AndFarAway

A Blog from Amman, Jordan, Online Since 2004.

Month: December 2007 (Page 2 of 3)

Ammanite War of Preference 2007

So, what is it that we Ammanis have loved and prefered in 2007? What brands have managed to sneak into our hearts? Which outeries have creeped up our favorites list? Do we prefer to wipe or noses with Fine or Soft? Would we rather eat at locally-brewed Chili House or franchise-giant McDonald? Do we prefer to hang out at Abdoun or chill back at Jabal Amman?

A few weeks from the end of 2007, I have set up a survey that tries to measure our loves and preferences as Ammanite citizens for the year. If you are an Ammanite citizen or if you are very familiar with the brands, pop culture, and life of Amman, please fill out this survey. I will share the results on 01/01/2008.

Sorry for the limited choices of contestants, I chose them based on cliche popularity, but maybe next year I’ll remember to have a nomination stage before posting the survey. Thanks a lot in advance :)

TAKE THE SURVEY HERE.

Succar, ya banat

It is not often that a movie gives me butterflies, let alone a movie that releases a hoard of kaleidoscopic butterflies flying in through most of my body, tickling my stomach with laughter, my eyes with brilliant imagery, my mind with social hypocrisy, and my ears with gorgeous sounds. All at the same time. Caramel, courtesy of Lebanese director-actress-writer Nadine Labaki, shares the number one spot with Pixar’s Ratatouille as my favorite movie of the year.

The movie, set in modern-day Beirut, captures the essence of the Arab city in all its bittersweet details. The plot is not very complex, it is simply a look at the lives of 4 young women, who work in a beauty parlor. Through the four characters, Labaki illustrates a lot of the modern-day cares and worries of Arab girls; dealing with family, career, and relationships. With Beirut in the spotlight, she also manages to air the sometimes hypocritical contrasts that most Arab cities seem fond of. My favorite part about Caramel though is that Labaki, through brilliant acting and intimate touches, presented parts of our urban culture that are for the most part, taken for granted.

Add to that, the light-on-its-feet soundtrack by Khaled Mouzannar is absolutely enjoyable, mixing piano with violin and traditional instruments, and it complements the relaxed vibe of the movie perfectly. Here is a link with previews to the soundtrack, check out tracks 15, 10, and 3.

I would definitely recommend this movie to anyone who is looking for great directing, wonderful music, and some extra loving for Beirut; rural Beirut, urban Beirut, conservative Beirut, liberal Beirut, rich Beirut, poor Beirut. It’s also one that makes me hopeful that Arab cinema perhaps has some hope, afterall.

Zeitgeist 2007

Google has released their annual Zeitgeist “report”, bidding adieu to 2007, with a look back at the breaking news, the big events and the
must-have gadgets that captivated us this year.

On the lists of gainers are Anna Nicole Smith, Apple’s might iPhone, Pavarotti, Radiohead (man, who would have thought a marketing stunt would make them on the top Google trend list?), and the Red Sox.

Globally, the people seem to have been fond of searching for Web 2.0 media services, where they make up 8 out of the 10 top global gainers of 2007; Badoo, Facebook, DailyMotion, YouTube, Second Life, Ebuddy, hi5, and Club penguin. Globally, in a world that suffers with short attention spans, the people have lost interest in what they were interested in in 2006, making up the fastest fallers of 2007: World Cup, Fifa, Kazaa, Xanga, Sudoku, Shakira, and mp3.

Star-struck googlers also seem to have been very interested in the Britney Spears and Paris Hilton fiascos, and sports-heads everywhere googled the Red Sox, Manchester United, Colts, and Spurs (it’s too bad Google does their Zeitgeist in early December, I’m sure the Mitchell Report would have had a spot otherwise). When it comes to the battle of the game console, which was a huge deal last year, with everyone anticipating which console will prove more popular, I guess the Wii won, followed by the Xbox, and with the PS3 lagging far behind. Torrents also still haven’t caught on, with iTunes leading the music race, followed by Limewire.

As for using Google for answering deep and meaningful questions, Googlers everywhere seem to be most curious about who is God. I wonder if Google managed to solve that for anyone :)

The newest cyberjunkie fixation

Maybe you’re really busy with the nooks and crannies of life. Maybe you don’t have much to say, or don’t really care to share it. Or maybe you’re just not exactly in the mood. Not a problem. watwet, a free brand spanking new tootcorp service is here to help. It answers one of the most social questions ever: where are my friends and what are they up to?

At its core, watwet is an Arab social networking tool from tootcorp that can be used anytime and anywhere, delivering your and your friends updates across a variety of different media – either through its website or by SMS to your mobile phone. All the updates are then stored and displayed on your personal profile page on the site, which includes links to your friends’ watwet pages. Pretty cool, if you ask me. I am always wondering what my friends are up to, and most of the time, I don’t have enough credit to call. Add to that, you have a choice to use an Arabic interface.

The reaction to watwet is really along the same lines as the reactions you still hear to blogs… the same tired “who cares what you ate for dinner” arguments. Plenty of people would happily have it shot down, rather than endure the beeping alert for yet another new text message. True, on first glance it is a baffling and seemingly pointless service – but underneath it proves intriguing, useful and addictive for those who live on the move. Besides, we cyberjunkies need a new thrill, now that Facebook, YouTube, and MySpace are sort of over. What better than a service that combines social networking, blogging and texting?

Not convinced? Well, next time you are at BestBuy and are anxious to get a great camera but you really have no idea what to get, you can ask your friends on your friend’s list on watwet for quick human answers, “What is the best camera to buy for under 200 JDs?” Or perhaps you’re looking for a freelance designer, you can similarly ask your friends for contacts. Finally, on a more bloggish note, maybe you want to share pictures you posted on your blog with people who don’t usually check your blog, and all you need to see is send a link.
 
Plus, what makes watwet even more appealing, is the fact that you can simply turn the updates off if you get annoyed by random SMS messages. Then it sort of becomes more like Facebook, and that’s useful enough too.

watwet is still in beta, but you can check out the watwet tour here, and hold your horses until it’s open to everyone. I have five watwet invitations to give for the first 5 people who ask for them in a comment on this post, so if you’re interested in checking it out let me know.

Toshet Thulathi il-“rrrr” [video updated]

Wow, I’ve never seen or participated in a raging fight happening over a post that I wrote on my blog in real time. Until today.

(added subtitles, and for those asking, it’s a debate happening in the office about the use of slang like “am” instead of “I am”)

15 Years of Text Messages

Billions of text messages fly through the airwaves every day, and whether we like it or not, these text messages are a huge part of our culture.

Technically, they save us a lot of needless communication, from inviting people over for coffee to spreading holiday love through season’s greetings. Economically, they help us stay up-to-date with what service providers from banks to clothing stores have to offer, and tell us when we need to pay our bills and how we can get special offers. Culturally, they have changed our language in such a drastic way, encouraging and spreading the birth of 3arabizi. Politically, they are used by campaigners and human rights organizations to try to get us public to act. Socially, they keep us aware of what’s happening in our society, from events to parties to birthdays and baby showers. Of course, they also add more spam to our lives, but spam is such a huge part of the urban-digital culture that I really cannot imagine life without it. Have you ever expected a really important email or a reply message from a loved one only to curse at whoever it was who invented spam? Well… I have. And often.

But seriously. This is sort of like a random ode to the text message. 15 years isn’t a very long time, and yet, the text message has managed to change society and culture. I remember what it was like to not have a text message. And I’m only 22, making the text message a mere 7 years younger.

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The new Facebook is to delete Facebook

The virtual world seems to love discussing Facebook’s privacy concerns. We love circulating news about how third-party apps are selling our personal information, and about how the random geek is stalking us on Facebook:
 
 

More recently, the more geeky circles in the virtual community have been breaking into discussions about the Facebook Beacon, which most people haven’t heard off yet. Beacon is actually Facebook’s social form of advertising that shares your purchases or
other actions you take on an advertiser’s site with all your friends on
Facebook through their News Feeds. What has privacy advocates up in
arms, and advertisers skittish, about Beacon is the way it seems to be
spying on you as you surf the Web and then, on top of that, reporting
what you just did to everyone you know.

I personally think it’s really creepy, especially as I use Facebook a lot. In true geek style, I communicate with more than 95% of my personal acquaintances including family members over Facebook, from what we should get for birthdays and when we should meet and where.

But of course, being a non-anonymous blogger, I do not really have much Facebook privacy concerns. I mean, the information you’d find on Facebook about yours truly is really nothing compared with what you would find on this blog. Yeah, sure, the information here is not laid out as clearly as it is over my Facebook profile page, but it’s still there, in a lot more detail and a lot more juiciness, and anyone with stalker tendencies will probably find this blog more satisfactory.

Which is why I usually laugh when people ask me how I can be so openly rash on Facebook. What gets me is, people allow very high levels of information about themselves out. Do you
have to put all of your IM accounts on facebook? No, you don’t. Did you have to
install the app that tracks what your browser is doing? No, you don’t. Do you have to upload pictures of yourself at every juncture in your life? No, you don’t. It’s all choice. You can choose what sort of information you want to have out there about yourself, and when you’re not really given the choice, there are always tweaks to give it to you.

When I first started using Facebook, I thought it was a great way to privately share with friends pictures that I used to share with them over public photo sites like Flickr and Ikbis. I mean, you’re actually getting the choice to share your childhood snaps from 1994 with a long-lost-friends without having to think about the random strangers who will also check these snaps out. With use though, I discovered that there’s really so much more privacy to having your pictures viewed by random strangers on Flickr than by random acquaintances on your Facebook friends list. After all, the random strangers really don’t know enough about you to make anything out of your pictures, while the cousin you’ve only met once in your life seems to love showing your Facebook pictures to other random cousins who will later ask you about a picture of you, and you would go “Huuhhh, but you’re not on my Facebook buddies!”

But again, that’s why they created limited profiles, and that’s why so many people on my contact list are happily unaware of the fact that they don’t really have access to any of my information.

I’m really very much a Facebook fan, I think it’s a brilliant service that really solves one of my biggest problems- finding the time to stay in contact with the people I have accumulated as friends over the years. Facebook’s ability to cater to this need is really what a service is all about, and that’s why I’m not deleting (or deactivating, to be more precise) my Facebook account.

NFL Queen

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I’m officially an NFL queen. Seriously.

A few months after figuring out why the hell American football seems to be about men piling up on top of each other in a hideously violent manner, I have been kicking ass in predicting winners in this year’s NFL season. Not only have I been doing better than the boys, I am also ranked in the top 3000 pickers in the whole wide WORLD.

I guess I’m developing a 4th sense for predictions… I can even predict which are Uno card is blue! Yay. Should move to Vegas, sa7 Hala? (I am dying to urban review Hala’s Uno-filled kitchen but she has threatened to cut me up and eat me alive if I ever mention her on this blog… but anyway…)

Some claim this is beginner’s luck, some others attribute this surprising accomplishment (huh?) to the Sports Girl Phenomenon (Bill Simmons is former blogger, ESPN writer, who once picked 15 out of 16 play off games against the spread, but his wife who knows nothing about the NFL more than uniform colors has been kicking his ass for the second straight year. Wow, rambling. Is this paragraph interesting or what?)
).

I think the Steelers are the last team to post a serious challenge to the Patriots perfect regular season bid.

And with that… I tip my top-hat (or Dallas Cowboy’s helmet) and bid you, adieu.

وحش الحارة – Neighborhood Monster

I am already aware that I am not the only one who finds the Jordan Gate buildings rather forcefully imposed on our city. Aside from the obvious technical facts such as how the hell were they licensed to be built on a spot of land that barely could manage hosting a 4 story hotel, there is also their monstrous appearance.

I was very surprised when I first saw their renderings. They look extremely out of place, a different style pasted over Amman’s canvas, a first attempt at changing the city’s visuals so severely. I mean, they’re not the first high-rise towers; from my window with my view of the 3rd Circle district, I can see several high-risers, includings the Zara Towers, Le Royal, and the Al Burj building, built back in the 70’s or 80’s . Regardless of whether I like these towers and their architecture, I still think they maintain a certain Ammanite vibe, with the stone, the curvature, and they way they melt into their surroundings. Meanwhile, for the Jordan Gate I honestly cannot see how the glass and steel monstrosities can possibly blend into the background!

Things are not made better by Amman’s natural rugged landscape, which makes these towers viewable from almost every spot in town, and as soon as you get a view of the city from the Airport Road. There are many jokes about how they are really just Amman “giving the finger” at people who come in through the city’s main entrance.

This is why I really enjoyed watching Razan Al-Khatib’s visual commentary on the Jordan Gate towers, which she labeled “وحش الحارة”, and it’s amazing how on-spot that label is.

Yamma.

Survey Time

Ok, I’m going to admit it. I actually like surveys. I have liked I like making them, I like filling them out, I like reading their results. I have liked them since we learned what they were in the 9th grade for business class, and when we would go around our highschool asking random students random questions.
But anyway… please fill out this survey if you have a few minutes.

Hi
everyone! We are 3 graduate students conducting a research project on how
Jordanians interact with one another. We are Alex, Meagan and Brooke, and are
seeking out Jordanians through the internet to fill out a quick survey about
themselves. Questions include basic background information (you remain
anonymous), and multiple choice questions about education, personal values and
jobs. The survey will take approximately 10 minutes. Your input and assistance
are greatly appreciated, and will help make our research about your country
accurate and current. Please take the time to click the link below and answer
the following questions. (Seriously, it will only take 10 minutes)! Of course,
if you have any questions, we can be reached at jordanthesisresearch@gmail.com

http://thesisresearch.joyeurs.com/

Thank
you!!!

Alex,
Meagan and Brooke

 

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