the bastion of tolernance and human rights? really...?

Al Watan Daily: "30K government employees lost in action!"


Thats 50,000 non-active workers in total in the public sector. Reading an Economic Brief by NBK I see that as of 2008 262,700 Kuwaitis were employed in the public sector. If we do some arithmetic, this means that about 20% of the total labor force is deadweight!

Al Watan has learned that 30,000 government employees in the public sector have not reported to work for several years, and that 20,000 employees attend to their duties for one or two hours a day maximum. Many are to said to report to their department merely to sign in while other individuals sign them out on their behalf because they are relatives or friends, or in some cases, even for money.

Conducted studies and reports by some ministries show that the 30,000 employees receive their full salaries and bonuses despite not working because they have wasta through MPs, former MPs and other influential people. The reports also show that these employees report to work for two hours a day or every few months according to the power of their wasta.

Sources say that many faithful undersecretaries and managers have attempted to take action against this segment government employees, but they were warned by higher officials not to interfere or else their chances for promotion would be lowered.

The reports showed that 90 percent of those employees work at ministries and government bodies while 10 percent work in sensitive government bodies. (link here)

Air Conditioning through the Four Seasons


Here in Kuwait, we note the change in season not by the turning of colors in the leaves, but rather the phasing out of white and cream-colored dishdashas for ones of dark gray, navy blue, and all the possible shades of tree-trunk.

However, maintenance in offices, entertainment venues, shopping malls and even the airport, as I discovered today, seem to only perceive one season: the constant permafrost of the AC: rain or shine, winter or summer, be it 15 degrees Celsius outside or 50.

What is going on? Decisions on issues related to maintenance in Kuwait run slow and tend to be decentralized. For the past month, yes one month, my coworkers has been pushing hard to turn the AC off in our office.

First, finding a way to open the locked door where the thermostat is located was an adventure as no one knew who owned the key. Second, for some reason, the idea of just turning the switch OFF, cold-turkey (no pun intended) seemed to be unfathomable, an alternative that was improcessable. You'd think visualizing a world without AC was like stepping out of the Matrix or something.

Although the temperature has dropped significantly, and women are pulling out their boots and sweaters of the latest fashion, the AC is blasting full in many buildings, even though the temperature outside allows for maintaining a comfortable environment without it. No one in charge seems to get the hint by Mother Nature.

At the same time, Spain has recently put out a law limiting temperature on air conditioners and heaters in public spaces, such as cafes, bars, offices, government buildings and airports, etc. In the winter, the temperature cannot exceed 21 C, and in the summer they cannot go below 26 C. Furthermore, these places will be open to inspection to make sure that there is sufficient insulation and proper to design to prevent warm and cool air from escaping buildings. This is part of 31 measures the government will take to meet its 2011 energy efficient strategy.

In a way, its a shame that while Spaniards are taking such precautions with policies that require proactive measures by each and every citizen, these efforts are literally wasted when other rich parts of the world are blasting AC in the middle of winter. Wake up from the stupor Kuwait and take initiative. The Copenhagen Meeting is fast approaching and these kind of unnecessary phenomena are completely unpardonable. And for those of you nodding your head to this and sick and tired of freezing, if you work in a building where the AC is still on, do what my colleagues and I did and fight for them to turn it off to save energy during the wintertime.

Another Sudanese Viral Gem


Watch out for BANGS, and his Sudanese rap, moving up the massive belly of the youtube expanse. Combining the stream of consciousness, dork factor of Lazy Sunday, coupled with the innocence of some early LL Cool J, I present to you "Take U to Da Movies." Hat tip from N.C.A.!

Fair Trade in Kuwait


I would normally get fair trade products for certain key items, such as coffee and bananas that are personally important to me (I used to live in several countries in Central America). How can we get grocery stores, particularly for example Sultan Center, to incorporate more fair trade products on their shelves. Anybody have thoughts?

KPTC: Heal the World, Make it a Better Place


The Kuwait Transport Public Company has a bus fleet comprising of some of the most polluting, exhaust-emitting vehicles on the roadways. While some of the buses are more modern, the older ones really need to be phased out. If you have ever been behind some of the more "antique" buses, they produce a horrendous black cloud behind everything they pass. Honestly, flowers and plants must wilt instantaneously in their path-they are like the shadow of the Angel of Death! Please continue the modernization and updating of these remaining buses. With many people fighting to decongest the roads by cutting out the number of old, run down vehicles on the streets, these buses set the wrong example to residents and citizens!

Sarah Palin Fans Utterly Clueless on her Policies


Wouldn't it be wonderful if there were an obligatory test that could screen people's background knowledge and ban them from voting if they are completely unware of the policy agenda of the candidates they want to support?

The only glimpse of truth and insight is perhaps in the statement by the gentleman around the 4:05 mark: "Were no longer an exceptional country, were no longer the shining light…the beaconto the world of what societies should look to be, as far as freedom, we’re just another country"

The Kuwaiti Coop


I read an op-ed article last week (I am sorry but I cannot recall in which paper) stating that ideas are circulating to privatize co-ops. Let me just say that I love this Kuwaiti institution and do not think they should be privatized. It's a great source and potential channel for community engagement and I believe the model, as is, should be only expanded upon.

I have been told about some co-ops which are taking active steps to expand their role by taking on social projects as well. Please let me know if someone has more information on this. I really do believe that the co-op has an untapped potential that can be worked with to bring communities together.

Furthermore, the location of co-ops can be worked with to make communities urban space more enjoyable and foster a sense of a community hub. For example, why co-ops are often located in the middle of neighborhoods. Why not foster the development of a main park next to or near to the co-op with some cafes? Why not take advantage of the flow of people coming to the co-op and its often central location to build up other leisure and recreational institutions nearby?

Movie Reviews: Waltz with Bashir


I saw this movie last night and really was mesmerized. Similiar to Persepolis, the soundtrack of the movie takes on a central role, so I am including the track listing below, along with the German and American trailer for the movie. It is an Israeli film depicting the role of the army in the Sabra and Shatila massacre during the 1982 war in Lebanon.

"Waltz With Bashir" soundtrack tracklist
1. Boaz and the Dogs
2. Iconography
3. Haunted Ocean, Pt. 1
5. Shadow Journal
6. Enola Gay - O.M.D.
7. Haunted Ocean, Pt. 2
8. Taxi and Apc
9. Any Minute Now/Thinking Back
10. I Swam out to Sea/Return
11. Patchouli Oil and Karate
12. This Is Not a Love Song - P.I.L.
13. What Had They Done?
14. Into the Airport Hallucination
15. Slaughterhouse
16. Haunted Ocean, Pt. 3
17. Into the Camps
18. Haunted Ocean, Pt. 4
19. Andante/Reflection (End Title)
20. Haunted Ocean, Pt. 5 [Solo Version]

Take Action!


I found out from Migrant Rights about this racist cartoon published in today's edition of Qatar's Gulf Times. You can write the newspaper and demand an apology for publishing such an incensitive cartoon by emailing the following addresses: editor@gulf-times.com or simply the cartoonist directly at mo7md@raya.com.

U Down wit KGB?


Hidden Kuwait: Beirut Men's Clothing Store


Last night I decided that with the arrival of the good weather and the cool breeze, I would take a walk from my house down to the seaside, passing by many of the shops in Salmiya. I finally decided to venture into a store located on Hamad Al-Mubarak Street, near the Palm Palace. You've probably passed by it often too.

The owner is Mr. Tayseer Saad, a dapper man whose dedicated his life to the art of the gentleman's' dress. More interestingly about Mr. Saad is that he has had the shop for several decades, enough to see changes in demand and in the taste of Kuwait's clothing styles. He recalls the golden age of Kuwait in the 60s and 70s, and more interestingly, he has a very strong defined philosophy on urbanity. He remarked that many people have suggested he move his shop to a bigger complex or commercial shopping centre, but he said that he prefers city design that allows for small shops, street life, and open air streets and promenades.

In any case, if you want something different, unique and a little bit retro, you should definitely swing by his shop-and while you are at it, stop by and chat with him. I took pictures of a collection of vintage toy cars he had, for one of my particular friends (F) who I know would appreciate this detail.


Kuwait Ranked Most Corrupt


Transparency International has come out with its rankings of perceptions of corruption for the year 2009. As you can see, Qatar ranks lowest in terms of perceived corruption, while Kuwait, unfortunately fares the least well for the Gulf Region. You can see the interactive map here.

Review: Pecha Kucha Night Kuwait, 3rd Edition


First of all, I must commend the event organizers for Pecha Kucha last night. Hosting the event along the sea was an amazing experience, and I really appreciate the lighting, tables, musical accompaniment and buffet that followed. Hats off for sure. The tech people, however, were slacking off a bit as the sound system went in and out on some speakers and it seems some presentations did not load correctly.

Unfortunately, I did not get a copy of the programme line-up with biographies on the speakers, so I am having to remember all the speakers from memory which is not my strongest suite, but I will try.

One immediate realization was the low number of speakers set to present: only 2/3 the amount of the first Pecha Kucha. While the organizers did a good job of filling the time with a musical performance (such a rarity in Kuwait!) during an intermission, all of us need to pitch in to work harder on brainstorming and volunteering for future presentations.

On to the presenters, Farah Behbehani did an intelligent presentation on several different themes and ways of turning around simple observations, steps, letters, characters or numbers into something more creative.

She showed how she noted us how she had tracked the different movements of two tango dancers over a two minute period (I believe?) and turned it into a chart, which sounds reminiscent of a very cool idea by one of my favorite musical artists M.I.A. who turned charts on economic and human development (child mortality rates, unemployment, etc) and turned them into a phrase: SUM LIFE and then made it neon and incorporated it into the stage design of her concert tour. That's the kind of out of the box thinking Kuwait needs!

Her work on the alphabet tree was also quite intriguing and her presentation made me leaving the event definately wishing I could get a copy of the book she made for her master's thesis. Great opening.

Next came blogger and Spaniard-despite-the-nam, Ismael Abedin who provided us with a photodocumentation of his experience moving to Kuwait from an expat's point of view. The title of the presentation was called Streetlife in Kuwait and attempted to look at a neglected side of Kuwait, the spaces in between buildings which tend to be dismissed as negative space rather than having a merit or culture of their own.

However, mid-way through his presentation he began to take a different tone, focusing on pollution of the desert, mistreatment and discrimination of other nationalities, the youth problem, and it might have come accross too preachy for citizens to stomach coming from a non-Kuwaiti.

Dana al-Hasan spoke passionately, but it seemed to be more of a premonitionary tip-of-the-tongue tangled abstract urban nebulous concept that she had a hard time concretizing into a definition and examples to make her ideas more tangible. I did not really get an understanding of what she meant to convey and her one example of turning an Macy's into an Opera House went so quickly that I think it did an injustice to her presentation by making the audience more confused than giving a clarificaiton.

Fared Abdel I believe was the guy who shot photographs of children around the world. The photographs were beautiful but I did not understand the presentation since it was an Arabic, and its really unfortunate for me. I wish I knew Arabic better. My suggestion to him is that he does a project on bedoon children here in Kuwait. He has the skills and talent and the experience.

Mr. Loaay Ahmed's presentation was fascinating but unfortunately it was a bit overshadowed due to the fact that the first presenter had also showcased calligraphy artwork. However, his cross-pollination of cultures relating Chinese characters to Arabic, and his detail of the history of the origins of our alphabet characters in daily objects (a subject I am very interested in) I really appreciated. It was only a few weeks ago that I was looking up the pictorial history of the alphabet letters on the internet.

Lastly, TEDDY B and his fuzzy wuzzy goodness! Wow! Excellent presentation, infusing the event with the emotional appeal that it really needed and leaving people empowered by demonstrating how the simplest of acts (one photo a day) by the most unlikely of small heroes (a teddy bear) can go so far and be seen by so many people. It was amazing!!!! Also, the marketing campaign of distributing teddy bear shaped business cards was a nice touch. Which one of those nice people passing them out is Teddy B? Or was the person behind Teddy B in the audience? Was she the voice heard in the presentation? The mystery certainly adds to the allure. One small thing though: no shout-outs to fellow fierce, plush homie Turtle T? Where's the love?

Abu Dhabi: New Worker Cities or New Urban Ghettoes?


Abu Dhabi is planning to build three new cities to shelter foreign low-income laborers and workers of the construction industry. The plan to build enough houses to accommodate 400,00 people and are geared at single and double room occupancy.

Will these cities help accommodate low-income housing, which has far greater demand than supply in this region, or is it masked at segregating workers from the rest of society in areas far from the city? Furthermore, homogenous cities comprised of only low-income, male single foreign laborers sounds more like apartheid enclaves than a city. According to Arabian Business:
The cities have been constructed according to the highest international standards, the director of facilities management at Abu Dhabi’s Higher Corporation for Specialised Economic Zones (ZonesCorp) told UAE daily Al Bayan.

The cities will be comprised of single and double rooms that will accommodate workers, technicians, supervisors and engineers working in the industrial and construction sectors in the emirate of Abu Dhabi.

Punishing a Slumlord by Making Him Serve Time in His Own Slum


Yes, you heard it! That happened in Virginia, reports United Press International, where a slumlord was forced by law to serve 70 days of his 100 day sentence on property maintenance violations living in a small house owned by his own company. Wouldn't it be great if slumlords here in Kuwait were made to do the same?

RICHMOND, Va., Nov. 10 (UPI) -- A Virginia slumlord was sentenced to jail time and house arrest in one of his properties where he had ignored property maintenance violations, officials said.

Oliver C. Lawrence, of Richmond will serve the first 30 days of his sentence in jail, and will spend the remainder of his 70-day sentence with electronic monitoring in a small house owned by Bayou Properties, his company, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported Tuesday.

Home incarceration is desirable because it means there will be one less vacant property that could attract drug activity and other crime, the report said. Further, if other slumlords face the prospect of being compelled to live in their properties someday, it may induce them to make improvements, Greg Lukanuski, an assistant city attorney who prosecuted the case, said.

Lawrence will also be required to work on a sheriff's crew that cleans up neglected properties.

Lawrence owns 150 to 300 properties, the city said, adding that he owes fines of more than $177,000.

"As long as (Lawrence) still owns property and they're not up to code, we will still continue to issue notices of violation on them," John Whealton, a city property inspector, said. (link here)



I am very excited about this. I really enjoyed the REUSE 2.0 and thought it was great, plus env is my favorite magazine coming out of the region...but the Avenues? seriously?!

Promoting Recycling Through Art. www.projectreuseme.com

Building on the success of last year’s REUSE 2.0 event, en.v announces a third and more elaborate installment of ‘REUSE’, under the patronage of Zain Telecommunications Company, Kuwait’s leading mobile telecommunications provider.

REUSE 3.0 will be hosted at The Avenues, Parking Lot D9, from the 7th to the 9th of December and will feature a dynamic mix of original artistic works by professionals, artists, students, and youth in general. The exhibition will be open to the public from 6pm to 9pm in addition to an allocated time for primary school student trips during the hours of 9am to 1pm.

REUSE is a 3-day exhibition whereby community members come together to recreate innovative design solutions in the realms of shelters, furniture, sculpture, artwork and more from scrap found around and about Kuwait.


Culture & Youth
To incorporate the various roles that different sectors of society play in recycling and sustainable living and give youth ready access to information regarding environmental sustainability and its importance in daily life.

Social Responsibility
To raise awareness, serving as a means for dialogue and action amongst the private sector and the community.

In accordance with en.v’s ethos towards environmental responsibility, Reuse will be devised, executed and introduced as a “carbon neutral” event. Ensuring environmental concerns are addressed during every phase of the initiative as well as offsetting all damage done to the environment through investing in “green” projects after a carbon footprint audit is completed.

Vintage 1920s London...In Colo(u)r!


ACLU on Guantanamo Discharged Prisoners


The American Civil Liberties Union has compiled a video of several different former Guantanamo inmates-all of whom entered without a real charge and left years later without a charge, still trying to piece together why this happened to them and now dealing with lost time from their lives and loved ones that they must now recuperate. Very powerful testimonies.

XVA Gallery and Hotel in Dubai


While we walked along the creek in downtown Dubai we came across this gem of corner in Bastakiya. It is a cafe/art gallery/hotel and it is combined effortlessly by XVA. I believe it must be a great destination for the winter months between Dec.-Jan. Very cozy, traditional, yet modern and discreet. WARM.
Bastakiya, Bur Dubai
Email: xva@xvagallery.com
Phone: +971 4 3535 383
Fax: +971 4 3535 988

Teddy B and Turtle T: New Forms of Good Citizenship!


I don't know how I might label this kind of blog, but something seems like a new genre is starting in Kuwait and it is a GREAT way to engage people with positive and encouraging messages, and also to garner attention from kids.

Meet Teddy B and Turtle T: two stuffed animals out to save the world, starting in Kuwait. Yes thats right! While Teddy B has taken a more heterogenous, whimsical approach, a newer spin-off, Turtle T is taking the marine environment as its clause du jour.

This is great in light of the December Climate Change Conference. Teddy B, the inspiration and initiator of this new genre of social awareness blogging, is going to delight us with his presence at Pecha Kucha Night and even had a spot in Bazaar this issue!

Their followership is really growing huge and I hope it inspires a wave of felt-fur model citizens! Please check out these blogs, you really will not regret it!

The Swiss about to Vote on Allowing Minarets in Their Cities


Here is an article by the BBC on mosques' efforts in Switzerland to work on a public relations campaign in preparation for an important vote that will decide whether to ban the construction of minarets or not. Switzlerland, where I used to live, is a curious place.

On one hand, you have international cities like Geneva that have a host of different peoples well-integrated and living more or less in social harmony (one-third of the population is foreign in this city).

On the other hand you have some conservative cantons where you still need a sword to vote in domestic politics, if I am not mistaken as one of my Swiss friends from Appenzell told me once, and where women did not get the right to vote until the 1990s.

As someone who has repeatedly been woken up from my nice Sunday late morning dozing by church bells, I do not see why minarets would cause such a calamity. In fact, it is utter hypocracy not to allow them. However, mind you, while Swiss political parties may disagree in their religious in/tolerance, one thing all Swiss have in common is their disdain for loud noises. I once got a dirty note from my land lady for beating eggs too loud and too early in the morning. You can potentially get fined for flushing your toilet after ten pm there. Minarets Kuwaiti-style, aka, with mega-blast mega-phones and broadcast sermons, I do not think would thus fly. Here is the article.

Muslims in many parts of Switzerland have invited the public into mosques - three weeks before a vote on whether to ban the construction of minarets.

Muslim organisations say they hope their open day will counter what they say are fears and prejudices. The conservative group that initiated the vote - the largest party in the Swiss parliament - says minarets are a symbol of Muslim political power. Opinion polls suggest the proposed ban will be rejected by voters. A Muslim community leader in Zurich, Tamir Hadjipolu, said the proposal - launched by the right-wing Swiss People's Party (SVP) - was "open discrimination".

Preaching to the converted?

Switzerland is home to 400,000 Muslims, who have about 200 places of worship. Only four have a minaret, local media say. The open day was held on Saturday in 12 cantons, including Geneva, Vaud and Freiburg. "We hope these meetings will build a dialogue and better understanding," said Hisham Maizar, a senior Muslim representative in eastern Switzerland.

The BBC's Imogen Foulkes, who visited a mosque in Zurich, says the many non-Muslims who came enjoyed themselves. But the debate is raging outside the building, our correspondent says, and the Muslims inside were likely to be preaching to the converted.

Visa Services in the Airport Gets Better


You might recall one of my rant and raves posts about the visa services in the airport. I gave a vehement, scorching, terible, horrible, no good very bad critique of the visa counter and the officers working there.

My main points of criticism were that there was no information to guide applicants on procedures, that officers were so slow or so few present that the process creates a complete bottleneck resulting in unattended luggage downstairs, and that the officers themselves were highly unprofessional and that they needed gender training.

Well, yesterday, coming back from Dubai where I had been for the Dubai Sound City Music Festival (I will be writing a review and posting pictures on this one shortly as well), I went through the visa line and was taken aback by the changes.

1. Clear instructions are now made available upon getting a number at the ticket machine.
2. There are now women working at the desk and they seem to get along well and be integrated with their male counterparts
3. There are officers filling each seat so the employees are at full capacity
4. The turnover rate is much faster, from perhaps one person being attended to every 3-4 minutes to now 1 every 30 seconds. That is an incredible difference.
5. The officers are amicable but professional, no mind-games. They seemed helpful, courteous and, in short, taking pride in their job.

I have to give a congratulations.

This Week's Events Around Town Round Up


This week, a lot is going down in Kuwait. Here are some of the events (that I know of) that you might be interested in taking a look at...you're welcome!

1. Festival of India
The “Festival of India in Kuwait” is being organized from November 8-14, 2009, under the ambit of the India-Kuwait Cultural Exchange Programme 2009-2011 that was signed in April 2009 during the visit to Kuwait by Hon’ble M. Hamid Ansari, Vice President of India. The Festival is being co-hosted by the Ministry of Culture, Government of India, and the National Council for Culture, Arts and Letters (NCCAL), State of Kuwait.

It looks nothing short of amazing and you can check out the line up of performers, dancers, artists, cultural exhibitions, etc at this link with the schedule that Al-Watan Daily has kindly provided:

Personally, I am very excited to see the Odissi dance, which has always been one of my favorite Indian folk dances. Just check this video out if you are not convinced!

2. Lecture by Thomas Modeen
Thomas Modeen will present a lecture on "Kuwait School Manifesto ـ 8 Maxims & Designs" on Wednesday, Nov. 11 at 7:00 p.m. at the Al-Maidan Cultural Center. Thomas Modeen is currently teaching at Kuwait University, Department of Architecture and Department of Art and Design, and he is a fellow blogger that can be found at http://smarchitecture.blogspot.com/

3. Pecha Kucha Night No. 3!
This is the third volume of the successful concept devised in Tokyo in February 2003 as an event for young designers to meet, network, and show their work in public. It has turned into a massive celebration, with events happening in hundreds of cities around the world, inspiring creatives worldwide.
Drawing its name from the Japanese term for the sound of "chit chat", it rests on a presentation format that is based on a simple idea: 20 images x 20 seconds. It's a format that makes presentations concise, and keeps things moving at a rapid pace.
Check out previous videos by presenters from Volume 1 and 2 at KASA Kuwait's youtube account. Here is information on Volume 3: Wednesday, November 11, 2009, 7:30pm - 9:30pm, Mövenpick Hotel & Resort @ Bida'

PKN #3 Presenters: Farah Behbehani, Ismael Abedin, Dana Al-Hasan, Fareed Abdal, Loaay Ahmed, Teddy B, Abd Al-rahman Al-Terkait

4. Cinemagic Opening
Its that time of the year where we can all slowly peek from our air-conditioned cocoons and enjoy the bright selection of critically acclaimed and assorted movies that the fabulous Mr. Michael Habre delights us with at Cinemagic Productions. Did I mention admission is FREE and free popcorn and refreshments are provided??

The film on Saturday, November 14th is entitled Banishment from Russia (2007), directed by Andrei Zvyagintsev, and here is the following description:
A husband, wife and two children come from an industrial city to the countryside, to the husband’s birthplace, to stay in his father’s old house. In contrast to the old setting, the new setting is Nature. It is a setting of breathtaking rolling hills, the bottom of a prehistoric sea, and fertile land, all lying in the ruins of dislike. It is sad even though it is proud. It doesn’t let on. It will demand great sacrifice. And no one will hold back the hand the father raises against his son. The voice crying out will not be heard. The lamb will not replace the son. For the one who rises the knife has ears that cannot hear, eyes that can not see, and a heart that can not feel. Yet his belief in the “law” of human pride is vehement and inexhaustible, as vehement as his remorse.

"Keepin' It Desert"


Here is some coverage from Al-Jazeera on the recent Doha Tribeca Film Festival that just rapped up, as well as a quick survey of the merging art capitals in the region and how artists are striving to find their identity to flourish on an international level.

Evil Paradises: Dreamworlds of Neoliberalism by Mike Davis


I'm a big Mike Davis fan, having read both City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles (done in 1990 and which predicted many of the inherent tensions of LA that would result in the 1992 riots) and LOVING it, as well as the more recent Planet of Slums, a look at the slumming up of urbanization in many developing country cities in the world, which is a passionate issue for me that I think he highlights on extremely well. I just happened to find out that he is at it again with a new book deliciously titled Evil Paradises: Dreamworlds of Neoliberalism. I am dying to get my hands on a copy. Some brand him as too apocalyptic but he is a wonderful critic of some of the human dangers in current urban ecologies of unfettered capitalistic development and whim. How can I get a copy!?