All You Need is Love: Benetton’s Provocative UNHATE Campaign

We see it everywhere. From political leaders fighting on the news to kids fighting in the school playgrounds, we cannot deny that there is hatred and intolerance in the world. This global hatred is the reason behind Benetton’s shocking UNHATE campaign which launched worldwide yesterday.
To spread their message of “UNHATE,” Benetton published images of world leaders kissing in Milan, Paris, Tel Aviv and New York, coupled with an UNHATE film. Using the image of a kiss between mortal enemies, Benetton invites people to embrace tolerance and acceptance, to UNHATE:

“What does UNHATE mean? UN-hate. Stop hating, if you were hating. Unhate is a message that invites us to consider that hate and love are not as far away from each other as we think. Actually, the two opposing sentiments are often in a delicate and unstable balance. Our campaign promotes a shift in the balance: don’t hate, Unhate” The Benetton UNHATE Foundation

The campaign has already spread like wildfire across newspapers, TV stations and social media websites. The Vatican has already announced that it “will take legal action against the Benetton clothing company to prevent the publication of an ad featuring a fake photo montage of Pope Benedict XVI kissing a top Egyptian imam on the lips.” (Source: Yahoo News Canada)

While the campaign is definitely provocative and conveys a universal message of tolerance, the question is, has Benetton gone too far? Or are we as a modern society so desensitized that we need such shocking images to bring the message across? The public’s reaction over the next few days will determine the results. The fact that the campaign got people thinking about tolerance is in and of itself a measure of success.

For more UNHATE information:

Zombies Take Over Montreal

If there’s one thing I learned during my first few weeks in Montreal is that this city takes Halloween very seriously. There are pumpkins and Halloween costume displays on every street and more Halloween events than you know what to do with.

Yesterday, I was surrounded by the living dead in the Plateau Mont-Royal area, who were all walking together in the annual Montreal Zombie Walk. The Zombie Walk is a day when the good people of Montreal dress up like zombies and walk around the streets moaning and groaning for human flesh for some ghoulish Halloween fun.

According to Wikipedia, the first recorded Zombie Walk took place in Sacremento California on August 19, 2001 as a promotion for an annual midnight film festival. It was held again the following year, and has since become a global annual tradition with Zombie Walks happening in several cities around the world.

Zombies and humans alike had a great time walking around the city and getting into the Halloween spirit. Below are some of the pictures I took of the Canadian zombies.

Happy Halloween!

Created with flickr slideshow.

Your Life on Facebook

Image Source:

I just read an article by Mashable’s CEO Peter Cashmore on CNN announcing the new Facebook. Cashmore refers to the update as “the new Facebook” as it is exactly that; a totally new evolution in the social media site.

The change is described by Cashmore as follows: “Your Facebook profile will go from having one central column to two, with boxes of text, photos, videos and even maps of your favorite locations. Rather than just displaying your most recent activities, your profile will become a scrapbook documenting your entire life, all the way back to your birth. Facebook will become a record of your existence: All your memories, your victories and your defeats, your loves, your losses and everything in between.”

As far as social media technology goes, it’s no small feat. It is, as the article describes, “a marvel of computer programming: An algorithm that comes eerily close to emulating human memory.” But as always, the issue of privacy comes in to question, which interestingly enough neither Peter Cashmore or Mark Zuckerberg bring up. In the video clip of Zuckerberg’s announcement, Zuckerberg talks about how the new Facebook enhances our connections to people, books, movies, etc. But with such a transparent model, can anyone on my list peer into my most private life? If I have my life’s scrapbook on Facebook, I would like to control who sees what.

The privacy concern does not stem from paranoia, rather, it is a right. As our Facebook lists have grown to include acquaintances,colleagues, and family members, privacy control becomes even more essential. I guess we will have to wait and see if the new privacy filters will ensure that we still have control over our Facebook pages.

Tom MacMaster, the Coward Behind A Gay Girl in Damascus

Dear Tom MacMaster,

People like you who abuse the internet and the voice it provides sicken me. Your apology letter below is laughable. This is what I think of your self-righteous absurd apology.

“I never expected this level of attention.” Guess what Assface, when you put something like “Gay Girl in Damascus” you’re going to get a lot of attention, probably from a lot of perverted middle aged men, much like yourself, and LGBT activists who were fooled by your fictitious character. The first time I actually heard of this blog is when you posted that “Amina” was arrested. All I could think of was, another blogger arrested, another one who has to suffer to make her voice heard. What a crock.

“While the narrative voice may have been fictional, the facts on this blog are true and not misleading as to the situation on the ground.”

How would you know? You don’t live in Damascus and to pretend like you know what the Syrian people are suffering is an insult.

“I do not believe that I have harmed anyone — I feel that I have created an important voice for issues that I feel strongly about.”

You have actually harmed many people when “Amina” went missing. 15000 people on Facebook were genuinely concerned. Your little “crying wolf” stunt is dangerous because if a “real” blogger gets kidnapped, who will believe them now thanks to you. Your cowardly writing ridicules all the Arab bloggers, reporters and activists who were willing to risk their safety and even their lives to create positive change in their countries.

You also stole Jelena Lecic’s identity which is both immoral and illegal. I sincerely hope you get sued for that crime.

“I only hope that people pay as much attention to the people of the Middle East and their struggles in this year of revolutions.”

Spare us your bleeding heart. If you really gave a crap about people in the Middle East, there are a million ways you could have brought light to the subject. Like sharing coverage articles and videos of what is going that may not be shared in Western media. Stealing someone’s identity, creating a fictional character and then causing a frantic frenzy by saying that person has been kidnapped is wrong and has done so much harm to the real voices of the Middle East bloggers, especially in places like Syria and Egypt.

What you did is an affront and an insult to their memory. Let’s take a moment to remember the real people who suffered, and even died to make their voices heard. Khalid Saeed and the rest of the brave souls, may you all rest in peace.

“The events there are being shaped by the people living them on a daily basis. I have only tried to illuminate them for a western audience.”

Again, you self-righteous coward, spare us your bleeding heart. You have abused and made a mockery of all the Arab voices and activists trying to make a difference.

It saddens me how much media attention this has received when the real spot light should be on the protesters and activists in Syria, Egypt, Libya, Yemen and all the places where the people are finally taking a stand against oppression.

Original Image Source:

Lebanon Leaves Lady GaGa Speechless

As a Lady GaGa fan, the news that Born This Way Album was banned in Lebanon for being “offensive to Christianity” upset me. As a Lebanese, I am outraged!

Free speech is one of the few basic rights we still have in Lebanon. Once again, the Lebanese government has found a way to throw that out the window too.

Here’s a novel idea: If you don’t like Lady Gaga, DON’T BUY THE ALBUM!

If you don’t want to hear it on the radio, change the channel to something more in line with religious principles, like “Dakhilo Allah Ilsilicon” or the classic “Il3ab il3ab”, or maybe you prefer songs like Rihanna’s “come here rude boy boy is you big enough”, or Enrique Iglesias hit “But Tonight I’m Loving You (original version: But Tonight I’m Fucking You). Oh wait, all these songs, much like most of the TOP 10 songs, promote excessive drinking and promiscuity. How about you turn off all radio stations Lebanon?! Or maybe the radio should just blast Muslim, Christian, and Hindu religious hymns and sermons across all the stations.

As much as I find the Neanderthal Mohamad Iskandar’s song “Joumhouriyet Albi” archaic and offensive, I would never want it to be banned. I can just choose to not hear it, hate it and criticize it.

The double standards in Lebanon have got to stop. Lebanon tries to portray the idea that we have more freedoms than other countries in the Middle East, but clearly we have a long way to go to becoming a civil state. In the meantime, I will enjoy my Lady Gaga album on itunes.

Update: Looks like the album has finally been released in Lebanon. Was it something we said? 🙂

Check out the Daily Star article for more details.

Great Expectations

Here’s the thing. I never expect much from people. As a matter of fact, I don’t expect anything. It’s just easier that way. Safety first, after all. People always disappoint so if I don’t expect anything, I won’t get disappointed.

Call it the cowardly route. It probably is. But we all do what we have to. Disappointment can sprout from the most unexpected sources. The close ones always hurt the most. That’s not to say I think all people are bad and out to get me. I do still hope for the best. I still hope that people live up to their promises and my expectations. But people being the frail creatures they are, sometimes fail to deliver. A best friend with a hidden agenda, an envious uncle, a treacherous neighbor, are all possibilities. I’d like to think improbable, but possibilities nonetheless. You seem nice, but if someday, somewhere you screw me over, I won’t be surprised. I hope you don’t though because it will make it even harder for me to trust people. It’s a tight rope walk between hoping for the best and expecting the worst.

My Benihana Experience – Kool w Ma Teskot

A few days back I posted about Benihana opening up at the Avenues and yesterday night I decided to pass by with Nat and try it out. The service wasn’t too bad for a restaurant that’s just been open for a few days and the staff were really friendly. The restaurant itself is made up of islands and bars with a grill in the middle of each one. You sit around the grill and the chef will come to your table and prepare the food right in front of you which makes things entertaining. It’s actually why I prefer sitting at the bar in Japanese restaurants in general, since you can talk to the chef and watch them put your dish together. The problem with my experience last night though was with the food, it was disappointing to say the least.

We ordered beef negimayaki for starters followed by an Orange Blossom maki and a Hibachi Chicken. The negimaki arrived looking good and was probably the best thing we had there even though I prefer Maki’s negimaki which has a richer teriyaki sauce. The Orange Blossom was very ordinary, wouldn’t order it again. Now the Hibachi chicken which is basically grilled chicken, that was the worst. The chicken was very chewy (I could swear it was undercooked if not raw) and tasted terrible. Even after I had the chef add some more teriyaki sauce in hopes of improving the taste it didn’t work. I tried to dip it into the sauces that came with the chicken but it was hard to figure out if they were actually making things worse or not. Nat only ate one piece of chicken and left the rest while I needed my protein since I’m on a strict diet and forced myself to eat my whole plate (I can do that) but the after taste was really bad. Even the rice and the veggies that came with it tasted bad AND were under cooked. Once we left I considered picking up a frozen yogurt from Pinkberry even though I hate frozen yogurts but I just needed something to get rid of the aftertaste. A few moments later we ended up at Chocolate Bar ordering the gooey chocolate cake (bye bye diet).

I shot the two videos [video one and video two] above of the chef preparing our meal. Benihana are known for the live shows they perform when preparing your dish so I was expecting to see [This] but ended up with the above. Would I go back to Benihana? No I wouldn’t. Their sashimi and maki’s are pretty cheap (KD1.5 for 5 pieces of Salmon sashimi for example) but there are two other Japanese restaurants at the Avenues, Wasabi and Maki, and I would prefer either one of those to Benihana.


The above post is a reproduction of Mark Makhoul’s original post on his blog 2:48AM.

Mark, a blogger living in Kuwait, is now the subject of a $18,000 lawsuit filed by the Kuwaiti franchisee of global Japanese restaurant chain Benihana. Mark’s crime? Posting a mildly critical restaurant review on his blog, 2:48AM. A frank but even-handed review, even if negative, does not warrant legal action and that this is not how global brands like Benihana should engage with bloggers.

Despite a massive outcry on blogs, social and mainstream media, both Benihana in Kuwait and Benihana of Tokyo, the New-York based franchisor, have steadfastly refused comment and the court case is, as of the time of writing, still set to commence on 8 March 2011.

Benihana in Kuwait first deleted critical comments from its Facebook page and then blocked anyone who had been outspoken against them. Benihana of Tokyo has not replied to a single request made using the contact form on its website, despite a promise to return comments within 24 hours. Neither has it responded to calls on this from bloggers and journalists.

We are defending bloggers’ rights to freedom of expression.

We believe that suing a consumer for expressing an opinion is totally unacceptable. We believe that a company arrogant enough to ignore the very real expressed concerns of thousands of consumers is arrogant enough to think it can press ahead with this suit – one which would set a very worrying precedent for Middle East bloggers. We want to send a clear message out – that today’s consumer has the right to express an opinion online – whether that be satisfaction or dissatisfaction – without fear of bullying and litigation from companies.

Consequently, today, 14 February 2011, bloggers are posting a copy of Mark’s original My Benihana Experience post to their own blogs and Facebook pages.

In an effort to highlight both Mark’s predicament and Benihana’s apparent keenness to sue bloggers, friends of Mark and fellow bloggers around the world can join us in re-posting a copy of Mark’s original Benihana post today. They sued him – will they sue all of us?

It’s not too late to join us! The day is young…

My Lebanon

I don’t know about the rest of the Lebanese but I am really getting sick and tired of my country being a football field for whoever feels like imposing power and settling old scores.

I have an idea to ensure peace in Lebanon once and for all…

So to all neighbors near and far I say: Find somewhere else to play political football.


Note: All images were loosely traced from various web images.

My 30 Days of Gratitude

“It’s not too hard to notice what’s not going well. But noticing what is? That’s a challenge.”

This past November, I took part in the 30 Days of Gratitude Project for the second year in a row. The project, created by Annie Zirkel, LPC author of You’ll Thank Me Later ~ A Guide to Raising Grateful Children & Paul Taubman, AllAboutGratitude blogger, invites people to post their daily gratitudes throughout the month of November on the project website .

Many of us (myself included) are guilty of being jaded, overly sarcastic and taking for granted all the good things we have in life. We easily get caught up in the things we still want and don’t have and we get very frustrated when things don’t go according to plan. It’s easy to forget the good stuff. Gratitude is a feeling, but it is also a practice. It has been my experience the more grateful you are for the good in life, the more good will come to you (still working on the billion dollars though). I have to confess, I don’t feel that grateful most days. That is why I loved this project. This is my second year posting my gratitudes and reading what others are grateful for, and it was truly inspiring, heartwarming and humbling. It was a reminder to remember the good things in my life and be truly grateful because you know what, I do have it good. Actually, I have it great.

So here they are, my 30 Days of Gratitude:

1. I am grateful for my strength. The past two years have been the hardest I’ve ever experienced in my life, but I made it through the hardships and came out a stronger person.

2. I am grateful for my cousins. I am very lucky that I grew up with people who understand my unspoken thoughts and who I can have a great time with no matter what we are doing.

3. I am grateful for the knowledge I have been blessed with. There is no greater bliss than being one with all. JGD

4. I am grateful for my body and my health. Even though I don’t take care of it as I should, it still gets me through life.

5. I am grateful for my parents for providing everything I need and want in my life.

6. I am grateful for old friends. We grew up together and went through a lot. I’m glad you are still in my life.

7. I am grateful for the travel opportunities I have in my life. Though I can never get enough, I realize that not everyone is able to travel as much as I do. Seeing the world is a great blessing.

8. I am grateful for my renewed sense of acceptance. I recognize that some things are within my control and some things are not within my control. I am happy I am recognizing the difference and accept whatever happens.

9. I am grateful for my brother, who knows me and always has my back. I love you bro!

10. I am grateful for the person who lifted me up, lightened my heart and eased my worries. I am blessed with your love and light.

11. I am grateful for the amazing weather we’re having. I love being outdoors enjoying the sun.

12. I am grateful for my car. It gets me where I need to go AND it’s red.

13. I am grateful for the beautiful homes I have and will have. Truly a blessing when many have none.

14. I am grateful that I can pamper myself when I need to.

15. I am grateful for the abundance of delicious food I am blessed with.

16. I am grateful for all the wonderful memories I have of growing up, of great people, and the good times.

17. I am grateful for this vacation as it allowed me to recharge, reflect, and spend great times with my family and friends. A great reminder that life is good.

18. I am grateful that I am surrounded by wise people who are willing to offer their time, help, support, advice, and guidance.

19. I am grateful that God always reminds me how lucky I really am.

20. I am grateful for my resilience. I am glad I can bounce back after hitting rock bottom.

21. I am grateful for the great deep sleep I have been having lately. It really is helping me accomplish more.

22. I am grateful that I am Lebanese. Even though our country is crazy, it has made us face the world’s challenges easier than others.

23. I am grateful for the children in my family. It’s a joy to have fun with them as they view the world as a wondrous place and they are full of unconditional love.

24. I am grateful for the creatures in the world, especially dogs.

25. I am grateful for my loved ones, who never hesitate to lend a sympathetic ear, words of kindness and inspiration. They always remind me that things will be ok.

26. Though we haven’t always seen eye to eye and it took me a while to admit, I am grateful for Kuwait. I was born here and lived here all my life. It has allowed me to get a great education, be close to my family, travel and experience the world, grow and evolve, and meet amazing people who have become my lifelong loved ones.

27. I am grateful for my mom who constantly pushes my personal and spiritual growth. I love you mom.

28. I am grateful that my problems seem quite big but are actually small compared to what others face.

29. I am grateful for technology which opened up a new world with amazing people and knowledge. I never would have met them otherwise or know the things I know now if it wasn’t for technology.

30. I am grateful for the 30 days of gratitude project. It is important to be grateful for life’s blessings and obstacles. It makes us who we are. 30 DAYS OF GRATITUDE

Proceed to Gate

Airports have got to be the busiest places on earth. You are literally surrounded by swarms of people from across the globe. And yet, airports can be the most isolating places on earth. Surrounded by people, I feel alone, isolated, cut-off from everything I know and love and some things that I hate.

We have it easy. You are one button away from reaching anyone, anytime, anywhere. I can’t imagine how the earlier generations must have felt. Thrown into a new world and existence. Cut off. Forced to retreat back to square one. Starting from zero. Trying to make it in a new world as an alien, an outcast. Being ignored, or worse, being insulted and ridiculed. Maybe I’m over romanticizing things. Maybe it wasn’t so bad.

My experience as a Lebanese expat has not been easy, but it wasn’t hard either. After all these years, what I am left with is that I have no home. Not really. I mean I love Lebanon to my very core but is that enough? To love from afar? This is the ultimate curse of the expats. We are always the circle trying to squeeze in the square. And it never fits. No matter how bad we want it to. No matter how hard we try. We are always the outcasts. The outsiders. We just make the best of it to survive, and hopefully thrive.