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Gayyash Al 'Aatifa

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Made in Zift El Teen

I was in a stationery shop downtown waiting for photocopies when in walked a tall middle-aged man wearing a galabeyya and a 3emma. He asked the guy behind the counter "3andoko el 7aseb el 2aali bta3 el sanaweyya el 3amma da?" (Do you have that calculator they use in secondary school?)

The man pointed to a box on the shelf behind him and said "Ah, dah, sitta w 3eshreen geneih." (Yeah, this one, twenty six pounds.) It was a Casio FX 82 something something, I had similar one back in the day. Good stuff.

"Aaah," said the visitor, and with knee-jerk fataka (misinformed coy familiarity with esoteric knowledge) added in a perfectly semi-questioning tone, "Seeni da..." (Yeah...so it's Chinese, this one...)


There was a talk-show show on TV during Ramadan the year before last where they would host celebrities and stage these pranks, like having criminals storm the set or the host suffer a heart attack. One unlucky victim was the talented, alluring and gruff actress, Noha el Amrousy. They brought to the set this woman they presented as a Japanese advertising director who'd used footage of Amrousy in ads for funny products. I can't remember what but they were like rat poison and diapers, maybe, or something along those lines. Anyway, so Amrousy gets upset and starts flipping out on the host and on the woman and at some point says something like "Yaban eh di?! Danti matgeesh Taiwani 7atta!" (Japan Schmapan! [To even be made in] Taiwan is beyond you!)


About a week ago I was on an evening train to Alex working on my laptop (which actually was on my lap). I had a single seat on the right hand side of the carriage and I could see from the corner of my eye that the middle-aged man in the cheap suit seated across the aisle to my left was staring. I think I was writing an account of an event I'd witnessed and thought hey, if he can read this then good for him, he might even have comments for me. But he didn't, he just shifted in his seat, coughed occasionally and kept staring.

About 45 minutes into my typing (and distraction and Solitaire) session I felt a quick firm tap on my elbow. It was as if a little rubber-toothed snake had lunged and nipped at my pullover really fast, returning immediately to its, well, its seat across the aisle. I looked up at the seat in front of me and looked back down, not quite knowing how to respond. 3amalt 3abeet.

I then saw with the whole side of my eye a hand waving, reaching randomly in my direction, and heard my neighbor clear is throat and say uhm, uhm. So I turned to face him, smiling, of course. He squinted his eyes (again, with fataka, plus a forced look of seriousness and engrossement), pursed his lips and raised eyebrows, and pointed at my computer. "Bekam da," (how much is this?) he asked.

I took a deep breath and couldn't but remain silent with contemplative annoyance a few seconds longer than I would have liked. To be fair to myself, I was at a loss, somewhat, because I didn't know where to begin. I told him that my computer was old and that it had cost this much that many years ago and that he was asking the wrong question. So he repeated it "Aywa, bekam el laptop ya3ni?" (Ok, so how much is the laptop then?)

I said that there were different brands, some being more expensive than others. I started with the cheapest, I told him about HP and Compaq models and then about Toshiba and Dell ones and their prices. He was very focused and nodded slowly as I listed prices and ad-libbed (bullshitted) user profiles for each price range. I then told him that Sony laptops were the most expensive ones and they were considered the best and that they could cost up to twenty thousand pounds. The look on his face seemed to sharpen in proportion to the slickness of the laptop I was describing.

I was plodding along with my slapshod user profile for those high-end Sony's when the man lifted his hand to interrupt me. I stopped and he shifted anxiously in his seat, his face acquiring a look that said 'hold on a second, there's something I not quite clear on...'

"El Sony da..." (this Sony), he said, pausing as the hand pointing towards my computer bobbed repeatedly, as if the extent of his mental focus had put his motor skills on hold, "Yabani tab3an..." (is made in Japan, of course).


  • I recently watched the movie Suicide Club or Suicide Circle about 54 be-pigtailed schoolgirls committing mass suicide. You may have seen this. Notably, the red-herring of the movie (a decidedly unsinister preadolecent teeny-bopper group called 'Dessert') squeal the lyrics, 'mail me or i'll diiiiiiiiiiie!'. There is much talk of 'chat rooms' and high speed communications and chain-smoking sun-glasses-at-night hackers but the funny thing about the blood-bath is the electronics. In the trailer one girl is fed through a fax machine and comes out the other end a mass of hair and bloody pulp...the fax machine is like from 1987.
    Same with the computers featured, though they aren't green screen dinosaurs they come from a time before design was key and the box-monitor reigned supreme. In America this was circa 1996, this film was made in 2002. Why have the Japanese no Sony Laptops almost a decade after they should have?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Jan 09, 07:29:00 PM GMT+2  

  • haven't seen the movie but i was arguing with my dad just yesterday (and just for the sake of arguing, too) that we should't throw out our big box of 5" floppy discs...programs on 11 discs and stuff. good times. of course if we do end up keeping them i'd ave to think of something fn cnd cool to make out of them, like a breakfast in bed tray or something. what do you mean about the japanese not having sony laptops a decade after they should have? i saw this movie yesterday called Duets that's about 6 people who are really into karaoke whose misadventures lead them to this one big climactic competition night. check it out, i think you'll like it. last week maurice gave me dogville to watch. was great.

    By Blogger Gayyash, at Thu Jan 12, 02:56:00 PM GMT+2  

  • But the earthquake-----tell us about the earthquake!!!!!!!

    By Anonymous Um Rebecca, at Fri Jan 13, 01:57:00 AM GMT+2  

  • Gotta love creative definitions in action!
    While on the topic of contemporary Japanese movies...they're great! I remember this one I saw where to deal with overpopulation every few months Japan chooses a school class to send to an Island. The students are rigged with exploding collars and each thirteen year old is given a weapon. If at the end of like 48 hours more than one child is still alive they all get their heads blown off. Really good violence!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Jan 14, 01:37:00 AM GMT+2  

  • Hi Um Rebeccca. Sorry to disappoint you but I have absolutely no news about the earthquake. Didn't feel it. But, so as not to leave you empty-handed...in February 1996 I was chilling in my room in the afternoon and the birds in the tree canopy outside my window were acting funny and when I went to tell my dad that something interesting was going on, he told me to shut up, and that was that. Next day, at six in the morning I'm woken by a funny tapping sound and my bed shaking. I tell my brother to stop shaking my bed and he doesn't. I look over and he's asleep and his bed is shaking too and the jointed handles on the cupboard doors anre shaking, knocking the wooden panels. My dad then runs into our room all freaked out and I look at him as i nothing's going on. He something to the effect of 'ok asshole, you were right, now get over it'.

    By Blogger Gayyash, at Sat Jan 14, 03:17:00 AM GMT+2  

  • As I glanced people talking about the earthquake here, I had to say this.
    During the quake, the I was in the train and I felt nothing. No, hold on a sec, for the first time ever the train stopped rattling sideways. Guess that the quake has neutralized the train's vibration.

    By Blogger JPierre, at Sat Jan 14, 11:49:00 PM GMT+2  

  • worry not, ya um rebecca about the earthquake

    do i have anything to do with your being called um rebecca ?

    i do right ? :-)

    By Blogger oyzz, at Sun Jan 15, 04:15:00 PM GMT+2  

  • oyzz---of course!!!


    By Anonymous Um Rebecca, at Tue Jan 24, 02:55:00 AM GMT+2  

  • hi umm rebecca.

    By Blogger Gayyash, at Tue Jan 24, 02:56:00 AM GMT+2  

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