... in lebanon

An evidence-based approached to airport security

03 Jan 2010 | 306 words | airtravel beirut lebanon security

It seems that Beirut International Airport has a refreshingly evidence-based approach to flight security. When standing in line for the second security checkpoint (the one between the duty free area and the actual boarding gates) the security guards produced a half liter metal can from the backpack of the passenger two persons ahead in our line. When he failed to get the lid open with his hands, the teenager directly in front of us handed the security guard a pair of scissors, which he used to open the the can, which turned out to contain black powder (the owner stated that it was paint).

Next the security guard used the tip of the scissors to spoon a small amount of the back powder out of the can, produced a lighter and tried to set the small amount of black powder on fire, which did not result in anything and so the security guard pours a larger amount of the powder on an steel table and tries to light it again which still does not result in an explosion of any kind.

Subsequently, the text on the can is studied some more, the lid it put back on it and the can is returned to its owner (and the scissors to the teenager who had been impatiently waiting all along):

Turned out that the guy with the can of paint was actually traveling on our flight to istanbul and while i was sleeping for most of that flight i certainly did not notice any explosions there either.

[p.s: this is the same checkpoint where, back in 2006 instead of confiscating my beloved multitool they put it in a plastic bag, asked me to write my name and gave it back to me requesting to hand it over to the flight crew for the duration of the flight.]

From the comments (i am not a audio equipment salesperson)

25 Jul 2008 | 232 words | africa lebanon beirut business

Apparently there is a number of confused people reading this blog and checking my flicker account (or it some clever new form of comment spam that i am failing to understand). in any case these people seem to be (a) interested in audio equipment and (b) confusing me with the persons pictured in photos i have taken:

Two weeks ago a certain Williams Robert from ‘Ghana West African’ left the following comment on a post containing this picture:


Please let us know if you have any of these models of Bus campaign, we will like to have, our some parties need us to supply the campaign Bus soonest, please confirm as we hope to hear from you soonest.

Thanks and remain bless

and about a week ago samia_begum1997 left the following comment on this photo from the shatila refugee camp on my flickr stream:

i have been since i was 10 years old trying to get hold of hitachi TRK8190E ghetto blaster and i havn’t had much joy i have seen in your photo file that you have two of those ghetto’s sitting on a chair “doing nothing” please would you let me know if you would sell one urgently please leave contact deatails thanks…………………

I really love the part about ‘sitting on a chair “doing nothing”‘ although i certainly fail to discern even a single TRK8190E in this guys inventory…

Déjà vu

11 May 2008 | 92 words | beirut lebanon drone wars

Had a bit of a bad feeling when i was reading that nat was going back to Beirut for some festival and that there would be a general strike in Beirut on the 7th of may. Turns out that my bad feelings were justified. Nat is (or at least was, the last thing i had heard from her was that the germans where bringing her to Damascus) once again stuck in cairo, and mazen is drawing again.

& for some fucked up reason these things always correspond with nice weather in Amsterdam.

Islam @ the movies

30 Mar 2008 | 302 words | movies cinema iran lebanon islamofobia netherlands

So the big non-news of last week has been the release of the long anticipated ‘anti-islam’ movie ‘fitna‘ by the dutch clown/politican Geert Wilders. not only was he too stupid to release the movie via bittorrent (which would have scaled with demand much better & allowed for better quality) he also actually confirmed what i had always assumed, namely that he is too stupid to make a proper film: ‘fitna’ is not much more than an amateurish powerpoint show that shows that wilders has absolutely no idea what he is talking about.

So while the media (in holland) were wasting their time and energy on the the release of ‘fitna’ and were desperately trying to find someone on the streets who would talk about some kind of violent uprising there were actually two much more interesting developments at the intersection of film and islam last week:

First the Lebanese general security department reversed a decision to ban screenings of the prize-winning animated film Persepolis in Lebanon. This move came after an initial decision to ban the film for being offensive to islam and offensive towards Iran (Iran is the backer of the influential lebanese Hezbollah party). Needless to say this move will have multiplied interest by the moviegoing public in Persepolis (which, regardless of repeated attempts i still have not seen).

Secondly i came across (via boingboing) this marvelous video snippet from some Iraqi TV channel wherein a distinguished gentlemen (identified as Fadhel Al-Said, a ‘researcher on astronomy’) eloquently explains why the earth is flat and the sun is circling around the earth. enjoy… (made possible by the ever productive propaganda translators at memritv.org)

Update [05 Apr 08]: Jim has an article in the daily star that attempts to unravel ‘Fitna’ from the Lebanese perspective: The barbarian horde of Geert Wilders’ ambition.

Dennis for President (of the US of A)

03 Dec 2007 | 172 words | united states politics elections lebanon

Most people probably have never heard about Dennis Kucinich who seems to be running for the Democratic party’s ticket to run for President of the United States of America. However it seems that he is the favorite candidate of my much respected left-wing friends in the US (or at least some of them).

Not sure if he really makes a chance but he sure is special. If you believe his website he is some modern day jesus, only better:

In Lebanon, Dennis and Elizabeth also spent time walking through destroyed towns and villages, over land mines, cluster bombs and missiles, listening to the heartbreaking accounts of death and destruction while at the same time being told time and again about the desire for peace.

If you ask me, walking over land mines, cluster bombs and missiles is at least as impressive as walking over water and it is probably better to vote for this dude than for people who’s idea of making the world a better place comes down to invading Pakistan.

Wearing clown's hats in Beaufort castle

22 Oct 2007 | 543 words | israel lebanon occupation war movies film

Finally managed to source a copy of Beaufort (בופור) with english subtitles yesterday. Had been waiting to find a version that i could understand for a while and it was definitely worth the wait.

Beaufort tells the story of the last IDF unit occupying Beaufort castle in Southern Lebanon in the days before the withdrawal of the IDF from Lebanon in the spring of 2000. It is one of the most impressive war movies i have seen in a while, also because it is the only war movie that i remember that does not show ‘the enemy’ (in this case the enemy is Hizbullah) at all. This seems to confuse some people a great deal, but i think it worked very well. As a whole, the movie does not really take a position on the israeli occupation policy but generally portrays the situation as fucked up and senseless, which works pretty well for me (plus i somehow like the look of the Mitznefet (a.k.a clown’s hats) that the IDF soldiers are wearing most of the time (picture here)).

When i was in Lebanon in May 2005 (exactly 5 years after the liberation of the south by Hizbullah) we went to visit Beaufort Castle (which apparently exists since roman times, but in its current incarnation is a crusaders castle). It occupies an amazing location, overlooking the southern end of the Biqa’a valley (to the North), the Golan heights (to the East), the South Lebanese Mediterranean coastline (to the West) and the north of Israel (to the South). According to the official beaufort movie website, it also overlooks Damascus but that is pretty much impossible if you ask me.

There is one particular exchange in in the movie that made me think back to our visit to Beaufort a lot. it is an exchange between Liraz, the young outpost commander and an unnamed combat engineer, who has just been send in to blow up the outpost so it won’t be of use to Hizbullah after the departure of the IDF:

Combat engineer: It will be quite a job blowing all of this up Liraz: I just can’t imagine it. Combat engineer: What is the problem? Imagine a mountain with no outpost Liraz: can’t Combat engineer: You got a girlfriend? Liraz: Why? Combat engineer: Answer me, i asked a simple question Liraz: Yes i do Combat engineer: Imagine yourself with her. Here on the mountain, sunset, the most amazing landscape on earth. You are holding her hand, walking around with her, showing her: here was ‘green’, the observation post, here was the gate. She looks around and all she sees is nature, a tourist attraction, no sign of any of this, paradise. Liraz: I just can’t picture this. Combat engineer: It will come, don’t worry…

Now the irony is that these days the place looks pretty much the way that the combat engineer described it (although there are some remains of the outpost, that serve as some kind of memorial of the Israeli occupation) but that a real-life Liraz and his girlfriend will probably never have the opportunity to go there in their lifetime as the IDF has caused way too much harm in Southern Lebanon for any Israeli to be welcome there any time soon…

Hezbollah snoop doggy dog mashup

29 Sep 2007 | 167 words | lebanon music file sharing piracy copyright

Bech over at remakz shares a rather amuzing metadata conflict involving Hezbollah and Snoop Doggy Dog:

from the anecdote file where we find the joys of being a researcher on Hizbullah

Buy one of the many cds of Hizbullah ‘chants’ (anashid). For example, the volume 12 of Firkat el Asra’, Al Moqawama wal Tahrir. Open it, and rip the cd on Windows media player. The software checks for titles through its search engine. When you get back to your computer you find copied to your hard drive:

Artist: Snoop Doggy Dog

Album title: Doggy Style

Example of song name: Shitznit, for all my Niggaz & Bitchiz, etc.

I changed the name of the songs so as to at least remember what I am listening to. But I cannot erase the “Doggy Style”. So I get: “Hamdan lil Lah atah al Zafar” with “Doggy Style”, right under it.

Please keep in mind that at the bottom of the cd back cover there is a mention of protected copyrights.

EU also sponsors trash bins

20 Jul 2007 | 239 words | development lebanon european union branding

I had noticed the questionable priorities of the EUs ‘reconstruction’ efforts in south lebanon when I was down there in January. Now bech over at remarkz confirms (the rest of his post is pretty interesting as well) that there indeed some unusually incompetent people at work for the EU in south Lebanon: not only do they waste their money on street lighting, they also seem to sponsor all the trash bins:

The Iranians make themselves visible all right from billboards in villages they financed reconstruction efforts, to stickers on trucks and any piece of machinery used to that effect. Qatar has a different way of doing things: Only one or two huge billboards in the entire south with the ruling prince on it and an “I love you” type of note from Qatar. The process of naming here is crucial it creates political clout by referencing help. It is not just aid, it is aid from this or that party. Of course in can border the ridicule: The European Union for example has a sticker on each trash bin you can find in the south. But Winston Smith can tell you more about all that.

Makes you hope that they are not using the uninspiring European flag but that they at least have the decency to use stickers with the funky new logo of the Portuguese EU presidency. that would be esthetically much more pleasing if you ask me…

People are not going out anymore so they are staying home looking in the mirror...

14 Jul 2007 | 132 words | banking lebanon fashion war advertisement

Have missed this when i was in lebanon in april, but nat pointed this out the other night. the first national bank of lebanon has launched a plastic surgery loan programme (‘Beauty is no longer a luxury….’):

the BBC is reporting that this whole thing is a reaction to the tense political situation in Lebanon:

“We like to look our best… There are people who see this loan as their life raft,” Mr Nasr said.

Local media say the tense political climate and fears of another devastating war with Israel have not curbed Lebanon’s infamous urge for cosmetic enhancement, with demand increasing up to 20% since 2006.

“People are not going out anymore so they are staying home looking in the mirror,” industry representative Dr Nabih Sader told the Daily Star newspaper.

The war is over...

31 Mar 2007 | 134 words | war israel lebanon beirut advertisement banking photos

… and everybody is talking about the next war. seems to somehow involve iran, the US, israel, the valet parkers, Syria and Lebanon, but there is neither real agreement about the constellation nor does anyone come up with a credible motivation for someone to attack the others or the other way around (except maybe for the US to attack Iran). Meanwhile last summer war has once again (see here for last years favorite ad) been picked up by the advertising industry, this time in the form of an billboard-advertisment for a teenagers credit card, which seems to be inspired by this years world press photo (which caused quite a bit of confusion after it won the award):

Bank Audi teen master-card billboard in downtown Beirut

World press photo 2006 by Spencer Platt, Getty Images

meanwhile... is the personal weblog of Paul Keller. I am currently policy director at Open Future and President of the COMMUNIA Association for the Public Domain. This weblog is largely inactive but contains an archive of posts (mixing both work and personal) going back to 2005.

I also maintain a collection of cards from African mediums (which is the reason for the domain name), a collection of photos on flickr and a website collecting my professional writings and appearances.

Other things that i have made online: