Friday, 21 December 2012

Lustworthy (and currently on sale) Jimmy Choo metallic loafers

Ladies (and why not, gentlemen) if you're looking for fun flats, these may well be the answer: The Jimmy Choo metallic leather monk-strap loafers. They're flat, comfortable and far from being boring.

Copyright may apply

Just beware the slippery heel, having taken a very embarassing tumble the first time I wore them, I had to get mine reheeled before I was confident enough to wear them again. You'd expect better from the peeps at Choo.


Friday, 7 December 2012

I'm away

Thanks for visiting. I'm away from my blog and from Twitter to attend to offline duties ;).

Long live the web,

Friday, 29 June 2012

W.E. by Madonna is a good film

Let the haters hate all they want, “W.E.”, Madonna’s directorial debut is a good movie. As a lifelong fan of Her Majesty, I don’t expect to dislike anything she does, but I have to admit some of her previous forays into the film industry (Swept Away, anyone?) were less than stellar. Having read the critical backlash against W.E., I was anticipating something along the same lines, and since I missed it in theaters earlier this year, I only got to see it on DVD this week.

W.E. tells the stories of two women: Wallis Simpson, the woman for whom King Edward VIII of England (and at the time British Emperor) abdicated the throne in 1936 and Wally Winthrop, a modern day Manhattan housewife who obsesses with Mrs. Simpson as she visits an exhibition of her memorabilia.

W.E. doesn’t claim to be an objective retelling of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor’s (as they became known after they married in exile) story, instead it recounts it through the thoughts and daydreams of Wally, who is locked in a loveless marriage. Both stories advance in parallel and are intertwined just enough not to be overbearing. I really enjoyed that element of the film.

W.E. also examines what happened after the Duke and Duchess wed, and through a look at a collection of the Duchess’ private letters, recounts the unhappiness of the Duke who was refused back into the UK and felt redundant because of his inability to go back to public life. This in turn put a lot of guilt on his wife’s shoulders and raises the question that neither of them ever answered: did their matrimonial life turn out to be worth him giving up the crown and her being vilified forever?

What everyone agrees on (even the critics) is that the cinematography in W.E. is very well done. Thanks to costume designer Arianne Phillips who scored an Oscar nomination for her work on this film, and yes, IMHO excellent filmmaking on Madonna’s part, the movie is visually amazing. Fashion lovers relish it, because it stayed true to the Duchess’ legendary wardrobe, working with her favorite design houses such as Dior, Vionnet, Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels to replicate her outfits and famed jewels.

If I were to nitpick, it would be along two lines: 1) I would have liked more of a view on what made Wallis Simpson so special to the King amongst all the women he could have courted and married without having to give up his throne. 2) There are a few scenes where Wally imagines talking to Wallis. These scenes are not bad as such, but I felt the movie could have done without them, as Wally’s constant daydreaming is more than enough to convey the lessons she is learning through her namesakes’ story.

I am not pretending that W.E is an all-time great, but it is a great piece of entertainment, as good as many acclaimed films in recent years, and a very interesting way to look at one of the most fascinating love stories in history. Movie mogul Harvey Weinstein said that if Madonna “were Joe Smith, she would be heralded as a great new filmmaker, but her reputation precedes her”.

For some reason, critics and Hollywood types seem to have decided a long time ago that they would keep their kingdom closed to the Queen of Pop. Hollywood may have become more accepting of strong female roles, but maybe not of strong real life women.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Theater Review: "Rest Upon The Wind"

Inspired by the life of Gibran Khalil Gibran, “Rest Upon the Wind”, a play by Nadim Sawalha, deals with the events that lead Gibran to publish his all-time great “The Prophet” and includes flashbacks to his childhood in Lebanon and his family’s immigration to the USA.

I must admit that although I’ve read Gibran’s work, I am only loosely familiar with his life story, so the play was all the more interesting to watch. It starts when most of Gibran’s family members have died of illness and he lives with his sister Marianna who has devoted her life to taking care of him, but cannot seem to adapt to life in America. They live in the Lebanese enclave of Boston’s China Town and, as is often the case with immigrants, feel like social rejects. Gibran himself is portrayed as obsessed with Lebanon and the dream of freeing it from the rule of the Ottomans. As the plot evolves, he shifts his attention to completing the book which came to him as a vision when he was a child in Mount Lebanon. An American woman, Mary Haskell, pushes him to re-write it after it burns down in a fire and his focus turns to gaining recognition as a poet and an artist in the United States. He yearns to rub elbows with the likes of Carl Jung and other thinkers of his time and seems to be quite the ladies’ man.

Throughout the play, Gibran appears to struggle between his spiritual beliefs, as penned in The Prophet, and the very worldly aspirations of making his book a success and getting out of the cycle of poverty. The play ends after The Prophet is finally published, with Gibran surrounded by hordes of people reading his work aloud while he wears a cashmere coat, something he couldn’t have previously afforded.

One of the features that hit a chord with me is that, although the play is set in 1923, the political discourse around Lebanon and its freedom from foreign domination remains relevant today. How depressing to think that 89 years haven’t done anything to help us grow and mature as an independent nation. Even more depressing to think that-as the play contends- Gibran was invited to become president of the then newly established Republic of Lebanon but declined. Maybe having one of the world’s greatest thinkers and artists instead of tribal/sectarian chieftains head up the country would have set us on a different path.

"Rest Upon The Wind" has ended its run in London, but if you’re in Liverpool, Beirut, Amman or Dubai, I highly recommend that you try to catch it when it comes to your town. It’s well paced, nicely written, funny at times and with just enough “effects” to make it interesting without falling into the trap of trying too hard. The provisional dates for those cities are below:

Liverpool, Unity Theatre –July 10, 2012.

Beirut: End September (Al Madina Theatre - Hamra).

AMMAN: Early October (Al Hussein Cultural Centre).

DUBAI: Dubai: Mid. October (Madinat Theatre).

You can find more information here:

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

My Little Book On The Bestsellers Stand in Dubai!

First Beirut now Dubai :-)! A reader sent me this picture over the weekend: My novel, Summer Blast on the bestsellers stand at Book World by Kinokuniya in Dubai

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

"Don't Let The Warlords Win" my interview with Gulf News

I had the pleasure to sit down with Gulf News' London correspondent, Hamad Ali and discuss my novel Summer Blast. We had a great conversation about the message behind my book. You can read the full interview here .

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Talking Publishing In The Middle East With The BBC

The debate about the future of publishing has never been more heated. From e-books to self-publishing, the landscape is shifting fast and many are wondering if traditional players will be able to keep up. We’ve already seen one element of that chain suffer: brick and mortar bookshops such as Borders who have had to fold because of the competition of online retailers. Amazon sells paper books of course, but also has a hold on the incredibly fast growing e-books market and even mighty Apple’s iBooks hasn’t been able to seriously challenge its grip. As far as I understand, the Kindle is outselling the iPad as an e-reader and all you have to do is visit both companies’ stores to realize how limited iBooks’ catalogue is in comparison with Kindle.

To some, this spells the end of publishing houses as we know them. To me, these changes mean that publishers and agents, who were traditionally the gatekeepers of the industry are seeing their influence dwindle, and that other players, especially authors, now have better control over their own destiny: if you have a good piece of work, and you know how to promote it, you can pretty much go it on your own and succeed. With minimum investment, you can get your book on the internet and the sky is the limit in terms of the promotion you can do both online and offline. In the Middle East, this is all the more important because the publishing industry is less mature, copyright is not respected and being an author is unrewarding.

Globally we haven’t yet seen high profile success stories for self-published books: the blockbusters of the past few years have been the likes of Twilight, the Hunger Games or 50 Shades of Grey who were published the “traditional” way, but there are numerous self-published writers who have managed to sell thousands of books on their own, better than most publishing houses' mid-list authors.

I’m lucky to have a good publisher (Turning Point Books) and I’m happy with my relationship with them, but I support fellow writers who decided to circumvent the submission/rejection cycle and do it on their own. Check out this clip of me discussing this with the BBC’s Ben Thompson, along with media man extraordinaire and self-published author Alexander McNabb as well as distributor Narain Jashanmal other members of the publishing industry in the Middle East.

Be Still My Beating Heart...

I've kind of been over the Louboutin thing for a while, but these shoes should come with a health warning.

It's the Christian Louboutin Snorkeling 100 Neoprene Boots, apparently made for ocean side cocktails, which I don't attend many of in London, but who cares?

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

A "Violent Romance" for your enjoyment: "Olives" by Alexandre McNabb

I’ve been craving good novels that are based in the Middle East. I like to think that mine, Summer Blast, is one of those ;) and I’ve just finished reading Olives by Alexander McNabb which definitely fits into this category.

This thriller, or “violent romance” as the book cover puts it, is set in Jordan. Paul Stokes, a British journalist comes to Jordan on a corporate publishing contract for the Ministry of Natural Resources. He gets in trouble with the law as soon as he touches down in Amman by picking a drunken fight with a policeman, which lands him in a court case. But this is not the only of Paul’s challenges, the boring job he thought he’d signed up for, is spiced up by the attractive ministry employee, Aisha Dajani, who’s assigned to take care of him, helping him settle into Amman and get the work done. Add an unsavory spy-like character from the British embassy, a colorful Swedish neighbor, an annoying boss and the many skeletons that seem to populate Aisha’s closet and you have a recipe for a read that will have you turning the pages (or swiping them since the book is also available in e-format).

Narrated in the first person, the tone is informal and the humor often British. The concept is clear: yes, the Middle East is not what westerners imagine, people are more “normal” and the women more modern than what most would expect. But the issues that we are all aware of remain at the heart of daily life: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but also the less publicized yet equally - if not more - political issue of water shortage.

As Paul falls for Aisha, sacrificing his existing relationship in the process, he learns that she comes from a family who was displaced when Israel occupied Palestine, they are now Jordanian but all yearn for their homeland and the olive farm that they have managed to hold on to, but is at threat inside Israel. Aisha’s father was killed in an Israeli raid and her brother committed a suicide bombing in retaliation. Now Paul suspects she could be supporting more acts of violence.

Poor Paul also finds himself in the middle of a high-stake bid for the privatization of water resources. The UK government wants him to spy on the ministry as well as Aisha’s older brother, favorite to win against the British proposal.

Throughout the book, Paul evolves from average expat to unwilling spy and potential pawn for Palestinian activists. As he becomes more deeply informed about conflicts of the Middle East, so does the reader, but in a seamless way, which is one of my favorite aspects of the book.

The story is largely based in Amman, with several trips to other parts of Jordan and references to countries in the region. Of course, what Paul experiences as an expat in affluent West Amman is not representative of the entire Kingdom, but it felt genuine to me, having visited Jordan on business many times, often with British colleagues. McNabb doesn't overbear us with details or fall into the cliché of trying to make a country “exotic”.

I really enjoyed Olives. It’s a fast moving thriller, set in a region that a lot has been written about, but in a fresh perspective and without patronizing, judgment or stereotyping. Get it in bookstores in the Middle East, or on Kindle, iBooks or other e-book formats.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Beirut and what its culture can do in the 21st century

Here are some pictures from my session on March 9 with fellow writers Hani Soubra and Wafa Tarnowska at the Emirates Airlines Festival of Literature.

As mentioned in a previous post, the session was titled "Beirut and its culture in the 21st century" and of course, we soon found ourselves talking about the unfortunate effect of politics on the country and how that's stopping us from moving forwards and building on our cultural richness.

Hani Soubra and I are quite different writers: his book is a collection of essays where he tries to explain to this daughters and their generation the facts about political developments in Lebanon and mine is light toned women's fiction where personal stories take the forefront while a war rages on in the background.

Yet, we agreed on the same thing: Lebanese need to take their own destiny into their hands and not blindly follow politicians and clerics whom we know are corrupt and have their own interests in mind with little regard for their constituents or the country. We also agreed on the dangers of radicalization in the region and how it's a threat to our advancement and culture.

Later on, I got to talk in depth to several audience members, and what hit me the most was that many foreigners who know Lebanese people in Dubai are surprised that, although we come across as united and proud of our country, we're still suffering from age old divisions... I only wish I had an answer to that....

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Join us this evening in Dubai to talk " Beirut and its culture in the 21st century"

There’s so much to say about Beirut and its culture in the 21st century that I’m trying to keep my thoughts organized for my session this evening with Hani Soubra, author of the book “Letters to Dalia: Reflections on Lebanon and the Middle East,” which takes as its starting point the civil war in Lebanon and is a fascinating commentary on the machinations of political groups in the region, exploring what Hani calls ‘the abuse of religion and ideology’. The session will be moderated by Wafa Tarnowska, CSR lady extraordinaire and bestselling children’s book author.

As we prepared for the session yesterday the three of us (as most Lebanese often do) found ourselves in passionate discussion in the green room of the Emirates Airlines Festival Of Literature where the session will take place at 7:30 p.m this evening.

How should we look at Beirut’s culture in this day and time? We wondered. Should we all be negative because so many of the 20th century problems that we all know and hate still dominate our cultural, social, economic and political landscape or should we celebrate the traits that make Beirut such an endearing and fascinating city: its undefeated spirit, the will to survive and its love of arts and letters.

I guess we’ll find out this evening in what I know will be a very interesting debate. If you’re in town and want to participate, please drop by the Intercontinental Hotel Dubai Festival City, Al Khaimah Room, 7:30 p.m. Or let me know your thoughts before that so I can bring them up in the discussion.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

In Rolling Stone Magazine

Lill' old me in Rolling Stone magazine (Middle East Edition). Makes me feel Rock & Roll ;)

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Rant: Your Kids Come In Tongues

Image may be subject to copyright.
Excuse the rant, but dear Lebanese Moms and Dads WHAT’S WITH THE LANGUAGES! Seriously, does ANYONE speak Arabic to children in this ARAB country anymore? Everyone seems to think that the Arabic language is beneath them and their kids. I’ve been faced time and over again with yummy mummies boasting that their progeny doesn’t speak, or worse, doesn’t even understand Arabic. Why should the fact these kids are of purely Lebanese descent and live in the Arab world (mainly in the GCC and Lebanon ) be of any relevance?

I understand that some of the best schools in Lebanon and the region are of western curriculum and therefore I’m all for kids learning foreign languages from a young age to pass kindergarten assessments and be accepted in those schools. What I don’t get, though is why speaking Arabic and attending a good school have become mutually exclusive. Most Lebanese people of my generation are perfectly trilingual and that’s not because we’re extra smart but because our parents didn’t feel the urge to dissociate us from a key component our heritage.

So before you decide to sever your kid’s relationship with her/his mother tongue, please consider the following:
  • By teaching your kids not to speak Arabic, you are essentially telling them that their culture is inferior to that of the French/British/Americans etc whose language you seem to treasure.
  • By extension, you are also telling them to be racist against themselves and their own people.
  • You are bringing up your kids in cultural poverty because language is a crucial expression of culture and identity. The Institute for Advanced Study in Cultures defines language as “The fundamental institution and constitutive medium of any social order. Through language, the world and our experience in it is named, classified, and evaluated and is thus made comprehensible and meaningful ”.
  • You may be giving them a false sense of belonging to another culture and guess what, one day they will realize that in fact, they don’t belong there.
  • I often get the impression that foreign languages are associated with social status in Lebanon. First, that’s not really the case because an enormous number of people speak these languages. Second, if you’re craving social status, get a nice car or a monogrammed purse, walk around cigar in hand and don’t forget to display your iPhones and iPads everywhere. Just DON’T make your kids miss out on their mother tongue.
  • You are reducing their future chances in the job market: the Arab world stands today at over 300 million very young consumers, this means the population will increase exponentially by the time your kids hit the job market. Guess what, by not speaking/reading/writing the language like natives, they will be much less competitive.
  • Some parents think that the kid will get to learn Arabic anyway by living in the Arab world, but when the nanny, grandparents, teachers, other kids and even the man in the grocery store find themselves compelled to display their own linguistic prowess by using foreign languages with the kids, their actual need to understand and speak Arabic will be minimal.
  • Many Lebanese living in Europe or the US insist on their kids attending Arabic school on weekends. These parents understand that multiculturalism enriches a person’s life, not to mention that, with so much immigration taking place globally, a big chunk of the wold population of the future will be bi-cultural. I was born in the US and currently live in Europe and I think it’s crucial to integrate and embrace the culture of the country you live in ( language being a crucial component of that), but that doesn’t mean giving up your own heritage. If anything being aware of this heritage enables you to add richness to your life and to those of the people you interact with.
  • Last but not least, kids who don’t read or speak Arabic (or are weak at it) are missing out on a beautiful language and an amazing literary heritage.

--end of rant --

P.S I know I should be writing this in Arabic but this is the only way the moms and dads I address in this post will read it ;)