Bookish Excuse

UPDATE: Done! Download and listen to Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to Al-madinah and Meccah!

Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to Al-Madinah and MeccahPersonal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to Al-Madinah and Meccah by Richard Francis Burton

I'm currently recording and editing parts of the book's audio version. Coming from a third generation mutawwif family, this book touches the deepest vein in my Saudi heritage.

Yea, I really did put all three words in a single sentence, didn't I? Let's do it again and watch the fireworks go off.

Did you feel that? Wow.

The reason why I'm blogging about this (other than apologizing for recent excessive blogging hiatus) is because we're short on Proof Listeners. I want am trying to finish all recordings - Insha Llah - before Christmas, and would love if you could lend an ear and inflate a girl's ego by helping send this project into the IMMORTAL embrace of the public domain --  while tinkering with the dishes/laundry/the long drive home.

Think about it. How little you have to suffer (for my English is as broken as my Arabic), in return for that many of ETERNALLY AWESOME KARMA.


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Unhate Campaign – The film

I don’t endorse Benetton or have converted to mainstream consumerism. Unfortunately, this blog is a sucker for anything that seeks comfort zones between conflicting ideas, even if it is clad in a boring clothing line.

The 1:08 minute film challenged even some of my conservatisms. The ideas are presented loudly and almost rude, but I could live with that. After all, it is an advertisement.

It does not mean, however, that these ideas are untrue. These image have taken place in our most intimate circles, possibly affecting our daily decisions. And it is nice to see controversy presented in that desperate tone between fear of repercussion and longing to reach out.

PS. There is no such thing as “unhate”. You either love and hate (angry form of love) or suffer the opposite of both: indifference.



The rebel can never find peace. He knows what is good and, despite himself, does evil. The value which supports him is never given to him once and for all -- he must fight to uphold it, unceasingly. - Camus 

Last year, at the end of the meditation retreat, my teachers summoned me to their private chamber.

I swallowed hard.

Even when voluntarily submitting under tutelage, I still struggled with authority. It's just a prophetic streak, you know. You grow up being called a rebel, you kind of get used to and believe it, follow it. I rebelled even in silence and between 11 hours a day of sitting still.

To be summoned by authority, shit, that only happened when rebellion loses its cool.

"The way you talked during one-to-one meetings got us concerned," my teachers said. "We weren't sure if you were straight enough in the head to follow through the course."

*CLUNK* went my life preserving rebellion. I swore I'll never rebel against the muses and teachers and diet regiments ever again if only I could get out of this one with shreds of my dignity intact.

"So we googled you,"  they grinned collectively in that eerie way that comfortably enlightened ones do. "And found out that you weren't really crazy. Actually, you're quite (compliment, compliment, and more blotted out compliments) but your grammar needs improving."

Wait, what?

Ya, okay. I stand by my last post. I don't give a grub and internet personas may go to hell. But when real life grabbed me choking for words, google helped make rebellion look sexy again.



I feel scattered

“May you have warm words on a cold evening, a full moon on a dark night and a smooth road all the way to your door.” - Irish Blessings

I'm all over this place.

I'm in blogs, twitter accounts, chat, audiobooks, translations. It's like I don't want to be seen completely in a single light, on a single page. Like I don't want to be known, but still need to say things here and there. Like I'm afraid that anyone might see me completely, as whole, and then realize I'm not that awesome and then I have to do an acrobatic yoga pose or flash a boob.

Fuck this existential dip.

Come on, what does it all matter? Who cares? And why would I want to be remembered in the first place?

Don't all things pass?

Those parts that have been scattered had to be vomited out because I didn't, and I still don't want to be stuck. I loathe being stuck in love, lust, labor, hate, anger, word counts. Dammit. I still think my internet selves and work are shit, because they don't make out the real me. These internet selves are not who I am, or what matters.

I write myself out. I expulse myself in words and bytes and bullshit, so that by the time we meet, by the time the things that matter do happen, we can quietly simmer in the afterglow of things well done and fucking well said.

See if it still matters then. See what will remain between us in that smooth, uninterrupted wholesomeness then.


"Does the Noise in my Head Bother You?"

I'd give it 3.5 stars out 5, just for the musical diary. The rest, well, what'd you expect from a brain that's been loaded with drugs for too long?

I keep revisiting this quote from Steven Tyler's musical biography to summarize why I think people - in the end - should go through paying hefty wedding expenses or complicated OFFLINE dating rituals and get laid more often anyway. Whatever suits their social orientation.

You know there's always a rock n roll icon somewhere who has written the perfect paragraph in describing one of the finer moments of life.

For Sweet Jesus' sake. Of course.

I will tell you that some of the finer moments in my life were making love to a woman and coming together. There's an ancient magic ritual to this: if right before both of you come, you make a pact or say a prayer and focus on that thought, "Sweet Jesus, I want you to send this light"  to cure an illness, to achieve some deep purpose in your life, it will happen, because there is no power on earth stronger than that. There's electromagnetic theory behind it. If I hooked up that energy the instant you come to an electrode it would go mmmmmmmmmmbbrrrrgggnnnnnn. The little red needle would thrash like a rattlesnake's tail.

For what it's worth, I can believe in any Jesus every time that needle swung somewhere.  For the mere possibility of coming together.


On Homosexuality and Relationships

Discipline is remembering what you want. ~ David Campbell

When it comes to sexuality, whatever is our orientation, we are faced with the same complications:

One, mating hormones evolved for the survival of the species (that includes in securing the needs for acceptance, intimacy, love, etc.), and not just to complicate our lives with the expenses of a wedding.

Two, whatever is your orientation, labels do not improve or worsen your chances at getting laid. They're just labels. What we do beyond these labels is what matters.

Big Picture

Let's say that sex is the best item on life's menu. Let's also assume that people who eat this food, are happier than those who don't.

So what about the people who don't have it? The celibate, single, married for more than 30 months, impotent, fasting, etc. Are they all doomed with starvation of the soul, lack of intimacies and intellectual growth?

And how about heterosexual rapists, abusive partners, the pedophile and the rest of the kinks. I'm not judging, I'm just highlighting that they're straight too, but would you think that they are practicing heterosexuality in a healthy manner?

What I'm trying to say here is that, at some point, sex life and orientation wouldn't matter so much if you've got other ways to be happy. If you're practicing to hit the best of luck, and if you want to worthy of other people's time, money, love and friendship FOR MORE THAN WHAT YOU CAN DO IN BED.

Think big with me. A backstabbing, curmudgeonly, selfish and uneducated man would not make a better company even if he is straight. And that gay man, who served his God in wonderful and true art, will always be the celebrated Da Vinci.

Big Why Bother

Sticking to the rules is a daily practice.

There's always the easy way out. But you didn't read this far because you want to do the easy thing. You kept reading because you want to do the right thing, and it's hard. And we get it; because we have failed too and failure is a gift upon humanity, for how else do we learn?

And sometimes we forget why we bothered taking the hard unnatural way; to stay miserably abstinent, or monogamous, or be creative in releasing this goddamn gift of pent up energy in making money, serving ourselves, the country we love, or pleasing some unseen god.

Because it's a daily choice: Be the mere labels you carry, or be more.




I meant every word I fired at him.

Every possible bullet in my verbal arsenal skirred in calculated intervals. "You're a whining, annoying, unproductive failure. Nobody can stand you because your words sink them with embarrassment."

It was so easy to crush him. I took pleasure in it.  And the consequence was just as harsh.

I could have blamed exhaustion, KITAS renewal process, long travels. The underline was - feel free to call me superstitious - that I couldn't write for weeks after that exchange with David

Everything I said fired immediately back at me. My words, the only crutch to my pride and excuse for existence, sunk me with embarrassment the moment I misused them.

Words and words, in this language and that, verbal and physical, nevertheless only words and more words, deserted me.

Had they been said in anger, if passion may ever be an excuse, they would have been staggered and clumsy. Grammatically incorrect. But I still have the logs, and the words I used were so impeccable in form and delivery, that I could almost see the parts where I gasped for breath to italicize my cruelty.


If my words, after they had been said in variations, fall onto deaf ears and stiff extremities, I’d be the one to blame. It always felt like it's my fault, when I have had the opportunity to say the words, and none triggered a reaction.

I meant, "triggered the reaction I wanted". After all, I am a woman of words; if it’s not words that define me, then what good is there left of me?

Just words. My words. It's never about readers or listeners. Who cares about how they felt or thought? Whatever I say, no matter how I say it, I'm just trying to stay afloat with one more sentence. One more idea. One more quote to keep you interested. Lest I lose your attention and drown in my expanse of failures.

And the more I struggled to say the next eternally quotable phrase, the deeper the stink of fear soaked my letters.


Last night was climatic.

After three years of formal higher education in the most politicized region of the middle east, five years of blogging, all the eloquence and counting and, still, nothing prepared me for the humiliation that this writing assignment was going to deliver.

A former colleague asked me to be her referee. I have known her for years, professionally at first, then intimately. Yet there was nothing I could say about her that did not sound like a salesgirl high on immodesty and desperate to pay the rent by the end of the month.

Returning the blank referee form, I apologized for being worse than a failure. I apologized for being stupid.


I was nobody.

On the pavement of that busy street, under the naked afternoon sun, near the rush of destinations, I walked in the annual solitude of not having an identity. I was nobody, neither Indonesian or Saudi: my passport and residential permit at the immigration for renewal.

But, the afternoon! It was so sweet and unpretentious and golden that I relished being able to walk the street by myself, ignored and desperate to be happy when any day I could lose it all.

I am nobody. If I died there, nobody was going to know where to place me, even in a sentence.

"Who was the deceased? We don't know. Not really old, not really young. Though certainly alone and unknown."

What a perfect eulogy, I thought.

And that’s when he texted me.

"I have failed at things, but I'm not a failure. I have a life and it's rough, but you know what it's like. Your words hurt me, but I understand why you're hurt. And it’s okay, it’s going to be okay."

That's when my words flowed again. When his words forgave mine.

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