Saturday, November 9, 2013

Individual Cells (The Last Word)




This is not about who says the last word 
It is not about who wins and who gets defeated
It is not about whose voice is not heard
Not about who plays a fair game and who is cheated

This is about people who have lost their way
It's about people who had a bit too much to say
About people who forgot the sound of their voice
And thought that fight was inevitable, with no other choice

This is about a city that listened so much
And when it wanted to speak, it was brutally hushed
A city that raised generation after generation
That embraced variety and differences into one nation

It's about a country that used to be a mother
And now she sees her children killing each other
A country that wrote history before history was written
That made its name her children's only religion

This is not about who says the last word. 
Yet here we are still arguing about who's to blame
Not about the individual legacy we leave in this world
Get over your ego, remember we all have one last name

This is not about who laughs at the end
There will be nothing left to laugh about but ourselves
This is about the kind of message we ultimately send
Freedom comes when we step out from our individual cells





Monday, November 4, 2013

Colors

Colors

Shades you illuminate or dim
Saturation you try to tame
To know them all chances are slim
To love only one, is a shame

Open up your eyes to colors dark and bright
Blue, green, red, orange, yellow,  and purple
Rotate them round and round they all become white
Don't limit what is naturally fertile

Palette of life is not black & white
Monotony paints with only one brush
Passionate art has to diversify
It has to fall in love, not settle with a crush

Open up your eyes to colors dark and bright
Blue, green, red, orange, yellow,  and purple
Rotate them round and round they all become white
Don't limit what is naturally fertile


We're born to different cultures, we have different colors
Many religions, but the message is always love
Our need to be right, our greed make us kill each other
Our different Gods cry over us, how much is enough!

Open up your heart to what you don't know
Accept, respect, embrace, and learn to love
It's not just your knowledge, it's the compassion you show
And love is one thing we're all capable of

Open up your eyes to colors dark and bright
Blue, green, red, orange, yellow,  and purple
Rotate them round and round they all become white
Don't limit what is beautifully fertile 


Open up your ears to hear all the music Soulful, Jazzy, pop, upbeat and heartfelt Major notes can be the arrows of cupid It's the Minor notes that make your heart melt




Sunday, October 13, 2013

My Language, My Religion!






You sat across the table from me
Said that you spoke my language fluently
You asked me if I became Americanized
Do I pray five times a day or am I baptized
You asked me if I were married or divorced
Am I strict with my wife, do I use force
You looked around and scorned all you see
You claimed you spoke my language with fluency

Did my lack of interest give you the green light
To continue the judgment of your ignorant sight
Wasn't my lack of interaction back a red flag
I am starting to think you're color blind, you nosy nag
Did my cold face expression feel warm to you
Are you capable of emotions, please get a clue
When I said "that is a personal" was that not a sign
Your Arabic language entitlement has crossed the line

Let me tell something about language and religion
I'll say it even though I know you won't listen
You could be Saudi, Algerian, Libyan, Kuwaiti or Tunisian
You speak my language, but you don't share my vision
I've seen how you bombed yourself in the name of God
The scattered pieces of bodies in rivers of blood
I hear your language, I understand its vocabulary
But when you put your words together, It's foreign to me

I'm Syrian, I take pride in my upbringing
My mosques and churches are always harmoniously singing
I'm Syrian, I take pride in my culture
No priest or preacher taught me hatred on the alter
I'm Syrian, the language I speak is Arabic
You speak it too, but it doesn't mean we should click
My actions, my emotions, and my philosophy are my language
You are nothing but a barbaric, causing humanity anguish

You tried to break me but no, I do not break
I'm Syrian more than Arabic, so make no mistake
That coworker of mine, you call evil foreign
Is my family for we have more things in common
Than the religion and language that define your existence
Humanity is foreign to you, for it has essence 
Go back to your dessert, enjoy your oil and sand made cultures
We have nothing in common, I don't relate to butchers





لغتي،  ديانتي،




جلست عبر طاولتي،
قلت انك بفصاحة تتكلم لغتي، 
سألتني إن كنت أصبحت أميركياً، 
وإن كنت مسلماً أم مسيحياً،
هل أنا متزوج أم مطلق، 
هل تعاملي بشدة مع امرأتي أمر مطلق، 
شعرت بأن كل ما حولك قبيح، 
وقلت أنك بالعربي ضالع فصيح،

هل كان عدم اهتمامي بحديثك ضوءًا أخضر، 
لتحكم أكثر على ما تجهله وتسخر،
ألم تر عدم مشاركتي لمنطقك إشارة حمراء، 
لتقف عن حكمك على الغرب بإزدراء،
ألم تشعر بأن معالم وجهي تحولت من دافئة إلى باردة، 
أم أن الأحاسيس عندك خامدة،
ألم تكن عبارة "هذه اسئلة شخصية" كافية كرد، 
بأن إستحقاق لغتك العربية تجاوز كل حد،

دعني أخبرك عن اللغة والدين، 
بأمور لن تفهمها وأنا يقين،
قد تكون سعودياً ليبياً، كويتياً، جزائرياً، أو تونسياً، 
مستعداً لأن تدافع بروحك عما تسميه عملا إنسانياً،
تفجر نفسك بإسم تطهير الأرض من الكفار، 
فتتلاشى أجزاء الجثث، وتجري الدماء انهار، 
سمعت لغتك، فهمت كلماتها العربية، 
ولكن عندما أضفت منطقك إليها، أصبحت أعجمية،

أنا سوري وأنا فخور بنشأتي، 
جوامعي وكنائسي تغني معاً ببلدتي، 
أنا سوري و تراثي غني و عريق،
علمني رجال الدين أن جاري مسلماً أم مسيحياً كان هو أخ و صديق،
أنا سوري ولغتي هي لغة المنطق،
وكونك تميز حروفها لا يعني اننا سنتفق ،
فاللغة هي أداة تواصل وتعبير، 
أما أنت فبربري تتواصل كالبهائم والبعير، 

حاولت أن تكسرني ولكن أنا لن انكسر،
فأنا سوري حر من قيود الذل و الأسر،
هذا الزميل الأجنبي هو إنسان وليس كافر، 
وقد أصبح عائلتي لانه بانسانيته ما زال قادر، 
على التمييز بين الخطأ والصواب، 
القتل وأكل القلب والكبد ليس هو الجواب، 
فأذهب إلى صحرائك إلى ثقافة النفط والرمال، 
لسنا متشابهان فأنا لم ابع ضميري وعروبتي مقابل حفنة من الأموال.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

TOEFL? ME?








On July 7th 1999, I took a test called TOEFL in Damascus Syria and scored 253. Based on the scales back then, I was pretty damn proud of my score as a result of my previous years of studying English. 

I moved to the United States five months later, on December 6 1999 to be exact, and I have been tutoring English as a second language for, Gosh, I don't even know how many years now. I also have been tutoring to university students different courses from law, to business, to architecture. Today, as I submit all my transcripts to one of the schools in Los Angeles to start my masters program, I have been told that my TOEFL test is not only old, but also not a computer base test, so I need to retake it. 


I explained that I moved to the United States right after I took the TOEFL. I added that my English language in an English speaking country would naturally get better, not worse. That however did not matter, I need to retake the test that I have been tutoring for several years. I don't mind, I am not even complaining, I do not claim that my English is perfect, I just find it after 70 blogs, two English records, a third in process, and damn straight "A" grades for the students I am tutoring, a bit ironic that's all :)






Sunday, September 1, 2013

A Letter To Barak Obama!




















Dear Mr. President,

In 1983, Vanessa Williams became the first African-American woman crowed Miss America, but due to published nude photographs of her, that title was revoked.
In 2009 you accepted the Noble Peace Prize, which is according to the Oxford dictionary, “The world's most prestigious prize, awarded for the ‘preservation of peace”. That honor equates your achievements with legends such as Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Dalai Lama, and Martin Luther king, Jr. to name a few.


As a president of a great nation, your job is to lead, yet to serve the best interest of that nation. There should not be any favoritism, special interests, or preferences that distract you from achieving justice and equality in and outside our nation. You are supposed to lead … by example. There should not be any egos interfering in your mission, let alone your own ego. However, you attributed the capture and execution of Osama Bin Laden solely to yourself and addressed the American citizens in the first person, taking full credit of that victory, which coincided right before the renewal of your second presidency term. You came up with a healthcare that you named after yourself, you very own name. You did not choose names such as “Equal health care”, or “Health-care for all”, or anything that reflects the so-called better healthcare for all Americans. No, your choice was your very own name instead.

But you were given the benefit of the doubt when you could not bring back the country to an economic stability because the former president caused too much damage. During your second term, the number of Americans depending on welfare has doubled, and there are still no signs of hope in the near future. Yet those are minor issues in my letter to you. The real issue is that you said "I say what I mean and I mean what I say" and according to you, you are not George Bush, and yet, you have declared war on Syria without taking the approval of your very own people and without any legitimate reason. 



Mr. President, help me understand what makes you think you are different from other presidents. We Americans have been deceived and lied to by other presidents over and over, however, investigations always clarified and revealed their lies and deception. You said you were different. Let me bring to your attention samples from the past decade and please tell me how those were any different from you. Bill Clinton looked into the Camera and swore under oath that he did not have sex with Monica Lewinsky, yet the truth surfaced sooner than he thought it would and took away his credibility as an honest man, let alone a president. George Bush said we were going to Iraq to seize weapons of mass destruction, his administration went as far as saying they knew where those weapons were, and yet after destroying a country and killing its people, it became clear that there were no such weapons and it was used as an excuse to invade Iraq and make new business deals. Today, you say that Syria crossed the red line by using chemical weapons, your administration framed Bashar Al-Assad; a so-called dictator according to you and the media, and yet when the challenge of proving that the Syrian regime was behind it, your secretary of state John Kerry said that it did not matter who used those weapons anymore, and that we have to strike. Should we go back in time to other examples and illustrate the destruction of so many countries? How do you propose taking charge exactly when you make your statements about Syria right after Bill Clinton calls you a wuss? How do you support democracy in the Middle East when you clearly see the results in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, to name a few of the crisis in the so-called Arab Spring. But most of all Mr. President, how do you exactly propose your worthiness of that Nobel Peace Prize when you declare war on any country and increase the number of the already overwhelming number of casualties and refugees.


When mother Teresa was asked to join a campaign to fight terror, she said she would join a campaign that spreads love and peace. Though not in the exact words, she chose positive words in her support. When you were called a wuss about your stand of what is happening in Syria, you declared war. You and mother Teresa are in one category?

Mr. President, Vanessa Williams was deprived of her Miss America title, but no one can deny that although her title was revoked, her beauty was not. However, although you backed out of the strike against Syria, that Noble Peace prize still feels like it belongs to someone else, someone who does not declare war in cold blood and call for more slaughtering and killing after financially supporting terrorism in the Middle East under fake humanitarian agendas. Regardless of what you think of yourself, you should have been crowned Miss America and that Noble Peace Prize should have been given to Vanessa Williams instead.




When it happens to one of your own


When it happens to one of your own

We've heard of crimes of hatred, of wars, we've reasoned with obstruction, 
We've heard about a better  tomorrow but the "now" is beyond destroyed
We've heard of children too pure to mingle in worldly corruption, 
Who have gone to a better place but left their parents' plans null and void

A country called Earth has been generous in sacrificing countless martyrs
For the sake of noble greed, righteousness, power, crowns, and thrones
The country fell victim to civil wars caused by its sophisticated charters
That divided, labeled, classified, organized, objectified, condemned and atoned

A boy went out playing, racing, breathing, dreaming, laughing, dancing
He did not know the rules of life, he did not know he was supposed to belong
He loved and shared, he listened and obeyed, his heart was surpassing
He said to his parents when his heartbeats became still, don't cry I'm home


To our sweet angel, our Martyr Georgio Rabbat. You have gone too soon 



Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Work Place

The Work Place





I have worked with incredible, smart, funny, professional, helpful, warm, genuine, sharp, and inspiring people. I have learned so much from them. They helped me shape the "man at work" I am today, and in some cases, the in-and-out of work man I am today

I've learned to have fun and not be afraid to use my sense of humor while at work. To care about the person sitting next to me and the man sitting opposite of me. To be objective and not take so many things personally. To listen without feeling the need to match the tone of an angry co-worker or customer. To take initiatives and be creative. To help, to be authentic, and to care!

Learn at work, make it your school, regardless of your position. Every employee has something valuable to contribute. If you think one or more of them is too lousy and has nothing to offer, then be that incredible person who inspires them to contribute, so that one day they too will say when they think of you and the difference you made in their lives "I have worked with incredible, smart, funny, professional, helpful, warm, genuine, sharp, and inspiring people, and they helped me shape the man at work I am today". 



Tuesday, July 9, 2013

A Star is Born


A Star is Born

I look up to the sky and see only one star
Shining down on me and I wonder in my heart
Why you had to leave so soon like that
If I could turn time back
If I could go that far

I would have told you the things that
I held back thinking there's time yet
I'd have loved you more if more
Is possible, would I have regrets

If I could hold you tight, I'd never let you go
If I could save you from the night, from fate, from the unknown
But you were the son of life, not just mine
If I could turn back time
If I could play it back and play it slow

I would have told you the things that
I held back thinking there's time yet
I'd have loved you more if more
Is possible, would I have regrets

I showed you the way but I didn't always hold your hand
It was for you to become a man and now I can't comprehend
Why you came to light up my life then depart faster than the light
And leave me with so much darkness, it feels like an eternal night

I look up to the sky, you're brighter than the moon
Forgive me when I cry, without you I'm out of tune
I stretch my hands to touch your face
But you're light years away in space
I'm scarred, for you have gone way too soon

I should have told you the things that
I held back thinking there's time yet
I should have loved you more if more
Is possible, since my love for you is the greatest

 ولد نجم 

 أنظر إلى السماء وأرى فقط نجم واحد 
يشع علي فأتسأل من قلبي 
لم كان عليك الرحيل بهذه السرعة 
لو استطعت إعادة الزمن، لو استطعت الرجوع إلى الماضي 

لكنت أخبرتك كل الأشياء التي 
أخبأتها مفكرا لا يزال يوجد وقت 
لكنت أحببتك أكثر إن كان الأكثر ممكن
فهل كان يكون لدي أي ندم 

إن استطعت ضمك بقوه، لكنت لن أتركك أبدا 
لكنت حميتك من الليل، من القدر، من المجهول 
ولكنك كنت إبن الحياة، وليس ابني فقط 
لو استطعت إعادة الزمن لو استطعت إعادة عيشه ببطء 

لكنت أخبرتك كل الأشياء التي 
أخبأتها مفكرا لا يزال يوجد وقت 
لكنت أحببتك أكثر إن كان الأكثر ممكن
فهل كان يكون لدي أي ندم 

أريتك الطريق ولكن لم أمسك يدك طول الوقت 
لاني أردتك أن تصبح رجلا والآن لا استطيع الادراك 
لم أتيت لتنير حياتي ثم ترحل بسرعة البرق 
وتتركني لظلام شديد، وكأنه ليل أبدي

أنظر إلى السماء، أنت أكثر إضاءة من القمر 
سامحني عندما أبكي، بدونك لا يوجد موسيقا في حياتي 
أمد يداي لالمس وجهك 
ولكنك بعيدا في الفضاء 
وأنا مجروح لذهابك قبل الأوان 

كان يجب أن أخبرك كل الأشياء التي 
أخبأتها مفكرا لا يزال يوجد وقت 
كان يجب أن أحبك أكثر إن كان الأكثر ممكن
لان حبي لك هو الأعظم 



In memory of Georgio Rabbat




Friday, January 25, 2013

I'm not praying for your God






I'm not praying for your God
I'm not practicing your doctrines
I don't have to understand your religious views
To me, those are just toxic scenes 

When I pray, I pray for love instead
Not because I have to, as some prophet said 
I pray for peace, equality, and love to spread
For prosperity beyond the daily bread

Your God comes in many shapes and colors
With fine prints, complicated and hatched
My God is love, it's unconditional
It's simple with no guilt strings attached

If I want to watch a play, there's the theater
To know the latest trend, there are fashion runways
If I want to socialize, there are coffee bars
And yet I see them all in your houses of praise!

So I'm not praying for your God
The same God who stained our history with blood
The same God who dragged humanity in mud
Forgive me, don't recruit me, because I'm not






Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Before & After


To many of us, the before and after concept of anything that we deal with on daily basis, along with the process of how it was done, is somehow intriguing. I had a chance to work on a project that I wanted to share with you to give you an idea on how little transforming your home could cost, as long as you put the work into it yourself of course. 

Let's keep a couple of things in mind, like you, I'm employed, and this is not my full-time Job. It's something I did on the side. Also, I'm not trained in this department, I don't know the names of fabrics, the shades of colors, or the materials professionally used in "home makeover"s. What I do know, is that I can use my imagination and a trick or two in visual effects to make things work and look beautiful and fresh. 

The place is a cookie cutter condo that is built in 1981 in a charming tudor style building in North Hollywood/Valley Village area. The very first thing that comes to anyone's attention is how the little 1037 sq ft space being divided and distributed within the unit.

The minute you walk into the condo, you cannot help but notice how small the living room is and how much better it could have been divided if more space was taken away from the dinning area behind it, which is separated with a wall and the laundry appliances behind that wall. So the main project is to bring the living room into life by making it look bigger, brighter, and work with the settings it has that cannot be altered such as entrance, stairs, fireplace, window … etc.

Before I continue here, I'd like to say that the unit has so much storage in it, so a thought of breaking down the wall and moving the laundry upstairs so that the space would be one continuing big space throughout the dinning area was not completely out of question. Especially when there's the perfect spot/closet between the two bedrooms upstairs that has just the right size for stackable appliances. 

The two obstacles that stood in the way were the limited time I was given (3 days) and the limited budget. Moving the laundry upstairs was immediately out of question, so what do I do to make the small living room look big? Light, almost white fresh paint and light colored furniture would do. But a big mirror is the first trick. I went to a small business around the corner of Laurel Cyn and Magnolia called "Square Deal" and bargained a custom made mirror from $ 700 to $ 310 as long as I paid him cash. White frame that goes well with the shutters was a must too.

So the wall that I wanted demolished is now covered with a wall size mirror, where would I put the TV? The previous owner had the TV on that wall and didn't utilize the fireplace to its full warm potential, especially on those cold nights in winter time (and we have those in southern California like … seven a year). Here's a picture before and after.




 




The TV was placed on top of the fireplace and the electrician flaked on me three days in row. I guess a small project was not worth his time. I visited my favorite store which you're going to read its name over and over in this blog, home depot that is, and I purchased a flat white cord extension that I extended from the electric plug, up to the TV itself going through the side of the fireplace that faces the wall and placed an ikea little red vase in front of it so it's not visible. That part went down in cost from $ 200 plus parts to $ 8.99 plus tax. As for the signal, I purchased from Costco.com a wireless transmitter for only $ 185, the result was, not only that saved the cost of drilling the wall behind the TV, but also it saved so much space since the Tivo, DVD, internet router AND the transmitter, were out of sight on the top shelf in the coat closet, while the DVDs were neatly organized below them.

The the next project was to change the old fashioned brick fireplace into something more modern and contemporary that would go with the two beautiful red and white Tillary sofas from West Elm in Santa Monica where I was able to buy two for almost the price of one by just being so nice to the extremely helpful manager of that store who also shipped them at no additional cost to the unit. To make the change to the fire place was not as simple as going to home depot and buying expensive marble tiles. Remember, this is a do-it-yourself-project with a very limited budget, so how about buying black and white paint and making different shades from them? That, along with buying the gas log (Which were surprisingly expensive upon doing a research online) did it. I finally managed to take off the cap of the gas pipe that was there for over 15 years according to the two previous owners who never used the fireplace as a source of heat, and I connected the gas log myself that I bought from ACE in Sherman Oaks at a special price by saying the word "I'll pay cash" that added a nice touch to the already discounted price, and there it is before and after.








The dinning area was another must do project. As charming as it looks in the picture, I had to think of a way to fit the electric piano into it without making it look out of place. So back to the same trick, making everything white, which goes well with the kitchen cabinets next it. After an extensive research on what is the right table and the chairs that go well with it, CB2 with their original simple elegant looking natural wood/white table, and Ikea chairs were the right choice, the matched so well as if they came together. 






Home depot's special $50 small cabinet that fits perfectly under the window with the see-through white window treatment created a nice ambience to the dinning room. The piano fit perfectly and three brown framed mirrors were repainted in black before they were hung on top of it. Then as two final touches were; the chandelier was replaced with a modern small metal and black ceiling fan, along with a light colored poster from allposters.com was placed on the backside of the kitchen cabinet that separates the kitchen and the dinning room. As for the lights, that's another effect that adds a lot of warmth to the room that I'll talk about later.











The guest 1/2 bathroom was next, and because of my love of colors, and the fact that I couldn't put colors due to the small spaces, I went the other extreme and painted it a very dark color while accented it with mostly white pieces to show contrast. Here are some pictures. 









Going upstairs, there was a tiny little project that you would think wouldn't make such a difference, but keeping the theme modern, it was a must. After sanding the wood part of the stair railing, I got rid of the brown and beige color to make it one solid shiny black color topping the white railing while I painted the wall next to it a very light blue. 







Going downstairs, three long mirrors from Ikea were placed perfectly next to each other, again, to create an illusion that the place looks big.







You can also see two light colored original paintings placed on the blue wall facing a purple also original painting that was placed between the bathroom and office doors. 












The office had to be utilized as a guest room too. The office was the smallest room in the unit and it was painted pink since the previous owner used it as a bedroom for her newly born baby girl. Naturally I painted it off-white and selected a see-through glass office from Pottery Barn so it wouldn't look cluttered with furniture. Also an all glass bookcase was placed next to the office for the same reason. Now we're left with a couch that can be a daybed as well. A day bed that gets opened up was not an option, again, the space. So I was left with a twin bed option that can be converted to a couch looking piece of furniture and that at the same time matches the Stainless steel furniture in the office. After looking online for the frame, I made a comparison and was able to find the very same frame for a good $ 50 less than everywhere else through walmart.com with free shipping if I picked it up myself. Done, done, and done. ($ 119.00 and $ 100 for a brand new mattress).

















The master bedroom, now that's a lot of work. After painting the walls a very light green (hard to notice), the new resident insisted on not having any framed picture over his head lest an earthquake takes place and the frame falls and kills him.  










As for the big empty wall over the bed, the new resident was a hardcore fan of a singer/songwriter called Tony Rabbat, I had to purchase a big poster and just pin it to the wall so in case of an earthquake, no shattered glass fall on him. I had a choice of buying the print from Fedex in colors for $ 186.00 or black and white for $ 7.00. The choice was clear and the hardcore fan has to settle with less colors.












The window treatment was all feminine flourish design including the long pillow that makes a prefect reading seat by the window. Due to the budget, blinds were purchased from Walmart and fabric paint from Michaels. The top window treatment was not replaced with anything except paint. The rolling blinds were thrown away and the pillow fabric was painted black to cover the flowers as much as possible. The blind white color worked nicely with the freshly painted window frames transforming their look from classic brown to striking shiny black modern look.







As a rule, do not rely on ceiling lights. After replacing many light fixtures to the energy saving lights, the ceiling in both the living room and the kitchen were planted with regular lights and replacing them with dimmable energy saving lights would have cost a fortune, so adding light fixtures here did both accent the place and provided a softer side light that created a coziness to the place at night. Here are some pictures.





















There you have it, the simple make over is …..  over, without exceeding the budget. I hope you like the little project of "before and after". But I hope the new owner loves it so that he hires me again in the future