I rant you risten

Sunday, June 17, 2007

cold beverages for a flippin' hot summer

Know when you pull out a nice cold can of soda / pop / cola from the fridge and there’s this cool layer of condensation forming on the can? Now imagine the condensation, covering the entire can, getting pretty wet, cool to the touch, and slippery, so slippery.. This is what summertime is like in the Middle East, except it’s so hot that there’s no coolness to the condensation forming on your skin. Instead, it’s hot humid sweat that forces your clothes to stick to your body, that makes you want to peel your skin off and release the steam that’s making your blood bubble and boil. It’s this unbearable heat that you don’t just think about cooking an egg on the road, no you think about making an omelet, frying up some bacon, and even some toast.. Nothing is as futile as wiping the sweat off your brow in our climate this time of year, because just as soon as you wipe, there’s more sweat dripping down. You’ll start to discover new things about your body, like, “wow! I didn’t know I could sweat from my ear lobes, wow, summertime really teaches you new things about your body…”

Yes, summer is here: there are no more flirtations with semi cool days, there are no more clouds in the sky to protect us, and there is certainly no more room for anything long sleeve. But the sea is still pleasant, it’s not cool, or chilly, it’s perfect room temperature water, which I don’t have to tell you is a lot better than swimming in soup (if you’ve ever gone swimming in July/august you know what I mean).

In this heat, there are only a couple of things that actually keep us cool in this weather. You can either live the next few months in linen (always a good idea) or you can rehydrate/dehydrate yourself with some nice cold refreshing beverages. When it’s really khot outside, this is what I like to drink…

1. Gin and Tonic – The history of this drink dates back to the east India tea company, which introduced the glass of something to its troops stationed in the heat of Asia. Tonic contains quinine (a crystalline alkaloid that acts as an anti-inflammatory, pain reliever and anti-malarial). Because tonic was so bitter at the time, the troops could only knock it back if gin was added to it. the magic mix: In a tumbler filled with ice, mix, three parts tonic to one part gin, add a squeeze of lime and toss the wedge in, stir and enjoy. I know a lot of people that don’t really like g&t, but I find people just don’t drink it in the right environment, try it this summer and you’ll see what I mean. The combination of the ice, the refreshing tonic, and a healthy dose of gin makes the whole concoction flow down your throat so easily. I like to keep the lime wedges in my glass, helps me keep track of how many drinks I’ve had... G&T, I love thee..

2. Mojito – (pronounced moheeto if you didn’t already know) now I admit, I do not appreciate Bacardi taking advantage of a resurrected drink and beating it senseless with advertisements. But if a place makes a good mojito, well then there’s nothing better than that. Drafted in from Cuba, the Mojito is essentially made from: rum, mint, limes, sugar, and soda water. The trick is to muddle (with a pestle) the mint leaves sugar and limes in a glass, add the rum and then top off with the soda water and some mint or lime garnish. #1 you must use decent rum, #2 the muddling releases the flavors and reaffirms your expert mixology whether you have it or not, #3 The sugar you use is also very important, cane sugar works best. Hemingway and Hunter S. Thompson drank Mojitos (separately, although I’m sure they would have been the best of friends) until the sun came up and then set again.. we even came up with a song, “Mo. Mo. Mo. MoMo… MOJITO”

3. Sangria – coming from the Spanish word (derived from latin), sangre or blood, is a refreshing summer drink that is easily enjoyed by everyone. I learned to make from uncle hamad who learned it from his friend, an Argie dip living in Madrid – so the recipe does have a little history, which is always cool. Although the recipe was passed down in confidence, I think it’s time to share this wealth of information; sangria is for communal enjoyment, you can’t all enjoy it if someone’s hiding the recipe. So here we go: regular table wine, cointreau (orange liquer), either vodka/brandy/cognac (depending on what you have), sliced fruit (apples, oranges, pears), juice (apple or orange), sprite, and sugar. Slice up the fruit, and pour the wine, then add a good measure or two of cointreau and then the other liquor you’ve got. Pour some juice into the mix, add a spoon of sugar, and then add the sprite. Now people will tell you to save the sprite till the end because of the carbonation, I say hogwash, add it and make sure the taste all works together. Let it chill in the fridge and then serve it over some ice. Through many pitchers, I’ve learned that no one really enjoys a lethal and strong sangria; but a subtle easy to drink sangria – that’s what gets people in the mood.

4. Cerveza – end of the day, there’s very little that can come between you and a cold cerveza on a hot day. There is nothing more refreshing than shoving your hand in a bucket of ice or cooler to pull out a cold can of brew. And then when you fish out the beer, you shake off the excess cold water and crack it open. I think the most beautiful image is the beach, a bucket with ice, and a couple of beers resting in that bucket, blissfully blissful..

Yeah so it is an alcohol related post. Just helping you decide what you should consider drinking this cruel summer. Kampai..

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

mtv smut: and the men rejoice..

Not that I’m complaining or anything.. but has anyone noticed how much smut has now made its way to dance music videos on MTV?

This recent music video smut phenomenon kicked off with that catchy 2004 “tearing up the dance floor fist pump” commersh anthem Call on Me by Swedish flash, Eric Prydz. If you haven’t seen the video well then let me sum it up for you.. A sexually suggestive video reminiscent of Physical with Olivia Netwon John, but instead of all those fat guys, it’s an aerobics dance class of the choiciest of ladies dressed in 1980s aerobics gear. As the class goes through its “sexafied” workout, the girls spend a lot of quality time rubbing their breasts and slapping their respective buttocks, attracting the alluring eyes of its male viewership. The video was so popular in Australia that it was downloaded 35,000 times onto people’s mobiles. Needless to say, if Bahrain had a functioning 3G network at the time, we’d all be watching and rewatching the video ourselves, instead, we had to settle for leaving MTV in the background until it came up. Luckily for us, MTV has nothing good to offer and relooped the same video a couple of times in one sitting.. Rrraaadiicall.

It seems that the formula of catchy dance tune + pretty girls + sexually suggestive dance moves = popular music video. With a winning formula like that, people remain glued to their TV sets watching and then when they’re walking around the office, they continually hum the tune while mentally recalling the brazen booty of a particular dance sequence… aaah, good times..

The other day, I was at a friends place and in the interest of background noise, MTV was thrown on the telly.. Luckily, it was the dance video segment and I must say, the formula is back and badder than ever. Out of the 10 videos that appeared during the segment, 6 had the formula. I watched two friends fastened to their seats in front of the TV with no desire to even contemplate moving or offer a helping hand while the rest cooked.

Averting my eyes to the screen briefly, my brain quickly registered what was going on in the video, blocked out all the noise and surroundings, and sent neural messages to my body to stop everything and just watch. I remained a catatonic mass disinterested in anything except the girls in skimpy cotton underwear playing football. The booms and beats in the background were of little consequence except for the fact that while that music was on the girls were still running around. We watched the whole video, a football match between the blondes and the brunettes, and neither of us new who won, who scored a goal or what was going on. Yes it did feel slightly Pavlovian, completely sucked into the formula of watching girls move around, but I didn’t care. The close-ups, ohh the close-ups.. After the video I realized the formula and how effective it was… now I feel programmed to definitely watch the next time I see this video come on and I will demand to watch it if possible, and eventually, hum the tune at work. Yes, sex sells and has been taken to a new level.

After the girls playing football I saw the girls in cleaning lady outfits (not French maid outfits, cleaning lady outfits) with cleavage exposed and round heinies bumping and bobbing. The concept of taking a cleaning lady, making her super sexy and just having her move around and clean while dance music is pumped through the speakers, sounds pathetic as I write this, but during the airing, made as much perfect sense as breathing.

There were a couple of more videos that I causally glanced over, and tried to pull myself away from. The one thing that stayed true is that they all kept to the formula: dance music, half naked women, and lots of provocative dancing.

I don’t know if Arabic music videos took a lesson from Eric Prydz or if they knew the formula all along, but the music channels like “Mazzika” can get pretty soft core. I always chuckle when I see the older gentleman on the treadmill at the gym salivating over Nancy or Maria or Alyssa (running out of names) in her latest music video. You hear the claps and cheers, the “aaakkhhhh” s and so on and so forth.

Eventually I had to remove myself from the viewing angle of the screen, I was just becoming antisocial and was getting annoyed with myself because I was slobbering over TV women, and that’s not very becoming. Living in the middle east, we spend a considerable amount of time watching fashion tv. At first, it’s all fun and games watching wave after wave of beautiful models in swimwear or lingerie. But then the reality of the fact sets in, that all you’re doing is frustrating yourself cause hell will definitely freeze over before zainab, khatoon and moza get fit and strut their stuff..

Saturday, June 02, 2007

In my mind, I'm goin to Sri Lanka

Revolutionario Anxiety
Thee days before we’re scheduled to leave and the aerial unit of the Tamil Tigers attempt to bomb the military fuel complex at the international airport. News breaks out that flights have been cancelled and I fret for about an hour. A brief moment of apprehension was the catalyst in a series of phone calls. This is the gist of those phone calls:

The tigers tried to bomb the airport, Colombo’s shut down..

Really? Is it still safe?

Yeah, relatively. It’s just that Emirates cancelled their flights there.

I guess it’s good we’re flying Sri Lankan Air then..

Yea.. I just hope they don’t cancel our flight..

We’re still going right?

Of course, I’m not worried.

Me neither..

But we’re taking a car.. I don’t want wait around the airport for a seaplane to take us...

Fine, you sissy..

And with that, our plans steamrolled ahead.. Something magical about Sri Lanka has been calling me for years now, and this was my time to find that voice. Braving the possibility of harm, we took the red eye from Dubai. Landing in Colombo early morning and I was amazed at how everything worked out so smoothly and efficiently, placating my anxiety about our safety. A sleepy 3.5hour drive later, we arrived in Koggala village right outside of Galle, on the south west coast, ready to chill out for the next 6 days and get an initial feel for the country.

Again with the mosquitoes..
Maybe we were asking for it by visiting Sri Lanka at the start of Monsoon season, but those bastards were ferocious. Having armed myself with jungle strength mosquito lotion, and jungle mosquito pads, I thought we were safe, but I paid dearly for that error. My first two mornings there were spent inspecting the new bites all over my face and hands. It got so bad that the hotel staff, fearing a lawsuit or something worse, burned citronella and mosquito coils twice daily in our room. I became “bumpy crater face from room 5”.

There is something to be said about the satisfaction of squashing a mosquito with your bare hands and seeing the blood that was just recently sucked from your skin splattered between your palms. Mosquito killing spree mornings were a lovely tradition of revenge on the trip. The nice thing about this was after being jacked on antihistamines, lotions and various remedies, I went to see an Ayurvedic doctor who rubbed some homebrew of oils and leaves on my arms to stop the swelling – in the karmic scheme of things, it felt nice getting holistic treatment meant to be cheap, but expensive because it’s in a hotel, for free.. Did that even make sense?

I'm on vacation, sure i'll have another...
Because of my anxiety and constant complaining about looking grotesque for my vacation pictures (over 15 swollen bites all over my face).. I was fed two bottles of wine a day with a number of drinks spaced out to keep my buzz and forget about my appearance. Let me tell you, there’s nothing that numbs the urge to itch, than inebriation.. It just keeps you jovial and merry, well except for the fact that I might have spurred alcoholism, but that’s all ok now.. Hiccup.

When in Ceylon, drink Ceylon
Not that I could tell the difference, but I was hoping to drink some good tea while in Sri Lanka. Every morning, we drank tea, and although pishi was able to tell the difference, I just tasted tea. Still unable to tell a difference, we drove through the jungle for a visit to one of the world’s “best” natural tea plantations. I didn’t know this, but green tea, black tea, and white tea all come from the same plant, the variations all depend on how many leaves and how much of the stem you clip. So,,, we tasted, dabbled and bought the purveyed goods to take home as gifts; but end of the day, my lipton tea taste buds were pathetic.

Walking on a 200-acre tea plantation inspecting the various types of teas and pesticide free produce, we came across a lot of sound. Apparently the workers on the tea plantation are really into their hi-fi sets, spending all their salaries and using credit to buy sound systems. And that’s not all, these workers pit their hi-fi sets against each other and jack up the music, dancing after a long day at the plantation. Although I was taken back by the 100 year old machines used to process the tea leaves to the stuff we drink every morning, I couldn’t help but wonder how crazy the ear blasting dancehall parties got on a tea plantation in south west Sri Lanka.

Tourism, Tsunami and the Tamil Tigers
Galle was affected by the Tsunami, but unlike the other destinations like Thailand and the Maldives, tourism has suffered because of the safety concerns with the Tamil Tigers. And because of these troubles, Sri Lanka has been neglected as a popular tourist destination. A lot of people promised to help and restore the country, but those were empty promises like the ones of Shane Warne (silly twit of an Australian bowler), who pledged to restore the Galle cricket ground to its pre-tsunami charm. Well, to this very day, only 20% of that money promised has made its way, and the people have given up on him, tsk tsk Shane, you just can’t seem to get a break can you?

The locals are super friendly and really appreciate visitors, so no worries about people ripping you off or wanting to rip you off – maybe a little, but nothing too bad. And yes, there are troubles with the Tamil Tigers, but that shouldn’t deter you from going, the situation is between them with the government and not tourists.. Obviously, stay away from crowds, try not to get stuck in the thick of a busy location, keep your head down and no one will bother you at all. Some of the architecture was absolutely beautiful there with Geoffrey Bawa (Sri Lanka’s favorite architect) putting up some gorgeous buildings (I hear Kandalama on the lake is supposed to be stunning).

Goin back? mosdef
All in all, good food, beautiful scenery, nice people, and laid back life made Galle perfect for me. Being islanders, the Lankans are the coolest of the subcontinent with a definite hippie hakuna matata outlook on life. The Galle Fort, is a beautiful UNESCO world heritage site, and is also the hangout littered with young lovers courting each other. The beaches and their fishermen catching sear fish and other varieties were a beautiful sight to see. Apart from the romance, one of the better memories for me, is going for a swim in a protected bay with pishi and watching a Sri Lankan father take his toddler into the water to teach him how to swim. Having a beautiful traveling companion also helps, she makes the pictures look good..

Not for nothing but...
I don’t want to gloat, but,,, there is a certain cool factor when you’re flipping through this month’s wallpaper and find them talking about your hotel. Tres hip. And yes it was dedoned out, we enjoyed the leaf.