Archive for the ‘World’ Category

A Night With Bush And A Reading With Al Aswany

Earlier tonight, I was able to catch the premier of Oliver Stone‘s controversial biopic film W., which stars Josh Brolin as the current president of the United States, George W. Bush. The theater was generously packed (almost full) but what was most interesting to me was the reception I perceived from the audience, especially since I live in a predominately democratic, liberal county in the state of Colorado. Some of the attendants were waiting for the right, “comedic” opportunity to laugh at Bush, and others were deceitfully sympathetic regarding his character and actions in the film. I’m going to save the details for the review (which I’m going to postpone it for tomorrow since I’m quite tired right now) but the thing is, I really had a nice time watching the movie, and it actually made me think and reflect regarding the real George Bush.

My next surprise is when I found out Alaa Al Aswany‘s famous novel, Chicago, being both translated and published in English. I heard great things regarding the novel from many of my friends who read the Arabic version, which eventually  led me to buy the book when I went to Dubai last summer, but unfortunately never had the chance to read it. In fact, it is still probably nicely sealed and carefully placed in my bookshelf back home. If The Yacoubian Building is any indication (since my mom gave it her seal of approval), I think I’m going to enjoy reading this one. Thankfully, I just finished Charles Bukowski’s Post Office so the book wouldn’t have come at a right time than this.

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United States of Obesity Map (2008)

Woot! Congratulations to Colorado (my State) for having the lowest percentage of obesity in all of the States in America, and thus becoming the leanest State comparing to the others. I can substantiate with the provided map and with CalorieLabs findings that a huge percentage of people in Colorado are health freaks, especially in Boulder and Colorado Springs. The students in my university are certainly in top shape, and attending the gym is almost a required schedule in their academic life. I won’t deny the fact that witnessing those athletic youths (whether they were men or women) had certainly motivated me to get into shape and I’m glad to confess that I actually lost tons of weight comparing to the late years of high school in Kuwait. The determination is certainly awe-inspiring.

Good job Coloradoans! Keep up the good work-out!

Mechanical Spiders Are The Signs Of The Future

It seems that the future is, indeed, now and that the inevitable War of the Machines has come to pass. Sometime in June of this year, sixty foot arachnid appeared on a derelict building near Liverpool’s Lime Street station. The mechanical spider is the work of art collaborative La Machine, who’s previous work includes the Sultan’s Elephant, which captivated London in 2006. The £1.8 million robot was commissioned for the 2008 Capital of Culture celebrations, and is being billed as the highlights of the event.

Expected to “wake up” some day, the eight-legged monstrosity will descend on your House on Thursday night and begin exploring your neighborhood the day after, ending with a “spectacular finish”. I encouraged you to arm yourselves accordingly. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going down into my concrete bunker.

  • Click HERE to check out the Flickr set
  • Click HERE for the BBC News script

Review: Vicky Cristina Barcelona

After the recent slew of almost-disappointing movies from the acclaimed writer/director Woody Allen (i.e. Cassandra’s Dreams, Scoop), I almost lost faith in his films, and started reminiscing the great times I had with his classics such as Hannah And Her Sisters and Everyone Says I Love You. Luckily, however, there was an instant love attraction I had with Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Whether it was the charming cast or the beautifully divine location, the film had me from its first scene, and from there, I was smiling all the way to the end.

Vicky Cristina Barcelona sees two young American women; Vicky and Cristina who come to Barcelona for a summer holiday. Vicky is sensible and engaged to be married; Cristina is emotionally and sexually adventurous. In Barcelona, they’re drawn into a series of unconventional romantic entanglements with Juan Antonio, a charismatic painter, who is still involved with his tempestuous ex-wife Maria Elena. Set against the luscious Mediterranean sensuality of Barcelona, Vicky Cristina Barcelona is Woody Allen’s funny and open-minded celebration of love in all its configurations.

Indeed, probably the movie’s pivotal aspect is that it doesn’t pursue the already worn clichés of the recent romantic comedies; instead, it opens up new possibilities and conflictions that are familiar to us but never got to see them in an intelligent direction. The threesome relationship that develops in the film wasn’t inscribed to make us laugh, but more like to open our hearts, minds, and eyes to the complexity of human relationships. The characters are extremely flushed out and totally likable and believable; looking all macho but speaking mostly in a tender, sincere way to his women, Bardem is a thoroughly convincing and affable ladies’ man, while Johansson and Hall demonstrated their polar-opposite personalities but perfect friendship in a most practical and credible matter. The cinematography although not extraordinary, it provided us the sheer enjoyment in exploring Barcelona’s laundry list of celebrated spots (i.e. Gaudi creations, the Miro Museum, the old amusement park, etc.), all of which shimmer with summer luster and a bustling Spanish soundtrack that oozes sexiness and lustful love. Harsh critic might be turned off by the semi-novella narration that accompanies the movie from start to finish, seeing how interesting it would be to see if the film could play without the commentary altogether, but I found it seemingly necessary yet enjoyable and not disrupting at the same time. The ending however is almost original as it is funny, and the open-ended aspect of it would provide an amusing discussion among your friends.

There’s no deny that Vicky Cristina Barcelona is beautiful film; the actors are attractive, the city is magnificent and the love scenes don’t get all sweaty. It certainly provides the perfect conclusion for the summer. It’s sincere, delicately funny, but a little staid, just what would you expect from a Woody Allen movie

The Bottom Line

B+

Late To The Party: Happy Ramadan

It’s always interesting, experiencing Ramadan in the States. For the past years, I’ve always bitched and moaned on how miserable it is to spend Ramadan away from the family, and away from the homemade Ramadan food you always get to have in your household. But to be honest, spending Ramadan either alone or occasionally with your friends have developed a special taste in my palate. You can witness the cooperation with your friends as they struggle to whip the best dishes they could, and also your effort in trying to contribute a little. For me, I suck at cooking. That’s the only skill I haven’t fully achieved while studying abroad. So, my contribution usually would be buying dessert from Safeway, brining lunch platter of subs from a nearby Sub store, or sometimes if my cooking curiosity has been activated, I would make a large bowl of pasta salad.

Of course, the situation isn’t always glamorous, especially when you have your Iftar (or Fotoor) alone. I mean last night; I had Hotpockets served with kettle-cooked potato chips and a Weight Watchers muffin. Then for Suhoor, I had some waffles served with maple syrup, and finally I ended the day with a cup of green tea and at least a liter and a half of water to sustain my hydration for the next day. But in the end, it’s all good, because I know I have something to eat unlike many people who are suffering from hunger and deprivation. I’m blessed after all. And I wish everyone to be blessed in this holy month of Ramadan; regardless you are a Muslim or non-Muslim. After all, my life motto is always and always has been:

To Live And Let Live

Happy Ramadan

Book Review: My Name Is Red

The American Bookcover of My Name Is Red

The American bookcover of My Name Is Red

It’s so unfortunate that your average Arab has based his facts and intuitions about Turkey through a portal of a TV show, that even though it captivated the hearts of many people, it also agitated many to the extent it won several fatwas from several Saudi and Gulf clerics, condemning the show upon the level of secularism that “exposes”. It’s so unfortunate that your average Arab has neglected the fact that despite that Turkey has one of the most successful democracies in the Muslim world (you might hold a different view in that regard), it still holds its Islamic identity dearly: from breathtaking, magnificent mosques that rival the beauty of churches, from the elevated level of spirituality of the influenced Sufi tradition that would put any sect to shame, and finally, to the superlative paintings and captivated poems that Turkey brought to the Islamic art and culture. Which brings me to the context of this great book that was brilliantly printed by the Nobel Prize winner Orhan Pamuk. This historical novel has brought a plethora of information to me through its fictional story that combines the elements of mystery, art and romantic novels.

My Name Is Red is set in 16th century of Istanbul where The Sultan has commissioned an illustrated book to demonstrate his power to the Venetian Doge. Because it will employ controversial aspects of the Frankish style, head illustrator Osman has been bypassed and the project given to Enishte, who coordinates miniaturists nicknamed Elegant, Stork, Olive, and Butterfly. But when Elegant suspects the orthodoxy of the final page and threatens to denounce the project to the followers of the conservative preacher Nusret Hoja, he is murdered by one of his colleagues. Enishte’s nephew Black, newly returned to Istanbul after twelve years absence, is asked to investigate. To complicate things, he revives an old passion for Enishte’s daughter Shekure, who is technically still married to a husband missing in battle, and who has other suitors. The brilliance of this novel comes to light with its distinctive narrative where each chapter is told by the perspective of those mentioned main characters, along with minor ones including the murderer and the subjects of the illustrated book (a dog, a gold coin, a horse, Satan, etc) given voice by a storyteller in a coffeehouse.

As a mystery and a reworked folktale, My Name Is Red has some surprising twists and turns, powering a readily engaging plot; as a historical novel, its setting in late sixteenth century Istanbul is convincingly detailed; and as a novel it offers some memorable characters and complex relationships. But what is most notable about My Name Is Red is the extent to which it is a novel about art, indeed almost a study of Islamic illustration. It contains descriptions of paintings, some of which verge on prose poems. It is full of stories about the great miniaturists and their history, going back to Bihzad and the Chinese influences brought by the Mongols. And it is riddled with discussions and debates about form and style, the relationship of art to morality and society and religion, the effects of Western ideas, the future of Ottoman illumination, and the significance of blindness. Even though Pamuk is a western modernist, his intention wasn’t to destroy his 16th-century artists, but instead, illuminates their world as no one has before. It brilliantly captured the past and present contradictions, but also its terrible, timeless beauty that makes it so perfect that it is deserved to be taught in history courses. Unfortunately, the length of book (500+ pages) and the rigid use of vocabulary and terminology are bound to turn off some people in seeing this novel to the end.  As much I want to recommend this book to everyone, it would be a futile effort to convince those who crave straightforward historical mysteries to pick up this book. Regardless of that, this book deserved the Nobel Prize that it won for, and a permanent place in your bookshelf.

~Rating~

Walmart New Logo Losses The Hyphen

I’m probably late to the party with this piece of news but it seems Walmart is reinventing their logo once again. For those folks who haven’t been to the US, Walmart is basically one of the best and worst supermarkets in America, and it’s not a place where you can buy some walls (Thanks Paris Hilton). The new design losses the start hyphen in the middle but it gains a burst of sunlight at the end. Personally, I love the new design but the old one kinda has the “American feel” that we are all comfortable with. For those who are thirsty for a history lesson regarding Walmart logos, check the image below: