More notes from the field


In last weekend’s Barf/Sick post, I mentioned our intrepid traveller friend Jim who stayed with us for a few days on the way back through various Eastern European and Asian countries. I neglected to write that he was joined by his girlfriend, the able Karen, who is also a veteran traveller in her own right and recently spent a solid block of time teaching English in Libya.

Karen described to us a flight on Libyan Airlines where passengers were treated to a Hollywood film in which an exposed chunk of female arm flesh was deemed unchaste and digitally blurred out by the local censors. Now, it seems to me that trying to digitally censor an arm is likely only to produce a similar, slightly larger skin-colored shape that’s even more comely, smooth, and unblemished in appearance. But, hey, who am I to judge. Whatever blows your holy beard back…

Karen’s accounts of Libya happily reminded me of my dictator-crush on Muammar Qaddafi, easily my favorite contemporary tyrant. Some Qaddafi fun facts:

1. Despite presiding over a strict Muslim society, Qaddafi has a personal phalanx of hot female gun-toting body guards.


2. Despite presiding over a strict Muslim society, Qaddafi is reportedly gayer than a french horn actually, this doesn’t seem to stand up— never mind.

3. A profile in the New Yorker from a few years back passes on this local parable:

Three contestants are in a race to run five hundred meters carrying a bag of rats. The first sets off at a good pace, but after a hundred meters the rats have chewed through the bag and spill onto the course. The second contestant gets to a hundred and fifty meters, and the same thing happens. The third contestant shakes the bag so vigorously as he runs that the rats are constantly tumbling and cannot chew on the anything and he takes the prize. That third contestant is Libya’s leader, Colonel Muammar Qaddafi.

4. A New York Times Magazine article from 2003 describes Qaddafi’s social magnetism thusly:

In photographs taken of Saddam Hussein’s inner circle, his aides appear pale and frozen-smiled, a collection of dead-men-walking awaiting the next purge. Among those around Qaddafi, by contrast, there was an excited air that veered toward the giddy, as if they were in the presence of some A-list celebrity and still couldn’t quite believe their good luck.

5. His recent and much-reported speech to the United Nations, that went on for so long that his translator reportedly shrieked, ‘I can’t take it any longer!’ and collapsed before being replaced by another emergency back-up. (Note: the speech lasted 90 minutes, which is well beyond the 15 minute time-limit that is politely agreed upon in UN circles. However, it was far from the longest speech in UN history, trailing Castro’s 4.5 hour rant in 1960 and some Indian MP’s 8 hour lecture on relations with Kashmir.)

To be fair, one has to mention Qaddafi not-so-fun facts, which include: (1) terrorism; (2) massive curtailment of civil liberties and corruption; (3) wrongful imprisonment of Bulgarian nurses.

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