Write A Mashrou’ Leila Song with Absolut Starting Today

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So, Absolut is collaborating with Masrhou’ Leila on a project dubbed #Ma3Leila. The idea is to invite fans to co-write the lyrics of an upcoming song and to pitch with the storyboard of the song’s video clip.

Mashrou’ Leila is of course a massively popular Lebanese band, who has risen to mega-stardom in the Arab-speaking world and sell out shows across the region and Europe. Their lyrics speaks a lot to the region’s younger generation, and I myself deeply identify with one of their songs from the “Ra’asuk” album, “Lil Watan”. Their use of mainly colloquial Lebanese dialect and the violin have made their music standout from similar Arab pop bands, as well as their eccentric and outspoken frontman, Hamed Sinno. And no one can deny Mashrou’ Leila has achieved levels of success few others in the region have, and are a source of pride, and sometimes controversy, in Lebanon. I like the pair-up with Absolut too, I feel like for once, the brand and the stars they collaborate with make sense.

Anyway, I think it’s pretty cool people get to help write an upcoming Masrhou’ Leila song. As of today, Absolut and Mashrou’ Leila started posting on their Facebook pages part of the lyrics with blanks in them. All you have to do is to fill in these blanks in the comments section with the hashtag #Ma3Leila.

Here’s the first one, and make sure you post it on the Absolut or Mashrou’ Leila Facebook pages, not here!

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Cedar Rehab: A Perfect Example of How to Combat Substance Abuse in Lebanon

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Drugs are a nightmare issue in Lebanon. You might think it’s because of the detrimental effects substance abuse is having on Lebanese people, but, it’s actually not. The main reason it’s a nightmare is how the police and judiciary are handling it: in a barbaric, human rights violating, corrupt and completely incompetent way.

I’ve covered this topic for several years. The abuse, the broken system, the lives ended or ruined. It’s been a source of unhappiness, hopelessness and anxiety for me and many other Lebanese people. The absence of any proper oversight, and the massive amount of money that changes hands in bribes to “make things go away”, make the police and judiciary focus on entrapping college kids as much if not more than they do terrorists and actual criminals.

Even when laws are passed to protect the lives of drug users and help them get over their addictions, the police and judiciary purposely refuse to apply the law, and have the nerve and rudeness to say “we’re just applying the law, don’t blame us”. Please. What about the millions of other laws you don’t enforce? Not enough $$$ in that, huh?

Anyway, enough about that. This post is about Cedar Rehab, which I visited recently and had lunch with the addicts getting treated there, addicts who had graduated the program, as well as the people behind the ambitious project.

Lebanon lacks a rehab center that goes beyond the very basic detox mandate. When most rehab centers are either charities or government-run, the level of corruption and sticking to proper standards might become lax. Rehab centers with a more comprehensive approach are much-needed, and Cedar Rehab is just that.

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It’s nestled on a mountain-top near Dahr El Baydar, with gorgeous panoramic views of Lebanon’s coast, mountains and valleys. It’s a very quiet area with plenty of greenery all around. Addicts seeking help to overcome their dependence spend 3 months there, and after they complete the in-patient program, they gradually ease back in to society as out-patients at the center.

The point of such an intensive 3-month program instead of a longer one, is to make sure the addicts, mostly young people, don’t miss out on too much of their lives while getting help, and to ensure they resume being productive members of society ASAP, with all the support they need still available even after they no longer reside at Cedar Rehab.

Apart from the clinical and medical treatment, programs such as art therapy, yoga, sports and many other hobbies and skills are part of life at Cedar Rehab. The center even has its own fields, where recovering addicts plant and tend to the vegetables and fruits they eat. Even the construction work on some of the amenities are done by the recovering addicts themselves, helping them keep busy and learn new skills. (Kinda reminded me of my scout days)

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All in all, I was extremely happy to see such a place in Lebanon. It all started after years of struggling to find a proper rehab center in Lebanon, Jordan and other neighboring countries. None of the options worked, so the family and friends decided to start their own after learning everything wrong with our rehab centers, and fixing those problems in their own project.

So, the only way to curb drug abuse is to start treating it as a health issue, not a criminal one (like Portugal has done). Unlawfully arresting, beating, torturing and locking up users in prisons such as Roumieh where we all saw the impressive list of drugs easily available, is not only stupid, it’s evil. I hope the drug users who graduate from Cedar Rehab will help the Lebanese people and the government realize the error of their ways, and focus on helping people with addiction, instead of punishing them for no viable reason.

Check out their Facebook page and website here, and if you know someone who needs help, know there’s now an option to get them some in Lebanon instead of being forced to go far away. We need places like this to be successful, and transform this major health, human and civil rights crisis into a success story for the rest of the region.

THE Ranks LAU 2nd, AUB 5th in Regional Rankings

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Times Higher Education has released the top 5 rankings ahead of their conference later this month, and it lists the top 5 as follows, according to how many citations publications from each university got, and how many it is projected to get this year.

  1. Texas A&M – Qatar
  2. LAU – Lebanon
  3. King Abdulaziz University – KSA
  4. Qatar University – Qatar
  5. AUB – Lebanon

Now, many might be surprised that AUB didn’t beat LAU, as is the traditional thinking in Lebanon, but, a university is more than how difficult it is to get in or how tough the exams are, it’s also about the research it puts out. It’s like the age-old question: are we studying just to pass the test, or actually learn or create or discover something?

We’ll wait to see what the full report is like at the end of this month, but till then, here’s some food for thought, and cause for celebration for LAU students tired of being the butt of jokes like Nemr’s “What’s the common thing between AUB and LAU students? They both applied to AUB”

Still love you AUB =P <3

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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