Friday, May 31, 2013

Role Models For The Less Regal

I have a four year old niece who is obsessed with wanting to be a princess. She wants to have long flowing hair (i.e. straight), hers is curly and difficult to tame. She wants a princess dress (i.e. puffy). She likes to wear nail polish, acts cutesy and all girly. I'm finding this totally and utterly annoying.

Growing up, I was a tomboy. As a teenager, I was a tomboy. Now, in my late thirties, I'm still a tomboy. I dressed in shorts and sneakers. I too have curly disobedient hair, I always wore it in two long braids, now I wear a veil. I played astek with my fiends and ran after boys and beat the crap out them. The scars on my knees attest to my school yard adventures. I don't remember much prior to turning seven. From the photographs in the family album, I can only infer that my mother attempted, yet failed, to morph me into a sweet princess by putting me in pink dresses. My idols where Lynda Carter of Wonder Woman and Lindsay Wagner from The Bionic Woman. I wanted to be Wonder Woman. Little did I know that I had my own super hero at home who raised me to be a strong independent woman just like her. Although I have very little say, if any, on how my niece is raised, I can't help but wonder about the female role models she is exposed to in global media.

Despite the recent uproar in regards to Merida's makeover, Pixar movies have showcased the best role models for young girls. In Toy Story 2 we are introduced to the tenacious strong-willed defiant Jesse. She is as much part of the action as are Woody and Buzz. In A Bug's Life there's both the wise Ant Queen and princess Atta. Although misplacing their fates in Flik, they do not stand down from their responsibilities towards the colony. Even in Monsters, Inc, Boo courageously explores Mike and Sulley world.

As I struggle to accept that my niece will become the woman she is meant to be, in spite of me. I can't help but pray that she embodies the strength, perseverance, and resourcefulness of Mrs. Incredible, take charge attitude of Sally from Cars, and the free adventurous nature of Ellie from Up. Only then will she become a true princess.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Stupidity Surplus

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present our most abundant resource - STUPIDITY! Trust me, there is enough stupidity to circle the globe many times over and still have some left to spare. Of course, it helps that the supply of stupidity is directly proportional with the world's population. With seven billion humans roaming the land, there's no shortage of stupidity, if only ! Please let me clarify what I mean by stupidity. I'm not referring to those of us who are slow or suffer from learning disabilities or other ailments. These individuals were born with such limitations, to no fault of their own. They endure insufferable ostracization because they are misplaced and under utilized by society. When I say stupid, I'm referring to the dumdums of this world. Those who are too lazy, too indifferent or too selfish to do better. Those who are fully aware of the correct way to behave, yet freely elect to remain stupid and do as they please with a complete disregard to others. Those who repeatedly refuse to learn despite numerous eye-rolling  scorns and stares of contempt. I have often wondered if these individuals are truly oblivious to the magnitude of their stupidity until I notice a slight change in their demeanor as I visibly reach the tipping point of my dumdum tolerance. They fleetly retreat and correct course, thus I am reminded that these people are stupid by choice. 

To further illustrate, let me give you a for instance,
  1. The dumdums who always make a right turn at the red lights, blatantly ignoring pedestrians and the "No Right on Red" signs, unless of course there's a patrol car in sight 
  2. The dumdums who loudly converse on their phones in public places. Yet, they lower their voices and even cup their free hand over their mouths when communicating embarrassing occurrences.
  3. The dumdums who sing along to their iTunes while walking down the street. Belting out the lyrics, terribly I might add, as if they were auditioning for American Ideal
  4. Everyone between 13 and 27 years old
  5. The dumdums who continue to chitchat even when you stop engaging in the conversation and only contributes constipated ums and nodes
  6. The dumdums who talk back to the screen at movie theaters and act as if they are streaming the film on Netflix in their living rooms
  7. The dumdums who leave their coffee pods in the communal coffee machine and never refill the water tank
  8. The dumdums who never flush the toilet after use
  9. The dumdums who talk on the phone while in a public toilet stall
  10. The dumdums who always tweet pictures without adding meaningful captions. Instagram, dude! 
The list can go on and on, but I digress. The most guilty of all dumdums, besides multi-offenders, are the idiots who still think of IT professionals as "The Computer Guy". Those who solicit unwarranted technology counseling from unsuspecting IT people on the elevator. FYI - that's so not okay. I understand that there are some people who don't realize their faux pas - again no shortage of stupidity. So to all of you out there who don't know better, here are a few words of advice,
  • IT professions are as many and diverse as doctors. There are the general practitioners of helpdesk and Genus barkeepers, the specialists server administrators, DBAs and software developers, and finally the cardiologists and brain surgeons of information security, business analysts, and project managers. Unless you let Dr. Bob who prescribes anti-fungal creme for you scaly feet extract molars and remove your gallbladder, don't expect all IT professionals to know everything about "computers".
  • Guess what dumdum, you are the expert in MS Office not us, because you use it everyday. So, no, it's not okay to casually ask us how to sort an excel sheet in an ascending order and then smirk when we don't tell you the answer.
  • Working in IT is not cool. Let me repeat this for the benefit of those dumdums who don't believe me. WORKING IN IT IS NOT COOL. We are cooped up indoors for 10 hours a day. We have bad posture from sitting all day. We have bad eye sight from staring at a monitor all day. So uncool !
  • We hate the soul-sucking meetings and conference calls we have to attend.
  • It is a thankless job. When anything, and I do mean anything, goes wrong, IT is always to blame or looked upon to solve the issue. Toilet clogged? Call IT! We are very very busy cleaning up other people's shit, so please when that very important document doesn't print, make sure the printer is turned on before shooting a ticket at your helpdesk.
  • Yes, we think that all non-technical people are stupid idiots who could not find their asses if they weren't parked on the seats underneath them. Please prove us wrong.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

RayBan Cool



As a teenager in Cairo during the late 80s and early 90s, the ultimate status symbol of coolness was a pair of RayBans. The black boxy model propelled into stardom when donned by pop icon Amr Diab in his debut album Mayal. The title song echoed in all Egyptian realms with taxi cabs broadcasting it where ever they went. This was a time before minibuses littered the streets of Cairo. Diab's posters, with him in the shades, lined Ibrahim El Lakany street in Roxy, promoting the album as it played on repeat by the cassette kiosks. The music video, one of the very first, portrayed Diab, in and out of his RayBans, singing at a concert. The video was filmed at my school's auditorium. All teens and preteens coveted a pair of RayBans. Most of us had look-a-likes bought from street vendors. Very few could afford the real deal. Those who could, wore their RayBans proudly, showing off the authentic emblem. The cool kids wore them in the morning before school started and flung them on their faces with the ring of the last bell.
 
I was and still am a dork. I didn't know much about pop culture and I was cool averse. Raised by a single mother, we couldn't afford much, least of all a pair of vanity laced plastic sunglasses. I didn't quite care because I had no idea who Amr Diab was until a field trip in the 7th grade to the botanical gardens. On the bus ride, Mayal played on cassette as we sung along and swayed to the tunes. This was my first forte into Egyptian pop culture and teenhood. I remained on the sidelines observing and participating at my convenience. I fell in love with the rhythmic tunes that compelled hips to swing and arms to flutter. We all tried, and failed miserably, to mimic the elegance of legendary belly dancers of yonder. I saved up and bought the album on cassette tape. I paid six Egyptian pounds, the equivalent of two US dollars. Holding my breathe, I carefully unwrapped the plastic cover off my minted inaugural tape. Until that day, my sister and I made our own mixed tapes. When we couldn't afford to buy blank tapes, we'd siphon from our grandmother's stash. My mother's youngest sisters moved to Kuwait after getting married. She recorded messages on cassette tapes and sent them to my grandmother. This was how expat Egyptians overcame the high cost of long distance telephone charges. My sister and I regularly borrowed tapes from our grandmother's treasure trove. We'd hold our gray clunky cassette player against the TV set, order everyone to be quiet, and record songs from shows like Al Alam Yoghany - The World is Singing. Sometimes we'd place concave dinner plates over the cassette player's speakers so the sound ricocheted back into the built in microphone and record songs from the Breakfast Show. We never asked permission to buy albums, we simply assumed our mother would say no and thus resorted to make our own bootlegged tapes. More than often, these song medleys were peppered with our mother's voice echoing in the background. Mayal was our first authentic album. Unwrapping the clear plastic cover felt like an initiation ceremony. I was finally cool, or so I thought.

In 1990, I scored a pair of the coveted sunglasses. They weren't original RayBans, but they were close enough. They had a white frame with a Fido Dido pattern and black handles. I wore them every where, even at night. I still have them. They are securely locked away in my closet. They have yellowed with age and some of the design has peeled off. Nevertheless, they are one of my treasured possessions. Every once in a while, I take them out, place them on my wrinkled face, and relive the good old days, back when I was cool.