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.

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:

Post-Mortem: Dubai Trip

It’s been almost a week since I got back from Dubai, but the lazy bum that I am, I had to wait for like six days to talk about it. Every time, I tell myself that this would be the last time I abandon my blog for more than a week, I find myself abandoning it for too long, to the fact I started to lose readership (an unfortunate loss for a long time blogger).  So, I’ve asked myself: how would I repay the debit for all of that? Well, by writing a semi-comprehensive post that’s how. Allow me to share my insights regarding my trip to Dubai with my aunt and her “delightful” daughters.

Things I Loved In Dubai

  • Aside from the elevated, breathtaking skyscrapers that seem to stand high among the sky, it was the amount of construction that is going on that left a big impression. I’ve no idea when the constructions in Dubai will ever come to an end. It’s like a continuous cycle of death and rebirth; for every old constriction that goes down, a new one emerges out of nowhere in its place.
  • The diversity of people there never seizes to amaze me. I think Dubai is becoming the new London in terms of being a multi-cultural city. I found it very refreshing.
  • Another thing that I loved is that everyone seems to mind his/her own business. That is, you won’t find people starting at people, or horny men harassing/staking girls in malls. There is an apparent amount of respect among the residents and visitors of the city in spite how different they look or the choice of clothes they wear. Very distinctive indeed of what we have here in Kuwait.
  • The quantity of tourism and activities. If you think that Dubai is just a place where you just go and shop, then you are terribly wrong my friend. Unfortunately, you have to be loaded with dough to enjoy everything Dubai has to offer.
  • Mall of The Emirates! That place is like a shopping heaven. You are bound to find every single item in your shopping list there. Prepare to spend a whole day (or a two) there to enjoy every nook and cranny of this humongous mall.

Things I Hated In Dubai

  • The traffic, especially between 5PM to 9PM. No day goes by that I don’t get nuisance from the constant braking in the midst of the traffic. Having a full bottle of Perrier at the end of the day has totally become a daily ritual.
  • The taxi drivers! Half of them have developed quite an attitude, and some of them tend to develop a terrible body odor during rush hours. Keep a vomit bag handy whenever you ride a cab.
  • There are many conmen and people who wish to embezzle you, and cash in from your naïve knowledge. Make sure you equip yourself with basic familiarities regarding the cost of items and such. And be extra careful on whoever tries to befriend you out of nowhere. Even though I hate to endorse a stereotype, but some of the people living in Dubai has no humane conscious at all.
  • The customer service in some stores is really terrible, and yes, Zara is still one of them. Some of them really look down at you as if you are asking for their charity. My advice: become a total bitch whenever they act in a derogatory manner toward you. Show them who’s the boss.

Gallery

The Chinese ship in Ibn Battuta Mall is glaring at the visitors.

The Chinese ship in Ibn Battuta Mall is glaring at the visitors.

Is that the flight info screen? No, wait! That's the movie schedule screen. Enjoy almost censorship-free movies in any of Dubai’s big cinemas.

Is that the flight info screen? No, wait! That's the movie schedule screen. Enjoy almost censorship-free movies in any of Dubai’s big cinemas.

A Meydon project in BurJuman shopping center.

A Meydon future project in BurJuman shopping center.

Behold! Mall of the Emirates...and Modhish!

Behold! Mall of the Emirates...and Modhish!

On the road, heading back home after a full day of shopping.

On the road, heading back home after a full day of shopping.

The Couple That Mesmerized Me

Observing people isn’t something new to my personality, and God knows how many observations I’ve written so far in my blog. But the thing is, I don’t like to stare at someone for a long time and then “gossip” about it. I believe the definitions of observing and staring are dissimilar, but you might disagree with me on this one.  The other day, I was at the Burger Boutique with several of my friends, just a casual gathering in attempt to catch up with those who graduated from the university. Obviously, I was engaged with all the discussion that was going on around the table. A couple entered the restaurant…

Pause

How fascinating that I was able to recall the following with a vivid memory, or at least made me think of stuff I wouldn’t normally think of.

Resume

The couple was definitely in their mid-twenties, and a quick glance on their ring fingers and there they are, wedding rings. Even though I’m not a materialistic person per se, I couldn’t help but not to notice their gleaming garments. The young woman wore a short skirt that goes beyond the knees but revealed a small amount of skin leg. It had a graceful sweep with not very crinkled but sensual texture that made it comfortable yet elegant. Her top consisted of a fitted, short-sleeved blouse that was finely accessorized with a simple chic necklace. She shared the same length as her husband and her body frame was nicely robust but feminine as well. She didn’t apply too much makeup at all; just a light blush on her angle-like cheeks, pink lipstick that gave a subtle gliding effect and sensual shine, and finally, a small eye makeup that wasn’t excessive. Her hair was a little beyond shoulder length and she gently let it loose to her back. Her facial features were delicate, all of it: lips, eyes, nose, and ears. She wasn’t what you call a sexy woman, but she certainly was beautiful and cute: my ideal combination.

The husband was genuinely handsome, and that’s a fact I cannot hide. He was slightly above average height with a fit (presumably athletic) body, but he wasn’t buffed. He wore long pants that nicely extend his length, with a dark brown leather belt. His Banana Republic-esque shirt was fitted and tucked in and nicely hugged his upper body. He wore slightly loose thin tie with an open collar, which gave him a chic casual look rather than an intimidating cooperate feel. He moved his long shirtsleeves a little beyond his wrists, but instead of rolling it, he buttoned it. He had a dark, black short hair that had a nice shiny texture, thanks to a small application of a hair cream. His face gave a nice Gulf (Khaleejy) modern look; big brown eyes, long and straight nose, small lips, and long but not bushy eyebrows. His goatee was nicely trimmed and thin, coupled with hidden (not quite apparent) dimples. He was easy on the eyes.

Pause

Yes, I realize what you are thinking? You think I went overboard with this and maybe coming out slightly creepy. Actually I think I have a talent in describing people vividly even if I met them for a brief moment, however; I wish I had the same talent in recalling people’s names.

Resume

Sitting quite adjacent from their table, I couldn’t help but to subtly look at them but I wasn’t able to hear their voice but only when they had their order taken. The man spoke a standard American English (either he studied aboard or was taught English from his early childhood) when he was talking to the waitress; the wife wasn’t bad either, she had a sassy Kuwaiti accent but wasn’t too obnoxious that you wanted to kill yourself. The couple certainly engulfed my heart, and actually made me want to get married. Sure, I had many discussions regarding marriage but I wasn’t completely swept by the idea that it will happen anytime soon, simply because I want to establish myself professionally before tying the knots. However, I cannot help that I didn’t think about it excessively that day. The couple seemed quite in love, quite modern, and quite compatible. It was a long time since I wanted to be in somebody else’s shoes, but I certainly didn’t jinx them or was all evil eye-like. I cannot wait to be at that point of my life.

Pause

I really hope that wasn’t too creepy or weird. I would hope you consider this post as inspirational.

Book Review: A Year In The Merde

I picked up this book while browsing at Borders in Heathrow International Airport as I was exchanging flight to return back home. The fact that I spotted it after publishing “The French Way of Life” post was a clear sign that I have to dive in its pages. And thank God I did. Stephen Clarke has intricately crafted a novel that is half guidebook and half fictitious autobiography that bursts with witty humor, rich language, and simple execution.

A Year In The Merde recounts the fictional adventures and misadventures of Paul West, an English businessman sent to Paris to create and open an English tearoom as he encounters the language and culture of Paris. Throughout the book, Paul gets to experience French charm, French inefficiency, sublime French food, slimy French corruption and political intrigue, a seemingly endless series of strikes, and more sex than he can shake his weakened British stick at. It’s informative, humorous, and outrageous, all in the same time.

It’s pretty important to mention that the author himself is a British expat residing in Paris, so we can definitely assert that those affairs that Paul goes through aren’t necessarily fabricated. However, it is also important to note that those incidents are exaggerated a bit, especially when it deals with sex and public strikes. Also, I wasn’t real interested in Paul; he is shallow and lacking any qualities to make me root for him to succeed, but it was the supporting characters that was genuinely satiated with life and realism. Furthermore, the most interesting thing to observe is the interaction between the French and the English and just laugh out at the stereotypes and misconceptions that have with one another. In the end, I can candidly conclude that Merde one of the most enjoyable books I have read recently. The story is well told, with just the right balance between understatement and outright hilarity. A definite pick-up for those of us who love and hate France. If you loved this book, make sure to grab the following two books that are part of Paul West hilarious trilogy.

~Rating~