Category Archives: Personal

Happiness In Chaos

One needs so very little to be happy.

Well, technically, one needs nothing at all — merely a mind at peace with itself, I suppose. But what I mean is the material stuff. We get so wrapped up in all the things we need in order to be happy and feel secure that it’s easy to miss how very simple life really is.

What do I need to be happy? A place to sleep, even if it’s a Walmart parking lot. A toothbrush — I’m very fussy about brushing. Toilet paper (I use inordinate amounts of toilet paper, heheh). A change of clothes. Medications, so life is less painful. The Economist and/or a smartphone and/or a computer, since I can’t be cut off from the news for long. Not much else, when you get right down to it.

Having no idea where I’m going to be next week is a bit unsettling when I dwell on it. But when I put my mind at ease and focus instead on all that I have before me — on the fact that my needs are met and that I am pretty damned happy — well, it doesn’t look so bad. Who needs creature comforts when you have good friends and good experiences and the sense of moving into an unknown but always interesting future?

Things can always be better than they are, and in the end it’s what you choose to make of what you have. I choose to see a half-full glass … and then to drink it down and smile. L’Chaim.

Ich sage euch: man muß noch Chaos in sich haben, um einen tanzenden Stern gebären zu können.”
(I tell you: one must still have chaos within oneself, to give birth to a dancing star.)
— from Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche

Taking A Break

A lot has been happening in my life, some good, a lot bad, and I just don’t have the will to sustain this any longer. I’ll come back on-line when I have more to say and the energy to say it. Until then… think for yourself, trust no-one, be happy in your own skin, and hold onto your dreams as long as you can. A life without dreams is hardly worth the name.

~Liam

Latin, Lefebvre, Labour, Le Chat

It’s been a bit chaotic around here lately! I’ve been settling in and decorating my home, preparing for my new classes (which start on Monday, yikes!), and getting to know an old friend who’s come out to visit. Things have not all been to my liking lately, i.e., I’ve had to adjust to a few set-backs and disappointments, but such is life — and mine is a good one. I will find a way through the practical exigencies and get there smiling. Arridens, de profundis ego stare et ambula. (Ah, high school Latin… how I hated it at the time… *lol*)

This evening I am wrestling with an application of Lefebvre’s spatial analytic to my project in the West Bank. Specifically, I am wondering if I can position his thoughts on the production of difference in social space such that one may postulate a revolutionary political project inherent in the precise ordering of Haredi cities. Does that construction reflect merely the production of their own abstract space, i.e., does their mark on the natural environment in the W.B. reflect merely their own needs? Or is it intended to reshape Jewish life in that space in a way that has wider implications for Israeli Jewry?

I have hitherto worked mainly on the notion of integrating the Haredi project into the wider Occupation dynamic, by showing the ways in which Haredi chauvinism can converge with religious-Zionist nationalism. My view of Haredi space has thus been focussed on its relation to the physical and cultural space of the W.B., i.e., their impact on the environment and how similar it is (in both its physical manifestation and its ideological purpose) to the political projects of the other settlers. But it strikes me that I may be missing an interesting angle to this. Israeli sociologists have been appreciating the ways in which the Haredim are engaged in a ‘culture war’ in Israel, challenging the secular population in subtle (and sometimes decidedly unsubtle) ways. What if their construction of social space in the W.B. reflects this wider political project (a re-Judaising of the ‘wayward’ majority), by laying out an ideal environment for Jewish life and working assiduously to maintain the purity of this vision? Anyway, random food for thought. I am probably saying something foolish and/or obvious, but we’ll see. *lol*

I have two physical projects coming up which will be interwoven with my friend’s visit and my work schedule. I am going to build a small wind-break on the north side of the a-frame next to my patio. This will not remove the chill wind by any means, but it will cut a little of it out and allow me to remove the file cabinets that I have on my patio right now for that purpose. This should be pretty quick and easy if my current idea (a couple sheets of fibreglass strapped to the existing chain link) works. The other is a cat-door on the other side of the patio for Ms Grey. She’s tamed to the point of normal house-cat behaviour and really enjoys being inside. I have no intention of taking her from her outside territory, but I would like her to have the option of coming in out of the cold whenever she likes. But it will have to be some sort of locking door that the other cats can’t use, so I’ll have to investigate the various magnetic/RFID collar models. The construction itself is a project for an afternoon, so we’ll have to hope I feel comfy spending a day on it before the end of winter! It’s got to be cold out there for her — when she comes in she is generally loath to go back out!

Speaking of cats… Miss Kitty hurt herself walking on the back lot last Friday and we finally took her to the vet today. She cut on the pads of front-right paw on something, but there didn’t seem to be anything in there. And it has seemed to be improving at first, but the last couple days she’s been keeping it off the ground entirely and just hopping, so we were concerned that it was hurt more seriously than it looked. Anyway, the vet couldn’t find anything and it wasn’t broken, so they prescribed antibiotics and pain killers; the poor dear will be on bed-rest for a little while.

Okay, back to work for me. It’s a nice breezy night on the patio and there is reading to be done…

Moving Furniture, Putting Up Shelves, Laughing At Myself

Thus far this morning I’ve finished moving the furniture around in the back bedroom, set up the shelves in the kitchen and added the first items, finished the furniture move in the living room save for the new teevee stand, and put the last of the ionic air filters into place. I also have a little music player in the kitchen now, and will be working on the patio stereo later. I have a bunch of frames to hang newly-printed photos, and a frame for my Red Vic poster from way-back-when. Also on the schedule: trying to finish the kitchen properly, including scrubbing the refer and stove, hanging the whiteboard, and putting away the last of the junk sitting in the centre of the floor. But for now it’s off to the shower, then to town for a couple errands. Andrew’s coming up soon to get Lucky so I’m gonna lose my doggie today. Ah…. 🙁

Absolutely none of this is of interest to 99.999% of you out there, so why am I typing it? Just because. That’s all; just because. *grin* Back in the day little personal updates like this were pretty common on my site, and if I don’t have time to say anything substantive, maybe doing it again would at least help solidify a habit of writing here. I seem only able to be consistent when the rest of my life is upside down, as when I’m overseas. Now that things are settling down, I need new ways to refocus myself on writing. One brilliant idea handed to me by a girlfriend recently is to keep a dissertation journal, scribbling down my ideas as I have them. I may do that here or in an unpublished part of the site; who knows. But I like the idea of getting myself to writing down the crazy notions as I have them. And if I’m to be writing down one type of crazy stuff… why not the above? 😉

Zombie Journalism!

I am at present trying to shake off the rigor mortis in my fingers and spring back to life, my loyal droogs! Oh, how you all can’t wait to see my latest ramblings, I’m sure. *grin*

But I do indeed, kidding aside, have some things to say this week on Iran and Syria. I’ve carved out a writing time; now let’s see if I can prevent anything from flooding into it and knocking me off course! So place your bets now: Am I a zombie journalist, or am I still dead? We shall soon find out….

Cat Door To The Patio

Moving into an abandoned house is a lot of work! In the coming weeks I will likely make quite a few posts here showing my progress, including some astonishing before & after shots of my current rooms.

My most recent project — finished today and hence on my mind — was putting in a cat door to the enclosed patio. That latter was a large undertaking in itself and I will be putting up photos of it later, but suffice for now to say that I have enclosed the patio in cat-proof chain link and wood, and my kids now have an outdoor play area while the outer fence is repaired.

The cat door was placed in a window rather than the ground, to discourage mice & insects & dust, and for security purposes. The storm window was removed, then the window slid open and a carefully-cut board was set into the window track. The window was then closed a couple centimetres to touch the edge of the wood, and locked in place from the inside.

The wood panel obviously has the cat door in it (see photos below). From the inside they step up from my spare desk and pass through the door onto a book case full of cat supplies. Right beside it is my cat tree, set in front of the other window so I can watch a cat or three sleeping on/in it.

I am overall very happy with the work, which is probably why I am shamelessly showing it off to World+Dog. Enjoy!

More Than A Month…

Yep, more than a month has elapsed since my last post. I would like to say I have been holidaying on the French Riviera, but in truth I’ve just been busy moving house & working, and it’s been tough to fit it in. I’ve got it set so that I can work from my telephone, so even if I can’t put up some lengthy rant I should at least be able to resume commentary on news and life.

I will add details and photos later, but I have moved up to family property in Yucca Valley. Yes, I now live in redneck country… *lol* It’s a good two hours from work, but the rent is free, I have 2.5 acres of hilly wilderness, the weather is nice, and it’s quiet. My hope is that I will be able to establish a good routine this winter of reading, writing, and language study whenever I’m up on the mountain, and put errands on the days I have to go down for work. My goal is a chapter or two of my dissertation this year, and the quiet should be more conducive to that than living in OC.

There’s a lot of work to do here yet, and I still have some things in Irvine to move up, but I will get to that next week. For now the cats and I are settling in, things are finding their proper place, I’m doing a lot of cleaning, and somewhere in that I am grading papers and suchlike. It’s putting some demands on my time but I’m finding myself overall happier to be doing it, and the drive isn’t all that bad; most of it is beautiful, really. Okay, back to work for me, but this will continue soon…

Writer’s Funk

I have no idea what’s wrong with me to-day. I have this creeping malaise that seems to have no source or locus. What could it be? I can’t concentrate, my mood is flat, and I’m not taking pleasure in things I usually enjoy. I can’t think of anything wrong with my life at all. In fact, I have been ridiculously happy in recent weeks. So what could it be?

Well, I do have a tonne of catch-up to do here. Things are going to be wildly out of order if I get back to writing without finishing all that first, but what can I do? *lol* The world keeps turning whether I write or not. Honestly, I don’t even remember for sure where I left off so I’ll need to look. I know I haven’t written about my trip to Saqqara, so that will be done soon. Other than that, hell, I will have to think about this a lot; I’m losing things already. *sigh* Okay, I’m discouraged so that’s enough for now.

Tardy, Tardy!

Yes, I am home, and no, my journey back was not free of trouble! *grin* It was a lot of fun, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not how I want to do it all the time. I will write it up, as usual, but need to catch up on trip posts. Given how far behind I fell in the very-busy last few weeks, those posts will have to be interpolated with new ones from home. Ah, well!

Classes have started up again, and my facebook relationship status has changed, and I might get a fourth cat. Aside from having no money, I would say that life is about as good as it gets. I’m gonna get back to working on slide shows now. I found I really like working from them, though I don’t know how long it will take to make new ones for each week. Worth a try! *waves*

Sufis And Beer

Stepping back a little, I owe you the story of how my museum day ended.

So I had gotten in contact with the fella named Amor who was involved in some radical publication projects and knew a mutual friend. He decided that I deserved to see a local Sufi concert of sorts — it’s technically a religious ritual, but it’s really performance art. I’ll get back to it in a minute.

I met him by the KFC in Tahrir square, which is the one and only Western-style fast food joint I saw in the city. he had a companion with him — a German gal named Sophia with whom he flirted relentlessly. I have never seen a guy work so hard to get in someone’s pants. I felt distinctly awkward to be the fifth wheel on what would doubtless have made for a better date without me!

Anyroad, we headed from there to a place that he thought he knew the way to, but really we were lost. We wandered for a long time and missed close to an hour of the show. This would be a recurring theme throughout the night…

The ritual was interesting, albeit too slow for me. The singer was extremely passionate and clearly drank in the attention. The lyrics were about loving god and being full of God in the heart and stuff like that; typical Sufi themes. But he seemed more interested in pleasing the audience than God, which I found oddly endearing (being not one for religious music). The band was great — a tabla, an oud, a violin, a wooden flute, and a percussionist. But the rhythm was hypnotic. I found myself swaying to it and nodding off repeatedly.

In the show we met a friend of Amor’s and we piled into his car. The intent was to take us closer to where we could get a beer and talk. It being Ramadan there was only one place they knew in the city where you could drink. But not only was his friend an usually scary driver (nearly hitting people a couple of times), but neither of them had a clue in hell where they were going!

His friend finally dropped us off and we began to walk, but we started not far from where I met Amor, which made the entire drive a waste of time. Not only that, it was in the wrong direction. He then set about trying to find the place the way Cairenes do: by asking everyone and their uncle that you pass! You see, street signs are pretty rare and addresses are non-existent, at least in the sense of being printed on the actual buildings. If you don’t know anyone in the area to call as you approach, you’re just supposed to ask people.

As it happened, few people could give good directions, or didn’t really know, or Amor just couldn’t tell what they meant, since we wandered for what had to be at least an hour and was probably more. Amusingly, we got closer and closer to the street, then to the building, where I was living. Wonder of wonders, the place ended up being in the same building! Had I been able to ask the directions we could have gotten them a lot faster, since I knew the streets in that part of the city better than Amor did. (He’s from Alexandria and only moved to Cairo recently, and he doesn’t live downtown.)

This place ended up being one of the facilities used by the Greek consulate, and they had just one type of beer. Didn’t matter, I had a couple big ones because there had been no beer in my diet for a week, hehe. The two of them smoked (most people smoke) and we all talked a bit. They both knew some of the people at a nearby long table, as the expatriate community is not that large and people tend to network. One of them came over to join us for a while, then went back and forth for the rest of the night.

We talked about Amor’s work with a bunch of creative types and the art magazine they put out, about girls and sex and how sleeping with people upset Amor’s parents — and about how his father locked him in his room for a month as a kind of rehab!

And we talked about my research project (the fourth party, whose name I forgot, asked and seemed very interested), and then got into Amor’s experiences in the revolution, which is why I came out in the first place. There were tales of baton charges and getting his head knocked, about being arrsted multiple times, etc. One particularly good one had him in the back of a police car when it was surrounded by pro-Mubarak thugs. They tried to drag him out of the car (likely to kill him) and the cops said, ‘hey, why don’t we just let them have you?’ Scary, no? But they ended up driving off and Amor lived to fight another day.

I don’t want to get into much more of this stuff, but we talked until closing time and then went out onto the street. We parted company and I went looking for a place to buy some water, while the two of them wandered off into the night. I wonder if he got lucky (she was pretty cute!). *lol* Then I headed back to my hostel and went to sleep. Zzzzz.