Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Need Help / Information to Play .wmv Downloads

First, I am a technology clod. I am a tool user, but I don’t always understand a lot about the tool I am using.

I had a tool on my desktop that helped me see .wmv things my friends send in the e-mail. I’m on a Mac. My friend Mrm gave me a recommendation, I downloaded it and it worked like a charm.

Today I went to use it and it is gone! I don’t know where it went! I’ve looked in everyplace on the computer I can think of and I can’t find it.

The icon for it looks like a traffic cone. It is orange and yellow, I think. I don’t know the name, but when I want to view something, I would open it up and then choose a file while in that program. Do any of you know what I am talking about? It is something like ‘universal movie player’ but it has a weird name. I need something for the simple (tech) minded.

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April 20, 2009 Posted by | Technical Issue | 11 Comments

Kuwait: Our History Runs in our Blood (Mohammed Ali Dashti)

Kuwaitis showing new interest in the past; Traditions, culture wiped out by ‘change’
From today’s Arab Times; you can read the entire interview by clicking here

A born artist makes it his life’s mission to chronicle the past of Kuwait using his artistic skills and his academic erudition. His brush strokes have brought to life scenes from a Kuwait straddling a dying hidebound order and a modern state taking birth. His passion drove him beyond the pale of his canvas to physically revive some lost traditions for posterity.

Read on to find out more about Mohammed Ali Dashti’s enchanting four-decade long mission and some of the precious values from the past which we have now lost and which he fears we may never recover.

Q: You are involved in a rather enchanting profession of recreating the past. What is your goal?

A: When oil was discovered in Kuwait, the state underwent a rapid transformation. The change was very sudden and very fast. In a short span of time, Kuwait leapt from an ancient system to a very modern state. This change wiped out many elements from our traditions and culture.

Until sometime ago, the people of Kuwait were disposing of the antiquated paraphernalia from their homes. But now, there is a sudden interest in these items, and now they are buying them back to preserve the past. It is the only way of holding fast to our roots and knowing how our forefathers, not from a distant past, conducted their lives. Kuwaitis are buying doors and furniture used in the old Kuwaiti homes.

We, as an organization, are working to preserve our history for posterity to learn and know. We produce ancient household items like the Mubkhar (incense stand) with which our grandparents used to scent clothes and fan fragrant smoke around the house.

In the old days, we had no airplanes or cars. The only way we were connected with other places in the region was the sea. Kuwait, owing to its geographical advantages, became a center for shipbuilding. Kuwaitis were experts in making dhows for different purposes. Boats were built in a variety of sizes and designs based on their use. There were cargo ships, fishing boats and vessels for pearl diving. The size of boats ranged from a meter to up to 6 meters. This is another aspect of history that we are trying to preserve and we have been recreating many of the original models our ancestors voyaged in.

We showcase our creations at universities, malls, schools and other places. Thus we have been able to generate interest in our past. We take our craftsmen along and explain to the present generation about Kuwait’s history.

Q: What do you think has created this new interest in the past among Kuwaitis? Can this be read as a reemergence of old traditional values?

A: Our history actually runs in our blood. It is very difficult to detach ourselves from our cultural roots. And so whenever any nation travels too far away from its true origins, at some point of time, it stops and tends to recall the past. History is what gives our existence contextual relevance. And we often try to find it by clawing back into our past, by remembering the way we came through.

Q: You said you make old-model boats. Aren’t you specialized in Warjiyas, the simplistic fishing boats from the past? Which is the biggest boat you have ever built?

A: The biggest boat I have ever built so far is 6 meters long. I make Warjiyas because it is most symbolic of our old fishing traditions. These boats were very famous among the people on Failaka Island. They used it for fishing and it is very easy to construct.

The specialties of Warjiya are: it is wholly made of palm tree to the last detail. The body is built with spines of palm leaf, which are trussed using ropes made our of palm fiber. It is very light and so easy to carry.

Warjiyas sort of became extinct about 60 years ago with the advent of oil and the independence of the state’s economy from fishing and pearl diving. We can’t return to those ancient livelihoods, and so we are now planning to start an annual Warjiya race to keep the tradition alive. The first race will be held in September this year.

Q: Do you have any plans of reviving even the tradition of fishing along with these boats?

A: No, as I said, we can’t actually go backwards to keep our original traditions alive. So, these things can only happen in a token manner. The aim is to keep the future generations aware about how their grandfathers and people before them lived. We don’t have to make our children live a similar life to make them appreciate the ancient way of life.

Q: All over the world there is great demand for antique items. Is what we are seeing in Kuwait a similar trend — a fascination for antique pieces — or is it more than that?

A: No. It is not just a fad in Kuwait. The people really care for the past and there are efforts at all levels to preserve relics from the past or have their duplicated versions. These efforts have been sincerely undertaken by Kuwait National Museum and other private museums in the country, and between them they share a vast treasure of valuable relics and information about Kuwait’s past.
The government is also giving due encouragement to all of us to help us in our endeavors. The ministry of information is doing everything within its means to promote our traditional and cultural heritage in other Gulf countries and beyond.

April 20, 2009 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Character, Community, Cultural, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Relationships, Spiritual | 2 Comments

Neil Gaiman’s Smoke and Mirrors

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Smoke and Mirrors is a collection of – as the author puts it – short fiction and illusions.

My son got me started with Neil Gaiman when he gave me a book called Good Omens. He is probably not an author everyone would like – he can be cynical, but my experience with cynics is that their cynicism is an attempt to disguise a deeply idealistic nature, so his cynicism doesn’t bother me. I love his attention to world mythologies, those beliefs deep down that are passed from parent to child, beliefs so deep we don’t even know they are there.

Smoke and MIrrors was an easy, if uneven, read. I get the impression Gaiman gathered up a bunch of short writings he had done – like sometimes you jot down an idea for something and keep it to be developed later, into a book, a sub-plot, etc. and that these ones never quite graduated.

There are two stories I will never forget. The last story, Snow, Glass, Apples, is a re-telling of the Snow White legend, told from the point of view of the wicked step-mother, set far back in dark times. I will never see Snow White in the same light again. I love the flicker of perception that changes everything. Snow White as a vampiric, wild, uncontrolled child? When Gaiman writes, all the pieces fit together.

The other story hits me on a deeper level. In a house where stray cats come and are cared for, a cat arrives, scarred and damaged, seeking only love. Every night he goes out onto the porch, and late late on some nights, sounds of wild and horrendous battles are heard, from which the cat emerges more damaged, battered and scarred than before. Horrified, the people try to keep the cat inside, but after he has healed enough, he insists on going out again to do battle. One night, the man watches as an apparition appears; on a deep instinctive level, he knows it is a demon / devil. The cat protects the house and its occupants. The story is called The Price, and after I read it, I couldn’t read the book again for a couple days.

When I read Neil Gaiman, it frees me up to think outside the lines, outside the normal boundaries of what we consider normal. This man was gifted with an amazing imagination.

I think of Jesus, and his disciples, the 12 he gathered to help him in his earthly ministry. I think of how often they listened to Jesus – and got it wrong. He would be explaining something, and they just didn’t get it. I wonder how often it still happens, that we think we understand what he is telling us, but our minds are small and fuzzy, and we can’t begin to comprehend the magnitude of what he is telling us.

So I think about angels, and how they are all around us. . . and what if all these little cats and dogs are part of the angels God has sent to protect us? I think how they love us unconditionally, simply, and how good they are for our health (having a pet can lower blood-pressure, for example) and how truly truly AWFUL it is that we might be abusing, starving, neglecting the very angels God has sent to ease our lives and protect us? It fills me with horror!

Neil Gaiman sets me free to think such thoughts. You can read his stories as just stories, but if you have an ounce of depth, you will find your mind wandering to strange places after reading Gaiman. You can find Smoke and Mirrors on Amazon.com for around $10 in paperback, less if you buy it used.

Again, thank you, son, for introducing me to such a mind-stretching author.

April 20, 2009 Posted by | Books, Character, Entertainment, Fiction, Interconnected, Poetry/Literature | , | 4 Comments

No Darkness at all . . .

It was wonderful waking up this morning – no alarm, just waking when I was ready. No wonder, I was falling asleep over my book by 9 last night, and around 9:30 I just gave up – sometimes sleep is just too inviting. I slept wonderfully, it feels so good to sleep well and soundly and wake up because you are ready to wake up.

When I pulled open the curtains, I gasped with delight! A glorious sunrise, a sunrise with sparkles and shadows and glints and rays. There is a fresh morning breeze, it is a little cooler today and the air is sweet and cool. The morning readings I do contain a line from 1 John: “In Him there is no darkness at all . . ” a line I love, and a line that I thought of immediately when I saw this amazing sunrise:

0021apr09sunrise

Now, over an hour later, the sky is full of heavier clouds, still sunny, but the glorious moment has passed, and I thank God for the small mercy of allowing me to see this beautiful new dawn and to capture it to share with you.

Have a great Monday, Kuwait! 🙂

April 20, 2009 Posted by | ExPat Life, Kuwait, Living Conditions, sunrise series, Weather | 3 Comments