"Iraqi Boy, After Dream Trip to U.S., Hates to Go Home"

I'm hesitant to copy and paste articles here, but I thought this one was tres interessante:

Published: July 28, 2005
After two fairy-tale weeks of pampering, shopping, top-notch medical care and limitless Pepsi, Ayad al-Sirowiy, the 13-year-old Iraqi boy who came to the United States to get the tattoo of war removed from his disfigured face, is going home.

And - no surprise - he really doesn't want to.
"Ma arrooh, ma arrooh," Ayad shouted Wednesday afternoon, as he kicked and fussed in his hotel bed, a few hours before his flight. "I don't want to go. I don't want to go."
His face was shiny with burn salve, his lips were puffy and blistery and both eyes were swollen shut like a pummeled boxer's. It stung just to look at him.
Ayad has been quite a project. He was injured at the beginning of the Iraq war after his cow accidentally set off an American cluster bomb, which drilled tiny pieces of shrapnel into his face, blinding him in one eye and printing a map of pin-prick scars across his skin. The boys in Ayad's village call him "Mr. Gunpowder," and he was so ashamed that he dropped out of school.
But after a retired law professor in Miami Beach read about his plight and won him approval to come to the United States, a new hope was planted. Ayad began to dream of having his old face again. And he thought if it could happen anywhere, it was America.
During his time here he has seen a lot - the inside of the Pentagon, a senator's office, sharks in a tank, girls in tank tops, the view from the Empire State Building and the treasures of Wal-Mart.
"It was bigger than my village," said Ayad's father, Ali, who accompanied him on his visit.
But the miracle metamorphosis didn't happen. Ayad thought he was going to get a new eye; instead he got a contact lens. And the laser surgery that was promised to erase his facial scars will only lighten them, unless he can receive follow-up treatment in the United States or another modern country, which is highly unlikely once he leaves behind the silky sheets and first-class hotels for his mud hut.
Just the sight of an Iraqi flag yesterday, at the Iraqi mission to the United Nations, jolted his father back to reality.
"Can't I stay here and work?" he asked Ambassador Samir Shakir M. Sumaida'ie, Iraq's permanent representative to the United Nations.
When the ambassador gently shook his head, Ayad's father covered his face and cried.
Ayad arrived in New York on July 13, and soon began skin laser treatment by Dr. Tina Alster, a dermatologist in Washington, who zapped 2,500 ugly blue freckles on his face. His most recent treatment was on Monday, which is why his face is now so sore.
Ayad also saw a number of eye doctors in Baltimore. But he was unable to get the cornea transplant that was needed to restore his full vision because the optic nerve in his right eye was destroyed. Instead, doctors gave him a specially made cosmetic contact lens that turns his milky blue eye back to brown. He quickly lost it, though his sponsors hope to send him a spare.
A tiny piece of shrapnel was found near the retina of his good eye, which at first was thought to require surgery. But a retina specialist determined that the shrapnel was not hurting Ayad's vision and that it would be too risky to remove it.
Then came the V.I.P. treatment. Ayad and his father met Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, who has worked to increase financing for civilian casualties.
Mr. Leahy told Ayad that he is blind in one eye, too.
"If I can be a senator with one eye, you can be prime minister," Mr. Leahy said. Ayad beamed.
They had lunch at the Pentagon with Robert Reilly, a Defense Department adviser who helped smooth the way for the visit. Ayad saluted a picture of the president, saying in English, "Bush, very, very good."
Meanwhile, his father was boiling inside. During an interview with an Arab television network, he went into a tirade about being promised money and gifts.
"I demand to face George W. Bush, and I have some things to say straight to him," he said.
On Wednesday afternoon, the two were more somber. They were scheduled to leave New York on an 11 p.m. flight for the Middle East and the sight of their suitcases stuffed with new clothes, cameras and Herbal Essence shampoo depressed them.
"I thought the Americans could do everything," Ayad's father said.
Ayad stared at the carpet and whispered, "I hope we come back."


donnie darko

I finally watched Donnie Darko last night.

I haven't read anything about it (I try not to saturate my mind with other people's opinions cause it's fun to enjoy original thoughts) and the only thing I had really heard about it was from a friend who posits that it explores the feelings of "love" and "fear" and how they relate to life--an idea that the film makes clear anyway.
Before I go into my take on it, I should explain my take on movies/films--and any creation of human imagination for that matter--in the general sense.
People create these--things--from their minds and philosophies . Whether it's a painting, a book, a film, musical composition--whatever--someone thought of it and then made it.
And as the viewer, reader, listener--whomever--we experience the creation.
So during that experience, there are two things happening: there's the idea with which the creator created, as well as the idea which we project onto the creation itself. In this way, "art" is a two-way encounter that is different for every person and every time.

That being said, my "interpretation" of Donnie Darko is similar to my interpretation of Lola Rennt, Memento and Mulholland Drive: it's about living the life you want to live.

took me into the mind of the character and how he resisted the concept of time through time travel and how he rejected one life path and accepted/chose another. To me, Donnie saw--lived, actually--one reality but ended up choosing another--death--in the end.
The details are fun; trying to piece together the chronology (if any) and what "symbolizes" what (if at all). Some of those questions are:
-Did he actually wake up the night of the jet engine crash, go outside to his lawn, see Frank, thus avoiding the engine crash and initiating his Frank-induced life? The way he laughs as he lies in bed right before the jet engine comes crashing down on him at the end to me implies that, yes, he lived out the Frank life and then went back and chose death to avoid that path/destroy Frank/choose a new life/etc. By choosing the portal in order to take back all of the events which panned out over the course of the movie, Donnie creates the very plane crash which leads to his death-by-jet-engine in the end--the same jet-engine crash from the beginning of the movie.

-Was Donnie's mom standing by the tree at the end real? In one brief clip it shows her returning from the Sparkle Motion StarSearch trip, hugging the family--which means the plane crash never happened, at least not with her on it. But in the end, as Donnie chooses the wormhole/time portal, that very same time portal causes the plane she is riding on to crash--or disappear, sans one jet engine. At the end she is seen standing by the tree as the rest of the Darko family stands at a slight distance mourning the death of Donnie but to me it was more of a spirit than a person. She's an aloof character throughout the movie anyway, but it is weird that she is just kind of smirking and smoking a cigarette while the others cry nearby.

-If Donnie didn't "meet" Frank until the end when Frank ran over Gretchen and Donnie shot him, then how was Frank a main character in the movie prior to their encounter? Thus, was Frank real (i.e., just a bad driver in a halloween costume), a figment of Donnie's imagination, or both? I think it's both: Donnie saw into the future/the car crash and then used that character, who his mind named Frank, during the mental process leading up to the car crash. He met Frank in the movie theater and saw his wounded eye before he actually shot him in the eye.

These questions segue into the cyclical nature of the movie itself, which, in turn, inherently questions the concept of time by playing with cinematic chronology. There's no clear end or beginning, and to me that seems to be one of the points.
Another one, as I mentioned above, is the idea of choosing the life you want to lead. It would seem that, through it all, Donnie is controlled by different forces...Frank, coincidence, love and fear. However, my interpretation is that Donnie is really the one in control. Not control in a control-freak way. A control that culminates in his own choice of death, and at the same time, life.

This is my take on the movie right now. I think it's because I brought to it my own belief that life is what we make of it. It's not always easy and rarely is anyone able to pull it off without feeling hurt, second-guessing decisions or with any sort of degree of perfection.
But if we stay true to ourselves and the ones we love, we can transcend the concept of time and, in the "end," live the life we want.


oh no, not this again!

I thought I was done with it all. The ass-kissing. The bullshit presentation of food and drink. The sheer...nonsense.
But I did it. I got a waitressing job.

After Bistro d'OC I swore off waiting tables. Indeed, it was the French wot did it. But I had had this hankerin' lately for the thrills and spills of waiting tables.
Or maybe it is just the money. As many of you know, cold hard cash is my pimp.

So I started this weekend at Bistro Bis. It's a really nice place on Capitol Hill where the cocktails cost $10+ and what not. It's cool, though because I only work Saturday/Sunday breakfast and brunch. (The not cool part is that it starts at 6:15 am). Usually breakfast is the sucky-suck-suck shift, but not here: I think the guy I shadowed made $250 this weekend. We'll see how it goes.
I already felt a gag reflex when a customer asked for extra chives on his omelette.


screen on the green

I just love when people have good ideas that actually happen. I mean, I know "good" is a judgment so really what I'm saying is that I believe certain ideas are good, or better, than others. I don't really think ideas are bad in a sense that everything is a learning experience so how can an idea be 'bad' or 'wrong' I mean except if you stuck a fork in your eye and then hit it with a rubber mallet. That is probably a bad idea. Or maybe not...it would teach you a valuable lesson about forks and mallets.
OK so one of the better ideas I've seen in a while. OK well, there's two because I just thought of another one. The one I just thought of is PODS. Not iPods. PODS. Personal On Demand Storage.
Some people, like me, aren't made of money. I mean, I wish, sort of. That might not be the best thing, though--to be made of money. But since I'm not anyway who cares. So the PODS people bring this U-Haul-sized metal box to your doorstep and drop it off. Then you can pack it at your leisure, with no deadline. Then the PODS people will take it to where ever you're moving and you unpack it, etc.! HELLO! Absolutely brilliant. My dilemma has always been having a car but needing a small moving truck. Driving two vehicles at one time, though possible, is impossible.
Another good idea is Screen on the Green, which I attended last night. This isn't necessarily an original or innovative idea, per se, but it's a nice one. The good people at Citi and HBO set up a big screen down on the National Mall and show movies every Monday noche. Last night was the first, and quite poignant "The Way We Were" starring Robert Redford and Barbra Streisand. The fun thing was the fact that 3,000 other people were there, too, on their blankets with picnic dinners, springing up to dance to the flashy, 30-second HBO jingle, laughing at the old Bugs Bunny cartoon intro, giggling at the cheesy gaffes of our heroine and clapping when famous (or seemingly famous--how do we know?) lines were recited, or classic moments took place. Surprisingly, it wasn't a bunch of baby-boomer liberals--it seemed like all of my peers--the fashionable Georgetown crowd, the work-hard/play-hard CapHill crew, the undie U-Street group--had come on down to see this free flick, all with the lit-up Capitol Dome prominently in the backdrop.
It was a good idea and I'd like to thank my corporate sponsors.



I was recently talking with my dear friend Molly Nichols, an amazing person and human being extraordinaire who currently works at the Eagle Rock School in the Rocky Mtn. National Park. She was telling me about a concept they use with the students, and I think it's one of the best analogies for life I've ever heard (besides those ubiquitous Aesop's Fables, of course).

When they take the kids rock climbing, they talk about the difference between failure and fallure. Say you've been climbing for a while and you're starting to feel it pretty bad. You're tired, sweaty, your arms are getting weaker with each pull and you know you're done. When you look up and see the next hold, you have one of two options:
You could either let go of the rock and fall back into your belay rope, which would be failure.
Or you could at least go for that next hold even though you know you probably won't make it...which would be fallure.

I liked hearing someone tell about a concept that, though undefined, has been part of my nature throughout my life. It was a reinforcement of what I've already been doing anyway, especially recently.
I don't really believe life is necessarily always about getting the result you want or expect, but how would you know unless you tried? In the end, that might be the better result than what you wanted anyway. Of course, I'd add that the second piece to this would be knowing yourself and being aware of yourself and how you affect others and the world.

It's not always a painless modus operandi, but I'd rather die a fallure than a failure.


America, weather and my family vacation

Heading out to Atlanta last Saturday, I didn't know what to expect. My brother (James) and I were flying down to meet up with my dad, his brother (Uncle Tom) and his family, who we haven't seen in six years, and a lot has changed in that short amount of time:
-My dad and uncle have both retired from the Army
-My cousin Andrew has gone from pipsqueak to star football player
-My parents have gotten divorced
-My dad has lived in Romania for four years
After being so separated from one another, all of a sudden going on a week- long vacation could prove to be very interesting.

That rang true the first night when, shortly after our arrival, I was brought up to speed on the complete Earnhart racing saga, especially the recent happenings of Dale Earnhart, Jr. ("Little E," as it turns out, has had a trying season--that first night was the Daytona Pepsi 400, in which he was routed by Tony Stewart. However, the tide was turned the past weekend at the Nextel Cup Series in Chicago. He drove it in to take the victory). I now know more about NASCAR than I ever thought I would want to.

After nursing a Coors Light ("the best beer," according Uncle T) hangover it was time to pack up the RV, two SUVs, a Ford F-150 (with FlowMaster exhaust) and a boat to head out to sunny and then-peaceful Destin, Florida. I decided to ride with the relatives in the aptly-named "Hurricane," a beautiful 40-foot house on wheels, complete with two TV's, a bathroom, kitchen, living room...yeah! I think I recall Uncle Tom saying it cost $125 to fill it up. I tried to abet my guilt by reminding myself that I recycle everything (including stories/jokes) and pride myself on the pedestrian lifestyle I lead. That being said, I'd rather ride shotgun in the Hurricane over the bomb-able BART any day!

Speaking of transportation, I have to admit that I had a slight fear that we were overdoing it. I mean, we (all six of us) were only going to be there for a week and we needed three gas-guzzling monster cars??
But once we pulled into Destin and I had myself a look around, I realized we fit right in with the rest of vacationing America.

Starving after a day on the road, we contemplated our first meal and decided on Hooters. Well, actually, this was my uncle's idea. Most decisions during the week were made by my uncle. All I have to say is the service was horrible?
After that we headed to Wal-Mart. You know, to stock up for the week. I couldn't believe how crowded Wal-Mart was at 11 pm on a Sunday! Perhaps its shiny lights and plastic junk are a welcome alternative to staring at your family while you're all on vacation.

On July Fourth, filled with the triumphant spirit of the USA, we took the boat out onto the sapphire-blue waters of the bay. There's something about motorboats that's quintessentially American. Maybe it's defying wind and water, maybe it's the obnoxious-turned-soothing whir of the motor, or maybe it's just the air in your salty hair. Whatever it is, it didn't matter because our boat shut down an hour into the trip. My dad was pissed because he drove it 1,000 miles and it broke on the first day out. Stuff like that happens to him all the time and sometimes I wonder if he's sort of a tragic character. Once we were back at the RV park, though, we mollified our maritime misery with some fresh-grilled amberjack, Silverbullet Smooth and, of course, Old Glory waving. Everything was fine again.

The rest of the week was a mixture of beach and American things like driving up and down the strip and eating bad foods that taste good. Thursday I headed to Big Kahuna's--a water slide park--with my cousin and his girlfriend. I had actually pledged not to attend a water park ever again in my life after my last experience a few years back, but Big Kahuna's was more about the slides than stagnant pools with baby poops. That and I had become bored with the beautiful waters of the Gulf Coast. I needed waterslides, goddammit! It was a fun day, people-who-shouldn't-be-wearing-bikinis and all.

Friday we were evacuated from the area because Hurricane Dennis was coming to destroy our lovely vacation destination and rape our women-folk. As we headed up through Alabama, watching the poor farms and trailer parks whiz by from our comfy motorhome chairs, I thought of the face-stuffing, fossil fuel-wasting time I had just had and shed a tear of mixed emotions: guilt, pleasure and a strong desire to buy golf clubs.
Even though the sun-bathing part of our vacation had been cut short by that sass-pot Mother Nature, we still had some time on our hands as our flight out of Atlanta wasn't for a few days. Those last few days in the Columbus, GA (right outside of Ft. Benning) suburbs were some of the best. Because of Dennis' stormy tentacles, we were trapped inside most of the time and forced to watch hours of The Weather Channel/NASCAR, and occasionally talk politics. You can probably guess which part I favored. I soon learned that my uncle, for all of his Army Ranger psychosis/love of guzzling gas/obsession with football, NASCAR, and suburbanly-expensive toys, is one of my favorite people.

And that's what this vacation was about to me. A rediscovery of family and, in the greater sense, country--parts of which I had been out of touch with for a very long time.

I leave you with some of Uncle Tom's sensibilities on the pressing issues of today's world:
(spoken with heavy southern accent):
-Gay marriage: "I don't care who loves who. If two people think they're meant to be, what the f*ck do I care? I say, 'good for you.' "
-The war in Iraq: "This is the stupidest piece of sh*t war I've ever seen. We need to get the hell out of there. Now."
-Gays in the military: "If they want to serve, they should be able to serve. Hell, only two congressmen at this point have ever done military time and it doesn't look like they're signing up their children for this crap anytime soon."
-Hunting: "I like fishing. Fishing takes skill. Coming into the wild with a 12-gauge doesn't."
-Boats: "Sailing? Hell no. I got my Bass Tracker."

And, finally...

-Sharks: "The way I see it, we're guests in their home. How would you like it if a shark came into your living room?"


vaycay, sweetie

in florida until july 12. hopefully i won't get eaten by a shark.

if you are bored because i'm not posting, here are my suggestions:
-crawl past your roommate's bedroom mewing like a kitty. act like you're not doing anything weird
-give your bathroom a really good scrub down while listening to the rhythm of the saints. celebrate with a bloody mary
-remind yourself how much you hate blood cancers, love running marathons, and then donate to my team in training endeavor