EBERTFEST: Wael vs. the Volcano Vol. 2- The Uplifting Sequel

By now most of you must have heard of my success of getting to Ebertfest. For those of you who don’t know here’s what happened. I had lost all hope and went to the airport in Doha to buy a ticket back to Egypt. I was standing in line to get that ticket when my father pointed to a TV screen. “London Heathrow airports are back in business. For the time being only those with cancelled flights will be served.” 

Before booking the ticket, I asked the guy behind the counter to find me a route to Champaign. It was my last attempt and also my last chance to at least attend one full day at Ebertfest. It took the guy about thirty minutes to find a route to my final destination. “That’ll cost you $8,200.”, he said. My father looked at me and asked how much my previous ticket cost. I told him that it cost me around a thousand. By chance, a representative from British Airways was passing by and overheard our conversation. He then turned to us, and told us that if our previous flight was cancelled due to the volcanic ash, BA would take care of the costs as long as I fly with either British Airways or American Airlines. The stars must have been aligned for me, because the route we found was all American Airlines. Anyway, so they gave me the ticket, but there was still a problem. I would go from Doha to Bahrain, from Bahrain to London, from London to Chicago, and from Chicago to Champaign. Two of these flights were still not confirmed, so they put me on standby for the flight the next day. 

That day, I told no one, except for Roger Ebert and Mary Susan, about my tiny chance of attending this one day at the festival. If everything went well, I would miss my panel discussion, but I’d attend the 24th and the last screening on the 25th. That was good enough for me. Besides it was either that, or back to Egypt.

We went back home at around 2 a.m. My father went to sleep right away. I stayed up all night; I just couldn’t sleep. Whenever I would close my eyes, I’d think of meeting the foreign correspondents, Roger and Chaz.  I thought of how happy I’d be if I got that seat, and of course, how sad it would be to get disappointed one last time. I couldn’t take that anymore.

I slept for an hour or two at around 8 a.m. When I woke up, I packed my last few items, and started heading to the airport. I waited and waited; people kept coming in and my little hope for that seat began to vanish. Finally, at the last moment around 8 p.m., the airline representative approached me, “You’re lucky. Someone didn’t show up.” I said my goodbyes to my father, and checked my bag in. I was still in disbelief, and didn’t think of it that much at the moment. I tried to contact Roger or Mary Susan, but the internet reception there was terrible.

The following 23 hours (16 hours of flight) felt like a week, as I stopped in Bahrain, London, and Chicago, rushing from one terminal to the next. The last thing I wanted was to miss my flight, and blame the failure of arriving to Ebertfest on myself instead of the volcano.

When I finally got to Chicago, I sent Omer Mozaffer a message:

 “Hi Omer. It’s your buddy Wael. Ezayak? (Arabic for How are you) I can’t reach Mary Susan or Roger. I just arrived in Chicago.”

Omer later told me that at that precise moment, he read the message and showed it to Roger. Roger read it and his eyes widened by the surprise arrival. Omer, aka the unofficial leader of the foreign correspondents, then replied to me and gave me directions to the hotel I was to stay in. I waited at the airport for 6 hours before my short flight to Champaign took off.

When I arrived there, it was Friday night, around 8 o’clock. Meanwhile, everyone was watching “Synecdoche, New York”, so I took a cab to the Illini Union Hotel and checked in. I was very tired but decided to attend the mid-fest party late that night. Grace Wang was kind enough to pick me up since I didn’t know where to go or anything. She turned out to be this wonderful person, much nicer than her already kind personality online. That’s when I first met Tom Dark. We clicked in an instant. On our way to the party, we talked about everything from the things I’ve missed in Ebertfest to my blog entries.

The party was very crowded. Grace spotted the rest of the foreign correspondents, grabbed me and lead me through the chatting crowd. Omar Moore, Omer Mozaffer, Seongyong Cho and Michael Mirasol were there. Each of them greeted me with a hug and several “You MADE IT!” celebrations. They were most welcoming. We chatted a bit and then I asked about Roger. He couldn’t make it to the party, since he felt tired and wanted to call it a night. They told me that I’d meet him at his place the following day where Chaz and Roger would be having a breakfast party for us bloggers. I was most excited. I was also interviewed by Sandra Kofler from the Wall Street Journal. She mentions me in her article about the festival here: http://j.mp/dBYIrU

 I spotted Charlie Kaufman from across the room. He was very busy answering all kinds of questions about the recent screening of his masterpiece. A few minutes later my main man, Evan (an Ebertfest volunteer) walked me home. I needed some sleep if I wanted to wake up for that breakfast at Roger’s place.

The next day, I met up with Grace, Omer, the wonderful Gerardo Valero, his sweet wife and Tom. The group of 6 or 7 then split up into two cars. I went with Omer. We all knew that Roger had not seen me yet and Omer was particularly excited to see his reaction. Carol (Roger’s assistant) let us in after a few minutes of standing in front of the elevator. When Chaz saw me she gave the most welcoming hug. “I can’t believe you’re actually here.” she said. I kept smiling and told her how glad I am to finally make it. We then went inside and enjoyed the coffee, croissants and so on. I mingled with the crowd and met some wonderful people including the executive producer of Chaz and Ebert’s upcoming show, and an old lady from Canada who was just adorable. I hate myself for forgetting her name.  I asked her “If you could recommend just one Canadian film, what would it be?” “Shake Hands with the Devil”, she replied. Another film was added to the wish list.

Roger was still upstairs but after about ten minutes he came down. I looked at him, he looked at me. “Look who made it. Wael from Egypt.”, Omer said. We then hugged each other. “It’s an honor sir”, I whispered. Everyone was looking at us and I was at the happiest state of my life. My mentor was shaking my shoulder with joy. Gerardo took a few pictures of us smiling at each other. I hope he sends them soon. I’m smiling right now just writing about that moment.

The small party went on and I met some other interesting individuals. Everyone seemed to know who I am. Apparently, Roger and Chaz would update the audience every day about the progress of my trip. I must’ve gotten dozens of “We’re so glad you made it. Your trip was so dramatic. But YOU MADE IT!” I’d smile each time to the strangers. The then strangers are now friends.

At one point I spotted Roger sitting on his chair when nobody around him. He was all alone, so I jumped at the chance and sat next to him. We talked about my grandfather, my jetlag,  the updates of the festival, and how I’d go through everything again just to meet Roger, Chaz and the far-flung gang as I like to call them. He also signed the festival program for me. “To Wael, My Friend. Roger” I appreciate the autograph, but it’s the “My Friend” part that has me gazing at the cover every hour. I later purchased 6 of his books. Someone asked me, “Aren’t you going to get him to sign them for you?” I didn’t want him to sign. I didn’t want to feel like a fan (which I am) but a friend (which he is).

An hour or so later it was time for all of us to head to the festival. I waited outside with Grace and Omer. Charlie Kauffman came and joined. I told him who I was and where I’m from, we shook hands, and I told him how many times I had seen “Synecdoche, New York” (5). He was amazed that the film was even released in Egypt. I also told him that I admire the fact that he doesn’t explain his film in interviews and how he should never reveal more than what is displayed on screen. “It would ruin it. What I love most about your films is the fact that every time I re-watch them, I get something new out of the experience.”
He nodded and said something in the lines of “I really appreciate you saying that because I get a lot of shit about that.” He was leaving Ebertfest shortly after, so I shook his hand and said goodbye. I was glad to meet the greatest screenwriter alive before missing the chance.

Tom Dark, Grace, and I started heading to the Virginia Theater. We grabbed cups of coffee from a café on our way. When we finally got there, I realized that I had no pass. Grace told me about a gift-bag that contained the pass but my room didn’t have that. We tried explaining to the volunteers that I was a foreign correspondent but they only appointed us to someone else. They were doing their job. By luck at that moment Roger was entering the theater. He pointed at me, we shook hands again, and then he waved his hands into the entrance. This time nobody dared to stop me on my way in.

Once inside, I admired the Virginia Theater, studying every single detail of the beautifully preserved design of the place. The theater was pretty much full but I managed to find a seat upfront. I was then approached by another volunteer who asked for my pass. “You can’t sit there.”, he said. “Yes, he can” said a voice from behind me. It was Tom Dark, he had saved a seat for me all the way at the back, a few seats next to Roger. A few moments later Chaz came up on stage.

“I’m very happy to tell you some of the people have been blogging and tweeting and the News Gazette wrote an article about one of our foreign correspondents who couldn’t come. Wael Khairy, from Egypt, Wael is here. Wael stand.” _Chaz

A thunder of applause followed. I stood up put my hand on my heart. I kept smiling for the ten seconds of applause. The hundreds or a thousand of seated people turned around and looked at me as they continued to applaud. I couldn’t think straight. I was being introduced and put on the spotlight. I can write a long list of adjectives describing how I felt at that moment (proud, happy, thankful, happy, grateful, happy, touched, and very happy).

We then watched a nice British film called “I Capture the Castle”. It was my first time seeing the film, and I enjoyed it very much. I didn’t think it was a masterpiece but still, it was much better than most family films I can think of. At the Q & A, Grace Wang discussed how the film was about adolescence. Another panelist (the daughter of the costume designer) thought the film was essentially about love, a member of the audience said it was about the process and struggle to write. I thought it wasn’t about any of this and about all that too. Let me explain, the way I saw it, it was about the discovery of things, be it love and how it can be both beautiful yet painful at the same time, the discovery of an adolescences’ sexual frustration, the discovery of what it’s like to have a first kiss, and the discovery of that tiny spark that brings an end to a writer’s block. I wanted to raise my hand and say all that but by the time my thoughts had formed, they had picked the last question by the audience.

After the Q &A, I went to get more coffee to stay awake. I went outside to catch a breath of fresh air and saw Tom smoking one of his cigars. We talked about my censorship incident and went back in shortly. The same executive-producer from last time handed me an All-Screenings Pass, just in case anything happened. The next screening was “Vincent: A Life in Color”. I sat up front next to a film professor from Ohio. We talked a lot and he turned out to be quite a guy. Right behind me sat Gerardo and his wife. I greeted them once again and Gerardo told me “You know what Wael, they should do a statue of you.” What a compliment? “Huh? Why?” He told me that the day before, Roger, and Grace and himself were discussing the subtitle incident. I was touched by the fact that they thought of me while I was gone. He also told me that during their panel discussion, my far flung buddies shouted out at the camera that they miss me and that they wished I was here. Again, I was very touched. It seems like everyone was so welcome, nice and thoughtful. I just couldn’t help but keep smiling randomly throughout the day.

“Vincent: A Life in Color” was one of the most uplifiting feel good documentaries I had ever seen. I was surprised that it wasn’t as well known as it deserves to be. The choices Roger picks for his festival are truly unique and pitch perfect. I saw Vincent himself at the breakfast party but I didn’t know who he was. At one point he put his hand on my blazer and said “Ouuu feeling groovy?” After the documentary I appreciated that random moment even more. The entire audience was touched by his story, at parts everyone was smiling, at others the room was so quiet you could’ve heard a fly pass by. “Vincent: A Life in Color” is a bittersweet masterpiece of a documentary. I love the fact that it started out by displaying Vincent as this crazy guy dancing on a bridge wearing weird suits, and then it kept getting closer and closer to Vincent the man not Vincent the public image. Eventually, the wide shots got closer narrower up till a headshot interviewing the man at the end. I still don’t understand the motif of his actions but that’s exactly what I love about the man’s spirit.

After the credits rolled, Vincent came up on the stage and did his little performance of twirling his suit. A standing ovation followed. After that the Q & A started. I was surprised that it was the director’s first film and that she paid for every cent. She was a waitress first, and suddenly got the idea of doing a documentary on the by now urban legend known as, well he’s known as a lot of things.

During the break, Chaz came up to me and introduced me to Melissa Merli from The News Gazette. I was interviewed by her outside. She was very nice and I thanked her personally after picking up several copies of the newspaper on Monday. I asked Roger to thank Chaz for me. It was mighty kind of her to get me that interview. You can read all about it here: http://j.mp/bGY13B

After the interview we went back in to watch “Trucker”. It exceeded my expectations and I now consider it one of the best films of 2008. The performances were what surprised me most. Michelle Monaghan delivered a once in a lifetime performance and I can see her career taking off the way Charlize Theron’s career took off after “Monster”. There’s one shot in that movie that I think is simply beautiful. It’s when Diane Ford and her son sit in the middle of nowhere facing the screen with a gap between them and an empty landscape of desert as the background. It takes place much earlier in the film which is when both characters are quite distant from each other, the emptiness of that shot with the vast space expressed so much about the characters at that stage of their lives. As the film progressed, the gap between them eventually vanished and they end up in each other’s arms. I was also struck by the realistic friendship between Diane and her best friend, Runner played excellently by Nathan Fillion. Especially since my best friend is girl (Amina). I understood many of the scenes of them together and how they were the only ones who truly understood each other. The theme of their relationship touched me more than any chemistry between two fictional friends in a long time.  

About an hour later, I was enjoying the company of Grace and Tom once again in the Green Room.  We talked about his work, her potential future as a writer, and how the book about Egyptian censorship and piracy that I’m working on will probably never see the light of any bookshelves till the Egyptian government changes for the better. Roger Ebert was also the subject of our conversation. We talked about his generosity and how interactive he is, being one of the few critics who have daily conversation with their readers. As soon as the vegetarian macaroni dishes were wiped by our appetite, we headed back to the festival for the final screening of the day, “Barfly”.

I knew about the film but never got the chance to actually seeing it. Now that I have, I can honestly consider it one of the greatest films of the 80’s. Mickey Rourke’s performance is one of the greatest male lead showcases in film history. I was shocked to find out later on that he wasn’t even nominated in 1987. Upon learning that I recalled the Academy’s other 80’s mistake of not nominating Robert De Niro in “The King of Comedy”. “Barfly” is so deep and layered with philosophical themes wrapped up in a hilarious yet dark screenplay. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like it. It’s the film I enjoyed most out of the five films I enjoyed there. The Q & A was one of a kind with the surprise appearance of Barbet Schroeder. He shared some interesting stories about the making of the film and the subject of his story, Charles Burkowski. At first I thought the film was ok, but now that it has grown on me, I think it’s a masterpiece that should be considered a modern classic in years to come.

As soon as the day came to an end, I had to get some sleep. The caffeine effect was no longer working and my eye-lids became more and more heavy. Instead of going to the party, I went to sleep and finally got some proper rest. Waking up the next morning, I met the wonderful Jim Emerson. I knew him from Roger’s blog and read his reviews for the past year. He’s probably the only film critic other than Ebert that I follow too. He told me how dramatic my arrival was and how he was so very glad that I made it. We talked about Egypt, and he showed me the tattoo on his arm of the Eye of Horus. I love that symbol which is why I got Grace a silver necklace of that same symbol from Egypt. The eye is represented as a figure with 6 parts. These 6 parts correspond to the six senses – Touch, Taste, Hearing, Thought, Sight, Smell. These are the 6 parts of the *eye*.  The eye is the receptor of *input*. It has these six doors, to receive data. It was also believed to be a protective symbol. Anyway, Jim was very kind, warm, welcoming and generous enough to mention me in his Ebertfest wrap-up article: http://j.mp/c5IpD9 I bought myself a few copies of this Chicago Sun-Times issue from the airport the following day.

The last screening of Ebertfest was the heartbreaking documentary, “Song Sung Blue” about Thunder & Lightning, their ups and downs. I couldn’t help but think of how emotionally similar the couple’s journey was to that of Roger and Chaz. It was a fitting end to greatest two days of my life. Thunder herself performed afterwards and the theater soon broke into a concert with audiences up on their feet dancing to her tunes. I couldn’t help but smile as Roger danced along. Everyone was so happy and I couldn’t wipe that smile off my face. I also noticed that Roger is one of the most humorous guys I’ve ever met. He waves and points with his hands at pitch perfect moments causing waves of laughter. I doubt he had that physical humor before his operation. It’s amazing how well he’s taking his rough journey, inspirational to say the least.

After the Q & A, and the fifth presentation of the golden thumb I had witnessed, Roger and Chaz wrapped up the show and everyone was on their way back home. It was a bittersweet end to a joyful experience. I have attended many festivals in Egypt, Rome, and London but never anything quite like this. I can’t recall any festival where the audience played such an important role. It was as close as you’d get to a group hug of film lovers.

By the time I exchanged emails with the all the new people I met in the festival, Roger had left the theater. He was nowhere to be found and I feared that I wouldn’t get the chance to thank him properly and say my goodbyes. When I returned to my room, Roger sent me an email to meet him at the Steak & Shake. I met up with Michael Mirasol then and went to the address provided by Roger. It wasn’t my first time there though. Michael had set up this Steak & Shake lunch for me earlier that day. Many of the foreign correspondents and Tom Dark attended the special meal. The burger was phenomenal. Anyway, when I got there, we sat at a long table and shortly after Roger and Chaz arrived. As soon as Roger came in, our eyes were fixed on each other. He knew I wanted to spend more time with him.

 It is there that I got to talk to Chaz a lot. She was surprised when she quizzed me and Omar Moore about what her favorite movie was. “I know!” I said. “It’s ‘A Clockwork Orange’”. She smiled, patted me on the back and thanked me for knowing this. We talked about Egypt more, my grandfather, our favorite films, the festival, her show, her job, how I got a job at C Mag, how she originally thought I was in my 60’s, and the Roger Ebert effect on my blog.

About half an hour later, Roger sat next to me and asked about my jetlag. I told him that I had just adjusted to the time zone. “In a way…because I was so tired yesterday making the day extra long for me, I kind of felt like I had spent three days in Urbana not one. In a good way of course”, I told him. He asked if I could go back to Chicago to spend more quality time but I couldn’t since my military permission has an expiry date. I saw the disappointment in his eyes and it broke my heart. I would do anything to spend more time with the man.I did promise to visit Chicago more often and told him that I’d tell him about my visits beforehand. We continued talking about Mary Susan and some other matters. At one humorous moment we observed as Seongyong Cho nodded.  Before I knew it, it was time for him to leave. We hugged it out and he waved goodbye to all of us.

I spent two days at Ebertfest and got to talk with Roger in two occasions, once each day, both the most memorable occasions of my stay there.  I wish I talked more with him there but we both knew that I made it to Ebertfest and got to spend some quality time with him and the foreign correspondents, that’s all that mattered. A viratual friendship materialized.

Later that night I had dinner with Michael, Grace and Jackson at some crappy Chinese restaurant but we made the most out of it. We laughed, joked, and talked about our home countries. After dinner we sat at the Illini Union reception and talked about our first encounters with Roger, and it progressed from there. We also talked about film criticism in general and our jobs back home. The night came to an end at Grace’s place where we chilled for hours talking about films, imitated 1-800 ads, and finally called it a night. The next morning was a sad one. I said my goodbyes and thought of how we bonded over the past two days. I also bonded with my uddy Evan that day. I spent the rest of the afternoon with the young aspiring filmmaker, soccer player, band member and comedian (talk about hard work and potential). He told me some very interesting tales about his love for the TV Show “Scrubs” and how he would wear scrubs to school in an attempt to save the show from cancellation. He took me to nice fast food restaurant that served one of the best butter burgers I’ve ever tasted. After buying some DVDs, it was time to head to the airport. We promised to keep contact.

I slept through most of the fights and time passed in a fast paste. When I got back home, the same friends who did their best to find me a plane ticket to Ebertfest greeted me. They asked questions and I answered them. I told about every single detail, and they were glad to see me so happy. So was it worth it? Gerardo was so very friendly as was his wife; Omer Mozaffer treated me like a relative; Grace spent so much time with me and we got to know each other so well, it feels like I knew her all my life; Michael became the one I could identify with most having similar backgrounds; Omar Moore always made sure I was laughing and captured so many magical moments with his camera; Seongyong Cho kept me busy with debates and film conversations; Tom Dark lectured me about writing; I enjoyed watching the charismatic Ali Arikan being all over the place; Chaz was so very kind and great to talk to; Carol is another one who kept me laughing whenever we’d meet up; and talking to Roger in person strengthened our friendship in an instant. It amazes me that in a matter of 48 hours, these people evolved from correspondents and people I admired, to friends I just can’t bear the thought of never seeing again. Looking back at how we all bonded, I can no longer think of them as friends but family, one big movie loving family.





70 thoughts on “EBERTFEST: Wael vs. the Volcano Vol. 2- The Uplifting Sequel

  1. Amazing story!!! I’m overly sentimental so I got a little teary eyed. I’m so happy meeting Roger turned out to be such an amazing experience. It can be dificult to meet your “idols” and have them not meet expectation or just be crappy. Glad to read Roger was warm and encouraging. I can’t wait to see your pictures with Roger.


  2. As I read this, I think I was smiling only slightly less than you were while experiencing it. That’s why I love the written word: it can transport you to places in an instant, and it doesn’t cost anything.

    Since I lived the festival vicariously this year, and you only got to experience the festival for a few days, I hope we both get to experience the complete festival, in person, next year. See you there, my friend. 🙂


  3. Wael? I thank you for the gift of the scarab beetle charm. It’s now in a special place in our living room — an antique Chinese cabinet where we keep items of precious value of one kind or another. It was great that you succeeded in your efforts to get to Ebertfest. You’re a noble man and I’m proud to call you friend.


    1. TOM!!! It is so comforting to read your words here. I miss you already. I’m glad you like the scarab beetle charm. You deserved that one. You support and friendship caught me off guard, which is why I love the fact that I met an intellectual like yourself. I hope to see you soon my friend. If you plan on going to Egypt with your wife, you know who to call. Your buddy Wael will be waiting to take you around. 🙂


  4. It was so wonderful to read this Wael. You deserved Ebertfest and Eberfest deserved you. I’m sure you brightened the experience for everyone who met you.

    I envy the Far Flung Correspondents when you are far flung, but when you’re together it seems the comradery (and the burgers) are even more enviable. I’m thrilled you were all able to meet up, ash clouds or no. Can’t wait for the photographs!

    P.S. ‘This time nobody dared stop me on my way in’ is possibly my all-time favourite blogline.

    P.P.S. What are butter burgers? (And why has it taken 27 years for me to learn of them?)


    1. Haha! Scotty my friend, you know you’re part of the family too. We all know that. The burger is a piece of meat with melted butter on top and underneath. The whole thing basically melts in your mouth. I really hope to see you sometime my friend. i hope you get better soon so I can visit you in the summer.


  5. Wael, this is the perfect followup to your previous heartbraking entry. When I saw on Twitter that you’d made it to Ebertfest, I couldn’t stop grinning for five minutes. It’s good to see determination and dedication paying off like that.

    And now you get to brag about kicking a volcano’s ass, too. How awesome is that?


    1. Haha! Yeah, I made the volcano look like a burp. It was a tough battle though 🙂

      Gael, you should go there next year. It’s a great festival, probably the greatest I’ve ever attended. We should meet up first, and I can see myself writin a blog entry a year from now called “Gael and Wael’s Journey to Ebertfest”. Hopefully we won’t fight our way through the fury of mother nature.


  6. I laughed outloud when I read your line about me turning out to be much nicer than my already nice personality online…LOL.

    It’s all true though 😉 It takes a special person to go through what you did, and come out the way you did. Most people would have given up half way, would have not had the guts or determination to see it through, or the warmth to embrace the experience, or the wisdom to live in the moments once they came. You had all of that. You are wonderful. I’m so glad we met.

    Your gift was one of the most meaningful to me as well, just as your friendship. I’m going to bombard you with TIFF updates soon, so I suggest you start asking for time off…now.

    xo g.


    1. 🙂 You can count on that! What a beautiful comment Gracey. I live in a society where you have to fight for what you want and what you need, so it’s part of y nature that I didn’t give up easily.

      Once there, I just had to live and enjoy every moment of the experience. It worked the other way around too. With Ebertfest it’s almost as if you WILL live the moment whether you like it or not.

      I’m glad you like the gift. I chose that symbol especially for you because it fits your writings. I always thought you had a perfect eye and used the senses to transform what you saw and sensed into written words. It looks great on you too.

      Our friendship is one that will only evolve from now on. Look how we clicked in just two days, imagine how we’d understand each other after a week or so. It’s one thing to chat with a person and it’s another to actually meet him. The sound of laughter, the warmth of a person’s voice, physical contact, and eye contact is something virtual contact will never capture.

      I’m glad we became friends, you’re like a sister to me now. I hope we meet again in Toronto. You showed me around Urbana, you’ll be my guide in Toronto too!

      Best Regards,
      Wael Khairy


  7. So I guess the score is as follows:

    Wael: 1 Volcano: 0

    Hopefully there won’t be a rematch. 🙂

    Grace, I laughed out loud reading this sentence: “I’m going to bombard you with TIFF updates soon, so I suggest you start asking for time off…now.” I should point out to Wael, however, that SIFF (Seattle International Film Festival) occurs before your festival does, running from May 20 to June 13 (lineup should be announced May 6), just in case, Wael, you need a movie fix sooner. 😉

    Also, in this post, its prequel, and your email concerning your fight against censorship, I sense some literary grandeur in your writing. You are quite the storyteller, which is a great gift to have.

    Can’t wait to hear about your next adventure!


    1. HAHA! If you attend SIFF, I’ll make sure to attend one of these days! I’ll try my best to do that this year. You’re one of the ones I want to meet so very much. Scott is another one, there’s a whole handful of you.

      You’re comment about my literary grandeur in my writing made me smile. Especially coming from the guy who wrote about the bird who died knowing that another life form knew of its passing. I have that piece saved on my desktop and I re-read it quite often.

      I always found myself writing about my experience with subjects and aspects much more fitting than writing about the actual subject. A couple of weeks ago I researched piracy in Egypt. Instead of having an informative piece at the end I found out it was about my research process as much as it was about the subject. Of course, after completing the piece, both me and my editor of C Mag knew that we could never publish the piece.

      Best Regards,
      Wael Khairy


      1. Yes, I remember you writing a very touching comment about that piece. I’m flattered that you have it saved on your desktop.

        I gave one of my friends the link to the first part of “Wael versus the Volcano” and told her she could read the second part when she finished the first part. Well, she finished both parts and really liked your storytelling abilities. She wrote to me on Facebook (hehe), “Wael is a great storyteller.”

        I figured I’d tell you, since she doesn’t even leave comments on MY blog. 😉

        Oh, and if other readers don’t know what we’re talking about, here’s the link, because I shamelessly self-promote on other people’s blogs ;-): http://dreamsoflit.blogspot.com/2009/10/fallen-bird.html


      2. Thank your friend for me. I appreciate you passing my blog post on to your friends 🙂

        I don’t see it as self-promoting, I see your link as a gift to my readers. You’re sharing your talent with all of us and anyone who does not follow Literary Dreamer’s blog should stop reading my comment and do so right now.


  8. Dear Wael,

    Having taken a few long flights in my time, like from Chicago to Cape Town and Calcutta, I can only imagine the much more arduous ordeal you went through. I am so touched that you went to such an extreme effort, and so RELIEVED that you made it to Urbana for the time that you did. What if that airline rep hadn’t come along? What if you had been stuck somewhere along the way?

    I regret you missed the far-flung panel, but you were much thought about. Your Twitter updates were like bulletins from the front lines.

    Your presence was so appreciated. And this blog entry is so breathtakingly written that I feel I attended Ebertfest twice–once as myself ans once as you. Please give my very best regards to your father and grandfather, who you have been so loving about.

    Your friend,


    1. Roger!

      I had confirmed flights to arrive on Saturday afternoon, since I had calculated it wrong with the time difference and all. So, my plan was to catch earlier flights by placing myself on standby. It’s an honor to have finally met you, Roger. You’re so nice, kind, and brilliant, everything your blog entries promised you’d be like.

      I was touched when everyone told me that I was the subject of some conversations and even more so when I heard Chaz updated the audience with my flight progress. Even though I missed the panel discussion, I was glad to hear from several people that it was one of the best panels of the fest. It really comforted me, it really did.

      The fest was simply amazing and I’m so glad I made it too. Everybody was extra nice and very welcoming. I hope to see you soon my friend. Thank you for your compliment. I wanted to write an entry that would overshadow the first part of the story. The two days I attended made me forget about all the trouble I went through to get there. It was that good. My father and grandfather are two very supportive men. My father couldn’t stand to see me sad, and my grandfather being a fan of yours kept calling me for updates throughout the festival which was night time in Cairo. They both send you their best wishes and really want to meet you. They asked me to invite you to Egypt, so they could meet you and Chaz. My grandfather even prepared a program for you in case God forbid something happens to him.

      I’m seriously considering going to Toronto Film Festival with you and Grace.

      Your friend,
      Wael Khairy


      1. Dear, here is the TIFF site: http://www.tiff.net/

        All the details are on front page right now. Sept 9-19. Usually if you buy one of the ticket packages (like a 10 movies pass, which is what I did last year), it’s not only more economical but you also get in on the early sale and get first pick of the films, that starts at end of July. In mid-August the package sale is cut off (but they usually sell out before then). 3rd week of August you can pick up your packages, see what tix you got, if you want to exchange them etc. (exchange week). THEN the beginning of Sept the public sale goes on, and all the tickets left are up for grabs. The festival usually starts one week after that.

        The dates will vary a bit but unless something drastic changes, that’s the normal schedule for TIFF.

        If you are coming, everything can be done online beforehand. The ticket choosing, the payment (credit card), etc. As for picking up of the package I can do that for you. Same with exchanges of tickets etc.

        Keep in mind that it’s a huge festival and accommodation books up EARLY. So that would be my main concern if you’re coming, you gotta book now (or ASAP).

        You have my email if you wanna talk more details!


  9. Sorry for late comment. I’m also back in my country, and I have been struggling with my own world. The show is over, but my brain is still susceptible to these beautiful memories. To make it worse, my reality does not give a sh*t about them; almost nobody around me cares about people I met. My brother asked me who some old guy with weird face was on one of my photos. His saying that you and others were not really friends at all hurted me a lot. Okay, maybe you or others won’t fly over to South Korea to the rescue for me, but who cares? We got along with each other well and had a good time. That’s all I ask for as the person who has few friends around and is not particularly sociable.

    My parents have been supportive to this trip, they see Ebertfest just as small, frivolous part of personal vacation. Even Roger Ebert’s or Charlie Kauffman’s sign means nothing to them. Local internet users have shown some interest, but, as you know, real people around you do matter more. It’s quite daunting to know that grandest days of my life are viewed as meaningless and valueless by others very close to me. I sort of envy you.

    It was great to see you arriving in Ebertfest. With that catchy term “Volcano Ash”, people including us talked about you and hoped you would make it. And you did, indeed! And you’re younger than we thought. It was an additional surprise to this memorable real-life drama. I hope you will go to Toronto and wholly enjoy Ebertfest of next year. And, of course, no more volcano ash.

    If “nodding” means “being drowsy”, I think I gave you all wrong impression. I was not drowsy at all at that time. I was trying to be attentive to the conversation next to me. Alas, I made fool of myself in the end. This is one of those things I still regret about not having done better. I think I understand Kauffman’s masterpiece more than before.


    1. Seongyong Cho,

      I was just talking about you with my brother. I was telling him about our funny Sydney Sheldon conversation. The “nodding” part we got. We knew about you being attentive to the conversation but you look so focused and interested, we couldn’t help but smile. I never thought you were drowsy at any point. You didn’t make a fool out of yourself.

      It’s a shame that no one is excited about your trip but all that matters is that you are. Some things people will never “get” till they participate with you. I guarantee you, the grandest days of your life are the ones that will stay with you till the very end.

      Tell your brother that we are your friends and if you were in need of help we WOULD go there to help you out. Mark my words, I would save any of you out of bad situations. I hope we see each other again some time. I heard you won’t be able to make it next year but I don’t care I want you to still try. Your parents are right though at thinking of it as a personal vacation because in a way, it was. Meeting all of you was very personal to me.

      Thank you for the pictures you sent me. You’re a great photogropher as Roger repetitively claimed.

      Best Regards,
      Wael Khairy


      1. To add to what Wael said, Seongyong, I will add this quote from the inside flier of my copy of Ikiru, which I received for my birthday but, unfortunately, have not had time to watch yet:

        “What it [the movie] says in starkly lucid terms is that ‘life’ is meaningless when everything is said and done; at the same time, one man’s life can acquire meaning when he undertakes to perform some task that to him is meaningful. What everyone else thinks about that man’s life is utterly beside the point, even ludicrous. The meaning of his life is what he commits the meaning of his life to be. There is nothing else.” (quoted from Richard Brown, by Donald Richie)

        This also refers to events like Ebertfest; you attach great importance to it, and that should be enough, yet I do understand your wanting you family and friends to be supportive, and even share in, your experience. I used to feel the same disconnect sometimes when growing up, as I have numerous interests, and when I’m interested in something, I research the heck out of it, and then want to share what I learn with others. Luckily, my mom reads, my brother plays video games, my dad likes Italian operas (though the first opera recordings I bought were German ;-)), and everyone watches movies, so I always have someone to talk to about something that interests me, even if my interest goes far beyond their own (and vice versa). Also, as Tom Dark points out, if you keep doing what you love, eventually the people around you will see how important it is to you, and while they still might not understand it, they will be more supportive of your decision, or at least realize how much it means to you.

        It can be frustrating, I know, but I also know that there is no way that you are the only film lover in South Korea, or the only film lover in South Korea who knows who Roger Ebert is. If you can, I would suggest going to film festivals in South Korea. That should increase your chances of meeting people who share your interests and who at least live in the same country as you do, if not the same city.

        I hope that helps, and remember: virtual friendships are made on Facebook. Real friendships are made on blogs. 😉


      2. “I hope that helps, and remember: virtual friendships are made on Facebook. Real friendships are made on blogs.” That line is so true. Blogs pull people with the same interest as you. I love that line. Thanks for that!

        I know a lot of film critics, directors, editors, and professors in Egypt, so I get to have some great conversations but as you said film festivals is a great place to meet such a crowd. I really like submarines, particularily German submarines from WWII. I researched the hell out of them after watching “Das Boot” and now I constantly build model ships of type vii-c. Nobody in Egypt that I know of understands my love and interest for them but I kind of like the idea of enjoying something on my own time.

        Literary Dreamer another true friend I can’t bare the thought of never actually meeting.


    2. I know exactly how you feel Seongyong. But it’s important to you and that’s what matters. If there’s ever a film festival in Seoul, let me know, who knows I just might go. 🙂


  10. I have read a lot of articles online but this one really touched me deep. The immense trouble you went through just to meet your idol Roger Ebert whom I adore as well for the his work and as a human being is amazing! I have to say as a fellow film lover and fan of all things life am proud to know you and hope you have such adventures more often in your life, hopefully I will be there with you next time around 🙂

    I couldn’t make it for Ebertfest even though I live here and unfortunately with work and all, it proved impossible. So will try my luck next year. But I Wish you all the best my friend and hope you took lots of photographs for your memories.

    Julliette O. (LarvK)


    1. Juliette,

      I hope we get to meet each other the next time around. I’m selecting some of the pictures to post right now. Thank you for your kind comments. You’ve been supportive from the start.


  11. I will add you on my favorite blogs list at my blog because I truly admire your blog. And if i could stream it live at my TV Channel i would it’s on my blog, will see what i can do. Just in case you ever do a live interview or something like that i will definitely add the video recording on my TV Channel. I do it to promote people I admire, causes I believe in, music I love ex cetera 🙂 If you get to know me then you’ll know I would also go that far and more for people I adore or admire as you did for Roger and Ebertfest!



  12. Hey guys. Interesting discussion. Where’s Ali? Everybody had the sense of “returning to reality” after the fest. A few days in a delightful, shimmering dream-world of shining people, then back to the (shudder) real one, where everybody looks at you with blank expressions, oh, it’s just you. Hrrmph.

    Hiding their jealousies, no doubt. “A prophet is not without honor in all places but his own country.” Or in Hindu, “The medicine tree heals all but those in whose yard it grows.”

    This is where Charlie Kaufman and I left off in our chat at the breakfast meet’n’greet. Jealousies, bitternesses, people coming to him for “his opinion about their scripts,” but in fact only want to get his agent’s phone number and could care less what he had to tell them.

    I told him about a client of mine, an old burned out rock and roller, who was STILL badmouthing a friend of his from 30 years before, who had a few huge pop hits in the 1960s. — The songs were “Yummy Yummy Yummy” and “Chewy Chewy Chewy” and a few other songs called bubblegum music. You can probably find them on YouTube.

    THIRTY YEARS! Jake was still badmouthing his old friend for having made big successes in the music business, then wisely going on to a successful advertising business. Jake considered himself a genius, of course. He had once played guitar on a popular disco song. I don’t remember which one.

    This is what frightened and jealous people do: they exaggerate their own talents and blame everything but themselves for being lucky, stupid, and how unfair is life. Nobody, no, nobody, is better than they are; they enforce it in their minds like Law. Jake would stand on stage arguing with band members while the audience waited for them to even start a song. Can you imagine spending thirty years of your life badmouthing people you know who’ve achieved one kind of success or another?

    I can, since I’ve met some. But I can’t understand how they don’t see what they continue to do to themselves. This man even poo-poo’d the fact that an old friend was willing to invest US $750,000 to develop his act. My secret job was to talk them out of it and put the bad idea to bed. He had been smoking pot so much for so many years, he had confused his daydreams with reality.

    Ebertfest was not a daydream, it was a reality, and should continue to be a reality for years to come. Had Roger similarly hid behind his daydreams lo many years ago, rather than facing squarely the realities he had to deal with, we would never have met. He might instead be working late at an insurance office or the like, complaining bitterly to himself about daydreams that never did happen, thanks to the obvious faults of others.

    Wael, be not hard on your parents’ disapproval. Mine were the same about my music. They too were merely frightened about one of their sons going into such a risky, protean enterprise. But I went as far as I wanted to anyhow. It’s true I didn’t make hugely successful popular hits. But you see, that is because I am a genius, nobody understands me, and I am not lucky and stupid like all those other stupid and lucky jerks who got all the breaks. Sons of bitches. I bet Charlie Kaufman stole all my ideas, and I didn’t even get his agent’s phone number! Nothing good ever happens to me.


    1. Tom,

      Excellent post. I miss those stories. You seemed to have lived a very interesting life. You have a story for every issue. My parents do approve of what I’m doing though. It’s Seongyong Cho who returned to the land where no one cares about his..well, reality.

      We live in a world where the majority use up those around them to get ahead of everyone else. Of course this mentality only puts them behind. My grandfather once told me “the key to living a good life is to give more than you take”. I think of that line every other day. As you said jealousy can end up ruining your life. Instead of just sitting around with envy, people should try to live their dreams not dream their dreams and in doing so there’s no need to be stepping on everyone else’s shoes. As cheesy as this may sound, it’s true.

      Tom, you have proven to be an intellectual once again citing Hindu verses and so on. It’s like Roger once said about the difference between a film critic and a film reviewer. “The noncritic reviewer will often betray himself by these mistakes: (1) Pretense of objectivity; (2) reluctance to introduce extraneous knowledge…” The list goes on till a seventh point but that last one is what makes your comments and conversations so very interesting to read or listen to. You don’t just answer questions but you answer them using your knowledge. There’s a huge difference between the two.

      A few months back, I sitting in a cafe smoking my shisha when a foreigner randomly joined me. He talked about what he does and so on. When he asked what it is that I do and I answered “I’m a film critic.” His attitude changed in an instant and was like “What the fuck are you doing reviewing films in Egypt. Your country has bigger problems than needing advice about which film to pick in a film theater. You’re an Egyptian, you should do something for your country.”

      I snapped at him, “Who do you think you are telling what I can and can’t do or what I should or shouldn’t do. In fact I’ll tell you what to do, go back to were you were sitting and leave me alone. Do us all a favor and keep your opinions to yourself.”

      I get that a lot here in Egypt, not from my parents or friends but from random people. When they hear the word “film critic”, they automatically don’t take me seriously.


  13. The proper intellectual will a-tone himself for getting a thing wrong, Wael. I’ll be back after I stomp barefoot on a cactus for having confused Seongyong’s posting with yours.

    Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! I’m back. I now redirect that portion of my fine speech to Seongyong.

    My approach to intellectuality remains like an elementary school grammar lesson: one learns to understand a new word by using it in a sentence. My 5th grade teacher gave us who would have one a conscience about making up sentences that showed we understood a new word, and so would others from what we wrote. To gather a word’s meaning I’ve never relied on a dictionary so much as on the context in which it appears.

    This combined with, if I remember, Aristotle’s circumlocution: the intellect is synonymous with the physical senses. Book-reading, then, is not as full an intellectual exercise as watching animals, or sitting with a shisha in a favored coffeeshop and meeting a chucklehead. The chucklehead is a living breathing word in a living sentence of the moment, requiring your understanding of chuckleheads as they appear in the context of a peaceful smoke and a java.

    What is the meaning of the scarab? It has something to do with dreams. It is largely ignored by underintellectualized historians, but Egypt was built upon dreams. So implied Herodotus and a few translations by Budge. Yet ancient Egyptians are now considered superstitious souls who built things we can’t emulate, don’t understand, and didn’t understand anything other than we do.

    If the priests who spoke to Herodotus were speaking true, then it was a continuous civilization for 14,000 years. If not, 3,000 years of thriving is plenty: our civilizations since “1 A.D.” peter out after a couple hundred. I can’t accept the idea that the Egyptians wasted their time on meaningless superstitions. What I’ve looked up about the scarab appears to be fragmented nonsense, a shred here and a clue there. So, what is the significance of the scarab as you know it?


    1. In Egypt, the scarab is known as the Khepher. There are many different meaning to what it actually means and its significance. It symbolizes manifestation, existence, effectiveness, growth and development. The species itself is a Scarabaeus sacer also known as a dung beetle. So why choose this species specifically? Well, Egyptians observed their lifestyle very closely. Following their birth they would rise from their holes. Each would go their own way become and adapt to whatever they please. Khepher translates directly to “he who came forth, became, transformed, took on new roles and shapes”.

      They represent everything Pharaohs wanted to achieve and become. Everyone is in charge of his own transformation and the scarab is reminder of that. Only you decide who to become, how to transform in life.

      I don’t know if you noticed, but at the bottom of the scarab I gave you, there’s an inscription ignored by almost everyone. Every single scarab stone has that inscripted some place. It reads: “do not stand as a witness against me” from the Book of Dead. Egyptians believe that it is a way of telling God, “do not judge my action for I chose them under circumstances I was in”. When you buy a scarab that does not have that inscription, it means it’s a fake. The material of the one I gave you is the same material as the ones burried with mummies. This stone type was specifically chosen to stay in great condition for thousands of years just like the mummies themselves.

      You seem like the type of guy of who has been through all kinds of situations, constantly TRANSFORMING, and BECOMING fuller each time, as you EMERGE out of the situation the way they did from their holes. I could sense that from the way you talked about your past and from listening to your stories. You live the moment with the past in mind and the future in your hands.

      The superstition stuff is just a quick explanation sellers feed to tourists to sell these things. They have a much deeper meaning than what everyone thinks of them.


      1. How are you so thoughtful? First with my gift, and now Tom’s. You mean every word and that is so rare in this world these days.

        Before we met, you’ve never once mentioned that you even read me. Yet you did, and you understood my writings more than many others who cried praise. That speaks volume to who you are as a person.


      2. Where did you get the idea that I don’t read your blog? I’ve been reading it for months. I love the fact that you don’t describe what you see in a film but what you feel about it. You see beautiful things in the simplest aspects (cutting hair, red shoes, nails, a flower, a photograph, etc.) I wish I had such a deep appreciation of the little things. Your writing is like a window to your soul.

        As for the gifts, well I may not have commented much on your blog but I hope you know now how much I love your writing. I like to think that my actions speak louder than any comments, be it handing you that necklcae the moment we saw each other, or rushing after Tom before as he left the Virginia to hand him his gift, Roger’s gift has a special meaning behind it too. I’ll share that with him as soon as it arrives to his door. (When I thought I wouldn’t attend the fest, I sent to him via mail.)

        I always carry a scarab with me in case I meet someone like Tom. Whenever he’d talk I’d say to myself (I gotta give him that scarab.)

        Your Dear Friend,


  14. Oh yes, transformations, new emergences, transitions, a psychological snake shedding his psychological skin in the season of psychological time, that I am. It’s plain to me that everyone does this, but few pay attention to their own changes. What is so wrong with knowing oneself? I think how things came to be that way is a long story.

    I’m weary to the point my eyes are blurring, Wael, so I’ll sleep on this story of the scarab, and see what comes to mind in the morning.


  15. I agree with Grace about your ability, Wael. When I saw the eye of Ra you’d given her, it shimmered at me as though happy to be home. It had found the right wearer. Grace, the coffee was excellent. I made some by itself, then mixed it with my own blend. It mellowed my own blend very nicely.

    We let the horses out to roam free for a couple of hours in the morning — the amount of time is their own choice. They graze, wander, collect themselves for a race, repeat these things, then finally thunder back into the corral expecting a reward for their racing (carrots), as they used to training at the track.

    My thoughts about the scarab also grazed, wandered and raced. One place they wandered was to Kikongo, which some linguists are considering is “the original language.” It’s highly poetic and full of… intellectual harmonics?

    For instance, in what came to be the biblical story of Adam and Eve, Adam woke up and held his chest and said “My rib!” The Kikongo word is “pasi,” which came to mean “pain” in subsequent languages and “passion” in others. What if this simple reasoning is a proper way to explore etymology?

    Then “Ka,” “Kefer” (Khepher) and “Kufu,” the claimed original name of Cheops (greek name) the pyramid builder would be related. The Ka, of course, was the invisible body from which the physical body sprang, and remained after the death of the physical one. Kefer, as you have mentioned, with the same theme of “becoming,” or transforming from an invisible inner world to the physical one. “Kufu” would have been a man attributed with such qualities, standing out from others.

    …provided that in those days, people were named according to their qualities, as opposed to mere surnames and fancy as has been the case for quite a long time…

    Grace would know about my long interest in nightly dreams, since I bored her with many a story about them. I’ve simply been writing them down, then comparing them with reality, since 1977. No more Freud, Jung, or mystical hoo-ha dream books. Naturally I would dream about the ancient world. How much would have been accurate? What could be verified? Would those in ancient Egypt about whom I dreamed have been real people, dreaming of me? And so on and so on, wandering a quite “non-intellectual” route, as it were.

    Here’s an example: in 1992 I dreamed that there were bodies buried in the sand all around the pyramids. I wandered around these buildings, still gleaming with their alabaster coverings; I inadvertantly kicked up a dessicated hand protruding from the sand and regarded it fondly. It could have been of an aunt or an uncle. These were bodies of those who could not afford mummifications and other ceremonies, but requested to be buried around the pyramids “to become part of the ground that supported them.”

    In 1994 I came across an article in Atlantic Monthly: Archaeologists had only lately discovered that the sand around the pyramids were filled with ancient bodies, the article said. They concluded that these were slaves who died from exhaustion and abuse, and were cruelly left to lay where they were. Which should I believe, my dream or the presumptions of archaeologists?

    There are many more questions than meet the eye, here. We presume far too much to understand what the ancients did know, and what they did and why.

    So you’ve given a Kefer to one who has had a “Kafuf,” a word that occurred in a dream a few years ago. In the dream, it meant a very sudden transition. That did happen.


    1. This has turned into quite a fascinating thread! Tom Dark, I sincerely hope we are also able to meet at next year’s Ebertfest. Keep your fingers crossed that 1.) I can come up with the money, and 2.) I can take the necessary days off from wherever I happen to be working at that time.

      I also believe that ancient civilizations knew a lot more that was important and necessary about the world and their connection to it than their modern counterparts do or give them credit for. We think wisdom and knowledge grows with the ages. The truth is that wisdom and knowledge is discovered, then lost, then discovered, then lost again.


      1. Literary Dreamer, if you can’t make it to Ebertfest because of money know that I will more than gladly save up for you. I really want to meet you and it would be just plain dissapointing if we don’t meet any time soon.

        “The truth is that wisdom and knowledge is discovered, then lost, then discovered, then lost again.” So true, we still don’t know how the pyramids were constructed or how the sun shines on the face of the Ramses II statue only on February 22 ‎and October 22 every year, the birthday and date of ‎the coronation of Ramses II. That’s proof that the progress of time has nothing to do with wisdom.


    2. Tom, You’re dream is simply fascinating! You want to know why? It’s because it’s far more accurate than that 1994 article you read. Three months ago, we discovered that the Pyramids were NOT built by slaves but people who were very loyal to their king and chose to be buried next to thei Pharaoh. You can read all about these recent discoveries here: http://j.mp/5MuI9d and here: http://j.mp/aQZBGz

      In other words, no one was forced into labor as so many films will have you believe. I’m still amazed by your dream and now wish I was present when you told Grace about them.


  16. Yup, Wael, yup, Literary Dreamer. A little more? The “instructions” for building the pyramids are on various temple walls, so to speak. The crews learned to repeat very complex sentences together, very rapidly and in very precise synchronization, which in those days were considered words to the gods that would fill them with the gods’ energy. A group of about twenty would stand alongside a block — twenty ton blocks, aren’t they? — begin repeating these complex sentences together; at the crew-chief’s signal, who led the chant, the crew would reach down under the block, pick it up, and race up the ramp with the block as though it were as light as air, very light on their feet. So I dreamed.

    We see vestiges of that technique in the practice of “table tipping” at a seance — where it is supposed that the spirit of someone dead appears and inhabits the table. None of this was so spooky to the Egyptians. They believed the gods lived among them as the normal course of things.

    As to cutting the blocks and forming the statues, also immense, similar techniques were used which made things very easy. It was tremendous fun for all involved. Once upon a time, peoples all around the world knew these techniques — evidenced by the enormous structures all around the world and not so much as a steam shovel to be found. They channeled these natural energies using the concepts of gods, whom they believed were living personalities. I don’t think us moderns have a grasp on what gods really were to the ancients, not in the least. I think our modern religions, from Christianity onward, have pretty much robbed people of those ancient comprehensions.

    The only way to prove these dreamed things is to try them out. I have, a little, and surprised myself greatly. The difficulty is not in the doing, but in the believing.

    Similarly with the amount of useful data that can be found in ordinary nightly dreaming. I have a good roster of “Egyptian dreams,” as well as other historical dreams. A few years ago an archaeologist found a theretofore unknown pre-columbian civilization between Peru and Bolivia that I’d been dreaming of for years. It’s fun when these things are corroborated independently, and I often wonder if people on the whole haven’t had so much fun in centuries.


  17. Not a bad speculation, Wael, but the moment she juxtaposed the two interpretations of those two ancient terms I already knew what she was up to — an intellectual distortion, projected on ancient symbols. Sure enough, up comes the nonsense question, “WERE ANCIENT EGYPTIANS LUCID DREAMERS???? ASTRAL TRAVELERS???? REMOTE VIEWERS????” This isn’t scholarly.

    I’ve met many charlatans who depend on trite terms like “lucid dreaming” and “astral travel” and “remote viewing” and so on. I’d love to meet any one who could come close to doing what I’ve learned to do on my own, and experimenting friends have done as well. Instead I’ve met with jabber and money-grubbers who depend on people’s gullibilities and ignorance. An “expert” must be an expert do-er, or it is no expert. Nor does a little handful of tales an expert make.

    So we want to learn how to make big money by dreaming, do we? Fine. Stop pretending to teach, and go make money more honestly; then if one has anything authentic to teach, charging students won’t be necessary. My wife, Catt, has made excellent money in the stock market by taking guidance from her dreams — at a time when the markets are howling trouble.

    “Physician, heal thyself.” In the health field, Hippocrates forbade charging money to students; this item has been conveniently forgotten. He would be horrified at modern medicine. Had he been an ineffective healer, he would have been forgotten 2500 years ago.

    I’m not saying this writer is a charlatan, I wouldn’t know. She appears to be an enthusiast. But supposing there are “expert lucid dreamers” is no different than supposing the pyramids were built by cruel masters whipping slaves into backbreaking work at the behest of Yul Brynner. It’s very very presumptuous, as we lately see, yes?

    It was necessary to toss such terms out the window before I began to get very surprising results from my own dreams. This took about two years, patiently writing them down in the morning and comparing them with reality unjudgmentally, without “helpful” terms to color one’s thinking, or rather, skewer it.

    I gave Ali Arikan a note to deliver to a friend of mine, a beautiful young woman who lives in Istanbul; we’ve never met. “Thyra” has been an internet friend for 10 years. I told Grace about her. If Ali does deliver the note and collect a kiss and hug on my behalf, that’ll be a hoot. Thyra’s been a dream-experiment partner. She’s very good, but doesn’t quite want to believe it — there is no social framework for such a thing as there was in Egypt, and this does make a difference to quite a few people. But time and distance makes no difference, neither do boxed-up terms like “lucid dreaming” nor misinterpretations of ancient dream lore. An analogy: a superb runner does not need to know the names of all his leg muscles to run faster than anyone else. Nor has a course in anatomy ever made anyone run faster.

    As I’m writing to you, I see an e-mail in my box from a friend I’ve never met in person, who lives in Vermont. Cindy’s asking me if I’ve been having dreams about ancient Egypt lately, because she has, and the theme keeps coming up. It’s part of a discussion she’s having with a woman named Jane who lives in England. I mentioned you and your scarab gift, that’s Egyptian enough, isn’t it? I dreamed of Cindy once that her mummy could yet be found in the British Museum. Cindy, quite accurately, dreamed that Catt and I would be moving, and that we’d have trouble with an escaping horse. These things did happen. She dreamed of them before there was even a clue to us that we’d be moving.

    Cindy has never met her new friend Jane in person, either. A few months ago she dreamed Jane’s full name and the fact that she lived in England, and did this, this, and that. Taking my cue (I’ve done this often), she contacted this Jane and they’ve been close correspondents ever since. Jane indeed did this, this and that, and so on. All that remains are the many minute questions about who, what, where, why, when, how.

    Also in London is a young Sri Lankan man, a college student who works in a book store. He contacted me first, then I made the suggestion to him I’ll also give you. He did dream things. For instance, a little while ago I dreamed I was playing jazz on a certain set of drums. I didn’t mention this to Kugan. I didn’t have to. He wrote and said that he was in a dream watching me play jazz on a certain set of drums, which he described exactly as the drums were in my own dream. Kugan has done even better than that. He dreamed events that did indeed happen to me later.

    These experiments are worthwhile. If you’d like to try one, suggest to yourself you’ll dream about me. I like being a guinea pig. Write your results here. Or see if you’d care to dream about Cindy or Kugan. Better yet, as you know nothing about them.

    Last summer I did an experiment on Dr. Charles Tart’s blog. Google “Dr. Charles Tart,” look up his thread “Why I teach,” and you’ll see it, about 80 postings. The woman stranger didn’t believe herself either, but she dreamed quite accurately. As I said, the difficulty is not in the art itself, but in believing what you’ve done.


    1. Very interesting points there. I wish I paid more attention to my own dreams. Quite often I’d dream of something, wake up and recall the dream. As I walk to the bathroom to freshen up, I get there and the dream completley vanishes from my memory. I don’t know why that is. Maybe it’s my senses repressing what they have to tell me.

      There is one dream though, where I’m sleeping in my room. The room is dark and barely contains any light. Someone walks in and starts looking through my stuff. I don’t know who that is or why she/he’s doing that. I do know that I don’t have the guts to tell him/her to piss off. Maybe it’s because I’m afraid to discover who he/she is. Someone is invading my privacy in that dream and I dreamt that same dream quite often.

      Of course some objects change throughout the dream, a cup falls and breaks, the figure changes shape from tall to short, thin to fat. A few months, ago a firend of mine asked me to send him one of my short stories regarding Global Warming and Polar Bears. “Sundays with the Bears” it’s called. Anyway, after I sent him the piece, another friend sent me a link to check out so and so’s writing abilities. He was forwarding my same article, only with the former “friend’s” name attached to it. Upon the discovery, I moved back in a sudden motion, and the cup behind me…well you guessed it. It fell and broke.

      He later apologized for his embarrassing attempt to impress someone else, wrote an apology and removed it from the web. I never dreamt about the stranger in my room looking through my stuff after that incident.


  18. That’s very kind of you to offer to save up for my trip, Wael, but it won’t be necessary. I throw the possible road blocks in there to motivate myself. It’s highly unlikely that I will survive out in Seattle for the rest of this year without a job, and so, since one usually gets a week vacation (or two) after six months of work, this should not be a problem.

    You’re forgetting, to, that I’m still at work at my novel, and when that baby gets published….well, probably nothing much will happen, but you never know. I never expected Roger to read my blog, either, or to respond to my comments, or you to tell everyone who reads this blog to go check out my blog (which was very kind, by the way). Also, I tend to have incredible luck when my will is strong. I’ll tell you more about it when we meet, next year, at Ebertfest. 🙂

    And Tom! I have a feeling that I’ll be doing a lot of listening when we meet up at Ebertfest next year. Unless you meet me in your dreams, first, that is. 🙂


    1. You deserve to be read my friend. one thing we have in common is taste which is what essentially brought us all together in a virtual world crowded with millions of internet users. I also look forward to the many conversations between you, Tom and I in the future. It should be quite interesting.


  19. Nothing narrows my sense of self-righteousness into a sharper blade than plagiarism, Wael, or due credit not given. It is enough to put in an altruistic effort, but too much to have it stolen. Small wonder a whole vase didn’t shatter.

    Roger’s latest blog is highly perceptive of changing conditions for writers who “just write,” and this would be a worthwhile issue for discussion. I always wonder where the jokes people send me come from. They’re always expertly written.

    Aye, aye, Literary Dreamer, my natural state is to talk when I feel obliged to, tho’ the given listeners are not always enthralled with the obligation. Do try the experiment I’ve suggested.


    1. I know right? Do you choose about you dream of? I still haven’t mastered that capability. I can imagine you have hundreds of pages containing your dreams by now. Did you ever consider writing an essay or a book around the matter?


  20. Yes Wael; I’ve written a manuscript. Were I to include all I’ve written for it, it’d probably be 100,000 pages, tho’ I mean a version pared down to about 300. I started it in 1985, after accruing some thousand pages of experiments and experiences (1 experiment alone garnered 600 pages of correspondents in 2 months, so excited the pair of us were). By ’07 I’d gathered about 4000 rejections, the most common phrase being “This is out of the scope of our publishing range.”

    My private internet blog, where I ran an experiment with a dozen strangers around the world, ran to about 15,000 entries before it was too exhausting to keep going that way. In the blog and its now-lost other incarnations are posters from US, UK, Germany, Australia, Turkey, dreaming of one another, often with literal accuracy.

    My point is, people can do this without training and it can be remarkably useful. Nothing is required but the assumption that it’s possible. After that, much of the literature on dreams proves to make little or no sense. These days I use the blog for Catt’s and my dreams, as well as a remaining member of the experiment, who “dreamed her way” from housewife to English instructor at U Birmingham Alabama, quite a jump.

    It is simply a natural ability of human beings. Our overly cultured intellectual habits, born of religions and sciences, do tend to block it out. Nothing is stopping anyone from personal experimentation, although it has long become “out of the scope of inquiry” for official paths of thought.


    1. Very well said. I may end up joining you there. I will also say that I can get your book published in Egypt by the American University in Cairo Press, so if you ever come visit (you better do!), then I’ll hook you up with them.

      You can always consider it under the subject of “Psychology”. I hate categorizing but you’re work will be studied alongside Freud and so on. It would be a shame if all of this vanishes in thin air.

      If I were you, I’d go with e-books since what you express is very universal and should not be published within a country surrounded by borders but on the internet, a world with no boundaries.


  21. Good suggestions, Wael. No, this idea won’t die on the vine. I’m likely very early with it. The discussions I’ve had with psychologists about it do suggest that.


  22. Ah looking at those pictures is like the proverbial icing on the cake! You look so happy in all of them and everyone looks so warm and inviting. My favorite one is of course the one of you and Roger. Amazing!


  23. I like the new pictures you’ve posted, Wael! Of course, that montage photo is great (kudos to Grace!), but I think the one I like the best is the one in which you are kneeling by Roger’s chair, like a master and his pupil.

    And you met Charlie Kauffman. Cool!

    See you at Ebertfest 2011!


    1. That’s for sure. I like that picture a lot too. I like the way you verbalized it “you are kneeling by Roger’s chair, like a master and his pupil”.


  24. Since the majority of the FFCs have commented on here, I figure they’re also following the comment thread. Therefore, here’s the link to all of the movies showing at SIFF:


    And, while meaning no disrespect to TIFF (or Grace), SIFF is the largest film festival in North America. 🙂

    Soon, I’ll be posting to my blog the movies I plan on seeing, so check back in a day or two.


      1. Attendance-wise, Toronto is more heavily attended than SIFF, partly because there’s overlap between SIFF and Cannes, which means that many of the industry’s bigwigs are at Cannes instead of at SIFF. According to the always reliable Wikipedia ;-), more than 300,000 people attend TIFF, whereas SIFF had about half that number for 2006 (thanks for being up to date, Wikipedia! :-/).

        So yes, TIFF is the more prestigious and the better attended of the two (especially for industry types), and while I originally thought that SIFF showed more films, mainly due to its three week length versus ten days for TIFF, it looks like both festivals show around the same number of movies. SIFF may be the LONGEST film festival in North America, but it looks like TIFF is better in every way. So my apologies, Grace, and I bow to your city’s superior film festival! 🙂

        If you move your cursor over the thumbnails on the link I provided above, it’ll tell you the names of the films. Or, you can click here, and click on each of the days of the festival to see what’s playing. Somewhat clunky, I know, but there’s also supposed to be a free guide available at libraries and coffee shops, so I’ll try and get my hands on one of those and post the listing of all 382 films on my blog at some point in the future.


      2. Unfortunately, not as many as I’d like to, as the twenty hours I need to work for the census must alternate with hours spent volunteering for SIFF and watching movies. Still, I’m already planning which movies I really want to see, and one of the movie theaters being used for this festival is a five to ten minute walk from my house. 🙂

        I’ll post an update on my blog sometime this week.


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