Thoughts on courage from an angry person on a snowy day

My nickname in high school was the “angry smurf.” Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that’s me, the angry one. I hate things, issues, and people. And worst of all I’m very vocal about it. I’m just not your typical happy, optimistic person, and this drives many, many people around me crazy. So, of course, when the “epic snowstorm” hit the DC metro area I got angry. I was stuck home, with no internet, no cable TV and nowhere to go. My work got delayed and my plans for my upcoming work trip to the Middle East got shattered. All this talk about the snow and how wonderful it is annoyed me to no end. All of these pictures of happy people playing in the snow and enjoying Mother Nature made me furious. How can you enjoy anything when your life just gets interrupted with no back-up plan? How can you be cheerful when you have this unplanned extra time with nothing to do?

I was angry and suffering from a sever case of cabin fever. I cursed the snow, and Mother Nature. I kicked the cats and yelled at the husband. I started harassing Comcast through Twitter (via my phone) telling them that their service is mediocre and that they can’t leave people stranded with no internet and no TV (OMG!) for days like this. I sent angry emails to the office of the mayor in my city complaining about their failure to plow our street in a timely manner. The angry smurf in me was in full effect.

Since I had no TV or internet to distract me, I picked up a book. Yes, a book, one of life’s pleasures that I have been ignoring lately, and replacing with reruns of  Lost and Desperate Housewives.

The book I picked was Rana Husseini’s Murder in the Name of Honor. The book tells the story of Rana’s courageous investigative work to expose the heinous ‘honor’ crimes that happen in Jordan. It also sheds light on the unjust judicial system that allows the killers to walk away unpunished. This courageous journalist continues to face a setback after a setback but keeps going. She was threatened, called a traitor and a Western agent, but worst of all the crimes continues to happen with no end in sight. See, she is not as angry, jaded, and cynical like me, which is really good news. I saw the injustices and the violation of human rights in my hometown and instead of staying and fighting the fight like Rana, I cussed and yelled and shouted, and then packed my bags and left. Just like that I gave up and left everything behind me seeking a better life in a new country, where I continued my yelling and cussing.

See, Rana might have shouted, yelled and cried, but eventually she decided to stay and continue the fight. This needs courage and enough determination and will-power that I don’t have. For this, Rana is one of a kind; a courageous journalist that had a mission and kept pursuing it. She is someone who has done service to many female victims not only in Jordan but also over the world. I’m still on chapter five and I have already been inspired by her work. Yes, this book has managed to move even the angry person in me. Rana deserves kudos. Rana is not angry. She is a doer. Read her book.

Steve Jobs is my Obama

The night President Obama decided to address the American people I was home, on my sofa, under a down comforter. On the table across from me were a bottle of Chianti and some chips (with zero trans fat!). I was tired, cold, and cantankerous. I had had a long day at work and was dwelling in self-doubt and engaged in a prolonged session of self- flagellation. The last thing I wanted to do was to listen to the president tell us how things were horrible. All I wanted to do was watch crime shows and fall asleep on the sofa.

My husband didn’t like my plan. He wanted to watch the State of the Union. “You can’t miss it, come on, you are journalist. It only happens once year.” I resisted, of course, saying that I was tried of politicians and their speeches, and that the only thing I really, really wanted to do was watch crime shows. He let it go since he is a nice guy, unlike me, and let me flip channels to my heart’s content. I never got to watch anything. I fell asleep before nine, right before the president’ address started and right before any crime show began. Husband wins –  once again!

The next morning, I grabbed the Washington Post, jumped on the metro, and headed to work. The main story was, of course, about the State of the Union. Apparently, the president talked the night before about unemployment, green energy, and the economy. Yawn! For someone who grew up in the Middle East and who was weaned on political speeches and patriotic songs, the article didn’t offer anything new or unique.

The story that was right beneath it, though, was one that made my eyes light up. It was about Steve Job’s latest toy, the iPad. Of course, I read the article with great gusto, thinking of the day I buy this toy and how it will enrich my life.

That’s when it hit me that it is actually Jobs not Obama who is altering the way we live, bringing the much needed “change” to our lives. He is the one making us more efficient, more connected, savvier, and eventually happier. Yes, ladies, and gentlemen, Steve Jobs is my Obama.

‘The Geography of Bliss’ makes you happy

One of the best books I read in a long time is a travel book called “The Geography of Bliss” by Eric Weiner. It is really not your regular travel book, it is one with a twist. The author of this book travels the world looking for the happiest place on earth. This might sound cheesy to some, but trust me,  it is far from it. The author is smart, genuine, funny, and extremely witty. He takes you to faraway lands while making you delve into the deepest corner of your soul. He makes you think and reflect. He shocks, and fascinates you. He makes you laugh ad cry. In a nutshell, he makes you happy.

I read this book a few weeks ago on the plane on my way to Kathmandu, and it was a perfect choice for entrainment on that long flight. My favorite chapters are  his adventures in Qatar, Moldova and Bhutan.

The conclusion of the book might sound like a cliché to some: Money can buy happiness but not necessarily, happiness is relative, and happiness mostly comes from your family and friends. Some might argue that there is nothing new to this conclusion. I tend to disagree, it is not really the conclusion that matters, it is mostly the journey to get there.

Read this book!

Body of Lies is simply a big lie

Leonardo DiCaprio as Agent Ferris in Body of Lies
As you might guess from the title, I was not a big fan of the film Body of Lies and I regret watching it on our fifth wedding anniversary, of all times! The reason I wanted to see it was because of its depiction of the Jordanian intelligence services as well as the fact that it takes place in Jordan.

What really annoyed me about the whole charade was the director’s decision to film in Morocco and pretend it is Jordan. Who did Ridley Scott think he was fooling when he made the decision to film in Morocco and digitally insert the King Abdallah mosque in a number of shots in an attempt to make it look like Jordan? Did he expect Jordanians or people that visited the country not to notice? Or did he just not care? In addition to the fake scenery, all the extras in the movie looked North African rather than Jordanian. And in more than one instance I noticed Saudi car tags in the streets of "Jordan."

Then there was the scene where Russell Crowe is surprised that DiCaprio wants to stay in Jordan. He asks him something along the lines of "Why? Do you want to eat couscous all day?" I mean, give me a break! Jordanians don’t eat couscous. He should have said Mansaf if anything. Anyway, I’m surprised a movie so centered on Jordan with such a big budget did not employ some cultural consultants or film there. The actor who played the head of Jordanian intelligence was okay but I got irritated by his fake accent. As for the Arabic spoken during the movie, please don’t get me started. It was a mélange of North African, Egyptian, Palestinian and I don’t know what.

In a nutshell, the movie was not worth my money, especially in economic times like these. My advice: Don’t watch it.

Censoring the Queen

Petra News Agency, Jordan’s state news agency, decided to play the role of ultimate censor by altering a photo of Her Majesty Queen Rania of all people. Jordanian blogger Arab Observer exposed Petra’s manipulation of the photo! When will Petra News Agency realize that they can’t get away with this anymore?

Manipulating photos to make them more culturally acceptable should be a thing of the past because nothing can be hidden or altered these days thanks to an army of citizen journalists that has its eyes open all the time. The Slate original picture is on the left. The Petra ‘version’ is on the right:

The uncensored Slate shot Petra's censored version of Queen Rania

Can you spot the difference? I have to admit, this post made my day. It is really beyond hilarious.