Not Alone in the Sunlight

After 143 “Red, Red Wine”s, 16 street egg breakfasts, 12 Glo-Jo (The Gloge) afternoons, 14 bottles of white wine, 8 taxi cab conversation on the zionist plot to destroy Blah-dy blah-dy blah, the semester is over.  (needlessly nostalgic reflections here).

I do not feel the need to hop, skip, and jump down memory lane.  It is not for me to begrudge the reminiscences of my peers, they are going back home.  It is perfectly natural to crave pretzels, In-N-Out Burger, and ever-happy Senor Jose Cuervo.

This CIEE alum is staying in Amman for the summer.  Unfortunately that robs BIAAHP of nice conclusion, but its just like life. C’mon guys, there are no endings in the real world. We can’t just hide on the internet forever, burying our faces in Lolcatz and Sad Keanu Reeves; you got to get out there and do it.  Its not like in the movies, life goes on.  I have enjoyed spending these last few months updating this webspace we have shared.  I would love to thank each of the 623,110 of you individually, but its just not feasible.  As always you can email me at obviouslyfake@giveitashotanyway.biz and remember you can call in from 6-6:15 tomorrow morning to ask Ronny from Jersey Shore anything you want here at WKIZ The Slice! where, lets say it together now, there will always be weather on the 2’s and traffic on the 9’s, less talk, and (thats right) more rock (*sobs quietly into heart-shaped pillow).

Reaching for the stars,

Paul “________” Karolyi

Published in: on May 26, 2011 at 8:58 am  Comments (3)  

Change We Can Believe In

Osama Bin Laden tried to kill me on September 11th 2001.

Can I now be satisfied with myself knowing that I killed him?

Yes, I killed him.  As Americans, we all did. I paid the taxes that bought the bullets and I voted for the man who ordered the strike.

I also voted for the man who, I think, gives me the best chance to live the longest and happiest life possible.  My taxes also pay for the services that are critical for me to continue to live happily and healthily.

But, he is a man like me.  Has he not the right to justice?  Would it be just for him to sit in front of a council of peers (impossible) and listen to his own final reckoning live on TV broadcast for the whole world?  Even if I would have decided it was just for him to sit in front of me emasculated (but knowing in his heart salvation awaited him as a true believer), there is no consequence great enough for a crime like the attack on the World Trade Center.  Death would have found him in the end no matter when, how, or where he met it.  I would have preferred a fair trial, but for the selfishness of both my conscience and the hope for similar treatment if I succumb to weakness. The outcome is the same.

However, it is not wrong to celebrate a battle won in the War on Terror, because people are not consistently righteous and governments are human creations.  My president, I am sure, acted with the best possible information and used every one of his formidable facilities, personal and instrumental, to accomplish what he believed to be the most preferable end. International politics are a matter of pragmatics.  It was probably impossible for Osama Bin Laden to have been captured alive and tried in an international court, and that is fine.

His death is not meaningless.  Any terrorist with the dream of causing death and fear on the same scale will know that his/her predecessor received the ultimate punishment.  But, there will certainly be terrorists hoping to cause death and fear on that scale again.  By killing Osama Bin Laden, we have have merely bandaged our wound.  It is only a salve for a symptom of a powerful disease.  To provide ourselves a brief, and admittedly cathartic, release we have given up the pretense of American exceptionalism.   Americans have based our foreign policy on an inconsistent ideology that we insist on installing in every society we can feasibly pervert.  Inconsistency is in the nature of democracy.  Every four years there is a new doctrine to follow, how can the most powerful nation the world has ever seen be consistently righteous if its political system makes it impossible to do so.  It can’t be and it should no longer ask to be perceived thusly.  We need to change our rhetoric.  This is the slow end of not just American hegemony, but hegemony in general.  Global economic trends are already seeing the rise of a level playing field. China, India and many other nations are flexing the muscles they toned with years of self-reliance and national determination.  The world has changed.

First in Libya, and now in Abbottabad, Barack Obama has proven himself to no longer be the leader of the free world; but he has proven himself to be my leader, and a president I can follow proudly.

Hopefully,

Paul T. Karolyi

Published in: on May 2, 2011 at 7:57 pm  Comments (1)  

Arbiter Bibendi, Urban Effendi

“And he was finding that he had a man’s thirst, to the raucous delight of the youths around him, who urged him on every time he drained a glass. They were fine company, and Jon relished the stories they were telling, tales of battle and bedding and the hunt. He was certain that his companions were more entertaining than the king’s offspring.”

-George RR Martin A Game of Thrones

As a strange in a strange land I have taken on a lifestyle and select rituals that had been stirring in me unpracticed and unannounced.  While I was merely an American student in America there was always a slight twinge of guilt for having left so many proverbial bottles fully corked. Jordan is my corkscrew. This manifests itself both figuratively in that I act as the person I have been changing into without the bonds of old relationships incentivizing me to stay the same, and literally in that I have begun almost exclusively drinking white wine.

I believe in the study abroad experience, especially if the destination is in the Middle East.  Take a bunch of constantly changing young people who are struggling to find their identity and throw them into an alien culture to challenge the foundation of their beliefs.  I know I have had to give serious thought to some of my long-term life goals to see if they are consistent and righteous considering the person I think I am.  Its not even all self-indulgent mumbo-jumbo either, amongst my peers are the leaders of tomorrow.  Wouldn’t we all be a little more comfortable if Sarah Palin spent some time in a house from which she actually could have seen Russia? I think this is best summed up by saying simply: I have only three weeks left with CIEE Amman Language & Culture and I am feeling sentimental.

As for WW II (white wine intensive ideas*), I would like to prove once more my dedication to supporting local Jordanian small businesses.  I am fighting unemployment and the Islamic Brotherhood 13.5 millileters at a time.  I am speaking, of course, about the Stoli Liquor Store located conveniently on the third circle right next to the Bellevue Hotel.  My dear friend Mohammed (he is neither my friend nor am I sure his name is Mohammed) greets me with a knowing smile and nod most Wednesday’s.

“St. George’s?” -him

“St. George’s.”  -me

Though in my most recent interactions with dearest Mo he has become ever more concerned with prying every last piaster from my gullible, cowardly hands. You see, every bottle I buy has cost slightly more than the last.  The jumps in price range from 5 to 50 kirsh, and their inconsistency only fuels my confusion.  In this subtle game of  ultra- micro-supply/demand his major weapons are my lack of Arabic ability, his smile, and his knowledge of the previous two and their effect on my psyche.  Mohammed is a master trader. I have no doubt that by the end of my stay in Amman that I will be beaming and blushing while I pass him 20 dinar notes.

Bashfully,

Paul Terrence

*I hope that acronym is not taken

Published in: on April 27, 2011 at 4:49 pm  Comments (2)  

A Few Words in Defense of Our Country (Revisited)

“Events, dear boy, events.” (in regards to what dictates the broad policy of a given administration)

-Some Brit

So, I read an article  in the New Yorker and it quelled many of my fears that made up my previous post on this topic.  For anyone looking for reassurance about Obama’s foreign policy, look elsewhere.  For anyone looking for proof that he has one, this is a good place to start.

Nonetheless, Obama may be moving toward something resembling a doctrine. One of his advisers described the President’s actions in Libya as “leading from behind.” That’s not a slogan designed for signs at the 2012 Democratic Convention, but it does accurately describe the balance that Obama now seems to be finding. It’s a different definition of leadership than America is known for, and it comes from two unspoken beliefs: that the relative power of the U.S. is declining, as rivals like China rise, and that the U.S. is reviled in many parts of the world. Pursuing our interests and spreading our ideals thus requires stealth and modesty as well as military strength. “It’s so at odds with the John Wayne expectation for what America is in the world,” the adviser said. “But it’s necessary for shepherding us through this phase.”

leading from behind,

PT Karolyi

Published in: on April 26, 2011 at 1:08 pm  Comments (6)  

Hip to it

“You never give up (NO!)
You got to do it
Gotta do all the stuff that you love”

-ANDREW WK

We have been collectively thinking a lot about irony in American as of late.  Thankfully Andrew WK is around to be the most genuine guy in show business. What a straight shooter.

Cynicism is hard to maintain in Amman.  Starbucks is just another cafe.  The only international organization that is trying to kill us is the Rothschild family.  There is no cyanide in children’s toys, or there may be, but we don’t worry about it so much.  The two dudes in Iron Maiden t-shirts holding hands and kissing goodbye probably actually like Iron Maiden, and the shirts probably aren’t tailored.  I don’t know if its Arab culture, Islam, or maybe the topography of the region, but I think this is a very genuine place.

I am almost certainly projecting my intellectual whims onto the entire city, but there may also be some cultural truth to my hypothesis.

All of this is just mental preparation for my imminent trip to the Friday market.  The one major Ammanian tradition in which I have yet to partake is this weekly gathering of salesman from ‘cross our fine city.  A friend described the storied market as a huge, outdoor, thrift shop with oddly specific relics from the recent and international past.  It clearly has all the makings of a hipster’s wet dream.  As such, I think the appropriate challenge would be to appreciate it unironically as the locals seem to (this may just be a symptom of the language barrier, but I notice an inordinate amount of inappropriately slogan-ed evening wear).  We’ll have to see how I feel friday morning, but this is the goal.  Let me first couch this whole plan by mentioning again that I am the same person who is actively questing for a pair of cowboy boots to buy.

Conflicted,

PAUL TK

Published in: on April 20, 2011 at 4:06 pm  Comments (2)  

Street Eggs

“One thing about this wild wild country

It makes a strong strong, it breaks a strong strong mind

And anything less, anything less

makes me feel like I’m wasting my time.”

-Bill Callahan “Drover” Apocalypse

 

I think for people like me who have a liberal knee-jerk instinct to devalue America’s contribution to the world, it can be difficult not to see the effects of globalization in Jordan as anything but a repressive aftershock of colonialism, or as the manifestations of the current global socio-economic heirarchy.

American culture is infectious.  It is our greatest export.  People all over the world listen to American music, and watch American movies.

I am going to need to find reconciliation between these two because I am attracted to the features of American Culture that I was used to consuming in the States.  If I view every pirated (another issue entirely) DVD purchase as support for American economic hegemony, it may make for a very uncomfortable stay.  In Amman, it is the area around Rainbow street* that most closely resembles a gentrified neighborhood in a big, American city.  There are cafes, young people, forward thinkers, and  a lot expats hanging around Rainbow.  Some locals have been known to refer to this part of the city as little America.  Sometimes it feels weak to keep returning to a comfortable and familiar place like this, but I think it might be time to start acknowledging the American influence on Jordan as a significant, but ambivalent, feature of society. It wouldn’t exist here if someone wasn’t buying the cds, paying for movie tickets, or frequenting more often those cafes which conform to American business practices.

As a result of this new train of thought, I have begun voting with my dollars by supporting a local “restaurant”.  A more descriptive word for the place I buy my morning meals would be “cart”, and a more specific location would be “on a street near my apartment”.  Literally, the vendor man just drives the ramshackle cart right into the middle of the road.  My sandwich of choice contains: a slice of soft, white cheese; a sprinkle of zaatar; and a hard boiled egg.  The highlight is the bun, which is covered in so many sesame seeds that my mouth often feels a little numb for a few hours after eating one.  Its a great sandwich and the vendor man and I have developed something of a rapport, or so I thought until two days ago.  No longer does Akhmed wheel out the cart at 7:15 am, but a young man who I can only hope is his son comes in his stead.  Now, buying any eggs on the street is risky enough even when you can see the skilled hands of a professional like Akhmed working the spreading knife.  But when some strange, dirty, punk kid starts working the zaatar bag, I feel like I may need a new small business at which I could become a new patron.

 

Nauseously,

PTK

 

 

* Amman did not always have street names.  The King recently declared names so GPS devices would be effective here.  The name “Rainbow” comes from the old Rainbow Theatre, it just happened to be the largest sign on the street so the name stuck.

Published in: on April 13, 2011 at 9:45 am  Comments (1)  

You’re Welcome, World

“They said they wanted speed

They said they wanted power

They said they wanted Beyonce on a ham sandwich”

-Dell DJ Jukebox stock audio demo

That’s right.  The people of Egypt have spoken.  Finally an end to the this dark, dark (almost maroon) time.  First Hosni gets ousted, and now this. Are they related? I have no proof that they are not. For one night only on April 23 of this very year Ali Campbell will be returning to the main stage of Soho Square in Sharm Al-Sheikh to perform all your favorite UB40 hits and more.  You’ll be hearing “Red Red Wine”, “Kingston Town”, as well as a promising dip into the classic American songbook.  What a glorious day.  The only true voice of UB40 finally gives the lucky Sharmanders their due diligence.  The world’s premier reggae vocalist is back!

What’s that? He’s bringing an 18 piece backing band with him to Soho Square “the largest entertainment center in Sinai”, this keeps getting better and better.

What will the itinerary for this magical night be, you ask?  Well, Ali won’t take the main stage until 11:30 (because he is a rock star, dammit, and he does what he wants). Then the party moves to the uber-exclusive Pangaea night club for a ultra-mega-super-sexy-dance party that just won’t stop until the break of dawn (Pangaea Night Club is in no way legally obligated to remain open until daybreak).

Careful folks, “tix” (tickets) are going fast. Get yours today!

Animatedly,

Puck

Published in: on April 10, 2011 at 7:04 pm  Comments (3)  

Lost & Found: A Case For Rebranding the Devil

2 stars 4 peace.  First, a disclaimer: this is not nearly as popular as the website claims.  This German lady proposes this plan for peace in Palestine.  If she had her druthers, Israel and Palestine would become the 51st and 52nd states of the United States.  Is this a good idea? probably not.

Yes, ‘Starship Troopers’ (Robert Heinlein’s fascist manifesto) is one of my favorite books.  I think he had some really creative and interesting ideas about political and military philosophy.  In the Starship Troopers mythos there is a global federation of states and in order to become a fully participating citizen (i.e. voting rights), one must first engage in federal service.  This is not necessarily military service, though the aptitude tests in the book do separate wheat from chaff with prejudice.  Its a cool, creative idea.  Is it a good idea? i dont know, but it certainly stretches the boundaries of modern conventions.  I blame learning history in the American school system.  The curriculum where “Freedom”, “Democracy”, “Goodness”, and “Right” all turn into synonyms is not a good place to breed the next generation of diplomacy.  Maybe changing the dialogue would make a lot of ideas that history has made taboo viable again.  Karl Marx certainly deserves another shot.  His critique of Hegel would be fertile ground for potential citations on the Arab Spring.  Keep in mind this was Marx before he even met Engels, but he argued that any Revolution was justified in the face of dictatorial oppression regardless of the government that came afterwards.  I think thats a little illogical, but when considering the upcoming Egyptian elections and the strength of the Islamic Brotherhood it is clearly relevant.  If only Marx wasn’t completely demonized in American politics.

 

To a much lesser extent the same can be said for Benito Mussolini.  I’m sure there is opposition to this somewhere (at least on principle), but the Lateran Treaties of 1923 can also be claimed a success for Fascists.  Mussolini agreed to allow the Papal States to persist in the familiar form of Vatican City.  Unless you’ve been reading a lot of Dan Brown lately, or you love the Frat boy “priest/altar boy” jokes, it’s not difficult to defend the statement that the Catholic Church in its contemporary incarnation is an organization based on good will and the spread of a message of love.

If the same people that have been struggling in the Israel-Palestine Conflict continue to come from the same places and have the same background, how can we expect positive change.  I think it was Albert Einstein was quoted as defining insanity as “continuing to do the same thing over and over expecting different results.”

If function follows form, and function fails, fashion a new form. Let’s stretch the boundaries of what is appropriate to discuss legitimately.  Some type of modern extremism will be the moderation of the future.

Good ideas (and a lot of bad ones) can come from unexpected places.

Nonymously,

Paul Karolyi

Published in: on April 8, 2011 at 4:59 pm  Comments (1)  

Over the Hills and Far Away: or How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love Amman

“Why would you stay? nobody likes the Middle East, theres nothing here to like.”

-Russell Crowe’s character (paraphrased from Ridley Scott’s “Body of Lies”)

I didn’t remember that a track from Guns n Roses’ “Chinese Democracy” plays over the end credits of that movie. What a nice surprise.

 

In considering the possibility of staying in Amman for the summer I have reconsidered my purpose.

Studying the Middle East is cool.  The revolutions sweeping the region only increased the sense of adventure and danger that all of us students are feeling.  To stay for the summer would be a first step in a complete reinvestment of time and future professional capital in a life here.  It would be an acknowledgement that any fraction of me that is doing this for other people is gone.  In the company of peers and fellow expats, there is a mutual understanding of the true meaning of adventure.  In films the heroes never actively seek out the adverse circumstances in which they battle.  Those circumstances are thrust upon them.  The entire point of an epic quest is to return to a place of peace and serenity (i.e. avoiding danger).  Relatedly, I think this is the reason Renaissance Faires and Civil War re-enactions are so uncomfortable.If a semester abroad is an adventure when students seek out the unknown and potentially dangerous, planning out a life in a foreign country is the opposite.  It would have to be a choice based on pragmatic, realist notions alone.

All through my young life in Columbus, the only thing I wanted was to leave.  For a long time I regarded that place as a stagnant and culturally vapid cesspool full of creative ennui and frustration (This has softened only recently).  I recognize this same feeling in many local Jordanian students I have interacted with. Amman is not a desirable place to live for the people who are like me, in terms of international awareness, and were raised here.  So, is Jordan really the right city for me to live in, or is it just a case study in my ongoing studies of the Middle East.  I think it could be.  We’ll see if the Brookings Institute wants to hire me or not first.

 

Sincerely,

Paul “the Bombastic”

Published in: on March 29, 2011 at 12:26 pm  Comments (1)  

Dangerous Conflagration

“I’d advise you to diversify your holdings, one day water may not be a precious resource on Arrakis.”

-Duke Leto Atreides (Frank Herbert’s “Dune”)

 

As will become very ironic very soon, it has been difficult finding applicable quotes from “Dune”.

So, I’m reading this science fiction classic by renowned Arabist, Frank Herbert, and I am worried it is perverting my perception of the real Arab World.  You see, in “Dune” the action follows the young duke Paul Atreides as he rises to power on the monoclimatic, desert planet Arrakis.  It is a desolate place designed to mimic, but mostly inflate many conditions and social problems of the Middle East.

For example, water is THE most critical resource on Arrakis.  The characters have specifically designed clothes so as to lose the least possible moisture throughout desert treks (this includes all liquid that leaves the body).  Herbert goes into detail about the grandeur of the ducal palace on Arrakis, but he speaks only in terms of how much water each extravagance wastes per day.  Herbert also has included a local race of people he calls “Fremen”.  The Fremen live in an intensely tribal society that completely submits itself to a common faith.

The world of Arrakis is too damn engrossing.  On several occasions I have found myself judging Jordanian practices and happenings based on the situation of the characters of the novel.  When my group went to visit a nature preserve I immediately thought of how irresponsible it was to let all these trees grow for no real reason when we could be drinking the water they use.  In the book the Arrakean people are shocked at the concept of “drowning”, that much water in one place is inconceivable.  So, when I heard about one of my friends using a swimming pool on campus my gut instinct was to judge her for her bourgeoisie wastefulness.

Water may be an issue here in Jordan, but I think I need a reality check nonetheless.

 

Augmentedly,

Cuahuitl

 

Published in: on March 24, 2011 at 5:15 am  Comments (2)