Saturday, May 29, 2010

Day 14: Differences are.....

Is there an Arabic radio station named "Chuck"? I don't mean Chuck literally, because if the station was Arabic I'm assuming it would have an Arabic name. Maybe Waleed, or Hadi, or Mubarak. If so, I hope the listeners are as annoyed as I get when the station I'm tuned to says "You're listening to Chuck (or Fred, or Donna) radio." WTF. Do the station programmers think that Chuck and I are going to be buddies, playing beer pong or something? Does Chuck want me to be his wingman? Is Chuck going to keep playing Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" even though I stopped believing that song was any good the first time I heard it?

I suppose radio programmers in the US are trying to have it both ways. They give their stations familiar names to make them feel familiar (and trusted, and reliable, and so forth, unless you actually know a Chuck, and he was a Dick, which might lead you to want to punch Chuck radio in the kisser). Then they say...."Oh, Chuck is different...Just like you. Your songs. Your way" to remind us how unique we are, except for the fact that we're pretty predictable, and Chuck's programmers know what we buy, what we wear, what we drive, and what music we like (and it's not "Don't Stop Believing," which is why I turned Chuck off).

I've mainly been listening to FM 102 (let's call this Hadi radio), with some FM 99 (Mubarak radio) thrown in. I like Hadi and Mubarak a lot, as both mainly play Arabic music, which I find sonically fascinating and cool. I do have two confessions, though: a) all the songs sound alike; b) I can't tell the stations apart. I assume that locals would be aghast at this confession, because: a) each song is different; b) the stations are undoubtedly distinct.

What is different to locals is the same to me, not because I'm an idiot -- I baldly assert -- but because I don't have enough knowledge to make the distinctions. You probably know the feeling, too, when you hear someone say: "All [fill in the blank: rap, country, bluegrass, blues, folks, rock, classical, opera, jazz] music sounds alike" and you think: "'re an idiot." (Ok, maybe I am.)

It's a little hard for me to identify by name the females in my class who are wearing a sheyla (black head scarf) and abaya (long black robe), as I'm accustomed to using hair and clothing to distinguish between individuals. But walking around the Souq (the old market area) last night, I saw four Anglo men sitting together. All were roughly in their 40s, with shaved heads, and sort of khaki clothing. I'm guessing the locals couldn't tell them apart either.

To know my students better, I've been studying the printed "facebook" (no connection with the website) for the Qatar campus. The students/faculty/staff can list their birthplace, hobbies and favorite books, music and movies. Here's a sample of their features

Birthplace Hobby Book Music Movie

Afghanistan Cricket Classical The Matrix
Lebanon Hanging out Pride & Prejudice
Egypt Careless Love Old stuff Rendition
Bangladesh Theater Girls of Riyadh Braveheart
Kuwait "The Office" Harry Potter Guitar hero Dumb and Dumber
USA Football Ab-elmajeed 300
Bahrain Painting Oryx and Crake The Godfather
Palestine Tennis The Alchemist Josh Groban The Notebook
Qatar Biking Hearn's Trilogy Sarah Brightman Breakfast Tiffany's

You get the idea. You just can't always tell by looking what people like, or what they are like. Maybe we are predictable and unique.

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