Monday, 30 April 2007

and then there were none

The most doubtful thing in the universe is our own ability to perform to our potential. Some days you just don't want to try, some days others make the assessment for you, and some days you feel like you made it. There is a real beauty to doing nothing - it takes practice.

Writing is terrifying work. What if it is lousy? What if no one will read it? What if no one will publish it? What if you are wasting your time and should be doing some other meaningful work? Some days you look down at the white expanse of Word and panic. Some days you open up Word and can't get the words down fast enough to keep up with your thoughts. After the piece is written comes the editing, giving up paragraphs and pages of words you had to mentally sweat to get out. Into the trash with you, too wordy, too trite, too many metaphors, too many adverbs. Then you send it in to someone to publish and sure enough - not good enough. The game is not set that way however; you have to send it out again, and again. You have to re-edit, rewrite, and somehow keep believing in your own ability to tell a meaningful story.

Then there is the sheer volume of it when you are writing a novel. You have to keep all the timelines coordinated, and all the characters connected. In order to have a compelling story you must have a tapestry of interwoven plots and people. I have to see the physical pages in order to keep it all in order. I print out the story so far and line it up on the floor. I have a war table with the layout of my armies and the navy deployments. I have another map with the political alliances taped to the various countries.

The best thing in my case for ideas is to run. I get more ideas on walks, or on the treadmill than anywhere else. Whenever I get stuck that is the best remedy. The core for the idea of "Fractured" came to me while I was on the bike in the gym in Fez. The circumstances were a bit surreal.

Then come the days when you are just discouraged, so discouraged that you can't write a damn thing. I know I should anyway, that's what successful writers and the books about writing say; but some days I can't do it. The danger is in letting the days pile up! I am come to believe even if I only write shit, I need to write every day, hence this rambling coherence of words.

I wonder how much of what we do is because we are afraid to fail in the eyes of other people, or to be scorned by our society. The Americans are imbued with the essential guilt of any time not spent “doing” something. Even when on their vacation the time must be organized and set for some activity. The concept of value in the meditative state of contemplation has not broken through the society’s consciousness. Even those that do ‘meditate’, again, it is “doing” something. There are of course exceptions to this rambling analysis; I am making a rash generalization.

The difference between Rabat and Fez, or any of the larger cities of Morocco and Fez is quite stark. The withholding of funds or investment to the city by the old king continues to impact the city today. It makes you aware of just how much taxes (used properly of course) can do for the public welfare. In Fez you have cracked and crumbling sidewalks, no parks, no flower gardens for the public to walk in, contemplate, and bring children to play. No museums of any note or art galleries. I am sure that dry spell of neglect had an impact on the psyche of the city as well. You do see the individual entrepreneurship that you see all over the rest of Morocco but not as much or with the same zeal.

I observed something in myself while in Marrakech that I had not been aware of before; what is frightening is that it is most likely a view taken to even further extremes by populations in the West. I was viewing the old mosque next to the big Square in the Medina. As I passed the men were at prayer and at first I had the same reaction I have when I see or hear the monks in a Buddhist temple or a Christian church – that of fellowship in the spiritual world. I was shocked to find that following close on the tails of that emotion was the griping emotion of fear. Too many movies, too many news clippings of Muslims at prayer just before they blow themselves or something else up. I feel terrible for every practitioner of Islam who no more wants to harm another human being than I do that this is the overwhelming perception of his or her faith. I was shocked by my own reaction to the sound of men at prayer. The more I thought about it, the more sadness it evoked. While I will be vigilant to monitor those responses in myself and not let them affect my conscious actions, I can only imagine how pervasive that feeling is, and if not followed by self-examination, how dangerous.

People who are not defined by their physical bodies amaze me. I was reading the report of Stephen Hawkins and his ride in an aircraft that allowed him a short time of being weightless. He said it was “bliss”. Here is a man that should have long ago been dead, who cannot speak without the assistance of mechanics, who cannot move without a wheelchair, and yet has written best sellers to bring science to the public. He has made some of the breakthrough discoveries and postulated some of the most daring theories in modern day physics. Yet most of us react to others and to ourselves by what we see. The pretty and the tall get a leg up just by virtue of genetics; while the fat and the short must go the extra mile. Admittedly that may in some, but not all, cases build a stronger character; but my bet is they would give that up for a perfect jaw line or nose.

I can’t believe it is the 21st century and women are still making around seven cents to the dollar a compared to men. It was not really that long ago however that women got the vote and recognized as property owners. The patriarchal society is still alive and strong. That is what having an all-powerful god is about isn’t it? The father figure who will take care of you, make all the hard decisions, fix matters when you fuck them up, and take the burdens of a life lived onto himself. When you take on that sort of protection however you give up your self-determination; fate then rules your destiny. Unless of course the Christians or Muslims are right and there is an all-powerful god “up there”.

Sunday, 29 April 2007

I love our little house in the Oudalays

This is our little house. T and Caroline and Neal having a study session. A Koranic School in the Fez Medina.

Snickers is a food group

Yes I do indeed consider Snickers a food group in the two to three days that follow a migraine. I have been diligent all my life about eating healthy and exercising. It has paid off with general good health, a kick ass attitude, and the continuing flirtations of handsome men. I have a deal with my best friend Cathy who is also diligent about diet and exercise: when we are ninety we are going to eat (without restraint) croissants, cheeses,chocolate, and drink champagne, all from a comfy divan. There will be no activity that involves sweat, unless it is sex with an unfamiliar man.

Tomorrow I go in search of a gym here in Rabat. I want one with a treadmill, but they are scarce on the ground. With summer coming on and a serious lack of a/c in a country that has Sahara-summers I want one that at least has fans. We may have to travel to the posh side of town to find such. It seems such a shame to have the ocean right there and not run on the beach but I am hesitant. There was no one in Fez that ran, but I have seen men on the streets and trails in the parks here - no women which is what gives me pause. I am thinking I will take walks on the beach at different times and see what the atmosphere would be for running...

Saturday, 28 April 2007


The Scientologists are recruiting at Virgina Tech; it is truly awful. Anything to fill the coffers. What a racket.

Any of you who decide to come to Morocco, I know you will have a brilliant time. I would ask one thing of you, men and women both, to please remember you are in a Muslim country and dress with respect for that culture.

I saw such a shocking sight yesterday. A western tourist who had squeezed her size 16 top into a size 6 spaghetti strap t-shirt so tight that her nipples were sticking out, and a pair of shorts so tight and short that her bum was hanging out. I was mortified. I am from the West and it embarrasses us all.

You don't have to wear a burqa or a djellaba (albeit they are lovely and suited to the weather) just respectful.

On behalf of all Westerners living in Morocco, I thank you.

Fear is a scary thing isn't it. I am convinced fear is at the base of all evil acts - fear of failure, fear of not being loved, of being left alone, of being less, of embarrassment, and on and on. It is the root of what stops you from doing anything. That fear of failure is a big one isn't it? It can keep you from even starting something.
The children of Morocco are so beautiful. Moroccans are a handsome people, and they appear to adore their children. Except the street children, of those they are as judgemental as the puritans of the West saying that the children are on the streets because they want to be there. The youngsters that play on our street light it up with their smiles and laughter. I love the sound of them in the street when I am working. I think we have just about convinced them this is not a candy store. Pam when she was here bribed both the children and apparently the housekeeper with candy. It has taken some time to stop the constant knocking and "bon bon?" at the door.

The weather has retained its beauty and so far, said with some hesitation, is not too hot. It has not soared above eighty yet and the house stayed pretty cool. The sky here is endless and a shade of blue you can see right through. There is a weirdly shaped tree just to front of our terrace. The trunk begins like a normal tree then there is the usual spread of branches and some sort of fern like leaf cover, then - a stick straight up for about six feet. There is a entire village of birds that call it home and fly in and out of there daily to nest and feed. It is so strange looking, like some modern art sculpture.

curbs and pastry

The only reasons curbs exist on the streets and sidewalks of Morocco is so that the cars have something to hook onto when they park on the sidewalks!

Better than Dunkin Doughnuts, better than Krispy Kreme are the moroccan sfing. They are beyond delicious, always hot, always fresh, and cost one dirham apiece. Morocco has the best french fries in the world without doubt!

T has the return of her intestinal upset. It cleared up completely when she went to America, so it is something in Morocco that does not agree with her digestion, poor dear. Gets that from her father, too bad she did not inherit my Scottish digestion of iron.

I took my money for the children's charity to the Post this morning. My box was full and very heavy! Benevolent selfishness, I feel great.

Thursday, 26 April 2007

this is a BAD SIGN

Pakistan bans satire about burqas

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (Reuters) -- Irate Islamist lawmakers have persuaded the Pakistan government to stop a theatre group staging a satirical play about the burqa, the all-covering head-to-toe garment worn by conservative Muslim women.

"Burqavaganza" played earlier this month during an arts festival in Lahore, the eastern city regarded as Pakistan's cultural capital, and home to some of the most liberal and most puritanical parts of the Muslim nation's society.

"The burqa is part of our culture. We can't allow anyone to ridicule our culture," Culture Minister Sayed Ghazi Gulab Jamal told the National Assembly.

The minister announced Thursday that the government had barred the play, which had already ended its run in Lahore, from being performed in other Pakistani cities.

Veiled female parliamentarians and Islamist lawmakers cheered Jamal and thumped desks in approval, while trading barbs with women from both the ruling party and liberal opposition parties.

Described by critics as a romp, the play sought to highlight the impact of the veil on society, by showing how wearers use it as a way to hide what they want to keep private.

In the play, young men and women wore the burqa to go out on secret dates, and it featured a character called Burqa bin Badin.

The play also showed a burqa-clad married couple put to death for making love in public.

Predictably, religious conservative Pakistanis did not find it funny, going as far as to describe the play as blasphemous, a crime in Pakistan that can carry a death sentence.

"They have committed blasphemy against the Prophet (Mohammad)," Razia Aziz, a female lawmaker from the Islamist opposition alliance, told the National Assembly.

She demanded the government take action against people responsible for staging "Burqavaganza".

Mehnaz Rafi, a lawmaker for the ruling Pakistan Muslim League from Lahore, opposed the government giving in to the Islamists.

"A few people cannot dictate affairs of the state. Every person has the right to lead his life his own way. A few people cannot snatch freedom from society," Rafi said.

Shahid Nadeem, the director of the play, told the weekly Friday Times that the play aimed to raise awareness about a trend to force women to wear the veil.

Progressive Pakistanis have become increasingly shocked by how bold religious radicals have become in spreading their Taliban-style values in society.

Last month, burqa-clad female students from an Islamic school, or madrasa, raided a brothel in the capital, Islamabad, and abducted three women. The women were released only after they were made to repent before the media.

Students from Lal Masjid, or Red Mosque, and its adjoining madrasa have also pressured music and video shop owners to wind up their businesses as part of their anti-vice campaign.

Copyright 2007 Reuters. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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lost day

migraine day. the bed, drugs, and all three seasons of BSG.

Tuesday, 24 April 2007

the football

These are our neighborhood girls from across the street. They are indeed adorable. A few days ago three of the boys from the street knocked on the door, grins ear to ear. In darigia: "We are collecting money for a football."
Me: "You pirates! You have a football. You are outside my door kicking it every day!"

The grins get wider.

They had put a blue velvet drape with some sort of crest on it over the football box. That sort of initiative deserves a reward. We dug into our change and gave them money. I hang my head as it is my firm policy NOT to give the children candy or money, but if you had seen them you would have given them money too!
After an extended afternoon of shopping at the Marjane on the "other" side of town, we returned with our goodies to a much appreciated cooler Oudaylas. While not as posh as the "other" side of town, it is so much cooler here.

T. schlepped the HUGE bag of dirt upstairs to the terrace, where we had deposited the plants yesterday. Then made a run to the wonderful corner sandwich shop. We had turkey, sausage, and fries.

For some unknown reason the street was filled with candy wrappers and those sticks that go in popcicles when we returned. After putting everything away, having lunch, and watching some Battlestar Gallactica I went out to get water and bread. Again with the trash in the street. For the second time today I went out with a plastic bag and picked it all up. I am amazed at the difference of such a small act.

We looked at several tables and umbrellas but decided the ones at the nearer Marjane are more what we want. I found a great covered swing, but I think T. is correct when she says it would be too big. The river appears to be higher and the breeze blowing across the terrace is quite cooling.

I love shopping. For everything but food is fun. We got some pots for all the plants; T is up there now shifting the dirt about. I found a great new trash can for the kitchen, and TRASH BAGS! Funny the things that are hard to find. Paper is more expensive than food. I renewed my candle supply, and bought some new cushion fillers for those silk pillow cases I bought in Fez; and a new pillow and a set of 200 count blue sheets for the bed.

My task tomorrow is to take a beach walk and gather rocks and pepples to go on the tops of the plants. I have found that keeps the dirt and moisture in. We are also trying to discourage the neighborhood "roof cat" from using the dirt in the pots as a litter box.

We continue to have crowds of tourists passing our front door two to four times a day. They are for the most part, SO RUDE! We were going out the door and a middle-age woman (French) pokes her head in the door and says to her friend, "Oh this riad is quite nice." Q tried to tell her it was not a riad, and she acted as though we were not even there! An American today came up to the lovely man at the corner fresh squeezed orange juice hanut and posed him, then took photographs; and bought NOTHING! Even when Tara tried to encourage her. I am amazed that in a Muslim country none (a rash generalization, I hope there are some) of the tourists ask permission to take photographs. The Muslims, especially on holy days, do not want their photographs taken. I don't want my photograph taken! The children are always ready to pose; but one should still ask.

The older fellow who runs the hanut around the corner speaks dargia, english, french, and italian! I continue to be amazed at the multilingual ability of the Moroccans of all social and economic classes.