Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Mr. Peabody's Improbable History / Salam Pax, Raed Jarrar, and Gaith "G" Ahad

Peabody's Improbable History was an American cartoon series that first aired in 1959 (Jay Ward production) about a talking-dog historian/time-traveler named Mr. Peabody and his pet boy, Sherman. Using Mr. Peabody's Wayback Machine, they would travel back in time to make sure that the future turned out the way it was supposed to, very similar to those time-travel Star Trek episodes from the same era.

MR. PEABODY: Sherman, set the Wayback Machine for March 9, 2003.

SHERMAN: Where are we going, Mr. Peabody?

MR. PEABODY: To a city along the Tigris River -- Baghdad, Iraq.

SHERMAN: Baghdad?! What for, Mr. Peabody?!

MR. PEABODY: We need to meet three young Iraqi men who would later turn out to lead their country in the most unpredictable ways possible. Sherman, before we depart on our journey, I thought you would like to look at the diary of one of the young men we will be meeting shortly after our time-travel. The young man's name is Salam Pax.

SHERMAN: (eyes goggling) You mean THAT Salam Pax?!! The Salam Pax that 31 years later would . . .

MR. PEABODY: Precisely.

SHERMAN: Holy cow, Mr. Peabody!

MR. PEABODY: Yes, but we're running out of time, Sherman. Here, read this passage from Mr. Pax's journal.

Sunday, March 09, 2003

A BBC reporter walking thru the Mutanabi Friday book market (again) ends his report
with: “It looks like Iraqis are putting on an air of normality”

Look, what are you supposed to do then? Run around in the streets wailing? War is at the door eeeeeeeeeeeee! Besides, this “normality” doesn’t go very deep. Almost everything is more expensive than it was a couple of months ago, people are digging wells in their gardens, on the radio yesterday after playing a million songs from the time of the war with Iran (these are like cartoon theme songs for people my age, we know them all by heart) they read out instructions on how to make a trench and prepare for war, that is after president saddam advised Iraqis to make these trenches in their gardens.

But in order not to disappoint the BBC; me, Raed and G. put on our “normal” faces and went to buy CDs from Arassat Street in a demonstration of normality. After going first into Sandra’s fruit juice shop and getting what people from foreign would probably call a poor imitation of a banana and apple smoothie, we spent half an hour contemplating the CD racks at music shop. Raed being the master of talk-and-slurp-at-the-same-time technique was trying to steal away my “normality” by reminding me that I will be wasting my 10,000 Dinars because there will be no electricity for the CD player. I explained to him that I am planning on operating a pirate radio station and need to stock on music for the masses I plan to entertain, said in a matter of fact voice and Raed didn’t even blink which made Mr. music_shop_owner look at us very suspiciously at this point so we moved to the next rack. But since I buy the stuff that would otherwise sit and collect dust he didn’t say much and was very happy to take away 12,500 Dinars. I bought five instead of the planned 4 CDs, many thanks to Malaysian bootleggers for providing us with cheap CDs. The deftones, black rebel motorcycle club, erykah badu and the new amr diab (here for audio clips if you are interested) have joined the Pax Radio CD racks.

After Sherman finished reading, he and Mr. Peabody climbed into the Wayback Machine and were transported back to March 9, 2003, just a few weeks before events happened that would change forever the course of Iraqi history and the lives of those three young men.

UPDATE: Faiza posts a letter from an old friend named Zeldean who lives in the United States. Zeldean writes:

Summer is here and it is very hot already. And humid. But everything
growing is lush and green and blooming. I am getting ready for an annual
ALL GIRL trip. There are six of us who have been friends since we were11
years old. (Thats 47 years of being friends!)Two of us since we were
four!!! We have spent one week together since we all got married, so we
would never loose track of each other. We see eachother more often,
however, since we all have roots here. 3 of us still live in Shreveport,
one in Mississippi, one in Kansas and one in South Louisiana. This year we
will go to west Texas. We enjoy this time so much. We get to act like kids
again. We laugh alot and watch sweet, romantic movies that our husbands
would NEVER watch! We shop and sometimes eat out and sometimes cook in. We
are renting a cottage on a lake. Its a good time to relax and talk and
drink lots of coffee!
Just wanted to say Hello again! Hope you are well. Write when you have time.

And here is Faiza's response:

I have got this email from a good friend..
she is happy..
she reminds me of our old happy days, with sisters or friends..
laughing and chatting about different things..
now, it`s summer hot days, with bad electricity...
day and night....
friends and sisters are seperated, every one has his own pain
and sadness..
tanks and helecopters moving all the time..
day and night...
bad news from Najef and Kerbala...
what is coming with tomorrow??
our tomorrow is full of fear and worry...

The contrast between the two old friends could not be more extreme. Zeldean happy, looking forward to hanging out with old frieds, and Faiza seeing disaster all around her. I hope that Faiza will have happier days soon. As an American, I am basically optimistic. And I recall when living in other countries people asking me why Americans were so cheerful all the time -- and in some countries being cheerful all the time is NOT a good character trait. So, when I compare these two letters I have to wonder. Many posters have said that what troubles them the most is the emphasis on the negative coming from Faiza and Riverbend. Some have suggested that they might be suffering from a kind of trauma after the war. I don't know. My hope is that one day Zeldean can fly to Baghdad and visit her old friend Faiza and cheer her up. Then Faiza could post a photo of Zeldean and her standing together and smiling. Now that's a photo I would love to see.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Majid Jarrar emails me and tells me our email interview will have to wait until after the end of his finals exams on June 16. At that time we'll do an interview and I'll post it here. Majid writes:

hey :-)
well, i'd like to answer you for those questions...
but i'm rather busy now .. my finals are getting closer....
is it okay for you if i postponed answering them.... at least until i finish my exams on june 16?
i know u'll say yes, thank you :-)
take care.

Let's all wish Majid good luck on his exams! The Jarrar household must be like Grand Central station these days.


Jason Steenwyk shows us how Media-Sausage is made. Folks, it ain't pretty.

From the archives, Riverbend offers us a very up-to-date analysis of sheikhs and tribes in Iraq. Hat tip: ken

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