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Posts Tagged ‘Egypt’

Egypt was living through one tragedy after another.  People were killed every day because of something.  This became our own Columbine reality on a weekly basis.  There was always this challenge of trying to make people laugh amid such terrible circumstances.  But what could we do?  If we closed up shop every time Egypt lived through another tragedy or unrighteous killing, we might as well not have a show at all.  Nonetheless, my team implored me to cancel the show.  They were worried about how we would be perceived.  I was already stressed out because I still wasn’t used to the timing of a live program and found myself shouting in the control room, “I can’t just go and cancel the show every other episode!  This is the country we are living in.  Death has become a mere statistic.  You will always find trolls who will say to you, how dare you laugh at whatever tragedy is going on in the country.  Well, guess what, the tragedies are about to get worse and the trolls will watch us in secret anyways.  There are people out there who need this.  I am doing the show.”
    —     Bassem Youssef
From his book:  “Revolution For Dummies
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On This Day In:
2018 Plunge
Time To Meet God
2017 Wealth Within
2016 Soaring
2015 Gone To The Library…
2014 Choose To Lead
2013 Not Sent Yet
2012 Wall-Crawler Reboot
Learning To Count
On Worshiping God
2011 Emancipated Differences
2010 A Little More Technology, Please…

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When my researchers were looking for material, they thought they were doing a good job by getting even more graphic and horrific material to show how truly bad the Muslim Brotherhood were.  I stopped all of that.  “This is a comedy show.” I told them.  This is not another talk show where we aim to be sensational.  We need to deal with the worst tragedies and find a way to deliver our message in a way that doesn’t repulse people.”
They looked at me in bewilderment, How are we going to find a funny angle in this?
But we searched again.  And this time we were not looking at the news.  We were looking for what was behind the news.  I directed them to look into the mentality that made these people do what they did.  With the police and the army, it was always easier to find their motives.  You are armed to the hilt and you receive an order from above to assault, to beat, and to kill.  The excuse will always be national security, or the sovereignty of the nation, or any other nationalistic bullshit.  But what makes people, normal people, who go with us to the same universities and schools, and even share the same workplaces, view us, the non-Islamists, as targets to be tortured and kill?
We followed the Brotherhood’s and the Salfis’ shows and their media and aimed to show our viewers what they thought about us.  This was not an easy task.  Their programs went on for hours.  No one actually watched them except their followers.  Yet we had to watch the endless hours of bullshit to show the country what kind of sick minds these people had.  My team had to endure the same agony Jon Stewart’s team had to go through while watching Fox News.  Now that’s truly torture.
    —    Bassem Youssef
From his book:  “Revolution For Dummies
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On This Day In:
2016 Overtaken
2015 Alone Praying
2014 A Full Man
2013 Off Defending The Universe
Taking Precautions
2012 Never, Never, Never
2011 Testing 1, 2, 3

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I asked him [Jon Stewart] about the fans.  I said, “There are too many people who expect a certain, directed kind of sarcasm.  I feel they want me to continue making fun of people who are no longer in power.  I can’t do that.  It is not right.  I am afraid that I will lose a lot of my fans.  I lot of people will hate me when they see I went against them.”
“Well, yes, that might happen,” he replied.  “So tell me, what else are you afraid of?  Your safety?  That they might jail you?  What?  What is you biggest fear?”
I thought about it for a minute and said, “Well, if they put me in jail that will make them look too stupid.”
“I agree,” he said.
“I guess it is just the fact that I might lose the popularity and the support,” I finally admitted.
“Well, my friend,” he said, “that is true courage.  Standing up for what you believe might not be what the people want.  You’re staying true to yourself no matter what the consequences are, though… that is true integrity.  Bassem, remember when I visited you in Egypt?  I told you that you need to ask yourself, what do you want to do?  Do you want to do comedy?  Or do you want to do something that lasts longer?  When you answer that, you will know what to do.”
“Dude, you never fail to impress me,” I said.
“Well, I am not in your shoes, and I can’t imagine being in your position.  We sometimes take freedom of speech for granted in the U.S.  It is people like you that will have to carve out their own space.  Whether you succeed or you fail, you have already made your mark in history.”
I realized how far I had come in only two years.  And here was my idol cheering me on.  His words echoed in my head:  “Write what you really feel, you will find a way.  If you are afraid, make fun of your fear.  If you can’t speak, make fun of that.”
     —     Bassem Youssef
From his book:  “Revolution For Dummies
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On This Day In:
2016 What’s Your Excuse?
2015 Some Meaningful Resemblance
2014 Bloom
Orange October (VII) – The Giants Win The Pennant!!
2013 Walking The Walk
2012 Legacy Of Star Trek (TOS)
2011 Tolerating The Intolerant
Passionate Germs
2010 Giants Win Game 1 In Philly (4 to 3)!!

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This post is a review of a movie and a book.  If that doesn’t interest you, feel free to move on and come back tomorrow (please) for a more regular post.
Stand And Deliver” (1988)  —  movie review
Stand And Deliver” is a semi-biographical movie starring Edward James Olmos as Jaime Escalante.  Escalante is a computer engineer who quits his job to teach computer programming in a inner-city high school (Los Angeles, Garfield High School).  It turns out the school has no computers, so he ends up teaching math.  Escalante feels the students are being limited by the low expectations of the school faculty as well as by society in general, so he sets out to change that by offering to teach more advanced classes – first algebra, then analytic geometry and finally calculus.
The movie details Escalante’s efforts over two years to teach math / calculus to a group of students, and then, when they are successful, he must challenge the testing system to prove they did not cheat to succeed.
This is a little gem of a film.  Inspirational, yet rooted in a Latino and urban feel.  There are two particular performances by young (at that time) actors: Daniel Villarreal as Chuco and Lou Diamond Phillips as Angel Guzman which stood out for me.  I don’t know how much other work Villarreal has done, but Phillips is quite famous for a number of roles (especially as Ritchie Valens in La Bamba).  Many of the other “teen” actors in the movie are very good, as well, but these two stood out for me.  Villarreal because he had the “look” I’ve seen in real gang members eyes when I was younger and Phillips because he was able to show societal side of working class / struggling Americans.  A number of the female teens showed the family side (helping around the house / babysitting siblings, etc).
Final recommendation:  Highly recommended!  A feel good movie which highlights both the struggles to get ahead in America and the ability of the disenfranchised to rise to the level of their abilities when given and opportunity.  While the movie is about a specific teacher and has a specific ethnic / minority (Latino) slant, my understanding is the situation in our school systems has not significantly changed in the near thirty years since this movie was released.  In fact, it is economics / poverty and not ethnicity which defines educational opportunity in the United States.
Revolution For Dummies: Laughing Through The Arab Spring”   —  book review
Revolution For Dummies”  (2017©) was written by Bassem Youssef.  The book is an autobiographical telling of Youssef’s experience as a TV personality during the Egyptian “Arab Spring” of 2011 to 2014.  During this time, Youssef went from being a heart doctor to an internet sensation to a TV comedian.  Post that period, he has become a political exile from his home country (Egypt).
The gist of the book is that Arabs are just like us (American’s).  Those in power tend to think of themselves as the righteous voice of God when, in fact, they are all too often simply venal and greedy little men.  If there is any significant difference, it is that, at the moment, we Americans have a Constitution to offer us a limited shield from the violence of the powerful and their manipulation of the mob.
Having spent a couple of years working in the Middle East, I have an interest in their faith, culture and governments.  As such, I found this book to be a tremendous insight into the thought process of the upper and middle class Egyptian mind.  I wish I could say to the mind of the “average” Egyptian, but let’s face it, the author was a heart surgeon before he became famous.
Anyway, I highly recommend this book for the insights it provides about the Middle East generally, Egypt specifically and also about how others from around the world view us here in the United States.  I will be including several quotes from this book over the coming days / weeks as a means of further sharing Youssef’s touching / influencing my own thoughts.  Oh, and a big shoutout to my daughter Sarah for buying the book and passing it on to me to enjoy.
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On This Day In:
2016 Once Eccentric
2015 Trusted Desperation
2014 Orange October (V) – Giants Win Game 3
Who Am I To Teach?
2013 Deliver Us Something Larger
2012 Bore, n.
2011 Attaining High Office

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The key to modern mentality is the continued advance of science with the consequential shift of ideas and progress of technology.  In the ancient world Mesopotamia and Egypt were made possible by irrigation.  But the Roman Empire existed by virtue of the grandest application of technology that the world had hitherto seen:  its vast buildings, its organized merchant navies, its military science, its metallurgy, and its agriculture.  This was the secret of the extension and the unity of Roman civilization.
     —    Alfred North Whitehead
From his essay:  “The Place Of Classics In Education
From his book:  “The Aims Of Education
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On This Day In:
2014 Remember ISIS / ISIL?
2013 What Have You Done Lately?
2012 B8
2011 I’m Definitely Not In Control

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Another day of overtime.  I spent most of the day coding.  It’s unusual to find an activity which is both exhausting and exhilarating at the same time – but coding is definitely it for me.  I have an application at work which I developed about 6 years ago and which is still in use.  I needed to to do a non-trivial update to it and I really wasn’t looking forward to it.  These things can take weeks or months when you’re trying to squeeze development time into a normally busy day.  The depth of thought required does not lend itself to well to frequent interruptions and otherwise fire-fighting.  What took about six hours of just sitting there and getting it done, probably would have taken as many weeks – so I’m glad there was budget to cover the time.
After work, I dropped by a friend’s house to help him with his taxes. He had some questions and I walked him through TurboTax.  He had 98% of it done, and probably could have figured out the rest, but I managed to save him a bit of time.
Hil got her hair done.  Then she cooked up a lovely steak for dinner tonight.  It was our little “early” Valentine’s Day dinner together.  Candles, red wine and everything.  I’ve already written my little message to her in her card, which I’m planning to put on her pillow in a bit.  We’re all human and nobody is perfect – but she’s pretty perfect for me…  Ok, cancel that last bit.  Hil is definitely perfect!  She just brought me some warm apple pie with vanilla ice cream for my afters!!  Eat your hearts out, dear readers…
I managed to squeeze my evening jog in between helping my friend and Hil cooking dinner.  I’m closing in on a two-week streak (I hope I haven’t jinxed myself).  If I can just keep it up a for 4 to 6 more weeks, maybe it’ll become a habit and I’ll keep going for a good long while.  I wouldn’t hold my breath though, as I’m normally a person of moderation and don’t slip into many “good” habits.  Even at my best, I’m only one day off away from slipping into bad habits.  A day’s rest becomes a week, and then a couple, and then a month – and before you know it, you’re starting from scratch again.
The jog itself wasn’t too bad.  The night is cool and clear and the school yard wasn’t busy. My legs felt “heavy” today.  I don’t know if it’s 10 straight days of jogging or the intervals from last evening.  I’m hoping to get up a little earlier tomorrow to get my jog out of the way before we go to Mass.  If I can force myself out of bed early enough, I might be able to get a full two hours in as the sun rises.  I like the explosion of sounds as the baby birds all start to wake up and call for food.  It’s also nice to see the sky change color and the grass and trees seem to come alive.
My friend (above) has asked Hil and me out for lunch.  He treated us a couple of weeks ago and he didn’t feel we got our money’s worth, so he called Hil during the week to arrange a “re-match”.  He’s always good for a belly laugh (or two) so I’m always happy to spend time with him.
On the world news front: Mubarak has resigned and Egypt is facing the hard part of being free – now you have to actually run a country for the benefit of the people – instead of the few.  I pray for you, still.  It will take long and the road may be muddy and rough but you’ll get there (Inshallah!!)  Remember, you can have peace AND freedom.
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Tonight I wish the people of Egypt peace…  Salaam, Egypt.
Throughout time, moments come when the voices of caution face the forces of change.  We are now watching history!
This week, the glowing ember of freedom is sparking into fire in the chests of the Egyptian people.  Tomorrow will see the million person march.  History will be on display and we (the people of the world) will be watching it.
This week, the first tentative steps to a new Egypt have been taken.  Small steps.  Important steps.  The people are stirring.  Their voices are rising.  “Hope and justice.”
There has been violence.  There will be more…  Salaam, Egypt.  The future is peace.  Move firmly towards the future and strive to do it peacefully.  The world is watching you.  Allah is watching you.
Poland, South Africa, the Philippines, East Germany…
Peace works!  The transition will not be easy.  True liberty and self-determination are both messy, but hard work will bring you both if you seek them with peaceful determination.  Salaam, Egypt.
I wish I could promise you the United States government will support you in your immediate efforts.  I can not.  Here the voices of caution and half measures can never acknowledge the fierce urgency of now which beats in your hearts.  To do so would mean we have to acknowledge the hearts and hopes of others like you who are not quite ready to take the steps you are now taking.  Take heart, the people of America wish you freedom and hope and justice even if our government cannot openly side with you (at the moment).
Salaam, Egypt.  Eschew violence.   Salaam, Egypt.  We are watching and we are praying for you…
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