity and tolerance within Lebanese borders: consensual democracy, the end of sectarianism, rights for Palestinian refugees, freedom for all under the protective umbrella of Hezbollah's surface-to-surface missiles.

Or, as the Sheikh himself put it nicely, "cohabitation between a strong [Lebanese] army and popular [armed Hezbollah] resistance."

So the new Hezbollah is a check-and-balance on the system. How delightfully Jeffersonian!

[Read the entire Hezbollah manifesto, translated into English by Hezbollah media itself!]

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Tuque Souq at 200: Not too old to blow out our own candles

It is gratuitous anniversary day at the Tuque Souq, as this our 200th post of all time coincides with the one-year anniversary of the Great Canadian Putsch of 2008, that startling palace coup de quoi that had great multitudes of our citizenry storming the Parliament Hill rumour mill for a week and scouring Wikipedia for revelatory factoids on a guy called Byng.

For those readers born since, the Great Canadian Putsch started when Prime Minister Stephen Harper tried to enact a Machiavellian scheme to tie public funding of political parties to success at the ballot box, a plan that would have bankrupted the Liberals and Bloc on the heels of a costly election season. The PM's ungallant hubris and hypocrisy caused the wax in his wings to melt, as the 3 opposition parties united to unseat him with a confidence motion, a check-mate move that caused Harper to destroy the playing board by introducing a long-lost million-dollar word: Prorogation.

Convincing the Governor General was all it took for Harper to KO the rabble rousers and suspend the government before it could vote him down. Then, supremely satisfied that he had crushed all before him and sounded the final bell of his closest rival, Harper gave himself a seven-week vacation.

In the interim, the united coalition of the Bloc, the NPD and the Grits fell into disrepair, a condition in which it remains to this day.

So what did we learn from all of this, besides the realization that even Canadian politics can be sexy if you cinch up all its parliamentary flab and down a fifth of rye before date night?

Probably nothing. Maybe it's for the best. Politics is too serious a matter to be left to politicians, whose entertainment value returns much higher yields than their integrity.

From the Tuque Souq archives:
Stephen Harper stung by Qaddafi snub
Stephen Harper's Algerian Wine Collection
Israel Lobby to Harper: Do you still love us?
Tories to Jews: Have we got some Nachas for you!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Jazeera to Canadians: You can call me Al

Mothers, hide your children. Dads, disable your remote controls. Al Jazeera is coming to town. The swarthy, menacing cable news network based in Qatar has cleared the last CRTC hurdle and, after a five-year struggle, is now available for distribution in Canada.

Having received its CRTC licensing Al Jazeera English (AJE) can now be picked up by Canadian cable distributors. The news giant is also planning to open a Canadian bureau as part of the process of gaining a toehold in North America. (BBC doesn't even have a bureau here. They've long been too polite to disturb Canadians.)

Oh me, oh my! Is Canada ready for this? Is Canada prepared to receive its daily serving of news with a side of global perspective? Can Canada find Qatar on a map?

Some Canadians* are skeptical. Al Jazeera is propaganda ("Give us Fox News!"). Al Jazeera is terrorist journalism ("Give us a CNN embed!"). Al Jazeera doesn't even sound Canadian ("We only watch acronyms!").

Alas, opponents of AJE are off the mark. Al Jazeera is nothing more than a guy named Al with a foreign-sounding last name. Surely nothing is more Canadian than a visible minority with an assimilated name.


View Larger Map

AJE is well known (elsewhere) for its in-depth coverage of global events, in the model of BBC World. Recent feature reporting includes the evaporation of South America's Lake Titicaca, Catholic-church child-abuse scandal in Ireland, and the celebration of Thanksgiving in American Indian communities.

So what kind of frightening programming will Canadians be subjected to? If you're watching AJE today, for example, you'll get:
A debate about race and recession in the US;
Reporting from India on the one-year anniversary of the Mumbai attacks;
An interview with the prime minister of Thailand;
A feature on Panama's small Muslim community making the hajj;
A round-table discussion of the strength of the new European Union.

Chilling stuff.

[Related post: "Walrus tackles Al Jazeera"]

* Actually only 2% of Canadians are unsure, according to the CRTC, which said that 98% of letters it received from the public during a 30-day feedback window before granting AJE a license were supportive of the network broadcasting in Canada.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Tories to Jews: Have we got some nachas for you!

Canada's opposition parties have a lot to kvetch about after the ruling Conservatives plastered the country's major Jewish ridings last week with fliers attesting to the Tories' ethno-crush on the chosen people.

In addition to reminding Jewish constituents of the government's record on opposing Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran, Durban, and Porky's--ticking off the list of things the Conservatives would imagine Jews not liking, if they ever actually met one--a spokesman for Prime Minister Stephen Harper was quick to note, "... and he [Harper] has seen Fiddler on the Roof like twenty-six times, and has read the Yiddish-English dictionary as far as fachadick."

The Tory ad also paid homage to the Jewish peoples' noted love of democracy, with an image of a ballot at the bottom of the flier offering Hebraic faithers the chance to vote on which party leader most adoringly renders them a homogeneous rolodex of ballot stuffers and campaign donors.

(This is a stark contrast to the fliers the Tory campaign office was rumoured to have for its Somali constituents, which was an image of a Jolly Roger over the inscription: "Vote for us or we'll send you back to Somalia.")

In courting the so-called Jewish ballot, the Conservative Party is demonstrating just how serious it is in outflanking its rivals on the niche-vote battlefield. Already they've corralled the Christians, the Muslims, the Sikhs, the Shintaos, the Confusians, the atheists, the agnostics, the royalists and the loyalists, the aristocrats and the bourgeousie, the farmers and the pickers and the grinners, the hockey moms and the banker dads, the 905ers and the 418ers, the cowboys and the indians.

That leaves only the workers for the NDP, the vegetarian hemp suckers for the Greens, the Québecois for the Bloc Québecois, and for the Liberals not much more than the sportos, the motorheads, geeks, sluts, bloods, wastoids, dweebies and, of course, the dickheads.*

Get working on those fliers, opposition parties. The next election is between 3 and 49 months away!

* They all think Michael Ignatieff is a righteous dude.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Dubai scion gets degree in dadology

Sheikh Majed bin Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum is the heir to the throne of Dubai. His father, the emir of the city-state and the prime minister (a campy term) of the United Arab Emirates, is the famous Sheikh Mo of Dubai lore, the man who has given us all those fake islands in the shape of a palm tree, the world's first seven-star hotel, and the world's tallest building.

Sheikh Majed, or "Mini-Mo" as he has just been called for the first time, hopes to be just like dad some day. To wit, he engages in a lot of emir-y things:

Here he is opening the 2009 Desalination World Congress; There he is cutting the ribbon on the Dubai Airport Expo; Over there he is inspecting Dubai's newest golf course, the "Earth course" ahead of the Dubai World Championships, which took place this past weekend.

Here is his facebook page. (You'll notice he has only about 100,000 fewer fans than Queen Rania.)

Here is his official website. (It seems to offer no function whatsoever.)

And here is his new Master's degree.

Sheikh Majed bin Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, scion of Dubai, just received a Master's degree in Police Studies for a thesis* entitled "The Genius of Crisis Management in the Vision of Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid al Maktoum" (his daddy).

According to the report [ عربي ], Sheikh Mini-Mo wrote about how Dubai has a long history of crises both internal and external, and only by the grace and wisdom of great leadership has the emirate been able to overcome adversity.

And nobody's got grace and wisdom like Majed's own papa Sheikh Mo, who has (with his $28-billion net worth from the oil wells) lifted Dubai out of perpetual threat by building a gleaming, shimmering, ostentatious police state.

To his credit, Majed also credits his earlier ancestors in the hereditary line of the Dubai emirate, as though to underscore the point that genes play a role in determining greatness, lest we fear for the future when Mini-Mo is ruling Dubai.

* In Arabic: بعبقرية إدارة الأزمات في رؤية الشيخ محمد بن راشد آل مكتوم

Friday, November 20, 2009

The fate of Nazem Kadri? Gordie Howe

Nazem Kadri, the Lebanese-Canadian hockey star, whose name very loosely translates as Sublime One Who Submits to the Will of Fate, is off to a superb start to the hockey season.

The first-round draft choice of the Tuque Souq's preferred hockey team, time-wasting wikipedia page, and joke butt--the Toronto Maple Leafs--is tearing up the ice down in London this OHL season, with 11 goals, 8 assists and 52 penalty minutes in just 19 games.

A whole whack of those stats came the other night in a 7-4 win over the Oshawa Generals, when Kadri racked up a Gordie Howe hat trick: a goal (and Kadri had 2 of those), an assist and a fight.

The fight came midway through the third period with the Knights well in control of the game. Oshawa forward Jeff Brown delivered a vicious back check to London's Jared Knight, attracting Kadri's attention.



In the replay, you can clearly see Brown, who's already been flagged for the penalty though the play has continued, bend down to see if Knight is okay. But Kadri flies over from the crease to knock Brown into the boards and instigate the fight with an uppercut. While it lasts only a few short moments, Brown delivers 4 quick blows to Kadri's face mask before the fight is broken up.

Apparently Nazem Kadri submits to the will of the penalty box very well; to the fate of his teammates being targets, not so well.

More recently, during an 8-2 thrashing of the Owen Sound Attack (though early in the game), Kadri drove Owen Sound winger Bobby Mignardi hard into the glass in the corner. Bruiser Michael McGurk followed Kadri to centre ice and started throwing punches, which Kadri happily reciprocated.



For Nazem Kadri, it was another Gordie Howe hat trick that night. When fate ordains that he finally put on a Leafs uniform in the NHL, the Tuque Souq votes they give him #9.*

* Yes, he played a few preseason games for the Leafs this year and they gave him the #43 sweater, not worn since Nathan Dempsey scored one whole goal in it during the 2000-2001 season. There's still time to switch him to #9. Sorry, Hagman.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Where bee stings are pleasure and honey is pain

A report out of Gaza this week notes an alarming rise in the number of Palestinians seeking bee-sting therapy to relieve symptoms of paralytic muscular atrophy, rheumatism and multiple sclerosis.

Unable to get to hospitals in Egypt, and with local medical facilities inadequately supplied due to the Israeli blockades, Gazan patients are increasingly turning to apitherapists to relieve crippling chronic pain. A three-course series of 4-6 stings each costs about $2.50.

To clarify the point, Palestinians visit their doctor on a regular basis and willingly submit to a bee-sting assault, and this is to relieve the pain of living in Gaza.

Apitherapy is perceived with skepticism in most medical circles but has been known for centuries to relieve certain muscle and joint pain. The theory of the healing power of honey-bee venom is that it is known to contain concentrated amounts of the peptide (amino-acid compound) Melittin, which is a natural anti-inflammatory.

Of course, when a honey bee stings, the creature dies, which means less honey for the halawiyat--yummy Arabic baklava--and therefore less pleasure for the kids.

And that's life in Gaza.

In somewhat related news, the Israeli government has agreed to send 7,500 calves to Gaza in the coming days as a humanitarian gesture for the Eid al-Adha, the festival in which Muslims commemorate Ibrahim's near sacrifice of his son Ismail by sacrificing a lamb.

Gazans may return the favour by sending cheeseburgers to Israel for Hanukkah.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Egypt-Algeria III: Balls of Fury

Bitter and literally bloodied rivals Egypt and Algeria meet Wednesday for a one-game playoff in Khartoum to decide which national soccer team will advance to the World Cup finals. The two teams finished level in their qualifying group after Egypt's miracle win on Saturday in Cairo. (Algeria won the first match in Algiers.)

[UPDATE NOV 18: Algeria defeated Egypt 1-0 in the playoff, and will advance to the World Cup for the first time since 1986.]

The love between these two teams? Colder than a camel in the arctic.

Check out this incredible video of the Algerian team's bus being attacked by Egyptian fans as it travels from the airport to the hotel in Cairo last Friday. Algerian players emerge from the bus bloodied by the rocks thrown through the windows.

Then there's this video, of the shocked Algerian players as they're being treated by medics at the hotel:



That was before the game. Rioting continued afterward, as delirious Egyptian fans clashed with distraught Algerian supporters well into the night, and the Little Algeria 'hood of Cairo was laid waste.

And that incident will not go down as the worst between these two teams. As reported in The New York Times Lede blog:

"The last time the national soccer teams of Egypt and Algeria met in Cairo for a game to decide which nation would qualify for the World Cup, in 1989, the conflict on and off the pitch was so violent that it ended with an Egyptian supporter losing an eye and an Interpol arrest warrant being issued for an Algerian player.

"The already tense atmosphere that day got worse when the Algerian team concluded that Egypt’s winning goal was scored by a player in an offside position (although video of the goal available on the Internet today seems to show that it was correctly allowed). After the match, the Algerians surrounded and harassed the referee and then fought with Egyptian supporters — one of whom was blinded by broken glass."

Is another such incident looming for the playoff? Sudan officials did not not confirm that janjaweed militias were being redirected to the capital to provide security.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Global shortages threaten Shoe Intifada

Last month in Montreal, former US president George W. Bush survived another volley of missiles, as over a thousand demonstrators protested his $100,000-speaking engagement at the Queen Elizabeth hotel by throwing their shoes at or at least near him. The protesters bravely sacrificed their precious footwear to demean Mr Bush, in spite of the looming annual Quebec apocalypse known as hiver.

While the protest was important in that it kept Dubya from sneaking into Canada under the radar to collect a fat cheque from the Montreal Chamber of Commerce for speaking candidly about how he was proud of starting two wars against the Islamic world, the Tuque Souq couldn't help but notice that the actual volume of ammunition in the protesters' arsenal was noticeably less than at last winter's anti-Bush, shoe-throwing demonstration in Montreal.

This leads us to ask a critical and obviously underasked question of one of our most precious global resources: Has the world of protesting reached Peak Shoe?

As this blog has covered obsessively, the Shoe Intifada has leathered its way from a small press conference in Baghdad last December into a globally laced anti-war movement.

Tens of thousands, maybe billions, of shoes have flown, in opposition to everything from the global economic crisis to transit-fare hikes. But have we wantonly tapped out a resource that is not as renewable as we thought? Or perhaps is some conspiratorial counter movement trying to untie those shoes, to trip up the movement?

This man may know: A 48-year-old Egyptian man was recently released from prison after serving a year for stealing $1500-worth of shoes from a mosque in Qatar. While he committed his crime before the Shoe Intifada began, perhaps his conspirators knew that a worldwide shoe-throwing movement would start, and he was hoarding shoes for future sale on the black market.

Or this man: An amputee in Belgium was recently picked up for stealing only a left shoe from a store in the town of Maldegem. Is there a connection between him, shoes, and the Left?

If there is a conspiracy afoot to deplete protesters of their sole ammunition, the Tuque Souq is on the trail. Stay tuned.

[Keep current on all the shoe throwing at the Tuque Souq's Shoe Intifada bureau.]

Saturday, November 14, 2009

World Cup underdogs overachieve underwhelmingly

Today's 11th-hour World Cup qualifiers were dramatic and, for the Tuque Souq, mostly disappointing. As we reported yesterday, Egypt needed a two-goal win over Algeria to stay alive, which they got in stupefying fashion when substitute striker Emad Moteab connected his head to a long cross and put the ball in the back of the net in the 5th minute of stoppage time, literally seconds before the final whistle blew. Algeria, hoping to complete the huge upset, were stunned, and now must face Egypt again in four days in a playoff to be held in Khartoum.

New Zealand notched a gritty, deserved 1-0 win over lil' Bahrain in front of 35,000 ripe kiwis. Victory was secured when Bahrain striker Sayed Mohamed Adnan telegraphed a penalty kick straight into the arms of the All Whites' goalkeeper in the 50th minute, which proved to be Bahrain's closest chance at a goal. New Zealand advance to the World Cup finals for the first time since 1982.

Dear Tunisia played as though under the influence of Triazolam in falling 0-1 to an overmatched but fully conscious Mozambique side. A draw wouldn't have been enough anyway, but the game was headed that way until Dario Khan netted a goal for the home side in the 84th minute, devastating the Tunisian faithful. The result allowed rivals Nigeria, 3-2 winners over Kenya, to edge Les aigles in Africa Group B and qualify for South Africa. It will be Nigeria's 4th trip to the World Cup, their first since 2002.

Morocco, already eliminated from contention, dropped a 2-0 decision to Cameroon, and so the latter will join Ghana, Côte d'Ivoire, Nigeria and the Algeria/Egypt winner, along with hosts South Africa, as Africa's representatives in the World Cup next summer.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Algeria invades Egypt, and other clashes

The World Cup of football and/or soccer is more than just a quadrennial reminder that Italians are a bunch of ref-baiting crybaby floppers, Englishmen are spineless, Frenchmen are rude, Germans are offensive, Americans are weak at heart, Canadians are polite enough not to show up, and Brazilians are genetically superior to us in every way.

More than a latent platform for gross mischaracterizations of national identity, the World Cup is also exciting for reasons of pure sport: cheering for that lovable underdog, who represents on the soccer pitch the underdog all of us are in relation to the universe.

One of the last boats to South Africa leaves tomorrow, and the Tuque Souq is desperately cheering for 3 great underdogs to be on it, so that when one of 'em upsets Spain or Holland at next year's World Cup, we can all feel that much better about ourselves.


BAHRAIN DANCE?

In the first leg of the home-and-home Asia/Oceania playoff finale last month in Manama, Bahrain played New Zealand to a goalless draw, so the second match on Saturday is winner-take-all.

Bahrain are ghost-writing the same Cinderella story they penned for the 2006 World Cup qualifying round.

Four years ago, the Islanders stood at this very same threshold: in a two-legged playoff against Trinidad & Tobago to qualify for the last spot in the 2006 World Cup finals, Bahrain earned a draw in the Caribbean and needed only the same result or better at home to book a trip to Germany. Instead, they crashed out in front of their own fans.

For Bahrain, the formula this time is as simple as it is familiar: Win, or tie the game and score at least one goal. Bahrain's imported coach is ready to "live the dream" for his adopted country. Will Bahrain qualify for their first-ever World Cup?

AL-DELIRIA?
Egypt are the reigning African champions. Earlier this year they rose as high as 15th in the FIFA world rankings. Their 90,000-capacity (including shabaab standing in the aisles) home stadium is almost as scary for opposing teams as it is for the home fans. So why do they find themselves needing a desperation win--by at least two goals--in the qualifying finale versus underdog Algeria to book a ticket to South Africa?

To be sure, Egypt have only themselves to blame for that inexcusable home draw versus Zambia back in March. But Algeria deserve most of the credit here. Were it not for a draw with Rwanda they'd have an umblemished record and would already be through to South Africa. They dispatched the Egyptians with ease in their first meeting in Algiers. The Desert Foxes are primed for a celebration, and need only play Egypt close to humiliate their rivals and qualify.

Algeria haven't reached the World Cup finals since 1986; they debuted in 1982, where they shocked eventual finalists West Germany in the preliminary round. Nearly half the country's population today wasn't yet alive when that game was played. Suffice to say, Algeria are ready to celebrate. Captain Yazid Mansouri (pictured above) is positively pushy: "We won't go to Cairo to defend. We'll do everything we can to take our chances. I know we can score over there."

Egypt captain Ahmed Hassan is ready to answer the challenge, and he's calling on the rowdy Cairo faithful to cheer the team to a badly needed victory. "I call on all our supporters to come and back us for the full 90 minutes, whatever the score happens to be. I expect lots of twists and turns in the game."

Here's the real twist: If Egypt win the game by exactly 2 goals, the two sides will finish with identical standings (wins, losses, goal differential, and head-to-head matchup). In that case, a one-game, neutral-site playoff would be needed, and it would be held in Khartoum next Wednesday.

EAGLES LANDING?
Wee Tunisia, beloved of the Tuque Souq, are on the cusp of qualifying for their fourth consecutive World Cup finals. In Africa's Group B, they lead group favourites Nigeria by two points heading into the final day of qualifying. Les aigles de Carthage head to Mozambique in control of their own destiny. But a draw might not be enough, not if Nigeria defeat Kenya (in which case Nigeria would win the tiebreaker with Tunisia based on a superior goal differential).

With a victory Tunisia will equal Cameroon's record of consecutive World Cup appearances by an African nation. They are on a nine-game unbeaten run against fellow African opponents. Their trajectory over the last decade shows that the Tunisians are, out of obscurity, now one of the premier squads on the continent.

OTHER GAMES
Fans of Morocco, your team is out of the running for the World Cup finals. But the disappointing side has a chance to finish the qualifying session on a high note and send a fourth colossal underdog to South Africa in the process. Morocco play at home Saturday against Africa Group A leaders Cameroon, arguably the strongest team on the continent right now. Should Morocco win, they'll allow lowly Gabon the chance to edge past the Indomitable Lions and into the World Cup finals, provided Gabon defeat Togo.

All games are Saturday at 13:00 GMT. The Tuque Souq will have the results.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Brangelina aid Iraqi refugees by adopting a Syrian

Breaking news reports out of Syria indicate that the movie-star child-addict duo Angeline Jolie and Brad Pitt are planning to adopt an Arab child into their brood, which would bring to a baker's half dozen the number of rugrats in the family.

The megastars were recently spotted in Syria visiting Iraqi refugees on what was deemed a humanitarian mission, in that Ms Jolie and Mr Pitt bear some resemblance to actual humans.

There are estimated to be over a million Iraqi refugees in Syria, most of whom made a dangerous journey across desert and mountain to flee violence in their home country. (Brangelina also made a harrowing journey, forced to ride business class on Royal Jordanian rather than fly in their own private jet.)

Humanitarian relief efforts for refugees in Syria have fallen way short of adequate, says an Amnesty International report, and the government of Syria is encouraging refugees to accept relocation programs to ease the burden on the country.

But Brangelina are taking relief work to the next level: by relieving Syria of a Syrian, there will be room for one more Iraqi. "Every little bit helps," said Ms Jolie, after attending a state dinner with Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, who according to rumours told the actress that she could have the "pick of the litter," so long as "Brad films his next movie here."

While Ms Jolie is reportedly thrilled to add another photoshopable face to her multi-million-dollar family album, Mr Pitt is believed to have reservations about adding another mouth to understand. According to a thoroughly fact-checked story in Britain's OK! magazine, Mr Pitt is preparing for a showdown with his oft-estranged wife over further additions to their "rainbow family."

Therefore, that lucky Syrian boy or girl, whoever it is, may not be packing for a life of excess, neglect, top-of-the-line psychoanalysis, Reality-TV hosting and tell-all-book writing just yet.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Somalis dialing out for a good time tonight

Bil Farah is a 25-year-old unemployed high-school grad who has already married (and divorced) nine women. Halima Osman is a 20-year-old divorcee and mother of three who says that her last elopement was the best thing that ever happened to her. Both are on the prowl again, and both have their cell phones charged.

It's all too easy to overlook the newsworthiness of daily life in Somalia, where there hasn't been a government in two decades, an average of 20 civilians are killed each day from factional wars, and pirates steal all the international headlines.

With all that strife, Somalis must not be having much fun, eh?

Hardly. Over the last few years a new social trend has swept the capital Mogadishu: consensual temporary marriage.

As one man says, you don't need 11 camels and an AK-47 to marry a Somali gal anymore. Just a cell phone.

Apparently, young Somalis are increasingly hooking up over cell phones, arranging consensual marriages by text message for as little as a night or as long as a few months.* The marriage part allows them to keep right by the Qur'an as they engage in adventurous sexual escapades to distract each other from the daily realities of living in Somalia. (And adultery is, in areas ruled by certain factions, punishable by public stoning.)

It seems the daily barrages of gunfire that ring out over the city of Mogadishu offer the perfect excuse to elope: no one is expected at work or school, so off they go to lover's lane.

* The sources I've found so far do not provide detail as to how marriages are solemnized and where Somalis get phone numbers of prospective partners, two pieces of information that would round out this news item. If anyone has heard more, please let me know.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Foul play suspected in death of Camel queen

The distraught owner of a beloved, beauty-queen camel is suing the Saudi Aramco oil company for negligent behavior which may have resulted in the tragic and mysterious death of the beast.

Olive, a black three-year-old ungulate who recently competed for the title of Miss Camel Saudi Arabia, was out strutting her stuff through the desert the other night when she allegedly fell into a hole filed with crude oil. Saudi Aramco frequently digs random holes in the desert and fills them with surplus crude (possibly for sale at a later date when the market rebounds).

By the time she was found, it was too late. Regrettably, it is the first fossil-fuel related death ever recorded.

The camel's owner, Abdullah al-Saiari, is seeking one million riyals ($283,400) in damages in a lawsuit filed in a Riyadh court.

But the court may have to consider more than just the value of a pretty dead camel. Foul play cannot be ruled out in Olive's bizarre demise.

Camel beauty contests are at least as prestigious in the Arabian peninsula as Chuck-wagon races are in Calgary, and the death of a top competitor so close to a major competition is bound to raise some big, bushy eyebrows.

The annual Pan-Arabian Pageant in Abu Dhabi, in which Olive was expected to compete, attracts over 24,000 camels from across the peninsula; the bejeweled crown is considered the most holy grail that a camel can ever hope to attain.

During the nine-day competition each spring, the camels parade about in front of discerning judges who evaluate the size of their eyes, the sheen of their hair, the arch of their nose, the bauble of their lower lip, the width of their toes, the length of their neck, and of course, the perfectly proportioned dimensions of their hump and their rump.

Olive the camel was reputed to have it all and then some, which is why her death should be shrouded in controversy. Did a jealous rival want to keep her out of the pageant? Did Aramco have money riding on the competition? Or was the intense pressure of being beautiful finally too much for Olive to bear?

Sadly, we may never know what was the straw that broke the camel's back.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Palestinian president to retire (gasp) while still breathing

He didn't do much for Palestine. But at least he always looked thin next to Ariel Sharon.

This week Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas decreed that elections for his own office will take place this coming January, and further he announced that he will not seek re-election.

The 74-year-old Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, made the announcement speaking to reporters in English, because the phrase "will not seek re-election" is believed not to exist in Arabic.

Abbas was elected president on January 9, 2005, two months after the death of Yasser Arafat. Though his term officially expired earlier this year he granted himself a one-year extension so that the presidential election and term could be brought into line with parliamentary elections and terms, which (all things considered) is not really a bad excuse.

However, Abbas jumping the presidential ship before his death is a bold move, in the context of the Arab world.

Currently, the presidents/kings/emirs/Qaddafis of Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Tunisia, Sudan, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, Yemen, the United Arab Emirates and Djibouti have been in "office" a combined 254 years (an average of 18 years per man; Sultan Qaboos, pictured, of Oman has been throning it up since 1970).

Only the rulers of Kuwait*, Saudi Arabia**, Iraq***, Lebanon****, Mauritania***** and Comoros****** have taken the helm of their respective nations since Abbas won in 2005.

* Current emir succeeded his brother who succeeded his father.
** Current king succeeded his brother who succeeded his father.
*** Most recent elections in 2005 may have been held under duress.
**** Elections were held in June, but the winner has not been sworn into office yet.
***** Current leader overthrew democratically elected former leader in a 2008 coup.
****** Held a successful election in 2006 which featured a peaceful transfer of power from one party to another.


To be sure, Abbas doesn't have much of a record to stand on. His party lost parliamentary elections to rival Hamas, after which he oversaw a mini civil war that resulted in Hamas taking over the Gaza Strip. He failed to achieve a badly needed unity government, barely whimpered as Israel erected settlement after settlement expansion, and barely blinked at the worst social catastrophe in Palestine since 1967.

And recently he was accused of treason for not backing the Goldstone Report [PDF], which we now know was partly because of his ties to a mobile phone company whose prospective millions would've been threatened if certain Palestinian business ties with Israel were severed because of political unrest.


Still, for Mahmoud Abbas to call it quits after a measly 5 years in office is, well, unpresidented. Especially since he hasn't groomed his son and/or brother to succeed him. Right now his Fatah party has no clear Number 2.

Does this mean we're about to witness a truly open and transparent multiparty democratic election process that properly represents and reflects the political diversity of a nation of people who don't even have their own country because their land is enduring a sixty-one-year military occupation?

Or will this guy just take over?

Friday, October 30, 2009

2nd annual Tuque Souq Autumn Reading List

The Tuque Souq is taking its annual autumn repose and letting the blog rest for a week. Jeepers, you say, a week without shoe-throwing pun-loving pirate camels... what'll I do?

Go outside, get some fresh air... for a few minutes. Then, get back in front of your interwebbed machine, slave, and read some blogs.

This year's Autumn Reading List features some new additions to the Blog Roll, a selection of Middle Eastern themed blogs that have popped into our field of cyberview recently, many of which have names almost as catchy as ours. Enjoy.

ENGLISH BLOGS:
Maya's Amalgam: A Lebanese artist's illustrative take on social affairs, very unique, often humorous. Definitely worth a look.
The Moor Next Door: Good political critique from North Africa, excellent title.
MondoWeiss: Self-described warrior of ideas on the Middle East. Mostly coverage of Israel/Palestine. Takes itself seriously. As it should.
Saudi Jeans: Social commentary from Saudi Arabia, from one guy's perspective. As he explains, he's Saudi and he likes to wear jeans. That's it. Also, he started his blog primarily to improve his English. You be the judge.
Jews sans frontieres: Good name that would be great if it rolled off the tongue easier. Venomous critiques of Zionism.
Lawrence of Cyberia: The name is catchy the first time you say it, less so each time after. The content mostly covers Israel/Palestine, with some general comment on Middle East news.
Tikun Olam: Very well done blog. Entries are more like essays. Covers progressive, mostly Jewish activism in the US vis-a-vis the Middle East.
American Bedu: Daily life of an American woman in Saudi Arabia. Presents itself as mainly educational. Often pedantic but occasionally insightful.
AquaCool: Daily life of a Palestinian housewife in the UAE, or sometimes Tunisia. Diary form. Interesting, let's say.
Abu Khaldoun: Father of Ibn Khaldoun? Topical coverage of Middle East news with a general, if sometimes rambling, commentary.
Friday Lunch Club: Random thoughts and impressions on Middle East news, including obscure new. Despite the name, it's updated as often as 10 times a day. Too much writing. Bloggerrhea.
Magharebia: News digest from Mauritania, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco. Very unbloggy.

FRENCH BLOGS:
Algérie-Maroc: Memory and history. Quaint.
Nouvelles d'Orient: Middle East blog of Le Monde Diplomatique. Obviously newsy.

ARABIC BLOGS:
Tunisie Socio-Democratique: The difficult job of opposing the mainstream in Tunisia. Or why there isn't an opposition in Tunisia.
Fettounsi: A critical media blog in Tunisia. Or why Tunisia needs a critical media.
Medounet Mohamed: Education in Morocco. Or lack of it.

And, to offer a final nugget from the Internet mine, here's a creative new site just started called Carpooling in Egypt, which is self-explanatory and, if you've ever been stuck in Cairo traffic, long overdue.

(Or you could just read last year's 1st annual Tuque Souq Autumn Reading List again.)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Israel facing hollow cost of hummus

The Israeli ministry of preemptive strikes has warned the government that the country is falling dangerously behind its rivals in the Middle East's newest arms race, known as the Hummus War.

Over the weekend, Lebanon put on a show of force, announcing to the world that it had added to its arsenal a 2056-kilogram bowl of hummus and a 3557-kilogram bowl of tabbouleh.

Both dishes are world records; previously America held the hummus record at a mere 363 kilos. The tabbouleh included 1600 kilos of parsley, a forest roughly the size of the Negev.

Thousands of Lebanese nationalists marched through the streets of downtown Beirut behind the parade of oversized mezze, singing and chanting provocative slogans aimed squarely at their country's rival.

"Our aim is clear," said one Lebanese chef who asked not to be named Suleiman. "These dishes should be exclusively Lebanese, with an appellation similar to Greek feta, Scotch whisky, and Canadian bacon."

Israel remains in a state of high alert and extreme hunger (a southerly wind carried the aroma across the border from Lebanon).

"It's a new cold war," said an aide to Israel's minister of offensive food, "insofar as most of these dishes are served cold. Okay, some of them are better at room temperature. But I think I've made my point, which is that Israel will not be wiped off the map."

Indeed, many outside observers note that because the Israeli military has invested only in tanks and razor wire and nuclear weapons, the country is ill-equipped to match weaponry in this new theatre of war.

The government of Lebanon has maintained that these colossal plates of hummus and tabbouleh are defensive deterrents, existing to keep the country safe (and very, very regular). But at the sight of all those pureed chick peas, Lebanon's masses are primed for war.

One thing appears certain: If Israel tries to break the record, Lebanon will have the garbanzos to fight back.

Monday, October 26, 2009

For rhyme and reason, Saudi couple to divorce

A Saudi woman, supposedly happily married to her husband for 17 years*, is filing for divorce after discovering that he invented an unwelcome nickname for her in his cell phone: Guantánamo.

Apparently the husband thought it would be a splendid repartee if, while out late nights with the boys, he could look at his ringing cell phone and declare, "Hush up, shabaab, Guantánamo is calling... Do you want Guantánamo to know where we are? If I have to go to Guantánamo now, I'll be in real trouble."

But the wife was not amused. According to her statement to police she said:

I am a truthful woman,
from the land where the palm trees grow,
and sometimes I do want to
let the verses out of my soul.
But a guantanamera? I am not a guantanamera.

My husband is a horrible man.
Here I grow a white rose, in July as in January,
and give it to him who gives me his open hand.
And this is how he repays me?!
A guantanamera? I swear I am not a guantanamera.

He pretends that he's this wounded stag seeking refuge in the mountain,
where the brook gives him more pleasure than the sea.
But do you know the last time he pleasured me?
Let's just say that my verse is not exactly flaming red lately.
Guantanamera? I'm no f*cking guantanamera.**


* From the Tuque Souq math department: 30-year-old woman minus 17 years of marriage equals: Hombre, you married a 13-year-old and you have the gall to call her names?!

** Guantanamera, of the famous poem/song by José Martí, is spanish for "Woman from Guantánamo." Full English translation here.