Thursday, September 28, 2006

Profile: The Citizen

The new generation of dispossessed Palestinians is presented with very limited options that would allow for their awaited return, or even offer a manageable compromise. While this generation of (“active”) Palestinians (age group19-50) is still romanticizing with the fantasies and daydreams of complete liberation and the return to a land they only heard and read about, the Zionists respond with the imposition of concrete facts (literally). Maybe these daydreams were legitimate and reasonable in the previous era of the struggle, but under the current necessity for re-evaluation, the options for realizing the dream needs to be re-examined:

An all out War. An open “army against army” fight for the right of existence: may the real god chosen people win. Under the current situation, the balance of power is definitely not in favor of the Palestinians, and they will not come out victorious under this format, even if they were backed up with 3,000-5,000 angels. This (preferred) solution will have to wait, and maybe the current generation’s duty is to help set the stage for it.

A Guerilla War. An option made popular again after the Hizbollah victory, ignoring the fact that Palestinians were the pioneers of this tactic. Unfortunately, the previous experiences of 1970, 1982, and the Second Intifada have proved that this kind of fighting is usually sabotaged by elements indiscipline and factions rivalries. Also, it proved that even when it is at the peak of its success, it is ineffective in achieving on-the-ground gains or acquiring land. Under the current indifference of the international community, the Zionists will not hesitate in using excessive force that will overpower an unorganized or an under-armed such tactics.

Qualitative Operations. Whether it involves martyr-bombings, planes hijackings, targeted assassinations or any other modern or 70’s-style special operations, the time for such things has expired. What used to be borderline acceptable and was able to generate some attention and sympathy to the cause, is now considered straight out (Terrorism). The main and big-picture objectives of such operations cannot be realized nowadays.

An all out Peace. Whether the majority of Palestinians are with or against such a solution is irrelevant, since the Zionists are not willing to consider it in the first place. The Zionists hold all the cards, all the land and all the power. With the increasing unconcern of the international community and its lack of courage and initiative, the Zionists have no reason to offer any compromises. In addition, under the current power disparity, any solution that will try to be passed as peace will not meet the Palestinians aspirations, and will guarantee that the above subject group will remain in Diaspora.

The Solution: A complete maintenance and reform of the current overall situation that will generate a capable and qualified system, that is ready for war or peace options.

For this generation of Palestinians in Jordan the “Nationalization: التوطين : The integration of them in the Jordanian society beyond any recognition of origin or hopes of return” is not a potential issue or a pending danger, it is a FACT. A whole generation which was born, grew up, got educated, got married, and is working in Jordan, cannot refer to itself but as Jordanians. Would they have preferred a life in, for example, Lebanon that offers “protection” against “Nationalization” by isolating them under inhumane conditions, confining them to worn-out camps that still has OPEN channel sanitary systems, and banning them from work, education and any human-life practices? Absolutely not. Could it be part of the plan all along? Maybe. But this is not the issue of debate here. The problem is that despite the deep, inseparable and practically permanent incorporation, it is still being exploited as a tool to marginalize the whole population. When faced with a national crisis at the highest level, some act with the attitude of: “This not my country anyway, and it is none of my business. Actually I am going home soon.” , and the other half act with the mentality of: “It does not matter, as long as I can get my drivers license without taking the test”.

So let’s say you have a (self-declared) prince who is insignificant in, say area (A). He strikes a deal with country (B) to trade-in his father for his own farm. He hires fighting slaves from (C) to force the unwelcoming residents of the appointed (E) into submission and slavery. He then works with some (Z)’s to split and to expand his farm across (W) and enslave some more people. A very natural and expected scenario, within the lines of the imperialist plots and their need for local agents to manage the colonies at the lowest expenses. The laughable part is the ability of the petty dynasty, over 50 years of exploitation, wealth accumulation and shady regional roles, to rally the slaves (from all roots and origins) against each other, and convince them that the slave master is the only legitimate moderator and protector of their social cohesion! Recycled tired clichés serves a reverse role as a constant reminder that enforces a split in the efforts of the slaves, that will automatically dismantle any call of objection and or an attempt of change.

The true national unity is more obvious through what all Jordanians have in common:

-Living under continuously and rapidly deteriorating situation on every level. Basic living commodities of food and shelter (let alone health and education) are reaching critical scarcity levels for the majority.

-Witnessing the garage sale of the country in bulk and retail, from complete cities to basic assets, everything must go (to secret bank accounts).
(On the bright side the Head of the "Parliament", promised an anti-corruption law, or a sock in the mouth for every citizen, whichever his background deems more important).

-Anticipating and looking forward for a day to leave the plantation permanently, on the first possible chance, while investing in and doing whatever it takes to “achieve” so.

-Dealing with the situation with apathy and complete satisfaction with minimal, instantaneous, and individual gains.

The question remains, When does it become appropriate to ask for a change? What rock bottom needs to be reached before the “status quo” is challenged? When does the time come? And how can it not be missed?

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The Mailbag (III)

Have you seen George Galloway demolishing Sky News during the Lebanese crisis? The guy really let them have it. Seriously Man, you have to check it out.
Enno Vative, Mars

No way, I must have missed it. Why don’t you go ahead and email it to me, along with the series of pictures of the dying Lebanese mother, the dancing on the treadmills video, the Queen Rania on Oprah interview and a couple of Hajjaj Cartoons? In the meantime, I will be heating up a couple of 10" nails to simultaneously stick them in my eye balls.

(Via video e-mail). Death to
America. Mohammad, Jihad. America will pay for its crimes against Muslims in Panama and Congo. Death to the infidels…( pointing and wiggling the index finger). We are planning more attacks. سمي بالله و اذبح. ♪Who’s the man…We’s the man ♪ Say…who’s the man… ♪ (both bouncing in a rhythmic Electric slide). You can’t touch me…(brushing dirt off the shoulders).
Benni and the Zee-man,

, Afghani-Paki border.

Alright Champs, we get it. You are great. Actually you are kicking some serious ass in the “war on terrorism”. Didn’t I make it clear earlier, that on behalf of the masses I represent (i.e. nobody) we agreed on: You won. Heck folks, “Americans cannot take hair gel on planes anymore”, and for some reason, they want to kick the Mexicans out. Jews are being boarded off planes because they look Arab. What more proof do you want that you won? CAN YOU PLEASE GO AWAY NOW.

And by the way, you will not be able to convince me that you cave-dwellers are able to execute such a complex operation, despite all the demonstrations of the “highly-sophisticated” operation-planning shown in your latest videos. Isn’t the natural progression of a human being supposed to go something like this: First, the discovery of the pants, the discovery of the shoes, the discovery of the razor, the tooth brush and the soap, and THENNN the ability to plan the crashing of huge airplanes into skyscrapers with pinpoint accuracy?!
Conspiracy theories and other “loose change” aside, there is a real good chance that you are on a Caribbean island, with Elvis, 2 Pac, and the REAL Saddam, sipping margaritas, passing blunts, and releasing new videos.
(P.S. Stop sending Elvis back to the mainland, he is freaking people out.)

Enough already with the sports crap. You know that NOBODY reads that nonsense, right? NOBODY cares. Get a girlfriend, join a gym, read a book. Get a life.
Many Many readers, All over the World

Based on the popularity and the continuous support my sports analysis receives, here is a quick thought on Basketball, and I promise an upcoming Baseball playoffs preview, an NFL quarterly report, and continuous Golf updates.

The best thing to come out of the modest FIBA World Championship was the decision to boycott the NBA for an undisclosed period. I contemplated this decision after USA Basketball lost to Puerto Rico in Athens 2004 (by 19). But I bought into the lame excuses that the team had needed more chemistry, the world had caught up to the Americans, they were taken by surprise, etc. This American team (And if I ever hear anyone refer to any past or upcoming trash as the “Dream Team” I will instantly punch him/her in the face. There is only one “Dream Team”, and that was the one I stayed up until 3 in the morning to watch its highlights, against Angola), the 2006 team demonstrated everything that is wrong with the game of basketball today.

Consider the following stretch in the loss to Greece (zero NBA players) in the Semis: Dwight Howard of the Orlando Magic and one of the four remaining true centers in the world (along with Pau Gasol of Spain and Yao Ming of China), is busting his ass on every play, cleaning Bron Bron, Wade and Melo’s garbage on the offensive glass after each fade away brick, getting put backs, blocks, and just dominating the middle. He blocks a shot, recovers the ball, hands it to his PG (Kirk Heinrich) and sprints down the court to post up, backing up his defender way down low.(Text book). Hinrich stares at him (with a clear pass path to his raised hand), and takes a few bouncing dribbles (ridiculous). So Howard leaves his low position, sets a high screen for the idiot PG who is instantly attacked by the switching defender, Howard rolls to the basket. No pass. Instead Hinrich finds Wade in the corner. Howard again backs down his defender, with a clear raised-hand target in front of Wade. Wade completely ignores him, takes two dribbles to his left, gets cornered between the baseline and a charging defender and takes a long fade away jump shot. Airball. Welcome to today’s NBA.

I do not care that international Basketball is a “different style” or that the (allegedly) best players in the world could not defend the pick and roll (the main excuse given for losing to Greece!!). You want to act like you are the best in the world, you have to put the ball in the basket. Make free throws, play defense, beat Greece (who by the way, Greece ended up losing to Spain in the Final by 30+, despite the fact that Spain played without their superstar Gasol who was carrying the team throughout the tournament).

The quality of the basketball in the NBA has been in constant deterioration over the past few years. NBA players do not play defense, they commit traveling violations on every play (almost omitted from the rule book), they palm the ball, atrocious shooting percentages: the open mid range jumpers (let alone the open three pointers) are not guaranteed baskets anymore, the super stars are protected against the slightest contact, and there are absolutely no fundamentals that make the game more enjoyable. (Most teams are not able to execute a basic fast break anymore) .The fact that you can pick up a quarter from the top of the backboard does not mean you can play basketball (The Vince Carter Syndrome). And hence, this is not the same game I enjoyed watching back when it was (NBA- action, its Faaaaaaaaantastic). My childhood heroes of the early and mid nineties did not play THIS game. This is street ball and if I were interested in such crap, I will buy the AND1 mixed tape, which is to basketball what masturbation is to sex. David Stern may have managed to sell a few jerseys in China and market the “product”, by making it a one-and-one game between two (supposedly) superstars, but he alienated the true fans of the “game”.

The saddest part is that the disease is spreading to all other basketball venues. One cannot go to the gym and play a decent pick-up game anymore. There is always that punk who keeps dribbling the ball until everybody falls asleep: other players are cutting, slashing posting, screening, and he is palming the ball and slide stepping (traveling) from left to right, before launching an “NBA three” (reads: a fade away half court shot that barely touches the rim). Basketball used to be a physical and tough team game. A steal, a rebound, a nice assist pass, (not a behind the back no look brick that ends up third row of the stands, but a straight chest pass to an open guy), always trumped a slam dunk.

I also cannot remember when did homosexuality become a prerequisite for playing basketball in Jordan? You find some 6-foot 120 lbs broomstick teenager who attends a couple of practices with an U-16 team, and he is getting into character before he even learns to dribble properly: The lowered baggy shorts showing the Tweety boxers, the cutoff shirts, a complete assortment of arm, wrist and elbow bands. The burning ball tattoo on the shoulder and a mid 80’s earring are extras. It even gets worse with those fruity “veterans”, who think that since they dropped a career high 20 points on another local fruitcake in that all important 3rd place deciding game, they are superstar athletes (The Ashraff Samara syndrome: I remember when Syrian legend Anwar Abdul Haii used to make him cry and when Hamdi the ball boy used to give him free throe shooting tips).

In other Jordanian basketball news, the national team point guard Sam Daghlas was invited and DID participate in the mini camp and the Vegas summer league of the Sacramento Kings. These are prep games for the NBA sophomores and rookies, and sometimes veterans like Ron Artest takes part in. (And yes I mentioned Artest just to link to this. It never gets old). Fadi Al Khateeb (LEB) and Yassine Ismail (QAT) were two other Arabs to get such invitations to these leagues in recent years, but none of them were offered a contract.

Is it OK that I am getting confused by this math problem, or am I too stupid?
S.W. Hawking, Cambridge
Theorem: 3=4
a + b = c
This can also be written as:
4a - 3a + 4b - 3b = 4c - 3c
After reorganizing:
4a + 4b - 4c = 3a + 3b - 3c
Take the constants out of the brackets:
4 * (a+b-c) = 3 * (a+b-c)
Remove the same term left and right:
4 = 3

I will not be passing any judgments regarding your IQ level before I examine your complete body of work. This is a popular trick that has been around for a while. There is a quit interesting philosophical dimension to it though: Take for example Jordanian politics. As long as the common denominator is invalid, it does not matter how many correct operations you manage to carry out on the surface. The answer is always going to be 3=4, unless you reform the base. (And to avoid any ambiguity by the base I mean the Elephant).

What is the maximum number of cigarettes per day a human being would be capable of smoking over an extended period of time? I have been smoking three Rothmans packs (or Top Twenty) for the past 20 years, and sometimes I feel like I can do better.
I can quit any time I want, no really.

Another Math question?! How long before people start emailing partial differential equations of the second kind?
Anyway, If we allow 8 hours for sleeping, eating and any other activity that will not allow for concurrent smoking, and considering that the average per cigarette smoking time is about 9 minutes, we conclude that you are smoking for 9 out of the 16 hours you are awake. You have been alternating between smoking for 9 minutes and breathing for 7, for the past 20 years. Aside from all the talk (you may choose to call them rumors) about cancer, heart attacks, strokes, ulcers, and aside from the “freedom of making choices”, you are not allowing enough time for adequate Oxygen intake. Not to go public health announcement on you, and I understand that you may present the argument that cigarettes are as addictive and harmful as French Fries or chocolate (Ha?!), but seriously now, when the act of breathing is being compromised, maybe a change is due.

I have graduated a few years ago, and been working for over 4 years now. I am in (my) mid 20's. This year has been the toughest so far. I feel as if I am living (on) my own. "Best friends" do not sound as a right phrase to use, as everyone seems to be totally involved with their own lives. The saying friend in need is friend in deed is not valid anymore. You cannot simply jump at their step and spill out all your thoughts without being judged anymore. I know this is a minor issue, but in away it affect my life, deeply. Any suggestions?
Yasmeen H. Ysameen.

Okay, considering this and the only other legitimate candidate for the email of the month award, one would think that I accidentally hacked into the mailbox of Dr. Phil or the absurdly annoying Dr. Najwa of JRTV.
For technical reasons, Yasmeen you are the winner of the award. Please choose between the cash reward and spinning the wheel for one of our valuable prizes.

Now as our society continue to absorb every bad habit of the western lifestyle (consumerism, opportunism, materialism, and the complications associated with them), while completely ignoring any good values that comes with it (hard work, dedication, productivity, charity, and law-abiding), some of our social traditions are going to be affected as well, and that includes friendship. Friendships start to take the form of “mutual and common interests”: Not in the sense of hypocrisy or lack of genuine feelings, but in the sense that circumstances may not allow for the traditional life-long friendships.

-After high school you may be successful in “carrying over” a few friends whom you grew up with: Someone who is attending the same college, someone who happens to live in your neighborhood so you still keep in touch after graduation, or someone who was too special, so you made the effort to contact him/her often to maintain that special relationship, despite both of your different college schedules.

-The losses in high school friends,( a lot of them were simply “classmates” to begin with), can be easily made up for in college. First, you will have a lot of circumstantial “acquaintances” that fade away by the end of certain “periods”: Think about that stranger who was in all of your freshman classes, you automatically became friends, at least for that semester. Once he/she changes majors you probably never heard from them again. The college environment demands “collective efforts” socially and academically. Copying homework, praying, smoking in Ramadan, chilling in the square are all activities of common interest that build periodical friendships. More importantly, the diverse environment allows you to be more selective with the real friends. Strong connections based on compatibility that extends over the whole college career, while enjoying memorable, real growing up experiences. These are the hardest to compensate for, but unfortunately are also the easiest to lose.

-In the daily grind of the real world, there is very little time for real social interaction. Brief compliments, casual repetitive conversations, routine dull exchange of visits, and practically “going through the motions” of supposed “friendships” as a part of the daily cycle.
The college friends? Unfortunately they are not the same people you once knew. The comrades are going through religious awakenings, the religious ones are subcontracting caterers for the American army, the rebels are domesticated at home with a wife and two kids, and the Coaster-commuting partners are rolling in their own Hummers.
(Okay, get off the tangent NOW).
Seriously, two things happen to the college friends, they get married (an automatic two year discontinuation of communications followed by two more upon the birth of the first child), and their careers will disperse them all over the world. (A group of 8 very close friends are currently spread over: U.S., Sweden, Jordan (2), Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE, and Kazakhstan. Some of them have not seen each other since graduation. On the bright side they exchange a few emails every 3 months).

So, if you are currently in touch with a couple of people whom you can relatively relate to, engage in a legitimate conversation with, and you could count on them to "come through" in the case of an easy to mild “situations”, consider yourself lucky. If you do not, it is normal and you should not be alarmed; you can pick up a hobby until you get married, and then there is a slight chance that your spouse will be your new best friend. (Yeah right).
(Reason 432 to never email, read or acknowledge Abu Shreek: 650 words to utter the gems “get a hobby or get married”. Truly insightful.)

For more such brutally necessary insight, check the older mailbags: Mailbag (I) .Mailbag (II).
Or send your questions to

Saturday, September 16, 2006

The Gender Blender

This question was supposed to be part of this month’s mailbag. In an effort to avoid alienating the readers (all three of them) with a longer than usual bag, the question was extracted to its own space. The rest of the mailbag comes later this week.

A question to Abu Shreek, why are Arab men such dipshits?
Sincerely, Anonymous Arab woman who is starting to look for a foreigner.

Thanks a lot for the loaded question that guarantees a no-win situation: If I defend men, I will be accused of being another member of the chauvinistic fraternity that won’t admit to its wrong doings, and if I take your side, then I will appear like I am selling out my proud breed and kissing up to the “enemy”! On to the mine field, maybe an answer appears along the way. (Doubtful).

Disclaimer 1: I have not read “Women from Mars and Men from Venus” or any similar “literature”. (And one would think they were both from earth!). I have no sociology credentials and minimal “hands-on” experience. The observations below are based on pop-culture, awkward social situations, the word on the street, and twisted analysis of the overall scene.

Disclaimer 2: The use of generalizing terms like: guys, girls, foreigners, society, etc. is inevitable. However, the generalizations indicate “a high percentage of”. For example, the statement: “The guys in Jordan dream about driving a BMW or a Mercedes”, may have ignored those who are completely satisfied with using public transportation, and those who dream of riding in Ferraris, but it referred to a good majority.

On the Issue of the Foreigner:
The chances of getting stuck with a foreigner “jerk” are pretty much even with those of ending with a local “dipshit”. You are playing the same odds. Unless you are precisely looking for someone who went through more traumatizing experiences in his first year of high school than those suffered by Uma Thurman in all of “Kill Bill”, you may want to take your chances at home and see what happens. On the bright side, there are many nice, “understanding” foreigners out there, who probably experimented with more drugs than a Pfizer lab and who defines monogamy as a one night stand. Glad to get that out of the way.

On the Issue of Social “Guidelines”:
The male-female interaction in our society is governed by stereotypical expectations and retarded (both mentally and chronologically) guidelines. The most shocking part about these misconceptions is how widely-spread they are. They managed to spread across the boundaries of generations, classes, and even education and intellectual levels and maintain the status of “facts”. This is apparent at various “levels” of relationships:

Friendship: The society is unable to comprehend the possibility of any sincere interaction between a single heterosexual male and a single female, outside the scope of “love” (and more stereotypically, desire). It is true that this is an issue that has not been fully resolved even in Western societies. It is usually explained in terms of animalistic instincts, and that it will be “unnatural” to attempt such a relationship. But, in a perfect world, genders should be able to “inter-befriendiate” (!), based on the compatibility of the subjects involved. The social pressure and (often) the backgrounds, make the subjects almost involuntarily incapable of maintaining such a connection, resulting in problems, bitterness and frustrations. The Arabic language does not even offer the lingo that differentiates between “boyfriend/girlfriend” and “friend”. Well, maybe that last point is more valid for the next type of interaction.

Dating: There is nothing more exciting for a teenager (or even an “early-twentier”) of either gender, than the highs and lows of dating, and the feelings associated with giving and receiving attention. In some cases it may even lead to a long term relationship, concluding with a healthy marriage. However, the changes affecting our society are replacing the traditional, Platonic, innocent “love” by a more “Westernized” physical version of a dating relationship. This should be unacceptable for BOTH sides. Without too many details, this is becoming a major grey area with vague expectations and boundaries. A nice young lady, who may think she is exercising her personal freedom and her rights of self-determination in “controlling” her own body, is more probably being taken advantage of, by who else but, a dillusional “Mr. dipshit”. The problem is she won’t even mind it since she thinks the whole thing is just a re-enactment of a season of “Beverly Hills, 90120” (Much better than The O.C.). The nature of the oriental and conservative society, in addition to our small communities, will cause short and long term problems, particularly and unjustly, for the girl.

Marriage: The life-long partnership is pressured into some kind of a competition. Again, the most disturbing part is how many people surrender to the tired and outdated stereotypes that will force their eternal unity into a tug of war.
The man is supposed to: “make his word (orders) heard”, “show the “red eye” from day one”, “make his wife feel inferior”, “never assist her in the household duties, even if she worked”, or whatever garbage his mother or his pathetic coffee-shop friends fed him.
The woman is supposed to: “make his life miserable”, “be in charge and control him”, “never spend a penny of her salary in the house”, “spend his disposable income” and whatever advice she gets from her mother and her “compassionate” neighbors.
As ridiculous as these things sound, they are still considered “laws” for a successful marriage among wider sections of the society. However, there are some signs of change in mentality among a (hopefully) ever-expanding number of newly weds.

On the Failure of National Feminism:
Similar to other civil-society movements, our society’s feminism focuses on superficial activities, while miserably failing those who depend on it. Pretentiousness and hypocrisy are parts of our society and feminism is not immune to them. It is not uncommon for a male feminist, who is a member of a liberal progressive party, to return from a conference where he just preached woman rights, to abuse his wife at home. This Hajjaj cartoon entitled “On women’s day” is as realistic as they come. Mohammad Tammalieh in his piece “Her hair is tied in a pony tail” describes in details a lady who is an active member of a revolutionary party, who demonstrates, speaks and defends. She only wears jeans, and she will not mind carrying a broom to clean the streets of Al Baq’a refugee camp on a voluntary day activity. She is a vicious “fighter and struggler”, but when push comes to shove, and she wants to get married she will impose more demands and worse conditions than those of فتحية (Fathiyyeh: an almost extinct traditional female name). A famous lawyer who rode feminism to the highest official positions will not hesitate to, or shy away from taking advantage of a fellow woman in a vulnerable position.

On the Issue of Attire:
It seems that women’s clothes have been a source of some controversy lately. It is an undisputable fact that one’s wardrobe is: first, a personal choice, and second, it should not be used to pass judgment or assumptions. This excellent “Vagina Monologue”, entitled “My Short Skirt” clearly emphasizes the point of women’s right to choose clothes according to their taste and comfort. However, take a closer look at the following aspects:

The Place and Occasion: If someone chooses to attend a wedding party wearing a pair torn jeans with flip-flops to match, it is strictly his choice, but it is also the other people’s right to feel that he might be out of place or underdressed. If a super-cool guy shows up to a class at JU wearing a pair of baggy shorts and a fishnet sleeveless shirt, some professors may try to exercise their right of maintaining a level of professionalism to their classroom and kick him out. If a gulf-Arab walks around in a shopping mall in Texas in his “Bedouin costume”, he may be subjected to a few unpleasant comments from some cowboy hick. Personal choices, especially those “extreme ones”, should be accompanied with tolerance to criticism, because human beings in general, tend to be judgmental.

The Overall “Look”: The issue with provocative women’s clothing is NOT with how much skin is exposed. A lady wearing a pair of shorts, a “shorter” skirt, or a sleeveless shirt that shows some arms (WOW, what’s that? Biceps! Wooohoo) is not and should not be an issue. Actually, that kind of clothes was very common and popular in the 60’s and 70’s and was visible in areas like “Al Ashrafiyyeh” and “Jabal El Taj” (areas in Eastern Amman). But, if some young lady is wearing a pair of spray-on, low rise pants that shows her colorful underwear and her coin slot, with a strapless, backless, belly button- revealing, cleavage-exposing top with “sexy bitch”, “pornstar” or “slut in training” printed on it with glitter, and then goes out grocery shopping, well, she may be creating some kind of an inaccurate impression.

The Nature of the Oriental Society: An American Pop-culturist once declared, and I quote: “One of the biggest changes to hit society in the 21st century is the fact that women decided to start dressing like hookers when they go out; back when I was in college, we were able to tell the difference between a prostitute and a regular girl, even when we were drunk, by their clothes. Not anymore”. A lot of our fashion trends are derived from the American ones. However, American girls seem to be smarter in dressing according to the place and occasion, and they hardly ever color their eyelids green (but that’s a whole different story). More importantly, the excessively revealing clothes are compatible with their society and clearly serve “an objective”, especially on the “night-life” scene. As for us, the excessive demonstration of “assets” is unnecessary, since any exchange of sexual favors is still an inappropriate behavior (I think/ I hope) that does not fit our set of values, and again, unacceptable for BOTH genders. A scantily clad lady will take offense to the concept of the unnecessity of such appearance by yelling: “Men should stop being pigs and look away if they are offended”. Looking away is a virtue and a duty, but it is also the duty of the ladies to maintain a certain level of decency and taste, especially in the “more public” settings, and be sensible to their environment. Who set the standards? The ladies know best; they can spot a distastefully dressed “skank” from a mile away.

Final Disclaimer:
The points above are not intended to offer a justification for any “dipshit’s” crude and unacceptable behavior, but rather an attempt to find an explanation, on the way to a solution. After all, each person chooses to interact with other people (male or female) according to a set of standards built through background, beliefs and acquired knowledge (no matter how questionable the sources of such knowledge are).

On a Final Note:
A love-struck guy passes by a wall and paints on it:
“اينما حلت المراة حل السرور”.
A disgruntled married man passes by the same wall and adds the letter
“ر” right after the third word.
But on a more serious and a personal note, here is this.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Abu Shreek: The Flag Waver

As an elementary school Cub Scout, Abu Shreek was to participate in the festivities of the grand opening of “Al Jubaiha Amusement Park”: The second of its kind in Jordan and the one destined to replace the older “Rass El ‘Ainn” park.

Upon arriving at the site, there was the typical scene associated with such “special occasions”: tens of kids in their school uniforms in total chaos, teachers screaming and trying to get them in “two-two” queues, beeping school buses trying to park in reverse, and lots of men in uniform. Our mission was to line up on both sides of the roads and trails of the park, waving flags, as his highness strolls around, examining the features of the facility.

Abu Shreek was issued a little paper flag stapled to a pencil. He adjusted his uniform, straightened his posture, and assumed the set military position with a poker-face full of anticipation, a ninety-degree elbow firmly holding to the flag, and began a dull, yet determined, flag wave. After the second hour, he started to get tired, but on the bright side, the fading sun was not hitting him straight in the face anymore, and the teachers were now allowing for brief “sitting” breaks. But it all seemed worth it since his highness was going to pass right in front of us. After the third hour the teachers ordered the group back to the bus. We were later told that a representative of his royal highness has cut the ribbon, took a brief walk around, and already left. That night on the news, Abu Shreek saw a fat, very funny looking guy with a weird thin line mustache, who is supposed to be like the Mayor or the Amman Municipality chief.

For years to come, the incident haunted him, not because his highness did not show up, (after all he must have had very important stuff to take care of, like a meeting at an athletic federation or whatever trivial tasks they fill their time with), but because Abu Shreek keeps trying to justify to himself the reason why he was so excited to have that character pass in front of him! Was it a chance for Abu Shreek to brag to his friends that he got that close to royalty? Or was it for his parents to brag to the neighbors that their kid was at the same place at the same time as his highness? Maybe he was hoping to impress his highness beyond belief to the point that he is offered the position of “his highness’s personal flag waver”? Maybe it is the simple rush a little kid gets from meeting a (what is supposed to be) celebrity?

People like to get close to famous people. But shouldn’t the reason for fame by taken into consideration, and shouldn’t the level of excitement and pride in meeting someone be proportional to the level of the accomplishments and achievements of the celebrity? For example, if one meets that rich Hilton heir, who achieved her fame based on excessive partying and a movie entitled “Inside the Hilton of Paris” or whatever it was called (reads: porn), one should not be as excited as meeting Hakeem Olajuwon, an accomplished athlete and a great human being. So are some people really famous or brains are being washed into submission to a fake aura and a completely false notion of infallibility?

The most confusing part is the sight of a senior member of an alleged opposition party bending over backwards to shake hands with some insignificant “highness”, whose only talent is the ability to waste absurd amounts of the country’s modest resources in record times. What about all these pictures hanging in the middle of living rooms where a distinguished professor, a successful businessman, or a world-class athlete is shaking hands in submission and humility (actually humiliation)? Shouldn’t the fact that every household has at least two of those royal Longines watches be enough to make them loose a little of their luster?

An older role model was awarded “The Education Medal of the second degree”. He accepted the award, but he refused to attend the ceremony or to display the medal! Every time he would spot it sitting on the TV or in any visible place he will instantly discard it. He was proud of the job he did in educating the youth, but he refused to take pride in an acknowledgement from, what he considered, a regressive and oppressive regime. His pride is generated from serving his country, not from an illegitimate authority giving him credit for it.

Abu Shreek later realized that, as a Cub Scout, he has learned to love his country. And whether the prince shows up or not he should be proud to participate in any significant national event or activity that could benefit his home. Not because he wanted to get close to some medieval court member, not because he wanted to appear on TV, not because he wanted to brag to his peers and not because he was hoping the prince will toss him a bag of golden coins or yell to his assistance: “يا غلام اعطه الف دينار”.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Profile: The Selfish

Emphasizing a crippling social disease. Following up on the “The Sellout”.

The social behavior of those who were harshly labeled “The Sellout(s)” maybe worth examining beyond the simple dismissal under typical name-calling. Recall from the previous piece that this is a character that is NOT:

-The simple “man-on-the-street” who “spontaneously” and mindlessly waves a flag and maniacally crowds around the trail of luxurious bullet proof trucks, ecstatically and inexplicably hollering and jumping.

-The cut-throat opportunistic (a severe derogatory term from a previous era), who is willing to trade his mother under the “right” deal situation. The worthless parasites, whose mere existence depends on the persistence of the current situation.

-The (by-name) educated, who lives inside the extended bubble of TV documentaries and random internet browsing, and whose college degree was not able to rehab his ability to acquire and analyze information, as a result of years of brainwashing.

This is a group which is completely aware of Bob Woodward’s CIA payroll list, aware of the 1973 pre-war visit and aware of the incomprehensible oil-state-like lavish lifestyle, yet CHOSE to settle for the crumbs and move on; hence the sellout.

BUT, among the sellouts, there is another group, which was not neutralized by an invitation to an irrelevant conference or a fully paid trip to an international youth meeting. Some (voluntarily) CHOSE to take themselves out of the equation, marginalize themselves and join the silent majority. Elected to cash out on their life-long investments and sacrifices, and proceed to have a “normal” life, whether at home, or preferably away.

An analogous situation may be seen through the social structure of the capitalistic society. In such a society, there is a large segment of underprivileged classes. People who hovers around the poverty lines and live hand to mouth, despite juggling two or more jobs and toiling in hard labor (in some cases) for more than 65 hours per week. They have to tolerate lack of job security, lack of basic health care, major exploitations and overpricing of many basic commodities. YET surprisingly, there are no mass movements, or any signs of complaining that hope to rectify such a situation or improve these conditions. The reason is that the system promotes the impression that a “poor” person can possibly, eventually and easily move up the scale and assume the role of the exploiter. (The American Dream phenomenon as the biggest example). Hence, the exploiter attitude becomes widley acceptable. A sentiment of indifference is created within the poor (who believe in finding a “way out”, whether it is through the good: hard work (education, small business), the bad: crime and fraud (another name for small business), or the pathetic: lottery (very popular). A similar sentiment is created among the middle class, (who ideally is expected to look after the interests of the underprivileged), resulting in an overall “every man for himself” mentality that will always value the individual well-being over that of the community.

Similarly, the selfishness (subconscious or deliberate) will lead those best qualified to make a difference into opting for the “privileged” position in a current inept system, (a position that will improve their individual situation), over the cumbersome and troublesome (maybe even futile) attempts to lead a change, (a change that will yield a COLLECTIVE improvement).

But when “life management” takes the front seat among priorities, as a result of adulthood, compromises become easier to accept. Preaching and accusations can be spared, since apathy and the complete surrender to the status quo are widely spread attitudes.
On the other hand, “The Anthem of Bread and Freedom” always instigates some guilt, at least among those with potential.

(Awfully translated 1st verse):
You have your need of bread
But not enough for everyone
And the earth is full of wheat fields.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Review: The Sad Survivor

Mohammad Tommalieh (محمد طمليه), through excerpts from his collection “Happens to Me of All People”.

In an environment were ingenuity is rare and when creativity leads to obscurity, the “word-artist” Mohammad Tommalieh carved his niche. In an environment that starves its artists and demands compromises in substance and style, as a basic prerequisite for survival, he refused, yet thrived.

Mohammad grew up an orphan in Wadi al Haddadeh: “حي شعبي” as he likes to call it (Ar: people’s or popular neighborhood is the Arabic euphuism for deprived projects). “It is a fact that the worst procedure a person can go through is to be born poor.” “He confesses that he committed an unforgivable idiocy while growing up: He read too many books to the point that he became polite and incompetent, and hence, incapable of rising to the level of the gutter surrounding him”. No one incident can define his childhood more than that described in his short story “The Shoes”: (A charity visits a school to distribute shoes. An “educator” calls up each student, asks him “what’s your foot number (Ar: shoe size)?” and proceeds to pick a suitable pair from the pile and hand it to the kid. “Until it was my turn; I swear I did not know that the shoe is supposed to have a number.”)

At one point, Um Jamal handed him a suitcase and a little money and said: “Go to Al Mustansiriyyah University in Baghdad.” His vast imagination envisioned a “loud collegiate life”, but he could not stay away from her tea pot and “heavy” Friday meals for long. He proceeded to have “a vicious college career at home: He was not afraid of the security officer who followed him around, from class to class and from a cafeteria to the next. He was not afraid to openly criticize the “professors” who were considered government spokesmen. He bragged in front of the Islamic faction students that he is a “Leninist-Marxist”, and he wrote stories and poems that the comrades memorized.”

At the time,he resided in a miserable room with his temporary (for two years!) roommate Emad Hajjaj. They definitely had a cooking pot, as proven by the various dishes they invented, which resulted in their excessive thinning, which later affected Abu Mahjoob as well. They had a little hateful black and white TV, whose despicable little screen provided some entertaining scrambles. They had a winter coat that Emad used as an extra cover during the colder nights. Most awkwardly, they had a Wudu’ (washing before prayers) jug, that occupied a corner of the room, yet neither of them bothered to question its purpose.”

Later, he moved his residence to the floors of the “Writer’s Union” building. “There, he took advantage of the good lighting, the library, and the deep thoughts; a direct result of loneliness. When the government issued the order to shut down the union, he moved out and stayed here and there. He was most concerned with reading and writing, without any considerations paid to the surrounding conditions. He was determined to be a great writer.”

Mohammad was accused of being a “denouncer”. (Under the emergency laws and the anti-communism laws, anyone under the suspicion of being an alleged member of the “destructive” parties was detained, all his/her property was confiscated, was banned from public or private employment, and would have the passport withheld, until he/she publicly denounces the allegations and pledges the full allegiance and loyalty to his majesty). He followed up the shameful act by publishing “The Enthusiastic Bastards” referring to the comrades. But was he really wrong? At least he continued to hold on to the idea and its principles, contrary to those ex-comrades “who became ministers or minister-hopefuls, who lined up among the trails of brokers, who reduced the explicit blood to an item on the agenda of a meeting, and unlike those who celebrated the 50th anniversary of the party’s first march on the marble-clad, municipality-owned (Al Hussein Cultural Center)”.

Mohammad was not ashamed to announce that it is okay for a man to be a lover. “When he was young, he had multiple “tools” that he employed to woe the college coeds, and he was willing to travel the earth looking for a girl he has never met.” “He was always in need for a one-sided love story. A relationship that burns, hurts and humiliates. Allows for enough pain, constantly ignites and energizes the commitment of heroic acts, with the main purpose of impressing the arrogant woman. He eventually came to realize that the courageous lovers are an extinct breed. They only exist in the worlds created by his favorite authors. Those who convinced him, and he was ready to accept, that a talented person need not bother about anything: the college education, the job, the wife are all signs of nonsense. That wisdom, respect and reverence are all terms more suitable for the domesticated, those looking forward for a calm aging process (with all what it contains of mucus).”

The brief, sarcastic and emotional articles reveal a unique style. The attempts to emulate it usually end up with catastrophic and laughable results. Only he can make the short successive phrases and their few words worth a thousand pictures. It is impossible not to relate to the painful realities presented in the most colorful way, although most of the time the main colors are black and grey. “Smart people are among us, but we never meet any of them, and we never feel that they have any influence on our lives. While stupidity flourishes…General and sacred stupidity.”

Mohammad was diagnosed with a tumor in his mouth. It must be the result of the chronic sadness and eternal loneliness. It must be the “enormous overall devastation that he is a part of; a devastation that he could not salvage, yet he was never able to coexist with.” It must be Baghdad, the site of his father’s grave. “His future? He will try to, he will fight for, he will exert all the effort in, he will work on...” He tells the story when, briefly after losing parts of his tongue and some teeth, he hailed a cab and slurred: “The newspaper building please”. The idiot cabby replies, with signs of displeasure and a harshly condemning tone: “So drinking started early today.” But he was not deterred, neither was he deterred when the damned tumor reappeared, and forced him into more “chemo” and maybe more tongue loss. He has beaten worse odds: He could have lost the earlier battle to Wadi al Haddadeh, to one of those garlings who tortured his fragile heart or to one of those who offered to enlist him on the payroll.
Rafeeq Mohammad, Please wait for a few more years, at least for one last pilgrimage to “Al Marbidd Poetry Festival” and one last walk and along the sides of Abu Nuwwass Street.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Archive: A Plea to JP

In celebration of the occasion, a slightly edited version of the letter appealing Abu Shreek’s addition, originally submitted on June 24th, 2006.

Dear Roba, Jameed, Issam, Ba3booz,
Or whoever is currently running the JP organization,

Have you ever noticed that the easiest way to fill up any space is to throw a top-ten list in there? Here are the top ten reasons why Abu Shreek should be added to JP, in no particular order:

1. It has been exactly one month to the day since Abu Shreek started the blog, and practically that was the only listed requirement to join JP.

2. Being on JP will increase the modest (reads: non-existent) readership of the blog. Abu Shreek invests relatively an average amount of effort composing the posts and it is a shame that he cannot get at least 3-5 people to read them.

3. Abu Shreek is pretty sure that he knows someone who is distantly related to both him and you, which makes us family and “garaba”. Also, Abu Shreek is almost certain that the niece of his uncle’s wife (translates: Bint Okht Mart Khalo) went to school with you, and that makes us (kind of) friends.

4. More readers may increase the frequency, quality, (creativity, “irrelativity”, sensitivity, “obscuritivity”) of the posts, and there is a slight and distant chance that the world could be a better place for it.

5. Just to let you know, Abu Shreek’s neighbor (three doors down) is a 3-time member of the Jordanian parliament, and a two-time minister of different things. He is just a sample of the people who (got Abu Shreek’s back). The list (available upon request) include former ambassadors to Europe and the Caribbean, municipality employees, a number of Army and Police officers with ranks of two stars and up, two alleged members of the Rotary/Lions club, and three members of the Jordan Academy for Music. Just a little FYI.

6. A sample of JP “senior members” have (once) commented on the blog and (probably!) said some good things. My friend Batir (a professional opinion, after all he is a journalist, for whatever thats worth), Lina (almost border-line professional) and Hareega (an opinion from the medical community) think that Abu Shreek may be “readable” and a worthy add.

7. Taking a page from the Royal Automobile Club membership form, Abu Shreek’s family owns three cars, with only two licensed drivers in the house (impressive ha?). He is hoping that the fact that one of them is a Skoda and another is a 1979 “200 laff” won’t hurt the membership chances. On the bright side, his uncle is a part owner of a huge Caterpillar Driller (you know the one that wakes you up every morning when it goes TAK-TAK-TAK-TAK-VOOOOM).

8. Being on JP may motivate Abu Shreek to learn some HTML, among other computer illiteracy tools, just to be able to change the stupid background color from green to blue. Blue is Abu Shreek’s favorite color, and he is confident that this additional (personal preferences) tip will increase his membership chances; blue is very popular.

9. If Abu Shreek did not grow up in Jordan, (or did not get a good Tawjihi score), he would have chosen a career in something he enjoys, like becoming a journalist, a theatrical critic or a competitive eater. As he gets older, he tries to compensate for missing out on what he really likes to do. So, he attends a lot of boring musicals and plays, and only yesterday, he ate 16 slices of pizza in 27 minutes. Joining JP is another step in the right direction.

10. If Abu Shreek does not join JP as soon as possible, he may commit acts that are deemed crimes against humanity according to the neglected Geneva convention for the treatment of the prisoners of war, and other non-profit organization’s rulebooks. He may endanger some pre-historic animal species facing the risk of extension. He may go on a liquor-fueled lesbian rampage. He may cut his right ear, stick it in a bag of sunflower seeds and e-mail to BakBouz. You will be held completely responsible and accountable for these acts.

Please add me before the end of the round of sixteen.
Abu Shreek.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

NFL: Season Preview '06

One week until kickoff Sunday.
Abu Shreek examines the strengths and weaknesses of every team.

Predictions are the most annoying aspect of sports. Even "expert's" predictions, which depend on deep research and analysis, usually end up with abysmal results. None are more annoying than those ridiculous ones which try to predict teams’ exact records and the exact score of the SuperBowl, in August. But that is the beauty of sports and especially the NFL; A couple of key injuries, a rookie exceeding the expectations, a veteran playing out of his mind on his contract year, a defensive unit mysteriously playing well together, or three back-to-back wins, and all the preseason predictions are flushed down the drain.

However if one wants to make a estimate a team’s chances in making a serious playoffs run, keep in mind that these teams have these main components for success:

-Head Coach: A football team assumes its head coach personality and character. He is in complete control of a very complex operation and he has to show that. Tony Dungy is a nice human being and a class act, but he does not reflect a competitive attitude on his players (and does not get involved with offense). Herman Edwards is a great motivator (and a one who knows how to breach a contract and jump ship), but he admits he can’t manage the game clock. Rookie coaches (especially those who inherited teams that have won less than 10 games in the past two years) of the Jets, Saints, Vikings, Packers, Lions, Texans and even the Raiders cannot win the SuperBowl in their first year.

-Quarterback: Despite the fact that it remains the most important position in the game, less than 10 teams come into this year with a stable QB situation (The Cowboys and Drew Bledsoe is considered one of the ten!!). The once in a decade 2000 Ravens phenomenon should not change the fact that a team with a crappy QB cannot win it all, even if the team chose to hide him under the “ care taker” or “bus driver” tags.

-Offensive line: If the hardest throwing QB and the fastest running RB had no time to throw or a hole to run through, they will not be effective. A solid hard working line, which is disciplined by a strong coach, and has stability is essential for any offense.

-Defensive playmakers: The unit as a whole has to be solid especially in stopping the run and pressuring the QB. But one or two difference makers, like a tackling-machine LB or a ball-hawk safety can make game changing plays, and that will carry and motivate the team, on both sides of the ball.

-Draft: If a team has two players left from its last 4 drafts and none of them is a starter, the team is not going far (Washington). You need “cheap” labor on the lines, on special teams, stars that are not costing millions yet, and depth everywhere. Teams that draft well and depend on home-grown players (Pittsburgh, New England) remain in contention year after year and can add the suitable free agent when necessary.

NFC East:

-Dallas: They approached the year hoping to contend and even win now, so they tried to address every weakness from the previous year. At the OL they replaced aging Larry Allen, and brought in a three-way competition for the nagging RT spot (former Chicago first round pick Marc Colombo won the job from Jets veteran Jason Fabini, but both have questions around their game. The line play especially LT Flozell Adams, who returns from a knee surgery, is essential to the play of immobile QB Bledsoe. Tey have considerable depth on all offensive positions except at WR, where they feature two 30+ wideouts, with the T.O. situation flaring out faster than expected.
The defense is young especially the DEs in the front three, but they are promising hard-workers. The addition of sure-tackler LB Akin Ayodele is important to the success of the 3-4 and he will play ILB next to Bradie James who is not as impressive as initially thought. The move of Gregg Ellis to the OLB spot opposite to DeMarcus Ware could benefit both of them if Ellis can adjust to playing from the two-point stance. In the Secondary where they got burnt deep too many times last year, Anthony Henry returns from injury and the team likes tall rookie Pat Watkins who could help protect (recently) overrated SS Roy Williams in pass coverage.

-Philadelphia: This is a team that had made a serious playoffs run in 4 of the past 5 years, and it still has a good number of the players from the 04 SB season, especially the younger ones. Now that they are recovered from the T.O. saga, have a healthy Donovan MaNabb, and added yet another excellent rookie class, they are ready to compete again. They addressed the eternal WR situation by adding Dante Stallworth late, but the question remains regarding their ability to run the ball. RBs Brain Westbrook and Ryan Moats fit well into their system, which substitutes running by screens, swings and short routes that put the RBs in open space, but it would have been nice if they had a healthy Correll Buckhalter or a Duce Staley for some runs between the tackles
On defense they are solid and deep. They added DEs Darren Howard and rookie Brodrick Bunkley to a deep line rotation. Their biggest concern is the LB position who after Dhani Jones and Jeremiah Trotter have nothing of significance. the secondary have four star players, any of whome can make the pro-bowl on any year.

-New York: Another team that approached the off-season with the win-now mentality. The best thing Tom Coughlin did was to build an OL that is two- player deep at every spot and retains all five starters from last year. The production of offense depends on the maturity level and improvement of Eli Manning, who has enough tools around him from Tiki Barber (coming of a career year) to veterans receivers (Amani toomer and Plaxico Burress) to young speedsters (Tim Carter, Willie Ponder, and rookie Sonorice Moss).
On defense they have a very good line with the best edge pass rushers rotation in the league (Strahan, Umenyiora, Justin Tuck, rookie Mathias Kiwanuka). The LB group is thin but it depends on how much LB LaVar Arrington is able to cintribute after a couple of idle years. The secondary was revamped with the addition of CB Sam Madison, CB R.W. McQuarters and the underrated FS Will Demps.

-Washington: The “different” approach this team uses to go after its business continues for another year.The most confusing move was the hiring of former Kansas City offensive coordinator Al Saunders, who runs a different style of offense than that of Joe Gibbs . They loaded up on wide receivers, who are going to be very effective in Gibb’s bunch formation, only if they can find someone to throw them the ball. Mark Brunell, Todd Collins, and sophomore (with zero starts) Jason Campbell won’t do it. The receiver group includes Brandon Lloyd, Antwaan Randle El, and impressive rookie Mike Espy who join David Patten and Santana Moss . The shoulder injury to their workhorse RB Clinton Portis could be worse tha initially thought of, since they rushed to trade for T.J. Duckett.
The defense is a very good unit that carried the team last year. The front seven are hard nosed underrated players and they are joined by DE Ander Carter (SF). LBs Marcus Washington and Lamar Marshall are underrated star defenders. The secondary also is one of the best and deepest in the business with Shawn Springs and Carlos Rogers at corners, and the addition of SS Adam Archeluta to play across from All-Pro Sean Taylor. They are able to compete for a playoffs spot at the toughest division in all of football.

NFC South:

-New Orleans: The team went through a complete overhaul. The offense cannot survive the tough division behind the shaky line and the lack of any receiving threat besides aging WR Joe Horn.
The defense lacks any playmakers and their rookie class is average at best. Under the current city situation, the speculations surrounding the team moving to another city, it is highly recommended to avoid following this team all together, despite the presence of rookie sensation RB Reggie Bush.

-Atlanta: They have been seriously investing in free agents in the past two years. They shored up the receiving group after the loss of Brian Finneran for the year by trading for WR Ashley Lelie, giving inconsistent QB Mike Vick more toys beside TE Alge Crumpler. The OL replaces one player (Wayne Gandy could be an improvement over departed Kevin Shaffer) and they have Alex Gibbs the best line coach in business. In the backfield, small yet mighty tough RB Warrick Dunn is backed up by rookie Jerrious Norwood who was impressive in the preseason.
On defense they needed (the always in demand) massive NT and got Grady Jackson to play next to Rod Coleman, flanked by Patrick Kearny and newly acquired John Abraham (who practically took the past two years off). Their linebackers and secondary remain suspect despite the addition of FS Lawyer Milloy (if he has anything left), and the presence of (noisy) Pro-Bowler CB D’angelo Hall.

-Tampa Bay: The post SB Jon Gruden era has not been very impressive. Their playoffs appearance last year looks more like a fluke. A team that is lead by QB Chris Simms is not going far in the playoffs and that is common Knowledge to any Longhorns fan. The line is a continuous patch-work year after year, which will make Cadillac Williams and Michael Pittman job harder. The receiving group is deep and depends on Joey Galloway to repeat last year’s numbers and on the emergence of sophomore TE Alex Smith.
The defense has the same SB core group but Simeon Rice, Derrick Brooks, sheldon Quarles and Ronde Barber are getting older without getting significant young additions around them.

-Carolina: A solid all-around team that made a deep playoffs push last year, despite some key injuries. The OL is a solid unit that added veteran center Justin Hardwick. They have one of the top three QBs in the conference throwing to a very impressive group (Keyshawn Johnson, Steve Smith, Keary Colbert, Drew Carter). Rookie RB D’angelo Williams gives them explosiveness and depth behind fragile DeShaun Foster.
On defense they added more depth to an already deep line by acquiring DT Maake Kemoaetu to account for the annual Kris Jenkins injury. The linbackers depend on the performance of converted safety sophomore Thomas Davis, free agent Na’il Diggs (who was let go by Green Bay despite their needs at the position), and the health of MLB Dan Morgan. The secondary have a nice CB tandem of Krn Lucas and Chris Gamble, with not much depth at nickel, and makes up for the departure of Marlon McCree (SD) with Shaun Williams (NYG), a significant drop.

NFC North:

-Chicago: Obviously the class of a terrible division. They stayed put in free agency and return the same devastating defense (before it collapsed against Carolina in the playoffs), and only lost FS Mike Green (SEA: he is out for the year). The Defensive line features pass rushers DEs Alex Smith and Adwele Ogunkeye who plays the run as good as anybody, and DTs Tommie Harris and Ian Scott. Not only they add a nickel corner CB Ricky Manning Jr. but they spend the whole draft adding defensive players.
As for last year's anemic offense, it did not look any better in the preseason under QB Rex Grossman, and he may be replaced by Brian Griese early in the year. The options at receiver are very limited past the againg Muhsin Muhammad, and the Bears continue to play without the important pass-catching tight end. On the bright side the OL has the same solid five starters from last year. RB Cedric Benson is already on the bad side of his coaches and teammates, and it is hard to predict how is Thomas Jones is going to react after the team tried to trade him all summer long. They are both currently behind Adrian Peterson (5th year man out of Georgia Southern) on the depth charts.

-Detroit: A new head coach, a new couple of crappy QBs (Jon Kitna, Josh McCown), and no reason to expect anything from the same old Lions. The addition of Mike Martz as an offensive coordinator could help utilize thee fleet of their first round draft picks wideouts. (Although both Charles Rogers and Mike Williams are so deep on the depth charts they may not earn roster spots). With a decent OL two good TE (Dan Campbell and Marcus Pollard) and good depth at RB headed by Kevin Jones this unit could improve could improve.
The defensive unit has a few “names” on it (DT Shaun Rogers, DE James Hall, LB Boss Bailey, CB Dre Bly) and a couple of good rookies (LB Ernie Sims and S Daniel Bullocks), but even those who are supposed to be the unit leaders seem to get sucked into the Lions losing culture.

-Minnesota: New owner, new head coach and a ton of new players, probably the same disappointing Vikings. They acquired some offensive free agents players, now that they are going in a different direction after the departure of Randy Moss and Dante Culpepper. A ridiculously overpayed Guard Steve Hutchinson to a very good FB Tony Richardson and RB Chester Taylor were the main additions. QB Brad Johnson may not find alot of taregets to throw to, but if Brad Childress installs the same version of the dinky-dunky offense he ran with the Eagles they wont need speedy receivers.
On defense this team has a star or a high draft pick at every single position. The tackle tandem of Pat and Kevin Williams is one of the best in the league. Ends Erasmus James and Kenechi Udeze came into the league as high picks with huge potential. the young linebacker group of E.J. Henderson, Napoleon Harris and Dontorrious Thomas are joined solid new comer Ben Leber (SD) but they lost rookie Chad Greenway for the season. In the secondary Fred Smoot and Antoine Winfield are the best tackling CB tandem in the league with safety help from Darren Sharper who averages 5 picks a year for his career (9 last year). The problem is the Vikings looks great on paper year after year with no results to show for it.

-Green Bay: Brett Favre said: “This may be the most talented group I played with”, to later add “ … but we may not win a single game this year”. Judging from the team’s preseason the latter could be the more accurate. When Favre made his “not-retiring” decision, did he take a look at the interior (Center and Guards) of the line in front of him? Or the receivers he will be throwing to if Donald Driver is not open (rookie Greg Jennings had a solid offseason)?! The main problem is that a line that used to be one of the best in the league was hit hard by free agency and now neither Ahman Green nor Favre can have the success they had in the past.
The defense does not look any better. On the line there is absolutely no interior presence (although KGB and Aaron Kampman are solid DEs). LB A.J. Hawk, the rookie first round pick did not look all that impressive in the preseason, and the CB tandem of Carles Woodson and Al Harris used to be good 4 years ago.
The question here is how many games do they lose before it becomes okay to bench Favre and his reckless interceptions to give Aaron Rodgers some game-time experience?

NFC West:

-San Francisco: What a miserable franchise. Last year they had a center and a fullback on the cover of their media guide. C Jeremy Newberry retired and FB Fred Beasley did not get along with his RB Kevan Barlow and they both left (MIA, NYJ). There are no players of any significance on either side of the ball, except for rookie specimen TE Vernon Davis who has Alex Smith (1 TD 11 INT last year) throwing him the ball. The only hope this team has is for Eddie DeBartolo (whose return is now welcomed by the team owners) to retake his team from his sister and the Yorks.

-Arizona: New stadium, new uniforms, new logo, new RB, and the same old Cardinals. The OL is an obscure groupthat watched its best player (former Steeler) Oliver Ross go down for the year. But the offensive “skill” positions are loaded: RBs Edgerrin James and J.J. Arrington. WR Larry Fitzgeral, Anquan Boldin, Bryant Johnson, Troy Walters, Az Hakim, and rookie TE Leonard Pope. Kurt Warner is supposed to be lobbing passes to the talented group but if he struggles behind the shaky line, rookie QB Matt Leinart can replace him. Leinart, despite holding out, showed big potential in his pre-season games.
The team invested in free agents and high draft picks on defense over the past couple of years, but it has not showed statistically. LB Karlos Dansby and DT Darnell Dockett got noticed last year but they need to emerge as stars to carry the unit. Top ten draft pick CB Antrel Rolle struggled with injuries last year and needs to show imrovement this year.

-St. Louis: For the first time since 1999 the Rams are not going to be the best show on turf. Scott Linehan says that this team is going to be a running team, which is exactly what he said every year during the time he was offensive coordinator at Minnesota, and it never happened. On the other hand, he did not have stud RB Steven Jackson running behind what appears to be a solid OL. The Tory Holt and Isaac Bruce era may be fading away, while Dane Looker and Kevin Curtis are more of role players. For a coach who likes to use TE (see Wiggins and Kleinsasser with the Vikings), a depth chart of two rookies (both good college players) may not be enough.
They added some veterans on defense most notably DT La’Roi Glover to play next to former first round pick Jimmy Kennedy. their DL is only solid group on defense, and other than that there are not many playmakers on this unit, maybe free agents MLB Will Witherspoon, CB Fakhir Brown and SS Corey Chavous can make a slight difference.

-Seattle: Practically the same team that went to the Superbowl last year, and was a few calls away from winning it. Same superb OL (despite the loss of G Steve Hutchinson, they added backup tackle Tom Ashworth (NE) to an already deep unit). They may have the best QB in the NFC now, but they had a problem with receivers last year that they did not address (Darrel Jackson, Bobby Engram, Nate Burleson, and TE Jerramy Stevens) are not that good.
The defense still has the deepest line rotation in the league, and they added LB Julian Peterson (who may not be as good as he was with SF before being injured) next to Lofa Tatupu, LeRoy Hill and D.D. Lewis. The secondary is lead by CB Marcus Trufant and SS Michael Boulware with thin depth after them, especially with the loss of free agent S Mike Green for the year.
The SB loser hang-over, the Madden 07 Shaun Alexander curse, and the much improved NFC make a second straight SB appearance highly unlikely.

AFC East:

New York: They can be considered a rebuilding team that suffers from multiple holes. Chad Pennington still have issues with his throwing shoulder. Curtis Martin may miss the whole season, although Kevan Barlow is not a bad runner when he is not running behind a line that is starting rookies at center and left tackle (even though D’Brickashaw Ferguson was great in drills and workouts, but he is starting at one of the toughest spots in the game).
The defense may be switching to a 3-4 front, which will require their best two defenders DT Dewayne Robertson and LB Jonathan Vilma to make adjustments and maybe play out of position. Their secondary is very young but has potential playmakers in Justin Miller, Derrick Strait and Erik Coleman.

-Buffalo: A franchise that had three head coaches since 2001 could not be heading the right direction. Their offseason was highlighted by a QB battle for the starting job between sophomore J.P Loseman and Kelly Holocomb (not a good sign for Loseman or the Bills who ended up giving him the starter job anyway). Not that it will matter much behind that line (They lost veteran center Try Teague and, other than Jason Peters, none of the other positions look impressive), The team lacks any legitimate receiving target past Lee Evans (unless Peerless Price can resurrect his career), and their offense has to be carried on the back of RB Willis McGahee.
On defense they invested too much in this years draft to shore up the DT spot (Larry Triplett and rookie John McCargo (considered a reach) ) and the secondary who lacks any depth behind star corners Terrance McGee and Nate Clements. The LB group that used to be the best in the league welcomes back Takeo Spikes and replaces Jeff Posey (cut, signed with the Redskins) with emerging Angelo Crowell.

-Miami: Last year rookie coach Nick Saban lead them to a very strong and improbable finish, which raises the team’s expectations heading into this year. They tried to improve their offensive line by signing LT L.J. Shelton and G Bennie Anderson. They are also hoping for the improvement of third year tackle Vernon Carey who moved to right, but they were set back by the season ending injury to C Seth Mckinney. QB Daunte Culpepper looks healthy and has a group of nice receivers headed by WR Chris Chambers coming off a career year and TE Randy McMichael. It remains to be seen if Ronnie Brown can carry the majority of the running load after the (suspension then) retirement of Ricky Williams, with limited depth behind him.
The defense played tough last year, but star players DE Jason Taylor and LB Zach Thomas are getting older, and age is the highlight of a unit that lacks any upcoming young players (with the exception of LB Channing Crowder). The team lost all four star secondary players over the past two years with no legit replacements.

-New England: The team that played in 3 of the past 5 Superbowls, and made a deep push in the playoffs in 05 with a ton of injuries, is reloaded again. This year there will be no FB Heath Evans starting at running back, since veteran Corey Dillon is backed up by the most impressive rookie runner Laurence Maroney (even Kevin Faulk looked good in camp). The team continues to draft extremely well and plugs every hole with cheap and serviceable players. The best QB in the league may have some concerns about a thin WR group with the continuing holdout of his Deion Branch (almost reached a trade) and the departure of David givens (TEN), but they plan to use more tight ends in their offense utilizing big TE Ben Watson, and hope for rookie Chad Jackson to come along as the season proceeds.
The front three (four on some passing (third) downs) remains the best in the league (DT Vince Wilfork, DEs Ty Warren and Richard Seymour) with a healthy rotation of (Jarvis Greene and Marquis Hill). But the biggest question is the LB position that used to be the heart of their defense. After the retirement of Ted Johhnson and Roman Phifer two years ago, the departure of Willie Mcginest and the broken wrist of Teddy Bruschi, they scrambled to sign retired Juniour Seau. They still have Mike Vrabel, Roosvelt Colvin and last year’s disappointing free agents Chad Brown and Monty Beisel (Oops they were both cut). In the secondary the return of Rodney Harrison and the emrgence of sophomore Ellis Hobbs will be a big boost for the group.

AFC North:

-Pittsburgh: The Superbowl champs retain most of last year’s team. Despite the versatility of Antwaan Randle El (WAS) they can replace him with Cedric Wilson, Quincy Morgan, (rookie Sontanio Holmes did not have a great offseason), or by increasing the role of TE Heath Miller. Jerome Bettis retirement could have an emotional effect but RB Willie Parker was the starter last year and he is backed up by Verron Haynes and Duce Staley, all running behind the best OL in the game. By leading the team to the champioship, QB Ben Roethlisbereger prooved that he is in the conversation of the best QB in the league.
On defense the significant loss of Kimo von Oelhoffen (the Cincinnati game breaker) leaves a void on the great 3-man front next to underrated rotation NT Casey Hampton and Chris Hoke and DE Aaron smith. This void is filled by free agent Rodney Bailey (SEA) and Brett Keisel. The Linebacker group are all solid tacklers and capable pass rushers, but unfortunately the least deserving of them, is the loudest mouth and he ended up on the cover of SI NFL preview edition. James Farrior, Larry Foote, and Clark Haggans could all be more deserving . The departure of underrated FS Chris Hope (TEN) could be the hardest loss to replace, given the average players on the corners. SS Troy Polamalu is one of the biggest playmakers in the game.

-Cincinnati: The prime example on the five elements of success mentioned above. They hire a good coach, they find the QB of the future (looks recovered from the knee surgery and ready to join the conversation of top 4 QBs in the league), build a solid OL (that returns all five starters) , string together 4 good drafts, and they are competing. The receivers group of (big mouth Chad Johnson, underrated T.J. Houshmanzadeh, troubles Chris Henry, free agent Antonio Chatman and even TE Reggie Kelly) is one of the deepest in the league. RB Rudi Johnson has been able to carry most of the load but with Chris Perry placed on Injured Reserve, there is not much depth behind him.
On defense, they still need playmakers. The loss of sophomore Odell Thurman (4 games for substance abuse) will not help, but they tried to improve their run defense (4.3 YPC last year) by adding two 320+ DTs free agent Sam Adams and rookie Domata Peko. An opportunistic secondary (CB Troy James, Deltha O'Neal and Keiwan Ratliff who had a ton of picks last year), get help from former SB MVP Dexter Jackson and another solid defensive rookie class.

-Cleveland: For the eighth straight year the Browns look like an expansion team. One week away from opening kickoff and they do not have a center yet, after their biggest offseason signing (!) LeCharles Bentley was lost for the year on the first practice. They have a good group of RBs but too bad it would not matter behind that line.
Outside of a few linebackers this team is almost as obscure as the 49ers. Their drafts have been Ok in the last couple of years and they are trying to build a solid OL and a defense, but when the biggest name on a team is Joe Jurevicius the playoffs hopes look dim.

-Baltimore: It could be the year that their offense catches up to their defense. The only problem is that defense may not be what it once was. Reuniting QB Steve McNair with his favorite target Derrick Mason, the return of TE Todd Heap, the emergence of WR Mark Clayton, and the RB group of a refreshed Jamal Lewis, Mike Anderson and Musa Smith predicts a good year for the offense (despite a problem at RT).
The defense adds DT Justin Banaan and rookie DT Haloti Ngata (to replace departed Maake Kemoeatu) and declining DE Trevor Price (DEN) to play opposite of standout Terrell Suggs (averages 10 sacks a year over his 3-year career). Ray Lewis had made more noise than plays over the past two years and he will be flanked by Adalius Thomas and Bart Scott. They have a gap at SS and no depth past CB Samari Rolle, Chris McCallister and 2004 defensive player of the year FS Ed Reed.

AFC South:

-Indianapolis: A SB preseason favorite for each of the past few years. The reason for their shortcomings is easily the most overrated player in the league. QB Peyton Manning ignores offensive coordinator Tom Moore, believes that he can outsmart the other team by himself, and crumbles under pressure. The loss of RB Edgerrin James should not affect their prolific offense (since Manning refused to hand him the ball anyway: against Pittsburgh (Second half-two carries)). The offensive line is a solid unit that has been playing together for a while despite the fact that they got confused and abused by Pittsburgh’s rushers. The receivers group has the great tandem of Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne, but with the injury of slot receiver Brandon Stokley it looks thinner than usual.
There are questions, as usual, regarding their defense. The defense carried the team early last year, but the undersized group seemed to fad away at the end of the year.Despite the loss of DT Larry Triplett they still have a solid rotation in the middle, and they use speed to rush the passers from DE Robert Mathis (at 245 lbs he is lighter than some linebackers), and star Dwight Freeney (the problem with Freeney that he can be easily neutralized because of him being overaggressive). The linebackers position is thin and not very impressive beyond LB Cato June. The Secondary seems to fit the Cover-two scheme of Tony Dungy, but the corners are not as good as those he had in Tampa, and the safeties Mike Doss and Bob Sanders are small but hard hitters.

-Jacksonville: Last year’s team could be the most unnoticed 12-4 team ever, and maybe that was justified judging by their poor showing against New England in the playoffs. The 2005 squad returns almost intact with very minor changes. Sophomore tackle Khalif Barnes proved that he can handle the left spot as a rookie and the he rejoins the four other starters from last year. RB LeBrandon Toefield, Alvin Pearman and rookie Maurice Drew have to share the load when RB Fred Taylor gets hurt. QB Byron Leftwich who continues to get better will miss the retired Jimmy Smith, but he hopes the young group of Reggie Williams, converted QB Matt Jones and rookie TE Marcedes Lewis will all live up to their first round potential. Actually they may all take a back a seat to Ernest Wilford (last year:41 catches for 681 Yards, 7 TDs and Thirteen catches for 20+ yards), who had a great off –season.
The defense is anchored in the middle by the outstanding combination of Marcus Stroud and John Henderson, but does not have much behind them at the DE or LB positions. They will depend on MLB Mike Peterson to lead the team in tackles after the loss of Akin Ayodele. In the secondary they added CB Brian Williams (Min) to play opposite to star (but risk-taker) Rashean Mathis. The return of hrad hitting SS Donovin Darius will help the unit.

-Tennessee: Since their last playoffs appearance in 2003 they have been continuously losing starters via free agency and salary-cap cuts, but for the first year they are at least able to acquire some free agents to replace the departed players. They released QB Steve MaNair but neither Billy Volek nor rookie Vince Young could replace him so they scrambled to sign QB Kerry Collins late in the pre-season. The offensive line is coming along and replaces C Justin Hartwig (CAR) with long time Jet and muli-time pro-bowler Kevin Mawae. The RB position has depth in Chris Brown and Travis Henry (both unhappy with their reduced carries), and rookie LenDale White. The receiver position is not as deep, but they will depend more on tight ends, where they have a good group headed by Ben Troupe, and features Bo Scaife and Erron Kinney.
On defense Kyle Vanden Bosch was a pleasant surprise on a line that is full of young draft picks that have not lived up to expectations. Keith Bulluck remains the anchor of the LB group that added a solid David Thornton (IND) at his more natural weak side spot. The safeties Chris Hope (PIT) and solid Lamont Thomson will need to help a pair of inconsistent second year players.

-Houston: Four years into the league and they are into rebuilding mode without a single achievement, aside from shattering the sacks allowed records. This trend does not seem to be changing any time soon, judging by this year OL. They added solid center Mike Flanagan (GB), did a lot of musical chairs shifting, and added a couple of high-rated rookies (Eric Winston and Charles Spencer) who still need some time to contribute effectively. The RB depth chart is currently headed by sixth-round rookie Wali Lundy, and one-time franchise player Dominick Davis was fighting for a roster spot. They tried to give disappointing QB David Carr more legitimate targets beside WR Andre Johnson, so they traded for WR Eric Moulds (BUF) and acquired TE Jeb Putzier (DEN).
The defense will feature a 4-3 front with a very solid front four rotation. Sophomore DT Travis Johnson and veteran Robaire Smith could anchor the middle and first round draft pick (disappointing preseason) and free agents Anthony Weaver and N.D. Kalu can rush the passer. The problem is at LB where they will solely depend on rookie LB DeMeco Ryans to make plays. The backfield is not in any better situation than the LBs. Beyond standout CB Dunta Robinson, the other three positions are manned by below average players.

AFC West:

-Oakland: It is well known that the minute a team gives QB Jeff George the call, it marks the official end of that team’s season. Still it had never happened before the season actually starts! QB Aaron Brooks looked terrible in the preseason and none of the other backups could challenge him. The right side of the line is a disaster and T Robert Gallery struggles and gets overpowered no matter what side he plays on. They used to think they have depth at WR, but with Jerry Porter holding out, and Randy Moss soon to be complaining, it will not matter.
On defense they cannot get any push up the middle from washed up Warren Sapp or (DE) Tommy Kelly and cannot generate any pressure on the opposing QB. The rest of the defense is too young, the veterans in the secondary are second year players, but they all have speed and potential, especially versatile rookie Michael Huff . The fact that Kansas City and San Diego look slightly worse than they were last year could help their record.

-Denver: This is the teamdoes things differently, and although it translates into winning seasons, it does not generate serious playoffs runs. The revolving RB door continues and this year it features undrafted rookie Mike Bell at top of the depth charts. They lost WR Ashlie Lelie for practically nothing and they come into the year with aging WR Rod Smith and rehabbing Jevon Walker. QB Jake Plummer who is not a very good QB could lose his job to impressive rookie Jay Cutler.
They choose to play virtually without a front four for the second straight year, featuring a bunch of cast outs (the Browns old DL), preferring to depend on the best LB trio in the league (Ian Gold. Al Wilson, D.J. Williams). CB Champ Bailey is one of the most overrated players in the league, and SS John Lynch was supposed to be done three years ago. Somehow they still manage to sneak into the playoffs year after year.

-Kansas City: A team that peaked during the 03 season, and may have already watched its window of opportunity being shut with the end of the Dick Vermeil era. Herman Edwards inherits the creative offense that will depend on fantasy football top rated player RB Larry Johnson. Johnson has started only in 9 games last year and the offensive line he is running behind is not that same reliable unit. LT Willie Roaf has retired and is to be replaced by former RT Jordan Black or Kyle Turley(!), leaving the RT spot for Kevan Sampson (1 career start). TE Tony Gonzalez maybe the only legitimate receiver Trent Green has, given the unimpressive group of WR Eddie Kennison, Samie Parker, and Dante Hall (who they are planning to use more as a receiver).
Their defense looks like the same miserable old unit. They have not been successful in their free agency signings or the draft. DE Jarred Allen and rookie Tamba Hali are good pass rushers but the DT and the LB (other than Derrick Johnson, who seems to be going by D.O. Johnson these days) positions are holes. The secondary add another washed up player CB Ty Law next to CB Patrick Surtain and S Sammy Knight.

-San Diego: A team that will put the “importance of the QB” theory to the test. The team looks great at every position except for starting QB. Philip Rivers has zero NFL starts in his career, and is backed up by rookie Charlie Whitehurst. Standout RB LaDanian Tomlinson has a chance to lead the team in both rushing and receiving given how pedestrian their WRs are (Keenan McCardell and Eric Parker). They may be considering a bigger role for their TEs, utilizing All-pro Antonio Gates and recently added Brandon Manumaleuna (STL) and Aaron Shea (CLE) who are expected to make up for the departure of Justin Peelle (MIA). The line is an unheralded group, but has solid hard working players all of whom started last year.
Their defensive front seven, anchored by DT Jamaal Williams, are as good as any other group in the league (in the same conversation as Pittsburgh and New England without the same depth at the front line).The LB group features Steve Foley, Shaun Philips, 272-lb Shawne Merriman and maybe the hardest working of them all Donnie Edwards (how is Edwards going to respond after the team was trying to trade him away all summer?). They tried to address the secondary problems they had last year since Quentin Jammer was their only reliable player in their backfield (although he never lived up to the expectations of the being the fifth overall pick (6 INTs in 4 years)), so they added rookie Antonio Cromartie (who suffered some injuries during his college career), and SS Marlon McCree (CAR).