Bloggin’ Banat

two arab-american chicks takin’ over the blogosphere

Zenga Zenga! Obama’s Qaddafi Moment May 20, 2011

Filed under: Comedy,Nawal,Obama,Politics — Nawal @ 11:15 am

Yesterday, President Obama made what was touted to be a major policy speech entitled “A Moment of Opportunity”  at the State Department.  The speech wasn’t great and there was nothing major about it. However, one amusing thing that came about during the speech was reading the comments of Twitter users (using the #MEspeech hashtag) regarding this excerpt below :

For six months, we have witnessed an extraordinary change take place in the Middle East and North Africa. Square by square, town by town, country by country, the people have risen up to demand their basic human rights.

Immediately, people were commenting that Obama almost made a “zenga zenga joke” with that second line.  Of course, they’re referring to one of Libyan President Muammar Qaddafi’s fairly recent televised speeches in which he exclaimed:

I will call upon millions from desert to desert. We will march to purge Libya inch by inch, house by house, alley by alley.

Or as the latter part was said in Arabic: “Shiber shiber, dar dar, beit beit, zenga zenga!”  This Qaddafi speech quickly became an internet meme.  One of my favorite parodies was a clip shown on the late night talk show CONAN.  So while Obama’s Middle East speech certainly wasn’t groundbreaking, it at least provided some entertainment thanks to Qaddafi,  Obama’s speechwriter and Twitter users.


Conan O’Brien is My Homeboy January 21, 2010

On Friday, January 22, 2010 Conan O’Brien will sign off as the host of the Tonight Show.  It’s weird to even write those words because Conan has been at the helm of the Tonight Show for only seven months.  Seven months!  On June 1, 2009 Conan made the trek from New York City, where he hosted Late Night for 16 years, to Los Angeles to take on the position he had always dreamed about having and desired.  Sadly, his job as host of the Tonight Show has come to a quick and bitter end in what many are calling one of the biggest television debacles in history.  For this Conan fan, and millions of others, it’s one huge tragedy.  On the flip side, however, this anger and bitterness has provided some of the best comedy from Conan since his Late Night days.

Three weeks ago, I wasn’t surprised when I read that NBC was planning to cancel The Jay Leno Show at 10 pm.  It had been a horrible idea from the start.  To put on what is essentially a late night talk show during prime time to save money on production costs just didn’t make sense.  But to be honest, I couldn’t have cared less about the production costs for NBC or why the network executives decided to place Jay Leno at 10 pm.  I was, however, very pissed.  I was upset because for 16 years, Conan O’Brien followed Jay Leno and his Tonight Show without complaint.  Then, when it was Conan’s time to be the top dog as host of the Tonight Show, he found out that he would be following Leno’s lead yet again.  Yet, even on his last taping of Late Night, Conan was gracious towards Leno and expressed his thanks.  While I wasn’t surprised that Leno’s show tanked due to low ratings, I was shocked to find out that the NBC execs were planning to move Leno back at 11:35 for a half hour show and move the Tonight Show to 12:05.  It was such a preposterous idea that I thought for sure it was just some moron making up a rumor. But within a day after the initial reports came out, it was confirmed by the NBC execs, who indeed are morons, that it was all true.  The question that immediately came to mind was, “Why the hell would you offer a guy, who agreed to step down as host of the Tonight Show five years earlier and who then failed miserably on a new show, another chance at 11:35 and bump the Tonight Show to 12:05?!” It just didn’t make any sense at all.  A day went by before Conan himself jokingly addressed the issue on his show.  I think he and his staff found out about the whole situation through TMZ, of all places.  And so here we are two weeks later in what is Conan’s last week as host of the Tonight Show. To add salt to the wound, it’ll be Leno who’ll be taking the reigns of the Tonight Show once again.

What has been crazy wonderful about this whole messed up situation, the silver lining if you will, has been the overwhelming show of support by Conan’s fans, the ribbing coming from other late night talk show hosts towards Leno and Conan’s own shredding of NBC and Leno on his show.  Why, you may ask, are people overwhelmingly on Team Conan?  Well, to put it simply, because Conan got shafted by the NBC execs (‘The Man’) and Leno (who didn’t have the class to just leave the network and go somewhere else when his show got canceled).  You see, Conan had enough of being pushed around. Being asked to move the Tonight Show to 12:05 to accommodate Leno for his half hour show crossed the line.  So on January 12th, after days of speculation as to what was Conan’s official position on the whole screwed up situation, he issued a statement saying that he would not participate in the “destruction” of the Tonight Show by having it moved to 12:05.  His statement was fantastically awesome.  Conan laid it all out there.  You can read the statement for yourself in it’s entirety here.

I don’t know how anyone, after reading his statement, cannot see what a classy guy he is and not be on his side. As soon as that statement went out, fans mobilized on Twitter and formed groups and fan pages on Facebook expressing their support. The one with the largest following on Facebook has been the “I’m with COCO” page started by artist Mike Mitchell.  I, of course, became a fan of this page.  Mike’s campaign-like image of Conan has become the symbol of the pro-Conan movement.  Many variations of the image have also been made.  You can only imagine my delight when I came across one with a Palestinian flag in the background; made by a non-Arab no less.  Just awesome!  In addition to finding this wonderful image on this page (which apparently Arab pop singer Carole Samaha finds amazing.  She, or someone claiming to be her with her picture, posted a comment in that regard to this image), I’ve also become Facebook friends with designer Isaac Mizrahi.  No joke.  He’s apparently a big Conan fan as well and said that any fan of Conan’s is a friend of his.  He asked people to friend him on his private account so that we all could “network.”  So I figured, why not?  He totally accepted me right away.  Isn’t it great how Conan is bringing all these people together? Ha!

Not only have fans showed their support online, but through the “I’m with COCO” page, rallies were organized to show support for Conan and anger towards NBC and Leno.  On Monday, January 18th hundreds, if not thousands of fans, took to the streets and held rallies in New York City, Chicago, Seattle and Los Angeles.  The largest one took place in LA at the Universal Studios lot where Conan tapes the Tonight Show. From the videos on Youtube, pictures and accounts of the fans who attended, it looked like it was an exhilarating, heartwarming experience that was truly epic.  Hundreds showed up and stayed during what was a torrential downpour in LA.  Conan’s staff brought out doughnuts and coffee for the supporters in the morning.  Many staffers and writers also came out amongst the crowd to show their appreciation. And then to the pure delight of the fans, Conan himself came out, without security guards or an entourage, and ran towards his fans to greet them. He quickly mingled with the fans and ran towards his studio where everyone followed.  Pizza from Conan and the staff was distributed for those who were there.  Conan later mentioned his appreciation for the rallies and showed footage on his show that evening.  I ask you, is there any celebrity out there who would have this kind of dedication and devotion from his fans and one who would show this much gratitude in return? I can’t think of anyone.

It angers me now to read what the haters are saying about Conan’s 45 million dollar settlement with NBC. That he shouldn’t be complaining due to the large payout he’ll be getting.  First of all, yes, it’s a lot of money.  But 12 million dollars from that settlement goes to Conan’s loyal staff that followed him from New York to LA. He fought hard for that.  Not only that, but he is also supplementing the severance for his staff with his own money.  Again, it shows what a classy guy he really is.  Second, his fans know that for Conan, it’s not about the money.  Like he said in his statement, he was offered more lucrative offers in the past but turned them down. He turned them down because he just wanted to host the Tonight Show.  So now that he’s getting screwed by NBC, he absolutely should fight for all he can get. Let’s face it, if it was any one of us getting screwed over by our bosses, we would do the same thing if we could.  Third, in the couple of shows immediately after issuing his statement, Conan’s pain clearly showed and it was sad to see.   But, like he also said in his statement, no one should feel sorry for him.  He’s an extremely lucky guy.  To be honest, it’s me and the other fans I feel sorry for.  Finally, acknowledging that there are far more serious and worse things going on in the world, he’s been taking the time out of his show to bring attention to the disaster in Haiti. I don’t see Leno doing that.

You may be wondering why I would care so much (yes, it is just entertainment.  But I can be just as passionate about it as I am about other things). Why am I such a huge fan? It’s because one night, twelve years ago, I happened to come across a sketch on this show I’d never heard of that made me laugh out loud. I was in college then and was able for the first time to stay up late enough to watch this show with a host I knew nothing about.  After that night, I made sure to watch it again the following night and, before I knew it, I was hooked.  It wasn’t just one thing that I liked about Conan; there were many things.  He’s funny, nice, sincere, creative and a class act.  But above all else, his comedy simply made me laugh my ass off.  Soon, I was contributing to a fan newsletter and became a hardcore fan.  Over the years I obsessively watched Late Night dreaming of the day I could attend a live taping.  My dream finally came true a year ago when I attended a taping a month before his final Late Night show.  I’m so grateful I had that opportunity.   It was literally an item that I could finally cross off on my bucket list.  It was epic for me.

I’m so sad that Conan will be off the air after tomorrow.  I’m sad that he’ll no longer be able to continue his dream of hosting the Tonight Show.  This conclusion has come so quickly that it hasn’t sunk in yet.  The period of time between Conan’s last day at Late Night and his first day hosting the Tonight Show wasn’t great for us fans. For a few months, there was no Conan for us to look forward to seeing at the end of the day.  However, we knew and were giddy with anticipation that he would soon be back on a bigger and brighter stage as host of the Tonight Show.  Now,  there’s an uncomfortable uncertainty as to what he will do or where he will end up.  According to the reports on his settlement with NBC, he can be back on the air as soon as September.  God, I certainly hope so.  I can’t wait for the day when Conan will once again be back on television and into our homes to relieve the stresses of the day with his humor before we go to bed.  Like the Conan faithful have been saying since he made his decision to leave the Tonight Show, ‘wherever Conan goes, I will follow’…because he’s my homeboy.

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Turning 30 is Like Running Against the Clock January 9, 2010

This was originally posted on Kabobfest.

It must have been a coincidence.  I happened to come across a television show, a movie and a conversation with a friend all having to do with being female, being thirtyish and having something missing or looking for something in life.  It was like God was trying to tell me something.

A couple of weeks ago I was watching episodes of Ally McBeal on DVD.  Season 4 to be exact.  It was a show that I used to watch back in the late nineties (seems so long ago now) which I really enjoyed.  The ongoing theme of the show was that Ally McBeal, a successful lawyer, was always searching for love…for the guy.  I can’t quite remember if she ever did find the guy at the series end but she did come pretty close in season 4.  Anyway, Ally’s search wouldn’t be significant to me if it wasn’t for the fact that her age was always an issue in relevance to her pursuit of love.  I think she was 31 in season 4. Well, I haven’t found the guy yet either and I also happen to be 31.

Later, I rented and watched the film Julie & Julia about the true stories of Chef Julia Child and Julie Powell. Julie Powell is a married woman who was about to turn 30 and disliked her job.  So she decided to cook every recipe in Julia Child’s cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, in a year and blog about it. Since she’s an aspiring writer, it was an opportunity for her to do two things that she loved; cook and write. Well, her blog turned out to be a big hit and she’s now a published author. The movie is based on her book.  I identified with the age issue again and wanting to already be doing something I love career-wise but not having reached that point yet.

Then last week it all kind of came together when I went to visit a good friend of mine who I hadn’t seen in a long time. Among the various conversations we had, one was referencing Ally McBeal: the idea of us being in our thirties, having “big girl” jobs now and how it seemed like such a long ways away when we were in our teens. Yet, here we were.  We talked about some of the unhappy circumstances at our jobs that were uncannily similar.  We also discussed our ambitions for doing greater things that didn’t include sitting at a desk.

Regarding all of this, the most prominent factor for me is age.  Turning 30 was a big deal, and not in a good way, for Ally and Julie. It was also the same for me.  Being in my thirties, I now feel like I am running against the clock.  For example, as if being a single Arab girl at my age isn’t difficult enough, since the prime age for marriage is between 18-22 (people probably think there’s something ‘wrong’ with me), it also seems that all the good men around my age are already taken or previously married, which means they come with some sort of baggage.  Not only that, but I’m on the verge of what most people would perceive as spinster status.  I shudder at the thought.

Next comes the issue of work and what I really want to do with my life.  In college I decided to become a communications major because I figured it was the only rational way for an Arab Muslim girl like me to get into the entertainment industry.  Well, before I graduated, the second intifada came around and my focus went into a different direction. Now I still have that fierce desire to enter the entertainment world, as I did before I graduated, but I am waiting and hoping for an opportunity to knock on my door.  Again, my age being a factor, I feel like that window of opportunity is getting narrower and narrower minute by minute.

It’s not that I suddenly felt old when I turned 30.  Quite the contrary, I feel like I’m still in my early twenties and I act like I’m even younger sometimes.  But besides the fact that my biological clock is ticking away, I think the pressures I feel are societal.  And I’m not talking about finding love or pursuing a career I’ve dreamed about as being the societal pressures.  Those are things that I want.  It’s the aging factor that’s the problem. This pressure about age is not an internal concern but something that I believe society places on women.  Because let’s face it, do most guys go through all of this emotional crap? No, because they generally don’t face these problems.  For example, a man can choose the single life, never marry and be considered a cool cat like George Clooney.  And most women who enter and have success in the entertainment industry, like actresses for example, tend to be in their late teens and early twenties.  Women in their thirties are perceived to be on the verge of a decline in their career.  Even producers usually get their start right out of college.  There are always exceptions, of course.

Being in my thirties doesn’t suck. I just feel that my opportunities in life are diminishing as a result.  But I’m not giving up hope. My future outlook is like a candle. Sometimes it’s brightly lit and other times the light is so dim that it almost fades.  But, it never diminishes.  And I hope it doesn’t anytime soon. I guess I can look at Julia Child’s life as an example and see that she found love at 40 and soon thereafter pursued her passion of cooking as well as published her now classic French cookbook. I just hope I don’t have to wait that long cause turning 40 would be like dying.

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Adversity: A Fact of Life September 16, 2009

Filed under: Islam,Nawal,Pop culture,wtf — Nawal @ 1:22 pm
Tags: , ,

adversityI don’t know what it’s been about this summer but it seems adversity has been lurking around every corner.  Whether it’s in one’s personal or professional life, adversity doesn’t discriminate.  We all face it in our lives, and it can be a total bitch, but it’s in how we deal with it that matters.

When we’re going through tough times we tend to ask ourselves ‘why is this happening to me?’ or ‘how am I going to get through this?’  Loved ones will tell you not to worry, things will be fine.  They’ll tell you that you may be worried now but things will always end up working themselves out.  Sometimes it’s comforting to hear those words but other times, when you’re on the verge of having a nervous breakdown, it’s just annoying.

We’ve all been there, feeling sad and confused like Taylor Swift at the VMA’s, thinking to yourself  ‘what the hell just happened?’  Just when you think you’re having your moment in the spotlight, your moment of achievement, your moment of joy and happiness–just when things start to look up–it all comes crashing down.  You think, ‘this isn’t how I planned it…I don’t deserve this!’  It’s sad when bad things happen to good people. It sucks, actually.  I don’t know why it happens but people of faith will tell you that God doesn’t give us more than we can handle.  But I can’t help but think why does it have to hurt so bad?

The great Arab-American poet, Kahlil Gibran, once said that “out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.”  Of course, since we all face adversity we all have the scars to prove it, though some of us have more of them and ones that run far deeper than others.  What I wonder is how many scars can one person endure before it becomes too much?  Is there ever too much?

Like the saying goes, what doesn’t kill you will only make you stronger.  The problem is some of us spend most of our time worrying about what will kill us. Sadly, that only ends up holding us back from enjoying and appreciating a lot in life.

I think deep down we all know that somehow we’ll get through difficult times. Just the mere passing of time helps and, of course, the love and support from friends and family is vital.  It’ll be those who are there for you and by your side during the difficult times that truly care.

For Muslims, the holy month of Ramadan is coming to an end.  It’s a time when, amongst other things, we are to be thankful to God, as always, for what we do have in our lives.  I’ll do my best to always keep that in my head and my heart, no matter how difficult the times, and say alhamdulillah.

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Palestinian Reality in Atlanta? June 16, 2009

Block PartyNo, definitely not.  In an absurd move, CBS has walled off an entire neighborhood in Atlanta to force the neighbors to spend time with each other.  It’s all for a new reality show tentatively called “Block Party.”

The image of the wall built for this show looks very similar to Israel’s apartheid wall in the West Bank.  Of course, life in Palestine, particularly in areas like, Gaza, Ni’lin and the Aida Refugee Camp is anything but a block party.

The details on the specifics of this show are not clear except that the families “will be trapped inside the 20′ maximum security-looking wall for about three weeks for a cash prize.”

I find it insulting to have an entertainment show with a premise built around a crippling and devastating reality faced by an entire population of Palestinians.  While these contestants will be confined behind this wall for three weeks and possibly end up with money for the sake of entertainment, Palestinians have been confined for years within Israel’s illegal wall with no end in sight.

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Brace Yourselves. Paris Hilton Is Coming to Dubai. June 2, 2009

paris-hiltonGod help us all. Paris Hilton is coming to the Arab world to look for a new BFF.  I thought my ears were deceiving me when I heard today that Paris will be going to Dubai to tape her show “Paris Hilton’s My New BFF”.  Sadly, my ears weren’t deceiving me.  It’s true.

Hilton’s reality show, if you can even call it that, first aired in the US on MTV and then a UK version soon followed.  The show’s premise is basically a search for a so-called new best friend for Hilton in which contestants go through a series of tests to see which one can best suit her lifestyle.

Later this month, the show will go to Dubai to film for about 17 days. This, of course, was only with the approval of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.  Is the financial crisis in Dubai really that bad?

The show’s contestants will comprise half of women who are Middle Eastern and the other half who are from other parts of the world who reside in Dubai.  According to co-producer Ish Entertainment, the show will be less racy than the US and UK versions. Basically, cursing, hoochy clothing and booze will be avoided.  Somehow, that doesn’t make the feeling of  nauseousness go away.

This will be Hilton’s first time in Dubai.  Producers intend to exploit that and tape footage of her reaction to her trip.

I’ve certainly never seen Paris’ show but just watching the previews for the upcoming US season is frightening.  The idea of Arab females competing to do whatever it takes to become Paris Hilton’s new BFF makes me cringe.  What’s even more frightening is the idea that this show will actually find an audience in the Middle East.  Yikes!

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Tradition Isn’t Always Right May 15, 2009

The other day I came across an article in the Christian Science Monitor about one of the two first female Islamic judges in the Middle East.  The article focused on Khouloud el-Faqeeh who is Palestinian. She is described as not only being exceptional in her knowledge (top in her class at Jerusalem’s Al-Quds University and one of the highest scorers out of 45 people in the qualifying sharia judge exam) but she’s also a straight arrow; she won’t bend the rules for anyone.  Pretty fantastic.

But there was one thing in the article that annoyed me.  It was the view that women are ‘too emotional’ to take on such a position.

Sheikh Hamed Bitawi, who’s the head of the Association of Islamic Scholars and Scientists,  said that there are two schools of thought on the issue: that every position but that of a caliph is open to women, and that women are too emotional to make legal decisions – as judges or as witnesses.

“I am of the second view because I consider women to be gentle human beings who should not be subjected to difficult situations or difficult decisions,” Mr. Bitawi says. “They cry easily, and hence their judgment is tainted with emotions. Moreover, lawyers are difficult to deal with and people who come to courts are angry and violent.”

Give me a break.  I’ve heard this perspective before and for the life of me I still can’t believe why people continue to buy into this archaic and stereotypical argument.  As if men aren’t emotional?  Men indeed are emotional. One could also make the stereotypical argument that men tend to have a short fuse and they consequently yell, scream or react violently.  Therefore, they too are ‘tainted with emotions.’  Would that make them a better judge?  Of course not.  That’s why one’s qualification shouldn’t be based on gender but by their individual abilities.

El-Faqeeh explained that “In Islam, it says a sharia judge has to be a Muslim, rational adult” – not necessarily a man.  Whenever I would discuss this with the chief judge, he would say, ‘This is tradition.’ ”

I’m all about tradition. But when it comes to professional matters, sometimes tradition counters common sense and what’s right and that needs to be corrected.  As el-Faqeeh said “I’m a legal person, and, to me, legal issues are stronger than tradition.” Case closed.

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