Friday, February 29, 2008

Shaggy Daze

Several months ago I was doing some archival work in the Iraqi blogosphere when I came across a link to a blog that I had never read before called Baghdad Bacon & Eggs. Baghdad Bacon & Eggs? What kind of blog name is that, I wondered. Why is an Iraqi referring to pork? Well, the blogger called himself Shaggy, and I read a few of his posts. I soon realized that the author was as unusual as the blog title itself, so I decided to go back to Shaggy's first post and then read through the entire archive of blog entries in the order in which they were written.

On May 21, 2004, Shaggy typed out his first blog entry. He would only write that one entry for the month, and after that he wouldn't resume writing until September of that same year. But already in that single entry for May, which he titled "Slob log 14664," Shaggy signaled the kind of writer he would be:
Had the intention of viewing some blogs but end up making one instead. Maybe after this the website would let me see other people's blogs. But while I'm here, I might as well make the most of it.

It's 10:41 pm, the temperature is warm. I would appreciate some air-conditioning instead of the fan but since the electricity is cut and we're running on our little generator, I can't turn the a/c on.

I don't think I knew what air conditioning was until I came to this god-forsaken place 8 years ago. Well now I do, and have a better idea why my family migrated to the UK so many decades ago.

I am bored, my aim is to channel that boredom onto you and others like you who have reached this far.

Au revoiree.
And then three months of silence until September, when he starts his blogging career in earnest -- or perhaps, better said, in jest. While most of the Iraqi bloggers have been focused on the political events occurring around them, Shaggy remains one of the few true personal-diary bloggers. To my knowledge, the closest Shaggy has ever came to penning his philosophy of blogging happened in the middle of a blog entry from March 12, 2005, entitled "Attention":
So my blog got put on the 'Iraqi Blog Count'. Should I be yippeeing or not. I hate change. But after some short lived attention, I hope it would become just another link on a list.

I really don't see myself representing anything genuinely Iraqi. It can be granted that I'm Iraqi and that I'm living in Baghdad, but it ends there. Taking a quick glance at some of the other blogs, they're serious pieces of work and they do more to portray the situation in Iraq and the effects it has on their lives.

As for myself, the idea of this blog is more personal. It's supposed to be healthy to express one's thoughts and that's what I sometimes do with my blog. Other times, I'm just recording events that I go through which I would otherwise forget. And above all, I'm just using this as a way to kill time.
But there is no other Iraqi blogger who kills time and writes about it with such candor as Shaggy. He talks openly about everything in his life. "My balls stink," he writes in one entry. When he got his first commenter -- after seven months -- ("Yippee, I got my first comment :D), he was asked about the war. "The war wasn't scary as much as it was exciting for me," he said. "[Y]ou could say I've got a few screws loose."

Shaggy's personal biography is kind of complicated. While his family mostly lives in England, his father owns a rice plantation in Iraq (which one day Shaggy will probably take over). Shaggy himself grew up in three different countries: England, Lebanon, and Iraq. But as a student in the university in Baghdad he is in the odd position of having to learn Arabic as a foreign language for his coursework. "[I]'ve lived in iraq and lebanon for a total of 10 years," he writes in a December 29, 2004, blog entry, "and I can't read the bloody newspaper."

It's this honesty and his self-deprecating humor that always pull you back to Shaggy's blog. In one of his September, 2004, blog entries, for example, he had been complaining about a burning sensation in his anus. The next day, he informs his dear readers:
When I got home, Nahida hit me with the big one. The itchy sensation and the lump coming out of my rectum are the symptoms of Piles (Hemorrhoids). For me that was sufficient reason to freak out and get depressed. I spoke to a doctor on the phone and he prescribed some cream to relieve the pain, some laxatives, and some antibiotics, all of which Nahida promptly acquired. I then did a sitz bath which felt really good even though I did it all wrong. I'll get it right next time. I just hope that the operation if I have to do it isn't going to be as painful as I imagine. And boy this cream is great.
You might be wondering who Nahida is. Well, most of the time Shaggy never explained who she was. For a long time the only thing I could figure out is that she lived in the same house as Shaggy and that she and Shaggy were often engaged in some kind of low-level war about a variety of domestic matters. Much later, in a passing note, Shaggy would explain that she had been renting the upper floor of her Dad's house and therefore she kind of "came with the house." But if you become of fan of Shaggy's blog, as I am, you will get to meet not just Nahida, but Fozzy, Kiki, Zed, Od, Maz, Mos, Zaif, Nawf, K, Dina, Suzy, Shady, India, Miz, Hans, Dudu, and Fal, among others that I can't remember right now.

While Shaggy does not even pretend to expatiate on international politics or whether deconstruction's hegemony in the academy has now waned, he does have one very tangible claim to fame. He has written, I believe, the shortest blog entry ever recorded in the blogosphere. On March 31, 2005, Shaggy wrote this in a blog entry entitled "Sniff":
I stink.

Shaggy's Excellent Adventures.

March 18, 2005, Splash that backside. Shaggy on the farm.
March 19, 2005, Blanks. Some people think Shaggy is smart; he corrects them here.
March 24, 2005, Idle Hands. Shaggy discusses which drugs are popular in Iraq.
May 5, 2005, Call me Sloth. Shaggy considers to what extent he is brain-dead.
June 5, 2005, A Moment To Gloat. Shaggy's Empire fights back. He receives an e-mail from Salam Pax.
October 5, 2005, I Go To The Loo. And Do Number Two. Shaggy tries to decide whether his shoes or socks smell more.
January 10, 2006, Off To The Farm Tomorrow. Shaggy recalls that he once gave his senile grandmother a joint.
April 7, 2006, Who In The World Is Nahida? Shaggy finally tells us all about Nahida.
June 15, 2006, I Think It's A Good Time To Pour Myself A Drink. "My balls stink," Shaggy writes, "but that's not inspirational enough."
June 20, 2006, Cockroach Roaming. Shaggy battles a cockroach, and Fozzy tells him about the "waiting Mahdi."
December 2, 2006, One Month On. Shaggy admits, "I'm happier here than anywhere else even despite all that's going on."
December 11, 2006, Sub Woofer Come. I'll let Shaggy explain this one. Abbas comments.
December 25, 2006, Last Of My Bottle Of Teacher's. Shaggy chats with Suzy by phone.
January 4, 2007, Why FMMM?. Shaggy Jr. objects to FMMM.
January 7, 2007, KitKat - Globalization's Victim. Shaggy warns his readers about Chinese-made KitKat bars.
February 9, 2007, We Got A Gun In The House. Shaggy tries to study; Nahida borrows a machine gun.
March 14, 2007, I'm Not Hungry Anymore. Like a breakaway republic, Shaggy declares independence from Nahida.
March 17, 2007, Elated. With a zit growing on his thigh and a nicotine patch on his arm, Shaggy suddenly feels elated.
April 24, 2007, Mouth Ulcer Painful. During a house search, an American soldier tells Shaggy that he likes his T-shirt, which reads: "I don't have a drinking problem, I drink, I get drunk, I pass out... No Problem!"
July 16, 2007, Back From The Plantation. Shaggy's car-trip down to Shamiya and the plantation.
August 9, 2007, I Went To Najaf. Shaggy, Nahida, and Fozzy spend the day in Najaf, where his ancestors are buried. "Someday I'm expected to be burried there too," Shaggy writes. "I really ought to check it out again sometime before I'm dead."
September 18, 2007, In Da House For Too Long Da Da Da. "I feel like a confused sixteen year old in a forty year old body," Shaggy writes.
November 23, 2007, Poink Poink Poink. Shaggy ponders the unwanted adhesive properties of Kleenex.



I'm surprised to be saying this, but the new NYTimes Baghdad Bureau blog is very good. They provide a good combination of text, photos, and videos, and the layout is attractive. Check out Stephen Farrell's report from Diyala. Also new to the blogroll, you will now find Leila Fadel's Baghdad Observer, an in-house blog for the McClatchy newsgroup.


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