Where to Party This Techno Weekend

 

Friday: LUCIANO at O1NE
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First time I saw Luciano was when he came to the Train Station in Mar Mikhael before it was a venue. It was an epic, epic night, and Luciano was an epic, epic man. His set was out of this world, and he overstayed on the booth, pushing the event way after the sunrise in that iconic location. So, I can’t wait to see him again tonight! The Chilean techno master’s sound + the trippy visuals at O1NE should make for a pretty cool night, and I’m glad O1NE is focusing on these talents, and hope their usual crowd quickly gets accustomed to good music!

RSVP here, and see y’all there!

Oh and best part? Anyone who uses the Uber code: “LucianoAtO1ne” will get 20USD free to go down to O1ne, and not drink and drive! (Existing and new users!) So, please, don’t drink and drive <3

Saturday: Julian Jeweil LIVE at Rubik

10676208_324434197761229_9075444358739882932_nI saw Julian the first time in some forest somewhere in Lebanon as part of a 3-day rave. He played a live set there as well, and I was in awe most of the rainy night besides the river banks at the bottom of a lush valley… This time, he’s gonna be in Rubik, and it sorta makes getting my visa refused and staying a few extra days in Beirut worth it! Such a beautiful Techno weekend!

RSVP here, and see you between the cubes!

 

Where to Party This Weekend

So, the holidays fatigue is finally over, and we’re back on schedule when it comes to big names and big parties in and around Beirut!

ODYSSEY Presents: Kate Simko (LIVE) at Concrete 1994

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Few folks combine so many things I love in one person. Kate Simko is from Chicago, where House music took its first steps, and influenced by the neighboring birthplace of Techno, Detroit’s scene. But, she’s a classical music composer originally, so, you can imagine the fireworks on stage when she’s gonna play LIVE tomorrow tonight at Concrete 1994 along with Ronin, Phil and CAB.

Best part is? It’s free before 11:00PM!

RSVP here

Saturday: JAMIES JONES at O1NE Beirut

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I’ve never been to O1NE, but this is gonna change this Saturday. Jamie Jones is in town! Resident Advisor’s number 1 artist of 2012 is coming to Beirut for some intensive Deep House therapy. I embedded a couple of tracks of his below, so I don’t really need to explain to you why it’s such a big deal and the highlight of this weekend’s events in Beirut.

RSVP here!

See y’all on the dancefloor!

Allo Taxi: Lebanese App of the Week

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With the recent excitement about Uber launching in Beirut, I was very pleasantly surprised to find out local taxi company Allo Taxi have their own app to order their cabs, with a few extra perks and an extremely impressive platform considering it was made for Lebanon and the Lebanese, not the entire world.

Ordering a Cab

First, you choose how to enter the address, and I think here, Allo Taxi beat Uber. The addresses are in the Lebanese way (for example: right next to the Medco, before the church, etc.) so you don’t need to make sure the pin is absolutely right, and call the driver to try and explain to them which pub exactly you’re at. So, here’s a +1

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You then choose the type of car, which is also cool, and more accommodating for different types of trips and groups of people.

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Then, you can schedule it, and for someone who travels a lot and might not always be online via mobile, this is perfect. If I return to Beirut at 4:00AM on a Sunday, chances are I won’t be able to reactivate my line fast enough, so, I can order my cab in advance, and I did try that a couple of times, and it was quite the relief to see someone holding a placard in your name once you arrive to the airport.

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Finally, it makes you to put a destination, so you’ll never be canceled on by the driver the apps selects because he feels “it’s not worth it” for him like with Uber if you don’t live in Beirut. It also tells you how much it’ll cost you in advance in LBP.

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All in all, it is a great app. There is room for improvement of course, and I don’t like the fact you still need to sign and stuff even if the transaction is via credit card or corporate account. Also, the drivers are not used to it yet enough, but they are improving, and after a few months of using it, I can see the change.

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All in all, I think it’s a great app and definitely impressive that a Lebanese company took that initiative and did a great job with it. And best part, especially for Lebanese folks still worried about using their credit cards, you can pay cash too.

You can download it for your Android here, and your iOS device here.

Why I Never Let People Call Me An “Activist”

I hate the word. It represents a particular interest towards a certain issue that defines the life of the individual activating for it. I don’t, and I don’t ever want to, and for several reasons.

The Causes Should be a Given

The causes I support are not extraordinary and unheard of to the general public. It’s not like trying to fight a massive corporation that people love which might not know is actually causing a lot of harm to other people or the environment. It’s not asking for something that isn’t already a reality on the ground and people’s minds, but just not in legal papers.

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It’s gender equality, which I was never taught otherwise and never felt otherwise. There was no difference between the way my choices were made, and how my female relatives and friends made theirs. There was never “no, that’s not right for a girl” in the circles I grew up in and run with.

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My dislike to the idea of homosexuality disappeared when my faith in Christianity and God did. Simply going down a scientific path, showed me the error of my ways, and just like that, I was now an outright supporter and defender of gay rights. Love is something no one has a say in except the people falling in love together, so for me, it is completely unacceptable for a third party to tell my gay friends that they have no right to be together, no matter how sacred that sentiment is to that third party. And I’m happy to see that this understanding and acceptance in Lebanese society grows every day.

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Police brutality and corruption is something we grew up with as normal and expected. I’ve seen protesters being hit too many times to recall. I’ve heard of stories of unlawful arrest and entrapment that keep me up at night. I’ve personally suffered at the hands of the corrupt and unjust justice and police force in Lebanon. Expecting the police to treat us with respect and within the confines of our laws, should be a given, not an exception that needs powerful wastas and big numbers followed by lots of zeros in your bank account. But, what can we do to a police force that resorts to beating suspects without their lawyer in the hallways these days, because the EU forced them to put cameras in interrogation rooms after countless human rights abuses reports and commissions…

Civil marriage was a no-brainer. I’m a recovering Maronite, and the hell Maronites go through with corrupt priest-judges and their equally corrupt lawyers is the single biggest crime the Church commits against people in Lebanon. It destroys their morale, drains their bank accounts and shuns them as inadequate sinners who deserve to go through so much pain and hardship to change the unpleasant circumstance of their marriages. But apart from the personal sentiments, I wholeheartedly believe that this issue is the main obstacle in our society’s and country’s progress. When citizens are unequal under law, how can we expect them to behave as equals in nationality? A Maronite will always be a Maronite first, a Sunni will always be a Sunni first, etc. So, Civil Marriage is the domino that I think will topple the inept social and political structure in Lebanon. More inter-faith marriages will bring the Lebanese closer, and it will offer some respect for non-believers in a country where they are never taken into account or respected as fellow citizens and taxpayers like everyone else. And how do I know we’re not “in a bubble” and “out of touch” with the rest of Lebanon? The exponential rise in numbers of couples going to nearby more progressive countries and getting married there instead of here, something I will inevitably do if the Minister of Interior sticks to his position.

I could go on, but you get the idea…

I’d Much Rather Be Doing Something Else

People think I live for covering controversial topics to rake in tons of money from “ad impressions”. Oh, how I wish that was true. Anyone interested can get a trasnscript of my Google Adsense revenue, and I can safely say it doesn’t even cover 50% of what I pay to keep this site online. Add to that that there is never paid content on this blog, and you get the proof you need to know that that is definitely not the reason.

The reason is simple, no one else, or very few people, would delve into these topics, and I think that’s unhealthy. And I would definitely rather be doing something else. When the Mia Khalifa story went utlra-viral, I had a drink in my hand and was dancing to Jade’s set on The Grand Factory rooftop. I had to leave immediately and spend several sleepless nights trying to figure out how to cope with the backlash and traffic. Every investigation, every court hearing, every call to my lawyer, every piece of hatemail and comments, each threatening tweet and Whatsapp… I did not want any of those, and would much rather be doing other things. Even the good parts, I love meeting people who have read my work and identify with or have an opinion on it, but I’d also much rather be just another clubber no one would notice. I’d rather be a nobody on the streets of New York than the “micro-celebrity” (as someone called me once) here in Beirut.

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I’d much rather spend my days wandering around and working a stable job, and my nights partying till dawn or traveling. I’m not an activist. I don’t want to die or personally sacrifice majorly to any of the causes I support. I just want to make my life in Lebanon a bit better, any way I safely can. Just like I think we all should.

And that’s why I never let people put “activist” when they quote me or before I give a talk or participate in a panel.

What Happened in Tripoli a Day Before the Suicide Attack…

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The nation was again outraged and heartbroken last night with the return of the suicide bombers campaign to Lebanon’s Tripoli. It’s been a while since Islamist extremist attacked us, thanks largely to their preoccupation in Syria, and the admirable efforts of Lebanon’s army and security forces.

But, they were back last night, just a day after something really special happened in Tripoli: a Free Hugs campaign. Below are a few photos taken from the “Free Huggers” FB page of a Free Hugs campaign in the Mina region just minutes away from the blast site.

We know the real Tripoli is closer to the Free Hugs image, not the carnage and hatred image of Al Nusra and its friends. Next free hugs event, I’m going up. Fuck Da3esh, Fuck Al Nusra, they’ll never break our spirits, ever, and thank you Tripoli for always showing us that resilience we are all so proud of.

May all the victims rest in peace, and all those injured fully recover asap.

My Second Article for Kotex’s TheMakeOver.Me

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So, I’ve been asked to give some dating advice for Kotex Lebanon again, and after last time’s awesome feedback, I was happy to oblige!

As an eligible bachelor in Beirut, I’ve had my fair share of amazing dates, and disastrous ones. I eventually began to realize that the time spent in my car was the most important indicator of whether or not we’d “click”, and for several reasons:

Read the rest here

What the Cops Behavior on NYE Tells Us

1- They Can Be Courteous

The past weekend leading up to NYE, I was stopped and pulled over at 4 out of 5 different checkpoints I happened to pass by. My beard and the fact I’m a military-age man are probably their main incentive, but in the back of my mind, it’s also cause they hope to find drugs on me and throw me in jail till someone pays them off.

Not this time, they were incredibly nice. Nice enough for me to wish them a happy holiday when I was about to drive off. I wish they were that way all the time.

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2- Car-Free is possible

Did anyone else notice how little traffic there was?! I mean, traffic is so bad in Lebanon on NYE, that I’ve had at least 2 countdowns to midnight stuck in my car en route to wherever I was supposed to be. This year though, even chronically congested Mar Mikhael and Gemmayzeh were ok. Reason? No valet. What I mean to say is that no cars were allowed to park on the side of the main street, which is a territory the valet gangs and thugs occupy illegally. They double and triple park, stop traffic to rearrange their cars and make everyone scathingly angry. Usually, the politically-backed valet companies don’t get a second look from the cops. On NYE, the cops put them in line, and for that, I am very grateful, and urge the ISF to do that always, please.

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3- Traffic can be better managed

No traffic jams, considerably acceptable accident rate and a strict enforcement of no drunk-driving worked. Now, I have my reservations on the new traffic law, after all, giving absurdly expensive fines won’t solve that. Most people have wastas, and the assholes who go 60km over the speed limit probably have a good enough wasta. But, that’s for another day to discuss. My point is, the constant excuses we listen to about why the cops can’t manage traffic, were proven meaningless on NYE. It’s not true, the cops can stop people from speeding and drunk driving, they just need to actually want to and have the support they need.

4- Drug Tyranny Still Prevalent

Sources confirmed there was a very high number of civilian-clothed judicial police officers hiding in venues and parties to try and entrap pot smokers. It’s despicable that on such a happy occasion, some officers are evil enough to snatch away taxpayers from their families and friends for a stupid bribe. Here’s to Walid Jumblatt stopping his silly tweets, and asking the security apparatus under his graces to please stop being Gestapo and try to do something good, and serve the taxpayers like they’re supposed to, not oppress, bully, torture and kill them.

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5- Let’s Be Friends

Let’s be honest, we don’t trust the ISF. Why would we? When was the last time you heard of something good they did? Probably before a few dozen horror stories they were behind. The ISF see themselves as the parents and guardians of the people, that stuff like “disciplining” youth is in their mandate. It’s not. Their mandate is to serve and protect, right? Not serve the ones with wastas, and protect their illegal interests, while using average taxpayers to serve their wallets, and protect themselves as they do horrors to innocent people. So, let’s see more of the good of NYE, and less of the bad from the other 364 nights. Imagine a place where people trust the authorities that respect their taxpayers… That’d be a cool country.

On that note, a heartfelt thanks to all the good officers on duty the night of NYE. Some of the many folks who have to work while the rest of us are out celebrating.

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5 Years Later

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If you ask 2010 me if I ever expected any of the past 5 years to happen, I would’ve laughed it off. Looking back though, I am immensely grateful for each and every one of those 1826 days. From getting the chance to cover some of the most significant events in our lifetimes, to flying off to Beverly Hills to the Playboy Mansion and touring Google, Facebook and the rest of Silicon Valley, to navigating the territories in Nepal and meetings at the Capitol Hill and the countless parties and events, field missions with aid agencies, covering tragic assassinations, bombings and conflict zones… It’s been one hell of a fucking ride so far.

It’s also been special sharing so much of my life with so many people. The ~3000 articles here are like my diary, sometimes I look back and reminisce, sometimes I realize how much I have changed and how my attitudes evolved over time to what they are today.

I’m definitely happier than I was in 2010, and I’m not sure how much the blog contributed to that, but, after becoming an inseparable part of my life, I guess it has.

Here, I’d like to take a chance to thank each and every person and organization I met through this platform. For all the support in the tough times, all the toasts we shared at parties, all the volunteer work hours we put in. I’d also like to apologize for anyone that felt I wronged them, and tell them it was never on purpose. Live and let live, freedom above all else and individual rights before anything in the world.

This year I have a few special projects in store, which include a video web series that’ll hopefully air by February. There’s also a big party I’m prepping for the 5-year milestone, and everyone’s gonna be on the guest list.

Here’s to a year full of happy stories, no trouble with the law and things getting better for Lebanon. I hope you all had an amazing holiday season with the people you loved.

Love,
Gino

Live Love Beirut’s Heartwarming Christmas and How to Help

Live Love Beirut decided to spread the cheer to kids on the streets of Lebanon this Christmas and give them awesome toys for the holidays.

With hundreds of toys wrapped and  ready with us, and many already delivered, we need your help in finding all the kids we didn’t find yet!

All you need to do is take a photo, and geotag the location, tag @LiveLoveBeirut and the hashtag #WeLiveToLove, or send us location the via Whatsapp on 03398112, and we’ll make sure Santa Claus shows up to brighten these kids holidays.

Thank you everyone, and Merry Christmas!

And thanks JoueClub for the toys <3

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Christmas Hate Messages Show We’re Still in Danger

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The onslaught of Da3esh and Nusra on our borders seems unlikely. For one, it doesn’t make geographical or tactical sense to. For two, if you combine the Syrian regime forces, Hezbollah battalions and the Lebanese Army, it’s sorta a tough wall to crack. The danger is and has always been of a homegrown threat, and despite our best efforts to dismiss those fears, phenomena like Ahmad El Assir and his followers, the Tripoli clashes and other homegrown terrorist threats are a reality.

It’s in the small things really, like banning ads for alcohol in Lebanon’s second city, Tripoli. Like burning Christmas trees in Tripoli in 2013 and Saida in 2014. Like torching an historic library because it’s run by a priest.

Lebanon’s curse and its beauty is that it has so many sects. The curse is they’re always at odds politically, and it renders our already irregular democracy completely crippled more often than not. The beauty is that Lebanese Christians and Lebanese Muslims are different from any other Muslim or Christian in the Arab World, because they’re influenced by each other in more ways than one.

Taking part in different sects’ celebrations is customary in Lebanon. Christians participate in Ramadan iftars regularly, Muslim choirs chant carols in churches on Christmas every year. It’s not just the lovy-dovy rehearsed “tolerance” myth we try to keep up, it’s just as simple as sharing with someone you care for in something that matters to them.

Calls like the below, and a speech by made a cleric in Saida this Christmas, are sad. The level of ignorance combined with misguided hatred make for a toxic mix, and even though these pieces of garbage are a laughingstock, they do represent a tiny minority in Lebanon. That is troubling, because with deteriorating social and economic in Lebanon means less jobs and less security, add to that feelings of disenfranchisement decorated with disturbing anti-“kuffar” (infidels) messages and you get a whole lot more Assirs.

Luckily, these Whatsapp broadcasts and the sheikhs fiery remarks, were quickly dismissed by both muslims and christians in Lebanon. But, ads for Almaza are still a no-no in mutli-sect Tripoli.

The key thing to remember is that no one should be forced to do anything. When non-Muslims are threatened with violence to abide by fasting rules in Ramadan, that’s not ok. Buying Christmas gifts if you’re not a Christian, is ok. Decorating a tree is ok too. Ironically enough, those two things are the least Christian aspect of Christmas, which the Christmas-banners seem to be so worried about, referring to Christians as “God’s enemies”.

At the end of the day though, it is their right to say such things, as long as they don’t force anyone to do or not do anything. Free speech, just like we can freely say how stupid and disgusting their message is. Our faith lies in Lebanese people, in choosing the right side of the argument and condemning this extremist rhetoric, and they have done that time and again, and they hopefully always will.

The truth is though, Lebnon’s liberal democracy has never been in worse shape since the civil war. A completely defunct system, which hasn’t seen any elections since 2009.  Attacks on alcohol establishments, condemnation of Lebanese party goers’ lifestyles as “unacceptable”, equating atheists with religious terrorists, websites bans with the excuse that it was “insulting to faith” and so many more seemingly trivial, but actually deeply troubling in the long-run symptoms of a deteriorating liberal system.

It wouldn’t hurt to remind ourselves that the pillars that made Lebanon stand out in the past weren’t the 4 seasons and nice weather, it was the freedom to express one’s opinion uncensored, to form groups and parties and participate in political life, the relatively (compared to other Arab countries) acceptable non-discrimination between genders and a respect for the human rights declaration Lebanon was an essential part in putting together.

Merry Christmas y’all. I hope you had a great one!