From that youthful experience comes, I’m sure, my lifelong fascination with following the "oddly enough" stories available in most newspapers and magazines, now in such plentiful supply through online media. Truth being infinitely stranger than fiction, what novelist can top the bizarre gallery of oddball behaviors, unbelievable coincidences and infinite strangeness that all make up the dramatic stories of the bemusing folly we call "real life".
There’s always a fine line to be drawn in presenting such stories, as one person’s awful tragedy is too easily turned into another person’s "funny item of the day". Ripley’s Believe It Or Not books and comic strips, as I remember them, seemed to know how to show respect for the misfortunes of others even while parading those tragedies before us. Generally I feel a similar humane tone to the various online groupings of these stories that I follow through Yahoo and other sources.
Can we really say the same, for this equivalent feature from the Middle East Times: "Only in Egypt!"
It’s billed as a "…collection of weird and whacky news items…"; can something be getting lost in the translation…?
Unidentified assailant knifing Maadi women
EGYPTIAN POLICEMEN are intensifying their efforts to arrest the unknown assailant responsible for stabbing women in Cairo's Maadi streets.
"Even in broad daylight and teeming metro-stations, any girl might be stabbed by the Maadi butcher," said Nahla, 20, warning the district's female population after having caught a glimpse of the attacker.
Over the past two weeks, similar tales of a hooded attacker carrying a small knife and targeting women in Maadi have spread like wildfire.
"I saw him in one of Maadi's quiet streets, hitting a girl wearing tight jeans, [after which] he tried to stab her in her back with no objection from the few passersby," said Ahmed, 17, himself a Maadi inhabitant.
61 ways to leave your lover
THE NUMBER 61 has recently enjoyed great popularity in Egypt's courts having featured significantly in two rather grotesque marital suits.
The first case concerned a husband who had sued his errant wife 61 times to oblige her to return to him.
She had always refused, wishing to dissolve their marriage instead. ...
The second case had to do with the murder of a wife by her husband after he suspected her of infidelity. His decidedly sadistic way of revenge was to burn her all over her body with 61 cigars, while hitting her until she expired. The offender is now serving a lengthy jail sentence.
Egypt's cyber-scribes blog at their own risk
EGYPTIAN BLOGGERS are having to re-think the cost of adding new content to their online forums, or even having them up in the first place.
Abdel Karim Suleiman, a 22-year-old former law student detained in police custody since November 6, 2006, faces up to nine years imprisonment for posting articles critical of Islam on his blog. His trial began January 25 in Alexandria.
The first blogger to be prosecuted in the country, Suleiman has since added Egypt to the 2006 Reporters without Borders list of the 13 nations most culpable of suppressing Internet freedom.
While the official reason for Suleiman's arrest was posting content accusing Muslims of savagery, the main cause for his detainment was his online denouncement of President Hosni Mubarak, comparing him to ancient Egypt's tyrannical Pharaohs.
Suleiman's prosecution comes as a sharp warning to other bloggers considering posting on such "dangerous" issues.
One reason to blog is to test your views through measurement against those of others. And so I pose the question: am I alone in thinking it in rather bad taste, to say the least, to label such stories as "weird and whacky"? That heart-breaking story of a poor woman being tortured to death by cigar burns is "weird and whacky"? To who, a fellow psychopath??
This final story about the imprisoned blogger is repugnant on a whole other level, and to place it within a gallery of stories labeled as suposedly "weird and whacky", surely adds to the disgrace. A poor soul accuses his government of tyranny, and they comply by promptly attempting to jail him for nine years; what is the expected reaction from readers, to find such a story listed among "weird and whacky" news.. are we expected to chuckle and turn the page, muttering under our breath, "ha-ha those wacky egyptians, always silencing their critics..! Only in Egypt!"
To be fair, I would concede that the other stories at this round-up could be labeled as traditionally "weird and whacky" without comment from me. Here’s a story I feel is much more appropriately weird for such a column:
41-hour flight delay, passengers just plane uneasy
MANY EGYPTIANS are known for their pessimism with calamitous results.
Recently, seven such doom-laden Egyptian travelers caused a flight delay of almost 41 hours.
While their Egypt Air flight to Hurghada was boarding, the seven said they heard a suspicious sound emitted from the plane's engines, and immediately asked the captain to allow them to disembark.
Despite their departure, however, the seven's foreboding proved infectious, and the rest of the now-highly-perturbed passengers compelled the captain to perform another engine check.
Even though maintenance staff later pronounced the plane to be technically immaculate, the drama continued with passengers pressuring the airline to replace the plane entirely.
The flight finally took off on a different aircraft, but the original seven doom prophets decided to cancel their trip completely.
Only in Egypt!