Thursday, July 27, 2006

The Middle East Buddy List

Slate magazine has put together an interesting interactive tool looking at the intricacies of alliances and grievances in the Middle East.

Last month, Hamas militants tunneled into Israel and kidnapped an Israeli soldier. Israel immediately invaded Gaza. Hamas began lobbing rockets into Israel. The Lebanese group Hezbollah kidnapped two more Israelis near the Lebanon-Israel border. Israel responded by carrying out airstrikes against Lebanon. Egypt and Saudi Arabia condemned Hezbollah for instigating the violence. Syria, Iran, and Lebanon called Israel's retaliation an excessive use of force.

Confused? We are too. Slate's Middle East Buddy List breaks down the relationships between the countries, terrorist organizations, and political factions who are fighting it out in the current conflict. Who likes whom? Who are the bitterest of enemies? And which groups don't really know where they stand?

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Perspectives on the Death of Poetry in Beirut

by George Dickerson

The commando cradled the poem in his arm.
When he made the poem speak, it spit stanzas
At pedestrians who fled from poetry.
From the rocket launcher a barrage of poems
Burst like roses in the street. The eloquent shards
Inscribed the houses with an elegy.
Fragments of the poem's petals were found
In the face and chest of a young girl
Overcome by the eternal aspect of poetry.
At night, when we fought with fitful sleep,
The deep guttural throat of poetry roared
Across the rooftops and devoured our dreams.
A wayward poem entered the boy's head
And left his eyes hollow with amazement.
A poem snatched hunger
From twenty people waiting for bread.
Two poems recklessly slit each other's bellies.
The head of a truncated poem
Was proudly impaled on a barricade.
From the cellar, where fifteen poems lay crushed,
Oozed the sweet odor of poetry.
When the plane lifted off over Beirut,
I could see poems shrouding the city,
And I abandoned poetry.

© 2000 George Dickerson
(Prior publ.: Medicinal Purposes Literary Review)

The Corniche

The Corniche, Beirut, Lebanon ©Tauseef Mehrali 2003

Corniche Fishing, Beirut, Lebanon ©Tauseef Mehrali 2003

Saturday, July 22, 2006


Impotent, South Lebanon ©Tauseef Mehrali 2003

Friday, July 21, 2006

So how did it come to taste of smoke and fire?

Avari-Nameh's Haroon Moghul once again takes an insightful, critical and refreshing look at the situation in Lebanon.

The same site links to Paradise Lost: Robert Fisk's elegy for Beirut.

The anger that any human soul should feel at such suffering and loss was expressed so well by Lebanon's greatest poet, the mystic Khalil Gibran, when he wrote of the half million Lebanese who died in the 1916 famine, most of them residents of Beirut:

My people died of hunger, and he who

Did not perish from starvation was

Butchered with the sword;

They perished from hunger

In a land rich with milk and honey.

They died because the vipers and

Sons of vipers spat out poison into

The space where the Holy Cedars and

The roses and the jasmine breathe

Their fragrance

Juan Cole, at Informed Comment, lets the facts do the talking.

Someone pointed out the Independent's front page to me. Says it all really.

Meanwhile, the picture in Iraq looks bleaker than ever.

Sunday, July 16, 2006


Rancilio Silvia, Home ©Tauseef Mehrali 2006

Mid-pour, Home ©Tauseef Mehrali 2006

Crema, Home ©Tauseef Mehrali 2006

The Heart of the Matter

I was asked to review a baby today who had been noted to have a heart murmur the previous day. On entering the room I noticed two women and the dozing baby. One was in traditional Indian clothing and the other wasn't. The former transpired to be the mother, the latter, her sister-in-law.

S-i-L: Oi! The doctor's 'ere to check the baby innit.
Mother: Yeah I know. I've been up all night worrying. Is the murmur still there?
Me: I'll need to have a quick listen to baby's chest to check.

I approached the baby and carefully manipulated its clothing so as to allow my stethoscope to rest on its chest. While doing so I somehow missed the gender cue apparent in the overwhelmingly pink apparel.

Me: He looks like he hasn't a care in the world!
Mother: Did you just call her him?
Me: Oh! So I did...
S-i-L: Don't worry innit. We call her it.

The murmur had disappeared and both ladies were mightily relieved. It remained oblivious.

A Fiendish Rose

The Radio 4 Test Match Special lot seem to be doing their level best to pronouce poor Imran Gul's name as Imran Ghoul.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Pity the Nation

Recent events in the Levant have made me reach for my copy of Robert Fisk's Pity the Nation and the extract from Khalil Gibran's 'The Garden of the Prophet' on the inside cover has again captured my imagination.

Pity the nation that is full of beliefs and empty of religion.

Pity the nation that wears a cloth it does not weave, eats a bread it does not harvest, and drinks a wine that flows not from its own wine-press.

Pity the nation that acclaims the bully as hero, and that deems the glittering conqueror bountiful.

Pity a nation that despises a passion in its dream, yet submits in its awakening.

Pity the nation that raises not its voice save when it walks in a funeral, boasts not except among its ruins, and will rebel not save when its neck is laid between the sword and the block.

Pity the nation whose statesman is a fox, whose philosopher is a juggler, and whose art is the art of patching and mimicking.

Pity the nation that welcomes its new ruler with trumpeting, and farewells him with hooting, only to welcome another with trumpeting again.

Pity the nation whose sages are dumb with years and whose strong men are yet in the cradle.

Pity the nation divided into fragments, each fragment deeming itself a nation.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Mum there's a hippo in the toilet

This is not a post outlining the potential dangers of a safari in the Serengeti. Instead, its raison d'etre is to highlight an initative by Thames Water (renowned for wasting rather than saving water) - they're giving away free hippos.

A Hippo is a small plastic bag which can easily be fitted into your toilet cistern. Water is retained in the bag, helping to save water every time you flush.

Almost a third of the water we use at home is flushed down our toilets.

Fitting a Hippo device in the average cistern will save up to 3 litres of water with every flush. If one toilet is flushed ten times a day, this would equate to a water saving of 30 litres per day, enough water for a five-minute shower!

Monday, July 10, 2006

Alcoholics Anonymous

There is a health food shop situated in the new (and uninventive airport lounge-like) main entrance building at my hospital. For the last week they've been running a half-price sale and even they must be surprised at the number of people that have suddenly developed a fondness for dried prunes and fig juice.

I jumped on the bandwagon by using the opportunity to sample their temptingly packaged ginger beer. An FOTB colleague who was watching my purchase with initial amusement and then growing shock felt compelled to confirm a nagging doubt

Me: Yes, ginger beer
FOTB: Beer. You are drinking alcohol?
Me: What do you reckon?
FOTB: It is beer?
Me: You know I'm a teetotaller. Putting that aside though, if I was going to start knocking back grandma's old cough medicine, it'd be pretty outrageous to start in full public view, in a hospital, on duty, don't you think?
FOTB: So it is not beer?
Me: Something like that

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Lucy or Silvia?

I'm in a state of inner turmoil. The necessary decision has been the victim of my determined procrastination. It's now a matter of life or death...

I'm ditching my Gaggia Cubika and Dualit grinder setup and, having briefly flirted with the idea of a super-automatic machine, have narrowed the shortlist to two candidates: The Rancilio Lucy or the Rancilio Silvia with a Rocky Grinder.

If you're in the know (or for that matter even if you've never worried about the colour of the crema on your espresso) cast your votes.

Friday, July 07, 2006


Sven White over at Akram's Razor takes a logical look at what he perceives to be the 'Balkanization' of British society in response to the news that Alton Towers is to host a "Muslim-only" day on September 17th.

Will the Real Tariq Ramadan Please Stand Up

An audacious impersonator has cloned himself into a Tariq Ramadan replica and managed to publish an article in today's Independent while the real Tariq Ramadan felt it wiser to publish in today's Guardian. Any differences in opinion between the Real and Diet versions are indiscernable though (a testament to the outstanding imitation): both pieces are unfortunately somewhat lack lustre and peddle the same (now rather stagnant) sentiments.

Afghanistan or India?

The heir and only son of the Maharaja of Rajpipla, Manvendra Singh Gohil, has been formally disowned by his parents. He discovered the news on reading one of the Indian dailies (although adverts had been taken out in most of the leading papers just in case):

"Manvendra is not in the control of his mother and involved in activities unacceptable to society," says one of the adverts, written by his mother. "Hence he ceases to have any rights as a son over the family property ... henceforth, no one must refer to my name as mother of Mavendra."

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Zizou - The Master

It's half-time and Zinedine Zidane has confirmed his greatness by exhibiting his flare, class and inimitable finesse.

You may not be aware that he's the subject of a feature length film by Douglas Gordon under United International Pictures auspices. As always, I'll leave Peter Bradshaw to it:

Zinedine Zidane: A 21st-Century Portrait is based on a gloriously simple and audacious idea. To train the camera on the great footballer Zidane over the course of a single match: 90 minutes, in real time. On the ball, and mostly off the ball: just Zidane. Gordon occasionally inserts TV coverage clips for context but otherwise the camera remains on Zidane and his face, as gaunt and impassive as an Easter Island statue, massively dignified in the deafening cauldron of noise. He runs; he frowns; he pants; he spits. He is always watchful. Occasionally, he bursts into action.

In voiceover, Zidane broods about what he can remember, and not remember, from his matches. What would it be like to watch, moment by moment, the undramatic moments of our own off-the-ball lives that won't make it into the edited highlights of memory? By the end, Zidane has achieved the charisma and mystery of the hero from some lost Shakespeare play.
Check out the trailer here (and in high-resolution here).

Mujawwad or Murattal?

Came across a wonderful recitation of part of Surah Yusuf by Shaykh Mahmood Ali al-Banna who, according to Kristina Nelson in her The Art Of Reciting The Qur'an, is cited by Shaykh Muhammad Mahmood al-Tablawi as one of his inspirations.

For a detailed insight into Surah Yusuf, check out Sheikh Abbas Jaffer's erudite tafsir into the nuances of the chapter.

Nelson also brought my attention to another reciter I was unaware of:

Shaykh Muhammad Rifat [1882-1950]. His father was a merchant. Shaykh Rifat is unanimously considered the best reciter of this century. He is admired for his musicality, his mastery and understanding of the art of recitation in all of its aspects, his spirituality and uprightness, and his right intent. Shaykh Rifat was the first reciter to broadcast his recitation (1934), and his voice and style, as well as his general character, have been a model of the ideal reciter to generations of Egyptians and others ever since. Music critic and composer Suleiman Gamil specifies aspects of Shaykh Rifat's style such as the unpredictability of the melodic line and the resonance of his voice. Others point to his mastery in correlating melody to meaning (taswîr al-ma'nâ). In addition to recordings made by the Radio, there exist a great number of recordings made by Zakariyyâ Muhrân Bâsâ and Muhammad Khamîs which his son, Mr. Husayn Rifat, is dedicated to making available to the public.
Here are some links to his recitation: Surah ar-Rahman and al-Waqi'ah, Surah al-Isra'.

John Maxwell Coetzee

I'm revisiting a collection of essays by J.M. Coetzee and am re-enthralled at his brillian prose. (I still haven't got round to reading his fiction despite tc's numerous prompts!)

On The Africans by Ali Mazrui

The camera has no ideology: it will lie on behalf of whoever points it and presses the button; it will lie even more persuasively when there is the right music in the background.
On The Moor's Last Sigh by Salman Rushdie

If Rushdie's Satanic Verses outraged the dour literalists within Islam, then The Moor's Last Sigh is aimed at the fascist-populist element within the Hindu political movement. On Raman Fielding [a caricature of Bal Thackeray] Rushdie lavishes some of his most stinging satirical prose: 'In his low cane chair with his great belly slung across his knees like a burglar's sack, with his frog's croak of a voice bursting through his fat frog's lips and his little dart of a tongue licking at the edges of his mouth, with his hooded froggy eyes gazing greedily down upon the little beedi-rolls of money with which his quaking petitioners sought to pacify him...he was indeed a Frog King.'
I struggled to page 10 of The Moor's Last Sigh before bailing out; Rushdie's haughty narrator's tone and idionsyncratic style proved unbearable.