Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Other Beirut ... The drowned out one

Beirut has long been a scene of constant frustration. After a destructive civil war in the 80's it emerged in the 90's and into this century as a truly cosmopolitan, tolerant, and groundbreaking city. While the news may tell you of Hezbollah and assassinations in Lebanon. I believe this country has or now perhaps had, more potential than any other city in the region to develop itself as a truly International force and emergent power.

I was first drawn towards Lebanon about three years ago when I was presented with an opportunity to travel there for a month, but due to various reasons went to South Africa instead. But through talking to various individuals over the years and through various readings I have much respect for this overlooked nation. First, though the government structure needs much work at a systemic level; Lebanon has a strong tradition of being able to successfully balance radically diverse interests in a respectful manner. The population is mostly Arab with a small Armenian population. This then is split religiously between mutually large Christian and Muslim populations representing various sects therein. Further this is illustrated in their government whose executive forms what they call the troika: sharing power agmounst the religious sects. The presidency is reserved for a Maronite Christian; the prime minister, a Sunni Muslim, and the speaker of parliament, a Shi'a Muslim. Next the driving force of their economy has increasing been interaction through a free-market economy with foreign firms and a developed banking system creating an average of %5 annual real GDP growth.

If you get the chance the Travel Channel is currently running a documentary entitled "Bourdain in Beirut". It will not tell you much of the news or about the political events precipitating the war, however it will allow one to see the beauty of this marvelous city and the potential it had and how all of that has seemingly come crashing down in the past few weeks.

While I do not in any form condone the acts of Hezbollah, I do feel immense empathy for the people of Lebanon and all that they have lost due to the careless and malicious acts of people both inside and outside their country. With so much hope following the removal of Syrian troops from Lebanon earlier this year, I have been truly crushed by the events of the past few weeks. As an International Studies major I make it my aim to follow most events around the world and to know general information about as many nations as possible and their political/economic situation. history, and potential. However, a few of these nations hold a special place with me--near the top is Lebanon. So I leave with this. The people of Beirut and Lebanon have overcome the Romans, Ottomans, British, and most recently the Syrians--still able to hold onto their distinct culture and way of life. Beirut may take 20 more years to regain its position but I have no doubt that it will do so.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Food and an Update

Alright.... Wow, it has been a really long time since I have posted. So I am currently working on transitioning my blog so that I can create the pages on my new iMac. Anyhow, the summer is beginning to slow to a stop in less than a week as I continually grow more anxious for the start of a new school year. There is nothing like Fall: cooler days, excellent fashion, college football and the formation of new relationships. It should be a fairly challenging academic year but one of much growth as well, both in my maturity and intellect. I am always reminded of my days running cross country when I go into a new school year; your soul is filled with butterflies of anticipation and before you lay a challenge. I always halfway second guess myself but inside I know that I have prepared and will continue to move forward, advancing past each obstacle as I come to it and ultimately I will be successful. Yet there is always that challenge and few things are more exciting.

Also, I have been reading Atlas Shrugged and am about 2/3 the way done. It is much more provocative than I had origininally estimated and I think a part of me didn't want to like it at all, and though I do disagree with much Ayn Rand speaks on, when I am finished I expect to have gained several new insights. More on that when I have finished. For music this has been more than ever the summer of Jazz. I currently really like Blue Train by John Coltrane and Home Cookin by Jimmy Smith. Also thanks to Mr. Jones I have been overly impressed by Surprise by Paul Simon. Aesthetically the album is beautifully composed but it is the mature and reflective lyrics which truly define the recording.

Food. We all eat, for me it will change from 3 times a day in the summer to a solid 1 or lucky 2 as the school year starts, nonetheless food is about far more than food. American's have been accused of eating too much and placing perhaps too great an emphasis on social situations surrounding food. Perhaps rightfully so, yet I love a great dinner with a few friends. I am a decent cook and so when I go out to dinner I am hardly looking to eat a meal and go home. This is why places like buffets confuse me. I go out to eat (and I am talking now $10/15 up eating) firstly for original, freshly cooked food in an atmosphere where just as much thought has been placed in the service and setting as in the food itself. The restraunt and food should compliment each other. Secondly, on the topic of wine. I love wine with a meal, it so often provides that extra edge to the food that takes it to an entirely different level. But here are my two pet peeves. First far too often the red wine is too warm and white wine too cold. Next, 4-5 ounces please! in my glass and give me an appropriate glass for what I am drinking. More than anything this means at least a 12 ounce--preferably a 20 ounce glass. Sorry I needed to vent. A few of my favorite restraunts that I feel do it right are: Splash-Des Moines, Tremont-Marshalltown, Taki-Des Moines, Pachamama's-Lawrence, The Taj Mahal- KC, La Frou Frog - KC, Teller's -- Lawrence, The Eldridge - Lawrence, Jerusalem Cafe - KC, The Cafe - Ames, and 126 in Iowa City. Cheers. Go out and treat yourself to a good meal.