It’s been more than a few days since I heard the news. I stumbled across it by accident by having to find someone on Facebook. A place I avoid like plague. A place where clicking on ‘like’ or ‘friend’ apparently means something to a large sector of the unwashed…or is that brainwashed? …who spend inordinate amounts of time thinking they are making social contact.

Same day reports and comments made up the top new notifications, and I figured somehow in my guts it was true. A friend and brother, Obayda Habbal was dead. All those RIP comments, like someones death is an abbreviation on a Looney Tunes tomb stone…..and oh my God, all the ‘likes.’ A fucking Wile E. Coyote wake online.

It’s taken a few days. No one gmails to share the news. They click ‘like’ and move on. But I can’t do that.

Ubayda was one of my closest friends for the years I was in Syria. He got me back to playing guitar, I made him perform in plays by George B. Shaw in local theatres. He turned me on to that movie with the stupid ass title Fight Club, I introduced him to Tom Waits.

Things people share, by word of mouth and trust of intention; saying you, my friend will ‘get this’ ….this is something of value, I know you will understand. It went beyond that, as the years went by and life got vile and wonderfully demented at the same time. Hours, days, the projects, the impromptu guitar concerts on street corners at three am , down the street from Abu Rumaneh…….or clubs like Sixties. Arabic coffee and long long chats with Mazen at Dawn music of why certain guitar solos were immortal, downloading sheet music tabs. Rehearsals, performances, but also just a whole shitton of dinners , coffees, long late night rambles when even the restless dead in that dark house in Jisr al Abyad were silent. It was, to steal another man’s words. A long , strange trip. Things like that happen two, three times in a lifetime maybe.

Things changed, we got older…..the gang of four or five of us that would hang out in the damndest places in Damascus sifted down. People moved out, moved on. Lives changed, then those odd three am phone calls in a world where every call now seems like it’s placed at three am.

And war came. And everyone chose sides it seemed. And one day the news broke that Obayda was ‘disappeared.’ A sterile word meaning they were held in a limbo no one could call, or even Facebook. And war went on. And spread. And got more evil than anyone could have imagined. It seems Syria was going to show Lebanon how a proper civil war ought to be run.

Not too long ago, words penned under another reasoning kept coming back to me. And now the news, tabloids and all, and the governments around the world, and the million refugees here in Lebanon, and well, all of us, kind of simultaneous like? Realized. This wasn’t going to be a Darth Vader confrontation. The words still burn in my skull:

There’s nothing in the streets, looks any different to me,

And the slogans are replaced by-the-by

And the parting on the left, is now parting on the right,

And the beards have all grown longer, overnight…

I tip my hat to the New Constitution,

Take a bow for the New Revolution,

Smile and grin at the change all around,

Pick up my guitar and play,

Just like yesterday,

And I get on my knees and pray

We don’t get fooled again…….

Don’t get fooled again.

Seems we did though. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss…but when I moved from Syria about ten years ago, I recall having Obayda keep my acoustic, which I sorta traded for his first electric. And all I can think? Is that for varied reasons, both those guitars gather dust. Obayda can’t play, ever again. And I don’t want to at the moment.

And I can’t click ‘like.’ That’s such feeble, braindead space monkey shit in times like this. Just say No, Just click, ‘like’. Friend me. All kinds of foul shit these days and all kinds of people we used to be turning into toadies of Google and Zuckerman.

All kinds of bodies coming home in boxes. For the lucky few. What kind of mass graves will be found when this is all over? Can I even imagine a time when it’s over as the fear grows and spreads in Lebanon? Questions, questions, stupid ass questions.

Somedays, it seems we have all failed so miserably. So miserably as to almost be perfect failure. We get fooled on so many levels in so many ways, over and over and over.

Just click ‘like.’

That movie with the stupid ass title that galvanized an X generation keeps returning to me too. Sometimes it seemed I play Jack to Obayda’s Tyler, sometimes the opposite. And the idiocy quotient of the world ramped up till it’s all , I dunno, for lack of a better word? Shit.

Which is a stupid ass space monkey answer. Best I can do at the moment.

I can’t shake either, the image of Pahlanuik’s space monkeys idiotically chanting that, in death, members of Project Mayhem have a name.

His name is Obayda Habbal. His name is Obayda Habbal. It’s better than the tweets and likes and clever quips of a new dark age. It is after all a full sentence at least. Maybe that’s some kinda of tradition to maintain? Talking in full sentences. Saying hard to say things. Knowing when the words fail, and trying to fail ever better.

Yeah, in death? People have a name.

His name is Obayda Habbal.




Once, several years back, I ran a list of words used by bullshit journalists to make their job easier. Words that lose meaning fast but save time. You might consider the following in light of the civil war in Syria. Feel free to comment and add your own.

ACTIVISTS: from the beginning of the conflict in Syria? ‘Activists’ have become some new breed of human being. These were the people supplying a lot of on the ground footage. Such footage was always ‘unverifiable’ first off. Secondly, does someone taking phone cam pictures make them an activist?  Or writing what they saw. And why the proviso that it is not up to some international standard of journalism?

Add to that the fact that acvist is usually reserved for people who demonstrate and protest wrongs in their society or world. The term activist then, implies that these people are the ‘good guys.’ Poliitcal good guys. I’m not going to argue that points

Just not good enough for us to believe them. Suggested  proper  words: ‘civilian’ or ‘Free Army supporters” or “Assad supporters. Though most of them meriting  government support or bear the golden stamp of SANA approval.  SANA, to be frank, is not an independent news agency. It is the government’s press outlet.

STRONGHOLD: usually called an attack on a Hizbullah ‘stronghold’ The word stronghold conjures automatically a central base of military forces.  As it stands, the Dahya in South Beirut,or  Hermel, and Ba’albak, is reported along the lines of “Hizbullah Stronghold Hit’  These places may be predominantly Shia.  Hizbullah offices may be in that particular block. Very often  Press Offices, Arhve Centers, Charity organizations and naturally, poliical offices.  What of the civilians, pro and anti Hizbullah, subjected to the engines of terror. As the situation deteriorates, will we start seeing Christian Strongholds…….Lebanese Forces strongholds, Sunni Strongholds? That makes it much more palatable to news readers around the world despite the fact that very often it is the civilian population being rocketed. It’s safe, its good strategy, to target military centers of your enemy. Targeting neighborhoods of Shia, Druze, Sunni or Christian? is not usually a military target.  Can’t you be a  bit more to the point ? And more human?

AN OFFSHOOT OF SHIA ISLAM: ie, the Allawis. Do your homework people. More apropros might be a heterdox sect arising from Orthodox Shiism. As it stands, this offshot adds fuel to the fire on the ground that somehow they are the same thing. If they were the same thing , former Syrian Mufti Ahmed Kuftaro would not have needed a fatwa to assure people that the Allawis are considered a sect within the confines of Islam. Its simple word crunching to readers who now see a very grey and volatile situation boiled down to a Sunni/Shia war.

SUNNI: Sunni’s have usually made a point to distance themselves from the extremists sects known as Salafi, Wahhabi, or Takfiri, depending upon who you speak with. Again. Get it right. Sunni extremists are far more misleading than the term Salafi, often freely used by Salfists themselves. Among the real scholars of Islam in Sunni circles? The Salafis are a corrupEyted, relatively new innovation in Islam.

REGIME: An oldy, but goodie. Just a bit too colorful to label a regime as black, evil and dictatorial. Assad’s government is a regime. The US government is ? A ‘government’….go figure. Iran is naturally a ‘regime’. Turkey is not. Say the latest news reports on their crackdowns on dissent. Egypt   it appears, may be in between regimes. Most regimes are autocratic rule. Nearly all of them are reserved for what George Carlin once called ‘brown people’. Or in his particular rant, people we white people can bomb.  Is Saudi a regime?The pieces of Afghanistan? North Korea versus South Korea? China? Russia? Pakistan? Sri Lanka? Jordan?

Especially in light, from a US-centric point of view, that country has often stopped at nothing to keep their favorite ‘ regimes’ in power.

Define your terms people. Otherwise we are in for another long bout of lazy, bullshit journalism that only several years ago all ‘copypasta’ed’ the infamous “worst fighting since the 1975 to 1990 civil war to describe Lebanon’s unrest. A few journalists out there do bother to use appropriate language.  Most don’t .    If you can’t come up with an accurate phrase by deadline time? I suggest you find another job.