Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Week In Pictures, Last Week Too

Some events from the week...

Thursday night started Eid al-Adha, also called Feast of the Sacrifice, an important 3-day religious holiday   celebrated by Muslims   to honor the willingness of the prophet Abraham  – Yes, the same Abraham as Christianity and Judaism -- to sacrifice his young firstborn son Ishmael as an act of submission to God, and his son's acceptance of the sacrifice, before God intervened to provide Abraham with a ram to sacrifice instead.

To me the most interesting part of this was that Muslims who can afford it, sacrifice their best halal domestic animals (usually a cow, but can also be a camel, goat, sheep or ram) as a symbol of Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his only son. The sacrificed animal is then divided in thirds,  with a third going to the worshiper,  a third to his relatives and a third to the poor.  I think the remembrance of the poor as part of this is admirable.
Photo Source:  Kuwait Times

In Kuwait this year, over 87,000 sheep were imported for this purpose.    That is a lot of sheeps!  Notice all the shepherds playing with their cell phones in the photo?  Times have changed.

Saturday morning, when I went out to walk Falkor, I was surprised to find the sky covered by dark clouds.  Rain clouds!  There was a cool breeze blowing and as we turned the corner and the Persian Gulf came into view,  the horizon was truly spectacular.  From one end of the horizon to the other there was a narrow band of intense white light, where the sun had broken through underneath the clouds.  In the center, where the clouds obscured the rising sun,  was an arch made of green, orange and red as the sun shone through the moisture rich clouds. The colors faded to pink and then finally back into the gray-black darkness of the overhead clouds. I enjoyed it but Falkor was more concerned with a cat playing one of the trashcans.  

The highlight of the drive to work was almost 2 full minutes of rainfall, the first since April. 

My trip to Dubai...

I like Dubai.  It is called the Las Vegas of the Middle East and it lives up to the title by way of its grandeur – but unlike Vegas,  it seems to have a higher level of class and style.  The streets are clean and the landscaping everywhere is well groomed.   There is a plan somewhere that is preventing things from developing out of control and it is having awesome results.  In the decade since I was there last Dubai has truly become a place worth seeing in its own right.

Here are a few of the things I enjoyed while there:

As you drive along the highway you come across these small areas that are built up with beautiful new skyscrapers

Looks like Superman's hometown

Lots of construction going on

Loved all the greenery

Sunset overlooking the gulf
Water Tower-Look like a golf tee to me

Light rail runs from one end to the other of Dubai

This became a landmark to find my way back to where I was staying

Yes,  a sky slope inside of a mall
Had to keep saying -- it is just a mall

Outside of Dubai Mall

They have to wear something under the burqua

Ice skating inside the mall too.  Did I mention it was big?
Yes, it is a battery operated, portable head massager
Lots of stores and stuff to see and do

Never knew Sean Connery was an Imir in Dubai

Or maybe Connery is Arab instead of Scottish

When we left the mall, we had to stand in a long line to get a cab.  The way they did it was to allow a large group of cabs to pull into the staging area,  then let 30  or so people into the area all at once -- with everyone running to claim a cab.  After everyone was loaded up, they dropped the arm and all the cabs took off at once.  Since the cabs had a variety of colored roofs,  it reminded me of the way bumper cars were done when I was a kid.  BTW I got the green one.

Ended the night here, where else?

Great Aussie house band, Start Your Engines

Well, at least he is wearing a helmet


Sunday, October 21, 2012

Dinar, Dirham, and Dollars

I just got back in from Dubai, and I simply do not have enough time before deadline to write down my thoughts about what a truly amazing place it is. So, I thought I would talk about something that occurred to me once I got back to my place. I was emptying my pockets and putting the stuff out of them onto my dresser when I noticed that I had four different currencies in one of my pockets.

I had Bahraini Dinars,  Dirham from the United Arab Emirates, Kuwaiti Dinar, and one US dollar;  the dollar was actually given to me and change this morning at the airport in Dubai when the guy behind the counter didn't have the correct change in Dirham, so he made up the difference with the US dollar.  The last time I had multiple currencies in my pocket at one time was in 2001 when I was in Germany and we were going on a vacation trip to Garmisch -- it was December and just before the Euro was about to hit so I was carrying US dollars,  Deutsche Marks, and Austrian Francs.  

I gave it a moments thought as to why the countries over here don't form some sort of similar combined currency. The Euro actually made traveling a lot easier, because we didn't have to change currencies every time we crossed a border. Supposedly, it also made trade a lot easier since there were no differentiations in currency valuations.  Unfortunately, the Euro may be about to exit after only a decade because of issues with Euro member countries, ie Greece and Spain. Those thoughts brought me to the realization that a combined currency probably is in a good idea in this region,  even if it would make my pockets easier to sort out.

When I arrived back, and flipped on my cell phone I immediately got a text message from Zain, my service provider, that said: "Welcome back to Kuwait!  Your family will be glad to hear from you, give them a call."  While I think that the message was kind of self-serving, since when I called they make money, but the thought was a heartwarming one, so I'll take it in that vein.

Look forward to pictures and descriptions of Dubai next week. It is known as the Las Vegas of the Middle East; but aside from that it has some of the most beautiful modern architecture I've ever seen. Plus the city and country were very well-planned and laid out. Dubai had a plan to take them from oil, which is running out there, into a future that is based on so much more than just fossil fuel.

Also,  did I find the real life Dale Gribble?
Dale Alvin Gribble
Who is he really?

Or did Hunter S. Thompson fake his death and move to the Middle East to hide from his fans?

Hunter S. Thompson


Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Best Weeks Are When Nothing Is on Fire

Some weeks are just mellow without much happening.  Aside from being very busy at work, nothing really exciting happened outside the gate.  There is a trend going on that I am  grateful for and that is that the temperature is finally getting and staying cooler. Most of the days now the temperature never gets above 105° or so, at night we go all the way down to 70°. In the morning when I get up to walk Falkor it's only about 75°, which is a very nice climate in which to do your morning exercise.

Next week, I will be going to Dubai to work at the naval port there where we have some of our folks. I'm looking forward to it because I've only been to Dubai once, and then it was only for a day. Whereas I don't intend on taking the $50 elevator ride up the Burj Khalifa, I do hope to be able to do a little sightseeing so my missive will be filled with pictures.

On Friday, the doctor proclaimed my hand healed enough to take off the splint. Yea! Except for some stiffness in the middle finger at the second knuckle and occasional pain when I stress the hand, I appear to have come out of this okay. I start physical therapy after I return from my trip next week.

The last of my new employees has finally arrived. As long as no one else decides to take another job or move on, personnel within my office should be stable for the rest of my tour.  This is a good thing, since the crew all seems to get along well without much drama or interpersonal relationship issues.  They are also extremely good at their jobs, which will make my job much easier.

As I told many folks, when I wrote my book Three Paperclips & a Grey Scarf I was actually working on another novel but a different story kept playing through my mind. The more I toyed around with the idea and the storyline the harder it was for me to concentrate on the book I was supposed to be writing. So I stopped writing the original book and concentrated on writing a story that was torturing me.

Well, once again I find myself being tortured by another tale other than the one I'm supposed to be writing, so I have taken a pause once again and I am writing the story that will not leave my mind. I'm wondering if maybe this is how my writing style is going to be from now on. I sit down to write one thing, and instead produce something totally different and unrelated.

As I said, it was a slow week – – but sometimes those tend to work out just fine.

Some weeks you are the Tiger, other weeks the baby Antelope.  Then some weeks,  nobody gets eaten.


Sunday, October 7, 2012

I Know Art & This Is Art

The Art of PTSD...

I have an appreciation for art.  Not performance art or ultra-modern neo ironic sponsored by the NEA art - but the kind of art that is visual and aimed at creating some sort of emotion or memory in the viewer.  When I first read an article about "Military Spouses Going Topless for PTSD", I was expecting to read that they were creating a calendar or something similar to sell to raise money.  What I found was art.

First of all, the term topless - while true - was being used primarily as an attention grabber by the press - all of the women and men pictured (yes there are men) have their backs turned to the camera.  Then, printed across their flesh are the words:

Broken by Battle,
Wounded by War,
My love is forever -
to you this I swore.
I will:
Quiet your silent screams
Help heal your shattered souls
Until once again
my love you are whole.
Battle BARE 

There are actually several pledges that you can read here [LINK]

The organization, Battling BARE, is exposing who they are and at the same time proudly saying what they feel.  Look through the pictures on their Facebook page - many of which include extra poems and words - you can feel the support and love in each picture as well as the pain.

I did see some derogatory comments that were made about this project and to them I say:  Either understand and appreciate what is going on here or if you just don't get it, shut the hell up.  With people in my own family effected by varying degrees of wartime memories, Battling BARE has my support for their mission.  For the art I say thank you.

The Art of Crime...

Source:  Kuwait Times
I read the English language papers here almost every day.  One of my must read sections is the Crime column.  I read it for two reasons,  I want to know what is going on in my neighborhood and there is also entertainment to be found there from time to time (I told you about the man who they picked up while he was out mermaid hunting or the blow up dolls customs found).

I have gotten used to seeing pictures like this,  someone arrested red handed with drugs, booze or other contraband put on display with the evidence stacked up in front of them.  The culprit is usually masked or has their face blurred but the stuff they got caught with is on prominent display, and has let me to ponder about how these pictures are put together.
Source:  Kuwait Times

In this photo, in addition to the drugs you can see a stack of cell phones off to the side.  Okay,  I guess that the phones were used to help facilitate the crime,  so I guess I can understand that.

But in this one,  there is a kitchen spoon.  I dunno.  Maybe the suspect used it to try to fend off the cops when their lair was raided. 

Source:  Kuwait Times
Below is my favorite pix of all.  Look at the presentation of all the liquor.  I have seen stores in the States that don't do as good a job of putting product out.  It made me wonder if they have specialist whose job it is to arrange evidence for these pictures.  Look at the symmetry and balance - plus they even used the 3 sided label on the box as part of the display.  They really did a super job.

Source:  Kuwait Times
The charges facing the accused in these pictures are not minor and could lead to decades in jail.  I really have to wonder if in the end they thought whatever KD they made was worth it.  I would guess not.

Kindergarten Art...

Having made my share of school lunches for my kids,  I liked this editorial by Jamie Etheridge entitled 

The Lunchbox Effect that was in the Kuwait Times but what got my attention was this line: 

"I’ve included small love notes, cards with Hello Kitty stickers or pictures of hearts and her name written in pink glitter. Sometimes she draws back on these and presents them to me when she comes home from school."

I never sent notes with the lunches I made,  not something a Dad thinks of I guess; so I missed out on this bit of Kindergarten joy.  I wonder what I would have gotten back?  No way of telling,  but it would have been art.


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Your Other Most Important Vote of 2012

The list of this year's nominees for induction to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is out:  Public Enemy, NWA, Rush, Deep Purple, Kraftwerk Heart, Procol Harum, Albert King, The Marvelettes, Donna Summer, Heart, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, The Meters, Randy Newman, Chic.
Click here for the Rock&Roll Hall of Fame
Since we,  the listeners, actually get to vote this year (for up to 5),  I will let you know my favourites.

Heart:  They made a lot of the music I lived, danced, and made out to in the 70s and 80s.    The album Dreamboat Annie was awesome.  Screaming electric guitars and strong female vocals  that made you feel the raw emotion of every single note.  Magic Man had one of the best instrumental interludes of the decade.  The only true rock band I am aware of (other than Fleetwood Mac)  that dared to put two women out front and center.  

Joan Jett & The Blackhearts:  She loved Rock n Roll starting with her time in the Runaways and never stopped.  Joan dressed in black leather, wore dark eye makeup and had dark hair and eyes plus a sensual snarl.  Fine, she had my adolescent teen attention,  but it was the powerful rhythms behind the music that keeps me a fan.  Besides there was that night when I first heard Crimson & Clover - unforgettable soundtrack to a great night "such a sweet thing... I wanna do everything...what a wonderful feeling..."  Simple lyrics  that pack a punch because of her strong vocals and the driving band behind it.

Deep Purple:  Creators of the most famous intro in all of Rock and Roll,  but they were so much more than that.  Machine Head was one of the first albums, other than those by The Beatles, which was good enough that I listened and liked every song on it. Woman from Tokyo is another of my favourites.   They defined metal guitar.

The Marvelettes:  One of many girl bands in the 50's,  had the first #1 record for Tamela Records  (one of Barry Gordie's Motown companies),  Please Mr. Postman; but their influence was deep and wide.   They were identified as the model used to create the Greek Chorus for the Broadway/Movie Musical The Little Shop of Horrors.   Three way harmonies with spot light verses taken on by each performer of the group.  Good stuff.

Kraftwerk:  Just a little Düsseldorf band.  They defined Krautrock and because I was in Germany for the early 80s,  I heard more than just Autobahn. I remember when I got back to the US and was watching Saturday Night Live and they did a skit called Sprockets -- its intro music was Electric Café - I wonder how many people watching knew what a great album that was.  Stripped down electro-Euro-techno with a bass and rhythm line underneath it all to move the song forward at warp speed. " fahr'n fahr'n fahr'n auf der Autobahn" - indeed. 

Honourable Mention

Procol Harem:  Another intro that is instantly recognizable and how many other bands could pull off a rock lyric like "We skipped a light Fandango, turned cartwheels 'cross the floor"?  My High School friend Tom knew how to play one song on the piano,  and that was it --- A Whiter Shade of Pale.   The band's blend of orchestra and rock had never been done before and it eventually led me to appreciate other music that blended the two genres.  Check out Conquistador (live version is best).