Josh Wood

A journalist's observations on Lebanon and elsewhere

Archive for October 2010

A sneak peek at November’s Esquire Middle East

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My piece about the plight of Cairo’s garbage people, the Zaballeen (which I mentioned earlier here) is done, at the printing press and hitting news stands in the Gulf and Lebanon on Monday in November’s issue of Esquire Middle East.  Photos, as always, are by talented British photog Sam Tarling.

Written by woodenbeirut

October 28, 2010 at 3:21 pm

Posted in Egypt, Published Work

Beirut…in comic form

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David Axe photographs Sodeco's iconic war-torn Barakat building (soon to be Beit Beirut) in his new graphic novel War is Boring. Illustration by Matt Bors.

I’m usually not one for comic books (or graphic novels as I’m told some are called) but War is Boring by freelancer David Axe (who runs a blog of the same name) caught my attention.  I got a copy a while back and got too busy to review it, but though I’d just say a few words here.

The book is based off of Axe’s experiences as a young, sometimes poverty-stricken journalist seeking adventure and adrenaline in some of the world’s hottest war zones.  As a correspondent (or as he has described himself “war tourist”) for The Washington Times, C-Span, BBC Radio and others, Axe traveled to Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Somalia, Chad and East Timor (to name a few) to cover conflict.  Upon returning back to the States, he would fall into depression, with his only thoughts revolving around getting back into the thick of things.

Axe dedicates a whole chapter to Lebanon, which he visited after the 2006 war.  It’s not as action-packed as his descriptions of say Iraq or Chad, but it is interesting to see Beirut in comic form.

The book struck me as its form really adds a new twist to the usual “war correspondent” memoir.   The visuals, drawn by artist Matt Bors, are based on Axe’s recollections of events and pictures he supplied and offer an interesting way to view subjects that have, over the course of the years, been covered quite a bit.

It’s an interesting read and was a nice break from the usual stuff on my bookshelf.

I’ll leave you with a couple of quotes I pulled from the book — here is Axe debating his chosen field:

In choosing war, was I courageously embracing some important, painful truth?  Or was I willfully ignoring the real truth?  That most people live in peace, comfortably, happily and have no need for a place like East Timor.

Axe on being back in the US, away from the front lines:

Every beer I tasted stale, every conversation was a lie.  I still found war tedious, I still found peace worse.  I didn’t feel much anymore.  What pleasure I used to take in everyday things was replaced with a constant low-grade anger…mostly anger at myself for thinking that going off to war would make me smarter, sexier and happier.

Written by woodenbeirut

October 27, 2010 at 12:54 pm

Posted in Beirut, Books

Can Lebanon’s Roads “Go Green?”

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I first started thinking about the prospects for green technology cars in the Middle East when I was riding in a cab in Cairo’s Dokki neighborhood a couple of months back.  The driver apologized as he banged a right into petrol station and rather than driving up to the normal pumps, got into backed up line of white cabs.  I was slightly confused – and agitated at the time because of the wait – until he popped his hood and I saw that he was getting compressed natural gas (CNG).

Cairo’s newish cab fleet of white cabs with black checkers running through the middle are a god send for the city.  Not only do they use fairly-priced meters which keep arguments with drivers over fares to a minimum, but they’re also helping clean up the city.  On the economic side, drivers get more miles per gallon and get chances to earn more money by hosting advertisements on the sides of the cars.  With a trade-in option for previous vehicles, it’s little wonder that Cairo’s dilapidated and old fleet of black clunkers is quickly losing ground.

The thought that passed through my mind was that if Cairo – a city known for its chaos, pollution and corruption – can go green, can other places in the Middle East?

In Lebanon’s proposed 2010 budget (yes, still held up in bureaucracy even with less than 90 days left in the year) there is a clause that would slash import tariffs on hybrid cars entering the country.  These import tariffs plus a 10% Value Added Tax mean that cars in Lebanon can cost much more than their actual retail price.  Many cars in the country cost up to 50% more.

Right now, a Toyota Prius costs about $60,000 in Lebanon – not exactly a steal compared to the price tag in the $20,000 – $30,000 range in the US.  With those kinds of prices, its easy to see why hybrids aren’t exactly hip in Lebanon just yet.

However, if the clause passes hybrids could suddenly see their prices drop significantly and could in some cases, be even cheaper than their non-hybrid equivalents.  It will be interesting to see.

Anyways, I go into more depth on this in my article in this month’s Executive Magazine, so check it out.

Written by woodenbeirut

October 6, 2010 at 2:23 pm

Light Posting

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I’ve been drowning in quite a bit of work recently and haven’t had time to blog.  There’s a ton of interesting stuff going on in Lebanon right now – especially with the latest Special Tribunal for Lebanon drama and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit next week.  I’ll try and find some time to comment on these soon.  In the meantime, here’s a review I wrote for last month’s Esquire Middle East about LA Times correspondent Megan Stack’s new book Every Man in This Village is a Liar about her past decade reporting in the Middle East.

Written by woodenbeirut

October 4, 2010 at 12:52 pm

Posted in Lebanon, Published Work